2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 6,400 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Finally getting WeDo working

I think I spoke too soon in my last post. Having tried the software on several other machines, it turned out the greyed out head was still present.

After some contact with LEGO support, we still couldn’t figure out what was wrong. However, I did discover that the software did work properly on a different account on my MacBook. What was so different about that account? In the end I discovered it was because of some login scripts we had running on all the other Macs. This script moved and renamed the ~/Documents folder to trick the sidebar into defaulting the save location to the network home rather than locally. After changing this script so that ~/Documents was back in its default setting, everything seemed to work fine. Yay!

LEGO WeDo and Munki

As part of Mr Gove’s wonderful new Computing Curriculum in Primary schools, we’ve invested in some LEGO WeDo kit to teach some simple robotics stuff to KS2. It’s basically a USB hub which connects to a computer, into which you can plug a motor, a distance sensor or a tilt sensor. You can then program these sensors using LEGO’s own WeDo software (or MIT’s Scratch!) to build cool stuff like a spinning top, an aeroplane or an automatic goalie.

So far so good.

Then I came to trying to install the software on all the Macs in the school using Munki. I love Munki as it means I can remotely install and update stuff on all the Macs in the school really quickly. But it does rely on software coming in a reasonably decently packaged form. Which LEGO WeDo does not. Rather than using a sensible .pkg file, it instead has an Installer App (I know!) which then asks you to choose a language, which then opens up a meta package (.mpkg) which runs 6 different installers, each with various pre and post-flight scripts that liberally sprinkle files across various parts of your system.

Lovely.

Having used Pacifist to look inside the meta-package to see what was being installed, I tried using Munki to install each of these packages remotely. Except this didn’t work – the App icon for WeDo stopped working and you couldn’t view all the build instructions (leaving the dreaded greyed-out LEGO head).

So I tried a different tack. I downloaded Packages, a brilliant package-builder for Mac, and decided to build my own package for the software. The LEGO installer handily gave a list of all the files to delete to uninstall it, so I just added those to my package. And this worked. Kinda, only the LEGO head was stilled greyed out.

[Incidently, making changes to a package and changing the version number of the package, makes it keep testing an installation on Munki. Because Munki checks package receipts, it won’t reinstall a package it’s already installed. But it will install a package with a higher version number.]

Having spent far to much time on this problem already, I decided to give LEGO support a call. They were quite helpful, and suggested I try log in with an administrator account and see if that worked. Lo and behold, it did. They then suggested I tweak permissions on different files and folders to see if that helped. I basically gave write permissions to anyone on all files and that seemed to fix it. Not ideal really.

Getting video to work in Keynote with mirrored displays

This morning I tried getting a short video to work as part of a Keynote slide for the Christmas Show.  Only it didn’t work – only the sound played.  A quick google turned up a few options:

  1. Turn off display mirroring.  This did seem to work, but it’s a pain.
  2. Tick the box ‘Allow Exposé, Dashboard and others to use screen’ in Keynote>Preferences>Slideshow.

The second option definitely worked better!  For those interested, in the Keynote preference file, it’s called ‘PresentationModePlayWellWithOthers’.