iPhoto revived

ironpigsOn Friday we returned from a great night of watching the Iron Pigs, the Phillies AAA affiliate, when to my disappointment iPhoto decided to stop opening.

After many hours of research I found no answers. Most everything I found said to delete the plist file in my Library. That didn’t work. I moved the iPhoto library to another account on the computer and it still crashed each time I opened it. I really thought I was doomed to extract the 60GB worth of photos in the library when I finally found an Apple discussion forum that explained how to reset and rebuild the iPhoto library. I held down the alt/option key with the command key,  opened iPhoto, and then saw a screen with many reset options. I checked them all, so I’m not sure which one or ones actually resolved my crashing issue, but frankly, I don’t care. I’m just happy I can go about my photo import process normally.

In my waning hours of losing I hope I did download Picasa for the Mac though thankfully that can wait for now.

YouTube EDU

youtubeedu2To help make finding university video content on YouTube easier to find, a higher education-only channel, YouTube EDU, was recently created by the folks at YouTube. This channel, which requires universities to apply for membership, has very few features, but helps to aggregate higher ed video content using a few simple methods:

  • Most viewed videos among the cohort.
  • Most subscribed university channels.
  • And my most favorite, a higher ed-only search box (I’m a searcher not a surfer as my colleague Ken Newquist coined).

Universities and colleges can be added to this new EDU channel by completing a simple form, which is remarkably only a Google Spreadsheet web form.

As an aside, I’d like to know how many of these university videos are way longer than the 10 min. maximum length.

New name. New header. For now.

Photo by mawel from Flickr
Photo by mawel from Flickr

I’ve been changing my blog name and header almost as frequently as I change my underwear. Well, almost as frequently. Seriously though, in the last two weeks I haven’t stopped trying to think of a clever name or even something remotely more clever than “Blog” or any of the other ridiculous names I’ve used recently (“Boss Blog” comes to mind immediately). Thankfully, on the drive down to Williamsburg this past Sunday, “The Alley Way” just kind of popped into my head. It’s no “Boss Blog,” but it’s simple and I like it’s double meaning since this site is about the way I see and interpret things. Plus, there is actually something called an alleyway.

However, I really enjoy finding appropriate header images for these blog names. I simply can’t get enough of Flickr.com’s advanced search feature that allows me to search anyone’s images that are marked with a modify, adapt, and attribution Creative Commons license. Couple it with Cooliris (formerly PicLens) and finding the right picture is a snap.

Anyway, a shout out to mawel from Flickr for taking such a great shot of this alley in Malcesine, Italy and for allowing anyone to use it with proper attribution. I especially like the “Internet Cafe” shingle hanging on the right. Very appropriate.

No more free phone-in on GCast

Photo by Darwin Bell from Flickr
Photo by Darwin Bell from Flickr

GCast.com is a free podcasting service that allows account holders to upload audio content. It then produces an RSS feed, which can be cataloged in podcasting repositories such as iTunes.

The thing I really liked about GCast though is that an account holder could register a phone number with their account. Then they could magically call a GCast 800 number and record the entire conversation. After hanging up, this phone conversation would be saved as an MP3 file on the GCast user’s account. This was awesome (and yes, I wrote “was”) because the phone is a technology most everyone is comfortable using. Easy peezy podcasting. That was then.

This is now. GCast is no longer offering this phone-in service for free, but for $99 a year. Below is the email message I received:

As you know, we have been offering the ability to podcast by phone for several years. Up until now, this service has remained free for you to use without limitations. We have been incurring significant costs to keep this service free and we now must take steps to lower our cost. Beginning April 1, 2009, we will be charging a subscription fee of $99 for this phone-in service. It will still be free to upload content through our website. Additionally, the subscription usage will be limited to 2 hours in any 90 day period.

Ah, the affects of the economy.

Embed directly into the Text Widget in WordPress

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/PN2HAroA12w" width="205" height="180" allowfullscreen="true" fvars="fs=1" /]

Many who use WordPress know it is not possible to embed YouTube videos or Google Maps natively into a WordPress post. WordPress strips all non-standard XHTML from a post or page, which means the embed code provided by many media sites like YouTube gets removed when the post or page is saved. To skirt this issue we installed a number of plugins, Anarchy Media Player and Google Maps Quicktag – MU for instance, to provide us this ability in our WordPress MU installation.

However, as I was dorking around tonight with some of the widgets on this site and I discovered I could embed YouTube videos and a Flickr slideshow directly into the Text widget using the embed coded provided to me from these sites. WordPress must not be validating the code in this widget, which is why it must work.

Strange, but I’ll take it.

No worries Kodak. I have Flickr.

Flickr logo, © 2009 Yahoo! Inc.
Flickr logo, © 2009 Yahoo! Inc.

