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Major Project Register

Welcome to Blair's HSC IPT Major Project Register. To assist navigation, below are some useful hypertext links.

Addressing course outcomes

Multimedia project

2009-07-17 Apocalypse at 23:59 + miscellany

posted Jul 16, 2009, 7:01 AM by Unknown user   [ updated Jul 17, 2009, 6:59 AM by Eddie Woo ]

Update: 00:02 AEST

The apocalypse (Greek for "lifting of the veil") comes in 24 hours minus a few minutes. Between now and then, I need to:
  • Write case studies
  • Write critique
  • Check the senior science part of my portfolio
  • Update repository
  • Remove "actively updated" text
  • Write about "Major project as a problem" (DSS)
  • Check maths paper archive

Update: 01:10 AEST

In the support documentation for my multimedia project, I made a reference to the fact that text, audio, and video are all suitable mediums for conversations and/or interviews. Joey, via the Windows Live Messenger instant messaging service, indirectly suggested to me that this may be an instance of the social and ethical issue of speed vs. sincerity, although I personally made the connection myself.

(12:44:23 AM) Blair: print to pdf, joey
(12:44:23 AM) 
Blair: :D
(12:44:36 AM) Joey:
um. yes.
(12:44:39 AM) Joey:
-_-"
(12:44:44 AM) Joey:
& i'm an IT student. -_-"
(12:47:34 AM) 
Blair: i know you are ._.
(12:47:38 AM) 
Blair: i'm sorry if i sounded patronising
(12:47:46 AM) Joey:
nonono
(12:47:47 AM) Joey:
it's okay :D
(12:48:12 AM) Joey:
(issues with communications systems - speed vs. sincerity? *rant*)
(12:48:59 AM) Joey:
& then there was something about impersonal contact, not being able to communicate by body language which is apparently about 80% of our communication, etc.
(12:50:13 AM) 
Blair: funny that you should mention that
(12:50:18 AM) 
Blair: i just wrote
(12:50:18 AM) 
Blair: N.B. All the interviews mentioned in the "audio - interviews" section above could also be recorded on video. Audio adds a layer of complexity above text, in that different tones of voice (sarcasm, happiness, sadness, et cetera) can express what mere words (text) cannot do as naturally; similarly, video adds another layer of complexity above audio, in that body language can express what sound alone cannot. The decision of which medium to use depends on the context, and whether or not the communicator believes tones of voice and body language will help to express the desired message more effectively.

The irony of this situation is an amusing manifestation of the remarkable relevance of the IPT course in today's society.

Furthermore, I have removed the text about the maths faculty website being "actively developed", as development of the site may not be quite so active after 23:59 tonight.

Update: 01:52 AEST

It appears that hypertext links from Woo Random Files to certain parts of the JRAHS intranet (specifically, my two multimedia products) malfunction when the user is not logged in (as experienced on Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 6.0; en-US; rv:1.9.1) Gecko/20090624 Firefox/3.5). The problem is that, instead of prompting the user to log in, the hypertext altered as if the page was on Woo Random Files instead of Intranet Faculties. I have therefore used TinyURL to create indirect links to the relevant pages.

I have just finished checking the Senior Science part of my portfolio; specifically, Biology course information. I considered the idea of putting a decorative image on the Biology page, but ultimately decided against such a design decision, as it would be too radically different from the pages for Chemistry and Physics.

I did, however, make the page neater by increasing font size for the navigation boxes, and by making the boxes the same size. I will now go to sleep for the next eight hours.

Update: 12:51 AEST

I woke up a little later than I had intended. I after an extremely quick breakfast, I went to write my case studies for Component 3B.

Update: 15:31 AEST

I have finished two of my three case studies. I intended to change the topic of the third case study yet again, from Bad Wolf Radio podcast to the Creative Commons website, because while the Bad Wolf Radio podcast was an extremely effective use of the audio medium, there is a technicality problem in that it is technically not professionally produced.

In the interests of occupation health, safety, and ergonomics, I will now take a half-hour break from my IPT project.

Update: 17:16 AEST

I have finished all three case studies, and updated the project register repository. I found that some links were no longer self-updating as I had foolishly believed them to be; these were fixed. Furthermore, I have decided to emphasise certain entries in my project register repository, e.g. those that discuss information processes.

Update: 18:53 AEST

I have finished my "Major project as a problem" post, and added a link to it on the top of my project register.

Update: 20:37 AEST

I have finished some last-minute fixes for the final release of the maths faculty site.

Past papers (converted to PDF/A and repackaged)

A number of senior past papers have been converted to PDF/A and repackaged; here is a list of affected files:

2009-07-17  07:04 PM           105,551 yr11_2u_hy_2009.pdf
2009-07-17  07:05 PM            81,197 yr11_2u_hy_2009_solns.pdf
2009-07-17  07:05 PM         3,448,915 yr11_2u_hy_pdf.zip
2009-07-17  07:08 PM            50,022 yr11_3u_hy_2009.pdf
2009-07-17  07:08 PM            92,994 yr11_3u_hy_2009_solns.pdf
2009-07-17  07:09 PM         8,463,306 yr11_3u_hy_pdf.zip
2009-07-17  07:11 PM         1,038,238 yr12_2u_t2_2008.pdf
2009-07-17  07:12 PM            42,878 yr12_2u_t2_2009.pdf
2009-07-17  07:14 PM            20,717 yr12_2u_t2_pdf.zip
2009-07-17  07:15 PM           773,181 yr12_3u_t2_2004.pdf
2009-07-17  07:15 PM         1,234,852 yr12_3u_t2_2004_solns.pdf
2009-07-17  07:15 PM         1,921,727 yr12_3u_t2_2008_solns.pdf
2009-07-17  07:16 PM            61,275 yr12_3u_t2_2009.pdf
2009-07-17  07:16 PM         2,786,287 yr12_3u_t2_2009_solns.pdf
2009-07-17  07:16 PM         8,389,323 yr12_3u_t2_pdf.zip
2009-07-17  07:22 PM           748,452 yr12_4u_t2_2004.pdf
2009-07-17  07:23 PM         1,586,576 yr12_4u_t2_2004_solns.pdf
2009-07-17  07:23 PM         2,040,089 yr12_4u_t2_2009_solns.pdf
2009-07-17  07:23 PM         8,931,031 yr12_4u_t2_pdf.zip

