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> Maths teaching

This is frustrating! Finding a Firewire extension cord

2009-03-03 10:36:00

$DEITY! All I'm trying to do is to hook up my Lacie Firewire speakers to my Powermac. The Lacie's come with a non-detachable 1m FW cable, while my Mac is about 3m away.

This should of course be easily fixable with an extension cord or a hub. Right? Were it not that this is not USB, which is the VHS to Firewire's Betamax and thus there is next to nearly nothing usable out there for Firewire. Oh sure, Belkin has a USB/FW hub, but it rings in around 40 euros. And there's -one- extension cord available in the Netherlands, but it's a whopping 27 euros o_O

I'll go trawl eBay/Marktplaats now... See what I can come up with on the secondhand market. *sigh*

EDIT: Thank $DEITY for Kleinspul.nl who have a 6P F-F adapter which will let me hook up two cables. At about five bob apiece, that's pretty good...


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Holy wars, every profession has them

2008-04-30 12:46:00

Whenever two or more parties are convinced that they're on the side of absolute right holy wars pop up. I'm not just talking about the religious conflicts that we see every day, but also professional debates that are verging on religion.

Windows versus Linux versus Mac OS X. Emacs versus Vi versus Pico. Sendmail versus just about any decent email server. Japanese cars versus American cars versus European cars. Ketchup-on-your-steak versus Ketchup-lovers-should-die. Whatever, there's too much to even think of!

The field of education unfortunately is no different. Many people think that they know what's best for today's kids and thus philosophies about teaching vary greatly! For example, in December I wrote about the Het nieuwe leren versus Het oude leren crowds. The first think that the folks over at BON are decrepit relics from a time better forgotten. The latter think that the HNL crowd are nonsensical managers lusting for new and shiny toys. And neither side is willing to give in one inch, or to even concede that the other side has at least -some- merit.

Great.

One of the stories that's been recently snapped up by the BON-folks, is the story of Jan Verhoeven's family and their experiences with De Nieuwste School in Tilburg (The Newest School). While the Verhoevens are actually quite content in their role as chroniclers, the two battling sides grasp any chance to duke it out. The BON-ers ragged on the school on their fora, in their usual fashion. At the same time the DNS-folks grasp at any chance to portray themselves in an overly positive fashion, by grabbing media attention and by spawn camping the relevant Wikipedia pages. So instead of working on a real solution, both sides are just too fscking concerned with their little battles.

Very productive, que no?

Me, I'm just glad that the Verhoevens are alright and that their daughter's happy at her new school after getting out of De Nieuwste School


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Course books: they're a mixed bag

2007-09-11 19:33:00

How is it possible for one book to be both highly educational and (IMNSHO) absolutely craptacular at the same time? Case in point: Lesgeven en zelfstandig leren by Geerlings and Van Der Veen.

This course book covers basic didactics of teaching at the high school level. It covers all kinds of interesting subjects and I feel that there's a lot for me to learn.

Unfortunately the book's laced with three things that irk me.

1. To me it seems that the authors often skim over stuff that could be very interesting. Instead of taking an analytical, or academic approach, they fill chapters with examples and stories. There's nothing wrong with examples, but neither is there with pure psychology.

2. The book feels outdated and like it was written by cuddly-fluffy psychologists. The kind who want to pamper kids and feel that they should be let free to explore their youth and possibilities. *cue Care Bear song* Seriously, I'm all for letting kids discover what they can and can't do, but I believe that in the end kids also need structure and hierarchy. Besides, the original print was written in the eighties D:

3. Their writing is atrocious at times. At the beginning of chapter five there's a sentence that runs for a full -ten- lines! It runs a hundred and thirty words in length! What the fsck were they thinking?

And then there's pure genius like this:

In reality, assessing the beginning situation [of a student] is done based on 'experience'. This is a conglomerate of pedagogic-didactical knowledge and intuition.

/me shakes head

/me goes back to studying


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Using Moderne Wiskunde Helpdesk with Mac OS X or Linux

2007-09-04 07:01:00

A lot of students, both high school and college, use the Moderne Wiskunde books to study maths. These books include CD-ROMs that should aid the student in comprehending the new material. The contain various Flash animations per subject, as well as a number of tests and assignments.

Sounds good right? Were it not for the fact that these CD-ROMs only work properly in Windows. I've verified it this morning: while all of the contents are web apps, they are written purely for Windows XP and Internet Explorer.

Not even the combination Windows + Firefox works, since apparently Wolters Noordhoff only use specific IE commands to work with Flash. If there is such a thing. The software wouldn't work in my Firefox, complaining about the Flash version.

As one can expect I also tried to run the CD in Mac OS X. This can be done by inserting the CD and then directing Safari to open $CD/dlo/index.htm. This part of the procedure works as expected, as can be seen from the screenshot above. However, when you attempt to start an animation it all goes to dust. No dice. I just get a blank screen.

