Monday, October 8, 2018

Google+ Alternatives

This week I will be looking at Google Plus alternatives. The short list is:

diaspora*
Ello
discordapp
Minds
mastodon.social
roleplaycafe
MeWe
qutee
pluspora

I've been on-board Google+ since almost the beginning and really hate to see it go.

Amazon in the Classroom and on the Commute. .

In my classroom this week, we watched Hocus Pocus. The library had a copy, but one of the other classes snatched it up. I figure it would be available on Netflix, but I was wrong. I checked CBS All Access and Hulu. No dice. Amazon has it, as does Google Play. I went with Amazon because I had some coupons which reduced the price by $2.00. Otherwise, Google and Amazon would have had the same price.

The $.299 price is listed in the ad is for a rental. I've only rented a digital product once. It doesn't seem worth the cost but it is quick and easy. Live and learn.




What I find amazing is that the DVD ranges from $4.99 to $24.99. Who pays $24.99 for a DVD? The Blu Ray is less than $18.00.


Since I was already there, I loaded some music to my phone for the ride home. Twenty One Pilot's Levitate is catchy. The album is less than 11 bucks.



So much for saving money.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

The Amazon Back to School Round Up

Amazon is a life saver. I have ordered most of the things I needed for back to school. These five items are all things that will go with me to every class. When I get a chance, I will detail some of the more unusual items I picked up for back to school. Most of these will revolve around my technological choices in the classroom.

The first item is a suggested item for my Social Studies Technology in the Classroom. It is a version of Google Cardboard. I bought two, one for around the house for my kids and the second is to take to class. At 6 bucks each, I could afford to spurge.

I figured I should see Cardboard VR devices not only as a teacher's tool, but from the prospective of a student attempting to use them. I have 13 and 14 year old who are already showing a lot of interest. The first thing I have notices about them is, while VR seems like a very personal interaction with technology, my children use both pairs for a share experience.




The second item a set of 16 GB thumb drives at an excellent price.




And the last three items were simply writing basics.

JournalsFoldersPencils

The journals are tiny A5 sized and have 30 sheets or 60 pages of grid lined paper. The folders are simple two pocket multicolored affairs, 10 of each color. The pencils are... well, yellow and wooden. 

While the first two items are tech, I like to be a little old school with my in classroom supplies. No batteries to charge or electronics involved. 

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Cord Cutting

A few weeks ago, my kids killed our TV. I think it was a dog toy to the middle of the screen, perhaps followed by a large dog. After about 3 days of searching for a replacement, I found this great TV on Amazon. 50" for less than $400. I bought it.


Then disaster struck. Our cable bill arrived with a new price increase to $233 a month. Thanks Spectrum. I could buy a new 50" TV every two months, forever for less than the price of cable. Hmm. That is some bad math. I canceled everything but the internet which was a $178 savings.

But what to do about this brand new TV? Well, most of the time our TV is used for our PS4 and all of the games and videos we have for that. My wife, Kitty hated that answer. As for other movies, we already had Netflix. $54 for internet, plus $11.99 for Netflix. And then I remembered that the PS4 also could show Amazon Prime Videos which was another couple of bucks. Now, I had two different sources of movies and was still saving over well over $100.

Click here to try out Amazon Prime. Try Prime Discounted Monthly Offering

Kitty pointed out that we didn't have local TV channels. What if the schools closed? What if there was bad weather and we didn't know? Ok. I was about to order an antenna and digital converter from Amazon, when someone told me about CBS All Access. It will show your local affiliate's programming, including the news.

Click here to try CBS (one month free): Prime Members Start Your Free Trial of CBS All Access with Prime Video Channels

I wish I could tell you that saving money was my Prime (see what I did there?) motivation, but what I was actually thinking about was CBS's new Star Trek show. My daughter was pleased that we could also watch Young Sheldon and Big Bang Theory. We loved all three shows.

This was getting pricey, I figured I might as well go all the way. I asked Kitty what TV show she'd miss from cable. She answered, "Golden Girls." A quick search showed me that it was available on Hulu. Another monthly charge, but still under the price of cable.

Another problem entered the mix. My wife asked about the TV in the bedroom. How would that work? How would I fix that? I had a refund coming to me from Google for a broken phone, so I used that to purchase a Google Home Mini and a Chromecast. Why not? If I was going to cut the cord, I wanted to make sure everything "just worked". A laptop or a phone could control the Chromecast in the bedroom and the PS4 in the living room would do everything else. The Home Mini was just bonus.

