Monday, September 29, 2008

Great Monitor News

I just realized I didn't report on the Great Monitor News. It comes about rather sideways but hey I'll take it.

So last I mentioned the solution to the Great Monitor Problem was that I found a place on eBay that would sell us 25 NEC monitors for a little less than $100 apiece including shipping. I initiated the order process with the finance clerk at school on Friday. On Tuesday I got an e-mail from the District technology coordinator saying basically, our district only does HP monitors now so you need to buy as many HP monitors as you can with your eBay money, and we'll make up the rest of the money to bring you up to 25 monitors. The new monitors are on their way. Thanks Coleen!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Various updates

Here are a few updates:
  • Fred continues to be busy at Nelly Stone Johnson school. He updated me through e-mail with the following:
    "I got the ethernet cables from the last two tables installed yesterday. I
    also got the cable from the switch to the server installed. Getting thru
    the wall from the closet to the hallway and thru the wall from the hallway
    to room 350 was not a problem. Getting the right amount of cable cable
    between and from these was not too difficult. It just required many trips
    up and down ladders and several of the "tools" I'd brought along -- a
    long electrical fish tape, a 5 foot shelf brackett (about 3/4 by 3/8
    cross-section), a smaller cross-section wood strip, masking tape and
    cardboard to attach cable to "tools" temporarily."
  • "There are coils (~ 6" diameter original coils) of the 16 ethernet cables
    near the switch that are currently just stacked on the switch and
    are not plugged in. I have an idea for using some corrugated
    plastic (like used in political yard signs) to contain these on edge in
    numerical order ** above the switch so the can pb plugged in neatly.
    ** I numbered the cables 1-16 on each end with sharpie felt pen."
  • I got a return e-mail from the District person in response to my question about what they were planning to do and what prompted them to offer to install power in the ceiling. The first sentence of the e-mail says:
    "We are considering it, I am going to be coming out to look at the locations and requirements. We are looking only at the most simplistic means of rectifying the fire code issues that you have created.
as I said to James White today I would really be in terrible shape if I didn't work so awfully hard to follow rules! I'm rather frustrated as I had worked out the electrical solution for these tables with the district inspector. Oh well, I'll find out what I did this time.

  • Great news! I went fishing today on Google and I caught a big fish! I wondered if the problem wasn't that our new switch was interfering with our server's DHCP so I went to James' room to borrow last year's switch, the one we had used over the summer. I put that in place of the new switch and what a deal, it worked! The thin clients are working now, so all that has to be done is re-set up the server (private joke). I just found out today that Roosevelt will not be open on any Saturdays until October 3 -- wait, that's a Friday, maybe it's October 11. Anyway, I'm therefore going to be bringing the server home and see what I can do there. Chances are I will be bugging my Linux-capable friends. Be forewarned!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The server's got a second life

So yesterday I reloaded the Ubuntu system onto the server with the thin client server. I followed directions on this page which supposedly get everything up and running, however it didn't. I remember when Brandon first installed the server he said he had to do some stuff that wasn't on the page. I hope that with the info he gets back to me I can keep the server coming along...

Monday, September 22, 2008

This guy walked into my classroom... I went back to say hi and inquire further. He said he was going to be putting in power and data drops to facilitate the project in my classroom and in Eddie's, too! Amazing! Looks like they're going to put outlets in the ceiling above where the tables are so that is great.

Apparently the district wasn't too happy with 50 ft power strips--why? But anyway they thought it would be best to put in the power and facilitate this project so no complaining here! More info as I get it. What about James' room and Christen, too? We'll see...

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Cabling details

Fred has sent me a couple of pictures. This shows his solution of getting rid of maybe 30 ft. of excess power cord. He made loops and neatly tucked them above and below the outlets under the table. It also shows what was done to get the computer and monitor cords out of the way.
The other picture is an 'open office' drawing he made of some of his solutions for different parts of the cable hanging system. Fred, would you explain their roles in the system in the comments?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The cables they are a hangin'; the server, it ain't a DHCPin'

Fred is our cable hanging expert--he cut his teeth in Christen's room at NSJ. We talked over the channel-hanging job, then Fred drew up a map--now we know we need 60 ft of split PVC. He used the hangers that Eddie had purchased and made a simple wire hanger which hooks/unhooks, and mounted some 40'. They are ready to run some cables, though the rest of the channels still need to be hung.

Fred finished adding carpet cushion/shims to the tables--they are all stable and slide now. The first draft had them going up the sides like this photo:
but now they are on just the bottom like this:
Here's the attachment process, add glue to back side of carpet, put under leg and let sit for 30 minutes, easy!Meanwhile, I worked at the other end: at the power cords at the table. Using the "U" nails one uses to run romex wiring, I created a route for the cable along one leg which can be unhook from a screw to give an extra 3 feet of cable so the tables can easily be moved about--I'll get some pictures and add them.

Conner McCall fixed host name issue and it was able to access the net just fine. Then, he finished setting up the squid proxy server which he had worked on remotely over the summer and... it worked! Then we said, OK, let's make sure the thin clients are booting properly and... no go!

2 hours later...

