Posts Tagged ‘black box’

tv-dinnerFrom a learning and pedagogical perspective, I would not, not, not want to entertain the notion of downloading a prepackaged virtual machine. The most frustrating thing I can think of, at least in this IRLS672/675 realm, would be a black box experience. Of course I wouldn’t have known any better. But tech life is full of black boxes for the curious and uninformed these days. It’s Just More Fun Doing It Myself. Doing with my own ten fingers eyes glued to screen with held breath is how I learn, best.

These courses are, IMHO, all about understanding how to take the lid off the black box and at least burn the memory of having once seen the contents revealed, if not how to remove them and replace them each nut and bolt by nut and bolt in perfect reverse sequence. At least being able to talk to the doers, if not be the doer. I like the idea of getting in there from the beginning and building the thing, setting the stage for tweaking and downloading and unpacking to come. Given that there are always ways to retrace much further back, back to zeroes and ones in the end, so our VM is really itself an artificial starting point, but. It’s hard these days to get much further back than the web; that’s one of the reasons this program so appealed to me. And from a digital library standpoint, I can see saying to Customer A, Hey, I can show you what I mean, unpacking the laptop and firing up the VM. Possible without having built it, but probably not so I could explain to Customer A what a virtual machine is. Not that Customer A asked. That was Customer B who had some programming experience and questioned me about this DigIn experience listed on my résumé.

Then there’s the bounceback effect. The virtual machine is a lovely, harmless way of learning how the rather more easily harmed home machine works…can I count the ways in which I’ve learned how my Mac works from running the VM through paces? No I cannot. But they are many. Not just because of the Linux/Unix heritage. From the start, the idea that this is not my Mac, this is another entity cohabiting the aluminum casing, that would have been hard to get across to me without all the startup; by now I might have slipped into thinking of it as an application. Mystified by my inability to open a Word doc inside it.

Perhaps these are not generalized courses in computer science…but as archivist, librarian, information professionista, I would prefer to be able to say that I built a VM than that I’ve seen a VM. No doubt there would have been time for other things had we skipped straight in (that’s assuming the large file issue of a prefab was not an issue–got a feeling there’d always be something to troubleshoot, though). Maybe the time freed up (which I’m not persuaded would have been much) could have been spent more carefully preparing a collection for use and reuse across IR software so that we’d have, I don’t know, more experience with different file formats or import/construction of sturdy metadata. I wouldn’t trade it in.

Then again: I’ve had a pretty easy time with the VMs. Let those speak who have not.

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