Sunday, December 31, 2006

My Top 12 Web Tools of 2006 - Number 1

My favorite web tool for 2006 is actually a suite of tools. I am a big fan of Zoho, the group of developers in India who are working hard to develop web-based office applications along with a whole flotilla of other tools. Here is a brief interview with company CEO Vembu about the company and their plans. Extreme Tech also gives an overview of Zoho. Gizbuzz posted a podcast interview with the Chief Architect of Zoho, Raju Vegesna.

Here is a screenshot showing most of the tools they offer. I haven't used all of these yet, but I have used many of them and the amount of progress being made on the development of these tools is amazing.


They have released several new things at the end of 2006, some of which I haven't even had the time to play with yet. Read their announcement about the Office plug-in, the Zoho API, and the Zoho Desktopize widget. TechCruch also reviewed this.


I use Zoho Writer quite often. PC World Magazine ranked it number one of the online word processing tools. It is great for collaboration with others without passing around Word documents ad nauseum, and it renders very well as a webpage, which is not something that anyone can honestly say about MS Word. I especially like using Writer for presentation materials for workshops and seminars. Not only can anyone access your materials after the workshop, but you can make heavy use of links to other sources and it is very easy to increase font size on the presentation screen by toggling the +/- keys. The Zoho Writer Blog has lots of good info.

Here are three of the presentations that I've made using Zoho Writer during the past few months:
  1. Web 2.0 Whirlwind at League CIT in Charlotte
  2. Web 2.0 for Administrators at MnSCU Deans/CAO meetings
  3. Faculty Peer Review of Course Design at WCET in Portland
Zoho Sheet is similar to MS Excel, but not as full featured or powerful. However, it works great for the more common spreadsheet tasks and formulas. I especially like the fact that you can easily embed an active spreadsheet, chart, or both into a webpage. Here is the chart showing how nearly 3,000 students in Minnesota Online answered the question about what their plans were for taking online courses. I made the following chart using Zoho Sheet (check out the Sheet Blog). Here is one man's opinion preferring Zoho Sheet over Google Spreadsheets. FWIW, I agree with him.

MnOnline Student Survey Question about Current Plans -

Zoho Wiki is brand new just being released on December 20, 2006. I use wikis quite a bit but have never settled on a preferred one, using pbwiki, Jot, WikiSpaces, and others. I'm guessing that I will start using the Zoho Wiki more extensively since it:
  • uses the WYSIWYG editor from Zoho Writer that includes spell check
  • it uses the Zoho Single Sign-on, so you can use your existing Zoho ID
  • you can embed many different kinds of objects into your Wiki pages like a Zoho Sheet, a Zoho Show, a Zoho Creator application/form or a YouTube video.
I have also used Zoho Show several times (here's the Show Blog). It is one of several useful ways to put presentation slides on the web. However, I am doing that less and less these days, preferring to find other ways of making presentations if at all possible. Here is an embedded show that I have used previously on one of my blogs.

I've also used Zoho Polls and Zoho Planner, and plan to check out Zoho Chat, Zoho Projects, and Zoho Challenge.

BTW, their number one ranking in my list has nothing to do with being picked as the first Zoho Featured User back in September. Pure coincidence I tell ya, pure coincidence.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

My Top 12 Web Tools of 2006 - Number 2

Barry D Flickr Badge(2)

Flickr is a photo sharing website and an online community platform. It has become one of the most popular websites for anyone who uses digital photos and the service is widely used by bloggers as a photo repository. A major reason for its popularity has been the tagging features that allow you to search for photos from various users who have used similar tags.

With a free Flickr account you can upload 100MB of photos each month. This sounds as though they are providing you with that amount of server space, but it is actually a bandwidth limit. Each month you can upload that amount regardless of whether you used all of the bandwidth in a previous month or whether you have deleted any pictures.

I started with a free account, but upgraded to a Pro account after a few months. This is one of the very few web services that I have ever paid for. I could have survived with the free account, but for less than $25 per year I now get the following:
  • Unlimited storage
  • Unlimited uploads
  • Unlimited bandwidth
  • Unlimited sets (for organizing similar pictures)
  • Permanent archiving of high resolution images
  • Ad-free browsing and sharing
You can order prints (in the U.S.) and get them in the mail or at your local Target, and you can control whether others are able to print your photos or not. You can also control whether your photos are available for viewing by the public or just your invited guests.

You can now choose to license the photos you upload to Flickr under a Creative Commons license. One of the best parts of Flickr is the open API. This allows any interested (and skilled) user to develop tools that can be used with Flickr.

One thing that has great potential for academic use is the embedded notes feature. I have seen it used very effectively for describing parts of a painting in an Art History class, and have no doubts that it can be used in many creative ways. Click on the photo below to open it in Flickr to see the notes fields.

