Archive for the ‘Online Services’ Category


How To Make Shorter URL’s

In Helpful Websites,Laundry Room,Online Services,Tips & Tricks on December 3, 2009 by Media Specialist Tagged: ,

What is a URL? A URL is the address of a webpage in the world wide web or internet. It’s short for Uniform Resource Locator. No need to go into what that means.

For example, to get to Pueblo High School’s website you have to type the URL in the web address box in your browser.

Example of a URL in address box. (Circled in red)

It’s a short and simple address so that our visitors can memorize it easily and return to our website.

From time to time we are on a website we would like to share with our students or colleagues that unfortunately looks like this:,-95.677068&sspn=38.22949,61.787109&ie=UTF8&hq=Pueblo+Magnet+High+School&hnear=Pueblo+Magnet+High+School,+Tucson,+AZ+85713&ll=32.186945,-110.978994&spn=0.039952,0.060339&t=h&z=14&iwloc=A

That’s the web address for driving directions to Pueblo. What you normally do is copy and paste the URL into an email or document. Unless they all have photographic memories, they will not be able to memorize that URL for future reference. That’s where URL Shortening comes in handy.

What basically happens is that these online services assign a shorter, easier to remember URL to the long and complicated like the one above. I personally use for most of my needs, but what I like about is that I can personalize my own name to the address.

Screenshot of the website

I went ahead and copied the long URL above and pasted into since I wanted to personalize it and this is what it looks like now:


What a difference huh?

This comes in handy when you want your students to visit a specific URL on any given assignment or when you want to share a web address that you want them to easily remember.

There are many online website that offer this service for free and offer additional paid features that you don’t need. Here’s a few:

Here’s a link to the Top Ten with a nice breakdown of the services they offer.



Almost Free Music Downloads

In Entertainment,Helpful Websites,Laundry Room,Online Services,Reviews on June 26, 2009 by Media Specialist Tagged: , , , ,


It’s been around for quite a while now, but check out MP3Panda for downloading legal music. At 5 cents,  a nickle, you can download some of your favorite tunes.

I know what you’re thinking, is it legal?  Apparently yes! I copied the following text from Cheap and Legal Dowloads which offers other downloading alternatives too.  CLD states:

Legality of MP3Panda
It’s worth highlighting MP3Panda is perfectly legal. Russian legislature enforces compulsory licenses, which means that a company can get the license to distribute and sell music as long as they pay for it somewhere. In the US if you plan to sell a certain CD, you have to negotiate with the labels, and that’s why the original Napster got shut down by the courts – they violated the law by not obtaining the licenses from the RIAA mob.

In Russia if you prove that (a) you keep track of what you’re distributing (log number of downloads) and (b) you pay to the collection agency, you’re legal to distribute any music you want. The collection agency (ROMS and FAIR, quoted in the Wall Street Journal article) will then re-distribute the money to the copyright holders.

The only catch, if you want to call it that, is that you must pay upfront. When you register you must select the amount of money you want in your ‘bank’.  If you select the $20 option, it basically means you have $20 in your account to spend on music. In iTunes it’s the opposite, you pay as you download.

Lets do the math, at 5 cents a song that equals to 400 songs! Compare that to 20 in iTunes. It’s even cheaper when you purchase entire albums. Purchasing entire albums is more cost effective when downloading “Greatest Hits” or “Best Of” type albums which most artist release.

Also note that the selection is not as big as iTunes. (10 million compared to 2 million)  Browse the site first and see if most of what you like to listen to is on there. Interested? Read on–>


The registration process is simple and secure. All you need is an email address and credit card.  If you select the higher dollar amount options, you will notice you get additional dollar bonuses for music.


Purchase Entire Album or Single Song

Purchase Entire Album or Single Song

After you log in, start browsing for the song you wish to download. (Entire album if you wish too) You can listen to a 30 second preview of the track by pressing on the litte panda next to each track. (Please note that the preview is NOT the quality of your download) Click on DOWNLOAD button and it will prompt you the amount that will be deducted from your account.

