Isolating the Problem

Tech Tips for Tuesday

It’s 8:30 a.m. Do you know where your network is?

Although most of us don’t want to sign up for computer-networking classes, there are a few quick things we can do to help keep things rolling when we can’t reach network resources, such as Google Drive, YouTube, and Outlook WebApp (email).

When things seem slow, and you think something might be wrong with the PSUSD network, run a quick trace. The tracerouteutility has been available on the Internet for more than 20 years. You can run it from all platforms. Some samples:

  • On Windows, go into Command Prompt and type “tracerthttp://www.apple.com”; (substitute your favorite dependable server).
  • On Macs, go to Network Utilities and choose theTraceroute tab. (Again, you will have to specify a destination server.)
  • On iOS devices, there are several free apps. iNetTools is very straightforward.

Traceroute will give you a list of routers that your Internet packets hit between your machine and the destination server you choose. You should see a list of three or four of our district routers (with an address beginning with “10.”), and then a half dozen or more routers outside PSUSD. If the list ends at around four items, then it’s likely our district network is doing its job, but our connection to the outside world is down.

Why do you care? If things are working correctly in the districtbut our connection to the Internet is broken, you can still useemail, and you still have access to our L: drive and other internal resources (including networked printers).

A nice preventive step you can do before your school day starts is to store a backup copy of important files inside the district. You can use the L: drive, or you ask ETIS to let you sign up for ateacher web site. These are visible everywhere, and they’re available for upload when you’re inside the district. If the file you need is stored inside the PSUSD network, then you won’t care if our connection to the Internet goes down.

2013.15

Google Search Operators

Tech Tips for Tuesday

Do your students know how to use Google? Stupid question, right?

Most high-school students will instantly take any discussion topic and type the 
most obvious words into a search field, and bam! Five million hits! They look at the first five or six, and use the information in those linked resources in the paper they’re writing for you.

How good are those results? Aren’t they filled with 
duplicates and poor-quality information? Worse, aren’t the resources often one-sided, favoring Western sources over sources from the developing world, and popular sources over academic sources?

You can pre-filter your Google search results based on the
address of the server. For example, if you know you need something in India, you can begin your search terms with the characters site:in. The letters “in” are the Internet country code for India. Similarly, you can limit your results to only articles published by academic organizations using the site:edu code; usesite:stanford.edu to further restrict your results to only pages on a Stanford server.
 
Here are some sample searches, showing the progressive filtering as you use site to restrict servers:
  • pearl harbor (32,000,000 results, including commercial and American servers)
  • site:jp pearl harbor (117,000 results, from servers in Japan only)
  • site:ac.jp pearl harbor (39,000 results, from academic servers in Japan only)
To learn about “site” and other filtering options, Google this: Google search operators
2013.14

Short URLs

Tech Tips for Tuesday

Often you have a web resource you’d like to share with your students — a Google document, a web page, a PDF — that has an unwieldy URL. There are several web sites that will shorten your URL and give you a unique address that is easy to type and easy to write on a whiteboard. Although Google and Bitly provide excellent URL shortening services, these are blocked within PSUSD. Instead, use TinyURL, which is unblocked.
Find the URL you want to use, and copy it to your clipboard. Go to http://www.tinyurl.com, and paste the long URL into the “Enter a long URL” field. Click the “Make TinyURL!” button. You will get an abbreviated URL which you can copy or write on a whiteboard.
For further convenience, omit the protocol part of the URL (“http://”) and just start with the “www” part of the URL.
It probably goes without saying, but for this and all URLs, double check them in a browser — inside the district network, if you can — before you commit them to print.
2013.13

Search and Replace Options in Word

Tech Tips for Tuesday

You have a Word document in front of you which desperately needs some editing. The author has written about string instruments and a musician named Viola, and this author can’t spell. To make matters worse, there is a lot of French sprinkled in for effect.
One troublesome sentence among many: “Voila Vanderhoff switched from bass vile to voila and voila! — the violent vilinists stopped reviolting!” You want to fix these errors throughout the document without breaking the occasional correctly spelled word.
Microsoft Word and Excel have the power to pick delicately through specific strings of characters when doing global edits. Press Ctl-H (the standard Search-and-Replace shortcut), and look at the options.
Match case: fix Viola’s name only, without touching any lowercase words.
Use wildcards: type “vilinist*” (with an asterisk) in the Find field to fix plural and singular words in one search
Find whole words only: fix “reviolting” without breaking “violent”
You can also include the space character in “bass vile” in your Find, to leave all the correct uses of “vile” intact. Likewise,including the exclamation mark in your search for “voila!” will allow you to include the missing accent mark without breaking all the correct spellings of the musical instrument viola and the musician Viola.
Et voilà!
2013.12

Switching Between Tasks in Windows and Chrome

Tech Tips for Tuesday

Working in Word but need to switch to Chrome to check for Facebook notifi… I mean, so you can enter grades in Synergy?
 
