Archive for the ‘November 2007’ Category

“Ubuntu” is an ancient African word, meaning “humanity to others”. The Edubuntu Linux distribution brings the spirit of Ubuntu to schools, through its customised school environment. The current version of Edubuntu is aimed at classroom use, and future versions of Edubuntu will expand to other educational usage, such as university use. This is what the Edubuntu website (http://www.edubuntu.org) says about its operating system.

The Desktop
Edubuntu uses the GNOME Desktop Environment. It has file managers, network browsers, menus, and system tools. It even comes with a selection of programs that you can download at the click of a button. No need to search the Internet for educational programs. Just choose the program from a built in application called Synaptic and the computer automatically downloads the application for you, provided you have an Internet connection. The desktop is fun and easy to use. You can choose from three different theme setups for the desktop: ‘young’, for younger users, ‘plain’ for a clean desktop setup, and ‘default’, which is a general purpose theme setup. The latest release , Edubuntu 7.10, was codenamed “Gutsy Gibbon”.

(insert desktop.jpg here)

KDE Edutainment Suite

KDE is a graphical environment and serves as an application framework for KDE Edutainment Suite, a collection of educational software for Language, Mathematics, Science, Keyboarding, Geography and other subjects. The latest version of the KDE Edutainment software is included in Edubuntu.
An example of a Science application, Kalzium is a small and quick database for the elements. It shows the symbol for the element , the element number , the most important oxidation-stages , the elemental weight, , the atomic shells, orbital structure, density , etc. Some elements have information about their isotopes.
See more screenshots of KDE software at :

(insert kalzium.tiff here)

Gcompris is a collection of educational activities for kindergarden for basic computer use, basic maths, reading , logic, experiential activities and others . It’s so easy to use, my 3 year old daughter uses it with minimal supervision.

See more screenshots of GCompris at :

(insert gcomprisreading.tiff here)

Software such as TuxPaint, TuxMaths and TuxTyping are software for developing graphics, math and keyboarding .

(insert tux.tiff here)

See screenshots at : http://www.tuxpaint.org/

OpenOffice.org Office Suite
Edubuntu includes OpenOffice.org version 2. OpenOffice.org components include a word processor, spreadsheet, presentations, simple vector drawing and web authoring.
See screenshots at : http://www.openoffice.org/

Easy to install
Edubuntu is easy to download and install. Just access this website.


You can try Edubuntu before installing it on your computer permanently. Choose the appropriate platform on the “Desktop CD ” option. Your computer will start to download a file named “edubuntu-7.10-desktop-i386.iso” for Intel computers ( or edubuntu-7.10-desktop-amd64.iso for AMD)

Once the download is complete, burn the iso file to a CD, insert the CD in your CD drive then follow the instructions that appear. ( If you simply click on the downloaded file from your hard drive, the computer mounts the iso file but will not execute.)

You do not have to uninstall Windows to use Edubuntu.

Time to switch

If your school is thinking about upgrading to Windows Vista , think again. Why spend hundreds of thousands of pesos on proprietary software when you can have a high quality software made specifically for schools at no cost?

Schools have all to gain from making the switch from proprietary software like Windows to Edubuntu Linux. A major reason for this is the hardware requirement.

Proprietary software upgrades occasionally require hardware upgrades too. This requires money that schools are reluctant to shell out for due to budget constraints. Edubuntu Linux and open source alternatives do not require frequent hardware upgrades. In fact, will run on a computer with 500 MHz x86 processor,192 MB of system memory (RAM), 8 GB of disk space (although only 4 GB is required), Graphics card capable of 1024×768 resolution, Sound card (optional) , a network or Internet connection. If I had know this twenty years ago, I would have kept my i386 computer rather than let it waste away in the basement.

‘No Hardware left behind,’ was how an open source advocate describes Edubuntu’s hardware requirements. It will run well even on older machines that can not run Windows Vista. Schools are faced with a decision : stick to proprietary software, which requires hardware upgrades, or switch to open source, which runs on their old machines or those donated to them .

Even if your school has the budget, that money can be channeled to other areas of the education process, such as faculty incentives, facility improvements and training.

