How not to make frinds via software

21 January , 2009

Trying to make a software friendly may be a good idea. Making it too friendly is a bad idea. Making software that annoys you might be the worst of ideas, still that’s the experience I most often feel around Vista. I rarely get the sensation that “wow – this is good”, but rather “is this wrong too?”.
My latest annoyance is the problem report. For no apparant reason Vista decides to suddenly and at random times run a problem report check to see if it can solve any of the heaps of crashes and problems Vista has encountered. Today this happened, and Vista searched for a couple of hundred errors (!). It found the solution to three (see picture).
The two first errors are anonymous, while the third is Firefox related. Clicking on the first took me to a screen where it said I should get Nokia drivers for my telephone. Well, I couldn’t think of why I needed that since everything has been working with my Nokia connection to the PC. So when I clicked “Information is confusing” I was asked “what where you trying to do”. And who can remember that, months after the problem may have occured?
Second problem took me to a Bluetooth screen. I am quite happy with my bluetooth antenna, it works perfectly and I can easily send files to my computer from around the house and using phones or laptops. So when I was recommended to go to this site to download a driver I was skeptical. Not to mention that when I arrived at the web site, I found that this was actually gonna cost me heaps of money. Just to upgrade something that works. No good help there.
The third one was Firefox related. The technical information in the corner said I needed to install latest version. Which I always do via the excellent filehippo.com update checker. So that was wrong info too. I tried to figure out what must have been the error, but the help I got was “this is community based”, and a link to Mozilla Inc. was provided (it did not work, but may hopes weren’t high anyway).

So out of hundreds of errors, Microsoft decided to fix three, making them all worse if I had follow through with their help. Thanks, Vista, but no thanks! I’d rather run my computer to a halt without your help…


Pedagoguery Software: Poly

21 January , 2009

A great little freeware to show off today! As a mathematics teacher, and frequent user of whiteboards/smartboards, I am always

looking for nice programs or web sites to use interactively. This is one particularily good program that does just one thing, but does it good. It shows you the most common and a lot of the uncommon geometric solids. You can (use your hands on the smartboard to) zoom in and out on the solids, open them up and crunch them back together again. You can print the layout nets for each solid if you want to make your own physical model. For instance, have your students make footballs (I am talking soccer, not the “other sort” of football, where they mostly cheat by using their hands) from pentagons and hexgons. Solids can be shown transparent or…well..solid.

Go download a free version at http://www.peda.com/poly/


Greenshot

19 January , 2009

Taking a snapshot of your computer screen or a screen region is something I do quite often. Whether for showing students or mom where to find something on the screen, or making tutorials, it’s nice to have a fine little screenshot utility. I earlier used FastStone for this, and this being a great program, it couldn’t stay free forever. So if you can get your hands on older versions of FastStone Screen Capture utilties, do it ūüôā

There are fortunately several other options, one is built right into Windows and uses the PrintScreen key. Using this however, causes the entire screen or the entire window of a program to be captured. So it works, although a bit quirky. In Vista this feature has been improved, and you can change the region when clipping.

I prefer to use the freeware utility GreenShot. It easily allows you to edit the screen capture with arrows, textboxes and ellipses. Just what you need to point out important features of the clip. You can download this free utility here: http://sourceforge.net/projects/greenshot/.

Edit: Another seemingly good utility for screenshooting (is that a verb in English?) is Screenshot Captor, found by way of Lifehacker at http://lifehacker.com/304548/take-and-annotate-screenshots-with-screenshot-captor


jonasjohn.de: remove empty directories freeware for windows

17 January , 2009

OK, I know that installing lots of small little freeware programs on your system might not be the most clever thing to do. If you have many of them it might slow your computer down, they might cause trouble with other programs and sometimes you forget that you have them, and they just take up space. But then, there are those tiny little programs that sport features you just can’t believe aren’t included in the OS to begin with. RED is such a program. RED – Remove empty directories – is a great little something for tidying up your music folders or program files folders. I ran it on my media center and it found almost two hundred (!) empty folders. That is folders that just contain a user specified set of things. My folders are considered empty if they just consist of folder.jpg…albumart*.jpg… or a picasa.ini file.

I am not sure if my computer got better or quicker of this early spring cleaning, but it felt just as tidy and a bit more satisfying than running the vacuum cleaner on my living room floor.

Download the program here: http://www.jonasjohn.de/lab/red.htm


Zotero: The Next-Generation Research Tool

6 January , 2009

Zotero: The Next-Generation Research Tool

One of the tools I have began to love the most is this free add-on for FireFox. I used to be a fan of EndNote, which is a great program, but it wasn’t free… And I AM the CHEAP researcher after all.

Zotero allows you to store references in a database, and later on insert the references into, say, Microsoft Word. Inside Word, you look up the reference you want and automagically a bibliography is created at the back. There’s a great little feature that you can store files with it, so that the pdf’s you refer to are in the right place. Another extremly handy function is the way you can get references into the database. Whenever you are on a library site or a bookstore site, you get a zotero icon next to the URL. ‘Click’, and the reference is added to your database. Great. The coming version of zotero will support external cloud storage of references, so you can reach your references from whatever computer you are on. At present the best way might be to keep the zotero files in a folder that you sync with DropBox, mentioned earlier on my blog.

Try this add-on for yourself, and see if you are satisfied!


Giveaway of the Day – free licensed software daily. Edraw Max 4.3 – Create charts, graphics, diagrams, and maps easily.

6 January , 2009

Giveaway of the Day – free licensed software daily. Edraw Max 4.3 – Create charts, graphics, diagrams, and maps easily..

