Thursday, November 29, 2007

Some overdue praise for Edubuntu Gutsy regarding an HP Deskjet F4180 and Canon MP470

One of the things I love about Albert Einstein Academies is that they require their parents to commit to a certain amount of volunteer hours at the school as part of their child's acceptance. How they get away with this is beyond me as we are a public, not private school but they get away with it nonetheless. Occasionally a parent will opt to donate a sum of money or product to the school in lieu of volunteering for that month. And then on even rarer occasions a parent will opt to donate a sum of money or product to the school in lieu of volunteering for the entire YEAR. It just so happened that a parent went this route at the start of the year and purchased (apparently from the UCSD bookstore which, barring an employee discount or something, is probably the single most expensive place in the county they could have done so) and donated a brand new Canon MP160 all-in-one printer. Since anything that even hints of technology falls under my domain the office staff called me up and told me there was a package for me in the office.

Now I do everything I can to run a paperless classroom so I honestly asked myself if there was anyone who might be able to make better use of this machine than I would. The donation came a few weeks into the school year though and most teachers had already set themselves up pretty well with printers so I brought it up to the lab as much to test it out with Feisty as anything else. You won't be surprised to learn that after much research and downloading of drivers the best I was able to do was get the thing to print reliably (although once it did seem to copy, but not when I wanted it to).

Fast forward to yesterday when the 6th grade math teacher called me down to disable her automatic Firefox updates and told me that despite hours and hours of time on the phone with HP support she was still unable to get her HP DeskJet 4180 All-In-One to scan into Windows 2000 correctly. I suggested that we trade machines. I figured my Canon would be able to scan for her and I could at least achieve performance parity with her HP on Gutsy.

You can imagine my elation when I finally hooked up the HP to gutsy, installed the driver (incredibly easier than Win2k of course) and was able to print, copy AND scan into GIMP perfectly! What a treat! Feisty had always hinted that hooking up a printer could be this easy but failed to deliver for me despite supposed "linux" drivers for my Canon. Excepting a "new device" notice when I plugged in the printer and automatic driver installation I can't imagine the process being much easier. Best of all I don't have all that extra HP crapware that the math teacher had to have just to be able to use the machine. I couldn't be happier.

Next time I'll change gears and gripe about how I'm reformatting my outside lab server right now because it won't let me make a user account named "student11" or "student15". Stupid Edubuntu...j/k -joe

Monday, November 26, 2007

About my Wedding and the 2007 SDCUE Conference

Well, after months of planning we finally got married. The wedding was amazing, better than I could have imagined and I can honestly say that it was the best day of my life. How often to hundreds of people who love you come together to pay tribute and speak so kindly of you? It was really a fantastic time, and of course our honeymoon in Jamaica wasn't too shabby either.

Now I'm back though, ready to get into more trouble with Edubuntu even as I sing its praises at local area conferences. Most recently I did a presentation at the San Diego Computer Using Educators (SDCUE) conference at a local high school. My presentation slides can be seen at my website ( if anyone is interested. The presentation went really well, I probably had a dozen or so people who attended and it was a good mix of experienced IT professionals and newer educators so I was able to get some help with my explanations from the audience.

Overall my presentation seemed really well received, and although I worry that it may have been beneath a few of the attendees I got the feeling that everyone was at least entertained to hear of my successes and failures. I was especially pleased by the unexpected demand for Edubuntu Install CDs after the presentation. I had anticipated that perhaps a couple of people would want them so I had brought a few blank CDs and figured I would just burn them on the spot since I had the images on my laptop. Instead of just a couple of people though, probably seven or eight people requested CDs. It wasn't that big of a deal really, I just spent a few minutes after my presentation burning images and labeling them. Then I dropped the finished CDs off at the raffle counter where they could be picked up any time later in the day. Hopefully everyone got their requested copies.

I've also already been accepted to speak at the West Coast CUE Conference in Palm Springs in March so I think both Benita and I will make a weekend trip out of it. I'm just delivering the same talk so there won't be as much stress this time around (not to mention it won't be eight days before my wedding this time). I'm also not planning on setting up a working example of the LTSP for people, so that should save me some hassle as well. While I've applied to speak at the Southern California Linux Expo in Los Angeles in February, I haven't heard definitively whether I've been accepted or not, although I'm pretty sure I'll be invited. I'll be sure to take some pictures this time and post them. Until next time! -joe

Friday, November 02, 2007

Xrandr, why Xorg crashed last time and the benefits of Internet based computing.

Well my reinstall of Gutsy went well. I figured out that Xorg crashed last time because I had changed the display driver from the experimental Intel driver to the older i810 driver. While this had been suggested in one of the forums as a way to enable a secondary monitor output it apparently was also the reason Xorg could not find any screens the next time I started the computer up. Since the reinstall I've tried using the same terminal command that worked for me before:

xrandr --output VGA --auto

and it seemed to do the trick. I was also able to then shut down the computer and start it again later without a hitch, so that's always a good thing.

I suppose if I were a bit more knowledgeable, daring, or motivated after the crash I could have figured out how to reconfigure Xorg so that I didn't have to do a complete reinstall of edubuntu, but after a few minutes of contemplating this I realized that there really wasn't anything on the machine that I didn't also have somewhere else. Moving from using Word to Google Docs hasn't always been easy, but in cases such as this it was enormously advantageous. I suppose I do have to worry about Google's servers crashing and losing all my stuff, but those guys seem to know what they're doing over there so I think I'll take my chances. I'll try to blog more about our school's recent move to Google Apps, but for now I'm pretty focused on the wedding. We're like 52 hours away at this point and I'm not even packed for Jamaica yet. Cheers! -joe