TechTips from Chef Antoine

Hardware

Every good kitchen requires the proper equipment, appliances and utensils. Cooking up a nourishing web class requires that the proper tools be in top working order as well, and configured in a suitable fashion, which favors the production of high quality fare. Teaching to content requires transparency of the delivery system. For the development of web based classes, we recommend the following :

     

  • Computer- For Windows machines, a Pentium or better. The Pentium chip should be the fastest you can afford. Generally, 166mhz and above work quite well. An MMX chip is excellent in that it was created to handle different types of media at the same time. For Macintosh platform a PowerPC or better is recommended. 
  • RAM- at least 32 MB is recommended to run the system and another program. 64 MB is better.
  • CD-Rom Drive- Original CD Rom drives were slow by today's standards. The speed (4X, 12X) refers to how fast the drive can access data from the CD Rom. Go with at least 8X
  • A Sound card- 16 bit minimum recommended 
  • Video card- MPEG compatible with 2MB of VRAM 
  • External storage, such as a Zip or LS-120
  • A fast modem (55.6 kbps) if you are planning on working or accessing your class from home.
  • Peripherals- Access to a scanner, digital camera, video camera or vcr, modem or ethernet connection. 

As ever, MORE and FASTER is BETTER.

I suggest that those who teach online pay close attention to their audience, but also attempt to raise the lowest common denominator by establishing a baseline recommendation. For the End User, the following recommendations are in order:

     

  • A Pentium or Power PC with at least 16 MB RAM an Internet connection (Ethernet or 55.6 Modem), and a video and sound card. (PowerMacs come with these). 
  • A basic configuration should be able to accommodate the MS Office suite

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Questions to answer- What is the minimum client hardware configuration?Amount and type of memory, CPU, hard disks, graphics resolution and CD speedall figure in.. What is the standard monitor size the end user will view the class on? How will students access the class?

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Taste Test : TETOTOAAP (Test early, test often, test on all available platforms). As you develop your course, put yourself in the place of the end user- is your class a source of frustration or delight?

Tip One: Get yourself some removable storage. If you are into developing for the web, you'll need it. High capacity storage is not new-graphics pros have been using it for years. Today, it's caught on by necessity. Prices have fallen with competition and now computers are coming with removablestorage solutions built in. If you want compatibility, the Iomega Zip isahead of the pack. They are fast becoming the standard. Until writable DVDbecomes ubiquitous, the Iomega Jaz drive or the Syquest Syjet are your bestbet if you want to write more than a CDRom burner can accommodate. If speedis not a concern- you might want to look into online storage.Be sure to check to see whether you have a SCSI port or Parallel port to hook up tobefore purchasing any peripherals. LS-120's are another option.

Tip Two: PC users, make sure your serial port can keep up withyour modem. On older PCs, run msd.exe, a standard DOS utility. If the program tells you that you have a UART 8550 serial controller chip, you should upgradeto a UART 16550. A UART 8550 will limit your serial port to 9.6 kbps, sohooking up an external 56kbps modem will be a complete waste since it won'tbe able to come near its maximum speed.

Tip Three: Install as much RAM as you can afford. You will only be able to run truncated or old browsers with only 16 mb of RAM and manysites will crash the browser altogether. RAM is very affordable now. Assign as much RAM as possible to your browser application.

Tip Four: Keep a check on your download speed. Most browsers and FTP programs show the speed at which they are connecting. When downloadinga large file, check to see how many kilobytes per second are being transmitted and compare that to your modem speed. Configure your modem for optimum performance by using the factory recommended modem init string in your dial up program.You will find it in your modem manual. Buy a 56 kpbs modem or look intoa cable modem.

Tip Five: Use your mouse wisely. In Win95 you can hold down the right mouse button to get a menu with several options for bookmarking, navigation and saving.

Tip Six: If you are heavily into scanning images, don't buy a 99 dollar scanner- there is a great difference in an extra hundred dollars-and research has shown that the extended warranty on most of these products aren't a good idea economically.

Tip Seven: If you are doing a lot of development you might want to consider getting a large monitor so you can leave multiple windows openon your desktop. If you are on a MAC you can easily hook up multiple monitors.

Tip Eight: Develop for 13 inch monitor. 520X390 maximum physical size is a good standard in order to accommodate headers and menus in thebrowser.There is also little point in scanning images at millions of colorsand high resolution when the computer monitor can only display 72- 100 dpi.or 8 bit color.

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Questions or Comments? Contact:Anthony Foster - Senior Instructional Designer

St. LouisCommunity College - Florissant Valley