Read in peace with Clearly browser extension

The Evernote Clearly browser extension for Firefox and Chrome sweeps away the distractions of reading on the web. My video compares the implementation of the Clearly browser extension in Firefox and Chrome, with Safari’s “Reader” mode.

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Giving the Chrome Browser Another Look

Image courtesy Chrome Plugins http://www.chromeplugins.org/

Finding the right web browser has been quite frustrating for me over the years. I have yet to find one that fits my workflow needs. I generally bounce between Safari and Firefox, and only  minimally with Chrome among others. I’ve recently given the Chrome browser another try as my work-related browser. The same or similar extensions used in my Safari and Firefox browsers are now appearing in Chrome enabling me to do what I could, for the most part, with them. So to see how well the Chrome browser performed, I decided to make it my default browser for a week.

I share a lot of material on Twitter and have been a dedicated Echofon user. Echofon is well-integrated with Safari with the “Current Safari Page” option to copy the title and URL into the update field automatically. Recently I recently started using the HootSuite “Hootlet” on my browser tool bar. I’ve found using the Hootlet is slightly more efficient than using Echofon as I don’t leave the browser to Tweet a page.

Twitter browser extensions were lacking in functionality for my use across multiple Twitter accounts before I returned to Chrome. Hootsuite’s Hootlet has eliminated my  Twitter issues when working in Chrome. The Evernote extension allows me to simultaneously search my Evernote collection when doing a Google search. This feature indicates if I have a resource among the thousands of articles saved in Evernote. The extension does a cleaner job of clipping an article and suggests tags, a real time saver. Several other extensions for launching Google apps, archiving links, and clutter-free reading ala “Clearly” has benefitted my work flow. The only thing that I really miss is the cloud-based note syncing Firefox implementation of Yoono.

I’m nearly a week into using Chrome exclusively. So far, I’m hooked.

The Digital Professor Podcast

podcasticon

The first “Digital Professor Podcast” is available here. This  podcast is a short demo of  “Process”, a outlining application I’ve found quite useful in tracking the progress of my projects. “Process” can be downloaded from jumsoft.com.

System requirements: Mac OS X

Firefox Extensions I Can’t Live Without

20070520-firefox_logoThough I’ve used most browsers, I keep returning to Firefox as my “workhorse” browser due to amazing number of extensions and add-ons that have been created for it. Though I’ve bulked it up with several add-ons, there are a few that have proven especially valuable for my professional life.

Yoono is one of the most valuable extensions I use. It gathers in one place (the sidebar) my social networking sites, Google Reader to read my RSS feeds, web notes, and music streaming via lastfm.com and imeem. Web notes has been the most important feature to me personally as I write drafts of blog posts and conduct research. My web notes are stored “in the cloud” so they are accessible from any of my computers. I can even read, respond and compose in GMail without going to the application. All this while listening to my Pat Metheny playlist on Lastfm, so very cool.

Morning Coffee is the first add-on I use each morning. My daily routine consists of getting a real cup of coffee, starting up Firefox, then clicking on Morning Coffee. As the app’s site describes, Morning Coffee “lets you organize websites by day and open them up simultaneously as part of your daily routine. This is really handy if you read sites that update on a regular schedule”. It’s a great app to start your day.

TwitterFox is my light-weight Twitter app that I use when I don’t have the Yoono sidebar open or my Seesmic desktop app running. TwitterFox adds a small icon to the status bar and notifies you when those you follow have posted tweets. You can tweet from TwitterFox and it can handle multiple Twitter accounts which is particularly important to  me.

Evernote is my preferred information capture application that I’ve written about before. Evernote provides a toolbar button and context menus to add a selection or entire page to Evernote. If you haven’t used Evernote, you should check it out.

Xmarks (formerly Foxmarks) syncs my bookmarks across the various browsers I use on all my computers, i.e. laptop, home desktop, and office computer. It can also sync passwords. This one is a lifesaver.

The extensions/add-ons above are the ones I most rely on. I’d like to hear about the extension you “can’t live without”.

Create a Private Twitter Community with TweetKnot

homePageImageWant to use Twitter in your course but are concerned about privacy? Check out TweetKnot (http://tweetknot.com/). A Knot is a community of Twitter users who share a common interest. Every member of a community can send a message to all other members of the same community. All you need is a twitter account to join a Knot. Knots can be public or private. Private Knots require approval by the creator to join.

