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Keeping Track of Media


Brian Pankuch
Chemistry Department, Union County College
Cranford, NJ 07016

Most of us have a huge array of media: movies, animations, pictures,PowerPoint (PP) slides, taped demonstrations, etc., you have created, alsofrom textbook publishers and others. This creates the possibility of makingour lectures more interesting and richer.  With this huge amount ofinformation comes the daunting task of sifting through it, pickingappropriate material, then having it available to use when needed.

We have just switched textbooks to Hill, Petrucci, and they provide all theabove and two different sets of PP slides. I also wanted to include my ownPP slides, animations, movies, etc.   I use a Mac and it comes with a greatprogram iPhoto to keep track of any photos, easy to organize and search,very useful for the few photos I use. A number of programs for workingwith movies are available. I have in increasing ease of use: Final Cut Pro,Final Cut Express, iMovie, and QuickTime (QuickTime is available forWindows). It turns out a number of movies available are too long for myuse so I tried the above systems to edit the movies, and found thatQuickTime (easiest to use) was quite adequate to select and save theportions of the movie I wanted. It takes about the same amount of time toedit as to watch, typically a few minutes.  The result is a shorter moviebetter focused on the point I want to make, and takes less storage on mydrive. None of the programs above are particularly suited to keeping trackof the different movies.  You need to setup your own system.

In order to use the movies effectively I usually take a source such as the CDcontaining the movies and just go through one at a time and pull out theones I find interesting.  On a Mac just open an OS 10 window when youselect a movie and click on the start movie button and the movie (as aminiature) plays right there. If it looks useful I change the name tosomething more descriptive for me and move it to a Chemistry moviefolder.  If it is germane to Chap 7 of the text I'm using I would call it '7-1Atomic Spectra' for instance.  This has the advantage of sorting the moviesso it is easy to find movies for Chap 7 from many different sources, andtells me what it is.

Working on PowerPoint slides for Chap 7 it would be easiest to have theoperating system window containing the movies open, preview the movies there then drag and drop the movies into PP.  You can have a 'Insert moviefrom file' command in the toolbar or find the same command in the menubar (neither of these methods lets you preview the movie).  Apple has aprogram Keynote that is similar to PP.  It allows you to drag and drop oruse its media browser that would show thumbnails of each movie, picture,or sound. If I click on thumbnails, it plays, and it will allow drag and drop. The same browser will show pictures, and sound.

At the moment since all three sets of PP lectures are in PowerPoint, I'mworking completely in PowerPoint. I've found it easiest to look at both setsof the PP that came with the Hill text in Slide Sorter View at 100% zoom. Anything that looks too crowded will be difficult for students to useeffectively. I use two monitors and in this view I can see enough of eachslide to get an idea of the subject matter and how it will look.  I determinewhich PP set of slides I will use the most then transfer similar slides fromthe other. Switching to Slide View on the combined result allows me tocompare similar slides.  Sometimes the choice is clear other times Icombine and delete from both.  Many slides are deleted at this point. Thenmy own slides are added to mix and again I usually delete more since Iprefer my own slides.

Next I check the movies and animations available for the Hill Text edit asdescribed above and insert the movies into the PP lectures, then insert myown movies from my own collection.  Finally I select a Slide DesignMaster of my own and change all the PP slides to have the same design.

It's interesting seeing how others present material and I found it worth theeffort to compare three sets of PP slides and select the 'best.' One interestingarea I learned about is using Callouts – similar to the way dialog is added infunnies in the newspaper.  It is a handy way to point to specific parts of apicture.

I do intend to convert some lectures to Keynote and see if it is more stablethan PP, which has a habit of changing the animations I've selected andlosing links to movies.

Backing up:

Most of us have considerable time and effort locked up in the material onour computer systems. After all that work of setting up your programs withthe preferences you want, PP lectures with all the media etc., you'd like tokeep your work and the computer operating system (OS) safe.  A bootablebackup clone with everything, operating system, applications, all yourpersonal files and perhaps especially all your preferences for each programis needed.  This will work well assuming you don't update the operatingsystem and applications, and are going to do a smart update (just updateschanges to your files) often.

Since most of us are updating our operating systems the chance of making achange then having it cause problems after the backup clone has beenupdated is real.  If a serious problem occurs and you have to do an erase andinstall even though your personal files are safe, having to reinstall all yourprograms (with their updates) can be very time consuming and since yourpreferences may contain corruption replacing these is arduous. 

A possible solution would be to have rotating backup clones (clone1 andclone2) and before you do major OS or multiple updates get the currentbackup clone1 up to date with all your personal files, etc., do the operatingsystems updates on this clone1.    Switch to clone1 as your operating systemand test it for a while.

