Tag Archives: New Media

Lunch & Learn: William Howarth on Chrome and Chromebooks for Research and Writing.

William Howarth uses Chrome to write, research, and work.

William Howarth

William Howarth

On February 13th, 2013, William Howarth, Professor Emeritus at Princeton University was joined by John LeMasney and Janet Temos of Princeton’s Educational Technologies Center (ETC) to talk about the use of Google’s Chrome browser and the Chromebook in writing and research. Chrome is a web browser created by Google and allows you to visit and interact with web sites and services on the Internet. The Chromebook is a laptop from Google (collaborating with manufacturers) that runs only Chrome and nothing else.

Howarth began by showing the way that he uses Chrome as a browser on Mac OS. He discussed how he uses Chrome’s New Tab Page to store shortcuts to key applications that he uses every day. Previously, he has used an iPad, a Kindle Fire, and is now focusing on using Chrome as his main place of doing work digitally.  He said that part of the reason that he has settled on Chrome is that he feels like Google is the contemporary technology thought leader, set to dominate in business, mobile, and shopping. “Google runs the Web”, says Howarth, citing that in January 2013, they were the most used search engine, far ahead of others, and that in December of 2012, they had the leading browser, 47% of users, far ahead of Firefox or Internet Explorer. He suggested that their leadership and success is due to their emphasis on both speed and universal, cross-platform access.


As a browser, Chrome is fast (http://news.cnet.com/8301-1023_3-57547157-93/google-chrome-has-gotten-26-percent-faster-this-year/), and it runs on all major platforms, including Windows, Mac OS, iOS, Android, and Linux (http://support.google.com/chrome/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=95411). It works on desktops, laptops, tablets, and phones. But it is more than a browser, according to Howarth, because it strongly supports and integrates web services and can function as an operating system, especially in the case of the Chromebook, where the browser has settings for the display, sound, and hardware (http://support.google.com/chromeos/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=1047362). When Chrome is an operating system, it is referred to as ChromeOS, to signify the extra abilities of hardware management, etc. You do not need to have a Chromebook to use ChromeOS, because you can boot ChromeOS from a USB key using the Vanilla Bootable USB Key Chrome OS project (http://chromeos.hexxeh.net/) managed by a Googler named Liam McLoughlin.

Chrome is self-upgrading: just restart it, about an eight-second reboot on the Chromebook, to upgrade to the latest version. Customize Chrome via themes (https://chrome.google.com/webstore/category/themes?hl=en), extensions (https://chrome.google.com/webstore/category/extensions?hl=en), and apps (https://chrome.google.com/webstore/category/popular?hl=en). Chrome comes with basic cloud storage of 5 Gigabytes via Google Drive (http://support.google.com/drive/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=2736257), though you may use other cloud storage as well. Extensions add functionality to the browser itself, such as the ability to select text, and upon copy, automatically add surrounding quotes, URLs and other citation material to the buffered text (Copy URL Plus). When you sign into Chrome with a Google account, you track all the changes you make to the settings, history, extensions, and web apps, which are the synchronized and made available to all of your other Chrome installs. In Chrome, if you install a web app on one running instance, the web app becomes available to your other instances of Chrome.

Researchers and writers can use Chrome for notes, files, and storage. Some notable apps in this regard are Evernote, Dropbox, Box.net, and Google Drive, all available for install at the Chrome Web Store. Google Drive‘s docs features allow you to share, edit, distribute, and collaborate on files with others in real-time for free. If you decide to adopt Google’s cloud based lifestyle provided by Chrome, Howarth suggested getting familiar with Google’s Drive, in which you can create documents, spreadsheets, drawings, forms, and presentations. It has an integrated PDF viewer and the ability to create PDFs, Word documents, and other Office documents. It also has a print preview and print features. You can upload, share and store any kind of file you wish in Drive (http://support.google.com/drive/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=2424368).


The Chromebook is a simple idea, executed simply: A laptop form factor that does only one thing: run ChromeOS. Howarth explained that the Chromebook solves some mobile computing issues for him. He can’t type easily on an iPhone or iPad screen keyboard, and prefers a physical keyboard. The iPad bluetooth keyboards work for many, but not for him. “This machine is low-cost, lightweight, easily portable, and is more durable than a netbook” says Howarth.

