My impressions of Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard)

I tend to be an early adopter of new technology (when I can afford to be!). When the ship date for the version 10.5 of Mac OS X a.k.a. “Leopard” was announced earlier this month, I placed my order right away.I received the DVD on Friday, October 26th, the day of the official release and proceeded to install it on my MacBook Pro as well as my older G5 tower.

My first impressions are emphatically positive. As far as overall system upgrades go, this is more an upgrade of “tweaks” and enhancements then a paradigm shift for the operating system. Not only are many welcome new features both major and minor added, there are are also a plethora of “fixes” that add to the overall consistency of the OS. The upgrade performs well on both the Intel-based MacBook Pro as well as the older PPC G5 (a dual 2.3 GHz processor). Finder performance seems zippier than previous iterations of the Mac OS.

Here’s a short list of what I like (in no particular order):

  • Consistent views in every app, modeled after the iTune look and feel. The graphite color scheme has infected every part of the OS, and though it may be an acquired taste for some, it is consistent and easy to get a handy on what to look for in every program.
  • iChat adds some eye candy in the form of funky effects and backgrounds, but the real power comes in the form of iChat Theatre, which allows users to share screens, media files and images in the chat window. Also new in Leopard is the ability to be logged into multiple .Mac/AIM accounts simultaneously. The look of the chat window can also be customized to fit various screen sizes.
  • Spotlight now has real boolean search capabilities, and many of the performance issues of Tiger’s version of Spotlight seem to have been resolved.
  • Mail is much more of a full-featured program, incorporating task lists and notes into the mix.
  • Time Machine: backups without thinking!
  • Safari’s web clips feature allows you to save a page or a portion of a page as a Dashboard widget (great for RSS content).
  • Networking in Leopard is much simpler. Most connections can be made aith a minimum of fuss and managing networked printers has been a snap so far.
  • System preferences make a lot more sense, and many of the options have been simplified (and the geeky stuff hidden behind an “Advanced…” button.

Of course, there are always some rough edges or annoyances to any OS, especially a new one. Here’s my list of beefs:

  • The new dock makes for attractive eye candy, but it is sometimes hard to tell which apps are running with a quick glance.
  • It would be great to be able to change the size of the font in a Finder Window’s sidebar.
  • The downloads icon in the Dock assumes the icon of the last thing you downloaded, so it’s always in flux and it screams to your colleagues that you use Bittorrent!
  • It’s great that we can have so many connections open in iChat, but why do they all have to be in their own window? I much prefer Adium’s integration of all my Buddy lists into a single window.

I am sure that I will find more stuff to love and to dislike as I get deeper into using this OS on a regular basis, but so far, the impression is good.

NECC – June 26, 2007 in Review

The final full day at NECC was a full one. The day began with a bus tour of the Atlanta area. Did you know that Elton John lives for part of the year in Atlanta? We toured through the downtown area of Atlanta and drove through one of the more upscale neighbourhoods, admiring stately homes.

The bus stopped at the Atlanta Cyclorama, which is a huge panoramic painting depicting one of the key battles of the American Civil War. Afterwards, the tour continued on to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birth house, as well as the church where he was a minister. Both of this sites are now historical monuments.

The afternoon was devoted to presenting LEARN’s Virtual School project at an afternoon poster session entitled “Learning Environments.” We spoke to interesting people from all over the place. There was a woman from Perth, Australia who expressed some interest in what we were doing. We spent quite a bit of time speaking with a colleague from New Brunswick about their Virtual High School project. It will be interesting to follow up with them and compare notes as we move forward.

The evening was spent attending a reception at CNN Center hosted by Apple Canada. After some lively conversation with Canadian colleagues and Apple representatives, we enjoyed a fascinating tour of the CNN facilities.

NECC – June 25, 2007 – Why I want a GPS Unit!

Wow! Every once in a while you attend a workshop that really makes a difference – or at least rises above the usual standard of conference workshops. Dr. Alice Christie is this year’s bomb. This was by far the most effective, impressive education workshop that I have attended in a long time.The workshop focused on GPS technology and the practice of geocaching. Geocaching is a kind of treasure/scavenger hunt that uses the GPS as the primary tool for finding the hidden treasure or “cache”.Dr. Christie put the participants of her workshop in teams of 4-5 people and gave us all the task of finding several destinations, or “waypoints” in Atlanta’s Centennial Park using a GPS accompanied by a clue. The key to completing the activity was to function as a team, share responsibilities and collaborate to solve all of the clues.After completing the exercise, we reflected on the activity and performed another activity that situated the GPS “game” in contructivist learning principles.If you are interested in GPS or geocaching (or educational technology in general), visit Dr. Christie’s excellent website at http://www.alicechristie.org/.More links tomorrow! Report from NECC – June 25, 2007

NECC – June 25, 2007 – Report from “Collaborative Tools for Global Distributed Learning”

Presenter: Dr. Yvonne Marie Andrés

Dr. Andrés is the founder of the Global Schoolnet, a home to many learning resources on the web.Dr. Andrés began by touring her site, the Global Schoolnet, showcasing a Project Registry for PBL.

