Word Count

This simple tool came to me in today’s Scout
. Here is how the Word Count site describes itself:

is an artistic experiment in the way we use language. It presents the 86,800
most frequently used English words, ranked in order of commonality. Each
word is scaled to reflect its frequency relative to the words that precede
and follow it, giving a visual barometer of relevance. The larger the word,
the more we use it. The smaller the word, the more uncommon it is…

Can you guess what the three most common words of the English language are and their ranked order (Hint: they’re all in this question)?

George Packer on Blogging, Pajamas, Politics…

While writing the English Ed’s site’s description of the Blog project, I came
across this marvelous passage by George Packer. It introduces his article,"The
Revolution Will Not Be Blogged," published in the May/June issue of Mother
I like Packer’s ambivalence. The article explores the nature of
blog reading more than blog writing (and blog reading in the sphere of political
journalism), with some nicely subtle shades of positives and negatives:

To see beyond their own little world and get a sense
of what’s really
going on, journalists and readers need to get out of their pajamas.

I’m also addicted to them.
Hours dissolve into nothing when I suit up and dematerialize into the,
political blogosphere, first visiting one of the larger, nearer online
opinion diaries–talkingpointsmemo.com, andrewsullivan.com, kausfiles
com–then beaming myself outward along rays of pixelated light to dozens
of satellites and lesser stars, Calpundit, InstaPundit, OxBlog, each one
radiant with links to other galaxies–online newspapers and magazines
with deep, deep archives, think-tank websites, hundred-page electronic
reports in PDF–until I’m light-years from the point of departure and
can rescue myself only by summoning the will to disconnect from the
whole artificial universe. With a jolt, I land in front of my computer.
Before long I’ll venture forth again to see what’s new out
there–because the blogosphere changes from instant to instant.

DNS, or I’ve got your number, or what’s in a name…

Server Admin Guy

Here in this inaugural blog on the newly-created category “Server Admin Guy”–the category that charts the ups and downs of administering a Debian
Linux server (this one at St. Odilo School)–I write a happy message to the
St. Odilo Technology Committee (Techcom). I give a final update to a week-long
process in bringing back network services, after a major SNAFU by SBC-Ameritech (they
obliterated the longstanding account’s static IP numbers).

To: Techcom (Saint Odilo Technology Committee)
SUBJECT: Final (??) Crisis Update

Less than a week after we lost our IP numbers (but not
much less), our system is back and just about fully operational.

There were many hurdles:

  1. Figuring out the problem was not our equipment: MAJOR
    , with these highlights: swapping
    our our server, router, cables, re-configuring bunches of things. Thanks, Bill
    Donegan, for carrying the backup server from the rectory to the school.
  2. Keeping our old IP Numbers: IMPOSSIBLE.
  3. Getting new IP numbers: NOT
    : Thanks, Frank, of SBC
    for staying on at work two hours after normal quitting time Friday night to
    re-configure our account.
  4. Getting new IP numbers to work: ALMOST
    : Thanks Al, for your weekend
    intervention to resolve some very mystifying account tie-ups and finding us
    the person (Guy) who knew exactly what to do to get our new numbers functioning.
    Al’s help cut at least two days off our network downtime.
  5. Getting our new IP numbers propagated throughout the
    worldwide DNS database:
    , as all indications were
    that the new info was being distributed, but apparently (after nearly three
    days of no change) was not. Thanks Ed, for directing me to the place we needed
    to go to get things fixed: Our domain name account with Network Solutions.
    Unfortunately, there is some kind of problem with our DNS server, such that
    it doesn’t effectively send updates to all the world’s DNS servers. In fact,
    my current theory (as validated by some googling) is that the notification
    our server is sending is correct, but the servers of the world aren’t understanding
    it for some reason. ("I’m not wrong, everyone else is!") But whatever–Ed,
    I found at our Network Solutions account a way to use their DNS server to
    propagate new records. So I sent that through, and the needed changes pointing
    people to our new numbers started appearing within a few hours. It’s not a
    solution that makes me perfectly happy (we really shouldn’t have to rely on
    Network Solution’s DNS server to propagate our change), but it’s perfectly
    effective. (Other googling, btw, inclines me to think that maybe our change
    would have gone through once our old records "expired" on the servers
    of the world–something that would have happened after seven days.)

