Ted Curran.net http://tedcurran.net Tips, Tricks, and Lifehacks for Online Educators Sat, 12 Nov 2016 23:06:58 +0000 en-US hourly 1 8763442 Loop is Google Play Music on your Desktop http://tedcurran.net/2016/11/12/loop-google-play-music-desktop/ http://tedcurran.net/2016/11/12/loop-google-play-music-desktop/#respond Sat, 12 Nov 2016 23:03:38 +0000 http://tedcurran.net/?p=7924 Google Play Music is my favorite music streaming service — but running it in my main browser has some drawbacks. Luckily Loop has emerged as a nice standalone desktop app for Google Play Music. It lets you keep your music player separate from your main browser, improving your overall performance …

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Google Play Music is my favorite music streaming service — but running it in my main browser has some drawbacks. Luckily Loop has emerged as a nice standalone desktop app for Google Play Music. It lets you keep your music player separate from your main browser, improving your overall performance and simplifying the task of navigating to your tunes.

Loop: Google Play Music for the Desktop

First, why is Google Music so great?

I know that Spotify is the “cool” music streaming service, but I get everything I need from GPlay Music at a much lower price. It lets you upload and stream all your own music files for free, then lets you stream from their full catalog of all the music you don’t own yet from your mobile device (iOS or Android) or just in a web browser. It also comes with a YouTube Music / YouTube Red premium account that lets you play any music anywhere in YouTube — a huge selection of music!! It also gives you some cool premium features on YouTube, and lets you play your YouTube mobile app with the screen off. If you have a family, you can put up to five people on the same Google Music family plan and your per-person cost is about $3/person! Not only that, but any songs, videos, books, or apps you buy in the Google Play ecosystem can be freely shared with everyone in your family — really nice when you want to share with your peeps. Finally, it all works nicely on Android, and probably iOS as well (though I haven’t checked the iOS ecosystem in a while).

What’s wrong with using it in a browser?

Browser Memory Usage

Every extra browser tab or window you have open takes up memory and degrades your computer’s performance. Chrome is notorious for memory leaks, and I find that having a dedicated window for G Play Music slows down my other tabs a little.

Considering that I often have multiple tabs and windows open for work, I want to save that memory for the tasks I’m directly working on, and let my music run in the background. It’s better to have G Play Music run as its own process, helping your computer manage its memory optimally.

Multiple Google Accounts

I have multiple Google accounts logged in to my Chrome browser at a time, and the switching between accounts leaves a lot to be desired. Chrome doesn’t seem to remember that I never use Google Music with my work account, but it always wants to sign me in with that account and inform me that I don’t have any music in there.

Better to have one app that’s always signed in to the right account, then you can just open it up and jam!

Where Loop Shines

For the reasons above, Loop is a great alternative to playing Google Play Music in your main browser. It’s an Electron App, meaning it works on Mac, Windows, and Linux. You have to install it to the computer, which may be hard if you don’t have admin access to your work computer, say, but otherwise, it’s a nice smooth way of streaming your music from the desktop!

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Testing the H5P.org Twitter Widget http://tedcurran.net/2016/11/07/testing-h5p-org-twitter-widget/ http://tedcurran.net/2016/11/07/testing-h5p-org-twitter-widget/#respond Mon, 07 Nov 2016 16:13:18 +0000 http://tedcurran.net/?p=7916 I have long been a fan of the h5p.org project, a collection of open source learning objects written completely in HTML5 technologies to add interactive elements to online courses. These are the learning objects used in edX courses, but you can freely deploy them in your own courses. I’m going …

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I have long been a fan of the h5p.org project, a collection of open source learning objects written completely in HTML5 technologies to add interactive elements to online courses. These are the learning objects used in edX courses, but you can freely deploy them in your own courses. I’m going to be testing some of the tools, and I figured I’d post about them as I go.

The Twitter User Feed Widget is the least course-specific of their catalog of learning interactions, but I can see how it’d be easy to set up to create an attractive display of your tweets (or another notable tweeter).

You just fill out the simple setup form like so…

setting up the h5p twitter user feed widget

and this is what you get:

Practical Uses

This would be great if you make frequent use of Twitter in your course. I end up posting lots more in my Twitter feed than my students could ever keep up with — I view it as an optional enhancement channel that students can choose to tune into if they want. Of course, if you use your Twitter feed to post information that’s relevant to the everyday running of your class, this would be an attractive way to share those tweets inside your course.

