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Comment Re:Secure information much? (Score 1) 601

It is entirely possible to deploy internal IM services, with free software like openfire, which uses the same protocol as google talk and facebook, without the need to expose internal data and keeping a central log of every conversation. For the twitter necessities there is Status.Net, which powers open-source twitter clone identi.ca, that can be installed internally and seems to be API compatible with twitter clients.
I am not advocating substitution of email messages, but sometimes IM can be very useful on a corporation, taking the right steps to keep security and accountability. It is really very useful to help desk staff, for example.

Submission + - Moodle 2 First Look (packtpub.com)

violinjeff writes: "Moodle 2.0 First Look by Mary Cooch
from the perspective of a teacher trainer moodler

Jeff Stanford

Full versions of Moodle 2.0 are now available for download and Mary’s book provides a very useful, accessible overview of what’s on offer.

My expectations before I read Moodle 2 First Look were that it would tell me:
        What’s new (compared to the version 1.9)
        What’s improved
        Who the book is aimed at
        How teachers and students can use it
        What administrators need to know

I also hoped that the organisation, content and style would be accessible. Full marks to Mary! I found the book very easy to read with lots of screenshots, frequent comparisons to Moodle 1.9, well-explained how-to sections and a motivating, personalised writing style.

In the book Mary introduces us to four characters with different reasons for using Moodle and shows how they would benefit from the changes. It should be easy for readers to identify with one or more of these characters who test out the elements of moodle 2 for us. Mary even anthropomorphises moodle ‘moodle is happiest when when teachers are facilitating their students’ learning.’ That, of course, can mean anything. Some students like to be directed. Others prefer to have the freedom to map out their own learning. Both styles are accommodated in moodle.

So what is improved in Moodle 2?
I’m a seasoned moodler. Moodle is not always easy to use, but it’s usually well worth the effort of making it work. Some of my favourite bugbears from 1.9 have much improved features in 2.0. Let’s take a quick look at some of the changes that the book explains.

File management
This was something teachers often found confusing in 1.9. First files had to be uploaded to a course files folder, then they had to be selected for use in one of the modules. Even worse, the same file had to be reuploaded for use in a different course. In version 2, once files are uploaded to moodle they are usable anywhere within moodle. Even better, there is a search button for quick access to media from sites like youtube and flickr. The book provides helpful examples of this.

HTML editor
The editor has more options than in 1.9 and works on more platforms, including Chrome. A key advantage that Mary brings out is the ease with which users can insert media.

This was so complicated to use in 1.9 that as Mary points out, many teachers were put off. As a moodle evangelist/teacher trainer I was never able to persuade anyone to use it either even though I thought it was potentially an excellent tool for peer and teacher assessment of students’ work. Mary assures us that the new version is ‘better than ever before’. Features that immediately caught my attention are the helpful set-up pages which show how much easier it is to monitor set up of the activity and the automatic assign reviewers feature, which means that Moodle automatically decides which students review which work.

Other key changes are the wiki and quiz modules which have been simplified and made more versatile. The confusing ‘league tables’ in 1.9 have gone, and the teacher has more choice over what and who appears in quiz reports.

As in the rest of the book Mary provides screenshots that give direct comparisons with the older versions it is easy to appreciate the improvements. She walks readers through the process of setting up modules, usefully pointing out potential problems along the way.

What’s new?
In addition to the above-mentioned improvements, there are several new features that are described in the book. The thrust of Mary’s message is that moodle has become more user-friendly and versatile, and is beginning to catch up with other manifestations of web 2.0. Here are a few examples which caught my eye:

        Navigation It’s now easier to declutter pages using the dock for personal and administration menus.
        Cohorts – this is moodle’s term for site-wide groups. This new facility to keep the same group for different courses across a site should save much time.
        It’s now possible to comment on blogs and wikis, which Mary is very upbeat about.
        Another exciting new feature she mentions is community search which allows you to export and import courses from other moodles.
        The repositories feature allows users to store private files on the moodle a hint of cloud computing. I can imagine this being very handy for people working on different computers. This could create huge demands on the server if students upload a lot of files, though admins can still restrict maximum file size if necessary.

Some other changes:
Conditional activities now incorporated – so teachers have a choice between giving students freedom to select own activities, or make access to one activity conditional on completion of a previous one. This is particularly useful if we want to set up adaptive learning. For example, students take a test and depending on the result they get, they are taken to an appropriate next step. The completion tracking is also useful for both students and teachers.

The Social networking aspect of moodle has received a boost. Blogs are more versatile. For example, they can be associated with courses, receive comments, be searched and most interestingly, can receive content from RSS feeds of external blogs. Like Facebook, users can choose to ignore messages in moodle 2.

Look before you leap
All in all, the book is very positive about Moodle 2 and Mary has a winning style. So if you don’t feel like learning through trial and error which is my preferred style, this book will definitely give you a good feel for what’s in store.

But Moodle 2 isn’t for everyone, yet, at least. I’ve just read a moodle.org posting by Jeremy Schweitzer on the state of readiness of moodle 2.
‘There is often a "chicken vs. egg" problem with open source projects. Until a new version is released into the wild there is little incentive to devote resources to getting plugins upgraded to a new version.’
The point being that a lot of add-ons many of us have come to rely on haven’t been developed for moodle 2 yet, and if you’re happy with 1.9, there may be no reason to change it just yet. As a language teacher one of my concerns was the lack of audio recording facilities in moodle 2. It looks like this is a longer term project. A ‘quick’ fix is for students and teachers to upload an MP3 recording they’ve made using the HTML editor. The audio file automatically produces a flash player.

