Tablets are like high heels

I’ve had an opportunity to use a Motorola Xoom tablet this week and respond to my board about how it might be used in class rooms. I’ve been crushing on the idea of getting a tablet for a while now. After using netbooks in class last semester, I love the idea of a rotatable screen that lets you read without over-scrolling, the super battery life, instant on functionality and the super small form factor.

Last year at ECOO I got to use an ipad for a day, but the wireless was so dodgey (not the ipad’s fault), that I barely got any real sense of how it could work. This time round the tablet was with me at work, at home and everywhere in between.
The Xoom has a higher resolution, wide screen and faster processor than the ipad2, and runs on the Android Honeycomb OS (it’s basically a google device). It gets along natively with any google apps and lets you access the MASSIVE android marketplace so that your six year old can play a lot of Angry Birds. It also plays Flash, so you don’t get the internet-lite ipad experience.
One of the amazing things about touch screens is how quickly and intuitively people take to them. Said six year old was tossing birds at towers in moments, and skipping through the OS to watch youtube or find new software. As a tool for children, or people new to the world of digital content, tablets make a great opening. Tablets offer a great feel of immediacy, you’re actually touching the content. Keyboards start to look like bars on the door to the digital wonderland. Thinking about how poor most people’s typing is, this might be a tablet’s greatest strength.
The android honeycomb OS works well enough, I occasionally experienced bog downs when trying to type (an agonizing process on a touch screen which I thought would be better than what happens on my touch screen android phone, but wasn’t). Its biggest draw back was no Firstclass (school email) android app, so I couldn’t see board email, which makes it somewhat useless as a communication device for me at work (the Firstclass web interface stinks). If our board moves to Google, as it looks like it will, Honeycomb will suddenly look like a smart choice though.
Any kind of data entry is where I fall down on this tablet thing. I’ve seen certain (Barkerish) people touch typing on ipads (curious to know what her wpm are), but this seems like a painful transition. My typing on the Xoom alternated between trying to thumb type while in landscape mode and not being able to reach the middle of the keyboard (and I don’t have small hands), thumb text typing in portrait mode but the weight of the tablet made this uncomfortable, or trying to actually type from the home keys while it’s on my lap or on a table (when it wasn’t trying to re-orientate itself). The lack of tactile feedback if you’re a touch typer means you’re relearning how to assess accuracy (made more difficult when it pauses on you before barfing out a pile of letters). The lack of response and no tactile feed back had me deleting half a line of painfully entered text only to go back and make corrections. Trying to touch the screen and go to the specific error was pretty hit and miss, so I often resorted to the ‘screw it, I’ll start over again’ approach.
I like to make content, especially writing. I can’t imagine using a tablet for that. It was even uncomfortable for tweets and social networking, I just didn’t like trying to enter data into it. I could work at improving typing on the screen, but I don’t think I’ll ever come close to how fast I can type on a good, tactile, nicely spaced keyboard with responsive keys, so why bother?
The other contenty side of things for me are graphics. If I’m working in photoshop, I need processing horsepower to move big files (not a tablet forte), and very fine control (a super high dpi mouse minimum, or a very accurate drawing slate). A finger print covered screen that only senses gross motor commands sets of my OCD (I HATE dirty screens, I even clean my car windshield often), and does very little for me in creating graphic content where I want fine control of the environment.
I get the whole tablet thing, I mean, who wouldn’t want to look this cool? And tablets aren’t without their perks. The battery life is incredible, I ran it all day at school, then it came home and got beaten up on by @banana29 and the mighty Max, often doing very processor heavy tasks – even in that consumptive environment, it took 13+ hours of constant on again off again use before it cried for a recharge.
The instant on functionality is another aspect of that immediacy that must appeal to the old or very young, it removes another barrier to access. All computers should be instant on, no boot time at all, otherwise the web isn’t immediate, and becomes a secondary mental realm instead of enhancing our reality. You don’t get enhanced reality after a 30 second bootup. Win7 does quite well on new laptops with this, open the lid and it’s on, everything should be that instant, or it’s just too far away.
As a web browser, the tablet seems untouchable. I wish they could design a laptop screen that would rotate to vertical for reading and writing, then drop into horizontal mode the odd time you need it like that; auto-rotation rocks. I think I’d keep it in portrait mode most of the time, I don’t watch high def movies on a laptop, I’m not sure why wide screens are now the norm, I’d prefer a tall one.
The size of this tablet is pretty sweet too. The Xoom would disappear into any kind of bag with ease, and is very light and so thin as to be invisible.
What I’ve got here is a device that is only good in a few, specific situations, it fits in a very thin place between my smart phone and my laptop, a space that I suspect is actually too small for me to care about now that I’ve tried it.
I don’t care for super small phones, and I’d be just as happy with a big 5 inch smartphone that has tablety qualities than I would with a book sized tablet that works well as a reader, but I can’t seem to find another use for. If convergence is what we’re aiming for, tablets are an offshoot that will eventually be subsumed by a smartphone evolution (I’d bet on build-in, interactive projectors in phones that make bigger screens moot).
The Xoom and ipad look fantastic, but the touch screen makes me nuts when it gets finger printy, and is sometimes unresponsive (though I must admit having less problems there with the ipad, so maybe that’s an Android issue, or just what you get for not having to run any gadgets or flash). You wouldn’t type anything meaningful on a tablet, you can’t take decent photos or video with it (you’d do far better with a dedicated camera), but it looks fantastic, futuristic and makes the user look very chic.
Like those awesome Tron inspired stilettos, the Xoom is great to think about using, but after 10 minutes, you wouldn’t be getting much done and it would just hurt, though you’d still look fabulous!