If the updated clone1 is stable, then update the main system, smart update itfrom clone1 to pick up any changes you've made in your work, and switchback to the main system and continue the usual backup procedure you have.If clone1 is not working well, just switch to the main system, which isuntouched, but doesn't contain the files you have changed. Depending onhow serious a problem you have these files you have changed on clone1may or may not be recoverable.

A more elegant solution (this program is for Macs) is SuperDuper!(, which allows you to make bootable backupclones as above, and a Safety Clone.  A Safety Clone allows you to make acopy of everything but your user files and non-Apple programs theseremain on the main system (a Safety Clone may be on the same hard drivebut has to be on a separate volume-the drive must be partitioned).  The ideais to boot from and work from the Safety Clone that is on a separate volume(again this can be an external drive or a partition on the main system).  

All your personal files remain on the main system, are updated there, andare linked to the Safety Clone.   You do all your work running on the SafetyClone and run all updates on the Safety Clone and if disaster strikes simplyreboot to the main system, which is on a separate volume, and everything isintact. None of your changes to your work are lost, since the Safety Clonewas using the files on the main system, and you can continue workingwithout the problem update!  Later a new Safety Clone can regeneratedfrom the main system and you reboot to it and continue (after sending anote to whoever created the update that crashed your system which willprobably be more polite since your system is still intact)!  

The reason for all the backups is that our OS and applications are no longeras simple as they once were- they are spread all over the hard drive and tomake a backup bootable it has to have its own volume, you can't simplymake up a backup folder and throw all the files in it-it won't boot so youneed to think ahead and figure out what you need -what has to be bootable,and setup partitions or separate drives for each.   Keeping your OS and allyour applications safe in a bootable form is one aspect, getting your mostrecent work and your files backed up is another.

In my case I use a portable Mac for all my work and don't have room on thehard drive for a partition for a Safety Clone and have some additionalconcerns.  My own complete system is about 37 GB. I decided to use 2external FireWire drives for backups.  I partitioned one FireWire drive intotwo volumes of about 60 GB apiece. One has a full bootable Safety Cloneof everything under my current OS 10.4.2, except my user files and nonApple applications.  It took under an hour for Superduper! to create it(about 7 GB) and about 10 min for a smart update.  The second partitioncontains a very stable OS 10.3 that is also a full bootable clone this doesn'tget updated.  A second FireWire hard drive is partitioned into two volumesone Backup1 and Backup2 each a bootable clone, that is 37 GB and took under two hours to create. These two partitions are used for rotating smartbackups of my user files (takes only a couple of minutes). 

I recently decided to do a major combined OS 10 update as well as a lot ofprogram updates so I booted from the Safety Clone did the updates andproceeded to use the Safety Clone for 5 days.  Only one minor problemshowed up, so I booted from my main system and did the updates on it.   Allthe files I had worked on over the past five days were already there sincethe Safety Clone had used the same files.

For big current projects such as a movie or PP I keep an identical folder ona separate FireWire to backup these files –often.

If you are a Mac user here is a detailed review of Superduper!

I'd also suggest reading the Appendix on page 43 of the Superduper! User'sGuide that discusses partitions before you even consider backing up.  Youreally need to think through what you need and setup partitions andvolumes before you start. Superduper! can make many types of copies,clones and Safety Clones.

For Mac user's:  You are probably aware that OS 10 is a Unix systemwhich requires constant maintenance.  Apple automated this to occur atsomething like 3 AM.  It doesn't happen if your system is not on.  Aconvenient way to automate this process when your Mac is on is to useMacaroni ( handles regular maintenance forMac OS X, including the Mac OS X repair privileges process as well asUnix-style maintenance.  Additionally it can remove localized files, mostlyinfo in different languages.  It freed up almost 2 GB of space on my harddrive!

Combining media on a DVD and learning:

Most of us have used various media and programs to manipulate it, andthere is always a learning curve.  The ability to use powerful programstogether, such as Apple's suite iPhoto, iMovie, iDVD, and iTunes andMicrosoft Office, is enhanced if you have experience in all these areas.  Toincrease my expertise I recently worked with a book  (The Macintosh iLife'05 by Jim Heid) and the included DVD that allowed me to watch an expertgo through each step of the many possible to enhance a picture, andcombine video clips, sound and transitions with text.  It was quite useful tobe able to stop the DVD in one window and try a process with my own datain another.  Being able to check the previous steps by going back on theDVD was like having a book with thousands of figures.  It was reallyhelpful exploring techniques of interest.  I'm not sure how to apply thistechnique to my students learning, but it seems much more effective thanthe usual material on the CD's included with text books.


10/01/05 to 10/04/05