Window that prompts you for payment

Window that prompts you for payment

You will then need to go to your DOWNLOADS section and  right-click the link Download and choose Save Target As…(or Save Link As…). Select where you want the file to download and depending on your connection speed an MP3 file with the song name will appear. All the ordered files are available for download within 48 hours. You’ll have to order these files again to be able to download them after that period.

Download Link

Download Link

After your file downloads to the location you selected, you can import it to the music player of your choice. If you import to iTunes, usually the album artworks pops up automatically. If it doesn’t, follow these instructions to do add it.

This service certainly makes listening to your favorite music more affordable. Here’s a blog that explains it a little more.


Google Earth Great Teaching Tool

In Education,Emerging Technology,Helpful Websites,Online Services,Tips & Tricks,Web Features on October 27, 2008 by Media Specialist Tagged: , ,

The song lyrics, “he’s got the whole world in his hands” become a virtual reality with Google Earth! I’ve been using it since 2006 when it was called Earth Viewer. It’s quite amazing to be able to ‘fly’ to any spot in the world and get hi-resolution imagery on your computer/projector screen. It’s almost like being there, believe me.

You can add many layers to the virtual map such as terrain, roads, 3D buildings and images. It’s getting better and better with the addition of 3D renderings of The Grand Canyon, Eiffel Tower, Red Square and many more. You have to see them to appreciate them. Here’s an example of how Downtown Tucson, AZ looks with the 3D buildings layer turned on:

Downtown Tucson in 3D

Downtown Tucson in 3D

It’s a very simple program to use and the best part is that it’s a free download available for Windows and Mac. Here’s how to install it: 

1. Visit to download the program free.

2. Complete install and you are set.

3. Visit the brief video tutorials site that helps you get going. Here’s a sample:

That’s it! You can really use this as a teaching tool to transport your class to the destination on the globe you may be talking about, including Antarctica! I use it all the time, even more so now that it’s available for the iPhone & iTouch. See it in action as it zooms in to Pueblo:

Forget my hands, now I can have the whole world in my pocket!


Jungle Disk Can Save You From Digital Disaster

In Helpful Websites,Online Services,Reviews,Web Features on October 12, 2008 by Tech Support Tagged: ,

They say there are 2 kinds of computer users: those that have lost their precious data, and those who will. Well, I say you can be a part of a very special kind of computer user, someone who will never lose any data.

It doesn’t matter if you use Mac, Windows, or Linux.

If you don’t backup your information you are bound to lose it due to a number of reasons, including hard disk failure, stolen laptops, and plain old mistakes.  This is where having an automatic and easy backup system that you don’t think about comes in handy.  If you think backing up to an external hard drive is your saving grace, what happens if your place burns down or gets broken into? If you think burning CDs is the answer, what kind of automated schedule is this on? Don’t get me wrong, I do these things, and they can be real life savers. But having an offsite automated backup plan is golden.

Jungle Disk to the Rescue

I first came across Jungle Disk when I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts, Security Now with Steve Gibson ( and Leo Laporte ( After listening to episode number 123, where they talked with one of the creators of the program about the benefits of using this program, I decided to try it out.

What it does

Simply, Jungle Disk is a software program that lets you use Amazon S3 services to backup your files remotely. It costs $20 (there is a free trial) and the makers of it allow you to install it on multiple computers for your personal use.

Installation and setup

The installation is simple and straight forward. If you already have an account with Amazon from previous purchases, it is an easy process to be up and running.

After installation, you tell the program what files and folders you want to keep backed up, you pick a time to schedule the backup, and then you forget about it. The program will upload your files to Amazon S3 for safekeeping.

Paranoid types rejoice

Let’s say you have a super secret file (like the answers to the final exam or the grades for your students) that you have stored in your computer and you want to back it up securely so no one gets the “Kernel’s recipe”. Or simply because you are paranoid about your privacy. Then you have the right tool to accomplish this. Jungle Disk is able to strongly encrypt your information before it hits Amazon’s servers. They will only be storing the encrypted “blob” and never have access to your actual files.

Sweet Cost!

