Friday, 11 December 2009

Goodbye Landline

Like a lot of Canadians, I have decided to abandon my landline. This blast from the past was rarely used, it cost me ~$30/month (works out to about $0.50/min) and compared to a modern mobile, it is very ancient. My current mobile plan meets my calling needs; I have a Fav 5 (or My 5) type of plan which allows me to talk to 5 people anywhere in the country. Also, I have become a big fan of Skype. This amazing service allows free calling between Skype users and for a low charge of just $3/month, I have unlimited minutes to call any mobile or land number in North America, and I can do video calls. Currently I have to do this at my desktop computer, but a 32 GB iPod Touch is definitely in my future which will allow me to do this anywhere there is a WiFi signal. All of this amazing technology will cause more people to wave goodbye to the landline. 

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Zoho Adds A Chrome Extension

As you probably already hear,  Google Chrome now has extensions (along with Linux and Mac versions). Zoho (who are definitely Google-likers) has added two great extensions.
  1. Zoho Companion: This allows you to be connected to Zoho all of the time while using Chrome. You can open documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and pdfs directly within Zoho. So, if you come across something like below:

    all you have to do is click on View in Zoho. This is going to be such a timesaver, there is no longer any downloading of the file and waiting for the slow-clunky Excel program to open. Simply click on the link and you have access to the spreadsheet, even if you don't have a copy of excel on your computer! The companion also allows tracking of shared documents and emails. 
  2. Zoho Notebook Companion: This extension allows you to take clippings, screenshots, and write notes about webpages.
Google has been criticized somewhat for developing an OS that is completely cloud-based, extensions like these display the power of the cloud and that users don't need to be locked into a desktop. Check out the video below of the Chrome OS and note how similar the file opening is to Zoho's Companion extension: 

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Export All Of Those Google Docs At Once

If your afraid of loosing those valuable docs that are stored in the cloud, fear no more!! Google Docs now allows the exporting of all of your documents with a single click (up to 2 GB at a time), that's a lot of Google Docs files. This is a great feature that I will use occasionally. I have no real fears of loosing my online documents but its always nice to have a backup. Along with this addition, searching within GDocs was upgraded to include sorting by relevance, and a more flexible search terms (searching for "game spot" will also return results for "gamespot").

Searching by Relevance

Export all of those GDocs!!

Sunday, 6 December 2009

It's Been A Successful Online-Office Semester

It's been a busy semester in the cloud, it's been 6 weeks since my last post!! Anyways, this semester went very well. I used Google Sites for the course webpage, this allowed me to easily post presentations, documents, videos, and important announcements. We experimented with Web 2.0 lab reports using Zoho Docs, there was some frustrations with this but this will occur when any new software is introduced. The students were amazed with the real-time collaboration, the fact that it's free, and how it can be accessed from anywhere. It took a while for them to realize that nothing is stored on the computer and some of them tried to "send it as an attachment." Lab marks were posted via a Google Spreadsheet embedded into the course webpage. This allowed students to view their marks as soon as they were entered, this was a great hit and worked much better than constantly posting .pdfs. It truly was a great semester and I expect to do all of the above plus more in the upcoming Winter semester. 

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Preview of Office Web Apps Expanding

Yesterday Microsoft announced that they will expand the technical preview of Office Web Apps. This is great news if your in the US or Japan, everyone else (like myself) will have to wait until (hoepfully) sometime later this fall. For US and Japan citizens, you can sign up here for a technical preview:

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Zoho Show Becomes More Interactive

One of the complaints about Web 2.0 presentation tools is that they are not very interactive. Slides can be flipped through, there may be a simple animation, but that's about it. Zoho's presentation tool, Show, is changing that. This advanced Web 2.0 presenting tool already allowed the embedding of Zoho's spreadsheets and charts, now Zoho Reports (a reporting tool) can also be embedded. Check out the embedded slideshow to see this in action.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Preview Google Docs In Gmail

The Google Docs (GDocs)/Gmail team introduced another great feature today; the ability to preview Google Docs in Gmail. This is an excellent addition because a lot of us spend a considerable amount of time clicking on GDocs links in emails, now the document will simply be previewed within Gmail. Make sure you go to Gmail labs to enable this feature. 