A note on compatibility

All the official documentation for h5p says that it is designed to work only in WordPress, Moodle, and Drupal installs, but there is a way to use it inside of Canvas courses as well. I am going to be testing out this process this week, and I’ll share out what I find.

Check it out!

Of course this is just one of many great learning interactions h5p offers, and I’m going to be posting about more of them as the week goes on. Stay tuned, fiddle with them, and let me know what you think below!

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Sandstorm.io for Teachers | Presentations http://tedcurran.net/2016/10/31/sandstorm-io-teachers-presentations/ http://tedcurran.net/2016/10/31/sandstorm-io-teachers-presentations/#respond Mon, 31 Oct 2016 22:55:29 +0000 http://tedcurran.net/?p=7770 I’ve long been a believer that teachers should explore open source edtech tools as an alternative to all the free, freemium, ad-supported, and privacy-invading web applications that are marketed to us. In addition to all the great open source desktop applications, there are a lot of open alternatives to the …

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I’ve long been a believer that teachers should explore open source edtech tools as an alternative to all the free, freemium, ad-supported, and privacy-invading web applications that are marketed to us. In addition to all the great open source desktop applications, there are a lot of open alternatives to the cloud apps we all know and love — Dropbox, Evernote, Google Docs, SurveyMonkey, Twitter, etc. Open tools can match the power of these commercial offerings, while protecting you and your students from invasions of privacy. They also hold the promise of allowing schools to roll out a coherent ecosystem of cloud tools without a huge outlay of licensing dollars.

Open cloud apps require people to run their own server space, which, while empowering, is admittedly more work than the average teacher wants to do. But what if it were as easy to run your own cloud server as it is to keep your smartphone apps up to date?

Sandstorm App Store

Servers for People Who Don’t Want Servers

I was an early backer of the Indiegogo campaign for Sandstorm.io, a project that aims to make it easy for anyone to run their own private cloud server.

In Sandstorm, you have your own personal space online where you can create your own blogs, wikis, to-do lists, notes, collaborative drawing and writing tools, cloud file storage, and on and on and on. You have your own cloud workspace, and you can plug as many apps into that workspace as you want, allowing you to run all your tools (blog, wiki, social media, learning games) from one screen.
I see this as a simplified way for teachers and students to access the wide world of open source self-hosted cloud software without the hassles of running one’s own server. You can use a Sandstorm account to put up your own website, collaborative documents, discussion boards, file sharing and more. I can see institutions investing for all their teachers and students to have access to a Sandstorm account, simplifying the logistics of rolling out a powerful tech toolkit across their campus.

One of the features I’ve been using lately is the HackerSlides HTML5 presentations.

 

HackerSlides : Presentations

One of my favorite tools in Sandstorm is called HackerSlides — a user friendly version of Reveal.js Presentations that lets you write beautiful presentation slide decks using a simple markdown text document.

Markdown is great for presentations because you can create slides and bullets without ever taking your hands off the keyboard — this removes the barriers to get your ideas out. Add bullets with a - and the tool converts them into graphical bullets. Add images from the web with a simple copy-paste of the URL.

It also makes it super easy to add YouTube videos and interactive surveys right into your presentation. Believe me — after a quick learning curve, writing markdown presentations is faster and more efficient that any other slide deck software. The results are pretty attractive too, and they’re native to the web, already online for students to find.

Check it out

There are lots more interesting tools you can play around with in Sandstorm. I’d advise you to get a free account and see if you find the tools useful. Can you see this being rolled out across your school?

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Teachers & Admins: Protect Student Data with Strong Passwords http://tedcurran.net/2016/10/31/teachers-admins-protect-student-data-strong-passwords/ http://tedcurran.net/2016/10/31/teachers-admins-protect-student-data-strong-passwords/#respond Mon, 31 Oct 2016 16:00:00 +0000 http://tedcurran.net/?p=7530 As a system administrator, or even as a classroom teacher, you probably have several cloud app accounts that hold students’ names, grades, assignments, and communications. How many of these accounts do you protect with a strong password?  How many of your passwords give you control over the systems your students depend …

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As a system administrator, or even as a classroom teacher, you probably have several cloud app accounts that hold students’ names, grades, assignments, and communications. How many of these accounts do you protect with a strong password?  How many of your passwords give you control over the systems your students depend on for their education? It’s time to secure these systems with strong security practices, for students’ sake.

