Jeff Longland

Relax, don't worry – have a home brew!

Archive for April 2006

RSS Feeds of WebCT Content

I previously posted (briefly) about my adventures attempting to provide podcasts from WebCT. The larger issue this drives at is generating RSS feeds of WebCT Content. Andrew Gruhn commented today that he’d like to get RSS feeds of WebCT content as well. I drafted a post about this in November and have been kinda sitting on it ever since. So here it is with a whole lotta late night revisions. I’m working on implementing this but it’s currently more of a hobby than anything so don’t expect anything immediately. Hopefully someone finds this useful, let me know if you come up with anything or have suggestions for improvements.
So what type of content could we get out of WebCT? In particular, out of WebCT Vista 3/4 or CE 6. The PowerLinks SDK provides a few webservices that might be useful:

  • Mail – new messages, etc
  • Calendar – upcoming entries?
  • File Manager – RSS w/ enclosures, ie. podcasting
  • GradeBook – maybe grades?

I’m a little hokey on the GradeBook idea, but the other three sound decent. There’s also a beta Discussion webservice that’s available through the Vista Developers Network and that would likely be one of the most useful RSS feeds out of WebCT.

  1. Instructor creates the RSS tool like they would any other tool. The tool is essentially an authentication module that can integrate with other systems or return a string – ie, HTML.
  2. Student clicks on the proxy tool. The tool generates an HTML page with information about using an RSS reader along with a URL for the feed, perhaps a servlet on another server. ex. http://host/VistaRSS/feed?id=30303039 Velocity would be good for generating the HTML.
  3. The user adds the RSS feed in their favourite reader. For me, BlogBridge or Thunderbird.
  4. The reader makes the request and the servlet handles communication with the WebCT webservices. For example, goto the specified learning context (30303039) and get a list of all files in the /podcasts/ directory. Substitute any of the other content I mentioned earlier.
  5. Using the list of all files, generate the XML for the feed. I’ve been using with Rome in my experiment with podcasting. Though Velocity would also make a good candidate.
  6. Return the XML to the user.

Ideally in step 4 it would be nice to wrap some authentication around this whole thing. Authentication seems to be supported in a handful of RSS readers and podcast clients, mainly for standard HTTP authentication. Potion Factory walks through the steps of setting up a password protected podcast. Bottom line is that some form of restriction should be available should the instructor wish to restrict access to students only.

Well, time to mosey along. I should be working more on implementing this rather than writing about it, but I felt compelled to post today since I’ve been meaning to do this. So here it is.


Written by jlongland

April 19, 2006 at 6:27 am

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Adobe has solutions to your problems and then some!

So I ran into a funky error while installing Adobe Acrobat 7.0 – off to Adobe’s site for some support. And boy oh boy, do they have lots of it. And by it, I mean confusion. Or at least for the average user. For my particular problem, Adobe lists thirteen possible solutions! How is the average computer user supposed to deal with that?  My particular issue was fixed by cleaning up my PATH variable but I’m fairly familiar with environment variables – what about the average user?

I know that there are good applications and equally good support in the world…  but as I’m wearing my average user goggles I continue to see barrier upon barrier to reliable computing…

Written by jlongland

April 18, 2006 at 9:48 pm

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Windows Default Blue I Love You

So I’m trying to keep some degree of focus on this blog…  provide some real content or commentary – although I’m still looking for either, so if you find any let me know.  Anyhoo, I wanted to say a little about myself and what better way than by sharing my beloved desktop:  Windows XP, classic mode, with the default blue background.  I don’t know what it is about that damned blue background, but I bloody love it.  From my first Win2k install to my current XP machine, I love default Windows blue.  I was riding on the bus the other day and I realized that I’ve been using the default background for over a year.  I’ve had other backgrounds and occasionally switch to a personal “graphic art piece” but I somehow end up with that default blue.  That said, I wonder if I chose to like the default blue or whether I’ve stumbled across a long and expensive Microsoft research project…  LOL

Written by jlongland

April 18, 2006 at 9:35 pm

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Educause Pumps Up the Podcasts

Yes yes, it has been several weeks since my last post. What about that inspired post about blogging more regularly? Well, term transition has begun so my attention is definitely elsewhere. Unfortunately this post will be nothing substantial either, but the folks at Educause (and particularly ELI) have been pumping out some amazing content over the last four months that will more than fill my void 😉

So while I’m working away I have the above filling my ears, interspersed with the occasional track from the Live Music Archive. I may not have the time to attend all of these concerts or conferences, but I’m forever in debt to those who have made the content available so that I can ‘attend’ when time allows. Thank-you.

Written by jlongland

April 12, 2006 at 11:58 am

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