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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.

Result:

Title

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! 🙂

Conclusion

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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