Monday, August 25, 2008

Getting past all that "helpful" technology

As people involved with technology, we should love technology in all its forms -- well, not always. Some technology has not been invented for our convenience or for better customer service -- it's there to reduce the cost to the firm that just screwed up our invoice or sold us a defective product.

Dial A Human is a simple service that provides instructions on who to cut through automation hell to reach a real person. I have not tested these techniques, but I know I have used them with success on other sites. Hitting zero or yelling "agent" does often work. Some of Dial A Human's techniques are not obvious and I'm certainly going to use this site the next time I come to a Christmas tree full of automated prompts.


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A Poor Man's Amazon S3 Storage

Amazon has a very useful online storage system called S3. Cucku allows you to turn your home computer or the computer of someone you know into a personal version of Amazon's S3. While I may not use this for high-value content, it certainly is an effective means for creating an off-site backup.

Cucku is not the first application to allow this type of work to be done. What I like about Cucku is that it's easy to use, secured, and includes built-in backups. There are plenty of secure connections -- VPNs -- and plenty of backup systems, but not many easy-to-use combinations of the two. With hard drive space being plentiful and home Internet access fast, Cucku makes a lot of sense for the cash-strapped school. Just make sure there is no policy about staff taking school data off-site before starting a backup routine.

Cucku is also a great solution for backing up laptops. One interesting point is that Cucku uses Skype for transferring files. That's a creative way to utilizes a dependable peer-to-peer network. It does mean, however, that you will need to have Skype installed. Unfortunately, Cucku only works on XP and Vista.


Wednesday, August 06, 2008

FlyPaper turns Power Points into Flash Videos

Power Point presentations are key tools in the instructor's tool kit. But, as multimedia becomes more the norm, the inability to produce a video from the Power Point has been a short-coming.

Flypaper is a product that allows for Power Points to be converted into Flash video files. For one, this allows for presentations to be placed on YouTube. Currently, to put up a Power Point on YouTube one would have to turn Power Point into a series of images, pull them into Movie Maker, and then create a video. Flypaper looks like a very good solution for obtaining a superior result in far less time.

Let's face it, Power Points have been abused so frequently that having a bit of an edge is something worth having.