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morphy_richards
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Re: Using RPi in an "ICT Classroom"

Mon Mar 05, 2012 3:46 pm

Hi,

To set the scene ...

Several rooms each with thirty PC style computers with USB mice and keyboards and VGA monitors.

The PCs locked down by an over zealous private company that manages IT in schools. There are a number of teachers who need to teach programming but cant get anything advanced programming-wise to run on the PCs due to restrictions. (Unfortunately I can't sack the private company)

Solution:- For lessons where computing will happen, unplug mouse, keyboard and monitor from PCs and plug them into the R-PIs. Unshackled and unrestricted computing can happen. (Hooray!)

Except ... the monitors don't have HDMI inputs, they have VGA inputs. Cant afford to buy 90 odd new displays...

How can I best use my existing VGA monitors with the new RPIs and on a tight budget?

Suggestions?

(Thanks in advance)

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glenn66
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Re: Using RPi in an "ICT Classroom"

Mon Mar 05, 2012 3:59 pm

In my area there is also an issue with running programming environments on the managed service school computers which was a problem for the small number of students who needed programming for exam classes.

The simplest solution was to make an appeal for 'obsolete' desktop and tower systems and then install a small-footprint Linux distribution on them with a suitable programming environment.  A number of KVM boxes were purchased to allow quick switching between the two systems and use the existing monitors and keyboards.

We have also been able to use virtualisation to run a second instance of Windows on some computers, but that may not be available to you.

If you want to use the RaspberryPi you might find it cheaper to invest in composite video to VGA converters, but the image quality might not be very good.

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morphy_richards
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Re: Using RPi in an "ICT Classroom"

Mon Mar 05, 2012 4:11 pm

I've looked into Virtualisation as well - only problem with that is that I've got the idea that interfacing with something like an Arduino board or even a Kinect sensor might make good projects.

All the same - I'd be interested to know how you did your Virtualisation, I've been looking into using Oracle Virtual Box. How do you keep separate individual students work?

Along the lines of HDMI output to VGA monitor apparantly:

"HDMI = DVI + audio ina more compact form factor

The DVI standard requires the port to carry an analog VGA signal. Technically an unpowered HDMI to VGA converter should work just fine. This assumes that Dell's implementation of the HDMI on the Mini 9 is truly HDMI compliant."

Anyone have any idea if that would apply to a R-PI (I don't) and if there would be a easy soldering job to make it work?



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Re: Using RPi in an "ICT Classroom"

Mon Mar 05, 2012 4:22 pm

No, that won't work. You need an active convertor as the HDMI port on the Raspi does not have the analog component that is USUALLY output on DVI ports (it's not always there).

The lack of VGA is something being looked in to but it's quite an expensive thing to sort out.
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dextrus
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Re: Using RPi in an "ICT Classroom"

Mon Mar 05, 2012 10:28 pm

I entirely sympathize with your dilemma. I've been trying to teach Software Engineering for games in a University context for nearly 8 years in what I would consider quite a progressive institution (post 92). I got my way in the end (sort of), thanks to a lot of buy-in and help from staff, but there were threats of physical violence, committees disbanded and no end of political shenanigans (my back probably has more holes in it from the daggers than a tea-bag). The Uni now has a policy where they *expect* trouble and problems, and aim to fix it, rather than prevent it from happening in the first place (hooray!). Mind you, We did only manage to get one room (24 pc's and PS3 dev kits). It's doubly complex because of the JANET agreement, but I won't dwell.

So, with that experience, and relatively recent experience of working with schools, I would favour the cable issue over the PC security issue. The Pi can be connected up safely and the equipment needed for each case could even be rented or supplied free (I'm hoping to do that). Yes, you will find jobsworth's who object for no end of reasons but the alternative - allowing unfettered access to the PC's in schools would, in my opinion, be next to impossible and probably why the Pi is here.

Yes, schools are worried about the cables and the like (quite rightly), but in my informal survey, they seem to be willing to get over that for the freedom.
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Re: Using RPi in an "ICT Classroom"

Tue Mar 06, 2012 7:31 am

Could RP foundation work on a deal with Farnell/RS so they could supply a suitable hdmi vga graphics adapter at a discounted rate as part of something like a raspberry pack for schools?4

steveking
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Re: Using RPi in an "ICT Classroom"

Tue Mar 06, 2012 7:45 am

This is something which will cause me a problem too. We have four IT rooms at school and all of them have vga only monitors.  The only way I will be able to use the raspberry pi in class will be using it via composite (eww!) on the projector (no hdmi or dvi on that) or to bring in my own monitor/telly from home (unlikely).

My classroom has just had a set of brand new computers installed, but for cost saving we've kept the 5 year old monitors as they work so there's no point replacing them yet.

