Saturday, August 04, 2007

Teacher Tech: Free Powerpoint Slides for Teachers

This is the first of a few posts I'll be making that have a focus on helping teachers with technology. Many of these will be relavent to everyone - but they will have an extra focus for the teachers.

My wife is an American History teacher and is working on building a set of powerpoint presentations for her classes. Pete's Powerpoint Station is a great site with a ton of pre-made, free-to-share powerpoints set up for almost all subjects including history, math, science etc. Under each subject, there are several topical powerpoints for different sections in your class. They won't take the place of creating your own powerpoints customized for your teaching, but they might help you get started and some of them might just be what you were looking for on a particular subject.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Streaming Media Included in Billboard Hot 100 Chart

Another sign that Streaming Media has more than arrived. Billboard has expanded their Hott 100 chart to include streaming media Data. From the blog:

Under the new Billboard Hot 100 formula, radio play will average about 55
percent of the chart’s total points, digital for about 40 percent, and streaming
media for 5 percent. While streaming media is relatively small, it’s still well
ahead of sales of physical singles, which will account for less than 1 percent
of the chart’s new formula.

Awesome Flash Presentation for a Photo Gallery

This is one of the more unique uses of Flash for an online photo gallery I've seen. As you move your cursor around the screen, the image changes around your cursor. It loops through a certain set of photos each time you move your cursor around.
Video of the concept below or

check out the link below:
read more digg story

Skyscraper Photo PC - Stunning Digital Picture Frame

Jeffrey Stephenson has created one of the most beautiful digital photo frames I've ever seen.

He calls it the Skyscraper Photo PC. The design is based on a 1931 Hammond Gregory clock,and made the casing for the frame entirely of basswood with a mahoganny veneer. The PC innards include a Vantec Stealth fan, an LCD scavenged from an automotive rooftop-mounted DVD player, a via motherboard and a 2GB CF flash card.

The results are simply stunning. It makes my digital picture frame seem almost ordinary!

Crop Multiple Images At Once with JPEGCrops

If you have a lot of digital pictures and would like to crop more than one at a time, JPEGCrops is the best freeware option for you. This program lets you maintain the aspect ratio, but still crop your photos to only leave the exact portion of the photo you want to keep.

With JPEGCrops, you can use the same settings to crop a large number of photos in a batch. Alternatively, you can go through each photo and customize the crop for each picture one by one. JPEGCrops comes with many preset print sizes for cropping as well as the ability to define a custom crop size.

Select your images or a folder of images

Then pick a preset (or custom) crop size and crop all or crop individually.

Download JPEGCrops here

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Slashdot Tries to Be Digg with their Firehose

For quite a long time, slashdot has been outplayed by digg and even reditt as a social tech news site. Slashdot made their site too difficult for a story to make it to their homepage and thrived on insulting any story submissions that weren't by their own "club" of long-time users. To save themselves from falling further behind digg and reditt, they have developed Firehose which looks pretty much like - well it looks a lot like digg! They’re It looks a little different as stories are assigned a color from red hot stories all the way to to violet or cold stories. Cold stories are like the buried comments/stories on Digg. As before, the really hot stories get chosen to make it to the front page by the Slashdot editors. Think of it as a Digg without the democracy. Firehose has been available in beta for logged-in members for a while, but now is open to all visitors of slashdot.

I'll give it some more time before totally writing them off, but count me as less then impressed so far. It will take more than a "firehose" to beat out - the king of social news. Slashdot has to do more than imitate its more-successful competitor and call it a hose.

