Off the Twitter Timeline: Clunky WebCT

Summize provides a great way to troll for what people are saying. Beyond just searching for a term, it provides RSS feeds for terms. I follow several, such Blackboard and WebCT. The WebCT one netted me the following tweet:

annoyed with how clunky webct can be at times – it had to have been designed circa 2000 – amandakern

WebCT products, whether CE or Vista, have always been clunky. Ease of use has always been a problem with the products. Any improvements Vista made were offset by so many more tools and options to make it the net effect more clunky. I’ve seen some sales people and Dr. Cs whip through the navigation like it is easy to use Vista. Practice makes perfect. Too bad the developers can’t be perfect.

Whenever I see schools pick a product, I think the ones who have Ease of use on their list probably have been using WebCT legacy products for years as opposed to Blackboard products. They and their faculty are scarred enough they cannot afford to get it wrong on ease of use again.

IMS Data Going to Wrong Place

I should know better than to trust documentation over my own intuition. Or to change based on what others tell me.

I followed:

Log in to Vista Enterprise as a Server Administrator or Institution Administrator.
NOTE: To set glcid, you must log in as a Server Administrator.

From the Administration tab, click the Utilities tab.
Click Settings.

Under System Integration, click System Integration API IMS….

Enter values to configure settings. See the table that follows, Standard and IMS Adapter
details on each value.

Click Save Values. The Settings screen appears and the settings are configured.

Standard and IMS Adapter Settings
The following table describes the parameters you can set using the administration user interface.
Setting Description
GlcId

• Stands for global learning context identifier.
Set by Server Administrator only.
Required to run IMS and Standard adapter
commands.

• Identifies the institution in which the adapter
command runs
• Automatically assigned by Vista Enterprise
upon creation of an institution

Of course, it doesn’t say which Glcid, right? After all, every learning context has a Glcid. Since, at the time I only had one institution (before I created the 54 others), I set the Glcid to the one for that institution. Should it be the Glcid for the server or domain learning context? If so, then couldn’t Blackboard just pre-populate it at the time of install? Why do I need to put it there?

At the same time, I didn’t believe it necessary because I had seen IMS imports work without the Glcid set at the server learning context. They worked because the command used to run the IMS import has the glcid.

The result? My imports went into the the institution with the Glcid set at the server learning context, despite the defining in the command I ran to use a different Glcid. Removing the Glcid from the server learning context settings allowed the command to work as I thought it should.

So much for a pristine, clean database.

RSS Is Relatively New?

The email was an innocuous “Ooh, shiney!” message. RSS feeds are now available for a status site. However, one thing concerned me….

RSS is a relatively new and easy way to distribute content and information via the Internet.

I personally have been aware of RSS since 2002. However, as I am a relatively late adopter of technology, I was not surprised to learn RSS has been around since July 1999. This technology has been available for nine years. 1999 is the same year IE5 became available. That is a few months before Windows 2000 became available. This is before the technology bust which weeded out much of the Internet craps. (Are we due for another one of those?) Next year we can celebrate the 10th anniversary of RSS. Can we really call it new when we celebrate it being around for a decade?

The point of “relatively” was to soften the word new. I was supposed to be mollified by it isn’t really new but it isn’t really old and is closer to new than old. It just sounded to me like whoever wrote it only heard about RSS within the past two years or so. So maybe the message was more “Ooh, shiney!” for them than for me.

IMS Import Error When Node Is Down

This is what I got when a node was down while I attempted to do an IMS import in Blackboard CE/Vista.

Failed to upload files, exiting.
Cause could include invalid permission on file/directory,
invalid file/directory or
repository related problems

The keywords permission, file, and directory in this would have sent me anywhere but to the right place. The keyword repository made me suspicious the node had a worse issue than just bad permissions. So I looked for the most recent WebCTServer log and found it to be a week old. Verifying the last messages in the log confirmed it had been down for a week.
🙁

To see anything in the log questioning whether or not the node was running would have saved me lots of time this morning.

Added to my .bashrc a couple lines to provide a visual indicator how many are running.

