doug — off the record

just a place to share some thoughts

An Old Blog

Starting August 1, my old employer will be discontinuing a service that had served teachers for years.  The FirstClass email and conferencing centre served the system well to build a community within the district.  One of the features that I used when it became part of the product was its blogging feature.  The power of FirstClass was that email, conferencing, blogging, calendar …, all worked and acted the same.  It was everything in one spot – you didn’t have to go here to do this, logout and go there to do that, logout and go over there to do that, …  I had a great relationship with the FirstClass administrator and we’d try this and try that to get the best from the system.  He’d written some customized code that made our instance even better.

Before I get shut out of access, I decided to gather all of the blog posts from there and move them here so that they’re not lost.  There’s no claim that the links are even still active.  I just wanted to make myself a copy before it went away.

Please excuse the quality of writing – this goes back to 2006 and I was just starting my blogging adventures.  I didn’t bring the actual posting dates forward…I didn’t blog regularly then, just when the mood hit me.  In the interest of storage, I also didn’t bring the images along with the posts.  But, I will share one date 2008-01-10 7:38 AM – it was on this date that I directed everyone away from there to this WordPress site.

Here goes…


New FirstClass Installation
Please note that, as of this date, the new version of FirstClass has been installed and put into operation.  There is a great deal of additional functionality in this release.  The FirstClass Administrator has put the updated client online and it’s available for staff to download and install at home.  The clients are available at:  Please share this information with your staffs.

In addition to the standard function of the program, this new release features blogging, podcasting, etc.

There’s a great deal to experiment with in this new release.


GEC Computers in the Classroom
The monthly GEC Computers in the Classroom newsletter is available at this address.


January 2007 FirstClass Blogging Tips
FirstClass…Now with Blogging
The new release of FirstClass enables a great deal of things that we’re now associating with Web 2.0.

One of these features is the version popular concept of keeping a web diary or web log, know on the streets as blogging. Journalling has long been known as a great way to communicate and illustrates growth or maturing wisdom over time.

Blogging, as implemented in FirstClass, is no more difficult than creating a new message. Just make sure that you do it in the proper spot within your FirstClass account and make sure that you’re aware that you’re opening up your thoughts to anyone with a web browser who wants to read it.

Unlike traditional web design, you don’t need an editing program to create your content. This is well handled with FirstClass…just pick the look that you want for your blog and it’s created for you.

One of the powerful concept of blogging is to generate an RSS feed so that people can track your thoughts. This also is well handled in FirstClass as it generates your RSS feed automatically. People just have to visit your blog once and subscribe to this feed and you’re ready to push content their way.

So, how do you set up your blog?

First, you need to download the latest FirstClass client. In the left panel, you’ll find a new panel of options. In this case, you’ll select Web Publishing.

Let’s create a New Web Page.

Look at all of the choices! Choose Blog.

This creates a new folder in your web publishing area called Blog. Don’t change the name. Just select it and you now have the option to create a New Blog Entry.

You’ll be presented with a familiar FirstClass message creation entry. Create your message as you would with any regular entry. You may wish to give it a particular colour theme. A number are built in; just select the Appearance button and choose the one that appeals to you.

Save your message and you’re now blogging! The formatting and the RSS are all created for you. Share your blog by sharing your URL. Mine appears below; all that you need to do is insert your name in the appropriate spot.

What do you blog? How about homework, readings, research, ? The possibilities are only limited by your imagination.

The latest FirstClass Client downloads are always available here.


March Newsletter
My March newsletter is now online at:

In the newsletter, I have some fun with Edison 4 and also have some preliminary thoughts about the Julie Amero case.  Sentencing in that case was supposed to be on March 2.  It’s now been postponed until later this month.

This case could have a huge impact on the way tht we view computers and the internet in the classroom.


New Look
This project was derailed with the nice weather during the first part of the week.  However, the weather turned which gave me all of the inspiration that I needed.  The entire GEC Computers in the Classroom website was “made over”.  I used it as an opportunity to proofread things and remove most of the HTML formatting in favour of CSS design.  Gone is the bright style on the mouseovers in favour of a little more subdued backlighting.

