My Favourite Five


Like many people, I seem to live in a web browser these days.  So much information, so much to do.  I have nothing but admiration for the developers behind this genre of software.  They do an amazing job both in terms of functionality and in efforts to keep us safe online.

Oh, and productive too.

I would estimate that 90% of the time, I’m using the Firefox browser and the rest in Opera Next or Google Chrome.  They’re all such great pieces of software and yet they all are missing those certain somethings.  Fortunately, there are equally as terrific programmers creating addons/extensions to increase the functionality of the browser.  As I look at the collection that appear at the top of the screen, it can look like a holiday decoration!

Every time I install or reinstall a browser, there are certain go-to addons/extensions that I make sure are added.


Scribefire – This is my go-to blogging tool.  It has all of the blogging functionality that I’ve decided that I need.  Or, perhaps I’ve modified my needs to the functions that it provides.  Either way, for my current needs, it has it all.  I like that it easily schedules posts to go live at a particular time.  I also build for my “This Week in Ontario Edublogs” posts by storing content there and scheduling it for Friday.


Web of Trust – A good internet mantra is to “trust nobody” and the Web of Trust is one of my partners in making it happen.  With a simple red, yellow, or green icon next to links, coupled with some common sense, I try to avoid those dodgy websites.


AdBlock Plus – I started out using this like I think most people originally do.  It blocks the very annoying advertising that permeates the internet.  Some of the advertising can be more than just a bit annoying.  I’ve stuck with it because we have incredibly slow internet access here.  I’m constantly asked by my kids “how can you live like this?”  Removing the advertising is one way to speed things up.


Shareaholic – There was a time when I had different resources to share to Twitter, Facebook, Instapaper, Evernote, … It’s kind of interesting to sit back at times and think about where you share resources.  Shareaholic amalgamates them all into a single place.  Just right click on the resource to be saved/shared, choose your preferred destination, and you’re done.


LastPass – Their motto is “Simplify Your Life”.  Actually, it could be simpler.  Just use the same password for every service that you use.  That would also be one of the dumbest things to do.  Period.  LastPass not only does the heavy remembering for you – an account is remembered for any browser with this extension – but it will also generate complex passwords that get the nod of approval to those password security evaluation recommendations that you get when you create a password.


How’s that for a list?  I had to do some work to cut it back to just five and I feel badly that I’m looking at some other create addons at the top of the screen.

What are your favourites that make you and your browsing productivity experience so good?

We’re So Demanding


and that’s a good thing…

I still remember the meetings and planning for the end of the world.

I think that it was in the release of Window XP that Microsoft included versions of Solitaire and Minesweeper.  When we first got a computer with XP installed for evaluation, we couldn’t get away from it.  The cards, in Solitaire, were so incredibly well designed and displayed on the screen.  Plus, the animation at the end of the game when we won could keep us fascinated for hours.

But back to seriousness, we had to review the applications that would be installed on the image and then deployed to a system.  Do we include these games or not?  How would we ever get students on task?  Will teachers and administrators do their jobs or would they be aiming for high scores?  It was just a silly conversation.

What brought all this back to mind this morning was reading this story “The best blackjack apps for iPhone“.  Isn’t Blackjack just the game of 21?  That led me to wonder what’s happening in the Solitaire world.  “Solitaire Online”  Good gravy.  Have we lost our collective minds by taking awesome childhood games and putting them online?

Then the programming mind in me clicked in.  

“We just don’t create Solitaire.”  

“We create a better Solitaire experience.”

and we’re all the better for the great design and programming minds behind this.

Those of us who are long in the keyboard remember Visicalc.  In a world where we loudly proclaim “game changer”, this truly was a game changer.  It changed everything I ever thought I knew about marks recording, for example.  I could immediately sit with a student and do the math – “What if I don’t hand in this assignment?  How much would 100% on this test change my overall mark?”.  I even wrote an article about how to set up a gradebook in Visicalc.  Now, the basic premise is standard logic for many elementary school students.  Plus, they’ll create pie charts to visualize the results.  I couldn’t do that with the technology of the time.