The great thing about all of this is the cost for storage. You only pay for the amount of actual storage you use, which (as the date of this posting) is only $.15/GB. There is also a small fee per GB of upload. This is truly a great deal as other services charge a monthly fee for a set amount of storage whether you use it or not. MOZY is just one example of this (although they offer a free account with up to 2 GB of space). Last month I uploaded about 600 MB of personal files (documents, spreadsheets, pdf’s of receipts, etc.) and about 7 GB of pictures. My bill for the month was $1.22. That is an awesome price to sleep soundly knowing my most important files are securely stored. Once your files are backed up, the program will only upload files that have been modified, so there should be minimal charges for uploading.

Here’s what I like about Jungle Disk:

  1. Secure backup of your data. (Peace of mind)
  2. Automated: set it and forget it (No hassles)
  3. Very affordable pricing (Easy on the pocketbook)
  4. Amazon’s reputation (Stable and secure)

Are you still here?

Now I know what you’re probably thinking… “I have never lost any data. That only happens to other people”. Remember what I said at the beginning, you have already lost data or you probably will at some point. So go ahead, try this program out and sleep better at night knowing your irreplaceable kid’s (human or pets) pictures that you ONLY have digital files for, are safely stored somewhere other than your home. Or that thesis or presentation you’ve been working so hard to finish for months (losing sleep to complete) isn’t going to tragically disappear because you didn’t back it up.

Feel free to leave your comments on what method of backing up you’re using.


Unblock Access To A Website On TUSD

In How To,Online Services,Tips & Tricks on September 16, 2008 by Media Specialist Tagged:

Sometimes we are trying to access a useful website for classroom use and we come to find the dreaded YELLOW screen of Websense.

Fortunately, TUSD has a process that can lead to unblocking the particular site you are trying to access. All you have to do is fill out the online form and submit it. TUSD determines if that site can be unblocked. I’ve submitted several sites and all have been unblocked. Chances are that if it’s something that benefits Teachers or Students, it will be unblocked.

You can only access this form on a work computer. (http://intranet/proxyissues.html)

This is what the form looks like:

TUSD Proxy Form

Click On Image To Go To Site


1. Contact Name (Required)

This is the person submitting this request. Must be entered as First Name Last Name (With only a space between.) If the last name is hyphenated enter the name without the hyphen. Please no middle initials!

2. Contact Phone (Required)

Phone number where you can be reached. Must be entered as 8 digits. EX: 225-6333

3. Site (Required)

Select the site you work from! If you are at multiple sites use your home site (Where you recieve your paycheck).

4. Grade Level (Optional)

If you are a teacher select the grade you teach, all others use Elementary, Middle or High School.

5. Subject Area (Optional)

This is for the general type of information accessed on this site. Some examples would be Geographical, Sports, or Inappropriate Content ETC.

6. Requested Action (Required)

Select either Block Site or Make Site Available.

7. Specific Reasons (Required)

Explain specifically why the site should be blocked or unblocked. Please give examples of ways the sites content would impact TUSD students.

8. URL (Required)

Enter the complete path to the web site from the browser or websense error message. See example!

9. URL Example

There is an example of an acceptable URL at the bottom of the page. It is also an error message you may receive from websense for a blocked site.

Hope this helps! I know it can be frustrating sometimes.


What Web Browser Should I Use?

In Laundry Room,Online Services,Tips & Tricks,Web Features on September 15, 2008 by Media Specialist Tagged: , , , , , ,


Web Browsers

According to Wikipedia:

web browser is a software application which enables a user to display and interact with text, images, videos, music and other information typically located on a Web page at a website on the World Wide Web or a local area network.

I’ve been using Apple’s Safari at home since I made the switch to Mac in 2003.  At work I was forced to use Explorer until Firefox came along in 2004.  When Apple announced Safari for Windows in 2007, I immediately switched over.  You might say I’m an Apple Fanboy.

Here are the Top 5 in no particular order.  Most have similar features such as bookmarks, tabs, searching, private browsing and password management.  I’ve attached videos to each browser so you can see the different features each has.

1. Apple Safari

2. Mozilla Firefox

3. Windows Explorer

4. Google Chrome

5. Opera Software