Today, I went for a sneak-peek, behind-the-scenes tour of the new CCIS (Centennial Centre for Interdisciplinary Science) Phase Two lecture theatres. I couldn't resist--you know how much I'm into behind-the-scenes things.

(What, you think that just because classes and exams are over that I'm sitting at home in my pajamas, watching Oprah and drinking wassail? Oh no, my friend. I'm still on the payroll, so the work doesn't stop.)

Anyway, the good news is that some of the new CCIS lecture theatres are going to open next term. The bad news is that they won't be ready for the first day of classes. That means that classes are going to be moved over--during the term. Urgh.

I know it's hard enough to find your classes in the first place. But you ain't seen nothin' yet. Finding your way into the CCIS building is going to be quite a puzzle. (No, it's not a psychology experiment. But it would be a good test of wayfinding. Hmm.) And if you're in a wheelchair, or otherwise in need of a ramp, well...leave lots of extra time. Like half an hour.

Changing classrooms in the middle of a term--or, even worse, early in the term--is a nightmare. These lecture rooms are cutting-edge high-tech. Instructors are going to have to attend a class (!) to learn how to use the room. (Try and explain that to your grampa: "I have to learn how to use the room.") The rooms are outfitted with dual big-screen displays, computerized lighting controls, multiple cameras, motorized podium, in-room Wi-Fi, and more. In other words, there are a lot of things that can fail. Hey, if the classroom crashes in the middle of my lecture, don't blame me. How do you reboot a Smart Classroom anyhow? Maybe by slamming one of the doors really hard.

There are going to be 24 classes moved over to CCIS in Winter, 2010 term. Courses like CHEM 102, BIOL 107, and MICRB 265. But by far, the most courses are going to be psychology: nine classes in total. If some of your psych instructors look a little ragged on Monday, January 11, don't be surprised. Maybe you could even help us out. By pointing which direction to go to get to our class. Thanks in advance.

Why aren't you drinking wassail?

The Importance of Backups

How important is your term paper? Oh, that important. So you must be taking precautions against losing it, right? Right?

It's the time of year for term papers to be handed in, or for excuses to be given about why they're not being handed in. "The computer ate my paper" is an increasingly popular occurrence. (By the way, I'm going to assume that no one is lying about this. I like to assume the best about students, not the worst.) Here are a few suggestions about how to keep your term paper from getting vanished.

  • Save. Save save save. Don't just type away and then save your document right before you power down. Be compulsive about saving. When I work on my lecture notes, I have a Ctrl-S twitch that goes off about every couple minutes.
  • Make a local backup. This is easy to do: just copy your term paper to another location on your hard drive. So why don't people just do that? It can be a hassle. You've got to remember to do it every time you close down your word processor. And then it's still possible for your whole hard drive to crash.
  • Make a local backup to another device. This backup solution avoids the hard drive crash-problem. You could copy your file to a flash drive. You don't need a fancy 16GB drive to save your term paper; even 128MB will do, and those ones are going for $5. Or you could shell out a few more bucks for an external hard drive. But what about the remember-to-backup problem? Some external drives (and even some flash drives) come with software that automatically backs up certain files. A free software option for Windows is Microsoft's SyncToy using the "echo" option.
  • Make a backup to the cloud. Cloud computing is a big buzzword in computing right now. In this option, you send your data over the Internet to a distant server, where it resides. You might not even have a copy of your document on your computer. There are even some cloud services that won't cost you a cent.
    - Google Docs allows you to work on your document from any computer with a browser over the Web. If your Internet connection goes down, however, you can't get your term paper--unless you've saved a local copy to your hard drive.
    - Live Mesh is a free service run by Microsoft (works with Windows XP/Vista/7 and Mac OS X). It runs in the background and can synchronize any changes you make to a local document folder on your computer with its online cloud storage (up to 5 GB, which is enough for a couple of term papers, eh?). Again, you have to have an active Internet connection for this to work. Another downside it that if you've forgotten to save your term paper, any changes will be lost if you experience a crash.
Putting some thought into keeping your data safe will help you avoid the computer equivalent of "My dog ate my homework." (How do you keep your data safe? Write a post in the comments below.)

Why aren't you studying?

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