April 2009 Archives

Creating Tests on Blackboard (#2)

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So after setting up and creating the questions as pointed out in the first part of this series of tutorials, the next step is making the "Test" available to students.

After you are done adding questions to the test, they become available as an item in the Test Menu.

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Now go to the control panel→Assignments. The test you created is not on the Assignments menu right now.

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At this point the Test is not yet available to the students. Your students will not be able to access the test until you release it from the Assignments tab. Click on the "Test" icon located on the toolbar on top as highlighted in the picture above.

A drop down menu with a list of tests you created should appear. Select the test you want to make available and click "submit" to make it appear as an item in the Assignments menu.

You can now make further modifications and then make the test available for the students. Just clicking on your test (For example - Physics Quiz) from the Assignments menu will allow you to preview the test. You will see the test as your students will when they take the test.

In order to make the test available to your students, select the "modify" tab located to the right as shown below and just follow the instructions.

Beauty 11.jpg(The general process is: Go to Control Panel-->Assignments-->"Test"-->select a test and the test now appears on the Assignments menu-->Click on the "modify" tab-->Follow instructions and release the test.)
Here is a simple trick that will help you print a large format poster (let's say 2 ft by 3 ft) on multiple sheets of paper of smaller size so that in the end you could paste them together to have your poster. This becomes very useful when a large format printer is not available or the cost of printing such a poster is too expensive.

For this purpose we're going to use Adobe Acrobat Pro, which is not a free software though, but is available on all computers in the Blume Language Lab on Level 1 in the library at Trinity College.

Follow these simple steps in order to print your poster on multiple sheets of paper:
1. Open Adobe Acrobat Pro
2. Open your document in Adobe Acrobat Pro. Your document could be a pdf file, a picture or a Word document. In any case, if the file you selected to open is not a pdf file, Adobe Acrobat Pro is going to convert it to pdf.
3. Go to File->Print
4. Look under the Page Scaling menu and select "Tile all pages". You are going to see in the small Preview box how your document is split up across multiple pages.
5. At this point you should try various percentages for the Tile Scale box until you're happy with what the preview is showing you.
Note: The Preview box also displays information about the expected width and height of the resulting poster. Use that as a guideline to have an idea of the proportions of the poster.

6. Press OK in the printing menu. The printer should start printing all the tiles of the poster.
7. After the pages are printed, put the tiles together and use an xacto tool to cut the edges of each tile.
8. In order to bind the tiles together you could use scotch tape to joing the edges of the tiles together.
9. That's it! Enjoy your poster!

Uploading to youtube from imovie

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Youtube is a video sharing website that streams content from around the world. Users can upload videos and view others' with a click of a mouse. However, uploading to youtube sometimes takes a very long time. If you just want to finish the project and upload it to youtube, then imovie has a function which uploads the video straight to youtube.

1.Open imovie, then your project.

2. Go to share-->youtube.

3. After clicking on youtube, you will  see a window pop up. If this is your first time, you have to add your account to the computer so it will be saved for future use. Simply click add, then put in your account name.

4. Put in all necessary information in the window.

5. Press publish.

6. Read the terms and conditions, and then press accept.

7. Wait for your video to load.

8. Go to your youtube account after a few hours, and your video should be uploaded!

Dock Dividers [Mac]

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If you add many icons to your dock, you may consider wanting to organize it with separators. One easy way to do that is to download Dock Dividers, then just unzip the file, open it, access the desired type of dividers (horizontal or vertical), and then just drag them onto your dock.

It is a very simple process but may also be quite useful.

Here is a screen-shot of a portion of my dock after adding the dividers:

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Creating Tests on Blackboard (#1)

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A very handy feature on Blackboard is the ability to create tests and set them up so that the students in your class can take these tests. You have the ability to create a wide variety of tests consisting of different kinds of questions (True/false, Multiple Choice, Essays, etc).
Follow the following steps to go to the Test setup page:
tt1.jpgNow, after filling in the Test information and clicking on "submit", you will be taken to the "Test Canvas" that allows you to create your questions. It is highly recommended that you have at least a rough idea of the kind of questions you might want to include in the test.
Just follow the instructions, insert any necessary information and proceed towards creating your question.

Using Youtube's Audioswap

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Recently, Youtube has an application on its site called AudioSwap. It first appeared in the experimental section of the site called Testtube. Since then, it has gathered the permissions of dozens of artists, and hundreds of songs to avoid copyright infringement. Users can use AudioSwap to swap the audio of their video with the music they choose, and not worry about having their videos deleted or their audio muted. Please be aware that once the audio is swapped, the original audio is lost.

