Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Flash cards that work

Flash card systems were probably one of the first educational tools used on a computer. They were never very popular because one had to enter lots of information just to get started. Memorizable is a site that actually makes flash cards on a computer make sense. You can share your terms -- great for a class -- and you can use pre-existing sets of terms.

Give it a try and let me know what you think.


Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Testing out VMware

Yesterday I covered Xen Express. VMware has a utility called VMware Converter that will convert a normal server into a VMware server. This is a great way to test out the system to see if you like it.


Monday, January 29, 2007

A quick route to virtualization

I don't think there is any doubt that virtualization of servers is going to become the norm. This is especially true with Linux-based systems. Xen is one of the virtualization technologies I like the most. Because of the way it interfaces the virtual server to the hardware in a very direct way, it's very fast. It does lose some flexibility that other virtual servers enjoy, but I think it is a good trade-off. Also, Xen is great for moving between virtual servers. You can copy a virtual server to another server and switch in real-time between the two. That can be very important if your system has to be up all the time.

The one problem traditionally with virtual servers has been the difficulty of setup. Virtualization not always an easy concept to work with. XenExpress is both free and made as simple as possible. If you have a spare computer, give it a shot.


Friday, January 26, 2007

Learning Office 2007

Microsoft's new Office 2007 is one of the more interesting new offerings. It comes with a new interface and new file format. The benefits will be significant and so will be the training curve. If you're like most schools, you don't have much time for training. Kind of odd given that's what schools are in business to do. This new version of Word comes with may keyboard shortcuts. Fast typists can often work faster from the keyboard than they can using the mouse. This article at LifeHacker gives cheat sheets on these new commands.


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Strong Password Generator

Here is one of many sites that creates a strong password. While there are a number of sites that can do this, this site creates a text string that makes it a bit easier to remember. For example, #h7M5%�7 comes with a string: # harry 7 MICROSOFT 5 % � 7. Some people may find this easier to remember and anything that can help people to have stronger passwords is a good thing. Also, you may be able to write down this password for your wallet with less fear that some will figure out that it's a password.


Monday, January 22, 2007

Is there an open source program for your schoo?

One of the biggest problems an educator has when looking for open source software is finding something that works like something already in use. Open source programs usually don't have marketing budgets and Google searches don't always help because many open source programs are still in development or have been abandoned years ago. You probably cannot ask your buddies at school which open source program they like because they don't use any or don't know that they are -- for example, FireFox. is a site that lets you see which open source programs are viable alternatives to commercials programs. And, remember, you don't need to run an open source operating system to run many open source programs. Many of them work great on Windows.


Friday, January 19, 2007

Get back deleted files

Recuva is a beta version of a new file undelete program. I've used a number of these programs and this one looks like it will be a good one.


Thursday, January 18, 2007

Create your own network

I cannot believe that I've failed to mention Hamachi until know. They have one of the cleanest security and communications products I've seen. Security systems often are as difficult for the users as they are for attackers. addresses, you traffic is unseen by the normal scanners. While you can still be seen by packet capturing systems, it's nice to be invisible to most attackers. On top of this, Hamachi creates a private network between you and the people on your network. Because Hamachi uses its own IPHamachi includes a fairly high level of security. I've used the system and found it to be easy to use. Give it a try.


Wednesday, January 17, 2007

TightProjector for screen sharing

The people of TightVNC -- a remote control software program -- have decided to create a program that defies marketing. TightProjector is software that allows one person to share a screen with unlimited numbers of people on the same network. This would be great for a computer lab. Below is what they have to say about their product.


TightProjector is a software that can transmit the screen of a particular computer to other computers in the same local-area network. The data is transmitted continuously, in real time.

Usage examples:

  • broadcasting a presentation to multiple networked computers
  • showing a class of students operations performed by a teacher

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Is Vista good for you?

There are many opinions about Vista. See for yourself if Vista is good for you by taking Microsoft's test drive of Vista. Vista has a number of good and a number of bad points. Try it.


