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M-Learning Conference Slides

It was fantastic seeing everyone at the BGSU M-Learning conference today. Here is a link to the slides we presented during our talk:

Slides

Thank you to all of you that attended today's event.

CH

Mac mini Transformer! - I Had a Dream

Last night, while sleeping, I had a crazy dream. I dreamed that the Apple of old was back: taking risks, creating new markets, solving everyday problems. My dream went like this...

We had just purchased a Mac mini. Apple actually sells these computers as servers, we had a need and they are inexpensive, so I thought, "ok...we'll buy a Mac mini server for our district data office." Soon after purchasing it, we began to expand its storage capabilities. We started connecting all manner of external hard drive devices to it. In no time at all we had an amalgamation of jumbled pieces of equipment connected via a hoard of spaghetti-like cabling. Surely there has to be a better way that would serve customers and make Apple oodles of money.

This issue is not new. For years geeks have been asking Apple for an expandable computer somewhere between a Mac mini and a Mac Pro. The difference between these two is $2400.00. The need was so great, it actually DID create a new market, abeit a market that was eventually deemed illegal:

http://www.cultofmac.com/1897/miami-company-offers-low-cost-mac-knock-off-apple-lawsuit-sure-to-follow/

It seems to me that a market exists for folks that just need substantial storage connected to a modest, but competent Mac mini.

Why not create a Mac mini storage and expansion dock? Apple could create an all aluminum enclosure specifically designed for the Mac mini. Better yet, they could release it with the new Mac mini. The new Mac mini could have guide rails cut out of the bottom of it. To dock it, you would simply slide the Mac mini into the enclosure, open the back of the expansion dock, connect up all of the necessary cabling, and voila! You now have a Mac mini that can accomodate 4-6 SATA drives (connected via Thunderbolt) and maintains all of the external expansion capabilities if designed with that functionality in mind.

This idea oozes profits. How much would it cost to create such an enclosure? If you look at this RAID device as a benchmark, they retail for just over $100.00.

http://eshop.macsales.com/shop/firewire/1394/USB/EliteAL/PerformanceRAID

Assuming that a profit margin of 40% is built into the device, it isn't too much of a stretch to believe that Apple can build this new expansion dock for around $125-$150.00. Knowing that people for years have been asking for a Macintosh solution in the price range of $1500.00, they could reap huge profits for those folks that do not want or need a Mac Pro by selling this for $499.00.

The home theatre market alone would eat this thing up. In order to accomodate all of my movies and DVR content, I myself just purchased a three terabyte external drive for the Mac mini under my television. I would have preferred to purchase an Apple solution like the one I have just described, but none existed. Many of our friends now are using Mac minis as home theatre devices. Who wouldn't love to purchase such an enclosure designed by Apple rather than the designs of everyone else?

Here are some other profit creating ideas. I'm sure Apple could create "sleds" to mount the SATA drives to. Populate the expansion dock with two sleds initially and sell 2 others for $39.99 a piece. How about selling pre-formatted SATA drives mounted to sleds? How about pre-formatted SSD drives mounted to sleds? Maybe an enclosure for folks in small business/education environments that has a built-in UPS. Mounts for IT data center racks that hold three or four Mac minis tipped forward with the top facing the technician? Perhaps a second RAID enclosure that can be connected via Thunderbolt or over the network to automatically back up the first? Geeks would freak out. A cry would erupt from the basements of parent's homes everywhere, "Apple is back to supporting tech nerds!"

*calming down*

And then I woke up. Apple, where is your innovation? Where is your risk taking? Where is your support of geeks? Please do something, for the love of Steve.

Killer Pasta Sauce

Tonight I made some angel hair pasta for my family. Due to time constraints, my family suggested Kroger spaghetti sauce for the pasta. Once I recovered from the shock of that suggestion, I decided to mix up an improvised sauce approximating one that I've had at a favorite restaurant in Traverse City, Michigan.