1. Log onto your account.

2. Go your my videos.

3. Choose your video.

4. Click on AudioSwap.

5. On the new page, there are 3 columns titled Genre, Artist, Track. First Click the Genre you like, the artist that is in that genre, then a track that the artist has created. Everything is in alphabetical order.

6. Press preview to see how the movie fits with your video*.

7. Once satisfied, click Publish in order to upload the video with your new audio. The old audio, including dialogue, sound effects, etc, are deleted. 

audioswap.PNG*The music only lasts as long as your video lasts. So if your video is 3 minutes, and the song is 4 minutes, then the song will only last until 3 minutes, when the video ends.  

Photoshop tip#5: Creating a pdf file from multiple images

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This blog entry explains the basic process of creating a pdf file from multiple images. This is an automated feature in Photoshop called PDF Presentation.

Here is a simple outline of what you should do in order to create a pdf file from images on your computer.

1. Open Photoshop.
2. Go to File->Automate->PDF Presentation. Here is a screenshot of the PDF Presentation menu:
pdf presentation.png3. Click Browse and select the pictures you want to use in your PDF Presentation.
4. An alternative to step 3 is to have the files already opened up in Photoshop and click on Add Open Files to indicate that you want to include those pictures.
5. The PDF Presentation menu offers the possibility of choosing some of the picture information to be included in the pdf file. For example, the filename, the title, the picture's description and so on,  can be included by clicking on the appropriate checkbox in the Output Options pane.
6. Click Save. Name your pdf file and choose a location on the hard drive where you would like the file to be saved.
7. You're done!

Some Exposé Tips [Mac]

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If you have just taken the plunge and switched to a Mac, one of the first things you might have realized is that Mac OS X does not include a "Start Menu Bar". OS X instead uses a dock in which all your open, as well as "bookmarked" programs appear.

One consequence of this is that you may not "Alt+Tab" - or in the Mac case, "Cmnd+Tab" - between all the open windows on the desktop. Instead you will first have to press "Cmnd+Tab" and go to the desired program, and then "Cmnd+`" in order to get to the desired window in that particular program.

If you find that a bit of a hassle, you can try using Exposé, which will fit all your open windows to screen, by pressing the Exposé button on your keyboard. The following is a screenshot of what I can do when I press the Exposé button on my computer:


One very useful trick while using Exposé is dragging items. You have an open folder with an image file and you want to drag it into an open chat window. All you have to do is press the Exposé button, go to the desired window/folder. Choose the file you want to drag and drop (click and hold), and then press Exposé, drag your pointer to the desired window, press Exposé again, and then release your mouse. Your file has now been dragged to the desired window.

Now one problem that may arise with using expose in this way is that you might end up with way too many windows  that you may have trouble recognizing one from another.

Here, an easy fix is to press "Cmnd+Tab" from within Exposé to go to a desired program. This would "expose" all the windows of that certain program. Then, you would be able to click on any window that you want to open. The following screen shot is of me opening the Windows of Xcode, the free Mac IDE, with Exposé:


Using "Clickers" during PowerPoint presentations.

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"Clickers" or Audience Response Systems are basically small input devices that can be used to collect response from students during a lecture or seminar. These clickers work very much like the remote control for your television. The input/response from the clicker is recorded by a sensing device and displayed as a data chart during your PowerPoint presentation. This receiving sensor is just a small device (looks like a flash drive) that you plug into a USB port.

There is no need to reedit or change any of the PowerPoint presentations you might have already prepared. All you need to do is add special slides that allow you to ask questions and display the responses. These slides have to be created by using the Turningpoint software.
The following are simple steps to setting up these clickers on your computer and using them in a PowerPoint slideshow.


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  • Install the "Turningpoint" software on your computer. Just go to http://www.turningtechnologies.com/groupresponsesystemsupport/downloads.cfm and install the correct version of the software (depending on your operating system).
  • Make sure you plug in the data receiver and see that it is properly inserted.
  • Now click open the Turningpoint software, you should see that PowerPoint opens up as well and that the primary tool bar has a new tab "Turningpoint."Open the PowerPoint file you wish to add response slides to.
  • If you click on "Turningpoint," a new toolbar appears. \Click on "insert slides" and you should see a new drop down box appearing. Select the kind of data chart you want to use.
  • A new slide is created where you can ask questions. There will also be space for you to enter possible responses to these questions. 
  • Make sure you save the changes you have made to the PowerPoint presentation. File →Save as
  • When you run the PowerPoint slide, your students will be able to enter responses to the question.
  • Pressing any key will display the result from the polling/responses.

