Visual Tutorials for Selected Desktop Applications

Wayne Smith   [ ]

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[updated: Wednesday, September 1, 2010]

Author-side Automation

On Windows, I use Camtasia Studio to capture the screen sessions and narration audio. On MacOS, I use Snap Pro X for the same functionality. I know of no commercial or open-source equivalent application for GNU/Linux environments.

On Windows, each different video file format is created by Camtasia. Multiple file conversions can be automated in Camtasia in a batch process. Once the audio-only format (.wav) is created, I use GoldWave to create the two additional audio-formats--Ogg Vorbis and Windows Media. Goldwave can convert files in a batch process as well.

I use the CPAN MP3::Tag module with Perl to write the ID3 tags into the MP3 files. This helps the various MP3 players organize and manage the audio files.

Client-side Automation

There is no Java or Javascript in any of the end-user tutorials. Macromedia Flash was chosen as the default video format because it is highly functional and platform independent. The folks who design the online, visual statistical tutorials at UCLA appear to concur [ workshop notes ]. I know of no open-source equivalent format (but see GPLFlash for starters).

Server-side Automation

I use Server-Side Includes (SSI) on the web server. SSI is a simple, but useful "programming" environment. SSI easily meets more than 90% of the dynamic document generation ("web page") requirements for this application.

RSS file Generation

I use SSI to help with the RSS feeds as well, but alas, I still modify the RSS 1.0 and 2.0 feeds manually (e.g., the SSI "filesize" function returns the filesize value in bytes with a comma separating the thousands, but a comma violates the RSS element specifications). This isn't terribly efficient, but it helps me (a beginner) understand the syntax and semantics of these file format "standards".

RSS and "podcast" testing

I've tested the RSS feeds in Mozilla Thunderbird and also in the podcast application Doppler. Despite the popularity of both these applications, there are many other RSS-enabled applications in this emerging space.

And...what is OCW short for?

OCW is the acronym for the OpenCourseWare project at MIT. The OCW project intends to publish syllabi and related course documents on the web. These quality materials are available to all motivated learners at no charge. I believe that in a small way my "visual tutorials" are generally aligned with the learning goals and global intellectualism of the extraordinary MIT OCW vision.

"ToDo" List

migrate automated MP3 ID tag generation from Perl to LAME

re-factor SSI slightly to reduce manual changes

change subdomain from "visualtutor" to "ocw"

add RSS 1.0 module - Learning Objects

add JSR168 portlet (or maybe better, WSRP portlet) meta-data capability

add SCORM (Learning Objects) meta-data

verify Section 508 Compliance

add RSS 1.1 capability (experimental)

[ 09 May 2005 ]  test RSS 1.0 with Mozilla Thunderbird

[ 09 May 2005 ]  add RSS 1.0

[ 06 May 2005 ]  test podcast round-trip with RSS 2.0

[ 05 May 2005 ]  add RSS 2.0

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