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IT News Thread, BECTA Technical Specification Working Group in Other News; what i think it means is that the local cache should not be automaticly controlled by rbc cache.. but i ...
  1. #31

    russdev's Avatar
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    Re: BECTA Technical Specification Working Group

    what i think it means is that the local cache should not be automaticly controlled by rbc cache..

    but i maybe wrong

    Russ

  2. #32
    wesleyw's Avatar
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    Re: BECTA Technical Specification Working Group

    That would make sense. Having looked through most of the spec it looks like I may have to price up replacing most if not all the switches in this school. (Which I was going to do, but now it's gonna cost a whole lot more!).


    Wes

  3. #33

    Geoff's Avatar
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    Re: BECTA Technical Specification Working Group

    I thought it was on about transparent caches. Where's GrumbleDook when you need him!

  4. #34

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    Re: BECTA Technical Specification Working Group

    Trying to get some work done ...

    Right ... a little explaination is in order for this one with some background from other documentation.

    From what I can see Becta's view on Caching and Content Pre-positioning means that the ideal structure is ....

    The institute has a local cache. This is to be use for frequently requested files and media rich files. This can be pulled on request of pre-positioned (ie downloaded before needed).

    The net stage is your ISPs cache ... which should be accessed for infrequently requested files.

    At least one of these caches should have some level of authentication, preferably pass-through (ie no login ... it pulls the details from the machine you are on or via some other ticket) or it should authenticate via SSO (the same username and password for everything ... ok, that is a very tight summary but that's all that you need to know of SSO for this bit)

    The pre-positioning is quite often a selling feature of a number of caching and filtering appliances / servers. For media rich content it can be a boon, for other content your own cache and the upstream cache (ie the ISPs) usually suffice. Your pre-positioning may also be tied in with a Learning Platform though ... something to be aware of.

    The 'in-line' section I believe it refers to the idea that your cache should not by a pass through box ... ie 2 NICs and all traffic goes through it to access your broadband line (or be the target point of your connection at your ISP)

    Not only can this be bad for performance, it is not fault tolerant in most cases (yeah ... there are a number of exceptions... but we are talking about a regular school budget here)

    I have asked for clarification on the above point and a direct link to the Caching and Content Pre-positioning paper (it is mentioned in a number of other documents ... but I can't find a link to it via Becta's search or Google).

  5. #35
    wesleyw's Avatar
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    Re: BECTA Technical Specification Working Group

    That answers a few things I have that thankfully so should be fine.

    Wes

  6. #36
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    Re: BECTA Technical Specification Working Group

    Firstly - is it worth opening a new Forum specifically for BECTA issues, much like the KS3 ICT Pilot? Possible sub headings could be Hardware, Software, Policies..............

    Secondly - I don't see anywhere that suggests a list of BECTA approved educational software. ie. - can be used on a network (whatever the OS), is easy to install and if necessary use existing authentication such as AD in MS and could be made available via a Web UI to enable full access from home.

    It's OK saying that institutions shall do this or should do that, how about saying that teachers shall ensure that the software they buy using eLC meets a minimum criteria?

  7. #37


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    Re: BECTA Technical Specification Working Group

    It's OK saying that institutions shall do this or should do that, how about saying that teachers shall ensure that the software they buy using eLC meets a minimum criteria?
    they do:

    Design criteria
    • Pedagogical and administrative applications shall support open standards that allow the
    import and export of data in a range of commonly used formats that are independent of a
    particular platform.
    • All educational applications shall provide an interface that is designed or can be tailored to
    suit the age and ability of the learners.
    • Documents and data which are intended potentially to have a long lifetime should not be
    solely saved to proprietary file formats.
    • Where only proprietary standards are available, strategies should be provided for migrating
    to open formats if and when they become available.
    • Applications used in institutions should be designed for network installation.

  8. #38
    alan-d's Avatar
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    Re: BECTA Technical Specification Working Group

    ops: Obviously not my day today ops:

    Thanks

  9. #39
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    Re: BECTA Technical Specification Working Group

    Quote Originally Posted by DMcCoy
    I shall require £1m and 3 years to implement all the daft and unreasonable demands from this document.
    But none of us will because the government’s plan, supported by Mr Owen Lynch Chief Executive of Becta, is to farm all these services out to contractors, as they believe that the job will be done better this way. Owen Lynch made these points in the Educational Guardian back in 2003. Companies like Capita will win these contracts as they have this government in their pocket; one of their Directors was even caught up in the cash for peerages allegations.

