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Preview: The Technology Human Boundary

The Technology Human Boundary

People, technology of all sorts, and my experiences with them. I do technical support work and teach, which gives me a different perspective. (Different COULD mean weird, you know!)

Updated: 2014-10-01T03:42:15.072-04:00


Fonts on the web


I had a client [over at] who was all worried about the fonts on her brand-new site. Given I knew about her level of technical expertise, I knew some explanation was in order.

Below is what I wrote, explaining how fonts on the web are completely different from fonts "on paper". The situation: we've had a temp page up for over a month, waiting on her and her writer to fill up the site with content, pictures, etc.

You need to think of the fonts online completely differently than in graphic design. Once something is printed on paper, it’s fixed. On the web, the images are RECREATED every time they are viewed – and the look of the re-creation is totally dependent on the capabilities of the machine you are using to view it.

A practical example: Let’s say we set the site to use the font Minion. it looks great on your machine – because you have Minion installed on your machine. If I pull up the site, and do NOT have Minion installed, it will look completely different – and what font is substituted will completely depend on several settings on my machine. The designer has NO control over it.

The look of the site and the content of the site are totally different. At this particular moment I strongly suggest just getting something up on the site so we can pull the “temp” front page.
Worry about the look later – because we can specify the fonts in ONE spot which will automatically change every usage of the font across the site. [There are several "depending on...." things there, but I've loaded this up with too many details as it is].

Bottom line:
Get the content posted first. Deal with the design later – the search engines look at the content only, so the sooner we get something posted the sooner you can be found online.

Win a free 50gig Dropbox account for life!


AppSumo is running a contest through October 13th - the winner gets a free 50gig Dropbox account for life!

If you've never heard of Dropbox, it is a well-done way of storing files online. You can access them through a webpage, or if you install the software on your machine you can also access them on a local folder (which is kept synced up). Folders can be shared as well.

CLICK HERE to try to win this from AppSumo.

Internet? What internet?


here's a video that aired in 1994 - a quick reminder that the 'net wasn't always as ubiquitous as it is now.

When this aired the World Wide Web was only 2 years old!

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Online Presentation tools - waaaay beyond Powerpoint!


I teach Powerpoint as part of Mercer University's CSC125 class, and have studied presenting for a number of years as part of my teaching in various locales and situations.

I find it fascinating how the technology has changed over the years. granted, I'm a bit of a maverick - I selected Astound to use for presenting way back in 1998 because it was cross-platform and way ahead of Powerpoint in terms of animation and video playback. I've used one of the tools mentioned below for a couple of years, and am planning on checking out the other soon.

Both use the "freemium" model - accounts are free for basic functionality, and advanced features are available for a subscription. allows you to upload presentation files in several formats - Powerpoint, of course, but also Keynote. Others can easily view them and navigate through the presentation in a web browser. The coolest feature, though, is the "Screencast" - where you upload the presention into, upload an mp3 file to a web-enabled location, and then use an intuitive interface to link the two together.

Here's an example of quickie presentation I threw together for my Mercer class - I was out sick, but needed to go ahead and cover the material.

Busses And Pointers
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View more webinars from Tom Rule. is something I just found this week. It allows easy creation of ZOOMING presentations, which are visually interesting (as long as they are designed well!).

One of the creators of Prezi has one called Why You Should move Beyond Slides that clearly demonstrated the capabilities and advantages. It is worth checking out.

Barnes & Noble Nook vs Apple's iPad - a review


I was in Barnes & Noble the other day and was visually accosted by a huge Nook display just inside the door. I had never had an eBook in my hands, so I walked over out of curiosity.

DISCLAIMER: I don't own an eBook nor an iPad, so this opinion is based on some out-of-curiosity online research plus about 5 minutes with an iPad and a Nook. One of my students has a kindle, and I've looked at that as well.

One of things things that struck me about the iPad was the glare from the lights overhead. Although I admire the ipad's funcionality and the elegance of the design, the glare factor on the screen makes it much less useful for reading. The frustration factor would have been exceedingly high trying to read a book on an iPad, especially in sunlight.

The Nook was a welcome contrast in this department [pun intended, of course!]. It's matte screen, although smaller in size, was much more pleasant to use in a variety of lighting situations. I was fairly impressed - plus the fact that it accepts SD cards for additional memory, has software so you can access your purchases on a variety of platforms (Macs, Windows, iPhones, Android.....), and the battery is USER-REPLACEABLE makes this reader very attractive.

According to B&N the number of titles available for the Nook is greater than for the Kindle or the iPhone by a significant factor. Granted, I have no way to check that out, but given that B&N has moved heavily into the education market (i.e. TEXTBOOKS) it's probably true.

