Thursday, 25 September 2008

Fun times

Today has been trying to get silverstripe working on ubuntu, oh well.

Instead I have a windows xp box running wamp on it. It currently runs Wordpress, and Gallery2. So why not install it on that machine. i know it has a limited hard drive, but this is a proof of concept. Hahaha, these normally turn into full running machines which never get turned off and end up with the system fan or cpu fan not working. More about these later.

better get back to getting silverstripe running.

now that I have it running it is getting to grips with what it can do. I am going to have to think, nooooo, getting used to templates and subdomains, right, need to start with the tutorials. It took me 12 minutes and a google search on how to change the title and subtitle.

You may now laugh at me...

Wednesday, 24 September 2008


It has been an interesting last week of term at school, and I am feeling lost in the mayhem that it is. I have marking to do with the senior exams that have been happening over the last two weeks, reports to write and teaching to do as well. I also lose my junior classes that I have had for the past 9 weeks. I am always at a loss at what to teach them in the last week. I want to play with scratch but the network is playing up and not allowing them to use it due to a software restriction, sometimes I hate RMSmartTools, it will work one day and no another.

I am starting to think what I want to teach next year, though I am somewhat scared of this. I have 3 year 12 programming classes, 2 year 13 programming class, and then 1 web at year 12 and another at year 13. I have no idea what I want to focus on. I love programming and the challenges that it places, and what the students get out of it. Though it is rather difficult when you are trying to find resources and get the students interested in working on a 16 week project that requires you to learn and work through solutions in the same context. Maybe I need to think about how this works a little bit better, how are other teachers making this work.

I also want to revilatise the school intranet. It is a system that has been running for 6 years and is looking rather old and silly. I don't want to use knowledgeNET as it requires outside connection and internet access. I want to use what we have but make it interesting and fun, and that we can change the theme on it when needed. We can also get the year 13 students developing the themes and content and teaching others how to manage and use it. I know I want to do this each year, but I feel I can do it now with new management in. I am thinking about using silverstripe to do all the management behind the scenes, but this requires I update mysql and php on our IIS box. So I need to write some documentation to allow this to be done, so our IT Manager will allow it to go through. I can see huge benefits, however it will come back to why don't we use knowledgeNET to do this, why are we using another CMS system to do this. 
I believe that we have the students that are capable of being able to create content and keep it up to date and run it like a office. We need to have procedures in place and trust them. Make it part of the course. Though I will have to think about how much we open, do we make a student in charge of a department and get content from the teachers or do the designs and implementation of what we have there originally so they get an idea of structure. 
Do I look at the students being in charge of events through the school that they have to report on, linking media studies into web design and art design into the course as well through the creation of a theme as part of there assessment. How do I manage this.
These are just ideas and thoughts as I sit here trying to work out how I am going to complete this year and get the assessments completed in 4 weeks time, well 6 weeks time including holidays. 
Are there any templates or teaching getting the students to run a web design company through there school and procedures as I think this would be a great opportunity for them to do something productive as well as doing there normal studies.
What events do we have.

House Events
International Day
Special speakers
Music evenings
Parent Teacher Interviews
Open Day
Next year we have a production
School original Music CD
Exchange with another school

This needs some more thought and a discussion with the students on what they think.

Developing a theme for the departments - tutorial for silverstripe

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Playing around

It has been an interesting couple of days since my last post. I have had meetings with the Auckland Museum, looking at developing online exhibition spaces, ICT Committee meetings to roll out Office 2007 and Filemaker Pro 9 to which our Student Management System is run on top of. As well as getting to use a chainsaw to "trim" some trees around the place.

But that is not what this post is about. It is about what i am doing in class. We are getting our newly purchased second hand dell machines up and going, one of them we are playing around with as a wireless hotspot and the other getting LTSP running which is a Linux Terminal Server Project. I am just in the process of getting it downloaded, again from the site to try and install it again, never lend the development CD out to students. I am using the new browser called chrome to do this, something new and for the proxy logs to take in account :)

I have managed to download and install the alternate version of 8.04 and it is currently installing on the machine now, though I do think I may need to add some more RAM to it. Also looking at getting an alternative to mstc. As I think this is locked down in the RMSmartTools environment, so have download and run RealVNC to see what that will act like.

