#387 Mac Computer Expo, Women in Tech, TWiT Tour, Ada Lovelace Day, CP Filters, RSS Workflow

This week Steve and I were at the Mac Computer Expo in Petaluma and I regale you with tales of those adventures. I was on the keynote panel “Women in Tech”, I did my Blindfolded! presentation, and we had great fun going on a tour of the TWiT Brickhouse, wine tasting and more. Watch for MacBreak Weekly this week – I’m going to be on it! Kirschen tells us about Ada Lovelace Day 2012 on October 16, learn about it at findingada.com. In Dumb Question Corner we have an anonymous question about how to make the leap from a 5 year old flip phone to smart phone without looking like an idiot. In Chit Chat Across the Pond Bart tells us how much fun he’s having with his circular polarizing filter, which we explained back in show #373. Then he walks us through his workflow and apps he uses on the Mac and iOS for reading RSS feeds.

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Hi this is Allison Sheridan of the NosillaCast Mac Podcast, hosted at Podfeet.com, a technology geek podcast with an EVER so slight Macintosh bias. Today is Monday October 8, 2012 and this is show number 387. Well thanks for waiting for us to get back from the Mac Computer Expo guys! Sorry you had to wait for us but now I can regale you with tales of adventures.

Mac Computer Expo is the brainchild of Lorene Romero. It’s a lovely show, up in Petaluma, California, home of the TWiT brickhouse. It’s nice because it’s kind of small but the attendees are super enthusiastic and excited to be there, ask great questions and really seem to enjoy things.

It’s a one-day show, and it started off with a keynote which was called Women in Tech. It was hosted by none other than Jeff Gamet of the Mac Observer and it had a great panel on it. I was lucky enough to be one of the panel members, along with Jean McDonald from smile software, Kelly Guimont of the TUAW podcast and Agile bits, Kerry Rego who is a social media consultant and an awful lot of fun, and Ronnie Roche who is an Apple consultant and and author Dori Smith. It was a lot of fun to watch Jeff try to manage six women at the same time all with a lot to say! We talked about the gender bias in technology, or should I save the gender imbalance, but we tried to focus more on what we can do to get kids male and female excited about technology in our schools. Steve video recorded the keynote so when it’s up later tonite or Tuesday morning I’ll add it to the shownotes.


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Leo in his office running the live tech guy showI also did my blindfolded presentation again, and it went really well. I redefined “really well” as meaning even if I get stuck, if the audience learns a lot and enjoys helping me get unstuck, that’s a successful blindfolded presentation. this was a great crowd, they were very engaged and when the calendar had a weird window open that I couldn’t see her I should say here but was still in my way, they were a lot of help getting me unstuck. If you’re here looking for the link to the slides that I promised, you can find them at:

Slideshare.net/nosillacast/blindfolded
or the actual Keynote file itself (accessible) under Creative Commons: Blindfolded!.key

After the presentation I was delighted to have two women from the Marin County website come up to me, and tell me that they’re very interested in accessibility and want some help having their website tested for the visually impaired. I told him that when they’re ready we will unleash the blind Nosillacastaways on to their site and I promised that you all would give great feedback to them, and they were really happy! That’s what I love about doing this kind of event, you have no idea who you’re going influence, who’s going to influence you, what you will learn, and it’s always a surprise and always fun.

The night before MCE all of the speakers and the vendors for the event were invited out to a really nice dinner hosted by Lorene and her crew. The real treat though came when after dinner port walked us over to the TWiT Brickhouse and gave us the full tour of the of the Brickhouse and we even got to play in the basement and see the backplanes of the computer systems, it was awesome. Steve took some video of the tour that will be sure to post soon, and I think you’ll get a big kick out of it. We took some great pictures too. Boy, this whole thing is just a big tease isn’t it?

