Dimdim out of Beta

Dimdim is a startup who promise easy conferencing platform without need to install additional desktop client, looking for hosting, anything. All you need is a browser :-). You can create online conference, share your desktop, voice and video (imho for for sharing your desktop is some plugin needed to install).

It's been a while Dimdim successfully integrates in Moodle, now the company releases new version, it's out of beta and will be releasing its source codes under GPL3 license.

Basic, free version, allows 20 attendees in the room, but if you need create bigger conferences you have to pay.

I saw some captures from Dimdim usage, it is looking very promising. Maybe it is a time to check it too, it is on my to-do list for a long time.

Some goodies here, if you will sign-up through this Techcrunch arcticle you may be awarded with Pro version (worth $99 annually, room for 100 attendees etc) for free :-).

Did you try Dimdim in Moodle? What's your experience?


One Minute Video: Adding Youtube clip to the Moodle course

Online video sharing servers are on the rise. YouTube.com is one of the biggest and most known. Many teachers found this site useful for learning, they are uploading their's videos, homemade screencast etc to this service and are inserting these clips to their Moodle courses.

This screencast is first (I hope that it won't be last ;-)) in series of One Minute Videos where I want to show some basic things you can do with Moodle in just one minute.

It's without sound for now, I am little bit shy about my spoken English(not native as you already learned ;-)) and my voice (do you hate hearing yourself on some recordings too?), but in the future... :-D.

Feel free to ask if something is not obvious, I tried to not move fast to everything stays distinguishable.


How to change Enrollment key

One of my teachers forgot how to change enrollment key for new semester. I made small video to show and I would like to share it with you.

Moodle allow teachers to "lock" their courses with enrollment key (this is for default enrollment, if you are using for example external enrollment plugin, it might be different).

If you have set enrollment key, users have to fill this key before their access locked course for the first time. After they successfully fill that key, they are enrolled.

On the page with enrollment key form, link to the course teacher is displayed to allow users to contact someone to obtain that key.

If your enrollment key became corrupted, you can change that key, get rid of unwanted students in your course with Role assignment and your already enrolled students won't be affected by this change of enrollment key. Please, take better care for your new key, see MI for example, how it should be done :)

Remember Mission Impossible "As always, should you or any of your IM force be caught or killed, the Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions. This tape will self-destruct in five seconds. Good luck, Jim." :-D

Back to Course Setting. You will scroll down, there you will find field for Enrollment key. This key is stored in database in plain text, so if you only need refresh memory what key you are using, check Unmask checkbox next to the Enrollment key field.(in 1.9 version)

You will find option to allow access for guest just below this field.

Enrollment key will allow you to insert new students to group automatically, but about that maybe next time ;).

And now promised video finally:


Moodle as LEGO

Have you ever wondered how to explain Moodle in easy way? You don't have to anymore, just watch this video ;-)


Undefined method domdocument:load() in Moodle 1.9

Hello my faithful followers, I hope there remained some after so long blogging hiatus. You know, been busy ;). New fulltime work, less time for Moodle. But now I am preparing upgrade to Moodle 1.9 for my installations, so I plan to blog more about various things I'll met on the road to new shiny Moodle :).

I am going to start right now. I am using XAMPP package on my development machine, currently had installed
1.6.7 version. XAMPP is really easy to install, you are good to go in any time. This time I plan some tweaking, multiple virtual hosts with different documents root etc., but this is for another post (after I make it work ;)).

I downloaded current Moodle 1.9 version through CVS, started to install it, but just after few steps I have been rewarded with this error:

Fatal error: Call to undefined method domdocument:load() in \lib\xmldb\classes\XMLDBFILE.class.php on line 85

This has been easy prey, luckily. After quick googling I found this thread on moodle.org.

In short, it is XAMPP fault, php_domxml.dll extension is making ruckus. For this time being I solved it as is written in mentioned thread, I have found currently loaded php.ini (with phpinfo.php script - it is present in xampp installation), added ";" before line extension=php_domxml.dll, saved php.ini and restarted apache.

Installation is working now, I will try to look into this extension problem more, if I will find more informations about it.

So, that's all for today, see you next time :)


Google analytics in Moodle course

I just read interesting post yesterday about adding Google analytics code for easier and faster monitoring your users here http://www.relearn.ie/2008/04/16/using-google-analytics-and-moodle/

Google analytics is a free tool for monitoring your site, watching visitors habits, provide lot of statistics , widely used by site creators. Check GA site to learn more.

