Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Graphing mathematics - Free CAS

There was a discussion on echalk today regarding a school's migration to Apple Macs and how their maths teachers were resisting the change so they could still use FX Draw on their PC's so that they could create graphical functions for printing and class use.

I was immediatly interested why they would still use a paid for program when there were quite a few free and open source alternatives.

So here is the list I came up with that were free and cross platform.

Going from simple to complex....

the open source Mac / PC - Maths Trax from NASA


the open source cross platform geogebra (my favourite)


or the open source cross platform C.A.R Metal


or if you really want to freak them out - the free open source cross platform Maxima and Sage



Monday, June 14, 2010

Make your own games! Serious Games

A lot has been said for "Serious Gaming", where there is an educational purpose for playing the game. These have been used for a wide range of educational contexts, and even TurningPoint ARS can be used as a game platform.

I was having a scan through Sourceforge and came across this little beauty - e-adventure

Cross platform for both the development and games means that games can be written once, played by users on different platforms. Because it is written in JAVA there is also the possibility to push them to iPhones and android based devices.

There are a range of pre-made games to check out as well as comprehensive help files.

I you ever wanted to make a point and click adventure story or get you students to demonstrate what they have learned this might be the tool to have a look at. Take a look at the video to get an idea of what it is all about.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Things you find on old computers2

Part 2 - computer 2 - 2004 - 2006

So the old computer started up with a wheeze and a rattle but got there eventually. After getting all mu domuments that I wanted I went through all my programs and found the ones I could still find on the net.

Many of the desciptions are taken off the sites - I'm in a bit of a rush and they say it better than me.

- Compendium is a software tool providing a flexible visual interface for managing the connections between information and ideas.

- CDBurnerXP is a free application to burn CDs and DVDs, including Blu-Ray and HD-DVDs. It also includes the feature to burn and create ISOs, as well as a multilanguage interface. Everyone, even companies, can use it for free.

BPM Studio Pro is a tool designed for lovers of music mixing and for digital audio professionals.

If we want to achieve new sounds like those that come from professional audio consoles, we can utilise this powerful multifaceted audio file reproducer.


PhotoMesa is a zoomable image browser. It allows the user to view multiple directories of images at once, and uses simple navigation commands to smoothly zoom in and out.

PhotoMesa requires only images on disk, and does not require any annotation, importing to a database, or other organization.

- KidPad is a collaborative story authoring tool for children. It provides basic drawing functionality on a zooming canvas enabled by Jazz. The narrative structure of a story is defined by creating spatial hyperlinks between objects on the canvas. Instead of using a standard WIMP (Windows, Icons, Menus, Pointer) user interface, KidPad uses local tools that can be picked up, used and dropped anywhere on the drawing surface. The local tools interface and MID, a Java library developed at the University of Maryland, allows KidPad to support shoulder-to-shoulder collaboration. If multiple USB mice are connected to the computer each mouse will control a tool in KidPad, making it possible to let several children simultaneously create a story together!

- The Tablet Mylar Slides Classroom Presentation System is intended as an electronic replacement for traditional mylar slides. There are two different types of physical mylar slides; the slide deck where each is slide is around the size of a sheet of paper, and the slide roll where you have a single, "infinitely long" side whose width is around the width of a sheet of paper. The TMS system combines these two qualities to provide a deck of "infinitely long" slides.

Font Viewer - This program is an easy to use but powerful font manager, which allows getting a quick overview of both installed and non installed fonts. It can install and uninstall fonts, and organize them in categories. Some of its features are:

bridge building games by Chronic Logic. There are currently five (!) of them: Bridge Builder (the original game from 2000), the new Bridge Building Game (very similar to Bridge Builder but enhanced, from 2006), Pontifex and Bridge Construction Set (formerly: Pontifex II)

- GeoSetter is a freeware tool for Windows (XP or higher) for showing and changing geo data and other metadata (IPTC/XMP/Exif) of image files (e.g. images taken by digital cameras).

- GenChemLab is an OpenGL-based application intended to simulate several common general chemistry exercises. It is meant to be used to help students prepare for actual lab experience. It could also be used in cases where laboratory facilites are not accessible, for instance in K-12 schools or home schooling.

- Gravit is a gravity simulator which runs under Linux, Windows and Mac OS X. It's released under the GNU General Public License which makes it free. It uses Newtonian physics using the Barnes-Hut N-body algorithm. Although the main goal of Gravit is to be as accurate as possible, it also creates beautiful looking gravity patterns. It records the history of each particle so it can animate and display a path of its travels. At any stage you can rotate your view in 3D and zoom in and out. Gravit uses OpenGL with Lua, SDL, SDL_ttf and SDL_image.

- The IHMC CmapTools program empowers users to construct, navigate, share and criticize knowledge models represented as concept maps. It allows users to, among many other features, construct their Cmaps in their personal computer, share them on servers (CmapServers) anywhere on the Internet, link their Cmaps to other Cmaps on servers, automatically create web pages of their concept maps on servers, edit their maps synchronously (at the same time) with other users on the Internet, and search the web for information relevant to a concept map.

