Roodhouse Tech Blog

Technology at Geneseo Community School District 228

I ran across a strange issue that took entirely way too long to figure out.  I was doing a routine IT support visit when I noticed one buildings locations had less then optimal speeds.   The download speeds were hovering around 12-40 mbps when typically our connection runs a strong 190-350 mbps (depending on wifi or wired).  At first I thought was perhaps just a temporary issue with congestion but after checking throughout the day I found that no it was isolated to one building (Unit Office) and only affecting traffic here.   For good measure I updated the Firmware on our wireless controller and even updated the switches iOS since it had not been done in some time. I have two switches in this location one a Catalyst 2560G and a Catalyst 3560.   Looking thought the switches configuration I could not find anything that stood out.  No loopbacks...no faulty nics on the client side.   Upon closer inspection (show interface command) I found that the tengigabitethernet0/2 interface was showing CRC errors and dribble conditions detected.    Here after comparing configurations checking for auto negiotiation issues I could not find anything wrong.   After clearing the counters and bringing the port down and back up CRC errors continued.
      A long story short after reading and re-reading cisco documentation on everything from packet flooding, ARP timeout mismatches, QOS settings, etc I stumbled across the answer from a Cisco guy posting on a forum.  It simply said in his experience CRC errors almost always indicate a bad cable or sometimes a bad SFP or similar module.   The Cable was bad.    That's it.   Yes Inside the fiber panel the SC Fiber patch cable had been bent inside the cabinet in a such a way that the cable made a hard 90 degree bend.  Simply replacing this cable and everything went immediately back to normal.  After clearing the counters on the switch after 60 minutes 0 CRC errors were detected.    The lesson for me is before looking and spending hours reading complex networking topology issues probably is a lot smarter to start simple, check cables and SFP modules.  
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  • New Skyward | Turbo Skyward

    At the end of last week we migrated our Skyward Server to a new physical server.   Our old server had ran quite well with no problems for four years and was quick and snappy with 48 gigs of DDR3 Ram and Dual Xeon processors with 16 logical cores running at 2.4 ghz.  Our new server is the best piece of hardware I have personally ever setup and installed.  This server has Dual Xeon (i7 family) process with 10 cores each that are hyperthreaded for 40 logical cores (20 actual) running at 2.6ghz per core.    The new Dell PowerEdge R730 Server has 64 gigs of DD4 Ram and runs a RAID 10 with 8 Solid State Enterprise level Intel Drives.  It is connected to our LAN with a Intel fiber NIC  operating at 10GB (10000mbps).  The idea with this server is quite simple,  four more years of fast, stable uninterrupted access to our Student and Financial Management System. This is one of the few pieces of equipment that has not been migrated to offsite cloud hosting because it is simply faster and more economical to keep it local.   For the price of this one server, it would costs us approximately 3 months of cloud managed storage.   Since this server will easily run 4 years  and will run a factor 4-5 times faster locally it doesn't make sense to have hosted off site (yet).  Our District's network is essentially one large LAN with each building connected together via fiber optic cabling.  This backbone of our LAN connecting each building together runs at 10GB (10000mbps).  With our local Skyward server running with these specs the latency for our clients in and out of network is extremely low.  In fact I may go as far to say I don't know of another Skyward installation that runs at this speed (sure there is one somewhere, I just haven't seen it). Our skyward configuration will soon have its database optimized for its new hardware and will gain yet again another speed boost.  Overall the switch over to the new hardware went relatively smooth with only a couple of minor hiccups.  The majority of our teachers, students and staff are probably not even aware it happened.   Want to give a shout out and props to Dell, and its PowerEdge line of Servers.  Working with IT for now over 9 years here in Geneseo none of our servers from Dell have physically failed.  Older  servers from before my time Pentium 3 based have all been retired but were retired in still working condition which is a testament to quality.        