Generated using dir "D:\00blair-ext\mathsfac" > D:\00blair-ext\mathsfac\dir.txt

I also added the following text to the top of every past paper archive (Juniors and Seniors):

Download the PDF files individually, or download the PDF package. A DOC package (with some DOC source files) has also been provided.

Navigation boxes (design decisions)

I altered the design of the navigation boxes. The junior and senior course resource boxes have items sorted in alphabetical order and 10pt font size, because:
  • Alphabetical order is the expectation for most people;
  • 10pt font size for aesthetic appeal (there is enough space for 10pt text)
The main site navigation box has items sorted into two categories ("Learning resources" and "Mathematics faculty") and default font size, because:
  • People accessing the site will usually already know what they are looking for;
  • Default font size for aesthetic appeal (there is not enough space for 10pt text)
Finally, the HTML code for bullet points in navigation has been changed to:

<font style="color: rgb(102, 102, 102);">●&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</font>

Program outlines

I downloaded, renamed (according to naming convention), converted to PDF/A, and re-uploaded (with both PDF and DOC versions) all 2009 program outlines only, because older program outlines are unlikely to be used by students. I also did this for the "Geometry Theorums and Proofs" document, and changed the links on the Junior and Senior course navigation boxes to a PDF/A version of this document.

Update: 21:41 AEST

Via Windows Live Messenger Instant Messaging service, I have agreed to critique Christine's multimedia production. Christine explained that it is not on the site because it is anticipated that Mr. Woo will help her embed it onto the page.

Update: 23:35 AEST

I have finished my critique of Christine's multimedia system, and have hence effectively finished my major project.

Closing remarks

On 2008-12-08, I, along with my fellow apocalipticDESIGN members, started on a journey to develop faculty sites on an intranet that would engage student learning, empower better teaching practice, and enrich school life. These were ambitious goals, but I believe that, after a total of 32 weeks, I achieved these goals with my portfolio and multimedia projects, and I am confident that the other members of the team can say that with pride and dignity as well.

In my Project Prospectus, I had declared that,

"... when a large collection of materials is made easily accessible, students will spend less time gathering information and more time absorbing knowledge. When this is achieved, we can say that the system has engaged student learning."

And what a large collection of materials it is indeed. In the maths faculty past paper archive alone, there are literally hundreds of files. Never again will students need to pester their teachers for past papers, as there will always be something for them to practice with on the website that my fellow apocalipticDESIGN team members and I have helped to create.

Furthermore, in my Project Prospectus, I had declared that,

"...if students are able to spend more time learning and less time gathering the material with which they learn, they would perform better academically, giving them the opportunity to spend more time on extra-curricular activities, and hence enriching school life."

I cannot provide any statistics for how much time students are spending on extra-curricular activities, but I can certainly say that my multimedia system will enrich school life. Students and teachers alike will be presented with the most unusual perspective of the Cameron block that they will have experienced, with my Cameron block virtual tour.

And finally, I had declared that,

"The system would make it easier and much more useful for students and teachers to collaborate, and for students to approach teachers to clarify any doubtful points in their Maths-related courses and activities, hence enhancing the level of communication between students and teachers, and empowering much better teaching practice."

While I cannot prove that communications between students and teachers has improved, I can certainly say that teachers are now taking advantage of the intranet to empower their teaching practices. My own teacher, Mr. Alder, made a point of letting us know, in our very first maths lesson of the year, that resources will be available on the intranet for anyone who goes looking for them.

The development of this project has been an amazing learning experience, and the skills that
my fellow apocalipticDESIGN team members and I have developed will help us throughout our education and beyond. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Mr. Woo for creating such a vibrant and relevant project for us to complete.

Fin.

2009-07-16 Incorporation of media + miscellany

posted Jul 16, 2009, 2:29 AM by Unknown user   [ updated Jul 17, 2009, 2:20 AM by Eddie Woo ]

Inspired by recent work by Amy, and Jason, I have placed links on the space above my project register, to assist readers with navigation. This uses the MediaWiki external link image (MediaWiki is licensed under the GNU Public License, which permits such usage).

At 8:26pm, I received a telephone call from Ria, who asked me about the network topology of the new laptops that are due to arrive at James Ruse in term 3. I told her that I don't know what topology will be used, as the school has not released any information on the matter. I also explained to her the process by which I converted WMA files to MP3 files, as described in 2009-07-16, so that she can replicate the process on her own computer with her own files.

At 8:46pm, I updated the Gantt chart yet again, to reflect the extension given by Mr. Woo. The latest Gantt chart has been attached to this project register post. In order to avoid confusion, I also re-made the Gantt chart produced on 2009-06-07, now with features to identify the difference between the two updated Gantt charts (today's and 2009-06-07's), such as timestamped filenames.

