Please, nobody tell Michael Gove about this…

November 3rd, 2013

Professor Ruediger Frank's review of a North Korean tablet computer (NB: PDF file) is almost as long as a John Siracusa Mac OS X review, but for very different reasons. Specifically, Professor Frank's survey of the enormous amount of DPRK-approved educational literature/propaganda that is loaded onto every machine.

Utility is obviously in the eye of the beholder. I find it unlikely that somebody without a certain interest in North Korea would ever purchase a Samjiyon. For non-Korean speakers, the main treasures of this tablet will remain hidden, except perhaps the dictionary.

For experts and those who want to join this illustrious group, the Samjiyon can easily develop into one of their major research tools. The DPRK-specific dictionaries and the encyclopedia are tremendously useful as reference works. It does not take much imagination to see all the future Ph.D. theses written about the North Korean educational system based just on the textbooks available on a single Samjiyon (don't forget to give credit to the one who provided you with this idea).

[Via ongoing by Tim Bray]

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Updating the 'computer with cup-holder' joke for the post-PC era

November 21st, 2011

In enthusing over his iPad, TV producer Ash Atalla requested a feature that I'd be willing to bet Jonathan Ive doesn't have on his drawing board just yet:

What additional features would you add if you could?

Some sort of tea-carrying device would be good. I drink 10-15 cups of tea a day, so it would be good if it just had a circle in it where I could put my tea cup right through the middle of it, and then it would reform itself once I had finished my tea. At the moment I use it as a tray when I'm carrying things around, so often I have a mug of tea on top of my iPad. And I just wish it would make that system a little bit safer, because one day it's going to have a bath in lovely Earl Grey.

Alternatively, I suppose that if Apple could make the touchscreen register the presence of a larger-that-finger-sized non-organic circular object then they could rewrite the iOS display routines to display a skeuomorphic image of a coaster under the cup and flow the user interface around the virtual coaster so that the cup didn't obscure anything important.

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Take a dip

March 31st, 2011

Talking of tablet computing, here's a nice line from Josh Clarke:

[…] a tablet is like a phone as a swimming pool is like a bathtub. Similar on the surface, but intended for entirely different uses.

[Via carpeaqua]

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iPad as whiteboard

March 31st, 2011

Fraser Speirs' ongoing series of posts on his iPad Project – a 1:1 deployment of iPads to pupils in the independent school where he teaches IT – has made for fascinating reading for some time now.1 Not just for the techie stuff about how to manage, configure and backup all the pupil data and all those applications, but for the insights into the way that supplying enough tablet computers is changing how teachers teach and how pupils learn.

The latest post in the series is a good example. With a little help from a simple drawing application, the iPad – when plugged in to an external display via the VGA port – doubles as a digital whiteboard that is much more versatile than a regular whiteboard.

The point isn't that schools should replace their whiteboards with iPads, but that once you have a school where every teacher and pupil has access to a lightweight, flexible tablet computer there are all sorts of things you'll end up being able to use the tablet for that you might not have envisaged beforehand.

  1. Of course, this sort of experiment is easier to carry off when the school in question is a smallish fee-paying institution rather than a state-funded comprehensive. Scaling this sort of project up is a very different challenge, but that doesn't in any sense invalidate the lessons learned from the project about the uses to which you can apply a tablet computer.

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