Tag: Firefox

Why I

TL;DR: A new service called tldr.io provides extensions for Firefox and Chrome that allow you to summarise content on the Web. These summaries are then available to other users who have the extensions. This adds value for both the person doing the summarising (comprehension) and the person accessing the summary (speed)/

You’ll have noticed that I’ve been using TL;DR at the top of my posts (like this one) for a while now. It’s something that stands for too long; didn’t read and is a nod to the fact that people don’t tend to read long-form content on computer screens. A few weeks ago I happened across a new service called tldr.io. I think it’s awesome.

The best services solve two problems at the same time. So, for example, Luis von Ahn created reCAPTCHA (prove you’re human / digitise books) and Duolingo (translate articles / learn another language). Tldr.io does something similar. One of the best ways of learning something is to summarise it for someone else. And if you’re in a hurry, having a summarised version of something is extremely valuable.

Once you install the Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome browser extension you’ll see either a red or green button in your address bar:


If it’s red it means that there’s no summary of this page. If it’s green it means that a summary exists. Clicking on the green button reveals that summary. If it’s red then that means you’ve got an opportunity to contribute one and add value! Nice.

The service has an API meaning it can be hooked into websites. Once you’ve installed the extension check out the way, for example, that the tl;dr grey icons appear next to articles on Hacker News – and what happens when you hover over them:


I like services that fulfil a need and have an obvious value proposition both for the creator and consumer! And this seems like something that could align nicely with the Web Literacy standard work we at Mozilla have been undertaking with the community.

If you were still in any doubt, head over to the latest summaries over at tldr.io and then, once you’ve contributed a summary, check out your impact. Wonderful.

Paper hat goes to the first one to summarise this blog post. Although that would be quite meta. 😉

Weeknote 09/2013

This week I’ve been:

  • Preparing for the session I’m running with Kate Stokes (Nesta) at SXSWedu.
  • Calculating my expenses.
  • Explaining to quite a few people that Mozilla doesn’t usually ‘partner’ with other organisations on bids (but that I’m happy to be listed as an advisor).
  • Playing lots of games as part of the nomination committee for Mozilla’s Game On competition.
  • Writing a book chapter overview for Dave White about the philosophical implications of simultaneously inhabiting physical and virtual worlds.
  • Adding descriptions to the articles, blog posts and books in the Web Literacy standard ‘library’.
  • Collaborating with my colleagues Carla Casilli and Erin Knight on a vision document for the Web Literacy standard work.
  • Discovering Firefox tab groups, courtesy of Laura Hilliger.
  • Meeting with builders to discuss my shoffice.
  • Responding to conference organisers asking for titles for presentation, preferences for food, accommodation, etc.
  • Updating my Lanyrd profile and adding conferences I’m attending over the next few months.
  • Sorting out my corporation tax for the now-defunct Synechism Ltd.
  • Leading a webinar on Open Badges for the Centre for Recording Achievement. Slides here.
  • Hosting the inaugural Mozilla Web Literacy standard community call.
  • Speaking to people thinking of using Open Badges for various projects.

Next week I’ll be in Austin, Texas for SXSW 2013. I’m flying out on Sunday and arrive back on Friday. So next week’s update is likely to be a bit shorter…

HOWTO: Present using Cooliris (advanced)

As promised in HOWTO: Present using Cooliris (the basics…) this post outlines more advanced options when using Cooliris as a presentation tool. It covers the following:

  1. Using a Nintendo Wiimote to control your presentation
  2. Customising the HTML page
  3. Adding titles to slides
  4. Linking to websites from slides
  5. Adding a ‘branding image’

1. Using a Nintendo Wiimote to control your presentation

WiimoteThe Nintendo Wiimote is a wonderful thing. It (potentially) connects via Bluetooth to any suitably-equipped computer. I use a Macbook Pro and a program called Darwiin Remote (free) and it couldn’t be easier to both use the buttons on the Wiimote as well as the motion-sensing element to control the cursor. If, however, you’re using Windows you’ll need Wiin Remote (free) but good luck getting your ‘Bluetooth stack’ working (try BlueSoleil – or better still, buy a Mac!) Linux users need WiiLi.

