Technology at Geneseo Community School District 228
Today I worked with a few teachers on inserting different media onto their wordpress based websites – one topic that came up frequently was embedding youtube. With WordPress this is quite easy to do by simply adding a plugin called youtuber – you can download the plugin here youtuber.1.5.9.
Step 1. Download Youtuber if you have not already.
Step 2. Install Youtuber by logging into your website, then expanding Plugins, and choosing Add new.
3. Okay now you need to find a youtube video to embed. Go to youtube and find a video.
4. With the Video selected copy the unique video code from the link. Here is where the code is on each video
5. Now Create a new post or edit an exisiting one. Where you would like to embed a youtube video simply put in a Youtube marker code then the youtube unique ID and then an ending code like this.
Thats it, the end result is what you see below: One of my favorite all time SNL characters Nick Burns -
Here is another Nick Burns Computer Guy using the same technique
Probably the best overall aspect of using WordPress is its seemingly never ending library of plugins. In a school setting with primarily Mac’s one easy way to capture Video (with Audio) is to use the program Photobooth – easy to use – fun for students and staff. To post and embed one of these videos into WordPress is simple using the plug-in WordTube or the Add Video button. WordTube works with the latest version of WordPress as of the time of this writing (2.9.2) and easily accepts movies from Photobooth. You can download version 2.2.2 directly from Here – or better yet add it through WordPress directly – see Podcast Below.
First off the advantage to using WordTube is that you can resize a movie, embed it directly in a wordpress post/page and use a built in player to start and stop. If you use the built in Add movie button in wordpress you will save time but the movie will open in a different windows and will appear only as a link in your post.
Here is a Podcast on how to get WordTube, convert – upload – and embed a movie from photobooth nicely into A wordpress Page.
Here content created from a teachers Macbook in Photobooth uploaded to WordPress. Here is a sample movie from Photobooth Embedded into WordPress using the WordTube Plugin. (I also embedded my screen podcast using this plugin as well).
I came across a great plugin for WordPress today that simply makes your website look good and work easily on an Iphone. The theme is called WPTouch and it is free and setup is almost effortless.
You can download the Plugin from the admin console of your wordpress, and simply click Activate.
After activating the Plugin – Here is a screenshot from an Iphone.
The Plugin Preserves media content and images, and overall makes reading and navigating the website pleasant from an Iphone.
You can read more about the plugin from the authors website here.
If you are not happy with the default settings, you will find under the wordpress settings WP-Touch panel – almost all themes icons, colors are customizable.
When it comes to online documents, collaboration and storage most people probably think Google Docs right away. Without taking anything away from Google and its excellent selection of free services – I want to mention another cloud based system that offer better functionality in many respects.
One of the biggest complaints I have heard about Google Docs is its inability to import complex documents and its lack of features as a word processor. If you have shared these concerns I would suggest you check out Zoho.com. Zoho is very similar in functionality to Google Docs but just comes with a more full featured word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation applications.
In addition to offering full functional clones of Excel, Word and Powerpoint – Zoho offers a variety of online tools making it probably the most overall complete package in terms of providing a full suite of productivity tools online.
Zoho is a free service for individual use – Interestingly it has been rumored that Google is considering buying Zoho as a way of upgrading its current services.
With the eminent release of Office 2010 online – Zoho might find itself lost among the major players. Still will an obvious technological advantage over Google Docs I would not be surprised to see the Zoho logo become a large G for Google. (Easy way to catch up if Microsoft Online System is better)
Here is a screen shot of Zoho loaded running its Writer Application. Notice the tabs across the tab – much better set of editing and formatting features than Google Docs.
Here in the district we host our own webserver, an mysql database running websites. Many of the sites I use WordPress as a basic template since only a few staff members are interested in coding a site from scratch . In 3 short years of using this code I am impressed with the size and diversity of plugins, add-on’s, themes, etc most of which are available free. Here is a free plugin that I came across awhile back that work great, does not require any membership or outside service, and work with the latest version of wordpress 2.9.1.
This plugin is easy to use, efficient and effective.
