Category Archives: Mac

One Foot in the Future, One Class Stuck in the Past

I’m going to do a little complaining and the names have been omitted to protect whoever!

scenario 1: A class that entails completing paper lessons and recording audio on cassette recorders and sending them through the mail to be graded. The students must purchase said cassette recorders and blank tapes, record themselves, put the cassettes in envelopes and then postage has to be paid to send them to the appropriate person who must then put the tape in another cassette player and listen to grade the student. Several processes, several costs, and quite a bit of time is entailed here.
scenario 2: Student records audio on a Mac using GarageBand, sends it to iTunes, exports it as an mp3 file and I upload it to a webpage where the appropriate person needs to do nothing but click to listen. Or the student can record on a PC using Audacity and saves as an mp3. No extra cost, no extra procedure comments could be added immediately with each assignment.

The world may be flat but some colleges prefer scenario 1.

We are trying to bring our teachers and students into an age of literacy at the high school level but how frustrated will they be when they get to college and find out that those skills won’t be put to use? Probably as frustrated as I am right now.

Random Weekend Tips

These are not my own ideas – they’re bits and pieces of things I read this week that I have found useful. I’m so thankful for folks who freely share their knowledge on their blogs. This post is more a reminder to myself about the things I have found and need to put to work.
Gmail – I love it and use it all the time. I read a post this weekend though that made me slap my forehead. I send email to myself On links that I want to check out later or if I’m on the PC and find something that pertains to the mac or linux, I email it to my Gmail account so I can refer to it when I’m on the machine it relates to. I often forget about the post or forget which post it is and I have used the search function in Gmail to find it later but semantic keywords or tags in my subject line to make the process easier and quicker. I will from now on! The article I was reading suggested using the Google toolbar for the Gmail it option. I have resisted this one little Google option thus far but I may have to give it another look.
FireFox – I have used FireFox for several years. The only time I use IE is when I need to check for updates on a PC. I constantly have multiple tags open and in the morning, after I have made my latte and I’m ready to spend a few moments reading and waking up before the rest of the family starts to appear, I open my usual morning reads. Gmail, my work email account, google homepage, and DIGG, and sometimes the local paper. I have a brand new folder on my bookmarks toolbar named MorningReads that contains the bookmarks to those items. When I click on the folder it lists them with one extra item on the bottom – Open All in Tabs. I can now click that one item and all my usual links open in tabs across my browser window. As I excitedly tell my kids about this little trick they roll their eyes and tell me I’m such a geek. They think that they are insulting me but I can’t help it if the idea of clicking once instead of four times makes me grin!

Google Notebook – I have been using it for several weeks and have fallen in love with it. You can install an extension so that you can right click on any webpage and a contextual menu item called Note-it is now a choice. “Noting it” saves it to your Google Notebook. It can be an entire webpage, a picture, a quote, a URL or anything else you can right click on. I have been saving items to one big notebook, knowing there had to be a better way to organize but not knowing quite how. This weekend I learned that you can drag-and-drop anything anywhere in the notebook. I spent the last hour creating new notebooks, adding section headers, and dragging things around to organize them. You also have the choice of keeping your notebook private or sharing it publicly. You can export items directly to Google docs and spreadsheets, you can print a notebook, and you can add a note and just type or paste a note directly into the application – great for research, organizing a project, or collaboration. If you have a Gmail account you automatically have access to this application and if you don’t have Gmail it’s worth it just to have access to all the Google apps. I still use a main notebook to capture and then open my notebook and move things around to make them easier to find. I also have the Google Notebook widget on my personalized Google homepage so everything is right there and visible which just seems to work best for me.  There is a great information and tutorial Powerpoint to download here. (warning clicking starts the download)
New Online ApplicationMindomo. Online mindmapping. You have to sign up for an account but it’s free. I’d like to see Google add something like this to it’s suite of apps (along with a presentation piece which I’ve already mentioned on this blog). I made a little practice map and it was very straight-forward and simple to follow.

Second Life

I ventured into Second Life for the first time tonight. It was interesting to find out how inept I am – they may ban me from driving altogether there, I was that bad. I spent about two hours and still haven’t managed to get past the part where you are learning and must perform several tasks to get your passport to the main world.