Yeah yeah, I know…

You’ve probably seen the articles telling you not to use the most common insecure passwords, or that you should use a password manager so you can use strong passwords that even you can’t remember. Maybe you’ve even heard people tell you it’s time to start using two-factor authentication to protect your most sensitive data.

They’re right. You should, and still many of us don’t. Everyone makes a personal choice about how much energy they’re willing to put into securing their digital lives, but if you have access to sensitive student data, you have an added responsibility to get into strong security habits for their sake.

Password Managers

I’ve been using LastPass for 7 years now — just about as long as I’ve been an LMS system administrator. My job gives me top-level access to students’ academic records, as well as the power to massively mess up several systems that my colleagues and students depend upon. This is a lot of power in an organization, and with great power comes great responsibility.

with great power comes great responsibility

Even something as simple as your Google Suite for Ed. account or other school email service could wreak havoc for your students and colleagues if it got into the wrong hands.

Using a password manager is a minor inconvenience that makes a major difference in the level of security I’m able to provide for my users. It enables me to use highly secure passwords on campus systems where I have access to student records, or where I have admin access.

Its “Security Challenge” feature will automatically go through your stored passwords looking for old, outdated, repeated, or compromised passwords — yes, they maintain a database of password hacks and can tell you if your Yahoo account password needs to be changed (hint: IT DOES).

You can use LastPass for free on either desktop or mobile, and it’s $12/year if you want to be able to switch back and forth between desktop and mobile. This means that even if you only use a desktop at work, you could protect all your work systems for free. I pay $1 per month — a small price to pay for excellent security with minimum hassle.

LastPass isn’t the only choice — competitor Dashlane also gets favorable reviews, 1Password is especially great if you mostly use Apple devices, and open-source DIY solution KeePass is a great free option for people who’d rather keep their data completely under their own control.

Two-factor authentication

Another security precaution you should consider is using two-factor authentication. This is an added layer of security to protect your most sensitive accounts because it depends on something you know (your password) and something you have (your smartphone). A surprising number of sites use two-factor authentication, including household names like Google, Twitter, Facebook, WordPress, Outlook.com, Yahoo, LastPass, Evernote, and many more.

The way it works is that, when you are about to login to a sensitive site, they text an additional login code to your phone to make sure it’s you. This way, even if your password has been compromised, it’s an added layer of security.

Again, this is a minor inconvenience that adds major security to your most sensitive accounts, making it much harder for a would-be attacker to compromise your password with a brute-force attack. I secure my LastPass password manager with two-factor, adding another level of security onto my passwords.

Just do it

In the end, adopting a password manager is one single thing you can do to drastically increase your own security and the security of the students whose data you access. It makes many online tasks easier (remembering passwords, filling forms, changing passwords, securing sites) and a couple slightly harder (logging in takes an extra step), but overall, it’s worth doing, if not for your own sake, then for the sake of your students.

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Open Broadcaster Software — The Only Screencasting App You’ll Ever Need http://tedcurran.net/2016/10/28/open-broadcaster-software-screencasting-app-youll-ever-need/ http://tedcurran.net/2016/10/28/open-broadcaster-software-screencasting-app-youll-ever-need/#respond Fri, 28 Oct 2016 23:55:44 +0000 http://tedcurran.net/?p=7874 One of the most valuable tools for an instructional designer is a great screencasting app. Being able to record your desktop with voice narration frees us to share techniques on our computers in live motion video. Many of us IDs have learned to depend on tools like Jing, Screenflow, Screencast-O-Matic, …

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One of the most valuable tools for an instructional designer is a great screencasting app. Being able to record your desktop with voice narration frees us to share techniques on our computers in live motion video.

