Life in the Clouds

By Valerie Heruska

Cumulus, Stratus, Cirrus, Nimbus. Clouds.

When it comes to technology terms, cloud computing is one of those things that I wish was around since the beginning of time because it is just such a useful tool that has helped me in both professional work and personal fun.

Evernote and Dropbox have been my two biggest loves.

Evernote

For those of you who don’t know and have always been curious about Evernote, here’s a quick snapshot of what it is:

Evernote is a suite of software and services designed for notetaking and archiving. A “note” can be a piece of formatted text, a full webpage or webpage excerpt, a photograph, a voice memo, or a handwritten “ink” note. Notes can also have file attachments. Notes can be sorted into folders, then tagged, annotated, edited, given comments, searched and exported as part of a notebook. Evernote supports a number of operating system platforms (including OS XiOSChrome OSAndroidMicrosoft WindowsWindows Phone, and WebOS) and also offers online synchronisation and backup services. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evernote)

Evernote is simple to use and I know many people who use it for research papers or just about anything they need. Evernote can be used to hold recipes, ideas, notes, research, etc. And there’s a cute elephant involved.

Dropbox

Dropbox is a file hosting service operated by Dropbox, Inc., that offers cloud storagefile synchronization, and client software. Dropbox allows users to create a special folder on each of their computers, which Dropbox then synchronises so that it appears to be the same folder (with the same contents) regardless of which computer is used to view it. Files placed in this folder also are accessible through a website and mobile phone applications. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dropbox_(service)

I love Dropbox because it’s simple and user-friendly. I like to use Dropbox with my Senior RA, because it’s so easy to share files (RA Evaluations) so we can both do them and it will automatically update any changes (in the similar way to Google Docs Drive). I used to “share” my music and pictures with friends. The downside is that there is only so much storage on their server, unless you connect with a billion people, then you should be fine.

Apple iCloud

Like a delightful nimbus cloud, the Apple iCloud is great for anyone who is an Apple hoarder (me). I only have to download my music on one device and bam, it’s on all of them. Pictures can be transferred via the cloud, as well as all my apps. I love you Apple iCloud!

 

So there ya have it… life in the clouds is pretty spectacular and hopefully it will make life a little easier for you!

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Life in the Clouds

The iPad Mini: the iPad I’d Been Waiting For

By Brenda Bethman

 

Credit: CNET

Thanks to Kristen’s bad (or good, depending on your perspective) influence, I was an early adopter of the original iPad (and eventually complete Apple convert). When the iPad 3 with retina display came out, I thought iPad perfection had been reached. I was wrong — it turned out that the iPad mini was the iPad I’d been waiting for.

Why? Well, the reason I wanted an iPad in the first place (besides wanting to be like Kristen) was due to its potential as an e-reader (I’m not alone there — it was this Salon piece that convinced me). Sure I could have bought a Kindle, but I liked the idea of being able to keep up with RSS feeds, check email, etc., as well — Kindles and other dedicated e-readers are great, but their single function can be limiting at times (at other times, not so much — I have a Kindle for reading in bed, on the beach, and in other places where I don’t want the distraction an iPad provides). While reading on the iPad was for the most part an enjoyable experience, it was heavy after a while and awkward to hold when lying on one’s back on the sofa (my preferred Sunday afternoon reading position). The iPad mini takes care of that — weighing in at less than a pound (0.69 for the LTE version, to be precise) and small enough to hold with one hand, I can happily read for hours.

The smaller size and weight also make the mini much more portable than its larger sibling. I picked up the cellular version and bring it everywhere — it’s even small enough to fit in a large purse and will come in handy this summer when we are vacation and my husband is navigating (his hands are too large to use the iPhone comfortably). Earlier this month, I traveled to a conference the found the mini to be the perfect size for live-tweeting sessions — and having LTE meant that I was not dependent on overly-burdened hotel wifi. In short, as my title indicates, the mini really is the iPad I was waiting for (even if I didn’t know it). At first I thought I would keep my office-issued iPad 3 in addition to the mini, but after a few days, I realized I no longer needed it and handed it off to a colleague.

One last thing — while many reviews (see Ars Techinica’s for example or the reviews listed in Mashable’s roundup) bemoan the lack of a retina display on the mini, it hasn’t bothered me — I notice it occasionally when I’m holding the device too close, but overall it hasn’t been a problem. Certainly not enough of one to overcome my love of the form factor.

The iPad Mini: the iPad I’d Been Waiting For

Robin Williams: The Designer for Non-Designers

by Valerie Heruska

I recently picked up some fabulous books on graphic design. They are:  The Non-Designer’s InDesign Book, The Non-Designer’s Photoshop Book, and  The Non-Designer’s Illustrator Book. What I like about them is that they explain the basics of each program and really act as a springboard for any person looking to get into graphic design.

These three books are written by Robin Williams. Born in California in the 50s, Robin was a free spirit: she traveled Europe and hitchhiked across the country. A friend introduced her to graphic design during her time at Santa Rosa Community College.

