Saturday, October 30, 2010

Macbook Air 11.6"

I had the first Macbook Air a few years ago for about a minute and a half. It was so slow and underpowered and it had that weird door that dropped down to plug things into that nothing could plug-in to! I sold it after a very short time.

I wavered on the purchase of the new Macbook Air for almost 24 hours, and, for those of you that know me, you will realize this is odd. I had done all the research ahead of time, drove to an Apple store to see one (but they had not received one yet), and talked to some very smart colleagues who talked me out of it.

Photo by

I then polled my Twitter followers, but no one had yet touched one, let alone purchased one. However, I looked carefully at both the specs and the hype, and decided to get the 11.6" version,  doubled the RAM to 4GB, doubled the SSD to 128GB and upgraded the processor to the 1.6 GHz. I did not want to get caught with an underpowered machine again, but the total price was a little daunting!

I cannot believe this little machine! It is powerful enough to do Second Life (my avatar is iffy, but everything else renders perfectly!), it can video edit using Adobe Premiere Elements 9 for the Mac, and opens all apps so speedily, it takes your breath away!

I restored a Time Machine backup of my Macbook Pro and the new MBA was all ready to go! With the smaller amount of internal storage, I did uninstall most of the Adobe CS apps, but kept the ones I am most likely to use away from home like Dreamweaver and Acrobat Pro.

After the install of all my applications, I have about 60GB of data storage left, and that is fine for my purposes. With so much of my data available "in the cloud" and on my home computer via "Back to My Mac", I am all set by having everything available to me all of the time!

I miss a couple of things so far. Not the optical drive, but the back-lit keyboard and SD card slot. The larger model has the SD card slot, and I know that the battery life is longer without the back-lit keyboard, but I still wish it had it.

I have to remember to carry both the VGA dongle and the Ethernet dongle with me now, but that is not a problem. I have hooked the computer up to a older projector and the "non-standard" resolution works just fine.

Please feel free to ask any questions in the comments of things you want me to try out or concerns of yours I might have missed!

Kindle 3 Overview

I have been using the Kindle 3 for a couple of months, and also using the iPad to read my Kindle selections, and I wanted to offer a few additional thoughts.

I still enjoy reading my books on the Kindle because of the electronic ink and the lack of backlighting, which makes it much easier on the eyes for long periods of time.

The added weight of the Kindle when in the case with the built-in light has not been noticeable. Folding back the cover when reading works well, so I have not taken it out of the case to read at all.

I do like having the 3G version for both purchasing and previewing new titles, and for using the Web browser anywhere I am. Of course, the iPad wins, hands down, for Web browsing, but the Kindle works in a pinch to check e-mail, tweet, or get ready-reference information. (I am one of those people who feels the need to have access to the Net and information with me 24x7, so I always can make do with the tool I have on hand!)

I have a more complete review of the Kindle 3 here, if you are interested.

Below you will find links to the two versions of the Kindle 3, the WIFi-only and WiFi/3G version and also links to all the apps for reading Kindle books on other devices. One of the main reasons I prefer the Kindle device is the number of titles available in the Kindle bookstore.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

One more IPEVO device

Okay, audio-conferencing and attending Webinars just got a lot easier for me when I have a group of staff members watching and listening with me.

The problem always was lack of a speakerphone. I managed to solve the problem by purchasing Skype-out credits so I could dial-in to the landline we needed to connect to via the computer, so we could hear and participate in various online webinars. If the hosts used VOIP, we were all set for audio, but still each had to come up to use the microphone on the computer to ask a question. And, for simple conference calls, it got a little bit crowded as everyone huddled around the speakerphone in my office.

IPEVO X1-N6 Internet Conference Station

Well, I can now go mobile with the IPEVO X1-N6 Internet Conference Station ($139)!  This device is both a USB speaker and a USB microphone. I will simply have to bring the laptop to a conference room, plug in the IPEVO Internet Conference Station to a USB port, log-on to the webinar, choose the device as both the audio input and output devices, and everyone in the room will be able to clearly hear the webinar over the speaker in the Internet Conference Station, as well as easily contribute to the collaborative conversations that might occur. The device also has a mute button to mute the local sound when just listening to the online presentation.

