What’s Twitter For?

It’s a difficult thing to explain what Twitter is for. Partly because so many people use it badly. There are many things which Twitter can be used for. Some of these innovative approaches (like interactivity in class) are interesting and certainly a valid use of the technology.

But what’s it for? What might you be missing out on? If Twitter is just a novelty tool, then you’re just expending your excess productivity time fairly innoculously.

Maybe you should consider that Twitter is all about the coffee.

It’s all about the coffee

A fine article to help you discard your provincial notions of Twitter and maybe to get you beyond the curiosity stage. You might even teach-by-example your students, friends and family (maybe even all of Twitterdom).

Over 10 years ago I was giving Introduction to the Internet classes and the lesson we’re still learning today was what I was trying to teach then. The real value the Internet brings to your life isn’t in your web-browser. It’s on the other-side of it.


School of Law Facebook Page

The School of Law now has a Facebook fan page. It is gaining momentum and now has a vanity url. The link to email your friends is

Some new features are going to be added soon, some of which will replace the current Weekly Dicta announcements. We will have featured content from the Deans’ Suite, Alumni, Financial Aid, and more. Keep checking back on the page to see what is going on at Pepperdine. Be sure to become a fan too.

Making Graphics in PowerPoint

When you make a digital sign here at the Law School, we ask that you submit two copies of the slide. A PNG and the “PowerPoint Original”. This is so we can whip up a few quick corrections, if needed.

This presupposes that you use PowerPoint to make your digital sign. In fact, this is what our latest round of training did. At that training I asked if anyone wanted to try a graphics design class to supplement this and go “to the next level” with better graphics instruction. There was some interest. I hope we can support that interest soon.

The Insider's Guide to Becoming a Rapid E-Learning Pro

In the meantime, I ran across a quick eLearning article about how to make graphics in PowerPoint. I think it’s excellent. You might want to give it a try.

See How Easily You Can Create Graphics in PowerPoint

Gmail Adds Contact Picker

From the department of life’s little improvements Google adds a contact picker to Gmail. You could always auto-complete from the composition window, but this is definitely an elegant improvement particularly when choosing several people to email at once, or if you have a very large contact list.

Other Google products like Google Docs and Calendar have had this for a while, but it’s nice to see it in Gmail. I’m hoping this means they will be soon supporting external address books in the enterprise Google Apps. One of the few down sides to moving to Google Apps at Pepperdine is the loss of the Global Address List.

Google Groups now Integrated with Web Apps

The following is a excerpt from the Google Blog. They use the example of intramural sports, but I’d like to suggest perhaps this would be a useful tool for departments. If you’d like to know how, just call David at ext 4047 for a demonstration:

Now, sharing calendars, sites and documents with multiple people is easy — instead of adding people one at a time, you can simply share with an entire Google Group.

As an example, imagine you’re organizing a local intramural softball team tournament. You use Google Docs to keep track of the rosters for each team as well as each team’s performance.

You want all the players, but only the players, to have editing access. You already have a Google Group set up with the tournament participants, so you simply share the spreadsheet with the group itself, granting the group members permission to edit.

Now, when people join or leave the Google Group, they will automatically gain or lose editing access to the spreadsheet. It’s that easy.

Canon Powershot SX10 IS Review

A digital camera review? Absolutely. It gives me a great chance to talk about some things you might consider if you are in the market for a digital camera.

Canon Powershot SX10 IS

My wife and I have been considering a new camera for some time. Our old camera has a flaky shutter and LCD screen which made new baby pictures a bit more challenging than we would have liked. Our son has taken up Cub Scouts and we’ve always been dissappointed in the low light performance of our old unit during holidays (as when taking pictures of the kids opening presents).

We knew we couldn’t afford a dSLR, but needed a good camera that would last us a while and be enough of an upgrade form our current one to justify the cost.

We looked at the Canon Powershot G10, the SX110 and the SX10. The G10 certainly had the megapixels to impress, but megapixels don’t mean as much as they used to and can even prove deceptive on some models. It was also much more expensive (read: might as well get a dSLR) and only performed in low light as well as the SX110.

The big bonuses of the SX10 were the massive 20x zoom and maximum image quality available up to ISO400.

You might ask why we were fixated on Canon. Well, we’ve always had Canon, my wife likes the software they bundle with the camera (she’s been using it for years), but there’s also the fact that Consumer Reports listed Canon among the few brands where they felt confident to recommend pretty much any camera they make that fits your price point.

Canon’s got a number of nice features. iContrast helps keep detail in shaded subjects in photos taken in bright sunlight. and an Optical Image Stablizer that’s capable of enabling free hand full zoom or low light long exposure (over 1 full second) shots.

The price point was a bit high on the SX10 and when we brought it home we were conserned it wouldn’t live up to our admittedly inflated expectations.

But I can say, after a couple of days of heavy testing this camera is exceptional. Finally, I can take photos in our softly lit home in the evenings. The photos turn out rich with plenty of dynamic range in the colors.

Stabilizer is even tough enough to withstand taking one handed photographs from behind the wheel my truck as I drive down Pacific Coast Highway.

There are many automatic settings, some of which are fairly weak considering what the camera is capable of on manual. But most are useful enough so my wife can just snap pictures all afternoon at the park without worrying about fstops and light meters. It’s unfortunate that all the auto modes assume you want full flash all the time (it has three flash-levels available in manual mode) which washes out many pictures which were suffering from insufficient ambient lighting.

Over all for the price, I would say this is the best you’re going to do until you shell out for a pro-sumer model.

4 1/2 stars out of 5.

Did I mention it does zero cm macro shots?