It is about time that school administrators shifted their attention to more viable alternatives such as Edubuntu Linux.

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How to convert documents
Documents created in OpenOffice.org Writer can be saved in .doc format and shared with MS Office users. There are three ways to do this.
First, set OpenOffice.org to automatically save documents in Microsoft Office format. Writer (.odt) will be saved in Word format ( .doc) , Calc (.ods) will be saved in Excel format (.xls) , Impress (.odi) will be saved as Powerpoint format (.ppt) when you click on the Save button.
To do this, choose Tools > Options > OpenOffice.org > Load/Save. Under Default file format , choose the desired file format in the Always Save As box.

Second, manually save an OOo document in MS format by choosing File > Save As. Then select the .doc format in the Save As Type box.

Third, choose File > Send > Email as Microsoft Word. This automatically sends the file in MS Word format. However the file retains its .odt format.

Some conversion issues
Documents converted from .odt to .doc will not always turn out exactly alike. The more formatting you applied to your document, the less likely it will retain its original look. Here are some of these conversion issues based on my own experience :
1) The hyperlinks in the table of contents will be lost. I created hyperlinks in my original docuemnt, which should take the user directly to the beginning of the specified section when clicked. When I opened the converted file in MS Word, all the hyperlinks to the sections were lost.
2) The background color and graphics disappear. Graphics or color you add to the page background using Format > Page in OpenOffice.org will not appear when you open the file in MS Word. Even the background color for the table of contents disappeared.
3) The headers and footers appear on the document but can not be edited.
4) Characters used for bulleted lists could change depending upon whether the bullet graphic is available in MS Word.
5) MS Word can not identify the name of the Style and Formatting used for some style categories but it can identify the character attributes such as alignment, indentation , spacing, paragraph style , font, and other specific atributes.
6) Embedded graphics are not treated as separate objects . This means that graphics inserted in OpenOffice.org could not be selected, resized, and modified from MS Word. To delete the graphic, you have to select the space or text on top and below the graphic then press any key. If you simply click backspace at the end of the graphic, nothing happens.
7) Page margins change. In OpenOffice.org, the left, right , top and bottom page margins were set at .79 inches. When the file was converted to .doc and opened in MS Word, the margins specified on the formatting box remained the same except for the bottom margin, which changed to 1.18 inches. These margins however did not stop the body of text from appearing on the page footers.
The best way to share documents with non-OpenOffice.org users is to export the file to PDF (portable document format) format rather than to .doc format. To do this, click the PDF icon on the toolbar or choose File > Export as PDF . However, if your document uses very little styles and formatting, saving your .odt file to .doc and opening it in MS Word should not be very problematic.

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Schools can benefit hugely from open content. At a time when textbooks are scarce in both quantity and quality, schools should once and for all explore open content not only as a means to cope with the lack of resources, but also to open doors for new ways of teaching and learning.

What is open content?
“Open content describes any kind of creative work or engineering work that is published in a format that explicitly allows the copying and the modifying of the information by anyone; not exclusively by a closed organization, firm or individual. Technically, it is royalty free, share alike and may or may not allow commercial redistribution. Content can be either in the public domain or under an open license like one of the Creative Commons licenses.” — Wikipedia.org

In three simple words, you can share, remix, reuse — legally.

Here are a number of websites that the teachers among you might find useful for the next lesson or for the next schoolyear.

“Free-Reading is an “open source” instructional program that helps teachers teach early reading. Because it’s open source, it represents the collective wisdom of a wide community of teachers and researchers. It’s designed to contain a scope and sequence of activities that can support and supplement a typical “core” or “basal” program. ” according to the Free-Reading website.
It combines open source as well as Web 2.0 tools to bring about a richer content for teachers to use.
Free-Reading is a website that uses the Creative Commons license Attribution-Share Alike 3.0, sometimes referred to as the “wiki” license. This means that you can the content any way you want as long as you attribute the original content and that whatever content that is derived from this should also be usable in the same manner.
Reading teachers have all to gain from this website. There are resources for teaching a 40-week reading intervention program for early learners. There are also short, intensive sequences of activities targeted at specific gaps in literacy development, called bursts.
For example, the Early ORFer Burst is a six-week intervention sequence designed for students who have mastered phonemic awareness and sounding out skills, but have low oral reading fluency (ORF). It gets into reading connected text using specially designed sentences and stories that are decodable, simultaneously begins teaching letter combinations and strengthens the student’s base of high-frequency irregular words.
It has a few fancy tools, like the Word List Generator , which is designed to help educators create practice word lists for students learning to read. Through a set of drop down lists, you could create , for example, a list of multi-syllabic, 6 letter words with a specified consonant-vowel-consonant form.