However, the Internet Conference Station can be used ANY time one wants to get a group together to discuss something. For example, students creating an audio file as the backdrop for a slide show or movie can just plug in the device and each can easily add their thoughts. I also see the device being used by a student podcaster who is interviewing a small group of students, staff, or community members. The Internet Conference Station can be chosen as the audio input for apps such as Jing, GarageBand, Audacity, Adobe Connect, Microsoft PowerPoint, and any other app that allows the choice of the audio input device.

If you have any ideas on how the IPEVO Internet Conference Station might be used in an educational setting, add a comment! Thanks!

Friday, October 15, 2010

New Gadgets from IPEVO

I am starting to appreciate IPEVO's innovations more and more! Even though they are a consumer-oriented company, many of their items are useful for schools and support of teaching and learning. Of course, the IPEVO Point 2 View document camera has been a big hit in my district and everywhere else I demo it.

I got the chance to take a look at three new gadgets from IPEVO. The first is the Icon Power Pack for iPhone and iPod, an external battery charger for these devices. I have used the Kensington Mini Battery Pack for a number of years, and have always been happy with it. I cannot tell you how many times an external battery has helped me out, especially with the earlier iPhones with the shorter battery life.

The Icon works in the same way. You charge it via a USB port on your computer, then, when you plug it into the 30-port connector on the iPhone or iPod, the handheld recharges itself from the Icon. The blinking lights on the Icon let you know how much battery life is left for charging.

The Icon is rated to give 3 hours of additional talk time, or 5.5 hours of Internet use, or 18 hours of additional audio playback for the iPhone 3/3gs or iPhone 4. I can definitely see having a few of these on-hand in classrooms that are piloting 1-to-1 iPod or iPod Touch initiatives, especially when going out in the "field".

The second gadget I tried out was the Open Stereo Headphones. These headphones are the over-the ear type, sit outside of the ear canal and are quite comfortable. They have an in-line remote and mic for use with iPods and iPhones. However, the coolest feature is they allow you be aware of external sounds even while listening to music with the headphones on!

I tested it out today in a 7th grade computer class, where students were working on projects, and discussing content and navigation and set-up aloud the entire time. I could easily listen to music at a fairly high volume, and still hear what they were saying as well as the teacher giving instructions. I let a few of the students try them out, too, and they were impressed. If a computer lab had a classroom set of these, there would be no more hand signals or flicking off of classroom lights to get the student's attention. In addition, students would no longer have to raise their voices (as 7th graders are wont to do) when both wearing headphones and talking loud when trying to get the attention of another student.

When I showed them to the computer teacher, her only concern was examining them to see how rugged they were, since they would have to put up with five classes of middle schoolers each day. I am not sure of that, but I do know there are not many larger, more expensive headphones that have been able to withstand the middleschooler, either!

The third new gadget I tried out was the one I had the most fun with -- the IPEVO Tubular Wireless Speakers.

These portable speakers come connected together in an easy-to-transport tube. To use them, they twist apart to reveal a USB connection for charging with the computer in the base of one and an audio cable to connect the speakers together in the base of the other.

These speakers attach to the iPod, the iPod Touch, and the iPhone via a Bluetooth pairing connection, and they should work with any laptop or device that has Bluetooth capabilities.

I easily paired them with my iPad, and then carried the speakers throughout my house, streaming the music wherever I went! In a classroom setting, these would be very useful for sharing audiobooks and podcasts in small groups of students, or even with the entire class.

(One tip: I found that I needed to make sure the two speakers were attached to one another via the audio cable BEFORE doing the pairing with the iPad in order to get sound from both speakers.)

Can't wait to see what IPEVO comes up with next!