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

My Next Computer Will Be An iPod Touch

I've made a very important decision; I am going to buy an iPod Touch soon!! I currently own a desktop computer and I spend a lot of time online, this equals a lot of time spent at my desk, and this equals me getting really tired of sitting on a once comfortable chair and once modern desk. With the newest iPod touch (Apple calls it a pocket computer) I can do most of my online stuff, plus play some really great games and use it to cart my music around. Since I have Wi-Fi all through my apartment, I can do all of these things away from my desk. I could purchase a smartphone to meet my needs, but they are damn expensive. For my uses, one would probably cost me ~$100/month which is too much for a laboratory instructor paying off student loans. 

I plan on purchasing the 32 GB iPod touch since this version has more features than the 8 GB and 16GB, most important is OpenGL graphic support which will be very important for future iPod Touch games. The cheapest price I could find online is futureshop, $298.99 + taxHow am I going to finance this? I currently own a 3rd Gen iPod nano, this will be hopefully sold on eBay, and suprisingly, I should be able to get ~$140 for it. So all I have to do is come up with another $200 and it'll be mine, woo hoo!! How am I going to get the remaining $200? That part I'm still working on....

Monday, 12 October 2009

The Google Docs Interface Gets Rehauled

The Google Docs interface finally got a makeover that was promised about 3 months ago. Besides the new colors (which I really am liking), multiple files can now be uploaded (so far I haven't found any limitations on how many can be uploaded) and similar to Zoho, Thinkfree, and Microsoft Office Web, a destination folder can be chosen. This is going to be such a timesaver; prior to these features I would spend so much time uploading individual files and then placing them in their destination folder.

The New Upload Interface (progress bars also appear)

The New Interface

The other big news announced today is that whole folders can now be shared. This is so much better than having to individually share every file. Again, this will be another huge timesaver. Along with this, the "Items not in folders" folder has been reinstated after a four month disappearance and subfolders can now be viewed in the "My Folders" section.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Easily Insert Picasa Photos Into Google Sites

Over the past years, Google Sites has become a central point for sharing Google files such as documents, maps, calendars, and now individual Picasa Web photos. Prior to this, albums could be added; this worked very well for showing slideshows of photos (I used it to show field trip photos). Photos can be searched for from within the Insert Photo window which is great since organization is not a top priority for me. Along with the ability to insert photos, uploading photos can be done within the Insert Photo window. I love how Google products are becoming linked. 

Inserting a Picasa photo into Google Sites

Uploading photos to web albums via Google Sites

Another nice addition to Google Sites is that announcement pages, site comments, and site activity can be acccessed as a feed. So, if your using a service such as Google Reader, all of these will appear in your unread items. Great features Google. 

Friday, 9 October 2009

Improvements To Drawing In Google Docs

Everyday I am amazed at what can be done in a browser. One of the areas that creates a lot of amazement and interest is drawing/illustrating within a browser. Google Docs added the ability to create drawings about 1/2 a year ago, and today they announced another round of improvements. There is now a Polyline tool that allows the creation of polygons, the Snap to Grids feature aligns objects with the canvas or guides, and finally multiple lines can be created without having to click on the line tool after completion of the first line. I use drawing a lot in my Presentations, these added features, especially the polyline tool, will make my life a lot easier. Next on the features-to-add list will hopefully be a Bezier tool. 

My drawing-in-progress of a benzene ring

Monday, 5 October 2009

Over 10 000 Windows Live Hotmail Account Passwords Leaked Online

If your have Windows Live Hotmail account, you may have been subject to a phishing scam that has allowed someone to obtain over 10 000 accounts with email domains including,, and The Windows live team has acknowledged the issue and have posted information here. Apparently the usernames and passwords are posted to the website PasteBin and may affect accounts in alphabetical order beginning with the letters "ar" to "bl". Personally, I think that the whole spam/phishing problem is getting worst. I use Gmail for most of my email communication, and I've noticed lately that some of this nasty stuff is getting past the Gmail Spam gates. 

