Revisiting iPhoto

For all of my heavy duty photography needs I use Apple’s Aperture. I don’t necessarily use it to adjust photos, I use it as a giant digital shoebox. I made the switch earlier this year when my photo count went up over 30,000 digital pictures … iPhoto just seemed to slow to a crawl. I’ve been happy, but have missed the ease and simplicity of iPhoto.

Then about a month or so ago I started to tinker with my pictures, looking to get more out of them. Honestly inspired by some of the things I was seeing Brad Kozlek doing on the post-production side has gotten me really interested in trying (and I stress trying) to make my pictures a bit more visually interesting. With this in mind I have been tweaking things in Aperture and then working to achieve some Lomo like effects using Photoshop. Its been fun and I’ve learned a little bit about the tools.

effectsLast weekend I was in Chautauqua, NY and found myself without Photoshop or Aperture and only had iPhoto. I took a little down time to experiment with a couple of my shots and really was impressed with what could be done without even touching a slider and instead just layering the built in effects. I had no idea I could apply multiple levels of the effects to make pictures more interesting … I sort of figured all I could do was change a picture to black and white and move on. Not that the simple effects will do it for seasoned professionals, but I think they do a fair job for the newbies out there.

I thought I’d share this given how simple it is and that iPhoto is a very nice free alternative to much more expensive (and complex) tools available for the Mac. Below you can take a look at the iPhoto version with the simple settings in the screen cap above. Granted I don’t like it as much as the fake lomo version I did in Photoshop, but with some practice I am guessing I could get close right out of iPhoto … Also, I bet if I went back through my 10 year digital photo collection and actually paid attention to what I kept I could still be living in iPhoto. I doubt I’ll go back, but I also know I won’t need to install Aperture on my new laptop … iPhoto should be a solid mobile solution.

Not Bad for Free

Not Bad for Free

More Apple Integration?

Ok, so less than 10 minutes after posting about how nicely QuickTime plays with a Podcast Producer Server I decided to take a look at some of Apple’s other content creation tools and see if there is really a concerted effort across the board to encourage instant publishing. What I was curious about is if the suite of iLife applications enable a user to create and instantly, with a single click, share that content to the emerging campus infrastructure Apple is promoting — I am talking specifically about iTunes U, Podcast Producer, and Blogs. In all cases, it easy to share to .Mac and iWeb — two tools that do not play in most of higher education’s plans. What I found was interesting, if only to me.


Keynote is the best presentation tool on the Mac (or any platform) and it would only seem appropriate that I could instantly publish to Podcast PRoducer just like in QT. So I explored the “Send to” menu item and I get the option to share it with the other iLife apps and strangely enough, YouTube. Nothing for Podcast Producer.


I then figured it had to be under the Export option, but again nothing for Podcast Producer directly. I am guessing I could use the QuickTime export and then open in the QT Player and use its share to Podcast Producer feature … one step too many.



I figured since GB is the best Podcasting tool on the Mac it must play nicely with Podcast Producer. Again, nothing that sends it directly to Podcast Producer. I am also quite surprised given Apple’s push with iTunes U that it doesn’t allow you to go directly there as well. When you attempt to use the Share menu in GB you do get a few options that are of real value — again, letting you go right to a couple of the other iLife apps.



iMovie is a powerful content creation toolset that actually gets quite a bit of use on campus. Mostly used by students, it only seems obvious that you should be able to publish quickly and easily into spaces like iTunes U via Podcast Producer. Checking the Share menu there doesn’t offer anything too surprising, except for the YouTube option again. There is a really nice matrix for sharing that Apple provides, but nothing to go straight to PodCast Producer. Again, it looks like you have to send it to QT to get it to Podcast Producer quickly and easily.



Since the previous apps let me go directly to iTunes, I figured I should check to see how easy it is to publish out of that environment. I was really actually fairly amazed that I can’t do anything out of iTunes … but, upon further reflection, iTunes is built for managing and acquiring new content — not sharing it in the other direction. In this scenario, it is more like a platform much like iTunes U, a blog, or any other place content is stored, managed, played, etc.

Final Thoughts

So there it is … Apple has done an amazing job of giving us an end-to-end set of tools to create and share digital media — especially in education. I am not bashing on any of it, but what I am saying is that the consumer focus of Apple’s iLife suite keeps it from fully realizing its potential when it is used in a connected education setting where digital media creation and sharing is being promted. Asking students and faculty to understand how to use more than one application for creating and sharing content isn’t too hard, but it lacks to overall elegance that the solution could rely lean on.

