Sunday, July 08, 2007

1 Chron 12:32 report, 47: Cyber College 4 -- some remarks on the usual work-in-progress technical hiccups

Regular readers will suspect from the recent low activity on this blog, that I have been busy over the past few days, as we work to explore the possibilities of developing a cyber campus.

They are right -- I have been addressing the usual hiccups, teething troubles and the like on the creation of a web based cybercampus.

It is also helpful to give an interim report, perhaps in points. Pardon a few semi-technical details, they will help us understand why not just anybody can do this yet, which gives us a chance to get into the market now as innovators/early adopters and so establish our reputation, thus being in an excellent position to be a major established player when things get "easy" to do:
1] In exploring Moodle as a possible core technology for doing a cybercampus, I saw that there is a Web On a Stick [WOS] implementation of a Web server by CH Software, that allows hosting of Moodle [and a lot of other server level applications], without too much danger of disrupting one's PC. For, this allows one to use say a USB memory stick to set up a Moodle implementation hosted by the Apache web hosting application.

2] Of course, this is really set up for Windows 2000 or XP, while my backup 7 y.o laptop PC is ME [of all things!]. So without waiting another month or so to get my main PC back up, I decided to try anyway.

3] The obvious package to try is the Matt Campbell full implementation as Moodle links on its Moodle on a USB stick page. I tried that first of all [not noticing at first that there is a reason why there is no estimate of the memory size required!], and as was noted last time, a 256 MB USB stick came back full. [It is credible that the implementation requires over 2 GB of memory!]

4] The first alternative was to try to use CH's small package. This installs fine and works -- providing you let it install in its own little subdirectory (contrary to the advice on the Moodle on a Stick installation guide page, at least for ME, that ever so problematic OS that Uncle Bill actually apologised for . . .). However, there is an issue of a link to PHPMyAdmin on the local server home page that opens up -- and there is no link, and no obvious alternative, at least, none obvious to a broken down old Applied Physicist. Back to the drawing board.

5] Similarly, a roll-your own package from CHP's WOS Mixer page if installed in the same sub-folder from the last try works, then it tries to install programs. This works at first, very smoothly, but, it then begins to loop over and over at the point where MySQL is looking for data to support packages, and that holds for both the small version and the big one. (That last little bit is the result of a night's thinking over and a bit of insomnia patrol.)

6] "Stuck," in short, for now. (Most likely, I will try the Matt Campbell 2 GB+ implementation, once I get a 20 GB external drive to work (again) with the same machine.)
But then, if all of this were exceedingly simple and easy -- works first time, right out of the box or the download, "everyone" would be doing it! (Of course, perhaps a real techie would have fixed the problems in a jiffy and would be sailing away long since. But, sometimes, we have to climb a learning curve the hard way. That's part of what we pay for when we hire a techie, or a consultant. And techies are a bit scarce on the ground just now.)

Even so it is plain that a Moodle implementation of a cybercampus is very doable, we are obviously very close to success. (There is also a parallel case where a client needs a multiple-purpose web site with web page, blog, etc features, and so I am monitoring a "poor man's version" that if it works would be a simple "sign up here" deal. In short, I have not put all my eggs in the Moodle basket.)

So now, back to bed for a short catch-up nap. Then, maybe tomorrow, let's see on the next step in developing a virtual campus for the proposed Caribbean Vision Cybercollege. [H'mm, how does that "name" sound . . . ? Any ideas for a nice, catchy name?]

Again, even as we struggle with a few teething troubles and hiccups, it is helpful to remind ourselves of the importance of making the best use of our opportunities today, not next year or next decade.

So, let us remember the Mordecai principle:

Why not now? Why not here? Why not us? END

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