Tablets are like high heels PART DEUX! (complete with awesome geeky high heels!)

Walking In Bill’s Footsteps: 1940 France

I’m going to build this one in stages.  Putting together the research in order to eventually build a map of my grandfather’s path through 1940s France will take some time.

The goal is to work out how my granddad, William Morris, worked his way through France as the British Expeditionary Force and the French military collapsed under the weight of the German Blitzkrieg during the Battle of France.

What I know so far:  
Bill was already a member of the RAF when the war began.  He was able to operate everything from heavy trucks to motorbikes and found himself supplying Hurricane squadrons in France as a heavy lorry operator.  Being stationed in France as a part of the British Expeditionary force in 1939/40when the Blitzkrieg began he started to make his way to the coast.  He got close to Dunkirk at the end of May but the chaos made it look like a bad idea, so he kept pushing south, avoiding the fast moving German Panzer divisions that were pushing into France in huge leaps.

The rough map so far on Granddad Bill’s escape from German occupied France in 1940

Sinking of the Lancastria in the National Maritime Museum

He got down to St  Nazaire by mid-June and witnessed the sinking of the Lancastria – where more people were killed in a single sinking than in the combined losses of the Titanic and the Lusitania; it’s the largest single maritime loss of life in British history.

By this point it must have seemed like the world was ending.  Here’s a quote from the man himself:

“When Paris was made a free city (June 11th) the British Expeditionary Force had to evacuate and make for St. Nazaire. The roads were clogged with retreating troops and equipment. What couldn’t be carried was destroyed. We arrived in St. Nazaire in the afternoon just in time to see the ship that was to carry us out destroyed by dive bombers. An officer directing traffic suggested we try to make for Brest. We arrived there two days later just as the last ship was preparing to leave, I had to leave my German Shepherd behind on the docks as there was no room for her on the boat.”

Bill got out of France through Brest on June 13th, 1940 – over two weeks after Dunkirk.  From May to June, 1940, Granddad saw more of France than he probably intended.  His unit was disbanded due to losses, but I’m not sure which squadron he was attached to.  A number of them were decimated trying to battle BF109s with biplanes.  The few Hurricane squadrons could stand up to the Messerschmidts but were badly out numbered and inexperienced.  If the documents I’ve got are accurate and he was providing support to a Hurricane squadron east of Paris, then there are a number of candidate RAF squadrons who were based around Reims.

At some point the planes and air crews must have taken off and left the support people, including Bill, to try and find their own way out.  He had been missing for so long and so many British soldiers were lost in the Battle of France, that he was declared missing or dead.  When he got back on British soil and was given leave, Bill headed straight home to Sheringham in Norfolk where he waited on the street for my grandmother to walk by on her way to work.  She must have been stunned to see that ghost standing there.  Bill always had a flare for the dramatic.

This is the opening chapter in a war story Bill never talked about, but I’ve been trying to piece back together from existing details.  A couple of interesting things could come out of this…

1)  Build up a map of Bill’s route through France in 1940.  Put together a collection of World War 2 era British bikes and ride them from the air field he was stationed at and follow the meandering route he may have followed, stopping at the places we have evidence he was, eventually ending where he escaped the continent.  I’ve got two brothers and several cousins, all direct relatives of Bill’s, who could do this ride with me.

Films like Chris Nolan’s Dunkirk shine a light on the often ignored
early moments of World War 2.  There is more work to be done.