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Google Spreadsheets Gets Translate Function

For those Google Spreadsheet users out there, two new functions have been added to your arsenal:
  1. =GoogleTranslate("field one", "field two," field three") allows translation of a cell of text. Field one is the text to be translated, field two is the two letter language code of the the text you want to translate, and field three is the code for the language that you want the text to be tranlated into. 
  2. =DetectLanguage determines the two letter language code of the text in a cell. 
These are great functions.....if there weren't errors!! In the Google Docs help forum, users are reporting that Hindi is showing up as English when the DetectLanguage function is used!! Brutal!! Google does this frequently, that is, releasing products that are full of bugs, maybe more refinement in product releases is needed. 

Friday, 2 October 2009

Upload .xlsx To Zoho Projects

Zoho Projects, the great collaboration tool just allowed users to upload .xlsx files. This was badly needed since so many people use Excel 2007 to meet their spreadsheet needs and having to go to the Save As icon can get time consuming when alot of documents are open. I gave it a whirl and it was smooth and without errors. Not much else to say here, great feature.

Google Docs Has Let Me Down :(

As you can probably tell, I am a huge Google Docs fan....HUGE!! This semester I decided to get my students to submit lab reports using Google Docs, which would avoid the whole attachment nightmare. So during the first lab of the week, I introduced Docs and got the students to signup for accounts. All was going well until a few hands popped up and students starting asking, 

"Why is Google is asking us for our cellphone number to verify our accounts?" 

I was speechless. Approximately 25% of the students could not setup an account without providing a mobile number, the others could do it via email. The students were against providing their number and so was I. I posted a question regarding this on the Google Docs Help Forum and as of this blog posting, no one has responded. I did manage to find information from Google regarding SMS verification, here is a quote:
"If you'd like to sign up for a Gmail address, you need to have a mobile phone that has text-messaging capabilities. If you don't have a phone, you may want to ask a friend if you can use his or her number to receive a code." 
Apparently this applies to certain regions of the world. So if you don't have a phone or can't get one, then you can't have a Gmail address or a Google Docs account or a Google account. What's even worse about this policy is that only only some mobile carriers are covered, in Canada it's just Rogers.
     This is simply a terrible move by Google and they are really going to miss out on a lot of potential customers. To sum up, goodbye Google...HELLO Zoho!!

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Optical Character Recognition With Google Docs

Google Docs is testing a biggie.....the ability to perform OCR of an image. All you have to do is upload a high-res image (JPG, GIF, or PNG) that is less than 10MB  and the Google Docs OCR technology extracts the text from the image. Currently it is slow, frequently reports errors and is buggy. If they can get this worked out, its going to be extremely popular since there are very few free OCRs on the market. I will definitely take advance of this since I have a ton of scanned journal articles that I couldn't find .pdf files of. 

Monday, 28 September 2009

Google Docs Improves Forms and More...

Recently, the Google Docs team added a few improvements to forms and the documents suite. Page breaks can now be added to forms and questions appearing on forms can now change depending on responses (this is known as logic branching). Besides this, subscripts and superscripts can now be placed in Presentations (a huge time-saver) and equations can now be added to documents with a LaTeX equation editor; this latter feature is not present in Presentations or Spreadsheets and is very limited compared to the Zoho equation editor. Also, the resolution of the equation is really low. So it still looks like Google Docs is playing catchup with Zoho. 

Google Docs Equation Editor

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Google Docs Gets A Viewer

Well, Google Docs finally got their act together and decided to put out a viewer. It's OK, and in terms of file types, it is very limited compared to Zoho; only .ppt, .tiff, and .pdf can be viewed with the Docs viewer whereas the Zoho viewer can view .doc, .docx, .xls, .xlsx, .ppt, .pptx, .pps, .ods, .odp, .odt, .sxw, .sxc, .sxi, .pdf, .html, .rtf, .txt, and .csv. So the Docs viewer may be good, but is very far away from great.


