Monday, July 31, 2006

New Release of Sakai

Sakai is the most ambitious open source project for education that I'm aware of. With the recent release of version 2.2.0, it appears that it may be ready for people to start testing. Sakai is for the high-end user. It comes with every feature that one can think of. Simpler needs are best handled with Moodle.


Sakai Project

"The Sakai Project is a community source software development effort to design, build and deploy a new Collaboration and Learning Environment (CLE) for higher education. The Project began in January, 2004.

The Sakai Project's primary goal is to deliver the Sakai application framework and associated CMS tools and components that are designed to work together. These components are for course management, and, as an augmentation of the original CMS model, they also support research collaboration. The software is being designed to be competitive with the best CMSs available.

The tools are being built by designers, software architects and developers at different institutions, using an experimental variation of an open source development model called the community source model (see below). To provide a support system for institutions that want to be involved in the Sakai Project, either by adopting Sakai tools or by developing tools for inter-institutional portability, the Sakai Project has also formed the Sakai Educational Partners Program (SEPP) and the Sakai Commercial Affiliates Program.

The Sakai Project has its origins at the University of Michigan and Indiana University, where both universities independently began open source efforts to replicate and enhance the functionality of their existing CMSs . Soon after, MIT and Stanford joined in and, along with the Open Knowledge Initiaitive (OKI) and the uPortal consoritum, and a generous grant from the Mellon Foundation, they formed the Sakai Project. "

Friday, July 28, 2006

Scalix to Contribute Software to Open-Source Community

This is one of the more viable means to replace Microsoft Exchange with something free and reliable.


Scalix to Contribute Software to Open-Source Community: "The company said it will turn its popular Community Edition software into an open-source project, as well as negotiate a new open-source licensing agreement with Hewlett-Packard.


Thursday, July 27, 2006

Hands on with ARINC's iLiad-based eFlyBook

Here is an interesting review of one of the new ebook readers. The time will come where these devices will play a major role in the school -- perhaps even eliminate the serious problem with too-heavy backpacks.


Hands on with ARINC's iLiad-based eFlyBook

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Buffalo's "28-in-1" card reader

Digital cameras and PDAs come with a wide assortment of memory cards. Hooking up these devices via a USB cable and possibly having to install software can be a real bother. This device from Buffalo allows you to directly insert into your computer any memory card likely to come your way. Any card that can behave as a hard drive -- and most of them can -- will simply appear as another drive letter.

This is potentially a huge time saver and it does not cost very much. By the way, many newer computers offer these drives as add-on options. Well worth the few extra bucks if memory cards are in your environment.

Buffalo's "28-in-1" card reader - Engadget

Nvu - The Complete Web Authoring System for Linux, Macintosh and Windows

If you teach web design to your students but don't have the money for Dreamweaver -- my favorite web design program -- try Nvu. It appears to have many of the same features and it's free. If you don't want to go this direction, Adobe has a program called "Contribute" that is less expensive and more basic version of Dreamweaver.


Nvu - The Complete Web Authoring System for Linux, Macintosh and Windows

Monday, July 24, 2006

Should you use Wikipedia?

Some schools view Wikipedia quite dimly. Some schools even believe use of content from Wikipedia is plagiarism. The article listed below explores the accuracy of Wikipedia as compared to the encyclopedia Britannica. Wikipedia does a pretty good job. I see no reason content should be considered plagiarism if properly referenced. Because quoting Internet sources is not often taught you may need to tell your students how they should describe their Internet listings. As far as accuracy, I find that anything that is not emotionally laden is generally pretty safe. The problems with Wikipedia are often in topic areas where groups with differing views of the facts -- such as evolution -- are involved.


news @ - Internet encyclopaedias go head to head - Jimmy Wales' Wikipedia comes close to: "Read the latest science news stories, extended features and analysis, acclaimed columnists, plus blogs and multimedia specials - all brought to you by our award-winning team of science journalists."