Still wrestle with the colour of teal though.


This definitely comes under the category that I have too little to do.

Anyway, play fetch or pet him.


Women in Technology
On the Monday following the March Break, the ECOO Board level programming contest was held at Vincent Massey Secondary School.  It was refreshing to see a number of young ladies in attendance.  Women in Computer Science remains an issue.  Even as a board, we are allowed to send three of our best programming teams AND an all-girl team to the regional finals.  There definitely wasn’t a 50-50 split in the audience.

GECDSB and IBM have promoted our “Women in Technology” program for a number of years.  Women from the community who use technology as part of their job spend a morning of computer activity and mentoring with Grade 7 and 8 girls.  Today, a WIT session was held at our F.W.Begley Public School.  55 young ladies participated in the program.  Look for some new pictures on the WIT page available from the GEC Computers in the Classroom webpage soon.


The Joys of CSS
I tire easily!  I was getting tired with the default font of Verdana in the portal and the GEC Computers in the Classroom website.  Since I had redone things in CSS, it was just a matter of a click and drag and:

font-family: Verdana, Arial, Geneva, helvetica, sans-serif;


font-family: Arial, Verdana, Geneva, helvetica, sans-serif;

Life goes on!


April Newsletter
My April newletter is online at:

One of the websites that I feature is called “Old Versions”.  It’s similar to the “Way Back Machine” but for software.  If you need to get your hands on an old version of a piece of software no longer supported by your favourite vendor, you might find it here.

We can’t all buy new computers just because of a software upgrade that needs more resources!


May Newsletter
The May newsletter was posted and is available at  That will be the last newsletter of the year.  I managed to work the dog into another Photoshop Elements tutorial.  I also found and used it to create a tag cloud for the newsletter.  Interesting results.


Photo Competition
The Gibson Gallery will host the GECDSB Photo Exhibit again this year.  It’s a lot of fun watching the pictures come in and try to figure out what perspective that the students had when they took their efforts.  I can’t get over the quality of the pictures and Laurelanne and I went through them all today.  They are so good.  Hopefully, the public will take the opportunity to head to Amherstburg to enjoy the exhibit.


Julie Amero
If you’ve been following my newsletter [ ], you may have been interested in the Julie Amero case.  Ms. Amero is the substitute teacher who was charged with endangering students due to the appearance of pornography displayed on the classroom computer.  Her defense was that this was caused by popup advertising.  There were a great deal of allegations including the absence of anti-malware protection on the computer.

In this case, she has been granted a new trial.  Presumably, this time around many of the issues that were not allowed into evidence the first time through will be allowed.

Computer using educators from all over will be anxiously awaiting the result of this continuing sage.


Photoshop Elements Activity Idea
At the Indy Car website, they have an interesting promotion and there’s no promotion like a sports promotion.

They have made a number of blank templates of cars available and encourage visitors to the site to download and “Design your own Indy Car”.  (or helmet or bus or uniform or …)  It seems to me this would be a great Photoshop Elements activity with huge media literacy and art implications.

Professional racing will take any sponsors and so you have the change to make your own.  Check out the one at this link:   A really good reason to explain layers, fonts, manufacturer logos, etc.


Delicious Resource
I’ve worked and moved all of my public bookmarks to a account.  i’m really pleased with the results and think that the Tag approach to organization opens up much more flexibility.

I will also maintain the backflip site at:


NECC Reflections
The neat thing about blogging is that there really are no rules so if you want, you can delete all of your slightly coherent ramblings and start all over.  This is what I’m going to do with my NECC thoughts!

I found that the Atlanta venue was terrific.  The World Congress Centre was such a pleasure to physically navigate.  Everything was in the one building and, with five floors, your biggest challenge is trying to get to the right floor for your next session.  The organizers tried a number of new things for the organization of the agenda; I think I still prefer access to more sessions rather than cramming 18000 people into a conference hall.

