The Craziness Continues

I have to apologize for my lack of blogging, even during a week of a major Apple announcement. As I mentioned last week, I'm back at school with a choir program that continues to grow (we're up to a gross, 144) and with new “official” duties as a tech coach. We have a district provided secondary technology integration specialist who serves seven schools, but each school has its own tech coach. We moved to Apple from Windows this year, and it has been less than a smooth transition for us.

The two main problems for our school (I can't speak for the other six secondary-level schools in our district) have been with hardware. This first is connecting the MacBooks to projectors (with SMART Boards) in our school. We don't directly connect, and instead go through a Calypso system which combines inputs and classroom audio through a wall and IP based control system. Every time you plug into the system, you get one of four possible consequences:

  1. A working screen
  2. A tiny, shrunken, blurred screen
  3. A screen with no image but vertical lines
  4. A blue screen

Apple has been out to our school, and apparently other schools are experiencing the same issue with other wall systems. The issue is caused by the Intel 4000 graphics chip, which is an upgrade from last year's Intel 3000 chip that came in 13″ MacBook Pros. Ironically, the 3000 chip works. The problems are usually solved with a restart, but not always. You can ALWAYS plug the MacBook into a normal monitor, and then into the Calyso system, and it will work. If you plug directly into a projector or monitor, it will work. It's a nightmare. We have a potential fix which involves booting the MacBook into Safe Mode, and changing the resolution of an attached projector in Safe Mode. I've used this approach on five of our MacBooks so far, and it seems to be sticking. My guess is that when the 4000 chip can't determine the desired output for the projector, it defaults to the Safe Mode setting. I'm watching these five MacBooks for the next week before messing with the Safe Boot Mode on all the MacBooks in our building.

The other issue we've had is Bluetooth connection with our SMART Boards. Most of our computer “docking” stations (we used to have docked HP notebooks) are too far away from the SMART Boards to use a USB connection (which is 100% more reliable and requires no external power for the SMART Board). I'v found a strategy that works for the boards, the trick is getting staff to follow the procedure. I made a video to demonstrate how to quickly connect to a SMART Board via Bluetooth, but most of the staff won't take the time to watch it (and the video is only two minutes long). I may start publishing my tutorials on YouTube.

And in addition to running around the school solving tech issues, I've been teaching and it was also musical audition week (White Christmas). This means that there were three nights this past week when I came home after everyone was in bed–a difficult time for my family (we have a six month old boy [six months today, actually], a very active four year old boy, and a twelve year old boy.

In the tech world, we (I) ordered our iPhone 5s at 5am CST on Friday. We skipped the 4S, and therefore are really looking forward to the 5. As my iPhone is my only camera and video camera, the improved camera on the 5 (over an already improved 4S) will be significant in my life. I will also love the speed boost with the A6 chip and “4G.” I could actually care less about the extra height of the new iPhone, but I love the metal back and “slate” sides.

I mourn the loss of the 6th generation iPod nano. I love wearing mine as a watch, but I know that watches have become a fashion statement for people younger then I am rather than a necessity. After all, why carry a watch when your phone always shows the time? I think the widescreen iPod Touch will be great, and would be a great alternative for parents wanting a video player for their children without all the features of an iPod Touch. The Bluetooth feature will be appreciated by runners and bicyclists everywhere.

The new iPod Touch is a “wait” purchase. Wait until Apple announces the iPad Mini in October before buying a new iPod Touch. There are some wonderful features with the new iPod Touch (I love the camera and hand strap; I might not have bought an iPhone if this level of iPod Touch existed in 2008). But as a parent, an iPad mini seems to make more sense (even though I still prefer the full size iPad [or larger] for education) from an educational–and perhaps gaming standpoint.

iOS 6 comes out next week on the 19th. Go ahead and update, but be warned that some apps might break. That's okay–they should be updated quickly if that happens. If not, the company wasn't planning on supporting the app in the future anyway. Our iPhones should arrive on the 21st. We're looking forward to Friday/Saturday.

And did I mention that homecoming for our school is next week, and the football opponent is our (rival) sister high school? Yes, it shall certainly be a crazy week. The craziness continues.


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