A group of programmers have created a fork of Microsoft Live Writer. The fork is NOT a Microsoft project. The group is releasing the fork as open source and is doing so through the .NET Foundation.

What’s the point?

I guess the quote from “Shout Me Loud” tells the main story.

Multiple blog support feature of Windows Live writer makes it very easy to manage your multiple blogs. It not only supports multiple blogs, but also supports multiple platforms.

That suggests that if you write a WordPress blog, a Blogger blog and more, you get to do all your writing in one WYSIWYG editor instead of learning the ins and outs of each platform.

Sounds like a “solution” to a problem I’ve not had.

The open fork’s licence is MIT License.

Anybody out there a Live Writer fan?
What’s your take?

Will you switch to the open fork?

I visited a family’s website recently. It looks nice. It appears to be done as a WordPress site. I did notice one glitch. On one page, the last paragraph contains what probably are dashes or double dashes. I’m guessing the writer pasted from Microsoft Word into the WordPress editor used for the site. Unfortunately, Word uses a character code for the dash which html does not properly display.  My browser displayed – instead of the dash. The WordPress editor allows you to look directly at the html by selecting the “Text” tab instead of the “Visual” editor view.


If this happens to your site, I would recommend you edit the page and substitute the html entity code —  for whatever you see there.

Looking at the technical bits: Most current html coding and browsers are set to use a character coding called “UTF-8” or “Unicode.” It is the international extension of the older “ASCII” from the early computer days. You can actually have a lot of fun exploring Unicode. I have done a few pages on it, as it turns out (in case you have not seen them yet).

Happy exploration!

Copyright and plagiarism and the effective use of Internet resources are vital elements of creative assignments in schools. Access to digital versions of books, magazines, audio and video resources have changed the nature of what a student can do when constructing a school assignment.

It has been common practice to ask students to write about a famous person, for example. The writing part may actually be the focus of the assignment. The person being used isn’t the real focus. Typically students get to choose from a batch of people and then gather resources to learn what they need in order to begin writing the essay.

A teacher’s common practice has been the recommendation of resources, sending children to the school or town library to access encyclopedias, books, newspapers, etc. A rough draft frequently follows so the teacher can comment on style, grammar, spelling and such along with proper use of quotations with adequate citations. The final draft gets a grade.

The Internet has given teachers the task of adding online resources to the mix. That means each teacher must add some online/digital expectations to the assignment and rough draft evaluation. Teachers need to incorporate an honest discussion of fair use, copyright, remixing. The vetting of resources which was once passed off to librarians now must become part of a teacher’s routine. Teachers need to make very few assumptions. Some students will have their own computer/tablet/smartphone and good support at home. Some students will be better than others at search strategies. The assignment needs to become more broad so it can include a student sharing of those skills. Each school year, as student move ahead, the discussion needs to become more rich and nuanced like any other phase of helping studnts learn.

With that in mind, a discussion about and use of Open Educational Resources is important. Teachers need to have a good personal understanding of the digital issues involved. Plagiarism has long been part of the discussion. Now, when we talk about copyright compliance, it is not only valuable, but vital to highlight the distinction between restricted and open usage of all the easily accessible materials a student may want to incorporate in an assignment.

I would recommend you read and refer others to the article, “Teach kids about copyright: a list of resources from Creative Commons” by Jane Park. Develop your own skills to become as strong in resource selection as possible. Understand the alternatives yourself. That way you can be the best guide you can be for this year’s students and keep exploring to prepare for the next year and the next. In fact, you will be modelling the process for your students. Revealing your process may actually help them understand how you see that fabled goal, “life long learning.”

This is a chance for feedback. It is also a test of the AnswerGarden tool. Read on to the end for your chance to give a reaction.

Their tag line is “Plant a Question, Grow Answers.” They have a live demo. You can visit the site and enter your answer to their self-directed question. “Answer Garden is…” and as of today, this is what their word cloud looked like.

But they have linked out to Wordle, too so you can take the original there and get a fancy word cloud. Wordle allows you to do a whole bunch of format options.

You can also export the data to a text file of the answers and their frequency. Import that into a spreadsheet (comma delimited import) and you can then even graph the information for analysis and discussion.

You have some simple controls over the input; open, good for class feedback, brainstorming; or limited to one response per day. You can edit the list to make the undesirable/crude responses go away.

You can even embed a live AnswerGarden view into your own blog or Web site. The embedding option list is long. You don’t need to embed. Simply provide the link by email or otherwise.

They have even built in the generation of QR codes.

Creative Heroes, the crew behind AnswerGarden  sound like a great group of coders. Read their terms of service. Nice.

Finally, here’s the question for you. Don’t be put off if the widget is almost blank. That’s the way it starts. Are you going to be the first to submit an answer? [too late, but you can still respond.]

via AnswerGarden: Software Freedom is….

Why does AnswerGarden have a .ch domain extension?

Although .ch is the Internet country code for Switzerland, on this site the extension is used to refer to CreativeHeroes, the creators of AnswerGarden. We do have other domain extensions, but believe Swiss gardens are the purest.