The Dahls 2006_05

Other goodies:
The rest of the stuff shown below was created using fd’s Flickr toys (good stuff). Click on any picture to view larger version.

ice fishing kids

Quinny Warholized

Motivator - Mentor

Calendar 01 January 2007

Pilot Mountain Stamp

Slideshow of Asian restaurant animals/food (click below):
View slideshow

You can see these photos and other effects from fd’s Flickr toys by viewing my flickr set.

Friday, December 29, 2006

My Top 12 Web Tools of 2006 - Number 3

In the previous post about Meebo I mentioned that I hate talking on the phone. That includes regular land-line phones and cell phones. It does not however include talking over the computer using Skype.

I like Skype for some of the same reasons that I like Meebo. It is similar to an unlisted phone number that I only give to people who I want to hear from. I can easily block undesirables (sales people, etc.) from calling me on Skype. With Skype you can make completely free computer-to-computer calls to other Skype users.

On both trips to Asia during 2006, Skype was the main way that I communicated with both family and co-workers who were back in the States. As the picture can attest, it is great being able to see your kids when you talk to them from several thousand miles away.

You don’t need to use video while using Skype, but it does add to the enjoyment, especially for those of us old enough to remember the video phones from the Jetsons. Any kind of basic PC microphone, even the built-in kind on a notebook will do the trick for audio-only calls. I like to use the Logitech QuickCam for Notebooks for video calls. It is very portable and the tiny integrated microphone works great.

Another good thing about Skype is the instant messaging capabilities. You can text chat even if voice chat is not possible or advisable. The screenshot below was captured when I was in a coffee shop with free wireless access but didn’t want to talk out loud with a bunch of strangers around me.

Other good things:

  • I’ve used Skype to record podcasts while interviewing people at a distance.
  • It is multi-platform and works on Windows, Linux, and Mac.
  • Using Skype Out you can call landlines or cell phones. It has been free during 2006 but there will be a small charge starting in 2007.
  • You can send SMS messages for a small fee as well.
  • You can have a real phone number assigned to your Skype account (I haven’t yet).
  • While in a Skype call (or chat) you can easily share files from PC-to-PC.
There are a few downfalls:
  • A computer on an open network might be used as a SuperNode, consuming lots of bandwidth and opening security risks (in theory)
    1. See recent report of a Skype worm as an example of what might happen as it becomes more of a target for ill-doers
    2. University of Minnesota discourages its use
    3. Inside Higher Ed: Skype Skirmishes
  • Others have to have Skype for you to communicate with them (or you pay for SkypeOut to their regular phone)
  • Skype is now owned by eBay which makes me somewhat worried about whether it will be turned into a profit center that makes it more costly to use and less enjoyable as it becomes more “corporatized”
  • Skype is built with closed protocols on a closed network (not an open standard, so it is proprietary, which is never a good thing)
Last thing, I also really like the potential of the Skypecasts. I have hosted a couple of them myself, and have also joined a couple of others as a participant. Up to 100 people can participate in a Skypecast where the host control the action by muting participants or handing over the microphone, and can even eject people from the Skypecast if they are being noisy or disruptive or just plain icky. Skypecasts are free to host and free to join for the participants. Currently the Skypecasts do not allow video to be used, but that is probably not too far away, at least for the host webcam to project out to others.

Considering all things, I’m still very much pro-Skype. (BTW, Skype does require a download and install on your computer. I errored earlier in stating that two things on my top 12 list required downloads, make that three.)

Thursday, December 28, 2006

My Top 12 Web Tools of 2006 - Number 4

I hate (yes, hate) talking on the telephone. The number of salespeople who think that I should spend my time talking to them is utterly ridiculous. Email isn’t any better. I get so many meaningless emails a day that I shudder every time my GroupWise Notify chimes in to tell me that I have mail.

Those are two of the reasons why I am using instant messaging more and more. So far, (fingers and toes crossed) I have not been subjected to IM-spam and I only hear from people who I really want to hear from (buddies, as it were).

I was never really attracted to IM in the past because of the fractured nature of it all. Some people were on AOL, others on MSN, others on Yahoo, etc. etc. I started using Trillian as a way of bringing all of those together and it works well. However, I would prefer to be able to access my IM services from any computer anywhere and so a web-based service was needed. When I stumbled across Meebo earlier this year I felt that my problems had been solved. For the most part, that has proven to be true.

From the About meebo page:
“ is a website for instant messaging from absolutely anywhere. Whether you’re at home, on campus, at work, or traveling foreign lands, hop over to on any computer to access all of your buddies (on AIM, Yahoo!, MSN, Google Talk, ICQ and Jabber) and chat with them, no downloads or installs required, for free!”