There were a number of highlights of the show for me.  The announcement of the release of Hyperstudio 5 is exciting.  Is it too little, too late though?  As an authoring tool, it is second to none in education to be sure.  It provides a nice safe environment but the type of teacher that would use it has moved on to web authoring, podcasting, blogging, …

I always enjoy chatting with Deb Barrows and Val Laird from Cricksoft, the makers of Clicker 5.  In fact, after a discussion with Deb, I went back to my hotel room and wrote a procedure for putting Clicker grids on the web using Flash.  You can see it on Deb’s Clicker Wiki ( or the OSAPAC Learning Object Repository at:

Keynotes are interesting and our kids have let us know that there’s no way we’re moving in with them!  The premise was that today’s youth will spend more time taking care of their parents than we did taking care of them as kids.  Hmmm.

I really enjoyed the session dealing with 10 mistakes that people make when implementing wireless networks.  Much I knew and the rest is just good information to know to help trouble shoot.  Once and for all, I had someone make sense about channel deployment.

Philip East and Michelle Hutton had an interesting point/counter-point on the use of graphical programming languages.  The perspectives of a university professor and middle school teacher are very different.  With a secondary school computer science background, I could see both sides of their argument.  There really wasn’t a winner except for students who need to realize that educators are thinking constructively about what needs to be done to encourage them to look into the virtues of being able to problem solve and think their way through problems.  After all, that’s one of our touted goals as CS teachers, isn’t it?

Hall Davidson gave a great session – it’s somehow comforting to see someone else’s computer crash during a presentation and watch the presenter roll with the punches!  A phenomenal speaker and the resources from the Discovery Educators are second to none.  I wish I had half of Lesley Fisher’s enthusiasm.  I also made some interesting contacts and revelations in the poster sessions.  In a lot of ways, they’re some of the richest sessions around – totally natural and it’s just great to half some Q&A with kids and their teachers.

I heard this comment on a number of occasions and it makes so much sense – we need to stop developing plans to “integrate technology”.  After 25 or more years in education, computer technology is a fixture in our classrooms.  On the news today, they proclaimed the 25th anniversary of the smiley face.  How’s that for a useless piece of trivia.  (also something that I don’t use either)

The biggest disappointment – I didn’t meet Larry King.  Or Nancy Grace,  Or Ted Turner.  CNN Centre is an incredible place to tour or to visit and yet most of the shows are produced in other studios


CSIT Reflections
The Computer Science and Information Technology Symposium was held the day after the NECC Conference ended.

I had no idea going into this what a Spelbot was but I do now.  Reaching and motivating students to consider Computer Science was foremost in the minds of everyone at the Symposium.  We all recognize that students won’t all become computer programmers for a career.  However, when you take a look at society, where don’t you see the infusion of new technology that somewhere has a chip or two to function.  You need more than ###### drawing skills to be successful.  (guess what program is behind the #s)

I think we’ve all seen pathetic attempts to show computer prowess!  Working with computers and information technology isn’t second nature and like most things worthwhile, it does require some effort.  And collaboration.

In these days of easy interfaces, I think that a lot of people feel that somehow we’re more productive just because we can point and click and do something that used to take a command line in the past.  Well, guess what, that will only get you so far.  Behind those buttons and glitzy interfaces, there is some really powerful and interesting code.

How do you refine your productions?  By digging into the code.

At the Symposium, participants got a chance to look at ArcView, Flash, Alice, Python, and even Google’s KML.  All require the use of code and all crucial if you’re going to get the most from whatever it is you are trying to do.  For Computer Science teachers, it really is a confirmation that what is taught is an incredibly useful life skill.

It was noted that, in one of the keynotes, that Microsoft alone has positions for about 5000 people that it just can’t fill.  Where are they going to find these positions?

It may seem strange but it’s time that educational curriculum includes computer literacy in addition to language and mathematics.



Just seemed like the thing to do.


