Monthly Archives: October 2017

We want to feature YOU in our upcoming Internet and You Teach-Out!

We are just under two weeks out from The Internet and You! Teach-Out with Doug Van Houweling and me. I would like to encourage you to sign up for this event on Coursera, as we look at the past, present, and future of the Internet and how it influences society.

As we move closer to October 30, we’d love to hear your own thoughts and questions about the internet, so they can be addressed within the live sessions. Consider the following questions:

  • What questions do YOU have for Doug and I about the past, present, and future of the Internet?
  • Do you think the Internet is broken? If so, how should it be fixed?
    When you think about the Internet, what puzzles you?
  • Do you ever worry that the Internet might be changing for the worse? Why? What concerns you?
  • As the Internet continues to become more embedded in our lives, is there anything about it that concerns you?

Once you sign up, there are two ways you can share your responses or questions with us:

  • We provide a form to share your YouTube video
  • We provide a phone number to leave a recorded voice response

We’re looking forward to seeing you on October 30 for the first live session!

Abstract: Building Reusable Learning Content and Tools

Increasingly faculty need to build educational materials that can be reused and repurposed across a wide range of learning environments. In the “old days”, faculty would dust off last semester’s PowerPoint, fix a few typos, upload it to a campus learning management system like Sakai or Canvas, and walk into lecture. Increasingly, our learning content includes course assignments, specialized software to help with assessments, video materials, formative assessments, supporting materials, etc. And for each course, on each LMS, you needed to upload and format your content and place it into a “course shell”. But now at many campuses, there may be several learning platforms and one or more MOOC platform like Coursera. It is a lot of work to re-author your course content in three or four learning platforms. But with the widespread adoption of LMS interchange standards like IMS Learning Tools Interoperability, IMS Common Cartridge, and IMS Content Item, we should be able to author content once and easily integrate into as many learning platforms as needed. This talk will explore research into developing easy to use learning object repositories and learning application stores that enable this “write once – use anywhere” model of learning content development.

Speedy Amazon EC2 Compile for Sakai

This is mostly my own notes in my attempt to find a quick developer / compile option for Sakai.

TL;DR – An EC2 c4.2xlarge with the right .bashrc settings is a very fast compile box for Sakai.


Check out my Sakai scripts:

Put in all the pre-requisites – make sure to run the script once to get the maven repo cache
warmed up before doing timing.

Base Line

My baseline is my own MacBook Pro with quad processor i7 2.8 Ghz, with 1TB SSD, and 16GB RAM. I played with the last line in the to change the number of threads in use using the “-T” options.

mvn -T 4 -e -Dmaven.test.skip=true -Dmaven.tomcat.home=$tomcatdir $goals

Compile time:

1 thread - 4:08
2 threads - 2:47
4 threads - 1:52

Testing on Amazon

AWS – c4.2xlarge, 15G RAM, 8 CPUs, 31 “ECU Units”, EBS

Setting the MAVEN and JAVA OPTS to -Xms4096m -Xmx4096m

Compile time:

4 threads 1:25

Setting the MAVEN and JAVA OPTS to -Xms8192m -Xmx8192m

Compile time:

6 threads 1:17
8 threads 1:18

For future testing we might look at less expensive per hour boxes but this certainly is fast enough for Sakai development at $0.40 per hour.

Teach Out – Internet and You – Week of October 30

I would like to welcome you to join Doug van Houweling and I for a 1-week Teach Out event the week of October 30. The title is “Internet and You” as we look at the past, present, and future of the Internet and how it touches us. We will look at social impact, changing technologies, public policies around the Internet, and anything else you want to bring up. Doug and I have access to experts that we can bring into the sessions to make sure we get good answers to your questions and issues that you raise.

You can sign up for the course at:

There is no charge for the Teach Out.

We will have three live events, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday the week of October 30 that will will also record and put up in the Coursera platform. We will provide many opportunities for you to submit questions, concerns, and your ideas in the forums and via video. You don’t have to attend the live sessions as we will record them and put them up in Coursera immediately.