It no longer matters which service your buddies use, you can aggregate all messages in one place from Yahoo! Messenger, Windows Live Messenger, AIM, ICQ, and Google Talk.

Some of the enhancements this year include a feature allowing users to use a single login for sending and receiving messages from the various multiple services. Additionally, Meebo now has the ability to store chat logs for your user account. Not being able to archive a chat session has been a criticism (an old one) against the use of I.M., but now you can store the ones you want without storing them all. Also this year Meebo added receive and send notification sounds and you can now send messages to people who are not on your contact list.

Just before Christmas they also released some new features:
• display pictures
pink, green, and purple skins (traditional blue is still there)
• faster login
• saved away messages

In August of this year, Meebo launched the "meebo me" widget, which allows users to embed a a chat or IM widget on any webpage, including blogs and wikis on their personal website. I added one to each of my blogs and we also created a widget to use at Lake Superior College for helping online students who need some sort of technical support.

One of the beauties about the MeeboMe widget is that the other user does not have to have any kind of instant messaging account. Basically this is just an open window for them to type in their question. Another advantage is the ability to see if the receiving party (me, or the LSC Help Desk for example) is online and available to respond. This is better than sending the email that you have no idea when the other person will receive, read, and reply. Still one more sweet deal is that you can manage all of your widgets, and your regular I.M. messages all from the same webpage, as shown in the first screenshot of my account.

Another great thing is that you can tell how many people are viewing your webpage at any time. Look at the first screen shot and on my Buddy List you'll see that there are two people who were currently viewing Desire2Blog and are listed on the Desire2Chat widget as guests (anonymous) and there were three people on the Send Me an I.M. widget which is located on this blog. Two are anonymous and one is Krystal who was logged into Meebo so that her screen name showed up.

Odds and ends:

Friday, December 22, 2006

My Top 12 Web Tools of 2006 - Number 5

From their website:
"What is is a collection of favorites - yours and everyone else's. You can use to:

  • Keep links to your favorite articles, blogs, music, reviews, recipes, and more, and access them from any computer on the web.
  • Share favorites with friends, family, coworkers, and the community.
  • Discover new things. Everything on is someone's favorite -- they've already done the work of finding it. So is full of bookmarks about technology, entertainment, useful information, and more. Explore and enjoy."
" is a social bookmarking website -- the primary use of is to store your bookmarks online, which allows you to access the same bookmarks from any computer and add bookmarks from anywhere, too. On, you can use tags to organize and remember your bookmarks, which is a much more flexible system than folders.
You can also use to see the interesting links that your friends and other people bookmark, and share links with them in return. You can even browse and search to discover the cool and useful bookmarks that everyone else has saved -- which is made easy with tags."

Rather than link to a bunch of useful sites as I normally would in one of these posts, I'll do it the way by pointing to my bookmarks about

You can view all my boolmarks at:

Thursday, December 21, 2006

My Top 12 Web Tools of 2006 - Number 6

For delivering audio files and/or podcasts over the web, I prefer to use Odeo. This is another of those areas where there is a multitude of choices. Odeo allows you to record simple audio files, or to upload files that are created locally. I usually choose the latter option since I prefer to record using Audacity and then upload using Odeo and embed the file into a blog post or other webpage using the Odeo players.

powered by ODEO

The audio file above is just a short example of delivering audio with an embedded Odeo player. The recording is a bunch of sound bites from the old Andy Griffith Show. Just some stuff that puts a smile on my face when I listen to it.

There are actually two different Odeo websites (at least). is where you would find audio to listen to. Odeo Studio is where you would record, upload, or otherwise manage your own audio files and podcasts.

One thing that you cannot currently do in Odeo is edit your audio file. Again, I use Audacity for that function. The Odeo help and FAQ sections are not terrific. Here is a fairly useful item from their Support area: Using the Odeo Studio

Odeo can be used in combination with iTunes. I don’t do this because I am becoming increasingly anti-Apple. Here is how.

Step-by-step tutorial at the betterdays blog by Preetam Rai.

13 minute screencast of creating a podcast in Odeo by Kathryn Dirkin.

You can easliy add an audio file to a blog post with one click from inside Odeo. You could literally make a recording and have it posted within 30 seconds of completing the recording. They are trying to make this dead-on simple. Now if they would only figure out the two website deal-ee-o, then it would be really simple.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

My Top 12 Web Tools of 2006 - Number 7

Okay, okay, technically this program is not a web tool. Sorry about that. But you download it for free off the net, so that's gotta count for something.

