Monday, June 23, 2008

undeleting emails in FirstClass

One last post before the summer, but I'll be posting again in September.

If you've accidentally deleted an email in FirstClass, you can undelete it as long as the "trash" hasn't been "emptied". I think the trash is emptied nightly.

In order to see what you've deleted, open your mailbox and choose "show deleted items" from the "View" menu. Find the message you want to undelete, right click it, and choose "Undelete".

You can then hide the deleted items by choosing that option under the view menu.

Have a good summer.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

on my desk this morning

I thought perhaps I could list the electronic devices that are on my desk this morning.
  • My desktop PC, of course
  • wireless keyboard
  • wired and a wireless mouse
  • wireless presenter
  • VGA video splitter
  • VGA video switch
  • VCR and DVD
  • remotes for these, and for my projector
  • speakers hooked up to the computer, DVD, and VCR
  • USB DVD burner
  • a stack of blank DVDs
  • USB external hard drive
  • USB webcam (not sure where that came from)
  • Bamboo tablet
  • Wii remote
  • OLPC XO laptop
  • three EeePCs (two that I'm setting up for other people)
  • half a dozen USB flash drives
  • two SD cards
  • USB card reader/USB hub
  • clock radio with an iPod dock
  • a students' iPod touch (charging in the dock)
  • and many cables, connected and disconnected
My desk doesn't always look like this, but perhaps more often than not...

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

iPod touch

I'm typing this post on an iPod. If you've never played with an iPod touch before, borrow one from a student. Better yet, get them to show you things like how it displays photos, videos, and album art. It also has a notepad, wifi, and a web browser. It can function as a PDA, or even almost be a replacement for a laptop.

There is also a phone version that you may have heard of, the iPhone. I've seen a few of these around, but they are officially coming to Canada July 11th (the second generation iPhone). Everything I just wrote about, plus mobile phone and GPS.

student email addresses

There are a few options for providing student email addresses. At my school we're using Google Apps Education Edition, and we like it. If you're looking for filtered email and don't mind somewhat more intrusive advertising, is an option. Another option, though, is to use an existing FirstClass system and add students as users to it; this isn't as easy, and may not be free, but it is an option.

We have gmail (Google email) accounts for all 1250 or so of our students, as well as gmail accounts for the staff. Students can use their to forward assignments home, collaborate with other students, and get in touch with their teachers outside of class. I have also had students use them to hand in assignments (either as attachements or as Google documents), as email reminders or class communications (I have a group email list for each of my classes), and I have a shared calendar of upcoming assessments.

We've made up a list of the pros and cons of using Google Apps Education Edition.
  • No uptime guarantee
  • Who owns your data?
  • No control over spam filter, password policies, logs, blacklists, etc (some of this is available through the API)
  • No directory lookup for >200 users
  • Advertising (although targeted text ads only)


  • Free (but there are paid options)
  • Easy to setup and administrate
  • Bulk account upload/update
  • Stable
  • Good Spam Filtering
  • Other Apps (calendar, docs, etc.)
  • POP and IMAP
  • Lots of space (>6 GB per user)
  • API (provisioning, usage reports, SSO, etc.)

I recommend GAEE, and in fact there are quite a number of Universities implementing it as well. And hopefully we won't have to worry about Google going out of business.

Monday, June 9, 2008

downloading YouTube videos

It is possible to save YouTube videos to your computer so that you can watch, or show, them even if they are removed from the site, or your Internet access malfunctions. The process of this changes every once in a while, a new application (or website) comes along and/or YouTube changes something.

That being said, the way I recommend to download YouTube videos is:
  1. find the video
  2. copy the ULR (uniform resource locator, aka the location) from the address bar of your web browser; probably the easiest way is the right click it and choose copy
  3. past the URL into the "Enter YouTube URL:" box on TechCrunch's Video Download Tool and click Get Video
  4. if you are using Internet Explorer, you'll probably see a yellow bar come up at the top of the page... click that to download the file
  5. you should now have the video file saved to where you had specified

Now, the video is in Flash video format, so you need some player like VLC to play it. If you are not able to install VLC because you are not the administrator of your computer, you can use the portable version.

That's it in a nutshell, comment if there's something I'm missing.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

format painter

A seldom used but useful feature of Microsoft Office programs, such as Word and PowerPoint, is the format painter. This is for those situations where you would like something to be formatted like something else.

To use the format painter, select the part that has the desired formatting and click the button on the toolbar that looks like a paint brush (or you can press the c key while holding down the Shift and Ctrl keys). Then select the part that you want formatted (if you used Shift-Ctrl-c, you then need to use Shift-Ctrl-v). You've now applied the desired formatting.

Monday, June 2, 2008

small, cheap laptops

I'm writing this post on a very small, cheap laptop. There seems to be a trend, more companies are realizing the potential demand for these sorts of things. I think the OLPC XO has something to do with that, but there's a topic for another post. The “subnotebook” I'm using is the Asus EeePC, but there are a number of others out or coming out, from vendors such as Everex and Dell.

Because of the small form factor, they tend to have smaller-than-normal keyboards, but I find them easy to get used to, and certainly better then trying to type on a PDA or iPod Touch. The screens are also fairly small, but usable.

The other attractive part about these ULPCs is price. There are some very expensive ones, but for the most part they are $300 to $500. Which, in my opinion, is the most you should spend on a laptop. If you're looking for a portable computer, particularly to supplement a desktop back home, I recommend a cheap subnotebook.