Saturday, October 30, 2010

CIS(theta) Meeting IV (2010-2011) - RIP Colossus

RIP Colossus

JayW, JoshG, RyanH

DavidG, HerbertK

Reading: Building Parallel Programs, Chapter4

openmosix distros
clusterknoppix CD
quantian DVD
chaos CD
bccd CD

First thing we did this week was to observe a moment of silence.  Yes, Colossus, our ssh server, has finally died after running flawlessly 24x7 for 12 years non-stop (the hdd melted and ground to a halt)!  Kudos goto Slackware as I was running version 3.0 on Colossus all 12 years.  Talk about set it and forget it!  Sorry, Colossus, it's time to go, we don't use Intel Pentium IIs anymore....

Next on the agenda, was to install a new ssh server to replace Colossus.  We will make the new server run as a ssh and an ftp server.  His name shall be Guardian.  We have another new server we will setup as a mirror site.  Her name shall be Caprica.  

So, we installed 32bit Ubuntu 10.04 Desktop edition on Guardian, our new quad-core Intel Xeon.  Yes, it's 32bit - I know, I was shocked too.  Well, that's a good thing, we can make this a Teacher Station as well as a server and not have to downgrade Shadowfax after all.  We'll just need a video switch between the WimpDoze Teacher Station and the Linux Teacher Station!  OK, so we don't really need 2 Linux Teacher Stations, but one is never enough!

We then had to figure out which of the 2 Ethernet cards was eth0 and which of the 4 Ethernet drops were live on the internet.  We crashed and burned at this stage as we ran into a little SNAFU.  We found eth0, but we couldn't find a live drop.  We have 2 new intranet drops for the Linux LAN and 2 new internet drops for the 2 new servers to be accessible off campus.  However, we could not access the internet.  BTW, we also need the internet to finish installing openssh, vsftp and jdk!

As usual our network is FUBAR.  Either the ethernet card's MAC address is blocked, or we didn't get any internet drops installed by the tech department after all.  IDK why we have 2 ethernet cards per server and 4 drops when the old servers did fine with just one card and one drop each - KISS!  I guess we better RTFM b4 the next meeting....

Well, "That's All Folks," for this meeting. We'll tackle the new server again next meeting in 2 weeks. Check our new Facebook Group, CIS(theta), for our next event!  BTW, this 1 hour meeting every 2 weeks is mandatory.  

Here's a YouTube showing sample game play for my latest favorite RTS (for iPod Touch) for no apparent reason other than we're all gamers and not lamers, right? Enjoy!

Happy Clustering,

Saturday, October 23, 2010

SAGE All Day, Every Day!!!

I'm in SAGE Heaven! My PC Lab/Classroom is running like a well oiled machine! My students walk in and boot-up. First thing that happens is the 64bit Ubuntu 10.04 Desktop pops up. Then, Firefox automagically starts up. And, last but not least, Firefox surfs over to an online SAGE server!  My classroom is running SAGE 24x7, 'tis a thing of beauty and the students are taking to it quite well!

Here's a little update on what we've been doing with the Litvin's new MP3 text in my new Computer Math class using Python to study Discrete Math!

It took quite a while to complete chapter 1.  It took nearly a month to intro SAGE, read chapter 1 and do the exercises, lab 1 and test 1.  FYI, here's what we did for the exercises in chapter 1:
ch1.2 Sets
ch1.3 Functions
ch1.4 Algorithms
ch1.5 Python

Chapter 2 went a bit more smoothly!  We took about 2 weeks to read the chapter, do the exercises, lab 2 and test 2.  See for yourself:
ch2.2 CPU & Memory
ch2.3 Python Interpreter
ch2.4 Python Code

I've even been using SAGE in my preCalculus and Calculus classes!

Well, that's all for today. I hope you have enjoyed the various graphs posted above! These were graphs my students came up with when I asked them to find and plot a function whose range is 0<=y<=1. They had a hard time of it until I said y can be in any of these intervals: [0,1], [0,1), (0,1], (0,1). 

Saturday, October 16, 2010

CIS(theta) Meeting III (2010-2011) - Geek Squad!

Geek Squad!

DavidG, HerbertK, JayW, JoshG, RyanH

Reading: Building Parallel Programs, Chapter3


This week we reviewed the reading from Chapter 2 and the links from Research 2. Then we proceeded to outline some projects for the "Geek Squad!"  

