UK Schools Advised Not to “Upgrade” to Vista, Office 2007

The British Educational Communications and Technology Agency (BECTA) has issued a report advising UK schools not to upgrade to either Windows Vista or Office 2007. Neither new release offers any must-have features over the previous release, and the $350 million deployment cost (only about 30% of that would go to Microsoft) just wouldn’t be justified by any significant gains. We already know that , being the worst operating system to come out of Redmond since Windows ME, but I haven’t written much about Office 2007 yet (I plan to rectify that in the next couple days). Needless to say, my…

Read more

Either Make It Work or Don’t Offer It, Class.com!

Updated; see end. Time to air another pet peeve of mine, namely applications that don’t do what they’re supposed to do. I have found very few examples recently, in that I can’t remember any other examples than the one I’m about to write about. I know it’s happened before; I just can’t recall at the moment. Anyway, I’m enrolled in an English class in which we read William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, and write various reports on each act (that’s just Unit 1). To assist with that endeavor, the course’s publisher, Class.com, provides students with a (not-so; read on) slick little…

Read more

School Policies Should Be Accessible

Remember about school IT (and the )? Well, the saga continues this quarter, when a request to one of my teachers turned into a conversation that got forwarded to the school director. And got a phone call to my mom (even though she already knew). Apparently, using a school email address is a policy, but it’s not written down anywhere on the school website. According to the director (I won’t name names for privacy), it would be unmanageable to write down all the policies and put them on the website. In other words, the student handbook doesn’t tell the full…

Read more

Task Management is Good with Remember The Milk

I’m sure all y’all have heard way too much already about all the supposed “Web 2.0” services such as Gmail (I’m blogging about it whether you like it or not!), and I’ll bet you’ve heard of Remember The Milk already, but you have to try it to really appreciate what it can do; up until today, I never realized how much potential there is contained in that one little app. My second quarter of courses started today, and I began as I always do: getting lists of assignments that will be due during the courses. I used Google Calendar first…

Read more

Interesting: Wikipedia Became a Class Assignment

Most college professors cringe at the thought of their students using Wikipedia for anything class-related. Many colleges and universities have even gone so far as to have guidelines for writing papers that forbid citing Wikipedia. Whether the guidelines are in writing as official school policy or passed on informally by professors (via vocal or written communication on introductory days), they are the norm today. But one professor at the University of Washington-Bothell, Martha Groom, turned Wikipedia into an assignment for her undergraduates. A teacher of environmental history, she requires at the end of the semester not a term paper, but…

Read more

School Email Blocking Not Complete?

Interestingly, about blocked sending to external addresses and other limitations on my school email account neglected to allow for one scenario: Forwarding. It appears forwarding to external addresses is allowed, but not initiating a conversation (which actually makes some sense, since mail from said external addresses is blocked). So I am still able to run backup copies of emails from my school account to my Gmail account to protect against the annual account clearing we seem to experience at school. Phew! And it took this long to get an email I had to forward…

Read more

Confirmation of Email Blocking on School Account

Today I logged into my school email account to find five “Undeliverable Mail” messages in the inbox. Sure enough, each one referred to a particular message I had tried to send when I was troubleshooting Gmail and ended up troubleshooting the school system. Looks like they really are blocking email to external recipients now, though my teachers can still send to my Gmail account. All five messages contained the same error message: Rejected with: 550 5.7.1 Requested action not taken: message refused Feh. Now not only can I not send to the address from Gmail, I cannot send from the…

Read more

School IT Strikes Again!

In what looks like a devastating blow to the usability of my school’s already-crippled email system, it looks like the SMTP gateway or another piece of hardware or software downstream from the Ocean Mail Server is blocking all messages trying to get to the outside Internet. The system still says, “Your message was sent successfully,” when you send a message to an external address, but the message is never delivered. For fear of losing all the accommodations I have gleaned in the last month or two, I dare not contact my Draconian IT support department, yet I must needs have…

Read more

Google Docs Reviewed (Long Version)

As a kind of follow-up to my of Google Docs, I’ve decided to write a lengthier review that compares the pros and cons of using Docs versus desktop Word or Writer. Overall, the capabilities of Google Docs are pretty impressive, and it’s sure a far cry from the text-only editors included in MediaWiki, Instiki, TiddlyWiki, etc. Considering that it’s just some lines of JavaScript (OK, a lot of lines…), it can do quite a bit. Supported by the server back-end, Docs can import photos, generate charts, edit tables, and track revisions, not to mention a bunch of other stuff. While…

Read more

Extra Content, Extra Bandwidth, Irritated Users

This is another course-related post, though it can be applied to the Flash-enabled Internet as a whole. A major problem these days in Flash animations is the overuse of the Flash file for mundane things like fade effects, which really don’t add much to textbook-like content like courses. My accounting course is particularly guilty of this. Many times through the material, an animation will offer to help me understand something. The fade isn’t really that bad, and sometimes it’s handy, like when adding things item-by-item to a list of accounts, but what really burns me is the unnecessary voice narration…

Read more