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FireFox 3 is coming!

FireFox 3 is coming and I hope that it is all that it promises to be. Why am I not jumping for joy? See my earlier post about what FF has been doing on my (many) computers of late. In the hopes that FF will return to it’s once glorified existance, please check out the link that I’ve posted below. If you’re a FireFox user, this could be an important update for you.

Download Day

CNY-RIC Tech Fair


CNY-RIC Tech Fair

Originally uploaded by kboutelle

We attended the CNY RIC tech fair thingy yesterday. It was cold, wet and we were glad to be there. I think we may have drummed up some very good interest in our Help Desk product.

I should mention that we have affectionately named our Help Desk as the “Team Task Manager”. You can find out more by visiting http://511i.org.

I’ve become quite comfortable using FireFox web browser and a great many add-ins that I count on daily. This has caused me issue of late as FF continues its downward spiral into what seems to be a pit of intolerable hell.

It started a couple months ago when FF started affecting the rest of my computer in a very adverse way. I noticed that it was eating memory. As I watched it, in task manager, the memory usage started to grow. I think it started around 135mb and before the day was over it ended up around 175mb. This was the memory that it was using btw, just in case you’re a little lost.

The way in which I use FF is to provide me a portal to my Google “stuff”. Gmail, reader, docs and no less than 3 Moodle sites. I keep these tabs open constantly with intermittent use of others that do not stay open. So, this memory “leak” occurred over the course of one business day. At the same time that I noticed this, I brought it up to my fellow workers who also started monitoring their FF browsers. This was on a variety of computers (desktops, laptops, WinXP, Mac OS-X and Ubuntu). Lo and behold! They were all experiencing the same thing!

FireFox IS a memory PIG! A gluttonous one at that! Regardless of platform.

Well, this alone didn’t sway me away from using FF and I couldn’t figure out what caused it to use more memory or less so I just went about my business.

That is until about a week ago. After no less than 3 updates in the time since I noticed the memory issues, FF has become continually more and more unstable. From tabs not responding to input (click) to just plain freezing for no reproducible reason. I’m at a loss for what to do. I cannot go back to IE after all as I cannot stand that horrid application. I’ve become far too dependent on my add-ins! Even now, I’m using Deepest Sender to write this post.

Now I do not know what to do. Do I flock with the rest? Should I go to the Opera instead? I have to tell you that I’ve tried both of the latest incarnations of these browsers and I’m not impressed. At least when FF was working for me I wasn’t tempted by them. Maybe it’s time to take another look…

Stay tuned Bat viewers, tune in again to see how Kevin handles his browser woes!

Video Stuff

Lately, I’ve been heading up the marketing effort for our IT department, at least you could call it that. In a time when we are severely lacking manpower our task lists are, of course, at an all time high. So, in an effort to reach as many people as possible with information about the services we provide and the process in which to attain those services, I’ve been enlisted to do a video newsletter. The newsletter has contained information about how to submit and check the status of help desk requests, how to utilize your network storage and Internet bandwidth use and abuse to name just the first three. Future issues will delve into desktop software issues, network account creation and much more.

You may think that this is a fairly frivolous undertaking until you look at the numbers.  I’m reaching more people, with less effort than at any time in my 3+ years at BOCES or my 10+ years teaching people anything, anywhere. The newsletters are about 5 minutes long (on average) and take me anywhere from 5 to 10 hours to produce. The newsletter is published to a Moodle course page where guest access is allowed and a link is then sent to our entire staff. This means I can see the stats for how many times the newsletters were viewed. As I write this, the three newsletters published to date have a total of 561 views. If I averaged 7 hours per newsletter then I’ve invested 21 hours into these informative videos.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been able to teach 561 people anything in 7 hours and I’m not sure that anyone could in any other way. This is an incredible resource for us, in my humble opinion. I think it’s doing a hell of a lot of good for our reputation also. It shows that we’re concerned with the ability of our customers (the staff, faculty and students) to have a better experience with technology and that there is an entire team of people dedicated to supporting it for them.

And I’m not done yet.

I’ve already added an iTunes specific feed and product (.m4v files) as another variation on the newsletter. Adding a small amount of time to processing, but providing the content to (potentially) more customers to consume at their leisure. Soon, there will be yet another product. A version suitable for Windows compatible PMP‘s. This will most likely be an AVI or MPG version that will be formatted for a smallish screen. This is in the hopes that we will have a Windows Media server on-line soon so that we can distribute this content over the network to anyone that would have it, on any device that can support it.

Multi-Tasking.

So, what is your computer doing for you right now? As I write this, mine is performing the following;

  • Streaming the super bowl from my PVR.
  • Burning a music CD from my music library on my home network.
  • Editing a Google doc.
  • Writing this blog post.
  • Running Twhirl (2 accounts) so I can keep up with others watching the game.
  • Running Trillian, which is alerting me about tweets and allowing me to catch hell from friends that know I’m on-line (this could ave been a mistake, LOL)
  • Fetching email from work and Gmail.
  • Editing in Photoshop CS3.
  • Intermittently recording audio and video as I try to get my newsletter scripts “just right”.
  • Editing in Camtasia the audio and video that is recorded.