How the virtual tour incorporates multimedia


As illustrated in the modified screenshot above, the virtual tour uses—
  • Hypertext as a system of navigation;
  • Image as a medium to depict physical subjects, which is, in this case, the Cameron block from various points of view;
  • Text as a way of labelling each stage of the presentation, similar to how a tour guide in real life may give running commentary during a tour

Hear, hear! (justification for hypertext instead of images)

I quote Jason, from his project register entry from this Monday:

Also, a quick note on design decisions regarding the layout of my portfolio: unlike some other members of the aD team, I have chosen not to copy-paste links and header images onto every single page. I believe that this would take far too much time and effort, and could potentially lead to problems with the layout and formatting of individual pages. Besides, Google Sites already has an automatically updated "breadcrumb" system at the top of each page to navigate through the site's hierarchy - why bother making an entirely new, manual system when the existing one does the job just fine?

I agree wholeheartedly with him on the matter, having used hypertext for navigation throughout my project with similar reasons. Indeed, it is in the name of consistency and standards compliance, that I decided not to replace standard hypertext with custom-made images for navigation. Although such images do not take much longer time to load (unless the end user has a dial-up internet connection) and can be much more aesthetically appealing than hypertext, they can be confusing to the end user, who may take some time to understand that a number of differently-shaded textboxes are all links to other pages.

While aesthetic appeal is important, it is my personal belief that aesthetics should never get in the way of usability. That is why I use decorative images with no functional purpose - so that the end user can ignore such decoration when they are looking for specific content and do not wish to be impeded by novel designs.

2009-07-16 Information processes (audio, video) + integration

posted Jul 15, 2009, 6:34 PM by Unknown user   [ updated Jul 17, 2009, 12:24 AM by Eddie Woo ]

Over the last few days, I have spent a considerable amount of time writing support documentation.

Today, I worked on finalising my multimedia products, and integrating them into the existing Maths faculty site. To start off, I deleted the "Multimedia" page that I had created for experimentation a long time ago (and evidently forgot about). I also deleted the "Temporary Files" page, as it no longer served any practical purpose (and contained no files whatsoever).

Audio product - interview with Mr. Woodhouse - completed

Conversion to MP3

Using the audio file that I had collected on 2009-07-01, I produced the audio product of my multimedia project. The audio file has been stored in two places - my USB storage device (portable storage) and my hard drive (local storage) - so that if one device failed, I still had a copy of the audio file for retrieval.

I started installing iTunes in order to re-organise the file from WMA (Windows Media Audio) format to MP3 (MPEG Audio Layer 3) format.







The purpose of this re-organising was so that the file could be manipulated in the audio editing software Audacity, which is not capable of opening WMA files. The purpose of this was not for further compression, and therefore, I used the lowest level of compression (i.e. 320 kbps stereo) possible.

Editing the file

I opened the file in Audacity, which analysed the file to produce a graphical representation that approximates the shape of the sound waves described by the file.


The displaying of this graphical representation helped me identify parts of the sound that needed fixing up. For example, the vertical line highlighted in this screenshot identified the location of a sudden noise (perhaps someone dropping something onto the floor), which I subsequently removed - an example of processing the audio data.



However, I did not restrict my usage of Audacity to simply fixing small errors. I also collected audio data (myself introducing the audience, with "To find out more about maths at James Ruse, I talked to Mr. Woodhouse, head teacher of the subject at our school") using a microphone, and appended this new recording to the beginning of the original file:


I also applied some fading effects, as simple transitions to make the audio more enjoyable to listen to:

Adding metadata

After making my corrections to the file, I saved it as a new file, and opened the new file in iTunes to add metadata, an example of analysing:



The file was, at this stage, ready for publication via the Intranet, made possible by the capability of transmitting and receiving between my computer and Google servers.

Video product - students speaking about Maths at JRAHS - completed

I once again needed to retrieve data that I had previously stored, as I found myself dissatisfied with the product that I had created on 2009-07-06. I re-opened the Windows Movie Maker project file, added a few more of the original AVI clips, removed a few AVI clips that I did not believe were suitable, and increased the brightness for several clips.


I did not take many screenshots of the video editing, as it had many still images of people's faces which I did not have permission to upload to Woo Random Files for documentation (as Woo Random Files is public). This is an example of the social and ethical issue of privacy.

Finally, I had to prepare the files for displaying, so I had to organise them into various formats. I made the decision to use MP4 (specifically, H.264/MPEG-4 AVC) and WMV: MP4 because users of non-Windows systems may have difficulty opening WMV files, and WMV because users of Windows systems may have difficulty opening MP4 files.

I saved the final video file with the lowest WMV compression level possible, resulting in a file that was 24.2 MB in size. However, this was far too big for transmitting and receiving to the audience via Google Sites. Hence, I also saved the file with a higher compression level, resulting in a WMV file that was only 7.47 MB in size (the estimation was fairly accurate):


However, I still did not have an MP4 file, as Windows Movie Maker cannot export to MP4. I tried to use VLC media player to convert the larger (24.2 MB) WMV file into MP4 format, but the quality of the resulting MP4 file was unsatisfactory, and could not be improved. I therefore used freeware program Any Video Converter to convert the file into MP4, using the following settings:



For both the MP4 and WMV files, the compression used was an example of processing. The main differences between the two files are shown in the table below:


 Video bitrate
Frame rate
Audio bitrate
File size
MP4
1500
30
128
10.7 MB
 WMV100025
64
7.47 MB

The level of compression used on WMV was notably higher. This was due to software restrictions - the Windows Movie Maker "compress to" adjustment changed the size of the file by reducing video resolution, and I did not want to reduce the video resolution. I therefore had to use the "portable device" conversion profile, which reduced other factors e.g. audio bitrate. The quality of both files is very good, so this is not a problem.