Why Netflix Has Already Won The DVD Rental War

There's been a great deal of discussion recently about how Netflix is struggling with its continued competition with Blockbuster and the online movie streaming sites. With the recent hit Netflix stock took (it hit its lowest point in over two years), lowering it's monthly fees by $1.00 and losing those profits and the recent 12-hour-plus website outage; many have been saying Netflix is in trouble and losing in the DVD rental war. I disagree. Matter of fact, I would argue that Netflix is not only winning the DVD rental war, but has already won. Here's why:

Even Netflix has said it's feeling the heat from competition. Blockbuster's Total Access program was a success in terms of stealing business away from Netflix. For the customer, Blockbuster offers a $17.99 per month package called Total Access that is similar to Netflix's DVD rental by mail service. You pick the movies you want online and Blockbuster ships them to you. Yeah Blockbuster is a little slower in delivery and turnaround, but with their Total access program, you could return the movie at a store and their system would reflect the returned movie and begin the process of shipping you a new one instead of having to wait for the dvd to return to them in the mail. Add to that, you could also rent a new in-store movie for free when you return your mail-delivered movie to the store. The Total Access program sounded like a win-win for both Blockbuster and for the customer, but the truth is a little different.

Online Rentals
For the customer, the turnaround time was painfully slow. For me it was even slower then it is with Netflix when Netflix throttled me. With the three out at a time plan I almost NEVER had three movies out at a time. Due to their slow processing and delivery time it was a two-out plan for the three-out plan at best. I received more wrong movies or damaged discs from Blockbuster in the three months I tried them then I did in the several years time I've been with Netflix. Another problem more common with Blockbuster was that many movies at the top of my queue kept getting passed over. Movies I wanted to see soon - especially new releases were often put under a wait and passed over for movies further down my queue.

In Store Returns and Free Movie - the Blockbuster Advantage
Still the idea of being able to pick up a movie instantly when you return your DVD mailer to the local Blockbuster appealed to me. Honestly, this is the one real advantage Blockbuster has over Netflix. The problem is with it goes back to the reason I went to Netflix in the first place. I don't like going to Blockbuster brick and mortar stores. Selection is light, its annoying to deal with some of the Blockbuster employees (I know they are just doing their job, but I don't really want to be asked how I'm liking Total Access every single time I rent a movie there.)

Is Total Access good for Blockbuster? Well at first it seems like a great plan for them. They can use the in-store edge to get customers back into their stores and away from netflix. The truth is though the program is not as profitable for Blockbuster as a company. Marc Lichtenfeld of the had this to say about Blockbusters Total Access Plan

Blockbuster calculates the benefits of Total Access costs at $2 per
subscriber per month. That's not including the $8 to $12 cost of free movies. So
it is likely the company's margins will decline as it rents millions of titles
for free each month.
Blockbuster realizes the Total Access segment is not as
profitable as the rest of its business. However, the company may be in the
process of shooting itself in the foot.

They hope to make up the lower margins by increasing the subscription price, but I don't see how they could stay in the game with higher prices. Blockbuster announced higher prices and more maximum rentals in a month just last month. This will almost certainly cause more and more customers to head back to Netflix. If you don't believe me, read some of the comments on this over at the HackingNetflix blog.

Other Netflix Competitive Advantages

Add to this the other competitive advantages Netflix has over Blockbuster. Netflix has watch-now movie streaming which admittedly has a fairly small list of older or less popular movies, but still it is an added value for the customer. Netflix has a much better website and queue system. They are adding features to the site all the time. Just check out the Netflix community blog where they have an open dialogue with their customers on new features and suggestions.

Netflix has a better service overall, they offer more value for your movie renting money and they don't have the massive overhead of the franchise and company owned stores. To quote a commenter on the Hacking Netflix Blog: "Blockbuster is just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic".

My prediction is that Blockbuster will either do another very major strategy reorganization or they will go down in flames. Netflix has already won the DVD rental war. Blockbuster just doesn't realize it yet.

UPDATE: This story was submitted to digg by taswizard - if you like it, please DIGG IT. Thanks!

