Friday, December 19, 2008

Open Office on the go

Open Office is one of my favorite open source desktop applications. Not only is it competitive with Microsoft Office, it is portable. Schools that use thumb drives for student files may find it interesting to put a portable version of Open Office on the thumb drive. It means that a student can have all the Open Office settings and customizations on the same drive as the files. It also means that when the student goes home, the same application will there on the home computer. This is one of the more significant issues with good, but not commonly used, software. This portable version runs from the thumb drive and thus does not require any installation on the host computer.

Unfortunately, this system does not work on Macs. Of course, you could always take a copy of Open Office as an install file, but installation on every computer is not a good solution.


Clone2go for video madness

One of the main problems with working with video is the large number of incompatible standards. I'm always looking for ways to convert video from one format to another. Clone2go is a well-reviewed application that has an impressive number of formats. Plus, it's free to use.

Oh, it also allows you to download YouTube videos. A nice feature given that YouTube videos are increasingly becoming a source for other videos. As Google continues to increase the quality of the videos on its site, I expect YouTube to become a great source of video content as well as a great hosting site for produced content.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Take your wiki with you

Wikis are great for storing all types of information. Usually they are used in a collaborative environment, but not always. TiddyBackpack is an amazingly small wiki server. The zipped install package is only 20k. I've seen many application notes files that large.

This is a great application to take notes and play around with wikis. As a means to practice, it makes a lot of sense.


Monday, December 15, 2008

Ecofont: A font of printer savings

A Dutch firm, SPRANQ, has developed a free font called "ecofont" which saves ink at the printer. Ecofont is a simple idea: cut holes in letters so that printer does not have to print every area. For those of you who are serious cyclists, the idea is much like drilling holes in various parts of one's bicycle for weight savings.

I've tried using draft mode every so often to see if looks acceptable. It rarely does. Ecofont uses standard mode printing yet reportedly saves 20% on ink. Ink costs are high and it's especially high if you have a color inkjet cartridge that requires all the ink to be replaced when any color is depleted. Your school could save hundreds if not thousands of dollars.

How does it look? What you see above is pretty much what it looks like on the screen, but when it prints, the type looks pretty close to normal. Much better than draft mode. There are two downsides: there is only one font of this type and if you send a document to someone who does not use this font, I'm not sure what would happen. The font this is based on is Vera Sans, but the recipient might have to know this. However, if you are keeping all your documents within the school and one font is just as good as another, this font should be an automatic choice for your school.

Try it out -- it's free -- and please post a comment of your experiences.


Monday, December 08, 2008

WatchKnow -- a kinder version of YouTube

WatchKnow is open and collaborative project to collect and organize educational videos related to educational purposes. I use YouTube a great deal but then my students are graduate level. K-12 teachers have a real concern turning their students lose on YouTube or on the world-wild-web. I like what I've seen browsing WatchKnow and I like even better the idea that solution to the side-effects of the Internet is to use the "wisdom of the crowds" to organize content into sites that serve a specific function.

WatchKnow is in beta and is well worth watching. I wish them luck.