We could do it on the 80th anniversary of the Battle of France in May and June of 2020.  It’s a forgotten moment in the war that is often misunderstood and mocked historically.  The French didn’t surrender (in fact they bloodied the nose of an otherwise technically superior German force and vitally weakened it prior to the Battle of Britain.  There would have been hundreds more German planes and thousands more personnel available for the Battle of Britain had the French military and British Expeditionary Force not fought as they had in France.  Bill’s journey would be an opportunity to highlight a lot of that forgotten and misunderstood history.

2)  This is the first part of William Morris’s rather astonishing path through World War 2.  His improbably survival (he was the member of multiple units that got disbanded due being decimated in battle) is the only reason I’m here today, so I find it fascinating.  Had Granddad not survived the war he would never have fathered my mum in 1946.  Our family exists as it does today because of his survival.  A longer term goal would be to put together a based on true events story of Bill’s experiences during the war, from his time in occupied France, to his work retrieving wrecks during the Battle of Britain, to his years in the desert in the later half of the war, his story sheds light on a working man’s experience in the military.  So often the attention has been on the wealthier officer class of pilots and commanders, but this is a look at World War Two from the trenches (so to speak).

3) If the book got written, it’d make for one heck of a TV or film series!

Meanwhile, the research continues…

The Norton 16H in RAF blue (once the war began they
just churned out army green ones).  The TV show would
have myself and my cousins – all the current descendents
of Bill Morris, following his trek through 1940s France.
Norton 16H in RAF colours (up to 1940, army green after that…)


Triumph Tiger 100 (not used in service but might have been found in 1940s France)

1940 Battle of France WW2 RESEARCH:

A paper I wrote for a history course at university in 1996:

Statistics on the Battle of France:

Bloodiest Battles of WW2:

The WW2 soldiers France has forgotten

Aircrafts and bases of the Royal Air Force on May 10, 1940

Get a copy of military service records:

RAF french bases in 1940 May – by June they were all gone…
Berry-au-Bac (France)
Merville (France)
Douai (France)
Poix (France)
Rosieres-en-Saneterre (France)
Reims (France)
Lille (France)
Betheniville (France)
Villeneuve-les-Vertus (France)
Conde-Vraux (France)
Berry-au-Bac (France)
Reims (France)
Vintry-en-Artois (France)
Abbeville (France)

RAF in France 1940, (Fighting against Odds)

Hurricane Squadrons in the Battle of France

“British losses in the Battle for France:  68,111 killed in action, wounded or captured. Some 64,000 vehicles destroyed or abandoned and 2,472 guns destroyed or abandoned.”

Armée de l’Air – Order of Battle, 10th May 1940

Traces of World War 2 – Royal Air Force, Battle of France 1940

RAF base Marham history

Royal Air Force – Order of Battle, France, 10th May 1940

A simulation of the Battle of France in 1940:

Mapping the Maginot line RAF supporting stations in France:

Association Maison Rouge


Moto-raids into occupied France (from a January 1941 article): might be good as a chapter piece between the BoF, the Battle of Britain and heading off to the desert…

from Blogger

Finishing Touches

The snow is slowly receeding.  This week I was down in the city and saw someone buzz by on a bike and got all revved up.  Over the past couple of weeks I’ve put the Ninja back together.  It’s about where I want it now in terms of looks.  It’s gone from a debranded, flat black angry young man’s bike to a colourful machine that knows what it is.

After it warmed up enough to get the paint sorted I sourced some stickers from The Sportbike Sticker Shop.  They arrived the day before they were supposed to in a plain envelope with cardboard backing in perfect shape ready to apply.  Since I was going for a blue and orange colour scheme and I could colour customize the Ninja stickers, I did.

I went for black Kawasaki logo writing for the lower fairing and 650r stickers for the front.  I picked up a Triumph sticker for the toolbox and the Japanese kanji for shinobi (Ninja).  Instead of on the toolbox the kanji ended up on the bike on the ‘interesting’ side (the side with the shock).  The metallic silver sticker looks great on the flat black leading into the exhaust port on the fairing.

The stickers went on well and seem to have bonded perfectly.  The site says you can clearcoat over them, so I’ll do that as a final step and it’ll be done.  I recommend The Sportbike Sticker Shop – you get your order quickly, it’s very competitively priced and the stickers are quality pieces that look great when you get them on, just don’t be surprised if you get what looks like a letter from a relative only to find it full of awesome stickers.

With any luck we’ll have some heavy rain and then a 10+°C day and I’ll be off on the kingfisher coloured Ninja.

What thirty bucks gets you from The Sportsbike Sticker Shop

paper teachers

This is another go at the Tyranny of Paper, with a sprinkling of teacher psychology…


Trying to balance photocopy budgets.

I recently got my photocopying costs for the computer department for the first half of the spring semester.  Every class we teach in computers has a 1:1 student:computer ratio.  You’d think there wouldn’t be any photocopying costs.

