OLPC Arriving Soon, Mosquito Nets Already in Mali

Two cool updates with cool videos too. First off, the OLPC Give One, Get One ‘XO’ laptops are on their way. I got an email note on Saturday morning indicating mine should arrive by January 15. Coincidentally, I just stumbled on to a fascinating video with XO designer Yves Behar describing key features. Watching the video and understanding the thoughtfulness of the design, I couldn’t help but think of A Whole New Mind by Dan Pink. Subtle features and textures abound and combine to an air of quality even at a low price. Who knew Bono and The Edge did the start-up sound for the XO? Who new the camera could easily link up with a simple malaria self-test?

What a segue. the Malaria No More bed nets made it to Mali Africa almost 2 weeks ago. Soon after they arrived, Elliott Masie posted a few interesting videos about the impact the nets will have and even some information on how local health advocates engage in learning and training. Here’s an interesting video on the train-the-trainer and communications for the “Health Relays:” Field Lessons. There are other interesting observations and videos on the Learning Gives Back blog , that address everything from differences in mobile phone culture, to holidays, and even a bit on the Amazon Kindle.

One more bit on the One Laptop Per Child. Read what children and teachers are saying about OLPC and the XO at Learning Around the World. If you miss the December 31, 2007 deadline for Give One, Get One and are still interested, there are other Ways to Donate.

Google Trends: Authoring Tool Trends

I used Google Trends to plot search popularity of Authorware, Toolbook, Lectora, and Captivate since 2004. It may not be a direct correlation to sales or interest, but there seems to be some consistency with gut-level reactions for industry positions. Authorware trending down since 2004, Toolbook relatively stable but lower, and a pretty good horse race between the seemingly indirect competitors of Captivate and Lectora. A sample image follows below, along with links for some other interesting plots.

Google Trends: plot of search popularity for authorware,toolbook

Authoring tool comparative search popularity plots

Obviously, the comparisons depend on having a rather specific and unique search term. I unsuccessfully tried doing a comparison of AICC and SCORM, but things like All India Congress Committee (AICC), Antwerp International Cat Club (AICC) and other AICC’s left me feeling like it was inconclusive regarding LMS specifications. Through my work with one AICC (Aviation Industry CBT Committee) I’ve already seen seasonal variations in web traffic due to All India Congress Committee and election cycles. However, I wonder if occurrence/popularity of a common word (e.g., Captivate) is relatively stable in the common usage and in that case product references might drive dynamic changes to indicate realtive changes.

TryPhone or iPhoney = iPhone + Lost in Translation

The TryPhone site run by MobileComplete is very nice if you want to check out the menu structure and general user interface of most popular cell phones. It breaks down a bit on more complicated user interfaces with gestures, button double-clicks and shortcuts. It gives you the general idea, but the graphics are a little coarse and something is definitely Lost in Translation compared to an actual iPhone.

TryPhone image of iPhone

They do have some Captivate-esque animated demos, but they seem to be driving the TryPhone simulation rather than playing animated captures or video of the phone. Anyway, check out TryPhone if you’re looking at a new mobile for a Christmas gift. Just be aware that the iPhone emulation gives a weak impression of the experience.

Mac users- If you’re developing pages to be viewed on iPhone, check out iPhoney from MarketCircle. It is basically a shell around WebKit that acts like the iPhone browser, Mobile Safari. It isn’t exactly like iPhone (address bar can’t scroll, not multi-touch obviously, and adds scroll bars in many cases were iPhone wouldn’t). That said, it is a nice way to get a quick “iPhone Preview” of any site from your laptop or desktop computer. You can even rotate the phone to vertical or horizontal/landscape view.

iPhoney in horizontal/landscape view

Tip: I found that I get more “iPhone-like” results with iPhoney by using a custom user-agent. The one below matches exactly what a web server sees my iPhone user agent as, whereas the iPhoney returns a slightly different version. Just use the appropriate menu item to enter the text below as “Custom User Agent”.

Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; U; CPU like Mac OS X; en) AppleWebKit/420.1 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/3.0 Mobile/3B48b Safari/419.3

Easily Create iPhone Bookmarklets

Not sure if I got frustrated, creative, generous, or all of the above. I made a web form called iPastelet Maker that lets you easily create custom bookmarklets that paste text into web forms on the iPhone. Use it to create bookmarklets for common recurring entries, like user ID’s, email addresses, IP addresses, host names, etc. You might even create a bookmark folder called ‘Scrapbook’ and keep a bunch of common text snippets there. If you have a few services/servers you log-on to and use the same email/ID’s over & over this can be really convenient.

Since they are bookmarklets, they obviously only work in a browser, and work best in Safari/Mobile Safari. However, it is best to create them with your desktop browser (preferably Safari on Mac and IE on Windows). Then, use iTunes to sync your bookmarks over to the iPhone and voilá.

It’s free stuff, so feedback is welcome, but support is nil. Thanks to TUAW and Erica Sadun for awareness, code and inspiration.

Kindle Review for the Masie Consortium

I’ve had an Amazon Kindle for a week now. In fact, I’ve even read a book already and passed it on to friends and colleagues to get their feedback.

