Because of the confusion about the features, capabilities, and carriers for the many Android based phones, Google has created a new tool to let you compare and contrast devices. Pictures are included, as well as the ability to filter on various criteria. Give it a try: Google Phone Gallery.
Today’s offering is collection management software. Collection management is software/tools that help you manage your collected “things”. Whether you collect stamps, wines, TV episodes, movies, or something entirely different, once your collection reaches a certain size, you’ll want some way of keeping up with it. GCstar is one tool that might be exactly what you need. GCstar is a generic collection manager. It supports pre-configured databases for: board games, books, comics, mini vehicles, movies, music, numismatic (coins), periodicals, stamps (interesting, numismatic for coins, but not philatelic for stamps), TV shows, video games, and wines. If these pre-configured aren’t suitable, the software allows you to configure your own type. Here’s a screenshot of your choices when creating a new collection:
If you select books, you can then make use of the Internet search features to quickly add items to your collection without manually typing the details. Several search providers are included. Here’s a screenshot of me searching for Eragon by Christopher Paolini from the US Amazon.com site:
Not surprisingly, this book was found at Amazon. I picked the single hardcover book (several results were returned), which meant my Eragon details were automatically inserted:
Once you’ve got some books in your collection, you can then make use of the “Lending” tab to let you know that someone has borrowed your book:
GCstar is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux. If you use Windows, then you can download a self extracting installer that takes care of all the requirements. If you are a Mac user, the process is slightly more complicated because you need to have MacPorts installed. The instructions are clear and straightforward, but the process isn’t as simple as downloading a DMG file and dragging an icon.
Although GCstar handles many types of collections, if you are into social media and have a book collection, you might want to try Shelfari, a completely web based book sharing site.
If you haven’t visited the ECU E-mail and Phone page lately, you might not be aware that we’ve released a new feature: reverse lookup. Reverse lookup is where you take a phone number as your search term and the software returns entries corresponding to that number. Our ECU reverse lookup searches both People and Departments. Phone numbers can be entered using no separator, period separators, dash separators, space separator, area code included, area code excluded, parentheses around area code, and so forth. If you attempt to use it and a phone number doesn’t work that should, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Remember, you can go directly to the page at: http://www.ecu.edu/cs-ecu/email_phone.cfm or by clicking the handy envelope icon in the ECU icon bar.
This time on FLOSS Friday, something more light. Today’s offering is Battle for Wesnoth, a “turn based tactical strategy game”. For those of you not used to computer gaming terms, turn based means that players take all of their actions during their turn. That is in contrast to real time games, where the game proceeds whether you make actions or not. Turn based games give more time for reflection and strategy, which means that they allow for less initial frustration than a real time game where novices can be defeated quickly.
Because Battle for Wesnoth is an established and mature project (which is still being actively developed), it is available for Linux, UNIX, Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, and even the iPhone/iPod Touch. Play can be against the computer or against possibly multiple human opponents on the publicly available multiplayer server. If you don’t relish the idea of losing to twelve year olds, then you can get one of the players in your group to host a game server and only allow your friends to join.
If you like the idea of Dungeons and Dragons games, but don’t want to deal with the cost and time investment required for something like World of Warcraft, then Battle for Wesnoth is a great alternative. It doesn’t cost anything to play, it looks nice, and if you get tired of the computer, you can venture out to the public game server.
Here’s one sample screenshot to whet your appetite:
Visit the Battle for Wesnoth web site to download the software, read the documentation, and get started defeating the forces of Darkness!
Organizing all the tasks we have to complete is often a dull but necessary chore. To help fight the boredom, a new application for iPod Touch / iPhone will make your task list into a role playing game. No longer “chores”, you now have “quests”. For those of you raised on either paper and pen RPGs or the newer electronic MMORPGs, this could be just what you’ve been looking for The As of this posting, the described application is not yet available in the App Store, but look for it to be released soon. In the mean time, check out the information at the Epicwin site (including video!):
One of the projects I found from a Datamation article listing 50 Open Source Tools That Replace Popular Education Apps is BingoCardMaker. This is a simple little Java application (which means that it will work in Linux, Mac, and Windows) that you use to make random bingo cars. You specify the color scheme of the text and image outlines, the collection of images to use for the cards, the number or rows and columns in each card, the number of cards to generate, and details about the size and format of the resulting card images. Note that this program only uses images for its cards, and does not make numbered Bingo cards that you may be used to.
You may be wondering, “Why would I want to create image based Bingo cards?”. The answer is, “teaching”. You could be teaching a foreign language, and call out words in that language. People have to mark the squares that show the word being called out. The other example comes from the sofware site itself: reading a dialog and attempting to identify all the objects (nouns) being read.
The software is a small download, and has enough flexibility that ycu could adapt it for your own teaching or rainy day activity purposes. Since the site has detailed explanations of how to run the tool, I’ll leave you with a card generated by the program. The images in the squares are from an icon set from Pixel Mixer.
