We use a cool piece of open source software at work in our labs called iTalc that allows teachers to monitor all of the computers in a given computer lab. This not only lets the teacher keep an eye on the kids and what they’re doing (both to keep them on task and to make sure they’re doing their work correctly), but it also allows them to lock each student PC screen when the teacher wants their attention and allows the teacher to project his/her screen to every student PC or use a student PC as an example and project that screen to every other student. Like I said, it’s a very cool application.
The other day my co-worker asked me to work with him on a new lab setup because he was having issues with iTalc. I wanted to document our findings for the future and for others who might be having similar issues (since we couldn’t find too much about iTalc out there on the Internet – though they do have a wonderful support wiki and EduGeek has good forums).
- iTalc uses VNC as the underlying technology and we use UltraVNC for remote support.
- When UltraVNC and iTalc are installed on the same system, they fight over the port (5900) and UltraVNC seemed to win every time – the iTalc agent would just keep closing and re-opening itself.
- iTalc 2.0.0 can “supposedly” be told to run on another port (same with UltraVNC), but we didn’t have luck getting the iTalc agent to run on a different port.
- We had to uninstall UltraVNC on the lab PCs on the network. Since we deploy UltraVNC via a group policy, we had to deny the application of that policy to the computers in the labs then uninstall UltraVNC.
- We installed the latest iTalc agents, version 2.0.0, on each PC in the lab (they were Windows 7 SP1 64-bit computers).
- The last system I planned to install was the teacher station, or the iTalc master, which also needed to have UltraVNC uninstalled, but is a Windows XP SP3 32-bit computer.
- iTalc 2.0.0 32-bit did not run successfully on this PC.
- After much research and testing, I found others complaining about iTalc 2.0.0 on a 32-bit system. I finally found someone who had a version of iTalc 2.0.0 32-bit that had a different date associated with the file than what was posted on SourceForge.net. Furthermore, this other installation file asks you to install the “Babylon” search engine (which you can say no to). If I ever find where I got this file from, I’ll post a link, since I can’t seem to find it right now.
- iTalc works!
Lessons learned are: don’t run iTalc and UltraVNC on the same computer, upgrade/test the teacher PC and one student PC at the same time (having already done all of the student PCs and not being able to get the teacher PC to work was not fun), keep teacher and student PC software versions consistent (Windows 7 32-bit vs. Windows 64-bit), wait for iTalc version 2.0.1 to come out 🙂