Audacity is the other item on my top 12 list that requires a download and install. Google Earth (# 8, see below) was the first. It is open source, free, and relatively light-weight. There are many other audio editing programs out there, but this is my choice. Years ago I started using Goldwave which is a very good editor. Goldwave is shareware, so I prefer Audacity since it is FOSS (free and open source software), or FLOSS, as some are trying to call it.

From the Audacity Book by Matt Brubeck:
“What is Audacity? Audacity is a free software program for recording and editing audio. Audacity runs on several operating systems, including GNU/Linux, Mac OS X, and Windows."

"You can use Audacity to record sounds onto your computer, either live (with a microphone) or pre-recorded (from tapes or records). Audacity can also open and edit audio files, including tracks downloaded from the internet or copied from CDs. Audacity can open and save Ogg Vorbis, MP3, WAV, AIFF, and several other types of audio files."

"You can edit recordings with Audacity the same way you edit text with a word processor. Audacity can cut, copy, splice, and mix sounds together. Filters are included for altering speed and pitch, adding echo or reverb, removing noise from recordings, and more.”

There’s lots of resources out there. However, I still think the best way to learn it is to get in there and kick the tires a bit.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

My Top 12 Web Tools of 2006 - Number 8

Google Earth (their homepage) is one of only two things on my top 12 list that requires a download and install. Still it is free and relatively light-weight. There are also paid premium versions of GE, but the free version is just fine for normal use.

The Google Earth Blog is a useful resource. Here is a page with links to info about the basics, such as how to move your view with zoom, pan, tilt and what the different settings will do.

Just to demonstrate how it can work, I’ll make a screencast of Google Earth showing a few of the destinations in and around Duluth, MN. This will be practice for a better one that I will post later on Desire2Blog for the D2L User Conference in July 2007.

You should have an Internet connection when using Google Earth as the download itself does not give you full functionality. It is possible to use it for offline viewing (no Internet connection), but it is somewhat limited.

You can even follow Santa’s trip around the globe on Christmas Eve. There are games you can play with GE such as Google Earth War, Google Earth Game, and GE Chess.

Check out the Google Earth Education Community. For a whole bunch of other links and more info, check out the Wikipedia page about Google Earth.

Monday, December 18, 2006

My Top 12 Web Tools of 2006 - Number 9

I started using Bloglines in February 2006. I now use it to track the 92 different blog feeds that I follow on a regular basis. A couple of months ago I was just about ready to find a new aggregator when Bloglines upgraded their service. The improved functionality was enough to keep me around. Some people think that there are better aggregators out there, but I’m very comfortable with Bloglines and am no longer feeling any pressing need to switch.

Many people are switching to newer web RSS readers like Rojo, Google Reader, Attensa, and Netvibes.

The public listing of the feeds I read:

From their website: What is Bloglines?
“Bloglines is a FREE online service that helps you subscribe to and manage lots of web information, such as news feeds, weblogs and audio. Bloglines tracks the information you're interested in, retrieves new stuff as it happens, and organizes everything for you on your own personal web news page.”

How Does Bloglines Work?
“Bloglines is a "news aggregator." Many online information sources, including web sites, weblogs and news services, now broadcast their content to the web in so-called "syndicated feeds" or "news feeds" with new technologies like Really Simple Syndication (RSS) and ATOM. News aggregator software and services collect those syndicated feeds and present them to end users in a variety of ways. (snip) After you join Bloglines you simply search for the content you are interested in and identify the feeds you want to track. Once you "subscribe" to those feeds (a single-click maneuver in most cases), Bloglines will constantly check those feeds for changes or additions and direct new information onto your Bloglines personal page.”

Here's some useful stuff:

Sunday, December 17, 2006

My Top 12 Web Tools of 2006 - Number 10

I started using Google IG about 6 months ago. It’s a personalized start page (or portal) that I use as the home page on all my browsers on all my computers, both home and work. It gives me quick access to the things I use most, and also gives access to those things that the rest of the family uses most, such as the games that the kids play (constantly).

You get a basic set of widgets to start with, but it is incredibly easy to delete them, add more, rearrange them, add more pages with tabs, etc. There are hundreds of widgets to choose from with more being created by users all the time. Some of the basic widgets available include:

  • Gmail
  • Google Calendar
  • Google Reader (RSS feeds)
  • Google Map Search
  • Google Docs and Spreadsheets
  • Local Weather
  • Local Movie Times
  • Bookmarked websites
  • Instant messaging
  • World Clocks
  • CNN or other news
  • Word of the Day
  • How-to of the Day
  • Stock Quotes
  • ESPN Sports or other
  • Date & Time
One of my favorite widgets is a Creative Commons search box for Flickr photos.