1) A couple of Student Station's Ubuntu 10.04 Desktops got FUBARed, so we talked about downloading the 64bit ISO, burning a CD and reinstalling those stations. Don't forget, we also have to add JRE for SAGE ( to do animation in 3D!

2) The Teacher Station is fine, except I tried to get Adobe Flash to work in 64bit for Youtube Wednesdays, but I just succeeded in banging my head against the wall! So, we talked about getting the 32bit Ubuntu ISO and downgrading the OS on that station only. This station should do all that a Student Station does (ie: add JRE) plus some extra apps.  I have VLC (thanx to Jeremy's 250GB external USB Hard-Drive full of Star Trek episodes) and Xournal (can't stand Smart Notebook for Linux) on there, so I'd like to add them to the 32bit Linux partition also. I'm going to need WINE (on all 25 stations) to run VTI for a final project in programming graphing calculators in my Computer Math class (and I won't have to give out TI-83s). I also never got around to playing with handbrake which I want to use to chop up an old National Geographic special that I want to upload to Youtube called "The Miracle Chip" that I converted from VHS to DVD a couple of years ago. Last, but not least, don't forget the Flash plugin for Firefox!

3) Our new 64bit quad-core Xeon servers are not yet ready for prime time! We finally got the gigE drops, so we need to set up the Ethernet cards to be accessible from home.  Also, these PCs are setup right now like the student PCs except for the JRE (ie just a barebones 64bit Ubuntu 10.04 Desktop, not the Server Edition). What we need to install here is vsFTP and openSSH so each server can take the place of the 2 servers we are currently using.  The idea is to replace both (current ftp server) and (current sftp server) by or which will be mirror images of eachother. Another problem with the new servers is that they have RAID drives as follows: guardian has 2x72GB+2x36GB drives and caprica has 1x72GB+3x36GB drives. I would like both servers to have the same RAID setup, so I'm waiting on an order of 5 new 72GB drives to swap out the 36GB drives. That way, both servers will have a 288GB capacity (current servers only have 80GB) and each server can function as an ftp and an sftp site. I may eventually add "Teacher Station" functionality to Guardian (since the new servers are in Room 429 too) so I can use it in class.  This way, one Teacher Station can run WimpDoze all day and the other can run Linux all day so we don't have to reboot theses stations for different classes through out the day. All we need is a KDM switch so as to have 1 keyboard and 1 mouse for both PCs, plus a video switch for the PC Projector to take either Teacher Station as source! You know, what we realy need is a PC Podium so we can also hook up a laptop on the fly when needed (complete with audio, video and ethernet cables) like I have at Nassau Community College when I teach in the summer and at other colleges where I give conferences. Speaking of conferences, I have 2 coming up: "Intro to SAGE," Staff Development Day, Baldwin High School, 11/2/2010 and "Look Ma, No Calculator," T^3 (Teachers Teaching with Teachnology), Molloy College, 11/5/2010!

Ok, we didn't have time to do all that in one meeting, so we focused on the Student Stations for now. I had already downloaded the ISO and put it on the ftp site.  So, we copied it from there and burned a CD. Then we followed the instructions from but only got through steps 1-3. The next day, I tweaked the desktop and printer settings (step 4) and added JRE (2nd alternate to step 5). So, now all is well with the 24x64bit dual-core AMD Athlon Student Stations!

Well, "That's All Folks," for this meeting. We'll tackle the Teacher Station next meeting in 2 weeks. Check our new Facebook Group, CIS(theta), for our next event! Oh, I added my favorite clip from "The Big Bang Theory" for no apparent reason other than we're all in the Geek Squad, right? Enjoy!

Happy Clustering,

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Don't Drink The KoolAid!!!

I just finished Chapter 2 of my preCalculus for 11th graders (as you can see above)!  This class was recently created to prep the students for AP Calculus AB in their Senior year, so I have to go through the traditional preCalculus topics a little quicker than normal so as to have a bit of time to intro Calculus in May and June!

I got into a little disagreement this week on the AP Calculus listserv (mailing list, EDG, ehatever you want to call it) over SmatBoards and the use of Smart NoteBook.  It all started with someone posting something about their school getting a ton of SmartBoards all of a sudden with no inservice training.  Another post replied with how important training was.  So, once again, my advice to you is, "don't drink the Koolaide, folks!"

Yes, I use Smart Notebook everyday in every math class I teach, but any pen app that exports to PDF will do (see xournal)

Yes, I have used Smart Recorder, but any screencasting software will do (see

Yes, I use a Smart Airliner Slate, but any wireless tablet or remote mouse will do (see wacom)

Yes, I have used a wireless mic, but I prefer an integrated mic on my laptop or PC.