Nice information for software freedom and open source software (via Glyn Moody):

But the StatCounter figures contain some other intriguing trends behind the basic fact that Chrome was top for a day:

The firm’s research arm StatCounter Global Stats reports that Chrome topped the polls in India, Russia and Brazil, all of which contributed to it becoming the number one browser for that day on a global basis.

Looking more closely at these markets shows some surprising variation. In India, for example, Chrome has a massive 45% market share, with Firefox on 32%, and Internet Explorer way back on just 17%. That’s an astonishing 77% for browser that are based around open standards and essentially open source.

What’s your “school/work” browser?

What’s your home/weekend browser?

I’ve just finished taking a look at the future, or at least a part of the future.

There is an online working emulator of Mozilla’s Boot to Gecko project.

You’ll need a recent version of Firefox to explore. It is a Mozilla project after all and Mozilla is the shepherd of the browser some of us love.

I’ll show you some screen shots in a moment, but if you just can’t wait, click the link and, if you remember, come back and read more here later.

OK. If I’ve still got your eyes, here’s what I saw. Now remember, this is screen shots on my GNU/Linux/Kubuntu running Firefox 10.0.2. As I understand it, the “apps” are all done in HTML5. That’s the coming Web standard which is slowly being rolled out by Web designers.

The first shot shows my browser with several tabs and the opening screen of the emulator. That text in the top left corner says “Drag up to unlock” and a click-drag does just that. Looks like it would be a finger drag on a touchscreen of a phone or tablet just like today’s smartphones.

I had to use the feature of reducing my screen image on my 15.6″ laptop screen to get the whole emulator to show in my browser window. The emulator doesn’t have a scrollbar as I’m seeing it. Firefox lets you reduce a screen in the browser by holding down the Ctrl key and tapping the minus key. Ctrl and the plus key reverse that and make things bigger if you want bigger fonts like me, most of the time.

I didn’t try everything. I was too excited to get my first thoughts out to you wonderful readers.

After an unlock, the main “Menu” screen shows. A moment after the emulator started, the message you see at the bottom of the shot popped up. I haven’t figured out how to clear it, yet.

I started with a peek at the map app. (Love the sound of that.)
You can click and drag the map around as you would expect from a map from Google Maps.

There wasn’t a noticeable delay making a switch from one app to another. On a real smartphone or tablet, this ought to be quick.

Here’s the last screenshot. I did this on Leap Day, the 29th of February.
The news is from today in the CNN news “app” running in the Boot to Gecko emulator. This is no mockup. That time showing in the top corner of the emulator is the current time when I took the screenshot.

This thing really works!

This emulator, and the eventual hardware version, coming on the heels of the KDE Active “Spark” tablet may mean iOS from Apple and Android from Google may soon have some competition.

Update: Click and drag the Main Menu screen to the left. There are more apps to try.

If you do video with your students, where do you get the music that helps bring the moving images to life?

One place to start might be Project Zero at

One beautiful example is by Roberta Volpe, Sulla pelle umida which is an MP3 file. If you have a Flash player, a link click will start the 4 minute piece. Right click for saving options.

You can also see that the artists have paid attention to more than their music. The image below is the (reduced/cropped) cover art for the song.

All the songs at the site are released using the Creative Commons “by share-alike” license.

Go take a longer look and listen.

What other music resources do you recommend?

After the last post, I realized it had been mainly a rant. This post will provide the alternative of some possible solutions to shackling oneself to DRM and cloud space owned by corporations.

Like a lot of things “open”, Linux and Software Freedom are a solution most people don’t appear to care about. Linux hovers somewhere between 1 and 2 percent of desktop deployment. Linux and GNU/Free Software is important in the cloud,  however, serving as the most common server operating system of the Internet. The problem is that the “plumbing” of the Internet gets little attention from the public. We plug into an Ethernet wire that disappears into a wall socket at work. We “connect” our laptops to WiFi in the house and at the coffee shop or book store. We use all the standardized protocols to get to some Web site, to data stored on our school or company’s servers, to social network sites, etc. We don’t really care about TCP/IP, HTML, CGI, or if it is a Linux kernel on the servers, routers, not even if it is Linux at the core of our Android phones. It doesn’t matter to most users if a cousin of Linux like BSD or Darwin is under the cover of Macintosh OSX. It doesn’t matter if Windows OS is running at both ends. With the exception of a few nerd/geeks, people who connect don’t care about the stuff that runs their information through the system.

Nonetheless, there are the geeks, the nerds, they are the developers of Linux, GNU utilities, and all the rest of open and free software.

The programmers of free software are working very hard to provide alternatives to the corporate, proprietary layers built on the open plumbing. They want their data to be free of control by anybody other than themselves.

Steps to a Free Cloud

Social Networking

Switch from Twitter –> Statusnet exemplified in

Many people like the quick style of comment and link that Twitter has promoted. In a maximum 140 characters, people are having constructive conversations. Adding the use of hashtags, (#edchat – #sschat – #edtech) makes it easy to follow a message thread from a bunch of people discussing a common topic. Twitter is the popular cloud tool. The software isn’t open.

