Thursday, October 23, 2008

Computers and Education: The Most Useful Gadget for Students on a Budget

Now that you paid for your classes and books, you discover you are short on cash to purchase some of those really cool gadgets to get you through the semester. Now what do you do? Well now you are in triage mode, you make a decision as to what you absolutely need to have and list them by priority. Since I am a part-time student I do understand your pain.

One of the most common computer help requests I receive both on and off campus is "My computer will not start and I need my files".... I cannot count the times this has happened, especially after one of our Indiana thunderstorms and lightning has fried the computer. Students need not ever fall into this by using the gadgets I recommend.

With all the computer labs available on campus, a laptop even though it would be real nice and useful, I cannot put a laptop on the top of the list because you can get through classes without one if you are short on cash. So what should I have?

I believe the most useful gadget is the USB/pen/thumb drive. Why? To backup your homework is why! All the lab computers both PC and Mac are compatible with USB drives. Now a good drive with 4 GB storage is what I recommend and two or more if you are an arts student with lots of graphic files. If you need more storage, get an external USB hard drive with 1 TB drives now available for less than $250.00 you will have plenty of room to backup anything you need for class.

With all the external storage options available, a student can use a Mac or PC in the labs and store their precious homework and research on the campus network drive as well as your own external drive. If a student has a PC or Mac at home, then it is simple for them to move their data to and from school. Let me reiterate, backup ,backup and backup. If you need the document for your grade, back it up, even if it is just a few notes for a speech, back it up. Knowing you have your schoolwork safely stored in multiple places will take a bit of stress off your mind.

Do I suggest any particular brand or model? No for there are far too many out there, but I do suggest Staples or Best Buy stores, online Newegg and Tiger Direct are other useful gadget sites.
If you can afford a laptop...I do prefer the new Apple Macbook, it will run Windows as well as OS X and you will have all the built in gadgets you need for school. Now wait for the next episode...

Friday, October 17, 2008

Computer Hardware for Education Review: Apple Xserve

Apple servers have come along way since introducing its first OS X Server back in 1999 I was lucky enough to work with one for about 6 months. Now here at IUSB we purchased our first Xserve back in 2005 it opened a whole new world of networking Macs to me. I have always believed Apple manufactured superior hardware even before the advent of OS X. I installed Yellow Dog Linux on a Power PC based Mac and I had a solid, robust server.

The new Xserve is as much an engineering work of art as much as it is a solid server platform. We currently have three Xserve's running on campus, the first two are PowerPC G5 processor based and our latest model is loaded with an Intel Quad Core Xeon processor and 3TB of disc space. This server is hosting our own Open Directory and supports computer settings, print queues and access to network storage for nearly 100 Macs.

What also makes this Xserve such a solid performer is its operating system, OS X Server 10.5 Leopard. This robust UNIX based 64 bit OS is top notch and relatively easy to get setup for a novice, but powerful and configurable for any UNIX/Linux guru. The Xserve hardware is a bit more expensive that your traditional PC based server hardware; however the performance on our exisiting 4 year old server has proven that the Xserve is a worth-while investment.

The OS X Server management interfaces consists of Server Admin, Work Group Manager and other tools. SO if your institution is in the market for a new server that can do it all, look no further that the Apple Xserve, you will not be disappointed.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Picture of the Week

This picture is titled "Motion" and it does resemble images created to represent a black hole where not even light can escape its gravity. The feeling this picture invokes is like being pulled toward something powerful, you cannot escape and you are compelled to move closer and closer to a destination that lies somewhere over the event horizon.
I chose this image because it visualizes the Internet to me and all the spectrum of knowledge that is out there, pulling at our minds to come and discover. The multi-colored light is like how all the different data moves down a path to the common shared data network. Since light is made up of many colors, so too is data, made up of thoughts and images and digital data stores all being blended with other bands of light to create a new color. When we look at all the computer labs and networking equipment here at IUSB to support the mission of education, this image is just one small way to visualize the Internet and how we use it today in research, learning and entertainment.
Everyone who comes to IUSB, faculty, staff, and students are compelled to be here. Whether to work, the desire to be educated, or the zeal to teach, we are pulled to this center of learning. From here we can reach out to the world on a computer to communicate, to teach, be entertained, and to learn. How much knowledge can be pulled into the mind of a eager student? With computers that knowledge is endless.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Computers and education

When I graduated high school back in 1981 we had one personal computer in the whole school, a IBM 8088 running DOS. I never used that computer but about seven years later when I was in the Navy I started using a mainframe on board ship to track maintenance of engineering equipment that provided documentation to the Navy how well the equipment was working. by 1990 I had been using DOS on a 286 and had access to the 386 PCs on board ship. Now, twenty years later, I am a Systems Administrator working with some of the coolest computers around. At IUSB we have over 500 lab PCs and nearly 100 Macs that I support with various servers running Windows, Linux and OS X. Students would not be able to complete their studies without access to a computer and it is my job to ensure the computer systems on campus are up and running. I love what I do knowing I am helping others achieve their educational goals. Now I will be documenting what works and what needs work in the education environment. Now that macs use Intel processors, I enjoy working with macs the most because of all the remote administration features built into OS X. I find most students are somewhat familiar with Windows XP which is fine. The university does have classes to teach students how to use a computer. In some cases I feel students are too reliant on a computer instead of their brain, but that is a whole other topic. I work with very dedicated professionals who jump in and do what needs to be done to keep the systems working for the students, faculty and staff.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

My favorite spots on the web.

The Drudge Report..."the scandalous rumor mill" ,aka news blog, that I love to visit. Here I can read the latest news stories and there are many links to other blogs and news outlets. I find that the Drudge headline article almost always is about something I really should know especially if it is about government and politics. To the disdain of main stream media,The Drudge Report is getting more Internet followers every day while newspapers are cutting staff.

After looking over this blog,, I found gadgets I have never heard about...this is bad for me being a techie here at IUSB. The open source gaming platforms have really piqued my interest as well as other tech goodies. I like the style and the varity of posts covering current events as well as techie news. I will have to add this to my favorites list.

Another techie blog is all about what geeks love, fancy new gadgets of all kinds. The entries cover items ranging from video cards to 1.5 inch thick 36 inch LCD TV's. What else would a geek want? Well forget I asked that ...but I need to spend more time here because I am sorely lacking in the latest/greatest in new technology.