Monday, April 12, 2010

Apple iAd for Apps

Apple have announced iAd animated advertising as part of version 4 of the operating system for iPhone and iPad touch mobile devices (presumably these will also work on iPads). Developers of Apps (applications) will receive 60 percent of the advertising revenue, making free to the customer applications possible. Perhaps more interesting is that the advertisements will make use of HTML 5 features for animation.

Flash has typically used for animation in advertisements. HTML 5 couldn't be used for general web ads as the advertiser could not be user that HTML 5 was installed on the viewer's computer, but they can be sure of this with the iPhone. It will be interesting to see if Google do something similar for the Android. While Google has had mobile ads for some time, they have not been very successful. Apple may be able to come up with a format for mobile ads which is popular with the advertisers and tolerated by the viewers.

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Gadgets for Training

I will be talking on the use of hand-held devices, including smart phones and Apple iPads for of e-learning at the 2010 AITD Conference at the ATP in Sydney 22 April 2010. Suggestions on what to talk about and examples would be welcome. There is a free exhibition with e-learning products both days of the conference: 21 to 22 April 2010. If you are registering for the conference there is a 20% discount for using the code TW20.
Gadgets and more!
Tom Worthington, (aka the Net Traveller) demonstrates some cool gadgets, courseware and software being used in Learning & Development.

Labels: , , ,

Monday, April 05, 2010

Advertising in ebooks for the iPad

With the Apple iPad now released I thought I should finish the Epub version of my Green Technology Strategies book. One insight is that the Epub format used for iPad ebooks is just a type of canned web site. So it may be feasible to have advertisements, such as those for Google AdWords and embedded in an ebook.

When their ebook reader was connected to the Internet, the reader could click on an advertisement to connect to the advertiser's web site. This revenue might be enough to make many ebooks, magazines and newspapers available at no charge to the reader.

For those who do not like the idea of advertising being introduced into books, it has been there fore at least 100 years, as some Victorian era paperback books included advertising at the front and back.

Obviously there would be the issue of what to do when the reader is offline and where to put the ads on the small screen.

Another insight this brought was that e-books don't have back covers. I was designing the cover using's online tool and wondered why the button for creating the back cover was missing from the tool. It took me some time to realise that ebooks don't have back covers, in effect there is just the title page combined with the cover of the book. The promotional material which is usually on the back cover of a paperback, or the dust jacket of a hardback book is provided external to the book in the publisher's system.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Apple iPad online ebook tool

Print on demand service, are encouraging self publishing authors to produce their books in the Epub format used by the Apple iPad. My Green Technology Strategies book is avialable though and I was already considering a Epub version. So it was timely that LuLu sent me an offer, where if I created an ePub version of my book by 3/22/10 they would offer 50% off their usual fee. There is also a competition to win an Apple Ipad, but this is only for US residents.

Unfortunately what did not explain was what their new Epub service was, what it cost, or how to obtain more details. I assumed that if I entered the website with my user-id there will be details of the Epub option added next to the existing PDF ebook option. But I had to look in the help files for any mention of Epub. There I found Epub, but discussed as a variant of DRM. , which I assume stands for "Digital Rights Management". That is the topic of how to create a digital book seems to be treated as an exercise in electroncially tagging the file to protect the interlectual proproty rights to the content. So I am still none the wasiser as how to create a Epub ebook with LuLu.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Kogan Android Tablet kPad

iPad patentAustralian electronics importer Kogan have demonstrated a prototype $200 tablet computer with a 7 inch screen running Android and Ubuntu. The company is asking for input on what should be in the final design and, despite the hype around the Apple iPad, if anyone wants such a device. This "crowd sourcing" the design seems to work, I have been using the Kogan Agora Linux netbook for several months and have been impressed by how it has a low price but the features I want.

But will a product with features selected by enthusiasts like me appeal to a wider market? Is there any such market? Ruslan, the founder of the Kogan company seems sceptical and is essentially wanting the customers to convince him. The choice of a 7 inch screen looks a good one, the Apple iPad's 9 inch screen making the device too large and heavy (I have tried a mock-up iPad built by one of my ANU colleagues). This is the size of the original Asus EEE PC, which started the netbook craze. An obvious option, mentioned in the Kogan web site, is a removable keyboard, turning this into essentially a netbook with a removable keyboard. There are laptops with screen which swivel and fold to turn them into tablets.

One very good feature of the Kogan Agora is that it is easily upgraded via a large panel held on by one screw at the back. This lets you get to the expansion slots, disk drive and memory. That would be a good feature for the tablet. Another useful feature would be a USB socket in a recess in the back of the computer, large enough to hold a USB 3G modem. This would be much lower cost and more versitile than building a 3G modem into the computer.

One standards feature I would like to see on the tablet would be a VGA socket. This would allow the tablet to be docked and used with an external keyboard and screen as a desktop computer. The screen and battery could be omitted from one model of the tablet to make a $99 desktop web terminal. Many people just want a desktop computer to surf the web with and not fiddle around with loading complex software.

