Virtualizing with OSX

I started down the path of virtualizing operating systems on my MacBook Pro with two interests in mind. First, how can I more effectively test out software, configurations etc. with a more streamlined approach, less gear (did I really say that?) and more mobility. Secondly, figuring out the best way to set up a laptop for my daughter (see earlier post).

My initial work was with Parallels 4.0. Based on my experience, it is certainly fair to say that I only achieved a moderate level of success (see earlier post). I had good success with Ubuntu Linux desktop and netbook versions, but to date, I have not achieved the results I needs in the Windows environment. Keeping my original goals in tact, it was time to change directions. I purchased a copy of VMWare Fusion to work with.

Based on the information posted on each vendor’s website, it was really difficult to make an initial selection. Each vendor predictably promotes the virtues of their own package and states their benefits relative to competing products. I was initially drawn towards Parallels based on performance stats. My decision to purchase VMWare Fusion turned out to be a good move.

An online purchase, download and install had me up and running quickly. In one days work, I had two major successes. First, I purchased a new copy of Windows Vista Ultimate, followed the VMWare new install process without any hitches. Vista loaded and ran fine, downloaded and installed the necessary patches and updates and I was operational – perfect!

I was interested in the product’s ability to import other virtualized systems and decided to give this a try. I was able able to import my ‘disabled’ XP OS from Parallels in fairly quick order. Best of all, VMWare Fusion picked up where Parallels got stuck and allowed me to download and install all of the necessary service packs and security patches. At this point, my XP OS is operational. I have a little more work to do with USB drivers – almost there.

Based on my personal experience, I would certainly recommend VMWare Fusion as an excellent product that delivers as advertised. I do plan to learn more about some of the advanced features as well.

Off to spend time in my newly virtualized space:-)

~ Mark

Links: Points of Interest

Sometimes you have to take a step back and really appreciate what is happening with the web 2.0 interactive tools. Every day people publish new information, articles, personal thoughts and observations and these are all at your fingertips to find. Wow! It was really not all that long ago that this was not possible. Talk about a great opportunity for life long learning.

Today I am sharing a few of the interesting sites I found this week through web searches, Facebook, Twitter and cruising the blogosphere. Enjoy!

1. Looking to host your own wiki setup on your own server?
One option available is at MediaWiki

2. A collection of SMART Board Resources: Quakertown

3. A collection of resources relevant to educational technology
integration: Web 2.0 Guru

4. Online OCR: Free, no registration, no email addresses recorded,
just upload your PDF, JPG, GIF, TIFF or BMP image files and convert! Free OCR

5. Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the day
– resources to support teaching ESL, EFL and ELL. Larry Ferlazzo

6. CBC News Release: CRTC to release new rules for IPS’s re internet bandwidth throttling: see article

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On the watch: Skype is releasing a client for iPhone & iPod touch. It appears to be available on the US iTunes store, but not available in Canada yet, at least as of yesterday.

~ Mark

Leadership Perspective: Reading and Reflections

From my July 14th blog post … I am reading What I Learned From Frogs in Texas by Jim Carroll which I picked up at the Leading Learning conference in May 2009. The first section of the book captured my interest with a couple of insightful thoughts. First, the notion of ‘aggressive indecision’ and secondly ‘lost momentum’…

I have finished reading the book and thought I would share a few comments. The core message in the book challenges us to look at the preparing for change and the future with the right approaches. While many of the examples are business oriented, it is not much of a stretch to see how these ideas can be mapped to many of our educational systems.

Every organization, business or educational, needs a strong long term plan to maintain strength, vibrance and critical function in today’s rapidly changing world. The long term plan must be clearly stated, sustainable, achievable and good for the long haul. There is nothing strategic about a plan that keeps changing every few weeks or months.

Highlights and Challenges

Culture – what is the culture of your organization? Do you have a culture that embraces change and explores new opportunities? Or perhaps you are stuck with indecision – no momentum, or perhaps the avoidance of decision making all together. Is risk taking minimized to the point of ineffectiveness?

