Ramblings of a Digital Educator

June 30, 2007

A bit of a hiatus…

Filed under: General Blogging — dtrask @ 11:13 am

Hey all…I’m taking a bit of a hiatus for the next couple weeks as I’ll be on the road with the next FOSSED conference…taking in a Red Sox game in Boston…and heading off to camp for a week.  So…I will have my N800 in case I get inspired, but at the moment I’m storing up all sorts of cool ideas for the months ahead.  Stay tuned!

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June 14, 2007

Linux Lab torn down in less than 40 minutes! (this is a good thing)

Filed under: General Blogging — dtrask @ 3:25 pm

Below is a video of what my computer lab looked like (kinda’ messy too) after allowing my 7th graders to use their class period today to disassemble the lab.  In less than 40 minutes they unhooked, unstrung (cords), cleaned, dusted, and packed my entire 22 unit computer lab.  Gosh I love using Linux thin-clients!  You’ll notice the box in the video…that has 22 thin-clients in it.  It easily fits into half of the backseat of a car.  I could easily get my entire lab into a minivan!  Check out the movie!

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May 14, 2007

My impressions of Edubuntu 7.04 and the Ubuntu Education/Developers Summit in Sevilla, Spain

Filed under: General Blogging — dtrask @ 10:15 pm

I’ve been back from Sevilla for a few days now.  The jet lag has
cleared and I’m “back in the saddle” so to speak.   I return with
renewed vigor and excitement for the future of Linux and Open Source in
education.  I had several fantastic opportunities while I was in
Sevilla.  I had a chance to visit the CGA (Centro de GestiΓ“n
Avanzado)and a classroom at IES Azahar in Sevilla (a local school). 
The CGA visit was quite an eye-opener.  I was amazed at both the
simplicity and the efficiency of their operation.  The CGA has charted,
developed, and deployed nearly 200,000 computers to schools all over
the region of Andalusia.  Supporting this massive project is about 50
people!  At any one time there are 16 people manning the call center. 
Each school has an appointed ICT Teacher (technology integrationist)
who acts as the single point of contact between the school and the CGA
as well as the person who supports the rest of the staff with regard to
integrating technology into the everyday curriculum.  If a teacher has
a computer issue…he/she contacts the ICT teacher who does some
initial troubleshooting.  If the problem goes beyond the capabilities
of the ICT teacher, he/she calls the CGA for assistance.  Most of the
problems can be solved with the help of the call center personnel.  The
call center technicians can remotely access the computer in question
via ssh or vnc and correct the problem.  In the rare event of hardware
failure, the CGA dispatches a technician from another government agency
or contractor that handles the hardware side of things. The system is
so simple.  Each school has a server which has the “master image” on
it.  The hardware is delivered.  The ICT teacher goes into the BIOS and
sets the machine to boot from the network via PXE.  The computer boots
via the network and deploys an image via an unattended installation. 
Once the computer is imaged, the ICT teacher simply resets the BIOS and
voila!  The computer is ready.  When a new image is ready, the CGA
pushes it out to the individual school servers and alerts the ICT
teacher via their own customized web page that the image is ready.  The
CGA monitors the servers in each school using graphical tools like
Nagios.  If a server goes down at a school, chances are the CGA knows
before the school does!  Authentication is handled centrally.  User
accounts are stored on the master server using LDAP at the CGA and
synchronized to the school that the student attends.  The user accounts
are used for computer logins as well as the SIS (Student Information
System).  VERY COOL!

I also got the chance to visit IES Azahar, a middle/high school in the
“inner city” of Sevilla.  I was amazed at the integration and use of
technology in this school.  Every classroom has computers on every
desk.  The desks are set up to seat two students with one computer
mounted in the middle.  This was done by design to encourage
collaboration and teamwork.  Each teacher has a master computer that
utilizes ITALC to manage the computers.  The teacher can share their
screen, watch the students, and even blank the screens to get the kids
to pay attention.  They can also control logoffs and reboot/shutdown as
well.  In the US we normally see this type of deployment and control in
computer labs, but in IES Azahar, they utilize it in EVERY classroom! 
I had a chance to visit a couple of classrooms and interact with the
kids.  It’s an amazing situation in Andalusia and a model to the rest
of the world.

On Thursday, May 3rd, I had the opportunity to present at the Ubuntu
Education Summit.  Folks from around the world attended, presented, and
collaborated on ideas concerning the use and advancement of Linux and
Open Source in education.  This meeting of the minds was an
invigorating experience.

Once UES was over I had a chance to once again participate in the
Ubuntu Developers Summit (UDS).  Everyone should experience this at
least once.  The energy, organization, and flow of ideas is truly
amazing.  This is why Ubuntu has become one of the top Linux
distributions in such a short period of time.  Specifications for the
next release of Ubuntu are proposed in the weeks leading up to UDS. 
The process for submitting specs is very specific.  Your spec needs to
be well thought out.  This prevents wasting time on frivolous things
that tie up development time unnecessarily.  Once the spec is approved
it is put on the schedule for discussion at UDS.  At the UDS, there are
BOF’s (Birds of a Feather) meetings where developers of a particular
project and those affected will meet and discuss the implementation of
the spec.  Once the details of the spec have been ironed out, the spec
moves from discussion to drafting.  Once the spec is written up
properly it is submitted for review.  if all the requirements are met
it is approved and the developers are assigned the task of implementing
the spec for the next release.  It’s a very solid and effective process
from what I’ve seen over the past couple of years.