She worked her way through a “speed-dating” version of several online collaborative tools.

  • Dropshots.com allows teachers/students to upload videos to a public space using a drag and drop interface.
  • YackPack.com is an online audio collaborative space (still in Beta) that uses a neat visual Flash interface.
  • Google for Educators – An educationally-oriented version of Google’s Docs & Spreadsheets applications.
  • PhotoShow.com is a way for teachers/students to create animated musical slideshows through e-mail, the web or from other media.
  • Simplestar.com – adds functionality and special effects to Photoshow (above)

In general this was a very useful workshop. If there was a downside, it was that it wasn’t quite as engaging as it could’ve been. The Internet connection was spotty throughout the workshop, and so it was difficult for us to experience some of the sites that Dr. Andrés was showing us. Three hours is also a VERY long time to spend at a computer in one shot. Nonetheless, the tools that were demonstrated were interesting, and I look forward to investigating them further.

UPDATE! Additional resources from the workshop

  • Backflip.com is a social bookmarking site, somewhat similar to del.icio.us.
  • Bravenet.com is a hosting service for web sites as well as a variety of online tools such as maps, polls, calendars, etc.
  • Digitaldivide.net – an online community with collaborative tools with a goal to bridging the digital divide.
  • Elluminate – One of the main synchronous platforms.
  • MyWay – Free e-mail with no add, similar in look and feel to MyYahoo!
  • Skype – The ubiquitous VOIP tool.
  • Think.com – Collaboration tools for students and schools developed and sponsored by Oracle.
  • Twitter – This is an online brainstorming, information sharing site. Entries can be posted on the web or through text messaging. Dr. Andrés has written an article about Twitter at http://www.districtadministration.com/pulse/

NECC – June 25, 2007 – The Exhibit Hall

The crush of people entering the Exhibit Hall at the Georgia World Congress Center this morning was almost frightening. The escalators could not accommodate the sheer numbers of people descending from the street level to the Exhibition Hall. I managed to avoid the melee by finding a side staircase and negotiating my way to the right place.The Exhibit Hall itself was like many high tech trade shows that I have been to in the past, except bigger. All the major players are here: Apple, Microsoft, Texas Instruments, Houghton-Mifflin, Pearson, Thomson Interactive and the list goes on…I was able to make connections with a few select companies. For someone like me from a Canadian organization, there is a fair amount of filtering to do. Many of the services and programs that are being pitched here are geared heavily for a U.S. curriculum and for the NETS. Even school administrative tools are not necessarily applicable to our situation in Québec. There were some interesting finds:

  • Discovery is launching an online content management tool called “OnePlace”, which is a single sign-on “portal” to a variety of content both local and remote. The beauty of the system (which is worth investigating) is that all of the content, whether local or remote is searchable. The OnePlace system is integrated into services like unitedstreaming.com.

More later!

NECC – June 24, 2007 – The First Day

Today was our first day at the NECC site. We registered and toured the Georgia World Congress Center to get our bearings and decide where the best places to hang out were.The scale of NECC is massive, yet it operates like a well-oiled machine. Shuttle buses ferry the thousands of attendees from their hotels to the conference site. The sheer number of people is a site to see.After getting a feel for the place, the LEARN “delegation” (consisting of myself and Director of Operations, Patrick Bérubé) attended a special reception for international attendees entitled, “Putting the ‘I’ in ISTE”. We hooked up with a couple of other colleagues from Canada and met some other people from as far afield as Australia and Singapore.Tonight, NECC delegates got a special treat: A private tour of the brand new Georgia Aquarium, billed as the largest aquarium in the United States (if not the the world). The skills of the organizers was apparent as they managed to get what appeard to be a couple of thousand conference participants into the aquarium and fed without incident or complaint. The aquarium is beautiful and highlighted by two very large tanks containing a “pod” of beluga whales and tropical fish (including several species of shark and stingray) respectively.Back at the hotel, it’s time to wind down and to start thinking about tomorrow’s activities. The day starts early with an orientation, followed by a few hours exploring the massive Exhibition Hall and then two consecutive hands-on workshops in the afternoon. More updates tomorrow!

 

Save Our Internet Radio – The View from Paradise

Don’t let the RIAA silence your favorite Internet radio station!

When I read about the onerous fee increases that will be levied against Internet radio stations, I was sorely disappointed. From the little that I have read on the subject, these fees seem not only outrageously high, but punitive.

I sincerely believe that Internet radio with its ability to specialize and cater to specific audiences, is the future. Personally, I haven’t listened to commercial radio regularly in years. The only time that I do is when I’m in the car, my iPod isn’t handy and there’s nothing on the CBC.

A particular favorite of mine is Radio Paradise. They play an eclectic assortment of music that seems almost perfectly tailored to what I enjoy. Under the new fee structure, the royalties that they will have to pay about 10x more than they do today, effectively putting them out of business.

As a Canadian, there’s not much I can do except support the stations that I like and to urge others support them. If you are in the U.S., please write your Congress person and let them know that Internet radio is worth saving.
read more | digg story