Happy Holidays … A Few Brief Thoughts

Well I’m back home for the holidays, and of course, the combination of being back at my parent’s place and the time of year does cause self-reflection. Fortunately, I won’t bore my readers with too much of this.

I bought a new colour photo printer for my dad, and while this is not much in itself, there’s actually some significance here for me. At Christmas of 1984, dad introduced me to my first “real” computer system by bringing home an Apple ][c and an Apple Imagewriter printer. I remember spending the entire night printing off banners, signs and posters in my room with Brøderbund’s “The Print Shop” (wow, I didn’t even know they still sell it). I must have kept my family up all night with the noisy schreech of the dot-matrix printer.

However, last night it was dad’s turn. After setting up the printer, he spent hours printing out photos of the kids and grandkids, performing some basic photo editing/cropping, downloading photos from his digital camera and learning the features of the new hardware. Dad is now 75 years old, and he’s learned most of this “stuff” in the last couple of years.

Having access to that Apple ][c was certainly important in my life as it gave me the opportunity to acquire some basic programming, hardware and software skills … such skills that would help lead me into my future career. And now, dad is getting his chance to use technology. After years of being ‘too busy’ with his business and in providing for our family, it’s finally his time to play.


And I thought I would leave you with a couple of other links:
The SNL Christmas song … one of my favs.
– This rather funny music video/slideshow (by Jonathan Coulton) which takes it inspiration from photos in the Flickr Creative Commons.

Happy Holidays everyone. All the best to each of you and your families over this wonderful season!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged

Schools Save Money With Open Source Software

Here’s an interesting account of cost-savings in a school district written by the Technology Coordinator of Noxon Schools in Montana. The school district has been using open source software for the past six years.

Here is the summary of the cost-savings:

Office Suite
OpenOffice Cost for 185 computers = 0 ($0 over 10 years)
Microsoft Office Cost for 185 computers = $11,936.20 ($50,000 over 10 years)

Anti-Virus Software – ClamAV
ClamAv Cost for 185 computers/servers = 0 ($0 over 10 years)
Other Anti-Virus Vendors – $4000 ($40,000 over 10 years)

Red Hat Enterprise 3 servers – $150 ($1500 over 10 years)
SUSE, Slackware – $0 ($0 over 10 years)
Microsoft $7889 (10 Year estimate $23,667)
Novell Yearly Subscription $1000 (10 Year estimate $10,000)

LTSP Server and 100 workstations – $4500
3 additional LTSP Servers – $4000
100 New Computers and Server Hardware for Microsoft Product $78,500.00
10 Year Cost Estimate (upgrade 3 times) – $225,000

Total Open Source Savings for Setup – $92,675.20
Ten Year Savings – $338,667.00

The reality of these figures for Noxon Schools is that if we had Microsoft products only we would not have185 computers we would have 50 because that is all we could sustain. That is the big difference for us.

Relatively, this is a very small school district (only 270 students). Could you imagine the savings in a larger district?

Update: While on this topic, I just noticed a recent short essay by Robert Pogson, a sysadmin in La Loche Saskatchewan. Here, he makes the case for using LTSP (Linux Terminal Server Project) in schools in order to save money on computer hardware.

Google Earth For Mac Released … Sort Of

It seems that some form of Google Earth Beta for the Mac is making its way around the ‘net. It doesn’t seem that Google has officially released it yet, but you can get it from this odd source and follow the clumsy link path while (likely) someone generates ad revenue from your clicking.

I’ve installed it, and it works, although I haven’t tested a lot of feature yet. It does require Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger) or later. If you desire a more direct source to get this Beta, contact me.

Google Earth For The Mac

I’m assuming that this is either a leaked version, or a Google-instigated leak (aka. viral marketing). However, I’m thinking that the latter is not really Google’s style.

Update: I went back to view the download source for this file, and saw the follow message:

File Forbidden

What file? Google Mac for Earth? Whatever. I’ve never heard of such a thing.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged

Regina Public School Closures Halted

Although I can’t seem to find an official press release, word has it that the proposed closure of 11 schools in Regina will no longer proceed. Since the announcement of the proposed closures, several parent associations have been critical about the plans of the Regina Public School Board.

Public school administrators didn’t do their homework before announcing possible school closures or give parents enough time to study the issues. (Source)

For many in Regina, this will come as welcome news. However, the issue that prompted the school closure plan (decreased enrollments) still exists, and officials will need to be creative in addressing any shortfalls.