This was quite a new for me. I did installed GA in Moodle too, but I have inserted it into the footer file in the theme. In this case GA is "watching" all your pages, all courses(I assume I am using only one theme), just everything. This could be useful, but too overcrowded with informations as you monitor all pages on your site. And you need to have access to themes of course ;).

Approach mentioned higher has some serious disadvantages, that is monitoring only front page of the course where GA code is inserted, but has one GREAT advantage. It is easy, teacher can add GA code himself, no asking and begging needed.

So if you are teacher and need something for your course (for example you want to learn what browser resolutions your students are using etc) go that way. Mentioned post is very descriptive and useful.

I am not sure about position of the block itself. GA code is usually placed to footer area of the pages or as lowest as possible. And if I am not wrong, lowest right is farthest in the code. Moodle will print left column first, then middle (well known error when you didn't upgraded all third party modules and printing of content halts after only a few topics due a missing activity or module) and right column finally.

My advice is to move the GA block to the right bottom. Eamon from the rElearn.ie wrote in the comments that he used Firebug to find best position. I just checked source code of Moodle courses and imho right lowest block is farthest in the code.

So if someone will make some experiments about positioning of the GA block, please share it.


Confirmation email sender

I wrote about confirmation emails here. I noticed I missed one thing, you can have problem about. Who is sending them?

Admin does that! Or better, confirmations emails are sent from email address that is set up in admin account. If you have more admins, it's primary admin, that is the first one, he was created when the Moodle has been installed. Change his email address and confirmation emails sender address should be changed too.


Reset role to default

Did you play with roles settings but suddenly something is not working correctly and you don't know which change is the culprit? Did you want to reset role to default and can't find button? I know solution!

I read about role resetting to default on moodle forums but couldn't find mentioned button, but I noticed in the code, that the needed part is there.

So try to edit role you want to reset

Editing page will show up. Look into address bar, there you should see something like this:

http://yourmoodleurl.com/admin/roles/manage.php?action=edit&roleid=7 (the number denotes role id you are editing)

Change action=edit to action=reset. Everything others stays as before!

Press enter. You should see notice, if you are sure to reset role to default. If you are, reset it ;-).

Let me know, if you found easier way, I tried 1.8.2 and 1.9 versions but cannot find resetting button :-(.

Unable to reset password in Moodle

You might know that Moodle helps your lost users not knowing their's password by resetting it.(It depends on the authentication plugin though.)

User needs to insert username, or registration email, Mooodle will send mail with link to reset that password. This is somehow cumbersome but it disallow pranks from malicious users trying to disable another user access.

But it can happen, that mail without the password reset confirmation links is sent. It contains these lines:
"Unfortunately your account on this site is disabled and can not be reset,
please contact the site administrator,"

In these cases please check if:

  1. authentication plugin user had been registered with is enabled
  2. user is not disallowed from login with 'nologin' tag in his authentication column in the DB
  3. user has rights for changing his password - moodle/user:changeownpassword (Moodle 1.9)
  4. authentication plugin contains these lines:

function can_change_password() {
return true;

Hope this will help solve problem with resetting passwords.


Is Moodle ugly?

One of blogs I have in my reader published today article about Moodle : Training the Web Worker Way: Moodle

Some interesting links there, but first comment under that article has brought up a question I heard more often recently. "Moodle is bad designed", "Moodle UI is too complicated" or "Moodle is just plain ugly".

I am working with Moodle for years, I am not encountering that problem often. (And when I don't know, how something is working, I just look into code...I know, I am weird ;-) )

What do you think? Is this correct? Are you getting lost all the time when you use Moodle? Any specific ideas for better UI? Any thoughts welcomed.

Picture inspired by Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame


Moodle 1.9 finally stable

After long period of testing, including recently ended Bugathon, Moodle 1.9 is available and in stable version.

You can find more information here http://moodle.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=91667

I hope I will return after my current blog hibernation to show you some new goodies 1.9 is made of.

I am planning to stroll through all modules, look for changes and highlight most useful stuff.

I think that waiting will be worth of, that the new 1.9 version will be very successful, robust and bugfree. All developers worked very hard to achieve that.

Stay tuned :)


Moodle tutorials video

Are you obsessed with watching Youtube videos? Have you wished that similar service existed for Moodle and you could save some time and watch video tutorial about Moodle? You can!

