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That’s totally the way it works… November 18, 2012

Posted by mareserinitatis in computers.
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When you finally have the time to sit down and work on something that you’ve been putting on the backburner but is very important, you know what’s going to happen: the computer will decide it’s the time to have a temper tantrum.

Computers will make our lives better! September 3, 2012

Posted by mareserinitatis in computers, engineering, teaching.
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Some days I really wonder.  I mean, my research would be almost impossible without computers.  However, I sometimes wonder about using them so much for teaching.

On the one hand, computers are very helpful if you’re attempting to implement universal design in a classroom.  Computers make things far more accessible.

And then there’s the other hand…

After last year, I decided that I would make one major change to the class.  I decided that, as much as possible, I would not accept in-class submission of homework assignments.  There are a few assignments my students must do on paper, such as their course schedule.  However, they have several assignments that are, more or less, short essays.  There are also assignments where they need to submit a file, like a powerpoint.  In order to avoid all the hassle of collecting assignments and handing them back (especially given one of those hassles is that it’s easy to lose submissions that are not handed in with everyone else’s), I figured that electronic submission would be a great way to keep track of these assignments.

Except…it seems like we’ve been plagued with technical difficulties so far this year.  Last week, a couple of the students couldn’t get in to submit their assignments.  (One brought his laptop to class to show me the problem.)  Yesterday, I was trying to post class notes, which students need to do their next assignment, but it wouldn’t allow me to upload any files.  Today, we can’t access the online classroom at all.

Obviously I’m going to give the students extra time because of these issues, but I hope they’re resolved soon.  I’m not sure I can deal with issues like this all semester.

Stupid computer tricks March 29, 2012

Posted by mareserinitatis in computers, research.
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I swear I’d be a help-desk person’s worst nightmare.

I’ve been struggling to get an application up and running, and when I requested some help, I was sent a bashrc file that was supposed to fix some path problems.  I installed this on Tuesday night, but things still didn’t seem to be working right.  I asked my husband for help (given he’s a lot more Unix literate than I am), and he couldn’t figure out what was going on, either.  Even after logging out and back in and then running the initialization again, it still couldn’t find the application I was trying to use.  It was like I’d never installed the file.  After spending well over an hour on this, we gave up.

Then next day, I was trying to show the problems to the person who sent me the file.  Except that when I showed hir, everything worked just as it was supposed to.

I’m glad it works now, but I sure wish the timing wasn’t perfect to make me look like an idiot.

Buggy March 12, 2011

Posted by mareserinitatis in computers, engineering, work.
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I’ve been having problems at work of a technical nature.  Things have been generally difficult the past two weeks because I’ve found two problems with the software I usually work with.

I have to admit that when I’m using commercial software, my expectations are pretty high.  If I were using my own software, I would expect bugs.  Part of programming is debugging, sadly.  But if you’re paying for the software, that gives a different perspective.

The first problem was really strange.  I spent over a week trying to fix things myself by changing my models.  Nothing I did seemed to work, so I finally gave up and contacted the developers.  Yep, definitely a bug.

The second problem was more of an annoyance, and I was able to find a workaround myself.

The problem with this is that I spend a lot of time not knowing if these problems creep up because of my own incompetence with the program or if there really is something wrong with the program.  I therefore spend a significant amount of time trying to check myself and talking with the other engineers who are familiar with the software.

But it’s really a relief to get that email saying, “It’s not you!” It’s nice to know that sometimes it’s not my brain that’s buggy.


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