Archive for the 'Software Tips/Reviews' Category

Me and Evernote

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

Long ago I promised myself I’d blog about <a href=””>Evernote</a> when I made more than 1000 notes. I broke that record on Friday November 9, 2012 so here’s a quick summary of what Evernote is and what I use it for.

Evernote is intended to help people remember everything. While I haven’t achieved that, I’m a lot closer.

Evernote is a desktop, phone/tablet, browser plugins and a web application that allows you to capture information from anywhere. The application also indexes all entries so that the content can be quickly searched, including any text in pictures – for example: whiteboards.

All these collected notes are synced to client/applications on almost any device that connects to the internet – as a lowest common denominator, there is

Evernote has a provision for tagging notes, but more importantly it lets you start new notebooks and sub-notebooks. I use this to collect notes about the kids, projects at work, my favourite beers and wines, and other notebooks – including some I’ve shared with others.

There’s lots of information on Evernote’s site, so instead I’ll share what I use to for:

At home and around the town:

  • Lists of things to pack, buy, collect and almost anything else.
  • Pictures of the various medicines and other records my kids have taken – both kids have their own notebook.
  • Planing and document projects around the house – including the summer’s minor fence project and last summer’s major patio project and year before that’s nursery project. The notes are important, but the pictures are handy to travel back and forth from Home Deport with.
  • Records and information about the cars and appliances.
  • I transferred my wife’s recipes etc. from an old laptop to all her new devices – I also have access to the this shared notebook and…. don’t use them.

If My Contact Is On Your Phone, Please Protect It

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

A recent article in the Columbia Journalism Review by Matthieu Aikins underscored the need to protect the contents of your smartphone. If the potential to have your own information stollen or generally snooped through your stuff, please consider this story.

The British journalist and filmmaker Sean McAllister was in Syriashooting a documentary for Britain’s Channel 4 about the underground there. A few he had worked with were concerned about his general lack of care about his communications and protection of the identities of those in the underground he was working with.

In October, McAllister was detained by Syrian security agents. Well detained he could hear the cries of prisoners being tortured in nearby rooms. He was interrogated and had all of his electronics seized and searched.

Upon hearing that security forces had McCallister a few individuals who had been in touch with, including the main source of the article, immediately fled fearing the brutal Syrian regime now had information that put their lives at risk. Others in McAllister’s electronic records, like one Omar al-Baroudi, were never heard from again.

The article uses the example to point to the need for journalist and the organizations that employ them to become more aware of how to protect their digital information. I hope this stark example will encourage everyone with a smartphone to consider protecting the information on it and information available to it.

If not, please consider the potential embracement of a malevolent or mischievous individual finding your smartphone and posting to Facebook or Twitter on your behalf (though I would understand that it would be nice if someone update your Google Plus account).


Thursday, June 25th, 2009

Ray Henderson, new president of Blackboard (Bb) learn, sent out an E-Mail/blog post to the WebCT/Bb community today that amounts to a bit of a mea culpa.

As Brock University transitions from their WebCT CE 6 (Blackboard Learning System CE) Learning Management System (LMS) to Isaak, Brock University’s Sakai-Based LMS, it’s nice to see someone from Bb give a honest assessment of their acquisition of WebCT.

Ray shares what he’s come to understand and most of their clients suspected:

…the WebCT course management systems went through a major re-write just before Bb and WebCT merged – CE6 and Vista 4 were the results of that re-write. Just after the merger was completed more than 500 clients ended up going live on these new products.

It wasn’t until these clients went live that we discovered a large number of bugs (over 2,000) and some critical architectural issues. Frankly we made a mistake in not battle testing the new releases ourselves after the closing of the merger and for not keeping WebCT’s support center in Vancouver at full strength.

Brock University was one of those clients, and you can ask anyone who was at Brock University during the fall of 2006 or the start of term in winter of 2007 and 2008 to find out the number of issues Brock had – or read the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Educational Technologies’ annual reports.

That said, it’s small consolation to finally be given a frank assessment of what append and to know that Bb is finally willing to give an honest accounting of that part of their company’s history.

Brock gave-up a considerable amount of features when they abandoned WebCT CE 6 and may have missed out on some real potential with Blackboard 9. But that said, almost everyone at Brock University is pleased with Sakai and the transition appears to be going very well.

Wednesday, May 21st, 2008

I stumbled upon this new search engine while going through some server logs at work. SearchMe.Com is the best take on flash-based web search that I’ve seen. It’s actually useful!

Sakai to be Brock University’s next LMS

Thursday, May 15th, 2008

BrockU and SakaiI’m both excited and to be able to announce that Sakai will bro Brock’s next Learning Management System. Terry Boak, Brock University’s Vice-President Academic finally officially announced the move to an open-source Sakai-based Learning Management System (LMS) at Wednesday May 14th, University Senate meeting. Thus I feel I can now start blogging about it.

This new system will be based on the community-based LMS: Sakai. Brock’s new Sakai-based system will be built upon a cluster that will have all the features of a strong system that is redundant, reliable, scalable, and with sufficient capacity. More about the new cluster is available here:

The spring of 2008 marks the beginning of a phased transition to Brock using exclusively a Sakai-based LMS for the 2009 academic year. Instructors have the option to use Sakai right now and students may already be taking courses that make use of Sakai.

As of July 31st 2009 WebCT will no longer be available at Brock. An implementation plan has been drafted and posted at It should assure that this transition can be accomplished without incidents and discontinuities.

The Centre for Teaching, Learning and Educational Technologies (CTLET) and others are already beginning the process of documenting Sakai and training faculty and will be posting updates here soon.

A contest to name the new Sakai-based system has been announced and can be found at – you can win an iPod.

Because of the steps, rules and accommodations we had to adhere to between the decision and the announcement we (Me, iMatt and we, Brock University) actually got scooped by another blog,, that probably read our non-announcement confirmation statement that we made to facilitate some presentations etc. and academic planning that needed to be done. That’s Brock.