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  • El Capitan has reached a nice stable milestone but one thing that has always irked me about the OS is its terrible version of Disk Utility.  Not only was functionality removed from this utility but it also simply is less stable and does not work much of the time.  Let's say you want make a new USB Time Machine disk and you pick up and external on sale at Wal-Mart.  When you go to Erase or partition you will often end up with meaningless errors, such as Out of Space (brand new) or Volume cannot be unmounted (already unmounted), etc. The fix is to use a customized version of the older more fully functional Disk Utility that has been altered to work on El Capitan (and MacOS Sierra).   This modified version brings back RAID control, ability to create disk images and is overall more stable and more functional then its newer replacement. Disk-Utility-Legacy-app Mac OSX Disk Utility Legacy Running on El Capitan old-disk-utility
    A while back I used a cool online calendar program written in PHP which uses MySQL.  This Calendar product has not been supported for sometime and if you try to install it on newer machines you will get lots of PHP and MySQL errors.  I updated the installation files and the SQL installation script that sets up the database so that it functions on modern systems. calendarix Here is the latest version of Calendarix fixed to work on PHP 5.5 or higher and MySql 5x and higher.  To install extract the zip file and place on your web server.  Look inside the config directory to find the cal_db.inc.php file.  This is where you setup the connection to a database for the calendar. Here is the official instruction file as well.  I create the database in Phpmyadmin then run the SQL commands from the config directory in phpmyadmin to setup the database tables correctly.  That is about it. Official Installation file. Calendarix Screenshot calendarixrunning   Calendarix Mini Calendar Screenshot mini
    Okay so Prezi makes nice looking easy presentations but they are made using a web interface and are flash based.  This makes sharing, downloading or viewing these presentations outside of Prezi.com a bit difficult.  Using built in software on a Mac along with an opensource project called soundflower you can convert a prezi (or for that matter anything on the web) into a easy to use movie file. Using Quicktime you can do a New Screen Recording and draw a box around the content that you want to record.  This works great but has one major drawback.  This is capturing sound. For example if you click on Quicktime and then do a new screen recording: newscreenrecording Now in the box that pops up click on the little triangle to view your audio options. Notice the options are only NONE and Built-In-Microphone. built in micSo the Built-in-Microphone would work but you will get terrible sound and further you will get background static, and room noise basically everything picked up by the mic.  Also recording from a speaker directly to a microphone sounds terrible. Okay so what we need is a way to capture the audio stream perfectly and uninterrupted while capturing the screen.  Insert SoundFlower (https://github.com/mattingalls/Soundflower/releases/) SoundFlower adds a audio interface into your System Preferences that allows you to direct the speaker output directly allowing you to copy it perfectly.  Here is how to use it. First install SoundFlower. (Just download the DMG and double click on the PKG installer inside.) With SoundFlower installed you now can get redirect the output of your sound away from your speakers. Okay so back to Prezi and capturing the presentation with Audio now that we have SoundFlower.   We need to go to System Preferences and choose Sound. sound Now you change your OUTPUT to SoundFlower 2ch. 2chOkay now that you have redirected your output you will no longer hear any sounds.  This is okay and you can change back to Internal speakers after your done capturing the video. Now get your Prezi presentation ready to play and go to Quicktime and do a new screen recording.  This time notice when you click on the little triangle to change audio you now see SoundFlower 2CH. audio With the Soundflower 2ch checked now click on Record, drag a box around your prezi presention and start it it up.  When the presentation is done stop the screen recording by clicking on the little stop button on the top of your screen. Stop button is square in the circle stop button Okay so when you are done with the screen recording you just need to clean up the start and the finish so that it looks nicer.  To do this use QuickTime's Trim feature.  This feature is awesome and is often overlooked and unknown. Just go to EDIT | TRIM trim Now you can move the sliders on either side of the video to cut off the ackward beginning and the ackward finish (the part where you stop the screen recording) so that you are left with just a nice movie. Click and drag on either side of the Yellow box to adjust the start and end of the video tim2   Okay before you play your final movie you need to redirect the sound back to the speakers.  Otherwise you will not hear anything because all sound is still going to SoundFlower.  So go back to System Preferences | Sound and now choose for Output,  Internal Speakers. Putting Sound back to your speakers. soundagain With your trimmed video you can save it to your desktop then upload to Youtube.  Or you can use another great open source project like Handbrake to shrink the file and put on a disk, email it, or do whatever you like. (Here is a link to another Post I made on shrinking videos https://www.gcsdstaff.org/roodhouse/?p=3598) Wait, not that I am all done couldn't I do this same method to capture video or content from anywhere......? Answer yes.