Many of us IDs have learned to depend on tools like Jing, Screenflow, Screencast-O-Matic, and others, but the choices have always felt like a trade-off between full-featured-but-expensive (Camtasia) or free-and-limited (Jing, Screencast-O-Matic). Sometimes apps would be riddled with malware (CamStudio) or would force you to share your video creations on their paid video cloud service (Screencast.com). The new ability for QuickTime to support screencasting came as a relief to us Mac users, but it’s still a barebones and incomplete experience. Not to mention that many screencasting solutions (like Screencast-o-matic) depend on Java technology, which even the Dept of Homeland Security recommends you disable due to its poor security and likelihood for exploits. Yes, for a long long time, there have only been a few good options at all in screencasting, and most of them have been expensive, and closed.

Finally, there is a free, open source app for streaming and recording your desktop that gives you full control over every aspect of your screencasts — Open Broadcaster Software, or “OBS Studio” for short. It has so many features you didn’t know you needed, all in a free, open source, and lightweight desktop application for Mac, Windows, and Linux. I’ve been testing it out and I’m already in love.

What’s so great about it?

It gives you full control over the input sources you want to record, how you want to save your files, and where you want to share your video to. It lets you record multiple incoming streams of video so you can do picture-in-picture video (screen and webcam) as well as multiple streams of audio (so you can talk over audio coming from your computer, like an audio app’s output, for example). These are advanced features that were previously only available in premium commnercial screencasting apps, now available in a free, open, and user-friendly app.

Record Videos or Stream Live

You can use it to either make recorded screencasts for asynchronous learning development, but you can also stream your session live to an internet video streaming service like Facebook Live, YouTube Live, Twitch, or a variety of others. This opens up amazing possibilities for synchronous class demonstrations where you can just “hang out” online, taking questions from viewers and demonstrating techniques live.

In fact, if you haven’t seen some of the creative live education streams that have blossomed on Twitch and YouTube Live, do yourself a favor and check out the Twitch Creative Channel just to see what people are doing with this technology. OBS has grown up with these live streaming services and has a huge following among online gaming enthusiasts. Digging into the toolset of OBS though, you will find everything you need to create rich multimedia screencasts and share them wherever you want.

What’s it missing?

Veterans of Camtasia might lament that OBS does not come with a video editing suite for trimming dead time, adding captions and titles, and building in interactive quizzes. However, you can export the screencasts you make from OBS and edit them in your favorite desktop video editing software. With that said, this is by far the most complete free screencasting tool I’ve ever seen, and I’m excited to push the limits of what it can do.

Going forward

For me, this tool opens up a lot of possibilities in recording multimedia tutorials where I need to combine my microphone audio with sound coming from within my computer. I like to teach hip hop beatmaking with Renoise but was frustrated by QuickTime’s limiting me to only one audio stream. Now I can show people how to make music and ACTUALLY HEAR the music!!

Additionally, I’m excited to try streaming my desktop live to YouTube Live and teaching people over the internet how to make music. This ability was never an option to me before, but OBS makes it dead simple.

Check it out and see how it can add value to your instructional design workflow!

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What WordPress Jetpack can Teach Instructure Canvas http://tedcurran.net/2016/10/04/wordpress-jetpack-and-instructure-canvas/ http://tedcurran.net/2016/10/04/wordpress-jetpack-and-instructure-canvas/#comments Tue, 04 Oct 2016 16:49:37 +0000 http://tedcurran.net/?p=7496 Instructure Canvas is the new hotness in the LMS market, but for many it remains out of reach. For many schools who need an LMS on a shoestring budget, their best option is to contract for an open source Moodle install from a 3rd party hosting company. This is a …

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Instructure Canvas is the new hotness in the LMS market, but for many it remains out of reach. For many schools who need an LMS on a shoestring budget, their best option is to contract for an open source Moodle install from a 3rd party hosting company. This is a common service available from many hosting vendors, so the prices are rock-bottom since there are no licensing fees, high competition, and minimal costs to maintain such a solution.

For this same reason, the WordPress.org open source content management system is the most popular blogging platform in the world, powering 25% OF THE WHOLE INTERNET (!!!), mostly powered by independent hosting companies — the same ones that will power your Moodle instance.

