Sunday May 17, 2009

Project K - The Collaborative Learning Environment

I have spoken at many conferences about the need for new modern learning environments, championing a more loosely coupled information discovery canvas that blends informal and formal learning assets along with WEB2.0 features such as tagging, comments, ratings, and contributions. Admittedly it was hard for some in the learning industry to get their heads around what this really meant and how it would affect the learner and maybe more importantly (in their mind) how it affected them. Traditionally the learning professional was the ultimate mediator of knowledge between those who had it and those who needed it. In the new world of learning, the consumer of knowledge can now connect directly with the publishers of knowledge and can easily and often switch roles with the other.


Well I was not just flapping my lips when I spoke of these new environments, we were busily experimenting and building out a platform that would provide this new learning environment. We call it our collaborative learning environment (CLE). We have rolled it out to all our employees & partners worldwide to rave reviews and awards and soon it will be available to our customers.I thought I would share with you some screen shots of "Project K" (our internal code name).... click to see full image




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Wednesday Jul 30, 2008

Sun Learning eXchange

Sun Learning Services is getting ready to release the Sun Learning eXchange, SLX enables Sun employees to easily publish rich media training content such as videos, MP3 podcasts, and documents to be accessed by all Sun staffers, partners, and customers. Media can be rated, sorted, and tagged by site members and is automatically transcoded. This site made the most of Drupal's media content management functionality and allowed Sun to cost effectively deploy an impressive media platform in a very short time frame by leveraging the open OpenSolaris and MySQL.


Everything published to the site is also automatically published to the optimized iPhone / iPod Touch access site for remote , on demand , and on the go viewing.


You can access the site at Sun Learning eXchange


We added access control for identifying employees, partners , and customers. This allows content to be published that targets a variety of audiences.


Note the built in access control in the videos below


Here is an example of a public video .....





An an example of private/secured video



Friday Apr 25, 2008

Uninstalling Applications on the Mac - The Easy Way

Since I started using a MacBook Air, which by the way I really love the Air form factor, I am a little space challenged since the Air only comes with an 85GB hard drive. I am waiting for third party upgrades to come out that have more capacity, however in the interim I am space challenged on the HDD. I download and try and install tons of apps, often times just to review the app. These constant download means I have to continuously clean up unwanted programs to free up space for the programs I do want to keep and use. For instance the latest rev of the iPhone SDK has a download size of 1.15GB......with app sizes like this coupled with music, pictures,etc...space runs out very quickly.

So I have turned to using a handy little program which is billed as "the installer Apple forgot" called AppZapper. Now any self respecting Mac Geek will not agree with on the need of an application like this, but for the rest of us it can very handy and a time saver.

Although the Mac has a nifty package install, it does not do anything to help with the uninstall. Apps installed on the Mac leave their debris scattered about in the form of package receipts, preferences, caches, and other support files that you are not aware of. Enter...AppZapper.

Just drag the application icon of the program you want to uninstall onto the AppZapper pallet, and it will show you all the dependencies ...and if it looks good to you click th Zap button and there you go....btw let me know if you like the sound effects!

Nokia E51 - From Singapore

A few weeks ago while I was in Singapore I picked up one of the newest Nokia phones...not the ultimate high end N95..but the very tidy E51, which has smartphone features and is the smallest "smartphone" I have seen...very nice form factor for a smartphone......it is a very cool phone...it has all the features you would expect from a non crippled US offering....email, built in synchML, and some really nice features like built in VOIP....streaming video....and ability to play MP4(H.264)...and of course since it from outside the US..it came unlocked and supports 3.5 g over At&T...unfortunately in spite of all the cool features....it still has browsing that sucks bigtime...there is nothing like the iPhone/iPod Touch (yet!) for browsing


E51.jpg

Live Search on Mobile Learning

Here are some screenshots of using the live search on our mobile learning platform....it is very cool...find what you need...and only what you need...when you need it.....btw...I used ssh to login via command line to my iPod touch and snapped these pictures...as you can see they are of a very good quality...maybe in a later post I will detail how to accomplish this.