Now…Edubuntu.  This is the release I’ve been waiting for.  Feisty
Fawn or 7.04 is definitely ready for prime-time.  I’m totally
impressed.  I’m also very impressed at the improved functions of the
Student Control Panel or Thin-Client Manager.  Now you can view student
sessions, send messages, launch or kill programs, logoff users, and
much more!  Ease of setup…ease of management…and ease of
deployment.  Edubuntu is ready.  Now…what’s really exciting is the
upcoming features for Gutsy Gibbon (7.10).  Local apps, thick clients,
and so forth are a hot priority.  This will change the landscape of
educational computing. 

Also of note is the upcoming Edubuntu web portal.  This will feature a
whole lotta’ links, blogs, interactivity, lessons, and so much more. 
You are encouraged to become a part of it!  The beta site is located
here:  http://beta.edubuntu.ch    Join!  Contribute!  Together we will
grow the site into a premier source for information for educators
around the world.  I want to thank Richard Weiderman, Oliver Grawert,
Mark Shuttleworth and the rest of the Edubuntu/Ubuntu team for allowing
me to be a part of this exciting venture.  This is an exciting time for
technology in education…hang on….it’s going to be a great ride!

Visit to CGA in Andalusia

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May 8, 2007

Final hours in Sevilla

Filed under: General Blogging — dtrask @ 9:19 pm

The work is done (for me at least….everyone else has 3 more days). I take off for the airport in a hour or so. It’s been one heckuva’ week. So much is going to happen in the next few months…what a ride it will be. I’m excited. I’ve learned so much…have so many new ideas…and have had the chance to see education in a new light. If anyone else ever gets a chance to visit another classroom in another part of the world, I highly recommend it. Anyway, this evening we went out with some of the gang to another cafe and had a terrific meal. After the meal I made a special trip to see the bridge that my students and I had seen on the Wikipedia page about Seville. It’s truly amazing. Last, I was a witness to quite a technological feat….a video conference between Sevilla and Detroit Michigan using nothing but a laptop, a projector and a web cam. It didn’t cost a dime. Mark Shuttleworth, Jono Bacon, and Oliver Grawert were “guest stars” in the video conference and answered questions posed by the audience in Detroit. Very cool…and it illustrates the power of the internet and how small our world is becoming. With that…I leave you for now. I will be travelling all day tomorrow (almost 24 hours), so I will not post for a bit, but in the meantime…here are some pics to tide you over:

Last Day Sevilla UDS

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A Day in a school in Sevilla, Spain!

Filed under: General Blogging — dtrask @ 11:32 am

Today was AMAZING! I had the opportunity to visit a school here in Sevilla, Spain. The school was more of an “inner city” school, but it was a shining example of what the “junta” (government) of Andalusia has accomplished with technology in schools. ALL the schools in the program (and soon it will be ALL the schools…it takes time)…have a 2:1 ratio of kids to computers. Some schools have laptops as well. I was particularly intrigued by the reasoning of the 2:1 ratio and the desks designed around that purpose. The intent is to foster teamwork and collaboration. Students learn to work together and collaborate in the learning process. This is not to negate any effectiveness of a 1:1 deployment, but the educators of Andalusia feel that working together is also quite important. It was made clear that it was a conscious decision that had nothing to do with cost…there was enough money for 1:1, but it was decided to do the 2:1 in most cases. The computer desks were made in Portugal specially for the project. They are RUGGED! I was impressed. EVERY single classroom has computers on every single desk. By building them into the infrastructure, they have essentially built them into the learning process. Very cool idea. Every teacher uses the computers as a tool in the classroom (this was stated repeatedly) in nearly every lesson. When I asked the kids how they felt the computers had helped them, they felt more connected and felt that the school had merged the old ways with the new in a manner that would better prepare them for college and work.

On a more personal note…I had a BLAST! I was a bit of a celebrity as word got out that I was an American, a teacher,…AND a DJ. One of my Spanish colleagues is a local DJ as well and he told everyone else about me. The kids gathered around us during a break in the cafeteria….peppered me with questions….and then I offered to help them practice or try out their English. (fortunately I had a translator) We listened to music that I had on my n800 and the kids danced a little and laughed. Turns out they are big fans of the music style “reggaeton”. It was very fun. Later in the morning I had the opportunity to observe a high school philosophy class with the group. Good kids. We got the chance to check out how they use computers in their lessons and they in turn were proud to show off their skills. Through it all though…even part way around the world….kids are more alike than they are different.

In the end, the thing I really learned the most about is the need for and level of technology integration in today’s classroom. The region of Andalusia is a shining example of where most of us should be headed (including myself). Technology is part of everyday life now…the Spanish have taken the “bull by the horns” (an apt analogy given the art of bullfighting in Spain) and are working to move their entire society forward. The school/home connection is very strong…even with regard to technology. Hopefully, soon we can all learn from the lessons of Andalusia and find better ways to integrate technology as a tool in today’s classroom.