Teachers can add an early literacy activity , download resources, rate an existing activity, write a short story , start or enter a discussion on the mailing list, watch and listen to Free-Reading videos and audios that play on the page itself or link to Youtube.
The website even offers the source code for the webpages. Users can add or modify resources and comment on what works and what doesn’t.
Free-Reading.net can be accessed at: http://www.free-reading.net/

Open Courseware
“An OpenCourseWare is a free and open digital publication of high quality educational materials, organized as courses. “, according to the OpenCourseWare Consortium , a collaboration of more than 100 higher education institutions and associated organizations that aims to advance education and empower people worldwide through open courseware.
Among the more prominent universities in the consortium is the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. MIT Open Courseware is a project that provides free undergraduate and graduate level course materials developed by MIT professors . There are 1700 courses available under 35 departments, including architecture, engineering, management, science, humanities, arts and social sciences. Course materials include lecture notes, problem sets, assignments, lecture videos and demonstrations. You can download the lectures and virtually have an MIT professor as a guest speaker in your classes, complete with slides and pdf (portable document format) versions of the lecture notes.
Some courses have translations in Portugues, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, Thai, and Spanish. The publication of course materials had been available since 2002.
MIT Open Courseware can be accessed at http://ocw.mit.edu/ .

Wikibooks contains several open-content textbooks that users can access and edit. Among the subjects are humanities , arts, mathematics, information technology, languages and cooking. There’s also a WikiJunior collection of Wikibooks that contains non-fiction books for children until age 12. These books could take the form of macropedias, textbooks or primers.
Wikijunior is not only kid friendly, collaborative and reliable , it is also open. Registered users can write, edit and rewrite each article and book . The books are free under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License. The GNU Documentation license, makes a manual, textbook, or other functional and useful document “free” for users to copy and redistribute , with or without modifying it, either commercially or noncommercially, and credits the author and publisher for the work but not for the modification.
Access Wikibooks at: http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Main_Page

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Whether you are a teacher who develops course notes and homework and makes them available to students online, a decision maker at a government agency that wants to make documents and reports accessible to the general public via the Internet, or an individual who writes lengthy documents such as textbooks, course modules, user guides , technical reports , proposals or feasibility studies and wants to share files with others without having to worry about compatiblity issues, the hyperlink and PDF tools can be very useful to you. These tools address two of your more important concerns: convenience and portability. This article describes how you can create hotlinked PDF files using OpenOffice.org Writer.

Creating hotlinks using the Hyperlink tool

To create a hotlinked table of contents:
1.Apply styles to headings in the document.
2.Move the insertion point to the top of the document.
3.Choose Insert > Indexes and Tables > Indexes and Tables.
4.Click the Entries tab of the window, click to the left of the E and click Hyperlink. The letters, LS will appear before the box you clicked.
5.Click after the E and click Hyperlink again. The letters , LE appear in the box after the one you clicked.
6.Click All to put hyperlinks on all levels of the TOC. Click OK.

A hotlinked table of contents appears on the location of the insertion point.

Adding a “Back to top” link in the Footer
To make it easy for you to go back to the table of contents from any other section within the document, you can create a link in the footer .
1.Add a footer in your document. (Insert – Footer-Default)
2.Click in the footer and add text that says “back to top.”
3.Select the text that says “back to top” on the footer .
4.Click the Hyperlink icon on the Standard toolbar.
5.Click the Document icon on the left side.
6.Click the Target in Document icon. It’s the round one to the right of the “Target in document” box. The Navigator window opens.
7.Link to any heading, table, object, etc. in your document, or in any other document. Click Apply, and Close.
8.In the hyperlink window, click Apply and Close again.

