Reflections of a Term lost…

What a start to 2009?

Sadly I found myself reaching burn-out. We had a hectic lead up to the start of term one, and the week before students came back I had clocked up 68 hours. By the end of week one I had become Manic, and was having Psychotic episodes. This was not very pleasant. Luckily I have a great understanding of Depression and other aspects of Mental Illness as my wife and one of my sons suffer from similar conditions. Because of this understanding I was able to push through and seek help on the Monday following.

There were some circumstances that followed, which I wont go into here but these are detailed in another post. Its good to write about these things and I hope that my story may assist others.

It seems all to common working at schools that staff from all areas seem to often suffer similar episodes. How do we learn to pace ourselves better, or at least draw a line in the sand so that we protect our health and the ability to keep working? Normally I thrive on this kind of pressure, I usually have a good diagnostic ability, and have been told by those around me that I seem to keep my wits about me when all hell has broken out across the network. The sudden change floored me, I attempted to keep working but had lost all ability to think straight, and simple tasks were taking their toll on me. I have since taken time out to recover and recuperate.

We are about to launch into Term Two, and have spent the last week converting 2 General Learning classrooms into rooms with Computers around the outside to increase the use of Technology in our Senior School (thanks Mr Rudd). We are also about to launch our KICT program, which involve some students as part of the decision making processes and support of ICT in our College. More of that on Paradise Unplugged as it unfolds.

I am looking forward to what lies ahead for the remainder of this year, but will be treading carefully and keeping an eye on me, my health, and family and friends so not to walk down the path I have just completed again.

Isn’t it Ironic?

A recent post on the Managing IT in Education forum caught my eye recently. Titled “How about this for Irony?” it started with the following:

I love the irony in this.

The Department of Education has launched it’s own YouTube channel as a way of communicating with students, teachers and parents while still blocking the same service in all their institutions.

They also have their own Twitter and Facebook channels, also all blocked.




At least these are showing steps in a positive motion.

We currently block all of these sites/services, and this post has started an online discussion about this habit again. It seems that more and more schools are realising that sites like YouTube can have far more pro’s than con’s in an educational environment, and the focus of educators should be teaching online safety, rather than just blocking everything and hoping the students learn it themselves in their own time. Sometimes they do, but sometimes they do so the hard way too.

Lets see where this discussion leads, and what we can learn from it. Then maybe we’ll be able to raise the issue again at our own College/Campus.


This is a double post as I have also placed this on my personal blog, so my apologies for those of you that read both. It is very hard to put into words the feeling these events have brought about, but this is what I felt lead to write this evening.

It has been a very upsetting week watching the news of the Bush-fires in Victoria.

Many years ago I stood at the top of a Hill and watched a fire sweep from my right to left across the gully below. It was an awesome sight. Simply because you could only be in awe of the power and ferocity with which a fire can move. This very quickly turned to absolute terror as we realized that these flames had now changed direction and were heading up the Hill towards us. We were in the car and out of there in seconds. Scared S***less, we headed for home. The next day the true reality of that nights events became clear.

How did we manage to be there? Out of Stupidity is the only way to put it. It was the 16th February 1983. We had been at the Templestowe hotel for a few hours and watched many Fire Engines drive past. So being early 20’s males what do you do, you jump in your cars and go and look. We ended up in the Belgrave Heights area and very easily got to the fire front. Most of the roads leading into the area had been blocked off by Police, but being Rally and Motor-sport enthusiasts we had all practiced in the area around the Dandenong Ranges and we knew “back ways” to get to where we thought we wanted to be. We didn’t want to be there, we shouldn’t have been there.

It was the most frightening thing that I have seen, and I can still feel the fear that I felt that night.


Bushfire rages out of control from the Bunyip State Park. Photo: Jason South

I have watched intently the news from Victoria this week. Having lived in Victoria for most of my younger years I know most of these areas well. We used to stay at a friends house in Flowerdale. The one thing that I have seen, is that Ash Wednesday seems to fade into a lesser event. I don’t want to put down what people went through that day, but these fires look so much worse, the devastation greater. Really we shouldn’t compare. The loss of life, the panic that people felt, these are not things that are to be judged. How do you compare raw emotion.

From my perspective, this is so much bigger than that.

My thoughts and prayers are with all the people that are a part of this tragedy. This is not over by a long shot. There are thousands of people who have been displaced by this tragedy. The thoughts of what to do next must be daunting to say the least.

