ISP Rant

A friend, fellow blogger and educational colleague recently made aware of a blog  on a new meme asking bloggers to identify four posts from their blog in the categories of:

  • Rants
  • Resources
  • Reflections
  • Revelations

As a newcomer to blogging, I don’t have posts that would address all of these categories, but I was intrigued by the idea of the 4 R’s and have decided to post a rant based on a recent experience with my ISP. 

As an educator and IT professional, I realize this scenario is likely common, and easily arguable from the troubleshooting rigor needed to sort things out. None the less, it is very frustrating and made me painfully aware that online activity has clearly woven its way into the fabric of what I (and my family) do. 

My RANT:

– Saturday storm > internet outage
– call to ISP helpdesk
– all the usual pretest stuff … router/no router, reboot, drivers blah blah blah ….
– finally,  its not me, sending a tech out
– tech says its not here, finds a problem in an unmanned bldg
– internal work ticket created
– finally we can get back online
– BUT, the performance was brutally slow – no throughput
– 3 days of calls with the techs and back to the pretest stuff
– no change, they keep insisting their gear is fine
– then I find out they configured our setup to the previous end user package we had, no tech records of my upgrade 18 months ago – this must be part of the problem
– I locate a copy of the email I kept confirming the upgraded package I signed up for
– I call customer service – they don’t have that package anymore
– I bite the bullet, pick a new service from the current suite
– they livened up the new package last night
– finally things are working as they should, and faster, for close to the same price

Great to be fully back on line! – a happy me and our whole household is no longer going crazy from online withdrawal symptoms!!!

~ Mark

MIDI Wind Instrument

I have started to turn some of my attention to preparations for our summer computer technology & leadership forum for our staff – CATC By the Water. CATC (Computers Across the Curriculum) has literally become a word in our Board. As a member of the planning team and on site lead team during the event, I look forward to this annual summer event. It has a long history of success and I expect the same excellent results this year. The CATC By the Water wiki is now online (see links section) if you would like to learn more about it. 

Based on the Open Space Technology concept, each camper (teacher) comes with a self directed project to do. I too will bring a project to work on when breaks from official camp duties permit. Typically, I end up working on something in music technology area.

This year is looking as exciting as ever as I will have the opportunity to use some new to me amazing technology. I will be bringing a MIDI wind instrument to camp – a Yamaha WX5 to be more precise. The WX5 interfaces with standard MIDI sound modules as well as Yamaha modules designed specifically for the WX5. The unit requires some set up – mouthpiece style (recorder or reed),  breathe control sensors, sensitivity and key select mode (sax or flute). 

 

Yamaha WX5
Yamaha WX5

During the next few days I will have a chance to work through the setup and try the unit in more depth. In particular, I will be interested to see how the unit works with the Band in a Box and Finale software packages that are licensed for use in Ontario school systems by OSAPAC (www.osapac.org).

Stay tuned for an upcoming report on my experiences with the WX5 MIDI wind instrument.

~ Mark

Always something new

There is always something new to learn in the online technology world. Web 2.0 tools have certainly raised communication, collaboration and PLP’s to a new and exciting level.  This post shares two learnings from today.

Today I became aware of the Digital Buzz website and blog. The site looks very interesting based on my initial impressions. The URL is http://www.digitalbuzzblog.com. In particular you may find this Top 10 Social Media Presentations of interest. For your convenience the link is http://www.digitalbuzzblog.com/the-top-10-social-media-presentations-online/. A special thanks to Angela Maiers for sharing this link on Twitter.

This afternoon I started to read What I Learned From Frogs in Texas by Jim Carroll. I picked up a copy of the book at the Leading Learning conference in May 2009. I am just into the book and must admit I am intrigued already. In 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’. It is not much of a stretch to see how these ideas can be mapped to many of our educational systems. Now, to dig into the book. 

One area the immediately captured my interest is to see how the content of the book may line up with some future blog posts I have planned regarding systemic change as referenced in my earlier (and first) post titled Education Is The Place To Be

~ Mark

Parallels 4.0 – initial impressions

I recently purchased a copy of Parallels 4.0 Mac Virtual Machine software with the intent of facilitating some software testing processes I am involved in. As expected, the vendor boasts about the many features, performance and why their product is better than the competition.

The online puchase, download, install and registration processes went as smoothly as one would expect them to – absolutely no hitches. Not much for starting with the reference materials I dug into the process of setting up some different virtual machines. 

