ShapeWriter

For all of you who have Android phones, here’s the barcode for the ShapeWriter. You can’t find it in the Android Marketplace anymore, so this is a back-up for myself too.

I love this keyboard; I’m getting sick of the default keyboards that came with the X10.

Personal Learning Network

What is a Personal Learning Network (PLN)? Personal Learning Networks are people that a learner, like myself, interacts with and learns from in a Personal Learning  Environment. PLNs have been around for quite sometime, you might not know it, but your friends and families are part of your personal learning network as well.

During my two years in BCIT, I have developed my own PLN through my peers and my teachers. This network allows me to develop a network that will help the growth of my professional development and knowledge. My PLN mostly consists of people I have met through school, but there are a few people that I have never even met personally, or face to face.

After hours of researching about PLNs, I found a YouTube video regarding student networking, I found it very informative and useful for PLN beginners, like myself. I learned that blogs, social bookmarking sites,  and wikis are great PLN tools as well. Feel free to check it out yourself, it is called the “Networked Student.”

My PLN isn’t very big, and I plan on expanding that. I only have two social networking sites that I use as my personal learning network:

First and foremost, I use Twitter. Not a lot of people may see Twitter as a personal learning network. I was one of those people. I have signed up and deleted two Twitter accounts thinking they were useless. I was wrong.

On a daily basis, I would visit three different tutorial websites for graphics and web design. Chris Spooner, Smashing Magazine and Vandelay Design. It was a hassle for me to have to visit each site a day to check for new updates. However, a couple weeks into using Twitter for the third time, I decided to make (proper) use of my account; I followed Chris Spooner, Smashing Magazine, and Vandelay Design. I now have daily Twitter updates (at three hour intervals) from three of my most favourite sites being pushed to my smartphone.

LinkedIn is another PLN site in which I have failed to overlook. By using LinkedIn, I can connect with my  peers and teachers from both the New Media and Web Development program and the Digital Animation program to help, both, the growth of my professional goals and knowledge.

With that being said, how do I plan on expanding my personal learning network?

  1. Social bookmarking websites (such as Delicious and Diigo). These two bookmarking websites would be great tools to find links to tutorial websites, news related to New Media and Web Development, and so much more and vice versa, I’ll be able to share my resources with the world.
  2. Blogs (such as WordPress, Tumblr, and Typepad). By reading other people’s blogs, I’ll learn their thoughts and learn from their knowledge and be able to respond with my opinions and knowledge.

PLNs are an important part of professional development and self growth. With technology growing rapidly nowadays, I find that most of my PLN are online. It is much easier to communicate with people, and a lot easier to find people with the same interests. Whether it be online or in real life, it is important that we understand the importance of PLNs and continue to expand our networks everywhere we go.

What is SaaS? What is Gliffy?

What does SaaS stand for? SaaS stands for software as a service, sometimes it is referred to as “software on demand.”

What is it and what does it do? It is an online software that users can “rent/borrow” instead of actually purchasing the software and installing it onto their computers. One example of an SaaS is Hotmail. However, SaaS goes beyond your email provider. The idea behind SaaS is to allow software businesses to run their computer tools as online rented products. All of your work, as a user, will be done on the internet; the process of creating and saving documents just by using a web browser.

What are Some of the benefits to SaaS?
For the Consumer:
– No software installation/maintenance
– Global availability
– Reduced costs

For the Provider:
– Reduced costs
– Predictable growth
– Smaller upgrades

What are the Downsides to SaaS? It’s hard for the users to trust the internet; documents being corrupted, lost, connectivity, or privacy and security issues.

Now that we know what SaaS is, I’ve done some further research on SaaS and I found a really neat SaaS, called Gliffy.

Gliffy is an online diagram software where you can easily create professional-quality flowcharts, diagrams, floor plans, technical drawings, and so much more. This tool is great for architecture, information architecture, and project management. Students in high school may use Gliffy for projects in subjects like Social Studies or Geography. Gliffy is not just limited to business owners. It’s pretty much OmniGraffle, but better.