Yes, I have used TI-SmartView, but any emulator will do (see VTI)

Yes, I have used Windows, but I prefer Linux (see ubuntu)

What am I talking about? I use all this stuff to screencast for youtube (again, as seen above). I put all my recordings on youtube for students to review a topic they find troubling or to view a class they missed due to illness or what have you. I don't advocate the use of any sort of Interactive White Board except as a replacement of my whiteboard/blackboard. I never have, nor will I ever prepare power point style presentation before class. I do all my notes in class and record them on the fly! I don't see the need of all the bells and whistles in Smart Notebook unless you want to emulate manipulatives for elementary school students. We're teaching High School, people! The benefit of all this technology is simply for the purposes of recording the classroom experience for posterity (or absent kids)!

Then someone replied all offended saying something about adopting some kind of standard by installing only SmartBoards or PrometheanBoards is important.  How else can the administration provide adequate inservice training?

What I meant to say was: "don't drink the koolaid you get from the Smarttech sales reps and trainers!" They try to make you think that if you don't make a power-point-like presentation using Smart Notebook for every single class you teach, each with a million links and embeded videos, audios or graphics plus all the Smart Notebook widgets, you're just not using the Smartboard to its full potential and somehow short changing your students! 

Do you mean to say that we should just let the teachers decide what technology they are going to use?  Just let each teacher have their own personal amalgam of tools?

Yup, you're preaching to the choir!  I've always had to train myself to use new technology in the classroom since I was usually the first to introduce said technology at my school. 

BTW, I've been teaching, and my students have been learning, math and computer science with technology in the classroom since the 1975.... 

In anycase, I think its time to upgrade my Smart Airliner Slate.  It's great as a wireless (bluetooth) mouse, but I can't see what I write on it as one can on a full-fledged PC Tablet.  So, I was looking at an iPad connecting to my desktop via VNC.  However, the iPad is a little small and doesn't really have a lot of productivity apps.  So, I think it's time for a real PC Tablet.  Such a device would make it easier to write notes on my PC Projector as I would be able to see what I write right on the laptop screen.  

Also, most tablets have an integrated mic so I wouldn't need a separate device to record my audio.  In addition, the tablet will have more connectivity such as wifi, bluetooth, wired ethernet, audio and video.  So, I can connect this tablet/laptop directly to the PC Projector, perhaps wirelessly thereby eliminating the audio/video cables, instead of controlling another PC's desktop remotely!  Take a look at for example.

Teaching with Technology, 

Saturday, October 2, 2010

CIS(theta) Meeting II (2010-2011) - Burn Fest!!

Burn Fest!!

DavidG, HerbertK, JayW, JoshG, RyanH

Reading: Building Parallel Programs, Chapter2


This week we reviewed the reading from Chapter 1 and the links from Reasearch 1.  We talked about setting up pelicanHPC in the near future via PXEboot to run some jobs using Octave, MPI and MPITB.  This week's reading is Chapter 2 and Research 2.  I put up Research 3 as it is related to TJHSST, but you can skip those links for now.

The next version of Ubuntu is coming soon
Then we talked about our 64bit Ubuntu install as discribed here: whereby all the PCs in our lab are installed identically (24 student clients, 1 teacher client and 2 servers) via the Ubuntu 10.04 live install CD (dualboot with WinXP making linux the primary boot partition on grub2).  I added JRE to the teacher and student stations so we could do 3D graphs on SAGE.  I also added VLC to the teacher station so I could display my crazy videos.  

We discussed adding flash (for youtube viewing), WINE (for VTI in math class), handbrake (to edit DVDs for youtube upload) and xournal (for writing notes in class with my wireless tablet) to the teacher station.  We will also be installing vsftp and openssh-server on the servers. 

Note: student and teacher PCs are 64bit dualcore AMD Athlons and the new servers are 64bit quadcore Intel Xeons.  So, the "geek squad" has its hands full with helping me do all this in the near future!

Meanwhile, the "geek squad" burned, labeled and cased 50 Ubuntu 32bit liveCDs that I can now give out in my classes for my new students to work from home in the same environment as they do in class.  BTW, we made a mini field trip to the Math Office to get some CDs where we found 10x100 CD and 15x50 DVD spindles!  Thanx guys!

Happy Clustering,