Click Here For other articles on Netflix

If you liked this article, check out the rest of the site or better yet, subscribe to the feed

Travel Hack: Get Free Wireless at Airports in August

Dan over at the UneasySilence blog tells you how to take advantage of Boingo's offer for free wireless at select airports in August. Note the offer is really just for those elite iPhone users, but he shows you how to make it work with any wifi device.
It's available at the following airports:
Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International Airport, Nashville International Airport, Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport, John F. Kennedy International Airport, LaGuardia Airport, Midway International Airport, Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, Will Rogers World Airport, O’Hare International Airport, Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, and Toronto Pearson International Airport
I'll be trying this out next week!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Track Conversations with Commentful

I was reading a post by Robert Scoble today about how he has been using CoComment to track his comments he posts across the web, but isn't happy with the way it won't always allow his comments to upload to other sites/blogs and instead gives him an error message when CoComment is down. He explains that this is unacceptable, and that

Robert Scoble Says: "Cocomment should NEVER keep a comment from being posted. Even if the service is down. But it does. It’s very frustrating."
I have been using another similar service called Commentful that provides a similar way for you to track your blog, flickr, digg submisions, youtube, myspace comments and pretty much any place on the web you leave a comment this service will work.

Lets say you leave a comment on a certain web site, after you leave your comment, right click and "add to commentful". After this, commentful will track the comments on this page and let you know when there are new comments. You can track comments on a page even when you don't leave your own comment with the same process.
To track comments, you can visit your Watchlist or if you have the Firefox toolbar, you can just click on the commentful icon and it will open up a new tab with all of the pages you are watching. This page will list all of the links with comments you are tracking and show you new comments in bold as well as the number of comments on the page.
If you are using the Firefox Extension, you will see a small "bulb" at the bottom-right of your tool bar. If it's yellow like this one, there are no new comment. If it's green, then there are new comments on one of the sites you are tracking. As mentioned above, you can click on the "bulb" and it will open up a new firefox tab to the watchlist page.
Another nice feature is the ability to subcribe to your watchlist RSS feed which will of course add any new comments to your rss reader.
I've been using this service for several months and it works great. I recommend this to anyone who is an active participant on the web. It ensures you answer any followup questions that might have been made to your comments you left and it gives you a great way to track conversations on the web that are important to you.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Search Engine Trick: Easter Eggs

I have two search engine "easter eggs" for you. First a new one (for me at least) thanks to Google Blogoscoped:
Enter number of horns on a unicorn into Google to see what Google Calculater says....

For an older one that many of you probably already know, go to the Yahoo search engine, turn up your sound a little and click on the exlamation point on the Yahoo Logo.

Walk Your iPod Dog: An iPod Dock for Your Pet

I've seen a lot of iPod docks in my day, but this is a first. Kevin O'Callaghan & Wei Lieh Lee have designed this ipod doc that you put on your dog.

Now your dog is a walking, peeing iPod Jukebox.... It's just a concept right now, but it wouldn't surprise me to see someone try to make a buck off of it since people with little pooches PLUS people with iPods = Money to blow...

Timewaster: Internet Pong

Time-waster of the day:

Internet Pong. It's simple, you use your mouse to control both sides. It doesn't keep score but its somehow still entertaining.


Monday, July 30, 2007

LCD Monitor Hack: Mod your LCD Monitor to Fashionable

Are you getting bored with your old, same-as-everyone-elses LCD computer monitor? Well, DerangedMoose7 has written an instructable showing how he converted this LCD monitor:
into this more modern-looking, cool LCD. using some plexiglas, a metal frame and some elbow grease.

It really does look nice. Check out the Full Instructable Here

Polar Clock Flash Screen Saver

PolarClock 3.0 is a hypnotic screen saver for Mac and Windows. It also can be used as a dashboard widget for OSX Tiger.
This screen saver is based on a color wheel of sorts, and developed in Flash. Polar Clock represents the passing of time on that wheel showing year, month, day hour minutes and seconds passing in time. the latest version has many configuration options also.

To understand how this works watch the video below.
You can check it out in action and download it for yourself at PixelBreaker

via StumbleUpon

iPhone Poll Results

My iPhone Poll has finally concluded. I put this poll on the site back before the iPhone was released and probably ran it a little too long, but it was an experiment to test the Blogger Draft's new polling feature. It works fairly well although it doesn't look perfect on Internet Explorer. Since I highly recommend Firefox web browser instead of IE I wasn't terribly concerned about that though.
Based on the poll results, most of my readers that participated either won't be getting an iPhone or are waiting for a while.

