Friday, September 29, 2006

New Google RSS Reader

Google has just released a new version of its RSS Reader. The feel is a lot more comfortable. The previous version feel a bit awkward in places. It also has a number of key commands for fast processing. If you were on the fence concerning this service, now is the time to take another look. Now, if they could just update the Google Notebook system in the same way.


Thursday, September 28, 2006

Turn Photos into Posters

Here is a service which takes a digital photo and allows you to create a poster along with some text of your choosing. Getting photos blown up to large size is nothing new, but it's a nice addition to have the option of adding text. So, a poster saying "Go Tigers!" or "Student of the Month" can be easily and professionally produced. This could also be used by students for science projects and similar projects which require the combination of images and text. There is no reason the image could not be a graph or other non-pictorial image.


Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Hacking XP

Here is an example of one way to break into Windows XP. The step-by-step tutorial shows how to become the system administrator for a Windows XP guest user -- this is called user escalation. This is the type of information students can readily find. In fact, I found on one site a complete list of all the hacks favored by students. While that list is probably out of date, the motive is certainly current.


Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Sony Reader

Gizmodo is reporting that the new Sony ebook reader will be coming to market in October priced at approximately $300.

While I'm sure this not going to be the final form factor for ebook devices, this Sony device is good enough to make some applications feasible. For example, certain textbooks would do well on these readers. If a book already costs $100 plus, having a $300 reader for a bunch of textbooks could make economic sense and it would greatly reduce the weight students would have to haul around. I'm waiting to see textbook publishers start to include update options so that the textbook can be updated over time.

Another nice feature with the device is that it accepts RSS feeds and standard file formats. This make an entire world of content available that the first generation ebook readers restricted. This is a very wise decision on Sony's part. The market killed the first generation devices -- apparently Sony learned from this experience.


Monday, September 25, 2006

Podcasting to the Cell Phone

Podcasting to cell phone users is one of the last great frontiers. In addition to making every cell phone a stand-in for a MP3 player, it can push content out in near real time. This makes the system useful for announcements and any other form of information that cannot wait for the user to synchronize with the RSS feeds.

So, for example, this system could be used to distribute all types of school-based information to students, parents and staff. The school radio station could be extended by such a system. The opportunities are endless.


Friday, September 22, 2006

Encrypting Web-base Email with Freenigma

Freenigma is offering a free browser add on which encrypts the contents of a message sent between web mail accounts. It's still pretty crude as a product. There is no IE support and people using non-web-mail accounts cannot use it. Of course, you don't have to encrypt every message. Apparently, these two issues are being worked on by Freenigma.


Thursday, September 21, 2006

Photo Mapper

Trippermap is a great combination of global mapping and flixr images. Just imagine the interesting social studies projects or reports on school field trips one could do.


Wednesday, September 20, 2006

File Sharing System

Zapr is a combination of a FTP and web server. It allows you to share and synchronize your files with other computers or with other people. It's free of charge but appears to work on on Windows XP and newer computers. Unlike other systems that provide the storage, you're using your own computer. That of course means it needs to be left on.

In addition to file sharing, the system to transfer files too large to be emailed. You send a link provided by Zapr in your email and upon clicking, the file is transferred from your computer's hard drive.

If you are have computers that cannot network with each other, this would be a viable way to share files. They say their system is secure. You may want to read the fine print. Your system could be vulnerable if there is any weakness in their software.


Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Google's SketchUp for 3D Modeling

SketchUp is one of Google's new online tools. This one is great for students wanting to do some sort of 3D modeling. This could be very useful for science, math and social studies classes. If your school has good Internet bandwidth, this is a program certainly worth checking out. Below is what Google has to say.


"Google SketchUp (free) is an easy-to-learn 3D modeling program whose few simple tools enable you to create 3D models of houses, sheds, decks, home additions, woodworking projects – even space ships. You can add details, textures and glass to your models, design with dimensional accuracy, and place your finished models in Google Earth, share them with others by posting them to the 3D Warehouse, or print hard copies."

Monday, September 18, 2006

Role Playing in Video Games

A company located in Denmark, SeriousGames, will be releasing early next year a video game of life in Palestine. While this location may seem to be a wonderful opportunity for a shoot-them-up game, SeriousGames is being a lot more serious about the issues. This game puts the player into the area as a reporter. Through encounters with local people, the player learns about the situation in Palestine.