Friday, January 12, 2007


iRemote is one of several remote control products on the market. While many of these solutions are expensive, this one is free. There are other solutions that are free, but the number that are both free and have encryption built in are few. If you are setting up some remote control for your own uses, TightVNC is one I would strongly consider. The only reason I would not go with TightVNC now is because it requires one to tunnel through SSH in order to have end-to-end encryption -- apparently a future version will add more security. iRemote is good for people you have to support who don't have any technical skills on their end -- which is one reason you're probably going to be supporting them. :-)


Thursday, January 11, 2007

FileMenu fixes explorer

FileMenu is a free Windows utility that adds features you wish Microsoft had added to its filer explorer. I especially like the folder synchronization features.


Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Make cliches drop dead as a door nail

Cliche finder is an interesting service that I know many teachers will be as pleased as punch with. Students may also find themselves jumping with joy. This free service allows you to paste in some text and have it find all the cliches. Less pain for both students and teachers -- a win-win solution. It's not perfect. It did not notice the cliches I put into this description. I'm sure your students will have better luck. ;-)


Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Google Talk School Cell Phone

Schools usually do a pretty bad job of providing phones to staff. To make matters worse, teachers frequently move between rooms -- and thus between phones. While office workers may leave the building to smoke or pickup some coffee, teachers frequently are on the job in play grounds and monitoring the loading and off-loading of school buses.

Clearly, school staff require mobile phones. While cell phones and signal repeaters can work, the cost of 40-70 dollars a month per phone can be opressive. Nokia has a Linux-based phone that run's Google's free talk service. Because the wireless signal is that of your computer network and not from a cell phone tower, you have great control over where the phones will work. To make make things better, the phones can operate on the Internet and be used to access school systems. So, for example, you want to find a parent's telephone number or look at the school calendar, this unit would be able to do it easily and for free. Google has just announced a new version that offers faster speed and more features. While the price of $300-400 may seem a lot when compared to the free cell phones the big carriers give away, the price is not all that much when one thinks of the monthly service charges and extra control your school will have.


Monday, January 08, 2007

An educational robot

The people who make the automated vacuum cleaner have a version that is for educational purposes. They have just announced it so I don't know much about it other than that it's programmable. BTW, the same folks are making robots for bomb investigations in Iraq.


Friday, January 05, 2007

Protect yourself the NSA way

The NSA has a very useful document on how to protect your network. While some of the recommendations are a bit extreme for a school environment -- such as the number of passwords one has to have before reusing one -- the general recommendations are excellent. Many of the steps are free. I especially liked the section that provides information on how to setup your firewall to block out-going bad traffic. The file is in PDF format.


Thursday, January 04, 2007

COMODO Free Firewall

Here is another free firewall. This one has been getting good reviews and has a number of known good applications already listed in its database. This means that when good applications attempt to contact the Internet they are let through. I don't know about you, but I don't always know if a program is good or bad. The names rarely give it away.

In any case, you should have a firewall on all your computers. Just having a firewall between you and the Internet is no longer enough these days.


Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Your next telephone system?

Asterisk is an open source and free telephone replacement system. You still have to purchase telephones and computer equipment, but the software is absolutely free. Asterisk has a reputation for being difficult to setup but solid once it's going. Take it from someone with experience with traditional telephone systems, the only reason they aren't difficult is because the high sales prices includes a complete installation and configuration. You then purchases a maintenance contract to keep it going. If you don't feel comfortable handling a telephone system on your own, there are firms that you can hire to help with the installation and support. Even if you are happy with your current system, Asterisk can be linked to your current PBX to supply voice mail and other advanced services.

You really ought to consider Asterisk when it comes time for your school to replace its telephone system.


Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Software collection for students

There are many free programs that students could take advantage of. The problem is knowing about them and which ones are the best for a specific task. The SoftewareFor organization has created an ISO image that can be downloaded and burned to a CD. The student can share the disk and install whatever they like from the collection of programs.

This is a great resource for anyone needing to save money on software.