Docear on macOS: Navigating the Apple Java Nightmare

So this blog post will be brief, as I suppress my disdain for Apple’s attitude towards Java, now that they no longer need it to survive due to their App Store ecosystem.

This blog post documents how I was able to get the Docear Mindmapping software working on OSX El Capitan (10.11).

Sadly, many Java applications which should ‘run anywhere’ simply don’t anymore on the Mac.  Apple abandoned their own internal version of the JRE and bundling with the OS, and deferred said support to the author of Java, now Oracle.  Oracle, too have contributed to the nightmare in providing little assistance in making the transition seamless.

After installing Docear on my mac, I attempted to start it with the icon in the Applications folder in the usual way only to find it bounce in the dock once, and disappear.  How rude I thought.  So I resorted to the command line (gotta love UNIX-like desktops).  When I attempted to start it there, I was presented with the ugly error message:

$ /Applications/
JavaVM: Failed to load JVM: /Library/Java/JavaVirtualMachines/jdk1.7.0_60.jdk/Contents/Home/bundle/Libraries/libserver.dylib
JavaVM: Failed to load JVM: /Library/Java/JavaVirtualMachines/jdk1.7.0_60.jdk/Contents/Home/bundle/Libraries/libserver.dylib
JavaVM FATAL: Failed to load the jvm library.
[JavaAppLauncher Error] JNI_CreateJavaVM() failed, error: -1

Just lovely.  I actually thought I was running Java JRE 1.8 that I downloaded from Oracle.  Seems there are other versions lurking on my system.

I’ll spare you all the drudgery of diagnosing this issue and coming up with a solution.  I will tip my hat to Oliver Dowling and his blog post which eventually lead me to the solution below.  One thing I did learn is that creating a symbolic link for libserver.dylib did not work for me.  I had to instead create a hard link.  I suspect the JRE stub FreeplanJavaApplicationStubJavaVM binary was checking for the existence of a ‘normal’ file rather than ‘a’ file.

Anyway, here are the goods to make Docear work on OSX10.11 (and hopefully other versions).  Be sure to substitute the Java version numbers in the file paths with your version of Java installed.

$ cd /Library/Java/JavaVirtualMachines/jdk1.7.0_60.jdk/Contents/Home
$ sudo ln -s jre/lib bundle
$ cd bundle
$ sudo mkdir Libraries
$ sudo ln /Library/Java/JavaVirtualMachines/jdk1.7.0_60.jdk/Contents/Home/jre/lib/server/libjvm.dylib libserver.dylib

Hopefully after executing these commands, you will be able to use Docear.  Good luck!

Meeting in the Middle: How to Manage Change in Universities

This blog post is rather small, but is quite significant, to me at least.

I’ve been sent the following paper.

Leadership is a critical element in change management in universities and can be viewed alongside management as distinct but complementary elements in the change process (Ramsden, 1998). Leadership, in Ramsden’s view, is about movement and change and has a long and rich history. It refers to individuals or small groups, is largely independent of positions, and relies on the skills of individuals, not formal power relationships.

I always considered management and leadership as synomymous.  However, this idea from Ramsden has really shifted my thinking.  I never really considered myself as a leader, certainly in the context of my role at my institution.  But in combination with my team colleagues, that is what we have become.  So how does one lead from a position of no authority?

On the other hand, management is about ‘doing things right’ and is undertaken by people in formal positions responsible for planning, organizing, staffing, and budgeting. It is a relatively recent concept generated within the contemporary bureaucracy.

‘Doing things right’ just makes me grin. I’d opt for ‘doing things well’ which recognises that there is more than one way to approach things, and there really is no silver bullet in environments of complexity, such as higher education.

Nevertheless, this distinction between leadership and management is quite fascinating.  Rick et. al. continue:

In a similar vein, Kotter (1990) distinguishes between leaders who set direction, align people and groups, and motivate and inspire to create change, and managers who plan and budget, organize and staff, control, and solve problems in order to create order. To many staff, universities have sacrificed leadership in adopting a managerial approach to teaching and learning. In the top-down approach to change management, the leaders are senior management, using their management positions to drive change through organizational policies and restructures.

This is my experience and accepted practice – only leadership can come from someone with a position of authority.  But apparently, this isn’t true.

In the bottom-up approach, leadership comes from individual staff who are personally inspired to make changes and to inspire others to follow their lead.

On reflection, this is something that my colleagues and I have done.  Not intentionally, at least in the beginning, but our working and collaborating with academics at the coalface has generated somewhat of a following.

