Tech Report

Date: February 21st, 2012
To: Michael Green
From: Steve Rippl
Subject: Tech Dept. Executive Summary

It's time for our annual State technology inventory and staff/student tech integration reporting and so we're just in the process of collecting this years data.  It was last year that we got to almost 1,000 computers between staff, students and servers, and while I don't have old numbers to hand there has been a significant increase in the last few years, mostly on the student side.  I still have pending requests for more student computers but we've put the breaks on for the time being as we try to ensure we have the means to support and replace as needed everything we have currently.  The thin-client infrastructure has made it easy and fairly economical to place student computers where ever someone wants them (within reason), but we've probably reached the limits of this with our current budget situation, especially with the on going replacement of other tech items like projectors and document cameras as they age and break.

We're probably nearly half way through our transition to Google Apps for our District email and calendars with the offices, SPED, the Primary School, Yale, TEAM and then some key staff in each of the other buildings already migrated over.  Clearly this is no small change and we have run into a couple of problems and a few grumbles which is no surprise when imposing this much change on folks.  What is surprising to me is how many positive comments there have been for this particular change (change rarely elicits positive responses in this field!).  Lots of people already use GMail for their personal email and so have found the switch easy, others appreciate the fuller featured web interface access and the fact that it's the same whatever computer they're on. 

The State's MSP testing software is out, and unfortunately their change of vendor this year to provide the software hasn't been particularly positive.  The Windows version is not as easy to configure and deploy automatically compared to last years, and the Linux version uses more RAM and won't run on the specific kernel we run, which we can overcome but again means more intervention on our part.  I'm sure it will be fine come testing time, but it's not filling us with admiration for the product currently.  I'll be passing feedback on up to the State once we have things straighted out, but we have been in contact with the vendors themselves to get some questions answered.

While the ESD are working on the design of our new website, we've been working on the ‘back-end' implementation of it.  Our current site runs on Drupal 4.7 and was heavily customized to accommodate functionality like the Board Docs, High School local scholarships and culminating project, various large custom forms, video display and transportation requests for KWRL, various directories and sundry other small functions.  Rather than recreate this in the latest version of Drupal we're building this using the same tools as Sips and our network admin tools are built in, the Perl language and the Catalyst web framework.  These are the tools we're using much more often and so it's quicker and more efficient for us to use them for the website as well, and the inevitable future software upgrades will be equally applicable across all the platforms.