HyperCard lives

Not everyone will remember HyperCard, but those out there who do certainly remember it fondly. In many ways, HyperCard is the reason I first became interested in educational technology, and it is certainly the reason that I was able to get into programming.  People who know me now as a bit of a technophile are always surprised when I tell them that my first experience with computers at school left me cold.  I took very little notice and couldn’t see any point at all in writing a 20 line basic program that could write my name.

When my mum brought home a MacPlus in 1987 I remember becoming captivated by the paper white screen, the Finder icons and MacPaint, but when HyperCard came along later that year I was quickly obsessed by the idea that I could create my own applications.  I am pretty sure I was more interested in messing around with HyperCard than my final year of school, but my gap year turned out to be an opportunity to start working on it more seriously.  To cut a long story short, basically my entire career can be traced back to the opportunities provided by HyperCard to quickly and easily test out new ideas and then make something useful from them.

So when HyperCard was left to wither in the 90s and finally dropped by Apple in 2004 I was naturally very disappointed. HyperCard is not supported by MacOSX. I’ve used most of the commercial products that have tried to keep the dream alive, including in particular SuperCard and Revolution, but there has always been a reason not to invest the time and effort required to use them.

However, the time may well have arrived for the return of HyperCard in the form of a new web-only development tool by the people who make Revolution.  It’s called revMedia, and the best part is that it’s absolutely free. As their press release says:

“revMedia is a fully featured authoring tool that includes an integrated development environment (IDE) for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux.”

I downloaded the alpha without high expectations. I thought this was going to be a very cut down tool with the ability to move a few things around on a screen and basically create Flash style animations.  I’m not sure I would be willing to install a new plugin (and require others to do the same) if that’s all I was getting.  However, this is the real deal. It feels very much like a version of HyperCard that has been updated with all the things you’d like to be able to do now.  Reading stuff in from the web, vector graphics, OS widgets for Mac and Windows, quicktime, and other media formats, etc.  The best part is that language and is just as useful, easy to read and dependable as the old HyperTalk.  I started writing a curriculum mapping tool immediately, and didn’t stop until I had to go to bed at 3am.  I really hope this product is as exciting for new users as it is for old school HyperCard fans like me.

Augmented Reality apps on the iPhone

Apple’s inclusion of a magnometer (digital compass) inside the new iPhone 3G S could be more significant than some people think. This new app demonstrates why. Pretty soon we are going to see apps that make use of this feature to provide information about our environment embedded in the live image from the phone’s camera. So directions to the nearest train station might be even harder to mess up!

A new book on learning space design

On the 17th February, 2009 a book contract was signed with IGI Global to publish Physical and Virtual Learning Spaces in Higher Education: Concepts for the Modern Classroom.

The editors of the book are: Professor Mike Keppell, Charles Sturt University, Associate Professor Kay Souter and Matthew Riddle from La Trobe University.

We are in the process of inviting experts to become part of our editorial board and organizing a call for chapters for the book. The Full Paper Submission Deadline is September 15, 2009

For more information, see the book website:
Physical and Virtual Learning Spaces in Higher Education: Concepts for the Modern Classroom

Battlestar Galactica series finale reaction

The fourth and final season of Battlestar Galactica concluded last week with a 2 hour season finale. If you are a fan and you don’t like spoilers, please stop reading now. First of all, I am a huge fan of this show. It’s by far the best thing I’ve ever watched on TV. I love the premise, the acting, the writing, the direction, the cinematography and almost all of the twists and turns along the way.

But I absolutely hated the finale. The following is what I wrote the next day.

I failed to see the point of a lot of the flashbacks. They were filling in emotional backdrops like the Apollo/Starbuck love triangle that we already knew about and that they had depended on for ages. The entire Roslyn love trist sub plot was random and of no importance current events. It wasn’t incredibly interesting to find out what had happened to motivate her to get into politics in the first place, and in the end her motivation wasn’t demonstrated well anyway. What a waste of time.

Bringing in The One True God as the explanation for all that has happened that was mystical seems like a massive cop out to me. It’s the explanation for how Starbuck was resurrected. It’s the explanation for the projections of Six and Baltar being seen by each other (yet how come there were at least a couple of occasions when Cavil appeared too?). The “angel” idea is weak because the characters inside people’s heads were so clearly not angelic. They weren’t guiding them, they were manipulating them, for good as well as for evil. This is the biggest problem I have — if anything could be achieved by a One True God, what was important or significant about the particular things that did happen. It’s far more interesting if these things were (at least on some level) the result of an intelligence that is less than all knowing and all seeing.