Pics and videos below:

My gallery from the school visit:

A Day in a School in Seville

Videos from the visit:

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May 7, 2007

Visit to CGA…Network/System Administration Center for Andalusia, Spain

Filed under: General Blogging — dtrask @ 11:27 am

Today was a very exciting day! I was invited to tour the CGA which is essentially the Andalusia region Department of Education’s Computer nervous center. They administer, deploy, develop, and so forth…for the entire region of Andalusia in Spain. They use Linux exclusively….50 people are able to support almost 200,000 computers! Very cool to see in action. This deployment in Spain is a perfect example. They have a ratio of 2:1 in primary schools….moving up to 5:1 in high schools with many laptop deployments as well. All easily rolled out with automatic unattended installs…tech support…call centers for tech support…etc. Very cool and very well managed. A server goes down…the center knows before the school does! πŸ™‚ Each school has an ICT Teacher (in the US it might be referred to as a Technology Integrationist). The folks from CGA were very explicit in the fact that the ICT Teacher is not a technician, but rather a pedagogical leader who assists teachers with integrating the computers into the existing curriculum as a tool for learning. The ICT Teacher does have a small amount of troubleshooting training and is also the single point of contact to the CGA should anything require support. The ICT Teacher simply calls the tech center and a support person either walks them through the issue, remotely fixes the issue, or dispatches a technician. The tech support center fields about 900 calls a week with an average wait time of 12 seconds! Given that there are 16 people in the tech center (phone support) at once…(40 in all)…it figures out to about 56 calls per week or 11 calls per day. The CGA develops their own applications for things like system management, database administration, SIS, and so forth. The users are all managed via LDAP from a central server which then synchronizes to the individual schools and is tied into the Andalusia student information database as well. Very cool and extremely efficient. (In Maine it would be like having the user accounts authenticating via MEDMS) Kids move…the username and so forth moves with them. I could go into SO much more detail, but I simply want to close by indicating that the people who work in the CGA and the teachers who are served by the CGA are all very happy to be doing what they do. The operating system is a locally modified version of Ubuntu called Guadalinex. (They have a very cute mascot ) Tomorrow I am going to a local school here in Sevilla, Spain for a tour and a chance to interact with the teachers and students! I’m so psyched! I have posted pics from today see them by clicking below:

Visit to Andalucia Computer Center

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My visit to Alcazar Palace in Sevilla (UDS Day 1)

Filed under: General Blogging — dtrask @ 10:16 am

Today (Sunday) was the first official day of the Ubuntu Developer’s Summit in Seville, Spain. (aka UDS Sevilla) UES (Ubuntu Education Summit) preceded UDS and ended on Friday. We spent all day working hard on the first round of specifications for the next release of Ubuntu (codenamed: Gutsy Gibbon). It was great to see people again (our numbers more than quadrupled from UES). The work on the new specs was rewarding, but it was a long day. But!….(there’s always a but)…the government of the autonomous region of Andalusia played host to the Ubuntu folks and bussed us to the city center for a tour of the Alcazar Palace and a reception that followed. I was tired and not sure if I wanted to go in the first place, but I’m very glad I did. The tour was amazing…the palace was beautiful…and even more amazing was the fact that I had the opportunity to walk on the same floor that had been walked on by Christopher Columbus where he was received by the King and Queen of Spain prior to his discovery of The New World. I have a lot of pictures of this tour in the gallery below, but also check out these two sites for even better images of what I saw…

Click here
and Click here

My Gallery is below:

Tour of Alcazar Palace and Day 1 of UDS Sevilla

Hey kids:

1. Look up the Alcazar Palace in Wikipedia! What can you tell me about it?

2. Did you know that Spain still has a royal family? Can you tell me about them?

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May 5, 2007

Trip to Gibraltar!

Filed under: General Blogging — dtrask @ 7:12 pm

Today was a rare occasion, instead of having to work, we got the day off!  This is unusual and has not happened before, but due to the way the dates fell, there was a day between UES and UDS, thus we were able to actually go sightseeing!  I went to Gibraltar with Jim McQuillan of Detroit,MI, Scott Balneaves of Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada, and Matt Oquist of Hudson, NH.  I’ve known all of these guys for a while and the trip had actually been planned prior to our arrival.  We rented a car in the morning and headed out across the Southern Spain countryside toward the Mediterranean Sea.  The ride was fantastic.  Southern Spain is very rural…all farmland and plains…at least until you get close to the sea…then it’s rolling hills and deep ravines.  I took lots of pictures along the way through the car window.  A couple hours later we arrived at the sea.  Until you’ve seen it, you cannot fully appreciate the size of the Rock of Gibraltar.  Gibraltar is a British Territory and a very strategic military installation with a long history.  I encourage you to read about it in Wikipedia…I sure learned a lot!  The Rock is home to about 30,000 people.  Only a small number are British military folks.  Gibraltar is a self-governed territory that is part of the UK.  There is only one town or city…and that is Gibraltar.  The entire peninsula is easy to get around on foot…except the climbing part.  The roads are very narrow and the buildings are a mix of old and new.  I got the opportunity to go into the Rock and walk in the Great Siege Tunnels.  These tunnels were created by the British as a means of defense.  The rock is one big fort with 33 miles of tunnels!  The tunnels have holes where the big guns were mounted.  Soldiers actually lived inside the rock!  I had the chance to see an old Moorish Castle built in the 700’s.  I also saw and walked up to the only known wild (although quite tame) monkey’s in Europe!  I have posted many pictures and videos for you to look at.  I have to admit, I had a blast today!  Tomorrow it’s back to work, but at least tonight I can relax with the memory of a fantastic day.

Here’s 132 pictures for ya’!

Trip to Gibraltar

The rock face of Gibraltar and the view of the airport

Inside the Great Siege Tunnels!

Another video from inside the Rock!

The Gibraltar Airport and the main road that crosses the runway!

A military planes lands!

The native “apes” of Gibraltar!

One shot….two continents!

Hey kids! I’ve got a few questions!