Clicker 5 Resource

Clicker 5 was originally licensed by the Ministry of Education as a software for special education.  However, educators are doing all kinds of things with it including the construction of eBooks and using the program for a multi-media authoring environment.  It truly is a wonderful product that makes it easy to differentiate instuction in the classroom using the same software package so that students can work at an appropriate project.

Deb Barrows is the north east representative for Crick Software and has created a Wiki that is an unofficial support site and clearing house for resources.  If you’re using Clicker 5, it’s really worth checking out.  If you’re creating your own materials, it’s a wonderful place to share them.


Reflections from OSAPAC
The Ontario Software Acquisition Program Advisory Committee just finished its one week summer meeting.  I am totally exhausted.  It makes for one incredibly packed week.  We worked all day long and into the evening evaluating and making recommendations in the area formerly posted as priorities for this year:  Career and Guidance, Online Electronic Database, Senior Mathematics, Senior Science, and Media Literacy.  There were so many good titles submitted and that only made the situation more of a challenge.  But, we persevered and now our recommendations are in the hands of the government.  Look for announcements on what will be licensed on the OSAPAC website.

One of the happier and sadder things is to take a walk through of all of the titles that have ever been licensed.  While titles are typically licensed in perpetuity, the computer and operating systems that they were originally designed for are not!  So, one of our activities is to go through the SQL database which holds all of the details and hide the titles that have served us well but just will not run in contemporary environments.  It is sad to see the Clarisworks 3.0 go, but everything has a useful life.  It is still licensed and still available but there are newer options.

The promotions department (one member from Guelph) is working on a photo contest depicting computers and students in Ontario.  Look for details about this soon on the website.

The licensing of Adobe Acrobat Connect Professional is really an exciting title and offers all kinds of opportunities.  Members are going to start the process of creating video tutorials using this tool.  This would make create additions to the Learning Object Repository.

One of my personal projects came closer to fruition.  A common request that I get is to know when OSAPAC will release another compilation CD-ROM.  Well, that was appropriate when software came on diskettes but now each title comes on a CD-ROM.  So, a compilation CD-ROM is out of the question.  But, up the ante and you can create ISO images of the CD-ROM and store them on a DVD-ROM.  Into the archives I have gone and have been able to put all of the CD-ROMs onto 7 DVD-ROMs.  These are off to the Ministry for testing and I hope distribution shortly.  Imagine, if you are technician, being able to have all these resources conveniently stored instead of carrying around binders full of CD-ROMs.


Symposium 2007
At the RCAC Meeting on Friday, I announced the lineup for Symposium 2007.  It looks like another awesome event.  Hopefully, no snow!

 Details are online at:


Professional Development
It’s been a very ambitious September.  Professional Development activities all over the place.  Three days of CIESCs, three days of Notebook for new teachers, four nights of SMART Board introductions, blogging/podcasting, Graphic Organizers and FirstClass filled the month.  Then, an evening presentation on Internet Safety at Centennial Central and an online OSAPAC meeting fill my waking moments.  Beauregard doesn’t recognize me anymore.


Who Knew?
September only has 30 days?  Geesh…October newsletter will be a day or two late.


Report Card Season
Things are swinging into Report Card season.  Once again, we will be using Markbook at the Secondary School level for mark entry into Trevlac for the purpose of doing reports.  At the Elementary Panel, we will use the latest version of eTeacher.  School secretaries will gather all of the teacher submissions into a web based host and print report cards from there.

Support for Markbook is found in FirstClass forums and in the GECDSB Markbook Manual on the Teachers’ Essentials CD-ROM

Support for eTeacher is found in FirstClass forums and on the web at:


Be My Friend…
Would you like to be my friend?  Join me on Facebook, the social networking site.  There’s lots of good fun there and I’m always available for a game of Scrabulous.

From an internet account that doesn’t block this site, of course!


December Newsletter
My December GEC Computers in the Classroom Newsletter is now online at:

December is Symposium month for the Western Regional Computer Advisory Committee. Each year, this one day conference is held for directors and superintendents of education, principals, and key computer leaders in the Western Ontario region. At the conference, speakers who are leaders in the field of computer and technology use share their insights with the group as the RCAC uses the event as a catalyst for change.

