playing with Cyanogenmod

I flashed it to the Galaxy S2 about two weeks ago and have been using the phone as per normal since then. All then important things work, some a little better. The phone definitely feels snappier and the battery lasts longer.
I really like the UI improvements they’ve made.
Unfortunately there are a couple of apps that aren’t as good as the included Samsung ones: email doesn’t have the split screen view, calendar doesn’t have drag and drop. And I lost Polaris office. I’m trying to weigh up whether I should go back to stock… as some of the old system apps don’t restore or need licenses.

F600 and CRX two rode to Moruya

Last year we tried to ride to Moruya but didn’t make it for a number of different reasons, including rain and stupidity.

We were determined to try and succeed this year and indeed did. The route we planned to take was the same as last year, but as we have both undertaken a number of rides or about 60 to 80 km during the year, we thought that we would be able to go further and camp at the Deua River Camp ground which is, in terms of distance, most of the way to Moruya.

The first day’s journey would be about 145 km long and would take us through Queanbeyan on to Captain’s Flat road, but before reaching it we’d turn off again to Hoskinstown and Rossi, as that road has much less traffic. From there we’d ride through the Tallaganda State forest (where we got lost last time) and then through Harold’s Cross to Major’s Creek. We woudl to the steep descent to Araluen and the campp ground woudl be a couple dozen kilometers thereafter.

Day two would then consist of the remaining 30-odd kilometers of annoying up-and-down undulations along parallel to the Deua River.

We were on our bikes by 6 am (much earlier than last year) and made good time to Major’s Creek, only being unsure of our location a couple of times. We used the GPS (thank you smartphones) this time to verify that we were indeed where we though we were. No flat this time either, but Caroline’s bike rack rattled loose somewhere after Araluen, but we were able to continue riding with it as it was.

It rained a little on the Major’s Creek descent, but then the weather played nice until after we had set up the tent in the camp ground.

It poured all night, but the rain got very light when we started riding again. We made it to Moruya without encountering any more difficulties and about ten minutes after arriving it started raining again. We hid in a cafe to wait for Caroline’s parents to arrive with our car, to take us home.

We think we could do it in one day. There would be less equipment to carry, no tent, no sleeping bags, just food and a stove, and fewer clothes. We’ll try that next year.

The Galaxy SII Information lock screen

My Android lock screen was featured on Lifehacker! I submitted it to the desktop show and tell pool a few months ago and it seems to gave gathered some interest. Who would have thought.

Below are some words to explain how it was created. It does not require rooting, but two of the apps used cost money.
Read more »

Moodle user notes

I need to look at the Notes feature in Moodle 2 to see if it works the same way as in 1.9

In 1.9 a Lecturer or Tutor can leave notes for any student in one of their sites and any other Lecturer or Tutor can see them.
There are three kinds of notes:
– Moodle-Wide notes: If you’re a Lecturer (or Tutor) in any site where the the user with the note is a Student, you can see the note
– Site Note: If you’re a Lecturer o Tutor in the site where the note has been left about the student you can see it.
– Personal note: only the person (Lecturer/Tutor) who left the note on the student can see the note.

If the student has both the Lecturer/Tutor role and a Student role in any site, they can see the Moodle-wide notes about themselves. If they have both the L/T role and a Student role in the site where the note has been left about them, they can see that note.



/Update: Notes behave in the same fashion in Moodle 2. (2.1)

(ab)using the Forum Activity to have students respond to feedback?

I was asked if it was possible to force students to read feedback given to them on an assignment, and how to check if they actually do.
Without going into whether this is the right approach to communicating feedback, here’s something that one could try…

But first something I have seem people do:

One could set up an Advanced Uploading of Files activity “Assignemnt 1”, where the students submit their assignments. When grading, one could then leave marks and feedback for each student.

One could then create a second Advanced Uploading of Files activity “Assignment 2” where one instructs the students to address the feedback left for them in Assignment 1.

I have seen people do this and it seems to work, however there is a problem: How does a teacher match the response to the feedback (ie. Assignment 2) to the feedback left in Assignment 1. In small classes, the teacher could just switch back to Assignment 1 and have a quick read, but in a class of 400 the students could just pretend to respond to anything and it would be too time consuming for the teacher to check.

So another proposed, yet untested option would be to (ab)use the Forum activity:

Go to Groups and use the Auto-create groups facility to create 400 groups with one student each. Add these groups to a Groupingindividual students“.

Now create a Forum activity, set to observe the new “individual students” Grouping you created, and in Separate Groups mode. Call it “Assignment”. Turn on ratings, out of 100, which just turns them into fake marks. In the description field of the forum, write your assignment question as you would have done in the File Upload activity.

Now unleash the students. Due to the Separate Groups setting and the single student groups, students will only ever be able to see their own posts, so the privacy is conserved. The teacher can see all students’ posts using the group selector.

