I am teaching Unix II this term. Unix II: The Sequel.

And Im teaching it to the same class who were so stubbornly quiet last term. I tried this:

Having told them only a little about the unix file system and how it works, I pulled a floppy out of my pocket in the lab.
“This floppy is formatted with the Unix file system”, I told them, “so you can’t read it in a Windows PC. It contains a file with the instructions for this lab.”
Then I walked over to the server on which they themselves installed RedHat 9 in last week’s lab, and put it in the floppy drive. Then I walked out of the room.

OK I came back a few minutes later and they had migrated from their seats to a clump aroun the server and were actually talking about the problem and, gasp, even trying things out. (like cat < /dev/fd0 which, though wrong, is the right kind of thinking. If you're reading this wondering **what the hell?**, just trust me, its the right kind of thinking)

With a little help and a lot of patience they managed to get on pretty well with my lab. They managed to mount the floppy, read the file and copy it onto the hard disk. The file told them to do the latter and then reformat the floppy as a MS/DOS disk (using Unix commands) and copy the file back on to the floppy. I think the floppy was formatted by the end of the two hours, but they were tired by then and had forgotten how to copyfiles. The lab ends when we **can** read the file on a Windows PC.

All this despite being told, recently to "teach them to pass the exams, not to think". I'm not in the best mood lately and neither in the best of health as my head-col is moving to my chest.

But the weather's nice 🙁


  1. Chrisnix Says:

    Doesn’t RedHat auto-mount a floppy when you put it in the drive, then…? Guess you had to remember to turn that off.

    Progress happens one day at a time. Hurrah!


  2. Mark Says:

    Not as far as I can tell it doesn’t.
    I have to right click on the desktop and select disks/floppy on my own machine, but these were using one without X-windows.

    How do I make it auto-mount?

  3. Chrisnix Says:

    Never had to configure it myself IIRC, but see

  4. Natty Says:

    Just wanted to drop a line and let you know we’re ok. 2 million people evacuated New Orleans, plus several million more spanning all the way to Pensacola, Florida (where Ivan eventually hit) so evacuation was a very long and draining process. New Orleans was spared this time. Was looking scary for a few hours the night before it hit, but Ivan did finally make that turn to the east. Little damage here. Two months of hurricane season to go.

    Florida just got hit with its fourth major hurricane (Hurricane Jeanne, a category three with 120 mph sustained winds). Apparently this hasn’t happened since four hurricanes hit Texas over a hundred years ago. Put it this way: I don’t think Florida had been hit by a major hurricane in over a decade since Andrew (category five that completely tore apart the area just north of Miami). No storms for twelve years, then four in just one year (five if you count tropical storm Bonnie, which was very close to hurricane strength). Miami has escaped the worst, everywhere else pretty much wiped off the map. Disney World and Cape Canavral have damage. Pensacola, which is about three hours from here, had gorgeous beaches that Toby loved to drive to to take photographs for his artwork. We’ve gone beach camping there, and we’ve driven there after midnight to walk on the beach. Ivan completely destroyed most houses and hotels, plus collapsed three Interstate 10 bridges. It’ll be at least six months before we can go back, maybe longer.

    Meanwhile, New Orleans did get some flooding this week, from Ivan the SECOND time around. Ivan went all the way up the east coast, turned around in the Atlantic, drifted across Florida, reformed as a tropical storm in the Gulf, and hit Louisiana, then moved over Houston and dumped some more rain (Houston’s another flood prone city). My family in South Carolina has gotten huge amounts of rain from the remnants of Bonnie, Charley, Frances, a direct hit from Gaston, Hermine, Ivan and now Jeanne. Tornadoes plaguing Georgia and SC, flooding all the way up through Pennsylvania and Virginia.

    This is global warming seriously biting us in the ass. Either that, or God is punishing Florida for that whole election fiasco four years ago.

  5. natty Says:

    PS: I realized I was being the typical isolationist American in above post. Keep the Carribean islands in your thoughts. Ivan hit Grenada as a solid category 5 (160 mph sustained winds) and over 90% of the buildings were flattened. Come to think of it, I think everything but the university was destroyed. Ivan did a weird wobble west under Jamaica and Cuba, but still damage and deaths. Also, Haiti has been absolutely devastated by Jeanne. Flooding has killed over 1,500 people, and the after affects like starvation and disease will probably kill thousands more.

  6. Mark Says:

    Glad youre safe. My sister used to live on Grenada and I visited there a couple of years ago so it has made it all the more personal to me to see a few glimpses of the devastation there.

    Maybe youre right about global warming.

    I heard on the radio that Jimmy Carter is concerned about another election fiasco in Florida this year. What will God do then, I wonder?
    Anyway, thanks for the update, I did wonder where you’d gotten to and if you were safe. Love to you and Toby.

  7. Mark Says:

    Back on the thread of this entry…
    I had that class again today and they did the rest of the lab with the floppy including the bit where they copy the file back onto the floppy and open it up in windows. I bought 7 packs of glucose biscuites and told them they had worked hard for them.

    It all seems to have worked and, although only two of them did the work (one typing and the other whispering instructions) I hope they have learned something from it.

    Im in direct contradiction of my instructions from my employer who said to me "please teach them to pass the exams not to think". But I just can’t do it. I’d rather fly back to the uk and get a job in a ‘New University’ (Ex-Polytechnic).

  8. zorka Says:

    Oh course she is right about global warming!! HELLOO??!! is anybody listening to the 3000 scienticts in the IPPC?!!

  9. Mark Says:

    Welcome Zorka

    What’s an IPPC?

    You’re not allowed to say IPPC here unless you post a URL.

    Erm, no, I mean, please can we have a pointer so we know where to listen?

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