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Re: Using RPi in an "ICT Classroom"

Tue Mar 06, 2012 8:45 am

Same position with monitors in our IT suite. For those who are locked down, have you considered booting from a memory stick or CD with a bootable linux installation on instead of Windows? Or is that a sackable offence?

I realise that sidesteps the Pi, but it would get the job done. I expect to be demoing the Pi via the projector with composite, as soon as I get one
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pyrosoft
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Re: Using RPi in an "ICT Classroom"

Tue Mar 06, 2012 10:00 am

Hi All.

Is the company who looks after your network and locked you down called RM ?

If this is the case PM me and I will let you know how to overcome the problem.

cheers

PyroSoft

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grumpyoldgit
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Re: Using RPi in an "ICT Classroom"

Tue Mar 06, 2012 10:25 am

I am amused by the stories of nasty IT companies locking down computers in schools. Companies like RM are normally brought in to create some calm within the chaos of a school with Computer rooms that are at a standstill due to trashed PCs unable to connect to the network / on different operating systems / with different versions of software / unable to print / trashed operating systems, etc ,etc. Normally the teacher is in a high state of stress because the head is going bananas and some poor technician is on the verge of collapse because he has to run round the school like a loony all day long just firefighting.

RM may not be to everyone's taste but they have the tools that enable pupils to enter a class and be faced with PCs that can be refreshed to a standard state. If a school has to maintain several hundred PCs they either need quite a tight system or pay for an army of technicians.

If a school wants some PCs off the grid, as it were they just need to renegotiate the contract. Alternatively, get your technicians RM trained so they are familiar with the system and can make alterations.

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morphy_richards
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Re: Using RPi in an "ICT Classroom"

Tue Mar 06, 2012 11:24 am

Grumpyoldgit said:


I am amused by the stories of nasty IT companies locking down computers in schools. [....]


Ah you must work for the Dark Side ;-D

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morphy_richards
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Re: Using RPi in an "ICT Classroom"

Tue Mar 06, 2012 12:23 pm

This post went off on a tangent back there somewhere...

I'll manage to get students working in development environment on our PC's somehow, am going to spend the afternoon working with the IT technician working on a virtual implementation...

(he is employed by the ,ahem, the nasty IT company & is not really allowed to speak to me except via the call logging system and is supposed to charge me £600 every time he makes any change to any installed software but actually is a really decent bloke and doesnt have any truck with that sort of thing - oops, sorry, just did it again didn't I?)

Anyway - the cheapest commercial HDMI to VGA converter I have seen is £45 via Amazon which is do-able if I was to get just a single class set of R-Pis .

I'm looking for a cheaper alternative. Going back to electronics at uni I've got a hazy recollection of doing a signal processing project that involved testing how well adhesive had stuck pieces of metal to each other by firing a modulated audio signal through it.

To do that I had to take a fairly complicated digital signal from a PC and convert it into an analogue audio signal. Obviously that involved using a D2A IC. In the end the circuit I came up with was surprisingly simple. In my blissfully ignorant state I'm wondering if a similar approach might do this job.

Is there anyone out there with expertise in  hacking electronics in the relevant field who might be interested in helping me work on some sort of simple, open source, HDMI to DVI adapter?

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grumpyoldgit
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Re: Using RPi in an "ICT Classroom"

Tue Mar 06, 2012 12:32 pm

HDMI to DVI is not a problem as they are both digital. Did you mean HDMI to VGA?

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grumpyoldgit
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Re: Using RPi in an "ICT Classroom"

Tue Mar 06, 2012 12:35 pm

I would add that if the technician is not supposed to talk to you and that the company charges £600 every time they do anything, you are dealing with a crap company. Time you got your own technicians trained up and took over.

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Re: Using RPi in an "ICT Classroom"

Tue Mar 06, 2012 12:52 pm

Grumpyoldgit said:


HDMI to DVI is not a problem as they are both digital. Did you mean HDMI to VGA?


That might be what I meant although .... And I haven't really touched electronics for quite a lot of years so pardon me if I seem naive. It appears to me that conversion from HDMI to DVI is reasonably straightforward. The next step of getting DVI to VGA seems reasonable (although from what JamesH pointed out earlier that might not be as simple as I am taking it to be)

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Re: Using RPi in an "ICT Classroom"

Tue Mar 06, 2012 12:52 pm



Sounds like a standard support contract to me. At least the guy is willing to talk to you, some jobsworths wouldn't.

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grumpyoldgit
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Re: Using RPi in an "ICT Classroom"

Tue Mar 06, 2012 1:03 pm

morphy_richards said:


Grumpyoldgit said:


HDMI to DVI is not a problem as they are both digital. Did you mean HDMI to VGA?