Why is this important?

In a world of self-proclaimed life-long learners, how many are ready and prepared to throw out the old and embrace the new?  Pick any discipline and compare the start of the art today to how it was done even five years ago.  We are demanding, constantly pushing forward and it’s a good thing.  If you subscribe to the notion of a growth mindset, sit back and take a look around you right now.  Are you practising it with your deeds?

A couple of post scripts…

1)  You can still get Solitaire, Mindsweeper, and Hearts for Windows 8!  Get them here.

2)  Technology may not always get you where you need or want to be.  There’s more to playing games than playing the game.  Brandon Grasley visits the classics here.

ZooKazam


This is a “must explore” if you’re interested in animals.  But, it goes further than that.

This application is one of the most amazing applications of Artificial Intelligence on a portable device that I think I’ve seen.  Watch this review.

The application is ZooKazam and available for both Android and iOS.  I think that you know you’re in for something special just visiting their website.  By itself, it takes the concept of the web to the next level.

They call it “magical animals” and the name is so true.  You have to experience it to fully understand.  Words just don’t do justice for a good description of the experience you’re about to enjoy.  Download the app and get started just by pointing your camera at a number of the targets provided on their website.  Then, dig in and you won’t be putting it down any time soon.

Experiences can be recorded and shared.

YouTube is a terrific repository of compositions shared.  Of course, the sharing continues on Twitter.

The application is free to download and the Mammals category is free.  That’s plenty to get your virtual zoo started.

It’s not just the virtual reality, either.  You just know that there will be a hook into education.

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I’m posting this on the weekend so you’ll have lots of time to explore and play!

And, lest you think it’s a Macintosh thing since all the captures seem to be done on that platform, here’s my zebra.

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The Mozilla Manifesto


The first thing I do when I install a new web browser is set up the web apps that I use over and over again.  That includes Hootsuite, Gmail, Google +, Facebook, and the Scribefire blog editor.

For some reason, on this computer I also left the Mozilla start page.  It’s not a page that I pay a great deal of attention to; it’s just so handy for the shortcuts to configure things.

Recently, I had the browser loaded and was distracted from what I was going to do and noticed a section under the search box.

Am I bad for not paying attention before?  I’m sure that it’s been there since the recent campaign on Web Neutrality.

It was the #7 principle from Mozilla.  Very interesting; I like so much of what Mozilla does in terms of software development, what they’ve done for education, and I really like the recently updated Web Literacy Map.

So, having completely forgotten what I was about to do, I decided to check out their complete list of principles.  After all, this is #7, there’s got to be at least 6 others.

It turns out that there are 10 of them and you can visit them here.  The entire manifesto is fleshed out there.

Isn’t this what you want your web to be?

Google Feud


I’ve been reading quite a bit about Google Feud so decided to check it out myself.

It’s a reminder that there are so many smarter and more innovative people than me.  Period.

I’ve been a fan of the television show Family Feud for years.  Not to date my television viewing habits but I go back to the Richard Dawson years.  I mean, who hasn’t sat watching the show on television shouting answers in an attempt to score better than your spouse who was also riveted to the show.  And, there’s this Google thing that I’ve heard about.

Putting the two of them together yields a pretty amazing result, but the website is clear that it has no association with either.

The game is one player with a presentation similar to the television show.

The top 10 answers are pulled from the results that Google generates using autocomplete.  Your job is simply? to guess it.

Of course, you multi-tab users will know how to game the system.  But, that would take the fun out of it.

I can see this becoming a staple in waiting rooms or anywhere a good timewaster is needed.  All that’s missing is the humour and genius of Steve Harvey.

And, you can’t help but be impressed with the innovation of melding these two concepts together.  Consider it bookmarked here.

Playing with Lightbot


I was unable to attend the 2015 ACSE Conference but thanks to the #ACSE15 hashtag and the Twitter messages from @pbeens, I was able to follow along.  It sounded like another great conference.  Hopefully, resources will be added to the website after the presenters get home and realize the powerful messages that they shared.