Here are the ingredients:

14.5 oz can of petite diced tomatos
6 oz can of tomato paste
a splash of apple juice
a splash of merlot wine
a 1/4 cup of olive oil
two tablespoons of minced garlic
one half of a small yellow onion diced
a pinch of white pepper
a pinch of kosher salt
two level tablespoons of sugar
a half teaspoon of ground fennel
the juice from one small lemon
a tablespoon of grated romano cheese
a tablespoon of fresh, minced basil

Ingredients prior to cooking:

Pasta and sauce:

Simmer all of the above ingredients in a covered pan on low heat, stirring often, for 30-40 minutes and then serve over your favorite pasta.

They raved about it and I have to agree. It was killer.

Try it and let me know what you think.

CH

CREATE! 2013

In order to facilitate more effective technology and greater creativity integration in our schools, we need to increasingly provide opportunities for our faculty to see, hear, experience, and absorb innovative lessons and presentations that others have done, or are currently implementing in education. What better way to do this than to provide our faculty with a learning conference where the presentations are all done by their peers? With that being said, I present to you the CREATE! Conference.

CREATE! 2013 will be held this year at Anthony Wayne High School in beautiful Whitehouse, Ohio. Presenters at CREATE! will be faculty and other educational leaders delivering real-world lessons infused with creativity and/or technology. Each presenter will receive a $50.00 stipend for each presentation that they deliver up to a maximum of two presentations during the conference.

Attendees will be provided with a continental breakfast as well as lunch. Please join us on June 10 at 8:30 AM for what looks to be an incredible learning conference in a relaxing and wonderful venue. Our call for presenters is now open.

More information can be found at:

http://createconference.net

Never say Never- Hyundai Sonata Limited 2.0T Review

I'm not just a computer fan, or even just an electronics geek. In general, I'm an all-around technology nut, as well as an engineering nut. I love to experience how far the state of engineering and technology has taken us in an effort to increase our quality of life. I especially enjoy finding a product that takes state-of-the-art engineering and does something incredible through innovation, something that no other manufacturer has been able to do. One product that met this criteria for me recently is the Hyundai Sonata Limited 2.0T. A bit of history to follow.

 

In the 1980s, I owned one unreliable car after another. The year I finally broke this dysfunctional cycle was 1989. I informed my car-salesman cousin that I was fed up with all of the cars that I had been driving and I wanted something both functional and reliable. He showed me a rusted out 1983 Honda Accord with 115,000 miles on it and told me that this was the car for me. I laughed skeptically and told him to “be serious and show me another car.” He continued to tell me how awesome this car was and assured me that it would last at least another 75,000 miles. I bought the car.

 

I instantly fell in love with that car from the moment I drove it off the lot. It felt like a new car. Even after 115,000 miles, the acceleration was fantastic, the handling was nimble, and it smoothed out bumpy roads better than any other car I had ever owned.

 

This purchase was followed up by a purchase of a used 1992 Accord, a 1998 Accord and a 2005 Odyssey. My wife and I love our Hondas. She still drives her Odyssey with 180,000 miles on it, and I still have my 1998 Accord with 234,000 miles on it.

 

About that 1998 Accord. I decided that after 14 years and over 230,000 miles, I should probably start looking for a new car. The Accord had begun to show its age: rusted out brake lines, rusted out gas tank, suspension needed replacing, etc.

 

In the spring of 2011, I began to do some research. I compared a number of cars based on performance, features, and gas mileage. At that time the list contained the Toyota Prius, Mini Cooper, Honda Accord and Civic, Hyundai Sonata Limited 2.0T (although I swore that I would never own a Hyundai, more on this in a moment), and Ford Fusion. The Prius was eventually cut for lack of performance and the Mini Cooper was cut due to a friend's complaint about their Mini not handling rough roads very well due to its very small wheels and tires. The Fusion was cut after I experienced my mother's incredibly painful Ford Sync entertainment system.

 

We were left with the Honda Accord, Honda Civic, and the Hyundai Sonata. The Civic was crossed off the list as its features and interior space didn't match the V6 Accord or the Sonata 2.0T (the T stands for turbo). The Accord performed well, but its highway mileage was only 30 mpg. The Sonata was 34 mpg. I was instantly curious as to how the Sonata 2.0T could perform similarly to a V6 powered Accord yet get better gas mileage. Some Internet forum posts that I read questioned whether or not Honda was still innovating. Hyundai, on the other hand, was clearly innovating when they decided on the Sonata's engine.

