Chancellor’s Choice: MacHeist 3

I learned about this last night through Twitter, an opportunity to get 14 high-quality applications for Mac for $39. As I write this, there are about 16 hours left in the offer (and 25 percent of the proceeds go to charity), so check out MacHeist here. Here’s a screen shot of the offer (click to expand):


The retail prices on these packages add up to more than $900, and for the $39 you get the registration codes for the full versions.

It will take me a few weeks to have worked enough with any of these software packages to know for sure how useful they are, but if onl a couple work for me the package will be worthwhile. And since it’s a limited-time offer, I thought I should pass it along to the Mac-using SMUGgles.

Social Media 202: Screencasting

Screencasting is a way of letting other people see what is on your computer screen. It lets you capture either the whole screen or a particular portion and create a movie file that you can upload to a video sharing service like YouTube or Facebook.

The benefits of a screencast are obvious, particularly for SMUG. Instead of a slideshow of a sequence of static screen shots uploaded to and synched to a sound file (pretty good alliteration, huh?), we can now show and tell with full motion, so you can see exactly how to do things. Pictures are extremely helpful, but movies should make the teaching clearer and the learning easier.

But how do you (or I) turn my computer screen into a movie?

For Mac OSX, Ambrosia’s Snapz Pro X is an excellent screencast software choice. It’s easy to use, and I was most pleased that it not only delivers great movies of my Mac screen, but also my Windows XP partition. You can see that example in this post on social sharing with Unlike most of what you see in SMUG, Snapz Pro X isn’t free: it costs $69. But I think it’s worth it for the power it gives you.

Just to show how far you can go with this, I decided to do a demo screencast using Flip video of me addressing my fellow SMUGgles from the front porch of Old Main:


Steps involved in this were:

  1. Shoot the video of me talking using a Flip on a tripod.
  2. Transfer the file to my Mac and open in QuickTime
  3. Play the video at half-size, while capturing the surrounding 640 x 480 window using Spapz Pro X screencast software, and then saving to a QuickTime movie file.
  4. Open that file and repeat the cycle, creating another QuickTime file that could again be played at half size.
  5. After repeating a couple of more times to create the “hall of mirrors” effect, edit the pieces together using iMovie or Final Cut.

The point, besides having some fun showing a movie of a movie of a movie, was to show that through screencasting you can do show-and-tell training demonstrating anything on your computer screen.

Ironically, the only thing I can’t screencast using Snapz Pro X is a step-by-step introduction to using Snapz Pro X!

I still like Slideshare and will use it to some extent (particularly for the Snapz Pro X course), but I think a screencast can be a much more effective way to teach.

If you’re a Windows user, this list from Mashable has some screencast software alternatives.

What do you think? How could you use screencasting for your training programs?

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WordPress Growth Rocks

TechCrunch calls the growth of the WordPress blogging platform, as announced today at WordCamp, “Awesome.”

It doesn’t surprise me at all that U.S. unique visitors to have roughly tripled in the last year to 20.9 million per month, while has only increased about 20 percent to 7.2 million. The two platforms were roughly equal a year ago.

But what wasn’t equal was the value proposition. offers 3 gigabytes of free storage and unlimited bandwidth, and for $45 a year you can customize the CSS, buy an extra 5 gigs of storage (and the ability to upload mp3 files so you can host podcasts), and map your blog to a domain or subdomain of your choosing.

You’d have to spend at least $299 a year on for anything approaching this functionality. And the cheapest, entry-level package price on is $49.50 a year.

With Typepad you can get a two-week free trial, but with you can blog for free almost indefinitely. And even with upgrades that would give most people as much functionality and capacity as they could possibly need, the cost for is still less that that for the stripped-down version of Typepad.

It all adds up to powerful incentives for new bloggers to start with, because all it costs them is their time to learn.

And that doesn’t even take into account the free, open source software you can download and install on another server for even more functionality.

Ben Martin agrees.

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