A free game in the truest sense of the word, TrackMania Nations Forever lets you drive at mind-blowing speeds on fun and spectacular tracks in solo and multiplayer modes.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Network Visualisation Tools

When I was teaching computing to middle school and high school students we didn't do much on networking. Partly because there was no real curriculum on it and partly that they had already set up LAN parties and they now knew almost as much as I did.

Times have changed and "the network" is the most important thing in a school, college, university or workplace (watch what happens when it goes does down for a day). So teaching the network is now an important part of the syllabus for computer studies.

So here are a few network Visualisation tools.

Warriors of the Net - a cool animation / visualisation tool of what a Packet switch network looks like from a packet point of view.

CNET - From my home town of Perth - cnet enables development of and experimentation with a variety of data-link layer, network layer, and transport layer networking protocols in networks consisting of any combination of wide-area-networking (WAN), local-area-networking (LAN), or wireless-local-area-networking (WLAN) links.Available for linux and Apple OS only.

INET framework -

GINI - GINI (GINI is not Internet) is a toolkit for creating virtual micro Internets for teaching and learning computer networks.

CLACK - Clack is a virtual network environment for visualizing network behavior and router internals.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Things you find on your old PC's

Since working at Keepad Interactive I haven't had to buy a new computer for the last 3 years. My work laptop is fine. Before that I bought the toshiba laptop that I'm writing on now for my year in Japan. But unlike a lot of people I've kept my old PC's. They have been gathering dust in my spare room...but girlfriend wants them out - they are taking up too much space.

So I'm firing each one up to rescue any documents I might like to keep, and see what programs I used to have on them and then wipe them. I haven't got to the last part yet.

I'm finding it hard to wipe these machines and take them to the eWaste recycling centre for a number of reasons.

1> they are like a snapshot of the time when these were my main computer, my access to the internet, the games I used to play and the types of programs I was interested in.
2> they are all differenct opperating systems, from 3.11 to XP (some of them boot faster than my current machine)
3> some of the programs on there that were free are now commercial or defunct so once it's wiped it's gone forever. Some of the programs were special offers on magazines so again you can't get them again (magazines and discs are long gone).

So as I grapple with this problem here are a few of the programs I found on my 300mhz machine from used from 1998 to 2002 that are still available in some form.

Notrium - Still free, this top down role playing arcade game is great for more than a few hours of game play.
Kaboodle - This is also still free (GPL). I used this to keep an eye on a large network of 40+ computers. It tracks in real time what devices are on your network in a friendly graphical way.
FreeCommander - Back in the days of DOS there was Xtree Gold. If you want a powerful file manager that does FTP, bulk file renaming and hanker for the old double pane views - then this is the beast you are looking for.
Fresh Diagnose - Do you want to know more about your computer? Just bought a second hand one? Run this up and see what it's made of.
Magix - Not free anymore - music creation software that used to do automatic music videos as well - not a bad price though.
Starbits - Only does one thing, but does it so well. Creates star fields and galaxys to order on your PC. Still free - still awesome. This one is being downloaded tonight.
Terragen - Terragen is a scenery generator, created with the goal of generating photorealistic landscape images and animations. It is available for Windows and the Mac OS. Terragen is free for personal, noncommercial use, with only a few limitations. I used this with a class of students to do a CD-ROM (back in the day) of the nine planets and generate the landscape of each planet.
Amorphium - An easy to use, "soft" 3D modeling program. I got this as a special offer off a magazine disc. Good value for $79
Swish - When buying flash is just too expensive - there is Swish. Again I got this off a magazine disk. Currently the minimax Swish is $69. again something in the back of my mind if I ever go back to multimedia production.
Anvil - Anvil Studio is a free Windows Windows 7 / Vista / XP / 2000 / 98 program designed for people who want to; record music with MIDI and Audio equipment; compose music for MIDI and Audio equipment; sequence music with MIDI equipment, or play with music using a computer and sound card. Add ons you might like you have to pay for but the basic program is still free.
AlamDV - Oh I wish this was still free and available... Morphed into FXHome it is now paid for software. reasonably priced for what it allows you to do... But this is one of the main reasons I don't want to wipe my old machine - this program made it easy to do light sabre and laser effects in video.
Amabilis - Free 3D software - you can upgrade to professional versions if you want more features. Easier to get your head around than Blender or Maya.
C-Evo - got a few weeks to yourself -don't know what to do with all that time. Download this and they won't see you for weeks. A free civilisation clone. C-evo is a freeware empire building game for Windows. With a time scope of several thousand years, it covers aspects of exploration and expansion, industry and agriculture, warfare and diplomacy, science and administration.
WAV to MIDI - If you thought voice recognition was hard - this is harder. a free program to convert analogue sound files (wav) to digital (MIDI). It works best with single instruments like the piano or the guitar.

So that's one computer - another one from the 2004-2006 era between Europe trip and Japan trip to come next. I wonder what I'll find....