When we went to the Brickhouse, we had to look for our bricks. You may remember that Steve bought me a brick and George from Tulsa bought the NosillaCastaways a brick for the wall. We spent about an hour searching those walls, and we found the NosillaCastaways brick. it’s surprisingly hard to read and search the wall, something about how the bricks are staggered makes your eyes wander instead of doing a pattern. We never did find the one Steve bought but he was a good sport about it. The good news is that we also found Donald Burr’s brick for Otaku No Podcast! I put pictures of both bricks in the shownotes so you can see them.
NosillaCastaways brick

Otaku no Podcast brick

On Saturday night there was another dinner for the speakers and sponsors, and Steve and I had the pleasure of eating with Bert Monroy and his lovely wife Zosia. If you haven’t seen Bert’s work or watched one of his classes, you’ll really want to check them out. Bert is an artist, but he paints with Photoshop. That sounds silly but the work his does is just amazing. He did a giant painting of Times Square that took him FOUR YEARS to paint. I forget how many separate files and layers it was but it was thousands. Many years ago I saw him on a podcast teaching how to create wood, just using Photoshop from a blank white canvas. At the show we saw him take scans of some flyers he had saved and turn them into torn out pieces of paper with torn post-it-notes and curled up from humidity. It was stunning to watch. Anyway we had a blast talking to both of them, Bert is a great story teller and one of those love life kind of guys. The great news is that he said he’d love to be on the show! It would be cooler if it were a video podcast but you’ll love his stories, I guarantee it. Can’t wait to set that up. I put a link in the shownotes to bertmonroy.com so you can take a look at some of what he’s done and get all excited with me!

Ozzie looking out the door during the showOn Sunday morning, the day after the event we went over to the TWiT Brickhouse again, just to see Leo do his live Tech Guy radio show. That was fascinating, because Leo ran into the studio at literally two minutes before he was going on the air! He seemed perfectly calm about the whole thing, and just said hello to us as he walked by, and then sat down at his desk and started to record. It was so weird to imagine doing your day job with the crowd of people watching you. There aren’t that many people there, but he sits in this glass booth and people sit in the room with him just looking at him work, and he seems to thrive on it. I think Steve’s favorite part of it though, was getting to meet Ozzie, Leo’s little tiny Papillon dog. Steve is a sucker for ANY dog, and Ozzie was no exception.

We were going to just get out go home on Sunday but Adam Christianson and Jean MacDonald convinced us that it was a better idea to go wine tasting all day and then to dinner at Jean’s sisters house. We went to Raymond Burr’s winery, sat outside and had a lovely glass of red wine and watched the flowers grow. It was completely relaxing. I kept telling Jean that can’t remember the last time I did absolutely nothing but relax! I’ve been working so hard on the Mac Mania presentations that I have no free time at all anymore. The most relaxation I get is washing my car!

After wine tasting we went up to Jean sisters house, which is way way way up in the mountains. I have probably never seen such a spectacular view from someone’s house in my life. Anyway I wanted you guys to know that I had a great time and I highly recommend, if you live anywhere near Northern California, you checking out the Mac Computer Expo next year.

MacBreak Weekly

I have one more bit of exciting news – I am actually going to be on MacBreak Weekly on Tuesday!!! I’m so excited, not sure I’ll be able to sleep tonite. Oh, that also means podfeet.com is going to go down on Tuesday, being on Leo’s shows from what I understand is like a self-imposed denial of service attack! Wish me luck guys!

Ada Lovelace Day 2012 – Tuesday, October 16

Speaking of women in technology, Kirschen Seah of freerangecoder.com sent in a recording that’s very apropos.

Allison asked me to share some words about the upcoming Ada Lovelace Day – which falls on Tuesday, October 16, this year. So, what’s the background behind the day itself? Well it’s to recognise and celebrate the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and maths, or STEM. The event started back in 2009 when 2,000 people signed up for a pledge to blog on March 24 that year about a woman in technology whom they admired. Following on from that, Ada Lovelace Day has been observed each year in much the same manner, with people writing about women in technology, holding seminars, public presentations, and so on.

