Google Translate goes offline

Thursday, March 28, 2013 at 12:07:22

Google Translate is an excellent service and so useful for many translation tasks. It really is the closest thing to the Babel Fish that we have. As with many Google services (although alas not Reader) it is available across mobile platforms and it is really good to see this being offered as an offline service for Android 2.3 and higher. That doesn’t leave all those Gingerbread devices orphaned (and it still remains a very active platform), offering an extremely valuable service. Download!

Tablets in learning - not fit for purpose?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013 at 16:41:04

I’m actively involved in learning technologies both as my role as a lecturer (e.g. Livesribe pen and also as a school governor. One of the things I have been involved in is trialling the use of mobile phones for delivering learning of times tables and number bonds - nothing new in using an app to learn times tables, but when you roll this out to a class of children there are a variety of key considerations. Not least usability, cost and durability of the hardware platform. So you need to take account of the physical size of the child and the equipment and how they are going to use it, as well as the need (or not) for screen real estate - ergonomics are vital as this determines the ease with which people engage, use and learn. After that look at cost and durability.

Our conclusions? Tablets are ideal for consuming media due to the large screen size (both 7” and 10”). They are poor for interaction due to their large size, something that becomes worse the smaller the child gets. So, when you want interaction? A tablet is NOT the form factor to use - a 4” size device (aka smartphone or iPod). These are easy to handle, cheap (e.g. at O2) and (often) durable.

So why all the hubris over tablets? Good question and something Donald Clark covers, particularly on their total unsuitability for active learning, as well as how they can actually inhibit learning. Tablets are madness for serious active and creative learners - I’ll say it again, they are for consumption not creation.

Yet again and again we see the tablet bandwagon being fuelled by nonsense such as Newscorp. What’s more worrying is when so called charities start spouting this nonsense. As one headteacher recently said to me “they are not genuinely interested in school improvement or 1-2-1 pupil learning or they would be more analytical, more diverse and more innovative.” In fact the drive for tablets in to schools seems to be driven by manufacturers hoping for a windfall in the same way the consumer market has moved, what it’s not thinking about is actually what learners need. The scale of cost and replacement for these devices (e.g. Newscorp) is mind-boggling, particularly with the manufacturer tie in.

Manufacturers….please please design for the needs of the market. Look at what your customers need and make the best possible product you can for that.

Teachers….don’t be taken in by the marketing spin (look at the number of defunct whiteboards!), but look at the genuine learning that takes place and credible successes where this has occurred. The image that immediately springs to mind was the BBC reporting on tablets rolled out to an entire school and showing them in a science lesson. Tablets, lab, children, teacher….and nothing else! Where was the science lesson? Was it watching it on the tablet?! This isn’t active learning. BEWARE

EPoD Redux

Monday, March 25, 2013 at 07:52:36

Just can’t get enough of a good thing!! I was trawling through some old photos and came across one of a small translational slide in Glen Ogle, Scotland. I asked Alan Dykes if he’d be willing to pen a few words which he kindly did and….

voila Glen Ogle Landslide.

New dawn for “geoservices”

Friday, March 22, 2013 at 13:35:20

For want of a better name (new cartography, neogeography, geoservices or maybe geomatics!!), Science has a nice article on the emergent importance of geo in the global economy and the subsequent requirement for suitably qualified employees, noting a ~35% predicted growth in workers in the US by 2020. That’s pretty big! Worth also reading the linked Oxera report for Google on Geoservices.

Bright future ahead people!

Saturn engines recovered

Thursday, March 21, 2013 at 12:21:54

A pair of giant Saturn 5 rocket engines, used to launch the original US lunar missions from the 1960s have been recovered by a team sponsored by Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos. A real part of space history!

Clear explanation of changes to education in Central Bedfordshire……

Wednesday, March 20, 2013 at 16:27:18


Did you understand that?? No, neither did I. As a follow-up to my blog on educational leadership in Central Bedfordshire, I wondered where we had got to in informing stakeholders of the (not) clear direction and structured approach to change that we have in Central Bedfordshire…. there is of course the classic flow chart which highlights the lunacy of the current situation (helpfully removed by CBC; perhaps not the best example of corporate communication).

So how does the corporate video stack up - besides the obvious lack of script and over-use of “err” and “umm” - there is virtually no content in the presentation at all, other than repeated reference to the changes in school structure that have been personally allowed by Mark Versallion.

I’m a big believer in clear communication - you have a message, make the communication simple so that it is effective and let the viewer go away knowing what that is. I’m baffled to know quite what this is aiming to achieve and my take home message is

Central Bedfordshire’s policy on education is to sit back and watch

Goodbye Google…….

Saturday, March 16, 2013 at 11:28:02

Google’s announcement that they are killing off Google Reader seems to have been met with dismay, including a petition to the federal government in the US (and the ubiqutous Hitler meme below)! However a far more reflective piece was written by Ruper Goodwins at The Guardian - the “do-ers” on the internet use Reader and its a huge mistake to kill it. It was the one Google location I found myself frequenting and it integrated really well with Chrome browser and the native Android apps.

Now though it’s time to say goodbye to Google. Yup, I’ll happily use the android smartphone and tablet, when search gets tricky I’ll come back to you, but you’ve largely become superfluous to requirements, the Wal-Mart of IT that just hits the middle ground.