Giveawayoftheday is a pretty cool site, it gives you one piece of software free every day. Of course, this forces a lot of crappy software to be pushed to the readers, but sometimes, gems are found. Today the product is Edraw 4.3, and it seems to be a very good program for drawing diagrams for simple engineering stuff or marketing or if you just tire of MS clipart galleries.

Giveawayoftheday.com also have a sister site, game.giveawayoftheday.com


Slowmile

6 January , 2009

Today a post with no relation to science or software! I will (and must) start by saying I don’t know bricks about art. But I like art (come to think of the scene in Monty Python where the pope wants a picture with only ONE Christ in it!). I also like travelling. And I AM a teacher, even though it may not feel like it from time to time.

There’s a concept I am very fond of, namely sloooooow time. In the Norwegian book “√ėyeblikkets tyranni” (perhaps it can translate into “the tyranny of the moment”?) by sociologist Thomas Hylland Eriksen, it is claimed that we have plenty of time – just not enough of the slooooow time. He really nailed it there.

So here I am, not knowing one piece of art from the other, but this blog from my classmate Bodil and some colleagues of her, looks just the right amount of sloooooow. The tagline is

SLOW MILE organizes events with the aim to bring together teaching of art practice and creativity with slow travelling.

Go have a look at http://slowmile.wordpress.com/

Unfortunately I don’t have any art from Bodil to show you here (did you read that, Bodil?), so check out their blog.


Slife Labs

4 January , 2009

Slife Labs, LLC.

This is a cool, slightly scary and highly useful little freeware product. It basically logs most of the stuff the you do around your PC and when you do it. In that manner, you can figure out the answer to the question “Where the heck did my time go?”

Screenshot from the creators website

Screenshot from the creators' website

I have used this freeware for some time, and it does exactly what it is supposed to, and does it well. It monitors your computer usage, how much time do you really spend on iTunes during work hours? Or your web browser or your construction program or whatever. It gives you nice visuals on how you devote your hours to different websites and software products. Now the trouble is, how do I change my routines from spending too much time on the computer…? If this product scares me into getting things done, I am sending them a Christmas card (or perhaps even donate…) next year!


Happy new year all!

4 January , 2009

Well, the academic life just started on Friday, and I love this period of a few days where you actually can prepare¬† yourself, read some of the stuff you should’ve read ages ago and perhaps even tidy up the office. Just a little bit.

I got this question about my profile photo (not the contrived serious one in the About Me page, but the small one on comments). The reason I love this photo (even if it is of myself) is that it shows myself learning some mathematical facts and connections on my Amstrad CPC 6128 computer. Also, it’s a rather amusing picture of myself around one of my favorite pass-times, with a lot of nostalgia on the walls… (A dog long gone, pop stars, a terrific hair cut, badges and medals, Bon Jovi, etc… ah.. the memories…). The Amstrad didn’t have a blue screen of death, it actually had a blue screen of life. With yellow text. Unfortunately blue (and red) was a colour not very suited for television sets, and the blue tended to blur so much it was hard to read blue text or text on a blue background…

Amstrad CPC 6128 - the wonder machine!

Amstrad CPC 6128 - the wonder machine!

I did not set out to learn mathematics on this computer, but it somehow forced itself into my motivation. I remember learning about sines and cosines in order to plot the circumference of a circle. If a teacher have told me this is what I should do, it wouldn’t have been half as fun. I remember learning about slopes in order to draw stars on the screen. This happened several years before sines and slopes entered my syllabus. I also subscribed to this magazine, named Amstrad Action, and there one could find listings of programs in Basic, which could be typed in and saved on floppies or cassettes. (Do you remember the sound of those tapes? You could listen to it, and after perfectioning your ear, you could say just by listening to the signal hiss whether the software was properly loaded or not.) Of course there was no hard drive, but the machine would ship with an enormous 128 Kb of memory. Not quite enough for everybody, according to Bill Gates, but nevertheless – endless possibilities in the eighties! One of the programs I typed in was a short program that would allow you to play with coefficients of quadratics. It would solve the equations and draw the graphs, and this was before we had ever heard of graphic calculators. I felt like I was on the edge of technical evolution… Anyhow, this “insight from within”, has been valuable to me when meeting the quadratics (and other functions) later on, and the Amstrad have also pointed me towards ways of treating my own students and pupils.

I later read Seymour Papert‘s “The Gears of My Childhood“, and things started to clear up a bit… I highly recommend the book “Mindstorms: Children, Computers and Powerful ideas” where I read the mentioned article in the foreword, to anyone interested in the teaching and learning, particularily of mathematics.


Fun Math Blog

1 January , 2009

I came across a blog called Fun Math Blog when searching the Internet for different blogs about mathematics. I must confess I did this during working hours, so I am not really sure whether it should pass as work or leisure… Now, the author of the Fun math blog invited visitors to exchange short reviews, so here goes! Sol is mathematician who writes mostly (well, almost exclusively) about mathematics. I have followed his blog for some months and can highly recommend his posts – and I must admit they come out more often than mine! Since I am working in higher education, educating teachers, I feel a little bit sad that I don’t go so much into the content of mathematics anymore. It’s always there, but there just doesn’t seem to be enough time to get really involved with mathematical problems. That is why I especially like his articles section. There are lots of things to think about in there, for instance when working with math anxiety or other didactical topics.

Since I also love to read stuff where mathematics enters the stage within media and culture, I have to forward this link from his last entry. I am fond of things like these: http://www.math.harvard.edu/~knill/mathmovies/index.html.
On my Norwegian-only mathematics site I also have a tag for videos with some mathematical content or theme.