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Showing posts from 2015

My Recent Projects

Rather than blog about my recent work, I thought I'd try Google Sites. I'm not exactly sure why, but a Site does have the ability to break things down into pages, rather than creating ONE HUGE blog post, or an unconnected stream of related posts.

There's stuff about Google Apps to create web applications or improve processes,  Livecode multimedia authoring and a little visualisation stuff.

Anyway, here it is:

https://sites.google.com/a/york.ac.uk/tom-smith/2014-2015-projects


Reflections on Wuthering Bytes

A week or so ago I went to the Wuthering Bytes conference in Hebden Bridge. The event had a maker/hacker/thinker angle I was keen to snoop into, to find out what people were up to in this strange world that seems to have blossomed whilst I wasn't looking.


The presentations began with Prof. Danielle George, who I heard being interview on Radio 4 on the way in to work about her work with radio engineering... from looking deep into space, to controlling jet engines to monitoring field moisture levels for effective agriculture.


Next up Stephen Jagger, gave us an amusing history of an audio engineering company, making microphones and mixer desks for the BBC. My favourite part was about the white lie they told to get their biggest gig. 


Leila Johnston, in unbelievable shoes, shared her work with Hack Circus, a publication that tackles a "geek" subject, but strangley, before it is published always mutates into an art event, and focal point for "community outsiders". 
T…

Apps Used in York's Archaeology Data Service

Following a short presentation about online apps we're looking at at York, Michael Charno got in touch and said..


The following are apps that we use at the Archaeology Data Service:

* Asana [https://asana.com/]: Its a really simple task management app
that enables task allocation, commenting, prioritising, creating
deadlines, etc. Its free for use amongst 10 colleagues, so we've
been fine with it so far.
* New Relic [http://newrelic.com/]: Systems analytics software for
understanding where problems exist in servers/web
applications/interfaces. Obviously more useful for people managing
servers or web applications, so might not be widely useful. However
if the university was going to get a license we'd happily join in!
* Slack [https://slack.com/]: We used the free version but quit after
we found ourselves moving to the 10,000 message limit quickly and
didn't want to purchase a license. We haven't replaced it, but would
certainly start using it again if the university was going to…

My Reflections on ALTC 2015

Photo credit : Chris Bull www.chrisbullphotographer.com pictures@chrisbullphotographer.com +44 (0)7968440920
Last week I spent three days at the Association for Learning Technology Conference (#altc) in Manchester. 

It’s been a good few years since I’ve done the conference thing but I was looking forward to totally immersing myself in ideas and learning from people's’ experiences.

The conference themes were:

Harnessing the power of the crowd – collaboration and connectivist learning Learners as agents of change Open educational practice Participatory approaches to the development of learning technologies Social media in learning and teaching The Emergent Themes - What It Really Was About

For me, the standout sessions and the ideas that seemed to permeate most of the conference were:

Learning Analytics Research and reports regarding User Centred Methodologies and Pedagogies Novel approaches and research to learning  i.e technologies, apps, MOOCs, IoT, wearables etc

… but this of course coul…

Getting the Edit Link From A Google Form Response

This code snippet may be of use to someone. I couldn't find an easier way of doing this. You need to familiar with Apps Script and Forms to get this, sorry.

When you have a Google Form saving responses into a Google Spreadsheet, at times it would be nice to be able to give people the link to edit their form ( later ).

So.. in your onFormSubmit(e) function you need...

var timestamp = e.range.getValues()[0][0]
var row_num = e.range.getRow()

If you get the value from e.values or e.namedValues it doesn't work. No idea why... it may be something to do with millisecond precision or the space/time continuum... dunno.

Then you need a function like this...


/**
* Gets edit link for a response's timestamp
*
* @method render_text
* @param {string} Form ID"
* @param {timestamp} A date
* @return {string} A URL.
*/
function get_edit_link_for(form_id, timestamp){

  var form = FormApp.openById(form_id)
  var formResponses = form.getResponses();

  // Let's work backwards through the list, should…

The Rebirth of Authoring? Making iPad apps with LiveCode

I recently was asked if I'd heard of an authoring tool for creating iPad apps called LiveCode.

I don't know if you know, but LiveCode is like the only living grandchild of a tool called HyperCard. And you might not also know, that like the post punk band, Killing Joke, HyperCard is one of those subjects that makes me want to sit you down and tell you stories from days of yore. For EVER.

You see, HyperCard was the tool that I first did any programming with, back in 1991. The Apple Macintosh was billed as "The Computer For The Rest Of Us"... and HyperCard, bundled free with every Macintosh was "Programming For The Rest Of Us".

But before I can regale you with tales of HyperCard's features, you need to understand the context from which HyperCard sprang. You have to do some homework.