Seriously, how hard could it be to re-write a fricking web application to work with non-Windows, non-IE systems? *sigh* I've e-mailed W-N for comments. Let's see if they'll react. Their website also sucks in Safari, clearly written for Windows-folks as well. :(

For now the only way to run this software properly on a Mac is either by installing Bootcamp, Parallels, or VMWare. You can then run Windows in a secured and tucked away place.



Follow-up: W-N answer my question

Updated on the 6th of september, 2007.

I've received an e-mail from the Wolters Noordhoff helpdesk. They inform me that they are aware of the compatibility issues when using anything but Internet Explorer on Windows.

They also inform me that they -are- indeed working on making all their software and websites W3c standards-compliant. However, this process will take a lot of time, since there's just so much code to go through. So unfortunately, for the next few years I guess, we'll be stuck with IE.

One tip they gave me: the first thing they'll start reworking so it fits all the standards are the online study resources. Getal en ruimte makes use of a bunch of online aids and tools and these will be recoded ASAP. These tools can be found at the method's website.



Follow-up 2: W-N publish their new I-Clips

Updated on the 9th of october, 2007.

This year, Wolters-Noordhoff published the latest edition of the Moderne Wiskunde series: version 9. A new feature for this method is the inclusion of additional, online resources called I-Clips. These can be accessed through the W-N site, or through Schoolwise.nl

Ironically, even these new ICT features only work properly on a Windows system. On Mac OS X, in Safari the screen stay mostly empty while Firefox does show me some images, but goes run-away on the processor :(

Naturally I've sent N-W another e-mail about this.


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Fighting the Linksys WPC54g

2007-03-13 20:25:00

I'm well fed up with the whole PCMCIA switcheroo that I had gotten into to run my stand-by duties. I finally went out to Media Markt to get myself a Wifi card of my own. Who cares if the laptop belongs to $CLIENT? I want to work dammit! X[

I bought the Linksys WPC54g which is the first card that I'd borrowed from a colleague. Back then the card worked a treat and I had no problems whatsoever. But this time around, nothing but trouble! ;_; I think the crucial difference lies in the fact that the card I bought is v3, as opposed to either v2 or v4 (which was what I'd borrowed earlier). Incidentally, I'm running Windows 2000 on this Thinkpad.

Installing the card seemed to work alright: the driver installed perfectly, the card was recognized and the configuration utility installed as well. But for some reason the config util would keep on reporting the card as "WPC54g is inactive", suggesting a driver problem.

Well... A little digging around led me to this thread at the Linksys fora. It seems that the configuration tool (aka "Network monitor") is actually a piece of shit software, that doesn't work properly with the WPC54gv3 *grr*. As was suggested in the thread I installed McAfee Wireless Security, which is an alternative and free configuration tool for Wifi cards.

And lo and behold! It recognized the card and found my Wifi network. Got me connected without a problem. Thank God for McAfee! (Never thought I'd say that!)

Needless to say that my trust in Linksys has gone down a bit. All in all this took me a good two hours, which has well soured my mood :/


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I've never liked HP-UX that much ...

2007-02-21 12:47:00

I've never been overly fond of HP-UX, mostly sticking to Solaris and Mac OS X, with a few outings here and there. Given the nature of one of my current projects however, I am forced to delve into HP's own flavour of Unix.

You see, I'm building a script that will retrieve all manner of information regarding firmware levels, driver versions and such so we can start a networkwide upgrade of our SAN infrastructure. With most OSes I'm having a fairly easy time, but HP-UX takes the cake when it comes to being backwards :[

You see, if I want to find out the firmware level for a server running HP-UX I have two choices:

1. Reboot the system and check the firmware revision from the boot prompt.

2. Use the so-called Support Tools Manager utility, called [x,m,c]stm.

CSTM is the command line interface to STM and thank god that it's scriptable. In reality the binary is a CLI menu driven system, but it takes an input file for your commands.

For those who would like to retrieve their firmware version automatically, here's how:

...

Uhm... FSCK! *growl* *snarl* What the heck is this?! For some screwed up reason my shell keeps on adding a NewLine char after the output of each command. That way a variable which gets its value from a string of commands will always be "$VALUE ". WTF?! o_O

I'm going to have to bang on this one a little more. More info later.


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Dependency hell

2006-08-23 14:37:00

Damn! I'm really starting to hate Dependency Hell. Installing a few Nagios check scripts requires the Perl Net::SNMP module. This in turn requires three other modules. Each of these three modules requires three other modules, three of which require a C compiler on your system (which we naturally don't install on production systems). And neither can we use the port/emerge/apt-get alike Perl tools from CPAN, since (yet again) these are production systems. Augh!


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