There are alternatives to Reader with several services (Feedly, Digg) expected to bring a reader to market by July - and its certainly useful to have the integrated Android/iOS apps, but I spend most of my time digesting RSS feeds in the browser. So…. there appear to be no RSS reader extensions for Chrome so that got me looking back at portable Firefox - and Bamboo Feed Reader. There are a few rough edges but by-and-large Im happy with it. And the rest of Firefox? I’m actually amazed at how fast the user experience is - certainly faster than Chrome.

So there we have it, no contest - Chrome is now ditched, I have a feed reader and I use DuckDuckGo as my default search engine. Au revoir, it was nice whilst the party lasted - I’m happy with your morphing in to Wal-Mart, I just don’t need your one size fits all approach.

Proprietary data silos

Wednesday, March 13, 2013 at 16:04:22

…..and the moral of the story is…..

…..don’t lock your data away in proprietary silos. The quotation at the end is fabulous: ” A person seeking public records should expect to pay the price for copying the records, but not the price for a public entity’s mistake in purchasing inefficient software.”

Burren in TimeLapse

Wednesday, March 13, 2013 at 13:27:42

A simply stunning set of time lapse photos taken with a Canon M5D Mk2/3 using a DIY rig to move the camera with a rising/falling rail. Make it full screen watch and be inspired.

Deleting multiple blank cells in Excel

Wednesday, March 13, 2013 at 10:57:28

I was doing some straight forward data management in Excel today and had gone through a long list of items and deleted a number of them….. you’re then left with a list of items with blanks in it! This is a familiar problem and many people end manually going through the list to remove them.

There are two simple solutions in this situation, both based around the idea that you want to create a selection of the data items you DO and DON’T want.

Select Blank Cells
(thanks to WikiHow for prompting this one)

1. Create a selection of the area that contains the empty rows you want to delete
2. Press Ctrl+G (GoTo)
3. Choose Advanced (or Special depending on version) and then select “Blanks” (this will select all the blanks in the column selected)
4. Right click on one of the selected cells and select “Delete”5. Choose “Delete entire row”

Sort Cells
1. Select the entire range of cells for your data (not just a single column)
2. Goto Data -> Sort and sort the column using any sort criteria (e.g. A to Z)3. Blank rows will be moved to the bottom of the sorted range

UAVs and the law

Tuesday, March 5, 2013 at 22:08:32

UAVs are starting to the hit the big time with everything geospatial and are driving a hardware, data and software revolution along the way (more in later posts, but think open-source designs, open source software, massive datasets). However their use in most western countries is tightly regulated - and rightly so. If someone is deploying a flying vehicle weighing several kilos that can fly at 30+ kmh then you’d like to think that it’s safely done. And that is perhaps where KAP has some advantages… it is tethered, relatively safe and in many locales unregulated.

And this is where many nations are starting to ponder the UAV conundrum…..New Hampshire is looking at extreme restriction which all but negates any use of UAVs. I wonder how many other countries/states will follow suit?


Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 17:34:16

…, not another Apple product (although I’m sure the lawyers letter is waiting), but actually ISERV is a joint NASA/USAID product developed by SERVIR. Its an engineering proof-of-concept combining a commercial camera, telescopy and point system mounted on the Earth-side of the International Space Station (and linked to the ISS orientation and position). And, quoting from their website:

“Acting on commands from the ground, it can photograph specific areas of the Earth’s surface as the space station passes over them. Pathfinder is primarily an engineering exercise to help scientists gain valuable information about how a more capable future instrument might operate. But hopes are for a future system, and perhaps even ISERV Pathfinder itself, to provide imagery and data to help officials in developing nations monitor impacts of disasters such as floods, landslides, and forest fires. Its images could also help decision-makers address other environmental issues.”

Think of it as the imaging system of an Earth monitoring satellite, but bolted on the ISS providing a very cheap method for obtaining relatively high resolution imagery (upto 2.8m). I couldn’t see specfications for the actual engineering, but I’m assuming its something like a Nikon D4 or D800 that will shoot in RGB. Anyway, it’ll be interesting to see how testing and acquisition develops.

OS Past and Present

Friday, March 1, 2013 at 08:22:48

Nice pair of contrasting videos about OS - the first a modern promo video from the OS itself which is very glossy but actually tells you very little about the organisation and the second from Pathe news in the 1950s which is cringingly dated, such as “It used to take two men a whole year to do the map making mathematics that these adding machines and electronic computers can do in an afternoon with a girl to help!” However it does show you the full map making process in 3 minutes - quite a feat!

Swansea Trip: 1:40 shows the use f plane tabling!

Earth Madness 2013

Friday, March 1, 2013 at 08:01:04

From NASAs Earth Observatory:

“Thirty-two will vie for the title, but only one can be the winner. They are the best Earth images of the year, the top 32 from 2012. But which ones will be good enough to survive head-to-head competition? From March 4 through April 5, Earth Observatory readers can vote for their favorite images of the year, whittling the total from 32 to 16 to 8 to 4 to 2 in a tournament of remote sensing science. The competition will be stiff in the four brackets - Earth at Night, Events, Data, and True-Color - so it is up to you to separate the winners from the losers. Come back each week to vote in the next round and help us choose a winner.

Voting starts Monday, March 4, so print a copy of the bracket, fill it out, and get that workplace pool going. Come back every Monday to vote and watch the results.”

Go to the bracket….


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