30 October 2006

Links to free images

OK, so you've probably seen these before because I tell everyone I know about them. The point of including this is to try out something that I need to present at a forthcoming workshop. This new version of Blogger has some cool features that make customising the template - that's the bit that controls how everything appears on your screen - very simple. I guess I ought to do some instructions for that - maybe in the next few entries. Anyway, for now, you'll see a bundle of links to free image resources included in the panel to the left. If I've got them right, you can just click on them to go to the various galleries and, provided you don't do silly things with the images that offend the pretty generous usage terms, and you tell visitors or readers where you got them, you should find some brilliant images to meet even the most odd requirements.

For the workshop, my idea is that people can slide one of the LSN Q Project DVDs into their computer, find something they want to use and copy the links into a web log like this. This addition and posting took about 10 minutes and it could be a nice addition to any lesson concerning something like where to find images.

Obviously, for other subjects, you might not have as many links immediately to hand in the materials but even a couple of useful links in a place like this can be useful. Especially when you remember that your web log has an RSS feed that can create an automatic addition of headlines or 'news' to a course page in Moodle or Pageflakes (and no doubt several other sites you can edit yourself).

All I need to do now is add a picture to this entry to make it look a bit more interesting and, 12 minutes later, we're there.

27 October 2006

Prt Scr = Copy Screen

Most of you will know that hitting the Prt Scr button doesn't print the screen but copies a picture of it. Useful when you want to feature samples in notes. Unless you're putting the image across a presentation slide, though, the image is way too big for including in a Word document and is much too big a file for any web page.

To edit it, though, waiting for your usual photo editing software to load can be a drag when you're in a hurry - or you may not be familiar with the version on the machine you're using. A nice solution is to download Irfanview which is an incredibly light bit of software and just opens when you want it to open, almost instantly, and works on ancient equipment too. The basic program will also even fit on an old floppy.

So copy the screen, open Irfanview, paste and use the simple tools to resize the image (and crop it if you only need part). Save the image as a jpg file and it will be a much smaller file size too.

For a bit of fun, try setting a whole screen image (unchanged) as a colleague's desktop wallpaper. Using the initial screen with desktop icons, tray etc is particularly good. Watch someone trying to click on what will look exactly like icons or buttons with no luck whatsoever!

Wrong size letters

I don't know whether Americans are shorter and fatter than the British but their default paper sizes are. Microsoft Office default installation provides American settings - so often that's what you'll find in Word, Excel etc. unless whoever installed it made some better selections at the start. Letter size documents can cause trouble for the rest of us when trying to print them, some printers refusing to budge until you feed them Letter size paper. The size also will cause problems for you, with footers appearing higher than they should, lines ending in different places to what you'd expected and, in multi-page documents, pages may start or end with an extra line or two.

So please fix your Office programs. In Word, use File | Page Setup and change the paper size to A4. Click on Default and agree to that size for all documents. In Excel there's no Default button so Save that file as book1.xls in your XLSTART directory. Close Excel, reopen, future files should always be A4.

That may not solve your own printing problem though - the printer default settings may also need to be changed. For most printers you can do this from the Control Panel and Printer properties. Set these to A4 and they should remain that way.

How can I do a list like this?

There's a good question to start this off. I used to gaze in wonder as students merrily added a bundle of code to otherwise usually poorly designed web sites and created these lists of headings, some moving too. No idea how they did it then. Anyway, a couple of new web tools do it all for you - the smart bit is linking them together.

First create a web log like this. In Blogger there is an automatic production of what is called an RSS Feed. You don't need to know what that is but you can impress some friends by explaining that RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. Somehow all your headings and entries, or part of them, get bundled into some code that lurks at an address like http://faqica.blogspot.com/atom.xml - the faqica bit will change for your own list but the rest will be the same.

Now go to http://www.rss-to-javascript.com and, after a suitable title, there's a box where you can enter that 'atom.xml' address. You can leave all the other settings as they are, or experiment with changes if you're brave / know what you're doing. Click on Generate . . . and there'll be a small box of code that you need to highlight and copy.

Paste the code into a web page where you want the list to appear. In Dreamweaver you'll need to use code view to do this. In Moodle it could go into an html box, or you can even enter the atom.xml address directly into an 'Insert newsfeed' resource but that won't scroll.

Save the page and publish it. Now I'll see if I can follow my own instructions!