Friday, 27 May 2011

Desmos: Collaborative Educational Whiteboard

Techcrunch Disrupt happened this past weekend and one of the great startups that showcased their product was Desmos, a free online collaborative tool that's focused on the education sector. I signed up and tried out their web app (offline program also available), the editor is quite good (lots of options), the app is very intuitive and educators can collaborate on a whiteboard (file) in real time. Apps like these are badly needed in the educational world to stop the fragmentation associated with new technology. I will definitely be giving this a try for the Fall 2011 semester. Long-live the cloud!

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Life Without Windows: 8 Weeks and Counting

In the past I have dabbled with Ubuntu, 2 months ago I made a more dedicated commitment; transforming my 1.5 yr old Windows 7 laptop into a dual-booting Ubuntu beast. The process was quite easy; download the image, burn it to a disk, restart windows with the disc inserted, and after about 30 minutes and a few clicks, Ubuntu is installed.

Initially I had planned on splitting my computer usage 50:50 between Windows and Ubuntu, it's actually worked out to 99% Ubuntu and 1% Windows (I haven't been in Windows for at least 2 weeks). The switch has been so good that I also changed my work computer and teaching computer to dual boot machines. What am I enjoying about it so far?
  1. No antivirus: Not having this has been great. No more do I have to deal with virus updates or scanning.
  2. Ubuntu is better at updates: Approximately 2-3 days of the week Ubuntu has to be updated. This may seem like a lot but very rarely does it have to be restarted.
  3. Great free software: I have not been in a situation where free software can't get the job done. I use Libreoffice for "office-like" work, Inkscape for vector editing, Picasa for photo editing, and Dropbox for file sharing.
  4. Fantastic customization: With compizconfig, basically everything (desktop icons can be different sizes!) can be customized.
  5. Easy on System Resources: Currently I have Chrome, Google Earth, and Libreoffice open, and I am only using 700 MB or RAM, Windows 7 uses over 2 GB.
  6. It's Free!: If I want to upgrade Windows, it's going to cost be anywhere between $200-$300, with Ubuntu it's free and occurs every 6 months. Also, these upgrades take about 1 hr and do not require clean installs. 

The only negative thing I have encountered is the lack of Netflix support, I use the Wii for this but the video quality is low. Hopefully Chrome will get this support at the same time that Chrome OS does.

So far it has been an excellent 2 months as a part of the Linux world. The learning curve has not been steep, and with the Unity interface, the switch to Ubuntu is even easier. If you haven't tried it yet, give it a shot, you may become hooked!

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Chromebook: Will I Buy One?

The Chromebook - Google's version of a notebook that uses the browser as the OS. There is no desktop, no antivirus, no installation of software (web apps), and no annoyingly-long boot times. All of this sounds great, but what if I do need an offline app? As an example, Google Docs works great, but sometimes I need that bit of extra formatting (merging rows in a table) and this is only found in offline office suites such as LibreOffice. Also, computer intensive tasks requiring photo and video editing can be done online, but it's extremely slow and limited (editing photos in Picknik).

Currently, I think the Chromebook will work as a great secondary device. It is built for the web, and it does a great job with it. It will eventually fall into the primary device category, the web hasn't evolved enough to put it there yet.

So my answer to the title of this post is .....maybe.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Livestreaming Bald Eagles: I love the Web

Here's another reason I love the web: a continuous livestream of a bald eagle nest. With over 100 million views, this is the most watched live streams ever, take that Royal Wedding!

Free live streaming by Ustream