Identity was the central theme of the series. Yet this final episode only treated it as a side issue. It wasn’t asking us to consider who we are, what it means to be human or cylon, or how that might change if we are human-cylon. It was taking a step back to focus on humans and technology as a tool. I felt they missed a fantastic opportunity to drive home the point of the cylon/human relationship. It was completely implausible to me that all the human and cylon survivors would happily shun high technology (including medical technologies) as a grand symbolic gesture that they were getting rid of past mistakes when they knew very well that societies would develop the same types of technologies over time (or just die out before they did). It was even more stupid that they then immediately set about creating an agrarian society among their prehistoric brethren (who somehow happen to have matching DNA) and therefore do exactly what they said they were not going to do. Besides, around that time there the total world population was supposedly about 2000 people in two tribes in Africa, yet they talked about people being in all continents (including I think Australia) which is sloppy and completely strange for such a tightly written show.

Many of the key characters didn’t do what they would have done in those circumstances. It was so ridiculous that Tori would stand right next to Tyrol when she knew he was about to see what she did to Cally. It was even more stupid that Tyrol wouldn’t be able to control himself for a couple of minutes before strangling her. He’s thrown the odd punch, but really, he knew the consequences could be massive. I didn’t buy that at all. Adama leaving his son & adopted daughter to build a house on his own away from everyone else also seemed completely dumb to me. He’d want to be with his son. And Lee would want to be with him. Most of all, what are we to think of Starbuck? She mystically disappears, and we’re left to assume she was basically a Christ like resurrection who just left at her whim in an instant. Yet for the past several episodes she’s been unable to figure out who or what she is. So in summary, she’s flesh and blood, just as flawed as ever, doesn’t know who she is, yet she’s been resurrected to guide them to New Earth and then knows how to disappear in a puff of smoke? No. I just don’t think it washes.

Initial thoughts on iPhone 3G

Today Steve Jobs unveiled the new iPhone during his keynote at the Apple World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco.  Overall I was very happy with the news,  particularly with the confirmation that Australia is one of the 22 countries it will be released to on July 11.  The announcement about on board GPS is the most important to me.  I can’t wait for geotagging, and getting directions on the road.  Tom Tom manufacturers must be very worried right now.  The third party application demos were extremely cool, and a distribution model that takes higher education settings into account is a very welcome. I’m also personally very happy that they will be improving VPN and Exchange capabilities with the new firmware, because that’s going to make a significant difference to me at my workplace.

There were a few disappointments for me however.  The fact that there is still no 32Gb version was a surprise.  I realise that it’s because of the importance they are putting on affordability, but 16Gb is not really a lot when you start using video, photos and music on a regular basis.  The iPhone isn’t just another smart phone, it’s a new category of device.  I’m also disappointed there’s no news on pricing in Australia, but I remain hopeful that it will be in line with the US. The most troubling thing is that there has been no announcement from Apple Australia about purchasing the iPhone outright, which makes me think that the phones will be tied to contracts as they have been elsewhere to date.  But again, I’ll wait and see.  There was also one other thing I expected to see in the iPhone 2.0 firmware that wasn’t mentioned:  support for Macromedia Flash.  This seems overdue.

Wedding Photos and Video

Matt & Lotte In amazing time, Ainslie has finished processing 415 fantastic photos from the wedding.  Now we’re sorting through them to see which ones will go where and how we want them printed.  They’re all in the photo gallery, but if you see one that you’d like in high resolution, send me an email and I’ll try and get it to you ASAP.  The photos are just one of about a thousand ways that the wedding exceeded all expectations.  You can also watch the full video (warning: it’s pretty long) which was shot by Bernard and edited by yours truly.  So many people came to us and asked if they could be a part of the day.  Ainslie, Serge, Bernard, Simon, Eileen, Heidi, and Ellen all wanted to do something special.  Then of course there was the Bridesmaid, our niece Anna and the Best Man, my brother Scott, who couldn’t have been more perfect and seemed to love every minute. The most unexpected participants were definitely Daan and Thomas, who showed up without warning at the airport just a couple of days before the big day.  Daan’s response when we asked her to be a witness was pretty memorable.  With a look of shocked disbelief she yelled,  “NOOOOOO!!!  Won’t someone else by unhappy now?!”.  Needless to say, nobody was unhappy, and we all had a fantastic time.