mobile computing

Stay Puft Marshmallow Man

We interrupt our regular programming for a science experiment.

What happens when you subject a poor innocent marshmallow to vacuum pressure? Will it expand? Or will it shrink? Curious minds want to know.

Before you watch the video, decide whether you think a marshmallow will expand or shrink when subjected to vacuum pressure. Now, watch the video.

Science Experiment Videos in Windows Media Format

*disclaimer – no marshmallow chicks or bunnies were harmed during this experiment. while it would be appropriate for me to caption these videos and convert them from .wmv files to .mov files for more universal accessibility, please remember this is all for a 5th grade science experiment and i really do have a life offline!

Materials Required:

  • Marshmallows
  • Black & Decker Food Saver (to create vacuum)
  • Digital camera (to record findings)

I’ve been recruited to edit the video for this science experiment. The goal is for the video to be played on a handheld computer (Dell Axim X5). Now it is time for me to learn how to edit and encode video for the pocket pc platform. My starting point is the .mov file that my digital camera produced. After a little research, I determine that my best solution is to convert the .mov to a .avi for editing. Then after editing, I’ll need to encode a .wmv specifically for the pocket pc platform.

Tools used:

On my first try thru the Windows Media Encoder, I left all the settings at default. When I moved the video to the PPC (an old Dell Axim X5 running PPC 2002), the video played fine, but no audio. Then I discovered that setting the audio to “Voice quality audio” in the Windows Media Encoder did the trick. Mission accomplished.

Imagine my surprise, when I pointed my PDA browser (Pocket Internet Explorer aka PIE, Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 4.01; Windows CE; PPC; 240×320)) to and my browser crashed! Ouch. There seems to be a bug in my PIE!

I couldn’t resist lifting up the hood to see if I could identify the culprit. Surprise, surprise, it is what I call the “the siamese twin float listing whammy”. Poor little PIE, can not handle two elements in a row that are both styled with a float and width followed immediately by an ordered or unordered list. Here is a simple example so you too can experience the pain.

<style type=”text/css”>
#thing1 {
float: right;
width: 10px;
#thing2 {
width: 10px;
<div id=thing1>
<img src=”../images/thing1.jpg” alt=”Thing 1″ />
<div id=thing2>

I also posted a sample page that will crash pie.

Solutions? Well, other than avoiding the float/width, float/width, list combo, if you will insert anything in your code (another tag, text, a non-breaking space) any where between the floated elements and/or the list you will solve this problem.

So don’t get caught by the vicious “siamese twin float listing whammy” there are a lot of us out here browsing with PIE!

I have high hopes that the browser wars on the desktop will soon be over (yes, I’m an optimist). The power of web standards is becoming so clear it is impossible to resist. Whew, now we can all focus on quality design based on web standards and be more productive. Right?

Castle drawbridge creaks open to reveal thousands of different mobile devices each running a different mobile browser.
Wait, before you faint, let’s practice this breath prayer (breathing in: “Web”, breathing out: “Standards”). Repeat breath prayer at least five times.

Don’t fear those mobile devices, and for heaven’s sake, don’t pretend like they aren’t there! It is a brave new world, let’s get started on our mobile adventures.

To keep from getting too dizzy, I focus my first rounds of testing on these devices and their pre-installed browsers:

Windows Mobile (Pocket PC)

I recommend purchasing at least one palm, one ppc and one blackberry for your team and assigning one person to each device. Their mission? To become an expert on their mobile device. They should become addicted to their device, carrying it with them every where they go and using the hell out of it! Why do I think this is important? Because, honestly, until you’ve got someone inside your team truly using mobile devices to consume the web, I don’t think you can design well for this experience.

Just last week, I had the honor of visiting the Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA) to discuss the future of technology in museums. This museum is boldly discovering ways to engage their visitors while opening the vault of curator knowledge for public access. From the XRoom to the handheld museum guide with wireless location sensing, I’m blown away by what they’ve accomplished in such a short period of time.

In preparing for this visit, I’ve been thinking long and hard about my own visions for the future of technology in museums. In my work with museums, I always start with these foundational principles:

  1. The original work of art is primary
  2. The physical work of art is sacred
  3. Nothing is better than being in the presence of the actual work of art

And the next step is to give each of you the key to discover the treasures of ideas, interpretations and history that are hidden within the brilliant minds of you, the artists, art historians, curators and museum staff. Treasures that add layers of meaning and open more doors to connecting with these precious works of art. But I can’t stop there. No, my mission is even larger than making the art and the museums knowledge available to everyone. My mission is to enrich the museum experience by tapping into the collective wisdom of everyone who crosses into the gallery space, both physically and virtually.

As I stood in the lobby of IMA, I witnessed part of my vision. A father and his young son were at the front desk. The son had obviously been crying. He didn’t want to go to an art museum. He just wanted to go outside and play. The museum staff warmly greeted them and prescribed a trip to the X Room. Imagine that you are the child, being hauled upstairs against your will.

As you enter the X Room, your eyes are drawn to a large table in the center of a dark room.

Small images of art are projected onto the table surface.

