The Good, the Bad and the Ugly?

The Good

It’s been one of those weeks where I have initially despaired of being able to find the open source software that ticks all the boxes of what I am trying to do.  I’ve been looking for free, easy to use video editing software that allows you to overlay either an image or another video.  Naively I thought this would be easy to find.  Turns out there is a lot of great free photo editing software out there (GIMP anyone?), but video editing software is thin on the ground. Finally I found the answer in VideoSpin, which is free open source video editing software from Pinnacle.  Pinnacle are part of the Avid family and I’ve seen their programs used in professional video editing suites so felt that VideoSpin could be a little gem of a program.  It is incredibly good as it makes editing video a lot easier but also means that with the videos from LFF10 we can overlay new images to block out any that infringe copyright or, if necessary, block out entire frames of video. 

The Bad

While editing these videos has become an enjoyable challenge (thanks to the discovery of VideoSpin, and honestly I’m not working on commission), there is the matter that an hour’s worth of video means a large file size.  Not necessary a problem if you are planning on keeping these files to yourself but when trying to place these files in an OER repository it can become a not-so-enjoyable challenge and one that we are still working on.  While using a friendly file format (MP4) and a smaller screen size (320 x 288) helps reduce the amount of megabytes in the video files we are still looking at 40-60MB worth of footage. But the finished video files are well worth a watch and will help us extend the impact of LFF10 so file size and storage remain high on my (and the other learning technologists) to-do list.

The Ugly?

I was going to use this heading to make unnecessary jokes at the Zookeeper’s Skoda, but since I’ve driven this beast myself I do have a new found respect for it. So I have decided to pick up on a news item that has been around for a while: broadband connection speeds.  The BBC has a couple of current news stories about this:

With the amount of photos, audio and video that are uploaded, downloaded and shared on the Internet, the need or want for everything to be faster to keep up to date with all the new developments in browser-based technologies, e.g. Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, could become a real problem.  The first news story highlights some innovative ways of getting broadband, but it looks like maintaining and improving these speeds and connecting the entire UK could be tricky.  Perhaps this is an ‘ugly’ future?

Emma Davies
Learning Technologist

Now is the time to remove the highway tolls

While passing a radio a week ago, I heard that Swindon – a town in the UK – will be offering free wireless broadband for all its 186,000 residents. Several days later, my colleague David Hawkridge mentioned that, while not free, Finland  (and Spain) will make affordably priced broadband of 1 Mpbs available to every citizen by 2011.

For a number of years now, Singapore, where an excellent telecommunications market exists largely as a result of government strategy, has forged ahead in terms of broadband access. Intelligent Nation 2015 will ensure that, by 2010, virtually every citizen will have high-speed broadband access.

Here in the UK, and following on from the Digital Britain White Paper published in June 2009, the Digital Economy Bill promises a universally available broadband service in the UK by 2012 achieved through a public fund.

Whether it’s the free model of Swindon or the market-manipulated Singaporean example, one fact is inescapable: for a state, institution or individual to realise its full potential, online access is crucial.

For educators in the UK, where many of our work-based, part-time, distance learning students do not have access to the stable on-campus Janet network, this is even more important.

I very much hope the new bill achieves what it claims it will (or rather that its clear desire to concentrate on copyright infringers allows it the time to do so).  

Because this is where  true innovation is needed. One can only imagine how society would benefit if online access were as free, easy and second nature as breathing. For me, the benefits to a state of having universal broadband access far outweigh any cost of subsidising this access.

In a gold rush, those who sell the pick axes and pans make the fortunes, and only rarely do those who use the tools to dig out the gold. As a taxpayer, I’d much rather ensure the tools – primarily the broadband access – were freely available so that everyone could get at the ‘gold’ of the Internet.

Can the free market model do this? I doubt it very much – it couldn’t save the bankers. That job fell to the state and the taxpayers.

Simon Kear

Learning Technologist

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