I create blocks of time in my Google Calendar where I’m available to meet with my students, either in person or through Google Hangouts. For regularly scheduled office hours, I make those slots a repeating event.
I share the appointment slots event page link with my students, both on the course syllabus and on my own website.
Students book an appointment through the link, after signing in with a valid Google account.
I get notified of the appointment date and time, and I see who booked the appointment. Because I configured the appointment slots to alert me in advance of the appointment, I get an alarm at five and ten minutes before the appointment starts.
Yesterday, I learned about a bug in the system. Some students see the wrong appointment time. In one instance, Google Calendar showed a student the available appointment slots in UTC, not New York time. She booked an appointment for 3:00 PM on the appointment slots event page, but inadvertently scheduled it for UTC time. When she showed up for our appointment at 3:00 PM New York time, she had missed it. My calendar app saw that the appointment was made for 3:00 PM UTC and correctly displayed and notified me that it was at 10:00 AM Eastern Time.
Reading through the Google Calendar support forums, it seems to happen to a lot of other users. The conventional wisdom about this problem is that I have my Google Calendar set to GMT-5 (America/New York) while my student may have her Google Calendar set to UTC. However, many people insist that the college, university, or organization sets everyone’s calendar to their local time ( GMT-5 in my case). However, my students will often use their personal Gmail accounts instead of their university issued G Suite for Education account. There’s no guarantee that their calendar is set to their own local time. It might be set to UTC. My intuition says this is what likely causes the timezone display bug and why it’s not consistent.
Good news, though! I did find a workaround that worked for me. I had to override the timezone Google Calendar displays by appending my own timezone to the appointment slot URL. Here’s how I did that:
I created appointment slots in Google Calendar as I normally would.
I copied the appointment page URL that Google Calendar provides to share with my constituents. It should look something like this: https://calendar.google.com/calendar/selfsched?sstoken=2AHtwhQ0cknZcpXB1vwH (except perhaps a bit longer).
I pasted that URL to where I could share it with my students.
I added the following text: &ctz= and my timezone. In my case, it’s America/New_York. You can find out your own timezone, organized by country, by browsing this list. Be sure you include the underscore if your location includes a compound name.
This will force the appointment slots event page to display in the timezone you indicated. If you and your students are in the same time zone, then both of you should be scheduling appointment as you would without anyone seeing a timezone in UTC time.
I do however foresee one potential limitation for my workaround: online classes where teachers and students might be scattered across different time zones. In those cases, I might want to indicate that the appointment will be in the timezone of our home institution, regardless of whether the student or I is actually in that particular timezone.
UnionDocs, the Williamsburg, Brooklyn–based center for documentary video production, is looking for interns who work in “some aspect” of film and video: curation, production, or film theory. Interns help with realizing UnionDoc’s mission to foster nonfiction media, programming, events, production, and storytelling.
Interns would have responsibilities that including:
I’m currently reviewing Hollywood, 1938, written by Catherine Jurca and published by University of California Press, for adoption in the American Film Industry course that I sometimes get to teach.
Since I am low on space and constantly on the move, I requested an electronic book. UC Press used the Vitalsource platform for this particular electronic book. I see the logic in using this platform for review copies since it allows them to control the distribution of the book. For example, should an instructor not adopt the book, the publisher can revoke access—or more likely, set an expiration date—so that the instructor doesn’t get a free book. Notably, UC Press sent me a DRM-free review copy of Precarious Creativity, but that book was licensed by a Creative Commons license and did not have “all rights reserved.”
They saddle to book with so many digital rights management restrictions that the book is unusable. One common scenario is when the ebook application requires an internet connection to access your library, but because you are—for example—flying in airplane or trapped in a subway train, you can’t read a book that you paid for.
They merely reproduce the pages of the print edition and put those on your device. That usually works except on a mobile device, such as a smartphone. I could be wrong, but I think there’s a few college students that own smartphones. I wonder if they wouldn’t mind reading their textbooks on a device they own.
In this case, the University of California Press committed both.
