Saturday, March 08, 2008

Stumbling into Nausea

One of my favourite things is StumbleUpon. Today it led to me to this site. It'll make you think again about your next visit to a so-called "family restaurant". (At least, it ought to make you rethink what you order.)

And the #1 worst food bothered me for a whole different reason - as an Aussie, I cringe at the thought that Americans might think that here in Oz we would actually eat "cheese fries". We don't even use the word "fries" here. And we certainly don't have "ranch sauce" (or 'ranch' anything else). I don't know where the Outback Steakhouse is, and I don't really care to find out.

Excuse me now, it's almost dinner time and I have to throw a couple of roo steaks on the barbie.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Web + Mathematics -- Take 2

At the end of 2006, I posted a rant about the sorry state of working with Mathematics in the browser. That post elicited some good feedback, but I was still dissatisfied with the overall situation. I still am, to some extent. Microsoft still couldn't bring themselves to add support for MathML in IE7 (along with a host of other things) - at least MathPlayer is still there to paper over the gaping hole. Apple's Safari browser is into version 3 and still struggling with MathML. It's not encouraging.

But there are good things happening. Peter Jipsen of Chapman University has developed a javascript approach to entering equations in a simple syntax (well, simpler than LaTeX, at least, and nowhere near as verbose as MathML itself) and rendering it on-screen with Presentation MathML. It's called AsciiMath. And it works! Not only that, adding it to Moodle proved to be simplicity itself.

There are a few caveats. (Isn't there always?) Because you are using Presentation MathML, you need the MathML fonts installed on your computer. And if you use IE, you need MathPlayer (or a real browser, but let's not go there.) If you use Safari... sorry, try Camino or Flock.

But it's a big step in the right direction. Especially if you are using a VLE like Moodle, since it means that students can enter their own mathematical equations and expressions without needing to resort to other software for its creation and/or editing.

Being able to type in `x^2 +(3x)/5 =0` and getting a good-looking equation on-screen is exactly the level at which students (and teachers) need this to work - a simple, effective way of entering their equations resulting in immediate and effective presentation.

Peter Jipsen - you're a legend.