Hotlinking to anywhere else in the document
You can add links to each chapter in the document in the footer .
1.Follow instructions 1 to 6 in the previous section, substituting “back to top” with the chapter number.
2.In the Navigator, choose Headings.
3.Then select the Chapter Heading from the list that appears.
4.Click Apply and Close in the Navigator and Hyperlink box.

Hotlinking to a website
1.Select the text to link.
2.Click the Hyperlink icon.
3.Select Internet on the left.
4.On the Target box, type the URL.
5. Click Apply. Click Close.

Converting files to PDF using the PDF tool

Adobe’s Portable Document Format (PDF) is the ideal format to use when distributing documents via the web because it is platform and software independent. As long as the free Acrobat Reader is installed on your computer, you can read files created from any application, on any computer system and share it with anyone around the world. Schools, government agencies , organizations and businesses everywhere use the format to distribute documents over the Internet.

To create a PDF version of your file:
1.Simply click on the PPDF icon on the Standard toolbar.
2.OOo creates a PDF file in the same folder/directory as your .odt file.
3.Find the .pdf file from the directory then double click it.
4.Voila! A hotlinked PDF file courtesy of OpenOffice.org.

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It’s been 8 months since I first released my first article on open source software. Since then, I have received quite a number of inquiries concerning Open Office.org, Linux, and other open source applications. Needless to say, a lot of people are getting interested. However, this interest does not necerssarily translate to adoption. I realized that no matter how sound the principles of the open source movement, and how attractive free software sounds, it will not necessarily convince people to ditch their current apps to switch to open source software . Like they say, money isn’t everything .

Replacing software like an office suite might be a major concern for some , particularly for businesses, who are wary about sacrificing productivity to explore unchartered territory like open source software. However, a large part of the fear or anxiety about switching is based on people’s reluctance to step put of their comfort zone. In other words, people prefer the status quo for as long as they could afford it. For the rest of you who are bold enough to seriously consider OpenOffice.org but are held back for some reason, I hope this article helps. This article suggests 8 simple rules for switching to OpenOffice.org.

Rule # 1 – Use before you refuse
People who have used proprietary software like MS Office for a very long time often have a favorite feature that they just can’t live without. When offered new software to replace their current, they’d typically say “That’s a great idea, but it doesn’t have this or that feature…”. Often , this kind of attitude is more of an excuse than a reason. Just because the software did not come from huge software corporation, they immediately assume that it is inferior to their current software. How can free software be as good as the costly Microsoft products ?

The truth is that most MS Office features have equivalents in OpenOffice.org. They may be called a different name , or be accessible through a different menu or toolbar. It would help to read the user’s manual or explore the Help feature, to find out exactly what OpenOffice.org can offer.

Of course not all MS Office features can be found in OpenOffice.org. However, OpenOffice.org also has some key features that MS Office does not have. The important point here is this: use before you refuse.

Rule # 2. Don’t treat it like an MS Office clone
Due to the fact that the OpenOffice.org and MS Office interface (except Office 2007) are similar, some assume that if a menu or icon found in MS Office is missing in the OpenOffice.org interface, it is just not available. However, OpenOffice.org is not a clone of MS Office. Access the Help menu to find the feature you need.

Rule # 3. Do not assume you will incur huge training costs
Some potential users are worried that the shift will require extensive training, and thus cause much disruption in the workplace. Immediately, they factor in huge training costs and down time in their feasiblity studies. However, training is not an absolute necessity in all cases.
If you are already an office suite user, shifting to OpenOffice.org will require very minimal training. Often, the Help menu can be your most cost efficient, and effective trainer. For example, workers with clerical functions whose job involves typing meeting agenda, minutes, memos, etc. are less likely to need training since they will be using familiar menus and toolbars in OpenOffice.org . Learning the application is instinctive. In effect, the transition period can be as short as three days .

