On Friday I’m in London helping facilitate a session as part of the Open Source Schools project. I was asked by Miles Berry to write a short ‘provocation paper’ which is shared below (be sure to click ‘Fullscreen’). I’d be interested in your thoughts and feedback! 😀
Tag: Open Source (page 2 of 3)
N.B. If the makers of any of the software I mention are reading, this is a metaphorical post invoking artistic license…
Image by ONT Design @ Flickr
I used to have an objection to people making money from non-physical things such as software programs. After all, they can be reproduced perfectly and cost virtually nothing to distribute – yet end users are often charged a fortune. This objection vanished recently after a couple of things happened…
First, I secured my new position as Director of E-Learning. This means that my livelihood is dependent upon the work of others: no e-learning hardware and software equals no job for Doug! More than that, though, the producers of such things are dependent upon me. Without schools and academies buying their products, they would not have the money to employ staff. This got me thinking about the economy (especially because of the recession), and about whether the ‘free lunch’ we’ve been getting through Web 2.0 tools was sustainable.
Second, a couple of months ago I listened to a debate on the radio about huge pharmaceutical companies and the price they charge for drugs that treat Swine Flu. The debate included discussion about treatments for HIV and I came away realising that the pharmaceutical companies aren’t all bad. They invest literally billions of dollars into researching these treatments which, after all, greatly benefit the human race. They have to recoup these costs. Despite this, in Africa, most drugs are sold at cost price or slightly higher. That got me thinking about ‘hidden costs’ in general, and how companies that produce software also have costs that they need to recoup.
I’ve had dodgy versions of software ever since I can remember. In fact, I can remember as an 18-year-old pretty much everything on my Windows-powered computer being pirated. This has changed over the last 10 years, however: there’s only a couple of programs that I’ve refused to pay hundreds of pounds for yet enjoyed their functionality. None of the programs on the Linux-powered netbook upon which I’m writing this cost anything, so I’m alright there. However, on my Macbook Pro, I’ve substituted the following for Open Source Software:
- Macromedia Studio 8 (incl. Dreamweaver & Fireworks) – Kompozer & The GIMP/Seashore
- VMware Fusion – VirtualBox
- iWork 09 – OpenOffice.org (already installed anyway!)
- iLife 09 (mainly for GarageBand) – Audacity
So really, this post is about ‘coming clean’, about getting rid of the last vestiges. As you can see, it’s not about the fact that I can now afford these programs. It’s about making a decision that it’s either worth the license or its not. And if its not, doing without the functionality. Well, at home at least – I’ll have access to more programs and licenses through the Academy… 🙂
What are YOUR thoughts on this?
If you tweet about this post, don’t forget to include a link back to it so that your tweet can be included under the comments section!
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):
Powerpoint (click to enlarge):
OpenOffice.org (click to enlarge):
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:
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:
- Rename the folder containing your PicLens Publisher-created files to something without spaces (e.g. preso)
- Rename gallery.html within the preso folder to index.html
- Connect to your web server and navigate to where you want the preso folder uploaded to
- Upload the preso folder generated by PicLens Publisher to your 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… 😉
I spent yesterday afternoon with a like-minded group of educators who are part of the Becta-funded Open Source Schools project. We spent four hours (!) discussing the ins-and-outs of what educators want and need from us. We were joined virtually by a number of educators from the FlashMeeting (see replay). In the spirit of being open and sharing, here’s an overview of what was discussed! 😀
- We’re concerned with not replicating what is already available elsewhere in the Open Source community. Our focus should, and is, on pedagogical application of Open Source Software (OSS).
- Starting with the half-term after Easter, we shall have a ‘push’ in a given subject area. This will not be at the expense of providing resources, links and discussion for other subject areas. We have a number of historians who are part of the project (including myself), and so will be kicking things off with either History or Design and Technology, where teachers have also expressed a strong interest.
- The idea of ‘having a competition’ was raised at various points at the meeting. Usually it was in an attempt to get students engaged. I had misgivings about this, especially after Clarence Fisher’s excellent recent post.