If you have no joy with the above, simply invest in something like the Kensington Si600 Wireless Presenter which will do the job – albeit in a less cool way… 😉

2. Customising the HTML page

PicLens Publisher does all the hard work for you in terms of creating the HTML page, thumbnails and RSS feed you need to present using Cooliris. However, if you want to customise your presentation to look a bit more like mine, then you’ll need to edit the HTML page produced by the program.

In keeping with my love of all things free and Open Source, I’d recommend the cross-platform program KompoZer for this. It’s got a WYSIWYG editor and is very straightforward to use! If you look at my presentations, I add the following:

  • my avatar
  • title of my presentation
  • details about me
  • link to HTML version of presentation
  • details about the presentation method (feel free to link to my posts!)
  • Creative Commons license information (at bottom)

3. Adding titles to slides

This is the bit that involves delving into code. Don’t worry though, as it’s very straightforward. You need to find the file entitled photos.rss and open it with a text editor. You should see something like this:

Piclens RSS - title highlighted

The part of the RSS feed that I’ve highlighted (between the <title> tags) is the title of each slide. This is what you need to change in order to alter the title of the slide. They’re in the order you specified when you made the presentation.



4. Linking to websites from slides

This is very much like the above process of adding titles to slides, except you edit a different part of the RSS feed:

PicLens - link

The highlighted section above (between the <link> tags) is where you need to put the link to the webpage you wish to display when the relevant icon is clicked during your presentation:

Cooliris link icon

5. Adding a ‘branding image’

This is perhaps the least useful of the advanced tweaks – yet in some ways the most satisfying as it gives you ‘ownership’ of your presentation.

Cooliris - branding image

The branding image needs to have a transparent background (I used a PNG file but I suppose you could use a GIF) and no more than 26 pixels high. There’s no real limit to its width. You can add anything in there – as you can see I put the shortened link to the presentation for people to go back to. Need an image editor? Try the GIMP!

Put the image you have generated into the images sub-folder of your presentation folder. You then need to add the following to the bottom of the photos.rss file:

Cooliris - branding image RSS

I’ve highlighted the section you need to add – although of course you’ll need to change name_of_your_file.png to whatever you decided to call your branding image! 🙂


I think Cooliris is a great presentation tool. It’s engaging, free to create and access, and enables people to re-use parts of your presentation (if you CC-license it!)

I’d like to thank Alan Levine for pioneering this method. The blog posts he wrote that guided me are below:

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HOWTO: Present using Cooliris (the basics…)

Regular readers of this blog and followers of my tweets will be aware that I’ve recently come across (via Alan Levine 1, 2) a great way to present to an audience using a plugin for the Open Source, cross-platform web browser Firefox.* Cooliris makes your presentations look like an interactive version of this:

(examples available in the Presentations section)

Why use Cooliris as a presentation method?

  • It looks extremely cool and engages your audience
  • It generates HTML pages for your images so you can quickly and easily put your presentation slides online
  • It’s free (if you use something like OpenOffice.org to create your images)
  • It can be controlled using a Nintendo Wiimote (I use Darwiin Remote with my Macbook Pro)

The purpose of this post is to show how to create a basic presentation with Cooliris, and then how to enable the more advanced features. 😀

Cooliris: the basics

The basic steps are: export your slides as images, import them into PicLens Publisher, and then upload generated folder to web server (optional, as you can run it locally from your hard disk)

1. Export your slides as images

Keynote (click to enlarge):

Keynote - Export (thumb) Keynote - filetype (small)

Powerpoint (click to enlarge):

Powerpoint - Save as Pictures Powerpoint - Image options

OpenOffice.org (click to enlarge):

OpenOffice.org - Export OpenOffice.org - export format openoffice03_small

OpenOffice.org - HTML format OpenOffice.org - JPG quality Create

As far as I’m aware, although the options would suggest otherwise, there’s no obvious way to export all you slides to images in OpenOffice.org. Instead, we can generate them by creating an HTML version of the presentation which will also create images. As a bonus, this can be uploaded alongside the Cooliris version of the slides for those without the plugin. 🙂

2. Use PicLens Publisher

Cooliris used to be known as ‘PicLens’ – hence the name of PicLens Publisher, a Mac/Windows program that does everything you need to convert your images ready for an interactive Cooliris-powered presentation!