I recently noticed a direct result of GHOP site www.moodletutorials.org

Many young students created tutorials and upload them to this site and I expect more to come with the end of GHOP.

So if you stock some video tutorials about Moodle in your drawer, pull them out and upload them to the proper place where can be for some use.

I will try upload process and will write here steps and final result.


Lost password recovery

Do you have weak and often failing memory as I do? And what worse, have you forgotten password you are accessing your beloved Moodle with? It is catastrophe! Really?

I assume you know, that Moodle can send you new password in case you have forgotten the old one when you provide username or email you registrated.

But what to do, if you have forgotten absolute everything or your Moodle is not sending emails? (Maybe you are trying Moodle on your localhost without smtp settings etc.)

If you have access to database (phpmyadmin is most used) you are saved.

You need to run this query:

UPDATE `mdl_user` SET password = md5('newpassword') WHERE username = 'admin';

where newpassword is you new password and admin is a username of account you want to set that new password.

Or you can use this script from Shane Elliot:

  • download it
  • modify lines

$username = 'username';
$newpassword = 'newpassword';

  • copy this file to your root moodle installation directory, same location as config.php and access this script with your browser (eg. "http://yourmoodleurl/passchange.php" )
Don't forget to delete this script after usage, it can create security issue!

I hope you regained your password and you are good to go with using Moodle once again ;).


Top 12 Things I Like About Moodle [link]

Lisa wrote on her blog top 12 things she loves about Moodle. First one is for example:

1. Fewer clicks: I do not have to “drill down” (use multiple clicks) to create materials or move through the class.

And she mentioned "Intuitive layout", that I found very good, because I heard recently some complains, that Moodle looks bad, not enough 2.0, not enough blink-blink, just boring old 3 columns curse.

I am glad that for users who are using Moodle professionally is layout intuitive, I found Moodle layout ok too ;). But there can be made some improvements for sure and I hope we will see some evolution of the layout in the future.

I was thinking, what is my Top thing about Moodle. I first thing that came to my mind was "If I don't like something, I can modify it, I can customize, I can create what I need". That I call freedom :).

You can read more Lisa's Top thins here Top 12 Things I Like About Moodle


Check out the new Prestige theme!

One of my favorite sites for Moodle themes newschoollearning.com presents new 2 column theme today.

It's 900px fixed wide, left column is displayed only in editing mode. Theme seams very clean to me and you can get it in 5 colors. I like the red one most (but brown one has a really nice "classical" style ;) )

Go here for better look or to newschoollearning.com blog for more informations.

i-pod.info bot and solution

Right after Christmas of 2007, some users complained about illegal activity and mass registration of users from i-pod.info domain. How to protect your site? If you are one of the victims, please read on.

Some moodle admins have become as a Christmas gift a sudden increase of registered users from same domain ending with "i-pod.info". Reason of this unwanted activities is still unknown, but I suspect it is for spamming reasons or maybe even worse.

Spam is very big problem of today's internet. Spam is a result of "abuse of electronic messaging systems to indiscriminately send unsolicited bulk messages" (from wikipedia, check link above) and it costs you time, unneeded download traffic and make you angry, when someone tells you everyday you need to buy some stupid pills because they are SO CHEAP!!! :D. Gimme a break ;).

So what to do?

Try another authenticate method
Email self registration is one of the least safe method of authentication Moodle provides. If you have any other way you can authenticate your users (LDAP, Shiboleth) use it!

But I understand everyone cannot do that. So next steps are for you:

First of all, keep the nasty bot out! In Moodle you can ban domain of email address.

Go to Site Administration >> Server >> Email and add '%@i-pod.info' into denyemailaddresses

Now to get rid of the unwanted fake accounts you need to do:

1. You are sure the new created unconfirmed accounts (since you were hit by bot) are only from mentioned domain:
a) Let Moodle handles it, set Delete unconfirmed users after in Site Administration >> Server >> Cleanup to some low value, for example 1 hour. Cron will start cleanup service and unconfirmed accounts will be deleted after inserted time value.

This way is the easiest for unexperienced administrators or beginners who don't want to mess with database.

b) You are daredevil and you are using 1.9. Now it's your payoff time! Moodle 1.9 has mass deleting tool. You can select bogus users and delete them all at once.

Go to Site administration >> Users >> Accounts >> Bulk users action. Select there unwanted accounts and delete them.