The potential for such game-quality instruction great. The major limitation is the cost. It would be great to have such games for all types of economic, political, and historical environments, but the cost of development will probably limit these games to major global issues.

A reported from Wired has seen the game and provided a review.


Friday, September 15, 2006

Online Resource for Education and Research

The intute has a large collection of links to all types of educational web sites. In addition to a title and link, the site provides details about each site. This is clearly a site worth visiting for anyone doing serious research.


Thursday, September 14, 2006

School of the Future

CNN has a story on Microsoft's School of the Future located in Philadelphia. It's interest to read given that where they are now is where many school aiming for.


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

RSS Reader Review

TechCrunch has a good review of RSS readers. While you don't have to have a reader to see this blog, a feed/RSS reader is helpful in that it checks for new content without you having to go anywhere. Checking ten, twenty, or more blogs is now easy to do because anything of interest comes to your computer via the RSS reader.

There is no lack of potential feed readers. It's a matter of personal preference which one is right for you. I use the web-based Google Reader because I use multiple computers and I want the list of articles I've not yet read to be the same on every computer I use.

I was using OnFolio , a software application, but I had to remember when I went home where I was in my reading. OnFolio, BTW, is a great tool for collecting information from the Internet. I had to give up using it because it did not like my Windows terminal server, but that problem may get fixed now that Microsoft has purchased the OnFolio company. You'll be seeing more of OnFolio.

There is no harm in testing out a few systems. It's pretty easy to transfer your RSS subscriptions between readers. Plus, most of them are free.


Monday, September 11, 2006

GapMinder Brings Statistics to Life

Gapminder is a free Flash-based tool that does remarkable things with statistics. I would imagine the amount of work required to make the presentations they have on their site would be huge. The good news is that they have some many interesting presentations on the site that many good class presentations can be built. Most of the subjects are related to United Nations topics. Even if you have no use for such content, you have to take a look -- the presentations are that impressive.


Friday, September 08, 2006

Online Homework Tutoring

The New York Times had an interesting article on Sept. 2nd titled "If You Can Click a Mouse You can Help on Homework". It covers the various online tutoring systems for students in need of help with their homework assignments. The article refers to a number of options that teachers might point their students and parents to.


Thursday, September 07, 2006

FreeNAS for Cheap and Reliable File Storage

FreeNAS is close to releasing product-quality code for their BSD UNIX based Network Attached Storage software. First of all, I have to say I'm a big fan of BSD. While it is often confused with Linux, it is actually a branch of UNIX. Because of this, it has some security and reliability aspects that Linux distributions don't always have. The BSD distributions tend to be unkillable and very difficult to hack into. The main problem for new users has the ease of configuration and operation. FreeNAS removes this problem by providing a web interface and an automated installation process.

This software can function on a low-end computer -- it requires only 16 megs of RAM. You probably don't want to go with an extremely old computer simply because hard drive performance will be important. CPU and the amount of RAM are secondary considerations. But, if you are planning on using this storage device for archival or backup purposes, then even an older computer with a big drive will work wonders.

While the device may be single-minded in what it does, it has many ways to do its job. It can be access over the Internet and on a local area network by Linux, Windows and Mac computers.

If you are looking for low-cost storage, you cannot go far wrong with this system.


Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Open Source Web Design

Here are some good open sourced web designs. Use these with the open source tools recently covered and you have a web site mostly taken care of.


Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Web Design Resources

Protolize offers a collection of web design tools and components. It's not very extensive at this point, but it does have some of the newer technologies represented, such as AJAX and CSS. The main point is that there are lots of online resources for building web sites. This site gives you a good feel for the type of resources out there. If you don't find what you want here, just use Google.


Monday, September 04, 2006

If you cannot beat them...

The Free Software Magazine has a great how-to for building an IM server. The author built a low-cost instant messaging solution for one of his kid's school. IM is so popular that it is difficult to block, but building your own server avoids many of the problems with a public service.

The only real problem is with support. The good news is that the system he created is probably near indestructible.


Friday, September 01, 2006

College Radio Show on Iraq

Swarthmore College's WNR radio station is using Skype to interview people living in Iraq and then podcasting the resulting program. This use of technology is so elegant and powerful that many more programs like it are certainly possible. If nothing else, WNR's content is certainly worth considering for social studies classes. I especially liked the interview about where Iraqi people go on vacation and why.

They find the people they want to interview by using Skype's ability to list users by country and then by language. So WNR simply searched for English speaking users living in Iraq. Just imagine how many ways this capability could be used!