Thanks Paul, for dropping by the house yesterday, as
you were girding yourself for phone battle with SBC to ask them for all kinds
of restitution. In the old days, it was called Blood Money. I think we’d settle
for some credit or free upgrades. Did you get any? (If not, we’ll settle for
the blood, right?) Thanks for your moral support over the weekend during your

Whew. Bye… –Angelo

P.S.: Pardon this Anti-Olympic Moment, but may I avoid
the fate of Phidippides who gave birth to the Olympic Movement by dropping dead
after delivering his joyous message, delayed by a 26-mile run from Marathon
to Athens: "We win!" [plop!]

Volunteer Technology Committee Work

The principal audience
of this blog entry is my English Education students–to give them a kind of
"behind the scenes" look at one type of professional involvement
and volunteer work. The entry also presents some leads on an educational administrative
technology system–the Centre system–which
students might find very useful, as a sample of the type of record-keeping
system they will need to employ in their student teaching and teaching. The
text below (in
green and maroon)
is a letter I wrote in July 2004 to Principal Bill Donegan of St. Odilo School
and Paul Rau, the school’s Music Director and technology guru.

I think this entry also
shows some of the "sprawl" of professional/personal/community relations
that is inevitable if one wishes to be an effective, dedicated teacher. I
am or have been the parent of five St. Odilo schoolchildren; I’ve served on
the St. Odilo School Board as member and president; I’ve taught teacher in-services
at the school; I’ve conducted several clinical programs with the Language
Arts and Computers teachers–and I’ve served on the school’s technology committee
(Techcom), in which capacity the current letter was written. There’s been
a connectedness and trajectory to each of these roles, even if there wasn’t
a clear sense always of the purpose and direction and feasibility and worth
of each endeavor.

I think it’s important
for beginning teachers to know how "messy" it can be to get a foothold
in a school and build a professional role there. I confess that from the beginning
I always had ulterior motives for my contributions to St. Odilo School.
Those motives involved not only helping the school be the best it can be for
my children, but also finding a "partner" site where I could conduct
some of my clinical programs–which required a high level of technological
capacity and dependability. As I engaged in technological work at SXU, I knew
immediately that work could pay off in other contexts–everything could fall
into place neatly–but only after a lot of indirect setup and involvement.
Anyway, this blog is just an illustration of that…

Dear Bill
and Paul–The Centre School Information System (administrative school package)
is installed, upgraded, and ready for use. The current system is four upgrades
beyond the first system that was installed about a month ago. So the product
has had an intense development this summer by its creators. The current version,
1.02, seems to have most of the bugs worked out, and I think you can depend
on it in terms of data safety and security. (But there may be kinks lefts,
FOR EXAMPLE: On my Mac at home, I find that Internet Explorer doesn’t always
work for every feature (namely, for editing data); I haven’t been able to
test on a Windows machine yet, so if you experience a problem, and you’re
using Explorer, try switching to Mozilla or Netscape or some other browser
to see if the problem persists).

you intend to use this system, you’ll probably need some assistance in figuring
it out and finding all its uses. It took me a couple of hours of tinkering
to get the hang of it (once all the installation difficulties were overcome).
Some of the features are pretty obvious; some, however, I found counter-intuitive
or a little odd. Some of the features won’t be needed at all by St. Odilo,
but most seem pretty useful.

is editable from within an admin account, even though it often doesn’t look
so. If you see something you’d like to edit (e.g., a password), try clicking
on it, and you should get a text box or pop-up menu for editing. (Here’s where
I had the problem with Explorer. Explorer lets you change the data, but after
you click "Save" the change doesn’t stick.)

I’ve created
an Administrator account for each of you. One feature I don’t like is that
an administrator can see the password of every user (not just CHANGE the password,
as is the typical admin power with such systems). So I’m sending this message
with your password at the same time, since either of you could look at each
other’s passwords at any time. In fact, to keep things simple at this point,
I’ve given you each the same password: ******.

It’s important
to know that every administrator will always be able to view every password,
so you’d want to know who your admins are, of course, and you’d want to advise
users not to use a super-sensitive password (for instance, Paul, I don’t think
we should use our master Odilo password in this system).
Here’s the login info you need:


Password: **********

are some test accounts created for us to tinker with. Feel free to create
some new accounts.