Just going through now and installing 118 updates to the system, and will then try and connect to it. Though I need to find a manual on how I update the local virtual image.

My big fear is that it will run its own DHCP server that will take over the schools already working DHCP server?

Also what port do I access the machine on?

*Note: This is rather an issue now, you cannot access this via rdc, it is a PXE boot only, words that cannot be mentioned here are echoing around the room I am in at the moment. I have spent all this time trying to do something that cannot be done, maybe some more searching and reading needs to be done. Well it is 7:40pm and I am still here, maybe I should go home and sleep on it.

I am also playing around with mobile technology to see what I can do with it, and what it has to offer, I can't wait for a presentation at the ulearn conference on how the teacher in Auckland is handling mobile technology in his classroom and field trips.

Now I have to get the Office 2007 installation CD and put it on my laptop, it just feels wrong to do this, but oh well.

Monday, 15 September 2008


Yay, he finally posted it online for me to use.

I have been waiting for this file for a long period of time. It has some fantastic images of robots and how they have changed over time and they are beginning to look like. I wanted to use this as part of a Unit Standard assessment in Computing.

Oh well I can always build on this as it would make a great resource.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Issues with mail

We have been having issues with our email at school, it comes into a an exchange server. now our domain hoster has been having issues with their DNS, and they are blaming us for these problems, as they seem to think it is our own making. Umm, sorry, who has access to the DNS records? We don't, but are now in the process of moving our domain hoster to someone who takes a lot more responsibility for their actions.
Though I am trying to work out how to get an entire list of the DNS settings for our domain, including all subdomain listings?
I know there is something out there and have used it before, but for the life of me I can't remember it now

Friday, 12 September 2008

Thinking about XNA development Next Year

It has been fun, but I need to get more of a handle on what I am doing

XNA Pong

Introducting the 2d game

Also looking at the Curriculum resources that Rob miles has been putting together to support this, though it does seem to be a simpler and more explained version of his book. Just waiting for the final 2 parts to be written. Thanks

Thursday, 11 September 2008

First Exam

Senior exams are upon us, and I did something different for the year 13 web design exam, I got them to present and boy did they surprise me, they did really well. I did a mini webmeet where each one of them had to prepare a presentation on the topic that they are creating there assessment for. Once they got over the shock and the time issues they got to work and meet their deadline. However we have got to get them presenting faster through, also it doesn't help with someone shuts down the presentation computer.

ALso I learnt something new today, i can get some learning resources going through a weblink, https://website/rf which is what I have been after to get going for a while. Just wondering how we can make use of this outside the school.

Today also sparked the beginning of my terminal server project. Also it has been a complete failure. I am using ubuntu server and tried following instructions to get it going, after a gutsy 500+ meg download which I will get told off for exceding the internet downloads and a number of reboots and apt-get and sudo commands it hasn't worked. I am now trying to think how I can download a 699M ISO image when I don't have internet access and all the wireless hotspots limit the data that can be downloaded in a hour now. Wonder who has access to a big pipe for me?

Meetings, meetings, meetings, today was about implementation and changes to our domain account today, we are getting sick of watchdog and their emails to us saying that it is our fault that our email server goes down, when it is in fact their faulty equipment. I am wondering how we can get a hold of the contract with the ministry about there terms and conditions and what they are supposed to offer.
Also looking at new library administration software that is web enabled so we dont have to install system files and other things to get the client to run.

Oh well, off to webmeet tonight for the IE8 and FF3.1 talk.

to do tomorrow, rest and staple the Unit Standard assessment.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Terminal Services

One of the things I have been thinking about with my new purchase at school is terminal services, but not the terminal services with windows, with ubuntu, I am working on how to get this up and going. I think it would be interesting to see it working and the kids would get a thrill of something different and fun. Now I just need to get some info on what I need and how to get it started. Though I am going to need some more RAM to get it going, off to the technicians office to place an order. Looking at the dell website, we can put 4 gig of ram in the machine, but it says that it will only use 3 gig? I know, we are not using windows, that only handle 3.2Gig of RAM. I love linux.