There are a few areas the book doesn’t deal with in much detail. For example, there isn’t much give much on the problems with upgrading from 1.9 to 2.0. I spent three days working on this last December. The process was prone to error every which way I tried to do it. I ended up agreeing with many forum postings on moodle.org, that it would be better to wait until the upgrading process has become a smoother operation. I should add that clean installations of 2.0 have worked very well.

Also, moodle still can’t export SCORM — but it can export to virtually any portfolio, including google docs – a great new feature.

So, yes, maybe look before leap from 1.9 to 2.0, but it’s still worth reading the book to get a taste of what is in store for you when you do make the move."

Comment Re:That's odd... (Score 2, Informative) 432

Einstein didn't studied alchemy, Isaac Newton did in the 17th century, when matter structure was far from know. During Einstein lifetime the basis for modern chemistry (excluding quantum chemistry) were already known, and rudimentary atomic theories were largely accepted among the scientists of the time.

Google's $10 Local Search Play 193

thefickler writes "Google has come come up with a novel way to boost the information it has about local businesses. As part of its Business Referral Representative program, Google is offering individuals up to $10 to visit local businesses and tell them about Google Maps and Google AdWords, collect information (such as hours of operation and types of payment accepted), and take digital photos of the business. Reaction to the program has been mixed."

Submission + - Develop multitasking applications with PHP V5

An anonymous reader writes: Many PHP developers believe that because standard PHP lacks threading capabilities, it's impossible for a practical PHP application to multitask. Not true... PHP doesn't support threading in the way other languages like the Java programming language or C++ do, but the examples in this article show that PHP can exploit in-process multitasking and has more potential for speed-ups than many realize.

Submission + - A Better Open Source Webmail?

CandyMan writes: "Recently I have been forced to go back to a certain open source webmail (name withheld to protect the touchy), and I can't say I would recommend it to anyone. For emergencies maybe, but not for daily use. Lightning-quick full-text indexing and Javascript UI tricks in Gmail and Yahoo! mail have spoilt me forever, and I guess that most webmail users out there would feel the same. Old-style html-only webmail applications just don't cut it anymore. Which is your favourite webmail client? Is it a bare-bones html-only application, or does it have a fancier interface?"

Feed First interview: Sam Hocevar, new Debian Project Leader (newsforge.com)

Sam Hocevar recently became the next Debian Project Leader (DPL), defeating seven other candidates while running on a platform that emphasized ways to improve how project members interact. Hocevar's election comes at a time when Debian may be losing mindshare among both users and developers to Ubuntu, and looking for ways to improve its efficiencies and to mend internal divisions. Recently, Linux.com discussed these challenges with Hocevar via email in his first interview since his election.

Submission + - Quantum Cryptography Hacked

An anonymous reader writes:
A team of researchers has, for the first time, hacked into a network protected by quantum encryption. Quantum cryptography uses the laws of quantum mechanics to encode data securely. Most researchers consider such quantum networks to be nearly 100% uncrackable. But a group from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge was able to 'listen in' using a sort of quantum-mechanical wiretap. The trick allowed them to tease out about half of the data, in a way that couldn't be detected by those transmitting or receiving the message.

Submission + - Is Solaris a viable Desktop OS?

An anonymous reader writes: This is the thought pondered by this article while reviewing the latest offering of Solaris OS by sun microsystems. One of the inherrent strengths of Solaris is that its code has seen several security audits over a period of time. Now with PC hardware raising the bar on the minimum memory requirement for running an OS (Courtesy: Vista), it has suddenly become viable to consider Solaris as a desktop OS. And eventually, (if and) when Sun releases Solaris under GPLv3, it will remove the one major stumbling block faced by Free software enthusiasts which keeps them from embracing this robust OS.

Feed Disabled inventor crafts DinnerUp pet feeder (engadget.com)

Filed under: Misc. Gadgets

After a solid four-mile run on the Doggy Treadmill, it's not too tough to understand why Fido is famished, but for folks who are disabled in ways that make bending down or moving around in general difficult, getting the pet food from the pantry to the bowl has been a serious chore. Thanks to a retired engineer (who was stricken by cerebral palsy) that figured he better solve his own problem rather than wait for someone else, the DinnerUp apparatus was concocted, and now it's on the brink of commercialization. The device mounts onto a kitchen counter or door and relies on a hand crank / clutching system in order to lift the attached bowls to a level that's easy to reach, after which it's lowered back down to the anxious pets below. Currently, Ray Dinham is assembling the units himself and offloading them to "satisfied customers" for £70 ($140) apiece, but it shouldn't be long before the manufacturing is "outsourced to a UK-based firm" and these gain some serious worldwide traction.

[Via BBC]

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Office Depot Featured Gadget: Xbox 360 Platinum System Packs the power to bring games to life!

Feed Scientists Unravel Clue In Cortisol Production (sciencedaily.com)

Biologists have discovered an important step in the production of the hormone cortisol production. Given the hormone's importance to health, understanding how it is made is essential to producing medications that can alter its production.
Hardware Hacking

Submission + - To Buy, Or Create Computers?

Scienceboy writes: Something I've noticed is that alot of nerds and /.-ers usually tear apart the computers that they buy, and change them to their own specifications, whether it be hardware or software. My question is this: For the person who usually does this sort of stuff, is it worth it anymore to buy computers from a retail provider, only to change it so much that there are barley any original parts? Or is it better just to buy the parts that you know you are going to use and build it yourself?

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Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing. -- Wernher von Braun