A “Teach Out” is an online version of a “Teach In” from the 1960’s:

From a MOOC perspective this is like a short, live, interactive version of my “Internet History, Technology, and Security” course on Coursera:

I hope to see you there.

Abstract: Implementing Standards Compliant Learning Applications with Tsugi

Submitted to: IMS Learning Impact – May 21-24, 2018

Tsugi ( is a software framework that reduces the effort required to build standards compliant applications and integrate them into a Learning Ecosystem

There is an expectation that standards will propel us from and LMS-centric view of educational technology to an Ecosystem-view of educational technology. I think that one of the critical elements of this new ecosystem is “app stores” that are smoothly integrated into LMS and other systems. But before we have an App store, someone needs to determine how to define the rules to build an app that “fits” in the store. Tsugi ( is doing research in defining how to build learning apps in a way that they can be deployed in an app store.

Tsugi has the potential to greatly accelerate the development of thousands of rich tools to support LTI/Content Item/Caliper, etc without requiring that each developer separately understand the fine details of each specification. This empowers developers at all skill levels to build educational apps.

Fixing Surging Generator – BlackMax 414CC / 5700 Watt / Honda GX 390

Several years ago I purchased a Black Max 5700 Watt Generator with a 414CC Honda GX390 Engine so I could power my house during power outages. I bought it at Sam’s Club. I love the generator – it was small enough to move around and just large enough to run my whole house while keeping gas consumption low. I wanted 30 amps of 240 volts so I could run everything.

But it had a surging problem. If you are in a hurry, here is a video of the before and after:

Here is the detail on what happened.

Bad News – Surging – Warranty Useless
As soon as I turned it on, it would not idle. Unless it was under load, it would surge because it could not idle. The governor would notice it was about to stall and then give it gas – then slow it down, and it would almost stall and over and over again every second.

Under load the governor opened up the butterfly a bit and it would maintain RPMs nicely for hours. I was ticked off that this brand new generator could not idle. So I contacted Black Max and told them I had just bought it days ago and it surged. They told me that their warranty covered everything *except* the engine. They gave me a number to call about the engine. When I called the engine warranty number – they effectively said – I had not bought the engine from them and so I would have to work through Black Max. I called back Black Max and hit a wall. Lesson learned – if crap is broken as purchased – take it back to where you bought it – right away.

The workaround
But since I liked the generator so much I found a “hack” where I would use the choke to keep the revs up while it was not under load and then it worked well enough to get me through two power outages.

But then we had a winter with no power outages and so I wanted to run the engine for a while to warm it up, clear out the carbs, and get rid of condensation in the oil. I run all my engines a minimum of 30 minutes per year every year in the Fall.

Since it was warm, my choke trick did not work. If I choked it – the engine would not run – and if I let it surge for more than 10 minutes, the surging would get worse and choke itself out so bad that it would be hard to start afterwards.

This is for a unit that was well maintained with fresh gas, fuel stabilizer, and non-Ethanol gas when it was stored. It had a total of 20 hours and looked brand new.

Ah Ha! Buy a new Carburetor

The engine was running so bad that I wondered if some gum had built up – or perhaps there was just a manufacturing defect in the carb – and I figured a new carb might just fix this.

So I searched and searched for a L09 120621 D11866 carb but to no avail. But I got close and figured out that the engine is a Honda GX390 and found replacement carburetors for that.

It looked like Amazon had a carb that was almost perfect. The new carb had a fuel shut off valve that was not present on my old carb, and it did have an idle adjustment – which I liked. For < $15 I ordered one to see if I could make it work. When it arrived, the size was perfect - all the things like the choke extension, and the throttle to governor connection were exactly the same. 02-both-carbs

The only weird bit was the incoming fuel like for the new carb was 3/16″ and the incoming fuel line for the original carb was 1/4″ – so I picked up an adapter from a local parts store.


I put it all back together, adapted the fuel lines and started it up. It was easy to adjust the idle and minimum speed adjustment and stop it from surging.

Check out the above video for the pre-and-post.