It looks as though this is going to be a piece of cake.

Straight off the Ubuntu site.

Ok, who is going to download a copy of Ubuntu Server Edition for me?

Also, I think I am going to have to move the box out the back, unless I find a couple of long network cables (which I think I have got) to hook it up to the network switch, this will allow for it to run in all its glory. Else it is just going to be a machine that sits there doing very little. I want this thing to be part of the work next year, not just something that is used for a day or two...
So we are going to have to look at software, open source I think would be best, what could and can we install on it. We have 160Gig of hard drive space to play with, also we need to allow access to RDP on the XP machines to gain access to this amazing resource. It is also going to have to go through the proxy, sorry boys, no games through this box.

Also looking around I found this website which looks at how ubuntu can be used in the classroom, through an Irish education perspective.

Ubuntu Networks Teacher education for sustainable development

Green computing with Ubuntu Terminal Services saves TCO
Ubuntu offers you an easy way to turn a desktop installation into a terminal server for your office or school to serve multiple diskless clients. 

The LTSP-5 Terminal Server implementation that was developed in Ubuntu together with and debian, is now being adopted into most other distributions (Fedora, Gentoo, OpenSuSE). With Ubuntu Terminal Services you get the most recent and reliable Terminal Server implementation currently available on the linux market. 

Recent studies have shown that using diskless Thin Clients in office environments saves on average around 50% of your power costs. Maintenance, user and software management of a Terminal Server is centralised on the server instead of maintaining individual work places. All data is stored on the server, so if client hardware breaks you won't lose data. Hardware replacement is as easy as changing a lightbulb, allowing users to carry on with their work in minutes.

To use Ubuntu Terminal Services during Ubuntu install use the Ubuntu Alternate CD for installation, hit F4 at the bootscreen and select "Install a LTSP server" from the pop up "Modes" menu. If you use a machine with two network cards, your server will work directly out of the box (in the case where you have only one network card it will tell you what to do).

Visual Diaries

I work sometime wth a Visual Diary which goes with me to meetings and conferences, sometimes they doget a little bit boring of you really do want to take notes of what someone says or presents. I was looking at one I have used for a couple of years for ideas for my Year 13 assessment for web design tomorrow. I managed to find what I was looking for as well as the assessment schedule for it as well.

But looking through it i came across a page which caught my eye. I am unsure of the date but it is around teh time I created a piece of work called soccertape, which is on page 58 of a book I have calledx ICONS Web Design: Studios Ed Julies Wiedemann, which has a website for
Now this was an idea for a end of year assessment for this to be developed by the students and I even took images of grass that they could use as a background for lawn moving to get flowers to grow out of, I don't know why. But at least I can see when I imported the image onto my computer, this was around the 4/12/2006.

Now I see a Senior Curriculum Guide for 2008 listed on the next page and following that a description for Year 9 Technology ICT that lists that we have it fo 10 weeks and three periods a week. So I am trying to think when I wrote the Senior Curriculum Guide Information, it must have been 2007.

We need an online subject choice and information of subjects for the following year.
Needs to be simple to use.
Maybe print off final selections in a pdf document to be taken around to HoD to sign.
Selection by Year
By Subject/Group
Use 2007 data to trial this, what format could it be in.

I think this is just a preview of what we were looking at, it could be just the curriculum guide in a different electronic format, much less that what it is now. This was to just display the curriculum guide not make option selections. I planned this two years ago, as it lists the curriculum guide for 2008, we have now done it for 2009, which is for next year.