2. You are not sure if your install doesn't have some unconfirmed accounts others from i-pod.info and you don't want to delete these accounts.

a) You have access to your moodle database with some tool (phpmyadmin is the most used) and you are able to use this tool and you are not afraid of it (you should be afraid of messing with database directly in every occasion, if you are not sure, what you are doing, it can go out of hand easily! ).

Run this query in phpmyadmin:

DELETE FROM `mdl_user` WHERE `email` LIKE '%@i-pod.info'

This query will delete all users with emails ending on @i-pod.info!!! I hope you haven't had any real users from this domain! ;)

If you suspect that some fake users already made some actions in your installation, this query is safer:

UPDATE `mdl_user` SET deleted='1' WHERE `email` LIKE '%@i-pod.info'

This query will mark spoiled users as deleted, their's accounts will stay in your database, but they will be not active. Intruders wouldn't be able to use them.

I hope you have endured this article and it was for some help to you. I am preparing post how to protect your email registration driven Moodle from bots, so please add my RSS feed to your readers or subscribe with email address.


How to change size of headings

There are many questions how to change size of block headings, how to change background color of topic section etc on moodle.org theme forum.

And because I am really lazy guy :-p I will just share a link to useful tutorial about using Web developer toolbar for modifying moodle theme from a very talented Moodle themes creator: link to tutorial on newschoollearning.com


How to install new module to Moodle

Moodle is being said to be great at modular way for adding new features. Adding a new module or block is fairly easy, follow my step by step tutorial.

You may find, that default Moodle installation cannot do something you want to. The most complete source of new and up-to-date modules and contributions is to be found here

As you will notice, there are about 280+ contributions, that's a really a lot ! :) Let's suppose, you want to send mails directly from Moodle to students of your course. You can do it with forum, you may say, but if you want to send mail only to selected users? How do you do that?

I found third party block Quickmail really useful. You can add it as a block to your course and send mail to students of this course. You can select, if only a teacher can send mails (recommended) or even the students etc. How do you install this block?

First of all, you need to download it to your computer. That's easy ;) . Just take care you are downloading right one for your current Moodle version. I will be installing it to Moodle 1.8

Next step is to unpack zipped file you downloaded. I am using Total Commander on my home computer with Windows XP installed. Unzipping with it is really easy, you will just locate downloaded file, enter it and copy files there with F5 to some temp directory.

You will find, that block Quickmail consists of directory Quickmail, there are subdirectories db, lang and some files. As may noticed when you were downloading this block from moodle.org, type of this contribution is Block (another type is Module ). This will direct you to what kind directory you should copy new contribution (in this case it's block subdirectory of your moodle installation ).

Next step is upload this unpacked files to your server, to moodle installation source data. You may use some FTP tool, or SCP software, it depends what your hosting provides. You will just copy quickmail directory to blocks subdirectory, similar as you copied moodle installation files to server, when you were installing Moodle for a first time.

Oh, I forgot. Files in lang subdirectory of Quickmail directory should be placed to language pack, your site is using. If you are using en_utf8 pack, you should upload it to your local directory in the moodledata (see previous post here Change language strings in Moodle for letting Moodle create local lang directory. It's better when you will be updating your Moodle next time.)

And we are at the end..now you have to visit Notification page in Site Administration block (You should be logged as admin to do that ). You should be rewarded with some lines that tell you the needed changes in database been carrying out. And voila, you have added your first new block :D.

Just some warnings:
Don't add any new block or module if you don't need them desperately. You will thank yourself, when you will be updating next time, you had not messed up with some old contributions that are not available for a new version of the Moodle. To avoid that case, watch a module download page carefully, if this contribution is not abandoned.

I hope I can be understood, if you have any questions, share them in the comments.


PF 2008

Sorry for lack of activity here, strange time around Christmas ;-).

I want to wish all readers happy year 2008, wish to be the best year you had :).

I started this blog as way to help with users with problems with Moodle administrating, i wrote 20+ articles in about 4 months, gained some traffic, but i have been expecting more.

So here is my new year resolution for this blog for year 2008:

  1. Write at least 2 helpful articles about Moodle a week
  2. Attract 100+ unique visitors a day
  3. Polish my English to write really helpful posts and not some kind of gibberish rumblings
  4. To have fun with creating content here :D

So once more, Happy New Year for all the readers, hope your dreams will come true.

And as always, any feedback welcomed :D.