February 24, 2008

Woot! One Deal Per Day

Have you heard about Woot yet? It's a web site that sells just one thing a day (at a great price). New deals are announced a midnight. For example, today Woot is selling an Acer desktop computer for $249.99 (2.4GHz AMD Athlon 64 3800+, 1GB DDR2 RAM, 160GB 7200rpm SATA HD, DL DVD burner, Gigabit Ethernet, Flash memory card reader, and Windows Vista Home Basic). That's a pretty good deal!

A great way to keep up with Woot deals is to subscribe to their Twitter and/or RSS feeds. They even have a podcast! To see a list of past Woot deals, look at their Twitter updates page.

February 23, 2008

Yugma Web Conferencing

Dr. Z and I just got done experimenting with Yugma, a new screen-sharing and web conferencing service that's free and web-based. I'm pretty excited about it.

Like many Web 2.0 tools, Yugma requires a login, but registration is free and simple (one only need provide a name and valid email address). With an account, a user can either begin a new screen sharing session or join an existing session from the Yugma home page. Sessions can involve up to 10 users for the free service (up to 500 for a premium account). Inviting someone to join a session is as easy as sending an email (which the web site helps you do, of course), and joining a session only involves logging into the service and entering a 9-digit session ID number. By the way, Yugma works with Macintosh, Windows and Linux PCs, so it's cross-platform. It does, however, require a recent version of Java software be installed.

Once participants have joined a session, they can view each other's screen (not just PowerPoint--anything on the screen), share control of a screen, draw on it, text chat, and even dial a phone number to conference call (it's not a toll-free number, but cell phones and Skype work great for this). If you combine a Skype video chat with a Yugma session, then you've got two-way video and audio as well as screen sharing.

Basically, Yugma--a free solution--provides all of the functionality used in all of the webinars that I've recently attended. It's really quite easy to use and I'm impressed with the clarity of shared screens. This is fantastic for tech support, web conferences, distance education, and many other situations. I think Yugma just edged out Jing as my favorite tech tool of the week.

February 16, 2008

Mobile Web Even Better Than Fixed One?

This week, Google reported that they are seeing 50 times more search requests coming from Apple iPhones than any other mobile internet device. If the trend continues, it's predicted that mobile Internet searches will exceed the number of "fixed" (i.e. desktop) searches within the next several years.

This is strong evidence that people would flock to the mobile web if their device actually made it easy and functional. Expect to see more and more devices emulate the innovative design features of the iPhone. It involves much more than just a larger screen. The user interface must be intuitive and highly functional. For example, the Safari browser on an iPhone (and now iPod Touch) makes it easy and fun to browse almost any web site (come on, Apple, where's the Flash support?).

In fact, the whole touch interface makes me wonder if the tactile experience of using the web on an iPhone might actually be more engaging and interactive than clutching a mouse attached to a desktop computer.

February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day

Our Lucy is so talented. Look what she sent me today...

Happy Valentine's Day, Everybody!

Jing For Easy Screen Recordings

Wow, I'm totally excited about the Jing project. Jing is a free little application for Macintosh and Windows computers that makes it easy for anyone to capture the action on their screen and share it with others. Registration is free with a valid email address, and they even provide you with free hosting of your screen captures (pictures or movies) on the screencast.com website. I've used several shareware and commercial apps in the past to make screen recordings, but this is by far the easiest, cheapest, and most elegant solution I've ever used--and it works the same on Mac and Win computers!

Here's a little movie I made to illustrate how to view file name extensions in Windows XP.

February 10, 2008

US Universities Reaching Abroad

I just read an interesting New York Times article entitled U.S. Universities Rush to Set Up Outposts Abroad Apparently, exchange programs, shared degree programs, and research partnerships are no longer innovative. The trend now is universities, even state schools like Michigan State, building branch campuses in foreign countries such as China, Singapore, and India. But the article describes why there is particular interest (and some controversy) about setting up shop in the Middle East.

February 9, 2008

Why do people put up with Windows?

Honestly, why do people put up with all the crap? It amazes me that anyone, especially laypersons, tolerate the headache that is Windows (or Vista, at least). 

This NYT article describes how a self-employed person working out of his home purchased a new Dell laptop for about $1500 and 72 hours later had to send it off to a local repair shop (because Dell customer service couldn't resolve his problem). The repair shop took an entire week to fix it (a software problem, not a hardware problem) and charged him $800--and the guy doesn't feel ripped off! He was quoted as saying, "I didn't begrudge paying the tab."

Is that how little people expect of technology today? It seems that nearly two decades of Windows dominance has actually conditioned people to have very low expectations for technology. Worse, I think it has actually taught most people to be afraid of their technology for fear they might break it!  Is that correctable? Or do we just let today's users be and focus rather on inspiring young learners to maintain their fearlessness?

February 6, 2008

7 Things You Should Know

I just stumbled upon the 7 Things You Should Know series from EDUCAUSE. These look like good, concise overviews of trendy technologies including blogs, Skype, citizen journalism, twitter, Wikipedia, Facebook, RSS, creative commons, and more. Each is available in PDF format for easy printing.  

February 5, 2008

Free How-To-Blog Videos

Atomic Learning has an extensive set of video tutorials for learning how to start a blog (using Blogger), and they are available free for the month of February.

February 2, 2008

Twitter for Teaching

The Chronicle of Higher Education web site has a story about an assistant professor at the University of Texas who began using Twitter with his class and says, "It was the single thing that changed the classroom dynamics more than anything I’ve ever done teaching." The comments posted by readers include some other good ideas and insights too. Dr. Z--You should post a comment about your experience using Twitter in your class last semester.

Innovative technologies like micro-blogging and virtual spaces can be a fun and effective way for students to build a sense of community, collaborate with each other, and reflect upon what they're learning. The academHacK blog recently posted a list of 13 ways to use Twitter in academia. One of my favorites is assigning students to follow a professional. What an innovative way to job shadow someone who you might otherwise never have a chance to meet! Seek out their Twitter feed and follow it to get an idea of what they're doing and thinking.

February 1, 2008

How To Use a Mac

I was about to send this via email when I remembered what a loser I've been with my blog lately. Sorry for not posting lately--just got busy with classes underway again. I'm gonna make an effort to update my blog more often in the coming weeks.

Apple has added a Find Out How section on its web site with video tutorials for the Finder, iLife '08 apps and iWork '08. For example, check out the videos for the new iMovie.

And, for you Lucy fans out there, here's a recent picture of us playing with Photo Booth.