Saturday, August 28, 2010

Alkis G saves the day... again

I've spent *a lot* of time this summer setting up the classroom edubuntu thin client (LTSP 5.2) server, though to tell the truth, it was less than 25% of the time I had to spend over the previous summer and it has/will have lots more functionality, and I expect to 'go live' in class, sooner, to boot!

More than once 'alkisg' has helped me out, see previous posts.  The last time was yesterday, my last day to prepare before students arrive and I'm spending 6 hours trying to beat the server into shape.  Thanks to alkisg' help I was able to find that the problem was the resolv.conf in the chroot.  The symptom was that, when I was chrooted, I was unable to update, all misses with 'apt-get update'.  The problem was that the chroot had resolv.conf settings from my house this summer which is where I originally set it up.  Upon fixing that, and ltsp-update-image all things were hunky dory.  That gave me some time to prepare for my students arriving on Monday.  Well, I had to come in today (Saturday) to do lots of the work and got most of it done--even my wife and son came in a bit and helped!  Things are looking pretty good :-).

Fred prepares Christen's Classroom at Nellie Stone Johnson

Thanks to Fred, NSJ science teacher is ready again to welcome her students with computers in place--all hardware working.  Following are most of Fred's notes.  One thing that I appreciate about these notes is that they are so thorough; it's easy to forget the detailed nature of technology in education:

Other problems found and fixed were:
  • The main problem was that most of the balls and rings from ball mice were missing.  In the closet with the server there were extra mice so now there are only 4 of 16 computers without working mice.
  • server needed to be rebooted - (done)
  • one keyboard with stuck space bar (replaced)
  • various power, video, keyboard etc (not ethernet) connectors disconnected - (reconnected)
  • One DC monitor power connector (with hollow barrel) was disconnected and filled with gum (?) and pencil lead. I was able to clean it and get it working.
  • One computer case was partly open. The computers at this table had never been secured with screws.
  • Computer at another table was no longer secure with screws. (repositioned)
  • I was surprised at how few problems there were with network connections. (Only one connector and to be reseated; and that is all. It just worked when the computers were started.
  • One computer needed the date restored.
  • The floors and been re-waxed and the carpet pads on the table legs are now stuck in the wax.  The row of computers near the windows were stuck in a position from which the power strip cords would not quite reach the outlets on the lab island. I did not see a way to get any slack on the cord from the furthest strip except by removing the final strain relief screw which I did.  This  allows the cords to "cut the corner" and barely reach to be plugged in.
 Left to be done:
  • acquire and install 4 mice on table 6 & 7
  • further investigate power strip cords on row by window
  • Secure computers to back middle table
  • server upgrade
Possible improvements:
  • replacing mice by optical mice would be great solution to missing balls.
  • Ponder further the idea of cutting about an inch off corners of tables where the stick into aisles.
  • a better way of securing excess cable length in middle of table would be an improvement
As soon as Doug Roberts, the senior MPS internet dude, gets the LDAP authentication running on the thin client (LTSP 5) server for Eddie's and my room, I'll clone the server, copy it onto the other server that Ben and Cody supplied me with, and she will be on line.  I'm excited to see how Christen develops these resources in her classroom, how she 'grows a community of scientists'.  Here's a pict of Fred in the drop room we're using at NSJ...

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Plone: redirecting logins to group-determined root page

Chat from #plone irc channel:

[6:00PM] dgroos
:  Hi I'm a teacher using plone.  Any (easy) way to make it so that  the page one is referred to upon logging in is determined by  this users group membership?

[6:05PM] dixond
:  dgroos: you probably need to customise login_next.cpy
[6:05PM] dixond: dgroos: it's in there that any redirect is traditionally done.

[6:06PM] dgroos
:  dixond: thanks.  is this fairly trivial or involved, do you estimate?

[6:08PM] Moo^_^
:  dgroos: it is easy

[6:09PM] dgroos
:  Thanks Moo^_^ and dixond, may the force be with you ;)

[6:09PM] Moo^_^
:  dgroos:

:  Moo^_^: thanks I'll note this for when the moment comes to implement it!