As I write this post, in another tab, I’m playing with one of the resources that was shared as an introduction to logic that leads to programming.  The program is called Lightbot and runs in a browser (Hour of Code version) and on iOS and Android devices for a modest fee.

The premise is very simple.  You start with minimal instructions and you use the instructions to navigate the Lightbot robot around the desktop and light up the blue tiles when you land on them.  As you increase in levels, you add more functionality to your robot.  This is going to be my Sunday addiction.

Of note, at the bottom, look for the link to additional resources.  And, a teaser about a new game on the way…

Exploring and Wasting Time


For me, it started yesterday by checking my Facebook timeline.  A high school friend had posted this article “What Color Is This Goddamn Dress?”  (Choice of words theirs…)

I looked at it – yellow and white, what’s the deal – and then moved on to do other reading.  I flipped on the morning news as I’m reading my Twitter timeline and this thing had gotten out of hand.  The story was everywhere and, in fact, trending on Twitter.  I walked the dog and came home and the talk was still going.  This is weird.  The current wisdom was that those that saw the colours gold and white were wrong and that, in fact, the colours where black and blue.  Yeah, right.  I know what I saw.

I went back to the original Facebook post and, son of a gun, the dress did look black and blue now.  How could this be?  Then, It occurred to me.  The first look was on my Macintosh computer and I’m now looking at it in Ubuntu.  Same browser – Firefox.  This truly was strange.  Then, I remembered that each computer can be configured with a colour profile.  On Ubuntu, it looks like this.

On the Mac, I had gone into the advanced calibration when I had originally set it up and had a “warmer” setting.

Could this be the difference?  I played around with a bunch of settings which made for some slight changes.  OK, maybe there’s something in this.  After all, I wasn’t looking at the original dress.  I was looking at a digital picture that had had who knows how many loads and saves.

Well, as you know, things had exploded with all kinds of theories, people looking at the image together, bad words being said to others!  I remembered back when I got my first pair of glasses.  The eye doctor had this test with the big E in black and showed it on a red background and then a green background and the question was “which looked sharper?”.  I hated to admit it but black on red always looks sharper to me.  It didn’t matter how much flipping with the equipment that he did.

But the media continues to explode with stories, theories, and scientific explanations.  “This Might Explain Why That Dress Looks Blue And Black, And White And Gold“.  Interesting scientific theory.  My original view was done in the dark and my second visit was next to a patio window with the blinds open.  So many variables.  I then tried it on my iPad and could see both colours depending upon what angle I was looking at the screen.

The posts keep on coming.  There were two where you could see the white/gold colour in one and black/blue in the other.  Enough is enough.  As my science consultant friend often said “There’s got to be a workshop in there somewhere.”  I saved both images to my hard drive and opened them in The Gimp.

Side by side, I can clearly see two different colours.

But, if you look closely at the bottom, I’ve had to resize the yellow/gold one to get them to be about the same size.  So, the originals weren’t necessarily the original image.  Even for this side by side, I’ve introduced some error into the picture.  And, besides, they are now both on the same computer with the same colour settings and yet appear different (at least to me…)  One of them has already been doctored to make the point.

The colour picker will get to the bottom of this.

         

I should have gone into forensics. 

So, I could do a little editing on my own.  How about green?

As I was doing this, I was thinking of a couple of lesson activities.

  • In the Comm Tech classroom, could you take the two images and adjust the settings so that they look the same?  Or, if you took one, could you make it into the other?
  • In a digital literacy class, it’s a perfect example of how you can see the same thing in two different ways?  It’s a solid reminder to question everything you see online!
  • In the science classroom, there’s probably a whack of scientific principles at work.  I’m just not a science teacher.

As I wrap up this post, I realize that I had left the search for #TheDress open in another tab.  There are hundreds of messages that have come in since I started this post.

The online world loves a good argument.  I’ve been online long enough to remember the classic nerd arguments.  “Who’s the better captain?  Kirk or Picard?”

(I’m solidly in the Kirk camp…)

Anyway, enough exploring and wasting time.  There’s better things to do.