Saturday, 26 September 2009

Zoho's Document Viewer Gets Overhauled

Zoho's viewer, which is used to view and share documents online, recently got a few improvements. The biggest one is the list of files that can now be viewed online, quite impressive. For more details on this, simply check out the embedded document below (click on it to cycle through the slides). Zoho really does have a good thing going hey?

My Love of Online Office Suites

Approximately 2 years ago I was introduced to Google Docs, I was truly amazed with it!! I was overwhelmed with the fact that documents (no Presentations back then) could be edited and saved online. Since this introduction, I have switched from a mostly desktop user to a cloud (web) based one. I have fallen in love with accessing my documents from anywhere, having the ability to edit documents simultaneously with others, the ease of publishing documents to the web, not having to worry about backing up and creating copies of files, and the excellent's free!!! Like all cloud techies, I've been giving other offerings a try,  such as Zoho and Thinkfree (I'm still waiting on the web version of Office) and all have some very promising features.

So, this blog will cover all of the news regarding online office suites. I'll be talking about how it  works in the real world where some still haven't heard of Web 2.0 and some give a strange look when  the "cloud" is talked about. Hope you enjoy!!

Monday, 7 September 2009

Web Apps For The Upcoming Academic Year

The new academic year is getting erringly close, so instructors like myself will be looking at new programs/applications to aid in the teaching process. Here are few of the apps that I plan on using for the academic year:
  1. Prezi: Sitting through slides can get boring. Prezi, the "zooming presentation editor" provides a different take on presentations. All of your ideas/information are present on a large whiteboard, and as you go through your presentation, the app zooms into the appropriate content (see video below). Editing is somewhat basic, but the zooming effect is extremely visually attractive.

  2. Screen Capture Videos: Last year I tried to instruct new programs to my students by step-by-step insturctions on a webpage or by taking a trip to the computer lab. This year I'm going to abandon the webpage idea because it is just so time consuming. Instead, I'm going to create screen-capture videos with Jing, a simple program that easily captures screen movements, allows narration, and easily uploads to YouTube. Once on YouTube, students can view the instructions from anywhere and even on their mobile.

  3. Google Docs: This won't be a new app, but I am will be taking advantage of the new features like Drawings and Tables, and the latest revamp of forms will allow me to collect information, anonymously, on student backgrounds and their input on my instructing. I've also created a whiteboard page (almost completed) where students, teaching assistants, or myself can post questions, comments, or useful material. Finally, I'll be getting my students to use the spreadsheet mapper tool.
I'm most excited about Prezi. I feel that it's going to change the way presentations are given, and I think the major players in office apps will create something similar. It's going to be a fun year!!

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Google Docs Gets Translation

Google Docs introduced a great new feature today, the ability to translate documents (not available for Presentations or Spreadsheets) into 42 different languages. It uses Google Translate's technology and is very easy to use; just click Tools -->Translate, select the language, and your document is instantly translated with all of the original formatting. I gave this a few tries and it seemed to work fine, although comments on other sites about this feature said there were problems. This could be very useful in the education field, especially in colleges/universities where the student body is very multicultural. I will be definitely giving this feature a try in the upcoming semester. 

Today's blog post In English...

and now in French

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Collaborative Photo Albums Comes to Picasa Web

I use Picasa for most of my photo managing/editing, and as mentioned in a earlier post, I use picasa web albums to backup my photos to the cloud. Besides acting as a backup location, web albums offers other great features such as the ability to share whole photo albums, order prints, and view other photos from around the world. The latest feature added last week is quite impressive: multiple users can collaborate on a single photo album. Imagine taking a trip to LA with a friend, instead of creating two separate albums by two separate users stored in two separate locations (on the web), a single album stored in a single location (on the web) can be created and both users can add photos to it. This could work very well in the classroom. For example, a group of students that completed a field trip could create a single photo album with captions and geotagging. Each one could add their favorite photos to the album. This is truly a great feature and expect the social networks to adopt it soon. 