The recent Samsung model is 2.4 pounds, has an 11 inch screen, costs $199 or $249 depending on configuration. The Mac Air, by comparison, is about $1,000. In 2013, there are four known makers of Chromebooks: Samsung, Acer, Lenovo, and HP, though the most commonly sold devices are from Samsung and Acer (https://play.google.com/store/devices). Howarth suggests that a bluetooth mouse may be helpful, but that the screen and keyboard are very good, while the trackpad is usable. You can store and move files to and from a USB key to extend the storage of the Chromebook.

He notes that there are some differences in the user interface for Chrome on other operating systems and Chrome on the Chromebook. But essentially, the experience is the same. If you work online most of the time, as Howarth does, he suggests that you look at Chrome as a solution. “No matter what machine I’m using, I’m in the Chrome browser” he says.

Pros and Cons of Chrome:


Some fear a Google technology monopoly, privacy issues, and invasive advertising. (http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505124_162-57569867/google-privacy-issues-in-forefront-again/)
There is some question of the future of Google’s two operating systems, Chrome and Android, and if and how they will coexist. (http://www.cnn.com/2011/TECH/mobile/05/17/google.chrome.android/index.html)
Cloud: is it a fad, or is it here to stay? With cloud based storage, different problems may emerge, such as synchronization failures. (http://support.google.com/drive/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=2565956)
A Chrome user who does not use a traditional operating system is more or less dependent on online access, despite progress in offline use of Chrome applications, such as those in this app collection (https://chrome.google.com/webstore/category/collection/offline_enabled?utm_source=chrome-ntp-icon).


Lower costs than traditional laptops
Google constantly grows, innovates, and integrates as part of their brand (http://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/quarterly/innovation/8-pillars-of-innovation.html)

Chromebooks will come in bigger, faster versions (HP has a 14″ Chromebook coming, Google HD display in the works).
Howarth believes that Chrome will have its biggest impact in education, from primary and secondary right up to Universities.

For the recorded portion of Professor Howarth’s talk, please see the video below.

Lunch & Learn: AllPrinceton: The Hyperlocal Media Experiment

Thumbnail image for allPrincetonMT.jpg

At the Lunch ‘n Learn session on Wednesday, March 9th, 2011, Donna Liu explained and demonstrated AllPrinceton.com, a “hyperlocal multimedia experiment” of which she is the founder and Executive Director. AllPrinceton is not Liu’s first multimedia project. After she came to Princeton in 2002 as a Ferris Fellow in journalism, Liu founded the UChannel,  in collaboration with the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. Before Princeton, Liu had a long career as a news producer and manager with CNN, where she launched CNN’s first production center in Asia. She is an Emmy award winner for coverage of the Tienanmen protests in 1989. Liu opened her talk by describing the history and evolution of the AllPrinceton.com project. Continue reading

Lunch & Learn: Arts libraries on the edge with Darwin Scott, Sandy Brooke and Hannah Bennett


Decode2009.jpg Where do I shelve that? Photo of Decode, a digital art installation at the V&A, London, December 13th, 2009. Photo courtesy of Rain Rabbit, Flickr. CC license, 2009.

Note: to access resources cited in this blog post, you must either be on a machine on the Princeton University network, or have a VPN or proxy server running on your machine. For instructions on how to set up a VPN or proxy server connection, click here.

“These are exhilarating times to be arts librarians,” said Darwin Scott, librarian of the Mendel Music Library at Princeton. Today’s Lunch ‘n Learn session explored just how exhilarating – and challenging– it is to deal with new modes of delivering various media to library patrons, when the media exists outside the traditional collection of books, manuscripts, disks, drawings and other tangible assets one usually thinks of as library holdings. The presenters represented the three main arts repositories at Princeton; Darwin Scott was joined by librarians Sandy Brooke (Marquand Library of Art and Archeology) and Hannah Bennett (Architecture Library), to discuss their respective collections.

