Poll Using Smartphone and PollDaddy

October 22, 2014 § Leave a comment

Ubuntu 14.04.1 LTS on a Dell Latitude D630

September 16, 2014 § Leave a comment

I have an old Dell laptop that started experiencing memory issues several years ago.  I do not recall if it had Windows 7 on it, but I’m guessing that it did when I brought it back to the office from home.  At one time, I had my laptop and iPad at home and used them both quite a bit, both for work and personal, but then the institution changed their off campus policy for technology.  They expected me to sign a contract that stated that I would be responsible (monetarily) if the equipment I had at home were damaged, lost, or stolen.

I had no problem with being responsible if an item was damaged or lost by me… but, I definitely had a problem being expected to pay for the item, if someone broke in and stole it.  And, that is just what happened about four years ago.  I came home one hot afternoon, I think the Monday after the 4th of July that year and when I got to my apartment door, it was slightly open.  I then noticed that it had been kicked in.  I entered cautiously and there were papers and items strewn all over the living room.  Heck, it was pretty much like it always was, but I hadn’t done this damage.

I didn’t even notice that the office provided laptop was gone until after the police had left (and it took about an hour for them to arrive after I first called).  A $600 Government check had also been taken, a nice Westinghouse 30″ PnP HDTV, and a small Canon digital camera.  Apparently, some druggies that had been visiting someone in the apartment complex had decided I might have something worth stealing.  I could never prove this, although my downstairs neighbor had talked with a young woman (even given her something to drink) that morning and he knew that she was the granddaughter of a law enforcement officer from the area.  She was probably the “look out” while her friend or friends scoffed my loot.  They were probably long gone before 9am.  *I did get a replacement check for the $600 check, but the insurance only paid for half of the other item’s value (until you sent in proof that you had replaced the stolen items).

So, the Dell laptop has been gathering dust on my office window shelf for a couple of years now.  Since it was experiencing memory issues, I had sometime ago, put a version of the Chrome OS on it.  It worked, but was nothing to write home about.

I’ve been trying to convince myself that I should buy a Raspberry Pi, but each time I did, it just seemed like too much effort to get all the components together to actually do something with it.  The Pi costs about $35, but then you have to have a keyboard, a memory card, a USB hub, etc. and it looks like it would at least double in price.  *I don’t count the cost of the HDTV.  I’ve got at least one of those that I could hook it up to.

I think I’ve talked myself out of the Raspberry Pi, but then I thought… “maybe I could install Ubuntu (Linux) on the laptop” so that I could become more familiar with Linux.

Yesterday morning, I came into the office and pulled the laptop onto my desk and plugged it in.  *It also has recharge issues because the power cable I currently have isn’t for this laptop.  It will power the laptop, but not recharge it.  I got online and downloaded a copy of the Ubuntu install disk, first for the Mac, and when that didn’t work, I also downloaded a Windows copy.  I burned the .iso to DVD and then put it in the laptop’s player.  F12 and boot from the DVD drive.  Ubuntu started up.

Ubuntu 14.04 on Dell Latitude D630I am amazed, I followed the instructions and it wasn’t too long before I had a working version of Ubuntu 14.04 on the Dell.  I then went out and found instructions for installing WordPress.  I almost finished that up this morning, even getting the multisite setup to work… but, there are write permissions issues and I cannot download and save extra themes or plugins because I don’t have write permissions for the folders and the direct WP install process won’t let me install from the drive.  It prompts me for FTP authentication info. *Addendum:  I was reading another set of install instructions, and for some reason (more intuition than understanding), I ran a single line of code that reset permissions on the web folder.  I think it was giving write permissions to the database account (webdata?).  After this, WP worked perfectly.  I have installed several plugins and different themes without a problem.

Well, not being familiar with Linux (Ubuntu), the language or syntax, I have gotten surprisingly far along in a short time.  And, after all, learning Linux was why I installed Ubuntu.

Running WordPress Locally

September 9, 2014 § Leave a comment

When you love what you play with, you play with what you love. I first used WordPress as a means for publishing historical research. The more I used it, the more enamoured I became with WordPress. Soon, I was using XAMPP to install a local copy of WP on my office PC for testing purposes. Eventually, I created a child theme, and even installed a Multisite version of WP on a USB stick, from some detailed online instructions.

After a couple of years, I was still using WP for a personal site and a technology site, but I had stopped exploring “behind the scenes”. About six months ago, I decided to re-install a local copy of WP for testing. It was then that I realized that I couldn’t find the old XAMPP and somehow was directed to BitNami for XAMPP. I also found after several tries that I had to follow the BitNami install instructions to the letter and couldn’t rely on the old way of doing things to successfully complete the task. But, I did get a working copy of WordPress on my local PC.

I installed various plugins and themes for testing.

Our IT department requires each of us to develop and maintain an updated Desk Manual for our areas of expertise and authority. I had only superficially thought of using WP as my desk manual, until recently, and then I started developing my desk manual via a local instance of WP running on my PC.

I have an Applications set of pages and sub-pages and on each I list contact info and processes that need to be repeated cyclically. I have a page for links to the various applications and programs I may use daily. I have started creating posting categories and post the various tasks for each app to it organizing by category. I have an Inventory section, which I have used on a previous site, but have not started to seriously develop on this local site. I also have the departmental phone list, which was removed from public access several months ago, but is still necessary to reference.

I have an Google Docs Embed plugin that works fine on non-local sites, but for some reason will not render an embedded document on the local site. I may or may not use a Calendar plugin, which will let me import several external .ics calendar feeds.

