Virtual Machines


Image via CrunchBase

When teaching it’s important to ensure that your machines are as bullet-proof as possible. The number of times I’ve had an operating system lesson ended early when the student has zapped their system are too numerous too count.

The obvious solution is to use a virtual machine such as VMWare, Parallels or Virtual PC. One of my favourites (and free, that may not be a coincidence) is VirtualBox.

As an Open Source product it’s free to use but, with Sun as its backer, it has the clout to match up to commercial releases.

Check it out here:


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Microsoft Moves into the Cloud


Image by Getty Images via Daylife

It says a lot for the continuing battering ram that is Google that Microsoft, who based their fortune and world domination on operating systems and applications for the desktop, have announced their move into the cloud with Microsoft Azure.

With the promise of being able to write and host applications on Microsoft’s servers rather than their own, Microsoft hope to take a slice of the emerging market for web based applications that include the basic Google Docs as well as more ambitious CRM and invoicing applications.

The only question is: is Microsoft too late?

This is worth keeping an eye on. With the right sort of lobbying Microsoft may be persuaded to include a set of educational tools and hosting for educators along with the promised web versions of its Office products. Here’s hoping…

Computer Buyer – Advice you can Trust

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The Open Model of Education


Image by Josie Fraser via Flickr

One of the most promising approaches to increasing attainment is the open model of education. Practitioners are well aware of the requirement to make materials accessible in many more formats (Blackboard, Moodle, WebCT, SCORM) than the traditional words on paper.

This new model opens up the possibility of learning anywhere and everywhere. For example, some of my own students access on-line materials via the web browser on the phone whilst commuting to and from work. This very openness is a major factor in their enjoyment and subsequent success in the course.

How do you make your learning open?

Education Innovation: The Open Model of Education

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Adopting Web 2.0 in Organisations


Image via Wikipedia

Awareness, who specialise in creating Web 2.0 communities for companies, have released a new report on trends and best practices for adopting Web 2.0.

Given the problems that many of us have in getting education institutions to recognise the inherent worth in web 2.0 technologies and loosening up the network security polices to allow access to them, this report might help in presentations to senior management.

I’ve copied the announcement below:

Awareness Unveils 2008 Report on Trends and Best Practices in Adopting Web 2.0

Awareness has announced the release of the second in a series of reports on
enterprise social media, “Trends and Best Practices in Adopting Web 2.0
in 2008.” To download the free report, click here.

The report indicates that community initiatives and requirements continue
to evolve, highlighted by an increased focus on the deeper and broader
integration of Web 2.0 technologies with other complementary enterprise
systems and enabling broader community participation from both internal
and external audiences.

The report details many interesting developments in the corporate adoption of social media over the last year, including:

  • Employers are starting to allow social media participation more freely in their
    organizations: The number of organizations that allow social networking for business purposes has increased dramatically to 69 percent in 2008—up from 37 percent last year;
  • Employers are finding the benefits of using social media: 63 percent are using social media to build and promote their brand, 61 percent are using it to improve communication and collaboration, and 58 percent are using it to increase consumer engagement;
  • Seventy-five percent of employees are already using social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn for business purposes, up 15 percent from 2007;
  • Use of internal-facing communities is on the rise with six percent of organizations already reporting they deployed internal-facing communities, while 33 percent indicate their organization plans to implement internal-facing social media initiatives;
  • Similarly, external-facing communities are increasing: 27 percent of respondents
    said their companies were planning to deploy external-facing communities while only 13 percent indicated their organizations already have external-facing communities;
  • Online communities directed at specific interests and groups of people allow for more targeted marketing techniques and better results so for this reason 37 percent of organizations have specific areas of focus for their communities.

To learn more about the trends and best practices of social media marketing and Web 2.0 adoption, the Awareness report is available for free download here.

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Collaboration with Skype and Mikogo

Image via Wikipedia

I’m indebted to Andrew from the Mikogo team for letting me know that they have come up with a great tutorial for their web conferencing add-on to Skype, Mikogo.

What is Mikogo?