Visit here for details of this feature. 

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Two Great Taskbar Apps for XP

    For the past two weeks I have been on vacation (hence the lack of blog posts). During this time I helped my brother purchase a new Windows Vista laptop. My experience with Vista had been limited, and I had a very negative attitude towards it which partially came from the abundant negative news on tech websites. This changed when I helped my brother with his new laptop. I liked the sleekness of the Vista OS, the security, and the taskbar thumbnail preview which gives a thumbnail preview of a taskbar item when the mouse is hovered over it. This led to me thinking very hard (smoke came out of my ears) about whether I should install Vista on my work computer. After hours of thought, I decided against the installation since Windows 7 is coming out soon and I didn't see the point of learning two OS's in less than 6 months. So, I decided to do a search for  "Windows XP Taskbar preview", and I came across a simple program called Visual Task Tips. After about two minutes for the download/install, I had thumbnail previews, which is the feature I wanted most from Vista!! 

    The other taskbar feature that I wanted and wasn't sure if it existed is the ability to change the location of taskbar buttons, for some reason I love having my important programs such as the browser or photo editor located to the far right. It would be neat if I could rearrange programs instead of having them appear in the order that they were opened. This lead to another Google Search, and I came across Taskbar Shuffle. This is again a simple, easy to install program. Within 2 minutes I could rearrange my taskbar buttons. Life is good.

  Thumbnail Preview

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

When Life is Busy, I'm a facebooker and Not a Twitterer

For the past week, life has been very busy. What I have realized during this
hectic time is that I can always find time for facebook, but not for twitter. As the day progresses and I'm in need of a break, I flip through some facebook photos, respond to some wall posts, and glance at a few videos. I rarely log into twitter, and I may get at least 1 tweet out per day, but that's about it. I'm not sure what is behind this behavior, maybe the reasoning is that I physically know my facebook friends whereas I haven't even spoken to most of my twitter followers. Maybe I use facebook more for social networking, whereas I use twitter for getting real-time news. Or maybe I just enjoy the brainless photo flipping and video watching of facebook. Finally the busy life is slowing down a bit, maybe I'll have time for both.

Monday, 20 July 2009

Explore The Moon With Google Earth

Marking the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, the Moon can now be explored in Google Earth. To see this, plus much more, check out the video below, it looks amazing (especially the tours). You can also explore the moon in maps (screenshot below video, this may have been released before today's announcement). This is going to be such an excellent teaching tool, my brain is currently on overload thinking about teaching/assessment strategies.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Quotes From Microsoft's CEO Steve Ballmer....Why Isn't He Fired Yet?

Here are some quotes from Microsoft's CEO, Steve Ballmer, that I pulled from from an excellent article on TechCrunch:

“The last time I checked you don’t need two client operating systems. We tried it before. Windows 95 and Windows NT. It’s good to have one. So I can’t — I don’t really know what’s up at Google.” (July, 2009)

“There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance,” (June, 2007)

“I think these things [social networks] are going to have some legs, and yet there’s a faddishness, a faddish nature about anything that basically appeals to younger people,” (October, 2007)

Google’s not a real company. It’s a house of cards,” (March, 2004)

The one regarding social networks is my favorite. It really shows that he's not clued in; the web itself is becoming a social network, people depend on social networks, and they have changed the way that we socialize!! Now I'm sure that he has done some wonderful things for Microsoft, but he should definitely get out of his Microsoft shell and see what the rest of the world is doing.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Will My Next Computer Be Running Google Chrome OS?

