The low cost computing challenge

July 31, 2009 at 9:52 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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I was wondering if I could do everything I need/want to do on a computer with only free software. So I’ve set myself a challenge.

I only had one computer at home, and I didn’t want to cause a hassle with the rest of the family, so I jumped onto TradeMe to see what I could find. I wasn’t looking for the greatest/latest computer, as I had read that Linux can often run on older computers. I spent $12 on a computer. It has a 20Gb HDD, 384Mb RAM, 850MHz processor – it’s not that greatest computer in the world! I then bought a 15” monitor for $1 (which the fantastic trader ended up giving to me for free)! I already had a spare keyboard and mouse, so I didn’t have to worry about that. So for $12 I had my computer to try this out with.

Okay, so I do already have broadband, so I was able to download the latest version of Ubuntu Linux to install on this computer, but you can request a free disc (or buy cheap from a number of distributors). Included in Ubuntu is Open Office and a whole stack of other programs.

So far, so good. I have spent a total of $12 and have a fully functioning computer with an office suite.

Oh and by the way, Ubuntu is great at finding things you plug in to the computer. I connected wirelessly to the internet using a USB wireless adaptor that I already had, and it installed it instantly! Windows didn’t do this as easily for me!


A number of the students that I teach don’t have computers. Money is often a factor in this. I have demonstrated already that for less than $20 a computer can be set up with a fully functioning operating system and office suite!


I’ll keep you posted on how things go!

The wonderful world of Twitter

July 22, 2009 at 5:37 pm | Posted in Education | 4 Comments
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What is Twitter?

You’ve heard of blogging? Twitter is microblogging. It’s like a blog, but you’re limited to 140 characters to say your piece. This is less than a txt on a cell phone! It’s a way to let people know what you’re doing, or what is happening. It’s like Facebook but with only the status updates!

How does it work?

A user posts tweets which his followers can read. On the users homepage they can read the tweets that the people they are following have written.

Why Tweet?

It’s a good way to let people know what you’re doing. It’s also a good way to catch up on what your friends (or others) are doing. You can follow news sources such as BBC or Time Magazine, even NZ news is available! I use Twitter to find out more about ICT and education!

Tips for Tweeters

1. Post something relevant and regularly. Once a month is not regularly. You probably will want to tweet at least once a week, probably every couple of days. Some tweeters tweet several times a day.

2. It may be a good idea to tweet about a certain topic (eg. I have recently started tweeting and this is mostly about teaching and ICT).

3. Choose who you follow carefully. The tweets for everyone you follow will come up on your homepage when you login. You may not want to read through 5000 tweets!

4. You don’t have to allow everyone access. There are privacy settings available.

5. There are heaps of applications for your browser to do with twitter. Just search for them!

6. Have fun – and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter if you enjoy the blog!

Everything you wanted… for FREE

July 21, 2009 at 12:25 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Okay, so maybe not everything, but a whole lot for sure! I’m talking about Open Source software. Everything from operating systems to office suites to games, utilities, and much much more!

This could be a great thing for educators/teachers and the community. Schools could save money, and families could be using the same software as their schools.

So what exactly is open source software? I’m not an expert on this topic so a definition can be found here, but here is my attempt to explain what it is. (Feel free to comment to clarify or negate this definition if you want)

Open source software is fully functional computer software where the source code has been made available for people (who know what they’re doing) to add to, change however they like to make the product more suitable to them. What this does quite often is to make an excellent piece of software collaboratively. Instead of the source code being in the copyrighted domain, it is placed in public domain.

A requirement that is sometimes put on this software, is that if you change the source code, you need to share it. You do not need to share it for free, but no royalty fee needs to be paid.

That is probably not a great explanation, but what it means for us is that there is heaps of software available for your download for free. And it’s GOOD stuff too!

A couple of things you could try out for starters:

OpenOffice – An office suite including software for word processing, spreadsheets, databases, presentation and publishing.

Inkscape – A vector graphics editor.

Some of this software is more complicated than what you might be used to, but some is just as easy if not easier! Have a play, see what you think. This could save you a lot of money!

If you want to find some more software try:



Blog posting

July 14, 2009 at 7:32 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Since you have got this far I’m assuming you know what a blog is. But did you know that if you have a blog, you don’t need to log in through a browser (such as Internet Explorer or Firefox) to post on your blog?

I am currently writing this post on Windows Live Writer – a free download from Microsoft. It gives a WYSIWYG editor (what you see is what you get). You can edit your posting just like you would in a word processor. You can add hyperlinks, pictures, tables etc. And you can use pretty much any blog service. I’m currently using WordPress, but I’ve also used Blogger for example. The software guides you through setup and it finds works out automatically what the post will look like on your site – even showing you the background colours or theme of your blog.

You’re not limited to one blog or service either. If you have multiple blogs then you can switch between them and post into each one.

One great advantage of this is that you can start your posts offline, save them, and go back to them when you’re ready. You can then publish the post when you’re ready.

If you’re a blogger then I would definitely recommend software such as this.

Teachers’ Domain

July 10, 2009 at 1:20 pm | Posted in Education | Leave a comment
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Teachers' Domain®

I discovered Teachers’ Domain yesterday while browsing another site. On here is a stack of digital media, sorted by subject, topic and grade level. It’s a US site, but any teacher can sign up for free. You do need to register with your school name, but as long as you select your country and have your zip code handy you should be able to find your school.

This website is well worth the visit and registration. You are allowed to download and use the content contained on here. It even has some lesson plans and a whole lot of other stuff.

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