Migrating back to Linux (Ubuntu) from Mac OS X

After abour 1.5 year with Mac OS X on my beautiful black Macbook (v 4,1), I’ve decided to migrate back to Linux, namely Ubuntu 10.04 LTS. Why? Well, I was actually using Kubuntu (KDE version of Ubuntu) from about Spring 2006 to November 2008. At the time, I remember setting up Kubuntu on my Dell Inspiron 700m laptop was quite a task: getting the display to work at the right resolution, wireless, etc. Once everything was set up I loved the environment. Afew things bothered me then: no MS Office (OpenOffice doesn’t cut it sometimes when you have to collaborate), graphics environment (KDE) crashed from time to time (probably because laptop was too slow and I multi-tasked daily) and lack of support for third-party hardware (syncing Palm Centro and ipod, scanners, etc). I would have to do lots of research to figure out the third party issue, and often, a solution was not available (maybe arriving much later). I kind of got sick of this whole process so decided to switch to Mac OS X since it was Unix-based (all tools available), had MS Office, pretty, stable, nicely built (quality), and had third-party hardware support.

Once on the Macbook, I configured it to be my workstation with all the tools I need. Since Mac wasn’t truly Unix, compiling and getting certain software needed special attention despite the availability of MacPorts. Often times I would have to compile things from source manually (no apt-get!), maybe after having to tweak the source code a little.

Now I’m quite sick of not having apt-get or tweaking source code prior to compiling. So, I’m moving back. By now, the third-party issue isn’t too much of a concern since my ipod works with it and Android syncs to the cloud (and is Linux-based). Certain things will need to be resolved for new hardware specifications on newer Laptops, but this doesn’t bother me too much as I’m sure a solution will be available in a matter of weeks or months – plus, the community is very helpful. MS Office can run with WINE/Crossover Office (I did this before too, but I think things should be better now). I would also like to note that in the mist of all this I have servers and and a NAS that are debian- or ubuntu-based, and that I use the school’s Linux servers quite often. It’s only natural that my main workstation be Linux-based again, for ease of use and for efficiency and productivity.

Teaching with a graphic tablet and a projector: replacing a whiteboard or overhead projector

Many times when I teach, I often want to keep a copy of what I write on the board. Why? I can have a softcopy to refer to when students have follow-up questions, I can re-use these notes for the next discussion if there are only a few people, and I can re-use them in later quarters. In high school, I always liked the overhead projectors. Teachers can write and look get feedbacks from the students face to face. Also, you can just scroll your super long sheet up as you write and not worry about erasing like on the white board. Later in lecture, you can pull them back if you want need to refer to the previous notes. I always had an idea to use some kind of a tablet device with the projector, which all modern classrooms should have. I finally decided to buy a fairly inexpensive Genius graphic tablet from Walmart for $40. Wacom tablets are probably better, but they are very expensive, especially the larger ones. I guess they are expensive because they are meant to be used with photoshop by artists. In my case, I need a large tablet but it doesn’t have to be premium since all I’ll be doing is writing words and math symbols on it. My platform is a Mac OS X, and this link discusses some tablets and programs. This site discusses the tablet PC’s use in the classroom altogether. After some trials, the best program seems to be inkbook, which costs $40. However, I guess the Genius driver doesn’t play well with inkbook. To get it to work, I have to turn on “Handwriting Recognition” in System Preferences > Ink. In Inkbook, i can write in the ink mode. I see a yellowpad whenever I write. This SHOULD NOT be there, but it works for now. Wacom would play nicer. Update 3/27/2010: I returned the Genius tablet a few weeks ago as it does not play nice with inkbook. The author recommended a Wacom. However, it is too expensive for me (a decent sized one) and I won’t need one yet since I don’t need to TA next quarter. Hopefully, the Apple Ipad will have a pen with it so I can use it with this (main reason I would buy one). Otherwise I would have to consider getting a cheap netbook with a pen.