Writing with stylus and folding wax tablet. painter, Douris, ca 500 BCThe obvious name for a Kogan table is the "kPad". But perhaps it could use of one of the names for an ancient wax tablet, such as deltos. Images of these being used in antiquity look remarkably like modern computer tablets. This seems apt as Kogan's Agora seems to be named after an ancient "place of assembly", where such tablets would be used.

In 1996 I wrote a future history talk "Australia: The Networked Nation" featuring a hypothetical PADD (named after the devices in Star Trek). My device was to be 176 × 250 x 10 mm. The Apple iPad comes close at 190 x 243 x 13 mm and the Kogan would be closer.

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Government reports as ebooks

One response to my talk on "Making e-Books for e-Learning on i-Pads" at BarCamp Canberra 2010 was from Senator KateLundy. She tweeted: "With so much govt information online, Tom's talk makes me wonder about the merit of publishing public info in ebook formats too". This seems an idea worth investigating.

I have long advocated providing government reports as a set of web pages, rather than as one big PDF file, as is typically done. However, government people are reluctant to do this.

One argument against web pages is that they are more difficult to make, but as I show my web design students, if you take an accessible approach to design, then this is not hard. If the document designer concentrates on making a document people can read online, where most will be read, rather than concentrating on producing a pretty printed report (which hardly anyone will see), then web format is a viable option.

Another argument is that web pages are not legal documents, which I explain to my electronic document students, is not true either. There is a commonly held, but incorrect, assumption that government reports must be in PDF format to stop them being edited. It is more difficult to edit a PDF file than a web page, but not impossible. In any case this is irrelevant to the protection of government reports.

But I suspect the real issue is that a set of web pages do not seem as real as a "book" and does not have the needed look of authority a government report demands. Collecting the web pages up into an ebook format may give them the needed gravitas. This could done with a three step process:
  1. Here is the printed report, see it looks like a proper printed document,
  2. Here is the ebook, see it looks like the printed report,
  3. Here is the web page, see it looks like a chapter from the ebook.
As government agencies are already using content management systems, it should be feasible to support commonly used ebook formats with minimal effort by authors and publishers. The CMS would simply collect up a set of web pages and package them in an ebook format (a simpler system would do the reverse, saving the e-book and unpacking it on request to separate web pages, which might better meet archiving requirements).

As discussed in my talk on "Making e-Books for e-Learning on i-Pads", the obvious e-book format to use is EPUB. This is based on XHTML and CCS as used by government web sites. It is also being popularised as a format by support on the Apple iPad. EPUB requires some extra XML files, but these supply information which agencies are required to provide anyway and should already have in their systems.

Convincing agencies to use an ebook format should be a lot easier than convincing them to use accessible web pages. Instead of having to explain why a whole lot of decorative junk is not a good idea and that instead information should be clearly and simply, it will be just a matter of saying "yest, that is a wonderful animated app, but unfortunately the ebook format does not support it".

There will be some inefficiencies, as ebooks are designed to be standalone. Therefore the CSS, logos and "about us" text which can be shared between web pages (and automatically inserted as required by a CMS) will have to be duplicated in each ebook. However, this duplication already occurs with PDF versions of reports, where fonts also contribute to the size of the resulting files.

Ebooks should also make archivists happy as they include their own metadata. In fact ebooks are conceptually similar to the archiving techniques used electronic archiving systems, which wrap up all the associated files of an e-document along with an XML encoded set of metadata.

The public could still read an individual chapter of a report as an ordinary web page. The system could also still provide automatically generated PDF, if anyone wants it. But if the web version is offered first in the list of options online, I suspect most people will be happy to download a few dozen kilobytes of the summary of a report, rather than megabytes of the full report in PDF. I might try out the idea with my students this year and see if the practice then diffuses into the Australian government.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

BarCamp Canberra 2010

Greetings from BarCamp Canberra 2010 at the famous Room N101 at ANU in Canberra. There are about sixty people here so far and the room is filling fast. About one third of the room seems to be from Sydney, boosting the Canberra economy. You can follow the event in Twitter: #bcc2010.

The infrastructure is well set up with video projectors, WiFi, power-boards and Senator Lundy just arrived with duct-tape to hold the cables down.

For this I have prepared "Making e-Books for e-Learning on i-Pads":
Simple web pages and free open source software
to create an accompanying e-book for a university level e-learning
course. Educational materials can be provided for Netbooks, Amazon
Kindle, Google Android, Apple iPhone. This technique should also work
for the recently announced Apple iPad.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Friday, February 05, 2010

Making e-Books for e-Learning on i-Pads

For the BarCamp Canberra 2010, tomorrow I have prepared "Making e-Books for e-Learning on i-Pads". This is about how I used simple web pages and free open source software to create a university level e-learning course and accompanying e-book. Educational materials can be provided for the Netbooks, Amazon Kindle, Google Android, Apple iPhone. This technique should also work for the recently announced Apple iPad for education.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Delphi e-Academy

Writing with stylus and folding wax tablet. painter, Douris, ca 500 BCInspired by walking the sacred way at Delphi, I suggest a portable green e-classroom. Idris Sulaiman asked if there are any Australian guidelines on Green Computer Labs. This got me thinking about the Green Learning Commons, back to a portable e-learning classroom I proposed previously.