It has been touching to see and hear the stories of courage, mateship, and the way in which the whole country has pulled together, pooled their resources, and just want to see how they can help.

The one thing that I know will get all of you through this is the Australian Spirit, but in saying that please remember, grieve for your losses, be thankful for your favours, and be there for each other. Please don;t think you have to do this on your own.

God bless you all.

Weekend, or continuation of Week 3.

My apologies as I think this will be a long post whilst I wrestle with my thoughts.

Well, I have just awoken with a major headache after putting in a few hours over the weekend. This need to go the extra mile happens every year at this time. I know I could just let it go and get to it all in my “normal” hours, but those that know me would understand that I am passionate about our students’ learning and our teachers’ ability to facilitate that. That’s simply who I am, and I think a part of the reason I was nicknamed “Teacher Friendly Tech.” I also understand that Teachers often put in long hours in preparation for what you do, so I’m not looking for any special recognition. There are a few points that I want to bring up for discussion that didn’t help the situation though.

We have been using the same Vendor for our Laptops for over 10 years, and I think this causes my disappointment in recent events more that anything. I’m not going to mention names, and I will be discussing these points with them next week. I simply wanted to point out the frustrations from my side of the fence. My reasoning for these discussions is not to point out blame either, as this clearly sits on both our sides.

December 2008 we received an M750 Tablet PC and an A10 Laptop to build our “image” on. Both came with Windows XP SP3 and we’re called “Master_M750” and “Master_A10” respectively. Using our “Build List” I installed software and configured the settings to suit our College environment. Once I was happy with the results these machines were Sysprep’d (prepared for taking an image using Norton Ghost, and then Multicasting it out to several machines. Sysprep removes any identifiers from the install so that you can use the one image on lots of machines and don’t have any issues or conflicts). Now, here is mistake 1 on my part. As we were running short on time and I had already come in on the first day of my Holidays to finish this and get the machines sent back, I uploaded both images to our Ghost Server then tested the M750 image to make sure all was OK. It worked fine, so both machines were boxed up and sent back to our Vendor.

Sometime in Jan 2009 I received a call from our vendor that the VLK (Volume Licence Key) I had used in Sysprep wasn’t correct and would need to be looked at. My first thought was that I had used the Tablet PC Key (different key for Tablet edition of Windows) or I had typed it incorrectly. Either way,I could manually type it in during the setup process, get the Laptop working, then sysprep it again and upload the repaired image. I would then need to re-image the A10 and M10 laptops and run the setup process. Not too much work and achievable. Had I tested this image as well I would have discovered this prior to sending the machine back.

Tuesday of Week 3 2009 and the laptops arrived at our College. We run a single Composite Laptop class for Stage 4 ( Years 7+8 ) so all in all we’re not talking huge numbers, but along the lines of 15 M750’s, 2 M10’s, and 4 A10’s. As we had a busy week with Professional Development and other Staff Meetings, I looked at these late on Wednesday afternoon and discovered that the “base XP image” that was on the Laptop when I received it was an OEM version, and not the required VLK that was needed. Thought I’d need to spend a bit of time on this, and as we were at a staff conference on Thursday, then Friday would be the day to start (or not as it turned out).

Saturday I finally got to the A10 and M10. Tried all sorts of ways to get a VLK version on and without going into the gruesome details, it couldn’t be done easily. Luckily I had taken a snapshot of the base image when the Laptop first arrived. I reinstalled that then tried to use our VLK disk to perform an upgrade to the correct version. Stumbling block as we have XP SP2 disk and the base was XP SP3 so I couldn’t do an upgrade but would need to start from scratch. I researched and then built a Win XP SP3 instal disk and was then able to upgrade to the VLK version. This upgrade was important as it kept all of the drivers and vendors utilities so that I didn’t have to reinstall all of them from scratch. An hour to create an SP3 disk saved several hours of frustration.

Sunday I completed the loading of software as per our previous build list. This of course did take several hours, but is now complete. I have sysprep’d again as required and left in the wee hours this morning uploading the image to our Server. Tomorrow morning I will go in and test the image, and if all is well, re-image the other 5 Laptops as required. If it isn’t quite right I only have 1 student getting this laptop so will get theirs ready for delivery tomorrow as per schedule. No matter what, this student won’t miss out on getting their Laptop at the same time as the others.