    Since this is old news in the technology world (it was announced last Tuesday), I won't go into all of the details of Google's operating system, but here are a few highlights: it's called Chrome, it's web based, it's going to be lightweight ( = fast), it's free, it will be available during the second half of 2010, it's targeted toward netbooks but will be available on desktops, it's going to be running the Linux kernel, and it is separate from Android. How well will this work? I think it will be work fine, but my concern is for areas with limited internet. I gave my analytics account a quick glance and 10% of my viewers are surfing with dial-up, how will Google deal with this group and what happens when we loose our internet connection? This doesn't happen often, but it still happens. Google Gears is obviously part of the solution. This technology allows Google Docs users to edit documents, and view spreadsheets and presentations without an internet connection (also allows Gmail users to check email without an internet connection); it performs well but has limitations. 
    It's going to be very interesting to see what Google has been working on (Chrome OS was detected back in March by CNET). They've  released (or bought) some amazing products that have pushed the technological boundaries, and they will probably do the same with Chrome OS. Will we, all 90% of computer users, switch from Windows? Maybe.....

Monday, 6 July 2009

I Want an iPod Touch!!

To begin with, my source of portable media is a LG Dare dumbphone (check out my review). The phone is OK, but the internet browsing is dated, games and apps are very limited, I've been waiting 7 months for Telus to fix the My Email app, and the music player is horrible. I was thinking about purchasing a netbook as a means of portable media, but then I sat down and thought about my portable computing needs; web surfing, twitter, games, Google Earth, and occasional Google Docs editing. Then a light bulb went off somewhere in my brain, "an iPod touch can do all of that.*" So now, I am seriously considering buying an iPod touch. I am going to wait until September because rumors have it that a 3rd gen of touch is coming this fall which may have a camera and GPS. I'm kind of expecting it to happen since Microsoft is releasing a new version of it's Zune player and Apple again has a back to school deal that offers a free iPod touch when you buy a Mac, some people see this as getting rid of inventory. So, I think I definitely getting an iPod touch, even if a new one is not released. 

*I forgot to mention that I could get a smarter phone, but the monthly bills up here in Canada are just too high. 

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Backing Up My Photos To The Cloud: Picasa Web Albums

    I'm sure that many of you out there have asked this question, "how should I back up my photos?" In the days of 2.0 MP cameras, I would back them up to CD(s), and as the resolution inched up toward 10.0 MP, this changed to DVD(s). It was a task that I didn't enjoy, sometimes Nero wouldn't work correctly, sometimes there would be a disk write error, and sometimes I just wasn't in the mood. Also, I was always worried that a computer crash and building fire would occur simultaneously (I'm really not that paranoid) and destroy any backups of my photos. 
    So, about 1 year ago I started using Picasa, which is a freebie by Google, that allows photo editing, sharing, and organizing. Prior to this I used Corel Photo-Paint which is better at editing than Picasa, but was not very user friendly and not a freebie. I had wanted to start using Adobe Photoshop, but I just couldn't justify the price. Anyways, about a month into using Picasa, I discovered Picasa Web Albums, which allows web storage of photos (~1 GB) along with sharing (most photos on this blog come from a web album) and geocoding. The original photo quality can be maintained and any changes to the photo done within Picasa will be synched to the web. The photos should be extremely safe on Google servers because.....well... it's Google!! Currently I have 380 MB of my web storage, to upgrade my storage to 10 GB/year (which can be used as storage for any Google App) is just $20 USD/year. For this low price I think it's definitely worth it to use web albums, plus I can access them from anywhere as along as there's an internet connection. If you know of any better places to store photos, please leave a comment below. 

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Search Web 2.0 Apps With Go2Web20

Recently I wanted to know what online presentation tools were available. I was aware of Google DocsZoho, and Sliderocket, but I wanted to see if anything else was available. After some searching, I came across a Go2Web20, which is an online searchable directory of Web 2.0 tools. The site is very easy to use, and I was surprised with the variety and number of web  2.0 tools(apps) available. As an example, using the search word "presentation" resulted in 33 hits. If you love using web 2.0 apps, definitely visit Go2Web20.  

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

People Don't Know What A Browser Is!!

