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Open Source Source June 27, 2009

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I have been approached by an author in the US who is writing a book on bartering, the book title is The ABCs of Barter and Trade Exchanges by Trish A. Truitt. The book is due for publication at the end of July at the earliest. They will also have a web site which is due to go live soon the link is: http://www.ABCsOfBarter.com The reason for the contact is that she wants to reference one of my tutorials on You Tube in her publication, I have of course said yes. The tutorial that she is interested in is my Open Office tutorial, which is just an introduction to the program. I figured that a tutorial was not really necessary as most users of the Internet would already be familiar with a myriad of word processing programmes. However Trish thought that the style was clear and concise enough to warrant a mention in her book.

We have been chatting for a while now and it was clear that she did not want to reference a You Tube link in her book. I suggested that I create a wiki and embed the video there. The result is that I have now created an open source wiki for all of my Open Source software tutorials. It is a repository of tutorials organised by application and will continue to grow in the weeks and months ahead. Indeed today I will be sitting down and re-creating the ‘addons’ tutorial that I have already created and will also create a series of Calc tutorials for inclusion on this specific Open Source wiki.

The address is: http://opensourcesource.wikispaces.com


See what can be done with free stuff! November 8, 2008

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Face of the new Dutch 5 Euro coin

I have just read the following article from one of my tech feeds.  This wonderful design was primarily made from Python software, one of the major engines of Blender and in addtion, The Gimp and Inkscape featured strongly as the creative tools required to produce this winning design.  This coin is now in production and you can see how the artist developed his ideas on his blog.  A win for Open Source software I would say. Total cost of investment to the artist? $0.  0 in any currency is a whole lot of nothing!  So what does this mean for education?  It means that there is a lot out there that can be used to create stunning opportunities for learning, for developing thinking skills and on a limited budget. Software that costs nothing but allows the individual to be as creative as this, has to be the way forward for schools.  So what are you waiting for? Get downloading, installing and enabling your students to be creative, problem solve, think and be engaged.  All for the princely sum of $0.

Obverse of new coin

Obverse of new coin

Just how good are video tutorials? April 24, 2008

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It is the term 1 holidays here and I for one am having a well earned rest from the trials and tribulations of the Supertanker. The crew are on shore leave, doing what and frequenting who knows where as only sailors can do after a long stretch at sea!

I have decided to have some me time and persue some interests rather than be dictated by the needs of others or the failings of equipment. My usual bolt holes are Inkscape, Blender or Photoshop. I have a raft of images from the South Island expedition that need the Photoshop touch in readiness for final publication. What I really fancied this week was a good Blender project. I wanted to enhance my knowledge of Blender and create something that would take some time to complete. Blender is such a complex animal that it often takes a while to get to grips with it again after a prolonged stretch of not using it.

In the last couple of weeks I have had some really good feed back from my video tutorials posted on You Tube. The Excel tutorial seems to be creating the most stir, not sure why and interestingly the comments and traffic for those tutorials are all coming from the US, not my intended audience at all!

So with Blender in mind and knowing that I needed some refresher tutorials, I hit You Tube and searched for some lessons using “Blender Tutorials” as my search term. I found some really good ones and some that simply show off the users prowess with the program and do not impart any knowledge at all. I learnt three new things, how to create a glass effect and reflective surfaces, how to use the physics engine and how to use the face select tool. I have now put all of these new learnt tools into a new video. I have created a sequence that is 1300 frames long and every surface is reflective, as a result each frame takes about a minute to render, my machine is going to be very busy for a very long time. The image below is a single rendered frame and the video is a test clip with all the complex reflective surfaces turned off!

And as for the initial question, do video tutorials work? As with all things, it depends on the quality of the preparation and the skill of the person doing the teaching. Those that had a good plan and stuck to it and could deliver the lesson succinctly produced the best video tutorial. So in short yes! I learnt heaps and I think that the end product will demonstrate that, when it is complete. In the mean time enjoys the rushes!

Ministry discovers Blender February 22, 2008

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I have just spent the last few days at the Learning @ Schools conference in Rotorua.  This was the first conference that our cluster has attended, it was also the first at which I presented.  It is now official I have been bitten by the presenting bug and wish now that I had submitted several proposals to present, still there is Ulearn later this year.  The conference itself was the usual mix of trade displays, keynotes and breakout sessions.

My presentation was not without its angst ridden moments, not the least because the wireless internet connection to the centre on Wednesday was flakey in the extreme!  It transpires that Rotorua was experiencing connectivity issues and so the wireless within the conference venue was not at fault.  My entire presentation was based around a practical session for the attendees using the Internet, so in the two hours prior to my presentation I desperately cached all my web pages.  I did this to ensure that in the worst case scenario they would at least have something to look at.  As it turned out the Internet connections settled just after we got under way and all was fine  until the dying moments when my machine froze, but we had covered what I wanted to and my audience left very happy.   Now as I have already said, I want more!

On the Tuesday of the conference I had a really good conversation with Douglas Harre from the Ministry.  We talked about our satellite connection at school and how that is working out.  We also talked about my plans for implementing open source software on the supertanker, he seemed to be really interested in our plans.  He explained to me how the agreement with Linux, that the Ministry has brokered, works for schools and as I understand it, the cost to schools will be nil in licencing terms.

Open sources seems to me to be a perfect solution for schools, there is now a perfect opportunity to break away from the stranglehold and rhetoric of the big two,(well very big one and 5% other with a rabid fan base), especially as all operating systems now work on the Intel chip set.  Genuine choice for schools is now here and all this fuss over the look and feel of  expensive plastic casings that come with “free software” or the cheaper plastic bricks with a less than perfect operating system will be relegated to the irrelevant.  I will be experimenting with implementing SUSE Linux on some of our legacy machines in the coming months to see how the older machines cope with Linux or to be more exact see how Linux copes with them.

We already use open source software in school,  Open Office, Inkscape and The Gimp for example.  As part of this exchange Douglas asked me if I had heard of a Blender before.  I was delighted to be able to tell him that I have been using Blender for four years, Blender is a really cool program and one that I have used with children as young as year 5, although it has to be said that they found it difficult!  The software for learning site is trumpeting this new discovery.  If any educator out there needs some tutorials on how to use this really cool open source 3-D animation program, just ask, I am willing to help.  Maybe the Ministry would like me to do this for them?  Any offers?  Any requests?