Thursday, May 29, 2008

Frontline SMS

Frontline SMS is one of those great communication tools that I wish were more common. I especially admire the social mission values that they strive for.

Frontline SMS is a PC-based server that can send and receive SMS messages. Doesn't sound impressive given that any cell phone in the world can make the same claim. What makes their system different is that it can serve as a communications hub for very large number of SMS-enabled users. In locations such as South Asia and Africa, SMS messaging is really the only viable electronic communication system other voice. The Internet is still missing in many parts of the world and where it can be found, it's too expensive and/or unreliable.

If you are living in South Asia or Africa, you should certainly look at this software. It may be the best -- if not only -- means to communicate with students, parents and staff. In locations lucky enough to have cheap and reliable Internet access, this server can still be used with great effect. It could be used as an alert system for school staff and parents. The system also collects data. Teachers could use it to report absent students from home room. They would just send the student's code to the SMS address of the server. The possible list of uses is a long one. Give it a whirl. It's free.


Saturday, May 24, 2008

Windows NT Reborn

As the debate goes on whether Microsoft should continue to offer XP or force everyone to Vista, a group of programmers have been reverse engineering Windows NT. The resulting operating system is called ReactOS and the idea is not as crazy as it may seem. BTW, I used NT for many years -- and still do on a few older computers -- and my only real complaints were that it did not support USB drives, did not have a built-in firewall, and that defragmentation was not in as a disk tool.

Why is ReactOS cloning XP and not NT, you may ask? As I understand it, they are not trying to copy a specific version of NT, but are attempting to create the architecture of the NT family of OSes. That includes everything from NT to Vista. Their point is that NT is the best possible platform for a graphical desktop. Linux and Unix were created for the command line and even Mac OS is built on the very old BSD Unix -- true, but what Apple has done with it kind of proves the reverse point. Anyway, I'm willing to see them make their point with a finished product.

Anyway, ReactOS is well worth following. Visit has a number of problems. If you buy HP -- the lowest priced units these days -- Vista comes with all types of add-ons and gadgets. It's amazing and disgusting what HP has done with Vista. Dells are better in this regard, but Vista is still something I'm trying to get used to. But, if you have an older unit, Vista is probably not going to be a solution. You cannot buy the OSes from Microsoft that were created for the older units you may have. Whle Umbutu Linux may be a great desktop solution for many, it may still be a hard sell to the administration. Mac OS isn't going on your old Dell Optiplex, so you may find that ReactOS is your only option.

It's too early to know how ReactOS will pan out, but I'm happy to see this option being developed. The man behind the architecture of NT, David Cutler, created one of the all time best OSes: VMS. You probably never heard of it, but it may be running your banking account. VMS was a revolutionary OS and I always wondered how Microsoft could hire such a genius and get NT out of the process. But, after reading the ReactOS introduction pages, I'm now thinking that perhaps Cutler did a better job than I had thought.

I wish ReactOS well. The option of having a free Windows-based OS that can be used on older computers or as an alternative to Vista is one that I am happy to see. I will certainly follow the progress of this project. They have a bootable CD that you may wanto to try out. I will.


Saturday, May 03, 2008

Word Docs to the Web

Wired "How-to Wiki has a nice write-up on a problem that anyone managing web sites knows all too well: How to get a Word doc onto the web without all the extra junk save-to-html creates? I've spent countless hours over the years taking Word documents that others have sent to me and done my best to clean them up so that the resulting HTML documents follow Web standards.

For people using Dreamweaver -- my HTML editor of choice -- it has a clean Word feature that works pretty well. The How-to article explores a few simpler ideas, such as using Google Docs, and recommends a few ways to handle large numbers of Word documents. This last feature is something I knew about a few months back when I had to use a batch search-and-replace utility to clean up a few hundred HTML files created by Word. Talk about mind numbing!