Trina L Short (trinalin) wrote,
Trina L Short

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Learning Linux

The best way to learn how to work with a new operating system, I think, is to have something not work right and then try to fix it. If everything is working perfectly, you learn nothing about the workings of the OS.

Ubuntu on my Dell Mini has been working perfectly in all of the stuff I will likely use it for. However, one of the reasons I wanted a Linux-based netbook was to see how easy/difficult/whatever it would be to use for my classroom computers. Since most netbooks come with XP Home, which will not work properly on a domain (no easy way for kids to access their accounts) I thought maybe Linux might be a solution, provided I can do everything with Linux that I currently do with Winders with my students. And I'm thinking more & more that netbooks will be the way to go when I get my new classroom in 2010. (No room for PCs in my new room and netbooks are half the cost - at least - and half the size - at least - of normal laptops.)

The Ubuntu on my Mini had everything I'd need in my classroom (a word processor, spreadsheet, web browser, pdf reader) except for Logger Pro. Logger Pro is a graphing program by Vernier that goes one step further than their earlier (and still brilliant) graphing program Graphical Analysis: it can interface with the LabQuest handheld units which we use in physics. LabQuests allow you to connect various scientific probes to it and gather data which can be viewed on the LabQuest or uploaded into Logger Pro for further analysis and eventual pasting into word processors for lab reports. Vernier already had Logger Lite available for such a purpose, but Logger Lite doesn't do all of the analyses that I use in physics nor can it be used as a stand-alone graphing program.

So I checked on Vernier's website recently to see if there were any plans to port Logger Pro to Linux. And sure enough, there was a link to join their beta testers on Logger Pro for Linux. I joined the group, deleted my VirtualBox Winders 7 and stuck Ubuntu on there. It installed peachy keen, but I just couldn't get the virtual USB to connect to a LabQuest. No matter, I had a Dell Mini on the way, I'd test it then.

The Mini arrives and I play and learn and eventually get around to installing Logger Pro. Which, unlike on my VirtualBox, doesn't go well. Indeed, after the drivers supposedly installed, the Logger Pro program told me it didn't have all of the dependencies on the machine and wouldn't install. I posted to the beta forum and waited for the Easter holiday to be over.

Sure enough, I got a response Monday from one of the Vernier techs. A couple of e-mails passed by, I learned a lot about installing & uninstalling using dpkg, and the first Vernier tech put me in touch with one of the actual Linux gurus who's working on the software. While corresponding with him, I've learned to do even more things, such as unpackaging i386.deb files and repackaging as lpia.deb files, compiling a new driver using make, and stuff like that. I thanked the tech at Vernier for getting the opportunity to do all this stuff in order to learn more about Linux. His e-mail to me today started with "You rock!" That made my morning.

Anyhoo, after work today, I built a kernel specific driver for my Dell Mini and tried Logger Pro (which I had gotten successfully installed yesterday after the i386 to lpia conversion) with the LabQuest once more. And there it was! Data from the LabQuest (temperature probe attached) on my Dell Mini. I was so excited, I boiled some water, called dad up to come over for a Geek Emergency, and reconfirmed Newton's Law of Cooling with a cup of boiling water and Logger Pro. Dad was as delighted as I was. (We are geeks, remember.)

So anyhoo, success with Linux and Logger Pro. I'll continue to test with other probes. I'll be interested to see which dialog boxes are too large for the netbook screen. (I know the interface list is just slightly too large, but that may be something we may not use in my class.) So anyway, according to one Vernier tech at least, I rock. :-)
Tags: computer, geek, netbook
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