An Important Update

This week, Peter Beens tweeted about a new Google service.  It’s called Refugee Relief.

It’s a way to contribute online to help the crisis that we see so often in the news these days.  Google will match your donation.

In addition to letting us know of this initiative, Peter has updated his Alphabet/Google A-Z document with a direct link.  The document is now 12 pages long, complete with the services that Google provides for the online community.

This is worthy of bookmarking as there’s a solution for any problem where Google has an answer.

Got the question – does Google do that?

Answer the question with the link to his document.

Clipart on Demand

Sometimes, I could just kick myself.  I always seem to be the last to know.

I was working on a document yesterday and got the text right.  I thought a couple of pieces of Clipart would be nice to break up the text and to illustrate the message I was trying to create.

So I did what I always did.  I looked to the collection of clipart on my hard drive and then went searching for something in my collection of nline Creative Commons resources looking for something that had a friendly license that I could use.  As I was doing this, the little voice in the back of my head said “It’s too bad that this is a multi-step process.  Shouldn’t there be a better way?”

I completed the document and had a few minutes so I thought – if I don’t look, I’m guaranteed not to find it.  If I do look, there might be a chance that I could.  I was using Google Docs, as per usual, for the creation so I went poking around the add-ons.  You can see, from the green checkmarks, some of the add-ons that I’m already using.

As I’m scrolling, I see lots of great enhancements that would make a great word processor even better.  It didn’t take long until I got frustrated looking, but hey, this is a Google resource – I’d be better off searching.  So I did.

Son of a gun!  I added it immediately. 

That voice in the back of my head started talking again – you know about Open Clipart.  I searched this blog and, sure enough, I’d written a blog post about it before.

The acid test is always to search for “house” to see what’s available.

37 pages of results is good enough for me!

I found a suitable piece of Clipart for my document, just tested to see how easily it was to insert, re-size, wrap text around the image and was impressed.  This is a keeper.  How did I last so long with the old method of juggling multiple resources to get the job done?  D’uh.  It’s now a permanent part of my configuration.

I guess I should pay more attention to my own blog.

Where Have You Been?

If you’ve ever watched an episode of Law and Order, you know the importance of cell phone pings to solve various crimes.  As a phone moves from location to location, it needs to connect to a service in order for the phone to work; that’s just how it works.

Now, Google has a similarish service called Timeline.  Clicking this link should take you to your timeline if you’re logged into your Google account and you have your location history enabled.  I gave it a shot.

The first map that was displayed sort of showed that I’m an Ontario-type of traveller with most of the travelling done along the 401, with a few sidetrips to the Niagara Falls area.  None of this was any big revelation; I know where I’ve gone and I always take my phone with me.  The little red dots that are displayed are cell phone location check-ins as I travelled.

There were a couple of outliers though and those were interesting to check in to.  If you’re a regular reader of this blog or a CSTA member, you know that I was the Program Chair of the recently concluded CSTA Conference in Grapevine, Texas.  That would explain the red dots in Texas!

Clicking a dot reveals the location underneath.

So, it was no surprise that I was at the airport, then there’s the hotel/conference centre, and then a couple of interesting location.  Fireside Pies.  I swear; I wasn’t there.  But, as we were driving around looking for a parking spot for the Mexican restaurant that we ate at, I remember seeing it!  And, the Bookstore at the University of Texas at Dallas wasn’t on our agenda but I remember seeing it as we went to the Computing Centre.  So, I guess close does count in this case!

Google assures us that only we can see the locations in the description of the service.  Of course, those of us who are foolish enough to blog about our trips have already revealed the locations to those who read the post anyway. 

Make it stop!  If this is a little freaky, then it’s probably time for you to check out your privacy settings.  This blog post explains how to do this and more.  In the meantime, on your location history timeline, you might be interested in seeing most visited places.

I seem to have a weakness for parks and ONRoutes.

In the classroom, this would be a very engaging and visual activity for students (they all have cell phones, right?) and a great launchpad to an awareness that there are things out there unseen.

In the meantime, if you’re going to commit a crime, make sure you turn off your phone so that you’re not leaving digital tracks!

Camp Google

This turns the whole notion of sending your kid to summer camp to a new level.  Instead of driving to the drop off point and then picking them up at the end of the day, what happens when camp goes online?

That’s what will happen at Camp Google.

And, with the camp being online, being in one place with everyone else at the same time really doesn’t matter.  No Google account is needed to attend and all are encouraged to participate.