Numbers - student performance statistics - completed

I had originally planned to get numerical statistics from the Annual School report, but then I realised that they were exactly the same as the statistics in the news archives that I had spent so much time transferring to the Intranet. I therefore used the statistics from the news archives, including:
  • 2008 Junior enrichment results
  • 2008 Olympiad results
  • 2008 AMC/"Westpac" results

Integrating into the site - an 'about' page

In order to elegantly integrate today's products (numbers, audio, video) into the site, I created an "about this subject" page, which describes the purpose and function of mathematics at James Ruse, and subtly encourages students to have positive attitudes towards the subject.

The audio and video files (MP3, MP4, WMV) are attached, and linked to within the body of the page. End users are encouraged to download the files to their computers; however, the disclaimer "To protect the privacy of students, do not publish this video recording to any location other than the James Ruse AHS intranet." was added as a footnote for the video file, because some of the people in the video did not want the recording to be published beyond the James Ruse community.

2009-07-15 Multimedia System Support Documentation

posted Jul 15, 2009, 4:55 AM by Unknown user   [ updated Jul 17, 2009, 6:29 AM by Eddie Woo ]

For consolidation purposes, this has been identified as my final submission in response to ASSESSMENT COMPONENT 3B: Support Documentation from Mini-Assignment: Multimedia.

Design specifications

"Design specifications for further audio and video products that would complement the final multimedia system, and incorporate more expansive or difficult goals than are practically possible within the assigned time frame"

My final multimedia system is one that advertises the benefits of mathematics as a subject by providing opinions from both teachers and students about the subject. It stresses the importance of excelling at the subject (although the audio component also advertises other components of mathematics at James Ruse AHS, such as enrichment). My final multimedia system also presents a tour guide to advertise the work environment provided for mathematics students at James Ruse AHS.

Audio - interviews

In addition to the interview with Mr. Woodhouse, a large range of other people should be also interviewed, as a wider range of opinion sources would strengthen the point of view being presented (that mathematics is an important subject to excel at). These people would include:
  • Students from every junior year level
    • These students should be asked questions that are relevant to their current studies, such as favourite topic, reasons for liking maths, and number of units planned for HSC
  • Students from every senior year level
    • These students should be asked to give advice for junior students regarding number of units, and good exam practice; they should also describe their own experiences from being juniors
  • Ex-students
    • Ex-students should be asked to describe how studying maths at James Ruse AHS have helped them in later life
  • Other teachers
    • Other teachers should be asked to evaluate the current performance of the students of the school; they should also be asked to describe the benefits of doing well in maths.
  • Parents
    • Parents should be asked why they believe it is important to succeed and excel in mathematics.
This is a goal that is both expansive and difficult beyond practicality given the assigned time frame, as it would take too much time to find such large number of willing interviewees from such a diverse range of groups, in addition to the time taken to prepare for interviews, carry out interviews, and write project register entries describing the interviews.

Video - maths lesson (not interviews)

It would showcase the dedication and talents of the James Ruse AHS teachers and students respectively if it were possible to video them teaching actual mathematical concepts, such as graphing, or solving equations. Showcasing the talents of students would demonstrate the efficiency and enjoyability of mathematics.

However, this is not practical within the project timeframe due to the complexity of finding people willing to be part of such videos; I actually did try to produce this video, but there was simply too little interest for being part of such an endeavour. A few students showed willingness to be filmed teaching, but only if the lessons were prepared for them. Planning lessons for people would inherently involve a lot of time - an amount of time that is simply not available.

A note about the social and ethical issue of speed vs. sincerity in choice of media

All the interviews mentioned in the "audio - interviews" section above could also be recorded and presented on video instead. Audio adds a layer of complexity above text, in that different tones of voice (sarcasm, happiness, sadness, et cetera) can express what mere words (text) cannot do as naturally; similarly, video adds another layer of complexity above audio, in that body language can express what sound alone cannot.

The decision of which medium to use depends on the context, and whether or not the communicator believes tones of voice and body language will help to express the desired message more effectively.

Record of the 7 information processes

"A record of the 7 information processes should be maintained as the multimedia system is developed, including relevant discussion of issues related to software/hardware constraints and design decisions (e.g. organising data: compression levels applied to images, audio and video data)."

This record has occurred throughout my project register, particularly in the entries for 2009-07-16, 2009-07-08, 2009-07-07, 2009-07-06, 2009-07-01, and 2009-05-21.

Gantt chart

"The original major project Gantt chart should be updated to include a projected timeline for the development of this information subsystem."

The newest updated Gantt chart is here. Please note that the greyed-out sections reflect the portions of the original plan that are no longer within my control, as that time has already passed.

Case studies

"Research three comparable multimedia systems (e.g. websites, television broadcasts, radio programs etc. that align with the chosen genre of your multimedia system) that are professionally produced and designed, and write a case study of how each uses its particular medium effectively."

Apple "Get a Mac" video advertising

N.B. Snapshots used in this case study are the intellectual property of Apple, Inc. They have been used for research and study, as well as criticism and review, deemed "fair" usage under Australian Copyright law as such usage is relevant to the text and does not adversely affect the copyright owner's ability to profit; this addresses the social and ethical issue of copyright.