Over the years, the list of keynote speakers have included David Pogue, Mark Prensky, David Warlick, Jamie McKenzie, Doug Johnson, Robert Sawyer, etc. It should come as no surprise that each of them has a dynamic web presence and ways to stay in touch with each. All of them are big writers and are constantly generating food for thought on a regular basis via their website and some with newsletters.

Each of the speakers is know well in their field and make stands in their particular areas. Marc Prensky is probably best known for his description of digital natives and digital immigrants. He uses these descriptions to drive home the notion that students today have more electronics (and know how to use them) than we ever did growing up. It’s a fun analogy and gives you pause to think about how best to address the needs and learning styles for todays’ students.

Jamie McKenzie comes from a rich academic background and is a prolific writer. The focus of his books, of course, is rich with technology and its use, but focuses strongly on using this and other methodologies in the classroom to push students to higher order and rich curriculum activities. His website The Question Mark is devoted to these activities and how to ask important and relevant questions in the research process.

I subscribe to McKenzie’s newletter and, this month, he dropped both gloves in his assessent of Prensky’s message in an article entitled “Digital Nativism, Digital Delusions, and Digital Deprivation.” In the article, he took exception to Prensky’s assumptions and challenged the quality of some of Prensky’s research.

I had to read the article a few times to really comprehend the content.

I enjoy Prensky’s observations, but never took it literally and with a 100% acceptance. I look at the students that I come in contact with on a regular basis. Even my daughter, who served on a panel discussion with Marc last year has access to more technology than I could have dreamed of as a child.

This is her world and there aren’t too many things that I would ask her to change.

She still loves her softball, sitting with a good novel, listening to her iPod, going to school, working at her job, updating her Facebook site, and I’m sure involved with one or two other things that as a parent I don’t want to know. She has a cell phone, knows how to text, and stays connected all the time.

While I don’t take Prensky’s remarks literally, I’m not prepared to ignore them because of some academic reason. Kids today are different and have different opportunities. As educators, we need to acknowledge this and find ways to engage them as well as teach them how to use all this technology responsibility.

Consider the quote from Mary Kay Utecht.

“Our task is to provide an education for the kind of kids we have… Not the kind of kids we used to have… Or want to have… Or the kids that exist in our dreams.”

For me, that’s the bottom line from the message.


So Little Time
Symposium 2007 was held yesterday in London and am now in the recovery mode.  As a result of Will Richardson’s and Jeremy Gutsche’s speeches, I am walking away with a huge to-do list.  Totally inspired and have a whack of notes that I’ve got to go through and take a look at.


Will Richardson at Symposium
Symposium 2007 was last week in London. We had another terrific turnout even with the threat of bad weather. But, after 2006, we can deal with anything!

The morning keynote speaker was Will Richardson who set a terrific tone to the day. His focus was on the Read/Write web and how it has the potential to motivate students to use the web for good purposes. I had to admire Will as he was way out on a limb expecting to have decent internet access at a hotel. It’s one thing to have a presentation and step through it page by page, but to illustrate what you are talking about live is impressive.

His message was well received. The focus at the conference is on ideas. There are no vendor displays or vendor sessions. You listen and get engaged with the hope that folks would be inspired enough to say “I could do that” and then go back to their reality and make it happen. I know that after Will’s inspiration that there are lots of folks that are going to try.

And, after all, that’s the very best that you can expect from a keynote speaker.

Check out Will’s work at


Jeremy Gutsche at Symposium
After lunch, Jeremy Gutsche took the stage.  He has a standard type of speech called “Unlocking Cool”.  For us, he bounced in a few extra letters and modified the talk to that we was talking about “Unlocking School”.  The message really didn’t have to be modified all that much.  Schools face the same challenges that businesses do.  Get stuck with doing things the old ways or refusing to recognize progress and you’re not going to be in a position to meet the needs of your customers.