Gliffy was first founded in May 2005 in San Francisco, by Clint Dickson and Chris Kohlhardt.You are given a free 30 day trial, when you register for account. You don’t need to enter credit card details. If you don’t pay before the 30 day trial is up, you’ll be limited to some features.

With the free account, you may only save and create public diagrams which means everyone can see it. You are only allowed to upload images 2MB or below, whereas with the premium account, this feature is unlimited. The premium version gives you privacy and security with your documents by logging on using SSL, it also rids of the Gliffy logo watermark.

So how much does it cost per month? One user premium account costs $5/month,  10 users cost $25/month, 25 users cost $60/month. There are plans available for up to 1000 users.

Now you may be a little skeptical with this SaaS, can you really do much with Gliffy? I did a trial run of Gliffy, and yes, you can. You can create any sort of diagram (venn diagrams, flow charts, floor plans, and more.) As you can see, this is what their interface looks like. It is really easy to use; you just drag and drop, you can save and share in several different formats, and back up your work.

Gliffy is not the only SaaS drawing software. There are several other softwares similar to Gliffy, such as Dabbleboard. However, Dabbleboard doesn’t allow its users to create floor maps like Gliffy. It’s mostly just a drawing tool to create flowcharts and mind maps.

Exams, Projects, and Assignments…

With our first term wrapping up quickly… we’re all very busy with projects, exams, and assignments whilst trying to make it to every class (sleep deprived, for the most part.) I’m finding it very hard to juggle work with school; it shouldn’t come to me as  a surprise, however, as I’ve experienced this with the Digital Animation course as well (only with projects, we never had quizzes or exams.) All in all, I’m feeling quite overwhelmed. I’m mentally and physically drained out, which makes me highly anticipate this upcoming break!

From what I have learnt this term, I would say my two strengths are Photoshop and Web Overview class. Perhaps it may be the fact that I have had a tiny bit of experience with coding websites, and a handful of Photoshop experience since I was 12 years old that I’m stronger in these two subjects. There are still a few things left about Photoshop that I do not know of, such as the photomerge option, so it’s definitely nice to learn a few extra tools and whatnot about Photoshop. With web overview, well, global css still confuses me. Regardless, I am enjoying these two courses the most.

Recently, I played around with two new programs in which I am a complete stranger to, InDesign and Illustrator. I’m not quite sure how these two programs work, but I used the pen tool. InDesign and Illustrator seem like they’re going to take a bit of time getting used to, but I’m really liking them so far (from what I have touched and practiced with.)

I’m quite excited for the next term, there will be 10 courses, from what I’ve heard and seen from the schedule, but I’m sure they are all worthwhile! They seem to be a lot more hands-on, rather than technical, which is exciting!

Global CSS

“Global CSS? What is that? How does it work? Is anything supposed to change? Is change even good?”

I have been understanding CSS fine up until last week when we had learnt about global css. From what I understand, global css resets all web browsers to zero. By doing so, it allows the website to appear the same in other web browsers (IE, Safari, Firefox, and etc.) Am I right?

What I don’t understand is the process of creating global css. I have attempted to, but instead of making my website look similar in all browsers, global css is making my website look a lot more different and messy than it was to begin with. For example, my submenu div, which is floated to the right side of the page (beside it is my content div floated to the left) is now floating on above (or inside?!) of my content div. My headers are smaller than my body text. Does that makes any sense at all to you? It’s hard to explain it and visualize it. All in all, my website is just a big mess!

I researched about global css on the internet, but all I can find are global reset css codes or definitions of what they are. Am I not looking in the right places? I want to create my own. I am hoping to find a decent site that will (clearly) provide me with the information that I need –how do I make one? How do I know what to put in my global css? Maybe I’m just exhausted from this week that I can’t comprehend the information that I need when it’s right in front of me. If you know a good website, throw it my way, because I need all the help that I can get.

