February 6

Is it time to say goodbye to Moodle?

instructure

This week, I have been playing with the “Canvas” Learning Management System (LMS).

I have 5 years of experience with using Moodle in my classrooms.  For what I needed at the time, Moodle was fairly sufficient.  However, Moodle’s development seems to have slowed the past few years.  In fact, Moodle’s integration of “Web 2.0” seems non-existent.  On the other hand, Canvas seems to embrace the “Web 2.0” features (collaboration tools, conferencing options, Google Doc Integration, Social Network Integration, etc).  In addition, Canvas’ User Interface seems cleaner and smoother than Moodle’s interface on the frontend and the administrative backend.

 

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February 2

Visuwords – Online Visual Dictionary

visuwords-screenshot

Visuwords is an online dictionary and thesaurus with a twist.  Enter a word in their search box and in a few seconds, your screen will be filled with a visual map of definitions of verbs, nouns, adjectives, and adverbs, antonyms, synonyms, causes, derivations, and several other categorizations.

The amount of results will vary by the word searched.

 

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November 21

Google is Kicking off another Coding Contest

Google’s Code-In 2010 Contest kicks off tomorrow (November 22, 2010).  The contest is aimed at high school students.  The contest will challenge the participants in areas such as Working with Open Source Code, Writing Documentation and Training Materials, and Researching the Needs of Participating Organizations.

The tasks outlined by Google include …

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June 2

DropUpload – A Great Little Free App for quickly upload a file via FTP

DropUpload is a simple Open Source application I ran across for quickly uploading files to a FTP server.  Occasionally, I need to upload a few files via FTP from a computer that does not have an FTP Client (Filezilla).  DropUpload comes in handy, because it runs from as a portable app from my USB drive. 

With DropUpload, I can setup the FTP server info and then drag and drop the file into the program to upload it.

Another nice option is that I can add my server information in a protected setup in which the login information is hidden and encrypted.  Then give this to others who will need to upload files to my server.  The users do not see the FTP login name or password. 

Get DropUpload here.

April 28

ReactOS – An Open Source Alternative to Windows

I just came across the ReactOS Project.  This is an ongoing Open Source project designed to be an alternative to Microsoft’s Windows Operating System.  This is not the alternative of a completely different Operating System that runs completely different applications, like Linux.  Instead, this is a project that uses freely available documentation from Microsoft to create an O/S that is compatible with Windows Applications.  Since it is Open Source, this also means that it is Free.

The project is still in the developmental stage and not yet ready for daily use as the main O/S for your computer.  However, from the information on their website, ReactOS requires much less processor and memory than Windows XP, Vista, and Win7.  I am hoping by the time a stable version comes out, we will have a widely compatible O/S that can be installed on older machines that are laying around and collecting dust or being dumped in landfills.

I downloaded version 0.3.9 and tried it out on a couple of computers.  The screen looked nice and loaded quickly, but then hung up.  There might be a quick solution for this, but since the project is still not quite stable yet, I will wait until a future release before putting too much time into it.  However, if you want to try it out yourself, ReactOS has several download options available, including an installation ISO and LiveCD ISO.

April 24

Ubuntu 9.04 is out

Ubuntu 9.04 is out and looks better than ever.  I am in the process of installing it and setting up a Virtual Machine for Windows XP.  As I have time to complete this project, I will post more details.

If you are unsure what Ubuntu is, go here.  One day, I plan on writing an article about Ubuntu (just don’t know when).

July 11

Graphic Editing Software – GIMP

OK, do you need to create a logo, touch up a photo, create a collage?  Most people think of Adobe Photoshop for these tasks.  In fact, Photoshop is often used as a verb when working with graphics.

Just let me photoshop it to remove the spots from that picture.

If you already have Adobe Photoshop and have knowledge on how to use it, then great.  You have an extremely powerful tool at your disposal.  However, for the rest of us who do not have $500 + to spend on a software program for the previous mentioned tasks, let me recommend GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program).

GIMP is yet another high quality Open Source application.  GIMP’s features rival most commercial graphic editing package’s.  Some of GIMP’s features include …

    • Painting
    • Photo Retouching
    • Advanced Layers and Channels
    • Animated Graphic Formats
    • Compatible with an Extensive Array of File Formats
    • Allows for plugins to be installed to increase the functionality of the program
    • Versions are available for Windows, Linux, and Mac
    • Extensive Tutorials are Available Online.
July 11

A Better Email Client

So, how to you check your email?

If you have Yahoo, Gmail, Hotmail, AOL Mail, etc, you are probably using a web browser to check your email.  If so, this post probably will not concern you (unless you use Gmail).

Most other types of email will have what is called POP3 access.  If so, you might be using a webmail interface or using an email client.

The most popular email client in use by PC users is Outlook Express (OE).  OE comes standard with Windows.  It is a decent email client, but often susceptible to attacks (due to its popularity and how it handles emails and attachments).  Others use Microsoft Outlook (as part of the MS Office Suites).  Outlook is a useful program with a lot of features.  Unfortunately, Outlook also has similar vulnerabilities as OE.  Also, some corporate mail systems require Outlook.  Therefore many corporate mail users must use Outlook for their email systems.

For those PC users who want a safer email reader for their POP3 email, the best alternative is Mozilla’s Thunderbird.  Thunderbird is an Open Source email client from the same development team who brought us Mozilla Firefox.

Thunderbird has several advantages over OE.  First, it is somewhat safer in how it handles email and attachments.  Second, it includes a RSS Feed Reader (more on this later),  Third, it can be run as a Portable Application (more on this later).  Finally, its data files are easier to locate and backup than OE’s.

By the way, if you are a Gmail user, you can setup your Gmail account in Thunderbird to use POP3 email readers.