First, they using Vitalsource, a platform that makes it difficult as possible to open a book because it imagines every possible scenario where “unauthorized access” might occur. They should obviously take the opposite approach: imagine every possible scenario where someone might want to use your product. Even a seasoned veteran encountered an issue where I had to deauthorize my old iPad Air so I could read this book on my new iPad Pro. It wasn’t a difficult task, but it was certainly inconvenient.
Second, the book is unreadable. To their credit, whoever adapted this book for electronic distribution seemed to consider that the most natural way to advance through text is through vertical scrolling, as one does when reading a webpage or when looking through a social media feed. Instead of flipping virtual pages, you can advance through the entire text of a chapter by scrolling vertically. However, the text of this book is so small it is unreadable.
An entire nine-line paragraph is a mere two-and-a-half centimeters tall. Thankfully, you can enlarge the text. There’s a hidden menu that allows you to resize the text.
Can you find how to enlarge text?
Increasing the size helped a little bit, but it didn’t add any room to the tightly spaced text, as one can do with the EPUB format. Yes, I wear glasses, but I feel I still have pretty good eyesight. However this ebook strained my vision to where I couldn’t read beyond the first paragraph.
There was one function however that did make “reading” the book much easier. Vitalsource will allow you to speak the text. Some reading apps, such as Instapaper, have the same feature. It works for short works, such as news articles or blog posts. However, having a computer voice read to you for extended period of time ruins my experience of imagining the author detailing the historical moment and constructing an argument about Hollywood in 1938. And when you’re being read to aloud by a computer, it also elicits some confused and puzzled looks on the faces of various passersby.
The above link to Amazon is an affiliate link. Shopping through that link will kick back a referral fee to me, which I feel I deserve after having to endure reviewing this terrible ebook format.
If you ever participated in a research survey or a focus group, you’ve likely had to answer a question about your age. But have you had to answer three?
This is a screenshot of a survey from a major focus-group market-research company based here in New York. It asks for your age in three different ways:
Enter your age in a text field.
Select your age range.
Input your date of birth.
In other words: what’s your age?, how old are you?, and when were you born?
It could be that they do this to ask so you don’t lie about your age. But I think they do this so they can filter the results in their spreadsheet and quickly find the subjects they want. For example: find people who were born before 1990, find people who are less between 28 and 34, or find people who reported to be between the age range of “28-34 years old,” etc.
Someone should show them that even in Google Forms, you can add calculation columns to help you find respondents within certain age ranges, respondents of specific ages, respondents who were born during certain years, or whatever combinations of these data. Honest. I’m not making this up. Isn’t Technology Great?!?
I won’t show them how to do it, but someone should…
I’m embarrassed to admit that I don’t use OCR for converting documents into plain text as much as I probably should. It is a very handy utility, and it is one that computers have been doing for a long time. Indeed, I remember using OCR in college, at the computer lab where I worked, scanning a single page of print and watching the software read it and turn it into plain text with astonishing accuracy. It seemed like magic.
And what did I do with that magical text? I took that text, put it in a Word document, and printed it out.
Today, there’s many more useful things to do with OCR, particularly for scholars and academics. One example is to share the text of historical primary documents instead of an image files of the documents.1 For years, I have been sharing with my students readings as PDF files, but in the mobile-first era of the web, it makes much more sense to share a webpage that someone can easily read on a mobile device, instead of a PDF that they have to pinch-and-zoom—or even print out—to read.
Earlier this week, I began sharing with my students plain text files, instead of PDF scans, of readings not available in their textbooks. Doing this yields some benefits:
They can resize the text, either bigger or smaller.
They can parse the text to read with a browser utility like Apple’s Safari Reader or a read-later application like Instapaper.
They will appreciate the much smaller file size, like 100 times smaller, especially for students using a mobile device.
If sharing readings as plain text instead of PDF files makes so much sense, what took me so long?
Honestly, I didn’t know what tool I should use. I can’t remember the software I first used in 1997, but it’s safe to assume it doesn’t exist anymore. Acrobat offers OCR, but I haven’t had a Creative Cloud license since the days of Creative Suite 3. Although I have a lot of apps that can scan and convert to text, such as the one for a Doxie scanner or PDFPen+Scan for iOS, most of these readings are in PDF already. I don’t want to print and scan them just to do OCR.