Five years ago, WordPress’ parent company Automattic (which also hosts the free WordPress.com blogging platform) introduced a tool called Jetpack. Jetpack is a plugin for all those open source instances of WordPress that were out there, powering people’s websites, and not contributing any revenue or data back to the company that developed it. In exchange for access to the richer set of features available to WordPress.com users (like enhanced analytics, spam protection, site optimization, image hosting, and LOTS MORE), the open source users contribute valuable usage data back to Automattic, and have the option to purchase other value-added services. It’s a classic win/win — the company gets to harvest data, generate revenue, improve user experience, and understand their user base better while users get a premium experience for free. As a result, the free open source WordPress.org experience is competitive with the premium paid (or ad-supported) WordPress.com experience, and clearly superior to the experience provided by competitors like Squarespace, Wix, and Weebly.

How Instructure Could Revolutionize Self-Hosted Canvas

I’m working on a project now where we wanted to use Instructure Canvas, but our budget is squarely in “self-hosted Moodle” territory. I would’ve preferred to work with Instructure but the budget for this project wouldn’t allow it. We found an independent hosting company that offers open source Canvas hosting. That is, we’re using the same Canvas software that people can get from Instructure, but it’s hosted on this other company’s servers, with their people powering it. Sounds great, right? There are drawbacks….

I’ve learned that the Canvas iOS and Android apps do not work with 3rd party installs of Canvas — this is one of a small set of features that you can only get when you contract Canvas directly from Instructure. Without it, the mobile Canvas experience is OK (not terrible) but the apps really add a significant level of convenience to mobile learning. I’m sure many people running their own instance of Canvas would be open to purchasing a license just for the mobile apps, if only that was allowed.

Instructure has the opportunity to connect with the institutions who choose to run their own Canvas installs rather than contracting service from Instructure directly. By following the Jetpack model, they could bring more institutions under the company’s tent, offering value added services and improving user experience while growing the user base and stabilizing the brand. Though right now few schools run Canvas themselves, a Jetpack-style approach may make it easier and more appealing for schools to get the full experience while minimizing costs.

It remains to be seen if Instructure sees strategic benefit in supporting open installs of Canvas, or if they prefer to have as many customers on the Instructure platform as possible. The original move to open source the codebase was seen as a defensive move against Blackboard acquisition, and not necessarily to encourage open installs. If they chose to support a more distributed model, the Jetpack approach would help connect them all to the mothership.

From a Friend at Instructure

The Canvas Community Version is the same core code base as the Cloud version with a few exceptions. Instructure provides additional capabilities on the Cloud, for example…

• Multi-tenancy extensions• Mobile integration • Proprietary SIS integrations • Migration tools for commercial LMSs • Other minor customizations that only apply to our hosted environment • Chat Tool • Attendance Tool (Roll Call)

Additionally, Big Blue Button should not work in the open source version, but there’s a bug in Canvas right now that makes it work (4/1/15).” —

Full disclosure: I am a shareholder of Instructure. I bought stock in the company after having worked on Canvas for years and grown confident in the platform and the people behind it.

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Site Builder Pingendo Lets You Build with Bootstrap Visually http://tedcurran.net/2016/09/21/site-builder-pingendo-lets-build-bootstrap-visually/ http://tedcurran.net/2016/09/21/site-builder-pingendo-lets-build-bootstrap-visually/#respond Wed, 21 Sep 2016 15:24:34 +0000 http://tedcurran.net/?p=7790 Pingendo is a free, visual page builder site, letting you use Twitter Bootstrap design elements to build professional-looking pages. You construct a page using prebuilt sections and elements in the visual editor, then replacing the placeholder text and images with your own work. You can preview your site as it’ll …

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Pingendo is a free, visual page builder site, letting you use Twitter Bootstrap design elements to build professional-looking pages. You construct a page using prebuilt sections and elements in the visual editor, then replacing the placeholder text and images with your own work. You can preview your site as it’ll appear on a phone, tablet, or full desktop monitor (yes, it’s responsive design by default!), and switch to a code editor for deeper development.
Since Twitter Bootstrap is such a popular front-end design library, the page designs created instantly look modern and fresh (just like everyone else who’s using Bootstrap!) It’s a good way of bridging the gap between basic skills and a professional looking site, at least.

Experienced Bootstrap developers might turn their noses up at it for its simplified interface — there’s still no substitute for the freedom you get from coding something yourself.

