ShakesQuiz: Shakespeare quiz & complete works

ShakesQuiz is available in the App Store.

ShakesQuiz is available in the App Store.

I coded to promote the ShakesQuiz app.

I coded to promote the ShakesQuiz app. The site includes a media kit, blog and gives plenty of details about the app.

ShakesQuiz: Shakespeare quiz & complete works presents (1) a highly challenging quiz on all things Shakespearean – the Bard’s works, life, era and legacy – and (2) the complete texts of the plays, sonnets and other poems by the poet and playwright widely acclaimed as the greatest writer in the English language. And with each release I hope to make it more useful to students and Shakespeare readers and performers.


Geopedia uses the Wikipedia API to display Wikipedia entries around any location. It supports all major languages. All content is live requested from Wikipedia through the Wikipedia API. Permit it to know your current location or indicate a location of your own choosing and it will show locations nearby (or within a radius you specify) for which there are Wikipedia entries.


Minecraft: Education Edition to become available mid-2016

Here is the announcement from Minecraft’s maker, Mojang:

Arriving this summer, the new title aims to reach more educators around the world with a richer set of features and a thriving community.

At its core, Minecraft is an open world that promotes creativity, collaboration, and problem solving. It’s enjoyed by a worldwide community of over 100 million players who constantly inspire us with their creations.

Many of the skills required to enjoy Minecraft to its fullest are important to educators who might be searching for inventive ways to engage their students. By bringing Minecraft into the classroom, we are empowering educators and students to teach and learn through building and exploring within a fun, familiar environment.

We’ve already seen it transform classrooms and curriculum. Since 2011, MinecraftEDU from TeacherGaming LLC from Finland – a version of Minecraft built especially for the classroom – has reached thousands of classrooms in more than 40 countries around the world, all reporting wild success. We don’t want to stop there. We believe this is just the beginning.

Today, we’re excited to announce Microsoft is acquiring MinecraftEdu and investing in a new and expanded version of Minecraft for the classroom called Minecraft: Education Edition. This new title – available as a free trial this summer – will build on the learnings from MinecraftEdu while offering an expanded set of features. And in support of MinecraftEdu customers, they can continue to use MinecraftEdu and we will offer the first year of Minecraft: Education Edition for free.

In the spirit of the Minecraft community, we are dedicated to making sure Minecraft: Education Edition is shaped in the coming months by a growing community of educators online at We’re also excited to also share that these community pages will host a variety of resources like lesson plans and a new Minecraft Mentors page that allows educators experienced in Minecraft to connect with those interested in trying it for the first time.

“One of the reasons Minecraft fits so well in the classroom is because it’s a common, creative playground,” said Vu Bui, COO of Mojang. “We’ve seen that Minecraft transcends the differences in teaching and learning styles and education systems around the world. It’s an open space where people can come together and build a lesson around nearly anything.”

Since the introduction of Minecraft to the classroom, educators around the world have been using Minecraft to effectively teach students everything from STEM subjects to art and poetry. It’s this versatility that excites many educators about the potential.

“In education, we are constantly seeking pathways to explore learning beyond the confines of a textbook. Minecraft allows us that opportunity,” said Rafranz Davis, Executive Director of Professional Development and Learning, Lufkin ISD. “When we see our kids enjoying the process of learning in this way, it’s a game changer.”

For more information about Minecraft: Education Edition check out our FAQ at and sign up to be a part of our educator community.

On Apple HealthKit, Apple ResearchKit, the Kinsa smartphone thermometer, and natural family planning apps from Kindara and Ovuline

Apple announced its Health app and HealthKit, the associated application programming interface (API) for developers, in 2014. The Health app provides a dashboard on an iPhone, an Apple Watch, or a 5th generation or later iPod Touch (though not just yet on an iPad) of a user’s health and fitness data aggregated from HealthKit-enabled apps and wearable technology (for example, Fitbit with Wristband Manager, Jawbone UP, and Garmin VivoSmart).

Apple also announced its ResearchKit, an open-source software kit to facilitate development of medical apps, in 2015. ResearchKit is an endeavor to encourage sharing large amounts of data, hopefully without privacy breaches.

According to Apple:

Over 900 apps have already been developed using HealthKit, transforming how we track, manage, and interact with our health. With a user’s consent, ResearchKit can seamlessly tap into the pool of useful data generated by HealthKit — like daily step counts, calorie use, and heart rates — making it accessible to medical researchers.

