[eDebate] Technology, Tubs and Other Such Fun

Jim Hanson hansonjb
Tue Jul 22 14:25:09 CDT 2008


some quick answers--I'm running a debate camp so don't have a lot of time:

1. usb's are fine--the main issue is that debaters want the files during the speeches just like when they give the evidence to the other team when they read them. constantly handing the usb back and forth isn't so good for that.

2. the ocr--two $100-$150 epson scanners and ms office 2003 and you are set to go; your team shares the scanners. the ocr in office 2003 is actually quite good--yes, a few books/articles with weird/small fonts aren't going to scan; a few books on the edges won't work so well. but the vast majority will and yes you do have to make minor edits after you scan it in. for those of you starting out, it appears like a daunting task and it will seem slower at first. once you start doing it, you'll see the many, many benefits of doing it.

3. the system I'm working on relies on ad-hoc networks and so browser changes won't affect it. office vba changes will; possibly windows xp to vista to windows 7 will change it. I don't know about the interference with other networks in the area--I don't think it would interfere and as I remember I've discussed this with our tech people but I guess I need to know more on that. jimbo--maybe you can tell me if ad-hocs would interfere with a school's network. the other way is to have the laptops use a special type of ethernet cord (which we have used; it works but the cables are kind of messy).

4. tech support for students/coaches at tournaments. that is a definite issue. usb's are easier on that although there are still going to be tech issues.

jim :)
hansonjb at whitman.edu


From: James Maritato 
Sent: Tuesday, July 22, 2008 11:57 AM
To: edebate at ndtceda.com 
Subject: [eDebate] Technology, Tubs and Other Such Fun


Well it seems I now have to break my summerlong commitment not to post on edebate because we are having a discussion of technology.

Veronica describes Denver's use of jumpdrives as part of their way to manage equity in rounds and I feel the need to chime in here to say that those USB drives are likely the BEST solution for debate programs.  Implementations of wireless, databases, etc. are all excess, contribute to higher costs to run rounds, increase hardware overhead, and take far longer to develop than technology that already exists.


A few arguments for jumpdrives:

1.  You will be extremely hard pressed to find any piece of technology that is more portable or universally accepted across computing platforms than a USB jump drive.  You don't even need to pack it in a bag, or your carry-on.  It fits in your pocket.  
2.  Jumpdrives are resilient.  I know MANY of you on this list who have done unthinkable things to your jumpdrives (washed them, dropped them in beer, let a debate partner chew on them, dropped them in the toilet, etc. etc.)  The complete lack of moving parts in a jump drive basically guarantee that if you let it dry out it will still work.
3.  If you need a laptop to access some wifi based network for evidence sharing, you ALREADY HAVE everything you need to read files from a jumpdrive in front of you.
4.  If you are concerned about not having to jump files between computers, bring in the extra laptop some have already mentioned and plug each team's jump drive into it.  Poof -- same centralized evidence sharing technology, no networking.
5.  Most college IT departments will hammer you if you set up rogue wireless LANS -- even if they don't connect to the campus network.  This is because.....
6.  The more wireless traffic you create, the shittier the service gets regardless of what LAN you are associated to.  The 2.4 Ghz band has 11 channels.  Too much wireless traffic = packet collision, signal loss, and congestion.
7.  Jump drives are cheap cheap cheap.  I challenge you to find a wifi/database based set up that costs as much (or less) to setup, use, and maintain - both in terms of time and money.
8.  So-called "netbooks" that simply run Operating Systems like Ubuntu or Linux are now on the market for less than $400, as are Net tablets.  If you are really that hung up on having another computer for the sake of equity you can easily acquire one of these machines on ebay for even less.  They don't run Windows, but they do have PDF capability and local copies of Google Docs and Spreadsheets installed.  Put your jump drive in, load up your files, and read them right off a tablet you can hand to the other team.  The reality is, 99% of debaters do not need today's top of the line hardware to debate.  You can get cheap hardware that will do the job just fine.  Whether that's the same machine you play Unreal Tournament on at home is a completely different situation.
9.  Building materials and design affect WiFi coverage.  WiFi drifts down, not up, and is stopped by all sorts of things (concrete, thick plaster, certain metals create a "Faraday Cage" effect that traps the signal in drop ceilings).  Someone on your debate team had better spend some time doing coverage mapping before the tournament so you know where there is WiFi and where there isn't.


Now, a few questions for all of you:

1.  Who are the teams with the magical ability to produce everything they do in OCR?  We at Marist are not fortunate enough to have an army of people who can do this with our backfiles, or who can consistently do it (without fixing plenty of spelling errors created by crappy OCR software!) on a reasonable timetable.  How are you making this happen?  What magical piece of technology can I requisition that will cost me less than $5000 that will do this with books and not barf over the bends in the book spine?
2.  How do you account for the amount of time that needs to be invested in a browser based solution that will work across all browsers and follow update practices by major OS developers?  I am not trying to nay-say Jim Hanson's idea, but I can only see something like this working in a world where there is an active development team in place to correct bugs/issues, etc. that will arise when Internet Explorer 7 Service Pack 1B (or whatever) comes out and alters some functionality of the software.  Web browsers, even within platform, are notoriously non-compliant to HTML and W3C standards.
3.  Who will provide the on-site tech support for students attempting to access these wifi based solutions?  Would each tournament director need to work with their Information Technology department (that at many unis wants to bill the requesting department or program) to make sure all ran correctly on the technical side of things?  Will each tournament director need to build in some sort of redundant network such that if the evidence sharing network dies they have a fall back?  Who funds and maintains that?
4.  Why does answering any of these questions make sense in a world where we already have a cheap and effective way of moving files?

Implement Jim Hansonesque genius in the long term -- and use the jumpdrives in the short term folks.


Jimbo
-actually has a degree in this crap
-has been the network administrator of an Urgent Care Clinic for over ten years
-bills out heavily for this kind of knowledge



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