Thursday, August 13, 2009

Tech advice, anyone?

School's rumbling closer, and I've a decision to make.
Decision made, see below.

We have MS Word 2003 in school, MS Word 2007 and OpenOffice (OOo) at home. I have more problems bouncing between the two versions of Word than I do going from OOo to any platform.

My desktop runs on linux/Ubuntu. I just got a cheap laptop with Vista, and may switch over to linux on that one as well.

Is it worth partitioning the drive to keep Vista on the laptop, then drop $75 to buy the MS Office Home and Student version? Does partitioning the drive affect performance at all?

(I also lose access to EasyGrade Pro with linux, but after last year's disaster with EGP, I'm a bit wary of that program as well. I am playing with Tom Hoffman's SchoolTool, also open source, and may use that instead.)

Any and all thoughts welcome.

(Two days ago a U.S. District Court judge ruled Microsoft has 60 days to pull MS Word off the shelves because of patent infringement. Money and lawyers and tweaks will fix this, of course, but still...

...And today Mr. Bill has done it once again:
"Get Schooled: You Have the Right formally kicks off "Get Schooled," a five-year national initiative co-developed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Viacom that creates a platform for corporate and community stakeholders to address the challenges facing America's public schools")

Enough. I'm tired of sending money to a corporation whose leader wants public education to advance careers above citizenry, and who is openly manipulating public discourse with his money.


Barry Bachenheimer said...

No thoughts on your word issue, but for grades, check out the online free gradebook at Good stuff

doyle said...


I just peeked at it, will look some more, but need to pick your brains (if it's OK).

You're an expert at administration and instruction and educational technology. I anticipate that administration (reasonably) could be nervous about using a 3rd party server to store student information.

Is this a valid concern?

Should I assign random ID numbers (known only to me and perhaps the supervisor) when using 3rd party servers?

I am ambivalent about "the cloud." Put me in the "trust but verify" school of networking.

Jasmin Loire said...

1) My district uses engrade, so I'm sure that it had to pass some sort of security test that is above my pay grade.

2) Have you considered putting OOo on your work computer and working on all files in that. Even if you save them as word files, they still transfer easily between home and work computers. This is my system. My district doesn't pay for MS products so OOo at work led to me installing OOo at home. I've never been happier with the ability to work on a document in one location and continue work in another without any formatting issues.

amanda said...

I'd say it's a valid concern. If even Bank of America can leak information (I've had a lot of BofA-customer friends get there identities stolen and have heard bad things about their security), it's hard to trust a relatively unknown cloud-based grade system. I'd say it's easy and safe enough to pick random IDs for each student, write them down somewhere safe, write them down somewhere else safe in case the first place burns down, and then use the cloud solution (assuming it's any good). I'm a total tech person and I'm still skeptical of the cloud.

~Amanda (from Wesleyan)

doyle said...

Dear Jasmin,

You have more faith in others than I do--if you could find out just what security test was passed, I'd be much obliged. I long ago gave up trying to correlate pay with competence.

I like the idea of putting OOo on the work desktop--I will try that next time I'm at the school.

I am looking hard at SchoolTools--I like being able to manipulate the program. I know just enough linux to get into trouble. I know how to reach the guy who heads development of it.

Dear Amanda (who I always knew was you but did not want to blow your cover),

Yep, I think that's what I'm going to do. I'll give a copy to my supervisor in case I keel over, and I learned (the hard way) to always-even-if-I-am-splitting-an-infinitive keep a hard copy.

And I'm glad to see you're skeptical--your tuition money did not go to waste.

(Say hello to your folks from us!)

Unknown said...

My thoughts:

Partition the hard drive so it will dual boot. Use Vista sparingly, but only on occasion. (For example, I have one program that I use it for) It's not bad to "have it there" in the rare occurance that a decent program might exist.

Use Ubuntu for everything you can. I love Linux. I love how it doesn't seem to crash. Almost all freeware and open source programs have a Linux version. For my gradebook, I used Engrade for awhile and then eventually switched to using Google Spreadsheets. (I know it's not as specialized, but it worked best for me). I love using Open Office and I don't even bother with MS for anything.

So, those are my thoughts, for whatever it's worth.

Unknown said...

I just saw Tom Hoffman's program. It's pretty impressive. I might try that this year.

lucychili said...

Here are some (rambly) thoughts I prepared earlier =)

Dann Stayskal said...


Partitioning and installing Linux won't appreciably affect the performance of a new machine. When you boot into windows on a smaller partition, it will run the same as windows on a larger partition. Just make sure you leave at least a few gigs free for swap space on the windows side. When booted into Linux, feature-for-feature, the machine should be faster.

I have a small netbook that came with XP that I did this to using Ubuntu's netbook remix, and using Ubuntu was appreciably faster than booting into XP. When I lent it to my mother two weeks ago, she started using the Linux install more than the Windows XP side.

Also, note that Open Office is freely available for windows and Mac OS X as well, should you choose to stick with OOo documents as your standard. All three versions function well.

-- Dann

amanda said...

Please do not keel over.

And please do continue to cavalierly split infinitives. That whole thing is entirely elitist and ridiculous anyway. It goes back to Latin--need I say more?

The whole Internet is entirely amazing, it turns out, in that even those who invented it and still contribute to its upkeep cannot believe that it's worked for so long.

doyle said...

Dear John and Dann,

Your thoughts, combined with others' here, meshed with mine like a trannie synchro. I'll partition the drive, save Vista for I'm not sure what--maybe EGP, and I may use SchoolTool if my security plan is OK with admin.

(For you young'uns, a trannie synchro isn't what you might think it is. Just saying....)

Dear lucychili,

Thanks for the link--at first I thought it was going to be something silly (the FLOSS threw me off, and I'm in the midst of major dental stuff), but interesting wiki post. The Land of Oz is a bit ahead of us here.

Dear Amanda,

I told Leslie I'd do everything I can to live to 90--then I can keel over with impunity.

How are we going to get you into the The Social Register if you keep knocking elitism?

(I did not know that the split infinitive thing came down from Latin--to not know this is appalling!)

Leslie said...

Well, I can't answer your techie questions (though I get to hear you pondering them in person), but I must add that it is not against English grammar rules to ever split infinitives, even if some English teacher somewhere said otherwise. Even Strunk and White, often blamed for this "rule", only *suggest* "avoiding" split infinitives, but they also suggest avoiding the passive voice, which is also not grammatically wrong. And then they give examples of the former where it makes more sense to blithely split the infinitive. They never call it a rule, nor do other grammar books.

doyle said...

Dear Leslie,

If Ms. Sciala, my 8th grade English teacher, said it was bad grammar, then it was.

I do not, however, remember Ms. Sciala's position on this.

Still, I'm glad Hamlet did not split his infinitives:

To be, or to not be, that is the question.....