Macro Keyboard Photo

New Web Site Launched

The School of Law now has a brand new web site. A lot of hard work was put into the site, from the University Communications team to the IS team here at the School of Law. While we are still working out some of the inevitable bugs, the site is looking good.

For those who don’t remember what it used to look like, here are the before and after images:

Much better now, don’t you agree? One of the newer features you may notice are the links to social networking sites. This is a huge step forward for the University. Social networking has been around a long time, and most educational institutions have a limited presence on these sites. What is social networking? It is Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and a vast sea of other web sites and web apps that allow people to connect with each other. The inclusion of these sites is a huge step forward, and I am looking forward to seeing where it goes.

Another thing you might notice is the size of the layout. This page is much larger than the original, and it is a lot easier to read. Ease of reading is important to a web site, and this is a good improvement.

Our videos and images also improved with the new look. Instead of embedded media, there is now an overlay which darkens everything on the screen but the video. This eases the viewing experience and is easily closed by clicking the standard “X” button on the top right. As we continue to add video content, this feature will be very useful.

I think overall the site can speak for itself. I just wanted to introduce it to those who may not have seen it yet. As always, you can find the School of Law at Check it out, and let us know what you think.

Google Docs Templates

Google has released Templates for Google Docs inside Google Apps. Folks at Pepperdine using Google Apps can now share private templates for presentations, documents (like stationary or departmental memos) and spreadsheets.

Google Docs Templates

We now have our own private template gallery. Anything you make in Google Docs (or import into Docs from Word, etc) can be offered as a template, shared and rated by the Pepperdine community.

If you’ve never used Templates before in Google Docs, here’s a link to their help page:

Google Help: Google Docs Templates

In addition, Google has recently released support for .DOCX (Word 2007 format) documents!

Google Voice

Very soon a new service will be offered by Google to the public. It may happen today, they are being quite cagey about the details. For those of us who found the service a while ago–then called Grand Central–it’s been a novel experiment.


Google Voice

What is Google Voice? It’s a master, permanent, life-time phone number. You give out one phone number and then whenever you change phones, service providers, or jobs your number follows you. How do they do this?

While the technology behind it might be complicated, it’s easy for the users. You just tell Google Voice what phone numbers you want your master phone number to roll over to and it handles it. This is not so different than many people’s work environment where the PBX can forward one extension to another. But this is any number, anywhere.

This alone would be a nice service. I can think of our own students. It’s a time in your life where you are moving around. Your connectivity is in constant flux. You might have a brief internship or go overseas. Wouldn’t it be great if everyone could contact you at any time without updating them on your new number?

But Grand Central turned Google Voice goes further. It takes advantage of this routing from one number to another to offer a set of innovative services.

  1. You can screen your calls. Not only can you get caller ID, but if you let the call go through to Voicemail you can listen while the caller leaves the message and break in, just like you can at home with your answering machine.
  2. You can select, based on caller ID to forward different calls to different phones. Since you probably have more than one physical phone in your life, you can have calls from business clients forwarded to your desk phone, calls from your mother go to your home phone and calls from your sweetheart to your cell phone.
    You can even have all calls with NO ID or no ID in your contacts like go directly to voicemail! Never be bothered with unsolicited calls again!
  3. The voicemail feature supports speach to text. While such technologies are at times skittish, you can get the gist of a voicemail via email, the web interface or SMS. Again, this puts you back in charge of your interruptions.
  4. SMS is also supported for generall messaging and routing!
  5. Something sure to bother some folks and make others very happy? You can record phone calls with a touch of a button even in the middle of a call. No more need to take down someone’s phone number, just record for a few seconds while they say it.
  6. Switch phones in the middle of a call. Your cell phone running out of battery? Pick up your home phone and join the call. You can put someone on hold on your home phone and then pick it up once your on the road!
  7. Nobody ever knows any of your real phone numbers. Only your Google Voice number. The home phone never rings again, except for who you want and when you want. You can select hours of operation.
  8. I’ll wrap up with an additional fun feature. Since this is all online you can put a web-widget on your site to allow people to call you via their computer. Instant Skype, no software to install, no fees to pay. Receive calls for free.

I think that’s plenty of material for the hype-machine.

Looks much like Gmail's Interface

Looks much like Gmail's Interface

Better Network Storage Debut, Part 2

Most departments scale down during summer, not so with Information Technology folks. This is the time to turn the world inside out and upside down. We have grand plans for better services in the coming year and unlike corn they don’t grow on their own.

This is a follow-up to my previous post about Pepperdine’s new electronic file storage offering.

Since last I posted on this new service Pepperdine IT has quietly been skipping lunch to make improvements. First, the web interface is now conveniently available through Wavenet‘s toolbar.


There between Personalize and Email, just click to get to your web access.

What if you’d rather not install the Xythos client software as we shared before? How about following these instructions for quick and reliable access in Windows:

To create a Web Folder in Windows XP:

  1. In Windows XP, click on “Start” and then click on “My Network Places”.
  2. Under Network Tasks, click Add Network Place.
  3. When prompted, “Where do you want to create this Network Place?”, choose “Choose Another Network Location” and click on “Next”.
  4. In the Add Network Place Wizard, follow the instructions to add a shortcut to a folder. The address of that folder will be “<user_name>”, replacing <user_name> with your university network id.
  5. When prompted for a user name and password, type in your user name and password. Click “OK”.
  6. Next, name your Network Place and select “Next”. When you have successfully added the shortcut, select “Finish”. An icon for your new shortcut will appear in the My Network Places folder.

(excerpted from the IT HELP Xythos page)

Anyway you prefer to access this new service is fine with us. Start using it today for good data protection and peace of mind.