Today’s project is for the more adventuresome sorts who enjoy tinkering with their home networks, getting the most performance and features our of consumer grade (read: the stuff you would buy at Best Buy, Wal-Mart, etc. as opposed to ordering from Cisco) routers and wireless access points. If you didn’t know, the “little boxes” that most all of us have in our homes actually have some level of operating system (in the form of firmware) running on them. You may run a web interface and periodically update this firmware yourself. Updating the firmware usually involves visiting a web page hosted by your router’s manufacturer, downloading a file, and then using the router’s web interface to upload the file to the device.
Given that many of these home routers run a variant of Linux, it became possible to modify the default distribution as shipped by the manufacturer and make it better, faster, strong, more convenient, etc. One of the first routers that became wildly popular for this kind of tinkering was the Linksys (now Cisco) WRT54G. One very popular alternative firmware for this device is DD-WRT. As more and more devices became replaceable-firmware friendly, the projects such as DD-WRT expanded to support more and more hardware. As new devices are released, the DD-WRT team determines if they can make a replacement firmware.
If you do have a compatible device, you might want to give DD-WRT a try. It exposes features of the hardware that the original Cisco/Linksys/whoever didn’t necessarily make available to end users. As a simple example, DD-WRT lets you associate a device’s MAC address with a fixed IP address. By default, the device simply assigns IP addresses to devices as they request addresses. That complicates doing things like opening ports for server applications and using a network printer; you have to constantly update applications to repoint to the current correct address.
As the web site says, it is possible to make your device no longer functional, so don’t use an alternative firmware unless you’re fairly confident about doing experiments with your hardware. You don’t have to do anything very different from a normal upgrde, but if you’ve never done that and wouldn’t know how to, then this type of software isn’t for you.
As always, it’s not FLOSS Friday without a screen shot:
Since the image doesn’t capture the details very well, it’s much better if you visit the interface demo at the DD-WRT site.
Many people reading this have no doubt been long time users of MapQuest, Google Maps, or Yahoo! Maps. Microsoft has worked hard at adding features and usability to its maps application, Bing Maps. The Microsoft mapping team has a new feature: Bing Destination Maps. These walk you through creating a map to share via e-mail, embed in a document, or print. There are three styles: European Style, American Style, Sketch Style, and Treasure Style. This being ECU, there’s only one choice for your stylish destination map: Treasure Style!
One important detail: this web application requires Microsoft Silverlight, so you’ll need to download and install that to try out this application. For the Linux desktop users out there, I don’t know if the current release of Moonlight will work.
With ECU converting all student e-mail accounts to Outlook Live, they have access to a very nice feature of all “standard” Microsoft Live accounts, 25 gigabytes of free storage. If you are not a student, you can sign up for a free Live account and also get the 25G. You can connect to all users, including ECU students. If you have a Rocketmail, MSN, or Xbox Live account, you already have an account suitable for using with the Live tools, including SkyDrive.
One of the problems with using SkyDrive compared to, say, DropBox, is that there’s only a web interface to up/download files. There’s no appliction that makes the space look like a drive on your computer. However, if you have a Windows machine, you can take advantage of a tip from Paul Thurrott to mount your SkyDrive. If you prefer a less hacky solution, you can try Gladinet Cloud Desktop or SDExplorer.
Because I include a screen shot if I can, here’s a portion of my browser window showing some SkyDrive folders:
Besides SkyDrive, Microsoft has other features when you use your Live account, so explore the links and options. Even if you don’t, free cloud storage of 25G is nothing to sneeze at.
Despite the market dominance of Microsoft Office on both Windows and OS X, there are FLOSS office applications and suites available that offer many of the same features. I’ve been an OpenOffice.org user since the early days when it was an all -encompassing single window in which you then ran individual applications such as spreadsheet, word processor, etc. That has been quite some time ago, and the current 3.2 version looks good and runs well. It offers compatibility with Microsoft binary formats as well as having its own world-recognized completely open formats. All of the “must have” applications are there, including word processing, spreadsheets, databases, presentations, drawing tools, and more.
Just to give a sense of its usability, I installed OpenOffice.org on the computer I built for my Mom, and she never had any trouble using it or even noticing that the applications weren’t Microsoft Office. Some people even prefer the OO.o interface, which more resembles MS Office 2003 to the MS Office 2007 ribbon interface. I won’t personally claim one is better than the other, but I do know that getting used to OO.o was easier than getting used to Office 2007’s interface.
Some screen shots to whet your appetite:
OpenOffice.org is available for Microsoft Windows (also in PortableApps format), MacOS X, Linux, and Solaris. It is also available in native-language distributions other than English, so if English is not your first language you can run your tools with more comfortable scripts. If you you’re still wondering “Why”, then you can get the OpenOffice.org answers to that very question.