Something Old, Something New

Three years ago I purchased an Asus Eee PC 900 series computer. Since that time, I’ve taken it with me on a lot of trips to conferences and meetings. My little companion often served as a secondary computer for note-taking and another means of web-browsing while my other computers were busy being used for digital video editing.

Although the Eee PC came loaded with a useful Linux-based operating system known as Xandros, I couldn’t keep myself from installing any number of other operating systems (both Windows and Linux) to see what my little netbook could and would do. I enjoy experimenting. I made bootable USBs and loaded operating systems such as Eeebuntu (the Aurora Project has links to old and new versions of this OS) , Puppy Linux, Xubuntu, as well as Hexxeh’s hugely popular ChromiumOS build, Flow, on the machine. Each time I did, I learned something new (like how and why to use Windows Image WriterUNetbootin, and other related resources).

After my numerous fits of tinkering, I began to understand that the Eee PC needed a restoration back to its original factory settings. Unfortunately, I misplaced the restore DVD that came with the machine.  Ugh! Thankfully, after visiting the eeeUser Forum and reading a number of posts (and learning about tips like the nifty F9 trick), I was able to get my machine back to its original settings. After getting everything back to its original state, I dropped by the Ubuntu site and downloaded the netbook version of the Ubuntu OS.

XO So Easy Update

Photo via Curiouslee

XO laptop image courtesy of Curiouslee

Last night, I completed a no-fail update of the operating system on an XO laptop. If you have students who are using an XO machine, I highly recommend this approach. The update was simple and had the laptop up and running within 30 minutes. I’m brushing up on my XO skills because I’m eagerly following Engadget‘s story about Uruguay’s nationwide OLPC education initiative.

Thinking Outside the VirtualBox

A wonderful (free) virtualization software package called VirtualBox gives educators a way to better meet the needs of learners across a variety of operating systems. Although pupils have a great deal in common with one another, they also have differing abilities, needs, and learning styles. Beyond their personalities and intellectual potential, they often have access to and make use of computers with different operating systems. Despite the fact that all of the students in a classroom or group may frequently employ web-based resources such as Google Docs to collaborate and learn together, they’ll eventually want to do work individually on computers that have resources uniquely designed to meet their own personal tastes.

For example, suppose there’s a teacher who wants to give her learners more choice in how they complete their work. This teacher knows that the students gravitate toward differing operating systems. One student prefers doing his assignments on a Windows machine, while another is dedicated to completing work on her Mac OS X laptop. A third, more adventurous pupil, after nobly rescuing a surplussed PC destined for a landfill, is happily anticipating learning with a Linux-based desktop. The teacher decides to foster the choices made by the learners. She installs VirtualBox on her own computer to see the applications her pupils are using and how the operate.

VirtualBox is remarkably useful as it runs on Windows, Linux, and Macintosh machines. It also supports a large number of guest operating systems. This means that a math teacher using a Mac with VirtualBox loaded on her machine can actually install and run other operating systems (such as Windows and Linux) at the same time. If one of her students prefers using a Windows-based math application such as GraphCalc to complete his assignment, the instructor can see that program in action within a Windows-based environment on her Mac! This powerful means of meeting the needs of pupils is free.

Xubuntu running on Mac OS X

NECC 2008: Opening Up to Open Source

Too cool!

Here I am in San Antonio, Texas at the Gonzalez Convention Center sitting in the Open Source Lab session listening to Steve Hargadon discuss free resources. I’ve heard Steve present before and, as always, it’s a pleasure to get access to his fresh ideas and opinions. This post–the one you’re reading–is being written on an old, IBM ThinkPad that has no harddrive. It’s a PC that’s part of a thin client network. There’s a room full of these normally useless, obsolete machines that are being used for blogging, word processing, multimedia, and other tasks. Imagine what might happen if a system or school decided to make better use of its old machines rather than tossing them out or surplusing them.