The Kinsa Smart Thermometer is the first FDA-cleared, app-enabled thermometer and is gaining rave reviews. The accompanying Kinsa mobile app allows users to:

  • Create individual profiles for each member of a family;
  • Record and monitor fever, symptom, and illness history;
  • Make temperature-taking fun for kids through interactive screens;
  • Report the progression of illnesses to physicians;
  • Keep track of medication dosages and timing; and
  • Document any physical symptoms with photos.
The Kinsa Smart Thermometer

The Kinsa Smart Thermometer

Kindara offers the Wink app and Ovuline offers the Ovia Fertility app for tracking a woman’s fertility (Ovuline also makes the Ovia Pregnancy app). These are popular with adherents of Natural Family Planning (NFP) methods for avoiding or achieving pregnancy without drugs, devices or interventions that impair natural fertility. NFP methods embrace a fertility awareness approach to timing sexual intercourse to avoid or achieve pregnancy.

A peep from VoiceOver, a built-in accessibility feature for Apple devices

VoiceOver is a “natural-sounding” screen reader built into many Apple products that also provides Braille support.

Here is a tutorial for accessing and using VoiceOver on Apple computers.

And here is a guide for accessing VoiceOver on iPhones, iPads and the iPod Touch.

The Cat Tracker Project – another example of geolocation at work or play

A cat's path from the Cat Tracker Project.

A cat’s path from the Cat Tracker Project.

According to

Cats are mysterious, dangerous and far more unpredictable than one might expect from an animal that is, theoretically, domesticated. Some of the mysteries of cats relate to where they go and what they do; this is especially true of cats that go outdoors. We open our doors. They leave. Just where they go, we can’t be sure. Or rather we couldn’t be sure, until now. With your help, we’re investigating the movement of domesticated cats across the landscape. We want to know: Where do they go? What are they eating? What do they bring home, microbially speaking?

The Cat Tracker Project seeks participants to learn more about cat movement, diet, and health. The research has been approved by the NC State Institutional Review Board (#3515) and the Animal Care and Use Committee (NCSM 2014-01).

IoT – the Internet of Things

Increasingly the Internet is connecting to things. This McKinsey & Company article from way back in March 2010 is still illuminating. Here is an excerpt:

[T]he predictable pathways of information are changing: the physical world itself is becoming a type of information system. In what’s called the Internet of Things, sensors and actuators embedded in physical objects—from roadways to pacemakers—are linked through wired and wireless networks, often using the same Internet Protocol (IP) that connects the Internet. These networks churn out huge volumes of data that flow to computers for analysis. When objects can both sense the environment and communicate, they become tools for understanding complexity and responding to it swiftly. What’s revolutionary in all this is that these physical information systems are now beginning to be deployed, and some of them even work largely without human intervention.

Pill-shaped microcameras already traverse the human digestive tract and send back thousands of images to pinpoint sources of illness. Precision farming equipment with wireless links to data collected from remote satellites and ground sensors can take into account crop conditions and adjust the way each individual part of a field is farmed—for instance, by spreading extra fertilizer on areas that need more nutrients. Billboards in Japan peer back at passersby, assessing how they fit consumer profiles, and instantly change displayed messages based on those assessments.

That helps to explain Google’s purchase for $3.2 billion in January 2014 of Nest Labs, whose products include a learning thermostat as well as a smoke and carbon monoxide alarm.

Cisco offers this infographic:

Cisco infographic: The Internet of Things.

Cisco infographic: The Internet of Things.

Black-and-white-first design

Erik D. Kennedy offers 7 Rules for Creating Gorgeous UI (Part-1): a non-artsy primer in digital aesthetics. His second rule is to design first in black and white, which he likens to mobile-first design:

This is a reliable and easy way to keep apps looking “clean” and “simple”. Having too many colors in too many places is a really easy way to screw up clean/simple. B&WF forces you to focus on things like spacing, sizes, and layout first. And those are the primary concerns of a clean and simple design.

He provides a grayscale wireframe of Haraldur Thorleifsson as an example of such an approach:

Black-and-white wireframe by Haraldur Thorleifsson.

Black-and-white wireframe by Haraldur Thorleifsson.

Jakob Nielsen on web headlines

Jakob Nielsen of the Nielsen Norman Group is perhaps the guru of web usability. He’s impressed with the web headline writers at BBC News and identifies several essentials for effective web headlines which should be:

  • short (because people don’t read much online);
  • rich in information scent, clearly summarizing the target article;
  • front-loaded with the most important keywords (because users often scan only the beginning of list items);
  • understandable out of context (because headlines often appear without articles, as in search engine results); and
  • predictable, so users know whether they’ll like the full article before they click (because people don’t return to sites that promise more than they deliver).

Yes, that’s an old article (27 April 2009), but the Nielsen Norman Group recirculated it only a few weeks ago as an “Alertbox” message (a weekly email on user experience).