Simply follow the instructions given to you in the program:

PicLens Publisher

Once you’ve finished, go to the folder that you exported your files to and open gallery.html in Firefox (with the Cooliris add-on). You should see an interactive presentation like the ones I produced!

3. Upload your files to a web server (optional)

If you want your presentation to be online, do the following:

  1. Rename the folder containing your PicLens Publisher-created files to something without spaces (e.g. preso)
  2. Rename gallery.html within the preso folder to index.html
  3. Connect to your web server and navigate to where you want the preso folder uploaded to
  4. Upload the preso folder generated by PicLens Publisher to your web server

Upload preso to web server

That’s it! You’ve created your first Cooliris-powered, interactive presentation. Details on how link to websites from your slides, name them, customize the icon at the top, and use a Wiimote to present will feature in a follow up post. 🙂

* Cooliris is also available for Internet Explorer and Safari, but I’m not entirely sure why you’d want to use those… 😉

5 productivity tips/hacks I’ve come across recently.

I’m always on the lookout for ways in which I can be more productive and increase my creative outputs. Time is precious when you’re a teacher, husband and father! Whilst I recommend you subscribe to blogs like Lifehacker and Lifehack.org directly, I’d like to share with you some of the tips and ‘lifehacks’ I’ve found useful recently:

1. FriendFeed

If you’re not using FriendFeed yet, you should be! I’ve been using it for a couple of months and find it very useful. It’s like the river of news and updates you get on Facebook (or at least last time I checked). The difference is that it’s people in the edublogosphere so it’s things related directly to professional learning. The quality of links, recommendations, etc. I get through FriendFeed means that I actually check my feed reader less often now (and use Feedly instead of Google Reader when I do…)

2. Firefox Extensions

I’ve already blogged about Stylish and Feedly, but it’s amazing how much Firefox extensions (addons) can improve your productivity. Take a couple recommended by Lifehacker recently:

  • Tree Style Tabs – allows you to hierarchically organize tabs in a vertical manner in your sidebar. Much more useful than it sounds!
  • Picnik – allows you to capture and edit screenshots online.
  • Zemanta – adds features when creating blog posts like related articles, suggested tags, links to Wikipedia articles, etc.

It’s worth trawling through the Mozilla Firefox addons site and/or doing a Google search for recommended extensions. There’s some great one out there! 🙂

3. How Priorities Make Things Happen

I know from experience that I work much better and in a more focused way if I’m working to a deadline. In fact, I purposely don’t start things until, for example, I’ve only got 24 hours left to complete it. Otherwise, I procrastinate and then, when finished, endlessly tinker to make things ‘just right’.

In a Lifehacker post about a book entitled How Priorities Make Things Happen, this is put into a more structured and easy-to-understand (and follow) form:

The easiest way to make a goal meaningful is to use ordered lists and a high priority one bar. These two simple tools force you to make tough decisions early. An ordered list simply means putting your goals in priority order, most important at the top, least important at the bottom. Divide that list in half: the top are things you must do, or die (Priority 1). The rest are things you hope to do, but can live without (Priority 2). Make your priority 1 list as small as possible: set a high bar. The smaller your list of must do’s, the easier they are to achieve. You will face waves of conflicting emotions as you decide what is truly important, but once you settle on priorities the hard decisions will be behind you.

4. Share Your Secrets To Be The Change

I’ve always shared pretty much everything I’ve ever produced – from my university essays/theses to resources I use in the classroom. Others have been flabbergasted by this approach, finding it strange that I should give away for free what I’ve put so much work into. I have the opposite approach – I get back so much more than I give. I’m sure others reading this have found the same.