When you have multiple tasks running and you want to switch to a new one, you don’t need to grab the mouse, move it to the bottom of the screen, wait for the task bar to appear, and click on the task’s icon. It’s faster to keep both hands on the keyboard. Windows users, just hold the Alt key down with your left thumb and scroll through your current tasks by tapping the Tab key. Release both keys when you reach the task you want. (Mac users substitute the Apple key for the Alt key.)
 
Likewise, you can switch between tabs in Chrome using the Ctl-Tab key sequence. (This works in the Chrome browser on all operating systems.) Whether switching tasks or tabs, you can reverse the order of the scrolling by holding down the Shift key as you go.
2013.11

Chromebook Keyboard Shortcuts

Tech Tips for Tuesday

Chromebook users, there are dozens of keyboard shortcuts available for you, and they’re all collected in convenient overlays.
 
Press Ctl+Alt+? (hold down the Ctl key and the Alt key and the ? key, and then release all keys) to see a map of shortcuts. In addition to this first layer of shortcuts, you can see others by pressing the Ctl key or the Alt key. To exit the shortcuts maps, press the Esc key.
2013.10

Google Presentation for Unattended Slideshows

Tech Tips for Tuesday

You can use Google Presentation for kiosk applications. Last week, I used it to post my final-exam rules in a constant rotationthrough the entire period.

Just build the presentation in Google Drive, and then use thePublish to Web… option on the File menu. The dialog box lets you select options such as automatic start, automatic restart, and time delay between slides.

I wanted a twelve-second delay, but that isn’t offered in the drop-down field. I found you can just change this in the URL. It’s coded as milliseconds, so I changed the 10000 at the end to 12000.

Here’s the URL I used on my projector screen all day Friday:

https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1ThOJV_WpPNtbTQirHkkVNxIfGEuAqnzy4hZO_bj9USM/pub?start=false&loop=true&delayms=10000

2013.9

Automatically Removing Unwanted Mail

Tech Tips for Tuesday

I recently found myself in an email vortex revolving around some kind of unwise office romance between a teacher and a principal, in some remote district I know nothing about. It was not as interesting as it sounds. Most of the messages consisted of Reply Alls from people asking not to be emailed about this.
 
Just so we’re clear: Email messages, in my inbox, from strangers who were complaining (to me) about getting email from strangers.
 
I made the problem vanish with an Inbox Rule in Outlook, like this:
 
1) Copy the subject of the offending messages.
2) Go to Options | Create an Inbox Rule
3) New
4) Apply this rule… * When the message arrives, and: It includes these words in the subject (paste the subject here)
5) Do the following: Delete the message
6) Save
2013.8

Smarter Searching in Google Drive

Tech Tips for Tuesday

Little Johnny says he finished the document on time and shared itwith you, but you don’t want to dig through hundreds of student documents in Google Drive right now. (The alphabetic sort isn’t really reliable.) Assuming you’re using a file-naming convention, you may want to use the asterisk for smarter searching.
 
In the Search field at the top of Google drive, type the information you know, with an asterisk standing for the information you don’t know. For example, if all your period 1 graphing equations documents are named PERIOD1-LASTNAME-FIRSTNAME-GRAPHING-EQUATIONS, and you want to quickly locate Johnny’s document, enter PERIOD1*JOHNNY* and press Enter. You shouldinstantly have a small set of appropriate documents to choose from.
2013.7

Turning Off your LCD Projector

Tech Tips for Tuesday

Raise your hand if this drives you nuts: You don’t need the projector right now, so you turn it off — but then you realize you need it again, and now you have to wait for it to warm up!
 
Instead of turning it off, press the AV Mute button (on the wall panel). It will go dark, but it will stay warmed up. When you press the AV Mute button again, it will light up again instantly.
2013.7