Your Homework
You have to go back to 1945,  a the time when Vannevar Bush outlined how a conceptual HyperText machine called Memex would work, and how trails would be created t…

I Want To Improve My Spreadsheet

I often get people coming to visit me who have a spreadsheet they want to get more from. They either want to automate certain tasks, or create new sheets with aggregated data or share data with colleagues in new ways. The hope is that with a little bit of code, new vistas will open up.

Often the data is in a spreadsheet, it isn't clean enough to do anything useful with. If code is to stand a chance at making a spreadsheet more useful, then the data itself needs to be "code ready".

Below is an actual spreadsheet brought to me, with number of areas for that needed data cleaning.




As we worked together, we realised, a healthy spreadsheet isn't just about making sure your data is logical, there are also other factors that contribute to how easy your data will be to work with.

Use formulas well - A few easy to learn formulas can significantly ramp up what you can do quickly with data. It is worth investing even just a few minutes learning new formulas and what they can do for…

Stunning Student Work in the 3Sixty at York

Sara Perry taught the Archaeology module to design an exhibition for the 3Sixty space at York. This year the students really went beyond all expectations and produced some stunning and innovative work that made full use of the space's abilities.

One piece, about Clifford's Tower, made use of numerous live action actors to deliver snippets of spoken word from the time. The presentation had moments where spotlights illuminated the actors in the room ( see below ).



When this piece put you in a 3D model of Clifford's Tower, slowly flying around it, it was actually breathtaking.




What is shown here is only a facsimile of the real experience ( of course the actors aren't acting for us in it ) but it does give you some idea of how well the piece was choreographed and how professionally the students wove their ideas into a compelling experience.

I was involved in helping to take their work and make it viewable using a Javascript 3D library called Three.js.


You will need Chrome/F…

Preparing Media For The 3Sixty Space at York

In a recent student project to create archaeological exhibitions in the 3Sixty space we needed to look at how to easily chop a very wide movie into four separate smaller movies.

There are lots of templates to help you present in the 3Sixty space, including Powerpoint files but we also needed a way to view the presentations NOT in the space itself which would require some form of 3D version of a 2D presentation shown in real 3D. Are you keeping up? We needed a version of the presentation that could be viewed on screen rather than in the room.

I found a python library that would let you edit videos using code called MoviePy. It's brilliant! You can do video-in-video effects, split panel videos, animations, freeze frames and all sorts.

So, with the code below, we were able to take a VERY WIDE movie generated by the Powerpoint template being exported as a movie... and make four separate movie files, one for each wall.



from moviepy.editor import * from moviepy.video.fx.all import * mo…

The Solution: Rendering video onto the inside walls of a 3D room

So after a lot of experimentation, I decided that WebGL was a good way to go ( see an earlier post  about automatically showing videos on a 3D models walls).

I took the video example and simply hacked around, watching where objects move to when I changed values, and then added extra objects, in this case walls.



And it worked! Which is pretty impressive ( I think ) for someone who knows nothing about 3D programming. Here is a live version showing music I loved from the 70s.

Tools For Prototyping A Narrative

Another of the things I'm mulling is how to research and prototype a narrative of some sorts, for a student project. In the past we've used Pinterest as a gathering research tool, to collect sources of inspiration and, kind of importantly, the visual clich├ęs to avoid. We're not sure if Pinterest is the best tool to use.

Some tools you should simply take a look at for the sake of it are:



Amazon StoryBuilder to create a script or screenplay. This is like a corkboard of notes with which you develop your "story".

And then there's Amazon StoryTeller that lets you create a visual storyboard from your script. Interestingly, the tool seems to recognise "people" and places. It has a huge library of people, and scenes and props with which you can create your storyboard pages, like the one shown below where Dr Cutie gets incredibly jealous of Greg's acrobatic cows. Ahem.


The tools themselves are interesting enough, but the really interesting part about the…

The Problem: Rendering video onto the inside walls of a 3D room

A thinking out loud post... The Scenario At the university we have an amazing room called the 3Sixty. It's a room that can have media projected onto all four walls (and there's some amazing speakers in there too ).  Sara Perry runs a module in there for archaeology students to design a museum exhibition. Last year the students created World War I exhibitions using Powerpoint and YouTube videos. They were very moving. I almost cried at one about a loyal Alsatian.

The ProblemThe problem is this... The students use a very wide ( four walls ) Powerpoint template to create their 3Sixty presentation, but once made, the only place you can really experience this presentation is in the room itself. It would be good if these .ppt files ( or exported movies ) could be projected onto a 3D version of the room. It's a very simple render, I think, but would allow people to see the presentations without being in the room.

Having no experience of 3D modelling, I dived in and had a go with…