The one teacher we have teaching computers full time did $273 in photocopying from February to April this semester.  I happen to be teaching an English so I get to see their copying costs too.  The most expansive copier in English where they have to kill to get computer access and have to actually teach letters on paper?  $217.  Most of the others were less than  half that.

This made me angry.  If you have computers in front of every student, why in heaven’s name wouldn’t you use them to communicate with your students?  How would teaching computer programming be easier on paper?  With a limited budget that requires very specific (and expensive) hardware and software, why would I want to spend 1/5 of my budget so a single teacher can produce thousands of sheets of paper?

A recent analysis of photocopying costs (one of the single largest costs in our school and I imagine most others), was that a typical student collects an entire tree worth of handouts in their k-12 career…

The ecological costs are staggering.  Billions a year and entire forests are consumed so students around the world can get handouts.  I’m not convinced the return on investment balances the educational advantages with the ecological costs, but education is a conservative beast, and getting it to change industrial era habits isn’t easy.


Teacher preparing for class

The ecological disaster aside, I’ve always been curious about this photocopying habit in teachers.  In teacher’s college I asked myself why I was lining up for photocopiers all the time.  When you’re new, you are terrified that what you’re doing will not take the whole period, so you structure it on a photocopy to slow students from tearing through the work.  It also takes the attention off you and puts it on the desk, so you don’t feel like you’re madly tap dancing for the whole lesson.  It also means you’ve done much of the organization for students who seem increasingly incapable of organizing themselves.  Lastly, it allows you face the students while giving them information, something a new teacher is conscious of every time they turn their back to write on the board.

After using the photocopier crutch for the first couple of years I put an end to it.  I use the board if I need to display visually or help students organize information.  I trust in my ears and the relationship I’ve developed with my class (which can often involve a Snape like, direct approach to inappropriate action early in the semester) when it comes to helping them learn with my back turned.  Watching some of our senior teachers, I get the sense that they never put the photocopying crutch away, in fact, they’ve developed their entire career around it.

I also had the benefit of not being particularly beholden to 20th Century habits around institutional teaching, and leapt at the opportunity to get into elearning and digitally based education early on, further removing me from the pulp and paper teachers.  One of the big cultural divides in our school is between the paper teacher and the digital teacher.

Media Arts Course webpage (NING)

I still occasionally have to make copies, typically for tests and such, but I try and minimize that too.  When compared to department averages, I typically produce about 1/10th the copies.  When I’m given a computer lab, I typically produce no copies at all.  Course webpages, wikis and shared documents are the means of information transmission.  In media arts I’ve had students submitting shared docs (google or skydrive) and prezis when they need to show a presentation.  The entire course takes place on a private social network (Ning).

The past couple of months we’ve had a Canadian copyright foundation watchdog asking people to write down what they’re copying to ensure fair distribution of copyright funds.  How very 20th Century of them, but I guess a modern high school is just the place to monitor people still doing what they were doing twenty years ago.

hiding behind photocopies
paper teacher
copies of a copy

Hack The Future

Between questions of how student data is being used and technology monopolists pushing for standardization in edtech, I’m left with an uneasy feeling.  As we reach a tipping point in digital educational technology we simplify and standardize to the point where the people doing the teaching don’t know or care what happens behind the curtain.  What is happening behind that curtain is being decided in closed rooms between multi-national corporations and governments.  The bait is a ‘free’ digital learning system for education.  The payoff is habituated users and data mining on a level unprecedented in history, and we’re happy to sell our students and ourselves into it in order to get the freebies.

If this were all happening in the light of day I’d be a lot happier about it.  That it’s happening behind closed doors and shouldn’t be publicized is something that should concern everyone.

If you’re not paying for it you’re the product being sold.  Corporations may state that they do no evil but they aren’t after what education is after, they are after profit.  That student information is being brokered well beyond the reach of educational institutions by these information merchants should be a cause of concern, but instead I see public educators increasingly branding themselves with corporate logos and shouting their evangelism from the social media rooftops.

Technology is exciting, and digital technology is such an intimate thing because it nestles up to our minds.  Our habit of elastically coupling with our technology suggests that digital-tech is going to become an intrinsic part of how we see ourselves.  People are already describing unplugging as feeling like an amputism, it’s only going to become more entwined, especially as we begin to wear our digital selves.

I’m reminded of Kenneth Clark‘s unsettling end to what many consider to be the best documentary series ever created, Civilisation

Start at 35:30 if the link doesn’t take you right there.

