Thursday, March 20, 2008

Headphones in the Lab, a new gigabit switch, and Ubuntu flash player still sucks

I have good news and bad news. Let's start with the good news first since the bad news is pretty bad.

For a while now I've had a box full of headsets for the kids to use but I haven't ever put them out because I just didn't want them getting all tangled up and broken. I've been meaning to get a bunch of adhesive hooks to hold the headsets on the side of the computer monitors and even put in a purchase order with the controller earlier this week, but yesterday I found myself at Office Depot and just went for it.

So with the help of a couple of students I've now got the lab all hooked up with headsets and the difference is unbelievable! It's eerily quiet in the lab now that all the kids are tuned into their own work instead of whatever all their friends around them are doing. I can not believe I took so long to put this thing together, but I try to think about the fact that I've got it together now instead of all the months I went through without it.

In any case I definitely have a new number one piece of advice for any noobie tech teacher: GET HEADSETS! For EVERY kid! It doesn't MATTER that it looks like you're running an illegal child labor call center!

Now for the bad news. Just like the worst kind of bad news it arrived on the heels of seemingly great news, this being the arrival of my gigabit switch and the beta release of Ubuntu's latest release Hardy Heron. Little did I know what a disappointment these supposedly beneficial arrivals would be. Allow me to explain.

For a long time now our students have been unable to use the adobe flash player on our thin clients. For whatever reason the performance is absolutely abysmal. Worse than abysmal actually, it is literally unusable. Until this afternoon I believed this was due to the fact that the thin clients were connecting to the server through a 10/100 switch instead of a switch with a gigabit uplink which I had read in many places would be far more preferable.

Thus when I connected my new switch with the gigabit uplink I expected to see a marked change in performance on flash player apps. Alas, you can guess what I saw instead. Taking a look at the system monitor revealed the following disturbing image.

If only I knew how to interpret it and diagnose the problem :(

It occurred to me that the issue might be with Gutsy and not the switch after all so I even tried installing the new Beta release of Hardy on the server after I had finished downloading it and still noticed no change. Just more of the same I'm sad to say.

The really disturbing part of all of this is the effect that these types of flaws have on my students. I started using Edubuntu in the first place both because it seemed like a good way to use the existing equipment we had, but also because I hated the idea of helping raise another generation of American citizens unable to wean themselves from the crippling teats of Microsoft and Apple. I imagined students who would be surprised and unfamiliar when they saw a Windows computer, who would appreciate the fact that their school used money to buy more computer equipment for them to play with instead of licenses for software just to make them work.

Tragically the precise opposite of this has happened simply because Ubuntu LTSP just CAN NOT play flash files. Subsequently the kids hate Linux, moan about how slow it is and marvel in small groups while flash files load frame by frame by frame. They LONG for Windows 2000. WINDOWS 2000!!!! How can this be?

For the past few months I've played the apologist, telling myself the kids mostly just played games in flash anyways and would be better off without them. That's not the point though. The point is that Ubuntu can't do something as well as an EIGHT YEAR OLD Microsoft OS can. This speaks volumes about the state of Ubuntu and I really don't know where to go from here.

I'm not giving up yet, but I'm through making excuses too. If Ubuntu can't figure it out, maybe another OS can. It might be time to personally look into SUSE or RHEL to see exactly how Ubuntu measures up. I'll keep you posted. -joe

1 comment:

Daniel Hunt said...

Not particularly inspiring for someone looking to use LTSP in a school :(