On her website she writes:

In 1984, of course, the Macintosh was invented. I was very resistant to computers. “I’m going to let computers pass me by. By the time they can do what I do in graphic design, I will be ninety years old and won’t care.” Well, was that stupid, of course. One of my students, Brad Mager insisted I could not be computer-illiterate. He brought over his Mac Plus and plopped it on my kitchen table, which was the only flat surface in the house clear enough to set anything on. We clicked. The Mac made perfect sense to me. Even the Font/DA Mover made sense. I was teaching 8 hours a week but running the entire graphic design program, which took about 30 hours a week. I got paid for 8. So I quit the design program and asked to teach a HyperCard class. Oh my that was fun. I asked if I could teach any other Macintosh classes. They said, “Can you teach spreadsheets and databases?” “Oh sure,” I said. I ran home and looked up “spreadsheet” and “database.” I discovered that I love spreadsheets and databases–such clear, logical, and oh so useful programs. Taught Microsoft Works, Intro to Macintosh, PageMaker. (http://www.ratz.com/robin/realbio.html)

Robin’s books are very user-friendly, and I can tell that she really enjoys writing and teaching graphic design. If you are interested in wanting to know more about how to use these programs, I suggest that you pick up some of her books. I think that Robin’s passion for teaching us about graphic design really puts her at the forefront of the graphic design world.

You can pick up Robin’s books at  Peach Pit Press.

Robin Williams: The Designer for Non-Designers

Gadget Love

By Brenda Bethman

One of the perils of being an early adopter is that you get to work out all the kinks in a product. Which for me means that I am currently dealing with an iPhone 5 with a super-fast draining battery (and no, I am not alone). As I am about to head out on a trip and battery cases are not yet available, I headed down to the Apple store at lunch to see what kind of power solution I could pick up. While there, I chatted with one of the Geniuses and explained my issue.

His advice? “Just restore as new.” “But,” I said, “that takes forever and I’ll lose all my texts.” “Then I guess you’re stuck with the battery pack,” he says.

As someone who has only recently (in the last couple of years or so) been converted to texting, I was surprised at how strong my emotional reaction was to this suggestion. The idea of losing (and by losing I mean not being to restore to my phone — I suppose they would be living on my computer in a backup somewhere) my texts really bothered me. Histories of arranging meetups at conferences, snarky text exchanges with Kristen, the long text conversations had with a friend who was back home while his mother was dying — all gone? Never to be reread? Not to mention the useful information like addresses, emails, phone numbers, etc. Oh, and the kitten videos and texts from my nephew. Gone? Just gone? The very idea made me feel bereft. I was also annoyed with how cavalier the dismissal by the Apple employee was. They encourage this very emotional connection and then just shrug while telling you “sorry, yes, you will lose that data”?

For now, I’m trying other options before resorting to restore as new. And some Googling has produced two resources: Backuptrans iPhone and iBackupBot, both of which promise to backup and restore text messages (although I doubt neither can do anything about the time suck that that involves. Alas). Still, though, this gave me some pause, raising some questions: am I too attached to my iPhone? Are these texts really that important? Sure, I carry around (and will forever) the letters that my husband wrote me back when we first met and I was on my Fulbright in Vienna — but are electronic messages really the same? Am I too sentimental? I don’t know the answers just yet, but I do know that for now I’m looking to find a way to preserve those texts. What about you? How attached are you to your electronic archives?

Gadget Love

Highlight of an app: My Fitness Pal

by Colleen Riggle

It took my child turning one to finally give me the push to lose those lingering baby pounds.  I often hear many women complain about them days, months, or even years after giving birth.  Not that I am super concerned with my weight, but it was more so wanting to expand my wardrobe a bit more.  Materialistic? Perhaps, but it’s more realistic with the cooler Fall temps approaching.

Being an athlete I’ve always keep a good idea of what my daily caloric intake, fat and protein looks like and used various apps in the past.  However, for the past 35 days I have successfully logged every meal, snack, and cardio/strength workout.  For me that’s pretty impressive.

My Fitness Pal has been awesome for a couple reason.  It’s an app that is web based as well, so when I’m at work I can log my snacks and foods quickly without having to use my phone.  But if I’m on the go, sitting in traffic (carpooling, of course) I can log in my dinner or send some motivation to my “friends”.  Additionally, you’re able to either keep your food diary public or private.  My friends and I have public food diaries, so we able to get fresh, new ideas of meals or snacks.  We’re also able to give advice where someone might be struggling.  Or you can see just how many Starbucks I’ve had in the last week!

Lastly, what I love about My Fitness Pal is the barcode scanner! It’s awesome.  At dinner time, I just run around zapping the barcodes, which add to my “recent” foods, as well as my meal history!   Once in a while it’s a little wonky where it pulled up something totally random from what I was eating!

Whether you’re watching your intake, on a “diet” or just looking for a cool new app My Fitness Pal gets 5 stars from me!