That one of the most intelligent observers of human society was pondering this in the year I was born lurks in the back of my mind.  Machines that make decisions for us, many educators seem thrilled with this idea.  You may be all gungho over the latest shiny i-thing or googly-eyed over that app that will revolutionize your teaching, but the true costs of these things are a carefully kept secret.  At the very least, when we adopt a single digital ecosystem (no matter how free it is), we’re selling our students (and our own) habitual technology use into a closed environment.

As educators it should be a goal to recognize tools in terms of what they can do rather than how easy they are and how well integrated they come.  And we should never be deciding on a tool that inserts itself into the learning process based on how little we’re expected to learn about it.  Technology and the internet aren’t Google, and tablets aren’t Apple.  Computers aren’t Microsoft.  Only by offering students access to all of these things and more are we approaching the teaching of technology in as complete and well rounded a way as possible.

Over the past ten years I’ve watched education stagger into digitization always hesitant to change old ways, and I’ve pushed as hard as I can to encourage that change.  Only by catching up to this revolution can we hope to prepare students for the strange world that awaits them.  Now that we’re at a tipping point I’m watching what could be a powerful new fluency being boiled down into canned access to technology, always under a single brand.  Instead of teaching technology like it’s becoming an intimate part of our lives (which it is), we pass it off with idiotic notions like ‘digital native‘ that allow people who have no interest in learning technology to also off-load the responsibility of teaching our children about technology.  Into that ignorance vacuum corporations have crept, offering you an easy solution, and most people are more than happy to take it even if it means being walled in to a monopoly.

I wrote last on the idea of being a tech-ronin, a digital samurai without a master.  That works for me but I come from a time before data dictated who I am.   I’m worried about my students.  In a world where we’ve sold them into digital servitude as data sheep (call them digital natives if that makes you feel better), the only way out is to know the system well enough to circumvent it.  Instead of teaching a closed, monopoly limited mindset in technology that serves everyone except my students, I want them to develop a broad understanding of digital tools and how they work.  In a broad edtech learning environment my students will develop a meta-cognitive view of both technology and how they are represented by it.  In a time where we are increasingly defined by our data the only free people will be the ones who have a sense of themselves beyond their student record in the LMS.

My department logo has ‘learn how to build the future’ on it, but perhaps I need to make a change just to give my students a chance to self-realize beyond whatever data metric they are being sold into.

Rage against the machine

Digital House of Mirrors

The digital house of mirrors we all live in.

It’s early days, ECOO isn’t until next October, and I’m reticent to say what I’m going to present on months ahead of time.  The digital learning landscape can change quite significantly in eight months.

My previous ECOO presentations have followed an interesting arc, from philosophy to specific action.  My first go with Dancing in the Datasphere talked about fundamental changes happening to us as we transition to a data driven world.  The mini-lab followed a year later, the idea there being that we diversify technology in order to develop true digital fluency in students.  Last year the final step was to work toward a digital skills continuum.  Only by integrating a developing skill set into curriculum will we begin producing students who have the technical skills necessary to survive and thrive in the digital age.

That trajectory, no doubt pushed by my transition to computer studies from English, had me looking at developing greater student familiarity with computing tools because I see a great deal of ignorance in the ‘digital natives‘ I’m teaching every day, but that focus was technically biased.

For those of us who have lived as adults through the last twenty years of technological revolution, we sometimes forget where we’ve come from because we’re so engrossed with where we are.  For ECOO this time round I’m thinking about what technology is demanding of us as people. Our selves are being stretched and amplified in ways they never have before.  Nick Carr’s The Shallows puts us on a pretty stark trajectory towards idiocy with what is happening to us.  The digitization of the self stretches us flat, making continuity of thought impossible and turning us all into distracted, simplistic cogs in a consumerist machine designed to turn us all into the lowest common denominator; none of us any smarter than our smartphones.

With the advent of social media we suddenly find ourselves existing in multiple places at once.  Our self is no longer geographically focused.  Our influence spreads across the internet. We are able to affect change in people and places formerly unconnected to us.  The people we communicate with (albeit in a minimalist way) are far flung and many.  The people we spend deep, attentive time with are fewer and diminished.  

Our digital selves are perceived in many different ways.  The aforementioned digital native tends to not differentiate between online and real world action.  They often consider social media as just another conversation they are having, and are then shocked when something said publicly is responded to by the public.  The generation of kids (our students) growing up in this ongoing social experiment never look at privacy settings, have little idea of the differences between social networks and tend to broadcast online what is on their minds in much the same way they would while hanging out with friends.  The veil between the physical and the digital, between public and private is all but non existent to them.  

