New Mics and Recorders

I wrote a while back about Extreme Mac’s MicroMemo for the iPod Video.  I have one and now use it as my primary iPod recorder.  The one problem that still shows up every now and then is the noise from the hard drive spinning on the 5th Gen iPod.  When the new Nano came out we all discovered you could plug a voice recorder into it … the good news is that the Nano doesn’t have a hard drive to spin up, the bad news is that the Nano is so small the regular voice recorders look silly on them.  Well I just noticed that there is now a Nano specific version of the MicroMemo.  When it gets to the Computer Store on campus we’ll pick one up and put it through the paces.

Nano Recorder

The other little thing that MicrMemo released is a stand alone lapel microphone that works with the MicroMemo.  Simple little thing that plugs into the recorder and clips on your shirt.  I noticed when I did my review of the original recorder that using it with my 80GB iPod made the whole thing about the size of a wireless transmitter.  This mic will be worth a test as well.


This is What is Wrong with the Music Industry

We all know the music industry is a mess … I offer no advice other than don’t assume I am a criminal. According to Universal CEO Doug Morris us iPod and non-Zune owners are thieves, “These devices are just repositories for stolen music, and they all know it. So it’s time to get paid for it.” Jeez, talk about loving your customers. I don’t steal music hard as it may be to believe … I know all to well the deep dark corner I have painted myself in as it relates to DRM trapped music. At the end of the day I feel ok with it only because it is legal, easy, and the right thing to do. The fact that Microsoft is handing Universal a piece of the action every time someone buys a Zune seems to make stealing music ok. UMG is expected to receive more than $1 for each $250 device … Just a bit screwed up and could set a dangerous precedent.

Once upon a time I made software (and I guess given what ETS does I still do in many ways) and I never wanted people to just rip it off. I got a paycheck every month that was supported in part by the sales of this software. Sometimes we’d find out that a company would purchase a license and then put the software across the organization … that always made us feel terrible. I never would come out and say “all computers are repositories for stolen software and we all know it!” Doug, here’s the deal, if the music you produced didn’t suck so bad more people would see value in it … I think the whole industry is a disaster, but I love music and it is a part of who I am so I am going to continue to show up at the party.

Like my good friends the Grateful Dead say, “Law come to get you if you don’t walk right.” Assuming I am criminal makes me feel bad.

The Podcast About My Zune

Now that I have had the Zune for a whole day the true nature of it is starting to become apparent. Not that I don’t like it … I’m not a huge fan, but it isn’t bad. I haven’t had a chance to test what I feel is the most compelling aspect of it, the social networking capabilities. The device itself is an MP3 player that, to me, doesn’t evoke an emotional response on any level. It is a device that is a utility … no statements or anything, just a device.

I do like the hardware, it is the software that is a real pain for me. Maybe it is because I am so comfortable with the iTunes and iPod integration, but it just doesn’t speak to me. Having to log into all those damn Microsoft accounts just to purchase Zune Points is really something that I am not interested in. It is so clear to me now just how much of an advantage Apple has when it comes to the user experience related to the software/hardware integration. I wonder how someone who doesn’t like Apple feels?  I am sure the Zune is so much better for so many people, but this is my space and that is my impression. At the end of the day it is a good device and honestly only the second non-Apple MP3 player I have owned. Before my iPod I had a Rio … I felt the same about that as I do the Zune. It works, but nothing else. At least the Rio connected to iTunes.

So I sat down and recorded some thoughts about the device yesterday and tried to give a balanced report — a lot like Fox News 😉 … I also sat down with a few ETS people and got their reactions. Keep in mind this is the first time I have ever tried to create a podcast like this — just me editing a lot of stuff together. It may be annoying, but I am trying to get better at this.  At any rate, here is a link to the ETS Special Edition Zune podcast at Penn State on iTunes U. Thoughts?

Zune is Now Here

Every morning I read a ton of feeds from both the tech industry and higher education blogs. For about a week and a half now most of the posts I have been reading coming out of the tech industry has been about the Microsoft Zune. Yesterday I was able to see one in person. Firing it up and seeing the interface actually surprised me — it was decent. I instantly tried to scroll the wheel, but was reminded that it doesn’t work that way — strike one. I am now amazed at how well that interface works for finding music on the iPod. The Zune has a good form factor, albeit a little big, but nice. The screen has great real estate and pops nicely. The feature that seemed to get the most “ahh factor” were the headphones ability to stick together to help reduce tangling. That is a good idea, but isn’t that big of a deal. Details make a device though.

