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Tag Archives: postaweek2011

Augmented Reality Monitor: Make your monitor truly transparent

Do you ever wish you could see through your monitor?  I know at work, as a teacher, I do.  My monitor sits between me and my students, causing me to look over my monitor when I am at my computer (this is a not a big portion of time but is necessary when doing things like taking role).  Wouldn’t it be great to be able to see through your monitor.  Again, Lifehacker.com has inspired me to take one of their ideas to the next level.

Transparent Monitors: A Space Enhancing Solution via Lifehacker.com

Image from Lifehacker.com - Transparent Monitors: A Space Enhancing Solution

In the post, “Tranparent Monitors: A Space Enhancing Solution” Jason Fitzpatrick talks about how a reader has set up his monitors’ desktops or wallpaper with a picture of what is behind them.

I thought about what I could do to use this in my position.  Recalling an ealier post from Lifehacker, “Set a Video as your wallpaper with VLC” I knew I had my solution. I would use software to make my desktop/wallpaper the video feed from a webcam.

Here is the set up:

PC users need a web camera and VLC (a full featured multimedia player).

Mac users need a web camera (the built in iSight camera will face the wrong direction) and Quicktime

PC users:

First, download and install VLC and set up your webcam.

Next open VLC and go to “Tools” and click on “Preferences…” select the Video and change Output to “DirectX video output” and click “Save.”

Then, in VLC go to “Media” and click on “Open Capture Device…” select your web cam for the Video Device and for the Audio Device select “None” and click “Play.”

Last, in the VLC window go to “Video” and select “DirectX Wallpaper.”

The view from your webcam will now be on your monitor’s desktop / wallpaper.  You will see a VLC window open; just minimize that window.  To change back to your existing display just close the VLC window that you minimized.

UPDATE: In the newest version of VLC you might not be able to minimize the window and keep the video as the desktop.  Just shrink the window size down and move it mostly off the screen in one of the corners.

Mac users:

First, download and install “Secrets Preferences Panel”. In Secrets (it will be in your System Preferences), click on “All Secrets” and search for “Fullscreen” and deselect the option to Exit fullscreen when switching apps for Quicktime.

Next set up your webcam.

Then, open Quicktime and click on “File” and select “New Movie Recording.”

Last, in the Quicktime window, you should see the image from your built-in iSight Camera, click on the down arrow to select the webcam, and click on the fullscreen button (arrows pointing in opposite direction).

Note about the Mac version: This is not actually setting your video as your desktop / wallpaper.  You will essentially be running Quicktime in a fullscreen window behind your other running programs. To see your Dock just move your mouse to the bottom of the screen and select the programs you would like to see.  If you click on the video all windows will move to the background.  Use the Dock to bring your apps back to the front.

If I could fix one thing about either of these solutions it would be the ability to run a webcam on each monitor of a dual screen display set-up.

Now get out there and make your monitor transparent.

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Posted by on February 11, 2011 in How To, Teaching, Tech Tid Bit

 

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Easily share bookmarks to your class or lab with Google Chrome

I recently read an article on Lifehacker.com (one of my favorite websites) about how to use Chrome and Chromium Side by Side.  Doing this will allow you to have multiple users or multiple accounts with the two almost identical allowing you to sync information from one computer to another.

Chrome Sync

Now this is very cool, but it got my brain thinking about another way to use the ability to sync Chrome browsers.  How could I use this ability to sync in a school computer lab setting as a tool for education?  Here is the idea:

Google ChromeFirst, set up a generic class Google account.  This could be a regular Gmail account or a Google Apps account, it really doesn’t matter.  You just need an  account to set up the sync.

Second, set up Google Chrome on your classroom computer and set up the sync with this new account. You do this by clicking on the picture of the wrench, then “Preferences”, and then click on the “Personal Stuff” tab.  (If you would still like to sync to your account and have the class account also, check out the link from Lifehacker in the first paragraph.)

Last, set up your classroom or lab computers with Google Chrome and start the sync with the class account on all of the Computers.  (This may sound like a long process, but I think you will enjoy the benefits.)

Now comes the fun part.  When you present your lesson to your students and need to share a link, you could give them a shortened URL or have the log in to a social bookmarking site like Diigo, but instead all you will have to do is create a bookmark on your browser.  The bookmark will sync with all of the other computers in the lab tied to that class account. You could even do this on the fly in the middle of class (the students might need to hide and then show the bookmarks bar to refresh it). Even better, you could have one student share a link quickly with the rest of the class.  If you wanted to take it to the next level, set up bookmark folders for different units/subjects, classes, or even students.  This is social bookmarking without the extra log in for our students.

Some final clarification: You are only using the generic class account to set up the sync in the Chrome Browser settings.  You and your students are not using this to log in on a Google Apps account.  That is part of the beauty of this setup.  You get to sync all the cool stuff with Chrome but you and your students will still be able to get to your individual accounts with your own mail, docs, calendar, etc.

Who said Google Bookmarks was dead? Now get out there and sync some bookmarks.

 
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Posted by on January 27, 2011 in How To, Teaching, Tech Tid Bit

 

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Google Calendar: How to use a Google Group with GCal to set up birthday announcements

How would you like to post a Happy Birthday wish for people in your school or group on their birthday and allow everyone else to add to those wishes?

I have been doing this for a great group of educators (Google Certified Teachers) over the last year and a friend, Mark Allen, has inspired me to post about how to make it happen. He has also given me the great idea to automate it for use in schools.  Wouldn’t it be great to wish every student a Happy Birthday?

We will look at both methods, one more personal and no automation and the other with automation but with better consistency.

What you will need:

  1. Google Calendar
  2. Google Group
  3. Gmail
  4. Everyone’s birth date

The personal birthday connection.

  1. Have a Google Group set up (this can be an exsisting group) with everyone.  In Google Apps you could use a Google Apps Administrator Group or a Google Apps User-managed Group (A group that a user sets up if User-Managed Groups has been turned on by an Admin) .  If you are not using Google Apps you can use a Google Group.
  2. Create a new Calendar and Share it with the Group so the members can add their birthdays to the calendar.
  3. As a member’s birthday comes close. Post a message to the group to wish that person a Happy Birthday and to encourage others to do the same. (To make things easy on yourself, add a default email reminder to the birthday calendar two to three days in advance.  Then you will receive an email so you will not forget to post to the group.)

The automated birthday connection.

  1. See #1 above (This could be a group that will only allow announcements or it could be interactive)
  2. Create a new Calendar.  You can still have members add their birthdays to the calendar by sharing it, but since you will be automating the process it might be cleaner to use a CSV file to import all the birthdays into the Calendar. (Suggestion: make the “appointment” subject something like “Happy Birthday John Smith”
  3. Be sure to add a default email reminder to the birthday calendar. Because this will be automated you will need to decide if you want to send the birthday announcement on that day or two to three days in advance.
  4. To make this fully automated you will need to create a filter in Gmail to forward the Happy Birthday reminder to the Group email from #1.  You will need to use the advanced filters to make sure only the Happy Birthday messages get forwarded to the group.
  5. If you want to really publicize the birthdays you could use Google Calendar to Twitter to Tweet the birthday news to all of your followers.

Now get out there and wish everyone a Happy Birthday!!!

 
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Posted by on January 8, 2011 in Google Calendar, How To, Tech Tid Bit

 

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