Thursday 25 January 2007

Coffee: for a few dollars free

The boys at CoffeeCup have been making fun tools for web design for years but I didn't make more than occasional use of them having Dreamweaver for most of what I needed at the time and most were only free for a limited period. Period expires and that's that. The regular mailings continued which I ignored until I got one about a web album which was pretty smart and, before discovering JAlbum, I decided it was worth the few dollars and went to their site to buy it. There I spotted an offer to buy everything they do for just a few dollars more and their marketing worked.

In the long list of software I can now use I found some interesting items, some I don't understand, one or two a bit odd but some more that I have been using, including a nice CSS Style Sheet maker, something that makes putting videos on your web site a cinch, an RSS news feed reader and several others which have definitely been helpful and avoided long sessions of trying to figure out how to do things in Dreamweaver. But this post isn't intended as a sales pitch for them. You should know that I like free stuff and try to avoid recommending anything that costs money - and I'm not about to break the habit now. You see, a week or two later I had an e-mail asking whether I'd like to be something grand like a CoffeCup Ambassador. Naturally, my vain side said "Yes, if it's free." and then I get an invitation to apply for the whole shooting match for free for use by students at the College. I filled in the form expecting it to be restricted to US only (as so many offers seem to be) or to find a catch but, no, I got approved and now have a CD with all the stuff on and permission to spread it around College machines liberally.

Naturally, I can where they're going: get the kids hooked and then sell 'em the set. With that wealth warning, however, I am quite looking forward to giving people an alternative to Dreamweaver and some genuinely fun and easy tools to play with. I may even learn from some of the smarter students what to do with the more strange-looking things!

I don't know if the offer's still there but why not contact CoffeeCup and ask? And any firm that substitutes "Cool" for "OK" on the button deserves a mention in my book!

Sunday 14 January 2007

Photo albums

Quick reference here to JAlbum - a very nice, and free, application that creates decent-looking alums from folders of photos. Unlike some of the other tools I've mentioned elsewhere, and, indeed, their previous versions, the album settings and image selections are easy to change. Still not suitable for anyone with no idea about uploading to web space (stick with Picasa and Frappr for now!) but great if you can manage that.

Thursday 11 January 2007

Wild Apricot

Had a look at Wild Apricot a while ago and included this in some of the sessions I've doing around the country. Not sure what to do with it but I'm sure it has distinct possibilities. Hopefully we can turn them into probabilities! This post has been prompted by a nice message from one of the team behind the application which I reproduce below. Answers on a postcard . . .

Well Andrew, you certainly have a refreshing writing style (and I mean that most sincerely)!

So, it looks like you’ve started a website using our Wild Apricot software, and have even pointed out on your home page that its usage scope is more than just for members, but rather any community of people with common interests. Is this what you have in mind eventually, or is this just playing with a new tool (either way is OK with us, that’s why we offer free accounts!). However, it does seem, from both your work experience background as well as your own interests, that you are likely an ideal person to provide feedback on our product. We launched the production version in September of this year, so we are absolutely anxious to receive early user comments and suggestions, whether they relate to the experience of setting up the site, or to features/functions that you like/don’t like.

And of course, if there is an organization that you know of that could use this type of service, we will shortly have a partner program in place that will “reward” such referrals.

At your earliest convenience, could I ask you to jot down your early impressions of Wild Apricot, the good and the bad (please, no ugly, we have feelings too!), and send those along to me?


Al DesRoches

eBusiness Solutions Specialist

Google Account

You don't need a gmail address to get a Google account now and there are so many things you can do with one. Here's the link that isn't as obvious as it might be.

Whither LSN now?

The National e-Learning Support network Co-ordinators have been asked to contribute ideas as to where LSN should concentrate the e-learning and technology team's efforts in 2007/8. This year has been dominated by the continual development of eCPD, about which I have written separately, and the 'Framework'. What next? My view is that we need to get out more. In many senses of the phrase! One of the great things about the old Q projects was the comparative freedom I had to help FE Colleges develop their ideas and I had time to visit them and talk about solving their problems rather than the somewhat false ones 'created' by awkward eCPD project requirements. The money wasn't much but I felt that I was useful. Hopefully we can get back to simple support in explaining and understanding what all this new technology can do, with the main effort being made to help those to whom it really is still 'new'. Just as ICT skills really do need urgent updating as so much has changed since we did CLAIT and IBT II or III, so too has all the ways those skils can be applied. Indeed, so much is so much simpler now and I feel that those whom we never really reached in the old days can now be inspired as they could, with minimal training, do so much more than before with the newer, more user-friendly, and exciting tools and applications. So my vote is for a return to Q projects, with minimal bureaucracy and well-managed advanced promotion so that we can make sure that not just the bid-watchers apply.