Last year I visited the Delphi site in Greece. Walking up the sacred way I waited for a message out of the ether. It came in the form of a telephone call from Australia asking me about e-publishing. The caller asked of I was busy, I replied that I was walking the sacred way and Delphi. There was a long pause, as the caller worked out what I had said and what it might mean. But that was the only inspiration on that path.

The most evocative part of the site for me was about 1 km below the sacred way at the gymnasium. There is an old olive tree, stoa (covered walkways) and flat exercise area. This was where the ancient philosophers did their teaching. As I was walking towards the ANU this morning I could see the main oval under repair, alongside the covered gymnasium building and the cafe. It occurred to me that what happened here was much the same as at Delphi thousands of years ago. Even the tablet computers look much like ancient wax tablets.

Imagine propping a flat panel display up against the olive tree at Delphi, next to the teacher. Hand each student a wireless tablet computer, in place of their wax tablet. Leave everything else the same and you have the e-Academy.

Labels: , , , ,

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Stack iPads for Library e-Book Display

Apple iPad video wall proposed by Clarke Hopkins ClarkeAccording to Gizmodo, architects Clarke Hopkins Clarke have suggested stacking hundreds of Apple iPads on a library wall to display iBooks. A wall of iPads in a library is an intriguing idea, but would cost twenty times as much as some alternatives. There are much more affordable and environmentally efficient ways to build a video wall to display e-Books.

Many libraries now use large flat panel displays. These can be used to show book details. The latest of these displays used LED backlit LCD panels, which use less power than old plasma screens. One computer can drive many displays, making the setup much cheaper. A video projector can also be used to make a wall size display which can show one large image, or well as many small ones. At the Australian National University's famous " CSIT building N101 seminar room" I have used the full wall display for presentations. Three high resolution projectors cover one wall of the room and a computer with three video interfaces knits these into one large desktop. The wall has also been used for video art display. The wall can display cinema style video, or when the room is needed for other purposes, simply switched off.

An Apple iPad has an area of about 0.05m2 and costs about US$500. The Dell G2410 24-inch LED LCD monitor has an area of 0.23m2 and costs about US$300. Allowing for the extra computer hardware to drive a video wall, the LCD screens would cost about US$500 each. These would cost the same as the iPads, but because the iPads are much smaller the wall would cost five times as much.

The wall depicted by Clarke Hopkins Clarke has thirty columns of iPads, ten high, or 300 in total. The wall would cover 15m2 and the iPads would cost US$150,000. The same wall area would require about 66 LCD screens and cost US$33,000. Using video projectors would cost about US$7,000.

Labels: , , , , ,

Friday, January 29, 2010

Apple iPad in 1996

In 1996 I wrote a future history talk "Australia: The Networked Nation" featuring a hypothetical PADD (named after the devices in Star Trek). My device was to be 176 × 250 x 10 mm. The Apple iPad comes close at 190 x 243 x 13 mm. I had in mind a 3:4 format screen, whereas the iPad has a wider screen.
"Personal Access Display Devices (PADDs) are the ... successor to the primitive Personal Digital Assistants, notebook PCs, radio pagers and mobile phones of 1996. ...

Larger PADDs ... dimensions of a B5 sheet of paper, by 1 cm thick ... touch sensitive screen covering the whole upper surface, which is also a high resolution (2000 x 2000 pixel by 16 million colour) screen. All PADDs have video and audio built in and can operate as what a 1996 person would know as a mobile phone, radio, TV and video cam-corder. ...

The QWERTY keyboard, in its virtual form is still in use for data entry. ..."

From: Australia: The Networked Nation, Tom Worthington, 7 February 1996
However, in retrospect I think a smaller device with a screen about twice the size of an iPhone would be better (the size of smaller PADDs in Star Trek). This is the size of the screen on the smaller Amazon Kindle. It would be about 125 × 88 mm and make a passport (ISO B7) size device which would be easier to hold in one hand. Apple might be reluctant to make a device this small, as it would compete with the iPhone. Kept in a large pocket or handbag, it could be used as a phone via a Bluetooth device (resembling a Star Trek communicator).

My prediction for resolution of the screen was a bit high at 2000 x 2000 pixels and the iPad lacks a camera. The prediction it would run Linux was almost right, with the iPad using a version of Unix (but Linus Torvalds has not got the Nobel prize yet).

I got the bit about online storage right: "Data is stored safely on servers, either owned by the employee's company or a contracted service provider. Data is downloaded as required over the network." My prediction for processing power was a bit low: "equivalent to about four 1996 era Intel Pentium processors", but memory was far too low: "(64 megabytes) to hold the data the user needs immediately".

Apple are a bit late with the iPad as I predicted it would be released in 2005. Some other predictions went better, with Senator Helen Coonan, when Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts commenting on the telecommunications predictions. One prediction which is now coming true, and the current government will be less happy with, is that fibre optic cable to households will prove uneconomic and be overtaken by wireless.

The bit about "Politicians have learnt to be careful about heavy handed attempts at net regulation." is about to come true with the predicted "Internet Party" forming as the Australian branch of The Pirate Party.

Labels: , , , , ,