Tag Archives: iOS

Subscribe to my Apple News Channel

Apple News is available on iOS 9 and above
Subscribe to this website via Apple News (requires iOS 9 and above)

I was recently accepted as a contributor to Apple News. This means that readers can now access this website’s content via the Apple News app from any iOS device. The latest posts will appear directly in readers’ Apple News feeds. This is quicker and much more convenient than using the mobile version of this website.

I’ve been using Apple News for a while now, and I love having quick access to important news from various sources. You can customise which news sources you want to appear in your news feed: there are around 2000 news sources to choose from, and this website has now been added to the mix.

Click here to check out my Apple News channel.

James Kennedy, Monash Apple News Channel
My Apple News channel as of March 2016. Click to subscribe.

Book: Do/ Improvise

Do Improvise 

Yawn. At least it doesn’t cost any money (it’s free on Readmill)
144 pages, ★★

I love Readmill. It’s an iPad app for social reading. In this free iPad app, you can download free (or cheap) books and make highlights, page-marks and annotations with your fingers just the same as in iBooks and many other popular reading apps. In Readmill, however, your comments are shared with all the other people reading that book—and you can see everyone else’s comments, too. You can start a global discussion between strangers from any sentence on any page!

Not only is it interesting to see other peoples reactions to certain part so of the book that you found interesting, but it also gives all readers a crowd-sourced, pre-highlighted, pre-annotated version of the book available from the moment you open the first page! Social reading apps like Readmill could provide the social aspect that textbooks currently lack, and that students are craving (sometimes unknowingly) in today’s classrooms.

I am also glad that I teach. Reading this book aimed at corporate office-workers reminded me of the team-building exercises and networking opportunities that, for the most part, comprise the biggest highlights of those ‘corporate’ office jobs. The most useful of those in this book, and the most applicable to my career as a teacher, was called “Yes, and…”. It’s a variation of “Today, I went to the store and bought…” and the author touts it as a way of training your audience’s listening skills.

Games like these are fun, memorable ice-breakers but they honestly don’t teach anything. Education is far ahead of the corporate world with its modern, interactive teaching practices and we could actually teach the corporate world a thing or two. PEEL is just one example (although I wish it were free to access).

So I won’t be reading these free corporate books on Readmill any longer. Reading them is a waste of time, and reading education books and articles is a much better use of my time. That’s all I learned from Do Improvise: don’t read irrelevant books. ★★

Side note: while the book was awful, a workshop based on this book might actually be fun to attend (should I ever have the time…)

Holmes or Tufte? Mineral Water Composition chart

I’ve just watched some lectures on the two major schools of design: Tufte and Holmes.

This was one of them (Vimeo.com)

They’re radically different. Tufte advocates simple data visualisations with a maximum data-to-ink ratio. Holmes likes to add visual elements, pictures and illustrations onto charts, which Tufte calls “chartjunk”. You’ll have noticed the striking difference between these two competing schools when you upgraded your iPhone from the Holmes-inspired, skeuomorphic iOS 6 to the Tufte-inspired, clear and minimalist iOS 7.

iOS and iOS 7 comparison
LEFT: Holmes-style design (iOS 6). RIGHT: Tufte-style design (iOS 7)

Clearly, the Tufte-inspired version on the right looks much better.

Here is a simple introduction to minimalist Tufte design:

Data-to-ink ratio

I’m on the side of Tufte here. I like complicated data visualised in a simple-looking graphic. Looking back at the graphics I made last summer, I decided to update the Mineral Water Composition chart I made last year according to Tufte’s design philosophy.

Here’s the new, Tufte-inspired version:

Water water everywhere v3
Tufte school of design. Click to enlarge (JPEG)

And here’s the old Holmes-inspired version I made a year ago:

Mineral Water Composition by Brand
Holmes school of design. Click to enlarge (JPEG).

Which design do you prefer…? Holmes or Tufte?

Book: Disturbing the Solar System

Disturbing the Solar System

Tour of the solar system with “gravity” as its theme
362 pages, ★★★★

Watching the film”Gravity” at the cinema renewed in me a love of Physics. I downloaded the iPhone game (which is very good!) and then searched for more physics-related books and apps. Two of the best physics iPad apps are Star Walk and Solar Walk. They’re both rated five stars, both cost $2.99 and both are pictured below.

Solar Walk app for iPad (screenshot)
Solar Walk app for iPad (screenshot). Explore the solar system freely in four dimensions.
Star Walk app for iPad (screenshot)
Star Walk app for iPad (screenshot). Point iPad at the sky to see constellations, nebulae, galaxies, supernovae, meteoroids, asteroids, satellites, the ISS, the sun, moon and planets. You can even point it downwards and see the sky ‘above’ the other hemisphere!

Disturbing the Solar System was the book equivalent of these amazing iPad apps. It tours the solar system, including moons and asteroids, and focusses on the collisions and orbits that helped to for the solar system we live in today.

Two interesting observations stood out. First was the story of Titius and Bode’s Law on page 100. Bode’s Law states that the orbital distances of all the planets between (and including) Mercury and Uranus follow a pattern:

a=0.4+0.3 \times 2^m

(where a is the semi-major axis of each planet in astronomical units and m is a positive integer).

Second was the role of the moon in stabilising Earth’s climate. The book explains that without the moon, our planet’s axis would wobble wildly every million years or so resulting in unstable climates that wouldn’t allow sufficient time for adaption by natural selection. Without our moon, the author argues, evolution on Earth would have been thwarted and humans might even have not existed!

Disturbing the Solar System an interesting read and is a perfect companion to the incredible iPad apps that I mentioned earlier. Use them in tandem so you can ‘see’ what you’re reading about. Recommended for anyone interested in the solar system. (For anyone less interested, just get the apps!) ★★★★