Email Oops

I woke up one morning, and checked my email as usual. All was good. A little later, I wanted to send a reply to one message.

It would not send. I kept getting “timeout on mail server” errors. I tried several things, and nothing worked. Finally, I called my email provider to as if the mail server was in some way affected.

Nope. But then I got asked a series of questions about my config. Apparently “everything” was wrong with it. I made the changes they recommended, but hate them as the password is sent in plain text. Yuk. But… at least I could send email again.

Later in the day I was doing some other work, and had reason to open the taskbar box (win 7). I noticed something odd. The Pulse Connect icon showed it was active. I have to use Pulse to create a secure tunnel to AU in order to view exams that I mark. Usually I activate the tunnel, mark the exam and then disconnect. However, this day I saw that I was still connected.

Acting on a hunch, I disconnected the Pulse tunnel. Then I opened my email and reset the configurations to what I had before the morning phone call. Lo and behold, I could send email again with a secure password.

SO – the tunnel to AU was interfering with access to my email provider’s SNMP (send) server. Interesting. Something to note in case I do that again.

Notes from all over for Dec 22

Just some notes on stuff that’s happening as of Dec 22.

Linda’s Windows 10 computer, after a few configuration teething pains, is running quite well. Getting rid of the lock screen took 3 attempts as Microsoft is determined to foist this crap on users, even to the tune of disabling workarounds with each new update. It remains to be seen if my efforts will work for the longer term as MS is so very determined.

We did blow ‘edge’ away. It’s easily the worst browser I’ve ever seen. Basically, it has almost zero configuration options, and the few it does have it ignores. Gone forever and gladly back to Firefox. Likewise the default ‘mail’ app is gone and Thunderbird again rules the emails. Like edge, ‘mail’ is another MS app that can’t even play nice – not even with other MS things like Outlook. What a damaged, untested, unprofessional piece of crap.

I did install Office 2016 this week thanks to a “Home User Program” deal from MS. Because Athabasca U bought into the whole MS lock-in, we get to buy home versions for really cheap (like $13 for Office 2016 pro!). It’s OK. I personally prefer Office 2013 because that was the last version without “THE RIBBON”. Yet another unwanted MS user interface “update”.

As for my AU work, I can’t hear people on the phone very well, and certainly not upset persons who make talk fast and in a higher register. After consultation with other AU academics, I bought “MagicJack” from the main website as it was on sale. It does come from the USA and took a while to arrive, and the free phone number is only USA, but it does indeed do what it claims. I paid the extra $10 to get a CDN number (Edmonton exchange) and then had AU tie it to my academic 1-888 number. By yesterday it was all working tickety-boo. Better yet – any voicemail message gets emailed to me as an audio file so I can keep track. I can use a headset when calling anywhere in North America (free) so it’s awesome. Eventually I plan to see if it would work to replace most of the land line features, but not yet. First to see it in action.

I bought a leak detector for my underwater camera, and it came after almost a month in the postal system. Still, not bad coming from Slovenia. It’s really well built and should provide extra protection against flooding for the big underwater camera system.

Speaking of which, the replacement Kraken ring light/strobe came a few weeks ago, and worked correctly from the box. Nice to know it wasn’t simply user error but rather some issue with the optical strobe sensor.

That’s all for now. Time for a Christmas break.

Merry Christmas to all, and a very Happy New Year!

Robot Builder (a new book)

I just received a new book from the publisher yesterday.

Robot Builder – The Beginner’s Guide to Building Robots

John Baichtal

Que books, 2015. ISBN-13: 978-0-7897-5149-2  ISBN-10: 0-7897-5149-6

Cost (back cover) $39.99CDN, $34.99US

I found it to be a very good resource for all aspects of robot building, and has some really innovative ideas for robots that I have not seen in course projects to date. A good source of supplies as well.

Playing with Moodle

I’ve been playing with Moodle for a few years now. I first installed Moodle 1,9 on my server and then tried creating a couple of courses, which turned out to be fairly painless. The courses I chose were based on my notes from teaching C in the 1990’s.

Fast forward to last year, when I tried updating to Moodle 2.0. All did not go well, as the “brains of moodle” decided to remove some packages from moodle, requiring the user to have them pre-installed on the server instead. I was able to find and install all but the zip file support. Without all packages, moodle would not install.

I eventually upgraded the server to a newer version of the OS, which had the zip package. Once that was done, installation of Moodle 2.0 was quite painless. Unfortunately, I lost the courses in the process.

This week I decided to try adding the courses again. The new moodle has a nicer look and feel, and much improved tools. It also has a pletora of options and choices, making some decisions much more difficult. Fortunately there is a really good help system that offers tips as you work, so deciding things like “page or lesson?” is reasonable.

In the end it took under 2 hours to create and fully populate my two courses (C I and C II) from my old MS word notes. There are some quirks (why do some list entries appear with shadow border and others without?) but all in all it was fun and I have my courses on-line again.

One reason for installing moodle on my server and playing with it has to do with Athabasca University using Moodle as it’s primary course delivery mechanism. It pays to know the tools, but you can’t just do anything with someone else’s servers. So building my own allows me full rein to play and learn.

One thing I did learn, albeit too late for my current course revision, is that it’s really easy to create curriculum pages in moodle.

At AU we have this blend of content – some on moodle, some in a thing called alfresco. Sadly, editing alfresco content remotely is nigh-on impossible. For the current course, I had to resort to having the alfresco content cut-and-pasted into MS word documents by local experts,  then emailed to me for editing, then cut and pasted back into the alfresco documents. Yikes, what a process!

As I said, I wish I’d known how easy it was to create “pages” for content in moodle, as I would have put all the content back into moodle (via pages) and erased the alfresco links. It would have changed a rough multi-week editing process into in a few days.

Live and learn.