Sunday, November 05, 2006

Web 2.0

The trend in using the web today is away from text and images toward audio, video and online applications. There you interact directly with an application through your web browser.

The term that has been coined for this shift of web based services is Web 2.0.

A major reason for this change is the increasing use and availability of high speed broadband and mobile phone services. These services are moving us away from the desktop of our PC.

A popular shift that many of us use is that of internet banking.

This discussion will introduce a selection of other interactive web based services. Note that turquoise highlights are links that can be clicked to take you to the related web page

A relatively new introduction is podcasting. Think of podcasting as Internet broadcasting. A podcast is audio or video you can download and listen to or watch anytime. The word podcast is a combination of the words "iPod" and "broadcast." You can load the podcast to your MP3 player (it doesn't need to be an iPod). Podcasts are created and posted to the Internet in an MP3 format. At its simplest, you can download the MP3 file to your computer and listen to it in your in built Windows Media Player (WMP). NOTE that MP3 files can be large and may be inconvenient to download on a dial-up connection.

There are a number of ways to find podcasts. They can be found using your favorite search engine, by visiting an online directory of podcasts or by finding them through one of the many online communities.

Terms you can use in your search engine include [topic] podcast i.e. movie podcast, computer podcast, popular podcasts, new podcasts or country music podcast

Popular podcast directories and communities are e.g. Ipodder, PodcastAlley, Digital Podcast and Podcast Bunker.

Radio New Zealand has podcasts for many of its slots. You can listen to them online or in Internet Explorer, right click on the link and click Save Target as… to save to say your Desktop. As examples some of the slots with recorded podcasts are National Radio, Concert FM, Parliament and Country Life.

A site with masses of New Zealand content is The Voicebooth. Any of the extensive lists of categories will open in WMP or they can be saved as above for later listening.

Internationally the BBC provides an extensive selection of high quality podcasts. Their podcasts can be saved in WMP playlists which by default can be ripped and stored My Music folders.

Another emerging service is management of your PC’s ‘health’ through online services. An example is that of on-line real time scanning of your computer for viruses. Housecall provided by Trend Micro is a well known example. Enter the site, select the service, and the application takes over your machine and scans for and removes any viruses that are found. One major advantage is that the ‘virus definitions’ are up to date as of the time of the scan.

Windows Live One Care safety scanner is a free Web-based service for Microsoft customers that gives you quick, on-demand PC health and security scans. It’s like taking your PC in for a tune-up and oil change at the service station. It also has straightforward explanations about online threats and troubleshooting hints for everyday PC issues, as well as a vibrant online community where you can get answers to questions about your PC. It gives you the choice of partial or complete scans. NOTE that it can take time for the programme to complete its full range of tasks.

A Portable Document Format (PDF) document is one that can be read with a universally available free PDF reader. To create a PDF document you are usually required to have the software on your machine. Another way is to use a free online PDF document creator. One such system, PDFOnline is an online application. where you can convert a range of file types to PDF and have the result emailed to you within minutes.

Interactive online tutorials for free are available from many web sites. One of these, as an example, is The OfficeCourse. At this site you will be taken through various MS Office visual exercises. Another Office interactive training site is LearningElectric. Just sit, watch and absorb!

Many of us have as our ‘Home Page’ the default for our Internet Service Provider (ISP). A more interesting approach is set up your own home page by ‘personalising’ the Google home page. Look in the top right of the page and click ‘Personalise’ and follow the instructions.

When one talks of having a web page, the first thought is of complex web site building. There are several free, but simple, online and interactive web site builders. The most popular is the one that I am using to build this presentation at Google’s Blogger. You can prepare your documentation off line, cut and paste into the blog site you have set up (in less than five minutes), save and you are on line. If you wish to do just a bit more than a weblog try the Google Page Creator. No technical skill is required to build high quality web pages without having to learn HTML or use complex software. You edit your pages right in your browser, seeing exactly how your finished product will look every step along the way. Your web pages will live on your own site at

If you wish to get more sophisticated try SiteKreator, the Web's most complete and easy-to-use solution for building and maintaining impressive, Web 2.0-ready business or personal Web sites. An all-inclusive Web publishing service, SiteKreator can help you launch and manage an engaging and robust Web site for your business or organization, artist portfolio or professional CV, personal blog or family photo gallery.

Have you ever wanted to create a Powerpoint ‘look a like’ presentation but don’t have the software. Look no further than the free Thumbstacks. With Thumbstacks you can make presentations - like slideshows, or outlines - right in your web browser. When you're done, you can share your presentations with anyone, anywhere, just by sending them a link. Try their own presentation by clicking here.

With Google Docs & Spreadsheets, you can use an online editor to format documents, spell-check, upload Word documents, OpenOffice, RTF, HTML or text, download documents to your desktop as Word, PDF and view your documents' revision history and roll back to any version. You can invite others to share your documents by e-mail address, edit documents online with whomever you choose, publish documents online to the world, or to just who you choose and post your documents to your blog.

If you want to find music and have it played back to you tell Pandora what artist or song that you want and it will go away and create a radio station for you if it can find your featured artist or song!

The web is a great place for storing your own personal information online. One preference is to set up a email address in Google at GMail. You can then forward e.g. your files, favourites (or bookmarks), software backups, photos, presentations and documents to the Google email address and recall them at will. This is a useful online adjunct to storage CDs, flash drives or hard drives. GMail Space is a small software adjunct to help this process.

Have a look at Google online calculator. It is very handy for currency conversion. For example put in the keywords in Google 20USD in NZD and you may be surprised! The calculator is also valuable for basic and complex metrics.

There are also a number of sites where the storage and sharing of photos, interactive photo albums and slideshows are possible. These can be made public or private. The most popular would be Flickr.

Images can be altered online at Pixenate and They let you manipulate, edit, enhance and apply filters to your digital pictures using only your web browser.

Verzend is a free filehost, a place for you to upload your files (big or small) and have them picked up by someone else at a later time. Recipients you specify are sent an email with instructions on how to download the file. Files are removed from the system after 7 days non activity, regardless if they have been picked up or not. You can upload any type of file, mp3, movies, docs, pdfs, up to 1000MB each!

If it is videos you are looking for then try YouTube . If you want some real ‘funnies’ do a search on ‘Lord of the Rings’!

Scanr is an interesting product great for those without access to a scanner. Scan, copy and fax whiteboards, documents, and business cards with just a camera phone or digital camera! Great for research at the library and creating a backup of printed class handouts on the computer.

Mindomo is a neat service that allows you to create mind maps without needing an application. You have the ability to create some pretty sophisticated mind maps. It is as easy as clicking on a branch and adding text to it. There are many reasons why you could use it. Maybe you are working on an essay, planning developments, your future, or anything really that can use some sorting out. The service is free, simple, and it is also a lot of fun. - "Brainstorming made simple." Online brainstorming and organizing of ideas based on traditional "word bubbles connected with lines" brainstorm model.

This discussion has only scratched the surface of Web 2.0 applications. For an extended list try VirtualKarma and be sure to also look at their links . Other Web 2.0 directory sites are eConsultant which boasts 1200+ links and Real World Software.