You can also "lend" a title to another Nook user, which is pretty cool - and one model is equipped with both 802.11 [wireless] and 3g [cell phone] radios.

They come out with a color version November 19, 2010. That's one tech item the MaconMacGuy is anxious to check it out.

Spencer Katt descriptions of Windows


These are quotes from what is reportedly the last Rumor Central column by "Spencer F. Katt" from eWeek magazine (December 15, 2008 issue, pages 48 and 49).

Windows 3.0 - the first usable version of Windows

Windows 3.1 - the first of Windows to actually work

Windows 95 - the first version of Windows that anyone would actually want to use

Windows 98 - the first version of Windows that no one actually needed (soon to be followed by many more, including the ultimate unneeded OS, Vista, which would supersede.........)

Windows XP - the first version of Windows that enabled productive work to be done.

Pro Tools vs. Mackie Traktion


Some quick thoughts regarding the interface on these 2 programs. Pro Tools is probably the "industry standard", and you don't hear much about Traktion. I use both - Tracktion in my home studio, and Pro Tools LE at the college where I teach, in the piano studio.

Now, I used Pro Tools waaaaay back in the mid-90s, so I've watched it "grow up". But still, I find the Traktion way of doing things much more intuitive. Not having to switch screens to mix or edit really helps my workflow as I'm mixing, whereas Pro Tools requires a switch back and forth between editing and mixing.

To insert a plugin - in Tracktion you drag it down to the track - in Pro Tools you have to insert it into an aux bus on the mixer. This means that if you're in the middle of editing a passage and decide to add a plugin, you've got to leave editing, switch to the mixer, insert the plugin, yadda yadd yadda....

So does Pro Tool 8 still bounce tracks in real time? NO! That means that it takes 45 minutes to bounce down a 45-minute track. Tracktion's bounce speed is limited only by your computer system, not the second hand.

Still, Pro Tools is a good thing to know. I still like Tracktion better (and I get more work done faster with it).

What should I do first?


As someone who tracks a lot of different areas (technology and music are the two top-level categories) I've been struck this morning by the vast plethora of possibilities. So how is a businessperson supposed to decide on a course of action? As a musician and as a businessman, I'm told that I need to be marketing myself - and here are a ton of places where I can do that online. MySpace, FaceBook, LinkedIn, BrownBook, YellowPages, tons of musician directories, personal website, iTunes, Twitter, Feedburner.... the lsit is essentially endless.... and oh yeah, don't forget about video marketing and podcasting and....... It's probably the same way it's always been (which method of marketing is the most efficient for a given product) - the difference now being that I can do all of this myself given my skills in using online resources (plus some serious html/data manipulation skills - which are not necessary for many of these tools. Writing, however, is an essential skill.) But how do you decide what is a good use of your time? For me, I tend to avoid the "hot new thing" - Twitter being the thing at the moment. Yes, I'm on FaceBook, and linkedin, and mySpace, but none of them are a religion with me. I do a podcast on occasion, and several blogs like this one - but again, none of these are my focus. I do them for research purposes, partly - and partly for business reasons and online visibility - and partly because it's interesting. I've looked at Twitter - but I have work to do, and can't take the time to care what a particular Biz Guru is doing at the moment. I need time to think about what I'm working on, and to interrupt that thought-flow with a 160 character message about how someone is at Starbucks and the line is real long is ludicrous - even if they were Seth Godin (though I doubt Seth would be tweeting about Starbucks). So how do you decide? Dunno. I'm still experimenting with all the online marketing things. It's not boring!

Are Students as Techno-Savvy are they are supposed to be?


I would argue not. There's a myth out there that students are just wunderkinds when it comes to technology - and a lot of adults actually believe that it is somehow genetic - that there is some innate ability to understand technology that adults have grown out of. Hogwash! There are as many ways to approach tech as there are people and students are no different in that respect. I have had numerous students tell me what techno-idiots they are. I believe they cover it up though - don't publicly admit it - until faced with a technology challenge. I'd say a key difference between the kids and the adults is that adults tend to only use what they perceive to be immediately useful, while kids tend to explore more. Perhaps this is a time issue - kids have more time because they don't have a mortgage, car payments, bills, etc. Since th estudents have more time, they can spend the time learning something new - like that new cell phone feature, new computer game, new whatever. Adults tend to only learn it if they have to - or worse, figure they CAN'T learn it because they've been out of school too long. That's just sad.