In the middle-out approach that we have observed at Murdoch University, middle managers became leaders and, through a combination of personal inspiration and policy based on emergent practice, have changed the university environment sufficiently to force both high level policy change and change in practice among teaching staff. Leadership in the middle-out approach is exhibited through problem solving and facilitation – that is, getting the job done and simplifying tasks required of those at the chalkface.

This is quite interesting as it does differ somewhat from my experience.  Certainly, there has been leadership from middle management.  In fact, much of the institutionally impactful work I have been involved in was only possible through the leadership of middle management.  That arose through their insights into what we were doing, and the value it was offering.  They supported us by championing our work at higher levels and attempting to create a facilitative environment for us to scale the work we were doing.  This is where the bottom-up approach often fails – without middle management, it is very difficult to make meaningful contributions beyond small coalface groups.  This is by the very nature of the entrenched SET mindsets of higher education institutions.

The key point in terms of my experience is that the middle management take the lead from the coal-face.  Without the bottom-up initiation, I’m not sure the middle management are any the wiser – they traditionally are still too far removed.  Effective middle management are able to see meaningful contributions made bottom up, and look for opportunities to scale.  Of course, this buts up against the Reusability Paradox – the more you attempt to broaden reach, the less effective it will become.  In this way too, bottom up initiatives can lead, and scale to the levels that make sense.



McLuhan’s Tetrad

McLuhan’s Tetrad comprises 4 laws of media that can be used to analyse the effects of technological change on society, rather than the causes.

Timothy Kraft describes the tetrad as:

The technology must enhance some capability of the person. The medium is an extension of the person.

The result is a retrieval of some earlier service or capability that was lost and is now brought back into play in a new form.

What is pushed aside and made obsolescent.

If the new media is taken to extreme what will result that reverses the original characteristics of the media when it was first introduced.

While the first three of the tetrad seem quite obvious to me, the fourth, “reverse” has troubled me somewhat.  McLuhan suggests that a medium “overheats”, or reverses into an opposing form, when taken to its extreme.

Reading articles of how people have interpreted and applied reversal to other medium has caused some confusion, as I think many who have written about the Reverse law of the tetrad may have misunderstood its meaning.  Or perhaps it is just different interpretations of what McLuhan defines as the reversal.  Or more likely, maybe I have it all wrong. 🙂 After reading through some of the Canadian Library Archive notes about McLuhan’s work, and listening to a radio interview with Nina Sutton in 1975, it became more clear to me.  McLuhan says that when a medium is pushed to extremes, it reverses or flips into an alternate form.  In an excerpt of an interview with Nina Sutton hosted on the Library and Archives Canada webiste, McLuhan discusses the revolution of the steam printing press to the telegraph press.  When the telegraph press emerged, the way that people wrote for newspapers changed immediately and flipped.  The type of writing that was required for the telegraph was inverted so that all the very important information was transmitted first sentence, and then all the other information followed in order or most importance.  This was due to the risk of the transmission being interrupted, so that the critical information had the lowest risk of being lost.

The misunderstanding of the Reverse is derived from the word “extreme”.  I wonder whether the flipping or reversing is not a result of extremes of adoption as seems to be alluded in examples online such as here or even here where the more it is used, a flipping effect occurs. I take from McLuhan’s examples, the demonstration that it is extreme changes to the medium, rather than the application thereof that is the catalyst for the reversal.  I don’t know whether this is significant or not.  The flips that McLuhan speaks of are in response to extreme changes in the medium, that then have extreme impact on their use.  So the flipping of the steam press was a result of introducing the telegraph press, rather than changes in how they used the original steam press or how much the stream press was used.

A different take on an analogy for McLuhan’s press example for flipping or reverse, is with the mobile phone as described by Library and Archives Canada.  Mobile phones changed things a lot and brought to prominence aural communication, over written anywhere anytime.  However, the mobile phone taken to extremes saw the advent of SMS texting, which became very popular and evolved as a result of the high cost of mobile telephony.  SMS Text Messaging quickly became much more frequent than mobile phone calls.  So the mobile phone taken to the extreme (at the time) has flipped the prominence of aural communication to short written messages, perhaps akin to the telegraph.  Of course mobile phones have evolved considerably more since text messaging, and McLuhan in his radio interview with Nina highlighted the fact that there has been many “flips” in the printing press leading up to the 1975 interview.  So extremes seem to be able to persistently take on new heights again and again, flipping as they evolve.