My observations so far:

  • There seem to be way more men than women in Second Life
  • Men hit on you as though you really are the character (trust me – I DON”T look my character LOL)
  • People seem just as confused and socially inept in a virtual world as they are in the real world
  • Playing on a MacBook without the mouse attached may be a little different – control-click never seemed to produce a right-click result (Command Click works!)
  • F1 does not seem to summon help in a Mac
  • At this point I can’t imagine why anyone would actually spend money here

It’s pretty and I will give it some more time. My daughter also created a character and I am hoping to meet up with her there. I think that would be kind of interesting. I have heard of conference-like events being held there and would be interested in participating if I can ever get past the beginning. If anyone has any helpful hints I’m all ears!

Added March 03, 2007

Since I posted this Vickie Davis has written a post that contains a lot of great information on Second Life and how it is being used in education as well as reasons why it may not be ready for education.  There are links to blogs of folks who are using it and videos, and other resources.  The post is not only about Second Life but about  Virtual Worlds and the future of the web with 3D. Mrs. Davis even mentions something I have been concerned about – the actual real world money that is spent in Second Life and what happens to it.  There are ways that you can be banned from Second Life but like the real world there are definite places that I would avoid because of the “adult” content.

Before jumping off the fence on Second Life I would spend a little time researching and  Vickie’s article is a great place to start.  Another resource mentioned in this same article is a blogging college English teacher who also has a great videocast on primary and secondary research ethics and a blog dedicated to Second life.

Digital Media Academy

I was fortunate to attend several sessions by the DMA people. Beth Corwin was awesome and I would love to attend one of their week-long “bootcamp” classes. They had 25 dual-boot iMacs set up for hands-on learning and they were lightening-fast 45 minute bare bones tutorials but they gave enough info to get you started with some great hints and tips thrown in.

I attended iPhoto, iMovie, iDVD, and Garageband as well as Flash 8 and Adobe Photoshop. I sat in on Motion as well. I learned after the first day to get signed up on their list as they had plenty of chairs but if you signed up you got to “drive” the computer. I will add more about some of the sessions later when I have had time to go over my notes and get what little I had time to take into a more coherent form but the best to me were the ones on Garageband and iDVD. We played a little with creating music in Garageband but also created our own short podcast and that was the part I was most interested in. We used loops for background music, recorded with the built-in microphone, added a few sound-effects and voila!

Mine was pretty lame but it was fun and not too terrible. I definitely would plan to script it if I was doing it for real but you can also edit within Garageband so you could delete any tracks you want to disappear. I discovered I can be just as nervous and giggly as high school girls having to record their French homework for the first time. It’s a whole new ballgame when it is you faced with the mic .

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Podcasts Can Educate

This year I have been introduced to podcasts. Wikipedia defines podcasts as “media files that are distributed over the internet using syndication feeds for playback on mobile devices or computers.”
For some time I have been enjoying listening to podcasts through iTunes on my MacBook. Yesterday CNN had an article on one of my favorites – Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing. Grammar Girl was created by Arizona Technical Writer Mignon Fogarty who takes one topic and explains it on each podcast.

Today’s topic on her website is “lay” versus “lie” Grammar Girl reminds you –

Eric Clapton, and his song Lay Down Sally can actually help you remember the difference between lay and lie… [record screeching sound] because he’s wrong.

To say “lay down Sally” would imply that someone should grab Sally and lay her down. If he wanted Sally to rest in his arms on her own, the correct line would be “lie down Sally.”

Now I can improve my grammar while laying my mp3 player on the seat next to me in the car or when I am lie on the couch! Please don’t blame Grammar Girl or my high school English teacher for any errors on this blog – the errors are all mine.

For more educational podcasts you can check out Open Culture – There is an entire library of podcasts on all kinds of subjects.  Happy Listening!

Preparing To Blog TCEA

I am reading an article on blogging a conference by Josh Hallett and since I am planning to blog the TCEA conference in February I found the article to be useful. His suggestions are broken down into hardware and software and they include a laptop, connectivity, a digital camera, and voice recorder. I have the first three covered but I’m going to have to think about the voice recorder. I don’t have one at this point and I’m not sure how useful it would be. The presentations can be spread out and if you are wanting to make it to one on the other side of the convention center there is no time to do anything but run. They are 45 minutes long and often crowded so time and space are limited for dealing with equipment. I see myself struggling with tangled cables, camera, laptop, notepad and pen. I don’t think I could manage a voice recorder too.

The software Mr. Hallett lists includes an offline blog editor, a Flickr account for pictures and Flickr upload software. Also included are FTP software, audio editing software, and Technorati to track other blogs about the conference.