Lo and behold, Google Drive converts PDF to text. I just learned about this yesterday, and I like the results. To use Google Drive for OCR, follow these three steps:
Upload your PDF file to Google Drive, if it’s not there already.
Right-click on the file
Select Open With > Google Docs
After a few minutes, depending on the size of your document, you can see the converted text. The results are pretty good. Obviously, the clearer and better your text, the more accurate the OCR will be. One cool feature is that it “respects” the pagination and hyphenation of your original document. If your document has page headers or page footers, those will appear. Since I’m interested in capturing only the text—not the pagination or hyphenation—of the document, I have to remove those from my final text document.
The nice thing about having a plain text document is that you can lightly format it as needed. Since I use Markdown, I recommend using a Markdown-capable text editor to parse the text. You’ll have a relatively unadulterated text file and can export it to any format you want from there. You can export to PDF, unstyled HTML, or RTF. And as I did with my first try at OCR in 1997, you can even print it.
One of my big complaints about #kidstoday is that are keen to share screenshots of a website—or worse, a photos of computer display with the browser window—instead of sharing the URL of the site. ↩
An historical survey of film from the advent of commercial motion pictures in the 1890s, the proliferation of national cinema movements throughout the 20th century, and the influence of each in the formation of a global film culture at the beginning of the twenty-first century.
The history of radio and television broadcasting from the 1920s to the present. Using an interdisciplinary approach, the course focuses on broadcasting institutions, issues, research trends, and program format analysis.
Earlier this month, my web host since 2006 began experiencing extended outages. Normally, I wouldn’t care because I have been pretty inactive in posting to this site over the last few months. However, Downtown Host also hosts my professional site, at https://juanmonroy.com and because I post all my course syllabi on that site, uptime is very important, especially as midterm exams are nigh.
Back in the spring, I attended a workshop on Omeka as part of NYC Digital Humanities Week, and the presenter, Kimon Keramidas, recommended a web host built for academics, Reclaim Hosting. The latest outages forced my hand a bit: I signed up for Reclaim Hosting on Tuesday and began migrating my sites that day.
My professional site was really easy to migrate. Because that’s site is state-of-the-art for 1998 web sites, it consists of just static HTML content and some Apache server side includes. I just copied the files and changed the DNS record with Hover. Within ten minutes, the site on the new host was working as it always on the old. (The process was similarly easy for the East Village Softball Association, which I also maintain using equally antiquated web technologies.)
Less Easy Migration
Because this blog is hosted on WordPress, the process was more complex. Most of it worked according to this guide, but there were some hiccups, due to having a multisite installation. Without getting into too much detail, here’s the basic steps I took:
Downloaded the files from the WordPress installation from my old host.
Exported the MySQL database.
Uploaded the file to the juanomatic.net domain directory on my new host.
Created a new MySQL database and imported the old one.
Change the DNS records at Hover.
Reusing the existing wp-config.php file didn’t work. I had to start from scratch. Thankfully, WordPress figured out that I already had an installation running and made me run through a database configuration instead of reinstalling everything.
All of these steps basically got me back to where I was on Friday, except that the blog is now on a new host.
New, Same Old Site
So, after all that, I now have a couple of new websites, except that they should look like the old ones. But there are two distinct differences.
First, the sites seem to load a little faster, although that’s probably just a function of my imagination. After all this work, I might as well realize some improvement. The appearance to load faster might be that reward.
Second, the professional site and this blog now use HTTPS. The new host offered certificates from Let’s Encrypt, a free, automated, and open certificate authority that was launched to make securing web transmissions over HTTPS quick and easy. Now, transmissions sent between your browser and my sites are encrypted. A keen reader might have noticed a lock in the browser or that all the URLs in this post use https protocol instead of the insecure http. It’s very exciting.
In Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut, which I screened earlier today in my Ways of Seeing class at Pratt in support of teaching mise-en-scène, I observed a use of lighting that I didn’t get to cover in class.
In the scene where Bill and Alice are in the bedroom and begin the conversation about the sexual appetites of men and women, the are shown in a single shot, embracing each other.