Looking at internet technologies is considerably harder than the examples of printing presses and mobile phones, because the rate of change is significantly faster, and because of the modern convergences of technologies.  I also wonder whether many of these technologies have not yet reached the extremes necessary to cause a reversal.  Dan Pontefract’s article highlights the following reversals for Learning 2.0 as a medium:

  • Everyone is an expert
  • Content & opinion overload
  • 90-9-1 hypothesis
  • Time mismanagement
  • Learning groupthink
  • Loss of certified company staff

I suggest that each of these items is part of the extends or enhances category.  These are aspects of learning 2.0 that are enhanced, intensified, made possible, or accelerated as a result of the learning 2.0 medium’s introduction.  They are just some of the negative outcomes that sit along-side the positive ones, and likely emerged around the same time.  In other words as learning 2.0 extended positive things like formal classroom/eLearning, Social Networking/Web 2.0, Traditional Corporate University, and so on, it also extended the everyone is an expert paradigm, content & opinion overload and so on.

So what would I consider the reversals for learning 2.0?  Well I guess it depends on context.  My context in higher education and curriculum development appears different to Dan’s article which uses terms such as training which makes me think of VET type education rather than education via the academy.  This assumption may be incorrect of course.  Nevertheless, from a university context, the first thing that comes to mind in terms of pushing learning 2.0 to the extreme is the explosion of the MOOC concept.  Within higher education, MOOCs have flipped the learning 2.0 medium by breaking the mould of the traditional university course as being closed and elitist, to open and accessible.  It is the MOOC that has pushed learning 2.0 to extremes that has caused this flip, rather than the amount of people engaged in learning 2.0 in higher education.

The idea of the reverse law sings to the swings and round-a-bouts we see in technological circles.  McLuhan’s tetrad is a fascinating construct for analysing the influences of technology on society.


McLuhan says the medium is the message

McLuhan is probably most popularly known for his theory succinctly posited “The medium is the message”.  Federman offers a very clear explanation of this concept in his article “What is the meaning of the medium is the message?”  Federman explains that McLuhan considers the medium in quite broad terms, more so than perhaps first impressions give of this famous statement.  In particular, McLuhan considers anything that is an extension of ourselves as a medium.  So medium is more broad than human communication, and can encompass any technology that extends our physical and intellectual essences.  Federman puts it well when he states: “… since some sort of change emerges from everything we conceive or create, all of our inventions, innovations, ideas and ideals are McLuhan media.”

There are examples of “the medium is the message” everywhere in modern society.  For instance, the rise of social media has seen changes in television entertainment programs.  While in the past, some programs might have had a “mailbox” for you to post a letter or more recently an email, containing your thoughts and opinions on a matter, there would then be a delay until the next broadcast where these letters would be selectively read on-air.  In the past year or two, more new and diverse approaches to interacting with audiences have occurred afforded by social media.  Twitter was one of the first medium’s to be used to facilitate “talk-back” or back-channels for live television programs, typically syndicated across the bottom of the television screen.  Question and Answer from Australia’s national broadcaster, The ABC famously (within Australia) use the QandA hashtag to denote tweets relating to the political television program.



In the past week, Australian television programs are now making use of a service called  This provides even tighter integration with the television format where the television programs can have their own “space” within the zeebox medium itself – the cloud service.  It is also mobile enabled so viewers can participate in television programs no matter where they may be viewing them.  It is also an approach to stem the flow of viewers resorting to digital video recorders to playback television programs, and skip the ads while they are at it.  The use of social media offers an incentive to be present at the live broadcast, and consume those wonderful advertisements that keep the television network executives happy.  McLuhan is quoted in Federman as saying “a ‘message’ is, ‘the change of scale or pace or pattern’ that a new invention or innovation ‘introduces into human affairs.'”.  This change in television programming would have been an unintended consequence of social media at inception. There are many other examples that demonstrate McLuhan’s theory.

Week 11: OERs – The future of text as we know it

This blog post relates to my study of Open Educational Resources as part of my Emerging Technologies for Learning Program of study at the University of Manitoba. Our instructor has asked us:

Apple recently announced the iBooks 2 – an app that collaborates with major textbook publishers to release books on the apple device. See the YouTube video of someones excitement about this. The Huffington Post’s report suggest books will cost $15. How long do you think it will take for books to become available at the college level? Is this an initiative you will encourage in your schools or business? Do you think Apple will succeed in pushing traditional textbooks out of the market?