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Mobile Learning Icon on iPhone/iPod Touch

A screenshot of an iPod Touch with the Sun Learning mobile launch icon. The mobile initiative is coming together very nicely....in a few weeks we will be rolling out our web based User Generated Content (UGC) upload which allows users to self publish to this channel...with automatic encoding of file types and no limit on length...it is looking very sweet....using a CDN gives us nice world wide coverage.


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Saturday Dec 15, 2007

The New Hire Experience

I have been working with Jeanne Meister an internationally recognized leader in creating innovations in the operation and management of an enterprise learning function. She is working with a well known (unnamed) company on a seminar on learning tends and innovations and she asked me to put a short video together on the “New Hire Experience” site we deployed externally. The site is designed on a read/write platform and is accessible by the public , however Sun Employees can log in and see more functionality. One of the cool features of the site is the immersive game designed by Brandon Carson who is lead designer on Sun's Content Development Team of Sun Learning Services.

Check out the video......

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Friday Dec 14, 2007

Mobile Delivery of Training - iPod Pilot taking shape

Our iPod Touch pilot for delivery training to our mobile workforce is taking shape very nicely....here are some screen shots of the UI on the Touch....the live search is pretty sweet

Snap 202237   

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Saturday Nov 10, 2007

Why was I scared to get a new token card?

While remote in order to access the Sun “Intranet” one must use a physical enigma device which generates a new unique password for each login...providing extra security. Now a whole another topic that requires a lengthy  blog post is why Sun even has an “intranet”....after all ....its really just permissions and entitlements on web resources that should rule the day..and not “walled off gardens we call intranets”...but that is a topic for another day....in any event the  SafeWord tokens deliver single-use passcodes, eliminating the vulnerabilities of passwords. It is safe and hard to hack...but it is a pain in the ass.....I have had my token card for so long the number pad is well worn....btw....pretty easy to guess my  “private” pin by looking at the touch key pad....guess which numbers were worn and which were not.....and why do you think that is so?........

And I also  had the card for so long I would  have to contort the led to try to correctly read the safe password.....I hesitated to order a new one not wanting to have to deal with the “system: at Sun to get one and learn a new private pin...get it registered..etc.....because i travel...and I have to have access....

So I finally  broke down and ordered a new one......Surprise...Surprise...no hassle...very  easy to get one from Sun...came the next day...super easy to register...was able to keep my old private pin....and I don't have to twist the LED anymore to read the safe password!.......Yeah.....Why did I ever wait...how stupid was I?

Wednesday Nov 07, 2007

Our new Brazil Engineering Team grows

I have been detailing over the last year our plan to grow a new breed of engineering group to help us innovate Learning using Web2.0 technologies.....as you I know a revolution has hit the the learning industry (unfortunately many don't realize it or or are hoping that it is a passing fad)....and part of our plan is bring in innovation from around the globe...because innovation happens everywhere......(often  Americans think it only happens in Silicon Valley)..but I believe for true innovation  in the learning space we need world wide perspective and innovation. My good friend and colleague Mike Frisino has been busily at work building these international teams. The first team we v=built was in Russia which I reported to you back in June.

Now our Brazilian team is coming together and here is the picture of the first part of the group.....(there is one missing ..he is currently on a Univ road trip with the NetBeans team)

Cool looking team...we are expecting great things from them...Welcome Aboard!

Sls Gr Br

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Saturday Nov 03, 2007

Our New Star Team Member!

Lucky us...Bryanna Donn has joined our team as the Group Product Manager...she will be owning and leading our  new WEB 2.0 learning initiatives. She comes to us most recently  as a Product manager at Saba...but she has some really cool visions on the new stuff we are going to start building out.....now all the final puzzle pieces are in pace with all the key personnel....so keep your eye on Brynna ...good things are coming.....

p.s. Little know fact that she holds several track records at Brown University!....I am hoping she runs that fast on the new Web2.0 stuff too!