Innovation – is critical to the future success of any organization. My translation to an educational setting: invest in strategies that keep enrollment up, produce meaningful results in student learning, prepare students (and staff) for the future and find efficiencies.

Gen Y workers/students – this group of people is used to change, and used to multitasking. After all, as Jim points out, they have lived through through 5 generations of gaming technology already. How do provide for them in a business environment? How do we keep them engaged and focused on their work? AND, before we get there, how do we keep them fully engaged in a learning setting? Big questions!, and important ones looking ahead to future success. Based on trends, the Gen Y group is poised to be a more mobile and transient work force where the focus will be more strategic than tactical.

Leadership – Organizations must sift through the management and/or/vs. leadership question. Bottom line – forward thinking leadership is critical for success. No organization can stay the same in today’s world and remain equally effective.

Lastly, tying back to organizational culture, it is important to make decisions. This is the way in which leadership teams send the signal about moving ahead, and is part of fostering a culture of innovation.

I found the book to be well worth the read. Jim made a lot of solid points which were illustrated with excellent examples. It certainly stimulated me to keep thinking about how to keep improving my skills as a leader and having a positive positive and future focused impact on my organization.

Enjoy the reading and thinking!

~ Mark

Web Brings Solar Eclipse ‘Alive’

I have always been fascinated with the eclipses. A major eclipse will happen tomorrow (July 22nd, 2009) and will be notable due to the length of time the event will take.  These eclipse events have become more tangible, and I would argue personalized, with the advances of web based technologies.  In particular, our ability to broadcast live events through streaming technologies is a significant step forward in bringing significant events to our global community.

I have pulled together a few links related to the eclipse event this week. I hope the web enhances your solar eclipse experience!

Backgrounder Mr. Eclipse

NASA TSE 2009

Wikipedia Article

Facebook repost from Mashable

Enjoy the eclipse!

~ Mark

WX5 – First Impressions

I finally had some time to sit down and spend a block of time with the Yamaha WX5 MIDI Wind Controller. There are some first time configuration tasks to complete before you can jump into make music mode. Most of the steps are fairly straight forward, but I did learn a few things about the device by actually reading the instructions (unlike me :-]).

 

WX5
WX5

 

 

Setup & Configuration Options:

Power – batteries or AC adaptor – I chose the AC adaptor. It is worthwhile noting that the unit does not come with the AC adapter when purchased. I was a bit surprised by this but did pick one up. I imagine that batteries may be best suited to a performance situation, but that will come farther down the road.

Mouthpiece – recorder or reed style – I choose the reed style as I anticipated this would be more like a clarinet/saxophone which is what I am used to playing.

Tone Generator – Yamaha VL70-m MIDI module or alternate MIDI module – The WX5 does not actually produce any sound on its own. It needs to send MIDI data to another device to create the actual sounds, much in the same manner as a number of MIDI keyboard controllers on the market. The VL70-m unit is designed to work with the WX5 and has a special connection port for the WX5 cable. The VL70-m unit comes pre-populated with 2 banks of 128 preset voices and has additional space for voice editing (6) and user created variations on internal voices (64). I will be using the VL70-m unit to start, but I do have other MIDI modules that would be interesting to try as well. 

Setting the sensors: The lip and wind sensors need to be adjusted to your own playing. The manual guides you through this process quite clearly. The factory default settings were quite accurate, so that minimized the work in this area. 

Fingering Mode Selection: There are 3 variations on saxophone fingering patterns and one flute option. I selected the saxophone ‘a’ setting which is similar to playing a tenor saxophone. 

There are other more advanced features which I decided to leave alone for now. Time to play!