The creator can specify a Knot to follow any member of Twitter thus eliminating the need for each community member to follow someone individually . For example, I could create a “Climate Change” Knot  for my  climatology course and follow http://twitter.com/ClimateChangeUS and whenever there is a tweet from  ClimateChangeUS it will be automatically posted to the Climate Change” Knot. For more ways to use TweetKnot see the “Help” page.

Camtweet and Twitcam: Live video on Twitter

Want to send video tweets or live video updates via twitter? Two new applications Camtweet and Twitcam may satisfy your needs.

Livestream’s Twitcam (http://twitcam.com/) makes it easy to get started by using your Twitter credentials to login. Click the “Broadcast Live” button, setup the video source (it’s a flash driven app), describe the video before broadcasting (this is your tweet announcing the video), click the “Broadcast & Tweet button”, and you’re online. Click the button again to end the video and archive it at Livestream’s site. While broadcasting you can carry on a live chat.

twitcam

Camtweet (http://camtweet.com/), in private beta at this writing, is brought to you by Justin.TV, one of the biggest players in the live streaming market. It has the same basic application screen and setup, though Camtweet allows you to adjust frame rate (up to 500kbps) and sound. Chat is also implemented in the application.

Check out the demo from TechCrunch’s Real Time CrunchUp 2009

My tests found both apps very easy to setup and use. Using a screen capture product like CamTwist for Mac as the video source, one can broadcast your desktop screen. Recently, a student asked where to find exam handouts linked to a D2L quiz. I fired up TwitCam, captured a portion of the screen (with audio instructions) showing how to get to them, and posted it as a “tweet” for any of my students to view. This is much more efficient than capturing the screen with a product like Screenflow, converting the video to a suitable resolution, uploading the file to my course site, linking the video, then announcing it via email.

Give these apps a try. These apps will find their way into my tool kit of applications for communicating with colleagues,and especially students. I think you’ll find either of them useful educational tools too.

How the CrunchPad Could Fit into the Education Market

cbd2_smallOver a year ago, Michael Arrington expressed a desire that many of us have, a simple tablet for “consuming” information on the Web. The device would be able to access your email, browse web sites, and watch videos online. It would be a simple, low-cost, and highly portable consumer device. It will be different from a tablet PC and netbooks as it will not have a hard drive and thus not be able to store data per se, or run applications for word processing and such. Its “operating system” would be the browser, a unique and powerful way of breaking away from the confines of Windows, OS X,  and Linux if one only wanted to interact with web-based resources.

Mr. Arrington told the NY Times that he would hold an event at the end of July or the beginning of August to make a big announcement about the CrunchPad, and the tablet would be for sale “as soon as possible.” What we know at this point the CrunchPad

  • will have a 16 mm thick enclosure
  • use a 12 inch screen mounted flush with the aluminum case.
  • will run on an Intel Atom chip
  • will have a soft keyboard
  • will include USB ports for Keyboard/Mouse/Whatever
  • use a Webkit based browser
  • will be Flash-enabled
  • and have a target price of around $300.

The education market needs a low-cost, highly portable device that will lighten the burden (both physically and financially) on students and replace plethora of single-use devices with one multi-use device. As I continue to read about the CrunchPad  I am struck with its potential as a light-weight device for students and learning. What potential you might ask? It doesn’t have a hard drive. So what! The trend in computing is to move more of our work (and education) off our devices and into the cloud. The CrunchPad could not only let students consume information, but presumably interact with web resources and their fellow students. Students could view course web sites and take notes using online word processing programs like Google Docs. In laboratory classes students students could have an digital “clipboard” to enter and share data with Google Spreadsheets or similar online applications. Online polling and testing of students could occur during class via a learning management system or a web-based class room response system, eliminating the cost of a “clicker”.  Class discussions using social networking sites are increasingly being used by instructors and should be accessible through the CrunchPad.

The ability to run flash is especially important for the education community who uses many resources that are programmed with it. Flash-based instructional media produced by textbook publishers and distributed on CD-ROM could be placed in a learning management system and then accessed with the CrunchPad. CrunchPad could serve as an eBook reader as well. eTextbooks in Flash would benefit by having a device that accesses them without the need to download the book to a hard drive, protecting publisher’s intellectual property rights (a contentious issue, but one that I won’t get into here). These books often use an interface that permits highlighting text and tagging passages with notes and stored online. Yes, there is the Kindle DX, but it has rather limited capabilities, especially for the science textbook market that requires color.

The possibilities for CrunchPad in education are potentially endless, but we won’t know for sure until the widely anticipated availability announcement is made in a few short weeks. I am anxious to get a hold of one to test its possibilities for use in my courses. It could be a revolutionary device for instructors to deliver educational content and activities to new generation of learners.

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