Springpad: Re-imagining the personal organizer for the social and mobile world.

Springpad is a rather new online NoteBook service that has some features from Evernote and some from other ways to organize your ideas, plans and whatever you stumble upon during A Day in the Web. And also in Everyday Life – “done better” as they say it.
I found it yesterday and of course, signed up without hesitation. Then I downloaded the apps for Android and iOs, the “Spring It!” clipper for FireFox and the Chrome extension. Now I’m supplied with enough tools to browse the web and capture everything that is worth capturing. And that is a lot, so I’ve been using other online scrapbook-services for years, like Evernote and Diigo. Diigo syncs all my BookMarks to Delicious. Evernote can import these BookMarks, but unfortunately that is a rather complicated and time consuming thing to do. So I always postpone this to my once-a-year “Digital Gardening”-Day. Springpad had no trouble at all synchronizing with Delicious and imported my >3,000 BookMarks within a few seconds.

Springpad is free, at least for now. I’m not sure if it ever can or will replace Evernote, but it is always good to have some competition and keep the guys at Evernote sharp and humble.
The downside is: with Springpad, Evernote and Diigo, I now have three online NoteBooks (not to mention more scientific reference managers and academic social network-services like Zotero, Mendeley and Cite U Like, that I use for my work as a musicologist), all with their own pros and cons. So I hope there will be some synchronizing tools available shortly.


More iNotebooks

In my last post I wrote about MyScript Notes Mobile, an app for the iPad. That was before I discovered the Moleskine app,  which is a virtual rendering of the original Moleskine Notebooks that I always used before I switched to LiveScribe.

The look and feel is classic Moleskine. Tap the familiar cover to enter your journal and a powerful range of tools and templates—everything you need for unprecedented productivity, creativity and passion.
The artist toolset comes with paintbrush, Moleskine pencil, Moleskine pen and Moleskine black eraser, to use on your choice of three Moleskine paper styles (plain, ruled, squared), or page templates from some of the most popular Moleskine journals, including the Moleskine Weekly Planner, Moleskine Passion Recipe Journal and Moleskine Storyboard Notebook. Run out of pages? Add more. The possibilities really are limitless.

Another interesting note-taking app is Penultimate.

It integrates seamlessly with Evernote.
And there is Paper 53. Beautiful, but while the app is free, you have to buy your tools from the in-appstore, which will cost you $8,-. Moleskine is free and has the same possibilities – only less “Zen”. So, I tried and removed the Paper app.
Now the only problem is the stylus. I still use my Targus Stylus. It is good, but not good enough, the nib is too thick. So I’m thinking about the “Hand”-stylus.

But maybe my next project will be to buy an iPen.

Connotea is closing

Connotea, nature.com’s social bookmarking site, is closing on March 12th, 2013.
Bad News? I don’t think so, because there are a lot of bookmarking tools, and the world of the internet is changing rapidly.
So: in the beginning you simply bookmarked inside your browser. AFAIK you can still do that with most browsers, but who cares. Then Social Bookmarking came into existence: Delicious was the thing. My account still works, but it is only kept up-to-date automatically via Diigo, and from there I sync (once in a year or so) with Evernote. I’ve got seven followers at Delicious, but if Delicious decides to shut down, I probably even will not notice it, unless, of course they’ll send me a notification.
For my more scientific bookmarking and reading I use CiteULike and Mendeley. And of course Connotea, because I always try everything there is on the Web. Mendeley has a desktop tool, an app for my tablet and talks to CUL. CUL syncs with Delicious; the problem is that Connotea, “developed for clinicians and scientists”, chose to reduce noise by not syncing with Delicious (and other bookmarking sites). There is a way to synchronize with CUL, but there were simply too many mouse-clicks needed to do that. The internet is fast and Information Overload – is there is such a thing like that – is part of the game.

I just exported my Connotea bookmarks to Diigo: there were only five, four of them already in my CUL and Mendeley library, the one that wasn’t, was a paid article (> $30!) that I won’t ever read.

So, I regret to say, I won’t miss it.

Why are online articles so expensive?

George Dvorsky wrote an article for io9.com: did life on other planets originate from earth? He describes the study by Edward Belbruno, Amaya Moro-Martin, Renu Malhotra, Dmitry Savransky: “Chaotic exchange of solid material between planetary systems: implications for lithopanspermia”

I’m not sure about the soundness of the conclusion (the possibility of lithopanspermia, a kind of reverse panspermia), but, since Dvorsky has a good reputation, why not think a little bit more about it and read the original article?

Dvorsky himself points to the entire study at Astrobiology, and that online magazine is published by Mary Ann Liebert Ind. Publishers, with the ironic tagline “Open Access Options and Benefits”. Unfortunately, the article was protected: I had to register with Liebert Pub. No problem – open access doesn’t necessarily mean that anyone can read the stuff without letting know who he is. But when I was signed up and signed in, I got this message:

your user account does not include a subscription for the requested content.

That is: Open Access actually meaning Closed Access, so I had to move on to the “Options”:

PAY PER VIEW Astrobiology – 12(8):754-774; Chaotic Exchange of Solid Material Between Planetary Systems: Implications for Lithopanspermia (access for 24 hours for US $51.00)

Whaaaat? $51.00 !!! The word “Benefits” in that tagline must be a kind of a joke! I know the truth of TANSTAAFL (if Heinlein hadn’t already written about it, I certainly would), but this is almost an insult and it’s simply begging for piracy!