Because of the short time frames of the presentations I plan to use free note-taking software on my Mac Book called Journler. I like the application for it’s simplicity of use. I don’t want to spend a lot of time learning how to use the software – I just want to take notes. and Journler fills the bill for me.

There is wireless at the Hotel so I plan to edit my notes and upload at night. That will also give me time to edit photos (if I manage to get any) and get them uploaded to Flickr. I haven’t used the digital camera with the Mac Book yet, nor have I uploaded to flickr from the Mac so I will do a trial run on both before the conference.

Other parts of the post deal with assembling your blogging team, planning, and prewriting parts. I am going to try to at least start an outline of the presentations I want to attend and that way I can plug in the actual information when I get there. I hadn’t even thought of that and though I know there can be last minute changes and there will also be some presentations I want to go to but won’t make, I can have plan A and plan B ready so I will be working on that over the next few weeks. TCEA does a wonderful job on their website of letting everyone know what is happening and when. There are links to all the presentation and after the conference most of those links will include downloads of the handouts.
There is much more to Mr. Hallett’s article and if you are planning to blog a conference I would recommend his article and doing some planning in order to get the most out of your time and to help share with the folks in your organization who are not attending.

Holiday Season Starts and Learning GIMP

I managed to do some Christmas shopping this weekend. The stores were crowded, too warm, and made me remember why I wish I would get an earlier start on my shopping. We went to the Christmas parade and watched the high school bands and Santa. My daughter played in one of the bands and we picked her and her friend up afterwards and took them to ring bells for the Salvation Army. Kinsey was at a debate meet and brought home two medals. I am proud of him and I am so glad that he had the opportunity to do something he enjoys and excels at and got recognition for it. Everyone needs that from time to time. The tree is up and I made a pot full of homemade soup. All in all a nice peaceful weekend. No great excitement but there is something to say for a chance to refuel every now and then.

I ran across some tutorials for GIMP which I have been trying hard to love. I have a lot of experience with PaintShop Pro and found it difficult to make the switch. I found some tutorials that walked you through the creation of a graphic step-by-step. I learn best by doing so those are my preferred kind of tutorial. I have a long way to go before I reach the level of proficiency I need for web graphics but at least I made some progress. The graphic wasn’t anything useful – just a cloth textured background and a circle that appears glassy and raised. Still it allowed me to get familiar with a few tools and it wasn’t totally ugly.

If I hadn’t had the time to refuel I wouldn’t have gotten focused enough to find the appropriate tutorial and complete it. Completing the tutorial gave me some confidence and a little excitement which will motivate me to learn more. GIMP seems to be a powerful piece of software but it lacks the community that has existed in the past for PaintShop Pro. There were groups and literally hundreds of tutorials and plenty of folks willing to share their expertise. There was something for every level from complete beginner to expert. I would like to see more of that sort of thing with GIMP. There is a community of Open Source users but they seem to be limited to people who are fairly comfortable with computers and who have that need to learn new software and the time to do it. I have seen a few books on using GIMP but walk in to any bookstore that carries computer books and you will usually find several choices for PaintShop Pro and PhotoShop and often several for different versions.

What makes one software package attract writers and usergroups while another that is just as good and often cheaper (in the case of GIMP free!) remains in the shadows by comparison? It took me a long time to get started and I know partly because I don’t like change. I wanted GIMP to act like PaintShop Pro and everytime I sat down to work with it I would end up frustrated. It wasn’t the software’s fault – it was my inability a adjust to the difference. What changed was that I found instructions that struck a familiar chord and provided a kind of “rosetta stone” that helped unlock my mental block.

In learning about GIMP I also learned something about my own learning style. Maybe when I understand GIMP a little better I can put that piece of information to good use and create some tutorials of my own.


I’ve been taking part in an online game called MacHeist. Each week there are clues to follow and if you solve you end up with some free applications for the Mac. It has been fun and while the applications have not all been things I would use it has been interesting to be a part of a community of Mac users. The “loot” had included Soulver, a nice calculator that uses plain English, Chat Transcript Manager, Assignment Planner, Quickscale, American History Lux (which my son LOVES), Notepad (widget), Cha-Ching, and 1Passwd. 1Passwd is a password manager, automatic web form filler and more. This is week two. As a Mac newbie it has been a great way for me to explore some different pieces of software. There is a fun and creative aspect to the Mac community that I have never seen with PCs. I know that this is a great way for some developers to promote their software but this is so much cooler than a run-of-the-mill ad. Kudos to Phill Ryu, John Casasanta, Scott Meinzer, Adam Betts, Chiraag Mundhe, and Joe kavanaugh.

