Category Archives: Programming

What’s in a name?

Cachalot Icon

Those that have followed this project over it’s short life may have recognized early on that “Marine Megafauna” or Megafauna of the Week” are names that don’t necessarily roll off the tongue with ease. They also don’t work well with the software – the iPad OS allows only a certain number of characters in the name of an app, and otherwise truncates them with a series of periods. Our app in development always showed up as Megaf…Week on my iPad. Huh?

We needed a name, badly. Something that really captured the main idea of the app – large, compelling sea creatures. I canvassed my friends and colleagues, we collected a number of names. We’ve finally settled on one for now – Cachalot. Cachalot is a french word often used for the sperm whale – the common cachalot; The etymology of the word itself is unclear. It may be derived from an archaic French word for ‘tooth’, or perhaps comes originally from the Portuguese word cachola, meaning ‘big head’. At right is how Amy Chapman-Braun (Art Director of the Nicholas School) translated this name into our application icon. Clean, modern and fun.
[blockquote align=”left”]Cachalot is a french word often used for the sperm whale – the common cachalot; The etymology of the word itself is unclear. It may be derived from an archaic French word for ‘tooth’, or perhaps comes originally from the Portuguese word cachola, meaning ‘big head’.[/blockquote]

We are also getting close to releasing the application on the iTunes store. The public side of the application is essentially complete, and the private course portion of the app isn’t far behind. We’ll be doing some beta-testing next week, and hopefully that will ferret out most of the nasty bugs and bring us to a nice stable final version.

We’ve also been developing the art that surrounds the species entries and course materials. The splash page and the credits page.  Drafts of several of these are included below. Thanks again to Amy for the splash pages, they are fantastic. I tackled the credits page. I think it is fun.

Finally, we’re starting to reach out to folks about the future of the application, and how we might provide the best content for each species. I’ve delivered a proposal to the Dean of the Nicholas School seeking more support and at present we are in discussions with several professional societies and research groups to help us provide the best information possible. I’m also hoping that we can work with the next computer science class in the fall of 2011 to take the application to the next level.

We’re getting close now, stay tuned.

[image title=”Splash 1″ size=”large” align=”center” icon=”zoom” lightbox=”true” autoHeight=”true”]http://sites.nicholas.duke.edu/digital/files/2011/03/ipad-splash-FINAL-D.jpg[/image]

[image title=”Credits Page” size=”large” align=”center” icon=”zoom” lightbox=”true” autoHeight=”true”]http://sites.nicholas.duke.edu/digital/files/2011/03/creditscachalot.jpg[/image]

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Public side of App is almost cooked!

Today I had a real treat. Adam Cue hooked me up with a screen-share tour of the app running in the development simulator on his computer, and then he set up a download that let me install the functional beta app on my iPad. Took 1 minute to download and install, started up like a dream.

It looks great, the system is intuitive and I think it will be a compelling application for people who are interested in learning about marine species, their ecology and their associated conservation issues.

James Wu also Skyped me to give me the lowdown on the admin/data input system. This too is nearly finished and simple enough for the most technologically challenged to make use of.

We’ve honed in on a few changes to make – like switching the public section from a “Megafauna of the Day” paradigm to a weekly installment – much easier to address 52 species a year than 365. Maybe we can work up to that!

I’ve been working on some splash screens for the app as well – something that everyone will see when they load it up. Some ideas are posted below. Comments are welcome – send them to david.johnston@duke.edu

[image title=”splash1″ size=”large” align=”center” icon=”zoom” lightbox=”true” autoHeight=”true”]http://sites.nicholas.duke.edu/digital/files/2011/03/ipadappsplash2.jpg[/image]

[image title=”splash3″ size=”large” align=”center” icon=”zoom” lightbox=”true” autoHeight=”true”]http://sites.nicholas.duke.edu/digital/files/2011/03/ipadappsplash3.jpg[/image]

[image title=”splash” size=”large” align=”center” icon=”zoom” lightbox=”true” autoHeight=”true”]http://sites.nicholas.duke.edu/digital/files/2011/03/ipadappsplash4.jpg[/image]

[image title=”splash” size=”large” align=”center” icon=”zoom” lightbox=”true” autoHeight=”true”]http://sites.nicholas.duke.edu/digital/files/2011/03/ipadappsplash5.jpg[/image]

Megafauna App Progress

Hello, Digital Sea Monsters enthusiasts! My name is Tony, and I’m one of the programmers working on the Marine Megafauna iPad app. I’m writing to this blog to give anyone who’s interested an insight into where the app currently stands and into the development process in general. Last week, my fellow team members (Adam, James, and Sophia) demoed an early prototype of the application for Dave and Nicole.