1. Can you tell me what kind of money they use in Gibraltar?

2. I saw a lot of oil tankers in the ocean off Gibraltar…any idea why?

3. What language do they speak in Gibraltar?

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May 4, 2007

A Quick Video of the “after-conference”

Filed under: General Blogging — dtrask @ 12:08 pm

This is the last day of UES (Ubuntu Education Summit)…UDS (Ubuntu Developers Summit) begins Sunday. I shot a quick video with my digital camera of some of the stragglers hanging around after the conference to do some “hacking” (in a good sense).

and yet another video

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May 3, 2007

The pictures I promised

Filed under: General Blogging — dtrask @ 6:06 pm

Here are the pics I promised earlier of me presenting….

My Presentation

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Phew! I did it…and it went quite well!

Filed under: General Blogging — dtrask @ 12:09 pm

Well, it’s now late afternoon in Seville and I have finished my presentation.  The audience was made up of people (about 50) from all over the world.  There seemed to be a lot from Spain (of course), but also many from the UK, South Africa, Germany, Austria, and even the US and China!  My presentation was primarily a chronicle of our journey over the past several years to using Free and Open Source Software (FOSS), which includes things like Open Office, Linux, Firefox, and so much more!  I talked about the $$$ that has been saved, the “green” factor, and the methods, obstacles, and politics of implementing a situation similar to what we have in Vassalboro.  There were a lot of good questions during and after my presentation (which made me feel good, because questions mean that you got them thinking).  After the presentation I was pulled aside by folks from Intel and System76 for more detailed discussion.  This is pretty exciting.  The “bleeding” edge that VCS has been on for the past several years (do you realize we’ve done this since 2001?)…is now being pursued by the mainstream technology companies.  Intel is actually here in person with their new and very tiny Classmate PC, which is actually running Linux.  Believe it or not…in the next couple years a new and bigger version of the Classmate PC should be available to US schools and those of other developed nations.  (Currently the target is developing nations)  It’s pretty cool…having seen and played with both the OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) machine and the ClassMate PC…if I HAD to buy one today…I’d probably choose the CMPC.  Also of note is the fact that Dell announce that they will begin shipping laptops and desktops with Ubuntu Linux!  Very exciting news!


Anyway…my presentation went very well and it makes me very proud to speak about the students, staff, and administration at VCS and their “forward thinking” attitudes in such a setting as this.

Here are some pics from the conference, none of me yet as I was speaking, but I just spoke with someone who took some pics of my presentation….so I will post them a little later once I get them from him.

Presentation at Sevilla

Here are some questions for the kids:

1.  Today I listened to a presentation about cool little laptops.  One of the places they distributed these laptops is Nigeria.  Can you tell me where Nigeria is?  What continent is it on?  What are some of the bordering countries?

2.  Much of what we talk about at this conference is about Linux.  Can you tell me who “invented” Linux?  (Once you find it…maybe you can tell me why it’s called “linux”?)

Stay tuned…more tonight or in the morning.

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May 2, 2007

My first day in Sevilla!

Filed under: General Blogging — dtrask @ 7:18 pm

Well, we finally arrived in Sevilla (Seville) Spain about 8 am (EDT) or noonish local time. It was pouring rain when we arrived. It had been a long night. I checked into the hotel and took a nap for a couple of hours. When I woke up, we went for a nice long walk around the neighborhood near the hotel. It had cleared off and was nice and sunny. (and windy) It was about 70 degrees here. Nothing too warm. Later this afternoon, more of the people began to arrive at the hotel. Many of us met about 7:00 to go out to supper. We took a cab to the old city and walked around quite a bit before settling on a nice outdoor pizzeria (nothing like a pizzeria in the US). Along the way I was able to see and take pictures of the Seville Cathedral….it’s magnificent! (and very old) The old city was like walking back in time…no cars….lots of little shops…very cool. Oh! And by the way….siesta is for real! About mid-afternoon, everything shuts down for a couple of hours…hardly any cars on the road…all businesses close and people just relax. We could learn something from this πŸ™‚ This evening I had an awesome meal. It was a pizza like none I’d ever seen or tasted…very good! All in all….a great day. I’m excited and nervous for tomorrow as the work begins and I’ll be presenting at 2:00 pm local time (8 am for you folks on the East Coast). Check out my pics and questions below!

Arrival in Spain: UES Sevilla Day One

Ok kids!Β  Try to answer these!

Look up the Seville Cathedral in Wikipedia.

1.Β  When was it started?

2.Β  What’s special about it?

3.Β  Who’s tomb is in the cathedral?

The Long Journey

Filed under: General Blogging — dtrask @ 5:52 pm

Well, here I am in the last hour of my transatlantic journey. This is my first time over the big pond. It’s now midnight EDT, and lord knows what time zone I’m in at the moment. I haven’t slept a wink…I never can get comfortable enough. Oh well. Matt has slept most of the way. It’s been quite a day. My flight from Portland was delayed almost 45 minutes, thus by the time I got to Philly I had about 20 minutes to catch a flight at the other end of the airport. I took the shuttle, but even then I had to run at least a quarter of a mile or more. When I arrived at the gate they knew my name…I was the last passenger. Phew! I seriously doubt my checked bag made it. Luckily, there’s hardly anything in it. I have everything I really need in my carry-ons. I still have many hours left before I finally arrive in Seville. For now…Madrid beckons as we are now flying into the rising sun.

UPDATE: I’m here in Madrid and my bag made it!

April 29, 2007

Two more days!

