December 2007 Archives

December 26, 2007

Steam Airship Progress

It's been a while since I have posted anything about the airship that I have been working on. Needless to say, there hasn't been a lot of progress, as the national helium shortage continues. But, in the mean time, I have been working on the boiler.

I got interested in a new project with steam when I saw this video on making a steam powered candle. It was so simple, I thought I could talk my wife into letting me get the parts. Well, I couldn't find a small enough copper tubing. The tubing I did find (actually housing for a furnace thermostat) was too big, and sunk the tea-light candle that I was using. But it fit well into the test tube that I had set aside for the airship as a boiler. ^_^

So, I connected the tubing to the boiler, and set it up over my canister of chafing fuel. It worked like a charm! The water boiled quickly, the steam exited, and nothing blew (my real worry). So now, I just need a small engine or turbine.

I was going to build a quick turbine out of the left over parts of the thermostat and a soda can, but we didn't have any soda cans. The weekend being Christmas, I decided I would just wait until later in the week to build the turbine.

So, while I have been waiting, I found a very useful website on building steam engines. It's posted by a university in order to build their program, which is fine for me. Ultimately, it gives me some great ideas on various other steam engine applications I can use, namely my ambition to build a steamer automobile (once my wife can be talked into it ^_^).

December 20, 2007

Apple Training V: The Final Impressions

Now that I have things pretty much under control back home, I promised that I would post my impressions on the Apple Training upgrade to 10.5 that I attended for the past two weeks.

The Design
Overall, the design actually follows some instructional design techniques, unlike the Tiger materials. The student, as they progress through the course, must utilize the techniques, steps, and knowledge they had acquired in previous chapters. Building upon the previous material the students are reinforced in that material, and are not treated as mindless children that can't learn. Constructivist theories at the heart of it, which makes me happy. THe command line is no longer separate from the individual events that the commands apply to, but rather you learn the command line all through the book. Finally, the training becomes professional, and therefore something I am proud to offer at the University.

The Materials
The materials are being published through PeachPit, though the student kits will only be available to an Apple Authorized Training Center. They are very well done, with bits of the lecture in with the slide presentations. They no longer follow the Reference book, which has additional assignments should someone want to continue on with their learning in another direction. The only thing that I currently see wrong is having a place for notes, should the instructor choose to cover a specific topic in more detail. Other than that, it will be professionally bound, and cost less than the workbooks that were available from Apple. ^_^ Good news for any Apple Authorized Training Center.

The Test
now that I have taken both tests, I can say that the tests are written a little better than the previous test, though I took the longer version than will be available for everyone else. The test will be designed to have someone sit for 2 hours (mine was designed for someone to sit for 2.5 hours), and instead of killing all the easy questions, both easy and hard questions will be removed from the test. This way the test results will be generally higher, and passing will also need to be higher. For now, it will still be multiple choice, but they are looking into some real application and development along that front. What I would like to see is a practical sit-down test, similar to Red Hat's exams, which no one can just memorize an answer without learning something. Apple Training would like to see it as well, so it's good to see that we are on the same page. ^_^

The Staff
Apple Training has gone through a lot of changes recently, with most of the staff being laid off. This comes from a common belief that the Macintosh platform is so easy to use, there shouldn't need to be any training for it (i.e., the Apple Executives that don't want to pay for a Training Department). Unfortunately, this is the way many companies are moving, and leads us into a longer rant about the importance of training, and the quick decisions to axe training in corporate environments to save money. Anyway, those that are left are really the cream of the crop, and being led by someone that really has a fantastic vision for the direction training should go.

Final Thoughts
My trip to Austin was bumpy, my trip back was agitated. I had more bad experiences in Austin than I have had in just about any other city, but all in all I liked it. I'm actually making a plan to head down to San Antonio in a couple of years, as we plan a trip to Oklahoma to visit some family. So it wasn't the worst experience I have ever had in traveling (that would be the time I was in JFK and a baggage car rammed into our plane, delaying us 5 hours). All in all, it was productive, and this Spring we can start with the 10.5 materials. In the meantime, I am going to see if it's possible to set up a testing environment for the Macintosh that will let me grade someone on the progress they have setting up a machine, both at the Computer and Server level.

December 12, 2007

Apple Training IV: Auditory Learners and Cognitive Load

I'm an auditory learner. Yes, I admit it freely. I have to read something, say it in my head, or hear someone talk about it and write it down in order to process it properly. As such, there are some limitations, or a limit to my cognitive load that I can handle before I get so overwhelmed I turn off. That limit comes when there are a lot of people talking at the same time, or when someone talks so fast that their words become a blur.