But I am amazed at what I wrote down and what it has become.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

programming for the mac

I have been asked by one of my students if he can program on his macintosh. Now one of this that you will need to know is that he has modified his mac to run bootcamp, first with windows xp, and now with vista. He has done this through his own research and has had to re-install many times, and now having learnt backup it is a little bit easier. Next he plans to get a time machine to back up the rest. Now what programming languages should he be looking at. I know there is a number of languages that look at development of software for the web and the iphone, should he be looking at these or at another language.

has a number of languages and explanation 

There is xcode 2.0 which is a developer framework for the mac called xcode, however the link on the page is out of date, in fact mac has moved on and it is now classed as obsolute.

Xcode is Apple's tool suite and integrated development environment (IDE) for creating Mac OS X software. The IDE provides a powerful user interface to many industry-standard and open-source tools, including GCC, javac, jikes, and GDB. Xcode is designed to fully support the Carbon and Cocoa frameworks and Java. It contains templates for creating applications, frameworks, libraries, plug-ins, Java applications and applets, and command-line tools. Developers can use Xcode to edit and manage source code, test code performance, and perform many other common development tasks.

there is also cocoa, another language we could look at

Just not quite sure where to point him too at the moment. But the question remains webDEV or appDEV.

Now there is a page that looks at where you want to go when developing for apple, 

One here is also listed different technologies for programming in apple. 

Somewhere for you to start is to look at this site, it has links to resources, software you will need to have on your mac as well as reviews of books that you may need to get your hands on.

a look at 2009

we have just received our numbers for 2009, and they are scary. Programming is taking a huge amount of students, and this is causing some concern for me. Why are they taking this subject, what do we have to offer our students and what do they think they will be doing next year. Too many students cause headaches for staff due to knowledge, understanding and resources.

I am thinking about creating a survey to ask these students hwa they thought about this year and what they want to do next year. With NCEA you can do just about anything, with some limitaitions, we cannot create a killing machine, but we can create a lego robot with attachments that can kill other robots. But what do they want to do and what do I have to learn to help with that. Of course I still have to cover some computer science curriculum, but do we have one at the moment to cover, no. We are still waiting for the digital Technologies Guidelines, and other various groups to get together and hash something out for Computer science.

Some of the things this year we have had to put extra permissions on the machines to get XNA to run. This would probably need to go over two classes next year. I would like to have RM Smart tools removed and a back to basic winXP operating system, or dare I say Vista installed on the machines. On its own subnet so the security issues and control still remain with us. This would allow us to do Hacker High School and do some more techniques than this year. Also the hassle of getting virtual machines and software installed on the RMSmartTools network has caused headaches and work arounds. Maybe the students could access a terminal server is they needed to do their work.

One of the projects that I would like to do is listed here,
It is to develop and underwater ROV.

More to come
Another one I would like to do is to create our own version of the touch screen. The reason for this will be apparent later on next year. There must be something out there that we can use to do this, look at what we have managed to do with a wii remote and something a little more like a tv remote.
Other ideas I am sure will come up.
But along the lines of XNA development is that Rob Miles the writer of one of the books that we use to develop XNA development is writing a curriculum which is mainly  powerpoint slides, why powerpoint, why not keynote? as well as some extra resources to help teachers develop this topic with their students. Sounds like a good idea.

the second dell machine

we have experienced some problems with the second dell machine,

The power light is flashing amber

Which means...

If the power light is blinking amber —
The computer is receiving electrical power, but an internal power problem might exist.
Ensure that the voltage selection switch is set to match the AC power at your location (if applicable).
Ensure that the processor power cable is securely connected to the system board.

I can find no fault of anything that could explain this.

Power supply is dead, we unplugged the power supply and hooked up the other one from the other dell machine that was brought at the same time. It brought the system to life. So I am now on the lookout for another power supply, must be 24 pin + 4 pin, and have SATA connections on it.

Update 2
We may have managed to find a supply for this machine, both through the technician at work and the other through a reader of the blog. Will update when we get these and connect them up.

Meanwhile the first dell machine is going hard at it, although we found another issue when reinstalling ubuntu 7.10. It would stop at 80% install. Thanks to one of the students looking up the Internet it was a simple fix, unplug the Ethernet cable and away it went. The first install we did we didn't have the network cable attached, I wonder why?