Filed under: General Blogging — dtrask @ 2:12 pm

It’s a rainy Sunday afternoon and here I sit watching cartoons with my son and typing on my laptop.  Life is good.  I’m a little excited and nervous as well.  On Tuesday afternoon I begin my next great adventure!  I’m off across the big pond to Seville, Spain for the first ever Ubuntu Education Summit (UES).  It’s my first time in Europe so I’m a little excited.  My trip is being taken care of by Canonical Ltd. and Mark Shuttleworth.  (Hey kids…look up Mark Shuttleworth and find out why he’s famous!)  Now for the part I’m a little nervous about?  On Thursday at about 2:00 p.m. (about 8:00 a.m. EDT) I have to make a presentation in front of school and government officials from all over the world!  Today is a good day to polish up my presentation and finish packing. 


Look up Mark Shuttleworth on Wikipedia…what are some really cool things that he has done?

I’m going to be arriving in Madrid, Spain at 7:35 on Wednesday morning…what will the weather be like?

When I finally arrive in Seville, Spain at 12:35 p.m. on Wednesday, what time will it be in Vassalboro?

When I arrive in Spain…how do I say “hello”?  Can you tell me what the Spanish word is?

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April 15, 2007

My Nokia N800 Internet Tablet

Filed under: General Blogging — dtrask @ 2:18 am

Ok…yes…I am a gadget freak. I love things that make life easier and more enjoyable. I have 3 iPods (Shuffle, Nano, and 3rd gen iPod)…I have an HP iPaq (which I really never use)…and a bunch of laptops. Now…that being said, I don’t buy gadgets very often. I either have them from my work as a computer teacher or I get them as gifts. Recently I bought a Nokia N800 Internet Tablet. While I was in Mountainview, CA this past November at the Ubuntu Developers Summit at Google, I noticed a lot of folks there had a cool little handheld computer called the Nokia N770. I wanted one. I was lugging around a huge HP zv5000 laptop which weighs a LOT and has the battery life of a goldfish. You never really know how heavy your laptop is until you travel with it. I figured it was high time to lighten the load. With my wife’s blessing (trust me, it helps) I ordered the N800 from TigerDirect.com. The N800 is not like a traditional PDA. It’s basically a mini-computer. You don’t get “mobilized” web pages or have to sync with a PC….you get full sized (albeit small) web pages and you can access your Google Calendar, email, and all sorts of things. Best of all…it runs Linux and it is Open Source! Unlike my HP iPaq where I got updates to my Windows Mobile 5 operating system when Microsoft felt I “deserved” them, I get updates to my N800 OS (called Maemo) on a regular basis! Applications are being developed/ported all the time! (and the apps are FREE) Installation is a breeze and updating is too! The N800 is not a replacement for a laptop by any means, but it can replace much of what we use a laptop for on a daily basis. I use my laptop to check email, respond to email, write notes, write “to-do” lists (which I then ignore), check my Google Calendar, surf the web, read RSS, and things like that. All of these things can be done using the N800. If I need to write a report or develop a presentation, then I need to use a regular laptop, but for many of my daily tasks, the N800 works great! (and it’s a LOT lighter!) My son was amazed the other day when I left school without my laptops. I normally look like a pack mule with my two laptop bags and whatever else I may be carrying out to my truck. On this day…I grabbed my empty lunch bag and headed out the door. He asked me if I had forgotten my laptop…I said, “Nope, it’s right here in my pocket”. That was pretty cool. The interface is very easy to get around and a cinch to learn. I have posted some screenshots below to show you the interface and some

programs…(click the thumbnails to see the larger image)


My desktop on the N800


Connected to my Windows Terminal Server via rdesktop on the N800


Using Gaim (IM client)…the N800 also has a camera and you can make calls via GoogleTalk and Gizmo. A Skype client is due in the next month or so. The fact that the device is running an Open Source OS makes it easy to develop or port applications along the way.
Screenshot03 Screenshot04

Both a regular and fullscreen version of a web page in the web browser (Opera)…a mini version of Mozilla is also available (called Minimo). It also runs Flash. The N800 uses Wifi (wireless) to connect to the Internet (and the wireless card pulls in signals even my laptop won’t!) or you can pair it with a Bluetooth phone with a data plan and use the cell phone as the access point. (that’s my next purchase…along with a folding Bluetooth keyboard) πŸ˜‰


The menu (similar to a Start menu)


Using the terminal to control my servers at school remotely (this is pretty cool)

N800 shot

A pic of the N800

maemo mapper

A screenshot of MaemoMapper which is a Google Maps interface (you can pair the N800 via Bluetooth to a GPS receiver)


A lovely shot of Vassalboro Community School via Maemo Mapper


Multimedia? You bet! I have quite a bit of music on a 4 gb SD card (the N800 has two SD card slots) and I’ve also ripped some DVD movies I own (but haven’t had time to watch) and used MediaConverter to put them to the optimal size for the N800 screen. Several movies will fit on a 4 gb SD card and the picture and sound are fantastic! I’ll be watching them during an upcoming flight. The application in the screenshot is called Canola and it is very “Front Row” like (for those of you who are familiar with Front Row on Mac OS X).

So…there you have it! I am having a blast with this and have found it to be one of the most useful devices I’ve ever owned. They are not very expensive (as gadgets like this go)…I bought mine for about $350. Shop around for a good deal. Believe it or not, I found that a case from Best Buy for the Nintendo DS was exactly the right fit for my N800 and it only cost me 7 bucks! πŸ™‚

One last note? The last couple of posts on this blog were written and posted using the N800! Look for more in the near future!