So I googled to find the torrent, which was not necessary, because the Arxiv page with the complete article came up. Free, as it should be.

I haven’t read the article yet, but I fear that Liebert Publishers is putting it’s customers to a test: Someone who is stupid enough to pay $51.00 for a 24 hour access to a 20 pages digital article can also be considered stupid enough to believe any nonsense that is printed in a magazine with scientific pretensions.


MindMeister on Google Drive

MindMeister has been integrated with Google-Drive. This service, FKA Google Docs, means you can also share your favourite MindMaps.

Also, they promise there are even more ways to create your MindMaps, but I wasn’t able to try it because I’ll have to wait until Drive is availabe to me – that is how it always works when Google offers a new sevice. :-(.

Drive is:

  • A cloud storage and collaboration service from Google,
  • that allows you to access your stored files online from anywhere with any device, and
  • supports all web browsers  – they say, but the app only works with Google Chrome! – and both Android or iOS devices
  • gives 5Gb of free storage with an option to purchase additional
  • Integrates with top applications! – like MindMeister.

Google Drive also allows people to create, edit and share files with one another.

Because of the news, I had some reason to get back to MindMeister and I have to admit: it is good. It definitely looks nicer than FreeMind of FreePlane, but MindMap apps like X-Mind or Mind 42 also do a reasonably good job. And of course there is my own favourite program: The Brain, which has it all: a desktop version, a portable version and a webversion, that allows you to share your brain.
Finally, let me share this nice infographic on MindMapping by LunchBread, from visual.ly:

Filk Music

I’m currently e-reading Larry Niven’s (ed al) “Fallen Angels“. I like the story, but the book is about fandom, which is a new world to me.  So, I did some googling, which gave me 33,700,000 results, of course a lot from Wikipedia, all – at least the first three 🙂 – very interesting. Eventually I also learned about Filk, also new to me:

a musical culture, genre, and community tied to science fiction/fantasy fandom and a type of fan labor.

As I see it, these are lyrics, counterfeited to popular or at least well known songs, inspired by scifi or fantasy.

Interesting websites are

Some samples:

Somewhere Over the Barstool

Words: Gail Pittaway
Music: “Somewhere over the Rainbow”

Somewhere inside this starship
Must be booze.
No one could chance to run out,
Not on a five-year cruise.

Somewhere outside this rec room
We’ll explore.
Maybe inside Kirk’s stateroom
We’ll find a little more.


The Day that SF Died
© 1988, Arlan Andrews, Sr.
(roughly based on melody of “American Pie” by Don Mclean, ca.1971)

So, farewell, Mr. Robert Heinlein
Thank you for your stories and your soul and your mind
We wish you well while traveling the galaxy’s girth
Far away from the green hills of Earth
Far from the green hills of Earth.

It is a mer a boire; unfortunately the performances I heard – sung by Filk-Singers – are not that great.

Web surfing can be very dangerous: while exploring the topic at hand, you always end up finding something entirely different. And so the SWIL Filkbooks collection also gave me a link to Physics Songs.

Songs about physics can help students to remember critical concepts and formulas, but perhaps more importantly they communicate the lesson that physics can be fun. They certainly help to establish an informal classroom atmosphere, in which even shy students are willing to ask questions.
The songs may also activate a different part of the students’ brains. In 1983, Howard Gardner advanced the theory that each person has many different kinds of intelligence (Frames of Mind : The Theory of Multiple Intelligences, Basic Books). His original list had seven categories: verbal/linguistic, mathematical/logical, visual/spatial, bodily/kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, and intrapersonal. Songs about physics link into the musical aspect of intelligence, helping many students to build a richer “knowledge tree” relating to the concept being taught, and thus promoting better retention.

True – although personally I have some doubts with Gardners Multiple Intelligence-theory. But it is a fact that music can help you remembering things, for example the famous “Do Re, Mi” song from “The Sound of Music”, which helps you remembering the names of the notes, but, since the notes are also on the correct pitch in the musical scale, you can learn how to find them in the tonal space. The concept is, in fact, stolen from a medieval song, “Ut quéant laxis” that, by the way, coined the solfege syllables.

The songs by Tom Lehrer (Nomen est Omen – “Lehrer” is of course German for “teacher”) are also well known (he wrote more than just “The Elements”).
Other interesting projects, mentioned on this weblog before, are the Pi-Songs and the Symphony of Science ProjectA Glorious Dawn“.
The Particle Physics Song, lyrics by Danuta Orlowska, performed by the CERN Choir in the CERN Control Center based on the tune: “The Bold Hippopotamus” by Flanders and Swann is here as an example (and, given the fact that the singers are not professionals, quite well sung) of the still expanding database (complete with search engine) of physics songs.

Not sure if this post is about Filk Music, Physics Songs or creativity for educational purposes, I will include in this post the link to ThinkGeek’s Haiku contest. Obviously geeks are creative!
Let’s quote something scifi:

Learn from the Jedi.
Discipline, control, respect.
Dangerous muppet.
— Patrick in Anaheim, California