Monthly Archives: June 2007

PDF repair

I’ve spent an hour now trying to fix some broken PDFs and I must say this is not a joyous experience. The docs¬†have correct file sizes but display as blank pages in Adobe Reader. None of the features in Acrobat 8 Professional seem to help recover the data. There are a couple of free tools that claim to be able to repair PDFs under certain circumstances (not mine though). First was PDFTK, also known as PDF toolkit. This is a command line tool for Windows that does various document processing functions. Another that I’m trying is called jPDFtweak. It is a java based GUI tool that claims to be the “Swiss Army Knife for PDF files”. So far it has crashed on both my Mac and my Vista machine.

Looks like I’ll be recommending a rescanning project!

Microsoft training

Today was the start of a three-day onsite Microsoft Vista training class at work. I’ve been to lots of these courses and I guess I’ve adapted to them. Others didn’t take to it so easily. Upon reflection I can see why. The first module is all about “troubleshooting methodology”. While I understand that someone wishing to become a MS certified support person would need to know Microsoft’s doctrine on troubleshooting techniques, I’m not so sure it needs to be an instructor-led piece, and I’m dead sure it shouldn’t lead off the first day.

Furthermore, the whole class is done with virtualization. This is a cool, cheap way to go that doesn’t waste a lot of time (except in setting up). However it is kind of hard to conceptualize a series of remote connections to virtual machines on the same single physical PC.

I have learned a few neat support tricks that I’m not sure I would have found otherwise. Apparently there is now a Windows Recovery Environment that trumps the old command line Recovery Console. It includes a memory test – better 12 years late than never! I also never realized that the msconfig application in Vista has an extra tab. You can use it to launch a number of different tools, including a reg file that disables/enables User Account Control.

I certainly hope that the rest of the class will find similar gems even among the questionable course design by MS. I’d hate to see this first group training effort be our last!

why would faculty want to blog?

A number of us just completed a 2-day workshop on technology for a select group of faculty here at Illinois Wesleyan. Naturally 2 days is not enough time to even establish the foundations of enhancing teaching and learning with¬†updated communication and research techniques. We had to blast through a lot of topics and examples of a few of the more ubiquitous tools in quite a hurry. I’m afraid that in the rush we might not have expressed why certain types of technology might be attractive to an already busy faculty member. Here are a few thoughts about what might “seduce” a teacher into authoring a blog:

  • at its most basic, blogging is about self-publishing. Anyone with opinions, expertise, or criticisms can simply post to a blog to share it with the world. This sounds a heck of a lot easier (for the casual bits of work) than submitting papers and writing journal articles. A group of undergraduates who tackle heavy scholarly work in a blog could take pride in that work standing up to scrutiny in an extremely public forum.
  • Most of the work is done for you. Barbara Ganley referred to a blog as a “vessel” for your content. You don’t have to design a webpage, learn code, or understand how the internet works. You write, you click “publish” and your work is out there. It is automatically archived by date and by categories that you provide.
  • Our mission statement says “A liberal education at Illinois Wesleyan fosters creativity, critical thinking, effective communication, strength of character and a spirit of inquiry”. I believe that our faculty will benefit from investigating new means of communication simply by expanding their perspective. I suspect that it is with strength of character and a spirit of inquiry that a teacher must adapt, improve, and learn.