Plugin is called Quizzin (http://www.bin-co.com/tools/wordpress/plugins/quizzin/).
Quizzin can be added directly to your wordpress installation by clicking on Plugins, search for Quizzin and then click Add New, then search for Quizzin, and click Install and Activate.
From the admin Console you can now easily create and insert a quiz directly into your website – free, fully functional and fully contained within the code of the website.
To use this plugin simply login to the admin portion of your wordpress site and then click on Tools – look for Create or Manage Quiz.
Once you have a Quiz Created you can Now click on Manage Questions to start creating the quiz. Easy and functional. Using the editor you can easily create and add questions.
Here is a short 3 question quiz using the plugin.
With the Quiz ready I simply add the code ["QUIZZIN 1"] without the quotes and the quiz is automatically inserted into the post or page.
If you like this pluggin you may also like another plugin by this same author called Surveys – very similar to Quizzin.
Surveys can be found here http://www.bin-co.com/tools/wordpress/plugins/surveys/ .
On our district website http://www.dist228.org we have online calendars used for a variety of purposes. Each School has their own calendar which contains events for the school year and every computer lab & mobile lab also have online calendars used to sign up and reserve the resource. To implement this we use PHP scripting based on that of Calendarix (http://www.calendarix.com/index.php) . These calendars are simple, functional and straightforward and are easily customizable as the code is done primarily in PHP. Unlike many other web calendar services – this product gives complete freedom to customize anything since you can easily just manipulate the PHP scripts. Calendarix has two versions available, one is the free basic calendar and the other is the advanced version which adds more PHP scripts enabling some nice added features – one such feature exporting to ICS and VCAL formats.
One great thing about PHP code is that it does a good job of embedding a website within a website. For Example with Calendarix a mini version of each calendar is available which appears as small website. Using the following PHP code you can insert this mini website into an existing website creating a nice mini calendar widget.
$remote = fopen(“http://www.dist228.org/calendars/ms/smallcal2.php?op=smallcal&date=2009-12-01&catview=0″, “r”);
In addition to embedding the website using this PHP code I also modified the smallcal.php script removing the control options. I did this because this widgetized version of the calendar will not keep its links embedded in the windows so it gives an overall cleaner look removing this mini control panel.\
This screen shot shows the mini calendar embedded using the original smallcal.php script with the control panel below the calendar. I modified this script to exclude these options since CLOSE does not really make since in with an embedded webpage like this.
Here is finished product using embedded webcalendar fully working with control panel at the bottom.
Another nice feature of Calendarix is the ability to export an event or events into ICAL.
To do this only a few modifications are necessary of the Calendarix code. If using the Advanced version this can be accomplished by just changing a couple of preferences in the Admin Control Panel.
To settings need to be changed under the GENERAL Settings tab of the admin screen.
The first setting is the number of events of recent events. This is set to default to 10 events, this is not really that helpful because then the max number of events the can be batch exported to ICAL is 10. Here i set this number to 400 but you could really set this to 1000. The idea being that this way when you export you get all events for the entire year from this date forward.
Over the past few days I have been working on streaming the high school’s radio station, WGRG 100.5, over the web. After spending a little time looking at options on the internet I found a solid working solution based on a few open-source projects. I revamped an old PC Pentium 4 machine running at 1.8 ghz with 512 megs of RAM and installed Windows 2000 (not Linux – only because the school still owns over 100 unused licenses). At my house I had an old Sound Blaster 5.1 live sound card which I used to capture the radio stations analog signal.
The software setup on the rebuilt machine is pretty simple.
1. I used Icecast 2.3.2 to stream the audio
2. I used Winamp to play the analog input from WGRG
3. I used the edcast (oddcast) plugin to link the audio feed from Winamp to Icecast.
I currently have edcast set to stream the audio using the vorbis OGG format at 64 kbps, this format works well with ITunes and Windows Media Player. I may change the quality of the broadcast down to 32 kpbs which would allow more simulteneous connections at the price of lower sound quality. This revamped machine is now setup to simply to run 24/7, the only downside with this configuration is the reliance on Winamp which cannot run as a service. In the future I may alter this part of the configuration or create a startup script that starts these programs automatically in case of a power failure / system failure.