Statusnet is open software. The most well known implementation is which is a “competitor” of Twitter. You can deploy your own school or district server. You can make connections to other districts possible, too. This is a concept called “federation.” You “own” your local information and decide what links to establish. Federation is like what happens when you send email. It doesn’t matter who your service provider is. can send and receive messages with even though the email is hosted by different providers.

Switch from Facebook –> Diaspora (currently in alpha stage testing – ask for invitation. I have some)

Facebook is banned as a way to connect teachers and students in many districts.

Diaspora might be the answer again. Being open software, Diaspora can be installed on a district server and make the connections more controlled. Federation is in the software plan, too. One nice feature is the ability to create groups called “aspects” which would be perfect for classroom-specific interactions, school level interactions, departmental clusters, etc. Facebook is a walled garden. You are in, all in, or out.

File storage

Switch from Dropbox –> Tonido or  ownCloud

Both Tonido and ownCloud offer you a way to store your files in a web accessible location. Easy click to upload and to download. Applications are coming to make more of both systems.

Tonido isn’t open source, quite, but you can install it for free. Alternately, you can buy a Tonido Plug, attach a USB hard drive and start it up.

ownCloud is in the early stages of development. Stay tuned as it grows more capable.

Shared Documents

EtherPad lets you work simultaneously on the same word processing document (this technology is built into Google Docs.) EtherPad is great for keeping notes, collaborative study by a group of students.

Wikis – There are many choices here. Here’s a good list. Wikis are the tool to use if you want to develop a series of linked documents, like a curriculum with sample lessons, links to core documents, rubrics, etc.

Blogs offers free blog space, but you can take more control by installing an instance of WordPress on your own server and offer every teacher and student in your school a controlled space for their publishing.

None of these suggestions are school specific, of course. They apply to individuals too. You can take charge of your own cloud, just for your family or just for you. You are on the Web, though, so your material is as open as you want to make it. The more you dig in, the more control you can take over your cloud experience.

How about hardware?

A PC can run Linux and all the open software you want, which you control. Nobody will take away your licenses for the software or the operating system. You don’t sign any End User License Agreements (EULA) which are required for both OSX on Apple computers and Windows of every vintage.


ePub is an open format for ebooks. The Nook from Barnes and Noble (all models) can work with DRM ebooks, but also work just fine with unshackled ePub books. Project Gutenberg has thousands of DRM-free books available and there are emerging textbook options using open educational resources (OER).


Open tablets are coming. The latest news is that Linux hardware vendor ZaReason will sell a tablet like the iPad “soon.”

As in many things, these days, the choice is yours. The nice thing is that you do have choice.

You may, of course, choose to let Amazon or Google or Apple or Microsoft control your cloud, your computer use, whatever. That is your choice, too.

I’m going to keep my eyes open for the opportunities to run as much of my own life through software freedom. Thanks for reading.


The following video clip encouraged me to make this infographic.

Well, I missed the moment.

11:11 on 1-11-11 passed about seven minutes ago.

Numeracy Moments

The time I missed

[Original clock by user fzap on]

It would have been a minor celebration moment for me, anyway. I’m not much hooked to numerology. I’m more satisfied with my basic numeracy skills.

I’ve missed several such moments over the years. I remember noticing my odometer when it read 66668. For what it is worth, I also missed 99999, too. The car did last me well into the 150,000 mile range and 14 good years before I drove it to the car dump. As a measure of its gratitude for finally being retired, the car waited till I got there. The moment I was done with it, though, I opened the driver’s door to get out of it for the last time, and as I stepped out, the hinge let go and I couldn’t close it. Fortunately the people at the dump didn’t mind. They still took it.

What does this foolishness have to do with open source? Maybe not much, but it does bring to mind the rise and fall of projects. Specifically, this month marks the end of life for a collaboration project called Dimdim which was purchased by a company called and if you were a user, you are stuck now. dropped the product and its developers hadn’t released updates to the open source version of Dimdim since 2008.

Projects come and go, of course, but what does a person do when trying to deal with archival files? I’m in the midst of a project to publish the MassCUE minutes from my days as the organization’s secretary. I’m going to be putting them into two formats. ODF and HTML. Some of the files are currently in Mac formats from the days of Clarisworks/Appleworks. Some are in ASCII text format, some are Microsoft doc files. I’m working on an Intel powered PC with Kubuntu GNU/Linux operating system. The Mac files open in OpenOffice, but they are full of stray characters which were important to the format used on the Mac. OpenOffice doesn’t have an import filter which can handle the automatic removal of those bothersome character groups like ##3BF; (no I don’t know what they represent). I am manually deleting and processing the files.

Anybody out there have a tool to recommend? It needs to run on GNU/Linux and be FOSS, of course.

What is your choice of format for the best way to store archives of files that are mainly text? Am I on the right track making HTML versions? Will that stand the test of time? How about ODF. Should I stick with ASCII?

Thanks to user fzap on for the original clock graphic in SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) format. It was easy to take the original time and modify it using Inkscape so it illustrated this post. The graphic serves as a great example of the value of both open documents and the available open tools to modify the documents to our needs. Even more coincidental, the original use of the clock illustration was for a Mac!

Next Page »