On the Windows front, I started creating a new virtual machine to set up a clean new win XP installation. The initial installation routine all worked fine on the pre SP2 CDs I had on hand. I also loaded a virus protection package and CUTE pdf, an open source pdf writer which I have used successfully on a number of computers. This concludes the straight foward, as expected portion of the setup. 

To date, I have not been successful in updating SP2, SP3 and other security patches either by the automated Microsoft web based process or via manual downloads and installations. Either way the updating process just hangs, so I am no further ahead. I have a couple more things to try to move this forward, but soon will be in start over mode. 

Parallels has a built in function called the transporter to capture the set up of a remote machine on the same network, so I decided to try out this feature on a fully patched XP system. The process begins by  installing transporter drivers on the remote (to be captured) computer. Next, you run the transporter option on the Mac and identify the remote computer from a pop up list or by IP address. I found in all attempts, the software did not detect machines running the client software and pop up list remained empty. Identifying the remote computer by IP address did not work either. 

Needless to say, this experience fell well short of the initial goals to have a virtualized setup for win XP to operate in. 

By way of comparison, I tried setting up virtual machines for Ubuntu desktop and Ubuntu Netbook. The OS is downloaded as an image file which is read and imported into the virtual machine. After the initial installation, you are prompted to complete one round of OS updates (in each case). I added the Firefox flash plugin and was ready to compute with OS, internet browser and open office (included). 

Both of these setups worked flawlessly, I in testing to date have run with out issue. 

Overall, Parallels seems like a promising application but it has some areas for improvement. There is no indication of updates to the 4.0 version. At this point, I will pursue sorting out the XP issues and look for support forums etc.  I will keep you updated in a future blog post. 

~ Mark

You Never Know When …

 

… a great technology discussion will occur. This week I was in seeing my eye doctor. During our session I commented on some new equipment I noticed in his office. This triggered a very interesting discussion about his desire to digitally capture eye images and store them, at least short term, as part of the patient records system. 

 

What amazed me was part 2 of the discussion which focused on all of the technology and business related challenges he had encountered. The original special (and expensive) microscope purchased for this purpose is still not working – the hook up is not straight forward and a long string of broken support promises from the vendor involved.

 

Further investigation into alternatives uncovered all kinds of interesting information – unbelievable price gauging in a relatively small and controlled marketplace, potential uses of other more reasonably priced cameras which seemed promising but these devices did not interface to the original expensive microscope, at least easily. 

 

What about other alternatives? I through out the idea of using a USB microscope for the task if the resolution and functionality specs could be met. I pictured a device something  like the Proscope which we have used with good success in our classrooms for science curriculum delivery. This notion sparked some interest, and will be investigated further.

 

The last part of our discussion hit on the storage and integration component. The computer in his office is a high end MAC. One would anticipate this computer would easily handle the graphic and interface requirements. The patient system in the office is a multi user  based system. I could not determine if it was written for windows or some other environment with my over the counter observations as the screens did not appear to be a standard Windows environment and looked almost DOS like. Hmmmm. More general discussion ensued regarding what a better integration package might look like. 

 

Who knows where this will all go, but it was a very interesting eye appointment!

 

~ Mark

Click, click … web design part 2

I have finished reading Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug. Further to my earlier observations (see previous blog post), I wanted to share a few more comments regarding this book.

 

The point that really struck home for me was the notion of visual hierarchy. Web sites must be designed to enable the end user to quickly identify what is most important, relevant and least important on a page with great ease. Design elements that impact this include layout strategy, fonts, graphic use and colour schemes and choices. 

 

Just as important is the concept of what is NOT there on the page. Many web pages need a serious decluttering to achieve a better presentation and flow of information ~ important content vs. detractors ~ function vs. confusion. There are many good examples illustrated in the book.

 

Graphics are more that ‘just graphics’. They really do need to relate to real world uses to reinforce function to the end user. An example of this is the use of tabs. People know what tabs are – they divide, different information is contained behind different tabs. Tabs provide high level organization on websites because people can easily identify with the concept of how they function.

 

Steve outlines some great strategies around the whole design (check out the ‘truck’ test section and the notion of testing and validating before ‘going live’. 

 

All in all, this is a very informative book well worth the read! 

 

~ Mark

Upcoming changes to Facebook privacy rules

I was cruising through email notifications this afternoon and noted a new posting re upcoming changes to privacy settings in the Facebook environment. For interested readers, the article may be found at:

http://www.cio.com/article/496742/Facebook_s_Upcoming_Privacy_Changes_What_You_Need_to_Know?source=CIONLE_nlt_leader_2009-07-09

I hope this helps keep you up to date with your online safety and security knowledge – all part of Digital Citizenship development!

~ Mark

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