COVID19 work from home

COVID19 has been challenging for everyone.  Most people have been great at maintaining and upgrading their services/skills while working from home.

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Updates Feb 2015

Updates Feb 2015

  • A problem with Google Chrome browser is that it makes too many long-term simultaneous connections out to the Internet, overloading our parent filter system.  So for busy high schools I created a parent filter “cloud” service. This allows for us to dynamically grow the number of instances of parent filters as needed.  Teachers can still use the teacher tools to disable the filters as needed on a per-lab basis.
  • BCeSIS updated their certificates causing several Elementary Schools to loose access to BCeSIS.  We worked with the BCeSIS team to resolve this issue.

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Updates Jan 2015

Following Changes From November 2014 to January 2015

  • Upgraded Google Chrome – several times.
  • Upgraded Firefox to Extended Release Support – geared up for Enterprise: Schools, Universities, Government, Business.
  • Upgraded Java – several times.
  • Speed up printers and resolve some issues:
    • Speed up print jobs by optimizing print resolution.
    • Fix Google Chrome not able to print to Tosihba copiers. Disabled Chrome’s print-preview.
    • Speed up printing.  Apple changed CUPS print server to a PDF – based system.  Print settings had to be optimized for LibreOffice, Chrome and other apps.
    • Speed up printing by removing local cups servers.  First fix bug in CUPS so LibreOffice can print directly to the server.
  • Java’s built-in security is now stopping many older websites from working.  Added exceptions for several well known java-based websites.  If you have a java website that is not working, please send site url to  servicedesk and ask for us to add it to java’s security exception list.
  • Speed up thin clients as well as reduce load on server and network. Updated secondary school Thin Clients to use compressed network file-system.  Elementary schools have not yet been updated.
  • Speed up school websites: Moodle, Mahara, WordPress, Drupal etc.   Combined source code into a shared code-base.  Shared code allows the web server to optimize it’s cache as well as reduce the overall memory footprint.
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Recent Updates:

  • Google Chrome – upgraded.  Chrome is pushing HTML5 so they have dropped support for Java and 3rd party browser media playback.  If you need Java for BCeSIS or Oasis please use Firefox link on your desktop.
  • LibreOffice – upgraded.  Microsoft had found a way to craft a docx file that would crash their competition. The latest update works with the newer Microsoft files.
  • Moodle – upgraded in September.
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Minetest for a Mindtest

A few schools are testing out minecraft but not all schools want to deal with licensing and some have issues with not-so-educational content.  However MineTest is a minecraft like building game with the advantage of having some educational mods.  Below is a sample of of the teaching mod.

[youtube width=”640″ height=”360″][/youtube]

I hope to soon have some free time to put together some tutorials on how to create and share lessons.

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squashfs + nbd compared to nfs

This is a comparison of various block size settings for both squashfs paired with nbd(network block device).  I was looking to see if it out-performs standard nfs as well as look into optimal block size settings.  It seems default block settings are optimal for squashfs (128k) and nbd(1024).  Not only is nbd + squashfs faster but they also reduces the load on the network itself this helps alleviate the current 1000 backbone bottleneck between switches.

Time in seconds – lower is better.

512 nbd 1024 nbd 2048 nbd 4096 nbd Size
4k squash 81.27 96.00 96.05 96.37 7329.35
8k squash 65.46 64.77 65.29 65.36 7114.52
16k squash 54.75 55.55 55.66 55.65 6956.80
32k squash 48.04 59.56 47.65 57.51 6831.49
64k squash 48.01 47.94 47.79 47.80 6728.61
128k squash 47.86 46.78 default 46.73 46.86 6676.55


CPU Usage – lower is better:

4k squash 33.00% 28.00% 28.00% 27.00%
8k squash 35.00% 34.00% 35.00% 35.00%
16k squash 37.00% 36.00% 36.00% 36.00%
32k squash 38.00% 31.00% 38.00% 32.00%
64k squash 38.00% 38.00% 38.00% 38.00%
128k squash 37.00% 38.00% 38.00% 38.00%

NFS  58 to 70 seconds


Times were gathered with:
time cat /usr/bin/* /usr/sbin/*

du -sh /usr/bin /usr/sbin
572M  /usr/bin
29M /usr/sbin
601M total

I had compressed the entire /usr partition but only ran tests on /usr/sbin and /usr/bin.  Here are the compression for mksquashfs defaults @131072 (128K).