Rule # 4. Use wizards and templates to get a feel of the application
A quick and easy way to get a feel of OpenOffice.org is by using OOo’s wizards. It leads you through the process of creating basic documents, such as a memo or letterhead. Try experimenting on the wizards to decide how easy or difficult it would be. You can even load the templates you use in MS Office and save it into the OOo templates folder. This way, you wouldn’t have to re-create every single office document when you decide to make the switch.

Rule # 5. Explore the unique features
Explore OpenOffice.org’s unique features. Among these unique features are the Navigator and the Stylist. The Stylist automatically applies styles to entries in a document. The Navigator provides quick access to different parts of the document. It can also become an outlining tool, allows users to move entire sections and promotes or demotes heading levels. Decide whether these features will be useful to you.

Rule # 6. Look for Hidden Functionality
Hidden functionalities are features that are not mentioned in user guides or in the Help menu, but are nonetheless helpful tools. Finding hidden functionalities help give you confidence in the use of the program as well as encourage you to keep learning .

Rule # 7. Experience the application
Do not let your first impression of the application discourage you. Just because it does not look exactly the same as your old application , it does not mean you will not be able to be productive with it. Take some time to experience the application , learn its features, as well as its quirks. Then compare this with your experience with your current application. If you are not happy with its performance, try the next version . If you are a company decision maker, you should keep your options open all the time. Rash decisions may establish prejudice against the application even when better versions are released in the future. Experience is the key.

Rule # 8. Consider the long term
An important aspect to consider when deciding which software to use is the file format that it supports. You must use software that will ensure your files’ readability in the future , without regard for the kind of software you are using then. MS Office documents become unreadable once new versions of MS Office are released, and that’s about every 3-5 years! OpenOffice.org uses Open Document format and supports most commercial formats . It is backed by standards groups, ISO and OASIS and not controlled by any single company .

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You have just submitted your textbook draft to a publisher, who suggests that you move a few chapters around. This sounds very easy, you think to yourself. “ I will email it to you by tomorrow morning” , you proudly reply. Once you sit down to edit the draft, you realize that you are in over your head. Moving chapters around means you have to cut 50-page long chapters , scroll a few hundred pages, then paste it to its new location. You also also have to update the index and references, renumber the table of contents and figures. You would probably need about a week rather than a few hours to edit that 400-page textbook.

Not with OpenOffice.org’s Navigator tool. When writing a lengthy manuscript such as a textbook , you can write each chapter of your book as a separate document, then create a master document where the chapters can be reordered. Within the master document, you can use the Navigator to jump from one section to another instantly. You can move entire sections from one place to another, and set levels for each section . The references are automatically renumbered and the table of contents and index can be updated with a few clicks.

In Writer, the Navigator has two distinct forms. One form is used in ordinary text documents and the other in master documents. In an ordinary text document, the Navigator displays lists of the graphics, tables, index entries, hyperlinks, references, and other items in the document.

How to launch the Navigator
1. To launch the Navigator , press F5 or click the Navigator icon on the Standard toolbar. To get a detailed description of what each of the buttons does, press Shift+F1 and hover the
cursor over the buttons.
2. Use the Styles and Formatting tool to add headings. These headings will appear in the Navigator.
3. Click the + sign to display headings and subheadings.

Using the Navigator in an ordinary text document
1. Click the Content View icon.
2. Double-click an entry in the Navigator to jump immediately to that place in the document.
3. To move a section, select the heading for that section.
4. Drag the heading to a new location on the Navigator or click the Promote Chapter icon or the Demote Chapter icon as many times as needed to move the section to where you want it.

Inserting Hyperlinks With the Navigator
You can insert a cross-reference as a hyperlink in your document or cross-reference items from other OpenOffice.org documents. Clicking on the hyperlink takes you to the cross-referenced item.
1. Open the document(s) containing the items to cross-reference.
2. Open the Navigator.
3. Click the arrow next to the Drag Mode icon and select Insert as Hyperlink.
4. In the list box at the bottom of the Navigator, select the document containing the item to cross-reference.
5. In the Navigator list, click the plus (+) sign next to the item that you want to insert as a hyperlink.
6. Drag the item to where you want to insert the hyperlink in the document.

Find out how to use the Navigator in Master documents next week.

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