Sandy Brooke began the session by describing the tension between a library’s mission to collect, provide access, and preserve for the future, in an age where digital media seems to be increasingly difficult to quantify in terms of ownership, shared access, and sustainability. “Old literature is good literature for art historians,” Brooke said, explaining that scholars rely upon important documents from past centuries. Marquand’s holdings are still largely print-based, she noted, however, there is an increasing number of digital versions of both text- and image-based references. Art has traditionally been studied through surrogates, whether photographs, drawings or descriptions of works that are either housed in remote places, or may no longer survive.

A new form of art–that which is born digital–presents certain challenges to those who would study it, because the delivery medium is no longer a surrogate for the work, but may be the work itself. Digital art is often recorded on perishable media, the formats of which can migrate to incompatible formats in a fairly short period of time. It might be posted directly to the web, and lost when its link later disappears. The work itself might be a record of an ephemeral event that is almost impossible to capture in its entirety. When offered for distribution by a vendor or dealer, its licensing terms can be extremely limiting and restrictive with regard to how the work can be later viewed, shared, or migrated to more stable digital formats.

Such licensing terms, Brooke noted, are much more restrictive than the terms of fair-use usually applied to educational use of copyrighted materials. Many digital objects handled by dealers and vendors are delivered with the idea of restricting access to them, thus creating an artificial scarcity. Ensuring future access to this media that comprises an original work is uncertain, since access is often provided via an online resource with a fee-based delivery method. If the online resource were to go out of business, its digital content might well be lost.

As an example, Brooke showed an installation by Swiss video artist, Pipilotti Rist (1962 – ). Brooke cited Rist’s  Pour Your Body Out (7354 Cubic Meters), an award-winning 2008 installation at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, as a problematic example for scholarship. What resources would a researcher today have to study this recent work of art, since it is no longer viewable at the museum?

Brooke showed several still photos of Rist’s work found in ArtSTOR, an online database for the study of art history, but found no images of the 2008 MoMA installation. The artist’s own website contains links to her gallery and some visual references to other video projects, but not the MoMA installation. The MoMA website has some valuable documentary video footage about Rist’s installation, but there is no video that presents a complete idea of what it was like to experience the complete work in situ. A YouTube search offers the MoMA videos again, along with two amateur videos made by people who attended the exhibit while it was at the MoMA; one of these videos, obviously shot with a cell phone, is enhanced by a sound loop provided by the amateur videographer–however it is music composed by the phone’s owner that has nothing to do with the original installation. Since Rist’s works tend to deal in dreamlike, distorted imagery, it’s almost impossible to tell whether the distortions seen in the YouTube clips were intended by the artist, or simply a result of a highly-compressed, low quality copy of the original work. Authorized digital copies of such ephemeral works are typically priced at hundreds of dollars apiece, so collecting them on any scale is beyond the financial resources of most repositories; trying to capture something tangible and complete about such works, as Brooke demonstrated in the searches described above, is no easy matter.

For the moment, Brooke concluded, the sustainability of this kind of digital art is uncertain; questions of rights, of access, of preservation are only partially answered by current means of distribution. Guerilla websites such as ubu.com, a web-based educational resource that operates on a gift economy, posts avant-garde works under an assumption of fair use. Ubu.com was created in protest to the marginal distribution of these elusive works, but the fact that the site sometimes knowingly violates copyright in posting links makes their sustainability tenuous, at best. Many of the sound and video works on the site are represented by highly compressed video and audio files introducing uncertainty as to their accuracy; as with the YouTube video of Pipilotti Rist’s video installation, it’s impossible to say whether the files represent the artist’s vision–or the technological limitations of a bad digital copy. More sustainable solutions may be in the future, however. Brooke mentioned the Electronic Arts Intermix site, a not-for-profit venture that is trying to preserve digital art for cultural repositories such as libraries and museums. An educational streaming solution to providing high-quality copies of video art for art libraries is one licensing model being considered by this organization, which has preservation and sustainable access to video art as its two chief missions.

Architecture librarian, Hannah Bennett, next described some of the unusual challenges faced by those wanting to preserve records of contemporary architectural works. Long gone are the days of architectural drawings being produced i
n drafting rooms, with paper being the medium that recorded a building’s design from first inspiration to the delivery of final plans to builders. Digital rendering of architecture is now the standard method for design, a method that creates a dense stream of information that originates from architectural offices, and eventually results in documents that builders can work with to construct the building. In fact, the transmission of architectural information from architect to builder these days is commonly referred to as BIM – building information management–where the information critical to making the building is captured, but certain aspects of the design process might not be preserved. This partial capture of data creates a new level of complexity for those who would like to study the entire history of an architectural work.