The lighting cast on both Bill and Alice in this shot is the same. However, the background has two distinct colors to it:
a warm light cast by an incandescent light in the bedroom, presumably from the lamp on the bedside table, and
a very cold, blue light cast from outside, visible behind Alice, that washes over the bathroom in the background.
At this point in the scene, the two begin their debate which escalates to the point that Alice leaps up from the bed, away from Bill. The two continue their disagreement but now are framed in separate shots, stitched together through editing.
Bill is still on the bed and primarily lit by the warm incandescent light from the lamp. The entire shot glows like that light.
However, Alice is now opposite Bill, over by the bathroom, and though she is still illuminated by the lighting cast from the bedside lamp, the shot glows in a much colder, blue color.
The visual differences between warm and cool lighting illustrates the split that Bill and Alice have encountered in their relationship. This split will activate the crisis throughout the rest of the film and will only get resolved when they are both cast in similarly cool light after both sharing traumatic experiences.
Earlier this week, I attended a group session about Microsoft’s Office 365, the productivity software and services subscription. Of the four colleges where I have taught, the suite has been offered at only one: CUNY Queens College. However, as far as I know, Office 365 is only available to currently enrolled students and, strangely, not available to faculty or staff.
In today’s session, the session coordinator and a number of participants, including many who also teach at CUNY, insisted that faculty and staff have access to Office 365. I was a little embarrassed to have been corrected in a semi-public setting like that.
After searching various help documents on the Queens College website, it appears that I was right and everyone else was wrong. Office 365 is not available to faculty or staff at CUNY Queens College, only currently enrolled students.
A response from the IT Help Desk at Queens College also confirms this as much:
The Office 365 is for attending students only. Faulty and staff do however have the Office suite on their campus computers. They can also download a copy of Office 2016 through the CUNYPortal e-mall for home use. https://cunyportal.cuny.edu/cuny_eMall/
This I knew. I have a local version of Office 2016 for Home and Business on my Mac, but I am most interested in the Office 365 cloud functions and its apps for mobile devices.
I suspect that the participants in today’s session can’t distinguish between Office 365 as a subscription service and Office 2016 as the downloadable software that comes with Office 365. However, because the participants seem very clear on what Adobe Creative Cloud is, I suspect that it’s partly Microsoft’s problem with explaining the Office 365 product and distinguishing it from the venerable desktop apps, like Word, Excel, and Powerpoint.
But I am still puzzled as to why faculty can’t get Office 365 like the students. My sense it that has to do with students use one email system while faculty/staff are another. Students use Office 365 accounts with qmail.cuny.edu addresses, while faculty and staff use Outlook and are “grandfathered” with the older qc.cuny.edu addresses. Authorizing the site license might only allow a single domain associated with each organization.
Starting Summer 2016, CUNY Queens College moved from eFollett.com to Textbookx as the textbook supplier for the college. After the college announced the new textbook supplier, I noticed that Textbookx is an Ebates store, which earns shoppers cash back for qualifying purchases. I’ve used this since last year and earned some cash through my various online shopping trips.
By shopping on Textbookx through Ebates, students can earn cash back, currently 2.5%, on course textbook purchases. Since I imagine that students would be interested in learning how to earn cash back on textbooks, I made a screencast.
Here’s how to earn cash back on textbooks purchased on Textbookx through Ebates.
Sign in to your account. If you don’t have an account, join through this link we’ll each get a $10 bonus.
Find the Textbookx shopping portal.
Search for ‘textbookx.com’ on Ebates.
Start a Ebates shopping trip on Textbookx.
Follow the “Shop Now” button to start a shopping trip on Textbookx.
Find the School page for Queens College.
Follow the “Schools” link and search for ‘Queens College’
Find your classes
Search for your classes or log in to CUNYFirst to list all of your courses.
Buy your textbooks
You should receive cash back credit to your Ebates account within a few days. Make sure you add your Paypal account to your Ebates account so you can receive your cash back as soon as possible.
Of course, you’re welcome to buy your textbooks through any source, but since Queens College selected Textbookx as the official textbook supplier, you may as well save some additional cash through Ebates.