education, technology, and everything else

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The new breed of netbooks

Posted by Miranda on April 3, 2009

In today’s NY Times an article on the new netbooks caught my eye. Netbooks of course have become the newest cool tool. However they are still a couple hundred bucks. These, using cellphone chips, are much cheaper than that.

The cellphone-chip makers argue that the ARM-Linux combination is just fine for a computer meant to handle e-mail, Facebook, streaming video from sites like YouTube and Hulu, and Web-based documents.

Freescale, for example, gave free netbooks to a group of 14- to 20-year-olds and watched what happened. “They would use it for Internet access when eating breakfast or on the couch, or bring it to class for taking notes,” said Glen Burchers, the director of consumer products marketing at Freescale.

A lot of people I know are spending a lot of money on laptops when they never use them for anything more than email and Facebook, such overkill.

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mud season

Posted by Miranda on March 9, 2009

Mud season has arrived overnight – or over day is more like it. We went down the valley to see a matinee on Sunday and by the time we got back home the ruts in my dirt road were axel deep.
My friend and I went out for dinner in my Forester with the high undercarriage and by the time we got back from that it was obvious that his little Subaru wagon wasn’t going to make it out through the morass that was my road. He spent the night on the couch. Below freezing temps overnight firmed the mud up enough that he was able to power out in the early morning.
Mud season is our fifth season here in New England. Fewer and fewer experience it, as the roads get paved. But if you live on a dirt road when the frost comes out of the ground you learn the driving technique rather quickly:
Don’t slow down!

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A real Mac mini

Posted by Miranda on March 3, 2009

According to an article at ArsTechnica this morning Apple is rumored to be introducing an updated version of the Mac Mini soon – New iMacs and Mac minis may be launched as soon as tomorrow. Ooh exciting I thought until I read the article. Oh yeah the Mac mini – that one. Here I was thinking they were coming out with a Mac netbook.

My young co-worker, Steve has made his own. He’s taken a Dell mini and with the help of some programming think tank that he frequents, gotten Mac OS 10.5 running on it. It is just as cute as a button. I want one desperately.

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Still using dial-up

Posted by Miranda on February 27, 2009

According to an article at, only 9 percent of Americans were still using dial-up in a study last year by the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

I wonder how many of those are using dial-up because they can’t get anything else. Our ECFiber project is stalled for lack of investors. Money for rural broadband has been stripped from the stimulus package.

And it never ceases to amaze me how soon people who do have access to broadband forget what it’s like to use dial-up. Sometimes it only takes a few seconds before they are gushing about GMail (ever tried that on dial-up – excruciating) or sending you links to videos, or worse still the videos themselves….
Or, they get snippy. “Why don’t you move to someplace civilized? I was asked the other day as I was complaining. Um, excuse me?
These are probably the same kind of people who objected to rural electrification.

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Music, Video and Copyright

Posted by Miranda on December 19, 2007

I’ve been doing a lot of reading about copyright lately, in the context of video production, and it struck me that maybe a lot of other people are doing the same thing.
I break the law all the time. For instance the stretch of road between my house and Norwich, Vt is ten miles of pine trees. The speed limit is 40 MPH. I think 40 miles per hour in that stretch is stupid, really. But if a cop pulls me over for going 50 which the limit really ought to be, I’m not going to tell him I think the law is stupid and I shouldn’t have to obey it.

Similarly, I may think that copyright law is stupid when it comes to me using someone’s recorded music for my video (although actually I see a lot of sense in it) but I am bound to obey it, especially in a school setting where what I do may influence the students there.

A lot of copyright law seems to be sort of ambiguous when it comes to the Web, but there’s one thing that I have found is not ambiguous at all and that is that it is illegal to use someone’s music in your video unless you have a license to do that.

These are the resources I used to come to that conclusion:

Can I Use Someone Else’s Work? Can Someone Else Use Mine?

Videomaker eNewsletter January 1999
Shoot with Caution: Video, the Law and You

What music can I use in my video? Revver. Com (this one is interesting to me because they vet all videos before upload and will refuse to show your video with copyrighted material in it. Yet they are quite popular)

Bound by Law: Tales from the Public Domain

ASCAP Internet Licensing FAQs

BMI Statement on Internet Licensing

DesignFirms – February 2005
How to use music legally in your work: Frequently Asked Questions

Copyright for Video Producers

Urban Myths Category:
“I’ve heard that you can use any piece of music in your film as long as it is under 30 seconds. Is this true?”