The "Get a Mac" advertisements are the components of a professionally produced system (definition of system: a collection of parts that work together to achieve a common purpose) designed to encourage people to purchase Apple's computer products.

This aligns with the genre of my mu
ltimedia system, which is also a system that advertises something; although, in my case, the thing being promoted is not a commercial product, but rather, a faculty at James Ruse AHS.

Although the video presentations may or may not be entirely factually accurate, they are an example of effective use of the video medium. They feature human actors Justin Long and John Hodgman as personifications of Apple's computers, "Macs", and generic computers (generally portrayed as running Windows operating systems), "PCs", respectively. They are distributed through a range of communication systems, including:
  • Television broadcasting (as advertisements)
  • Via the internet, officially though Apple's own website, as linked to above
  • Via the internet, unofficially, through video-sharing websites such as YouTube
The relatively short duration of the videos - generally half a minute - makes them more resource-efficient for such a wide range of distribution methods, as shorter advertisements are cheaper to pay for (in terms of television broadcasting) and use less bandwidth and storage space (in terms of distribution via the internet). This compensates for the problems of the video medium, as a medium that is overall more costly to use for advertising, and more demanding on network and storage resources.

The audio encompassed by the video medium is used effectively, as the actors use variations in vocal speed, tone, and pitch to communicate with the viewer in a way that is difficult to replicate with simpler media such as text. These variations are used in conjunction with sound effects that aid communication - for example, the sound effect of a buzzer was used in "V Word" was used to comically sensor instances of the word "Vista", a technique that cannot be replicated with the same effect with a simpler medium like text.

Audio is also used in the form of background music, which serves to make the video presentations more engaging to the viewer; this music also sets the mood as one of jocular jest as opposed to serious comparison and contrast between "PC" computers and "Mac" computers.

The animation (definition of animation: a sequence of images, usually displayed rapidly in order to give the illusion of movement) encompassed by the video medium is also used effectively. Effective use of visual communication is found physical characterisation; the "PC" and "Mac" are both characterised in ways that reflect the message that is being conveyed. The non-Apple computer is characterised as physically inflexible, old-fashioned (with the use of a business suit), and overly intellectual (with the use of glasses), while the Apple computer is characterised as slim, casual (with the use of a simple blue shirt and jeans), and youthful.

Visual communication is also used in the physical placement of the "PC" and "Mac" characters to further strengthen the portrayal of "PC" as logical and "Mac" as intuitive. The "PC" always seems to be on the left side of the scene, while the Mac always appears to be on the right side of the scene, a placing that can be construed as a reference to the lateralisation of brain function.



Additionally, the actors use body language to convey expressions and concepts. For example, in "Network", the initial holding of hands is used as a visual metaphor for a point-to-point network topology (pictured above on the left), and the way in which the "digital camera" actor physically shows the "Mac" actor a photograph is used as a visual metaphor for file transfer (pictured above on the right).

 

Finally, every video advertisement concludes with a pseudo-photograph of an Apple computer, the product being advertised. This visual component also includes a very small amount of text: "Mac", is superimposed onto this pseduo-photograph. The novelty of this term to those that are not familiar with Apple's products serves as a way to instill curiosity in the viewer, encouraging them to find out more about the product being advertised.

Bing Lee virtual tour

N.B. Snapshots used in this case study are the intellectual property of Bing Lee Electronics. They have been used for research and study, as well as criticism and review, deemed "fair" usage under Australian Copyright law as such usage is relevant to the text and does not adversely affect the copyright owner's ability to profit; this addresses the social and ethical issue of copyright.

The Bing Lee Electronics website has a section that features professionally-produced virtual tours of stores that effectively use the image medium. These appear to have been designed with the purpose of encouraging people to visit stores in real life, and subsequently purchase items at said stores. This aligns with the purpose of my multimedia system, which also uses a virtual tour of a location in order to promote what the location represents.

The image medium is highly suitable for the purpose of a virtual tour, as it shows the viewer what the text or audio medium alone cannot adequately describe. It is more efficient than the video medium, which is generally more demanding on financial (cost of video recording devices is greater compared to image recording devices) and technological resources (file size, processing requirements, et cetera).



The virtual tour for each store consists a single panoramic photograph, most likely (although not necessarily) produced by the process of panoramic stitching. The use of panoramic photography is an effective use of the image medium because it depicts a large amount of physical details, and how these physical details relate to each other in terms of spacing and placement; it is certainly a more effective use of the image medium than separate images depicting details in segments, which would certain encompass the same large amount of physical details, but would not effectively show how these physical details relate in terms of spacing and placement.

As is made evident by the snapshot above, Bing Lee's virtual tours require the end user to use a pointing device (e.g. mouse, tablet, touchscreen) to pan the image, instead of showing the end user the entire image at any given time. This has two high significant advantages in this case:
  1. It makes unauthorised copying of the image more difficult;
  2. It masks geometric distortions that may appear
However, these advantages did not apply to my equivalent product, because:
  1. As the copyright owner of my product, I do not mind if people make copies of my product;
  2. The geometric distortions in my product are a novelty that give what could be described as (literally) a new and unusual perspective of the subject to an audience that is familiar with the location; this is different in the case of Bing Lee's virtual tour, where the intended audience is not familiar with the location
In the snapshot above, some parts of the image are so bright that the detail of the areas affected is very low. This is evidence that, at some point during the production process, the exposure of the final image was influenced in such a way that the image would be overall brighter than level of exposure that the camera had determined to be ideal. This could have been done by the photographer (by adjusting factors such as aperture, shutter speed, and sensor sensitivity) or by someone during post-producing process (using software such as Adobe Photoshop).