Best part is that it’s not even breathing heavy. Task manager states less than 20% processor used and less than 1GB memory in use (amazing what happens when you turn virtual memory off). This is true PC nirvana even though I could really use my second monitor. Please don’t take that to mean that I wish I was at work right now.

I have a friend that was recently asked what he thought about splitting up his IT staff across the geographical expanse of his organization. This would, he was told, place IT staff in key locations to be able to assist other staff with issues in a more expedient fashion. Interesting concept, here is the real story however.

The IT department is made up of just a few dedicated support personnel. Key job titles include a developer, telephone support specialist, network administrator and LAN tech to name a few. The total membership in this department is around a dozen and they support, in total, close to 800 people and that’s just within their organization. This doesn’t include the outside institutions that they support via telephone and with itinerant workers.

The majority of the support provided to these employees is done remotely or in some other on-line fashion as with training or other materials that can be used to educate the users as to how to effectively use their technology. There is almost no face to face support provided by the IT department currently unless you include training (either in a class environment or in 1:1 situations) or when the employee is asked to stop by the IT department to drop off or pick up equipment/supplies.

So, here is the dilemma; how can a splintered IT department work? Can it work in an environment where the vast majority of the full time IT workers are responsible for systems or processes that are in constant need of attention or are in a state of continual upgrading or feature addition/change to support staff needs? Should those workers be subjected to questions by end users who have forgotten how to empty their trash in Outlook when their primary task is writing code or configuring servers?

Do you know of any situation where this has been attempted and succeeded? Do you know of any instances where this was attempted and failed?

If you need evidence that social networking works, all you have to do is look at what happened to me today. For no other reason than wishing to help someone out that I didn’t even know, I ended up leading an on-line meeting about Moodle. The people that attended were from universities spread across the US and I’ve never met any of them before. Not even exchanged emails.

So how did this happen you ask? A little micro-blogging tool called Twitter. That’s how.

Since using Twitter I’ve made several very valuable contacts, see my last post for just one example. Today I found a way that I could be useful in much the same way. With Twitter I’ve attempted to respond when I could to other Twits (that’s what we call ourselves, I guess) when they’ve asked questions about Moodle. Something I spend a lot of time with. Beyond just a short tweet for an answer or a direction to follow, I decided that I’d open a Connect meeting room on our server and invite my fellow twits in to see what I could do. I would have never guessed at the response that it received.

Several collegiate level technology professionals from around the US dropped in and became active listeners to whatever I could give them about Moodle. One of my fellow workmates referred to this as something to be expected as who wouldn’t want to get free information? I think it was much more than that however as there isn’t anything that I talked about or showed them that they couldn’t have found out by simply visiting the Moodle support forums.

What happened today was an example of what this new techno-world has become. Social and professional networking at it’s finest. I think I finally get it and I can’t wait to get some more.

Thoughts about Twitter

I wrote an email to some of my colleagues at work today about a recent success story that I’ve had, in no small part because of Twitter. This incredibly simple social networking tool has proved it’s value to me several times since  I first logged on just over a month ago.

Here is the email body that I sent out this morning, as originally written.

I may have told you that shortly after creating a Twitter account I was contacted by a fellow that I opted to follow. He works for TechSmith (the reason I found him on Twitter at all) and offered his services if ever I had questions about Camtasia. I decided that I would take him up on his offer the other day and ask a question that I couldn’t find the answer to in any of the documentation or tutorials for Camtasia. Just a couple days later I received an answer from him in the form of a Jing recording. He used the free tool similar to Camtasia to walk me through some settings and processes in Camtasia that answered my question completely, accurately and in a very timely manner. This of course speaks more to this individual’s professionalism than Twitter but it provides a compass I believe by which we could guide our approach to the use of these social networking tools. I honestly believe them to be more than just a passing fad.

This example of how this one tool works is repeated again and again across the Internet. Blogs, twitter posts and social networks (Facebook, Ning, etc) are buzzing with professional contacts sharing ideas and assisting each other with problems as they share solutions.

What’s my point?

Really, I just wanted to give you a little success story and hopefully put in your minds that there is something to all of this social networking stuff. Maybe my little success story can spur some interest here.

Frequently, I feel as though I’m torn when people come to me for answers. I feel that I’m a “go to” person and this makes me glad. Then, sometimes I get the same question from the same person, not once but several times and this makes me feel like a failure. So of course I don’t feel so great.

Now, tonight I have some relief. Maybe it’s not me. Just maybe it’s them, the fearful learner. This article by Phyllis Korkki touches on some key points made by Deborah Compeau. These points revolve around the person on the other end of the phone and their fear of doing something new or inability to grasp concepts.

This doesn’t completely leave me in the clear, at least I don’t believe it does. It gives me reason to take a serious look at how I am presenting my “help”. I think I’m already addressing this with the use of more personal, interactive “on their own time” help. The video that I’m producing lately I think will help but I don’t think that it’s the complete answer by any means.

I’m using Deepest Sender to post a msg to my blog. This is pretty cool!

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