;-)

Here she is.....

Brynna Donn Headshot

Thunderbird Message Import & Export

I work on multiple machines in multiple locations...and I make religiously use of message filters since I get on average  about 800 emails per day.....I have always been very good at setting  up message filters as I go on my main Mac Book....but it has always been a pain in the ass that the filters did not follow me to other machines.....I know I could take the time to set up the filters on the IMAP server and then they would follow me....but believe it is not easy to to do and not easy to keep current....and setting up filters in Thunderbird is so easy...click on the incoming email address and say add filter.....

SO I finally broke down and added the cool thunderbird add on for importing AND exporting message filters....what a god send....I highly recommend it to you if you don't have it already.

Get it here

Thursday Nov 01, 2007

Has technology finally caught up with learning?

In the process of  promoting our iPod pilot with internal stakeholders  (read Execs)......I am frequently  asked why I am so keen on the idea now since iPods and iPod like devices have been around for a long time and also the regular iPod is so much cheaper than the new iPod Touch.

Its true that idea of mobile learning....or as we say “Learning on the Go”....has been around for some time and actually many of us have taken advantage of podcasts but in my opinion the technology has finally caught up with the vision. With the original iPod one was required to pre-determine or predict the information or knowledge that you needed or required (preload from iTunes on your laptop)...works good but can be limiting if you don't pick the right information...I liken it to have to select all your Google queries you might need for the day in advance....predicting what information or knowledge you will need during the day...when we look at that way it clearly seems insane......now the big difference I see today, why I think technology has caught up, is the new iPod Touch allows us to decide at the point of need what information we need because now we can access via wireless the information we need at the moment we need it....all streamed in a relatively large viewing screen.

The application of this concept is endless...imagine the service repair man who can pull down guidelines on how to change a part in a machine he has never seen before.....imagine the sales person who pull up short training nuggets on a particular product on negotiation strategy....etc.....I think you get the picture.

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Wednesday Oct 24, 2007

Debugging Web Pages on the iPhone/iPod Touch

Our iPod Touch pilot program for delivering learning nuggets to our field force via iPod Touch devices is moving along quickly. Our business stake holders are very excited about the initiative and our advocates and content development teams are working on creating and assembling the content. I have a few guys on our l team  working on a POC (Proof of Concept) to work out the technical details,  workflow, performance, streaming, etc...(btw...Jan tells me that last night he figured out how to stream videos over WiFi to the device..and has that working now.....)..as soon as we can prove the concept..we will turn this initiative over to our brilliant engineering to to design and build it.

One big task is working on optimized web pages for that device, I know Safari can render any page well...it is not a baby web experience, however there are some benefits to the user experience if the page is optimized to take advantage of iPhone / iPod Touch features. So needless to say we are playing around with writing web pages...one difficulty is the ability to debug the web pages on the device.

Many of us are familiar with using FireBug to inspect, edit and monitor CSS, HTML and JavaScript live in  web pages, but how do you do that on the iPhone/iPod Touch?.....well  Jan Mangold, one of our engineers working on the POC, pointed me to “FireBug for iPhone”...a cool piece of software which basically is a little Python web server which acts as a bridge or proxy  between your iPhone and the Firebug console running in the browser on your computer.When you call console.log() on the phone it sends your log message to the server, which reflects it back to Firefox (or Safari or whatever), which displays it in your nice big Firebug console. You can also enter JavaScript commands in the command line in Firefox and have them sent to the phone, evaluated, and sent back to Firefox.

The software (version .01) was written by provided by Joe Hewitt .

Tuesday Oct 23, 2007

The Rest of Sun Learning Services - Brazil

I made an error in my last post regarding our team in Brazil...One important person was left out of the picture...because she was taking the picture....
So I need to include a picture which includes Simone Malta so you can “meet” her!...plus if I don't include her she will not teach me Portuguese!

;-)

She is the one with the beautiful dark hair!....

