Thursday, September 14, 2006

School's In

Almost the second week of school down and we have made tremendous strides I feel as compared to the first 2 years. The teachers have been using tablets and projectors in their daily lessons. The laptop carts are being used by experienced and by next week inexperienced staff. This is the first time we were able to roll out the technology so quickly in the school year.

I did make one adjustment for the staff that I wanted to share. It is a nice program for scheduling equipment and rooms for schools. Last year, I had setup the event calendar in our content management system (Joomla) to be used as a way to sign out laptop carts. It was effective but not as easy to read and track equipment. I had done a quick Google search 2 days ago for school equipment reservation software and the second hit came up with Ohio State University. I clicked on the link to come to a login page with a program called phpScheduleIT. Being an avid open-source freak, seeing php in front of any software title ususally means it is open-source. The link to sourceforge was on the bottom of the login box. I downloaded the program on our web server, created the database, and set the configuration page with the server settings.

Yesterday I inputed all the laptop carts and all the users. I could have had the teacher's register themselves but I thought I would eliminate this step for now to make it easier for them. I tested the system and did a full staff "adult learning" session at the end of the day. Judging by the reaction of staff it was a great hit. So we have now enabled our staff with another learning community tool.

Quickly, one other great feature is, as an admin, you can specify which equipment/resources staff can reserve.

Download phpScheduleIT

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Java Art

Well, I guess I didn't stick with my original idea of posting as frequently as possible. Well with the new school year about to start I have been quite busy. So, I will try and keep these still as informative as possible and also some fun.

Here's a fun one. I love coffee. If I don't have at least 3 cups a day (with large cups it works out probably to 5 cups day) I can't make it through my technology filled day. This is a cup o' Joe to start your day with a smile

Java Art

I did try to embed the video here but the code and blogger did not mix. I will follow-up this post with how to do this. I have already found some hacks but will choose the easiest and best on eto put here. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

That was Easy. Now What?

Now that you have EasyPHP installed, let's see how we use it to develop and modify all of our websites. The best part is that to use this development server you don't even need to be connected to the Internet.

Taking off from my previous post, let's make sure EasyPHP is running. When the application is running you should see an E with a blinking red light in the lower right taskbar.

Now that we have confirmed that Apache and MySQL are running, open up your web browser. In the address bar type in http://localhost. This is the default DNS that every computer looks to itself. Localhost is actually IP address Feel free to try that number in your web browser's address bar. You should see the same page unless you are behind a proxy or firewall that does not allow IP addresses. The page you see is the index file located in the www folder that EasyPHP looks into for your websites.

Let's go to that folder and see where we will placing all of our test sites. If you did not change the default location when installing, then the folder will be located in C:\Program Files\EasyPHP 1-8\www. When you click inside the folder you will see the index file I was talking about.

Now let's add a simple website to your development server. I'll create a folder in the www folder named MyFirstWebsite. What you name your folder will be the root domain of your website. The root domain is the first level of your website. This is why we have to follow the naming rules for web addresses, no spaces and no special characters. By default the web server will look for a file named index.html, index.php, or index.shtml to serve up to the web browser.

Create a file named index.html or index.php using whatever web page software you are comfortable with. I use Dreamweaver and SciTE text editor for different programming languages. You can also copy the code below into a text editor like Notepad and save the file in the folder MyFirstWebsite as index.php.

Now let's test our website. Go to your web browser. Access your website either by typing in http://localhost and choosing the MyFirstWebsite folder or to go directly to the website type in http://localhost/MyFirstWebsite.

You should see this screen. Hopefully you can see that you can edit and then see a web page that has a .php extension. The only caveat is if the php page has to connect to a database to get the information it serves to viewers. If this is the case (since I will talk about setting up databases are in the next segment) then it will give you an error message.

Next epsiode.......The AMP circle and databases

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Easy PHP.....How Easy?