Beginning designers, though, who want to dip their toes in the water of the most popular front-end development standard will find it to be a supportive tool in exploring Bootstrap’s best options with a minimal learning curve. I’m always interested in finding tools that help people learn complex skills with the least amount of friction, and this is a great environment for getting familiar with Bootstrap-based front-end development.

What I like about it is that you can quickly drag and drop large layout elements into your page and customize them visually. You can drop in a navigation bar, a hero carousel, a three-column layout, and a nice footer section and you’ve got yourself the skeleton of a nice landing page in a minute flat. From there, it’s just a matter of customizing the text and images to say what you want it to say.

In some ways, this approach is a return to the original Dreamweaver/Kompozer approach — it’s just a visual WYSIWYG editor that produces HTML coded pages in response to your visual commands. This is coming at a time when people are again looking for alternatives to CMS-based sites, turning to static site generators for their enhanced security and page-load speeds. The simple act of writing up a page and posting it online without a complicated databased-powered system behind it makes more sense now than ever, and in that environment, Pingendo might be a good tool in your toolcase!

I decided to write about it, mostly because I always end up forgetting the name of it! Is it Palringo? No. Voxengo? Nope, it’s Pingendo. Even if they named it Smuckers, it would still be a pretty nice tool for building good looking single page sites quickly and easily.

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Always Know Where Your Towel (and File) Is http://tedcurran.net/2016/05/13/always-know-towel-file/ http://tedcurran.net/2016/05/13/always-know-towel-file/#respond Fri, 13 May 2016 17:06:37 +0000 http://tedcurran.net/?p=7745 So after reading this guy’s rant about how terrible his experience with iTunes is, it reminded me of a big “I told you so” that I want to share. While your apps would like you to think of your music, movies, and documents as being theirs, they’re really yours, and …

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So after reading this guy’s rant about how terrible his experience with iTunes is, it reminded me of a big “I told you so” that I want to share. While your apps would like you to think of your music, movies, and documents as being theirs, they’re really yours, and you should always know where they are stored on your devices. This empowers you to take control of your computing life, and always gives you the option to skip out of an abusive relationship (like the one many people have with iTunes).

Who Owns this Music, Me or iTunes?

I noticed back in maybe 2005, when iTunes was becoming everyone’s default music player due to the popularity of the iPod, that it demanded you use it (and not your desktop file manager) to view your music files. Before then, people would say “my MP3s are all in my ‘Music’ folder”, and they gradually changed to saying “my songs are all IN iTunes“.

Did you catch what happened? Apple got us to become dependent on their tool for not only listening to our music, but accessing it, organizing it, and (of course) buying it.

This adds convenience, sure, but it also gives Apple the power to define for you what you can and can’t do with your files. It may have never occurred to the ranty guy above that he could just open his MP3 files with a different app! iTunes files could not be played in any other music player but iTunes. They could not be used on any other devices but iPods. And iTunes would automatically arrange its files in a hidden folder on your desktop where you probably wouldn’t ever think to look.

Thinking of your documents as being bound by the application you use to work with them is inherently limiting, because if the application doesn’t let you do something, you can’t do it.

As an electronic music producer, I was constantly mining my album collection for samples, but iTunes doesn’t let you do that (except with certain pre-approved partner apps like GarageBand or DJay that can interface with iTunes). I watched as my students would search INSIDE of GarageBand for the button that would let them import a song to remix, instead of realizing that they could find the file in the Finder and drag/drop it into GarageBand (or some other DAW) to use it how they see fit.

Eventually I learned that I needed to manage my own MP3 files myself so I could keep the freedom to remix them the way I want to, and to play them on the devices I choose.

As Ford Prefect tells Arthur Dent in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, “it’s a tough galaxy. If you want to survive out here, you always gotta know where your towel is”.

Always Know Where Your File Is

I’d say the same thing goes for your files.

Since those early days with iTunes, it’s become the norm for people to think of apps, not files, as the main places they go to interface with their stuff. iOS famously went without a File Manager app for years, and all those iPhone and iPad users got used to thinking of files as being INSIDE of apps. Your documents are IN Google Docs, and you have to GO IN THERE to see them. Your pictures are IN FACEBOOK or Instagram, and you can’t access them outside of the application.

