Tag Archives: technology

iPhone for the Wanderlusty

Leaving on a trip and wondering if you should take your iPhone? Here’s a few things that I’ve figured out over the years if you want the most out of your trusty phone without paying huge bills.

1) Suspend your service. You can call ahead of time and tell them an exact date to suspend your service. They’ll ask why and you’ll just say that you’ll be out of the country and not using your phone. You MUST do this in order to make absolutely sure that you won’t get destroyed by data charges. Yes, you can keep your phone on airplane mode, but some of these tricks make it easy to slip up.

2) Wifi is your friend. When you get to a cafe or a hotel with wifi, let your phone download all of your messages, upload any photos you want to take, etc. Skype on iPhone is genius and when I have wifi I use it to call home and text people. But most importantly:

3) Use location services. The nice thing about iPhones (and maybe other phones, I wouldn’t know) is that the location services still work even if you suspend your service.  Your compass works too. So you are able to pinpoint where you are on the globe and use it to navigate in google maps. But wait, how can I do that if I’m not connected to google maps?

4) PROTIP: when you get to a place with wifi (or you can even do it ahead of time), center your google maps over the place you are going to be, then use the top and front buttons to snap a screenshot. This will allow you to use the navigational services with a street map and google maps won’t try to reload. You can even zoom in and out. Sadly, you can’t use it to search. You can always use the little “crosshairs” button in the corner and it will track with you.

5) Check to see if Lonely Planet has published an iphone guide in the city you are going to visit. The Istanbul one was nice because I didn’t have a regular guidebook, but wanted to explore some of the outlying areas. These have ready-made maps of all of the places, and will locate you on them even without internet service.

6) Use your screenshot ability a lot. When you get to a place that has wifi, check out all the places you want to visit and snap photos of the screens. This has saved me numerous times when I need an address or I am having trouble communicating and can just show a cab driver what I mean. Take screenshots of any important websites–iPhone’s safari app has a tendency to try to reload webpages at the absolute worse times.

7) Use Foursquare while you are abroad if you can. You’d be amazed at how widespread it is, and the tips that people leave in various places are great.

8) Download a yoga program. While I am fully inculcated in the P90x cult and have the series on my laptop, having a yoga program can be really nice if you want something a bit more low-key.

9) Use it to take photos. My DSLR can be a real drag to tote around the city and I don’t always want to take the trouble to get it out and stick it in peoples’ faces. iPhones are a lot more casual and often can get pretty decent results. Moreso if you want to run it through the many programs I’ve talked about before. I also find that I’m a lot more willing to take silly shots of food and other things I want to remember.

10) Download a couple of decent games. Dear lord I’ve been on planes, trains, buses until I thought I would die…I’ve finished all my reading and have no desire to watch Avatar in Turkish again and I just want the trip to be over. I prefer card games for getting through the truly braindead wee hours.

Any other suggestions? I thought about getting a data plan with my iPhone while I was in Turkey, but decided to muddle through without it and it has been good enough.

(some) iPhone Apps for Archaeologists Part II

Back in 2008 I was playing around with my iPhone at the Presidio and since then the number and range of applications has multiplied exponentially. I haven’t done a summary since then (and the purchase of my iPhone 4), and while I haven’t even begun to explore the vast range of possibilities, here are a few that I’ve noticed that seem somewhat useful.

I have been using Hipstamatic, Plastic Bullet, and Best Camera in various combinations for my walking-around, snappy photos where I either don’t have my DSLR handy or I don’t feel like the composition warrants a 10M RAW file. While I get a bit of abuse for overusing my iPhone camera, I found myself taking photos again after a long hiatus and I like the casual feel of these photos. I like playing with my iPhone camera apps so much that I’m showing a few photos that I’ve taken with them at the upcoming UC Berkeley TAG.

My iPhone costs a bundle to use overseas, so I’ve disabled my data plan and txt messages and I haven’t taken it off airplane mode since early December. (It’s been sooo nice, but that’s another topic entirely.) I still use it to pick up wireless and use Skype to call back home when I can. Not exactly archaeological, but absolutely essential–Moxie Marlinspike, anarchist sailor & hacker speaks truly, “the curse of traveling – where you end up knowing and loving people in many different places and are always missing someone or something somewhere.” (If you haven’t watched Hold Fast yet, do it ASAP! But don’t blame me for any ensuing wanderlust.)

I just downloaded Theodolite Free, which has mixed reviews but looks interesting. I can spot check it against the EDM, so that should be interesting–if I decide to get a sim card in the iPhone that will work in Qatar. It’s great for checking your pesky azimuth and bearing while taking photographs.

Finally, the application(s) that inspired this post: Qibla direction applications. There’s a structure on site that we think might be the town mosque, and it appears to be out of alignment with the rest of the structures, and it is the western-most building–closest to Mecca. Obviously we’re in the process of working up the plans, but Dan thought of spot-checking after seeing the built-in compass for the iPhone. Again, I’ll probably need to activate data to use the application, but I find the idea pretty interesting. While it’s pretty reductionist to attribute the Muslim world’s long-standing, intense interest in navigation and time-keeping to keeping up with prayer time & direction, it is interesting to see the modern iteration of the gorgeous astrolabes hanging in the Islamic Art Museum in Doha in an iPhone application. These applications are expensive and the negative commentary is fascinating–if you have a bug in your software, then you are directly impacting the worship of your consumers. The comment section in the eQibla app that I linked to has questions in English, Arabic, Turkish, and French, some folks asking how to turn off push notifications, change the prayer time tuning, and re-calibrate the compass. While it may or may not help with figure out our mosque, it might be worth .99 just for the glimpse into another religion/temporal way of life.

