“Free” just as good

ONLINE we are moving through phases. There has been the chat phase, blogging phase and many others. At the moment we are in a social networking phase and also in a “free” phase.

We are lucky to live in a time where the word “free”   should   no longer be associated   with something being of a poor quality. I am often amazed at the way in which people perceive opensource software as being of a lower quality than paid-for software.

The world is moving to an open and free model where the community collaborates to build   something   for   the greater good. This is a model where money is generated through other sources and where the opensource project stems from a passion for the project and a strong believe that the community can create something greater than any team getting paid for a project.

Please   note that I am not trying to tell you that all opensource software is better than proprietary software. Not at all. I am saying that we should never assume that opensource projects are inferior in any way. The quality of software should be evaluated on a case by case basis. If you are a small business and you are in the market for a word-processing software package, you should consider downloading OpenOffice from www.openoffice.org before you   spend thousands on a package that will for the most part do exactly the same thing. I even   discovered some great features in OpenOffice that I have been missing in other packages. I think the main thing I am trying to say is that if someone is trying to tell you you should never use opensource software, you can be sure   the   chances are he is either   trying   to sell you   a   package   or   he is spending   someone   else’s money. Schools,   institu­tions,   organisations   and companies should   encourage   and   support the   use   of   opensource   software. The long   term   benefits will be tremendous.

If you would like help to get started with OpenOffice, www.translate.org.za has just released a book on using OpenOffice.org effectively.
.  Nico Baird is an instructional designer: Media at the Central University of Technology (CUT), Free State, and New Media and Educational Technology enthusiast and can be contacted at nico@clicksa.co.za.

Google Reader a great tool

WITH all the tools that are available these days I tend to adopt so many tools that I forget about the ones that really worked well in the past. One of these tools is Google Reader. I have used many RSS readers in the past and I have written about the free ones before. The problem is that these days we move between computers quite a bit and if you have to install software on each computer to track websites and the news, it can get to be a daunting task to keep everything in sync.

The only way to really manage your information stream online is to keep it online. The best part of it all is the fact that once again it is a free tool made available by Google. The Google Reader is a great tool and is easy to use and expand. If you have not already registered for Gmail or any of the other Google services I think it is time for you to do it today. Go to http://reader.google.com and register.

Now you can manage your own information stream, or as I like to call it, your own Personal Knowledge Network. As you visit websites or blogs, which your find interesting, you add the RSS feed which will be available on the page to the reader. Now every time there are changes and updates to the website it will appear on your personal Google Reader page at http://reader.google.com . You do not need to visit the pages constantly, you can just go to the page and consume the latest news from all over the web. There is no limit to the number of websites or blogs that you are allowed to follow and it can make life a whole lot easier.
.  Nico Baird is an Instructional Designer: Media at the Central University of Technology Free State and New Media and Educational Technology enthusiast and can be contacted at nico@clicksa.co.za.

Mobile access is key for your website!

WITH the unbelievable uptake of mobile technology in South Africa it has become important for all institutions and companies to make sure that their websites are accessible through cell phones.

These “smart” phones usually already have some sort of web-browser installed and it makes it easy for you as the user to access websites.

Most phones, however, do not have screens large enough to render the website in its entirety. We are also still faced with very high costs when it comes to the cost of bandwidth to your mobile device. It should therefore be remembered that every image you place on your website will cost money to view. This brings me to the fact that each website should have the option of a scaled down mobile version.

These can already be seen with larger websites like www.facebook.com and also the mobile version of www.volksblad.com and www.ofm.co.za.

If you are the owner of a website or you are planning a website it really is quite important that you take the mobile aspect into consideration. I do have good news for most of you! If you have a website and it runs on one of the better known and supported platforms like WordPress you will easily be able to install free plug-ins that will enable your website to be viewed on a mobile device.

I think the best recommendation that I can make is that if you plan to create your own website, that you first ensure that the necessary plugins for mobile devices exist and that there is an active community or company developing for newer devices.

The main idea is that you need to keep in mind that on most devices you should keep it straight and simple.
. Due to a technical problem this column could not be published last week.
. Nico Baird is an instructional designer: Media at the Central University of Technology, Free State, and New Media and Educational Technology enthusiast and can be contacted at nico@clicksa.co.za.