Update 3
yay, we managed to get a power supply that fits into the machine and connected. we now have ubuntu 7.10 installed and running on it. Now I need to get more network cables connected and work out how we can get a couple more wireless access points. I think I might need to raid the old ones from maths department

Monday, 8 September 2008

Motel wireless setup

the next project I am working on is setting up a wireless hotspot for a motel. This will then be used as a basis for another project dealing with wireless access for students at school. Something different.

We have managed to get some dell machines from an online auction house. These machines are Dell Opitplex Gx280.

We have some ubuntu 7.10 CDROM available to us which will allow us to get linux up and running on them. Who needs Windows.

Some of the software we are looking at installing and testing out is
Alternative link to the sourceforge project site is here.

We have done an initial install and tried to follow the manual on how to install it with some success. The only hitch we have have hit is getting CakePHP to run. This has involved some tinkering and some sudo commands to get access. However, most of the documnetation we read on how to fix this problem is for windows environments running WAMP, which hasn't been much help.
The cake Manual is available from here, it will take some understanding to be able to install it and some help from other websites as I am still having trouble trying to get the links to the mysql database working.

Part of the reason why I am looking at hotcakes is the features, it is customiable, wherei can put the logo of the motel in and personalise it just for them, its free. Which is always a good thing and it gets students involved in developing their own skills.

There are other alternatives out there, one of these is chillispot running on DD-WRT. Now this requires that you have a Linksys WRT54G Wireless Access Router and requires you to flash the device, however when you read the file you will see what challenges lay ahead. See the link to view more details

I do wish we had more time to get down and dirty with this, one hour periods are fine for juniors, but for senior students working on some serious projects, one hour is not enough each day. You only really catch up what you did the previous day and maybe work through one or two steps before the time is up.

Notes that I wrote up while in class working on this solution:
The seninario is:
To create a wireless hotspot for a motel owner to use with his current system.

The current system he currently uses is ZoneCD which runs on a LiveCD ( ia the development site, the commericial site is available at He uses a usb storage device attached to grab the configuration data. The only problem with this has been a lack of secure socket layer encryption. In plain laguage, it keeps cutting out.
This could have been due to his internet connection problems but has since change internet providers and routers which the same problem.

the logs state.
ermail log attached.MySQL Error: ()
~ 09/06/08 LogsMessage-ID: <>
Mime-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=us-ascii
Content-Disposition: inlineUser-Agent: Mutt/1.3.28i
Your Daily Logs are attached for Database error: connect(localhost,free_web,PASSWORD) failed.

MySQL Error: ()

No other other log information is received through the email settings.

He would like a new system that is a little more stable.
The machine he curently has is an old pentium computer that has been running for two years without being turned off and is now making strange noises, This could be due to the fan on the processor or the power supply fan.
He has two network cards in the machine to allow for the filtering of traffic, so people cannot download torrents or thrash his network in any way.
There is no keyboard, mouse or screen attached to the computer so it cannot be interferred with by any staff member or minders. You can access the computer by ssh or remote desktop.
It is also stored in a storage area of the motel that has limited space.
Wireless access points, these are configured with static IP address and are open, the zoneCD is used as a firewall to stop outside people using this connection.
The other issue is that he is right beside a secondary school that has their own wireless access network. So channel and SSID settings need to be set up right.
He has a Linksys Wireless access point WRT54G and a Belkin Wireless access router that is being used to service the 14 units and the motel reception.
The system needs to be simple enough for him to create a user account and password, and allow them access for a certain amount of time.
Other issues with his current system have been the session popup box not connecting back to the server to give proper time, or having to relogin ever 5 minutes. There has been no support for the ZoneCD since Version 1.2-3 (Released 8 ·24·2005)
Future setups could be for our own secondary school to provide wireless acces to our students. So any development needs to be documnetated and amended as necessary.
Current Configuration Settings are available at