Photo by rongzoni, used under the
Creative Commons License
When I was at Primary School, I had the opportunity to learn to play the 'cello. I continued to learn until year 10 at High School, when I realised that:
- As I wanted to do some kind of computing degree at Uni, choosing Music as a year 12 subject wasn't useful.
- I hadn't really ever put the effort in to practising regularly so I probably wouldn't do very well.
I'd reached a level where I could "bear to listen to myself playing" - if you know what I mean. Not in any danger of being head-hunted by a symphony orchestra, but I could muddle along. So apart from the odd time playing at my old Church, my 'cello pretty much stayed in the cupboard after that.
That changed a couple of years ago, when some musical friends of mine invited me to be a part of a band they were putting together (this later became Sevenfold). We practise about every two weeks, so the 'cello got dusted off and used a bit.
Then just before Christmas I was asked to take part in a 'Cello ensemble that was going to perform at my church's "Road to Christmas" event (where they transform the front carpark into "Bethlehem", complete with animals, food, beggars and roman soldiers!).
The ensemble was organised by Shinduk Kwoun, who is an accomplished 'cellist. She asked some of her students to come along (ranging from one who had only had 3 lessons, to others who have a few years under their belts) and also roped in Kym Worley (who's graduated from the Conservatorium, so he's pretty good)
Sadly (for me), Shinduk and her husband Robin are moving to Melbourne. But before she left, I asked her if she could suggest anything that would improve my playing. I was thinking maybe new strings, but her immediate response was "get some lessons!". And then she offered to give me some free tuition before she left Adelaide.
It was the Christmas break, so I was able to cram in quite a few sessions, and for the first time in a very, very long while, I was practising every day.
And you know what?
It does make a difference! Having someone to both encourage you and tell you what you need to work on really helps. Even in this short time, I've noticed some small improvements, and I'm now aware of some things I need to keep working on.
As well as the token of appreciation I plan to put in the mail to Melbourne, I'd also like to say thanks here for her help. Now it's up to me to see if I can keep the more regular practising and maybe get some more lessons.
We've been developing a new Quiz engine on and off over the last few years. The original quiz was written by me in ASP, and does the job, though the interface for authors to enter new questions proved a bit too clunky, and is probably why it was never used very much.
Enter ASP.NET and a chance to start from scratch and have another go. Except that it turns out writing a quiz engine (complete with some kind of question bank) is not that trivial.
It looks like we may never get to finish the ASP.NET version, as we are now starting a trial of the quiz that comes with Moodle. It appears to have pretty much all the features we require, and someone else has done the hard work already!
Last year we were running some trials of the ASP.NET application, and we wanted to migrate the questions that had already been entered over to Moodle so that they could be re-used.
As of version 1.8, Moodle supports the following formats for importing questions:
- Missing Word
- Blackboard <=5
- Blackboard 6+
- Course Test Manager
- Moodle XML
A surprising omission from that list is the IMS QTI format (thought Moodle does support this for exporting). If you've ever done quiz development, you should be aware of IMS and their Question and Test Interoperability specifications.
Seeing as the migration tool will only have a limited lifetime I chose Moodle XML. The format is very simple and is mostly documented. The best way to find out the syntax though is to manually enter in some questions into Moodle, then do an Export.
So now to build the tool. I planned to use .NET, and then I realised this was a good opportunity to try out some of the XML support built into VB9.
In the end it I wrote the tool in a day, and the XML support made it very easy.
Dim Doc As XDocument = _
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8" standalone="yes"?>
<category><%= t.TEST.TEST_TITLE %></category>
This example shows how you can insert values into the XML really easily. I do like the fact that the XML looks like XML, not wrapped up inside strings.
I did play around with enforcing an XML schema. There isn't an official one defined by Moodle, so I tried rolling my own. This then lead to problems with the XML getting lots of xmlns attributes which I didn't want, so in the end I just did without it.
In WSS 2.0, there's an option to create a new list by importing an Excel Spreadsheet.
I've got Excel 2007 installed, and so after selecting the cell range of an .xls file I got this error message:
Method 'Post' of object 'IOWSPostData' failed
Searching for this gave me a possible solution
Because this particular SharePoint is still version 2.0, I figured that lVer = 2 was appropriate, and the good news is it worked.
Looks like it wasn't just us affected by having our website deleted. This is the response I got to my email:
Dear Mr. David,
We really apologize for this issue. Our developer has been accidentally released the wrong version of the billing system that deleted your account.
Our support team is now working to restore your website and emails.
They have setup your account as active so you can login to your control panel to raise support ticket while we are restoring your application.
Due to high traffic of restoring task, please give us another 24-48 hours to bring your website up again.
If you have your own backup at your side, you are pleased to restore it on your own to speed up the time.
Also, you are pleased to create support ticket to ask for your website restoring status.
Please let me know if you still face any issue.
SeekDotNet Sales Team
Well James, I'm not pleased to create a support ticket, but since my site is still not restored, I think I will anyway.
Someone really needs to proofread their emails :-(
Amongst other things, I'm the webmaster for the Australian Carnivorous Plant Society.
I just received this email from seekdotnet, the company we have been using to host our website for the last few years:
Dear Mr/Mrs [NewLine] Your Account is deleted due to non-activating more than 1 month. [NewLine] Thank You.
(Yes, that is an exact copy of the text, including the questionable grammar and the [NewLine] string).
And they aren't kidding - browsing to the website www.acps.org.au results in a 404 File not found error. Eeeek!
No warnings, no nothing. Just deleted like that after being in continuous good financial standing. If you want to keep your customers, you don't just delete all their info if there's suddenly a problem with payments. You might at least attempt to let them know there's a problem so they can fix it before it goes too far.
I've contacted the company, and I'm hoping commonsense will prevail. We'll see.