Popular alternatives include Pageflakes and Netvibes. I’ll stick with Google unless they get to the point where they totally tick me off with their corporate tactics.

Friday, December 15, 2006

My Top 12 Web Tools of 2006 - Number 11

I have been using SlideShare for a while now and I rather like it. Some people have called it the YouTube for PowerPoint.

Currently, you cannot embed audio in SlideShare for a narrated presentation, but I'll bet they're working on it. I have used it a couple of times where it is paired with a separate audio file for the narration.

From their website: "What is SlideShare? SlideShare is a free service for sharing presentations and slideshows. You can upload your PowerPoint and OpenOffice presentations, tag them, embed them into your blog or website, browse others' presentations, and comment on individual slides. It's a great way to share your ideas with others, or to learn from other people. And it's free."

Also: "What is the maximum size of the presentation file that can be uploaded? SlideShare supports a maximum file size of 20MB at present."

Right now you create all of your presentation materials outside of SlideShare and then upload the finished product to the system. Basically they store your stuff and make it easy to embed the presentation into any webpage.

One of the nice features is the ability to link to a particular slide within a presentation. For example, this link will show our online course enrollments over the years, one slide out of 41 slides in that presentation. Another nice feature is the price: free! The embedded show below is somewhat text-heavy, which I believe means that the narration file is less needed.

Update (9/11/07): I added an mp3 narration file to my slideshow at Slideshare and synched them. This feature was not available at the time of the original post. Sorry for the tin-cup sound of the audio.

My Top 12 Web Tools of 2006 - Number 12

Somewhat in the spirit of the twelve days of Christmas, I am going to give an end-of-the-year rundown of my twelve favorite (mostly) free web tools. What you'll find is that most of these twelve are NOT off the beaten path; they are fairly successful, widely-used applications. I play around with plenty of new, more obscure, web tools as well; but these twelve are those that I use regularly and recommend to others.

Number 12: Pandora

Based on the Music Genome Project, Pandora allows you to customize your own music channels so that you can listen to your favorite songs or artists, and other tunes similar to those. From the website: "Together we set out to capture the essence of music at the most fundamental level. We ended up assembling literally hundreds of musical attributes or "genes" into a very large Music Genome. Taken together these genes capture the unique and magical musical identity of a song - everything from melody, harmony and rhythm, to instrumentation, orchestration, arrangement, lyrics, and of course the rich world of singing and vocal harmony. It's not about what a band looks like, or what genre they supposedly belong to, or about who buys their records - it's about what each individual song sounds like. Over the past 6 years, we've carefully listened to the songs of over 10,000 different artists - ranging from popular to obscure - and analyzed the musical qualities of each song one attribute at a time. This work continues each and every day as we endeavor to include all the great new stuff coming out of studios, clubs and garages around the world."

"Over 400 different musical aspects are considered when selecting the next song. Examples of these are rhythm syncopation, key tonality, vocal harmonies and displayed instrumental proficiency." (from Wikipedia)

In the screenshot you can see that for my Natalie Merchant channel, it firt played My Skin from her Ophelia recording, then played a song by Sarah McLachlan, then one by Jessica Stone, then the Guilded Cage, and then another song by Natalie Merchant, This House is on Fire.

This is great to have open in a browser while you're working for a little background music. You can even train it to provide more of the music that you like and less of those that you don't like. Overall, it is very cool. No download, all web-based, access your channels from any Internet connection, and totally free. Number 12 on the countdown (countup?), but could have placed higher.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Sign Language 7

This was one of the better signs in the Education Building at the 2006 Minnesota State Fair.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Using CamStudio

This was just an experiment using CamStudio to record a Skype call. The video wasn't working on the other end, but otherwise CamStudio is a good way to capture both the audio and the video of the call. Granted, talking head webcam shots are not intriguing video, but I was just fooling around anyway. CamStudio is a free clone of Camtasia, used more for recording PowerPoint presentations and screencasts of computer apps.

The purpose of the Skype call was just to demonstrate the technology for some K-12 teachers in Nevada who were attending a professional development session with Brian Crosby, 4th grade teacher in Sparks. The call isn't terribly interesting, but I posted it to see how well it works to record the call, upload to You Tube, then embed in blog. Worked pretty well.

Sign Language 6

This was taken in Xi’an China when I visited there in June, 2006. I am not trying to make fun of the Chinese attempts to speak and write English (seriously, I’m NOT!), but some of the signs there are just too funny to ignore.

Unfortunately we were unable to return later that day at half past eight in order to change friends … but our minds sure were swimming with ideas of what that might mean.