I’m not sure how I am going to provide access to the desk manual for my supervisor, but the local site is great for organizational purposes.


August 12, 2014 § Leave a comment

Swivl provides a “hook” for presenting captivating videos.  The hook is that the Swivl base tracks its remote (that you carry about or wear on a lanyard) and thereby your video recording device follows you about, as if you had a “personal cameraman”.  The current Swivl base has a very smooth tracking motion.

I think the subliminal message is that either I, or what I am saying is important enough for the camera to follow me, and if the camera is following me, the audience should be attentive to what I am saying or to what I am showing them.

The other Swivl feature that makes your videos more captivating is that the  remote also captures your audio very well.  You could record your audio remotely, and then use video editing software to combine silent video with the matching recorded audio, but Swivl saves you that time and effort.

I’m not sure the current price of the Swivl base & remote (approx. $300) can be justified by most individuals.  However, in an educational environment the device could be shared amongst instructors or teachers in a department.  On sharing equipment:  The current Swivl base and remote appear to be well constructed.  That said, there are several other plastic pieces that could be easily broken or lost =  the plastic remote holder that is hung from a lanyard, the 3 different sized shems that hold various video capture devices, the audio cable that attaches the video capture device and the Swivl base.

Don’t equate Swivl with the flipped classroom.  For that matter, don’t equate video lectures with the flipped classroom.

I think the Swivl might be useful in recording student teachers who are walking about the classroom during the teaching process.  You could track the instructor’s movements and have very good audio.  But, I am not sure how well the Swivl would track the teacher if the “little” or big heads/bodies of their students block the tracking device.  Put the Swivl & video recording device high on a tripod so that “line of sight” room obstacles are few.

NOTE: I gave a Swivl presentation to two groups of faculty during the Bronco Kick-Off (start of the Fall Semester 2014).  I could not have planned for a better illustration than what Professor Denise Payton provided on the fly.

My Wacom Tablet…

August 8, 2014 § Leave a comment

My Wacom Tablet performed as was stated by the company, and if I had been a graphic artist, using some image app, I would have probably been totally happy with the tablet.  However, I have done no graphic creation in several years.

When I saw a Khan Academy French Revolution presentation, I pulled out my Wacom Tablet and attempted to mimic the produced presentation.  The problem was that writing in freehand on a small tablet is worse than attempting to write on a chalkboard the first time.  You have to make sure that the writing does not drift off to the top or bottom and stays horizontally on the board.

QR Codes…

August 8, 2014 § Leave a comment

Every browser should have the ability to convert a page URL, any link on a page, or any selected text into a standard QR image on the fly.  One problem is coming up with a standard.  Microsoft wanted its own QR image, so it wasn’t going to offer a competing standard in its IE browser.

I installed a portable version of the Firefox browser on a USB stick, and added a QR plugin to it.  So, if I were giving a presentation anywhere, I could plug in my USB stick, use my Firefox browser, with my QR and other plugins, and create QR images on the fly to be projected on the screen/wall for my audience to snag.  I didn’t have to go through the hassle of creating each image and saving them somewhere.

I do not give many, or any presentations, and have not had the opportunity in a couple of years to use the browser installed on my USB stick.

ePortfolios, QR codes & MOOCs… and my Wacom Tablet.

August 8, 2014 § Leave a comment

I only plan to focus on eportfolios in this post, but for several years, I have thought that eportfolios and QR images would be great communication tools.

What I have seen regarding eportfolios is that they never appear to “catch on” with the general population at an institution, and eventually those in power choose to change the medium for eportfolio delivery.

I was just reading an article in Campus Technology and one of the reasons for purchasing a vendor created product and not WordPress was that using WP might be too difficult if a student needed to create a WP site.  So, you’re going to get a vendor to develop template pages and push them out so that users don’t have to create the individual pages?  *You can do that easily in WP, if you know what pages you want.  You’re going to have to determine the eportfolio framework anyway, no matter which product (proprietary or open-source).  You create the WP eportfolio framework (and use a plugin like WP Help to push a set of help pages to your users from a single source site).  Why should I pay a vendor to do the same thing in a proprietary product?  You either export the WP template site with all it’s pages as an XML file (easy peasey), or you copy the template site and give it to the user.

The article is talking about using all these neat Web 2.0 tools (Prezi, YouTube, Slideshare) and just embedding them in your eportfolio.  Sounds great until you go back one day and the embedded item is no longer at it’s original location.  I’m not saying that you don’t need to incorporate these Web 2.0 tools.  But you need to import enough of a copy of the external presentation so that if everything else but your eportfolio site goes down, you still have all the proofs you need.  So, PDFs, and video screencaptures of the Web 2.0 presentations might be useful.  I don’t recall the image/screencapture app, but in addition to embedding  or linking to an external web page, you might want a screencapture of that page and add that to your site with a link to it. *Maybe the Canvas LMS does this for some of its pages.

I only have anecdotal evidence, but I think the reason why many eportfolio projects fail is that faculty/admin wouldn’t be able to produce portfolios, let alone electronic portfolios.  They haven’t thought through the proofs that would show student growth and success.

Oh, and don’t get hooked by the misconception that your students are going to have some great advantage with potential employers if they have an eportfolio.  It hasn’t caught on with employers to check out eportfolios.  They like comparing apples to apples and oranges to oranges, at least during the initial stages of the employment process.  The employer gives you a form or sends you to a site where you fill out the fields… and an eportfolio is never asked for.





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