With all the rain this summer, it may be just the answer for the day rather than staring out the window watching the drops.

The promotional video above certain does entertain the notion of inquiry.

There are four big themes:

  • Ocean
  • Space
  • Nature
  • Music

It looks like Google has partnered with National Geographic, NASA, The National Park Service, and the Khan Academy to provide this opportunity for students.  It’s free, led by experts, and anyone can attend.  Maybe this kid will too.  After all, you can earn badges.

This looks like a wonderful opportunity for kids and, hopefully, the resources will be left online for anyone to use outside the summer camp.

Becoming A Better Writer

You know, I always thought that I was a fairly good writer.  After all, I have Sheila and Lisa to correct the mistakes that slip through my writing cracks.

But, in all of us, there’s room for improvement.

In my quest for summer improvement, I installed the ProWritingAid into my instance of Google Docs.  It comes with a basic collection of tools for free and then premium features if you want to go that extra step.  

Those of you who have been interviewed here on the blog know that it’s done through a collaborative document in Google Drive.  All of them, except for my Microsoft friend Alfred, where we did it using Microsoft’s similar product.

I try my very best to make sure that I’m on my best writing behaviour there.  The results reflect both on me and the person being interviewed. 

My most recent interview was with Instructional Coach Jennifer Aston.  Once I installed the application, I ran it against our interview.

Here’s a bit of the results.  (Normally, I would throw in an ellipse but I now know that’s wrong.)

Uh oh.

Now, I’ll not bend a bit about using Canadian spelling, even if it’s identified as UK spelling!

But, the rest of the document analysis would imply that I’ve got some serious work to be done with my writing/proofreading skills.  But, that’s a good thing.  If it makes me a better writer, I’m good with that!  After all, WordPress complained that I was a passive writer and I worked on that.

Can I beg off the rest by saying this is my face to face voice?

You can find the application in the Add-ons menu in your instance of Google Docs or directly here.

Note:  I did run this through the aid and came back with no problems.  Am I better to read?

Transferring with Tone

I’ve been reading a lot about the new Tone extension for Google Chrome so I had to check it out.

The premise is that the extension, when installed, will send a URL from one computer using Google Chrome to another via sound.  

Now, the concept of transferring via sound isn’t new for us long timers.  If you’ve ever connected to another source via modem you’ve done it.  Who hasn’t picked up the phone line only to hear the sounds of two modems communicating?  NO CARRIER  Or, a fax machine?  

This extension gets rid of the wires!  It uses your computer’s microphone to head what another computer is sending.  The extension descriptor gives you all kinds of caveats about situations where it wouldn’t work – noisy rooms, distance, etc.  That only makes sense.  

So, I had to try it out here at the labs, er, reclining chair.  Proof of concept confirmed!

Now, there are the sort of issues that you need to be aware.  The extension doesn’t ask for permission to use your microphone; it just does it.  So, you should have a bit of concern of what else the extension is listening to!  In terms of public etiquette, a certain volume is required in order for the transfer to be successful.  Hopefully, that won’t destroy the ambience of a conversation at a coffee shop with people sharing URLs!

The bottom line here is that the innovation world is all right.  Good people thinking about new ways to push technology.  

Hiding the Colonel

I’m a big fan of Google Maps, Earth, and Streetview.  When I’m going to a new place, I’ll often enter the address, kick in Streetview to get an idea of what the place looks like so that I’ll know it when I see it.  It’s also a great way to kill some time just exploring.  I just find it fascinating.

So, you’ve got to believe that I fell for the bait when I saw this story.

10 Secret Places Google Earth Doesn’t Want You To See

It was kind of dumb because if Google doesn’t want me to see them, why would my immediate reaction be to load up the service and see for myself?

But, it was point #3 that I was really taken by – Google doesn’t want me to see Colonel Sanders?  I grew up admiring the guy’s work.  I remember fondly driving to Goderich for an order with my family and then going to eat it on the beach.

Rules are rules, I guess.  The Google position is that real people should have their image blurred.  There’s some comfort in this but he was also a hugely successful trademark.  After all, it really isn’t a picture but a sketch.

I had to check this out.

Sadly, the franchise has closed in town so I virtually moused my way over to Leamington to check it out.

Son of a gun.

Here’s the Streetview of the location, strategically located just across the road and down a bit from Leamington District Secondary School.

His image didn’t beat the odds with the road sign either.

I guess I’ll just have to rely on my memories from his wonderful commercials from years gone by!

What a great starting point for a discussion of corporate ethics though!