April 9, 2007

My new Nokia N800!

Filed under: General Blogging — dtrask @ 1:16 am

I’m currently blogging this via the thumbboard on my new Nokia N800 internet tablet. I have a lot to report so stay tuned. It’s pretty cool.

March 19, 2007

Add the Path button to Finder’s toolbar

Filed under: General Blogging — dtrask @ 11:42 am

One of my main complaints about Mac’s Finder versus Windows Explorer
is the inability to move up and down a folder tree easily. However,
Finder’s Path button lets you do just that.

The Path button isn’t included on the Finder toolbar by default, but
you can add it by Ctrl-clicking and choosing “Customize Toolbar.” Then
drag and drop the Path button – which kind of looks like a staircase –
onto the toolbar. From there, use it to see where you are in the folder
tree, and move up to enclosing folders in a click.

Original Article:
Mac Tip: Add the Path button to Finder’s toolbar – Lifehacker

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March 15, 2007

Mac OS X Hints: Quickly cancel print jobs

Filed under: General Blogging — dtrask @ 4:47 pm

This is HUGE! Especially for those of us who have tons of kids using OS X laptops and happen to be “print happy”. I actually tried this and it works wonderfully! I used the “Script” option and made an executable application that the users can just click on. Now the jobs are cancelled and life is good. You can easily push it out to the Applications folder or even the MyApps folder (Maine Techies will know what I mean). Check out the article below. You can download my “ready-made” app (Kill-Print) by clicking here.

Macworld: Mac OS X Hints: Quickly cancel print jobs

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March 6, 2007

Ubuntu Linux Bible (Free e-book version…931 pages worth!)

Filed under: General Blogging — dtrask @ 2:50 pm

Hey folks! There is an awesome free e-book available for Ubuntu Linux! (900+ pages!) Very cool! The server has been getting hammered a bit lately, but this link worked for me Click here Or click below and read the article and visit the mirrors for downloading. If you download from the link above…the zip file is password protected….use ebookspyder.net as the password. The file is a PDF. The Ubuntu Linux Bible covers everything
you need to know about installing, configuring and using Ubuntu.
It teaches you groups, graphics, gaming, spreadsheets, e-mail and much
more. It’s an impressively comprehensive guide–highly recommended for
anyone interested in Ubuntu. Check it out! If you really like it….support the author and buy the hardcopy πŸ™‚ hardcopy version

Learn Ubuntu Linux with freely available e-book – Lifehacker

Ubuntu Bible

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February 28, 2007

California may follow Massachussetts in adopting OpenDocument as standard

Filed under: General Blogging — dtrask @ 10:03 pm

It’s not definite yet, but the California legislature heard a bill on Monday that would require state agencies to use the OpenDocument format and avoid proprietary formats. Once California moves in this direction….watch out!  I suspect many others will follow suit.  Read all about it below.

California may adopt OpenDocument | CNET News.com

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February 24, 2007

10 Linux Commands you’ve never used!

Filed under: General Blogging — dtrask @ 8:00 pm

Ok, maybe you have, but I sure haven’t.  Check them out below!

10 Linux commands you’ve never used

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February 22, 2007

Zoho Office Suite

Filed under: General Blogging — dtrask @ 10:07 pm

If you haven’t heard, the web (those “tubes” called the Internet) has changed!  Web 2.0 is upon us and one of the better demonstrations of this new “web” is a free online office suite called Zoho.  I’ve actually been using it for over a week to create documentation for a workshop I presented at earlier this week.  I’ve been able to create, edit, and share /publish it to the class.  Very cool.  Word processing, presenting, CRM, spreadsheet, databases, project manager….and more!  Check it out! 

Online Productivity Applications, Web Word Processing, Spreadsheet, Presentations and More

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February 5, 2007

Web 2.0’s Top 1000 List!

Filed under: General Blogging — dtrask @ 10:46 am

I stumbled across this site quite literally.  It’s a long list of a bunch of Web 2.0 sites….many you’ve heard of and even more you haven’t.  Worth a browse to learn what’s out there.  *cue theme song to X-files*  πŸ˜‰

Web 2.0 List Of Web 2.0 Application Links

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February 4, 2007


Filed under: General Blogging — dtrask @ 11:41 pm

Wow!  That’s the easiest way for me to describe this site.  Links galore that are very well organized for the busy teacher looking for all sorts of information.  Newspapers, Libraries, research, books, software, and SO MUCH MORE!  Take a look and see how much information is at your fingertips.

TeacherXpress – The Education Web – All in One Place – For Busy Teachers: Welcome

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How Stuff Works!

Filed under: General Blogging — dtrask @ 11:23 pm

Ever wonder how DSL works?  How about batteries….government….and more!  If you are a teacher, this site is definitely worth adding to your “cyber-arsenal” for future lesson plans.  Incorporate the content in your next Moodle or StudyWiz lesson!  Let the learning begin!

HowStuffWorks – Learn how Everything Works!

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Online Graphical Speed Test

Filed under: General Blogging — dtrask @ 11:05 pm

Over the years I have used a whole bunch of online speed tests to determine my approximate download speed both on my school network and at home.  Today I found a really cool one called Speedtest.net.  It has a really great graphical interface complete with a dashboard resembling that of a car or aircraft.  Check it out and test your connection to the Internet!