Digital Footprints & Always On Teacher Faces

A more professional approach to managing the online self is to adopt marketing theory and develop your online brand.  Companies and celebrities approach social media in this manner, often using marketing firms to manage and run their social media presence.  I can’t help but think that this lack of genuine presence games the system and ultimately fails.  It’s exhausting to maintain if  you can’t hire marketing monkeys to run it for you, and ultimately, it’s fake.  I’d much rather read my favourite author’s tweets from his own fingers than follow what someone trying to sell me something thinks I should be seeing.  Many teachers fall into this trap when tentatively stepping into online presences.  Spending your weeknights and weekends being mister or missus Teacher is nothing more than working all the time, forever.

The Cult of Done

If there is a positive future to a digitally enhanced self I’d hope it is through a genuine sense of self expression.  We should be aware of what the tools are and how they work, and then we should use them to empower our access to information, our ability to mine deeply into details, to collaborate and develop community, to share our own creativity, interests and sense of discovery.  The technology should not only allow us to do these things, it should be pushing us to maximize our effectiveness as thinkers and doers.  Any technology that produces distracted idiots will doom the people using it.  Evolution should still be eliminating the irrelevant, even in the digital realm.

It’s early days in this sea change of how we deal with a digitally enhanced self.  In the future the hybrid intelligence of a digitized human will evolve toward a higher order of effectiveness.  Those made useless by digital tools will, much like those weakened by an inability to read, become marginalized.  Those able to harness information literacy will enjoy those advantages.  Those who ignore it will find themselves increasingly unable to compete.

What that effective digital self looks like in students, in teachers, in people in general is where I’m currently thinking about pushing my research this year. How we adapt to these changes now will establish effective habits as the technology rapidly spins out of its infancy and into maturity.  There is no better time to consider what a digitally enhanced human being should look like than now, when we’re in the process of inventing the very idea.

The idea of Web3.0, or intelligent/self organizing information suggests that the future of digitized humanity will inherently push toward greater effectiveness.  The opportunity to be passive or stupid in a digital context will actually work against what the data wants to do for you; you’ll learn in spite of yourself, you’ll know what you need to know when you need to know it – the data itself will ensure this.  It would be interesting to show the evolution of digital humanity over the past three decades, and where it might be going in the next twenty years.

The era of stupid/passive information is ending. The people that it has created will have to adapt to technology that demands more of them, or risk being made irrelevant by it.

Still Waiting…

The teacher PC in our school computer lab, like every other PC in the room, is a free-range machine.  The whole lab runs on the newest Windows we can get (beta if it’s out) and are open to allow students to install and test various software in order to stay current with technology.  We extensively use Microsoft’s Developer tools to test software and hardware.

On the teacher PC I purchased Windows 7.  Then I purchased a Windows 8.1 Pro upgrade key a year later in order to keep up with student machines using Windows 8.  The next year I was led into Windows 10 by Microsoft’s persistent upgrade messages.  The lab was migrating to Windows 10 beta at that point so it made sense that I’d be seeing the same software as my students.

All was good until yesterday.  My old motherboard only had 4 usb ports and couldn’t handle the number of peripherals I was needing plugged in.  I installed a new motherboard, everything else stayed the same.  The old motherboard got pressed into lab work and no longer had Windows on it.

Suddenly Windows 10 was plastered with activate warnings, so I contacted Microsoft.  Here is the transcript.

I’m still waiting, they aren’t going to contact me.

After purchasing Windows 7, and purchasing 8.1 Pro, I’m told that they don’t hand out free Windows 10 keys?  I’m not asking for a free key, I’m asking Microsoft to honour the multiple keys I’ve already purchased.  I’m not purchasing another one, especially not at nearly $300 Canadian!  It feels like extortion.

I’ve updated hardware before.  It was a quick matter of the Microsoft admin updating the new hardware to match the old key.  Apparently this is no longer possible.  Windows 10 (a much needed improvement after getting me to buy the awkward Windows 8), will not let you migrate with hardware updates, something PC users do quite a lot.  The PC that had Windows on it has been wiped and is no longer using it, so this isn’t a matter of getting ‘free’ Windows – it’s the same install on the same hard drive.  Migration shouldn’t be difficult, but then why do it if you can force people into buying something they’ve already purchased (twice) over again?

If I’d purchased a Microsoft car and then had a new transmission installed, they’d tell me they no longer acknowledge the car and that I have to buy a new one.  Were I running the old motherboard on the old hard drive with Windows and demanding a new key for a new machine, I’d agree that they shouldn’t give free licenses, but this isn’t that.

I’m a fan of Microsoft.  I’ve been buying Windows since it was single digits and Microsoft OSes since they were DOS, but this whole thing has left a bad taste in my mouth.  I expected better, especially from a company so committed to supporting education.  