Adding captions to youtube video

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We all have times when we'd rather read what the video is saying, than listening to what it is saying. We can accomplish this by adding captions to the video. You could do this through a video editing program like imovie or windows media player. Likewise, you could add subtitles, which are captions in a foreign language than what is being spoken in the video. Simply go to youtube, log in to your account, and upload a video. We will assume you already know how to do this.

1. Go to your account-->my videos. You should see a list of your uploaded videos.

2. Click on Annotations under the video you wish to use. On the next page, click on Captions and Subtitles.

3. Upload your captions.*

4. Your video should now have captions!


3a. In order to have captions, you have to prewrite them, and write in the exact time you want them to appear and disappear. Normally, you can use a text editor, but it is suggested to use Subtitle Workshop, which you can download at www.urusoft.com. It's really easy to use, and gives you step by step instructions. 

3b. This was thanks to rewboss, who can be found at this link. Here's the video he created that simplifies the process and breaks it down for everyone to understand.


Photoshop tip#4: Creating a Web Photo Gallery

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Photoshop provides the user with a fast way of generating web photo galleries from a folder of pictures on the hard drive. Apart from the fact that the process is straightforward and requires a minimum amount of effort from the user, Photoshop also provides a myriad of templates for the gallery.

Follow these simple steps in order to create a photo gallery:
1. Open up Photoshop.
2. Go to File->Automate->Web Photo Gallery. The menu should look similar to the picture below:

web photo gallery.jpeg3. Choose the style of your web photo gallery from the dropdown list called Styles.
4. Choose Folder from the Source Images pane.
5. Click Browse to select the folder that contains the images that are going to be part of the web photo gallery.
6. Click on Destination to choose where the web photo gallery is going to be saved on the hard drive.
7. Optionally, you could change the default settings of the gallery by accessing the dropdown menu from the Options pane.
8. Click OK to create the web photo gallery.

That's it! Preview your web photo gallery in the browser to see how it looks.

Windows 7

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Microsoft releases a new Operating System (OS) an average of every 2-3 years. We had the immensely popular Windows 98 in the late 90's. This was then followed by Windows ME (Millenium Edition). The next OS on offer by Microsoft was Windows XP. Arguably a very successful OS that made significant advances on OS functionality as well as improving upon security and system compatibility issues. Do keep in mind that these OS's are followed by Service Packs (SP's) that offer added security and resolve bugs and other glitches. Windows XP had a total of 3 SP's! These SP's are not new OS's, just minor updates on existing ones. Windows Vista, the next OS by Microsoft was widely considered to be somewhat of a letdown, a victim of XP's immense success.
And right on cue, Microsoft has announced a new OS slated for release later this year. Windows 7 claims to offer greater efficiency as well as greater compatibility with other hardware devices. Listed are the potential benefits of Windows 7 over Vista:

  • Touchscreen Interface: The newest feature in Windows 7 is its touch-screen interface. Currently this feature is supported by Apple Mac OS X only. The era of the mouse might be drawing to an end.
  • Quick Loading: Windows 7 is said to be 20% faster than Windows Vista. This means faster boot times as well as faster shut down times.
  • Application Makeover: Applications like Word Pad, Paint and Calculator are given new looks and features in this new touch operated system and users can store Internet Explorer settings on their Windows Live accounts as well.
  • Enhanced Taskbar: If something is more visual in Windows 7, then it is its taskbar. This enhanced taskbar known as the "Superbar" has merged quick launch with buttons and give you easy access to common tasks.
  • Modified System tray: Just like the taskbar, new features have been added to the system tray as well. You can customize the system tray without the need for editing
  • Battery Life: Windows Vista is a power hog that uses up all your laptop battery because of its slow execution on "dloading" times. But with Windows 7 installed on your laptop, you get longer battery life.
  • Better Account Management: Managing accounts in Windows Vista proved to be a big headache. There are some security flaws found in the Windows Vista that Windows 7 will correct and this allows better and more secure user account management.

Converting WMA Files to MP3

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Using WMA (Windows Media Audio) files on a Mac can be something of a hassle sometimes, especially that Macs do not support WMA. (Example iTunes).

Therefore it is always recommended to convert your audio files into a format supported by OS X.

  1. First thing you have to do is obtain an audio converter. In this post I will be using Switch Audio Converter, which can be downloaded here.
  2. Install Switch, and then open it.
  3. Click on "Add File(s)" in the upper left corner, and then navigate through the finder in order to find the files you want. Alternatively, you click on "Add Folder" and choose a whole folder with audio files to convert.

add.png4. In the bottom menu, specify your desired output folder. All converted files will be saved there. You can also choose your output format and some Encoder Options such as the bitrate.