Pooling our knowledge--make an entry point for new Edubuntu-LTSP users

Do you want to set up an LTSP lab?  Know how to:
  • Install Edubuntu?
  • Install LTSP?
  • Install Media Plugins?
  • Create a Backup process?
  • Manage student permissions?
  • Setup a proxy server?
  • Control details of your students internet access?
  • Install programs into the Chroot?
  • Set up a printer?
  • Install software to control a lab full of computers?
  • And optionally LocalApps, Add users? Add a scanner? etc?
Well, I didn't and don't.  I found out that even generalist, Linux-wise people can't do all of these tasks without some help.  Thus was born the idea to make 1 page to rule them all or at least to coordinate all the how-to pages needed to do a basic (but complete) set up of an Edubuntu Lucid LTSP server.

I was moved by all the work that has been done on the Ubuntu wiki.  So much has been created over the years and hopefully The "BasicSetup" wiki page respects this effort.  Also, with a single entry point to the how-to pages for the set of critical setup tasks, it will be easier to know which pages must be kept current as new versions of Ubuntu are released.

Like all community projects, I can't (nor ought to) do this all myself.  I don't have enough knowledge nor enough time.  There are many dozens of people on the 3 main Edubuntu mailing lists.  The Dev's are already tapped out with their work developing the software and answering higher-level troubleshooting questions so mainly my plea is directed to the Edubuntu-users list and Ubuntu-education list.   Haven't made a page and not sure how to?  Ask me and I'll help you get started.  We need more people helping out our growing community.

Please take a look at basic setup page.  Consider adding your knowledge to this page, improving this page or the linked how-to pages.
  • If there are existing how-to's that are appropriate for Lucid, note that and link to them.  
  • If a how-to page needs to be updated for Lucid and you have the knowledge or are willing to gain it and update the page, please do so!  
  • If you are going to perform one of the basic setup tasks and there already exists a page for this task, go to that page and test it out as you perform it and improve the clarity of the page
  • If you use one of the pages and need to ask for help, reference that page so it can be improved! 
I'm willing to work to help create and coordinate this BasicSetup series of pages.  Join me!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

WebLion asking for plone users in K-12 for ideas on a buildout!

Thanks to WebLion for providing this forum for educators to communicate about their experience and needs for plone.  It seems like they are preparing to create a buildout they will share that is customized for educators!