Most information that is ultimately transferred to builders, Bennett explained, is taken by sampling from the complex array of digital data that is generated in the design process. As illustrated, Bennett showed several examples of architectural renderings, including some of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao by architect Frank Gehry. Gehry, in common with other architects currently in practice (including many of Princeton’s faculty members in the School of Architecture), developed a pioneering proprietary software program, CATIA, to realize his particular design methods. Other firms have since developed their own software unique to that particular architectural office or project..

Bennett showed some examples of design sketches made by Princeton faculty member, Axel Kilian, and demonstrated the CADenary software that Killian developed for his own design practice. These tools allow for amazing flexibility in terms of drafting complex shapes, but their uniqueness means that it may be a challenge to read the files they produce in the future. Bennett commented on this reliance on technology, saying that “design language has now become internal to tools, rather than to the form.” As enriching as a complex design such as Bilbao is to architecture, preserving the output of many different proprietary software packages presents a set of preservation challenges for custodians of architectural history.

Bennett enumerated the queries posed by these new design tools. “How will they maintain technical currency?” she asked. “How will we archive them?” And, ultimately, “how will we present them to the future scholar?” Bennett concluded her portion of the talk by showing some hanging loops of chain used by Spanish architect Antonio Gaudi (1852-1926) to explore the catenary curves he often used in his architecture – in a photograph someone just happened to take of that experiment. “Older material can be equally valuable” Bennett said, citing this early architecture experiment exploring forms that are very hard to draw using traditional drafting tools. Today’s computer-generated architectural designs present a myriad of such capture-able design moments – and librarians need to find a way to preserve them for future scholars.

Darwin Scott, librarian at Mendel Music Library, concluded the Lunch ‘n Learn by discussing various online databases used to present digital copies of music and the performing arts. Scott mentioned that rights management is a major consideration in this area as well as in other forms of the arts, even though the resources for presenting them via subscribed services are more numerous.

Rights issues, particularly in the case of theatrical works, become more and more complex as more people (and their intellectual property) become involved in a production. “Most recordings of Broadway shows are illegal,” Scott noted. Older forms of media that preserved works such as concerts, or plays were “collectable objects.” Tapes, disks, LPs and other media at least provided one way that an event could be captured and preserved–and purchased to form part of a collection. By contrast, streaming libraries of musical and dramatic performances provide subscribers with thousands of recordings for an annual fee, but this model provides an interesting challenge for a library collection, since the library does not in fact “own” the content to which it subscribes. This raises important questions about sustainability and preservation.

Several vendors of streaming services promise that they will provide a form of perpetual access to the material in their library to subscribers in the event they go out of business. This usually means that data files will be available in some form for bulk download, but perhaps not with a sustainable model to preserve the user interface that makes it possible to use them. Scott mentioned some commercial streaming services that are available to retail consumers. Until recently, institutional clients had been shut out of the distribution model for these popular services. However, some distributors are now bridging the gap by providing high-quality streaming subscriptions for libraries and other cultural institutions. Scott demonstrated a few of these services, using the Quick Links section of the Mendel Music Library’s home page, and Scott’s own Lib Guide list of links to music and performing arts resources.

The Naxos Music Library, various collections from the Alexander Street Press, and DRAM (The Database of Recorded American Music) were among the collections that Scott featured in his presentation. Naxos, a respected record label, offers a large collection of musical recordings of various genres, including classical, jazz, folk, blues and world music; DRAM also offers streaming music; here, the focus is on American composers and performers. The Alexander Street Press offers a wide variety of sound and video offerings, including Opera in Video, Dance in Video, and Theater in Video. The videos offered from the Alexander Street Press not only will play on your computer, but are captured in a high enough resolution to project on a larger screen. A new service from Alexander Street even allows you to stream some of this content of these collections to your compatible mobile device (currently supported are iPhones on a 3G network or better, and devices running the Android OS) by using a link, a text message containing the link, or a QR reader on the device. These links stay current for 48 hours, allowing plenty of time to enjoy the content. Recent enhancements to the library’s online catalog also allow direct links to many of these digital assets via searches done in Princeton Library catalog.