JAVA_RUNNING=`ps -ef | grep [j]ava | grep -c [v]ista`
echo ”  — No. Vista processess running = $JAVA_RUNNING”

Better might even be to have it evaluate whether less than one or more than two (or three) are running. If so, then put something obvious the world is falling. Maybe later. Took me just a couple minutes to write and test what I have. The rest will come after I decide what I really want. 🙂

Also, it wasn’t running because a coworker had run into a situation where the fifth node would not start. She thought maybe it was because the number of connection Oracle would accept was not high enough. I suggested a simple test would be to shut down a node and see if the problem one suddenly works. I happened to be working with the one she shut down for the test. It happens she had just started a script to bring them up when I asked.

QotD: Words of Wisdom

Where do you go for advice?

I seek advice by researching it using Google to collect results. Through refinement in approximation, I can find a solution for many a problem.

Should this make me more confused, I seek out an expert or even knowledgeable person from my internal memory store for this purpose. In fact, if I never needed to do this, then I would never make an effort to get to know people. Online tools like social networks just makes it easy to keep up with people.

Failing this, I probably would go to Amy, Michelle, George 1, George 2, Mom, Dad, William, Angie, Steve, Jeff, or Paul. By the time it gets to them, I have already been thinking about it for some time. So they might get a nuance of the problem rather than the whole problem.

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Tumblr

I’m not a fan of Tumblr. At the moment I use it for a partial life stream (a chronological aggregated view of your life activities both online and offline – thanks Krynsky). It is just publishing a feed of several of my blogs. It a very limited public view.

The one main thing I dislike about Tumblr is the lack of comments. While my blog doesn’t have a lot of comments, I like that it offers the opportunity. Tumblr not having the opportunity means publishing in a vacuum. Which I think defeats the purpose. So I’d never use Tumblr to replace this or any other blog unless comments appear or comments become less important to me.

A confusing aspect of their service is the “Re-blog”. It wasn’t clear to me for some time items re-blogged were not created by the person doing so. Unlike most other services making life streams, there is not an indicator an item did not originate from another site other than in many cases they are abbreviated and have a link to the source.

I probably will continue to use it for some time to come. It just is not something I use. Stuff just flows there from the places I do use.

Our First Arrest From Student Cheating

We have investigated over a dozen incidents of possible user abuse of our systems in the past couple years. This is the first time I seen someone arrested based on our investigation. This is especially true because saying definitively what someone did is so shaky. I would be surprised for it to hold up in court. Thankfully I didn’t investigate this one. Maybe this is why the bigwigs were coming around yesterday afternoon asking about the incident?

It does point to the need for the faculty to protect themselves from identity theft from their students.

Student hacker at Ga. Highlands College arrested
Police say he sought to steal passwords and change his grades

By CHRIS MEGERIAN
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 07/25/08

Police are saying a Georgia college student took the pursuit of good grades a step too far.

Christopher Fowler, 19, was arrested Thursday for hacking into Georgia Highlands College’s computer system to alter his grades and steal passwords from other users.

He was charged with computer trespassing and unlawful eavesdropping. Officials say more charges are possible, related to identity theft.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation was called onto the case after the Kennesaw State University Police Department began to suspect that Fowler had gained entry to the Highland College’s computer system using the identity of a math professor.

Four computers were confiscated at Fowler’s home in Cartersville, and he was sent to Bartow County Jail.

GBI spokesperson John Bankhead said Fowler had access to the private information of those connected to the college’s computer network, but it’s unclear what, if anything, Fowler did with the data.

Student hacker at Ga. Highlands College arrested | ajc.com

We Need a 4th Vista DBA / Technical Support

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PDF of GeorgiaVIEW DBA position

Check out the PDF (right) for more information.

Sorry for the convoluted route to the application…

  • Click this link to go to our HR site.
  • Click the “View Job Postings / Apply for Job” link.
  • Check the “Information Instructional Tech” box.
  • Enter “learning” for the keyword and click search.
  • Systems Support Specialist 3” is our DBA position. We also have a Business Systems Analyst position for a less technical position.

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