In case you can't read it easily, the top sign says "Friend-making Clubhouse at Half Past Eight." The bottom sign says "Sunny Half Past 8 Friend Changing Club." We need a club like that around here!!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Sign Language 5

Wow, those are really cheap burgers. You can get five burgers for a nickel, and they would still owe you some change. The most frustrating thing is that you could walk up to their counter, tell them that their sign is wrong, and everybody in the place would still believe that it's accurate. They'd think that you're the nut!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Asian Food

Click the "Continue' button on the first picture and then click the play button (triangle) on the left side to start the slideshow or click on any of the photos to view.

Or, to open in a new window, click here.
Created at

Friday, November 24, 2006

PBwiki Enhancement

It appears as though PBwiki is about to get a major upgrade in the functionality of the page editor. (CC photo courtesy of factoryjoe. Click thumbnail to enlarge.) About 6 months ago there were no editing buttons, so everybody had to learn the fairly simple "wiki style" of editing to make things bold, add bullet lists, and make links. Then they added nine buttons to the editor for such things as horizontal lines, bold, italic, underlines, strikethroughs, table insertion, center align, bullet lists, and number lists.

Now it appears that they are ready to add a whole lot more to the editing functionality which will really make it easy to customize the pages without needing to know any HTML or wiki style language. Here are more screen shots directly from PBwiki.

PBwiki has always been very easy to use, but this looks like it will be much easier and have much more functionality. Adding links will be one-click simple, and embedding videos will be a snap, chat windows, font colors/types/sizes, Flickr photos, calendars, stock charts, maps, etc. Sounds great to me. Tip of the hat to Ewan McIntosh for a heads up on this.

Academic FOSS

Thanks to Alec Couros for the link to 40 Academic FOSS applications currently underway in various institutions. FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) has been getting a lot of buzz at Ed Tech conferences for the past several years, and it appears that there is finally a fair amount of action backing up a whole lot of talk. Encouraging.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Sign Language 4

Clearly the best way to protect your circumstance is to throw your trash into the receptacle. At least that is the way you protect your circumstance in Shanghai. I love the "me" part, that's a trash can talkin' at ya, don't ya know?

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Sign Language 3

Darn, I was really hoping to see some naked lights. This photo was taken on the docks at the Turbo Jet Boats from Hong Kong to Macau.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Hello From ATC

You can call it Alex, unless you're good friends; then it's Alec.

I had a good time there participating in their e-learning panel discussion. I also gave a 50-minute session on wikis and blogs.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Bye Bye iRows

The 500,000 pound GoogleGorilla in the room has gobbled up more of the competition. According to TechCrunch, Google has bought out (hired away?) the founders of the Israeli web-based spreadsheet company called iRows.

I have preferred ZohoSheet over iRows as my web-based spreadsheet of choice, but I feel like my choices are being reduced on an almost daily basis. At least it's not Microsoft. Although, if pink is the new black, is Google the new Microsoft?

Monday, November 13, 2006

File Conversion

I've been trying out a new file conversion tool by Zamzar. It's totally free and maybe the best part is that you don't have to create an acocunt with them to use it. I have so many accounts at so many different sites that it is a bit of a challenge to keep them all straight.

All you do is upload the file that you want to convert, choose the file type that you want it converted to, give them an email address where they will send you notification of the converted file, and click Submit. Then in a minute or two, you'll receive an email with a link to their download site where you can grab your new file.

I have tried several files so far:

  1. converted a Word doc into an HTML file (can also convert to pdf, png, and several others)
  2. converted an mp3 audio file into a wma (windows media audio)
  3. converted an mpg (movie) file into an mp3 (stripped out only the audio)
  4. converted a PowerPoint file into an HTML file (although I'm having a hard time downloading it).

Other useful conversions include:
  • PDF files converted to Word, Excel, or HTML
  • BMP (bitmap) or TIFF converted to either JPG or GIF
  • Just about any music/audio file type into any other (including open source OGG)
  • Just about any video format into another, including mp4 for small screens
I haven't found a downside yet. See all current conversion types here.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Sign Language 2

This sign sits along the path leading up the trail to Pilot Mountain, NC. Pilot Mountain is the real place that was the basis for the fictional place of Mount Pilot in the Andy Griffith Show. The town and the mountain are just down the road a piece from Mayberry (Mount Airy). The best part of this sign is the phrase "Area Contains Hazards Associated with Rocks ..."

All I can think of is how Ernest T. Bass lived somewhere in those surrounding mountains. He was a rock heaver extrordinaire. Nobody heaved a rock quite like Ernest T.

Two of my favorite Bass-sims:
1) when asked to repeat himself: "I don't chew my cabbage twice!"
2) "and you ain't heard the last of Ernest T. Bass!"