Speedtest.net – The Global Broadband Speed Test

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Open Source Mac! (really great programs for your Mac)

Filed under: General Blogging — dtrask @ 10:55 pm

Got a Mac!  Good for you!  Now you too can have great Open Source Software.  Visit the site…browse the programs and download a bunch of Open Source goodness.  You’ll feel good and get a lot of “karma points” to appease the software gods.  πŸ™‚

Open Source Mac – Free, Open-Source software for OS X

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Open Source Windows! (great collection of programs)

Filed under: General Blogging — dtrask @ 10:51 pm

Open Source Software is good for you and good for the world.  This site has a great set of links to all sorts of fantastic Open Source Software for Windows!  Check it out and download something new!  You’ll feel good and you’ll be doing the “right” thing at the same time.  πŸ™‚

Open Source Windows – Free, Open-Source software for Windows

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3D Snowflakes (mindless fun!)

Filed under: General Blogging — dtrask @ 10:43 pm

Sometimes a mindless, yet fun diversion is necessary in our techno-cyber-crowded world.  While surfing aimlessly around the ‘Net using a cool FireFox extension called StumbleUpon I found this really neat 3D snowflake creator.  It’s good for several minutes (or hours if you’re like me) of mindless fun!  Check it out below!


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TipNut.com Cool Site!

Filed under: General Blogging — dtrask @ 10:12 pm

OK, I admit, that this has nothing to do with technology for the most part except that I did happen to find it on LifeHacker.com (does that count?)  This site is actually pretty cool!  TipNut.com has tips on everything from homemade recipes for making Febreze to preventing bad breath for your dog.  Check it out by clicking the link below.  This site also has an RSS feed you can subscribe to!


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January 26, 2007

Make XP look like Vista! (and save $$$)

Filed under: General Blogging — dtrask @ 11:03 am

So…you want the newest MS operating system, but can’t seem to pony up the cash?  No problem!  Simply using some great add-ons for Windows XP will snag you a very Vista-like personality for the ‘ol trusty PC.  Check out the article below for all the slick details.

Cash-poor but Vista-ready? – Tech News & Reviews – MSNBC.com

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January 8, 2007

Software for Starving Students! (and Schools)

Filed under: General Blogging — dtrask @ 4:03 pm

Software for Starving Students is a free collection of programs organized for students (but available to anyone). They’ve gathered a list of best-in-class programs onto one CD (one disc for OS X, one for Windows), including a
fully-featured office suite, a cutting-edge web browser, multi-media packages, academic tools, utilities and more. I’ve checked out both the OS X and Windows versions….they’re very complete and I even found some useful programs that I didn’t know about! I encourage you to download them and check ’em out! Very well done and very well laid out. You ‘ll want to burn copies for everyone you know!

SoftwareFor.org: Home of Software for Starving Students

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December 20, 2006

Portable Applications for Mac OS X!

Filed under: General Blogging — dtrask @ 12:20 pm

I discovered this site yesterday when I was checking out the Portable Apps site for Windows. I “googled” for OS X portable apps and came across this site from FreeSMUG. I decided to download Abiword, Firefox, Adium, and few others to try on my own USB thumb drive. Wow! They all work flawlessly! OS X FOSS portable applications are packaged so you can carry around on any portable device, USB thumb drive, iPod, portable hard drive, memory card, other portable device (or also on your internal hard disk), taking your preferences with you. My daughter actually tried some of the apps last night (she is an 8th grader here in Maine and has a school issued OS X iBook). The application that was most exciting to her was Adium. Adium is an IM client. She currently uses iChat on her OWN iBook, but iChat is disabled on her school iBook….now….after school she can use Adium on her thumb drive to keep in touch. She also was pretty impressed with portable Firefox….now her preferences, extensions, and bookmarks travel with her. I thought that was pretty cool too….in fact in installed Foxmarks (see my previous post about Foxmarks) and synched my bookmarks! Firefox also gives you the option of copying over your profile from your Mac to take with you. Check out the portable apps below! Very cool….and useful!

OS X Portable Applications β€” FreeSMUG

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Portable Apps for Windows!

Filed under: General Blogging — dtrask @ 12:11 pm

This site is so cool!  I’ve actually been using it for quite some time, but had not been back to visit the site and upgrade my apps in over a year.  What a big change!  I have a USB flash drive (thumb drive) that I use as a portable applications drive.  I can take it to virtually any Windows machine in the world….plug it in….and use MY applications with MY settings and not worry about messing up anyone else’s computer.  It’s very handy and the implications in education are astounding.  It’s essentially like having roaming profiles that the students can transfer to and from home!  Check it out below….very cool.

PortableApps.com – Portable software for USB drives | Your Digital Life, Anywhereβ„’

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December 17, 2006

JAJAH Web activated Telephony…check it out!

Filed under: General Blogging — dtrask @ 12:29 pm

It has been billed as a “Skype killer”….(this I gotta’ see as I use Skype a lot)  It is rumored to be part of the upcoming Apple “iPhone”.  What is it?  It’s Jajah!  I recently read about Jajah in an article about the rumored upcoming Apple iPhone…so I clicked on the link to check it out.  Registration was straightforward and easy…and it didn’t ask for the name of my first-born or anything.  Next came the moment of truth…  Unlike Skype you don’t use the computer to make the call…you use a telephone.  Actually you use the computer to initiate the call, Jajah then calls phone #1 (which is yours) and then once you answer it calls phone #2 (the party you are trying to reach).  Calls are free in MANY areas….especially between Jahjah users.  AND…for the Christmas Holiday calls around the entire world are free for the 24 hour period of December 25th.  Jahjah could possibly be a Skype killer, but even if it isn’t it sure is a nice idea.  Check it out below.  Now…about that Apple “iPhone”……    πŸ˜‰

