Desktop or local wiki solutions

I’m thinking about offline or local wiki solutions that can run in a lab or on a classroom computer. Next week, we’ll be discussing web-based solutions that can work in the classroom and I’m hoping to put together a list of solutions that will work even in a classroom with only one computer.

So far, I have the following solutions:

  • Swiki (http://wiki.squeak.org/swiki/)–the first wiki I ever deployed. It has served us well for many years and can run on just about any old computer (Mac OS 9, Mac OS X, Windows 2000-Vista).
  • Tiddlywiki (http://www.tiddlywiki.com)–a new favorite. This gem can be run from your local hard drive or uploaded to a server and served up over HTTP.
  • MoinMoin desktop edition–This is a Python based wiki that is quite functional. I have not had a chance to use it much though.

What are you using for a standalone wiki engine?

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EeePC 1000HE Continued

I’ve installed UNR 9.04 several times on this fine netbook so far. In fact, I travelled very comfortably with just the netbook on a quick trip to Denver last month. Ubuntu worked quite well for notetaking and checking email. Performance was not so great watching videos on YouTube or Hulu though.

Over the past week or so though I have installed Windows XP Home using the recovery partition that’s built-in on machine. (I left the recovery partition in place when I installed Ubuntu, just in case.) Well, I’m pleased to say that this device runs just as well, if not better than with Linux. Why? Couple of reasons:

  • Drivers and software to control the performance settings on the processor. With Windows, I’m able to select from Super Perfomance Mode, High Performance Mode, or Power Saving Mode. Can’t do that (at least out of the box) with Ubuntu. I bet there are some kernel tweaks and some tools for managing this that I just need to find out on the net. However, it’s hard to beat it just working in XP.
  • Chrome — my new favorite browser runs on Windows but not really on Linux yet.
  • Outlook — I know, I know. Unfortunately at work, we’re still on Exchange server and Outlook is still the best email client (outside of Gmail) that’s available on the PC. Evolution’s performance in Ubuntu is unreliable. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
  • Audio/video drivers just work. We use the iVocalize web-conferencing system at work and 1) the pulse audio system causes problems and won’t work with iVocalize’s Java based system, and 2) you don’t have full functionality with the applet on Linux. Running iVocalize on Windows worked just fine–no driver issues for either video or audio.

So, would I prefer to be running on Ubuntu. Absolutely. Right now, though, the sheer practicality of things just working on Windows is out-weighing the benefits of Linux (course, I don’t know that I’ll be singing the same tune after getting a virus or spyware).

First look at the OLPC

So I’m getting first lookat the OLPC laptops that just arrived. This is pretty exciting to get our hands on one of these. I thought I’d share my first impressions of the device.

  • The keyboard is a bit tricky to get used to. In some ways the HP 200LX keyboard was a bit better than this, however with with a modified  keyboard/finger stance, I can type relatively quickly.
  • The trackpad works pretty well. It did start doing something erratic in that every time I would start to use it, it would reset the cursor location the bottom, right-hand corner of the screen. Reboot fixed it but it seems to recur after a while on this one.
  • I thought I’d try hooking up an external keyboard and mouse to the laptop today and my ability to navigate the OS greatly increased. Much of my frustration or lack of efficiency with the interface seems related to the clumsy keyboard and trackpad.
  • The screen is great on these little laptops — I love that the screen goes into a reflective mode when the backlight is completely off which means this thing should be useable in broad daylight.

That’s it for now. I’ll update with more info later.

Why can’t Moodle get upgrades right?

Ok, I love Moodle, but sometimes it really drives me crazy! Ever since 1.6, upgrades are a bear. Everytime I try to upgrade to a version in the MOODLE_18_STABLE branch, it chokes — whether one of the continue buttons fails to work half-way through the upgrade, or I click on the unattended mode, it never seems to work (1.8.2+ this summer and 1.8.3+ this week). I always end up installing a copy from the *_RELEASE branch instead but then I wonder if we’re going to encounter an issue with security patches and updates. There has to be a better way! Are there any Moodle admins out there who have suggestions about how to get this under control. I’d be happy to operate from CVS if that would be best — I just need it to work!PS — I know you Moodle folks found my post on wikis before so if you find this one, I’d love some advice on best practice for upgrading :-).

Happy Birthday Tiddlywiki

I ran across a great interview with Jeremy Ruston, the developer Tiddlywiki, last night. His story and work is very good. If you haven’t used a wiki before, Tiddlywiki is a great way to get started. The power with it lies in the fact that it runs as a file on your computer — doesn’t need a server — and makes for a great information capture device (just wish it would work with an iPhone — there’s hope as I think Jeremy has one and is working on this).

Tiddlywiki is unique in that the magic doesn’t happen via PHP, MySQL, and Apache. Rather, it all happens locally on the browser powered by Javascript. There are numerous different flavors of Tiddlywiki out there as well catering to GTD’ers. I appreciate being able to use it as a notetaking device that I can push up to our web-accessible document storage system. I’m toying with the idea of using it instead of something like Wikispaces or other solutions like Highrise for tracking contacts and projects.

I’ve seen at Moodle.org that the developers of the next generation wiki for Moodle have included the ability to synchronize a Moodle wiki with Tiddlywiki — this has serious potential for our online courses. I’d love for my students & faculty to be able to have an offline wiki tool available to them.

Are you using Tiddlywiki? Let me know how via a comment below.

Upgrading to Moodle 1.6.1

We’re upgrading to Moodle 1.6.1 next week and I’m really excited about the update. One of the modules that we have had some interesting experience with over the last two semesters is the Wiki. Our professors have begun using it in their courses and they’re reaping the benefits of its collaborative writing environment and the students are generating wonderful content. In 1.6.1, Moodle introduces blogs to the open source LMS, which will provide a new tool to our community for learning and communicating. I’m excited to see what develops over the coming year.

A new perspective on educational technology

I was talking with one of my colleagues about her educational perspectives class as I’m going to be sharing with them next week. It seems to me that technology and providing access to technology is a way to open up doors and opportunities to people. The critical thing is that as educators, we must change our perspective regarding the types of tools that we are using. For instance, there is quite a movement underway right now in the whole arena of digital storytelling. Much of this centers around the use of, you guess it, Apple products. It’s brilliant really…Apple has repositioned itself and people are flocking to iLife as the solution for communicating and presenting video, images, and sounds. Now, I can’t talk much as I have an iBook and love using the Mac OS, yet I think we need to step back a bit for the sake of those who can’t afford the premium that Apple charges to play.

So what am I talking about? Things like Linux and Open Office. Really geeky things that could serve to empower those with old PCs laying around their school. For those with the cash to pay for a Microsoft Campus Agreement, life is good. You get Windows and Office on any organizational computer. However, what do you do if your are a struggling district that has just slashed all of your art and music departments to pay the bills? This is where open source steps in. Installing an operating system like Edubuntu enables anyone with an older PC (500 MHz processor & 128MB of RAM) to install a reasonably secure, virus and spyware free, visually appealing, and functional operating system complete with an office suite and other educational software.

This is the new perspective that I think educators need to hear about. Very few people know about the opportunities that open source software holds. What do you think? How are you using open solutions in education?