Friday, July 21, 2006

Continuous Data Protection

Corporations have long had a variety of methods for backing up data in real time. Naturally, a lost document after a day's work can be more than you would like to put at risk. IBM is selling a program that can backup files continuously to either a network drive or to a USB flash device. The specs look good and IBM certainly has a good reputation in the data protection/recovery market. Worth taking a look.


IBM Tivoli Continuous Data Protection for Files - Product overview: "Continuously back up crucial corporate data on file servers and transiently connected machines"

Thursday, July 20, 2006

USB 2.0 To Hard Drive Backup

Here is yet another external backup system. Given that making off-site backups is not as easy as it was when all the data could fix on a CD or DVD, this system is an interesting low-cost solution. Connect an inexpensive hard disk to this unit and backup your data. Toss -- gently -- the hard drive into your brief case and you now have an off-site copy of your data. Another nice feature is that the Interface is a USB port. The problem with tape backups is that you need a computer with a compatible tape drive.


USB 2.0 To SATA/IDE Adapter With One-Touch Backup - Gizmodo: "Gizmodo, the gadget guide. So much in love with shiny new toys, it's unnatural."

Build a low-power x86 appliance for under $200!

While falling short of the magical $100 student laptop, the newer computer mother boards are getting so inexpensive that you can build a variety of useful computers. The link below provides a list of equipment required to make a number of sub-200 dollar computers. Of course, if you want a full computer, you'll need a monitor, keyboard, and mouse. You'll also need an operating system. Given that the computer vendors, such as Dell, can buy Windows at a far lower price than can you, they'll be cheaper. But, if you want to build a powerful but cheap firewall, this platform can be an attractive solution. For a truly secure firewall, I would install a CD-ROM and run the OS and firewall application from it. No way a hacker is going to plant a spy program on a read-only CD.


Build a low-power x86 appliance for under $200!

FolderShare: Take your work with you

One problem teachers have is that the school may not give them network storage. So, they either have to copy files from place to place or haul around a laptop. FolderShare allows you to transfer and/or share files between multiple computers. Looks like a possible solution to a very tired problem.

T - sync files, sync folders, transfer files, share files, web download, access files: "FolderShare: Specializing in remote access and file sync allowing you to keep your files sync'd over the Internet & LAN, share files with others, and web download access to your files."

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Wireless PC Lock

One of the problems with being a computer lab instructor is that you frequently need to leave your computer to help one of the students. During the time, the computer may still be logged into your account and available to any of the other students. They may see something they ought not to or send the administration your resignation letter.

The Wireless PC Lock is a device that attaches to your computer via a USB port. A second device sends out a radio signal letting the device connected to the USB port that you are at the computer. When you move away, the device locks the computer. Apparently, the software that comes with the hardware is not very good but an open source project has created software that greatly improves the functionality. The hardware costs about $40 and the software is free.

Below is a link that describes the system and where to get the improved software.


Monkeys are very furious - USBWiSec: "Bryan Batchelder is the Head of Research & Development for PatchAdvisor, Inc - A vulnerability intelligence provider and security assessment company. "

Monday, July 17, 2006

The Web Credibility Project - Stanford University

If you are teaching your students about how to evaluate online information, this site may be a good resource to include. While students may be familiar with the concept of looking at the source of a particular fact, they probably have not considered the features of web design that would make information more believable. This site could lead to some very interesting conversations about why we believe or don't believe what we see.


The Web Credibility Project - Stanford University: "The Stanford Web Credibility Project: Part of the Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab our goal is to understand what leads people to believe what they find on the Web. We hope this knowledge will enhance Web site design and promote future research on Web credibility."

Friday, July 14, 2006

ProfCast - Podcasting your lectures

Recording audio is not that difficult and posting content to a blog is also not very difficult. To put all the elements together to present your class presentations is daunting. Let's face it, you have better things to do. ProfCast looks to be an elegant solution for taking your class presentation online. It is only for the Mac.