There's still some weird DHCP issue where computers on the LAN can pick up an IP number after a couple minutes of searching. Also, the thin client looks for 30 seconds or so for a DHCP server but no luck so they still won't boot. Conner's thinking the best idea is a fresh install of Ubuntu but first copy over the /etc folder so later re-install some of the config files by drag-drop method.

Brandon was the one who first got things working I wonder did he updated that wiki he used to make our network work? He said there were a couple of lines missing in the original wiki page... Hmmm it looks like mere mortals can't update that page--needs to be admin users. To add tweak info it goes here but I don't see anything... I'll have to e-mail him and ask for the info help!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Putting it...all together?

Well, we've got parts, we've got people. We've got knowledge and energy. We've got a plan! At least an outline...

  • Set up on network again.
  • import users
  • Set up groups--3 tiers
  • Prepare Firefox
  • Set up print server
  • Set up squid proxy cache
  • Codecs/plugins
  • VNC Server
  • Software to manage classroom computers
  • Place Computers
  • Install Monitors
  • Hook up systems
  • Carpet legs
  • Install hanging channels
  • Run Cables and Cords
We shall see!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The elusive monitor(s)

  • looks like we really are going to get the needed monitors soon! Not only is there a person through eBay who can sell and ship them for a decent price, they take purchase order numbers, and I like that. If it'll summon can move a bit we could get the monitors here in a couple weeks. I can't wait.
  • So that behooves us to make sure we can get all of our server-ducks, so to say, in order. The server is set up next to my room but I can't quite change the host name -- spent four hours on it and learned a little bit but really, no luck.
  • So... time to rally troops and get the networks running...
  • And, it's time for the teachers to prepare for the moment by creating a few basic tutorials on the Minneapolis LeMill site at
  • Yeah, and we've got to get those cables under the ceilings, though Fred has got a really nice start at Nellie Stone. I need some pictures of those. Eddie has found an interesting part at Home Depot that might help out, also.
I know that for us teachers to say that our plates are full is like saying a marlin is a panfish. This is been a great start but we really need to redouble our efforts as teachers or the time will quickly slip by!

Sunday, September 07, 2008

(Mucho) water over the dam...

Lack of blog entries is due to excessive activity, not the reverse. I won't detail the multitudes of things that have been going on, however will try to at least list them.
  • Monitors: we still need 22 of them. It turned out that Computers for Schools had only one third the number we needed, so I've been searching for more. I bought 10 over the Internet, however 4 needed power supplies so we've worked it out w/eBay vendor that he will send me 2 power supplies and two new monitors upon my returning the two unpowered monitors. I've tried other sources so far to no avail. Any ideas?
  • Plone server: my advisor at the U of M patiently permitted an old Pentium 4 in her office to serve as the Plone and Cmap server for the last 3 years. It was woefully underpowered but was sufficient to limp along. Now with much greater demand coming, a powerful server is required. I asked Coleen K. about a new server for this purpose. The short of the story is we've got a very powerful Web server now! Ben P. obtained the machine and helped install Ubuntu server on it and Brian D-G set up five virtual machines on it. (Those 2 operations took from 1:00 until 10:30 PM one day!) Doug R, the MPS Internet guru is getting it set up on our system. Hopefully it will be up soon. I'm hoping Jack U. can help with the transfer of the old Plone sites and Cmap Server install to the new machine. Thanks to all!
  • Jack U. updated the Vee Map content type and now it has edit-in-place capabilities! It is cool! He also updated the whole management system of the Plone installation to match with Plone's new structure. While I know some Plone, all of this work was beyond me -- thanks Jack!
  • I have no idea what we would have done without Fred O., and his wife too! They have been helping out Christen on the north side, helping install cabling in the ceiling, unpack, test, remove the monitor stand, and prepare all of the new eBay LCD monitors, make sure the thin clients are ready, troubleshoot the server power supply, help carry heavy stuff about and generally just help out! Thanks!
  • managing cash flow over the summer was crucial to get this project moving. However, there have been multiple issues. Apparently the reimbursable limit is not $1000 as I had always heard, but instead $999.99. Therefore, the district requires approval from the Board of Education to reimburse the check I wrote for $1000 to Computers for Schools for the printers and monitors. Don't ask about the other thousands of dollors that the district has decided to not re-imburseme due to tax exempt, coding, lack of attention on their part and general... I won't expand. My wife is trying to be patient but I don't blame her... Waiting on the Board of Ed to deal with this :-(
  • Due to a timing issue with the 3 foot square glass panes, I had to make two deliveries of glass, 8 panes to Nellie Stone Johnson, and eight to Roosevelt the day before the start of school. Transporting eight panes of glass that size in a Mazda 3 is a bit dicey. Nonetheless it all worked out great, and the district was able to deliver the last eight panes to Eddie's room the first day of class, on Tuesday, September 2. Eddie had a fascinating solution for the missing glass table tops. He built 8, 4 foot square white board surfaces. Then, he gives students dry erase markers and has them doing bubble maps and making comparisons between each other. I stole his idea and had students do it on the glass tops. He needs to describe what he did--this is awesome.
  • Conner M. has been working to set up the proxy server, remotely, and Chris G on managing Firefox. Lots still to do!
  • Oh. Did I mention kids have come, school has started? :-)
  • I think this coming Sat. at Roosevelt will need to be a work-date...
I could go on and on, but I got to go. Thanks to the many volunteers, this project continues.