Unfortunately, this is turning into a teachable moment for the dozens of students I’m teaching I.T. to.  That Microsoft’s support thinks the best solution is to simply walk away from a long time customer is pretty baffling too.

Followup:  I’ve got Windows 10 reinstalled on that PC.  I had to wipe the disk, reinstall Windows 7 (and download several gigs of downloads from Microsoft) before I updated to Windows 8.1 (followed by several more gigs of downloads), followed by the WIndows 10 update.

The Microsoft roadmap is this:  we’ll give you Windows 10 ‘for free’, but we won’t let you reinstall it.  If you make any hardware changes or need to reinstall, we’ll make it such a pain that we can then force you to re-buy Windows even though you already have.

The problem is that this process requires Microsoft to maintain drivers and support for two stale OSes (Win7, Win8+8.1), and pay for the bandwidth to allow owners of their software to reinstall and update what they own (even though they’ll never use it because they’re heading for 10).  It’s like Microsoft is cutting off its nose to spite its face.

Anyone who has updated to Windows 10 should have a Windows 10 key that allows them to reinstall it.  Their previous Windows keys should then go stale.  Keeping everyone on the most current OS means better security for everyone and less overhead for Microsoft (who can then focus on making Windows 10 as bullet proof as possible).

I’m not sure which MBA wizard convinced them that their current approach is the best one.  I can tell you that the engineers who have to make it happen wouldn’t be thrilled with it.

Riding the Rocky Mountains

I drove the Canadian Rockies this past summer.  Riding from Ghost Lake in Alberta to Chilliwack in British Columbia would be one hell of a few days.  We did it in a crazy day and a half going the most direct route we could with one missed turn having us drive the wrong way to Boston Flats to get back on the Trans Canada.  Doing the Rockies like that it was pretty exhausting, even in a car.

On a bike it’d be dangerous to try and pull that off, especially as none of the roads are straight and you’re fighting altitude too.  It would be a shame to rush through it anyway, so taking your time is the way to go.  When I eventually ride the southern Canadian Rockies it’ll be a multi-day trip that makes use of every road I can find.


Day One:  Cochrane, AB to Radium Hot Springs, BC.  323kms via 40/742.  Lunch in Banff.  That’s just over five hours of riding at a sixty kilometre per hour average.  With multiple stops, it’d be a full day of riding twisty roads before hanging it up in Radium Hot Springs for dinner.

Day Two: Radium Hot Springs to Revelstoke, BC. 252kms via 95 and TransCanada.  This might seem like a short day, but it’s high altitude passes over top of the world stuff.  We staggered into Revelstoke around dinner time and wanted to stop, but had to push on.

Day Three:  Revelstoke to Vernon along Upper Arrow Lake.  300kms via 23 and 6.  We didn’t go this way last time and bombed down the TransCanada behind infinite numbers of campers and eighteen wheelers who were wheezing up and down the inclines.  This route is at least as twisty but should offer less heavy traffic than on the more direct route.  Kamloops was a pretty rough spot, so I wouldn’t miss it the second time through.

Day Four:  Vernon to Hope via Boston Flats and Hell’s Gate.  After a couple of light days, the last day going West is a kicker.  Just over 400kms of very twisty mountain roads.  Google maps says it’s a five hour effort, but with traffic, twists and roads that’ll leave your mouth hanging open, that’s an optimistic ETA.  This would be an all day ride along some unforgettable roads.  I ran into a new rider at Hell’s Gate who had ridden up from Vancouver.  He was grinning ear to ear.

From Hope you’re ideally poised to hit the west coast, but this isn’t about that.  If you still haven’t had enough of your Canadian Rocky Mountain High, a trip back skirting the US border offers you a whole new set of twists, turns and stunning scenery.  I’d be hard pressed not to want to head toward Valhalla

You could do a lot worse than giving yourself a couple of weeks (or months, or the rest of your life) wandering the Canadian Rockies.  This trip doesn’t even touch Jasper or Whistler.  There are also a number of roads that don’t go anywhere.  Chasing down those dead ends would be an obsession of mine if I lived out there.

Here are some of those roads we saw this summer… 

…and these are all ‘main’ roads!

Like most Canadian Roads, they suffer huge swings in temperature.  The ideal thing to tackle them on would be a road focused adventure bike.  The extra suspension travel would help soak up the inevitable imperfections while allowing you to still enjoy the twists and turns.  They also happen to be the ideal ride for a big guy like me.

KTM focuses on fast ADV bikes, but you’d also be spoiled for choice if you looked at Triumph’s big Explorer, or BMW’s bonkers XR sports ADV.  

