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Monday, March 27, 2006

ajaxWrite Launched

Last week our programmer at work sent me a link to a new web-based word processor based on the AJAX Platform. He's been working to use ajax on a site update and is up on all of that stuff.

When I visited the ajaxWrite site, I was pleasantly surprised to find a somewhat functional online, Word compatible, word processor. I did encounter some serious problems in using it, but just this weekend found they had already been corrected.

ajaxWrite

Last Thursday, when I tried to print a open or print a document from the online app, I got one character per line, producing a quick shutdown of my printer to save toner and paper. By yesterday, that problem was fixed.

If this organization can continue to refine this application and add others, as they've suggested, this could be a big money saver for schools.

Another Cut in Education Spending

While the eSchoolNews headline proclaims Senate defies Bush on ed budget, the fine print tells that the Senate merely restored $1.5 billion of a proposed Bush Administration $3 billion cut in federal education funding. Most heavily impacted in the original cut proposal was educational technology. It is unclear at this stage who or what gets cut now.

When I was researching the first posting for today, I tried www.ajax.org and got the page below for a few seconds before being moved on to another page. But I tried again and was able to snap a screenshot of it. I find it highly applicable to this particular education posting.

Narrow Curriculum

The New York Times Sam Dillon tells in Schools Cut Back Subjects to Push Reading and Math about schools cutting back other subjects in favor of math and reading instruction to meet NCLB testing standards. Dillon writes that some schools are "reducing class time spent on other subjects and, for some low-proficiency students, eliminating it."

I'm not quite sure whether to groan or applaud this trend. For years when teaching disadvantaged and disabled kids, we regularly did such things, as it doesn't make much sense to put kids in reading intensive subjects when they can't read. But, it also pulls kids from the mainstream and also lessens their exposure to the full spectrum of subjects that in their totality are really important.

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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Onscreen Protractor

Last weekend I quickly put together a cold frame for getting plants outdoors a bit ahead of time. It's a good way to let tender plants grown from seed toughen up a bit before being transplated into the garden. Years ago when we farming and doing a bit of roadside vegetable marketing, I'd put together some, in retrospect, really large portable cold frames. I based my plan this time on a smaller and more portable desgin.

One of the shortcomings of the original cold frames was that I made the tops flat, and since I use plastic to cover them, rain would settle in the middle of them and stand. This time I planned to slope the tops, but found that I needed to figure the angle I needed to cut the wood to provide a good slope so rainwater and dew would run off.

To my surprise, a Mac doesn't come with a built-in free protractor. (I should have known that!) So I did a quick search on MacUpdate and Google and found two that I decided to try. Screen Protractor ($29.95) from Iconico.com and Henry McGilton's Trilithon Protractor ($9.95) presented different looks at doing the same job. Both functioned well, although I found the Screen Protractor's limited features in the demo enough to put me on to the time-limited shareware, Trilithon Protractor, pretty quickly.

Screen Protractor
Trilithon Protractor
Screen Protractor Trilithon Protractor

The nice part about this exercise is that either tool appears to be able to do the job of effectively overlaying an onscreen drawing and accurately measuring angles. I used the tools overlaying the angle I wanted to measure in a large Photoshop document with no problems. At first I thought the Trilithon Protractor was going to shade out just the area I needed to see and align until I saw its opacity menu.

Since I hadn't thought about doing any sort of posting, I neglected to get a shot of the frame before covering it with plastic. This frame is just 3'x6'x24". The ones I made on the farm were 12' long and made with 2x6's instead of 2x4's. They were a bear to move! I did the plans, such as they are, in AppleWorks and zipped them (12K) in case others might want to try. Update (3/30/2008): I finally put the cold frame plans, such as they are, into Word (54K) and PDF (377K) formats for download.

Cold frame

If you have trouble with the plastic tearing on sharp corners, try covering them with carpet scraps. I forgot all about that until after I'd stapled the plastic in place. And...I ended up buying both the Trilithon Protractor and Trilithon Ruler. I liked them both, and besides, I'm a sucker for stuff under $10 a pop.

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