Monthly Archives: November 2012

Unit 13: IRLS 675 wrapup

How sad, we have come once again to the “final blog post” time of the semester! Since this time around, I’m going to try to make my final paper more formal, use the third person, and all that jazz, I guess this is my last opportunity to talk about what I got out of this class personally.

First of all, it was really great to try so many different kinds of applied technology. Sometimes it was a little challenging to figure out hard drive space issues with juggling around so many different VMs, but it was definitely worth it. When I think about how I was able to critically assess the different articles in the management portion of the class, my understanding of digital collections and issues of platform, customizability, and so forth was increased exponentially as the applied part of the class went on. Although 672 was a good beginning, actually getting hands-on experience with the kinds of software that digital collections managers are using and evaluating was a really empowering experience. Seeing what was similar and what was unique to each setup by actually installing and using it was a completely different experience than reading about each system’s capabilities, or even using sites that have been created using those systems.

The other thing that I want to emphasize about the applied technology portion is that its repetitive process of using similar procedures in different ways over time helped demystify things that I had done by rote before. This isn’t to say that I’ve become an expert at anything; a week or two isn’t enough time for that. But I do feel that I’m confident enough to try installing new software in a new VM — perhaps the museum collection management software mentioned in unit 14? — and know what to do with Apache to get it to work, know how to use wget or ftp to put files on the VM, etc., and actually know what those functions are doing, rather than doing them because that’s what the forum post said.

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Unit 11, week 2: Thoughts on VMs

This week’s assignment is to discuss using a pre-configured VM instead of building our own, for the purposes of this class.

I think that the repetitive nature of installing new VMs from scratch was generally good practice, and I don’t begrudge the time I spent repeating the same process multiple times throughout this class, and 672 before it. Especially since our instructions for completing each assignment varied (e.g., editing the repositories, using wget, using FTP, etc.), I think that by the end of the class, we’ve gotten to practice a number of different ways of doing the same thing and generally have an idea of our preferred methods and their pros and cons.

From that pedagogical perspective, it might have been interesting to vary the new VMs — running different distributions for each install, perhaps, instead of doing the same basic Ubuntu Server install over and over. I really liked having one unit (I think it was DSpace?) that used Tomcat instead of Apache, and PostgreSQL instead of MySQL. A lighttpd one might have been neat, too. On the other hand, I imagine the difficulty troubleshooting such different setups would have been frustrating for many, and for those with slow internet connections, downloading multiple distros would have been very time-consuming.

If the advantage to using pre-configured VMs would have been getting to spend more time playing with the installed program, I would argue that taking the time to install and configure that program gives a lot of depth and insight into its workings that merely using it pre-installed wouldn’t add.

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Unit 11: general impressions

This week, we got to start playing with Omeka. It reminded me a lot of our Drupal unit. The themes and plugins seemed very similarly structured. A little searching dug up this post in which an Omeka developer commented that the code bases are structured very differently, but from an initial user perspective, it had a similar front-end feel.

I think that approachable feel is really important. For example, although we didn’t look at Joomla or WordPress in this class, making the experience easy and visually appealing is part of why those tools are so successful. One thing I’ve noticed in comparing the different platforms in this class is that things that are visually appealing and approachable on the back end tend to be so on the front end when implemented, too. Okay, that wasn’t the greatest sentence in the world, but hopefully you’ll get what I mean: something like Drupal that has a really slick, intuitive, and approachable interface just tends to power better sites than something old and clunky-feeling like DSpace.

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