Monthly Archives: November 2007

Trey’s new home computer

One would think that researching and purchasing computers for the University would make it easier to purchase a computer to use at home.  For me this just isn’t the case.  For one thing I am cheap.  I start configuring a system with all the goodies I want, and I am suddenly looking at a computer that costs $1,700-2,500.  Ouch!  So I asked myself, what does this computer really need to do.  I want to:

  • check e-mail,
  • surf the Internet,
  • write,
  • work with numbers and presentations,
  • play music,
  • handle my digital photos, and that’s about it.

So here is what I did. I found a refurbished IBM Thinkpad at Tiger Direct for around $500.  The Thinkpad I chose is a lightweight laptop with a 14” screen, Pentium M processor, CD-RW/DVD, 1G RAM, a 60G hard drive, Windows XP Pro, and a 1 year warranty.  Not a power house, but solid, proven, and dependable performer.  Windows XP Pro ran well on the computer, but I decided to look into Linux.   Linux runs a computer just like Windows or the Mac operating system does (the Mac OS is a version of Unix just like Linux.)  Linux has been around for years, and has been considered an operating system for “computer geeks”.  Recent improvements to versions of the Linux operating system have made it more user friendly.  Many computer manufacturers are offering computers running the Linux operating system right next to Windows based computers these days. 

I talked with Chris Rutledge and Pat Riehecky in IT about the versions of Linux they like best.  They both were singing praises of Ubuntu Linux version 7.10.   I did some research, downloaded the free installer from and burned it to a CD.  The Ubuntu distribution CD comes with Open Office for word processing, spreadsheets and presentations.  Open office works similarly to Microsoft Office and is compatible with Microsoft Office documents.  Also included are programs to edit, scan in, and view photos, listen to music and watch movies.  The Firefox web browser is included, as well as an instant messaging client, an e-mail client, several games, and many other goodies.  All the features I wanted for my new computer.  Another neat feature is that Ubuntu and the bundled applications are Open Source, in other words, available for free (I did mention that I am cheap).

The Ubuntu operating system is easy to use.  If a person has used Windows or the Mac operating system, they will have no problems using a computer running Ubuntu.  I am very happy with the computers performance.   Programs load and run very quickly.  My printer and digital camera installed very easily.  I plugged the devices in, the computer configured them in about 10 seconds and told me the devices are ready to use.  I have the e-mail client checking my IWU e-mail, and have consolidated all of my pictures on the computer.  So far the computer is perfect for my needs, and seems to find it’s way to my lap every evening.

I will post updates to my computer adventure as I discover new features and install new software.

backing up moves forward

Perhaps a device like this will solve the backup conundrum:

 These are external hard drives that automatically sync a portion your backup to a server on their network. This provides easy offsite storage with the convenience of having a backup drive on your desk. The speed and reliability of the service remains to be seen, but this is a step in the right direction.

 Mac users who upgrade to OS X 10.5 have a similarly streamlined tool called Time Machine. This software automatically does incremental backups every hour, day and week. You can set the destination to an external drive or to an Apple Xserve server. I took a look at the Apple website but saw no indication that this software works with their .Mac network storage service. Perhaps in future versions Time Machine will allow mirrored backups to external disk and an internet-based network storage service…

easy ways to read internet news and blogs

Patrick and I were talking yesterday about the “types” of people who want to read news and blogs on the internet. Nearly everyone uses the web to go out and read articles, so even if they don’t know it they are gathering feed-based information. This most basic method of information hunting-and-gathering is just fine, but there might be another way that fits your personal work patterns better.

Here is the breakdown as I see it. People will tend to do one or more of the following:

  1. go out to multiple websites each day and read articles, columns, journals, and news on their own “home pages”
  2. use a web-based service (Bloglines, Google Reader) to collect, or aggregate, the information on a single web page
  3. use a program (like Thunderbird) to collect articles from favorite news sources and treat them like e-mail

I personally like getting my news alongside my e-mail using Mozilla Thunderbird. I check my e-mail quite frequently and tend to fall behind on reading my favorite websites. By getting a message every time a new article is posted, I can keep up with things better. This is solely a factor of the way I like to work, not a choice based on efficiency or “correctness.” 

We at IT expect other people feel the same way, so I’ve prepared a quick guide for any Thunderbird user who might want to try out gathering feeds in this way. Let me know if it helps!

We need your assistance.

Information Technology needs your help. We are working to make improvements to the e-mail system. As work is done to make these improvements, we are asking people to take a look at the messages they have saved to see if unwanted or large messages could be deleted from the e-mail server.

How to help

Log in to and access your e-mail

  1. Click on your Sent folder and take a look to see if any of these messages could be deleted – removing messages with attachments will help free up even more space
  2. Click on your Trash or Deleted mailbox – Delete any messages in this mailbox.
  3. Remove any old or unneeded messages from your Inbox. E-mails with pictures and presentations attached can take a large portion of e-mail storage space. Save the attachments to your computer and delete the corresponding message.

Thank you for your assistance.

If you have questions about forwarding or archiving your mail please call 556-3900.

picking the right web tool for the job

Choosing to use a technology tool in a class can lead one down a difficult road. One important key is to figure out what tool to use for the job at hand. So do you use discussion groups, a digital movie project, a wiki, or a blog? To analogize, I wouldn’t want to use a belt sander to grout my bathroom tile, so it would be nice to better understand the nature of these different tools.

So how does one decide what tool or is the best for a specific application or need?

 I’ve found a couple of helpful guides to better understand blogs and wikis in the context of teaching and active learning: