Apr 29 2009

NoSquint Firefox Extension

For whatever reason, designers have decided for the masses that tiny fixed text is a good idea for content. Well, it's not. I have 20/20 vision, and often struggle to read text on web pages. What good does it do to have a 20+ inch monitor when you need a magnifying glass to read the text? That's right, none at all.

Annoyed with the lack of user defined controls for the zoom capabilities of Firefox, I did a quick search for add-ons to see what answers were out there. I came across an extremely useful little add-on called NoSquint. NoSquint allows global, and per page zoom levels. And as the title of the add-on would suggest: No more squinting to read text!

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Apr 22 2009

Google Search Remix

I've been using a search tool for the last year or so that I absolutely love. Goosh is an Ajax tool that behaves like a *nix shell. You can find and use this tool at goosh.org.

Favorite features:

  • No ads.
  • Quick readable results.
  • Wikipedia search.
  • Superior image search.
  • Firefox search integration.

Tips:

  • Type "help" at prompt for all commands.
  • Type "addengine" at prompt for Firefox integration.
  • Use tab complete for related searches.
  • Use the alternate search keywords, by using the keyword followed by your search string. Here are some examples:
    1. > i test
    2. > p corvallis oregon
    3. > t english spanish test

I haven't looked closely into what configuration options that are available. I think having color themes would be nice.

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Apr 19 2009

Skype on Eee PC Ubuntu Netbook Remix

Donnie had asked on my previous post if I had a chance to test Skype. I just tested, and everything works very well. I didn't experience any of the choppiness that he experienced. I know that there have been several bug fixes for both PulseAudio and Alsa recently to address issues with the Intel Audio chips. For reference, my installed versions are alsa 1.0.18.dfsg-1ubuntu8 and pulseaudio 0.9.14-0ubuntu20.

I did have to make a special entry in ~/.asoundrc for my stereo headset to output to both speakers. Skype provides 8-bit unsigned mono output audio, so it needs converted to stereo if you want sound in both headphone speakers. I copied these settings from http://help.ubuntu.com here. I didn't create the launcher script they mention. Just add the following to your ~/.asoundrc and choose "skype" as your Sound In, Sound Out and Ringer device in Options->Sound Devices.

Code:

pcm.skype {
   type asym
   playback.pcm "skypeout"
   capture.pcm "skypein"
}
 
pcm.skypein {
   # Convert from 8-bit unsigned mono (default format set by aoss when
   # /dev/dsp is opened) to 16-bit signed stereo (expected by dsnoop)
   #
   # We can't just use a "plug" plugin because although the open will
   # succeed, the buffer sizes will be wrong and we'll hear no sound at
   # all.
   type route
   slave {
      pcm "skypedsnoop"
      format S16_LE
   }
   ttable {
      0 {0 0.5}
      1 {0 0.5}
   }
}
 
pcm.skypeout {
   # Just pass this on to the system dmix
   type plug
   slave {
      pcm "dmix"
   }
}
 
pcm.skypedsnoop {
   type dsnoop
   ipc_key 1133
   slave {
      # "Magic" buffer values to get skype audio to work
      # If these are not set, opening /dev/dsp succeeds but no sound
      # will be heard. According to the alsa developers this is due
      # to skype abusing the OSS API.
      pcm "hw:0,0"
      period_size 256
      periods 16
      buffer_size 16384
   }
   bindings {
      0 0
   }
}
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Apr 18 2009

Eee PC Ubuntu Netbook Remix

In researching potential inexpensive laptop solutions for use in education, I decided that the Eee PC would be a great product for this use. I was especially excited that there were Linux offerings. For myself and potential students, this means no Windows Tax, since I would install Linux anyway.

I never tried the Asus version of Linux, instead, I opted to install the Ubuntu Netbook Remix. I may have tried the Asus version, but was immediately confronted with a EULA, so decided that a format was in order.

I've only been using this system for a few days. I have to say I am very impressed. The keyboard is small, but no so small that I can't type relative fast on. I've only installed a few things outside of the defaults that are installed by default with the remix.

I think this system could easily be used by any student in education. With a built-in webcam and mic, just add a headset and you've got a perfect device for online classes. I'll be using it with next week's Mozilla Open Education Course class. Very exciting times. I think once these units hit the $150-$200 range, they will be even more realistic for a student laptop.

What I'll personally be using this for? Well, the list is pretty long already.

  • I listened to Pandora via pianobar several hours this week at work.
  • I read a few chapters of an E-book with FBReader. Since this is such a small device, it actually feels like a book. I will certainly be reading more E-books now.
  • I used OpenOffice writer to convert an E-book to a different format. I'll be using OpenOffice continually for many projects.
  • I watched a couple cartoons with my daughter. One using Firefox with a flash movie player. The second was an avi file from Totem. The display is a little larger than her small DVD player, so with a headphone splitter, it was a familiar and comfortable experience.
  • I browsed around Twitter a little with TweetDeck.
  • I posted this.

Not only is this a super usable little computer. It will be a welcome option for students at all levels of education.

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Apr 01 2009

Blogging Again

I'm blogging again! I revived my blog from my old server. Upgraded from b2evolution 0.9.4 to 2.4.6 without any problems. Pretty amazing to be able to upgrade. Kudos to Francois Planque and the b2evolution team for doing a fantastic job.

I'm back in the field of educational design after a very long hiatus. I'll be blogging as often as possible about education issues, and pretty much anything else I can think of that might be interesting.

I'll be participating in the Mozilla Open|Web|Content|Education Course. It's a very exciting opportunity to be involved in discussions and projects involving open education.

I've started a photo blog as well. I haven't posted any photos yet. However, if you want access, you'll have to email me.

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