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Bandwidth Hogs

Posted by Miranda on December 8, 2007

The topic is bandwidth this week at my school. The technology department had been working on a presentation about bandwidth for the last couple of weeks when what we might call a teachable moment occurred. The network has been getting slower and slower this year with the amount of data our students have been pulling down over our 3 Mbps. Faculty have also been expressing concern over how much time students have been spending on Facebook, YouTube etc during study hours. Tuesday evening the Director of Technology made a Packetshaper class for Facebook, MySpace and YouTube and cut bandwidth down to it.

Well we nearly had a riot. Students insist that they need Facebook to communicate with far flung family and friends that they need Facebook to collaborate on homework.
There was a considerable amount of hate mail.

It was what you might call a perfect storm type of thing. We did our presentation yesterday at the all-school meeting and it went over alright. No one threw anything. The one thing I wanted to get across is that bandwidth is shared, that using large amounts of it means that everyone else gets less and I think the students got that. I know some of the faculty did. One of them said to me
“I used to go and watch YouTube like it was eating a french fry. Now I know that to be a good citizen of this community I need to think about that a little more”


I have seen reports of a study in WebProNews that says that 10% of all bandwidth world-wide is used by YouTube. 10%! Of the bandwidth on the planet!

Does anybody besides me find this scary?

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claiming the blog

Posted by Miranda on March 28, 2007

I’m not happy about the buzz in the blogosphere today. So I’m gonna claim my blog
Technorati Profile. Because although some bloggers appear to be doing a self-imposed moritorium on blogging in support of Kathy Sierra(and I guess I should say that the post I linked to is pretty nasty stuff, so be warned), I feel that to be silent now is…well it just isn’t me. I’m too ornery.
I’ve got some things to say about cyber-bullying but I’ll save those for Friday

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totally random

Posted by Miranda on January 25, 2007

Ok, so it has very little to do with designing online educational materials… But it could.  I could have posted something of redeeming social value…..

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Tool: Discussion forums

Posted by Miranda on January 20, 2007

In the class discussions and documents I’ve seen no mention of another online tool that I think is can be even more valuable than a wiki and certainly much more valuable than a blog for discussion. That tool is the discussion forum.

The trouble with a blog is that it is set up for one person to impart information and others to comment on that information. To see any comments, you have to click something, and you might not even notice there are any replies unless you look.

Wikis are great for collaboration, but collaboration is just that. You don’t seem to have much control, although TWiki allows for hidden areas

Discussion forums are set up so that one topic is replied to in a format where the replies are inline, that is the topic starts the top of the page and the replies follow it.

Topics can be set up under Headings, so that you can better sort them. The beauty of a discussion forum though, lies in the backend database it uses.

You can set up membership groups with certain permissions. In this way it is possible to set up a class group and give that group access to a forum that no one else can access without a password or you can even hide the class forum completely to anyone not in the group.

I have used two different forum packages extensively. Both are free, WebWiz and phpBB.

phpBB runs on both Unix and Windows. WebWiz, being written in ASP needs a Windows 2003 server. If you have a server both a fairly easy to install, however there are free hosts available. With a free host you do not have access to the source code of course. That access can make allow for a great deal of customization.

Of the two, WebWiz has an administration section which is far superior to phpBB. You can get very granular with your permissions and groups. It allows you to add a user from Administration which phpBB doesn’t do and allows you to manage your users from a list.

I manage a discussion forum with over 3500 registered users and WebWiz is the package we use. We paid for it so that we could legally remove the links to WebWiz and it was only $27.00

I have one forum of each flavor if anyone would like to investigate them


A phpBB forum


And a WebWiz forum

(a note that as of this morning, Saturday, this forum can’t be found but can’t be remade with the same name either which leads me to believe that it’s there, just the server having issues. You can set one up ofyour own to diddle around with by going to

If you login to either forum with the username : class and a password of: online

You’ll see a forum that is hidden to everyone but the class members group

If you log in as: administrator with a password of: mr.Zippy (the password is case-sensitive) you can go investigate the administration panels and create forums, headings, groups, set permissions etc. The administration link is at the top in WebWiz and at the bottom in phpBB


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Moving House

Posted by Miranda on January 20, 2007

Ok, that’s it. I’m moving everything over here.

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