I also completed the following this weekend, so it wasn’t only the Laptop issues that I was dealing with:

  • Re-Imaged JS Computer Lab and Classroom PC’s
  • Re-Imaged SS Labs (IT-B, IT-C, SS-1, TAS-2)
  • Re-Imaged Library PC’s
  • Repaired issues in Library Admin PC’s
  • Moved outgoing Servers back into Server Room ready for Cut-over to new units

The Issues in all of this as I see it, and in no particular order, are:

  • OEM Windows on Base Image of A10. Not sure how to check prior to building up software in future
  • Changes to timeframe of getting these machines, were received later this year
  • Failure to test both Images prior to sending machines back
  • A Technician that left our College not being replaced, putting more pressure on other staff

Some of these issues could have been easily prevented, and many lessons have been learned from all of this. Gladly we are again on track for the start of Term in 2 days time, and all PC’s will be ready to go.

Week 3.

This week was spent in various Professional Development sessions as well as Staff Meetings , etc. Though I did miss a few along the way I’m sure I’ll be kept in the loop. I am struggling with the fact that the Coffee Machine in the staff room is broken, and like the IT Techie Type Cast, me less Coffee is not a good thing.

I have already posted (here, here, and here) on our session at BDO (well LG’s session that I helped her create) and the way it was received. This was followed up on Friday by her doing a presentation at our Senior School Staff Meeting. It seems the long awaited momentum is finally becoming stronger than the forces that want to stop the wheel from turning.

This weeks issues include:

  1. Staff Laptops coming without our College image on them. These need to be set-up by Tuesday
  2. One of our Laptop images not working due to OEM Windows being used. They usually come with a Win XP VLK Base Image for us to work on when we create our images. This one didn’t. Needs to be rectified and the image rolled out and Laptops ready for Tuesday.
  3. Our Web Mail access still not being configured at the ISP.
  4. General needs to get ready for 2009 to commence, re-imaging SS and MS Computers, tidying up the Labs, etc.
  5. Finding a reliable source of Good Coffee to keep me going, and to prevent me going insane.
  6. And of course, what ever gets thrown at me in the next 3 days

So, as this is meant to be a Long-Weekend, it would appear for me it is going to be a Non-Weekend. But, as this is the norm for this week every year, and as I’ve previously posted, things are starting to happen around the various areas of the College, all in all I must say It’s looking like 2009 “could be it!”

To Blog, Yes!!!

After ME and LG’s presentations at our Big Day Out staff conference yesterday, I have been approached, as was LG, by many staff asking “can you teach us to Blog?”

With our success in Junior School last year and the wave that is starting to build in that part of our College, it seems we will need to organise Sessions with our MS and SS Teachers as soon as possible.

Momentum is starting to build, and I’m wondering if its time to accept that, Yes LG – We are gaining ground!

2009, KICT off.

Today we had our combined campus “Big Day Out.” This is where all staff from the 5 Campuses get together and share the vision for the year.

ICT got a good show in, with Mal sharing on the new things that we are pushing out this year. These include:

  1. Our ICT Scope and Sequence was introduced to staff.
  2. Our own “cross campus” hosted blogs using WordPress MU.
  3. A Wiki for staff and students to use.
  4. Joomla and a Video Sharing Server Plug-in.
  5. LG shared what we’ve all been up to at “Paradise” and introduced our KICT concept.

So what is KICT? Well it involves our students having some input into ICT related decisions, and will become a collaborative between the wider student body and our ICT Committee. We are excited about the possibilities here, but for more information you’ll have to read our KICT page on Paradise Unplugged. Come join LG and I as we see what evolves when our students are KICT.

Week 2.

As we work towards getting 2009 underway, with 2 more working days before students come back, i thought I’d follow on from my previous post and do Week 2 (even though week 3 is nearly over).

Monday went in early and started planning the new Rack Layout for the Server Room. Moved the Servers that were staying (and Rack mountable) across and had them up and running before the admin/support staff arrived. received a phone call about my Father-in-law being taken to Hospital with a heart rate of 27, so wrapped up what was needed and went home to be with Keryn and await news or diagnosis.

Tuesday was spent in Hospital in Newcastle with Keryn awaiting her fathers surgery to install a Pacemaker. Diagnosis was a Heart Block (neurological) and that the Pacemaker will improve things enormously. Pulse was now 34 so slight improvement. As we left in the afternoon, it was looking like surgery wouldn’t happen until Wednesday, no slots had opened up in any OR’s so we still wait.


– Photo courtesy of my Mobile Phone, will update with nicer one when posible.

Wednesday completed installing Servers and cable guides etc into Rack. Started Tidying up all cabling in the rear of the cabinet. With the new rack we will be mounting the KVM module high, which necessitated ordering longer KCM cables.