Go ahead–log
in. You’ll see eight icons across the top. Click on "Users" ("Users"
are parents, teachers, and administrators; students are administered from
another icon). To see a list of all the current users, clck the "Submit"
button with all the search boxes left blank (this procedure for displaying
all the users is one of the less obvious features I referred to above). Try
to edit any of the users by clicking on their names, and then clicking on
the text you wish to edit.

are four types of accounts available in the Centre system: student, teacher,
parent, and administrator. To download a brief manual on each, go to:


Do either
of you think it would be a bad idea to go to Techcom with some kind of call
for assistance in using/testing the system? I don’t think we should create
any "spare" administrator accounts on our system, but there is a
demo site set up for the general public to learn about and practice with the
system. If you decide to use Centre to handle the school’s record keeping,
you’ll want, eventually to get parents and students on board. First, of course,
are the teachers, but my hope is that it won’t be too difficult to give them
a start in using it. Perhaps Paul and I could prepare some type of in-service
for the start of the year?
But what do you think about sending Techcom something along these lines?


Dear Techcom–This
summer we’ve installed a new system on our server for managing record-keeping
and various administrative/communicative tasks for the school and school community.
The new system is call "Centre," and it is Open Source software
developed by the Miller Group (http://www.miller-group.net/). The Centre system
can be used for scheduling, record-keeping, turning in grades, making reports,
taking attendance, recording grades for assignments, quizzes, and quarters,
making mailings, determining sports eligibility, etc.

an implementation of Centre would involve the whole St. Odilo community (there
are four types of log-in: parent, student, teacher, and administrator), Techcom
should probably lead the way in learning about the system and testing it out.
If we decide to go with a full implementation of Centre, Techcom could probably
best advise on how to announce and promote the system, as well as to educate
users–primarily teachers, but also parents and students.

A demo
site has been created for people who wish to get started in Centre:


You can
log in with one of four demo accounts (the different account levels carry
different permissions and functions):

Username: admin; Password: admin
• Username: teacher; Password: teacher
• Username: parent; Password: parent
• Username: student; Password: student

For user
manuals for each of the four types of login (Administrator, Parent, Teacher,
and Student), go to



Bill–If you like this message, you may send it, or any version of it. Or
I would be happy to send it or something else, if you wish. Or Paul could
send something. Or, we don’t have to send anything. But getting the word out
might generate some interest and assistance….

it for now. Take care, Angelo

PHPQuickGallery–Tool for Image/Movie Collections

One of my summer technology projects was to install PHPQuickGallery
at my Web site and the Web site of at least one colleague (so far). The software
lets you easily organize photo collections for display at a Web site. The PHP-based
system allows the site owner to add comments to photos, and it provides
site visitors the opportunity to view images as thumbnails and also in various
sizes. I’ve initiatied my
with photos of my family’s "Baseball Vacation"
and a few archived pictures of the kids.

Norm Boyer is the colleague collaborator/testor so far. He had some great
photos from the England Travels
course he taught this summer. Norm helped
me identify a few glitches and workarounds, but most of all, he confirmed how
useful the system is for very quickly posting large collections of photos. I’m
wondering to what extent my colleagues in the Art Department might find PHPQuickGallery
relevant to their needs for organizing the large collections of slides they
use in their instruction.

I found out about this software from the August 6, 2004 Scout
The program is free software, with an unusual but charming licensing
requirement. As the main license condition, developer Benjamin Meyer asks that users send him
a postcard for him to display on the door to his computer room.

Here is how the software is described at the PHPQuickGallery


PHPQuickGallery is the solution for those who want
to have a simple, easy to manage web gallery. Adding new photos or galleries
is as simple as creating directories and copying in the files (You could keep
them there, but you do have backups of your photos right?). PHPQuickGallery
doesn’t require the user to add the photos to a database, go through some
web form, or have a script run to create new web pages. PHPQuickGallery will
automatically detect and display anything new that is added.

PHPQuickGallery includes the following features

  • First and formost PHPQuickGallery will check the
    comments for spelling when saving them.
  • Ability to have galleries with images and movies.
  • Galleries can have galleries within them.
  • Automatic image thumbnail creation. No scripts to
    run or import them into the gallery.
  • Ability to display comments about images and directories
    without the need of a database.
  • Uses the file system for storing the galleries,
    images, and comments. It is not stored in a database.
  • Ability to add/delete comments when logged in.
  • Gallery slideshow.
  • Scale images on the fly to any size.
  • Themes and user prefrences.
  • Automatic thumbnail cleanup.
  • Clean commented code.