Most of my first session was experimental to see what the unit could do and how it responded. Playing a few scales oriented my fingers to the note patterns on the unit fairly quickly. The air pressure required to produce a sound is quite light – certainly less than playing a clarinet or saxophone. There are additional adjustment in this area which I expect to explore as I think I would be more comfortable with a little more air resistance. Octave changes are executed through a series of 4 different left thumb buttons (-2, -1, +1, +2). This will take some getting used to, but many selections easily fit within a 2 octave range, so the current octave with a +1 option will handle these. I also experimented with many of the present sounds in the VL70-m unit – some very cool choices, and more to go.

So far, so good and FUN!  I am looking forward to trying some melodies played against some midi accompaniments done with Band in a Box (software). Stay tuned for a future update. Maybe I will record something simple and post a sample. 

Off for more WX5 time.

~ Mark

Facebook and Canadian Privacy Laws

One of the eye catching news items this week from my point of view was the release of the report on Facebook and Canadian Privacy Laws. As I cruised through a variety of related news releases and postings, I thought I would share some of the links that I thought were worthwhile in today’s blog post.

Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada view website

Overview: Facebook needs to improve privacy practices see overview

          Related links on the site:
          – findings
          – backgrounder
          – Remarks by Jennifer Stoddart, Privacy Commissioner of Canada
          – Remarks by Elizabeth Denham, Assistant Privacy Commissioner of Canada

Facebook’s offical response to the report: response

From CBC: There are some great links on the CBC site to related news stories, perspectives and videos.  view reports

From The Globe and Mail: (Video reports)

Privacy commissioner raises Facebook concerns: CP video report

BNN speaks with Elizabeth Denham, Assistant Privacy Commissioner: BNN report

How to deactivate your facebook account: click for instructions

~ Mark

Social Networking in K-12

I was cruising through my Twitter listings last night and found a reference to a Social Networking article by Marcia Connor at THE Journal (http://www.thejournal.com). Of course, curiosity won, and I had a look at the article. The ‘snip it’ below (as received when you select email me a copy) will give you the flavour of the article.

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Beyond Social Networking: Building Toward Learning Communities

Much has been written recently about the impact of social networking tools in teaching and learning and how educators can build on the skills of their students in using these tools. But if educators only integrate the ability of students to connect and socialize, deeper points of learning will be missed. While good teaching and learning rests on effective relationships, in an active learning community, those relationships should evolve into actual idea exchange and knowledge construction.

Among those listed by Connor (quoting from MIT and other sources) are skills in:
• Simulation: the ability to interpret and construct dynamic models of real-world processes;
• Collective intelligence: the ability to pool knowledge and compare notes with others toward a common goal; and
• Negotiation: the ability to travel across diverse communities, discerning and respecting multiple perspectives and grasping and following alternative norms.
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Once at the site, I was interested in the BiWeekly Poll in the sidebar which poses the question: Does your district ban social networking sites?

The currently listed stats show:

No ban – 17%
Yes, banned district-wide for students and teachers – 69%
Yes, banned only for students – 13%
Yes, banned only for certain students – 0%

There is an interesting message in these statistics, and it has got me thinking about the discussions around this very issue we had at our Technology Steering Committee meetings this year. Certainly, there are many aspects to this discussion of access. Some of our discussions included:

– digital citizenship
– embracing it as a way of ‘doing business’
– alignment of content filtering with resource selection policies
– grade appropriate content filtering
– alignment with Acceptable Use Policies
– what needs to be changed?
– what is the process for change in this area?
– how do we achieve a significant change in our systemic approach?
– risks and challenges
– educating not only the students, but teachers, administrators and parents too

I think many of us have a clear notion of where we need to get to, but the path is not necessarily an easy one at the system level, at least in the education field. I believe this is an area the needs to be changed more aggressively and that the positive educational results are with the risks.

At the moment I am thinking big on the change front and pondering strategies.

If interested, the complete article I referenced, is available online at:
The Journal

Happy pondering!

~ Mark

Connect, Learn, Reflect, Share: Make a Difference Today

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