You notice an oval object resting on the table with an “?” on it. Reaching for the “?”, you move it along the table, like a wireless mouse, until the “?” is sitting on top of an image of art that interests you. Suddenly the images on the wall next to you change in response to where you just placed the “?” on the table.

Your tears are long forgotten. You are fascinated and reach for another “wireless mouse” and look carefully at the art displayed on the table. You show your father how you can select a work of art and everyone in the room turns to see the information about this work displayed on another wall of the X Room.

Pictures and words can’t begin to describe the X Room. The table is visually engaging. You are immersed in the collection. You are in control and choose what is displayed on the wall. The experience is socially and intellectually stimulating. And my mind doesn’t stop here. Applying what I’ve learned about Web 2.0 and Falk & Dierking’s “Learning From Museums”, I’m developing goals for what I call Art 2.0. For me, these Art 2.0 goals are the key to making sure that technology truly enhances the museum experience as opposed to detracting from it. When I put technology in your hands, I want it to support your ability to discover, connect and share your museum experience digitally.


  • Does the information technology (IT) ignite your personal interest in the art?
  • Does IT trigger deeper exploration of the art.
  • In the gallery and with the IT, is yourbehavior non-linear and emergent (not predetermined).
  • Are you unaware of fatigue / unaware of passage of time.


  • Do you make meaningful personal connection with the art?– Aha! moments
  • Is the experience emotionally, intellectually, socially and/or spiritually satisfying to you?


  • Do you want to share personal meaning and discoveries with others?
  • Did you add a valuable layer of interpretive information to the system that others find interesting and/or inspiring?
  • Does the IT system become richer the more people use it?

Care to join me on this adventure? Or do you think technology doesn’t belong in the gallery? Can a system that encourages everyone to share their experiences have value? Do you care what others see, feel or think when they look at a work of art? Would you rather just know what the artist was thinking? Or, would you really just rather go outside and play?

My love affair with the Siemens SX66 is now on day 18. (Read about our first moments together). While it still thrills me to have this sleek and powerful device in my possession, because it is just on loan to me, I can be objective about it. The key question, will I buy a Siemens SX66 for myself when (and if) I have to give it back? Considering that the price tag is currently hovering at $499.99, I’m certainly looking at the device with a critical eye. (No honey, hiding my credit card won’t help one bit.)

So, it is time to do a plus/delta on the SX66.

Glenda's PDA, Mobile Phone and the Siemens SX66.

Assumption: The Siemens SX66 would function as both my pda and mobile phone.

Plus – what are the advantages of buying the Siemens SX66?

  • One source for all my contact information. I have hundreds of contacts on my Dell Axim X50v (pda), and I also keep my closest friends/co-workers in my Sony Ericsson T616 (mobile phone). I really HATE having two data sources. The Siemens SX66 would forever solve this data duplication.
  • Fewer battery operated devices in my wallet. I prefer to carry an itty bitty little purse. It is a challenge to fit my phone, PDA, iPOD and SanDisk MobileMate in my Brighton mini-purse. Being able to combine my phone & pda will give me some breathing room and reduce the weight by 3 ounces. Sony Ericsson T616 = 3 oz. Dell Axim x50v = 6 oz. Siemens SX66 = 7 oz.
  • Thumboard (sigh) – who knew I would be so enamored with a teeny tiny keyboard. All I can say is who ever designed this thumboard really cared about usability. I love how the keyboard slides out for use, but tucks away when not needed. The keypad is easy to maneuver and the raised dots on each key let me know where I am. The backlighting makes it super simple to use in low light.

    Why is a Thumboard so important to me? Well, until accurate voice recognition software is available, I find a keyboard to be my fastest method of input. I know I could carry a mobile keyboard (like the yummy Targus Universal Wireless Keyboard, but even that is a bit too bulky for my taste. The thumboard is the prefect compromise for my mobile input needs. As Goldilocks would say, “Ahhhh, this one is just right.”

  • Skype – The ability to put the Siemens SX66 into wifi mode and make a Skype call for free! I was thrilled to discover that I could install Skype on this device. But I was skeptical about the quality. Could this little half-breed really have enough processor speed, wifi strength, battery life and sound quality to support a Skype call??? And the answer is….YES! In fact, this phone saved me the other day when my laptop Skype was misbehavin’. I whipped out the SX66, established an 802.11 connection, logged onto Skype and talked for over an hour to a friend in the UK. Didn’t use a single second of mobile minutes. Isn’t that just dreamy?

Delta – what features do I still think need improvement.

  • Fragile Sync/Power Port – I’ve had tons of professional and personal experience working with mobile devices. From putting on an event with 200 iPAQs, to coordinating a fleet of 30 Dell Axim X30s for a handheld museum guide. Under my desk, you’ll find a happy little gathering of iPAQs, Dells and Toshibas of all different varieties. (In fact, I think they are breeding down there). This exposure has taught me a very important lesson. Sync/Power Ports that require locking sync cables are fragile! By locking sync cable, I mean, you have to press two buttons on the sides of the cable before removing it.