It was kind of cool to get the jump on folks like ZDNet and have real Amazon Kindle review done by last Monday. Their “initial impressions” reviews just showed up in my inbox today. However, last Monday, Elliott Masie shared his take on the Kindle in a video posted for the Masie Learning Consortium and also posted a PDF of my review. Recently the same material was also shared with the broader learning community via the Learning TRENDS Newsletter he publishes. Here’s a quote from the December 5, 2007 entry:

Kindle Reader from Amazon – Perspectives: We have been testing the new Kindle Reader device recently released by Amazon. This is the latest in a series of e-book readers that we have seen and reviewed at The MASIE Center. While the new device has some flaws and usability challenges (including the absence of a touch screen), it is an important “baby step” towards the dream of more accessible digital content. Just as Apple’s iPod and the iTunes site popularized the concept of buying and downloading a song for a dollar, Kindle is aimed at doing the same for books. Our Learning CONSORTIUM will be doing a series of experiments with the Kindle and other e-Readers to see how they could best be integrated into corporate learning. You can take a peek at our work by going to http://www.masieweb.com/kindle.

Elliott has a nice 6 minute video overview on the page at the link above, which also has a link to a PDF that he has referred to as, “[Tom King has done] a more technical, in-depth “first look” at content models for the Kindle as well as human factor issues.” Cool and not even entirely self-promotion for me. :-)

Speaking of promotion, if you plan to purchase a Kindle, please consider using the link below so that I will receive an Amazon Associates referral fee. Thanks.

Kindle: Amazon’s New Wireless Reading Device

Dear WebEx, It is 2007

<rant> Dear WebEx, please help your product become less sucky. We live in a web world. People use different web browsers, different Java versions, different OS platforms, and some people even (gasp) have smartphones. I had a horrible experience with your product today. Bad enough for me to spend the time writing this rant. Bad enough that I will now to my best to cancel or avoid any meeting requiring me to join a WebEx meeting.

I think we’ve all had other challenges and bad experiences with your product in the past. For me this relationship has got to end unless you can change. I ‘ll no longer budget 10 extra minutes to get into a WebEx meeting, and then be distracted for the first 15 minutes of my co-workers actual meeting as I install, cancel, uninstall, reinstall, check and change browser settings, get Java versions, then download WebEx Meeting Manager, deal with WebEx support and eventually give up on the WebEx meeting.

The recurring Java and ActiveX hassles I had with the WebEx Windows versions a few years were a recurring mild annoyance. The fact that it is 2007 and WebEx still offers only a 2003 PowerPC version for Mac was the last straw. You’ve known about this for quite awhile. It’s embarrassing. You are no longer the only one scaleable and available. Have a little respect for yourself and your victims/users. You are Cisco now for heavens sake. It is not me, it is you. Yeah, sure, maybe we can still be friends.

PS: WebEx competitors, no need to get all smug and happy yet. I’m still looking for something that will exceed WebEx features and works reliably and well on Mac and Windows and Linux, with at least 2 browsers on each platform.

PPS: Besides geeks like me, a couple hundred thousand kids will get OLPC Linux machines. They’re selling USD $2 million worth of those things each day for the last few weeks with Give One, Get One. Look into getting those kids and their governments a solution. Might even be good for your business. Even Microsoft is starting to think that way about OLPC.

PPPS: The world has a couple billion mobile phones. Pretty much enough for each of us who can use one, to have two. We use them. A lot. Please figure out how to easily, centrally (?automatically) mute the call from the guy walking past the leaf blower or breathing like Darth Vader. When you’ve got that licked, see about getting at least a slide show or still shot screen sharing on 3-4 types of Smartphones– a couple million of us will be happier.
</rant>

OLPC GO,GO Extended and/or Help Stop Malaria for $10

Last night on TV I saw am advertising spot for the OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) initiative that featured Masi Oka (Hiro Nakamura from NBC’s Heroes) and then I went and checked online and it looks like the offer is extended through December 31, 2007. If you’d still like to try out the Give One, Get One (“GO,GO”) offer, then follow the link or see my previous post. I’m also including links here if you want to learn more about the OLPC initiative or the technical specs of the ‘xo’ laptop.

While we’re all in a thankful and charitable mood, how about helping to stop malaria for $10?

In many developing areas a simple mosquito net can help save children’s lives by protecting them from nocturnal mosquito bites (ok, technically mosquitoes are crepusclar instead of nocturnal, but who knew that). Insecticide-resistant mosquitoes are emerging and a cheap $10 net can be quite effective at protecting vulnerable young children when they are most likely to be bitten. Malaria No More is a non-profit that helps procure and distribute such nets. I was lucky enough to be able to donate at Learning 2007 and have gone back and donated again since then.

Malaria No More – Education and Donation Information

Awesome One-Laptop-Per-Child Charity Option

I’m probably late to the party, but there is an awesome charity opportunity for anyone supportive of the OLPC One-Laptop-Per-Child initiative. I just found out about this through the JiWire newsletter, and it seems to be a great thing for anyone who is both involved in elearning and a charitable individual. Here’s the link to Give one, Get One. This offer runs until November 26, 2007 for US and Canada. Now the description from the JiWire Newsletter

After several years of development, MIT’s One Laptop Per Child initiative to put computers in the hands of children in developing countries has started to become a reality. And now that manufacturing has started, there’s just one week left to give an OLPC laptop to a child in a developing country, and get a matching one for yourself (or for your favorite kid). For $399, the two-for-one deal also includes a huge sweetener: a full year of T-Mobile Hotspot Wi-Fi service, a $360 value in itself (normally $29.99 per month with a 1-year contract). If you already subscribe to T-Mobile, why not take advantage of the special deal, then cancel your current plan? Throw in the $200 tax deduction for the donated laptop, and you may even come out ahead of the game. Not to mention you’ll have a great gift for a lucky kid, and do a good deed. Note that is will also be the ONLY chance that US buyers have to purchase an OLPC laptop directly.

Just remember to sign up by Monday, November 26 at LaptopGiving.org. While you’re considering it, check out Laptop Magazine’s review of the OLPC hardware, especially the 8-year-old’s viewpoint!