sendtomobile.JPG Got a QR reader? Get ballet! A screen shot of the ballet Sleeping Beauty, showing the interface to mobile devicesThe video content in the Alexander Street databases come from various sources. For the Theater in Video collection, many of the videos are drawn from performances intended for broadcast television, Scott noted. TV content also accounts for much of the Dance in Video collection, whereas the Opera in Video collection has more access to commercial releases. The quality and range of the works offered are sometimes not ideal, although in some cases, they record spectacular performances. Each vendor also uses their own proprietary user interface – there is no standardization–so it can take some time to familiarize one’s self with each interface in order to get the best results. Links to the resources mentioned in this post–and many more–as well as tips to help users navigate and search these online repositories can be found in this PowerPoint presentation, which Scott prepared for Lunch ‘n Learn attendees.

The session concluded with Darwin Scott’s summation about it being an exciting time to be an arts librarian; the challenges presented by the diversity and volume of new media types also make this a wonderful time to be a subscriber to many online resources that make it possible to experience art, architecture and the performing arts in increasingly accessible ways. The fact that old media has little in common with new forms of delivery presents challenges for librarians and for patron access, but as sources for these materials become increasingly more numerous and more diverse the end user and the scholar can only benefit–and enjoy.

Got bandwidth? Welcome to live performances on a device near you!

Lunch & Learn: Step out of the plane: The 3rd dimension is next for consumers with Doug Dixon

Doug Dixon, an independent technology consultant, author, and speaker specializing in digital media, presented an overview of the burgeoning market for consumer 3D devices– as well as explaining the technology behind those devices– this past Wednesday at OIT’s Lunch n’ Learn session.

Armed with an array of 3D viewers, from a stereoscope (invented in the late 19th century), to a ViewMaster (invented in the late 1930s), to the Magic Eye books (popularized in the last two decades)–to the latest in 3D cameras (a Fuji FinePix 3D)–Dixon proved to his audience that 3D technologies have already experienced a long history in home entertainment, particularly in the area of vicarious travel and special events.

The success of recent films such as Avatar, and the 3D-capable and 3D-ready TVs now available in the consumer market, introduce the latest chapter in the 3D experience. These displays promise viewers a new, more immersive way to enjoy movies and broadcast TV at home.

3D technology for movies and television is not actually as great a technological leap as was the recent transition from low- to high-definition in broadcast TV, Dixon explained. Many current blu-ray players will only require firmware upgrades to be able to display 3D images; some 3D-ready TVs on the market now only require a moderately-priced upgrade kit to be able to display images in three dimensions. Existing 2D media will also be able to be ‘dimensionalized,’ and transformed retrospectively into 3D video for those films that warrant this enhancement. For most consumers, transitioning to 3D technology should be relatively painless, should they wish to upgrade their current home equipment when purchasing their next TV.

The glasses currently required to view 3D TV content, however, are a shift from the sort of home viewing practice to which we have grown accustomed. “Glasses are a commitment to focus on the entertainment,” Dixon explained, a dedication to the screen that is at odds with many kinds of TV content. At the same time, the glasses “are an impediment to the social aspect [of watching a movie or broadcast TV at home].”

“HD works for everything, including Jay Leno;” said Dixon, . . “3D works for special events and movies and things like that, so I think there’s a little less demand, a little less leverage you get by going to 3D, but in niches like games, for example, [3D is] going to be very successful.” Dixon remarked by way of example that watching a basketball game at court level was nothing short of “spectacular.”

Dixon outlined the technologies that underlie 3D displays to his rapt audience (all of whom were given 3D glasses in order to view several images of 3D technology done right — and wrong. “You don’t turn a 3D camera sideways,” Dixon pointed out, after showing one particularly disorienting 3D image that elicited groans from the audience.

Inexpensive 3D glasses with magenta and cyan lenses–such as the ones Dixon gave to his listeners–use colored lenses to achieve an anaglyptic effect that simulates three dimensions. Movies such as Avatar used more expensive polarized lenses to achieve a more natural effect. Home 3D systems come equipped with shutter lenses that coordinate with images presented separately to each eye in rapid succession. These glasses, which currently retail for about $150– provide an additional social impediment to the 3D experience at home — “are you going to buy 40 pairs of these glasses when your friends come over to watch the big game?,” Dixon asked.