Roll Your Own Flickr Clone - Hosting Your Photo Site For Free

While I know the masses (myself included) use and love Flickr, Zooomr and Picasa Web Photo hosting sites; there are some of you who want a photo site that is uniquely yours. You want to roll your own Flickr-Clone type site. Enter Gallery2.

Gallery2 is an free, open source, PHP web-based photo album organizer for those wanting full control over their photos on their own server. Gallery2 gives you an unique way to blend photo management seamlessly into your own website or blog whether you're running a small personal site or a large community site. The free program includes support for uploads, various picture formats, and even voting on submitted galleries.

After installation, you will notice a vast array of customization options including:
  • For the visitor experience you can set up short urls's, choose full or resized images, print photos, search by keyword, read exif info, commenting, polling, customized slide shows and more
  • You can set up Gallery to view info in the pictures from digital cameras & auto-rotate them as needed.
  • Customize account permissions so you control what visitors can or can't do with your photos
  • Set up a purchase feature where visitors can purchase your images via paypal.
  • You can limit the quality & size of images so it will auto-resize your uploaded photos to save space.
  • You can customize the main Gallery page to look the way you want it to. Show or hide the album tree, search engine, album owner etc.
  • Choose the languages you want the Gallery to support
  • E-mail support so it can e-mail users when their accounts are created or when they forget their password, e-mail a group of people when a new photo is added etc.
  • Set up a Gallery-wide slideshow
  • Turn on and configure commenting
  • Customized logging of visitors
  • Publish your Galery with RSS
  • Uploading photos is customizable
  • You can mirror your photos albums on multiple servers to manage bandwidth as well as backup of photos

The possibilities are nearly endless.

Here are some examples of Gallery2 in action:

Jacques Raymond Photo Gallery

Cooper Arial

Jason Terigo's photo gallery


If you are a photographer and you're looking for way to show your images on the web with the upmost control and cusomization, look no further then Gallery 2. And if you are a hobbiest who wants to roll your own flickr-type site for your photos, Gallery2 is certainly an application worth checking out.

Read More & Download at the Gallery2 Website

Read More about Photo Stuff or Flickr

For a complete listing of flickr hacks and tools CLICK HERE

Refurbish a Dead, Seagate External Hard Drive

Do you have an external Seagate Hard Drive like this one? If the hard drive dies, you shouldn't throw the whole thing away. Rather than buying a whole new external hard drive, you can save money by opening up that external hard drive and replacing the dead, internal drive with a newer one. Useing the external case and buying a cheaper internal drive will save you some bucks.

You can open the casing, put in a newer, internal drive (if your original external drive was a smaller capacity one, you might have better luck sticking with a similarly small capacity drive due to the power and firmware restrictions you could run into), and reattaching the case. For the full Tutorial, head over to Instructables by MonkeyAgent

Sunday, July 29, 2007

The Week in Review

Just in case you missed any of the past weeks posts, here's a summary for you. There's some good hacks, a google maps mashup and some other good tech stuff. Check it out:

