One of the things I have always liked about the Asus EeePC is the Xandros interface.
The simple icons and easy access to the web and applications, mean that users who aren’t use to Linux can start using the EeePC without worry.
Having recently used the Suse desktop on the HP 2133 it was fine but not as simple to use as Xandros. Sometimes I think it would be nice to have the Xandros interface on devices such as the HP 2133, Samsung Q1, etc…
I have been looking at QR Codes for a while now, though apart from the odd presentation or handout, I haven’t made great use of them across my college.
Recently though I have been thinking about using them more, partly down to their use as part of MoLeNET and in the main as Gloucestershire College is part of a JISC Innovation project with the University of Bath looking at QR Codes.
In case you don’t recall, QR Codes allow information to be sent to a mobile phone via the camera. Simply put the information or link is encoded into a barcode type graphic.
This is a QR Code.
You then take a photograph of the barcode, and with special reader software you are able to convert the barcode into information, which could be a link to a website or just plain information.
Back in 2007 when I was looking at them, very few of our students had cameraphones (that has changed) and most phones did not have the right software (that has also changed).
Today it is very easy to find software for a range of phones that allow the phone to read QR Codes.
However one of the BIG constraints on the use of QR Codes is the need to access the web on your phone when reading QR Codes. Though the cost of 3G has fallen considerably generally it is not something you will find on many pay as you go phones and is often an extra on monthly contract phones. Very few modern phones have wifi, so though we have a student wireless network, few of our students would be able to access that network over their phone.
Yesterday at a QR Codes Workshop ran at Gloucestershire College by Andy Ramsden from Bath, we were discussing QR Codes and he mentioned that Quickmark had a QR Code reader for a webcam.
I went to the site, downloaded and installed the software on my Samsung Q1 which has a built in camera.
The software works very well and I was impressed with how easy it was to use.
To me this makes it very easy to start rolling out the use of QR Codes has if you have a computer then it is very likely that either it has a webcam, or you can get a webcam quite cheaply for it. As a result you will be able to scan in QR Codes using your computer as well as your phone.
This means that lecturers can add QR Codes to handouts that link directly into the appropriate part of the VLE or to another website. There are other uses as well.
Now just need to find a QR Code reader that runs on Linux so I can use it on an EeePC and one that runs on OS X for my MacBook Pro.
I recall in a forum once, someone thought we should not allow recorded lectures to be available as podcasts because this would be unfair to deaf students.
So the spoken lecture is fine, but the podcast is not….
I think part of the problem is that people think in black and white terms, either/or and forget that we can have both or grey areas.
I was showing some staff an UMPC once, the Q1 Ultra, which I am thinking of using in our library, and first comment was that the 7″ screen would be too small for some students.
This is a fair comment, but I am not going to replace all the computers in the library with UMPCs, there would still be big computers with big screens for those that wanted them. The UMPCs would be in addition not a replacement. Some users will be fine with the UMPC, others will want what they see as a “normal” computer.
I would say it is similar with web services, just because a service is not accessible to everyone, doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be used, but consideration needs to be given how you would support the users for whom it *may* be inaccessible.
In my lecture/podcast example, I would say that if a signer was provided for the lecture, then a signer could be provided for the podcast.
If “services must be accessible to all or they shouldn’t be deployed” then non-web services should be subject to the same constraints, in which case nothing would happen in an educational institution!
So there I was looking at my new Samsung Q1 Ultra and seeing how the graphics were working, working on a document and looking at a few things online, when I got called away. Knew I was only going to be a few minutes to just placed the Q1 on the desk and left.
I came back to find that Windows Vista had decided (in my absence) to update Windows, restart, lose my wireless connection and then admit that it had lost the document I was working on and would I like to create a new one!
I do find this very frustrating, if I wanted the Q1 to run itself I would leave it switched on and never use it, however I want to use the Q1 to do stuff, create stuff, read stuff, reflect on stuff. I don’t want the Q1 to try and be nice and update itself in the middle of me doing stuff. I want to retain my wireless connection so I don’t lose my blog entry, or lose the thread of the online discussion I am involved in.
I don’t want software to continually nag me that I haven’t either set it up or registered it, or run it for a while, and I don’t want the software to do it in the middle of me doing stuff.
I don’t want the Q1 to download huge updates whilst I am trying to do stuff online, downloading will slow my internet connection, download updates while I am doing other non-online stuff such as making a cup of tea.
Please just let me do my stuff, don’t do your stuff and pretend mine isn’t important!
I have been playing about with evaluating a Samsung Q1 Ultra over the last couple of weeks. I was trying out Internet Explorer and was surprised to find that the Q1 was not connected to my wireless network. After some investigation I found out was disappointed to find that Windows Vista decided that the best thing it could do was disable the wireless adapter as it had a found a problem with it.
Initially the problem I was having was that the device failed to connect to my wireless network, which surprised me, as I hadn’t really done very much with the Q1 except switch it on! I hadn’t installed any software (or even uninstalled software).
The wireless was on according to the Samsung software, but as far as Windows Vista was concerned there were no networks to connect to.