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Happy 5th Birthday, iPod

Everyone on the web is talking about the iPod’s 5th birthday … it has been five years since Apple introduced that little music player (and future computing platform) but since the web has done a great job documenting it all I have no need to repeat all that stuff. In addition to changing the music landscape forever, this little device did quite a bit for educational technology as well. If I wasn’t typing in between new baby duty I would point to dozens of posts I have made that documented it all. When it appeared I wasn’t convinced that it was going to be a hit — it was platform dependent and seemed very limited. I even sat in Cupertino and told them I wasn’t sure — not surprisingly they all looked at me like I was crazy. Steve was right, it was and still is a revolutionary device. I have to admit I still have the first generation iPod my Mother-in-Law got me for Christmas the same year my first baby was born — like my first child, the thing has changed the rules.

Five years ago very few of us thought about music like we do now — digital first. All I can say is “thank you” to Apple for creating a new eco-system that now contains the iPod, the iTunes Store, iTunes U, and all the interest that goes along with it. All of those things have added up to new opportunities to engage faculty and students alike. DRM aside, it is a good thing. When was the last time that has happened? Tell me.

Hot Teams March On: iWriter Review and White Paper

I have promoted the use of small teams to investigate technologies that impact teaching and learning since I arrived at Education Technology Services close to a year ago. We have done five such investigations in that time … each one has brought teams of designers, technologists, subject matter experts, and others together to do a quick hitting review and investigation of a specific technology. The latest Hot Team investigated a very interesting little piece of software by Talking Panda called iWriter. On the surface it allows you to create interactive games for the iPod … our team discovered you could do quite a bit more with it.

Our Hot Team found that iWriter has the potential to enhance the educational experience in a great number of disciplines, from foreign language instruction to science and technology. iWriter provides the opportunity for educators to quickly and intuitively create rich instructional media where utilizing a mobile platform like the iPod might be beneficial. In an age where such mobile devices are becoming increasingly sophisticated, the simplicity of iWriter and the iPod interface is a refreshing combination that can be applied to many situations.

Download the PDF of the white paper and let us know what you think. I also have a sample iWriter project created by a member of the iWriter Hot Team for download — I warn you that it is a little big (13 MB).

Nano Recorder

Not huge news, but good to see — the new iPod Nano can record audio. If you check out this iLounge article you can see for yourself. Given how long it took everyone to get those damn iPod recorders out for the 5G iPods it’ll be a year until something ships that actually fits those new devices. If you are looking for a very portable recording device this could be it, but at the price point I am sure there are other solutions. With that said, I have been very happy with the recording quality I get out of my 5G iPod and Tune Talk Stereo. One thing that will make this an interesting solution is that you will be able to record without the typical hard drive whirring sound you get on the regular sized iPods … Looks like it is time to get a Penn State blue Nano.

Oh, yeah … this is my second 4 AM blog post in a row. Sleep, I remember you!

Finally, the Belkin TuneTalk Stereo Recorder Arrives

Quite some time ago I had written about the long wait we were forced to endure with the new iPod voice recorders. I saw a bunch of them on display at MacWorld back in January and kept waiting and waiting for a solid portable recording solution …. well, I’m not sure when it actually got released, but I finally was able to get a new Belkin TuneTalk Stereo (TTS), only down side is that it is black and my iPods are white. The quality is really so much better than the previous versions for older iPods that it isn’t even worth comparing that. Just right out of the box you can make very high quality sounding recordings with your iPod, the TTS, and the goofy little stand it comes with — BTW, that stand must have cost Belkin a whole quarter of a penny.

I spent some time testing the thing — both as a stand-alone and with a couple of lav microphones to see what I could get. Right out of the box the thing sound good plugged into the bottom of an iPod — in some situations you can hear a little hum from the hardrive in the iPod spinning — I noticed it more on my 60 GB than on the 30. There is a little gain switch on the bottom that makes a huge difference in quality.

When I got this thing the thing that got me interested was the line in … it allows you to bypass the internal mic of the TTS and plug in an external setup into the .35mm jack on the bottom. Originally, I thought a wireless mic setup would be ideal for so many situations — walk in, drop an iPod on the podium with the TTS hooked to the bottom, plug in the base unit, and start recording with the freedome to roam. The setup doesn’t seem to work with my Gemini LIX-16 wireless unit as I am only able to get one channel to record audio. I then tried my wired Griffin lav mic and it produces really good sound. It actually got me thinking that the iPod with the TTS and the lav mic plugged into it is actually only a half inch bigger than the wireless unit … the iPod setup is noticably thinner too.

The software on the iPod works the same way as it did before … clip on the TTS and the iPod switches over to voice recorder mode with the option to start recording. You can now also set the recording quality to high or low. I went with high for all my tests. THe one thing the whole thing misses is some sort of user feedback. THe recording click ticks along, but a level meter on either the TTS or, even better, on the iPod screen would make a huge difference — just take the guesswork out of the whole process. At any rate, the included podcast will give you an idea what this thing can do — about half way through the podcast I swtich from the TTS with the lav mic to without. Let me know what you think.

Update: A lot of people have emailed me asking where to find this thing … we found it at the Apple Store … if you are an edu customer, make sure you go into the education store as it is $10 cheaper. Here is the link to the public store.