I really enjoyed listening to the story about Smith Corona, particularly since I owned a Smith Corona typewriter.  I was not aware of the breakthroughs that Smith Corona was responsible for, but ultimately didn’t stick with it enough to remain viable in the business.  The big message here is to not rest upon your laurels or you too may become the company that makes the best typewriter in a world that doesn’t use them any longer.

The second big message was about how success and change needs to be viral.  It can’t happen by edict.  It has to be something that winds its way through an organization in such a manner that everyone wants a piece of it.  I reflected upon the SMART Board successes that we’ve been enjoying this year.  This truly has been a viral implementation.  It’s something that people know will change the way that classes are conducted and there’s no denying the engagement and motivation of students when a SMART Board is used properly.

The third message was that you need to lose like you enjoy it.  Obviously, you need to be trying new things all the time and you’re not going to be hitting home runs all the time.  But, unless you’re in there swinging and learning by your misses, you’re not trying.

Jeremy’s website at and his commercial site at are excellent resources.


A Blogging Host
I’ve been looking at a number of places to do blogging and keep returning to the FirstClass system.  I want something that’s responsive and fast to visit.  I’ve tried so many and they are either slow or have a bunch of advertising to them.  FirstClass is very fast, but I’m frustrated with the inability for people to comment upon my ramblings.

What to do; what to do?


We’ve returned home from the annual trip to Clinton and the family homesteads.  It was great to see everyone again and the food was excellent.  It’s a real shame though that turkey doesn’t get served more often.  Why does it take a special event for turkey?  It became obvious when Bub and I spent 45 minutes doing the dishes.  Man, the turkey can sure make you go through every cupboard.

And, if you read between the lines, we did wash and dry by hand.  None of those new fangled dish washing machines.

Same thing for internet access.  There’s nary a computer at either place and at one should I open my laptop, it draws all kinds of piercing stares.  From an educational perspective, Avon Maitland prides itself on being one of the more progressive boards in terms of getting its students connected.  In fact, they have their GSC Projects which is a terrific resource.  Sort of like my resources!  <grin>

So, here I am in my father-in-law’s rec room with my laptop open, searching for a rogue access point.  A couple of really weak ones.  At dad’s place, I figure to have better luck since my old bedroom is on the second floor.  Nothing in sight.

If there ever was a community that needs to have an internet project with access points on the telephone poles, this one is it.

The net result was that I ended up being disconnected.  Three days of no Scrabulous, over 200 email messages unread, virus checker left un-updated, and goodness knows how many Microsoft Windows updates that I missed.  (it appeared to only be one though…)

It’s amazing how much you miss when you are disconnected.  I thought of Scotty’s “quaint” comment from Star Trek as I read a physical newspaper.  Hyperlinking on paper just doesn’t cut it.  The London Free Press had quizzes on each section with the answers all linked to Page 21 in Section D.  These links involved finding the actual section, flipping through to Page 21 (who knew that it was the back of Section D?) and getting ink on my hands.  Then, following the link back to the original article?

I think I’m just too deeply engrained in digital media.

The story does have a happy ending.  We got to see everyone again and when I got home, the internet access was indeed live and I got a great opportunity to get caught up!

 Merry Christmas.


Netherlands Adopts Open-Source Software
From the AP, comes this story:

I can’t begin to agree wholeheartedly with organizations that take this approach.  One of the biggest reasons why you’ll hear people talk about this approach (and it makes so much sense) is the cost savings.  After all, why would anyone pay the huge fees when there is an equally as good or even better solution available as Open Source.  The biggest example that often gets tossed out in these examples is Open Office.  While it’s a terrific example, there is so much more.

Many people are available of the high quality alternatives.  You hear of the Audacity or Firefox products to a lesser extent.  But there’s so much more.  If you’re new to this whole concept, take a wander around  You’ll be able to find free alternatives written by terrific programmers.  Not only that, but you’ll have a shorter path to contact the developer for whatever reason.  My favourite home browser is Flock, which is based on the Firefox product.  When I had a question, I just fired off my query to what you might think is your typical faceless point of contact.  I received a response with suggestions for what might resolve the situation overnight.  You can’t get that anywhere else.