I received a message from KodakGallery yesterday informing me that their terms of service changed, which now requires their customers purchase a minimum amount annually in order to retain their images on the KodakGallery site. The minimum amount is based on a sliding scale depending on how much storage a customer uses. I’m at 2.5 GB since I’ve been using it ever since AbC was born in early 2004, but at that time their terms of service simply required customers to purchase something for each 12 month period.

Looks like those days are behind us. Now I have to be sure I buy at least $20 worth of KodakGallery products each year. This shouldn’t be too much of a problem since one calendar will cover that. Regardless, I’m not too worried. I have Flickr and I can post to my hearts content as long as I continue to pay the $25 annual renewal fee, which is worth every penny. And here’s why. Unlike KodakGallery:

  • Anyone can have access to the high resolution file
  • I can tag photos
  • I can add notes to photos
  • People can leave comments
  • I can more easily organize my sets
  • I can add photos to a number of Flickr groups that are of interest to me
  • Oh, and anyone can subscribe to an RSS feed of my photos or from a certain tag

The lack of these features in KodakGallery has always bugged me because it makes KodakGallery a very closed system, which is good for keeping things private. However, Flickr still allows me to make photos private while also allowing me to make the system much more wide open and available to anyone.

I suppose I’ll hang onto the KodakGallery account because it’s a whole lot easier to make purchases through it, but hopefully Flickr will make that process easier while including more delivery locations (e.g., CVS, Walgreens).

Quick lesson in large drive formatting on Mac and PC

Photo by Stuart Bryant on Flickr
Photo by Stuart Bryant from Flickr

Yes, this is a remarkably boring topic because hard drives should just work. Like toilets. I shouldn’t have to think too much about them, however…

Special Collections here at Lafayette is participating in of our WordPress pilot by providing their students a place to write about their day-to-day work activities. One of the things their students are doing is creating videos about these daily tasks, such as how to create protective jackets for very old books and documents. The files to produce these videos are quite large, so Special Collections found a 500GB hard drive laying around (pretty cool, huh?). The downside is that the drive was formatted for Windows NTFS file structure, which Macs cannot write on, and since the students are doing all of their editing using iMovie ’08 we needed to figure out another option. At first I thought FAT 32 would work, but I did some digging and found that FAT 32 will not recognize files larger than 4GB, which could be a problem when working with video.

Since the students will likely be working on their movies exclusively in our Mac lab I created two partitions: one for Mac only formatting and one using FAT 32 for both PC and Mac. I figure the compressed videos could be moved over to the FAT 32 partition, assuming they remain under 4GB, while the project and raw video could be saved on the Mac partition.

I’m open for other suggestions.

Goodbye emotions

Image by prosto photos from Flickr
Photo by prosto photos from Flickr

We are working on changing the look, feel, and organization of the ITS web site in the months ahead and have assembled a number of folks from across our department to serve on an ITS web working group. Our main focus over the last few weeks has been to get some web usability testing ready. Earlier this week, Lori and Amy tested the usability script on me and we recorded that session as well as my screen movements using ScreenFlow. At this morning’s ITS web working group meeting we watched that video of Amy and me and even though my recording was a just test of the script, I think the group saw the power of doing these usability tests.

The thing I like most about these tests is that they remove all emotion from the discussion. It’s one thing for me to suggest how I think people use our site, but it’s much more credible to watch how a number of people interact with our site. It takes the guess work (and the determination we all have to be right) out of the equation.

Long live usability testing.

Alternative School Break site is live

Photo used courtesy of Alternative School Break, Lafayette College

Amber Zuber, Assistant Director of the Landis Community Outreach Center, along with her right-hand student, Rashidah have successfully gone live with the new Alternative School Break web site, which they are managing in WordPress MU as one of our WordPress pilot participants.

Next week, Rashidah, along with a number of students from Lafayette, are traveling to Long Beach, MS to work on housing projects and anticipate posting their daily reflections to their new site. I am very excited to follow their progress throughout the week.

For those interested in following these good deed doers, follow them next week at http://sites.lafayette.edu/asb/asb-reflections.

Google gets back a bit more of my love

Google Map screenshot of Mississippi
Google Map screenshot of Mississippi

Yesterday, I needed to find a map of Mississippi for Amber and her first post on the Alternative School Break site. We weren’t having much luck finding a map that we liked, but then it hit me that we could take a screenshot of a Google map and even mark on the map where the Mississippi team would be over Spring Break. So Amber worked on getting the map positioned how she liked before grabbed the screenshot while I researched Google’s copyright policy. Turns out we could legally use the screenshot as long as the Google logo and copyright were both included in the screenshot.

Google also includes permissions for using Google search result screenshots and usage of their logo, which is almost none.