Very strange, after checking device manager (something I doubt any general user would do) I found that Vista had disabled the wireless adapter because it had found a problem with it. It didn’t tell me what the problem was, but was willing to go online to find a solution (well I would have gone online, but the wireless wasn’t working was it).
There didn’t seem to be any way of re-enabling the wireless adapter. I could have uninstalled it, but I wondered if Vista would let me reinstall the wireless adapter, I was pretty sure it might have got pretty obnoxious about it.
In the end I went with a system restore, something I do like about XP and Vista and restored the Q1 to this morning’s configuration which I know was working, and is working now.
I wonder if it was a Windows Update that caused the problem, I am not totally sure of the cause.
And a day later…
Windows Vista did it again…
Annoying to say the least. Windows Vista on my Q1 Ultra discovered a (so-called) problem with the wireless adapter on the Q1 and decided (without telling me) to disable the wireless and not allow me to renable it at all (well not easily).
In the end I decided against doing a system restore (like what I did before) as obviously some kind of Windows update was causing the problem. This time I removed the adapter from Device Manager and rebooted the Q1 and let Windows reinstall the drivers, which it did without finding anything wrong!
Then it disabled the adapter once more!
I wouldn’t mind so much, but this is a new Q1 and I haven’t done anything except install updates…
Finally a solution which seems to be working, change the drivers for the wireless adapter, I am using version 188.8.131.52 of the Atheros Communications driver which I believe is different to the supplied Windows Vista driver.
Hopefully this will keep the wireless adapter enabled, the Q1 Ultra connected to the internet and me happy.
One of the key issues with any mobile device is text entry, even if all you are entering is a URL.
People seem to be able to use a mobile phone keypad for SMS messages, but more often then not we are talking about phone numbers (easy) and text speech (u no wot i mn). Using any kind of mobile phone keypad for entering an e-mail address or an internet address (URL) can be fraught with difficulty and complexity.
Using a variety of mobile devices recently I have encountered a variety of interesting solutions to the problem of entering text.
I (and the Guardian) weren’t too enamored with the keypad of the Sony VAIO UX1XN but compared to some it’s lovely and really easy to use.
The split keyboard of the Q1 Ultra is in my opinion almost unuseable in comparison, though the tablet entry is much better than the UX1XN – could that be down to the bigger 7″ screen I wonder? The buttons are very small and it’s easy to hit the wrong key.
One of the problems I have with a lot of UMPC devices is when using Tablet PC text entry and handwriting recognition. Whereas most (full size) tablets use a tablet pen and a screen, the UMPC devices use a stylus touch entry.
What this does mean is that if you touch any other part of the screen as you write with a stylus, then that touch counts as a click and your handwriting goes all over the place. With a tablet pen, the screen only responds to the pen, which is nice until you lose the pen (they can be expensive to replace).
After much usage, I have to say I much prefer to use a tablet pen over a stylus.
Text entry on the PSP is to be brutally honest only something you want to do only on the rare occasion. I find the mobile phone type entry somewhat comple, more so if you need to enter numbers at all.
Using the keyboard on the iPod touch (and I guess the iPhone as well) is an interesting experience. It certainly works much better than the dialkeys available on some UMPCs, but again it is all to easy to hit the wrong key as you type something in.
Overall entering text on any mobile device is fraught with difficulty and complexity and the more you use a device the more familar you get with it, the easier it gets and quicker you become.
However if you are using mobile devices with a group who only use the device rarely, then you should consider alternatives to text entry directly onto the mobile device otherwise you may find that your learners start to hate the device rather than use the device for learning.
Use the device where it has strengths such as audio and video, and use other tools such as pen and paper or a computer with a full size keyboard when you want the learner to create a lot of text.
This means that learning scenarios need to be designed to avoid excessive text entry onto a mobile device, and often that means that traditional learning scenarios will not translate easily and simply to a PSP for example.
Think about replacing text entry with an audio or a video recording – the UX1XN and Q1 Ultra both have cameras and microphones which can be used for that, you can also get a camera and microphone for the PSP as well.
It is not essential or necessary for the learner to complete a learning scenario solely on a mobile device, let them use other tools to complete the learning activity, the mobile device should be just the one component that helps build the activity.
Back in August I mentioned how much cheaper the Sony VAIO UX1XN was getting.
When the Sony VAIO UX1XN was released in the UK it commanded a £2,000 price tag. Last month (July) I noticed my local Sony Centre had reduced the price to £1,600. Still expensive, but 20% off is quite a reduction. On Amazon now you can get the UX1XN for just £1,199 which considering the features of the UX1XN (the cameras, flash hdd) makes the UX1XN seem like a reasonable proposition.
Well there has been another price drop.
Sony are now selling the UX1XN for £999, whilst Amazon(through a third party) have it for £899. This is now cheaper than the Samsung Q1 Ultra (the one with the 32GB SSD Hard Drive).
I suspect there will be new UX VAIO soon, but when I don’t know, in the meantime the UX1XN is now getting to be reasonable value for money.
I do like the UX1XN (well apart from Vista blue screening on my way too often), I find it a very neat useful device at meetings and conferences.
news and views on e-learning, TEL and learning stuff in general…