Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Thumbstacks Online Presentations

Thumbstacks is like a simplified version of Power Point. The main difference is that the application is entirely online and you can easily share it with others via the Internet.

This system is great for students who want to continue working on a project from home or from a computer in school that is not setup with Power Point. It's also great for schools that use Linux. While Open Office has a presentation tool, it may not be a good choice for students who want to work from home -- parents may not want to install the massive Open Office suite for a few presentations.

One issue I saw with Thumbstack is that it does not appear to important and export to Power Point or to any other formats. They say they are available anywhere there is an Internet connection, but what if you loose the connection? It would be nice to have a copy on the hard drive.


Monday, October 30, 2006

National Geographic map making site

I was one of the many thousands of kids who collected the National Geographic maps. Well, National Geographic has gone one step further to offer a web site that allows you to create a wide variety of maps. The maps can be of any place and show almost any type of information. This site is invaluable for anyone preparing a presentation or creating a school project. If nothing else, take a look to just play around with various combinations of maps. It's a lot of fun.

Friday, October 27, 2006

JumpCut for Film Editing

This is a potentially interesting web for schools that want to do some basic film editing and don't have multimedia capable computers. Of course, if you have such computers, this site is probably not worth the effort. That's because to uploading of raw materials will take a very long time. It's easier to connect a video camera to the computer and use the editing software to determine which segments to extract. Unless you're a video genius, you probably have about 15% usable content on any given tape.

JumpCut also allows you to post your video files, but that is not in itself a big deal these days.


Thursday, October 26, 2006

Academic Portal

The Academic Portal is a wiki that provides lists of academically-oriented blogs. While one can argue that searching via Google or using tag searches in Technorati would achieve the same results, there is always something to be gained from seeing information presented in an alternative form.

If you have an educational blog, you have nothing to loose by listing it under the appropriate category.


Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Math World

Wolfram has launch an extensive math resource center. The site is particularly useful for college and advanced high school students. At least that is how it looks from my survey of the site. In anyone knows how well the site matches up to high school requirements, please put in a comment. To my uninformed eye, it looks very usable.


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Firefox 2.0 Released

Firefox 2.0, the long-anticipated update to the 1.5 series has come. While it's not as big an improvement as the the previous major release, it does have a number of great new features. It has better tab-browsing control and a resume feature. If you open the same three or four windows at the start of each day, this feature can save you a lot of time. And it's not in the IE 7 browser. I did find a small bug with the history window, but I'm not sure if that was due to a bad install or a real problem. As usual, test out a major new release before moving it into general use.

Is Firefox more secure than IE 7? That' s a common question. IE 7 is much better than IE 6. IE 7 can be as secure as Firefox if you put all Internet sites into the highly secure mode and only put the sites you know to be safe into the trusted mode. But most people don't know about this feature. Out of the box, so to speak, Firefox is safer because is does not use the dangerous active scripting system and because fewer hackers target Firefox. The key to online security, as always, is the user's intelligence.


Monday, October 23, 2006

100 most popular freeware/shareware programs

SnapFiles is a web site that offers what it considers the most popular freeware and shareware software programs. Naturally, I like free when possible, but there are many times where shareware makes sense. I've found that A/V freeware programs are usually not as easy to use and it's worth paying a few bucks. Shareware tends to be less expensive than the standard commercial applications. It's also more likely that you'll have a support line to call than you would with a freeware program. Take a look at both lists. You'll certainly be amazed at the diversity of applications and you may one day save a lot of money.


Thursday, October 19, 2006


WebSnapr is a free web service will will create a graphical thumbnail of any web page you want. While this can be done via screen prints and other screen capture applications, it takes a little knowledge to get what you want. Often, for example, the browser bars/menus and even other areas of the desktop are captured. This system knows you just want the web page.

This system could be useful for building a simple web page for students too young to read. So, instead of writing "Scholastic web site," you have an image of the home page.


Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Information Literacy

The Chronicle of Higher Education has an article reporting that a recent study of high school and college students indicates that this group may not be as adept at interpreting information found on the Internet with the same degree of proficiency as they are at using the Internet. Old people are often amazed with the ease of which students operate technology. What we may not be noticing is that the tools for understanding the information on the Internet is not always picked up along the way.