If you aren’t new to this area, you’ll undoubtedly feel good for the taxpayer and the computer using clientelle in the Netherlands.

Even the casual computer user requires more than one or two applications to survive these days.  When a solution is just a download away; when support is just an email away; when quality and usability are constantly under revision; where user needs determine the development pattern of the product, it only makes sense.

The best solution isn’t necessarily the one that you might think of first.


A Community for Cars?
PCWorld reports on IBM’s five predictions for the future at:,140818/article.html

The one intriguing prediction surrounds making your car one with the road.  For years, the infrastructure has been been laid along with road construction.  This prediction sees cars communicating with the roadway with the result being more efficient and safer travel.  Street lights that adjust to traffic patterns and alternative routes.

It makes sense.  Over the past couple of years, there has been a huge surge in sales of GPS units.  Once the domain of the hard-wired geographer, they are now commodity units for everyone and are standard on many new vehicles.  I know that with my unit, it has discovered the secret paths through the city of Windsor for me.  Ouellette Avenue and Tecumseh Road are now not my only options for travel and it does result in faster travel.

Before Christmas, I was waiting at one of our schools and there was a notice posted outside the kiss and ride area that indicated that if you’re going to idle your car for more than 10 seconds, you save gas by turning off your car and waiting.

So, if the logic is extended to more reasonable travel patterns, think of the gas that can be saved by alternative routes or traffic lights that do react to traffic patterns.  This, to say nothing of the tempers that flow over when you’re sitting and sitting and sitting and idling.

If some form of technology taps into the community of cars and gives us better alternatives for travelling, there’s a great deal to be gained.


You know, I’ve got to stop reading PC World.  Every article I read reminds me of how much I don’t know about computers.  It’s gone past humbling to embarrassing.  Today’s issue was entitled:  “Microsoft to Heat Up Battle vs. Flash in ’08” and is at:,140683/article.html?tk=nl_dnxnws.

Now, I had heard of Silverlight but to think that it would become a major competitor to Adobe Flash?

The web is certainly changing.  Everywhere you go, you’ll run into streaming video instead of the text and picture presentation from the past.  Typically, developers of this content have been converting their documents into Flash Video (.flv) files.  The reason is obvious when you take a Quicktime or AVI file and look at the size of it.  It would have to be a pretty compelling documentary to expert that visitors to your website or blog will take the time to allow the movie to download and then play.  However, when you convert the file to Flash video, you end up with a movie that is greatly reduced in size.  There is a price; the quality is greatly reduced through various compression features.  However, the bottom line is to get the video to play in a variety of browsers and get it to do so quickly.  There have been all kinds of recent enhancements as you’ll note with the frequency of updates and the number of developers that are producing for the Version 9 Player, forcing us to upgrade.

Then comes a competing standard.  You’ll need to download a new player to play Silverlight videos and the Microsoft website talks about the “small size” of its player 2MB in size.  The trick will be to convince the drive by surfer that it’s in her or his best interest to take the time to install the player to view the content.  How do you make it appealing?

It appears as though Microsoft’s plan will be to get popular sites to switch.  In the article, they make reference to as an example.  So, if we have all of these basketball fans with the plug-in installed, who’s next?  A quick visit to indicates that it hasn’t happened yet that I can see.

It will be an interesting trend to follow.  If the net result is that you’ll have a better streaming multimedia experience on the web, it will be worth the 2MB download.  Hopefully, the lessons learned about software vulnerabilities will be learned and incorporated into the product.


End of an Era
I suppose that it was bound to happen.  This week, Netscape announces the end of support for the Netscape product in February, 2008.

This is a really sad announcement.  With the popularity of the web in the 1990s, Netscape was the real alternative to the Internet Explorer browser.  People tried both and Netscape proved to be a really functional alternative.  Over the time of its development, Netscape tried to become your choice in an all-in-one internet suite.  Not only could you browse, but you could do email, design webpages, read newsgroups, …

It was a powerful alternative that I chose to use with one of my first ISPs.  The problem with an all-in-one solution is that it gets big in a hurry.  Longer download times, and more things that needed patching turned me to using Firefox when all that I wanted to do was quickly get started and browse the web.

