Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Moodle On A Stick

click to read the sticks!

Original photo credit: How Can I Recycle This?

So then, weary traveller, what would you rather carry around all day? One of these or one of these? I thought so...

Out of focus snap of USB stick plugged into managed laptopOut of focus snap of USB drive (at lower left) running Moodle 1.6 server and application launcher

For a while now I've had a local version of Moodle installed on my laptop running on EasyPHP - so that I can demonstrate Moodle where there's no internet connectivity, or develop courses and resources before restoring them onto a live Moodle server - most of the early resources on the BucksGfL were prepared on my laptop before I dared put them on the live server.
At one time I was carrying around two laptops (don't ask) - how many LA or school staff have back problems caused by new technologies, do you think?
Well that's all changed now, or so I hope. After a little work yesterday (really not much work at all) I now have a 2GB Imation USB drive containing:

and (more relevant to this posting)

all ready to run from the stick on most Windows computers. It took a little bit of configuration (including these tips if you're trying) but now it works fine (hint, if you're already running Apache or IIS locally you'll need to disable it) and I might be able to abandon my local laptop Moodle, but I might keep it just in case (a USB drive is much more losable than a laptop).

Screenshot of multiple applications running from USB stickWhat this means in practice is that I can plug the USB drive into most Windows computers, run useful applications and run multiple versions of Moodle from it, without installing anything on the host PC or modifying its registry. Above is a screenshot of running the stick on a very managed PC - one where it's not possible to change the screensaver, desktop colour, install plug a new mouse in without permission, etc. - showing the managed computer's Internet Explorer (running Moodle 1.6 from the stick), Portable Firefox (running Moodle 1.5.3 from the stick), WinAmp, OpenOffice Draw, and the nice PStart launcher application. Definitely the sort of thing that can only be accomplished in sheds.

From my childhood, I remember the only things on semi-disposable sticks were rather poor jokes... see the picture at the top for the one stick that doesn't contain a joke.


  1. OK this post demonstrates once and for all what is possible with open source and now there is no excuse.

    Ian - I can see the way open for a small service to sell all this configured for a teacher - what company would be interested in doing that because obviously that would convince far more people to go down this route...BETT 2007 a stall selling these?