Wednesday, February 20, 2013

How to Make Skype Stop Opening Automatically (Windows)

I don't use Skype often but I want to have it on my computer. However, it kept opening automatically and trying to get me to login. I kept clicking to quit it, but I finally decided today that it's time to solve this issue so I did some Googling and figured it out from a Skype forum (not the actual Skype help). I thought it couldn't hurt to post this so the answer is easier to find.

The tricky thing is that you first have to login in order to get all of the options to do this. 

When you're logged in, go to Tools in the top toolbar and click Options, at the bottom. Then you'll get the window below; uncheck the box for "Start Skype when I start Windows" and Save it. 

Why to use iSpring Free to Publish a PowerPoint

iSpring Free is really an amazing program, particularly since it's free. It allows Windows users to publish a PowerPoint with audio into a video. If you want to know how to use iSpring, please see this post.

Why not just record audio into PowerPoint and just give the students the .ppt file?

  1. It will probably be a huge file with audio in it, especially if you follow good design principles and use a lot of high quality images. This takes up space in D2L and on the students' computers, since they have to download it. If the students don't have a good internet connection, it could be slow or problematic to download. 
  2. The students may have problems playing it or opening it because it will function differently based on their operating system, browser, and version of Microsoft Office. Troubleshooting can be difficult because all of these aspects need to be taken into account. You can't assume the students will know how to play the presentation - they may become frustrated trying to figure it out and not view it at all. 
  3. It also just isn't particularly professional to present your content in a format where the viewers can easily see it in edit mode. Publishing it into a video file somewhat increases your ownership of the content, because it can't be modified or reused easily, as it can in .ppt format. 
iSpring fixes all of these problems by compressing the file, publishing it into Flash (there is also an HTML5 option for mobile accessibility), and it plays like a video. An excellent iSpring video won't even look like it's a PowerPoint if you follow good design principles. Remember, PowerPoint is not a bad tool in itself; it can be used as a blank slate.

The #1 advantage of iSpring, though, is the ease of editing later. Because audio is recorded into each slide individually, it is easy to switch out one slide if the content changes or you change your mind without disrupting the other slides. You just keep working with the PowerPoint version, publishing it, and replacing the published file. The publishing process is usually very fast.

Also, while you are recording audio into a PowerPoint, you record per slide so you get to take a break in between slides and if you mess up a slide, it is easy to redo just the one slide so you don't have to edit anything. (Actually you can't edit audio in PowerPoint/iSpring, but it's so easy to redo that I do not see this as an issue).

Ooh! Another advantage is that the files are so small and they function so well that you can upload them directly to D2L rather than hosting them on YouTube or wherever. So, if you are using material or images that are copyright questionable, you are safer putting them just in D2L. Our copyright officer has said that as long as materials are in a password protected environment like D2L, copyright is not as big of a concern (This is the simple explanation; I can go into more detail about this individually if you would like).

Why not use Camtasia (or another screencasting program) to record the PPT? 

This is an option, but the main disadvantage is difficulty editing later. Camtasia is a very nice program, but you have to record your audio all at once and if you make a mistake, you either need to the whole presentation over, live with it, or try to edit it out afterward. Editing is time consuming. I am a technologist, and usually I prefer to just re-record because it takes less time. You also aren't assured that editing will turn out how you want it to turn out. It is not particularly difficult to remove parts of a Camtasia video, but it is difficult to add video in it's place and make it look seamless.

But I'm a Mac user...

So am I! I love my Mac. You can do the whole PowerPoint on Mac (add audio using Record Slide Show as well) and then use a Windows machine to publish it. Most people I talk with have access to a Windows machine. If you need one (and are at UWEC), let me know and I can get it on a lab or CETL computer. If you put it in a projects folder and let me know where it is, I can also publish it for you and put the published file in the projects folder. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A Case Study on E-Books for an English Class

An English professor I am working with on an online class asked if it would be possible for her students to use e-books, but she was worried about pagination. I did some research and thought it might be interesting to share a real situation on the blog.

I told her that if she is ok with the page number possibly being off by ~1 page when compared to print, the Kindle versions may work for her students with these specific books, if they are using an Kindle or tablet like an iPad with the Kindle app (I verified and it is possible to see page numbers on all Kindle devices). The funny thing is that Kindle books can be read on the computer, but computer version does not have page numbers or a search function! That makes no sense.

When Kindle books do give page numbers, they will indicate the ISBN of the paper book that the page numbers reference which seems to be really helpful. 

If the students have to be incredibly specific (paragraph 3 of page 89) or if the e-book page numbers need to be correlated with a very specific version of the print book, then the electronic version probably won't work. The issue is that people can change the font size on their personal readers. Since there may be multiple or partial paper pages on one electronic page, the page indicated electronically is the print page that matches the text at the top of the electronic page. So text at the bottom of the electronic page may actually be on the next page of the print version. 

Amazon Kindle:

Here is what I found on Amazon. Two are free and all give corresponding ISBNs for the print versions. She will just want to see if it matches the right ISBN of the print version she's using. There are other results too, so if it doesn't, those results can be examined. I just chose the free/least expensive ones to list here. The names go to Amazon's site. 

Emma is free! The kindle version has "real" page numbers based on ISBN 0307386848 (the print version of this ISBN [vintage classics] is $6.97 on Amazon). 

The Great Gatsby is $8.72 and the page numbers correlate with ISBN 4871878406 (the print version of this ISBN is $27.01 new or $16.31 used on Amazon – other ISBNs are less) 

Mrs Dalloway is $2.99 and the page numbers correlate with ISBN 024195679X (funny thing is that this ISBN is 99 cents used on Amazon – weird case that the paperback is less expensive, but it's sold from amazon vendors and not Amazon itself. Other ISBNs for this book are more expensive.) 

Jekyll and Hyde is also free. ISBN 145382717X (the print version of this ISBN is $6.85, but other ISBNs are as low as $1.50) 

Total e-books: $11.71
Total print versions of the ISBNs of the e-books: $41.82 (Gatsby makes it much higher - it's strange that this book is $27.01 - it would be about $10 less with a different ISBN if that's ok)

Barnes & Noble Nook: 

Barnes & Noble runs our university bookstore. On their website, specifically for UWEC, they offer both the paper and e-book versions when available. Here are the prices (it says "if available" after used, so there is no guarantee that's an option):

Emma: Used $12.50; New $16.65; e-book $3.99
The Great Gatsby: Used $11.25; New $15; e-book $8.25
Mrs. Dalloway: Used $9.75; New $13.00; e-book $3.00
Jekyll and Hyde: Used $5.95; New $7.95; e-book $7.55

Total e-books: $22.79
Total new paper: $52.60

I also looked on the general Nook website. I couldn't find the correlation of the e-book to the ISBN of the paper book easily like you can on Amazon's site, which is probably a big downfall of Nook. They had an ISBN-13 (not sure what that is) and a specific Barnes and Noble ID for some books. I emailed the bookstore manager to ensure the ISBNs of the paper and ebook versions are the same and will update this when I know. I also asked her if these books were available on the Nook device, or just in Nook Study, which is only available on the computer. I would find it a disadvantage if the books are only available on the computer, not on the Nook device. 

It is possible to find the page numbers on the Nook, but it is unclear what they are referring to. I assume that when/if they do correlate to a paper edition, there would be the same issue as Kindle - that they may be off by ~1 depending on the size the person chooses on their particular viewer. 

Overall, I'd recommend Kindle over Nook, at least in the case of these specific books due to price and because there were fewer complaints about the quality of the e-books on Amazon (some users said there were errors in Emma and Jekyll and Hyde and they'd recommend paying more for another version).