Books have long followed a model of depth and linearity.  Consider the scroll – a long sheet of continuous paper that is rolled from one spindle onto another as you read the text from the top of the sheet all the way down to the bottom. This provided a simple and sequential approach to reading information.  At some time in history, technology moved onwards to the book format, which broke the physical linearity of the text from the scroll, to virtual linearity by allowing text to continue on the page adjacent in a repeating fashion.  Some clever people using their imagination have given a popular comical portrayal of what the transition was like from scroll to book as shown below with the youtube video titled “Medieval Helpdesk”.

Our technological sophistication marches forward as we continue to refine and improve ways of being knowledgeable.  Going from an analogue device such as a hardcopy book to a digital device such as a tablet is no great leap, and has been attempted many times in the past by various innovators.  So Apple’s new iBook software in conjunction with their iPad technology should come as no surprise. But will Apple succeed in pushing traditional textbooks out of the market?  My answer is “if not Apple, then someone else will.”  In my estimation, the traditional hardcopy book will be a relic – an artefact of history in the future anywhere from 5 to 50 years from now, just as man moved on from the scroll to the book.  I also predict that many people – particularly the older generations will initially struggle with this transition, just as our medieval friend depicted in the youtube video.

My reason for lack of confidence in Apple being the “pusher” is one of interoperability.  Apple are renown for “vendor lock-in”.  Their marketing spin is that they are innovative and ahead of the pack, and that their tight integration between software and hardware provides a better and more reliable “user experience”.  While these statements may to be true in some of their ventures, it also smells of anti-competitive behaviour and market control.  Afterall, they are a company whose sole purpose is to make money for its shareholders, not further mankind’s quest for knowledge and enlightenment.  This political viewpoint aside, the upshot is unless all your readership (students and faculty for instance) have and use Apple iPads, then committing to a service such as Apple’s is simply not “open”.  Emerging standards in electronic publications will help to ensure interoperability such that you can use any device, much like the World Wide Web standards, but it will take time for these to evolve and mature into a stable publishing platform.  Which brings me to my next point.

What I find interesting is that even with the move to electronic publications, we are still tethered to the concept of a depth-wise linear body of work with this new technology.  This is in contrast to the World Wide Web which is a distributed non-linear publishing system. I do understand that the tablet computers can do non-linear things, but I bet for the mostpart, people who create content don’t use this – at least initially.

I have heard many decry the loss of depth in writing with the popularity of the WWW.  Modern society sets an incredibly high pace, and I wonder if this is simply a sign of a new era of enlightenment.  We live in an incredibly complex world with technology that requires very specialist knowledge to develop and maintain.  Typically no one person knows everything about something because it is so complex.  Think about your car for a moment, and how they have evolved over the past 20 to 30 years.  Once upon a time you could do most of the maintenance yourself, but these days even mechanics plug the car into a computer to find out what is wrong with it using software and hardware developed by someone else.  So we use layers of abstraction or black box approaches to break the complexity down into smaller consumable pieces.  Depth has been subsumed by breadth of knowledge – knowing enough about something to get on with what needs to be done.  I’m not suggesting that writing no longer requires any depth.  I am saying that there has been a shift of priorities that means for the masses access to quick high-level rapidly changing information is in greater demand.

Of course I hope there will always be a need for linear formats for creative bodies of work such as novels – digital or analogue. 🙂

Week 10: OERs – The dream

This blog post relates to my study of Open Educational Resources as part of my Emerging Technologies for Learning Program of study at the University of Manitoba. Our instructor has asked us:

What are your impressions of Open data, open research, open books, open journals, open government? Is this the reality or just a dream? Can this happen in your school or business environment? What are the implications? Blog about this.

Is this the reality or just a dream?

Taking a deeply philosophical analysis of this question, consider the following quote from Social Evolution, Psychoanalysis, and Human Nature by Daniel Kriegman and Charles Knight in relation to Freud’s evolutionary biology:

Freud’s view of human nature is generally consistent with the experience of capitalist competition and its adjunct philosophy at the extreme, social Darwinism. The inevitable tendency of human motivation is toward competition. Inevitably struggles ensue and yield a “survival of the fittest” dominance hierarchy.

Information has increasingly become a commodity that can be bought and sold and therefore has inherent value.  Modern online companies for instance provide free services in exchange for information about their customers.  This information is often aggregated and/or sold to other companies.  In the context of competition and survival of the fittest, sharing information is counter-productive.  By this reasoning, you are giving wealth in the form of information to your competitors thus strengthening their position while weakening your own.  Western society is largely based on capitalist models, so it is no wonder there is such an emphasis on ownership of information such as in the form of copyright.  So one could argue that while there is an economy based on information as a commodity, it is not likely that these open initatives will become mainstream.