The purpose of this photography technique was to give the impression that the location is extremely well-lit, making it seem aesthetically attractive. This technique is an example of image manipulation, and is an effective use of the image medium to portray the location positively and optimistically. Indeed, I personally used this technique in the product of my own virtual tour, as was explained in detail on 2009-07-08.

Creative Commons website

N.B. Snapshots used in this case study contain material by non-profit organisation Creative Commons and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution license (CC-BY-3.0).

The Creative Commons website serves to promote the Creative Commons licenses offered by the organisation. It is an example of effective hypertext use, and aligns with the genre of my multimedia system - both systems are used for promotion, advertising, and persuasion.

The Creative Commons website has a style that could be described as elegant and simple. The selection of hypertext for navigation means that the site loads faster than a site that uses Flash or images for navigation, further emphasising the effectiveness of hypertext as a navigation tool.



The typeface used for the hypertext is a simple sans-serif typeface, and consistent throughout the website, as shown by the snapshot of the home page above. A very important design decision made by the system developers of this website is the decision to adhere to the standard of using blue hypertext when there is a white background, making the site more intuitive for new visitors.

The site does not simply use hypertext effectively for navigation, it relies on hypertext; while the images present are all hyperlinks to new material, the main navigation tool - the green bar at the top of the page - uses text for navigation. The navigation system is clear and does not require the end user to learn new skills in order to browse the site.

Finally, and very notably, there is a description of the purpose of the organisation next to its logo near the top. This description is followed by hypertext that provides more information. The text and hypertext is styled very similarly in this area, with the only notable difference being that the hypertext is in bold; the juxtaposition of text and hypertext in this area encourages the viewer to follow the link and indeed "Learn More" about Creative Commons.

Constructive critique

"Write a constructive critique of a peer’s multimedia system, assessing it and assigning an appropriate mark based on how competently it achieves the two stated purposes."

Introduction

Christine's multimedia production is a learning resource produced for Junior Science that compliments the Science Focus textbooks used by junior students at JRAHS. It communicates information about a variety of practical exercises, such as demonstrations of convection currents and the "pop" test.

Effectiveness of communication, creativity, and professionalism (2/3)

Information is relevant and presented informatively: the experiment is illustrated through the use of animation, the main concepts of all practical exercises are described, and in sections regarding chemistry experiments, a balanced chemical equation is usually present.

Additional information is also presented for trivia and entertainment; an example of this is found in Part A of the "Convection Currents" section, which notes that "potassium permanganate is also known as Condy's crystals and is used in rural areas to remove the rotten egg smell from water". The presence of this type of information keeps the user of the system engaged and interested.

The presentation is very creative in that it uses a number of interface metaphors, such as the bookshelf metaphor used for Year 9 practical exercises. However, interface metaphors are confusing in some places; for example, on the opening page, it is not immediately clear what is meant by the instruction "click one". This could be remedied with the inclusion of additional visual cues, such as arrows.

Professionalism is generally excellent throughout; however, it is compromised by occasional readability issues. For example, it is extremely difficult to read the white text on the fin of the yellow fish on the Year 8 area, due to the relatively low contrast between white and yellow. Readability could be improved by consistently using text colours that contrast well with the background.

Medium: Text and hypertext (3/3)

The text medium is used to scientifically describe what is happening during the practical exercise in question, and in some instances, elaborate on specific scientific concepts. Text is found in the "What's happening?" part of every section, and is accompanied by audio narration that can be switched off.

The unique strength of text as a medium that is showcased is the fact that users can read and comprehend the information at a speed that they find comfortable, as opposed to a set speed that may be too slow or too fast for them. This is showcased by allowing the audio narration to be switched off at the user's discretion, demonstrating that text can, in certain cases, be superior to audio for presenting factual information.

Hypertext is used throughout the presentation for the purpose of navigation. This showcases the unique strength of hypertext as a medium that provides interactivity in a multimedia presentation by allowing the end user to select which practical exercise they would like to receive information about.

Medium: Numbers (2/2)

The medium of numbers is used to identify pages in the Science Focus textbook that elaborate on concepts presented by the practical demonstrations mentioned in the presentation. Numbers are also used extensively in chemistry topics, where they are used to identify the quantities of certain elements, and to state the concentration of a substance with a numerical value.

These uses of numbers showcase the unique strength of numbers as a way of providing precise and quantitative data and information.

Medium: Audio (2/2)

The audio medium was present in the form of narration for textual descriptions of practical exercises. By making use of variations in speed, tone, and pitch, Christine's voice showcased the unique strength of audio in conveying expressions that would be difficult or impossible to replicate with transcriptions.

However, there are other strengths of audio that were not showcased in her use of the medium. Notably, audio can be used to convey sound effects that could only be approximated (through onomatopoeia) with text. This could have been incorporated in the section about the "pop" test, where an actual popping sound could have been conveyed in the audio narration. Nevertheless, her usage of the medium was still considerably effective.

Medium: Images (1/2)

Images were used to showcase the unique ability of the image medium in visually depicting physical subjects - in this case, the subjects were various scientific apparatuses. However, the quality of her presentation could have greatly improved had she used more realistic imagery, such as photographs.