So, who is Ada Lovelace you may ask? We could consult Wikipedia for the full details, but here’s the scoop – she’s the daughter of Lord Byron (the famous poet) and lived in the 1800’s. She is remembered for being the first woman computer programmer – based on her translation and notes from an Italian mathematician’s memoir on Charles Babbage’s proposed Analytical Engine, in which she describes an algorithm to compute Bernoulli Numbers, in one of those notes. She wrote of punchcards from a Jaquard weaving loom being used by the Analytical Engine as instructions – quote: “We may say most aptly, that the Analytical Engine weaves algebraical patterns just as the Jacquard-loom weaves flowers and leaves.” Most of all, the programming language Ada is named after her.

As for me, I’ve been inspired by Ada’s achievements especially in her time when women were not in the forefront of technology. I’ve also been an admirer of Admiral Grace Hopper, she developed a programming notation which eventually became COBOL, and is best remembered for coming up with the term “debugging” when a moth was discovered in the relay of an early computer.

The goals behind Ada Lovelace Day are to celebrate women in technology and to point out female role models in STEM. Would you do your bit and write a blog post, record a podcast, or even put up a tweet or post about a woman in technology whom you admire? Doing this simple little act brings attention to female role models for the upcoming generation of women technologists. Do check out the Ada Lovelace Day website at findingada.com for more information. You can also follow @FindingAda on Twitter. Please help spread the word about women in STEM. Thanks!

Kirschen – I’m so glad you told us about Ada Lovelace, I vaguely remember hearing of her but I couldn’t have told you why she was famous, which is a real tragedy I think. I have one correction to your description. You describe her as the first woman programmer, which is technically true, but according to the articles I’ve been reading like the one at findingada.com, she was the first programmer PERIOD! how cool is that and why did I not know that??? Thanks for educating us and I look forward to reading about the inspirational technical women people write about on October 16th.

Dumb Question Corner – should I get a smart phone?

I notice you don’t have a category for “OMG you are SUCH a moron,” so I’ll submit this as a potential entry for dumb question corner.

So let’s say a friend of mine has strenuously resisted getting a smart phone for, like, forever. All she has is the free flip phone Verizon gave her and she uses it to call her husband from the grocery store to find out if they’re out of carrots. The only “photo” she has taken with it is an accidental shot of her own left foot. No joke intended, but probably deserved.

If this person were to emerge from her cave and actually purchase a “smart phone” for actual money, are there any resources that can discreetly bring her up to speed so she can send and receive text messages, take photos and share them, answer email and look stuff up on the inter-webskis like driving directions? Something less embarrassing than those “What In Tarnation Buttons Should You Punch On That Dad Gum Kum-Pewter Machine?” classes held at senior centers?

My friend is adamantly opposed to being tracked, aggregated, custom marketed-to and spied on, which is the main reason she hasn’t joined the herd yet. Also, she does not want to become a crack-berry addict like the hordes of young people who are never present in present time and space, their attention rudely super-glued to the alternate reality displayed on the small tablet in their hands while they ignore the live humans and vehicles in their vicinity.

Is there hope for my friend? Or should she just hang onto that 5-year-old flip phone?
Sincerely, You Know Who

Dear You Know Who, I sure hope we’ll be able to help “your friend”. For the purposes of this discussion, would you forgive me if I use the word “you” to mean “your friend”?

I can see how jumping off the high dive when everyone else has already jumped off, swum around the pool, dried off and is having cocktails inside might be a bit overwhelming. Learning this stuff when everyone else is figuring it out is easy, and you don’t feel so dumb because no one knows what they’re doing.

The good news is that since you waited so long to do it, it’s a LOT easier than it used to be. For instance, with the free flip phone you have, teenagers could type about 60 words a minute using a style of typing called T9. This technology used the 9 digit keypad, and had predictive text, meaning you type the key that has the right letter (even though it has 2 other letters there) and because of the context of the other letters it knows which of the 3 you meant. You’ve GOT to be kidding me, I could never do it.

Today if you get an iPhone or an Android phone, you tap on the messages icon (because you want to send a message, right?) and they you get a little keyboard that you can peck away on to type in your friend’s name. Now you can just type in their name, because their address book information will already be in your phone. Now how does THAT happen? Well the phone syncs with your computer’s address book. So you type away on your computer with the luxury of a nice keyboard and monitor and then plug in your phone and you’re all set with the data in two places. now this has a big advantage. If you lose your paper address book (I’m assuming your friend still has paper, yes?) then you’d be very sad because you’d never have any friends again because you’d neglect them without the address book. But with your new smart phone, the addresses exist at home AND on the phone.