I've used multitudes of products since plone 2.0 came out.  The following list includes ones I'm currently using or would like to use.  Of course not sure if they all still exist or if there are better updates of them.  Anyway, here is the list with annotations:
  1. CacheFu.  I've used this along with Squid to speed up my site.  Great though I needed help to get it set up.
  2. TinyMCE (epoz then kupu were OK but fckeditor was better though when they made it easy to have colors in kupu and FCK was creating some problems I switched to use kupu again.  Looking forward to see what TinyMCE can do.
  3. ImageEditor.  Upon reading about this in Jon Stahl's blog I had to try it and it IS the cat's meow.  I've got no idea how difficult it would be to add the following functionality BUT I do know it would make it a 'killer App' for science education.  What I would like it to do is to add editable-annotations to images.  Imaging a student taking a picture of something/s seen found through a microscope, uploads that image to the specific place in Plone, then adds arrows with text such as a name of a part or of a specific creature or asks a question about a specific part of an image.  Then, with that page being commentable, students could have a threaded discussion about that piece of comment.  It would be important that the arrow with text were visible without requiring a mouse over or worse having to click on a link that takes you away from the image.  I've looked for a good open source app to add text/arrows to an image with ubuntu, have found some apps but they aren't simple. If this annotation could be done on the web, edited by various team mates, improved over time (always with versioning available as a fall-back), well, that would be incredible)
  4. PloneFlashUpload.  I need something that will work.  I've not been able to get this to work since Plone 2.5.  I really dislike uploading 12 images, 1 at a time, after having used this add on.)
  5. Something to translate the plone interface for kids.  Last year I had kids from 12 different languages as their home language.  I remember a Vietnamese student I had a few years ago (the last time I had multiple languages available for my plone site) who was quite literate in her own language but spoke virtually no English.  When she set her home language for the plone interface (I think I had linguaplone installed then?) and I showed her about wikipedia in her own language and google translate she was so happy and it enabled her to study English within the science content I was teaching.  It was hard to help her, though, as even though I knew about what buttons should be where on the plone page, when everything was in Vietnamese I had a hard time helping her as i couldn't understand anything!  I guess an ajax mouse-over to convert the interface to English would have been great but I can't see that being of wide spread utility.
  6. Ploneboard.  An important part of my site has been a Q/A forum section and ploneboard was nice.  Two useful features that would be great are having a couple of basic editing tools such as numbered/bulleted lists and tables available for comments.  Another function that would be great is being able to create 'collections' of forum posts based on group membership.  Imagine having generic posts for topics of interest to all students in a school, other posts relative to biology students there and still other posts being class-specific--all in a single page based on student group membership.  I just remembered--it is important that WHILE commenting on a web page or as part of forum post, that all contents can be seen by just scrolling.  It's frustrating making a comment and then forgetting some detail of a comment you were responding to and then not being able to see the previous comment unless you open the page in a new tab!
  7. Vee content type.  This is a completely unique content type and distinguishes my plone setup from our district's moodle server.  Students create a Vee--a graphic organizer for inquiry--on line as a plone content type.  It has the advantage of sharing editing privileges for team members, and is commentable encouraging class dialog on student research.  Students can include web images such as concepts maps (mentioned below in item #8).  A big plus with these images is that when a student updates her concept map, it is immediately shown in the Vee! Here's a very simple but nice example from a couple of my students showing the basic idea of a Vee.  Unfortunately this content type isn't on site.  I'd love to load it up there, though.
  8. FancyZoom.  For me, this is a killer app.  Filling a folder with important images that are then displayed as thumbnails, allowing students to click on an image, seeing it almost instantly without leaving the page, is BIG!  Something that would multiply its usefulness even further is if I could add an image to a page at a size that could be defined in settings, AND upon being clicked, this image located elsewhere on the web would ZOOM in the same fashion as when it was an image in a folder with fancyzoom selected as the display option.  This would be hugely useful in many contexts, for example, I could embed an image of a concept map from my CmapServer and not have it take up too much space on the page, but when someone wanted to see the details they would simply click on the small image and it would quickly pop up without needing to leave the page (important for usability reasons).
  9. Webcouturier dropdownmenu I've installed this and it would be a big time saver, but unfortunately it was inconsistent when it would work and looked weird with our theme.
  10. webcouturier.icompany.theme  I love this theme.  I use it on a few sites.  It might be nice to have a few that teachers could choose from.
  11. Plone TrueGallery.  Not had this working since plone 2.5, but it was really nice for the class I taught with inservice teachers.  Looking forward to using it again.
  12. LDAP authentication.  I really need this to work with our districts AD LDAP server.  Students and I spend too much time getting and working with accounts/passwords etc.  Failing getting this working, I need a bulk-upload function that works (couldn't get Tomster's to work though he was/always is helpful.)
  13. Group-Membership-based site root.  I need it so that the students in my classes, upon logging in, are immediately taken to my folder with all content applicable to their classes located inside of that.  Then, when a student in a different teacher logs in, since this student would be a member of this this other teacher's group, it would take him to that teachers root folder.  I got this idea from reading about a plone add on (uwosh.something?) but couldn't make it work.  This would be GREAT.
  14. Ploneformgen.  This sounds like it would have tons of uses to collect and organize student thinking.  With some spiffing up this could probably become a decent way to create a portfolio.
  15. Plone4Artists/ATVideo.  I never really got this working well so was never able to do much in the line of videos but the district has been getting better tools for that so maybe I won't need videos, but it would be nice having the option...
Would Really Like but never used.  Some of these exist, some are on the 'wish-list'!
  1. Glossary.  I used to try to get plone glossary working but never could.  That would have been a great tool to build and assess class understandings.  It would be great to have each class have their own root install so their definitions wouldn't overlap (or even be visible to each other?).
  2. Some kind of a 'frame?'.  It would be nice to have a collection (live folder) which would show content from several different pages or from different anchors on the same page.  So, instead of it being a folder listing content with a particular keyword, it would be a web page showcasing (not simply showing links to) the content with a particular keyword.
  3. Maybe use Timeslot at our school as a way to sign out computer labs--it's not super efficient right now.
  4. I need to look into Easyslider...
  5. Being able to simultaneously edit a plone page, like in google docs, would also be a killer app.  I'm guessing that it's a pretty unrealistic wish at this time...