Monthly Archives: September 2008

Securing your laptop

Firstly, it needs to be mentioned that I enjoy the convenience of storing passwords in the browser, and that I use different browsers at different times (IE, FF and now Chrome). These browsers do cash files, site history, cookies, passwords, etc. in various parts of your computer, and it is simply impossible to clean up everything everytime you shut down your computer. Deleting the history and private data still leaves them on your harddisk – so this is not really secure.

To contain browser activities I now use the free tool Sandiebox. This creates an isolated container and everything the browser writes is kept apart from anything else on my computer. That in itself is pretty smart but it does not encrypt the data so I run the Sandiebox browser within an encrypted disk. For this I use Dekart Private Disk (free) which mounts an encrypted file automatically at system startup (password required) as a new drive.

So now the sandboxed browser runs on this encrypted drive, and when I shut down, the drive is disconnected and encrypted until the next time I boot. Easy and convenient and hopefully safe.


Google Accounts

Interesting how Zoho integrated Google authentication despite their competition in the online office tool market. Or maybe it is because of it, to create an inroad to Google Docs users to use Zoho without registering with them.

It got me interested in the workings of Google Accounts. The login box simply shows a Google/Yahoo icon at the bottom where from you are redirected to a page on Google Accounts with a rather confusing Access Request:

Google Accounts screen

I wasn’t sure whether this delivers my entire contacts list to Zoho with maybe the effect that everyone in my address book gets a Zoho invitation. Seems that this was not the case and simply got me access to my Zoho account and documents.

Logging out is equally simple with a dialogue asking whether you want to log out completely or want to stay signed on for other Google services.

Google logout

All in all a very smart way of single sign-on and OpenID, and yet another way of having more Google windows open than Microsoft applications on your desktop. With this, Google rapidly becomes the key to accessing your entire portfolio of productivity tools.

Google Chrome

Today Google released its new browser named Chrome. My first impression is rather positive as the interface is slick as with all Google tools, minimizing impact on the screen estate. So small is the footprint on the screen, it’s even been called the “invisible browser”. It starts up fast and provides search directly from the address bar.

Import from IE Favorites and FF bookmarks is pretty straight forward and I even managed to change the interface language in the options.

So far, no exceptional new functionality has come to my attention, but there are a few advantages, mainly the integration with Google Gears and the online tools such as iGoogle. One of the nicer things is creating application shortcuts on your desktop to make e.g. Gmail or GReader available offline.

Moodle as LD editor?

It may sound far fetched, but Moodle already contains most of the components of a Learning Design editor. A course in Moodle can become a Unit of Learning (UOL) in LD speak. It’s topic or week structure can be interpreted as Acts and at the same time act as Environment where Resources and Services are made available to the learner. Acts are sequential in that the entire cohort (Roles) needs to complete the tasks within (Activities) before proceeding. Activities within individual Acts can be set as HTML text instructions (e.g. read the following piece of text).

I haven’t tried this but think that Roles can be assigned to individual activities, resources or services. This all leaves Moodle at least within grasp of IMS LD Level A, but Level B & C may not be too far off.

There is, of course, a difference in terminology and what Moodle calls a resource and activity isn’t the same in IMS LD, but this isn’t critical for the user frontend and can be translated in a LD-compliant backend, or when exporting to LD xml.

The advantage is, that Moodle is a design editor, that’s close to teachers’ workflows and thinking (one major reason why it has been so successful). Resources and activities can be created straight away, and a runtime exists as soon as real learners are filled into the roles provided. Courses are portable and shareable, and you can apply changes in runtime (e.g. add a new activity).