Dsc04291

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Monday Oct 22, 2007

Sun Learning Services - Brazil

Although I am in Beijing this week.... two weeks ago I was in Brazil visiting with our team in Sao Paulo. I was so impressed with Brazil....its was a wonderful and productive trip. The folks in Brazil are the most friendly people I have ever met in my life!

Very Very warm ... open ... eager to help.

This is a picture of our team in Sao Palo..and it is growing...we have already hired 4 more people since I returned (they are not in this picture).

Also I must say the team in Brazil  is super creative and innovative.....smart great team!

p.s The tall woman in the back is Jenny Dearborn, she is the Chief Learning Officer for Americas and is based in Menlo Park

p.s.s. - Any Brazilian learning professionals or technologists interested in working at Sun?

Brazil

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A vision of Students Today

Brandon Carson, game designer and fellow Sun Learning Services colleague, turned me on this interesting YouTube video ...should get you thinking as we are building the next generation of learning...its so cool..I am very excited because technology can really help enable this great social change.

What do you think?

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Saturday Oct 20, 2007

Is iTunes WiFi Dangerous?

I am sitting in my hotel room in Beijing and btw..I am staying at the Westin on Financial Street....and it is fantastic ..Beijing hs come a long ways in the last 2 years...I guess all the gear up for the olympics is really coming to fruition...well back to my main topic, iTunes WiFi.

As you know we are getting ready to launch a pilot at Sun using iPod Touches for delivering just-in-time learning nuggets and I am doing a considerable amount of research on iTunes WiFi and how we might deliver a similar powerful feature for our users...believe me I am not interested in reinventing the wheel...Apple does it just fine...so I am really trying to incorporate the same concepts in a nice UI for our users. ....okay now I am getting to point that iTunes WiFi is dangerous.

So I fire up my iPod Touch and it takes me 30 seconds to get on to the hotel's WiFi network (btw...wifi access is free...very civilized if you ask me)...and launch iTunes WiFi......and decide to see how long it would take me to find something really old and obscure....it took exactly 23 seconds to find The Butterfield Blues Band Anthology which contains such great hits like “East-West” (you can tell I am an old timer)...and another 25 seconds to buy the whole album and start the download!

Now that type of experience is exactly what we want our learners to have when looking for specific learning content!.....(except we will stream content to them so they can start viewing right away instead of waiting for full download)

So I can truly say iTunes WiFi is dangerous because it is so easy to find and buy what you want.....it is easy to drop lots of cash quickly (smooth move Apple!)

Stay Tuned to our journey on the iPod Touch pilot.

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Best Content Encoding for iPod Touch and iPhone

As you know form my earlier post we are embarking on a pilot program at Sun to deliver learning to our Fields Sales, Field Service, Field Sales Engineers, and Professional Services.

As we work out the design the design of the system, the manner of the content encoding becomes very critical to provide maximum streaming performance to users over WiFI.

So the questions are being from the content creators..What is the best encoding“

Well...we are going to be doing some testing but here is some information and the baseline encoding we plan to use for the initial effort.

iPod Touch and iPhone Support the Following Formats

  • H.264 baseline Profile Level 3.0 up to 640 X 480 at 30fps
  • Movies should fit within 480 X 360
  • ”B“ frames are not allowed in Baseline Profile (used for HD)

Also

  • MPEG-4 Part 2 (Simple Profile)
  • All iPod palyable movies and audio

Bitrate may be the most  important thing to get right

With traditional iPod, content is synced via iTunes Bitrate only affects size on disk
With iPod Touch and iPhone, content can and we are planning on it arriving over the net -  Bitrate determines whether playback will stall

Consider the size

iPod Touch / iPhone screen is 480 X 320
Pick and encoded movie size within 480 X 360

Ideal Encodings

Use Quicktime pro - mov -> iphone conversion for WiFi Delivery
900 kbit H264 in 480 X 360
128 kbit AAC-LC
.m4v file

Quicktime Pro - mov -> iphone (celluar)
64 bit H264 in 176 X 144
16 kbit AAC-LC
.3gp file

You can also use any MPEG-4 encoding tool as long as you make sure you select ” Baseline Profile“ and you pick encoded size within 480 X 360
you can use any tool mpeg-4 enciding IF


What will we use?