Developed as a free tool with the private user in mind, Mikogo provides an easy-to-use online meeting tool, equipped with valuable features to ensure the perfect desktop sharing experience. During a meeting, users are able to:

1. Share each others’ screens.
2. Switch presenter – let a meeting participant share their own screen.
3. Access remote keyboard and mouse control – the current presenter may grant control of their screen to another user at any time.
4. Transfer files – the organizer and guests can send files of up to 200MB to each other
5. Select applications – Got an open application which is not required for the meeting? Select to hide it.
6. Pause transmission – take a meeting break and suspend the transfer of screen data.

You can invite up to 10 participants to any Mikogo free online meeting under a secure connection. Mikogo employs the superior 256-bit AES end-to-end encryption, ensuring the safety of all data.

This is definitely worth checking out for an inexpensive introduction to web conferencing.

Mikogo Skype Extra

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Tutorials for Programming Languages


Image via Wikipedia

I’ve blogged before about StackOverflow.

For those who haven’t come across it here’s the site’s own introduction:

Stack Overflow is a collaboratively edited question and answer site for programmers — regardless of platform or language. Jump in and share your software engineering expertise! No registration or account required.

As a part of this aim it has put together this page containing tutorials for many different programming languages. Many of them are on-line and free – perfect for education…

Language Books/Tutorials for popular languages – Stack Overflow

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When DID the IT Staff Become Our Bosses?


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The tales of colleges being unable to implement any good practice involving IT (as defined by, amongst others, our HMIe overlords friends) are legion. Most of it is related to the baffling willingness of educators to allow support staff to dictate how we should teach.

While I can see the reasons for blocking certain sites containing, for example, porn, and the rules for access to JANET are clear, the stories of colleges blocking perfectly usable sites are mounting and becoming more ridiculous by the day.

Why, in the name of all that’s Web 2.0, does a college of my acquaintance block Google Mail? Or Google Docs come to that? Descriptors abound requiring students to access newsgroups. Only problem is many colleges block NNTP traffic. Why? Even worse why, when asked to unblock this traffic, do system administrators refuse on spurious “security” reasons? And why do we let them! The same applies to e-mail or chats.

If any administrator can come up with a sensible reason for this, and that excludes any explanation that includes the phrase “in case”, then I’d love to hear it.

It’s the 21st century. I spend half my time listening to tales of there not being enough IT equipment and the other half hearing that students are unable to bring their own laptops into colleges. Is there a relationship here?

The bottom line is this. Support services are there to support and if education is being compromised then we have to address this; and sooner rather than later.

Weblogg-ed » Filter Fun


Is Cloud Computing Safe?


Image via Wikipedia

I bow to no-one in my admiration of Richard Stallman. Anyone who can found the Free Software Foundation as well as creating GNU (as in GNU-Linux, the bit that does most of the work) is well worth listening to. So when he talks about cloud computing being potentially dangerous it is as well to stop and listen.

Although hearing anyone use a phrase like “worse than stupidity” gives pause for thought. And not in a good way.

The gist of the argument is that computing in the cloud, whether mail via GMail or documents stored on Zoho, are a trap. In the same way that traditional software applications forced you into using their software (I’m looking at you WordPerfect), cloud computing may trap your data.

And that’s true; as far as it goes. However this is not a criticism of cloud computing. It’s a criticism of anyone who doesn’t properly back up their data. That’s a problem whether you use Notepad and save your data on a floppy disk or photos stored on Flickr.

As it happens I’m a big fan of cloud computing. As almost every computer I have has a net connection it saves messing about with floppies, pen drives or external hard disks. I’m not stupid enough, however, to trust that my data will always be there. Even Amazon, who have a history of reliable web services, had a glitch that knocked out their S3 data storage service for a working day.

If I turn up to give a presentation I have e-mailed myself a copy, saved it on Mozy, have a copy on various on-line services and kept a copy on a pen drive attached to my key-ring. In other words I don’t make it out the door and into my car if I don’t have my data.

It’s frustrating that this far into the history of computing people are still writing “Back up your data or you’ll be sorry” articles. Even more frustrating when the person saying it has written the back up software themselves.

EDIT: Richard Stallman must have the computing gods working for him. Just as I tried to post this my net connection went down. I’m sorry Richard. Please don’t hurt me again.

Cloud computing is a trap, warns GNU founder | Technology |

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