Apple’s M1 chip: Making desktop computing cool again

Apple M1 chip: Image courtesy of Apple

My intention was not for this website to become the Apple blog, but the famous fruit company seems to be dominating much of the news cycle this year.

This past summer, at the World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC), Apple announced that it would be transitioning from Intel to its in-house Apple Silicon over the next two years. Apple said the first Macs with in-house silicon would arrive by the end of 2020. Well, here we are, and we have a new MacBook Air, 13 inch MacBook Pro, and a Mac mini.

The form factors of these devices are identical, but the real magic is the new M1 chip inside. Is it as fast as Apple claims? Will it run our apps properly? What does the M1 chip mean for desktop computing generally? In this article, I will try and answer these questions.

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Conference presentation: ‘Toward Open Pragmatism’, OE Global 2020 Conference

Abstract

Although open licensing is a necessary component of open educational resources, the overall openness of a resource is determined by several factors beyond licensing. This paper examines the applicability of the “Open Enough” framework (McNally & Christiansen, 2019) for examining the openness of existing Open CourseWare (OCW). This previously published conceptual framework proposed eight factors that educators should consider when creating a new, or adopting an existing, open course. These factors include Copyright/Open Licensing Frameworks, Accessibility/Usability Formatting, Language, Support Costs, Assessment, Digital Distribution, File Format, and Cultural Considerations. In this study, the researchers aimed to answer the following three research questions. 1. Are these factors robust enough to analyze (or measure) the level of openness in existing OCW? 2. Are additional, or modified, factors necessary? 3. Are certain factors impractical for assessment? For this analysis, the researchers randomly selected five recent open courses from two prominent OCW databases – TU Delft and MIT OpenCourseWare. The researchers came to two broad conclusions following a thorough analysis of the OCW sample. Overall, the framework was an effective tool for analyzing open courseware, though cultural considerations and usability proved to be too subjective and were removed from the framework. The study revealed the level of openness among the sampled courses to be highly inconsistent. Some factors, assessment, for example, were consistently open across the sample while language, material costs and file format often quite closed. The consistent lack of editable materials was particularly surprising and led the researchers to draw some conclusions about what openness should mean for Open CourseWare. The researchers used the data to revise their existing conceptual framework into a more actionable guideline for open educators.

Conference page

PDF slides and presentation transcript

Conference presentation: ‘How open is it?’, OpenEd 2020 Conference

Abstract

While open licensing is a foundational aspect of open educational resources, there are several “factors” that educators must use to achieve openness in their course design. This study builds on the previous work of the authors’ conceptual framework, titled “Open Enough?,” for evaluating the level of openness within Open CourseWare (OCW) (McNally & Christiansen, 2019). In the previous work, the authors proposed eight factors that educators should consider when undertaking OCW development. The authors also argued that these eight factors could be used to assess the openness of existing OCW. The goal of this pilot study was to answer the following question:

1) Is the “Open Enough” framework and its eight factors robust enough to analyze (or measure) the level of openness in an existing OCW?

2) Are additional, or modified, factors necessary?

3) Are the factors practical measures for the assessment of existing OCW? Are there particular factors which are too subjective or too broad?

For this analysis, the authors randomly selected five recent open courses from two prominent OCW databases – TU Delft and MIT OpenCourseWare – for a total of ten OCW. Each course was assessed on each of the eight factors which included Copyright/Open Licensing Frameworks, Accessibility/Usability Formatting, Language, Support Costs, Assessment, Digital Distribution, File Format, and Cultural Considerations. The level of openness of each factor was classified as Closed, Mixed, or Most Open – recognizing that these buckets of analysis are broad and could further be subdivided.

In general, the “Open Enough” framework was fairly effective for determining openness in existing OCW with some caveats. The Cultural Considerations and Usability factors were ultimately too subjective to measure and were subsequently removed from the revised version of the framework. The analysis of these OCW showed that openness among the sampled courses was inconsistent. Some of the factors were consistently open throughout the sampled courses while other factors, specifically Language, Materials Costs, and File Format, were quite closed. Overall, there was a lack of editable materials that led the authors to reconsider what openness should be in the context of OCW. The results of the analysis were used to revise the framework. This pilot study served as a proof of concept for using their framework as a tool for analysis.

EdTech Examined #13: Burnout

Episode 13 'Burnout' cover art

In this episode, Erik and Kris discuss the Descript video editing software, how universities continue to adopt new technologies, and the mental health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. They also recommend their top apps for managing mental health and provide more organization strategies for managing the demands of online learning.

