Scratch: learn visual programming

July 14, 2010

Scratch is a great way to introduce kids (or anyone) to how programming works. There is a stage in which you put characters (“sprites”) and a box off to the side where you can drag and drop “blocks” of code that fit together and run in a sequence. Scratch is fairly simple, but if you need help, check out Download Scratch here.

This may sound like a childish waste of time, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. For educators specifically, Scratch helps foster problem solving and also some collaboration. Recently, Google released a service called App Inventor. App Inventor is a site where you can make Android apps without having prior experience in coding. Similar to Scratch, it uses blocks of code along with a visual box to show how your code will work when activated. App Inventor has the potential to become a very successful platform.

Don’t ever dismiss Scratch as a kid’s toy. It’s an educational resource. Now only if Apple would make one…



Google Docs: A free Alternative to Microsoft Office

June 27, 2010

Google Docs is a simple solution for replacing Microsoft Office. The presentation section gives the user an interface where they can place simple objects, text and images onto a slide. When you are finished with it, you can play the slideshow right from your web-browser, print it, download it as a PowerPoint, or download as PDF. The word processor is very similar, as is the spreadsheet.

What makes it unique is Forms. Google Docs is the ideal platform for creating submit forms. You can create several types of questions such as checkbox, radio button selection, single-line response, paragraph response, etc. Then, send out the URL or use the embed code to put the form on your webpage. Then, view the responses in a summary with graphs and statistics, or in a spreadsheet with more detailed data- all for free @


Free Microsoft Office Alternatives

June 26, 2010

In the next few days, I will review some of the best alternatives to the Microsoft Office suite. You might want one of the alternatives for…

…your kid’s computer

…your home computer

…your small business

or any time you’d use Office.

I will review some of the best free titles and web app Office alternatives including:

  • Google Docs
  • NeoOffice/OpenOffice (they are very much the same thing)
  • Zoho Office

Some other alternatives include, but requires a Facebook account to login, which I don’t have.


Best Menubar Apps for Mac

June 9, 2010

In this article, I will profile the ten best menubar apps for Macs. These are the little buttons that appear to the left of the system clock.  I will feature a few of my favorites here.

1. Jing is a great app that allows you to capture screenshots and screencasts to share with other people. It is integrated with to share the screenshots with others. This is great for little tutorials- if everyone asks you for tech help, you can tell them to watch a video and save yourself the time.

2. Google Notifier and Gmail Mini make a powerful combo when paired together. Google Notifier will tell you when you have new Gmail and Gmail Mini will let you read it form the menubar.

3. Weather Bug Lite is a great app to tell you the weather in your area. The display icon shows the current temperature.

4. SMC Fan Control is a good app for geeks. You can use it to control your fan speed, i.e. if your computer is getting warm in your lap, you could speed up the fan a little.

5. Caffeine is a great app to prevent your display from going to sleep on you. You can set it to one of the preset durations or indefinitely.

Dropbox and CloudApp (online file storage services) also have menubar icons that are quite useful. For more menubar apps, check out If I forgot your favorite, please put it in the comments section.

Share Make your searches worthwhile

May 23, 2010

Have you ever wondered how you could make your searches more useful? Probably not. You just Google your query, click a link and use the page, thinking  nothing of it. Sometimes, though, you might have wondered if there was a good alternative to the search giant Google. There is, and its called GoodSearch.

Goodsearch is a charitable search engine that donates money to charity nearly every time you perform a search on it. You don’t even need to sign up to use most of its features.

First, select the charity you want to benefit under “Who do you Goodsearch for?”.¬† This is important because it you don’t, the money raised will just go to sustain the website.

Goodsearch charity selection

Select a charity

Then, it will state your charity in place of the selection box- I chose the ASPCA. Goodsearch also has a feature called GoodShop- if you search for a product on their engine and then end up buying it, a designated percentage goes to your charity.

If you run a non-profit or know someone that does, the “Add New Charity” feature might be useful. Just go to and fill out the form. It could be a useful strategy in fund-raising for your organization. They provide a table that shows how many searches earn how much money.

Goodsearch is powered by Yahoo Search, so you should get decent results. Try it out