  10. #40

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    Re: BECTA Technical Specification Working Group

    I have had confirmation that the 'in-line' reference does refer to the use of a cache for pass through ... and that this is a big no-no.

    The Caching and Content Pre-positioning document has been archived pending review (and likely to be superceded by forthcoming documents)

    As for the software ...
    Becta rarely approve things ... and if they do it is after a long and arduous process to ensure they have given people all the information and all the options.
    What they tend to do now is put together a set of criteria as to what applications shall be able to do, should be able to do, etc ... it is up to the individual institute to decide whether the software is educationally valid.

    I've been asked to remind people that the both documents should be taken together ... the technical specification is not a shopping list of things that have to be bought right now ... it is part of a 5 year plan that institutes and support providers should move to.

  11. #41
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    Re: BECTA Technical Specification Working Group

    Is it worth doing if as petectid says we'll all be out in the cold in about 5 years anyway? Of course if the first few LEAs have nothing but problems this may change? If the school decides it doesn't want to outsource 1). Where do they stand? and 2). What happens if they don't does the BSF just say no you can't have a new school built or does it curtail your ICT part of the BSF fund?

    Wes

  12. #42
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    Re: BECTA Technical Specification Working Group

    Quote Originally Posted by CyberNerd
    It's OK saying that institutions shall do this or should do that, how about saying that teachers shall ensure that the software they buy using eLC meets a minimum criteria?
    they do:

    Design criteria
    • Pedagogical and administrative applications shall support open standards that allow the
    import and export of data in a range of commonly used formats that are independent of a
    particular platform.
    • All educational applications shall provide an interface that is designed or can be tailored to
    suit the age and ability of the learners.
    • Documents and data which are intended potentially to have a long lifetime should not be
    solely saved to proprietary file formats.
    • Where only proprietary standards are available, strategies should be provided for migrating
    to open formats if and when they become available.
    • Applications used in institutions should be designed for network installation.
    I'd settle for: "all educational applications shall have a close button in the top right and not make you watch 2 minutes of scrolling credits before they actually exit." What is it with the people who make educational software :?

    I think:
    All educational applications shall provide an interface that is designed or can be tailored to suit the age and ability of the learners
    is definitely a long, long way off at the moment.

    It would be nice if there was some sort of gov't accreditation scheme similar to curriculumonline, but based on a published set of criteria or a scoring system. Unfortunately, I suspect the cost of implementing it would mean software publishers would have to pay for the privilege, putting smaller publishers at a disadvantage. It would also be nice if developers had to specify in detail the Key Stage points that their software covered.

  13. #43

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    Re: BECTA Technical Specification Working Group

    I'm about to collate the remarks from the thread together to feedback to Becta. I'll summarise in this thread first in case anyone wants to add anything I may have missed or not explained enough.

    A final call for comments then.

  14. #44
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    Re: BECTA Technical Specification Working Group

    Ok, I'm reading through the technical specification atm. I'll make some comments as I go through it.

    Network:

    Managed switches. I would love all managed switches, however I am trying to expand, convert and upgrade the network all at the same time. Making managed switches a mandatory will not magically make it happen without time and money. My network has to run all year round and due to conversion to fibre and expansion current work can only be completed during holidays which means to wire the entire building and have managed switches will be at least another 3-5 years.

    Each time I replace a switch I have to get fibre put in, the cabinet replaced and all the current connections certified or replaced and certified. Much of the network has had little investment in the years before I started, and even by myself at times due to time and cost.

    802.3ab? Thats Cat 6 isn't it? Making this a *requirement* is daft, I don't bother with more than cat 5e certification, cat 6 is somewhat stricter and therefore takes more time and effort with little benefit over cat 5e for most uses also it has more physical difficulties for use.

    I still have a building full of Cat 5, It will take tens of thousands to replace. Much actually passes cat 5e certification and can remain in place until the network has been expanded. Oh and most of my fibre is 62nm but you aren't going to get 10GB out of much other hardware for a long time yet, I'm keeping a low contention ratio instead.

    Have the people who wrote this document ever priced 10GB? It will get cheaper yes, but throwing vast bandwidth at any problems wont solve them.