Each student would submit one forum post as a response to the question – depending on the assignment it could have attachments. The teacher would then go to the forum activity, read/download the forum posts and leaves the feedback as a reply post to the student’s post. The teacher woudl rate the student’s post to give it a mark. When in the ‘All groups’ view, any discussion (assignment submission) without any replies is awaiting marking, any discussion with one reply has been marked and is awaiting student response to the feedback.

Now a second cycle woudl start where the students are asked to reply to the feedback post by the teacher. This would allow the teacher to track whether the student is responding to the right feedback, and there woudl be continuity to the student’s progress.

Unfortunately there is no facility to set a due dates here, so one would still have to communicate these to students. But the forum does track submission dates and marks (ratings).

(I haven’t looked at whether Moodle 2 has any facility to let students respond to feedback, these ideas are focussed on Moodle 1.9)

I’ve been using shortened URLs on announcements to quickly measure their effectiveness. Just append a “+” to the end of it to get an information page with the number of clicks.

Restoring old WebCT backups

Just in case this ever comes up again, a note to remind myself how to do this.

Today I was asked if it would be possible for me to recover some old documents that a lecturer had placed in their unit WebCT site in 2004 or 2005.
While we don’t promise to keep backups of sites for more than two years after the end of a semester, we actually try to keep snapshots for much longer, on consumer grade hard drives (no guarantees!).

WebCT backups at the time (before my time, and obviously before Moodle), were just kept as WebCT backup ZIP files without metadata – it was this important to know the title (or partial) of the site at the time, to be able to find it. Even back then, it was thus common practise to name a site by the unit number.

All I had to do is look through the University handbook to find what the unit number was back before the unit number revolution of 2006, and search the archive for backups with that number.

dir /S /B | find "1395"

The ZIP file that I found was of course a WebCT CE4.1 backup zip, which has a broken header. Using WinRAR or similar one can repair the archive and then extract it.

The backup drive will now be packed up again, and be locked back up until the next time someone needs it. Looking at the ‘stats’, with this being the first request to have anything restored from that long ago, this ‘next time’ should be about 2015.

Dear Ubuntu

Dear Ubuntu,

it’s nice to see you again, it’s been a while. I think the last time we saw each other was when you were only seven. Now you’re eleven, you’ve grown!

You’ve changed a little, but I’m not sure I like everthing about you.

You’ve changed your taskbar, to look a bit more like your cousin Win7’s, which is a nice touch, I think. But why do you want to hide it all the time – be proud of it. Why do I have to argue with you for an hour before you accept that I like seeing it. It’s even worse than your cousin MacOS, and I’ve always disliked how unwilling she was to change for people.

It also seems that while you’re looking really fit and mobile, you’ve become more sedentary – on our first hike you completely exhausted the battery in two hours! (And I did warn you.) Your cousin Win7 was able to pace himself much better, we used to go for near on four hours. And before we even left you kept on complaining about missing the comfort of a full mouse, and refused to use the trackpad and emulate the three buttons. You never used to be like this in the past, you were such an avid hiker back then.

I would also have thought that by now you would have learned to do some of the more grown-up things: managing photos and music is something you’ll really need to learn. And if you continue like you did in the last week, I’ll be worried about your future career. Many workplaces use Exchange, and you don’t seem to want to make an effort with it. Your Evolution is way too slow and buggy. You have that Thunderbird party trick to make up for it (it’s fast), but your trick was only version three, and why did I have to teach you version five?

Thank you for helping me write this, though, Ubuntu. You really are very good at browsing the internet and dealing with file transfers. Without you the recovery of my hosting debacle would have taken even longer (but I’m not done yet, anyway).

what a mess…

I had some hosting trouble and everything is jumbled up…


CCA-Educause 2011 (Sydney)

another half-written post that I never finished. Sorry. I guess I missed the window on this one.


Last week Several weeks ago I attended the CCA_EDUCAUSE conference at the Sydney convention centre. and co-presented a session titled “Managing Relationships with External Learning Management System Providers”, which Allan Sieper form ANU in the lead. Also co-presenting were Alan Arnold from UC and Marina Lobastov from ANU.

The focus of our presentation was on how we managed our respective Moodle instances which are hosted by the external Moodle Hosting Partner, Netspot.

My bit of it focussed on how we communicate with our local teaching staff, IT area and the hosting partner (helpdesk and higher level support): The Teaching and Learning Centre, of which I am a part of, is the owner of the Moodle application and acts as a middle-man between internal IT and the external partner and the teachers.

I also outlined the processes of how we manage changes to our Moodle instance which are sometimes requested by teachers, sometimes initiated by the TLC, and sometimes found by the hosting partner.

Tom Worthington (ANU) mentioned our presentation at and so did Mark Drechsler (Netspot) at


I very much enjoyed some of the resulting conversations with other institutions I had after the presentation. A number of collaboration efforts between other Moodle-using institutions will be kicket off in the next few weeks and months, which should let us address some of the wishes we Australian Unis have for Moodle.

Sieper, Allan. “Managing Relationships with External Learning Management System Providers” CCA-EDUCAUSE Australasia (2010): n. pag. from 30 Apr. 2011