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Running the L140 DVD-ROM from the hard disk

If, like me, you’re on the Open University course L140 En rumbo: intermediate Spanish, you may have been irritated by the fact that, despite the installer claiming to install to the hard disk, you’re still required to have the DVD in the drive when you want to perform the activites. Quite apart from the fact that it’s somewhat inconvenient to find and insert it every time, it’s also a major source of noise if you have a louder-than-average DVD drive. Since the DVD holds the audio files for the activities, this translated to significant whirring every time you’re trying to listen to, for instance, Spanish pronunciation…which is less than ideal!

You’ll be glad to know, however, that’s it’s possible to manually do what the OU should have done in the first place, and that is to have all the files on the hard disk, therebuy cutting out the need for the DVD-ROM. This should also benefit netbook users, who could then potentially dispense with carrying an external DVD drive.

A little technical knowledge would be helpful, though not essential. Advanced users will see that there are some quicker-but-less-easy-to-document ways of accomplishing some of the steps I’ve described. The usual disclaimers apply.

  1. Make sure you’ve previously installed the L140 activities as per the OU guidelines.
  2. Insert your DVD-ROM and open it to browse in Windows Explorer (it normally appears as your D:\ drive)
  3. The DVD-ROM should contain a folder called “assets”. You need to copy this folder (right-click and click Copy).
  4. Now browse to where the L140 files are installed. This may vary from computer to computer; on my Windows 7 system, the folder was C:\Users\Liam\AppData\Roaming\L140 DVD-ROM. I can’t say for sure what it is on Windows XP, but try looking in C:\Documents and Settings\Liam\Application Data.
  5. Paste the “assets” folder inside the “L140 DVD-ROM” folder you found in step 4. There are between 2 and 3 GB of small files to copy over, so this may take a while.
  6. For safety, you may like to backup the LocalVariables.js file (you may not see the .js part) in the “code” folder inside the “L140 DVD-ROM” folder.
  7. Open this in Notepad. To do so, open Notepad (Start -> Programs -> Accessories -> Notepad) and browse to the “code” folder inside the “L140 DVD-ROM” folder you’ve been looking at. (On my system, this folder is C:\Users\Liam\AppData\Roaming\L140 DVD-ROM\code.) In the drop-down menu “Files of type” click “All Files”. You should now see that this folder should contain a file called LocalVariables.js (you may not see the .js part). Double-click on it to open it.
  8. The second line of this file should start “var pathToDVD”. You need to alter it to be identical in every way to the line that starts var pathToRoot, except that it should start var pathToDVD. For instance, in my case, after alteration, the second line looked like this: var pathToDVD = 'C:\\Users\\Liam\\AppData\\Roaming\\L140 DVD-ROM\\';
  9. Save the file and close Notepad.
  10. You’re done. You should now be able to run the activities without the DVD being in the drive: in particular, the audio and video clips should play without problem.

Advanced users probably have already realised that the “assets” folder could actually be anywhere, so long as the LocalVariables.js file is altered to point to it. You could put it in your Documents folder or even on a USB drive instead.

Hasta luego!

NetBeans 4.1 with Windows 7 RC x64

Had some issues when I tried to install NetBeans 4.1 from the Open University CD-ROM, which is not surprising, considering its age and the determination of the Open University to keep on using legacy software.

First of all, the installer wouldn’t display correctly, with many graphical elements not appearing at all. Thanks to Simon over at abscforme.co.uk, I was able to get past this by forcing Windows 2000 compatibility mode.

Secondly, when going to File -> Open in NetBeans, Java crashed. This appeared to be a complete show-stopper. I even set up Windows XP Mode just to run it correctly. However, while I was doing that, I realised that the problem could lie with the Java Runtime: the Open University installer had installed the x86 version of the Java Runtime and the JDK. So I tried uninstalling the x86 versions and installing the Java SE Runtime Environment 5.0u19 and likewise the Java SE Development Kit 5.0u19 instead for Windows x64.

Upon installing NetBeans threw a paddy because it couldn’t find the JDK. I had to go to C:/Program Files (x86)/netbeans-4.1/etc/, set the permissions on the folder for Users to Write, and then edit the appropriate line in the netbeans.conf file to the following: netbeans_jdkhome=”C:\Program Files\Java\jdk1.5.0_19″. Then it was a case of putting the permissions on the folder back to as they were.

Upon restarting NetBeans, all seemed to be well…and so far, all is still well. As a bonus, using this version of the Java Runtime/JDK doesn’t force Windows 7 out of the Aero GUI. I’ll keep you posted if there are any further developments.

Having said all that, though…I really hope the Open University get a move on and switch to NetBeans 6.5 or later! It’s faintly ridiculous that courses that teach such a platform-independant technology as Java are so prescriptive of the platforms they will support.