If the all-in-one suite appeals to you, continue to use Netscape.  It’s as good as it ever was.  Or, there are related products like Mozilla or Sea Monkey that you may find appealing as development for these product should continue.

It’s sad to see Netscape end up like this.  My thanks to the developers who helped forge the web and desktop connectivity to what it is today.

Posted on January 4…eWeek has a tribute outlining all of Netscape’s contributions.,1205,l=&s=25942&a=222626&po=1,00.asp?p=y


Not a great deal of comment needs to go with this post.

Let’s deep-six the term “Webinar” in a perfect storm.


If the Queen can do it
Interesting observations from a student in the UK.

He asks a good question.  If the British Monarchy is on top of things like having the Queen’s Christmas message delivered via the latest in technology, why aren’t schools up to the task?  It may be an over simplification, but it does ask a good question.  Somehow, I doubt that the Prince taped it on a cell phone and later uploaded it to YouTube.  But that’s not the point.  The point is that the whole organization recognized the power of using social media to reach the masses.  To have the message on demand time shifts message.  Instead of a once in a year event, it can now be played and revisited as often as you want.  Through the magic of editing, the 1957 message is a perfect lead-in to this year’s message.  Both are firsts; in 1957 it was the first televised broadcase and fifty years later, we have the first sanctioned Internet broadcast.

Similarly, the Ontario Ministry of Education recognizes the importance and power of new technologies.  They are also cognisant of the current issues and bullying online is the focus of a recent review and report.  The report is much more than an update on online bullying.  It reveals the level of sophisticated use of technologies that students possess.  One of the callouts says it all “… the Internet cannot be turned off – it’s global and it’s evolving.”

In the classroom, this could be a powerful tool.  But, while it’s not turned off completely, it can be crippled.  In typical slow to react fashion, the Queen’s message won’t be available as it gets trapped behind content filters.  Capture it at home and bring it into class and play it?  Don’t think so – check out the terms of use for the content.  This potentially valuable resource will be unusable in many educational settings.  But that’s OK.  Even if it could be potentially played, there are often other hurdles that couldn’t be cleared.  Wrong player, no bandwidth, abuse by others, …

But that’s OK.  They won’t be able to see it in China either.

The result is that students may get the opportunity to view it at home or at a friend’s house.  What they won’t get is the ability to see it incorporated into a lesson by a professional that can help them see the importance of ever changing media.


January 2008 Newsletter
Happy New Year!

The January 2008 edition of my newsletter, GEC Computers in the Classroom is now online.


Mac Versus PC Explained
The Consumer Electronics Show is on in Las Vegas this week.  This is an event that I’ve alway wanted to attend just to see all of the innovation in the technology field.  I’m sure that a lot of technology dies on the floor but it’s the show that’s the thing.  Plus, we get a glimpse of where technology is headed.  It might not be available for purchase right now but some incarnation of it just might be there in the future.

Gismodo features an interview with Bill Gates where he tries to explain the difference between Apple and Microsoft in their approaches to marketing.

It’s a very good interview to hear his perspective about what Microsoft brings to the market and what he perceives the Apple brings to the market.  It’s his opinion and so you need to watch and listen from that perspective.

What’s even more interesting is reading the responses from the internet visitors.  Mac lovers; Windows lovers; you’ve got to love them all and their devotion to their part of the computer world!


Continued At…


I thought this was a good walk through memory lane for me.  As I re-read some of the posts, I could picture some of the incredible educators that I was so fortunate to know, to learn with, and to share ideas.  I believe that I remain true to the ideals that are captured in these posts although I think my current postings have more of an edge to them.

One response to “An Old Blog”

  1. Interested in what you’re switching to. We lose our First Class platform mid-August. Switching to Office 365. We’ll see how that goes…..


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