Now you actually didn’t ask how these things work but it’s my show and I felt like telling you all about this. You actually asked me if there was a place or way to learn how to use a smart phone other than the “”What In Tarnation Buttons Should You Punch On That Dad Gum Kum-Pewter Machine?” classes held at senior centers”. Since I’m not an Android user, I don’t know what resources are available, but I do know who can help you with an iPhone. Apple sells for $100 a year a service where you can have one-on-one training with them to learn how to use your new Apple product.

I have a friend who is very competent in normal life but never knew how to use a computer beyond maybe an email. She is not at all computer oriented. She has skills I don’t have so I’m not mocking her at all. She bought the one-on-one service, has had almost weekly training classes, and she’s gone from not knowing how to do email to creating photo books with iPhoto of her vacations. She’s in LOVE with her Mac because of the gentle guidance of the one-on-one sessions. If your friend is anything like MY friend, she’ll get what she needs without any dad-gumits at all.

You brought up another important point – your friends apparent lack of interest in being stalked and tracked and logged on the intertubes. A quite valid position. Apple in their latest version of the iPhone operating system has added some good privacy changes that let you see exactly what apps are doing with your data. The privacy settings are pretty good, but if your friend had one-on-one training they could learn it WAY better than I know it.

It’s tricky because you DO want your phone to know some things – like where you are. That sounds the opposite of what you want but how the heck can it help you drive somewhere and show you maps if it doesn’t know where you are? Makes sense, right? But does the CAMERA need to know where you are? Hmmm? I don’t think so! Many people love what they call geotagging – where photos are tagged with the exact latitude and longitude of where you’re standing when you take it. I have no interest in that, so I don’t let my camera have access to that info. Like I said there’s a lot to managing it, but it IS manageable.

The other good news is that once you get a few months into your one-on-one training, you’ll be able to start asking US questions. I mean your friend will. He or she can email dumb questions any old time he/she wants and the NosillaCastaways will be there for you. I mean them.

ScreenSteps

At work I’m a member of a team that helps to define standards. When we pick a standard for something we have to enter it into this incredibly arcane system. It’s unintuitive, difficult to navigate and all around dreadful to use. We had a guy in our company who was in charge of making sure we all worked ok with it and I suggested to him that I help him make some tutorials on how to use it. He thought that was a grand idea, so I brought him up in a screen share and as he showed me each screen and talked through what to do, I took screenshots with ScreenSteps. I annotated each step on the screenshots, especially the really complicated ones and then typed out the instructions as he described them.

I had an ulterior motive here. I did want to help the dozens of people stuck using this tool, but I also wanted help remembering how to do it just for myself! I saved all of the lessons in ScreenSteps and refer back to them so I never have to learn how to do it.

I’m living in a Windows world at work so it’s great that ScreenSteps is actually available for both Windows and Mac. If you’re a slider like me you’ll really find it useful to not just help your friends, family and co-workers but to help YOURSELF remember how to do this! Check out ScreenSteps and also Clarify over at BlueMangoLearning.com.

Chit Chat Across the Pond

Main Topic 1 – Quick Update on CP Filter

When I bought my Circular Polarising filter a few months ago we did a segment on it, and my initial impressions were that it was a good buy. I’ve been using it for a few months now and I just wanted to check back in. I love it even more than I thought I would.