One of my favorite blogs for unofficial Google related news is Google Operating System. I came across this post about a former intern at Google asking internet related questions to people in Times Square, New York (video below). Most people didn't know what a browser was, they thought that a browser equals a search engine, and no one heard of Google Chrome (this is possibly acceptable since Chromes market share is ~1.8%). Our society definitely needs to increase their TechEd (technology education). I know some people, who I'll classify as younger (less than 40), that do not have an email address, have no desire to do online banking, and have no clue what a MP3 player is. The gap between low TechEd and high TechEd is growing, how will the low end survive?

Imeem: Access Your Music From Anywhere

As an educator, I work hard and play hard. During the play part of my life, I rock out to some music (and also when I'm checking work email). What I've been using for music is not iTunes, nor Media Player, nor MySpace, I've been enjoying life with Imeem. With this service/site, your music is stored in the cloud which means you can have access to it from anywhere. So, when I wrote the first two sentences of this blog, I was on my home desktop computer, then I wrote some more on my girlfriends laptop, and finished this on my home desktop computer. I can access the same music because it's all stored in the cloud. There is no more transferring of songs, no more incompatibilities with file types, and no more use of the slow/clunky media players (some are). The catch to this service is that the first 100 songs uploaded are free, if you want to store 1000 songs it will cost $29.99/year and if you want 20 000 songs, it is going to cost $100/year. There is also an iPhone an Android app, so you can access your music on your smartphone. Besides uploading your own songs, you can search for a song and it to your playlist (no uploading!!), songs can be embedded in websites, songs can be purchased from vendors such as amazon, there's a ton of music videos and a bunch of social networking features. I've been using it for the past 2 weeks, and I absolutely love it. For more on cloud storage of music, check out this article

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Free Ecology Software

Part of my work as a General Science Lab Instructor involves developed new aspects of already existing labs. One lab that I've been looking to improve is our ecology one where we needed to do something that showed how this sampling was done in the real world (the lab activity consisted of counting items). So, we decided to search for some free ecology software. I came across this excellent page by RP Gendron that lists all sorts of free ecology software (some links are broken). After trying a few of them out, we decided to go with PopSize and Populus. Popsize (screenshot below) is a simple, quick program that can be used for capture-recapture sampling, and allows adjustment of variables such as mortality rates and emigration. Populus is at the other end of the spectrum, and can used for many types of ecology models such as insect resistance management and heritability, altogether there are about 30 different types of models here. If your an instructor of ecology, you should definitely give these programs a try.

Friday, 12 June 2009

Classroom 2.0: Social Networking for Educators Using Web. 2.0

I have just discovered the ultimate social networking site for you teachers out there who love using Web 2.0 technologies, the site is Classroom 2.0. It is a typical social networking site, where you can add friends, make blog posts, upload videos, and so on. The feature that I like the most is the Forum where you can read discussions and post replies to them. I've only been a member for ~3 days but I've learned so much. It's just an excellent community to learn about Web 2.0 technologies in the classroom and education in general. I love social networking!!!

Thursday, 11 June 2009

A Teched-out Classroom

I was tweeted this video yesterday, it's about Lawfield Elementary, which is a rebuilt school in Ontario that is now full of technological devices (a list is provided 40 seconds into the video, very impressive), I call it teched-out. This is definitely the way things are going in the educational world, and as the video says, we have to replicate in the classroom the world in which students are living. Why do we teach with chalkboards and write on paper when students spend most of their time watching and typing on their computer or smartphone? The quote below (taken from the Lawfield Elementary School website) really says it all about using technology in the classroom:

“Schools are anchored in the past and should be at the forefront of change not at the tail end. We should be change agents. Given the nature of our educational system a universal design model is the only way we can reach our goal." (William DeMille, 2008)

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

14 Signs That You Love Technology In The Classroom

Here are some of the signs that you love using technology in the classroom:
  1. During a 2.5 hour dentist appointment, you spend 2 hours thinking about student collaboration projects with Google Docs.
  2. At an In The Flesh Concert (local Pink Floyd cover band), you wonder how people are "connected" (like the facebook graphic)
  3. You have accounts for Thinkfree, Zoho, and Google Docs, you login weekly to check for updates.
  4. Each year you use different presentation technology, and you say that "PowerPoint is for the dinosaurs."
  5. You are eagerly awaiting HTML 5.
  6. You look at the source code of fellow instructor's webpages.
  7. 95% of your feeds in Google Reader are web/education related.
  8. Students call you a computer geek.
  9. You think that every student should have an smartphone android phone.
  10. You lecture students on the evils of internet explorer.
  11. Students have never heard of 95% of your software .
  12. You come to work early.
  13. You leave work late.
  14. You simply love your job.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Using Facebook To Connect With Students