Update: OK, I found the official press release.

Help Pay For Raine’s Education

Canadian Tire is running an Xmas photo contest, and the winning photograph gets $10,000. I’m a little late submitting a photo (contest closes on the 15th), but if you go to the contest site, and feel that photograph ISK2473 is a good one, you might help to pay for about 10 minutes of my daughter’s future education (considering the possible rise in tuition by 2021). Hmmmmm … let’s see how powerful this social network might actually be. Of course, feel free to pass this message on in any way, shape or form.

Raine Xmas 2005

And no, posts suggesting a financial contribution is not to be a trend. :-)

Update: My social network rocks! It looks like Raine’s pic hit the top 5 most popular at the contest site. For those who have voted so far, thanks a bunch … and if you like the pic, please vote again. You can vote once a day until the 15th. This just goes to show how popular a social network can be.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged

Amazing Xmas Lights Show

A video of an amazing, well-choreographed Xmas lights show has been making its rounds via email, and if you’ve missed it, have a look. I wasn’t really sure whether or not this was legit or not, as I thought there may have been some video editing. However, Snopes reports that this is an actual light display of a family in Mason, Ohio.

This display was the work of Carson Williams, a Mason, Ohio, electrical engineer who spent about three hours sequencing the 88 Light-O-Rama channels that controlled the 16,000 Christmas lights in his annual holiday lighting spectacular (from Christmas 2004). His 2005 display includes over 25,000 lights that he spendy nearly two months hooking up. So that the Williams’ neighbors aren’t disturbed by constant noise, viewers driving by the house are informed by signs to tune in to a signal broadcast over a low-power FM radio station to hear the musical accompaniment.

Public Domain Movie Torrents

PublicDomainTorrents.com is a decent resource for torrents of classic and B-movies in which the copyright has expired (public domain media). This will be useful for my ECMP 355 course where students perform video editing/mixing. Using sites like this as a resource also help to explain that the Bit Torrent protocol is not to be equated with illegal activity, the similar bad-rap that the .mp3 format still suffers.

Online Hate/Media & Race: Resource

Our Faculty has recently licensed two new and excellent resources from the Media Awareness Network (MNet). MNet is a non-profit organization based in Ottawa and it boasts “one of the world’s most comprehensive collections of media education and Internet literacy resources” (more info here). Their materials are really top-notch.

The two newest additions to the MNet catalog include “Exploring Media and Race” and “Deconstructing Online Hate“. Each resource includes a workshop (slides, speaking notes, handouts, etc.), a self-directed tutorial and a resource guide. This is a great resource as it’s easy-to-follow, and packed with information for students of all ages. I would consider myself very knowledgeable this subject area, but there were still several items that surprised me.

On a related note, I have been a bit of a collector of disinformation/propaganda videos, and especially those that relate to discrimination or racism. A few weeks ago, I came across a shocking anti-homosexual video published in 1961. Here is a link to the short version of the video, and the longer version with some background information can be found at the Internet Archive. In short, the video depicts homosexuality as a sickness and homosexuals as pedophiles. It’s really sad.

What’s even more sad and unfortunate are the views of people commenting on this video at the Internet Archive, and my realization that for many, such views haven’t changed in over 40 years. In this, it’s obvious that the MNet resources I mention above (and others like it) are ones that need exposure in our schools and communities. Certainly, resources like this alone won’t solve all of our ills, but it’s a step in the right direction.

2005 Edublogs Award Shortlist

I’ve just noticed that the 2005 Edublogs shortlist has been released, and WOW … I’m actually a player in two of the nominations. First, our EdTech Posse has been nominated under the category “Best audio and/or visual blog”. This just further demonstrates that we really need to keep this podcast rolling (it’s been a bit slow lately, especially in this busy time of year). Second, the work of our Faculty of Education’s iTeacherEd project has been noticed as we have done our best over the past several years to integrate blogging (and other technologies) into our preservice teacher education program. This work has been nominated under the “Best example/case study of use of weblogs within teaching and learning” category.

I really didn’t expect either nomination, but I am genuinely flattered, and much more grateful to be a part of such a rich community of peers.

Do check out the other nominees. Everyone of the sites listed should be in your RSS aggregator.