JAJAH – web-activated telephony

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December 16, 2006

Just in time for the Holidays…

Filed under: General Blogging — dtrask @ 3:13 pm

Β Ubuntu CE

It’s that time of year when many folks around the world celebrate the birth of Christ….geeks included. Now there is a Linux distribution geared towards Christians. Ubuntu Christian Edition (Ubuntu CE). I actually downloaded and installed this distribution to check it out. I love the fact that DansGuardian is bundled and installed with it. DG enables families to easily install internet content filtering to protect their children from the “dark side” of the Internet. Ubuntu CE also includes all of the cool applications we’ve come to know and love in Ubuntu….in fact, it is Ubuntu….just with a few tweaks and additions. Try it for yourself! Click below…

Ubuntu Christian Edition: About Ubuntu Christian Edition

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Open Source may be where the action is in 2007

Filed under: General Blogging — dtrask @ 3:01 pm

Great article on Open Source and the fact that the action in 2007 is likely to really pick up as developers move up the software stack from operating systems and databases to applications.  This could produce some really exciting results in the applications that we know and love as well as new applications.  It’s a pretty good read….check it out!

Open source is where the action is in 2007 | InfoWorld | News | 2006-12-15 | By Robert Mullins, IDG News Service

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December 4, 2006

A blast from the past. Freesco Project

Filed under: General Blogging — dtrask @ 3:50 pm

Several years ago I made my first foray into the world of Linux out of necessity.  I needed to install a small, inexpensive, and reliable router/gateway/firewall/dhcp server.  I stumbled on the Freesco Project.  Freesco, which stands for Free Cisco, is a floppy based Linux router distribution.  It’s actually quite easy to install and the documentation is quite good.  It’s been several years since I’ve used Freesco since our school has moved on to a bigger server with more tasks, but today I needed to re-visit this old friend.  I have a wireless network at home and for some reason it’s getting quite quirky when it comes to DHCP and other firewall rules.  I also find the web interface for my wireless access points to be less than adequate.  I have a Netgear and a Linksys.  The Netgear sometimes just quits and has to be restarted.  This bugged me enough that I ended up buying a Linksys…but with the Linksys, it’s less configurable and has some oddities that prevent my PocketPC from connecting.  Anyway…long story short, I’ve decided to set my wireless routers to become wireless access points only and use a Freesco server as my router/gateway/dhcp machine.  I’m hoping that this will resolve some issues.  My “visit” was a pleasant one as I now know a lot more about Linux compared to when I started thus I made far fewer errors, but also the project has come along nicely.  There are some nice new features.  I especially like the “exe” file for creating the floppy.  Just click and go!  I also like the new menu item for installing to the hard drive.  If you’re looking for a great Linux router that is easy to set up and configure….check out Freesco.  Grab an older machine…and have at it!


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December 1, 2006

Learn how to use OpenOffice or MS Office (online tutorials)

Filed under: General Blogging — dtrask @ 11:22 am

Training is often a word that I see crop up on many list that I belong to. As much as I dislike the use of the word “training” in this case, I do understand what folks are asking for. I have often recommended several websites that have online “training” available for free. These sites allow folks to work at their own pace and are always there to fall back on should you need additional help.


OpenOffice is the popular Open Source Office Suite (http://www.openoffice.org). It is available cross-platform and it is free. OpenOffice is powerful and very useful…especially given that anyone can have a copy and run it on most any modern computer. Here are a few site that you can access to help you get started or polish your skills with OpenOffice!

LearnOpenOffice.org excellent site with HTML tutorials or Flash videos

e-learning for OpenOffice online flash-based tutorials (very nice)

Newsforge OpenOffice training videos scroll down to the bottom to access the videos

Tutorials for OpenOffice A lot of great tutorials. Be sure to check out the “links” page for more great stuff!

OpenOffice.org Check out the main site or check out support for links to more help

Microsoft Office

Microsoft Office is a popular commercial office suite. Unlike OpenOffice, it is not free, but can be purchased from many sources online or in retail stores. Do not pirate software! If you do not have the appropriate licenses, you cannot install it on your computer at home. Check with your IT department first. If you are a user of MS Office and wish to hone your skills, I have compiled a list of online training resources for you below. The list below is a small sample of free resources, however, there are a lot of CD’s, video’s, and other resources available online and at a various retail outlets.

Microsoft Sometimes the one of the best places is direct from the source! Training from MS.

Training in all aspects of MS Office available here (requires sign-up)

University of Wisconsin – Stout Site has info about training including tipsheets, tutorials and printable web pages

Tutor Via Computer
free tutorials on MS Office topics

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November 29, 2006

Synchronize your bookmarks in Firefox!

Filed under: General Blogging — dtrask @ 3:46 pm

I just came across a very useful Firefox extension called “Foxmarks”.  This is a little program (extension) that makes it easy to sync your bookmarks between computers, keep a backup online, and be able to access those bookmarks via the web.  You can push, pull, sync, download, and upload….very nice.  I’ve always had issues with this as I have two main laptops and sometimes a third, not to mention my Windows profile and Linux terminal profile at school.  Now I can make one master bookmark file…upload it and use that to populate the rest.  Then once that’s done…now whenever I post a bookmark on one machine, I can simply “sync up” with Foxmarks and all my other machines will get the new bookmark.  No more wondering which machine I was using when I last looked at that “awesome” web site.  Check out the screenshots and then go get it HERE!


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