    With every day use, I’ve consistently found that locking cables wear out the sync port to the point that you can no longer establish the connection! Egads! How will I easily keep the device charged? My personal solution, I’ll buy a second sync cradle to keep on my kitchen counter for the nightly battery feeding. The sync cradle does not have a locking connection, and is therefore much gentler on the sync/power port.

  • Battery Life – I’m a bit worried about the battery life of this device. I’m prone to exploring the edges of mobile computing. My wifi and rich media habits chew battery like crazy. Running low on power would be a triple-whammy for me…depriving me of my mobile phone, wifi connection and my onboard data. Guess I could carry a spare battery or think about getting a backpack that generates electricity.

So, back to the key question. Will I buy a Siemens SX66 for myself? That remains to be seen. I certainly don’t need it. Do I think it would be the most perfect Christmas present? Well…I would certainly feel like a pampered princess if Santa slipped this delightful device in to my stocking.

Is it just me? Or do you feel like you are living inside a movie as you wander through your day with your MP3’s overflowing in your ears? Does the music color your vision?

I find that my life looks different depending on what track I choose. The music sets the tone for the scene I’m living. And the ideas that flow are amplified by the spirit of the song.

I feel a dialogue occuring between what I see, what I hear and what I imagine…as I dance through my life. Now, if I can just remember not to sing at the top of my lungs!

I’ve finally found some podcasts that I want to listen to. The recent Web Essential 05 Conference down in Sydney, Australia has been so kind as to create podcasts for the sessions. Yum! While I would have preferred to actually be in Australia, these podcasts did let me virtually attend.

I had to listen to Derek Featherstone‘s Designing for Accessibility – Beyond the Basics. It was interesting listening to a podcast on accessibility, which in essence was like attending his session blind. I’m still drooling over his accessible crossword puzzle and I haven’t even seen it yet. Ooooo D, you are truly a css samurai.

Next, I listened to Molly’s keynote. I still have goosebumps! Talk about inspirational. Molly’s vision for Web 2.0 is profound. While I was listening to her speak, I saw the image of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Need in my head

Quote from Envision on Maslow

Self-actualization is the summit of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. It is the quest of reaching one’s full potential as a person. Unlike lower level needs, this need is never fully satisfied; as one grows psychologically there are always new opportunities to continue to grow.

Self-actualized people tend to have needs such as:

  • Truth
  • Justice
  • Wisdom
  • Meaning

Self-actualized persons have frequent occurrences of peak experiences, which are energized moments of profound happiness and harmony. According to Maslow, only a small percentage of the population reaches the level of self-actualization.

What if, the purpose of the internet is to make self-actualization a possibility for everyone? I mean, why not? Why can’t everyone reach their potential?

Am I technofickle? Do I fall in love too easily with new toys? Or am I just all thumbs? Ask my boss or my husband…and you will get a resounding “YES”! But really, what do they know?

I’ve had in my possession a Seimans SX66 for 6 hours now. And I swear I’ve only been playing with it for the past 4 hours! What took me so long? Had to charge the damn battery and I was in a meeting. (For the record, the SX66 doesn’t belong to me. It is a loaner for testing/review purposes. Yes, yes…I told them they would have to pry it out of my cold dead hands.)

Initial impressions: I’ve been resistent to merging my mobile phone with my PDA because I don’t want anyone telling me what type of PDA I can buy. But…this sweet little Seimans SX66 almost has all the features I crave.

  • 400 Mhz XScale Processor
  • 128 MB RAM
  • Windows Mobile 2004
  • SDIO memory card slot
  • VGA Resolution
  • GPRS
  • WiFi
  • Bluetooth
  • Infrared
  • USB
  • Slide-out QWERTY keyboard
  • Reasonable form factor

Geez, what more could a girl possibly want? Well…the SX66 that I have in my hot little hands doesn’t have a camera. There is a model that does have a camera, so I can quickly solve that problem.

But the big question is, after the first 4 hours with the SX66, am I in love? Am I smitten? Can I see straight? And what do I think of my Dell Axim x50v and ancient Sony Ericsson T616?

Well…the SX66 has been super simple to start using. No bigger or heavier than the Axim I always have on me. I do like the QWERTY keyboard. But I’m not sure about the location of the keyboard. It slides out of the bottom, forcing me into portrait mode. I’m surprised to realize that over the past 6 months I’ve become a landscape mode girl. So I want my keyboard to come out the side of my device, not the bottom.

Now, I definately need to work on my thumb typing skills. Tonight was my first experience with a thumb keyboard (virgin!). And while typing with my thumbs came almost naturally (except when I tried to type numbers the first time). I will admit, that my thumbs are out of shape! Anyone have a good thumb excercise regime to get me up to speed?

Sweetest moment was when the sync software properly recognized my Axim, then the SX66, then the Axim again. I’ve had my laptop get mighty confused as I’ve flipped between multiple mobile devices. Forcing me to reinstall sync software just to get the communications going again. It was a pleasant surprise to have the sync work effortlessly.

So…is my Dell Axim x50v destined to become another casuality after less than a year? Not quite yet. Unless of course, my brilliant boss wants to buy it for me. Otherwise, I’ll just have to wait for my birthday!

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