Back to College Tech Guide 2015

macbook-air-2015It’s usually in August when parents start asking me for advice on what laptop they should buy for their children heading off to university. If you are in a specialized technical oriented program like computer science, engineering or architecture, please consult with your faculty before purchasing your laptop. LifeHacker also has a quite long and detailed guide to buying a laptop That said given my years of experience, here is my general advice for the incoming class of 2015:

For a Standard Student Setup if you have a budget between $1200 and $1800 for a laptop and other hardware I would suggest the following: Read more ›

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Posted in education, Work

uBlock Origin Can Speed Up Your Web Browsing

ublock-origin-logoAd Blockers can go a long way towards fixing two chronic problems we experience while browsing the web:

  1. Annoying ads, including pop-up and flash video ads, and
  2. Websites that are sometimes surprisingly slow loading pages.  

One of the more reputable ad blocking browser plugins is called: uBlock Origin. You can download it for your Chrome and Firefox web browsers.

How does uBlock Origin do this?  When you load a web page in your browser, you are not only loading the HTML and graphical images from the web site your are visiting, like for example: , but you are also loading cookies and advertising images from up to 20 or 30 other web servers.  Depending on where in the HTML page the advertising images are requested, your web browser may wait until those images have downloaded before displaying any of the web page.


Another positive that comes with ad blocker software is that the ad images and cookies can add up to quite large downloads, not only slowing you down, but increasing your bandwidth usage. Read more ›

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Posted in education, Work

Worried About Browser Tracking Cookies? The Privacy Badger is Here to Help!

Privacy Badger from the EFF

Privacy Badger from the EFFIf you are like me and are somewhat concerned about the ability of large companies and three letter organizations (ahhem… NSA) tracking your web browsing through web browser cookies, evercookies or more recently, super cookies, shared by online advertising networks, there is now a trusted solution that should help: The Privacy Badger from the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The Privacy Badger web browser plugin block’s cookies from 3rd party websites from loading when you visit a website. For example if I navigate to the New York Times website, there will be browser cookies from that load to help keep make the browsing and reading experience more enjoyable, and to provide useful features.  There will be other 3rd party, typically ad network cookies that will also load that can track my web browsing between websites that belong to the ad network to provide me with more interesting and relevant ads.  In the case of the NSA they are tracking me to make sure I’m not doing anything they don’t approve of.

Privacy-Badger-BlockingIf either of these strike you as creepy or wrong, Privacy Badger give you fine grain control over with ad network 3rd party cookies you will allow to track your movements. Privacy Badger automatically blocks the cookies from organizations they believe are not trustworthy, but allows you to easily un block them if you with. On the other hand, you can block cookies from any website you like. In some cases blocking cookies can “break” websites, so you always have the option of either not using the website, or telling Privacy Badger to not block cookies that website uses.

I hope the image on the right gives a better sense for how pervasive the practice of 3rd party ad tracking cookings are. You can see in the Privacy Badger settingsthat on one webpage for a local newspaper, there were 31, 3rd party trackers loading with the webpage.  Privacy Badger goes a long way toward giving you the control over your on line privacy, from the web advertising companies at least.


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Posted in Work

When Implementing Successful EdTech Projects Don’t Forget The Pedagogy!

Are new educational technologies more effective in helping students achieve learning objectives than the old technology they replace? How IT professionals implement educational technologies, and how instructors use the technology can mean the difference between no impact on student achievement, and higher grades with more engaged students.

While some educational technology projects aim to lower costs and others to increase access to education, this presentation explores the intersection of educational technology and pedagogy (teaching methods). I look at the relative effectiveness of educational technology implementations as varied as: Digital Textbooks, Clickers, Streaming Video Lectures, Mobile Learning, Virtual Labs, Collaboration Suites, and Learning Management Systems (LMS). Hopefully readers will have a better understanding of how to assess the value of educational technology / pedagogy pairings, as well as better understand the key features that make for successful EdTech projects.

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Posted in education

Paper Towns… Or Modern Learning Communities

Who knew that online communities on YouTube and else where can be wonderful learning communities for young and old alike; places where we can follow our passions and help each other at the same time. John Green gives an inspiring and informing TED talk about modern learning communities.  I talked about this a couple of years ago in a blog post called, YouTube & Facebook: Education Distractions or Learning Tools? Enjoy!

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Posted in education, Google

Google Keep’s Location Reminder: Helping Me Use All Those Christmas Gift Cards & More!

The other day I received a $25 gift card from my favourite Outdoor supply store, Mountain Equipment Coop (MEC). I know I’ll be able to use it eventually, but given the sad state of my memory, how will I remember to use it when I’m in the store?

My solution is to use Google Keep, and it’s location reminder feature.  You can copy and paste all sorts of information into google keep on your computer of phone, and then access it or search for it from either when every you need to. You can also tell it to remind you about a note or list when you visit a specific location:

Google Keep Location Reminder

The killer feature that I’m using here is Google Keep’s “Location Reminder”. The next time I walk into the local MEC store, my phone will buzz and remind me that I have a gift certificate to use at the store.  Is that cool or what!  I can also share the note with my partner so that she can use it if she’s shopping there before me.  This would also work well for shopping lists, and all sorts of other small things that are often forgotten, but useful to be reminded of at specific locations and/or times.  Enjoy!


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Posted in Google

Good Security Hygine PSA: Google Password Alert

This is my Public Service Announcement for the day: If you use Google Chrome and Gmail, you should seriously consider installing the Google Password Alert extension, which will alerts you if someone or something logs into your Google account from a location you don’t normally login from. Enjoy!

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