TubeMogul is a service (free) that I stumbled across while thinking about creating a vodcast (i.e. video podcast) for It allows you (after some setup work) to upload a video ONCE and publish it on several different video sharing sites. Sweet! For example: ONE upload now shows up on
Google Video YouTube Revver MetaCafe Yahoo Video Daily Motion Veoh ... plus others.
The links to revver and Yahoo aren't available yet.
The service even tracks views and clicks from all these other portals. It's a well-designed site that is easy to use.

the 3g iPhone - so?


(Disclaimer: I'm not an Apple employee, nor do I write for any Mac magazines/tech publications/etc.)
Steve Jobs announced the 3g iPhone today at the 2008 WWDC (WorldWide Developer's Conference). My reaction? "Well, it's nice, but it isn't going to change my life". (Sorry, Steve! Well, no, not really.) Why? Part has to do with how I use technology. I don't NEED to be texting all day every day. I don't NEED to have web access on my phone (I do however need to take a break from the web!). I don't NEED to be spending $100/month for cell phone service for one phone! (OK - I do spend close to that, but that's for THREE phones - and I pay by the message for texting because I'd rather spend $2.00 a month for the few that I get/send versus $5 or $10/month for a capability that I won't use.) Call me cheap - but I'd rather spend the bucks on groceries...or gasoline. What's nice about the new iPhone?
  1. The user interface - wicked simple to work
  2. Web access, especially using the 3g network.
  3. The flush-mount headphone jack. You gotta admit that Apple at least changes something when they mess it up - the recessed headphone jack in the original iPhone was a mistake.
  4. The lower price
So why won't I be getting one, even at $199?
  1. I don't need it. The little dinky LG phone I'm using has served me well, and it does what I need it to do.
  2. I don't need to spend the money on something that is "cool", but adds little to functionality to my life as it stands.....and would add complexity.
Yeah, it's a nice gadget. But I've gotta go buy milk instead.
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Hmmmmmmmm........... This is a piece of technology that I can't decide on. [Disclaimer: YES, I've seen/held/played with one] The user interface is excellent. The phone's construction seems to be solid enough to handle a fair amount of user abuse - the front glass IS glass, though, so I assume there will be a lot of cracked ones before long. I was impressed with the OS - it seems easy to navigate, and the touchscreen is indeed well done. I think the product is hobbled by the strong tie-in with AT&T, though. Their data network is really too slow to be of much use for serious web browsing....... and that's a fair amount of money a year for something you aren't going to use unless you absolutely have to. Here's what I predict most people will do: They will drop the data part of the plan (assuming AT&T will let them!), and use the web surfing capabilities of the iPhone only when newar a WiFI hotspot (where the iPhone works very well, by the way). A lot of other people, though, will just continue paying that monthly fee, regardless of whether they use the capabilities or not. Yes, the iPhone is impressive. All the hype wasn't. For me, though, there is not enough need in my life/career for a $500 cell phone/music player. For $600 I could get a fairly nice large diaphragm condensor mic!

Website Growth chart


(image) This is a chart I ran across on the web in my research, showing the growth in the number of websites on the WWW. It's interesting for a couple of reasons:
  1. Because of the logartihmic setup, it looks like the growth in the number of sites is expected to slow in 2007. I think this is misleading, IF you don't pay attention to the left scale.
  2. Just think: 100 million websites online, and the web was only "invented" in the early 1990s. That is a LOT of information to search through. That's why it is IMPERATIVE that computer classes should teach search strategies, especially at the high school level.

Finally! Someone agrees with me re: Teaching Computers


Jakob Nielsen, in his Feb. 26th 2007 Alertbox article, deals with teaching computer skills. I have said for years that we don't need to be teaching buttons in computer classes - we need to be teaching processes. "Schools should teach deep, strategic computer insights that can't be learned from reading a manual." When I taught high school computers, my big frustration with all the texts we looked at was that they ALL were focused on buttons - click here to do this, click there to do that. So what were the kids to do when the user interface changed (as it ALWAYS does!)? Better to teach them how to think, how to learn, and the overall paradigms behind the basic comptuer tasks - word processing, spreadsheets, email, search, presentation design. nielsen adds one I hadn't though of - basic debugging. His point is that spreadsheets have errors, and you need to know how to go about figuring out how to fix them. I agree. The original article is here. Definitely worth reading!

Writing for the Web


Ran across a fairly decent article on writing for the web. It's posted here mainly so I can go back later and read it in detail:

It isn't the best written article on this subject I've read, but it does a pretty good job summarizing the main points to remember when writing for a webpage.

Pain in the Brain - Scoring and the Answers


If you haven't taken the exam yet, click here to take it!