Again, it’s convenient, but it’s also disempowering you, the user, from doing everything you can do with your files.

What happens when the application goes out of business? How do you get your files back?

What if you take a photo in one app and want to share it into another, but your app doesn’t let you do that (for whatever reason). What then?

And what are those reasons? Money, usually. Apps will limit you from doing things with your files because they see a way to charge you money for that functionality. There may be weird contractual obligations between companies that restrict you from taking certain actions, as in the case of ringtones in iTunes:

So why won’t Apple let me make ringtones inside iTunes with tracks I’ve ripped from CDs?

Judging from the fact that the iTMS EULA prohibits the use of downloaded files as ringtones, we’d say it’s more than likely because Apple’s contracts with the various labels represented in the iTMS specifically forbid it. We haven’t seen them, but we’d bet that ringtones — and the licenses for using songs as ringtones — have their own lengthy section in Apple’s contracts, and that Apple isn’t allowed to sell files for use as ringtones without coughing up more dough. Steve has said as much, after all. Otherwise the selection would include more than just the 500,000 songs you can get right now.

We’re still not exactly happy with Apple’s decision to lock out the consumer like this. For example, why can’t we use our own GarageBand compositions as ringtones? We obviously own the rights to music we create. But we can certainly see why the labels would insist on pricing ringtone rights separately, since it’s such big business.

Finally, sometimes the developers of your favorite app simply haven’t added the specific piece of functionality that you need so you can do what you want with your files. Rather than waiting for your app to improve, you can take your files and use them in a different app that does what you want.

I’ve seen lots of people get to a “dead end” where they lose access to their creative work because they were dependent on their apps to work with their files.

To them, I say (in DJ Khaled’s voice) “Congratulations, You Played Yourself”.

“Don’t Ever Play Yourself”

Be the Driver, not the Passenger

This is just a reminder to think of your files as being yours, and remember that you should be the one who controls where and how you use them. Get a file manager app for your Android or iOS device so you can see where your pictures and music are stored, and where you can choose while app to open them with.

Finally, get acquainted with services like Google Takeout and learn how to export from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other services so you can always know where your precious files are.

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Use a URL as a Strong Password? #CrazyTalk http://tedcurran.net/2016/04/15/use-a-url-as-a-strong-password-crazytalk/ http://tedcurran.net/2016/04/15/use-a-url-as-a-strong-password-crazytalk/#respond Fri, 15 Apr 2016 15:00:00 +0000 http://tedcurran.net/?p=7686 I don’t know if this is actually a good idea or not, but hear me out (and please comment below!): Can a URL be used as a strong password? Laziness is the Mother of Invention This morning I was walking the dog, futzing with my phone, and trying to sign …

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I don’t know if this is actually a good idea or not, but hear me out (and please comment below!):

Can a URL be used as a strong password?

Laziness is the Mother of Invention

This morning I was walking the dog, futzing with my phone, and trying to sign up for a new social network. The app asked me for a password, and I didn’t want to use my standard low-security, easy-to-type-on-a-smartphone-with-one-hand password (because low security passwords are a bad idea). I wanted to follow good practices for creating strong passwords and I was in the mood for a lazybones way to do it.

walking the dog

My phone has an awesome custom keyboard called TouchPal that has its own clipboard manager which allows me to pull up a list of the last few things I’ve copied to the clipboard and paste them into new things.

The clipboard manager on TouchPal keyboard

Today, when prompted to come up with a password for a new app, I looked in my clipboard history and found a URL for an image I had recently copied and pasted somewhere else:

https://media.giphy.com/media/yHpvgfOKKBAD6/giphy.gif

I pasted it into the app, it accepted it (apparently it doesn’t limit password characters, which is great), and my password manager stored it so I can always just paste it in when I login.

How Secure is That?

It hit me that this URL fits most criteria for a strong password – it’s got 53 characters (!!!) made up of letters, numbers, and punctuation, which, although it doesn’t have capitals, still makes it a pretty strong password.

It’s not on the most common passwords 2016 list, and it doesn’t contain easy to guess life details like birthdays, pet names, child names, sports teams, anniversaries, or the word “password”. It’s not even a URL that’s near and dear to my heart, like my website or something — just a complete RANDOM, Strangers on a Train – style image URL that happened to be handy at the time.

