Thursday, April 2, 2009

Virtual Whiteboards

Many educators are interested in using technology in the classroom to enhance the educational process.  One popular tool is called a smartboard.  These devices allow an instructor to present content in an interactive manner.  Imagine something that looks like a whiteboard, that can be  used to present lessons, pictures, interactive web based tutorials, or even mindmaps.  Sounds great!  But . . . the price for such a device usually starts around $1000.

But never fear the Edtechguru is here!  And I have a low/no cost alternative that can provide comparable functionality.


Groupboard allows you to put multi-user Java tools, such as whiteboard, chat, message boards and games, onto your web pages simply by pasting in a few lines of HTML code. It works on any browser which has Java JDK1.0 (practically any browser released since about 1995) without the user having to install any plugins.


Dabbleboard is an online collaboration application that’s centered around the whiteboard. With a new type of drawing interface that's actually easy and fun to use, Dabbleboard gets out of your way and just lets you draw. Finally the whiteboard enters the digital age!


Scriblink is a free digital whiteboard that users can share online in real-time. Sorta like pen and paper, minus the dead trees, plastic, and the inconvenience of being at the same place at the same time.

Whether you're here for fun or more practical things like layout planning, concept diagramming, or tutoring a friend in math, Scriblink brings you the power of free hand expression with anyone, at anytime, anywhere in the world.

On the homepage you'll be immediately directed to a Scriblink board, which is free and requires no registration. Here you can take advantage of all kinds of useful features, such as:

  • Privacy: the board is all yours, open only to the people you choose to invite

  • Dynamic Tools: use shapes, hundreds of colors, a size bar, a text feature, and a grid to help guide your drawings

  • File Options: gives you the ability to print, save, and email your work

  • Image Uploader: upload an image onto the whiteboard as the background, allowing you to share it, mark it, deface it, or highlight key elements

  • In-Screen Chat: when working with others, no need to sign in to third party software, simply use our in-screen chat

  • VOIP Conferencing: if you have a mic for your computer, you can automatically connect with your collaborators (no software necessary) and talk for free for as long as you like

  • File transfer: when emailing is too much of a hassle, simply transfer files directly to anyone you're working with

These tools offer a cost effective alternative to traditional smartboard technology.  These websites can provide most if not all of the functionality of a traditional smartboard.  Be sure to give them a try.  Hey, what do you have to loose!

If you have questions or comments, send an email to

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

PC-BSD UNIX for the Desktop

During the 2008 Southern California Linux Expo (ScaLE 6x) I had the pleasure and good fortune of meeting Kris Moore, Chief developer of PC-BSD. PC-BSD is a derivative work of FreeBSD, optimized for the desktop. UNIX based operating systems: FreeBSD, NetBSD, and OpenBSD are not typically used for desktop computing. These operating systems were usually found in production environments, enterprise applications, and web servers With the advent of desktop managers such as KDE and GNOME, UNIX based operating systems have become more accessible to the casual computer user.

However, PC-BSD isn't the first or only attempt at bring UNIX to the desktop. DesktopBSD, TrueBSD, & Midnight BSD all provide a good UNIX desktop experience. However, PC-BSD went one better: the PBI software (package management) system. PBI stands for PC BSD Installer or Push Button Installer. Unlike tradition package management options associated with UNIX : packages and ports, PBI literally allows one to push a button (on your mouse) to install software. To install software one need only to do the following:

  • Fire up your browser

  • Navigate to

  • Select the software category

  • Select the software you want and click

Its that easy! PC-BSD is a great way to get into UNIX, it runs reasonably well on older hardware, and it has the look and feel of a modern desktop. And as more software is added to the PBI directory PC-BSD will become a contender for you secondary desktop system. So if you have an older pc laying around, try breathing new life into it by installing PC-BSD. Definitely worth a look.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

OpenSuse - A Viable Option


I recently presented at the Southern California Linux Expo, in Los Angeles. My presentation was on building Low/No Cost Computer Labs (For info on the presentation click HERE). After my presentation I had the opportunity to meet Joe "Zonker" Brockmeier, OpenSuse Community Manager aka "The Weakest Geek". During my presentation I made the comment that there were only three major Linux distributions - Slackware, Redhat, and Debian. I made this comment due to the fact that nearly all current Linux distributions started with one of three distributions as there base. Joe pointed out that OpenSuse was a major Linux distro worthy of note. After installing it on a laptop and using it for a few days, I must agree! OpenSuse is almost as easy to use as my beloved UBUNTU. Admittedly, I am biased (DEB HEAD) , but not foolish enough to turn my nose up to such a solid distro.

OpenSuse is:

1. Easy to use
2. Has good package management
3. Has friendly and familiar desktop options - Gnome and KDE
4. Runs reasonably well on old (Pentium 3) hardware

If you are looking for something other than MACROHARD or that Fruit Company for your PC, take a look at OpenSuse. You will be pleasantly surprised.
For more information on OpenSuse click HERE.

If you questions or comments email me (Samuel Coleman) at