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5. Once you are done choosing your options, click on "Convert" and wait for your files to get converted. Now you have your WMA file in a different format. 

Photoshop tip#3: Creating borders for photographs

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In general adding a border around a picture creates a nice looking effect while creating contrast and drawing attention to the picture. 
After completing this tutorial, your picture should look similar to the one below:

Here are the simple steps that you should follow in order to add a border to a picture:
1. Open the image using Photoshop.
2. Double click on the image layer which is called Background to transform it into a Layer (Click Ok on the menu that opens up)
3. Create a new Layer. This layer is going to be used as a place holder for the border, since we do not want to alter the original image. By doing this we can also manipulate the border layer a lot easier later on.
4. Go to the Select menu and click All.
5. Go to the Select menu again and in the Modify group select Border. In the menu that opens up you will be asked to input the border selection width. You will have to adjust this number depending on the size of your picture. In general, numbers below 15 pixels are good.
6. Select the last layer you created in step 3.
7. Set the foreground color to the color you want for your border. To do that, double click on the foreground color swap available in the tools palette. See the image below for specifications:

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8. Press Alt+Backspace to fill the border layer with the color you selected in step 7.
9. Go to the Image menu, and click on Canvas Size.
10.Enlarge the canvas proportionally by 10% in order to create a separation between the image border and the edge of the picture.
11. That's it!

Note: You can achieve stunning results for your image borders by applying various Filter Effects to the border layer created in step 3.  

Alternative way for OCR Scanning

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This is a continuation of the previous OCR scanning blog entry. Since Text Bridge is a hard to find program, whose main purpose is to OCR scan, people may be more comfortable using Adobe Acrobat Pro. Using Adobe Acrobat Pro to OCR scan is extremely easy. The following directions will show you how to scan one document. In a later entry, I may tell you how to OCR multiple documents to save time if you have a large project.

  • OCR Scanning One Document
  • Scan the document in PDF format.
  • Go to Documentation --> OCR text recognition --> recognize text using OCR.
  • A Recognize Text box will appear (figure 2). If it does not, please retrace steps and try again.
  • Click on Edit,
  • Change the settings to a different language
  • Change dpi to 300 dpi. If 300 dpi is the default, leave it be.
  • Click Ok, and wait for the program to scan the document.

Recognize text.png

Installing Windows on a Mac.

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Ever been caught in a dilemma, where the software program you need to use only works on Windows? Or maybe you just prefer to do something on XP rather than on your Mac.

Dual booting is the solution to your problems. It allows you to enjoy using both Windows XP and the Mac operating software.


 Things you will need:
  1. To begin with, make sure you contact the Helpdesk (x2007) and receive a free copy of Windows XP. If you have a Vista DVD, you can install Windows Vista as well.
  2. You will also need blank CD's to burn drivers.
  3. Next, go to the finder at the top right corner of the screen and search Boot Camp.  This is the software that helps you install Windows on you Mac. You can also download the Boot Camp software from the apple site.
  • You will be prompted to burn important drivers into a CD/DVD. Insert a blank CD, follow the instructions and burn the necessary drivers.
  • You will now be taken to the partition allocation window. Here, you must select the partition size for Windows. Essentially, you are reallocating your hard drive space so that Windows can be installed. You are recommended to allocate at least 10 GB to Windows.
  • After the partition is complete, you will be prompted to insert your Windows XP CD. Follow the instructions and after your Mac restarts you will now be greeted with a blue command screen like the one below:
  • Follow the instructions and you should now be looking at a menu that allows you to choose which partition you wish to install windows in.
  • Take time to select the correct partition! The partition sizes are expressed in Mega bytes (MB), 1 GB = 1024MB. So if you initially selected a 10 GB partition for Windows, you should select a partition with about 10,000MB.
  • You will now choose the Format of this partition. Just select the FAT system, and choose a FULL installation. Windows will not be properly installed if you select (Quick) installation.
  • Congratulations! Most of the hard work is over. Just wait for the hard drive to finish formatting (takes about 10 minutes for a 10 GB partition). Windows should then automatically start the installation process. Pay close attention throughout the installation process, entering the CD key when you are prompted to. The installation should take about 30 minutes roughly. Once you install windows, you can switch between Windows and Mac by restarting the system. Before the screen turns on, press (and keep pressing!) the alt/option key located next to the space bar.  You can then select the operating system you wish to use.
  • You have successfully installed Windows on your Mac!


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