Thursday, May 26, 2011

Mac Alert

Update from May 31: Apple has released a security update to tackle this problem. See this article --
OK -- I'm struggling to learn how to use my new MacBook Pro effectively, so today I paid attention to an article on a Mac Virus and am wondering if I should be purchasing anti-virus software for my new machine. I thought these machines had immunity!!!!

In the meantime, I'm sure many of you are using Mac's so these links are worth a read: Mac Malware is Back (in PCWorld) and How to avoid or remove Mac Defender malware (from Apple Support).

Also be sure, you go into the preference and UNCHECK the "Open 'safe' files after downloading" option.
  • Right click on Safari.
  • Select Preferences >> General (light switch icon).
  • Uncheck the box at the very bottom of the page. This may help prevent the process from starting automatically.
Also, if a normal attempt to close Safari doesn't work, use 'Force Quit' (on the Apple menu, far left.)

Monday, May 23, 2011

What looks like a super writing tool -- Scrivener

This is a big hello to all you new Wilkes students. I've found a tool I think would have made my life a lot easier when I was churning out papers, responses, and blog entries for my courses. Keeping track of ideas and sources was a complicated affair especially when writing a long paper or doing one of those courses that required multiple written pieces. Scrivener (in Mac and Windows versions) is designed to "help you get to the end of that awkward first draft. … Outline and structure your ideas, take notes, view research alongside your writing and compose the constituent pieces of your text in isolation or in context" -- it all seems to be there.

What I love about this tool is that the 30 day free trial means 30 days of actual usage. If you only use it once a month, you get 30 months free. After that the price is very reasonable. There is a good collection of tutorials, a wiki with the FAQ's, a support form, and you can register copies of the software on more than one machine. You can also publish your work so that it can be read on an iPad or other e-book readers and sync it with apps such as Simple Note that use DropBox. I'm wondering what it will look like on an IWB.

I'll be writing next week to see if you can move files back and forth between Mac to Windows as sometimes I work on one, and sometimes on the other. I've just bought a fancy new Mac, but have found that with the high-res screen, I can' change the sizes of the fonts in the toolbars unless I sacrifice resolution and I'm struggling to see the tiny print. Fortunately I have a second monitor (the best hardware investment I ever made) which works best at a different resolution which is better for my aging eyes. I've also installed something called DejaMenu which allows me to open a menu that pertains to the second screen on the second screen. This is a natural act on a PC -- Mac doesn't seem to lead the way in everything.

Onwards towards the end of the school year ...

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Software finds: fill out PDF forms and make a screen recording

You have a pdf form that needs to be filled out, but you've been keyboarding so long that you're handwriting skills have all but vanished. You don't want to fork out for the full Adobe package. Where do you turn? To PFDescape!!!

This is a little clunky (e.g. can't cut and paste to rearrange ideas in a paragraph or copy from a word document into the online file & I couldn't figure out how to do a circle or rectangle that wasn't filled in red), but compared to the alternative (my handscratch), it's a great way to fill in one of those read-only pdf's that can be such a pain. Just open an account (so you can save and get back to the document), upload, enter your information, then download and save as a pdf again. I tried it this morning and it worked perfectly.

I can see using this with students when they have job application forms to do. They can scan their forms, save them as pdf's (instead of jpegs), add their information in beautiful typed format and download to add their signatures and return them to the employers. They could also do fill in the blanks kinds of quizes or tests or annotate images like maps or mindmaps that have been saved in pdf format.

For those of you who can't easily get online, there's a very inexpensive ($20) downloadable alternative called PDFill. They also offer some free tools that are worth looking at if you're using an old version of Word and can't save to a PDF or want to merge/split files, reorder pages and so forth.

For those of you who don't have a good screen recording tool, today's Giveaway of the Day -- Bandicam -- seems to be receiving good reviews from the gamers. I'm going to try making machinima with it in Second Life. Remember, when you download from GOTD, you must open the ReadMe file right away and follow the registration instructions exactly. If you don't do that inside their 24 hour period, you'll lose the lifetime registration and the program will revert to a trial version.