In subsequent phases we will encode all our content in all three formats required to deliver max performance over EDGE, WiFI and Desktop and will make use of @media query tags in the html to determine the capacity of the device and pipe and deliver up the right encoding...however for Phase 1 of the Beta we plan to optimize to the iPod Touch / iPhone using  the following;


Use Quicktime pro - mov -> iphone conversion for WiFi Delivery
900 kbit H264 in 480 X 360
128 kbit AAC-LC
.m4v file

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Delivering Mobile Learning Nuggets on the iPod Touch / iPhone

Wow a big pallet of 400 iPods Touches arrived in my office today...pretty exciting to get that delivery...but the real exciting thing is the iPod Touch Pilot program we will be running...let me fill you in on some of the basic concepts

Why iPod Touch?

The new iPod Touch looks just like the new iPhone only slightly thinner and without the phone and email component. So it has all the cool usability features of the iPhone and can hold up to 10 hours of video
Contains Safari browser...the same browser engine that is on the Mac Desktop..this gives many options for real web content ( not baby content such as WAP or Mobile PDA's)..relatively full featured..sans java and flash support..though it does support Javascript, natve PDF. Ajax. CSS3.X...etc...hey did I mention the iPods I received were 8GB...enough to hold 10 hours of video!

The real killer component that makes this iPod really cool and very suitable for SLS Mobile Training Nuggets is the wireless feature.....very cool wireless which will allow us to provide content to employees on the edge with authentication (the iPod Touch has a touch keyboard for data entry into web forms...although it is not geared for entering tons of info....for instance it was not easy to enter in the security key for my home wireless)     

So what is this pilot all about?

What we want to do is to provide iPod Touches to select teams within certain groups such as Field Service, PS, Sales, and SE's.  We will provide targeted training to address specific objectives with each group. Then we can actually measure over time if delivering just in time training in this manner has any impact on performance...for instance for the sales group we can track the sales performance, revenue increase..etc.....for he service resource we can track things like closure rates, come back rates, customer satisfaction...etc...you get the point.

Examples of Content ( I would load more ..but the limit on upload is 20MB..)

Virtualization at Sun Part 1

Sun Cluster Part 1

3D - Changing a CPU

What is the basic concept of the user experience?

  • We give the selected iPods to the selected pilot groups.
  • The user will access learning.sun.com via any available wireless connection (home, library, starbucks, airport etc)
  • User will authenticate into learning.sun.com using Sun User ID and Password (entered into safari browser on iPod)
  • learning.sun.com recognizes the user agent passed from the browser request and automatically redirects to a web page optimized for display on the iPod/iPhone
  • Users will browse using web page links and search for the content they are interested in...( btw finding content easily and quickly will be critical...luckily we have information experts on our team in the form of our Digital Library & Research team ) ....from a UI perspective it probably will be best for us to just emulate the UI and workflow of iTunes WiFi...Apple has done more research on the effective UI for finding things then we could ever do....and Apple really gets ease of use...so I figure if we can find and by songs we are looking for on iTunes WiFi...surely we can use that model for helping users in finding relevant learning videos and content.
  • User finds what want and we stream the content down to them so they can start using it immediately ..pretty cool...eh?
  • One thing we will be exploring is how we can offer testing over the iPod, I tried out some Perception tests over the iPod..pretty cool but really limited to true/false and multiple choice...its is painful doing any large text input using the touch keypad.

So this is an exciting development that will be very interesting to see what impact it has for Sun and on Learning.

What do you think?

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About

I served as Chief Architect of Sun's Developers Tools and recently took on the challenge of managing the Sun Learning Services global technology architecture and infrastructure as Chief Technologist of Sun Learning Services.

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