Saturday, June 30, 2012

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Wifi reflector

Easy home made wifi reflector that should boost power.

More info at:

D-link makes a lot of third party routers (i.e. Airlink, Frys, and etc.), so the DD-WRT firmware works well.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

E-reader alternatives.

We have all seen ereaders. They vary in price from low to high.  They are also usually very fragile and easy to lose. If anyone can lose something it is me. One of the reasons we have held back from getting one. Besides we would prefer something that will fit in our pocket. Since most e-readers will not fit in the pocket, what is there as an alternative?

Came up with something as least for me is better than an e-reader is an e-listener. A what? Actually it is a pocket media or music player. The advantage here is that you can listen to an e-book rather than reading it. Best advantage here is even if it is dark, you can enjoy your reading. Backlit screen not ever required.To use the music player as a reader so to speak, you must convert the text into voice.  Most computers now a days come with some kind of speech synthesizer. To do the conversion, the reader files should be in the standard pdf format. A program called Calbre can usually convert most e-reader formats into the standard pdf file format.

Although, I have not documented the Apple computers as of yet, I have done it with MSwindows and  Linux. You can go to for the linux version and you can go to for the MSWindows version. You can use these instructables to convert your pdf ereader file to a sound or music file. We usually try to separate each chapter a separate music file to make reading (that is listening) easier..

One other advantage of converting pdf and or text files to audio is that you can make your own podio  books for listening. Write your own stories such as mysteries. If good enough, they can be sold online. This is also great for shut in students who can not make it to class as they can still hear the lectures that have been converted to podio fornat.

Everywhere there are kiosks and or access to the internet with just a web browser. At least where we live the public libraries are many terminals for web access. If not many retail eatery establishments have internet access. so if you have a portable wireless internet device, you can access pdf files in a different way. Web servers use html files to serve out content. Actually there are several programs such as Calibre that can turn a pdf document into some kind of  html document that a web server can provide for easy web browsing.

Linux has some command line tools for conversion of pdf into web server compatible html files. You can more information at  Generally, I can down load a pdf ereader file and convert it to html file for reading from a web server. In any case, if you do not have a web server, you can easily directly load the html files into you browser for reading.

if you are more adventurous, you can actually set up a web server fairly easily, but beware it may not be internet safe. We run a private home web server on our wired (not wireless) network. Makes it easy to server the converted pdf into html files to everyone in the household. I like to take downloaded pdf files from for easy reading on the Chumby clone. Examples of setting up an easy web server is available for linux at:  and for MSWindows at:

Good luck.

Web server up?

One of the things I get dismayed with is when going to the bookmarks and a link is dead. Also too, If I have several web servers I like to access, it would be nice to know if the site is up before I try to go to that site. Here we will use a small amount of PHP (another web language) that can be used with HTML just like javascript. Generally PHP is used only on servers, but you can run a local copy of it. PHP is available for most systems.

Bookmarks really do not carry that much information per se. The above example only has one entry for sake of simplicity. What I would really like to know is if that site is still good, that is up and running. So I added an extra column for the server status.

Again just one entry for sake of simplicity. Now before I even go to the site I can tell whether it is available. In the real world, you will probably will have many entries and many servers. For example, one page I use lists several servers, but some  sites are virtual so they will use the same ipaddress. There is no need to relist that information. I also want to be able to see all the servers at once to know their status.

Typo1 is offline. That is ok, because I know the server box is turned off. If it is supposed to be up then, that server needs to be attended to. You could also do this with your favorite servers (i.e. Facebook and etc.). So you have another great simple management tool. Oh yes, I said we would be using PHP and HTML. Here is the abbreviated code:




<table border="1" cellpadding="10">
Site (and link)
Server status
<a href="http://oesrvr1">Offshore Educators</a>
School site
if (fsockopen('oesrvr1', 80)){
echo('The server is online');
} else{
echo('The server is offline');


Note: The code is being run on a server and not a local machine. If you want an update, you will have to reload the page.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Starting to piddle with Moodle.

Not so long ago there was a product called Blackboard. Sort of an internet classroom setup. Most colleges may still use it. Blackboard was allegedly trying to keep all the competitors out of the marketplace. My understanding is they lost that fight. Never really had any real experience with Blackboard except as a tech at a local college, where I heard numerous complaints about the product. What else is there?

There are three major open source products we are looking at. Moodle, Drupal (which was even used for the Whitehouse web site), and Claroline. Claroline is probably the simplest, but is also the least powerful. Drupal is probably the most powerful, but requires the most work. Moodle sort of fits in the middle of the two. It is very powerful, but very structured in it's own way. Just to give you an example, here is what we did to start setting up the class. Will not go through everything., but will give you a gist of how it works.

So we started by looking at what classes we have. Then we decided which class we wanted to look at.

You can then just pretty much plug the data right into the Moodle class setup.

From there you can go ahead and start setting up each weeks course materials.  You can choose which week to edit in your syllabus. 

Once you have chosen a week, you can add content from all kinds of sources. You obviously can enter you own content without reinventing the wheel.

Then once the class is set up, you can admire it on the main page with all the other classes. There is a lot more to it such as testing, student interaction, and a host of other possibilities.