Why do I bring this up, you may ask? Well, this week has been nothing but people talking about minute details after minute details, arguing over issues that are not real issues, trying to get their suggestions in the new Apple training for Server (which is pretty much set in stone anyway, save some minor changes). As such, I have been unable to focus on half the stuff that the presenter has been trying to get across, partly because of the unnecessary comments or complaints, and partly because the presenter has been trying to speed up the lessons by talking as fast as he can.

As such, I have often reached my cognitive load rather quickly, and soon turn off to the instructor. Unfortunately, I need to be able to pass the certification exam, so instead of trying to catch up with the material through the quagmire that is the classroom, I have been reading ahead in the books, taking my own notes, and doing the assignments on my own.

Now, to be fair, there are over 40 people in the room. That means that even when people are trying to get things to work (when they don't read and follow the directions), everyone else is finished and socializing. This is, after all, the first time many of us have seen each other in a long time.

Anyway, at present I am ahead of the class by a full assignment, and will probably finish fairly early tomorrow. That's good, because I want to go over the new material (i.e. Mail, Web, and Collaborative Services) in more detail before the test on Friday. When I finish, get home, and get a chance to rest, I'll post my impressions of the training overall, and what I think of the new material. So far, actually, it's been great material. I'll explain why later. ^_^

December 8, 2007

Apple Training III: Weekend Break

Now that we have finished with the Support Essentials class, we have taken a break for the weekend. Some people have flown back to their homes, flown out to visit families, or gone on to visit friends in the area. Because it would have cost more to send me back to Salt Lake for the weekend, and then fly out again, I instead remained in Austin. What to do?

Well, since this is my first trip to Texas, I wanted to see the most famous landmark in the area: The Alamo. Now, the Alamo is in San Antonio, which is roughly 1.5 hours drive from Austin. I struggled with the decision, weighing the pros of going to the cons of possibly getting killed on the Texas Freeway system, and decided to go for it. I got in my car this morning at 10:00 am (central time), and headed south.

The drive was great! I stayed primarily on one road, so there was a minimum chance of getting lost. The drive also took me through New Braunfels, which was founded by a relative of the current Baron of Braunfels (which I visited while on my mission to Germany). So that was also pretty cool. Driving was pretty much like driving in Utah: there was always someone that wanted to drive 20 miles under the speed limit that I ended up behind, and then quite a few people that have forgotten the whole concept of "safe following distance", no matter how much over the speed limit I was driving. So, pretty similar. ^_^

Once in San Antonio, finding a place to park was a problem. I finally decided to park at the mall parking structure right across the street. I walked into the mall to find my way to the Alamo, but got lost. Instead I ended up right next to the San Antonio river, which was in the other direction of the Alamo. ^_^ So I got back to street level and found my way to Alamo Plaza.

The impression is pretty much what I expected: The church (which is all that is pretty much left other than a few walls) was small. A nice touch is that they ask that anyone entering remove their hats out of respect. There has only been one other landmark I have visited before that asked for such reverence: the rebuilt synagogue I visited in Worms.

No one was yelling in the little church, which was good because it echoed like crazy. They had displays there and in the gift shop of artifacts from many of the men there and from the Mexican army. Davy Crockett was represented by a portrait (replica of the original that was retired), two rifles, a beaded buckskin vest, and plaques with his name on it. Jim Bowie was well represented with his knives. And, of course, the streets and businesses surrounding the Alamo had their names all over them.

The grounds were very hallowed, either because the Texans (or Texians, as was printed on one of the displays) wanted such a homage paid, or because the people there know what the battle of the Alamo meant to our country. With the rebellion of California and Texas, many of the Western States were allowed to join the Union as American territories. Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Arizona, New Mexico.. All of them benefited from the reaction to the battle of the Alamo.

I then left the compound after reflecting on the impact of the Alamo on the West, and walked outside. I took some footage of the outside of the compound, with some plaques and a raised map of the compound in 1836. Then, I headed back to Austin.

Now, I know I have not been overly warm to Texas in the past, but this trip has really opened my eyes. I've been really well surprised with the similarity between the two Western cultures of Texas and Utah. And the connections were made stronger with that trip.

If you have never been to the Alamo, it's hard to describe. I can't even show pictures of the place, because I only had my video camera, and no one can video the inside of the church (for obvious reasons, I would think). But if you do get a chance, and you are within driving distance (even if it is a few hours away), I would recommend it. For the quick half hour I was there, I gained a connection with Texas that I never had before. I even listened to some country music on the way home (until I found a Christmas music station, anyway ^_^).

December 7, 2007

Apple Training II: Support Essentials Impressions

I just finished the first week of Leopard Training for Support Essentials. It was an interesting ride, and there is a lot that I like about it, and some that I'm not too happy with.

What I Liked
I have to hand it to Apple: When they contract to people to write their training materials, they do a good job. The three instructors that we had all wrote the materials in the Student Workbook, and the workbook now looks like it is worth the money you pay for it.