- As would be expected, there was much discussion of Moodle. I’m not against it, I’m just not a huge fan. The problem is with Moodle is that there’s a fair learning curve, and it’s best deployed as a whole-school learning platform. I’m more concerned with getting teachers, students and parents using OSS they can install easily and locally. :-p
- I floated the idea of having posters that could be downloaded from the site and printed off by educators who want to promote OSS and the Open Source Schools website. We discussed getting professional designers to come up with these, but eventually decided that user-generated ones (after exemplars) would be more in keeping with the community spirit.
- I mentioned that a good way to get parents engaged might be to show ways in which they can control their children’s access to the Internet at home. We need to explore this more as existing OSS solutions we could think of are difficult to deploy on a single machine. I suggested OpenDNS, but it turns out that this is free, but not Open Source. 🙁
- We discussed how to get teachers started with OSS. I pointed out the fact that our unique selling point is pedagogical use of OSS, not just being a one-stop shop for everything Open Source! To this end, we’re not going to be providing step-by-step guides on how to download and install programs (unless we’re specifically asked to, of course…)
- It was agreed that video is a powerful medium, and that 5-minute TeachersTV-style examples of OSS being used in an educational context would be useful. This could take the form of screencasts (created using Wink, for example) or videos recorded and uploaded to Archive.org. These would be created by educators on a voluntary basis (after being seeded with some examples) instead of being of broadcast-quality by film crews parachuted into schools!
If you’d like to get involved in the Open Source Schools project, please head over to the website. We’re keen for as many people to get involved as possible and it’s far from an exclusive club.
See you over there! 😀
I’ve decided to add a music section to dougbelshaw.com. If you head over to /music then you’ll find an installation of Opentape, some Open Source software that is very similar that used to power version 1 of Muxtape. I’ve added a link to the navigation menu at the top of this blog.
Every Sunday I plan to upload a new playlist of music I’ve been listening to during the week. This first playlist represents the amount of time I spend listening to ‘mashups’!
Read/act on this first: Podcasting: Step 1 – RSS and setting up a teacher blog
In the last session we set up a blog and learned what RSS was. Let’s just remind ourselves of what podcasting is, shall we?
So podcasting is when you deliver audio files to ‘subscribers’ automatically using an RSS feed. This RSS feed is generated automatically by the Posterous-powered blog you set up in Step 1. 🙂
In this session we’re going to be using a program called Audacity. This is available for all platforms – Windows, Mac and Linux. It is free and Open Source software. Audacity is already installed on the computers we shall be using at school, but if you need to download it at home, you can find it here: http://audacity.sourceforge.net
Note: we will need a ‘plugin’ for Audacity to be able to export to MP3 format, but we’ll leave that for next session!
Instead of re-inventing the wheel, we’ll be making use of the excellent video guides to using Audacity that can be found here: http://www.how-to-podcast-tutorial.com/17-audacity-tutorial.htm
These are the ones you should focus on today:
- The editing tools
- Basic editing and trimming your audio
- Importing audio and adding music to your podcast
When you save your audio, just save it as a WAV file. We’ll work on exporting to MP3 next time. If you’re looking for music that you can legally and safely use in your podcasts, check out the links at the bottom of the Wikipedia page for ‘Podsafe’.
Spurred on by Andrew Field’s new ICThistory.co.uk site, Dave Stacey reminisces about the computers of his youth in Early Computer Memories. The venerable Mr Field needs more examples of this to share with his ICT students, and I’m always happy to oblige. It has meant I’ve had to do some thinking about when these memories I have actually happened!
I suppose it’s relevant here to say that at the time of this post being published I’m 28 years old, being born in December 1980.
My Dad was Deputy Head of the high school (13-18) I eventually attended. I can remember him bringing back a BBC Micro that must have cost the school a fair chunk of cash. Given that the BBC Micro was discontinued in 1986, it couldn’t have been long after that he started bringing it home in the school holidays. I can distinctly remember having to type in lines and lines of code to play a game called Duck Hunt. There was no way for me to save it once I’d programmed it in, so there was more typing than playing going on! I don’t think it was exactly the same as this version for the Nintendo NES, but it was similar…
My Dad also brought an Acorn Computer back once, but as we had no games for it, we (my younger sister and I), didn’t really use it.
