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Google Chrome OS

For those of you who do not follow Google as closely as some of us here on the SOLIS team, you may not have heard yet that Google is making a new operating system (OS). What’s an OS? The operating system at is basic level is what runs your computer. Windows, Macintosh, and Linux are all popular operating systems currently. Google wants to offer its own service to this list, and it is going to do so in a completely different way.

Google released a new web browser about a year ago, called Google Chrome. Out of the box it was already faster than most existing web browsers, including Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Opera. That was impressive enough, but then it got even faster. Google also focused on browser security, and worked to keep different web-based applications from interfering with or hijacking each other. This is also a valuable feature. So, with speed and security, what do you get? A new web browser that lets you do the kinds of things you want to do, and it allows you to spend less time to do it.

Let’s take a look at the currently available operating systems. For the most part, Macintosh and Linux have a much safer OS than Windows. Part of this is due to the fact that Windows is such a big target for malicious programmers, and part of it is just the way Windows does business. Anti-virus programs and mal-ware detectors do a lot to make computers safer, but the risk involved is inherent in the way an OS performs.

An OS allows programs you install to take control of various portions of your computer. This is what makes it possible for mal-ware to do what it does. Once it is granted access, it does what it does. This ends up causing havoc and pandemonium and ultimately we end up having to go out and buy a new computer with the same vulnerabilities as the one that was hacked.

Google is trying to rethink the way operating systems work. When Google began looking into the idea of an OS, a number of things came to light. Today’s computer users are spending a lot of time on the internet. We use it for email, chatting, Facebook, watching videos, listening to music, banking, shopping, and more. A lot of users simply hop on the internet when they turn on the computer, and when they are done browsing the web, they turn the computer off. In light of this, Google decided to extend the idea of its Chrome browser to an OS.

The Chrome OS was discussed today at a special event. The official launch date is still unknown, but it is likely to be early next year. They discussed some of the features of the new OS, including the way it handles web applications. Gmail, Youtube, and Picassa are all examples of web applications. Essentially, while using the Chrome OS, it will be a very similar experience as using the Chrome browser. Different tabs will be opened for different applications. They even pointed out that the new web-based Microsoft Office 2010 is perfectly suited to this new way of doing things. Anything you can do online, you can do on the Chrome OS.

It looks like Chrome OS will be able to do quite a bit when it launches. There are still a number of other questions about it though. Fellow SOLIS blogger David Dickens asks how will the OS handle files? Can a cloud-based service transfer a file to another cloud-based service without using the OS as an intermediary tool? These questions are important to think about. There are many more unanswered questions at this point as well, but this is simply meant to introduce the idea of the Chrome OS.

Now that we have covered some of the basics, lets take a look at this short video about the new Chrome OS.




This video was a basic introduction to what Google has in store for us and the reasons we would want Google’s new OS. Those who want to learn more can view the related videos displayed at the end of this introductory video.

Is this OS going to be for everyone? Probably not. Certain types of computer use will be better suited for a traditional OS. For most personal use though, Chrome OS has potential to be very beneficial. As more information becomes available, the SOLIS team will keep you posted.

Google Wave Preview

wave-screenshot-logo

Google recently started sending out invites to those of us who couldn’t wait to get our hands on it. Wave was designed to re-imagine e-mail. The developers were trying to figure out what e-mail would look like if it were invented today.

I got my copy of the Google Wave preview a couple weeks ago, and so far I am pretty happy with it. It is still very clearly in “preview” mode, a departure from a standard Google protocol. Typically Google releases ready-to-go software. The preview mode has a lot of bugs and quirks, but this is to be expected.

Google Wave allows you to collaborate in real-time with anyone you would normally e-mail. You can see chat messages as they are typed, share documents in real-time, embed Waves into presentations and web sites, and more. The possibilities continue to expand. Those familiar with Google Docs should be familiar with the collaboration features. By sharing a document, multiple users could have the same document open and can edit any piece that they need. After a brief delay, the content shows up for all the collaborators to see. Wave is designed to reduce this gap, and show updates as they happen.

So, what can Google Wave do? Lots of things. One way we are testing it out is the ability to paste a Wave into a web page. The following image shows a Wave I started.

wave-screenshot
In this Wave I simply added a title and embedded a gadget that allows users to share files in real-time, and even browse the web together with the same browser, all while in a video chat setting. We had tested it earlier, but this time we wanted to see it in a web page.

wave-screenshot-sol
This is what the Wave looks like in the School of Law website. Now that this Wave is embedded, I can type anything I want into the Wave and it updates both locations. Anything I type from my Wave account will show up on the web page, and anything from the web page will show up on my Wave account. I think this feature is pretty cool.

So what else can Google Wave do? There are a number of tools already available for Google Wave. There is a simple survey tool, a map, and even a Sudoku Wave. You can play chess, connect-4, and a number of other games, all with real-time chat. You get to see the chat text as it is typed. A number of the better programs are only available to those who participated in the development sandbox. Hopefully these will be officially launched soon.

For those of us who have been excited about Wave all summer, we were able to watch an 80 minute video introducing us to Wave. They have since made a condensed version, only 10 minutes long. Much better for those who don’t have 80 minutes to spare. Here is the video:


As Google Wave continues to mature and develop, the SOLIS team is looking forward to seeing what the future will bring. Wave has the potential to revolutionize collaboration among social groups, as well as business. Who knows, maybe even the legal community will give Wave a try.

Update: For anyone that has a Wave Preview account you will see a sample embedded Wave. Those who don’t, please pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, or Google’s login page for that matter.

Update: The embedded Wave was making the blog jump down to the Wave login so we temporarily removed it. When Wave is out of preview mode we will re-enable it.

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.

People.

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 http://facebook.com/pepperdinelaw.

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 law.pepperdine.edu. 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!