Thursday operation went well on Wednesday night so can now rest easy on the family front. Noticed Air Con in Server room was dripping lots of water. Turned off and cleaned filters and let it thaw out, was overworking due to having the door open to move equipment in and out and had frozen moisture from the air around the evaporator. Moved any thing out of the area underneath the air con and dried as required in the sun. Completed sorting and moving gear between Server Room and new ICT Department office. Still waiting for benches to be completed in office (probably next week now).

Friday DG came up and we built the 2 new Servers with SQL, and Exchange respectively. SQL Server ready for PC School upgrade, and Exchange Server built and configured, and Mailboxes started to be moved from old to new. Doesn’t sound like much, but was a big day.

Another week full of ups and downs, both on the work and home fronts. Seems to be the way things are going as we ramp up for 2009.

Week 1.

I am having trouble sleeping so I thought I’d jot down a few pointers of the week that was. I’m hoping that by writing this down, it will stop it from going round and round in my head.

Monday was a slow day, but mainly due to self inflicted reasons and the Post Christmas/New Year recovery taking longer as I get older. I was in at work early to move our Servers as we are gutting the Server Room and fitting it out with a nice new Rack Cabinet. Starting to move forward and getting the place properly organised. Servers out, benches out, carpet off the floor (who puts Carpet in a Server Room anyway?), shelves off the wall, and so on.

Tuesday we (my no.1 Son is doing some casual work for me) gutted the IT Department Office. We were using student tables as a work bench, and as the Server Room has been dismantled, the benches are being moved to our Office. We moved all of the Supports and other associated bracketry (is that a word LG?) to the IT dept. Started laying it out loosely to see how its going to fit (and it is). LG came in to do some of her preparations, and thus much Coffee was drunk as we worked towards the countdown into Term 1 2009.

Wednesday more planning, laptop repairs (kids bring them in during the Holidays too), and constructive discussions over lunch with the head of Senior School and the ICT Learning Co-ordinator. Meanwhile our Data Cabling Guru’s have installed the new Rack into the Server room with a nice CAT6 Tie to our Lab Rack and 15A Power dropped from the ceiling for our UPS’s.

Thursday new equipment starts arriving. New active equipment for our recently completed Stage 2 building. Configured, mounted in Rack, plugged in, fault lights, say what?? Our Core Switch, a HP ProCurve 5300xl, doesn’t recognise the new Mini GBIC’s when installed. Did a quick check on minimum requirements, firmware 10.xx. Ok so ours is 5.xx!! WIll need to upgrade firmware on switch but this is best done out of hours as it will take the whole network down, job for tomorrow.

New Servers arrive, unpack boxes (should read crates) and check all is ok. Later that day whilst working in our MS IT Lab I noticed that our Mail Server is flashing bright orange lights at me. Seems one drive in our RAID5 array has failed. I rang the vendor and after some diagnosis and checking she mentions that the Warranty expired 21-12-2008, Darn! The new Server is sitting on the floor, needs OS loading and configuring, and our Intranet moving onto it, which involves input from our Vendor in Melbourne. Probably cant get that done in a hurry, so call around our other campuses to see who has what. Late in the afternoon it is discovered that one campus has a Hot Spare in a Server that they are willing to lend me. It will be sent up on Friday. Whew, load of stress somewhat averted, don’t think I would have rested knowing there was no redundancy on our Mail Server Data volume.

Friday back in early to update the switch firmware. This has to be done in 3 stages 5.xx to 7.xx, 7.xx to 10.xx, then 10.xx to 11.xx. Step one, all seems to go fine, and doing it via Telnet and TFTP, loads ok, reboot the switch and No Network. OK, go to Server room and see fault light flashing, but can access the switch from there. I found that 2 Modules had faults after rebooting, so I turned off the switch and removed these modules and restarted, all OK. Carried out steps 2 and 3 without errors, then put the modules back in and bingo we have connections to all our buildings again. Data Cabling Guru’s returned to install a Data Projector in a classroom. DG rode up especially with the HDD for our Server, and DG and I installed it whilst hold our Breath, but all went well and it rebuilt the RAID5 without error. New JS Computer Lab was set up and all patched in, ready for re-imaging.

So all in all it has been an interesting week with a spattering of win’s and some very near misses, but that’s what keeping a College Network running, and preparing for the new School Year is all about, and we’ve got through week 1 with it al still running. I hope all is going well for you in your preparations for 2009 too.