I was never allowed to have a games console, my parents being of the belief (quite rightly) that I’d just spend my life playing video games. One of my friends who I only saw outside of school time had a Nintendo Entertainment System, which was legendary – Super Mario and the like made me a frequent visitor to his house!
As my birthday is very close to Christmas, I was in the fortunate situation of being able to combine the money that would be spent on present for me to get one ‘big’ present. Given that the Amiga 600, according to Wikipedia, went into production in 1992 and was discontinued in 1993, I must have received it for birthday/Christmas 1992. As a 12-year-old, I can remember going to Canterbury when we were on a family holiday and my parents buying Lemmings and Kick Off 2 for me. Although, theoretically, the Amiga 600 was a computer and a games console, I never did anything other than play games on it! 😉
Whilst I had my Amiga 600, another friend had a Sega Megadrive. This was my first experience of Sonic the Hedgehog and I found the graphics on it amazing – especially when the 32X add-on was released!
Compaq Presario Pentium 75
My Dad had brought home his 486DX-powered PC during the holidays during 1994 and 1995. It was upon this that I learned how to touch-type with a version of Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing that came free on the front of a magazine. Then – and I’m not sure how I managed to do this – I persuaded my parents to spend £1,500 in Bainbridges (now John Lewis) on a Pentium 75-powered PC. I think I promised that it would not only be a combined birthday and Christmas present for 1995, but for 1996 and 1997 as well!
I can remember playing Sim City 2000 and especially, the Secret of Monkey Island on this machine. My sister and I would return from school and be straight on the PC trying to figure out the next puzzle! I also had Sensible Soccer, a flight simulator, and some other games.
It was with this machine, however, and Windows 95 that I began to use the PC as a computer rather than a console. Before Freeserve, you had a choice between paying Compuserve or AOL around £15 per month on top of dial-up charges to access the Internet. My PC had a 28.8kbps modem – twice the speed of the previous 14.4kbps standard.
There was no way that my parents were going to pay this to allow me access to a resource they didn’t see as necessary to my education. I tried and tried and tried to persuade them, but when they didn’t agree I decided to take matters into my own hands. I used my Dad’s credit card to sign up for a 30-day Compuserve trial, and then used the Internet when my parents were not using the phone. This, of course, was slightly dangerous as, if they’d picked up the phone when I was online, they would have been able to hear the giveaway noises. I had to go to a phone box and pretend to be my Dad after about 29 days to cancel my (his!) Compuserve account, and make sure I wasn’t connected for longer than an hour. Billing was only itemised for calls over 60 pence, you see… :-p
In 1997, as a 16-year-old, I was getting a bit fed-up of Windows 95. I’d read about Open Source Software and Linux in particular. Although by now I had a 56kbps modem and my parents allowed me online via Freeserve, downloading anything substantial over this connection speed was painful. I bought a book with a title something like Teach yourself Red Hat Linux in 24 hours. Despite the book that came with it, I couldn’t get Linux to work properly on my PC.
I can remember getting an ‘overdrive’ processor. This fitted on top of the existing Pentium 75 processor I had and took it up to something like 150mhz. Then started the period of me building computers to my own specification. I can remember spending the £1000 left to me when my Great Auntie passed away on components for an AMD-K6-2/400 computer I took to university with me in 1999. Of course, I should have invested that money as the computer became outdated very quickly. I had word-processed my essays in Sixth Form on my PC and done some research on the Internet.
I should probably also mention that John Roden, my Physics teacher, introduced our class to Dreamweaver and creating websites. My first was hosted via the webspace I had via my Freeserve account and was basically a Monty Python fan site called BiggusDickus.net. I put sound clips and images on there that I captured directly from the VHS video I had of the Monty Python films. 😀
At university, I continued to upgrade my PC and replace parts until it was pretty much the Ship of Theseus!
LG Phenom Express
Towards the end of my time in Sheffield, I bought an LG Phenom Express. This was a Windows CE sub-notebook that I could take to lectures and seminars to take notes. It was touchscreen too! The only bad thing was that you had to connect and transfer information to your PC via serial cable. It wasn’t really a computer in its own right.