The course does eliminate the need for a key chapter that was my most popular when I taught the class: The Command Line. Now, instead of having a single chapter, we introduce it bit by bit, integrating it with each of the chapters. So now instead of just getting a quick look at how to play with the command line, you are using it actively in each chapter.

How is this better? Well, for those that are looking to integrate a quick remote method of troubleshooting on the Mac and don't want to bother with the bandwidth required for a VNC connection, they can quickly perform pretty telling troubleshooting tasks. In fact, I would say that more Command Line content is included in this course than in the previous course.

Other great things are the lack of Apple Remote Desktop (yay!), more focus on the core open source technologies available, and a focus on BootCamp (which is now integrated into Leopard). It's also nice to be able to repartition your drive, live, with Disk Utility without having to use a third-party application. Sure, linux could do that for years, but with Windows and previous versions of Mac you would need a third party app to get it done.

What I Didn't Like
The weakest point in the Apple training is perhaps the testing. It always has been, because there has never been a bank of questions, just one set of questions for each time you take the test. So, it's not a real evaluation of your knowledge. It's also problematic because in order to compensate, they provide obscure questions that require a constant study of the reference material instead of practical application. But then, it is a multiple choice test, and what else can you do?

The good news is that it's possible that new testing methods could be on it's way. I'm hoping for a more Flash-based virtual environment that will simulate the experience. Another possibility would be to have the training centers set up a physical exam, much the same way as RedHat exams, and allow the instructor/training center to deliver it. Of course it runs into consistency issues (from one AATC to another), but that is another topic all together.

Other than that, it was a good training situation. We got a quick peek at the future new exams that are coming down the pipe, and I'm really impressed with them. Finally, it feels like Apple is getting some real quality back into their training materials.

I'm really excited for next week, when we go over Server Essentials!

December 6, 2007

Apple Training: The 10.5 Upgrade Process in Austin

Hello all! This week I have been Austin Texas, and will be for the coming week. Why? Because I am getting a sneak peak at the new Leopard Training. It's been fun going through the Beta materials, much of which was written before the OS was officially released, and some of which is no longer valid. ^_^

But, my tale of woe must come first. I don't fly much, I prefer to drive. That way if I ever get stuck somewhere, I have a way to travel about. Well, because Austin is quite a ways from West Valley, I flew in. The first flight was fine, and I got a lot of reading in (I've been reading a reference book on learning theories). This flight took me from Salt Lake City to Dallas/Ft. Worth.

I don't think I have ever been in such a large airport before, sans JFK and Paris (which I try to block from my mind, it was such a bad experience). Dallas itself is huge! It looks like a collection of small towns knitted together with some roads around ponds and lakes. The airport is no exception to the "Bigger in Texas" concept. They have a sky tram that takes you to the various terminals. I quickly got on the tram and made it to the right terminal (despite being told the wrong terminal by the air crew on my first flight). I then took off for Austin.

The flight to Austin was a little different. I have never gotten air sick, but something about this flight got me a little woozy. Either it was the bumpy reentry, or the sound of the landing gear coming down (as though it had never been oiled), I don't know. But for whatever reason, I was thrilled when I could finally get off the plane.

The airport in Austin is small, and very well designed! Unlike San Jose, getting into the terminal will not be a problem. It didn't even look that busy (we will see how it is in the afternoon next Friday). I found the baggage claim, and got my one bag. Now it was off to the rental car company for my car.

I chose Enterprise because the University has an account, and they have a fairly decent reputation. They also apparently are very popular, as they were the only rental car company with a line. I made it to the counter only to discover that the per diem I had transferred to my PayPal account to use on my card was not there yet (curse you PayPal!). So, I had to take a taxi to my Hotel.

I'm staying at the SpringHills by Marriott. It's not the most expensive hotel, but in true Marriott style, it's a wonderful stay. It has a small kitchenette with a fridge (that isn't locked like the Cupertino Inn), a sink, and a microwave. The service is great, and they promptly let me know a truism here in Austin: Nothing is in walking distance. There was a fast food joint next to the hotel, along with a bar and grill, so I wasn't going to starve.

But, I needed to get to the Apple Campus. Well, I went to bed early, and got up just as early. I then took the 1.5 hour walk to the Apple campus. Yep, nothing is walkable in Austin. Most of that walk was done on the edge of a road, with no sidewalk.

After the second day, I was cursing PayPal. Then, yesterday, to my relief, my money finally showed up. Thrilled at the prospect of never having to walk that long journey again, I managed to get my car. I am now quite happily taking time in the morning to blog, knowing full well that I will be able to drive to the campus and make it on time. ^_^

Tomorrow, my impressions of the new training!
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This page is an archive of entries from December 2007 listed from newest to oldest.

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