    When posting a video online it is good to convert it to MP4 and compress it for fast playback.¬† Using a Mac I have found the best way to compress video is to use a program called Handbrake.¬† Handbrake is free and you can download it directly here.¬† Download https://handbrake.fr/rotation.php?file=HandBrake-0.10.5-MacOSX.6_GUI_x86_64.dmg Here is how I convert most videos to a web friendly format. Step One:¬† Locate the file that you want to shrink/compress and convert.¬† I like to place it on the desktop but if you know where your original file any location works. Step Two: Start Handbrake. Handbrake When Handbrake starts it will popup with a finder window and ask for you to select a video source.¬† Here I select a movie that I am going to shrink - then hit open. SelectVideo Step 3 Okay on this screen you can ignore most of the options except click near the top right.¬† Here select TOGGLE PRESETS and then choose the iPad Preset. Now check that the video Destination is your desktop and then click START.¬† start Now just wait for your video to convert.¬† The time depends on your computer and on the length/size of the video.¬† When it is all done you will see a Popup that says your "Cocktail" is ready. *** Note you can use Quicktime to Export and shrink videos as well.¬† I stick with Handbrake however since the video compression is much better, often times 2times better compression.              
    If you have updated your WordPress site to latest version and you use the JWPlayer version 6 you may have run across and error where your videos do not play. ¬†This is because of an slight error in one file on the JWPlayer which makes it incompatible with the newer WordPress. Good news is you do not have to update to JWPlayer Version 7 if you don't want to you can simply fix the one selected line of code or download my modified version of the plugin which is already fixed. jwplayerfixed¬†(JWPlayer 6.9 fixed) If you feel like manually fixing your own plugin you can by going to Plugins, click on JWPlayer and then choose the Editor. Here edit the file called jwplayermodule.php.   Look for this line of code */ define("JWP6_USE_CUSTOM_SHORTCODE_FILTER", true); /* and change it to¬†false¬†like this   */ define("JWP6_USE_CUSTOM_SHORTCODE_FILTER", false); /*   Thats it save and you the player should now work. jwfix

    Steam Arcade

    I am working on a Steam Arcade machine in my garage.¬† It is mostly complete and is now fully operational.¬† The only thing I am working on is redoing controls and keyboard on the front of the unit.¬† Likely going to swap keyboard and flush mount USB ports. SteamArcade The unit was originally a IT Bag Toss game that a buddy and I went and picked up one afternoon.¬† The unit was still partially functioning but I decided to revamp it a bit. IT bags opening Here is the machine when I got it.¬† The CRT display was working but only had a max resolution of 800x600 which meant it would not work with SteamOS. I pulled out the CRT and disposed at a nearby electronic recycling spot (Colona Cowboy Recylers).¬† My wife was not too thrilled with my mess in the yard..¬† The CRT was extremely heavy. CRT With the CRT removed I measured and put in a 1920x1080 LCD unit in its place.¬† Here I had to remount a few time to get the angle okay.¬† I am 6ft so viewing angle was perfect for me but I adjusted and tilted it later so also good for kids (They like goat simulator). IT Bags   I gutted the inside of the machine but decided to leave original speakers (although I added a subwoofer). inside1 The machine boots quickly with a Pentium G3258 20th anniversary running at 3.4 with 16 gigs of RAM.¬† I installed a 256 SSD and installed a Nvidia GTS mid level gaming card.¬† Machine is easily accessible to upgrade if needed by simply removing the back panel.¬† Currently I just want to play Pillars of Eternity and Divinity Original Sin (Linux release) so my machine handles them fine.¬† Also handles Metro Last Light at full settings so does what I need to. Here it is running a test, I used my old garage door opener as a Power/halt switch temporarily. inside running   I decided to paint the unit black and remove all the other decals.¬† I decided to go with a shiny black.¬† I had to replace the florescent light in the top unit as it probably broke in transport. goingblack   My brother bought me a jigsaw for my birthday so I used it to cut a new front piece to replace the old one with the track ball etc.¬† The old one had cracked and was made of particle board.¬† I used 3/4 inch plywood and cut it out. I am still waiting for a button kit to come in so just added a keyboard and attached to the unit for now so I can use it.¬† Open to suggestions on controller setup.¬†¬† Here is the piece I cut and I just put two buttons on for now that simply do a start and a shutdown.¬† On the back is a power button to kill power to entire unit (original arcade power switch). temp keyboard fix   I used the original power board on the arcade to power the lights but added a jack to power the motherboard and subwoofer and attached to the inside.¬† The toggle power switch on the back of the arcade kills power to everything. Adding Power   Here is the inside mostly done with subwoofer and network jack. Inside Mostly Complete   Temporarily I purchased a logitech wireless keyboard and trackpad and have it mounted to front.¬† I have the unit hardwired but left a usb and expansion slot if I wanted to use wireless. Only thing left was to install / update steam and ready to go.   installingSteamOS downloading steam   WelcometoSteam