Yamaha’s Super Ten is a solid, fast choice, as are the other larger capacity Japanese bikes (though they all seem to object to defining the category).

from Blogger

Wanderlust: A Travel Motorcycle Production Company

I’m at it again.  Wanderlust, but with my trusty production crew this time.

North and West and then back again with the least amount of same roads:

I must have some kind of strange OCD, but I really enjoyed putting this together:

With scheduled production crew meetups and travelling together from Prince Rupert to Vancouver Island and back to Vancouver, it turns into a 41 day ride schedule with a 36 day production schedule.  The production team (Max & Alanna) have 8 flights spread over the 36 days they are on the road.

This would be an opportunity to collect video and develop a cross Canada story from a lot of different angles.  The production team would collect stock footage of the various regions we’re in and save footage and data off the bike at meetups.  They’ll then backup all data including footage and keep it safe.  I also hope they’d maybe develop their own stories in the process.

The goal of the production will to use the latest in digital tools to record the trip, eventually producing a variety of media out of it.  My goal would be a written story of a long distance, cross Canada, endurance motorcycle ride with photography to support a book.  I’d also then look to turn the ride into an episodic travel TV show.

Tools We’d be using

A 360° camera for experiential video.

I used a Ricoh Theta 360° camera a few weeks ago and was impressed with the results.  I’m not sure how we’d integrate this video into a media piece, but it would open the door to exploring virtual reality, which feels like the next big thing.  The lack of a single point of view makes for challenging post production, as does the huge amount of data it collects.  ThetaS: $450  The 360fly could be another choice.

Contour action camera on the bike.

I used this last fall and found its small profile ideal for collecting video from a motorcycle.  The upper scale model allows memory and battery swap-outs, making it ideal for shooting on long days.  I’d have one wired in to the bike so it could keep shooting for footage we could use in high speed video.  When things get really rough up north, this will keep collecting footage when others fail.  Conour+2: $430
The Olympus Tough TG-Tracker might be an interesting alternative.


I’m partial to Olympus Cameras.  In addition to the video camera on the bike, I’d also carry an Olympus OM-D E-M1 DSLR for photography.  It’s weatherproof and tough, takes a wide variety of lenses (I’d carry a tele-zoom, 2x teleconverter and super wide angle with me).

Backup batteries and memory cards mean it’ll keep going all day.  

Olympus OM-D E-M1: body & lenses $2800

The production team would carry a pro-quality DSLR camera for shooting highest quality video.  The Canon EOS 70D is generally considered the top DSLR for video.  With proper video LED lighting, tripod and on camera and interview mics this kit would collect top quality video and sound.  Multiple battery and memory cards mean it can keep shooting on long days.

Multiple microphones (on camera and clip on interview), a teleconverter and a wide angle lens along with the 18-135mm lens would cover pretty much every eventuality.

Canon EOS 70D with accessories:  $1700

Another leading edge tool for this trip would be an aerial drone to take fantastic establishing shots.  The DJI Phantom 4 is a Canadian made aerial camera platform that produces astonishing video footage.  Its 28 minute flight time mean it could be used on multiple flights and recharged in the camera truck between flights.
Phantom4 with spare batteries & case: $2300


$30k seems like a good price for generating a wide variety of footage that could eventually be made into multiple cross country stories of epic proportions!

Now to find a producer and some corporate support.  My logo-ed dream team would be:

ECOO 2014

ECOO 2014 approaches this week.  Once again I get to step away from the classroom for a couple of days and see the forest for the trees.  Instead of day to day/trying to make things work, I get a couple of days of strategic space to consider how things might be.

The ECOO conference is all about possibilities for me.  I know a lot of people go there to learn how technology works, and that’s great, but for me it has always been about possibilities.

In school we’re all in the trenches trying to make things work.  For tech-savvy teachers this can be a very frustrating experience.  We’re not only battling the complications of getting complex information technology to function in the rough and tumble world of the classroom, we’re also battling the negativity of colleagues who aren’t buying in to the possibilities offered by this technology.

ECOO is a chance to get away from all that static and consider possibilities in a positive light.  The trick for me has always been not to get mired down in how-to sessions.  I like the big thinking/strategic talks.  The keynotes usually do this well, but it isn’t always possible to find that kind of opportunity in the breakout sessions because a big part of ECOO is assisting new edtech aficionados into the fold.  When I can’t find an edtech-philosophy or future-tech session I’m just as happy to bump into someone and have an unscripted chat.  You won’t find a greater edtech braintrust anywhere than you will at ECOO.

What will I get out of ECOO this week?  Inspiration, I hope, and some idea of what’s coming, so I can be ready for it before it gets here.