After hours and  hours of frustrating research, attempts and guesses of creating my own global css, I decided to email our instructor. This is what I had learnt from him:

  1. My header tags are small because in my global css, I reseted my font size to 10px (or something along those lines).
  2. I will need to change fonts to exactly what I want in my css stylesheet (in each <div> id) in order to override the global reset.

My first attempt after he had written back, made my website a little less messier than it was before. However, there must be something wrong with my drop down menu css, as it is not aligned with my menu bar. And my submenu remains in the middle of my content div.

The headache of learning xHTML and CSS! With research and help from our instructor, global css still remains a little unclear to me. Learning global css is becoming a little disheartening, but I’ll remain persistent! I tend to complicate the easiest tasks sometimes, hopefully this experience is just myself making things more complicated for myself. But if it isn’t, with more practice and research, I’ll hopefully be able to understand the process of creating global reset css.

Coding

Last week, in Communications class, we had to create a web page off of memory. The class was split into two and the members of each group had to work with each other to create a working website with div codes and CSS. It’s surprising what one can learn and remember from only 5 classes.

We have been learning how to create CSS stylesheets, in our Web Overview class. Just last week, we learned how to create drop down menus. This week, we are supposed to create a coded entry. From what I have heard and understand, we are to type in the HTML box, not the visual. So, here goes nothing…

Practicing coding…

From what I have learnt from class so far, I have been working on my boyfriend’s portfolio website. We created this website last year, when we graduated from the Digital Animation program. He knew nothing about coding, and I knew very little from what I had taught myself from years ago.

As of late, I’ve decided to revisit the website to create it with proper coding, such as CSS and Div codes. Currently, it’s a simple static website, but we hope to add some flash, when I learn the more complex side of web developing. I’ll be working on his website ongoing, as it is good practice. Feel free to check out his art work, he’s a great (self taught) digital painter. He’s also an awesome 3D modeler!

Just for fun…

Here is an interesting website: Akinator. This website supposedly “reads your mind.” You think of a fictional, or non fictional character –whether it be in games, cartoons, actors and actresses, or family members, and the website guesses who you are thinking of. 

I’m curious as to how the creators built this website, the “mind reader” from the website guesses what you’re thinking of with at least 15 general questions. Whatever they did, they definitely made a website that makes its users keep coming back.

Beware, it’s highly addicting.

Why is Copy Important?

Copy is an important part of a website. If the copy is full of fillers, then there really is no point to its existence. As of late, my peers and I have been learning about the importance of copy and how to write a good copy. I have been browsing through several websites to see how each copy is different (depening on their content and target audience.)

Let’s take a look at my two favourite music blogs.

Vinyl and Vodka Music Blog

Vinyl and Vodka & Ali’s Blog
In these two websites, there is little or mediocre amount of copy in both sites. The copy mostly promotes the (new or old) singer/band’s album, music videos, and singles –it describes what the single sounds like, and how they are liking the song/abum. Their target audience are mostly teenagers, young adults (in their 20s) who are into mainstream music (pop, hip hop, r&b, dance) or indie music. The target audience is clear, as the writing style is informal.

I am looking back on my past entries on WordPress from back when I was in the Digital Animation program and they are horrible; they have no title, no targeted audience, no content and filled with filler text. I’m reading through each entry, and I can tell that I was just blogging for the sake of blogging and finishing my assignment (I do recall… Val allowing us to blog about anything, given that we blogged about Digital Animation or the industry for half of the entry.) I did not learn much about copy writing back then, as I am learning now.

It is important to know how good copy looks like and whether or not it’s necessary to have a lot or little content on a website. I plan on improving my copy writing skills by looking through the copy of websites more thoroughly from here on in, so I can get a gist of what copy on the web should look like.  Someone could have a well built website, but what good is it, if they have bad (and unnecessary) copy on each page? They will end up scaring their users away.