The paper continues with discussion of the more modern theories of social evolution and reciprocal altruism:

… [Trivers] developed the concept of “reciprocal altruism.” This fascinating evolutionary construct undermines the simplistic notions of social Darwinism and provides a basis for reviewing the erroneous thinking underlying the misuse of evolutionary theory in support of reactionary dogma.

The concept of reciprocal altruism suggests that there may be a bio-genetic basis to altruistic behavior. At first glance, altruistic behavior, which in evolutionary terms reduces the altruist’s fitness and leads to an increase in the recipient’s fitness, appears to be in contradiction to the basic self-serving survival interest of any organism. However, the concept of reciprocal altruism is based on the notion that an altruistic act is often returned to the altruistically behaving organism.

So contrary to Freudian views, and considering the development of OERs as altruistic, perhaps there is hope for OERs afterall. The authors of the paper continue with what they believe to be the prerequisites for the evolution of reciprocal altruism.

What can be demonstrated by the evolutionary analysis are the prerequisites for the evolution of reciprocal altruism: high frequency of association, the reliability of association over time, and the ability of two organisms to behave in ways that benefit the other…   The prerequisites for the evolution of reciprocal altruism are present in our species and have been shown in other species to be capable of shaping extremely cooperative behaviors.

So in the context of these open initiatives, will they involve frequent and reliable association and interaction between collaborators; and will such association and interaction be mutually beneficial?  It would be interesting to conduct an analysis of OER initiatives to see whether those with the above prerequisites perform better than those that don’t.  From my perspective, while the production of open resources can be mutually beneficial to contributors, I suspect the first two elements (frequent and reliable association) are under-represented in OER initiatives.  To me it implies frequent and ongoing collaboration for mutual benefit.  With the current rate of change in modern society, long-term collaboration does not seem likely in many instances.  Consider your own work initiatives over the past 5 years.  My guess is many have a duration of no longer than a year or two before moving onto something else.  So can these prerequisites be artificially contrived, or must it be organically arranged by chance? Perhaps the slow uptake of OERs and open initiatives is a result of lower naturally occurring situations with the right prerequisites for reciprocal altruism?  Time will ultimately answer this question.

A final quote from the article: “Once a cooperative strategy begins to invade a population, it should be able to outcompete the selfish strategies.”  On this reasoning, perhaps there is hope for a future of more open sharing of information and co-operation for the benefit of all.

Week 9: OERs – Accessibility

This blog post relates to my study of Open Educational Resources as part of my Emerging Technologies for Learning Program of study at the University of Manitoba. Our instructor has asked us:

An interesting perspective to accesibility is the US’s America with disability Act Section 508. Is there as similar act in Canada? Do we need a similar act or are existing laws sufficient to address the disabled? What would these laws be? How does this apply to your own context? Blog on!

Instead of responding from the Canadian perspective, I’ll instead respond as an Australian.  Australia does have a provisions in law commensurate with the USA accessibility disability act.  It is known as the Disability Discrimination Act 1992.   So that Australian Government agencies adhere to the DDA, all Australian Government websites must adhere to the Web Content Accessibility Guideslines (WCAG) version 2.  This is inline with the USA’s Section 508 which too “… requires that Federal agencies’ electronic and information technology is accessible to people with disabilities.”

However, unless I have misinterpreted both the Australian DDA and US Section 508, interestingly, in both cases the requirement is only for Government websites, not corporate or hobbyist sites.  This seems rather peculiar to me.

Recently my employer has renewed it’s commitment to accessibility guidelines with a push to improve the publishing of Moodle course websites.  Although the Moodle course websites are not published publicly, they still provide a service to enrolled students and need to be inclusive of all learners including those with disabilities.  Being a government owned university, I believe it is bound to the same rules as described above as part of the DDA.  The interesting challenge in my context is that our academic staff are not web publishing experts – they are discipline experts teaching Engineering, Business, Science and so on. Having to grapple with the WCAG standard and ensure compliance is going to be a difficult challenge for some staff who are not tech-savvy.

There are a wealth of tools available online and commercially to assist with ensuring adherence to accessibility guidelines, such as the WCAG.  I’m not sure whether they are targeted at web publishers or whether there are options for those less tech-savvy such as the example given above.  While it does take extra effort and time on the part of the author, I can imagine the appreciation felt by those who can then access your material using their screen-readers for instance with greater ease, than is otherwise possible.

In terms of how they laws could be improved or extended, I wonder whether Section 508 or the DDA could be mandated across all corporate websites for instance?  If the government is able to ensure accessibility, then with the appropriate education, and supporting technology, why not the rest of the community?