Scoring: # of Correct Answers - Rating 12 - Cheater! 10 or 11 - Strong Thinker - You will do well. 7,8, or 9 - Normal - You could do well. 4,5, or 6 - Slow - I hope you do well! 1,2, or 3 - Bonehead - I will pray that you do well. 0 - Brain dead - we will bury you in a well!

1. There are 12 of anything in a dozen.

2. 6 outs in an inning (3 for each team).

3. If you take away two, then you have, duh, 2!

4. Of course they have a 4th of July in England. It's just no big deal there.

5. If a man has a widow, then he must be dead to begin with.

6. Everyone only has one birthday. Kinda hard to be born on 2 different days.

7. 60 minutes. You take the first one now, the 2nd one in 30 minutes.......

8. All of them. Some have MORE than 28!

9. 70. Divide by a half is the same as multiply by 2.

10. Nine still stand. Go back and reread the question.

11. None. It was Noah, not Moses. 12. Because seven ate nine!

Information Overload


Ran across this on Guy Kawasaki's blog:
Ten Questions with Seth Godin Question: Why don’t you check your Technorati ranking? Answer: Because the data won’t change my actions. Getting data for no good reason just drives you crazy. The secret is to get very flexible in the face of data you care about—changing your x every time you see y changes—and incredibly inflexible in the face of data you don’t care about.
The inside joke here is that Guy made a hobby of getting into the Technorati 500, and then the 100. He succeeded, too. In my case, doing such a thing wouldn't help pay any bills. It might have in HIS case, though. I love how Seth phrased it - "Getting data for no good reason just drives you crazy". We are bombarded with so much information that it can drive you into a state a paralysis. My personal problem - given I have a tendency to want as much information as possible before acting - is figuring how when to begin ignoring additional input, and just do something. Seems to me that you have to learn to decide when enough is enough, cultivate quality sources of information, and keep your eye on the prize - the goal.

Get A Freelancer observation


I joined a few weeks ago - I've placed a couple of bids, and have won one job so far. It has been fascinating watching the projects that come up on my 5-times-a-day emails.....and the bids that come through. Quite a few of the projects are from people who apparently think that having 1500 articles that are keyword rich will make their site successful......but they are willing to only pay $50 for 1000 articles. There are also a lot of obviously pre-fabricated bids on projects - often with terrible grammar. I wonder if those companies ever get any work. Why would anyone assume that you could get quality copywriting - articles - by paying $1 a page? I've also seen projects where someone wants a Flash intro page plus a 35-page site - and it has to be modern, high quality design, mind you - but they have a $100 budget. Maybe I should start thinking of getafreelancer as a flea market instead of a project area.

Flash and small biz websites


As a long-time web designer for small businesses in the mniddle Georgia area, I've been watching the growth of Flash (from Macromedia - oops, now Adobe).

When Flash started appearing on the scene, it was hailed as the end-all be-all, and was used for all sorts of goofy things. Then there was a backlash - search engines didn't know anything about Flash, so designers decided to use Flash for just some bells and whistles.

Now, it seems the industry has matured to the point where Flash is - as it should be - just another tool in the web designer's arsenal. (There's a corollary in music and the 12-tone music of Arnold Schoenberg, and how it started out as a musical philosophy, but has ended up as a tool in film composer's arsenal for getting a certain sound - but I digress).

I'm aware of the huge number of things Flash can do - but at this point have had no need for most of the, - especially the back-end database capability. I have been taking advantage of the new video capabilities in Flash 8 - that has been nice for a campaign website I'm webmastering (Dale Washburn for State House, Georgia district 137).

One of the things that attracted me to web design is that there is always something new to learn - and for me the key is keeping track of what the capabilites are. I can always go learn how to do something new - heavens there are tons of tutorials on the web, if you know how to search - but you've got to know something is possible first!

Well, back to the websites.

HIPerWall - wow!


From a newsletter that just arrived from Small Dog:

Funded by the National Science Foundation, the HIPerWall is an array of no fewer than FIFTY Apple 30-inch Cinema Displays. These units are in a grid ten wide by five high. There are 25 Power Mac G5 Dual Core towers, each with two displays attached, and an extra Power Mac G5 just for coordinating the graphics and managing the high-level display functions.

The Apple 30-inch Cinema Display is a perfect fit for this application due to its extensive resolution capabilities, and narrow border design. If you haven't seen one of these brilliant displays, you need to get to an Apple location and see it in person.

The Mac platform provides the robust UNIX-based operating system that's integrated with the open source components used by so many research teams. The machines are fast, the video capabilities provided are outstanding, and the hardware is plug and play.

The goal in building the HIPerWall was to provide a tool that allows researchers to view and manipulate data sets at extremely high resolutions.