Anyone have other suggestions?

The Real Technology of Indiana Jones

By Deeveepix on Flickr

By Deeveepix on Flickr

It’s here!  I’m getting ready to go to Austin, TX to speak on a panel at South by Southwest, an annual music conference that has grown to include film and interactive media.  When I lived in Austin I would go check out hundreds of bands that were playing all over town, but this will be my first time to attend the interactive conference.  This is the first panel dealing with digital archaeology to appear at the conference, and I’m excited to be a part of it.  If you happen to be going to the conference, the panel is on Monday, March 16th, at 11:30 in Room B.
Title: The Real Technology of Indiana Jones

Organizer:
Adam Rabinowitz, University of Texas at Austin
Panelists:
Stuart Eve (University College London), Bernard Frischer (Rome Reborn), Colleen Morgan (University of California at Berkeley), Adam Rabinowitz, moderator (University of Texas)
Description:
Archaeologists no longer rely on whips and fedoras; they now use a range of sophisticated digital tools to collect information in the field and study it in the lab. Too often, though, this wealth of information meets the same fate as Indy’s discoveries, locked away in digital ‘warehouses’ where no one can see it. The archaeologists on this panel present different projects that use web platforms and open-source approaches to bring digital archaeology out of the warehouse and into the public eye. Learn how archaeologists are using interactive media to open their data and processes to the public; discuss the creation of an online archaeological community in Second Life; and explore ancient cities across space and time using publicly-available online tools.

//sxsw.com)

DIY and Digital Archaeology: What are you doing to Participate?

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From the teachings of Big Daddy Soul:

“Think about the kind of revolution you want to live and work in.  What do you need to know to start that revolution? Demand that your teachers teach you that.”

Roll up your sleeves.  With archaeology employment declining and the world economy burning down around us it is more important than ever to do everything we can to bring archaeology to the public.  Our organization policy makers in the Society for American Archaeology in the States and more broadly in the World Archaeological Congress work hard and do what they can to raise awareness of the preservation of archaeological sites and the promotion of archaeological education, but they are not enough.

So my question is one inspired by the Young Lions Conspiracy: What are you doing to Participate?  The Young Lions Conspiracy, based in Austin, TX, was formed around an attitude toward life and soul music.  Primarily driven by Tim Kerr, one of the most fantastic musicians and artists that I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching writhe on the floor in a tangle of guitar cables and beer cans, the Young Lions was one manifestation of a broader culture of participation and DIY in Austin in the 1990s.  This attitude has stayed with me through the process of undergraduate and graduate school.  My statement of purpose upon entering Berkeley included a variation of bell hooks’ feminist manifest: Archaeology is for everybody.

This seemed even more possible with the growing ease and accessibility of technology and downright necessary with the specter of ubiquitous computing and embedded landscapes looming.  While there are a few interesting projects and “proof of concepts” emerging in conference presentations and collected volumes, many archaeologists seem content to let others visualize and present their work, citing a lack of time or knowledge of the technology involved.  Those of us who are conversant with this technology–which at a basic level is no more difficult or time consuming than creating a power point presentation–need to stretch further and faster than before.  Even some of us who are technologically capable do not share, and sharing should be a reflexive, nearly automatic action for archaeologists.  I was recently inspired by Eric Paulos’ recent Manifesto of Open Disruption and Participation that calls for the creation of “an entirely new form of citizen volunteerism, community involvement and participation” to “effect real political change.”

It is worth learning new forms of communication to preserve the past.  It is important that we as archaeologists do not let others co-opt our unique vision and understanding of the world around us.  We must interfere in the public’s understanding in the past.  Change it.  Surprise, enlighten, destroy when necessary and rebuild a better, stronger, more curious and more passionate interest in what we do.  This is my charge to myself and to other archaeologists and to anyone who wants to join us.

What are you doing to Participate?

(The title is also an upcoming talk I’m giving as part of a seminar at Moesgård Museum in Denmark)

Geode, Flickup, and Ubi-Archaeology

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At the beginning of last summer I managed to get a working geospatial/flickr/archaeology hack for embedding archaeological information in the landscape with the iphone.  I posted a short how-to on the Remixing El Presidio blog, here.  Since then, I’ve kept an eye on geolocative technology, but it’s mostly taken a back seat to my work in archaeological narrative and visual representation if only because that’s what I’m writing about for my dissertation at this point.  With the release of the iPhone G3 with built-in GPS and iPhone applications being developed, geolocation has once again surfaced in the form of Flickup, an application that automatically uploads photos that you take with your phone to Flickr, with geotag intact.

There are a few snags with the program–with older iPhones, you have to reload google maps so that it will have the proper geotagging information before you take any photos.  The photo above was taken at the Berkeley post office, but was auto-located in the “French Quarter” in San Francisco.  I don’t know if this is fixed with the G3 phones, but if someone has one to loan me, I will test it thoroughly, I promise.

This is a step toward (cheap) cameras that will record a timestamp and spatial data, making it easier for people who come along after the excavation has closed to locate archaeological information in place.  Another development that I’m keeping track of is Geode, the Firefox plugin that allows websites to provide information tailored to the user’s location.  In theory, archaeologists could develop a website in the same vein as Yelp, which provides recommendations and reviews of local businesses, but instead would allow a user to view local archaeological/historical images and information.  Ideally this website would be publically funded and would accept submissions from projects and people from around the world.  That reminds me to work on my HASTAC application, boo.