OK, so, unless you have been living off the grid or under, you've heard of facebook, the great/famous social networking tool. It's an excellent way to connect with people, and this fall I may use it to connect with my students by creating a facebook group. There is already a "connection" tool used by our school (don't want to mention it, I'll avoid the legal issues), but very few students use it because: (1) It's not very user friendly (2) it is very click-happy and (3) it's not facebook!! The reason why I would like to use facebook are:
  1. Mobile Friendly: facebook is smart and dumbphone friendly, students can send messages, update status, etc. via text message or mobile app. Our current "connection" tool is years behind this.
  2. Everyone's Using It: There's about 200 million facebook users, I would say that 95% of my students are on it (they're always checking it with their cellphones during the labs)
  3. Excellent way to deal with questions: Questions could be posted and myself or a student could respond to it.
  4. It's Facebook: Connection, connection, connection!!!
Reasons why I may not use it are:
  1. Privacy: I'll have to strictly monitor what photos others and myself put up of me on facebook. Also, since I do teach at a Canadian university, the computer people may not be happy that students are forced to use a service where data is sent to US servers (damn the Patriot Act). This is the reason why my university and others haven't switched to Google Apps.
  2. Internal Fighting: I heard a story about a person creating a group for his workplace, members started slinging personal insults to each other, and eventually the creator lost his job. Not cool.
  3. Forcing Students to use a non-university app: My university paid big bucks for its current "connection tool", administrators may not be happy if I get students to use this free app.
It is definitely a tough call. I'm going to talk it over with coworkers, students, and the web. I'm definitely looking for your feedback and I'll let you know what my final decision is.
Note: Hope you like the new feel of this blog.

Friday, 5 June 2009

Not a Google Cloud in The Sky

This blog used to be Google's Cloud, but I decided that the people over at Google Operating System and Blogoscoped were doing a very good job at covering the world of Google. So, I have switched focus again, this time I'm going to talk about the technology that I use as a teacher, both for work and fun, along with relevant news. Hope you enjoy the new look and feel, I've included all of the posts from the old blog.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Speed Up Those WebPages!!

Have you ever wondered why your pages are loading so slow? Well now you can find the answer with Page Speed which was released today. It is a Firefox add on that will suggest how to speed up your pages by doing things such as identifying issues with CSS and JavaScript. This is going to be really useful, especially for people like me who are beginner web developers. On this note, I absolutely love working on webpages, it will definitely be a future career for me, maybe as a side business. It's now time to give Page Speed a try. 

Sony Signs Up With Vevo

First of all, Vevo  is an awesome name. Along with Universal Music Group, Sony has joined up and will offer acts such as Akon, The Killers (Yes!!), Black Eyed Peas and so on. Along with music videos, Vevo will offer reality shows, video blogs and other great stuff. Personally, I can't wait for Vevo to lauch; YouTube is good, especially for home videos, but for mainstream content, it's OK. Hopefully Vevo will turn out to be a great product.  

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Watching YouTube On The Big Screen

YouTube has been trying to get onto the big screen, yesterday they announced YouTube XL is available on all large screens, prior to this only Wii and PS3 owners could access this. This is a stripped down version of the YouTube website with a black background and large buttons and has a few extra features like continuous play (watch all related videos sequentially). I still watch most of my TV shows on the TV. Occasionally I'll buy one from iTunes, which requires downloading it, transferring it to my iPod Nano 3rd Ed, and placing this on the Universal Dock. It is OK, but I can't wait for the day when I can have the ease of TV surfing with the on-demand selection of internet video.