Be it terrain visualization, disaster simulations, or a large digital microscope, the HIPerWall allows researchers to seeks solutions to problems as never before.

For more information on this topic:

Observations from the Knee-Deep South


Observations from the Knee-Deep South So true, So true.....

A company's online persona is important!


OK, so that title is probably an obvious statement. What may not be so obvious is that there are two basic schools of thought regarding setting one up. Think about the online versions of a particular company - there might be one or several websites, some blogs, forums, entries in a usergroup, emails - all of these work together to create the virtual company. For the virtual version to be effective - or at the very least reflective of the flesh-and-blood version - these elements need to be coordinated to some degree. This is where too many compnies, especially Small companies, miss the boat.

I have been involved with a small company where there was little recognition of the "fabric effect" created by having multiple online presences. As webmaster it was my responsibility - I thought - to make sure there was some coordination, or at least some crosslinking going on (plus a mdoicum of SEO work done). Sadly there was little recognition of the need for this, and those duties were given to some else who has few if any web skills. As a result the organization will not get the full benefit of those sites they have labored to create, and they will be of use only for those people who are already part of the oprganization.

To me this is a waste - sites should not only be sources of information for those already involved (for a business, the customers, for a nonprofit, the members), but also serve as a resource for those who stumble across it....and you increase the "stumbling odds" by cross-coordinating the virtual fabric created by these multiple threads.

There are 2 organizing principals I have seen at work in the virtual companies. The first says that everything should spring from some central location - perhaps the primary company website. The theory here is that one central location makes it easier to find, and from there a potential customer can locate just about anything.

This version requires significant search engine awareness when designing the primary website - and even much MORE awareness when looking at the online fabric that makes up the virtual version. If there is only one entry point, then there MUST be some effort and time put into making the site search engine friendly, and some effort spent marketing the site in some form.

The other school of thought what I call the "Cast your bread" model - a biblical reference that is particularly appropos. The original quote reads "Cast your bread upon many waters......". In this case I am referring to the idea of having multiple online presences, each cross-linked and referring to each other. IF all of the resources are search engine friendly, then you increase the odds of an online browser stumbling across your resources.

So what's a webmaster to do when cast aside? In my case, go find some other clients!



Ever heard of monk-e-mail? You can have a (customizable) monkey either read a message to a recipient (using text to speech technology), or you can record your own voice via microphone or regular land line/cell phone. A very cool technology demonstration "brought to you by"......and a potentially good marketing tool in the right circumstances.

Software Features: is a plethora a good thing?


In class today I talk about some of the collaboration features that Microsoft put into Word - specifically the change tracking options. That got me thinking about software, features, and the tree falling into a forest (does it make a sound if no one is there to hear it?) My answer to the question is yes - it makes a sound. The real question is: does it matter if no one is there to hear it? In the same way - if there is a really cool feature in software, but no one uses it, does it really matter? So the developer has to find some way of informing people about the feature (that's marketing), and training people in how to use it - or even WHY they would want to (that's training/education). Case in point: Apple, a few years back, incorporated Publish/Subscribe into Clarisworks (now called Appleworks and dying). It was a really cool feature that I used a fair amount. The idea was that you could create, say, a logo in a draw document, and publish it. Then you could subscribe to the logo in a WP doc. The logo was a live link back to the original logo - make a change, and the changes automatically propagated to the WP document. It worked much better than what Microsoft came up with (OLE), which is to say it actually worked all the time, and was really easy to use. But Apple did a lousy job of telling people about it - and teaching people how and WHY they should use it....and so the feature was dropped after a few years. That should probably start another thread about feature bloat in Microsoft Office.......but I'm tired of typing, and now have some papers to grade anyway.

There IS hope for the future...but not from textbooks


I am again teaching a beginning computer class at Mercer University - focusing more on Office than anything else. The class gave self-designed powerpoint presentations, and I have to admit I was fairly impressed. A few students had taken my teaching to heart and had gone way beyond the builtin stuff - several didn't use a single bullet point (which was WONDERFUL). I stated that my goal for the module was to insure that none of them were responsible for any deaths by Powerpoint. The text we are using, while it is full of graphics, screenshots, and handholding - really bothers me. I don't see my purpose - or even the purpose of the class - as teaching buttons. If I teach buttons, then additional training will be needed every time a new version comes out. But if I teach concepts and paradigms, then the student has already learned how to learn, and can teach themselves. It goes back to the old homily about giving a man a fish versus teaching him to fish...... Is there a textbook out there that gives the underlying paradigms for the Office-type activities? I have not seen one. Perhaps it is time to write one.