ProfCast - ProfCast - Features: "ProfCast is the ideal tool for recording and publishing your live presentation. All elements of your presentation, including slide timing, animations and voice narration, are recorded. You can then publish your complete presentation on the Web as a Podcast, complete with RSS support."

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Congress begins push for energy-efficient servers

Energy efficiency may not be something you care a lot about. If you're in a public school, someone else pays for the electricity. However, many schools are seriously under powered. If your school is having problems with equipment frequently tripping circuit breakers or crashing when the air conditioners go on, then you may want to keep an eye open for energy-efficient servers. Sun already has a design that uses much less power. Other vendors will follow. While they will be advertising on cost savings, you can start to think about new locations that equipment might now be able to function.


Congress begins push for energy-efficient servers: "The House of Representatives has approved a bill calling on the EPA to study the use of energy-efficient servers that can cut the power demand of equipment-packed data centers."

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Xandros 4: relief for Windows 98/ME orphans

July 11th was the last day of Microsoft's support for Windows 98 and ME. Personally, I always thought ME was Microsoft's way to kill the DOS-based Windows systems (i.e. 95 and 98). They couldn't convince their customers that NT was better than Windows 98, so they created ME. ME was so bad that when I called for support on a new Dell unit that came with ME, they offered to replace the operating system with Windows 2000. Anyway, the long death of DOS is officially upon us. ME was the last version of Windows that ran on top of DOS. All the newer systems only pretend to have DOS. What you see as DOS is actually an emulator.

So what to do with older computers that are running 98/ME? The answer might be Linux. Linux runs pretty well on older equipment. Much depends on the particular hardware in the computer. Xandros has made it core mission of their distribution to help Windows user migrate off Windows with the least amount of pain. Many distributions of Linux don't want to deal with Windows in any manner. So, if you only other option is to toss out your computers, give Xandros a try first.


Xandros 4: relief for Windows 98/ME orphans: "Comprehensive news, information, and resources on using Linux as a desktop operating system for personal and business purposes."

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Library Instruction - Checklist for Evaluating Web Sites

To the uninformed, the Internet is one big research tool. The reality is that the Internet is a communications system that allows for many types and quality levels of information to be accessed. Students often have a difficult time sorting out the good resources from the bad. The link below is a check list that students can run through to determine the quality of the sites they are referencing.


Library Instruction - Checklist for Evaluating Web Sites

Monday, July 10, 2006

Kama Connect: USB2.0 IDE & SATA External Adapter

Sometimes you need to take a hard disk out and take a look at what's inside. This is not always easy to do if you have to install the drive into another unit. The cables may not reach and you may have to play with the jumpers to convert the disk from master to slave mode.

Better yet, you can connect two drives at the same time. This allows you to clone one disk to the other one. If you do a lot of computer installations or repairs, this device could save you many hours of work.


Scythe "Kama Connect" USB2.0 IDA & SATE External Adapter

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

SchoolMessenger --- Unified Messenging

Announcements, parental notifications, and school closing messages are all examples of where technology can help via automation. The problem has been that email lists don't reach people without computers and automated telephone systems are not effective for people without answering machines. SchooMessenger is a system that allows for all forms of communications to be used at the same time. So a text message might go out as email to some people and get turned to speech for distribution via the phone. Notification is not only a legal responsibility but it may be one of the primary determinants of how parents form their opinions of your school. You don't want to be second-class here.


SchoolMessenger --- Empowering educators with parent-notification solutions and services: "SchoolMessenger is the leading provider of parent notification solutions for education, giving a voice to student information in thousands of schools and districts."

Monday, July 03, 2006

Compilr :: the online Compiler C#, C, VB.NET, Fortran

This site provides web-based compiling of computer code. This can be very useful if your students are working from home or some other location that does not have a compiler.
Compilr :: the online Compiler C#, C, VB.NET, Fortran