Friday, March 23, 2007

Find files instantly with Google

I work in a military university that has a military computer network. This network has a firewall that is very stringent. Some file types are blocked by the firewall. In fact, the list is quite long and that makes me very frustrated at times. But I digress... haha.

I was asked by one of my colleagues to try and put together a list of file types that are blocked by the firewall. So I now had the challenge of quickly finding different files on the internet to test if they passed through the firewall of not.

A quick search of Google found this fascinating Tech Recipe for doing just that. It's an amazing trick of syntax with Google that lets you find any file type you are looking for.

For example,

Are you looking for some WAV files? To find unprotected directories on the Internet that house WAV files use this syntax in Google:
-inurl:htm -inurl:html intitle:"index of" "Last modified" wav

Are you looking for some SWF files? To find unprotected directories on the Internet that house SWF files use this syntax in Google:
-inurl:htm -inurl:html intitle:"index of" "Last modified" swf

Are you looking for some MP3 files? And not just any MP3 files but MP3 files of your favorite band? To find unprotected directories on the Internet that house MP3s of 'The Tragically Hip' as an example, simply modify the Google syntax as such:
-inurl:htm -inurl:html intitle:"index of" mp3 "the tragically hip"

Try it for yourself. Isn't Google interesting?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Video animation can be powerful

As most of my readers know, I am a trained biochemist. When I went to university and while I worked in the field, most of the cell biology that I came to know I had learned by reading a text description and by looking at a two-dimensional static cartoon representation. I had to extrapolate these rudimentary items into a three-dimensional dynamic mental model that was useful for me when conceptualizing cell biology concepts.

Well that was then, this is now.

Thanks to BioVisions at Harvard University, they have produced a video animation sequence of how a leukocyte (a.k.a. white blood cell) works at a basic level. The video animation is so detailed and so powerful that it comes very close to the kind of three-dimensional dynamic mental model that I was taught to create for myself all these years. My first reaction while watching this was quite emotional really. To finally almost ‘see’ what I’ve been trying to ‘imagine’ by entire scientific career gave me an amazing feeling.

The animation video is available in two formats:

1) A non-narrated three-minute version with a powerful music overlay. It can be found on this page and it auto-starts.

2) An almost nine-minute version that contains the same animated sequences as the three-minute version; however, it is slowed down to accommodate narration of the action. It can be found here under the title “Inner Life of the Cell”.

Take a peek at the video and let me know what you think from either a scientific or non-scientific perspective (or both!).

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Wiki uses at Universities

Wikis, a popular Web 2.0 technology, are being implemented increasingly in higher education settings. Some universities have deployed a university-wide wiki while others have deployed department-specific wikis.

(Some of these wikis have been taken down - they existed at the time I wrote this post in March 2007). Some examples of universities in the USA that have deployed a wiki are: University of Southern California, Case Western Reserve University, Ohio State University, Stanford University, Brown University, Hampton University, University of Virginia , University of Florida, Yale University and University of Chicago . Some UK examples are: University of Bath and University of Wales. Wiki installations have been noted at these Canadian universities: University of Calgary, McGill University, Brock University, York University, Queen’s University, University of Toronto, University of Ottawa, Carleton University and McMaster University.

In general, these institutions are using wikis for these main purposes:
  • Manage communication for collaborative staff projects (i.e. Project Management)

  • Facilitate professional collaboration, and document authoring, online between staff and other professional colleagues inside and outside of the institution

  • Allow university-associated athletic clubs and student groups to have a user-editable web presence

  • Propagate community news

  • Allow academic classes to build a group wiki on a topic/idea

  • Allow groups of students to build a wiki for the creation of a shared academic deliverable (i.e. research projects, presentations, reports)

  • Manage and maintain documents online that need frequent updating such as SOPs, policy, procedure and orientation manuals

  • Allow front line workers to easily build online FAQs

  • Joint authoring and archiving of committee minutes

  • Collaborative website space for an academic/professional conference or meeting

My institution, RMC, could benefit from a wiki installation, as it would bring all the many above benefits to diverse facets of the RMC community: Academic Teaching, Research, Social and Administrative.

From a Course Design and Development (CDD) perspective at the Division of Continuing Studies, there could be many useful benefits to having an RMC-hosted wiki. Here are two examples:

Example #1: Pedagogical point of view

Some DCS courses offer students the option of using non-RMC hosted free wiki services to facilitate group collaboration in projects at a distance. At this time, no known hosted free wiki services can cross the PWGSC DWAN firewall. If RMC were to host a wiki, wiki software could be chosen that would be firewall-friendly, such as MediaWiki. The addition of a student-to-student, and/or student-to-instructor, collaborative tool such as a wiki would complement very well the WebCT and DNDLearn LMS functionalities currently at RMC, especially if it is compatible with the PWGSC DWAN firewall. Furthermore, wiki software could be deployed in both official languages.

Example #2: Staff productivity point of view

The Course Design and Development process at CDD operates under a project management framework and often has Course Development Teams with members that are geographically dispersed. A wiki would allow a team member-editable web space where project management and status information could be communicated and shared. This same wiki could also serve as the location for the joint creation of text-based documents by the Course Development Team. The built-in wiki functions of document change history (that identifies precisely the author of the change), and document recovery at any point in the editing of a page, would be powerful tools for accurate document version control in this group collaboration.