Conclusion (overall: 10/12)

Christine's multimedia system is a learning resource of a very high standard, and would undoubtedly serve its purpose of teaching students very well. It has informatively communicated relevant information in a manner appropriate to its genre, and showcases the unique advantages of a variety of media types in a creative and professional way. In particular, it should be commended for its originality and relevance to the junior science course.

2009-07-14 Theory work + communications

posted Jul 14, 2009, 3:59 AM by Unknown user   [ updated Jul 17, 2009, 12:06 AM by Eddie Woo ]

Update: 20:59 AEST

I just got off the phone with Ria (communications with participants). She had the same problem that I do with the video component, in that there is a breach-of-privacy issue if she uploads certain parts of her video component (in particular, her recording of the James Ruse musical). Furthermore, Ria also commented very positively on my virtual tour of the Cameron block. Finally, I have agreed to convert an audio file for her.

Edit: the conversion of the audio file never happened, as she learned how to do it herself

Tonight, I have been spending time catching up on my theory work, addressing course outcomes in 2009-06-30 The nature of our intranet.

2009-07-13 Mathnews finished + case study change

posted Jul 12, 2009, 8:57 PM by Unknown user   [ updated Jul 17, 2009, 12:04 AM by Eddie Woo ]

Update: 1:54 PM

Today, I used the mathnews account (that Mr. Woo has recently reset for me) to take control of the 2007 newsletter posts. I have also used this account to recreate the 2008 posts:

2009-07-13 13:08 used mathnews to take control of existing posts
2009-07-13 13:54 finished 2008 archive

Update: 7:54 PM

Using the mathnews account, I have just recreated the newsletter entry for 2009, term 2, week 3 - the most recent newsletter entry in the archive provided to me by Mr. Woo. I therefore consider my task, of getting old newsletter entries onto the intranet, complete.

Furthermore, I have decided to change the case study on Power Shift to a case study on Bad Wolf Radio, a very high-quality podcast that is more relevant to my multimedia project (use of the audio medium).

2009-07-09 Design decisions (image component) + miscellany

posted Jul 8, 2009, 5:32 PM by Unknown user   [ updated Jul 17, 2009, 12:23 AM by Eddie Woo ]

Update: 10:32 AM

Mr. Woo has just helped me reset the account details for the maths news account. He has also just confirmed that the entire project is due next week, a fact that he is announcing on the news section right now.

Furthermore, he has also confirmed that separate text and hypermedia products will not be necessary. I will therefore be integrating the text and hypermedia components as parts of the virtual tour, which was originally designated for the image component only.

Design decisions with virtual tour (image component)

I have decided to place navigation on the top of pages, so that navigation will be consistent throughout the tour; otherwise, due to the changing heights of panoramic images as they are all forced to be 650 pixels wide, the navigation's relative location on the page would vary greatly.

Update: 9:14 PM

I have finished linking the virtual tour together using hypermedia; it is now suitable for public consumption. All pages link to the previous page and next page using hypertext, and all pages have a resized (650 pixels wide) version of the photograph being presented. This resized image links to the original (1200 pixels high) version of the photograph being presented.

Furthermore, I have changed the navigation box, using line breaks and the ● character instead of using a HTML unordered list. This is what Jason did with the English site, and I think it is a good idea because it conserves space. Conservation of space was previously unnecessary but is now crucial with the introduction of the menu item, "Cameron Block virtual tour", which is a rather long name.

2009-07-08 Design decisions (image component)

posted Jul 8, 2009, 5:56 AM by Unknown user   [ updated Jul 17, 2009, 4:02 AM by Eddie Woo ]

I have been experimenting with Google Sites and its capability to host a virtual tour without any third-party services. I do not wish to use any third-party services as this adds an unnecessary layer of complexity to the virtual tour.

An interesting discovery that I have made is that the James Ruse intranet layout is fixed width, not fluid width, as demonstrated by setting the screen resolution to 800 by 600 pixels:


This means I can insert an image of a certain width and not worry about whether or not it "flows off the page", because even if it did, it would not be my problem. Through experimentation, I have found the best width to be 650 pixels, which is slightly less than the fixed width determined by Google Sites.

My current plan for the virtual tour is for it to be arranged in a linear order, as described on page 293 of the Jacaranda textbook. This arrangement will take the user through various points of interest in and around the Cameron block. I have decided to create the virtual tour with this design as I believe it is simple, straightforward, and easier to understand than an unstructured non-linear presentation.

2009-07-08 Information processes (image) + miscellany

posted Jul 7, 2009, 10:49 PM by Unknown user   [ updated Jul 16, 2009, 11:39 PM by Eddie Woo ]

For the record

For the record, Mr. Woo confirmed yesterday that print advertising is suitable for the text component of the multimedia project.

Furthermore, during morning class, Mr. Woo said that my video could not be uploaded to any website other than Google (the intranet runs on Google Sites), as my release form specifically stated that I would only upload to the JRAHS intranet. This is true even I upload the video to a website and make it accessible by JRAHS intranet users only. I therefore cannot rely on third party services to host my video (e.g. YouTube, PWA, or VoiceThread).

How I created panoramic C-block photos

I have spent the past week "stitching" many image files together to create panoramic photographs, as I had described in 2009-07-01 Updates. The purpose of this process is to produce a single image that has an unusually large angle of view.