I bought the LG Phenom Express from eBay, and was my most expensive purchase on there during my time at uni. I then sold it for about the same price as I bought it a year later in 2002.
Compaq Presario becomes MP3 jukebox
After my undergraduate degree in Philosophy, I decided to move back in with my parents and do an MA in Modern History at the University of Durham. This was 2002/3. During this period, with lots of free time on my hands, I hacked and modified my ageing Compaq Presario to turn it into an MP3 jukebox. It was running a cut-down version of Windows 98 and Winamp and the track titles were displayed on a Matrix Orbital LCD I imported from Canada. I got stung for about £50 import duty on that! It worked reasonably well, but took some time to boot up…
Energy efficient PC
After getting married in 2003, my wife and I decided not to have a television. We couldn’t really afford to buy one and pay the TV license and, as we were both training to be teachers, didn’t have time either. We did watch DVDs on my PC, though.
When we moved down to the Doncaster area, I decided that I needed to have a machine that didn’t cost us much to run. I also wanted it to be near-silent. I used the components from QuietPC.com to build a machine that was mainly used for web browsing and downloads. It worked really well. 😀
I was dabbling with Linux again, but didn’t really have much success.
When laptops started coming down in price, I bought myself one. It was a Compaq laptop that I managed to get cheaply via a special offer. It would have been 2005 and I believe it was processor with a speed around 1Ghz. I’d researched it on the Internet and it seemed like a good deal. Of course it was impossible to upgrade in the same way desktop PCs are, but a lot more portable!
I kept on dabbling with Linux, and Ubuntu – the new kid on the block – worked reasonably well. I still couldn’t rely on it for day-to-day use, though. 🙁
Since that first laptop, I’ve many and various laptops. I’ve had a few, mainly cheap, Windows-powered laptops but then, with the release of the Macbook in 2006, I decided to delve into the world of Mac. It wasn’t such a risky proposition as OSX-powered Macbooks can still dual-boot Windows via Boot Camp. Nowadays I run Windows XP on a virtual desktop via VMware Fusion on my Macbook Pro when I need to run a Windows-only program. 🙂
I bought a console for the first time in 2005 – but not to play games on! I bought, from eBay, a modified Xbox that could run Xbox Media Center (XBMC). This, in conjunction with a NAS drive, meant we could watch programmes and films encoded in DivX format via our TV! This is largely in disuse now, as Nick Dennis has loaned us his AppleTV (which I’ve also modified to run Boxee and XBMC)
In 2008 I bought my first netbook – an Asus Eee 701. Although this was amazingly small and cool, the 7″ screen was just too small. I then sold that and bought an Advent 4211 that I managed to hack to run Mac OSX. However, when I used my E-Learning budget at school to buy some Asus Eee 1000‘s, I decided to sell it on eBay.
In October 2008 I replaced my ageing Nokia N95 with an Apple iPhone 3G. This is my computer and Internet connection on-the-move. It’s a joy and a wonder to behold, and a paradigm shift in terms of always-on, ubiquitous access to online content. 🙂
So there we are. I’ve had many and varied computers, and the pace of upgrade and change has certainly accelerated as I’ve grown older. I’m really happy in an Apple-powered world, as everything ‘just works’ and I can concetrate on being productive and on the things I enjoy doing. My wife has a Macbook, and these are both backed-up continuously to an Apple Time Capsule. These days, if I want to tinker with something, it will be software – usually something to do with my websites – rather than hardware.
As I write this, my son is playing next to me. His earliest computing memory will probably be a more powerful machine than the Macbook Pro he sees me using now. Given the pace of development in the twenty years of my computing history, I can’t even imagine what his will be like when he gets to my age! 😮
Sometimes we have to use computers that are not our own. Many times we have more than one that we use – for example one at home and one at school. Wouldn’t it be great if you could take all of your settings from one computer to the next, instead of having to configure each individually?
Enter Portable Apps. It’s a suite of free and open-source applications that can be installed anywhere, including a USB flash drive. Users can then run the applications from there, in effect ‘taking their settings with them’!