When and why did I start using this wonderful program, but most importantly, what does it do? My company had started two small schools in NYC 2 years ago, which will be grades 6-12, but started with grade 6 and grade 9 adding 2 grade levels each year.

So how many educational technologists get to start with a clean canvas in which to work with? Most of the time we are working with existing school technology and trying to implement within them, or plan new initiatives, which may or may not get funded. Since most of the money allocated in the project was for hardware, I started searching for free software. In my research I came across open-source software. Open-source has varying licenses, but the main concept of it is that programs can be freely distributed and modified as long as the original statements and comments are kept in the code. There are different licenses, so you should check whenever you use one of these programs.

Most of the programs I found were web-based developed under PHP and MySQL. I had done web pages and graphics before, but never dealt with these languages. So, what did I do with the first program? I downloaded it and then tried to open a .php file in dreamweaver, look under the design tab, and what shows....a blank page.

Looking at the code, it did have some HTML elements but did not make sense from the straight HTML I had been using. Being a self-learner, I started to read everything available about PHP and MySQL. This is when I realized the process in which the PHP and MySQL pages work. All the PHP code is processed on a webserver which outputs the HTML for the web page you are viewing to your computer's web browser.

Being a newbie, I started out changing some code and using ftp to upload the files to the web server to see the changes outputed in the browser. This of course was tedious, so I wondered how developers dealt with this. With this question and Google I searched on how to edit php files and view them on the desktop, without FTPing files to a webserver.

The answer: Make your local Windows computer into a web server. There are different programs to do this, but one that was recommended and was open-source was Easy-PHP. For Windows users this is the best program. Mac users who have OS X, already have a built-in web server and Linux users, well, you know.

What makes up a typical web server using open-source (free) programs?
  1. Apache is the web server.
  2. PHP works with Apache and is a server-side (processes all information on the web server), cross-platform (doesn't matter what you use, PC, Mac, Linux), HTML embedded scripting language that lets you create dynamic web pages (pages on your site that can change based on user input or data changing).
  3. MySQL is a database which PHP accesses and uses to store information for the program.
Easy PHP has all of these components included and installs them for you.

Download, Install, & Configure Easy PHP
(or Create, Change and Mess-up your web pages without it leaving the computer. WhoooHooooo!!)

Easy PHP website:
( a French site, one of the beautiful things about open-source is access to a world community of developers)

Download Version 1.8

The download is in the form of a typical install program for Windows(.exe). Download it into a folder on your computer that you will remember, and once complete double-click to start the install.

Step 1: Choose the language you would like the program to run in.

Step 2: The usual warning, "close all apps before installing". Click next.

Step 3: Accept the license agreements. This is where you can see the different types of open-source licenses. The GNU is the most popular open-source license.

Step 4: Description of the program and what it does. Click next.

Step 5: Shows the default install folder location. Change the location here if you have to for your own computer. Click Next.

Step 6: Here you can change the name of the folder that will show in your start menu to recognize EasyPHP. Click Next.

Step 7: Confirmation of the information you entered in the last 2 screens. Click Next.

Step 8: Sit back and watch it install.

Step 9: Installation is done. If you don't want the Readme file popping up uncheck the box and the click Finish.

Step 10: Easy PHP will start automatically and show this screen. If you minimize the window, it will disappear and leave the blinking E in your taskbar (Program is Running). If you close it with the X then you will exit the whole program.

You now have a web server running on your computer........Yahoo!!!!

Tomorrow: Easily configure and see your websites.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Better Late then Never...

Well, I have finally decided it is time to take the plunge into blogging. Why you might ask? Because I think that educational technologists need to support each other and make it easier to garner information on various topics that affect our performance.

It did take me about 5 minutes to come up with a name for the blog, though. Excuse the Tools for School, I did try to get Tools for Schools but it was taken by someone who hasn't updated their blog since May 2005. Therefore, making a commitment like having a blog, I will try to update at least once a week, if not more. I hope to also learn from your comments on the various topics I will pose (yes, I have big hopes).