Archives for May 2006

Viewing Web Pages as Graphs

Aharef has a very cool java applet for visualizing a web page as a graph. The graph is made up of color-coded nodes that correspond to different tag types. For example, DIVs are green and links are blue. The visualization makes the complexity of a given page immediately apparant, and it’s interesting to observe the emergent shapes that various pages produce.

For example, here’s a comparison of Inquirium’s main home page

Inquirium Home Page

…and the home page for InqScribe.

InqScribe Home Page

Neither page is terribly complex. The red nodes give away the fact that we’re using table tags on the main Inquirium page. The bursts of blue links (I think of them as flowers) appear all over the place, including our sites: these generally represent collections of links (lists, etc.) and vary a bit in coloration depending on whether the page includes images and additional formatting.

You can use Aharef’s applet to generate graphs of any web page you want. Have fun, and while you’re there, take a look at his One Thousand Paintings project.


posted May 31, 2006 by eric | permalink | Add comment

Pictures of the $100 laptop

Via BoingBoing, here’s a link to a Flickr set of pictures of prototype versions of the “$100 latop”. You can follow progress on the One Laptop per Child project on their website.

if you haven’t looked closely at this project, here’s a summary of the laptop’s capabilities, from the project’s FAQ. One note about these machines, which threw me for a while, is that they don’t provide traditional networking support, since they are intended for use in locales that lack ubiquitious Internet connectivity. Instead, they will support a peer-to-peer mesh network, which presumably can connect to the Internet if it is available. (The USB ports also provide a means to connect via external dongles.)

The proposed $100 machine will be a Linux-based, with a dual-mode display—both a full-color, transmissive DVD mode, and a second display option that is black and white reflective and sunlight-readable at 3× the resolution. The laptop will have a 500MHz processor and 128MB of DRAM, with 500MB of Flash memory; it will not have a hard disk, but it will have four USB ports. The laptops will have wireless broadband that, among other things, allows them to work as a mesh network; each laptop will be able to talk to its nearest neighbors, creating an ad hoc, local area network. The laptops will use innovative power (including wind-up) and will be able to do most everything except store huge amounts of data.


posted May 23, 2006 by eric | permalink | Add comment

Do you back up?

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know you heard it all before. But with the price of hard drives these days, it’s crazy not to have at least one if not two full clones of your hard drive.

I’ve been using Carbon Copy Cloner on my Mac with pretty good success. I’ve transferred a few hard drives a number of times relatively unscathed. But it sounds like there are some significant issues with backup software on the Mac. That’s not really a surprise (don’t even get me started on Retrospect), but I hadn’t realized how widespread the issues were.

This article, Mac Backup Software Harmful, by Maurits of plasticsfuture.org, explains the issues, mostly having to do with problems with metadata. He then goes on to review the major backup software packages: The State of Backup and Cloning Tools under Mac OS X.

The only one that passed the tests? SuperDuper!

Time to review my backup system!


posted May 12, 2006 by ben | permalink | Add comment

QuickTime 7.1

Apple has released QuickTime 7.1. Apple’s release notes are remarkably opaque, so rather than reading tea leaves, here they are in their entirety.

QuickTime 7.1 is an important release that delivers numerous bug fixes, support for iLife ’06, and H.264 performance improvements. This update is highly recommended for all QuickTime 7 users.

Security fixes too. I’d give this a few days to see if any major issues arise, but otherwise It makes sense to upgrade, unless you’re holding on to a QuickTime 6 Pro license and don’t want to have to pay for QuickTime 7 Pro.


posted May 11, 2006 by eric | permalink | Add comment

ICLS Program Available

As Matt mentioned, ICLS early registration ends May 15. As of today, the program (pdf) is also available.


posted May 11, 2006 by eric | permalink | Add comment

Real World Design Stories: Menu Tradeoffs

I thought it might be interesting to talk through some of the design challenges that I’m currently facing in our projects. The design challenges will probably have a bit of both interaction design and pedagogical design thrown in. I’m always open to comments and suggestions, so it’d be interesting to hear someone else’s take on the problems. Please chime in!

To kick things off, I’m going to start out with the challenge of helping a student select a data layer from among a list of 50 layers. (Look for a few more examples coming up in the next few weeks.)

There's more...
posted May 11, 2006 by ben | permalink | Add comment

ICLS early registration ends May 15

If you’re planning to go, now’s the time to register early for the International Conference of the Learning Sciences 2006. After May 15, the fee jumps significantly, especially for non-students.

The conference runs June 27 to July 1 in Bloomington, Indiana. Check out our earlier posting on ICLS for more details.


posted May 08, 2006 by matt | permalink | Add comment

Innovations in eLearning Symposium

Early registration ends May 27.

George Mason University (GMU) in partnership with the Defense Acquisition University (DAU) is hosting a symposium on June 6-7, 2006 at the Fairfax, VA campus.

This event is ideal for: managers, learning officers, instructional and curriculum designers, learning consultants, instructors, researchers, and training and development professionals from small to large size businesses, vocational schools, community colleges, colleges and universities, and government agencies and organizations. The symposium will cover the latest trends in e-Learning, gaming technology, mobile learning, knowledge management, open source and distributed education. Keynote speakers and presentations from experts in the field of e-Learning will share the cognitive tools, technology and best practices for the effective design, delivery and implementation of e-learning.

Registration by May 27, 2006 is $175.00 which includes registration, parking, lunch, breaks for both days and an opening night reception.


posted May 08, 2006 by matt | permalink | Add comment

Map of Chicago Farmers Markets

Summer’s almost here and I’m looking forward to abandoning cardboard fruits and vegetables and emptying my wallet on some produce fresh from the farm!

I saw a listing of Farmers Markets in the Chicago Tribune a few days ago and was frustrated that I couldn’t easily figure out which markets were close enough to visit and which were too far away. Since we’ve been doing a lot of GIS work lately, this was the perfect excuse to finally play with the Google Maps API (and a terribly inefficient way for me to figure out where the nearest farmers markets were).

It seems like a shame not to share it: Here’s the Map of Chicago Farmers Markets (2006).

(Disclaimer: Please keep in mind this was an exercise. Data is not guaranteed to be accurate, and the code…well, it’s a hack job. I’ve already spent too much time on this little productivity eddy.)

Still…it might be cool to have pictures of all of these markets. I’m gonna try to hit as many as I can this summer (family schedules permitting), but if anyone visits and takes pictures, send them to me and I’ll figure out how to post them.


posted May 05, 2006 by ben | permalink | View two comments

Love and Money

We’ve been reflecting lately on how best to continue to pursue what we love: designing learning environments.

The world out there seems to think that to succeed as any kind of business, you need to be thinking in terms of 7-figure revenues and significant investment from other sources (e.g. VCs, angels, etc.). Even federal small business grants seem to be taking a VC approach to funding these days.

While I recognize that a business ultimately has to focus on the bottom line, I also worry that such single-minded pursuit of revenue can put everything else at risk. I’m not yet convinced that giving up control to VCs in order to pursue growth and revenue is the only way. The big worry is that revenue will come at the expense of learning.

It’s refreshing to hear other success stories from small startups. Crain’s Chicago Business has an article on The New Face of Technology, a number of small Chicago companies that have made it on their own.


posted May 02, 2006 by ben | permalink | View comment