Service or Item Price
Netflix $11.99
Hulu 7.99
Amazon Prime Video 10.99
CBS 5.99
Google Home 39.00
Chromecast 35.00
Cable54.99
Total$165.95

My figures ignore the cost of a new TV because I had already bought it. It also ignores the fact that I had Netflix and Amazon Prime from the get-go. Two pros and one con are tabled, so to speak. The Home and Chromecast were purchased with found money as I used a refund credit for them. As an added bonus, Amazon Prime also has a music selection which had gone unused to this point. Kitty can control that from her laptop and display it on the bedroom TV. One more feature go on the positive side of the list, which is free benefit of Prime.

Click to try Amazon Prime Music: Try Amazon Music Unlimited Free Trial

For less than $175, I managed to get the home A/V system I always wanted and I am now using almost every feature of every service. My monthly cost is a mere $91, down from $230+.

Kindle again

I need a new Kindle. This might be the day, they are on sale on Amazon for $39.00. This hardy little tab has lasted many years but is starting to feel a little rough around the edges. It has been well used and abused.

Time to take Amazon up on a good deal.


Shop Amazon Devices - Save $10 on the Fire 7 Tablet

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Ubuntu Reinstall on Chromebook

There are many guides to installing Linux on a Chromebook. What I don't see are too many guides on what needs to be done afterwards. Using Crouton gives a very basic experience with Ubuntu, so a lot of things need tweaking.

One step that I often forget is switching to Dev Mode on a Chromebook can require a restart. Also, walking through the Ubuntu install also requires a restart. You can combo these together or do them one at a time. It doesn't really matter. What does matter is the restart option in Ubuntu will turn off your Chromebook. Think ahead.

I find the best way to get software easily is the Software Center. I know it can be buggy and odd, but it is a good place to start. Under the standard install of Ubuntu via Crouton, it isn't there and the terminal is the best option. First things first, make sure your install is up to date:

sudo apt-get update

This should only take a few seconds. Now you can get the software center:

sudo apt-get install software-center

The Software Center takes much longer to download and install. For whatever reason, sometimes the Software Center doesn't work. Simply repeat the command:

sudo apt-get update

The next thing I hit is a proper browser. NetSurf is 3 years old and kind of funky. It works fine in a pinch but doesn't offer a lot of features. I like Chromium.

A good word processor is a must and I am a fan of Libre Write. Write isn't the only game in town, you could simply use Google Docs, Abiword or WPS Writer. WPS Writer has the look and feel of MS Word, Abiword is a stripped down word processor which is easy to use and distraction free.

Stay tuned for more ideas of how to extend your Chromebook's usefulness.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Using GIMP to Resize Photos to a Specific Size

This afternoon I am editing photos for a website. I would like to take some images from 4992x4000 down to exactly 620 px across. I will be using Gimp and a little math to make this happen in seven steps.

First things first, I could do the math in my head, but I want to make this a step by step process. The second thing is, unpwnd doesn't require a specific size so the images in this walkthru will not be 620 px. That is not lost on me, I happen to Blogger as my platform and it has very different tools from Wordpress.

Step one. Open the image.
Step two. Click on Set Image Canvas Size. The dialog box will open and show that the image is currently 4992x4000. That is nothing like 620 px across.
Step three. I am going to adjust the width and the height. For the width, I need to lose those to extra pixels, it is so small no one will notice. So width becomes 2992-2=2990.

Height is another story. I am going to take away a multiple of 620. I decided that I would go with 620 times 2, so what I end up with is 2760. That is 4000-1240=2760.

Before I hit resize, I clicked the Center button. It just so happens that my subjects are dead center and this works. If it did not, I could have adjusted this manually.
Step four. I want to point out that I have been working with Canvas Size and not Image Size. Essentially, I am cropping the image to a particular size based on some math rather than an eye for photographic composition. Actual photographers have a great eye for composition and would not use this method.

Anyway, I think I can trim a little more of the edges and when I do that, I want my height and width to be an exact multiple of 620. I take the width of 2990 and divide by 620 which gives me 4.822 and some change. I do the same for the height which gives my 4.451 and change.

Now for a trick. I am going to take four away from each number leaving 0.822 and 0.451. Both of these numbers need to multiplied by 620. 620 is the only number I know for this process, which is why it keeps popping up. The results are 510 and 280.

2990-510 is 2480 and 2760-280 is also 2480.  2480 divided by 620 is 4.

Again, I am using the center bottom so I don't clip away my subjects. Also, this could a manual process.
Step five. Scale the image. I could do this part 2 ways. I picked the easy way: I scaled the image to 620. I could have also used the drop down box to select percent and typed in 25. There is no difference.
Step six. This is the result, an image that appears way too small. But not really, GIMP didn't change the scale of the display and the image is actually much bigger.
 Step seven. I set my view to 1:1. Looks good.
While all of this seems labor intensive, it is. But only once. Changes are your camera always outputs the same size image so you can save this as a macro making the process automatic.

And here is the final output at 620 px.

Neat, eh?