Enhanced Podcasts in iTunes

As things are heating up in the Podcasts at Penn State project more and more faculty are starting to create podcasts for the fall semester.  Chris Millet has been spending an hour with all the faculty who request a consultation and many times these meetings end with a trip to the Faculty Multimedia Center within ETS.  The FMC has already started working with a handful of faculty to create some great content … most of it so far has been created using ProfCast so the audio syncs with the slides from PowerPoint or Keynote.  The faculty are excited and other than a few very small issues with software and hardware the FMC team is happy with the results.

One thing we are really starting to notice as a major drawback to iTunes is its inability to play an enhanced podcast the way we think it should.  Everything plays great on screen, the chapters work, and you can watch the slides update in the tiny little album artwork window.  That last point is the kicker … first of all that window is so small it isn’t worth looking at slides on it … if you do resize it you end up altering the way most people really use iTunes the other 18 hours or so a day.  Apple lets you click the window and get a nice fullsize view … great, other than it does not refresh with the podcast.  This is putting us in a little bit of a bind.

One of our primary goals from the get go was cross platform playback (no iPod required) … we thought iTunes is a cross platform tool so we’d be in great shape … the fact that a student cannot sit down and listen and watch an enhanced podcast on their machine is crazy.  We need to have that artwork refresh.  Chris and I are even discussing what it would take to create our own player … sounds like a real pain.  Has anyone found a work around for this feature?

iTunes Refresh
Notice the little window has moved on …

Google does Flickr … sorta

In an interesting twist, I got invited to the Picasa Web Album site … sorta like Flickr, but seemingly without the tags and the real social features of the original.  It is nice and they offer (for free) two ways to get pictures to the site — a full fledged iPhoto plugin that makes me miss my Flickr iPhoto plugin and a desktop application.  Seems all you have to do is show up and ask to be included … they’ll give you account until they get too many out there.  It seems to work well … the slideshow feature is killer.

I uploaded a couple of images this morning to see how it all works … Time to wait and see how this plays against the real thing.

Looking at ProfCast … Again

Several months ago I spent some time with ProfCast … really looking at it through the podium podcasting lenses of the current podcast project we have underway here at Penn State.  I recently decided I was doing both the app and the project a disservice by not taking a closer look at the features.  The first time around I was put off by the apps inability to easily edit the captured event.  I was also a little frustrated by the preferences and publishing options … they seemed a little overwhelming for novice users.  This time around I found something much different.

Last week I gave two talks at the Penn State Web 2006 Conference … one on podcasting (where I gave ProfCast some major thumbs up with the collected audience) and the other on Web 2.0 in the Higher Education Landscape.  Prior to going live, I actually used ProfCast as a practice tool.  It was so easy to use … I just dragged my Keynote file onto the ProfCast screen and everything happened from there.  It was even smart enough to do a nifty little overlay (ala, growl notifications) when I stopped my presentation to ask if I was done, or if it should pause.  Very cool and a very important capability.  The enhanced podcasts it produced are first rate … slide transitions are managed well as I use lots of builds to illustrate processes in my talks.  It was effortless.


I would have used ProfCast during the talks, but the rooms were big and I was getting feedback from wearing two mics.  Too bad, but I will be using it to release a podcast soon … maybe even revisit the Podcasting talk to release on the Podcasts at Penn State site.

I am still a little put off by the publishing options … it is still a little much for faculty member to figure out in the 30 seconds they have to wrap up in a classroom and get out.  Maybe a simple publishing mode that could be set by an administer that would publish to a default location (or set of locations like a default podcasting serivce, iTunes U, and locally)?  I did like the edit in GarageBand feature — a good lecture during an hour class should only really have 30 minutes or so of podcastable material, the rest should be “dead air” as students engage in conversation or activity.  Editing this out is critical.  That is another killer feature … I wish it could be pushed to Audacity as well, but that is a format issue.

All in all, this is an application to keep a very close eye on as a classroom podcasting solution.  I hate to say it, but if this were cross platform we’d probably be jumping all over it.  Who knows, it may show up in our classrooms as part of a podcasting suite.  To the makers of ProfCast, nice work!  Talk to us and let us provide some feedback to make it the podcasting toolset.  Has anyone else used ProfCast and have thoughts to share?

New Features

Now this is cool … for some reason I got the urge to open iWeb to look at the new features (comments and comment poster attachment in particular). When I fired up my newly updated copy of iWeb, I saw the alert below.

The page it points to is an excellent support site for the new features. I like it when things work together.