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  • If you are not wanting to get stuck in the subscription model of smart software I don't blame you.¬† Unfortunately the last version of Smart Notebook that does not require a subscription is version 11 and can be downloaded as part of the educational software of 2013.¬† Newer version of OS X (Yosemite and El Captian) come with Ruby installed at version 2.0, where smart notebook 11 requires version 1.8. To fix or to get this version of Smart Notebook software to work on the newer OS X you can copy the old ruby files and copy them to the ruby framework found¬† in /System/Library/Frameworks/Ruby.framework/Versions.¬† Or an easier method is to simply use this package after you install. patch.pkg.zip Run this patch and Smart will run like normal.¬†¬†¬† Before running this patch you need to have notebook 11 installed 🙂 Hope this helps make some upgrades to El Capitan a bit easier for folks.    
    Hello,¬† here is how I like to publish Podcasts or videos onto a website running a wordpress engine.¬† This process has changed a bit since now all modern browsers can play MP4 (M4V) content directly without any plugins.¬† Also with recent versions of WordPress the built in player handles the native playback of MP4 perfectly and no plugins are really needed. Okay, so lets say I made a video on a Mac and saved it with Quicktime.¬† Chances are this video will be saved with an extension .mov.¬† Okay the problem with .mov is that they are huge and are terrible for publishing to the web.¬† Using quicktime you could export the video as a MP4 but I have found that it's compression settings are not ideal and still leave the video large. Okay so with a saved podcast in the .mov format.¬† I first convert it to MP4 using a program called Handbrake. You can visit Handbrakes website here https://handbrake.fr/downloads.php.¬† If you want to download the latest version for Mac you can click here. Okay so take a look at this mov clip. Deadmaubig Notice the file is 221 megs for a movie that is only 3 minutes and 7 seconds long. Okay so lets take this .MOV file and now load it into Handbrake. Handbrakes Icon. handbrakelogo   Okay with program open I select my .MOV file and now hit the button TOGGLE PRESETS so that I can choose iPad from the list.¬† Really this format is perfect for the web and you can ignore all other settings on this program.¬† It may look a bit confusing but really that is it. Pick your file hit iPad (or can choose Android) then hit START,¬† I am saving my file to the Desktop and will have a new file that ends with .MP4. Note: If you choose iPad or iPhone or Android your video will still be playable on all devices, including iphones and android phones and computers.¬† The MP4 format is universal with modern internet devices and will play on just about anything. handbrakeworking     Okay when it is all done lets compare the sizes. So the file was 211 megs before and now is: deadmausmallergood   15.9 megs.¬† Yes that is correct more then 10 times smaller.¬† This means it will load almost 10 times faster and if you want multiple people to view your site and watch your podcast at the same time it will work way better.¬† If you have ever uploaded a video to youtube you will notice that before you can view it,¬† you will see a message about youtube processing the video.¬† What are they doing?¬† You guessed it they are using a converter and compressing it to mp4 so that the video will play on all devices, will be small and load quickly. If you follow my method above you will do be doing the same thing and avoiding the advertising nightmare land which youtube has unfortunately become. Okay so now to embed the video. Just Go to your website, edit a post or page and then click on ADD MEDIA. addmedia   Choose your MP4 file you converted with Handbrake and Upload. Now simply choose Embed with Media Player (built in) embedwithmediaplayer Thats it,¬† here is my final product.¬† The file will auto embed and be playable,¬† if it cannot be playable on a device directly it will auto detect and the link will say download.¬† In this case click download and the video will still play.¬† If you are using Chrome, Firefox or Safari you should be able to play the file directly on the website. Try this post on a smartphone and you will see the video loads as well .. and quickly 🙂
    March 2017
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