Strip DRM from Zune, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Unbox, Walmart Downloads
Over at the doom9 forums they are discussing the program Fairuse 4WM program that strips any media file that plays on Microsoft's Windows Media Player. This includes Zune Marketplace Downloads, Walmart Downloads, Amazon UnBox , BBC iPlayer files and even your local library file downloads. Why…
Acronis True Image Free Download
The best (and my personal favorite) Windows Disk Imaging, Backup & Recovery software is available to you for the extremely low price of FREE. You heard it right, if you own a Seagate or Maxtor hard drive you can go to either of their sites and get a free download of Seagate's Disc Wizard or…
Must Read: Stories I'm Reading
It's been a while since I've done the link thing since I've been busy with work, vacation and well blogging. So anyway, here's some links to good blog posts from around the net I've been reading recently: 4 Step DIY Wine Glass Photo Frames - Yes these are a bit corny, but at…
Measure Your Run or Bike Ride with Gmaps Pedometer
Take Google Maps and add to that a tool that tells you "How far is it from point A to B." This is what the Gmaps Pedometer Mashup does. If you walk, run, bike or swim this is an excellent web tool for you. It's a Google Maps Mashup that lets you set up waypoints and it calculates the…
Sony's Sphere-Shaped HTPC-VAIO TP1
Sony calls it a Living Room PC, but it's really just a basic pre-built HTPC in the shape of a hat box or Roomba. It comes with a Intel 2 Duo Processor 1.83GHz and Windows Vista. This thing has no HD optical drive and no CableCard slot, but it does have an HDMI output and a compact…
Flexible Flickr Search Engine PiciShare
PiciShare is an alternative search engine for Flickr to your average Flickr Search. The search engine provides a simple click and search interface that enables you to modify the search preferences more efficiently. You can select the search results per page, sort by: relevance, Date Posted…
A Non-working Technorati is a Useless Technorati
Here we go again! Technorati hasn't been updating posts, links or authority for several days now and there's been no response by admin on their "help" page or from their ticket support system. The problems for me began before Technorati dropped off the web due to the power outage…
Blog Hack: Custom Flickr Search for your Blog
Would you like to add a custom flickr search box for your blog that only searches your photos? I found some html code you can add to your site to make a custom search box for your blog that searches only photos with your flickr username. I'll share with you how to do this for your site. …
Blogger Hack: Monitor Submissions From Your Site to Digg, Reddit, Delicious, Furl and StumbleUpon
If you have a website or blog you know how much digg , reddit , stumbleupon and the other social networking sites can have a great impact on the number of visitors to your site. Because of this, you want to know when someone submits a story from your blog to one of these social networking sites.…
Harry Potter by Audiobook
Don't have time to read the 750 or so pages of the the latest Harry Potter Book - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows? I recommend you purchase the audiobook . It is narrated by Jim Dale who is one of the best narrators ever. My family has listened to the previous six Harry Potter books…
Qam Tuning On Mac with HDHomeRun & EyeTV
SiliconDust announced today that their Dual Network QAM/OTA HD Tuner now works with the Mac's EyeTV. I wrote a review of the excellent HDHomeRun tuner back in March. These HDHomeRun tuners have been flying off the shelf since that time as it now works with most (if not all) of the Windows Based…
EasyTVData Now SchedulesDirect - Replacement For Zap2It
If you are one of the MythTV, GBPVR or MediaPortal Users who have been using Zap2It for your TV Guide service then you probably know that Zap2It will stop providing free tv listings September 1, 2007. Since that time, a team of MythTV developers and others are working on a possible replacement for…
Digg Hack: Find The Popular Digg Stories Before They Hit Front Page
Want to find the stories that are just beginning to gain popularity, but before they hit Digg? Russ Virante has developed a digg tool using the API to filter through the most recent 500 stories based on the minimum number of diggs received. This way you can catch the likely-to-be-hot…

Strip DRM from Zune, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Unbox, Walmart Downloads

Over at the doom9 forums they are discussing the program Fairuse4WM program that strips any media file that plays on Microsoft's Windows Media Player. This includes Zune Marketplace Downloads, Walmart Downloads, Amazon UnBox, BBC iPlayer files and even your local library file downloads.

Why would you want to do this? The reason I would do this is to be able to listen to the music I purchase from a player specific platform on a non-supported player. I don't share the music and you shouldn't either. Once The content sellers and the music/video companies free all tracks from DRM, this of course won't be necessary.

EDIT: Dave Zatz has confirmed that this does work on video files. He tested it out on three weeds episodes purchased from Amazon Unbox.

I haven't tried this out, but others are saying it works. You can do the same sort of thing with iTunes files as I mentioned back in June of this year.

via doom9 forums

Acronis True Image Free Download

The best (and my personal favorite) Windows Disk Imaging, Backup & Recovery software is available to you for the extremely low price of FREE. You heard it right, if you own a Seagate or Maxtor hard drive you can go to either of their sites and get a free download of Seagate's Disc Wizard or Maxtor's Max Blast 5 which are now rebranded versions of True Image.

If you don't already have Acronis True Image, download one of these free applications now. They are extremely useful for full, incremental or folder specific backups. I can't stress enough how good the software is.