Friday, November 10, 2006

Sign Language 1

I love stupid signs, ugly signs, misspellings on signs, etc.
Apparently if you're careless, you WON'T bump your head.
I'm not picking on the Chinese. I love their country and the people. But their signs are a hoot.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Too Much Fun

What do you get when companies like this register a domain name on the web? Check it out for a good laugh. Or here, also here. My aplogies for the incorrect link (fixed 11/6/2006, 9:15 AM).

Who Represents? (as in, who's your agent?)
Pen Island (the best pens on the Internet)
Mole Station Native Nursery (Aussie producer of shrubs, etc.)
Speed of Art (championship art direction ... huh?)
First United Methodist Church of Cumming (nuf said)
Go Tahoe (traveling to Tahoe?)
IP Anywhere (to use with PC anywhere)
Therapist Finder (when you need that kind of help)

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Jimmy Speaks

I recorded a couple of video clips of Jimmy Wales giving the keynote address at the WCET conference in Portland. Unfortunately, the stage area was so dark that the video really turned out lousy. I was able to salvage the sound files and turned them into a little audio file for you to listen to. Each segment is about 3 minutes in length.

powered by ODEO

In the first segment, he is answering criticism that was received from the media when Wikipedia "locked down" some of their pages. See for example: the BBC, the New York Times, and the Rough Type blog.

In the second segment he answers a question about how higher ed can use some of the principles of Wikipedia to move more quickly into the 21st century (or something like that).

My favorite parts are: a) in the first segment he uses the phrase "the Pope is a poopy head" (taken out of context, listen to the file to hear the whole thing), and b) in the second segment he says "one of the big opportunities that I see .... is killing the textbook companies." Of course there are several textbook companies who help sponsor the conference.

  • He talked about all the different languages of Wikipedia articles. (currently 107 languages have at least 1,000 articles, English makes up 1/3 of the total articles with German ranking second in quantity of articles)
  • He talked about his Wikimedia Foundation.
  • He talked about WikiBooks in relation to killing the textbook companies.
  • He thinks Campaigns Wikia will have an impact in the 2008 election.
  • He is also shocked that there are over 10,000 articles posted in the Muppet Wiki.
  • The person who introduced him mentioned that author Jason Lanier has called Wikipedia "Digital Maoism." I'm going to do some reading about that. BTW, on my trips to China I have learned that Mao is mostly revered as a great man over there ... for what it's worth.
  • And finally, he doesn’t think net neutrality is very important. He doesn’t agree with many of the net neutrality proponents, but he also doesn’t think that the government should be determining this in the first place. The biggest problem is the lack of choice (ISP) in most local markets.
BTW, that second photo is not his imitation of Lee Harvey Oswald, just one of those unfortunate still images that none of us would ever hope to see of ourselves.

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Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia was the keynote speaker to kick off the 18th Annual WCET national conference held this year in Portland, OR.

He talked alot about free access? What does than mean? Free as in speech, not free as in beer, although Wikipedia is actually both.

Freedom to copy, to modify, to redistribute, to redistribute modified versions, and to do these things for either commercial or non-commercial uses.

What is Wikipedia best at?

  • Neutrality and moderation are great strengths of Wikipedia.
  • Contrary to very confused media reports, wikis are much better than virtually any other medium at generating calm, measured discussions and debates.
  • In order for writing to survive in an open community process, it must be broadly appealing to a large number of people.
It was a good start to the conference. More on this later (maybe).
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Saturday, October 28, 2006

zhè gè & nèi gè

A little of this and a little of that.

BTW, the photo has nothing to do with anything. It's just a pretty tree that I saw in a cemetery in Mt. Pilot, NC. (actually Pilot Mountain).

Catching up on my blog reading now that I'm back home. Here are a few of the gems:

Recommended add-ons for Firefox 2 from TechCrunch

Web 2.0 tools for classroom use by Solution Watch. The link is for Part One and then there are links for Part Two (web office) and Part Three (blogs, wikis, photos, video, etc.) on the right side of the page.

Web Accessibility article from the BBC. If Target Corp can get sued by a blind student for not being able to shop at their website, what makes us think that we won't be sued for inaccessible web courses? That's one reason why I've made an issue about this (again) lately.