CONTACT:
Website: edtechexamined.com
Email: hey@edtechexamined.com
Twitter: @EdTechExamined

EdTech Examined #12: Teaching in Virtual Reality

AltSpaceVR selfie of Dr. Tony Chaston, MRU Psychology,

In this episode, Erik and Kris interview Dr. Anthony (Tony) Chaston, an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at Mount Royal University, in Calgary, Canada. Tony teaches Sensation & Perception and Research Methods at MRU. His research interests include visual perception and cognition and the use of virtual reality for reducing anxiety. Most recently, Tony has been developing a virtual reality course using the AltSpaceVR platform. Erik and Kris talk with Tony about his teaching, research, and the future of higher-education.

CONTACT:
Website: edtechexamined.com
Email: hey@edtechexamined.com
Twitter: @EdTechExamined

EdTech Examined #11: Burner Phone

EdTech Examined podcast logo
#11: Burner Phone cover art

In this episode Kris and Erik discuss digital whiteboard software, burner phones and burner numbers, The September 15th Apple event (new iPads and Watches!), remote podcast recording, how to setup digital breakout rooms, broadcasting software, the cost of remote education, and Winter semester uncertainty.

CONTACT:
Website: edtechexamined.com
Email: hey@edtechexamined.com
Twitter: @EdTechExamined

Nvidia buying ARM opens a huge can of worms

Image credit: Fr3d.org/Flickr

The stunning news that Nvidia was moving to acquire ARM Holdings for $40 billion has led many in the tech industry to consider the possible implications of this merger.

The first thing that comes to my mind is the relationship between ARM and the many licensees that use technologies developed by ARM. Currently, Nvidia is the leader in graphics cards (GPUs). Nvidia also has a somewhat poor relationship with Apple, is that a potential conflict of interest? Does Nvidia have the power to sever all the licensing relationships with ARM’s various partners? ARM chips are used everywhere, so any company that relies on ARM licenses would have justification to be concerned.

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Maximum fun: Do graphics matter as much in the next console generation?

Image from Pixabay

The launch of a new console generation is so very exciting. It’s one of the few things that genuinely makes me feel like I’m a kid again. Even if you’re not a gamer, new console generations are important milestones in the computer industry because they often bring cutting-edge and innovative technology to a larger number of people. This upcoming generation is no different from all the amazing new CPUs and GPUs provided by AMD, solid-state storage (SSD), faster memory, and (hopefully) faster load times. Graphics certainly get better with each generation, but does the increased graphical fidelity and realism matter as much in this generation? I hypothesize that it doesn’t. I believe we’re reaching a plateau of “maximum fun” (or fun saturation). What I mean is that more detailed graphics and higher resolution textures won’t necessarily lead to better gameplay at least for the time being. Rather, game fluidity as a result of higher frames-per-second (FPS) and good game mechanics are better indicators of a game’s replay-ability over time.

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RISCy business: The future of x86

CC image courtesy of Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Following the expected reveal that Apple was going to transition the Mac from Intel to Apple Silicon, I started thinking about what this would mean for the x86 architecture more broadly. This architecture has been at the heart of desktop computing for forty years, and I think it’s unlikely that Apple’s implementation of its own chips won’t have wider implications on the computer industry. Based on my understanding of ARM – the architecture that Apple Silicon is loosely based on – I think it’s likely that x86′, and particularly and Intel’s, days as the dominant desktop chip standard are numbered.

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OS cross-pollination and what it means for the Mac and iPad

macOS Big Sur and iPadOS 14 side-by-side

If you’ve been a Mac user for a long time, you know that the community can be fickle. On one hand, there’s a consistent complaint that the Mac platform doesn’t get nearly enough attention from Apple compared to iOS/iPadOS. On the other hand, you know that this community is resistant to change. Every time there any significant changes to macOS’ look and feel, no matter how small, there’s seems to be immediate skepticism. The design changes coming to the Mac signify something bigger. It’s being introduced as part of a broader vision that will be brought forth when all Macs transition to Apple Silicon.

But change can be good. The changes coming to macOS Big Sur are divisive because the OS is clearly adopting a more iPad-like look and feel. It’s going to be different, and I would argue it’s a much more drastic design overhaul than the introduction of Yosemite in 2014. Many folks have focused on the iPad influences on the Mac, but I’d argue there’s more of a cross-pollination between these platforms. It’s clear to me that the platforms aren’t merging (at least not yet). But both are borrowing features from each other. This is an ecosystem play. These design changes will make it considerably easier to switch between the Mac and iPad, making owners of both happy campers. I’m not brave enough to install beta software on my primary machines, but from what I can tell macOS Big Sur and iPadOS 14 tells us a lot about the future of these platforms.

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