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FLOSS Friday: GTD-Free

October 15th, 2010
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If you browse your local book emporium, you may come across the “Productivity” section, where authors have written books on doing more work in less time.  One popular figure in this genre is David Allen, creator of Getting Things Done (official business site).  Getting Things Done, or GTD as it’s popularly known, has been embraced by many as the way to battle the forces of an overwhelming inbox.  Living in the electronic age that we do, people have written software to be able to assist those attempting to use GTD.  Enter today’s software pick: GTD-Free.  This software is written in Java, and has been tested on Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X.  Any platform capable running Java 1.6 should work fine.

The software has a lovely gallery of screenshots, but I wanted to share at least one to give you an idea of what the interface is like when dealing with, well, things:

GTD Free Main Task Sorting

Anyone who is “into” the GTD method should give this software a try.

And for those who are tired of loading Yet Another Tool to try and organize things, for those that prefer the original digital world of paper and pen, I present to you The Hipster PDA.  Instead of using a smart phone, a computer, a PDA, it’s just paper combined into a notebook with a binder clip.  You can find all kinds of GTD (or organization in general) PDF templates and such in the related links at the bottom of the page.  I especially like the ones at D*I*Y Planner.  The lovely thing about paper is that it can’t crash!


Mobile Monday: Google Phone Gallery

October 4th, 2010
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Android Logo

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.

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FLOSS Friday: GCstar

August 6th, 2010
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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:

GCstar Collection Types

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 site:

GCstar Book Collection Search

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:

GCstar Eragon Details

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 Lending Interface

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.


Campus phone directory – now with reverse lookup

July 30th, 2010
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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

Remember, you can go directly to the page at: or by clicking the handy envelope icon in the ECU icon bar.

ECU Web Sites

FLOSS Friday: Battle for Wesnoth

July 26th, 2010
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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:

Battle for Wesnoth v. 1.8.1

Visit the Battle for Wesnoth web site to download the software, read the documentation, and get started defeating the forces of Darkness!


Mobile Monday: iPhone Todo List Variation

July 12th, 2010
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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!):

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FLOSS Friday: BingoCardMaker

June 25th, 2010
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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.

Demo Bingo Card

Sample Bingo Card Created with BingoCardMaker



June 11th, 2010
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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:

DD-WRT Main Settings

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.

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Web Wednesday: Bing Treasure Maps

June 9th, 2010
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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.

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FLOSS Friday: SkyDrive

May 14th, 2010
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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:

A Sample of the SkyDrive Web Interface

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.

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