Sunday, May 1, 2011

SmartBoard on Linux? They said it could not be done!

I finally broke down and ran Linux on my SmartBoard in every class for the the past couple of weeks!
(1) bluetooth Tablet (Wacom Graphire 6x8 with capacitive surface)
(2) wireless Mic (Radio Shack 75Mhz Lapel Mic)
(3) pen app (xournal)
(4) SAGE (keyboard intensive CAS)
(5) (online service)

First, I got my old setup (as listed above) working with the Smart Airliner Slate. Actually, its a bluetooth remote mouse from Wacom called the Graphire 6x8. Its the kind of tablet whereby you don't see what you're writing on the tablet itself (please see my donorschoose project). You get used to craning your neck and watching the PC Monitor or the PC Projection Screen or the SmartBoard clear accross the room to see what you've written.... 

Anyway, I've used the Graphire for years to write my Smartnotes on the fly in class and to make live Screen-casts of my classes. Its a nice little tablet with a 10" diagonal writing area. Also, it has a capacitive surface so I can hover the magnetic pen over the tablet without writing so that the students can see me highlight something on the screen as I circle over it. So, my YouTube Recording Studio works fine. BTW, xournal is a nice java *.jar app so its cross-platform. It can save to *.pdf and has nice paper backgrounds such as graph paper. It also recognizes geometric figures, so if I draw a circle or triangle, xounal redraws it for me nice and neat! I use xournal because of these features and because installing Smart Notebook takes for ever. Why install Smart Notebook if I only use it as a pan app?

However, one hiccup was that the bluetooth mouse sensutivity is way too high even when I set it to the lowest possible setting, so you have to write really, really slowly.... Another little SNAFU is that the SmartBoard will go to sleep at times. The surface will stop reacting to the pen (the green light goes red). This may be due to the fact that I have a very long USB line (extended via ethernet) from my Teacher station in the back of the room to the SmartBoard in the front? I find that the only way to counter act this problem is to start using the regular keyboard and mouse for a few minutes and then the SmartBoard starts to function normally. One time I had to logout of my Linux user account and log back in!

(1) SmartBoard 885ix (xtra wide 78" resistive surface SmartBoard)
(2) wireless Mic (Radio Shack 75Mhz Lapel Mic) 
(3) pen app (Smart NotebBook for Linux)
(4) virtual TI (TI-83/89 emulator) + WINE
(5) (online service)

Next, we enter the world of true SmartBoarding! So, I installed WINE to run Virtual TI right on the SmarBoard! Also, xournal did not work well from the SmartBoard. Every time I started a blank page, the pen would draw a line from the top left hand corner of the screen to the pen! It was time to install Smart NoteBook for Linux.

Otherwise, the wireless mic worked fine as it is platform independent (connects to sound card input). Also, screencast-o-matic worked fine once I added JRE to FireFox. BTW, be careful to use the same audio input/output as you do in Wimpdoze if you are running Ubuntu on a dualboot box and said box is running your SmartBoard in Wimpdoze too!

So, my STUDENT Linux Boxes have Ubuntu 10.04 Desktop plus SAGE (and JRE for 3D graphs in SAGE) + WINE + VTI. Don't forget, I downgraded all my Ubuntu boxes to 32bit so as to make JRE and Flash installation in FireFox easier. 

My TEACHER Linux Boxes also have VLC + Handbrake, WINE + VTI, Smart NoteBook, xournal as well as Flash for Firefox. We recently had our AP exams in Calculus and Computer Science. So, we are using WINE to play vintage StarCraft in APCS class and VLC to watch The Lord of the Rings Trilogy in AP Calculius! I had to a add libdvdcss2 from to get VLC to play my DVDs, however. Note that the teacher boxes include all the functionality of the student boxes so I can model what the students need to do in their work. I added VLC to watch videos such as my MP4s and screen-casts on YouTube. I added Handbrake so I can convert my own DVDs to MP4s for YouTube. I have made DVDs from old VHS tapes on my DVDR for YouTube Wednesday documentaries. I've also taken DVR recordings off my cable box and burned them as DVDs for this purpose. I added VTI so the students could follow my using a Graphing Calculator right on the SmartBoard. I mostly use VTI ROMs for TI-83+ and TI-89.

My SERVER Linux Boxes also have JDK, openSSH and vsFTP for APCS. I'm also looking into adding a local SAGE server for Computer Math but we'll leave that for another day. Note that the server boxes have all the functionality of the teacher boxes as I sometimes use the server as a demo machine via a video switch. In this mode, I use the SmartBoard as a glorified video projector as the resistive surface is not connected to the second box. This setup allows me to have one box running Wimpdoze and another running Linux all day without having to reboot. However, I'm needing to use a Wimpdoze box less and less....

BTW, I recently became a Twit on Twitter just so I can Tweet! Take a look at some of my recent tweets:

Joy is after and libdvdread4 libdvdcss2
Happiness is running a vintage server over over during AP Week!  
Happiness=setting up a BZFLAG server using BZFS via WINE on my Ubuntu Maverick Meercat 10.04 LTS 32bit Desktop Edition Athlon dual-core!

Yes, I know all things ! But, I celebrated related app! yesterday by downloading a

So, as penance, today I downloaded the app to my droid!  

@ This is the best tweet from Sunday night! I wrote it this way in class,$ chmod 755 /bin/laden

Good luck to my young APCS paduans taking their AP now!

Finally, notice the new PayPal Donation tab at the top right of this blog! Please support this blog: give early, give often!

Well, that's all for today. I hope you found it informative! What do ya think? 
Teaching with Technology, 

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