While the consumer market has so far settled on either anaglyptic technology for viewing 3D content on 2D screens or shutter-glasses and transmitter technology for dedicated 3D TVs, Dixon explained that creating 3D images was something that anyone with fairly basic imaging tools could achieve. Dixon demonstrated the new 3D YouTube channel, and showed various ways of making 3D images with a 3D camera. He also showed some inexpensive computer software for creating 3D images. In all cases, images of the same scene, taken approximately 2.5 inches apart, were used to replicate the stereo quality of human vision.

3D, Dixon explained, is not only for blockbuster films; it can be enjoyed by anyone who owns a decent computer and basic photographic equipment, and it can be enjoyed at very little cost.

“3D is coming,” Dixon concluded, “and it’s lots of fun to play around with. I hope you enjoy it!”

More information about the many technologies described by Doug Dixon can be found at this link to his website, Manifest Technologies.

Links to a podcast from this session have been posted; the podcast will also be available on the Princeton’s iTunesU channel dedicated to the Lunch n’ Learn series. (For more information about Lunch n’ Learn podcasts at iTunesU, click here.)

The next Lunch n Learn talk take place on Wednesday, December 1st. Matthew Salganik, Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at Princeton will speak on Bottom-up Social Data Collection with www.AllOurIdeas.org, a research project to develop a new form of social data collection.

For more information about this, and other upcoming talks, visit the Lunch n’ Learn homepage.

[Photo courtesy rialee on Flicker.com (Rebecca Cottrell). CC license, 2009.]

Lunch & Learn: Video Journey: Past, Present, Future

Final Cut Pro

Final Cut Pro (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In its youth, which seems only now to be ending, film-making and film-editing required an immense amount of expensive and specialized hardware and a hefty range of fine technical skills. Today, suggested Dave Hopkins and Jim Grassi at the October 27 Lunch ‘n Learn, even teenagers with affordable hand-held devices can shoot, edit, and even distribute films for the mass market.

Be sure to run through their slides which contain a range of clips that tell the story through film. There you can watch Francis Ford Coppola predicting in the 1970s that children would someday be able to make movies of quality. There too you can watch Gus van Sant, a master film editor splicing tapes. Imagine the cumbersome task, when every scene and every noise involves a separate reel of 35 mm film stock. There are still editors who persist with such handiwork, manipulating bins of reels, but the immense power of new software, notably Final Cut Pro, has compelled most filmmakers to make the transition to digital. Films are now shot, edited, and delivered digitally. The films never touch tape.

And watch the simple film made by a father of his young son after a trip to the Dentist. Meant to be shared with grandparents and close friends, 70 million through YouTube have now viewed the amusing clip. An 8th grader named Brook Peters made a documentary about 9/11 that was so good that it is up for consideration at Tribecca. The point is, of course, that anyone with a camera, an idea, and some talent can now reach a very large audience. The barriers to entry have been drastically reduced.

Such technologies always trickle downward, suggests Hopkins. Quality no longer costs $15K. He showed a remarkable piece of footage taken with an iPhone. Without having to rely on tape, there’s also an immediacy with the film. There’s no longer a need to wait for post-production. Efforts, good and bad, can be sent instantly to YouTube.

New light panels are not only less expensive, he adds, but they also do not overheat and no filters are required for indoor shots.

Expect to see more use of the smaller technologies. The final episode of House this season was filmed on a very small camera, making possible footage in very closed spaces.

Hopkins and Grassi suggest that, as a result of the new technologies, a new breed of producer has evolved, a videographer “preditor,” a one-person film shoot, from idea, to the writing, the shooting, the editing, and even the distribution.

Software certainly plays an important role in making the technology so accessible. With Apple iLife, users can easily locate related clips and produce compelling movie trailers.

In the future, they suggest that we can look forward to better compression to compensate for larger hard drives, more video on walls, sidewalks, streets, and 4-D TVs that will fill all the senses.

View the presentation: direct-download video (.mp4), streaming video (Flash)
An audio podcast of the presentation is also available.