That might be what I meant although .... And I haven't really touched electronics for quite a lot of years so pardon me if I seem naive. It appears to me that conversion from HDMI to DVI is reasonably straightforward. The next step of getting DVI to VGA seems reasonable (although from what JamesH pointed out earlier that might not be as simple as I am taking it to be)


It was just that HDMI to DVI is a simple £1.99 cable. I have two monitors. One is just VGA but the other has VGA and DVI sockets even though it over 9 years old.

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Re: Using RPi in an "ICT Classroom"

Tue Mar 06, 2012 1:33 pm

Grumpyoldgit said:


It was just that HDMI to DVI is a simple £1.99 cable. I have two monitors. One is just VGA but the other has VGA and DVI sockets even though it over 9 years old.


But if DVI is digital, it must take more than a simple cable to make it work on the analogue VGA port. JamesH already pointed out the R-Pi doesn't include the analogue component.21

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grumpyoldgit
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Re: Using RPi in an "ICT Classroom"

Tue Mar 06, 2012 2:06 pm

morphy_richards said:


Grumpyoldgit said:


It was just that HDMI to DVI is a simple £1.99 cable. I have two monitors. One is just VGA but the other has VGA and DVI sockets even though it over 9 years old.


But if DVI is digital, it must take more than a simple cable to make it work on the analogue VGA port. JamesH already pointed out the R-Pi doesn't include the analogue component.21


That's why I was asking for clarification as to what you were really after. You started talking about VGA but then brought in DVI. Which is it you need. If it is DVI it is just a passive cable; if it is VGA then it is a more expensive converter.

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Re: Using RPi in an "ICT Classroom"

Tue Mar 06, 2012 2:19 pm

Have just spotted that most of my monitors do actually have either a DVI-In or DVI-D(?) in (which is very exciting) (and makes me sound a bit stupid too, after all that - ah well)

So, I can in fact go straight out and buy a load or R-Pi's and cheap passive HDMI/DVI adapters. Plan A is back on.

Those of you who also saw the lack of VGA as an issue, go and double check the back of your monitors. I think you will be pleasantly surprised!

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Re: Using RPi in an "ICT Classroom"

Tue Mar 06, 2012 2:21 pm

... and thanks to Grumpy for making me realise that DVI is actually a port and not just an unseen component of HDMI.

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grumpyoldgit
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Re: Using RPi in an "ICT Classroom"

Tue Mar 06, 2012 2:25 pm

This is what I bought from Amazon for £2.41 inc p&p

http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/pro.....00_details

steveking
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Re: Using RPi in an "ICT Classroom"

Tue Mar 06, 2012 4:41 pm

alexeames said:


Same position with monitors in our IT suite. For those who are locked down, have you considered booting from a memory stick or CD with a bootable linux installation on instead of Windows? Or is that a sackable offence?


I certainly hope not!  We have a class set of bootable usb drives and a linux server they authenticate against. The network manager knows about the server, but I'm not sure he knows about the usb drives...

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nick.mccloud
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Re: Using RPi in an "ICT Classroom"

Tue Mar 06, 2012 5:14 pm

Grumpyoldgit said:


This is what I bought from Amazon for £2.41 inc p&p

http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/pro.....00_details


Me too! It's sat forlornly on the desk waiting for Pi!

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Re: Using RPi in an "ICT Classroom"

Wed Mar 07, 2012 10:45 am

Just done a quick eyeball audit of the ICT room at my kids primary school.

Guess what: 16 HP Compaq Windows XP PCs all with small, VGA only displays, all with PS2 style mouse/keyboard connectors. This is the reality of IT in schools today, not HDMI etc.

My plan was not to interfere with the ICT curriculum / existing IT infrastructure but to offer an after-school club on programming on the Pi rather than expecting teachers to take on programming in ICT. Sadly until the VGA issue is resolved it's just not cost effective to do so with the Pi. I'm now thinking an easier short term solution is to just use BASIC on Windows (if that is 'allowed' on the existing system).

I have some sympathy for the 'learn from home' theory - it's what I did in 1982, but I think there is a lot to be said for using something like an after-school club as a jumping off point for kids, especially those for whom starting from scratch at home is too big a step (for any number of reasons, technical, financial and otherwise).

I really wish a Model C for education was coming which was identical to either the A (or B) but had VGA and PS2 ports (OK the latter is less critical as there are cheap leads to solve it). Apparently VGA is "top of the list" of issues to resolve for the next round of development so maybe we will see this in the medium term. Lets hope so, it would be shame to miss the education goal and it just turn solely into a project toy for very techie adults.

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