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With the start of the new year I thought I would update my personal web site. Last year I used the Apple iWeb product. I found the product to be a reasonable tool but it was designed to work with Apple's MobileMe product and not UMBC. As a result, I didn't like the way it organized the files and what you had to do to upload the files onto UMBC's servers.
My initial reaction was to use Google Sites but ultimately I did this using myUMBC. I thought I would share my story and see what others think. Google Sites is designed to be an easy to use web creation tool. The tagline is "Google Sites makes creating and sharing a group website easy."
Google Sites is available as part of the Google Apps for Education program that UMBC is utilizing. Sign into http://gmail.umbc.edu/ and then click on the word Sites in the upper left where you see the other modules such as Mail or Calendar. Once you enter Sites you can select a template to use, one real advantage of Sites is that it has a variety of templates that you can examine and then select one as your template.
For a variety of projects this is probably great but to use as a professional web site I found few if any good templates to use. Saying that, it you wanted to create a web site for managing a project or some other types of collaboration where nice templates exist you might find Google Sites perfect.
After spending more that an hour looking at templates and experimenting with dozens of templates I selected one to try. The challenge I found with Sites what that it was not intuitive how to do things. I wanted to easily pull in items from my TechBits blog and twitter account. After "Googling" for help and reading different Google help articles I still couldn't figure out how to do what I wanted. After three hours of playing around I had an web site that didn't do anything I wanted - https://sites.google.com/a/umbc.edu/jack_suess/
I then talked to Collier Jones our myUMBC portal architect and asked whether it might be possible to try using the myUMBC groups to do a personal web site. He was more than willing and set me up with a site in myUMBC for me try out. One of the downsides of myUMBC is that you don't have the thousands of templates that you can choose from.
That said, you do have the ability to customize things based through the Settings menu. In working with myUMBC the only item that was not intuitive to me was how to create a spotlight. Once I learned the trick of clicking the Thumbnail image on the right hand side of the Spotlights menu I was off and running. I spent about three hours playing with this and produced the following web site: http://my.umbc.edu/groups/jack/home .
What I like about myUMBC is that it is relatively easy to pull in blogs and media and use the simple text editor to create additional pages for your web site. MyUMBC doesn't give you all the options for Google Sites but what it does, it does well.
One item missing from myUMBC is some basic help sheets or tutorials on each of pages. This would have helped me on the question of making a spotlight the first time. I don't know if myUMBC will ever be the spot for personal web pages but I was impressed with how well it worked. For what I wanted, I gave myUMBC the edge.
I think with some formal training I could get Google Sites to work as well. For that reason I don't think the game is over. Please share your experience with myUMBC groups or Google Sites by sending me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
The touch sensitive display for the iPhone (and iPad) uses an electrostatic screen, there is a great article on this in How Stuff Works. The key point is that a glove interferes with your finger delivering the electrostatic charge necessary to register on the phone.
In an earlier post I talked about RunKeeper as one of my new iPhone app favorites. However, one issue you quickly realize when you use an iPhone and it is cold is that the device doesn't work with gloves! For people like me that enjoy running outside this means to stop and start the device you need to stop, take off your gloves, and then touch the screen to stop or pause the phone.
Of course, the people at Apple live in California so this is not a big problem for them, but in places that experience winter you need gloves. This is a broader issue in thinking about the human computer interface for devices as we rely upon new touch sensitive interfaces. The web site BoingBoing shows how some enterprising Koreans found using a mini-sausage as stylus worked.
I stumbled across an interesting review of four different glove products that work with iPhones when using the Flipboard app for my iPad.
Review roundup: Four touchscreen-compatible gloves:
For those like me in Maryland suffering through the cold I thought I would share, I went with the Aglove product. Please let me know if you have tried any of these, when I get mine in I'll let you know how they work-- email@example.com.
We make all kinds of resolutions each year so I thought I would add a category for technology resolutions. Here are a three technology resolutions for 2011.
1. Be more Social.
In this case I mean be more active with social media tools such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and twitter. I have been on these for years but not been very active. In 2011, my resolution is to actually use these to stay more connected with my friends and colleagues. For UMBC, my resolution is to be more active on our blog sites and share more information through blogging. You can track my progress on twitter as jjsuess.
2. Look to the clouds.
At present I am tied to my laptop and depend on it for most of my work. I carry it home every night to do email. I want to rely on my iPad and iPhone much more extensively and want to be able to do my work from any device at any location. For me, my resolution is to embrace google docs and use tools like dropbox to sync my documents. Over the course of the year i will let you know how it goes.
3. Lose five pounds.
Every day I lug a backpack that has my laptop, power cord, and other assorted stuff that runs about 12 pounds ( without papers). I want to reduce that by at least five pounds. If I can succeed on the other two goals I should be able to get a smaller laptop or get away with using the iPad at home and leave the laptop back at work.
I’ll add these some of my other resolutions and update you on how I did in a year.
Let me know if you have any technology resolutions, I can be reached at
For more blog entries visit my entries on UMBC Techbits