Sep. 14th, 2006

oneirophrenia: (Ear!)
WHY do colleges and universities schedule students into "remedial" writing courses like, say, Waynesburg or Cal U's ENG 100, and then also schedule them for history/philosophy/etc. classes that require mad amounts of research papers? They're in ENG 100 to be prepared to do college writing, yet in other classes they're already expected to be doing it. That is so backasswards it makes me want to travel back in time and punch an earlier version of myself in the head.

Yesterday, one of my 100 students, Jasmine--the only black girl in all of Greene County, it seems--asked me if I could help her with a research paper. "Uhhh...none of our essays in this class involved research," I noted. "No, no, no," she answered, "this is for my history class." This class requires her to do three separate research papers. The assignments provide the topics, but she is expected to research the data, put it all together, and then document it all using MLA style. Jasmine has never done a research paper in her life--her highschool didn't have a senior project or anything like that, and she went to tech school for health-care training, so she never really had to write anything. Which is why she's in ENG 100 instead of ENG 101, the research-writing class. And these three papers in her history class are the biggest percentage of her grade.

As an English instructor, it's my duty to make sure anyone who comes to me for advice or instruction--whether he or she's a student of mine or not--is provided with the necessary information. But how can I possibly teach this poor girl who barely knows what a standard 5-paragraph essay is everything she needs to know to do a research paper? The best I told her I can do is show her the basics of research (which isn't that difficult at all) and then try to show her how MLA works as best I can by next Wednesday, which is when the first paper is due. Oy freakin' vey. I'll do everything I possibly can to help her out, but there's just no way you can teach someone who has no concept of research writing how to do it well enough to earn an A in under a week's time. As long as she doesn't fail the assignment, I'll be happy--and I'll try like hell to ensure she doesn't.

This kind of cross-scheduling shit really frosts my balls, though. Perhaps a little interdepartmental continuity would be a good thing.
oneirophrenia: (r0b0t)
I finally downloaded and installed Windows Vista RC1 on my old fileserver computer last night and played around with it for a bit. And the verdict is:

TOTALLY FUCKING SWEET.

First of all, I've been idly following Vista development for the past few months and noticed that most of the comments and reviews mentioned that Vista is shaping up nicely but still has a lot of problems. Namely, that it's slow as hell, still a bit buggy (expected with even a pre-release candidate), and nags you too much with User Account Control pop-ups asking you for permission to do damnear anything from empty the Recycle Bin to scratch your own ass with your own hand. I decided that the only way to truly experience Windows Vista and decide whether it will be worth upgrading to in the future is to give it a try myself...and in order to determine just what problems I might encounter, I decided to run it on my lowest-end machine just to see how it would handle on a four-year-old Compaq with only 512mb of RAM and a pretty average, three-year-old Nvidia graphics card.

First, I ran MS's Windows Upgrade Advisor thingee on the computer and it recommended that I turn off the much-ballyhooed Aero interface and a number of other advanced functions as "these would slow down performance noticeably." Well, fuck that, I thought--I want to see the performance hit myself. So I just installed the complete RC1 with all its standard high-end defaults.

I did not upgrade the version of WinXP currently on the computer--I just wiped the partition and installed clean. The complete installation took approximately 45 minutes...the exact same as with WinXP. When Vista booted for the first time, it took a while, naturally, but every subsequent boot took no more time than WindowsXP.

MS recommends a high-end video card to handle its glassy, transparent Aero interface...but my video card is a couple of years old and was middling at best at the time. I think it's a 128mb Nvidia Something-or-Other. It handles the Aero interface perfectly well. No performance slowdown whatsoever.

I tested out the ubiqitous search features in Vista next. They ran perfectly smoothly, though I've no doubt that once I'm running searches with my usual millions of documents, sound files, and graphics on an indexed hard drive, it will probably be slower--but, still, nothing to be alarmed about.

To test its multitasking capabilities, I ran almost every largescale programme that comes with it at one time. Internet Explorer, WMP 11, all the systems utilities, and so forth. I think I had a grand total of 25 apps running. The taskbar at the bottom of the screen was so jampacked I could barely tell what anything was--but Vista has a nice little feature that pops up a thumbail of the window in question above the taskbar slot. Sure, with 25 separate apps running, I started noticing system slowdown, but...nothing appreciable or any way worse than the slowdown I used to get with XP running a ton of big apps.

While I was working with the OS, I got two User Account Control popups. Only two. And none of them repeated when I accessed the commands a second time after having okayed them in the first place.

So. The verdict so far is: I don't know what all the alarmists on the 'Net are babbling about. Windows Vista does not seem to run slower than XP. MS's own "hardware requirements" greatly overestimate Vista's hardware footprint--I'm running it just fine on a computer that, according to them, shouldn't be able to handle all of Vista's advanced features. But it sure as hell does. So don't pay attention to ANY of that hardware bullshit. If you've got any computer better than a Pentium II and have at least 512mb of RAM, Windows Vista should be just fine on your machine.

Now, remember this, folks: these are all preliminary conclusions. I haven't installed any major software on it yet to see how it works. I haven't tried any of my audio software or installed Adobe Creative Suit 2. I haven't even begun to really play with all the configs and really get under the hood of the OS. My opinion will almost certainly change once I do that, and it'll probably go down a bit. I do know that Vista presently has problems with Creative's X-Fi soundcards, which is what I use in my primary desktop, but I'm betting that will be resolved by the time Windows Vista officially goes live. It damnwell better be. (Though this is not a problem for MS to work out--it's a problem for Creative, and they'd better get cracking on it.)

But, nonetheless...Windows Vista looks nice. It's basically OS X for Windows, but it's nice. It looks beautiful, like an OS from fuckin' Tron. And it runs smoothly so far. It seems stable as can be, and isn't that much different from WinXP--not so different that, say, it'll be difficult for anyone to upgrade to.

Looks like I'll definitely be plopping down the cash for it when it comes out this January. Unless some major problem creeps up in the works. But I really don't see that happening, if my preliminary OS Spidey-sense is anway correct.

Oh, and one last thing: [livejournal.com profile] eolh brought up a valid point last night: what about DRM troubles or other such weirdness? Well...as far as I can tell, the only instances of noticeable DRM in the new OS is with Windows Media Player 11, of course. But if you don't purchase "protected content" from the Urge musical service or anything like that, it's a total nonissue. The codecs don't even load if you leave "Automatically acquire licenses for protected content" unchecked during the initial config. I haven't seen any instances of copy-protection idiocy anywhere else in the OS yet, though, admittedly, I haven't even begun to probe under the hood yet. If I turn up anything, you'd better believe I'll tell y'all where to find it and how to disable it. :)

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