    I'm also not happy with the shall for 100mb for all devices, that misses out older print servers that are often 10Mb but are more than adequate. I'm not going out of my way to get 1Gb NICs for client either, PXE and WOL is all I'm really interested in.

    IP: My RBC will NOT give me a real external IP, all my data has to be port forwarded and I have no real control over our connection. I have also been told not to expect QoS ever.

    I can't say I'm very happy with having a RBC or the LA pokeing thier noses in when all I want is a real internet connection.

    Wired network upgrade paths: Replace Cat 5e with 6! What a complete waste of money. I don't think that sould really be in the advanced upgrade path, its really not going to get you anywhere at this point in time.


    Class of Service/Qos/Vlans. Due to the previously mentioned issues it will be a while before this can be implemented. For the general network we must not forget that to use some of these advanced features the *client* os and nic drivers must also support them. I am quite happy for Becta to write some new drivers for my Marvell NICs to implement VLAN support. If not then I can only use port based rather than tagged.

    Remote Access: I'm not happy with most remote access solutions from a security and data protection standpoint. I'm really not sure if I want my admin staffs data availiable to anyone with the right password. This complicates matters with extra features like client certificates and tokens.

    VPNs. I'm not a fan of VPNs and my isp makes my life difficult, although I did finally get the ports opened for pptp, ipsec and l2tp.

    Sychronisation: This is a major pain in the ass. I loath all laptops because they are not always connected and this makes like difficult from a network managment view point. I also have virtually no wireless in the building due to its physical properties. I dislike offline folders and I'm certinly not going to use that godwaful excuse of the offline sims.net. Teachers also like to fill there laptops with viruses and spyware, but I haven't had time to implement the procedures and policy for staff laptops for network use, so currently they aren't allowed to use them on the network. Although as there is no wireless and the wired network is not complete its not like there is anywhere to plug them in!

    Standards for applications: Ahahahaha. Sims.net still requires Microsoft Office last time I used it. Afaik PDF are also a closed format? Stored documents not save in propriatry format, thats complete nonsense and totally unworkable in my opinion. There is no way I'm going to tell the users to save in more than one format.

    Oh and most applications *aren't* designed for network installation in my experience, I have shouted at a great many pieces of dire educational software for example.

    Whats an open format for databases? Would you not need the database as an sql dump for that?

    Browsers used in institutions shall allow the installation and use of third party plug-ins. By who exactly? Not the user I hope!
    Institutions shall use a content filtering system that should be managed by LAs/RBCs in discussion with institutions. We use RM's its rubbish.

    The audio and video spec is also a bit odd. Why go on about open standards for all the office type applications and then choose mostly closed, licensed formats for audio and video (mp3 and mpg for example)? Same issue with animation.

    I'm getting the feeling that the application specifications are simply derrived from the fact that open office exists rather that the idea that they should be open formats. Another example is the vector formats, nice idea but many vector apps don't use these formats as they are rather outdated and poorly implemented. Xara for example doesn't use svg or vml.

    Communications: As bits of the network are still 100Mb hub and the RBC wont give me QoS this is rather pointless.

    No email filtering is available from the RBC afaik. Except the fact they delete all messages with exe and zips and I CAN'T have this disabled despite various arguments with them on the pointlessnes of apparently virus scanning email if you infact delete the attachements anyway.

    Instant messaging? I think not!

    WiKis? This document is starting to feel like the open source appreciation society, and a touch preachy and patronising. Same goes for RSS.


    MIS: Ah the bain of my life, the fact that the sims.net upgrade and bromcom upgrade somehow moved them to being my responsibility even though they weren't before. It doesn't matter what you do or say on this front, its all up to Capita really isn't it?

    E-portfolios: Could someone please explain what these are? Its all sounding a bit managment speak from here.

    Why must I consult my RBC/LA before I want to do anything? They NEVER ask me!


    I'll go through some more tomorrow. These are honest comments and have just been thrown onto the page, but I really do feel that all becta does is spout managment gibberish to make the govenment feel it has some idea what is going on with IT in schools. It doesn't. There is no point producing long winded and detailed documentation like this if no one ever sees it or there is no money or time to implement it.

    David

  15. #45

    Geoff's Avatar
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    Re: BECTA Technical Specification Working Group

    Minor nitpick(tm).

    Afaik PDF are also a closed format
    Nope, open. It's basically postscript.

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