 

It turns out that Hyundai thought outside-the-box when they designed the Sonata 2.0T. Rather than putting a V6 engine inside their Sonata performance sedan, they opted for a tiny turbocharged 2.0 liter 4 cylinder motor. I began to read reviews of the Sonata, a car that was named the 2011 Detroit auto show Car of the Year. Folks that had purchased these cars absolutely loved them. Consumer Reports ranks the Hyundai Sonata Turbo as the number 2 car in terms of customer satisfaction besting the Accord, Civic, Mini Cooper, Camry, Toyota Prius and more. I had to test drive this car.

 

In February of 2012, my wife and I drove to a local Hyundai dealer based in a suburb of Toledo and test drove the Sonata Limited 2.0T and the Sonata SE 2.0T. We took the Limited out first and from the minute we began to drive off the lot until the minute we parked it, we couldn't stop smiling. This car was what Steve Jobs might have called, Insanely Great. The acceleration was miraculous. The handling was race car sticky on curves. The luxury was stunning. The integrated technology was crazy cool.

 

We drove the SE next and enjoyed it as well. The lack of leather seating was a bit disappointing and the sport suspension provided a slightly rougher ride than the Limited. We thanked the salesperson and asked him to contact us if he wanted to sell a Limited at our price point, a price that he seemed to scoff at. We never received a phone call. I then emailed the salesperson, again thanking him for his time, and reiterated my desire to have a discussion if he would work with us on price. We never received any contact from this salesperson or anyone else from that dealer.

 

At this point, I decided that I might as well wait for the 2013 models and put the disappointing Hyundai dealership experience behind me. In early July, my Honda Accord stalled twice on my way to work necessitating in my having to pull the car over to the side of the road. Soon after, I called my wife and suggested that we should probably go purchase a car very soon. I came home from work, fired up the computer, and asked Ann Arbor Automotive Hyundai to send me a price quote for a Hyundai Genesis Coupe (I can dream, can't I?). The quote arrived the next day along with a follow up email from a salesperson who asked for my phone number.

 

Not long after I emailed my phone number, I received a phone call from an extremely courteous salesperson asking me if I wanted more information on the Genesis Coupe. I let him know that I was actually interested in the Hyundai Sonata Limited 2.0T and he assured me that if my wife and I drove up to Ann Arbor, their dealership would treat us extremely well.

 

On Friday, July 6th, 2012, my wife and I drove up to the Ann Arbor Automotive Hyundai dealership. We test drove a 2012 Sonata Limited 2.0T and began smiling again. We knew after that drive that we had to buy a Sonata. We weren't happy with this specific car's lack of the navigation package so we began negotiations with the dealership for a 2013 Sonata Limited.

 

On that note, there were very little negotiations. My wife and I were absolutely shocked when I told the salesperson what I was willing to pay for the car, and his manager agreed to the price. I won't discuss the details of that transaction, but we are confident that we received an extremely favorable deal on the 2013 Sonata Limited 2.0T with navigation. We were treated with the utmost of courtesy, we were never pressured, and everyone at the dealership that we encountered was extremely polite and professional. Had we purchased a Honda Accord with similar features, we in all likelihood may have spent approximately $4000 to $6000 more.

 

One more item concerning the dealer. Unlike other dealerships that paint their name and/or logo onto every car they sell, or worse yet- stamp the name of the dealership into the chrome trim, Ann Arbor Automotive did not assume that my wife and I wanted to turn our new vehicle into a free advertising billboard for their auto business. I was particularly impressed by that.

 

Let's move on to the car. This car is a miracle of engineering in every aspect of its design and construction. The power of the turbocharged 4 cylinder motor feels more like a V6 or even a small V8. A friend of mine who recently drove the car said it best, “You had better have both hands on the wheel when you put the pedal to the floor.”

 

You feel the engine's torque all the way up through the range of gears. It doesn't matter if it is first gear or sixth, your head is back on the seat as the car is punching holes through the air in front of it. Going into a curve, you have a sense that braking isn't necessary. The Sonata seems to handle curves like a NASCAR-inspired vehicle. Braking is extremely well done as is the car's ability to deal with less than smooth roads. Driving the car on a well-designed road and releasing the steering wheel results in the car tracking straight and true down the highway. How is it possible that a car with this much performance could truly get gas mileage in the mid 30s? We decided to find out if those mileage numbers were accurate.