At the MnSCU CAO/Dean meetings this past week I was again opining that the Cluetrain Manifesto should be required reading for all higher ed administrators. I found a little video where one of the authors David Weinberger talks about the common misconceptions that people hold on to about the conversations that the book promotes as essential.
"(Cluetrain stuff:) We've confused building a business with building a fort. The walls try to control customers/ employees/ partners by controlling the flow of information. But the Net has knocked those walls down." (From Weinberger's blog)

Would you buy fabric if you couldn't sell the clothes that you made from it? This is a good example of how the whole idea of property (intellectual or otherwise) is getting totally convulted. This whole flap is just another example of the whole World is Flat discussion. One person posts an opinion about something and soon the whole blogosphere is chiming in and choosing sides. That's much more fun than having the discussion at the local coffee shop with three uninformed patrons. Thanks to Stephen for the heads up on this one.
Cory Doctorow's original post at Boing Boing
Response from the fabric seller
A rant from a culture author who appears to have a very interesting book.
Another rant from a fiber expert (check out the comments for much more fun)

Thanks to Wesley for a pointer to the Persuasion Map for helping students write an essay.

I'll be checking out Toufee ASAP for making flash video and presentation files for free.

Lastly, a tip of the cap to the excellent blog Creating Passionate Users by Kathy Sierra. Her post titled "Better Beginnings: how to start a presentation, book, article..." is really good. Her points of not starting at the beginning and not starting with the history are right on target. I had the good fortune of missing a session at the CIT where one of my friends said the presenter spent the first 20 minutes telling all about herself and her school. OMG!! You have to wonder how many people walked out during that 20 minute period. I would have after about five minutes.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

CIT Recap

The League's Conference on Information Technology (CIT) is over. This year it was held at the Charlotte Convention Center.

Q #1. How many sessions on how to make podcasts do they really need in the session schedule?

Q #2. Why on earth did they think that a bunch of people interested in Ed Tech would want to sit around and listen to a keynote by a Republican U.S. House Rep (Sue Myrick)? Why would we want to listen to ANYBODY from the most do-nothing Congress in the history of the United States?

Q #3. Why did so many scheduled presenters just not show up at all? I've never seen so many cancelled sessions and others that didn't happen even though they weren't officially cancelled.

In closing, I should say something good about the conference. Okay ... my third presentation of the day on Monday was outstanding! Actually, I'm not (quite) that full of myself ... that's really what several people said at the end of the session, and even others when I saw them the next day. It was another presentation titled Web 2.0 Whirlwind. We basically got through 36 different web-based application, tools, and freebies in 60 minutes. All of that with a very slow Internet connection. Here's the handout for the session. Here's a link to several other presentations.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Too Much Fun

In case you couldn't guess from the hints.

Guess Where I'm Going Today?

Hint #1

Hint #2

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Saigon Airlift

In about an hour we board the van/limo that will take us to the airport to return home. We will be in travel status for about 27-28 hours depending on the prevailing winds. Saigon to Taipei, Taipei to Los Angeles, L.A. to Minneapolis, and MSP to Duluth.

We have had a great trip and made a great many new friends in China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Vietnam.

The photo is of the sunrise outside our hotel window overlooking the Saigon River. Over and out.

So Long Saigon

We began our last full day in Saigon with a trip to the U.S. Consulate offices to talk about American- Vietnamese relations, student visas to study in the U.S., immigration to the U.S. from Vietnam, and other things related to the business of the Consulate. No cameras allowed at the Consulate, so no pictures to share for this.

After the meeting, I attended a lunch hosted by SEAMEO at a very nice restaurant. The food was excellent, the company was good, and the house that had been converted into a restaurant was very cool.

Some things I learned about Vietnam today include:

  • 40% of the Vietnam GDP is generated in Ho Chi Minh City.
  • The U.S. Consulate there has 40 U.S. staff members and over 200 Vietnamese staff members.
  • U.S. is the largest export market for Vietnam, but not for education (Aussies).
  • There are over 500,000 foreign students studying in the U.S.
  • Those foreign students bring about $13 billion into the U.S. annually.
  • Approximately 3,670 Vietnamese students are studying in the U.S.
  • That number has increased about 16% annually for several years, with over 30% increase in the past year.
  • 75% of the Vietnamese students in the U.S. received their visas at the Consulate in HCMC.
  • They also administer the Fulbright program at the Consulate.
  • The per capita annual income in Vietnam is $653.
  • 1.7 million Vietnamese students took the college entrance exam (for Vietnam schools), but most are denied access to higher education.
  • The granting of student visas is getting looser all the time thanks to improved relations between the two countries.

The recruitment fair on Wednesday afternoon was very active. We gave out almost all of the materials that we had with us and talked to many more seriously interested students and parents than at the fair in Hong Kong. It appears as though the higher ed market in Vietnam is ripe for U.S. educators to attract a good number of students.

This evening we had a farewell dinner with the whole group. Only a small part of the group is going on to Hanoi tomorrow with the largest part heading home in their various directions. It was a festive (rowdy) group as they were preparing to say their goodbyes and relaxing after a grueling trip throughout Asia. Some of us stayed a bit later than the others and generally made pests of ourselves while the staff waited for us to leave.