After I tested this setup and confirmed it was working I installed another version of Icecast 2.x on one of the webservers in the district. Then I edited the Icecast configuration file and added the <master-server> tags which makes the webserver simply relay the audio feed from the older PC. Lastly I opened up the port 8001 on our PIX 500 device thus making the audio stream available via the web.
I have been looking around on the web for a wordpress plugin for online surveys that is compatible with WordPress 2.7. It appears that really the only true plugin that works well with the latest version of WordPress is SurveyGizmo. Although this plugin does not truly exist on its own since it requires you to create a free account, it does do a good job of embedding a survey into a wordpress post or page. One nice feature is that the SurveyGizmo allow you to customize the width of each survey so depending on your wordpress theme you can customize the survey to fit in nicely. I created a survey below using the SurveyGizmo WordPress plugin 1.01 -
The survey was easy to create and was easy to customize so that it would fit nicely inside my blog. I think this may be useful for the staff to use since SurveyGizmo seems to have as many if not more features that SurveyMonkey and is not too difficult to use. If teachers and staff seem interested I will create a podcast explaining how to create surveys and embed them. If you are already interested send me an email at email@example.com and I will setup a plugin for you.
Saturday I built a machine using quality parts on a budget of under 300$. My cousin requested my help after a bad incident with electricity reduced his old AMD K7 based motherboard to junk. Using Newegg.com, crucial.com and a few other online bargain websites I was able to build a Core 2 Duo 2.4 GZ based machine with 2 Gigs of RAM with FSB at 1033mhz. I considered this machine to be a success since all of its specs match the MacBook Pro I use at work which had a price tag at 2600$. I looked for an equivalent machine at Dell (with no monitor) and came up with a 549$ Dell Studio. So it looks like you can still save a little bit of money by building your own machine and get overall better quality parts.
e7050/650i EVGA Motherboard (FSB 1033) 60.00$
E6600 Conroe Core 2 Duo 2.4 ghz with (FSB 1033) 120.00$
2 Gigs of DDR2 Ram from Crucial.com (22.00$)
Power Supply 700 watt (59.00$)
[Gallery not found]
Overall I was very happy with the finished product in every category except for the built in graphics card. This EVGA board uses the equivalent of a GeForce 7050 built in which is nice compared to any Intel Based onboard configuration but is still lacking if you are wanting to be true PC gamer. The motherboard does have a PCI Express slot so popping in a 9800 GT (130$ on newegg) would top this machine off as a decent gaming machine. The only other drawback on the machine is the RAM speed of 667mhz, I could have gone with higher speed ram but with a price of 22.00$ for 2 Gigs I couldn’t pass it up for such a minor spec.
The only other drawback on this quick project was the Heatsink. Since I built this machine on Saturday I could not stop by IDC to pick up a cheap 15$ heatsink but instead had to head over to BestBuy. Here I found a no thrills heatsink for 37.99$, ouch a pretty steep markup for the convenience of Saturday shopping.
Sometime after upgrading our web server to Leopard a strange problem surfaced in which emails sent via PHP on the server were not being sent. This issue was perplexing since the problem would appear almost at random with most of the emails being sent but about 3 out of 10 failing to be delivered. Since sending PHP mail via our district website is the main contact point between parents and staff, a 30 percent loss of emails is unacceptable.
Looking through the server’s mail log \var\logs\mail.log, I discovered that the mail server attempts to send emails via our mail server and also our podcasting server.
In the log you can see that whenever a message fails to be sent via PHP (postfix) it is trying to use the podcasting server rather than the mail server.
My quick solution to this problem has been to simply allow a relay between the Web Server and the Podcasting server so that whenever a php mail message is sent/relayed via the Mail server or Podcasting server it is still delivered.
In this screen shot you can see that the messages are successfully sent with the relay opened on the Podcasting server.
Although this solution works well, I must admit that I am perplexed as to how and why Leopard server would auto sense another Mail server on the local network and attempt to use it randomly.