 

On July 21st, we set off on a trip from Sylvania, Ohio to Youngstown, Ohio. We filled up the gas tank, reset the gas mileage computer and headed for the Turnpike. Incredibly, we averaged over 35 miles per gallon all the way to just west of Cleveland. Once we started getting into hilly terrain, the mileage dropped a tiny bit. Pulling into our destination, we were excited to see that we had averaged 34.2 miles per gallon for the duration of the 180+ mile trip! One other thing to note is the fact that the car achieved that mileage with a full tank of gas and a body in every possible seat.

 

Our trip to Youngstown included all 5 of our family members: a thirteen year old, an eleven year old, a four year old, my wife and myself. Everyone riding in this car for three hours had the same impression. The car has a ton of interior space and the comfort features are very well done. On that note, let's look at the features this car has.

 

All seats in the Sonata Limited, both front and rear, are heated, leather seats. The navigation package includes a touch screen navigation system, a 400 watt Infinity sound system, a rear back-up camera, and a panoramic moon roof. The moon roof opens inward toward the center from both the rear of the car and the front of the car exposing a glass roof above both the front and rear passenger seats.

 

The 7 speaker Infinity sound system is the best sound system that I have ever experienced in an automobile. It sounds fantastic. My only issue is that audio adjustments seem to be limited to Treble, Mid, and Bass. Capabilities for a full equalizer would compliment this system nicely.

 

iPod integration is standard and works very well although the touch screen navigation of the iPod could be better. The Bluetooth calling and voice recognition in the car does a good job but is limited to the driver being required to use the exact commands of the system. I would rather use a system designed like the iPhone's Siri. Siri has the ability to “figure out” what the user wants to accomplish. An example is the fact that I can't say, Call Contact or Call (insert contact's name). I'm required to say, Call Name and then I'm asked what name I would like to call. Not a big deal, but it would be more usable if you could vary the commands and get to the intended result.

 

The cars navigation system can be controlled via voice or the touch screen. Both do a really good job. We did notice one anomaly with the navigation. My parents live in Poland, Ohio which is a suburb of Youngstown. Their street address needed to be looked up with Youngstown as the city. Their street did not exist when looking it up under Poland.

 

The car also includes Hyundai's OnStar-inspired service called, BlueLink. BlueLink is a subscription service that provides you with a number of different services. The most notable that I have found to be useful are the voice activated text messaging, crash detection with emergency notification, an iPhone application that gives you the ability to remotely lock your car, start your car, turn the lights on in your car, and more. Starting my car from the iPhone is both cool and odd. I wish the iPhone app gave you the ability to store the cars password. The BlueLink app requires you to authenticate both your password and pin number every time you want to remotely start your car.

 

The voice to text message feature is very handy when you just want to send someone a quick message. There are a couple of drawbacks with the system, however. People can't reply to any messages that you send. The message they receive says that it comes from donotreply@hyundaibluelink.com. Lastly, there is no way to confirm your contact before BlueLink sends it. It asks you who you want to send the message to and that's it. The message is sent. I'm SURE that BlueLink or I will mess up at some point and send a message to the wrong person. It would be better if the system asked you to “confirm your message to contact X” prior to sending it.

 

As I mentioned previously at the beginning of this post, I always said that I would never own a Hyundai. Once again I was reminded that one should “never say never.” My wife and I both fell for this car from the moment we drove it and we look forward to driving it every chance that we get. Actually, we even look for reasons and excuses to take it out for a drive!

 

Our only concern at this point is longevity of use and reliability. Hyundai has the best warranty of any car company but it would have been comforting for us to have found a Hyundai owner that has over 200,000 miles on their car prior to our purchase. Only time will tell if the car can last as long as a Honda.

 

On a scale of 1 to 10, I would give the Hyundai Sonata Limited 2.0T a 9.75. Needless to say, this is the coolest, baddest, most practical AND most fun car I have ever seen. Anyone shopping for an Accord or another family sedan should definitely take one for a test drive. I have to warn you, however, test driving this car will probably end up with you putting one in your garage.

 

More detailed info on the Sonata 2.0T can be found here and here.