It’s for the above reasons that I found Share Your Secrets To Be The Change, a post on Lifehack.org, to be so affirming. I especially liked the bits about sharing ‘making your life happier’ and making you into a ‘hero’. Knowing that I’ve got an audience certainly makes me more productive.

5. Top Ten Modern Life Survival Skills

It’s all very well these websites that show you how to start a fire using a Coke can and a piece of chocolate, but how many of us will actually ever need to do that? Really useful ‘modern survival skills’ can give you more control over your life; ergo more time and therefore productivity.

A post on Lifehacker entitled Top Ten Modern Life Survival Skills includes this gem:

Ever notice how putting your hand on your clock radio tends to clarify and boost the signal? You can use that same body-as-extended-antenna trick to locate your car in a stuffed parking lot. Hold your remote opening fob against your skull, hit the alarm (or beep-beep locking button), and you’ll locate your vehicle from farther away.

Have YOU got any productivity tips/hacks you’ve come across recently you’ve found useful? Share them in the comments section! 😀

(Image credit: branching out by shapeshift @ Flickr)

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Wixi: a bizarre yet useful free file-sharing / web-desktop hybrid

I stumbled across Wixi today. It’s a combination of desktop operating system, file-sharing application and personal file repository. It reminds me of EyeOS with which I experimented a year or more ago. It’s currently supposed to be in invitation-only beta, but you can sign-up using this page and get unlimited storage!

Wixi desktop

Once you’ve created your account and logged-in, you can create folders and upload your media to the site. This can then be tagged and set as ‘private’ or ‘public’. If you set, say, some video as ‘public’, it can be streamed (but not downloaded) by visitors to your Wixi profile page. You, however, as the owner of the content, can both stream and download it no matter where you are. Wixi does not require any special software to run, other than a web browser (currently only Firefox and Internet Explorer).

Although I experienced a few minor and not-too-irritating bugs whilst uploading, I’ve found it a great (free!) service so far. I’m stumped, however, as to how they’re going to deal with potential copyright infringement law suits. A quick search for ‘DVD rip’ brought up a whole host of films uploaded by other users that I was able to add to my Wixi page and stream (full-screen!) almost immediately:

Wixi - films

Wixi is definitely one to keep your eye on, especially as you are able to embed widgets to share your content in blogs, wikis, etc. I’m certainly not recommending this one for educational uses. I think this one’s for personal use only… 😉

Give it a spin, and add me as a friend – I’m on there as dajbelshaw. 😀

New Asus eee user? Read this!

This is my first blog post using the powerful combination of my new (replacement) Asus eee and the Scribefire plugin for Firefox. 🙂

The purpose of this post is to demonstrate how I have setup my eee for better productivity (i.e. made it more powerful whilst retaining ease-of-use). I think you’ll agree that my setup at least looks good:

There’s two programs/scripts I used to get to the above. I was made aware of these by the excellent Eeeuser.com wiki, which should definitely be your first port of call! In particular, the following are very useful:

  • pimpmyeee (a script that turns on and turns off features – includes themes, icons, ‘Advanced Mode’, etc.)
  • TweakEEE (a program that is installed to the Settings tab and allows you to modify the Easy Mode user interface)

By using these two programs/scripts I now have the advantage of being able to use the fantastic Easy Mode whilst having the power and flexibility of accessing the Start Menu. This means I can install and access programs such as Frostwire and the GIMP quickly and easily using Synaptic Package Manager:

How have YOU modified your eee? Are you pleased with the results?:p

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4 blogs that enhance my productivity

Dilbert - productivityI used to be naturally productive. These days, for a multitude of reasons, I need some assistance, some guidance, a helping hand to point me in the right direction. It’s about time (and especially given the education, technology, productivity tagline of this blog) that I share some of my productivity kryptonite… 🙂

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Firefox Extension: Tab Groups

Tab Groups

I’ve just come across an excellent Firefox add-on called Tab Groups. If, like me, you tend to have a lot of tabs open at the same time when you browse, this extension is fabulous. As its name suggests, you can organize your tabs by ‘group’, even giving them a name. It also works well with Firefox’s Session Manager, so all your tab groups will be saved if you close Firefox and re-open it!

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