Filesystem size 6836785.50 Kbytes (6676.55 Mbytes)
49.93% of uncompressed filesystem size (13691786.46 Kbytes)
Inode table size 5792060 bytes (5656.31 Kbytes)
27.58% of uncompressed inode table size (20997401 bytes)
Directory table size 5228332 bytes (5105.79 Kbytes)
39.70% of uncompressed directory table size (13169842 bytes)

With ~50% reduction in file-system size I do see a significant reduction on the 1000 network backbone running between switches.

Another benefit to the squashfs+nbd is that the clients are much faster at loading menu’s and icons as the directory scans needed to find the icons perform very well with nbd+squashfs and when compared to the poor performance of directory scans over nfs.



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Recent updates for 2012

Here is a summary of some of the updates and changes that have been done to the schools in October-December:

  • Upgraded from Firefox 5 to Firefox 16.0.2.
  • Upgraded Exam Mode image to include both Nvidia and ATI drivers as well as updates to firefox & java.
  • Fixed BCeSIS font size issue for the phone number field.  I was also able to hide several of the BCeSIS warning screens.
  • Fixed Adobe Reader printing so that department codes are now properly passed to the Toshiba Copiers.
  • Upgraded Google Chrome to 12.0.742.112.
  • OpenOffice stores Toshiba department codes inside the document.  When a staff member changes schools or department codes their old documents get flagged as invalid.   Created a tool that removes embedded department codes from OpenOffice documents: K=>Settings=>Fix Department Codes.
  • ATI video driver support has been added to SKSS, Sahali, and HGEC.
  • Room Booking Lobby TV Monitors have been installed at the SBO and HGEC.  I’ve coded it so that the Steno’s can input bookings and Carlo can upload his photos.

I’m still working on the next desktop image.  In November tried rolling out a Mint Cinnamon desktop in a SKSS lab.  The Mint desktop was too buggy and kept crashing so I pulled it out.  I’m now working on both KDE4 and XFCE desktops based on 12.04 LTS release.

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Upgrade code named vs3

VS3 Desktop

New Desktop for Schools.

John has me working the next Desktop Upgrade for the district.  It will be piloted in the SKSS Library lab in November 2012.  In addition to updates to all software packages here are some new features coming to the schools:

  • Simpler desktop moving from KDE to Mint.
  • Teachers will be able to control the labs from a web browser.  Watch screens, toggle dansguardian, toggle internet and toggle games etc.  Having it in a web browser means teachers can use tablet and mobile devices to monitor student lab activity.  Tools also now indicate current status: red=off  green=on.
  • Java BCeSIS font issues have been fixed – you can now see the entire phone number field.
  • Upgrade from OpenOffice to LibreOffice.
  • New Shecwepemc dictionaries in LibreOffice and Firefox.  Thanks to the late Neskie Manuel for his work preserving the Shuswap language.

Teacher Tools

New web-based Teacher Tools being developed in the IT Dungeon.



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Slow Moodle Editing

Moodle 2.3 is installed for our high schools. There is bug when editing large courses that causes the browser to slow down to a crawl. The current work-around is to use Google Chrome.
K=>Internet=>Web Browsers=>Google Chrome

Moodle plans to have this fixed by November 12, 2012.  We may upgrade at that time or wait for the winter break.

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Kahn Academy

Khan Academy is in the news again.  Once intended for a young cousin, Sal Khan’s online tutorials now attract millions of people, laying the groundwork for a new approach to education.  View the CNET article and watch the CBS NEWS video.  Links have been added to the SD73 Eduweb resource directory under Math and Science.



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