Information from the Internet requires all the same critical thinking processes as does any other source of information, but it also brings a few new twists. For example, it is difficult to pretend to be a major publisher in a bookstore, but it's very easy to do online. The ability to assess the authenticity of a source is more difficult online because there aren't the traditional gatekeepers. Of course, once you know that you should check, Google makes it fairly easy to uncover the true identify of a source.


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Building your own web site

So you want your own web site. There are essentially two ways to obtain a site: build your own server or get one on a hosting site. The siteKreator is one of the more interesting site creation places. It includes web 2.0 features. The DIYwebserver is information from fellow geeks providing step-by-step instructions on how to build your own server. If you have bandwidth at your school, there isn't anything holding you back. Web servers require very little hardware to make them function. You may be able to use an otherwise rejected computer. This is a very good solution for an internal web site, BTW.


Monday, October 16, 2006

Chicago Manual of Style

Good writing newer goes out of style. In fact, students are writing a lot more than students did ten years ago because of all the blogging and instant messaging. Of course, one can argue that the writing in these forms is not very good, but at least students understand the importance of writing. Ten years ago a student might have thought that the telephone had replaced the need for written communication, but I'm sure that far few students would now make that claim.

The Chicago Manual of Style is the bible for correct writing. There are few parts of the online system, but you'll have to pay if you want to use the full system. This may be a good investment for the school library's computer.


Friday, October 13, 2006

Zotero: A research tool for online information

Zotero is a FireFox free extension that allows you to bookmark and reference information you find on the Internet. One of the nice characteristics is that it automatically creates reference citations for online resources. This tool may help your students to bring a bit of sanity to their research.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Google Teacher Academy

Google has recently announced a new program to create "Google Certified Teachers." The first training program will be Nov 7th at Google's headquarters. There will probably be many more in the future. They also have a new web site that provides information on how K-12 educators can best use Google's programs. I'm always amazed on the diversity of offerings Google has to offer. While each product may not be the best of its type, the collection of services -- and the low costs -- make them attractive to the educator on a budget.


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Is everyone out to get you?

The BBC is doing a series on computer security that use standard Windows XP installations to see how long it would take for hackers to attempt a break in. Not long, it seems. The BBC's experience is not unlike what I've read from security reports -- just a bit more readable by the general public.


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Free Geek Recylced Computers

Free Geek is a non-profit organization that accepts old computer equipment, rebuilds it -- as needed -- with a Linux-based system, and then sells or donates the equipment to needy schools and non-profits.

If you don't need a computer, you should still check out these guys as a place to donate equipment cost to. There are some expenses involved, but wouldn't you rather have your equipment going to worthy new homes rather than to a rural community in China already poisoned by the toxic debris of melted down circuit boards?
In case you were wondering, these old computers will function pretty well using Linux. Linux does not have the same hardware demands as Windows. Plus, you can always use these units as terminal server clients.

Monday, October 09, 2006


Worldmapper offers a number of online maps of the world that offer interesting perspectives on how our world would look if certain issues, rather than boarders, counted the most. Could be useful in social studies classes.


Friday, October 06, 2006

Browsercam for testing web site designs

A firm called Browsercam offers a service which will capture images of how a web page looks like via a wide assortment of browser and operating system combinations. If you have a wide range of browsers coming to your web site, this service is the best way to find out what they are seeing. While they do have fees for this service, it certainly is worth the price when compared to the possible embarrassment of having your visitors find the problem.

Of course, you can create virtual computers with different operating systems and multiple browsers if you want to perform the same task. You'll save some money but it will cost you in time spent.


Thursday, October 05, 2006

OPTE Internet Maps

The Internet is not always easy to describe. The OPTE Project has done a great job making maps of the Internet. The images are free to use as long as they are attributed.

Making TrueCrypt Easier

I have covered TrueCrypt before as an open source utility to encrypt sensitive data. While TrueCrypt is not difficult to use, this script makes it easier. If you have a need to protect data, give TrueCrypt a try.


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Web 2.0 Sites for Educators

Here is a very impressive list of web 2.0 sites designed for schools. Many of these sites you may have heard of, but others are just getting started. Take a look. I will be surprised if you don't find at least one site you can use.


Monday, October 02, 2006

Speeding up Windows XP

O'Reilly publishers have released a chapter from one of their books on Windows XP. This chapter discusses how to increase the performance of XP. Windows XP can perform within a very wide range of performance levels depending on which options are selected. In fact, many of the great time consumers may be programs you never heard of. If nothing else, reading this chapter will help you to better understand what XP is doing.