Getting Things Done

I have been reading up on GTD (Getting Things Done) techniques and playing with some software meant to help.  One program I have been trying out is a beta release of a program called ActionTastic.  Very straightforward software that lets you create a sort of outline of contexts and project lists and todo lists.  I use iCal to create calendars and for my email.  I have a plugin in that creates todo lists in iCal from email.  I hope that the creator of ActionTastic comes up With some similar options.

Organization has been a problem for me all through my life and I am really working at improving that.  If software will help that – hurray!  I looking forward optimistically to getting more organized at work and hope that developing better habits there will spill over into all areas of my life!  Guess that’s a lot to expect from software but “ya gotta start somewhere”…

Normal Life?

I think life may be settling in to something resembling normal. Dale has been making some progress. He felt well enough to go to church Sunday. He has exchanged the walker for a cane and has been doing some chores during the day while I am at work and the kids are at school. He folds laundry, deals with the dishwasher and either cooks supper or at least gets things started before I get home. This last weekend he even did a little yard work. He was stiff and sore but his muscles have not gotten much use for four months so that is no surprise.

We are getting into sort of a routine with dialysis three nights a week and extra meal planning on weekend and the other two week nights. Renal diets are tricky – limited phosphorus, sodium, and potassium. That takes a little research and planning if you want to be pro-active. Potatoes can remain in the diet but they have to be peeled, cut up, and soaked for at least four hours to “dialysize” them (remove some of the potassium). High protein is important and since most everything that contains protein also contains phosphorus Dale has to chew a large phosphorus blocker tablet with meals that tastes like chalk. His biggest problem foods are dairy and fruit, vegetables, and beans. He swears when he gets a kidney transplant he is going to buy an entire hoop of rat cheese and eat it himself.

Too much potassium and he gets tachy (too high heart rate), too much sodium or fluids and his feet swell and his blood pressure goes up, too much phosphorus and he itches and some gland kicks in that starts to leech calcium from his bones and and cause fun things like degenerative spinal disease and even calcification of the organs and death. On top of all that factor in the vestibulopathy from the gentamicin which damaged his inner ears and cause him to have difficulty with focus whenever his head moves and I am in awe of him – he is truly my hero. He deals with challenges every day and still has a sense of humor, dignity, and is a good husband to me and a great father to his children. How many men are able to do that and are healthy physically?

Work is settling down. A large percentage of the grades are showing up on the website for parents to login and view and most of the gradebook issues have been taken care of. Maybe by next week I will be able to concentrate on the lab and getting it inventoried (again – the original inventory was on my computer that was stolen) and upgrading what I can. At least I can catch my breath now. For the first few weeks I felt like I was running through the day with one day melting into the next and it was hard to see any progress.
I have been settling in with the MAC too. I already love the look and feel of it but I am growing to appreciate it for productivity as I get more comfortable with it. To start with it is lightweight which is great because I carry it everywhere. I get about three hours on a battery charge and I have worked at implementing GTD techniques to keep my desktop and my email organized.

I finally managed to get the church webpage updated so at least the service times reflect the changes and all the ministries are listed.  I hope I will be able to be more faithful now.  I am trying to make a routine of treating myself one night a week to a latte and some wireless surfing at Hastings.  I go while Dale is at the dialysis center and just relax for a little while.  I think of it as my mental health time.

Open Office for Macs!

I am taking a little time to do some reading. The laundry is piling up and the dishes need to be washed but it will all be there tomorrow so here goes.

There was an article about Open Office soon running natively on Macs. I’m looking forward to it. I have always liked Open Office because it is something students can put on their home computers when they can’t afford the big expensive office suite and save their work so that it is compatible with said office suite. I should mention that teachers can put it on their home computers as well. There are no site licensing issues to worry about.

I have been able to use it on laptops running Linux and ported to OSX but now I won’t have to worry about porting it. It’s a shame more software isn’t this versatile.

I still have the other office suite running on computers at home and at work but I find myself using it less and less. It’s a habit I am working hard to break. If I am going to promote it I need to learn it well enough to teach it.

There is resistance to using it widespread and I don’t know if it is a matter of people being afraid of trying something new or an attitude of thinking that it must not be as good if it doesn’t cost anything, or a combination of both.

A quote from a DIGG comment “you would think schools would ask for programs to be made in other OS’s.” I would think software companies would want to make their programs in other operating systems. Oh wait – Open Office already does that – hmmm….