Highlight of an app: My Fitness Pal

Blog Prompt: Best Technology Advances

By Anitra Cottledge

Occasionally, when I’m given a blog prompt, I go to my Facebook and/or Twitter for what I like to call “Audience Participation Time.” I ask my friends and followers what they think about a particular question or issue. So when I realized my topic du prompt was about the best advances in technology this year/this decade, I was very curious about what other people thought.

I have to say…I was very surprised by the response I got from other folks.

Before I get to that, let me share my own personal thoughts about the prompt. As you might imagine, it’s difficult to pin down one or two or even five top technological advances that have occurred in the last year or even the last decade. I think part of this difficulty is due to the fact that technology changes so quickly these days, that it’s simply hard to keep track. When I think about the technology that has really impacted my life, a common theme is “portability.” What a lot of technology in the last decade has done for many of us is make it much easier to take our media – books, music, film, – with us without too much fuss. I’m talking about iPods, iPads, and e-readers, etc. Who among us has some sort of iPod, or MP3 player, and also remembers your first one? Do you remember how revolutionary it was to walk around with a good chunk of your musical library in a small device that you could put into your pocket? Even as these things have been refined and made even smaller, even faster, even flashier, it’s still pretty amazing that technology has been able to take us from Walkmans to Discmans to MP3 layers, and in a very short period of time, to boot.

I will also go on record as saying, despite my initial reservations about e-readers, Kima (my Kindle Fire) is a godsend when I travel. I’m the kind of traveler for whom having several reading options is a must. Now, I can take a mini-library with me when I travel instead of having to choose one or two books (that I will probably finish too quickly).

Another common theme is convenience. It helps to be able to pay bills online, to order any number of things online, to schedule blog posts and tweets and Facebook statuses ahead of time. (I continue to be fascinated by the ways that the internet and technology in general simultaneously save us time and steal our time.)

Those where the things I was thinking about. Thus, I was expecting to hear echoes of that from other people. And while some people did mention their iPads and laptops, the clear winner that I heard from other people was Roku.

Roku - XDSI never saw that coming. But I suppose it makes sense: Roku fits right in with those themes of portability and convenience. With Roku, you can stream all sorts of media and services to your TV: Amazon.com Instant Video, Hulu, Netflix, HBO GO, TED talks, games like Angry Birds, Pandora, etc.

Most people who responded said that Roku was the piece of technology they couldn’t live without, and most interesting, that it signals the end of cable TV. I don’t use Roku, but now this round of Audience Participation Time has me considering it. And now, I’m curious to see what, in fact, does happen to cable TV if more people start using Roku.

What about you? What do you think are the best technology advances in the last year or decade?

Blog Prompt: Best Technology Advances

Blog Prompt: New to Me, Anyway

By Anitra Cottledge

What new tech practices are you using this academic year? What do you want to learn more about?

As we ramp up to the beginning of the semester, I am all about decluttering (or uncluttering, depending on how you look at it). This goes for technology too. Cleaning out the rest of my life has made me reflect upon tech and whether I’m using it productively. I’m not aware of any new technology that I’m dying to integrate into my life (not right this minute anyway).

I am more interested in repurposing and/or maximizing my use of the technology that I already know about. Here’s some examples:

  • Google Tasks – I know colleagues who are using this Google feature already, but I didn’t discover that until recently while I was in South Africa (yes, I went halfway across the world and discovered something that was there all the time). I officially started using Google Tasks this week, and so far, so good. My calendar/to-do list system has been whittled down over the years to a couple of basic layers that really work for me, and my sense is that Google Tasks will be a good place to keep track of spur-of-the-moment ideas and tasks that occur to me while I’m sitting at the computer at work.
  • Scrivener – Scrivener is where my writer and tech nerd sensibilities meet. I started using this on the recommendation of my writing group co-coordinator, who swears by it come NaNoWriMo time. As someone who’s writing projects keep expanding, I’ve been playing around with how Scrivener can be useful in organizing not only the fiction and creative non-fiction that I write, but also blog posts and academic and work-related writing.
  • ChimeIn – Recently, at an instructor retreat, we talked about meaningful ways to integrate technology into the classroom experience. We’re playing around with ChimeIn, and excited about it as a “web-based student response tool.” I’m looking forward to giving it more of a test drive when I teach during spring semester. In the meantime, however, I’m thinking about its use in other work settings: during educational trainings or workshops, or doing in-house engagement or professional development within our own staff.

As for what I want to know more about, my perennial favorite (hopefully, I’ll have another long-standing favorite after this year) is video production. I feel like more and more of my women’s center and student affairs colleagues are utilizing videos for a number of purposes: education, visibility, fundraising, etc. I’m looking forward to working with and learning from some of our interns this year on this front. If you are involved with video production in your office or work, what software do you use to create videos? Any tips or tutorials are welcome!

Blog Prompt: New to Me, Anyway