In fact, according to HowSecureIsMyPassword.net, would take a computer about 112 SESVIGINTILLION YEARS to crack your password!!! That’s by far the highest score I’ve ever seen on that site, and is probably the biggest number I’ve ever heard of anywhere, BTW.

It would take a computer about 112 SESVIGINTILLION YEARS to crack your password

Is that Crazy?

So now, I fully invite you to ridicule me publicly if you think this is a stupid idea, but is there any real science around this? Under what circumstances would it be OK to copy and paste a URL as a strong password? Or maybe use the XKCD method and paste in a random string of words and spaces? What do you think?

via GIPHY

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Java-based Edtech Tools Pose Security Risk http://tedcurran.net/2016/04/12/java-based-edtech-tools-pose-security-risk/ http://tedcurran.net/2016/04/12/java-based-edtech-tools-pose-security-risk/#respond Tue, 12 Apr 2016 19:47:55 +0000 http://tedcurran.net/?p=7671 I was just discussing free screencasting tools with some fellow Instructional Designers, and realizing how many of the most commonly-used apps like Screencast-O-Matic are based on Java technology. Java’s recent plague of security breaches has earned it the title of  the biggest vulnerability for US computers, and yet, I haven’t …

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I was just discussing free screencasting tools with some fellow Instructional Designers, and realizing how many of the most commonly-used apps like Screencast-O-Matic are based on Java technology. Java’s recent plague of security breaches has earned it the title of  the biggest vulnerability for US computers, and yet, I haven’t heard much discussion in edtech circles about replacing these. So let’s talk about it!

I don’t meant to create mass hysteria, but it’s definitely something that users of free education technology tools should be aware of – especially if your institution restricts your ability to update software on your machine, you may not be able to install the latest patches in response to Java’s frequent security threats. In other words, – it CAN be patched, but it often ISN’T patched quickly enough to protect users from malware. It’s bad enough that security experts are urging people to find alternatives to Java-based tools and uninstall Java from your system.

Edtech Love’s Not Supposed to Hurt

I realized that several of the most beloved edtech tools require us to have Java installed on our machines, including Open Office for office documents, edtech darling Minecraft, Blackboard Collaborate for webinars, Screencast-O-Matic for screencasting, Big Blue Button webinars, Screenr screencasting, and XMind mind-mapping. Included in this list are tools that many of us have integrated into our personal course design workflows, or even have integrated with our LMSes.

I’m surprised that people continue to use (and SELL!) big-expensive Java-based tools like Bb Collaborate without discussing the risks.

As many users (like me) make the decision to uninstall Java completely from their personal machines, it poses an issue of equitable access if you continue to deliver instruction using tools that put students at a security risk.

To the best extent possible, you should probably take a good hard look at the tools you have it within your power to change, and reach out to other stakeholders in your organization to see what can be done to protect your institution and students. Hopefully, your IT group has a plan for securing everyone’s computer from Java’s vulnerabilities, but it’s worth discussing with them to see what the best thinking is, and what you need to communicate to students.

Beyond Java-Based EdTech

Java’s days as a de facto part of every major operating system seem to be over. Mainstream operating systems have stopped including Java by default, offering it only as an optional add-on for folks who need it. – digitaltrends

Long term, it appears that we should get used to living in a world where Java is no longer installed on our machines by default, and should start to explore Java-free (decaf?) alternatives to our favorite edtech tools.

Specifically for screencasting, you may want to check out Screencastify, which works as a Chrome browser plugin and runs natively without Java. You may want to dump OpenOffice and explore markdown as a better way of formatting your documents and creating presentations. You may want to ditch the bloated teleconferencing tools your institution purchased for the LMS and explore Google Hangouts, Skype, or Zoom.us instead?

If you use free code development tools with your students, you may that many popular titles are Java-based, like Eclipse and Aptana Studio. Maybe it’s time to start recommending SublimeText or Atom Editor instead.

These are just the tools I can think of off the top of my head, but I know that, over my years as an edtech tool junkie, I’ve run across lots of tools that require Java to run. Which apps do you depend on, and what are you thinking of switching to? You may want to use AlternativeTo to help you find alternatives to your favorite Java-based edtech tools. Please share in the comments below…

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