BBWorld 2015

Just arrived at the hotel. DevCon starts tomorrow.

I’m in a bit of a bad mood. The drive up was horrendous. Dense traffic the whole way from Blacksburg, with multiple slow-downs all the way, and stoppages at Staunton and of course on 95 from Fredericksburg on up. Near DC it just got worse, but really from Roanoke, I was never more than a hundred yards from cars and trucks the whole way.

I got here around 7pm. Self-parked my car, which was interesting. That’s around the back. The first set of elevators in the parking lot didn’t work and you have to walk a way and go down a floor to get to the front desk. Definitely felt like a second class citizen. Oh, and parking is $26 a day, which was not mentioned on my reservation.

At 9pm it was still over 90 degrees outside and incredibly humid. DC is a swamp and Vegas is an oven. I’m not sure why Blackboard chooses these places.

Back to my room to relax and my TV isn’t working. The engineer had to reboot it at least three times. Yes, that’s reboot, not turn if off and on again.

BBWorld 2011

sotto voce: one of a series of long unfinished posts that I’m just throwing out there.

I returned from Blackboard World 2011 on Saturday. It was a good conference. I went early for the Oscelot/Open Source Day, and DevCon. Both were excellent. OSD was a good easy start and a nice small event to get things going. Glad to see Mark O’Neill is still involved while having a critical role within Blackboard and he’s just a nice, smart guy. I also got a chance to get to know Wim and his team from K.U. Leuven, who are great guys and do interesting work. Getting to know them, the various ex-pats from the U.K. (Scots in England, and English in Scotland), and Jose from Monterrey.The Belgian and Monterrey schools are institutions of somewhat similar size and have faced many of the same challenges that we have, and found many of the same solutions. The guys from the U.K. are doing excellent technical work particularly with standards.

Anyway, a week in Las Vegas with lots of free alcohol. What could be better? Well, I’ve been sick for quite a while and it really dialed up this past week. I felt pretty awful and was taking ibuprofen every 4 hours or so. Without it, mind-bogglingly bad headaches started, shooting pains, muscle aches, etc. Very hard to sleep when your scalp(!) hurts to the touch and you are waking up every few hours. Friends with medical experience were quite worried. Anyway, the flight back was tough and I went straight to my regular clinic and a new doctor who very promptly diagnosed Lyme disease. There’s a test which will take a while to come back, but the diagnosis seems right and matches up with the “spider” bite that I had sustained just before I ran the triathlon a little over 3 weeks ago. Since I’d been taking ibuprofen for the swelling, I suspect it masked a lot of the initial symptoms. I’m finally on the right antibiotic and I hope, improving.

— picking up again after a long while —

So, I went on antibiotics for the Lyme disease which immediately started clearing up…and consequently developed Bell’s Palsy, which really freaked me out. Apparently it’s a relatively rare side effect of Lyme’s disease as the 7th facial nerve has been compressed. At one point, I was on an anti-inflammatory, anti-viral (just in case it wasn’t Lyme’s–the test takes a long time to come back), and antibiotic. This was as I was headed to England for an overdue vacation.

Anyway, back to the conference. Since I’d been feeling so bad, I kept putting off the work I needed to do on my presentation. In the end I dragged a co-worker into presenting a little bit, but I did the majority of it with very skinny slides. It turned out very well. The room was full to overflowing and I was asked to do a repeat session, which I ultimately decided to decline. The recording is/was online fwiw.

A long time since, what do I recall of the conference. Not much to be honest. It was a good conference, but the whole experience was colored by my illness. I hope this year it will be more fun.

…pulling the trigger on this one.

Sakai and OpenSocial (via OLDaily)

Via OLDaily comes this piece about developers at Cambridge building a new interface for Sakai based on Google’s OpenSocial API. This is good because Sakai utterly sucks at the UI level and the observation about it being written by and for hard core Java developers (who love architecture) with no space for innovation by others is completely accurate. It’s a very long-standing complaint of mine.

ISP Troubleshooting Suggestions

We often are called on to solve strange problems that students have with Blackboard, and I see these discussions on some of the lists all the time. A year or so ago, I pulled together a list of things to check and it has served us well.

Some are them are obvious to seasoned users, but some really are not (checking the time zone settings for example). Read on for the full list of suggestions:

Continue reading ISP Troubleshooting Suggestions

Blackboard’s Pending Patents

Blackboard has a number of pending patents in addition to the recently granted one.

These were posted by Santo Nucifora to the Blackboard list out of ASU.

PUB. APP. NO. Title
1. 20060168233
Internet-based education support system and methods

2. 20060026213
Content and portal systems and associated methods

3. 20050086296
Content system and associated methods

4. 20040167822
Method and system for conducting online transactions

5. 20040030781
Internet-based education support system and method with multi-language capability

Blackboard, F5 (BigIP) and Internet Explorer Performance

We have run into some very strange performance problems with Blackboard and Internet Explorer recently. We think there is an interaction with our load balancer (which is an F5 BigIP – forget which version). We have found that Internet Explorer 6.0 will randomly slow to a crawl, where Firefox is zipping along just fine.

This appears to be a new phenomenom (February 2006), although we cannot point to an exact date, but it manifests itself as random slowdowns in IE only and it appears to be only with our Blackboard system sitting behind our F5 load balancer, not with other systems. We think it is a threading problem in the browser, but can’t really explain it. Blackboard distinguishes itself from other applications on that load balancer by having horrible HTML loaded down with images, etc, but it’s still strange.

Has anyone else seen anything like this?