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Monday, May 28, 2001

No posting for today as it is Memorial Day in the United States. However, I did do a Saturday posting in which I included most of the usual "Monday traffic."


Tuesday, May 29, 2001

I somehow missed the upgrade of Roger Clary's QuizMaker Pro to version 4.0 last week. The $18 shareware from MacMuse allows one to create computerized multiple choice and matching tests. Roger has given the interface a new look, along with several new features. QuizMaker Pro 4.0 (1.3 MB) minimum requirements are a Power Mac, 4 MB free RAM (beyond the system requirements), 3.8 MB of hard drive space, and at least System 7.6.1.


Wednesday, May 30, 2001

Today is my last day of school with students. It's always a relief to reach the end of the year, but I know I'll miss them (er...most of them:-) by the first of next week.

EnvelopeOur high school secretary showed me an envelope that arrived in the mail today. It was from the Department of Education and was addressed, "ATTENTION: PRINCIPLE." Inside was a letter and a flier from the Secretary of Education, Rod Paige, reminding us, "On Memorial Day, May 28, 3 p.m. local time, Americans everywhere will observe a National Moment of Remembrance." Not a bad idea, but it would have been better received before May 29 and with "principal" spelled correctly. Maybe next year.

The Philadelphia Inquirer yesterday posted a column about a software application in development that assists in grading essays. Kristen A. Graham reported teachers in the Camden County region recently gathered at Camden County College for an inservice on Educational Testing Service's new E-rater grading application. Graham wrote:

David Swartz, president and chief executive officer of ETS Technologies and a former Camden County College writing teacher, said the company's research indicated that e-rater scores agreed with human rankings 94 percent to 97 percent of the time.

ETS has an online demo of E-rater, Criterion, that promises to grade submissions within 30 seconds!

ABC News has a page I just noticed for kids. It's called ABCNEWS4KIDS.com.


Thursday, May 31, 2001

Jay Lichtenauer of MacinMind Software has released version 1.6.2 of his typing tutor, Master Key. Available in both Carbon (Mac OS X -- 2 MB) and PowerPC (Mac OS Systems 7.1-9.1 -- 2.3 MB) versions, the $15 shareware is an old fashioned, straightforward typing drill program (without Mrs. Whoever singing out "f, f, j, j, ..."). Jay appears to have developed an effective task analysis of basic steps to keyboarding competence in a clean Macintosh interface. Targeted at middle school and higher users, the application includes many interesting practice pages.

Aladdin is now offering a unique, cross-platform site license program called the StuffIt Onesource Licensing Program. Available to organizations of 100 users (of StuffIt products) or more, the program covers multiple programs across "a mixture of Windows, Macintosh, Linux and/or Solaris." Such a program could considerably ease the load on schools running multiple platforms. Wouldn't it be nice if it caught on with Microsoft, Symantec, etc.?

Carl Hess was the first to "help" me with the correct spelling of Wednesday:-(. I guess that's one of the dangers of pointing out the errors of others. I'd checked the spelling of the text repeatedly, but not the day of the week! Thanks, Carl.


Friday, June 1, 2001

Bare Bones Software has released version 6.1 of their freeware text editor, BBEdit (4.2 MB). Now Mac OS X native, it also will run with System 7.5.5 or better on any Power Mac with at least 1 MB of free RAM. Beyond all of the advanced features listed on the BBEdit Lite page, BBEdit Lite provides an easy way to open text files beyond Simple Text's file size limit. A note of caution, however, is indicated. You may find that after using the lite version, you'll be irresistibly drawn to its big brother, BBEdit.

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) yesterday released The Condition of Education 2001 (3.4 MB PDF document). Summaries of the report are available from the Department of Education and CNN. The report is also available for download in specific sections or as a downloadable PowerPoint presentation from the NCES (options at bottom of page). (For the PDF documents, be sure to option-click on a Mac or right-click in Windows to download instead of opening the document inside your web browser.)

I'm going to take the easy way out on the report noted above and let you click through to the entire report or one of the summaries. As AP noted in the CNN report, it is "a grab-bag of previously released figures that together present a national snapshot of who's going to school, what they're learning and what difference it makes." And...I just found these links as I prepared to go to school this morning. My Mac will finish downloading the full report as I shower and shave (maybe more info than you ever wanted, huh!).


Saturday, June 2, 2001

Joe Taylor sent along a url to a MNN posting that says the Apple Store for Education is still carrying 17" CRT monitors for its education customers. Sure enough, when I checked displays at the AppleStore for K-12 Institutions and Individuals, there, towards the bottom of the page was the Mitsubishi Diamond Plus 73 Monitor (T3525LL/A) for $259.00 (free ground shipping). For comparison, I checked prices at Outpost.com ($249 plus shipping), Buy.com ($250.95 plus shipping), and MacMall ($249.00 plus shipping), and found the Apple price pretty much in line with everyone else.

Last Thursday was a records day at school (no kids). We had an interesting program in the afternoon where a World War II veteran who had quit school in his junior year to enlist was presented an honorary high school diploma. It's one of those things you just don't think about unless it's brought to your attention. While many other similar veterans who survived WWII returned to school and received their diplomas and/or went on to higher ed under the GI Bill, I thought it was a nice touch. The veteran had attended one of the schools that had merged years ago to form our current school system. The diploma was enabled through a legislative resolution of the last Indiana General Assembly. I understand a number of other states have similar measures pending.

I turned in my demo iBook 2001 this week for return to Apple Education. I had a lot of fun with the machine, playing around with Airport and letting the kids in my class shake it down. They really liked it, but then, it's been 4 years since there's been a brand new Mac in my building!

Last weekend, just for the fun of it, I installed OS X right over my OS 9.1 install. Before opening any Classic applications, I rebooted into OS 9.1 and used Conflict Catcher to set up an OS X compatible Classic system. In OS X, I kept the Launcher on the screen for the kids, which of course, launched Classic, and had no problems with that setup. It encouraged me considerably about OS X in elementary schools. I still think saving files may be a nightmare for the kids, though.

Back to the iBook, the model I received had several problems that, had it been my personal machine, would have required an exchange or repair. The CD would only open intermittently to insert a CD. Once a CD was in it, it opened (ejected) well, but having to open it with a paper clip eight out of ten times isn't acceptable.

Like many Apple laptops, the internal modem often has trouble connecting. When it does, it's often at a slow rate, but the speed does pick up to normal levels when loading pages and downloading items. Bill Fox of MacsOnly said in an email that this characteristic is pretty well documented on PowerBooks. On this iBook and our phone lines just getting any connection via the modem was problematic. There is a third party software fix, Modem Magic, that runs $35-55. According to the folks who sell Modem Magic, the problem is with the old Apple modem scripts and not the modem itself. Anyway, connecting was a bummer. Good thing I was mostly using the iBook at school with Airport feeding into a T-1 line.

The most serious problem with this iBook was with the trackpad. It felt jumpy and at times refused to allow the cursor to be pulled down. When the machine had been in use for some time (heat?), the trackpad would only allow the cursor to travel only one-third of the way down the screen before snapping back to the top. I checked Rik Ford's Macintouch Reader Reports and found no postings on the issue, but dropped him an email with the info, anyway. Later, several similar messages were posted to the iBook Reader Reports. One reader suggested the "fix" may be as simple as cleaning the trackpad with isopropyl alcohol! I hope so, but found that turning the machine off for 30 minutes to an hour was the only way to get the trackpad working correctly again (except in OS X, where a simple restart did the trick).


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©2001 Steven L. Wood