The app is meant to have a public “Megafauna of the Day” feature that anyone can access; this feature was the main focus of our prototype. Here are some screenshots of the Megafauna of the Day feature running on an actual iPad, these are not just mockups:

[image title=”Interface 1″ size=”medium” align=”left” icon=”zoom” lightbox=”true” autoHeight=”true”]http://sites.nicholas.duke.edu/digital/files/2011/02/mod1.png[/image] [image title=”Interface 2″ size=”medium” align=”right” icon=”zoom” lightbox=”true” autoHeight=”true”]http://sites.nicholas.duke.edu/digital/files/2011/02/mod2.png[/image]

The users can choose from the photos (and eventually videos and audio clips) in the media browser at the bottom left. Whichever thumbnail is tapped is loaded into the main image space just above the media browser. If the users can tear their eyes away from the pretty pictures, they can read all about the featured megafauna in the scrollable body of text on the right. In the second screenshot you can see the popover menu that appears when the user pressed the button at the top right. Megafauna from the past few days are accessible from this menu.

The other side of the app is the private, course-centered side. Protected by netID authentication, students enrolled in the course can browse and view the readings and lectures from the week.

Here are some screenshots of the Readings feature, also actually running on an iPad:

[image title=”Readings Interface 1″ size=”medium” align=”left” icon=”zoom” lightbox=”true” autoHeight=”true”]http://sites.nicholas.duke.edu/digital/files/2011/02/reading1.png[/image] [image title=”Readings Interface 2″ size=”medium” align=”right” icon=”zoom” lightbox=”true” autoHeight=”true”]http://sites.nicholas.duke.edu/digital/files/2011/02/reading2.png[/image]

The user can pick any of the PDF readings from the browser shown in the first screenshot. After selecting a particular reading, the user can type notes, highlight, or even scribble on the page. These annotations are saved for whenever the user loads the reading again.

None of the images, text, or PDFs shown above were pre-stored on the iPad. All of them were fetched over the network from a test database we set up!

Here are a few of the things we are currently working on:

  • setting up a database for all the content on a server Dave has provided for us
  • user interface improvements that Dave and Nicole both suggested
  • various performance and memory-usage optizimations
  • and of course, the lectures!

Here are some mockups of how we want the lectures to look. The lecture viewing features have not been implemented yet, these are simply concept images:

[image title=”Lesson Interface 1″ size=”medium” align=”right” icon=”zoom” lightbox=”true” autoHeight=”true”]http://sites.nicholas.duke.edu/digital/files/2011/02/lesson2.jpg[/image]

[image title=”Lesson Interface 2″ size=”medium” align=”left” icon=”zoom” lightbox=”true” autoHeight=”true”]http://sites.nicholas.duke.edu/digital/files/2011/02/lesson3.jpg[/image]

We should have an updated prototype with freshly implemented features to demo for Dave and Nicole in a week or two!

Cheers,

Tony

[image title=”Lesson Interface 3″ align=”center” icon=”zoom” lightbox=”true” size=”large” autoHeight=”true”]http://sites.nicholas.duke.edu/digital/files/2011/02/lesson4.jpg[/image]

Chronicle covers Digital Sea Monsters

[image title=”The Chronicle” size=”small” align=”right” icon=”link” link=”http://dukechronicle.com/article/professors-integrate-ipads-classroom-learning” autoHeight=”true”]http://sites.nicholas.duke.edu/digital/files/2011/02/Chronicleheader.png[/image]Last week the Chronicle published an article addressing the use of iPads in Duke classrooms. While we are not quite there yet, they did cover our project briefly, highlighting one reason why we are moving in this direction – namely the fact that the use of iOS devices in classrooms is on the rise, and represents a target audience ready to use their iDevice in Marine Megafauna.

Here is a link to the story:
http://dukechronicle.com/article/professors-integrate-ipads-classroom-learning

Success! We’ve got some programmers!

[image title=”From the pitch…” size=”medium” align=”right” icon=”zoom” lightbox=”true” autoHeight=”true”]http://sites.nicholas.duke.edu/digital/files/2011/01/CmpSciPitch.9.jpg[/image]This week I learned that the students in CompSci 196.3 have chosen to take up our Digital Seamonsters idea as their programming project for the semester. I’ve only met with two of the team so far, but they seem eager to get things going.

The group of students is:

  • Sophia Cui
  • Tony Thomas
  • Adam Cue
  • James Wu
  • Nancy Chen

Digital Sea Monsters iPad Pitch

On January 19th I pitched our Digital Sea Monsters project to some computer savy students taking CompSci 196.3

Their task for the semester is to develop an iOS application, and I’m hoping that they will choose our Marine Megafauna project as their development project. Below is a slideshow of the pitch. It works best if viewed in Safari, but most browsers should get the basic job done…