Shooting for panoramic stitching

The source images were collected by a digital still camera which organised them as JPEG files and stored them to a memory card for later retrieval (as described in 2009-07-01 Updates); this is a screenshot of the files being displayed as thumbnails in a file manager on Windows 7:

The observant will notice that the photographs were taken in portrait mode instead of horizontal:
  1. One normally aligns the longer side of the camera with the dimension that needs to be maximised.
  2. This dimension is usually width for landscape photographs and height for portraits, hence the term landscape mode for images produced by maximising the width, and portrait mode for images produced by maximising the height (a naming convention that has spread to print production in general).
  3. In this instance, the width of the final product could be increased simply by taking more photos while shooting (remembering that these photographs were taken for the purpose of panoramic stitching), so it made more sense to try to maximise the height (which could not have been increased later)
This technique is aided by a built-in orientation sensor in the camera that identifies the positioning of the camera in relation to the ground. The data collected by this sensor is analysed and added as metadata (specifically, EXIF data) to photographs. As a result, I never had to manually rotate the images shown in the above screenshot - the system did this automatically using the embedded EXIF data.

Putting the pieces together

The images were pieced together in Adobe Photoshop, which analysed the individual images by searching for objects (window frames, doors, handlebars, etc.) that were common and then sorting these images into separate, labelled layers. These layers were then cropped and manipulated so that the final image would be smooth and continuous (albeit a very distorted representation). Photoshop refers to these steps collectively as "Blend Selected Layers Based On Content":


Cleaning the edges and saving the result

Due to the amount of distortion that results from this highly complex process, the edges of the image produced are not straight, but instead very rough. It was therefore necessary to crop this image (yet another example of processing):


Even after cropping, though, the image produced was 17182 by 3281 pixels in resolution. This is far too big for viewing and would take too long to display, so I resized (yet another instance of processing) the image to 6284 by 1200 pixels, deciding that 1200 pixels would be a good "standard" height for panoramic images. I then saved this image as a JPEG, an example of organising:


Processing to compensate for exposure

Photographs for stitching must be taken under very similar exposure conditions, or else there will be very obvious colour changes throughout the image, which looks very bad and unprofessional. Exposure conditions can be kept similar by using constant aperture, shutter speed, "ISO" sensor sensitivity, and white balance.

However, this results in problems when there are two areas with very different lighting. For example, one area may be lit by dim artificial lighting, and another area by bright natural sunlight. If these two areas are taken with the same exposure settings, one area will be underexposed and/or another area will be overexposed.

This affected one or two of my photographs, so I opened them in Adobe Lightroom to add a virtual graduated filter. This changes the exposure of the image gradually, and is therefore perfect to my "partial overexposure" problem:


Professional photographers with the right equipment have used real graduated filters for many years, and using a real graduated filter would be part of the collecting process; however, because I have simulated the use of a graduated filter using software, it is actually an example of processing.

What next?

I now have 11 images produced in exactly the same way as the worked example above; all of them are 1200 pixels in height and a few of them have been fixed in Lightroom. I will soon be distributing them through the Intranet, an example of transmitting and receiving.

2009-07-07 Information processes (Ria's video) + miscellany

posted Jul 6, 2009, 3:27 PM by Unknown user   [ updated Jul 17, 2009, 12:23 AM by Eddie Woo ]

Update: morning class, 8:27AM

Controlled video distribution

The Picasa Web Albums method of controlled distribution of videos from within the DET network failed, as Picasa Web Albums would not work in Internet Explorer 7. I therefore decided to use VoiceThread, another service that is unblocked by the DET internet filter.

This method has been successful, and Mr. Woo has decided that all apocalipticDESIGN members should use this service. He has set up an email address for this - apocalipticdesign (at) jamesruse.nsw.edu.au - with which I have created an account at VoiceThread. As of 8:40 AM, both my video and one of Ria's videos have been uploaded.

An interesting problem encounted by Ria was that her video was too big - much larger in size than the 25 MB limit dictated by VoiceThread. Therefore, Mr. Woo used Windows Movie Maker on his Windows Vista laptop to compress her video. While the video was being compressed, Mr. Woo, Ria, and I discussed instances of the 7 information processes in the production and distribution of Ria's video:
  • Collecting - with Ria's digital camera
  • Organising - initially as AVI by Ria's digital camera, re-organised as WMV by Windows Movie Maker
  • Analysing - tagging and renaming the video when it is on VoiceThread
  • Storing and retrieving - on Ria's camera's memory card, on Mr. Woo's hard drive, on VoiceThread servers
  • Processing - compression of Ria's video into a size that complies with VoiceThread's file size limit of 25MB using WMV
  • Transmitting and receiving - uploading onto VoiceThread, downloading to view
  • Displaying - on visual display units
Edit: We later realised that VoiceThread was severely limited; the service will presumably not be used for video distribution. Mr. Woo also mentioned that, due to the terms of my release form, I am unable to upload my video to any location other than the JRAHS intranet, even if it the other location secured by a private URL.

Update: from home, 9:20 PM

I effectively had no time to update during last period today, due to group school photos (choir and musical). However, it appears that much happened during this period - from what I gather, the tape for one of the video recorders has gone missing and consequently a lot of work done by other members of apocalipticDESIGN has been lost.

As a result of this incident, Mr. Woo has cancelled the video component of the multimedia project in terms of assessment weighting, adding that the apocalipticDESIGN team has learned a lot of valuable lessons regardless. The video component can still be submitted; however, it will not contribute to the final mark. I was initially very disappointed that the several hours I spent on editing my video were useless; however, in retrospect, I am sure that others (who have lost their own video recordings) have much more reason to be disappointed.

In addition to the removal of the video component, the entire project (multimedia and intranet development) has had its deadline extended by 7 days, to Friday 2009-07-17, i.e. halfway through the holidays.

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