Thursday, January 20, 2005

T'was a feat of computer acrobatics

For the past few months, I've been bringing in some extra cash by teaching some secular subjects at a local yeshiva. This week was..... MIDTERMS.

One of my students was not in school the day of my English midterm, which was last Monday. Today, when I arrived at the yeshiva, he was pleading with the rabbi to let him take the test that he'd missed. The rabbi allowed it, and the kid asked me if he could take it. I had no problem with it, except this: I didn't have the test with me.

I went downstairs to the admin office, and asked to use a computer connected to the internet and -- scandalous!!! -- there was one available, and on a high-speed connection, no less. I went to my yahoo email account to see if I had emailed this test to myself, and I hadn't. So much for Plan A.

Plan B -- I went to the website of what has got to be one of the most useful utilities for Windows that comes to mind -- PuTTY. PuTTY (maybe the author can explain why he chose such strange capitalization) is a free software ssh client for Windows, which allows console logins to remote machines. I downloaded PuTTY and PSCP (PuTTY's implementation of scp -- secure copy) to the yeshiva's computer. I then logged into my home machine and looked around my home directory to find the midterm. I saw that I only had the original document written in OpenOffice.org. The problem is that the yeshiva didn't have OpenOffice.org, so I had to get creative.

While still logged into my home machine, I opened up an irc client and went into a Linux chatroom on Freenode. I asked the room if anyone would mind me emailing an OpenOffice.org document to them, and that person then emailing me a PDF back. Someone immediately volunteered, and within minutes, I had something that I could print on the yeshiva's machine.

I then gave the student the midterm, and told him that he owed it to the kindness of a stranger he had never seen and would never meet.

Such is the free software community.

Now, some who read this may balk, saying I should have just used Microsoft Word, but OpenOffice.org exports to Word format, and the end results would have been the same, as I hadn't originally planned on sending the midterm document anywhere for another computer to read.

2 Comments:

At 11:13 AM, Blogger Jen said...

That is one AMAZING story!!! I wonder how I could log onto my home computer from somewhere else... That is fascinating.

Congratulations, by the way. You are AWESOME!

 
At 2:39 PM, Blogger Yid said...

Well, if you only have Windows, I don't know how to do what I did without spending a few thousand dollars on an ssh server, like what www.ssh.com offers. If you want to log in graphically, there's the Windows XP Remote Assistance program, or you can download VNC from a number of different places.

On Linux, there's OpenSSH, both the server and the client, which implement the protocols and are free of charge. PuTTY is the ssh client which logs into the remote machine.

I log into my home machine from my office and vice versa using these programs as a matter of routine.

 

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