  • The CP filter has massively reduced the amount of work I have to do in post to get the kind of colourful and contrasty look that I like my images to have.
  • You just can’t replicate the effects of a CP filter in post, no matter how much work you put in.
  • I can’t over-emphasise the importance of taking the time to adjust the rotation of the filter before taking your shots. You have to get it right to get the proper effect.
  • The most obvious use of the CP filter is to get the most out of landscape shots by adding contrast to the sky (deeper blues and a bigger contrast between sky and any white fluffy clouds that are around), and deepening the colours in grass and foliage (by reducing the specular highlights on the blades of grass and leaves that normally reduce the vibrancy of the colour), but it’s also very useful when shooting macros in strong light by cutting down specular highlights.
  • One down-side I am noticing is that the filter is throwing the auto-white balance off a little in my camera, I’m having to take more time in post to tweak the white-balance. If you shoot JPEG this would be catastrophic, but when shooting RAW it’s just a minor inconvenience. It is significant enough though that I’m on the lookout for a reasonably priced grey-card to allow me to set a custom white balance in-camera in the field.
  • Another thing to watch out for is that when shooting wide the level of polarisation will not be equal across the entire field of view. This can work with you or against you, so it’s something to watch out for.

A Picture is worth a thousand words, so here are some of my favourite shots from the summer all taken with the CP filter:

A Common Blue Cliché

Blue-tailed Damselfly

Great Willowherb

August on the Royal Canal

Summer on the Royal Canal

Langley Lodge

Little & Large

A Summer Evening on the Royal Canal

Summer at Jackson's Bridge

Main Topic 2 – My RSS Workflow (can be carried over if we’re running low on time)

Something I have to do a lot for both this show and IMP is keep up with RSS feeds, and capture links for later use in podcasts.

I use two web services to do this, but, I never use either of them directly on the web, instead, I use clients on my Macs and iOS devices, and because the apps are front ends to a cloud service, I can pick up where I left off as I move from machine to machine without the need for syncing. Think of it as IMAP for RSS and Link Collection.

Part 1 – keeping up with RSS Feeds:

My subscriptions are all managed using Google Reader, which is a free service. I really don’t like their web interface, but there are lots of nice RSS clients that will use Google Reader as a back-end. My favourite by far is Reeder, which is available for both OS X and iOS.

a href=”http://click.linksynergy.com/fs-bin/click?id=RmdfHXN7UMA&subid=&offerid=146261.1&type=10&tmpid=3909&RD_PARM1=https%3A%2F%2Fitunes.apple.com%2Fus%2Fapp%2Freeder%2Fid439845554%3Fmt%3D12″>OSX Version in the Mac App Store (€3.99)

iPhone Version in iTunes (€2.39)

iPad Version in iTunes (€3.99)

The interface is very clean and Mac-like, and what gives the app it’s power is great integration with other services. Personally, the integrations I use regularly are with Twitter, Mail, and Instapaper.

Part 2 – Collecting Links:

The cloud service I use for collecting links is Instapaper. This can be a free service, but to get the best service you need to get a subscription which costs just $1 per month – http://www.instapaper.com/subscription

The main reason I pay for a subscription is that it allows the use of the Instapaper APIs in third-party apps. The third party app I use on the Mac is Read Later. I have three folders in Instapaper, one for IMP, one for CCATP, and one for articles of personal interest. I quickly scan my RSS feeds daily, and send all links that look interesting to Instapaper. Then, at my leisure at some later time, I open Read Later and move the articles from the inbox into the relevant folders. When I have some spare time I read the articles of personal interest, and when it’s time to prepare show notes I have all the links for consideration ready in a folder. As I finish with articles I archive them so they’re not clogging up my folders.

OS X App – Read Later: in the Mac App Store (free)

iOS App (universal) – Instapaper: in iTunes (€2.99)

Here’s a really sad story – I took all these GREAT photos of our trip to Petaluma and wine tasting and TOTALLY forgot the CP filter was on. Didn’t fiddle with it or remember to take it off when I was indoors!

That’s going to wind this up for this week, many thanks to our sponsor for helping to pay the bills, Blue Mango Learning at bluemangolearning.com makers of ScreenSteps and Clarify. Don’t forget to send in your Dumb Questions, comments and suggestions by emailing me at allison@podfeet.com, follow me on twitter at @podfeet. I contribute a fair amount over on Google Plus nowadays so just search for me by name if you want to circle me up. If you want to join in the fun of the live show, head on over to podfeet.com/live on Sunday nights at 5pm Pacific Time and join the friendly and enthusiastic NosillaCastaways. Thanks for listening, and stay subscribed.

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