Friday, April 30, 2010

Yo Frankie!

One of the most high-powered, full-featured open source applications is Blender 3D. It's an incredibly powerful 3D modelling application that has been used to make short films like Big Buck Bunny and Elephant's Dream. So what do all those 3D characters do after their film careers end? They get jobs in computer gaming. Using all of the models and landscapes from Big Buck Bunny, the blender community has created Yo Frankie!, a 3D game with very impressive graphics, that is free for anyone to download and play.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Ubuntu One Music Store is coming

I've been listening to Tommy and the Fallen Horses lately. They're well worth checking out. One review I read had their new album as the best kiwi album of the last decade.
But I had my patience tested trying to download that same album. First of all their website returned a 404 when I went to purchase the album for download. Thankfully that's fixed now, but is symptomatic of the problems faced by smaller bands who shouldn't ever have to maintain their own websites in order to put beer (or honey-flavoured smoothies) on the table. There should be a friendly third party out there could take away the stress of e-commerce- oh if only such a third party existed :-). So then, under some stress, I ended up using the iTunes store, redeeming a gift card a colleague had generously given me. My reservations were two-fold: 1) the iTunes store files are proprietary and full of DRM rubbish that restrict my purchase so much that it's really no longer a purchase, more of a loan, and 2) only a measly 10% of the purchase price makes it to Tommy and his horses. The rest goes to Apple and their lawyers.
That's why I think it's brilliant that Canonical are launching the Ubuntu One Music Store: DRM-free music for the people, by the people. It's criminal that not only is Apple getting 90% of the purchase price of a DRM single, they want to cut it to 4%. I know where I'll be buying my music from.
Oh, and if you see Tommy any time soon, buy him a honey-flavoured smoothie from me. Just don't tell him I gave all his money to Steve Jobs.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Kollaborative Video Editing

When I first heard about Kaltura, I refused to believe my ears. I remember thinking "There is no way that someone can make an online video editor that lets different people upload different pieces of footage into a single project and edit it asynchronously. Impossible." thankfully my curiosity got the better of me and I clicked on the link and had a play around. It's literally what is says on the box: if you've got some footage and I've got some footage we can both upload it to the same project and edit it into something greater than the sum of our parts. The editing process is just like the wiki process: pendulum swings that eventually arrive at a middle ground: if you think we should chop the first 10 seconds off and I think we should keep it in, we discuss it on the discussion page of the wiki and eventually agree to a compromise. You can add titles, audio, transitions and still clips like any decent video editor. It's quite amazing technology and it's really easy to set up on a range of different platforms; it has plugins for Wordpress, Joomla, Moodle, Drupal and Mediawiki so it's ready to drop into your site.
A project the Head of Maths at Albany Senior High and I are working on is a living textbook for maths that allows students to film and upload different ways of solving equations using Kaltura. Here's a very rough working prototype of what we've got in mind. (See if you can spot the LaTeX on the page; something Wikieducator handles perfectly.)

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Expand your mind

I've been looking around at open source mind mapping tools lately just to see if there is anything that takes Freemind a step further. There is still no open alternative to the cool web-based tools like Mind42 or Mindmeister, but desktop apps have come a long way. Three I've been playing with are VYM, Vue and Xmind.
  • VYM (View Your Mind): very close to the Tony Buzan idea of mind mapping that uses colour and the relative width of the branches to communicate relationships. Has icon and image support too.
  • Vue (Visual Understanding Environment): works like a mind mapping tool should, but this offers the ability to create and lay back 'paths'. "The Playback tool launches VUE into full-screen presentation mode. Presenters can use the mouse, arrow keys or space bar to move through a presentation."
  • XMind: this one looks like the best of the bunch to me. It has smoe really nice features like a presentation mode and the ability to work with Gantt charts too. I'll be adding it to the student desktop image next month. (Although there is an XMind 'Pro' which requires a subscription. I haven't signed up for that.)
Free your mind; use free software.