Thursday, October 11, 2018

Results of the Install Party - a #pnsqc workshop followup

Yesterday I said I was interested in trying to see how far we could go with trying to solve the install party dilemma. That is where a bunch of people who are sitting in a room try to get the code or application installed so that it can be useful. Often this turns into a long process of trying to determine the state of people's machines, struggle with trying to see why some machines work and some don't, and overcome other obstacles. It's not uncommon to have an hour or so go by before everyone is in a working state, or at least those who can be.

Bill Opsal and I thought that making a sandbox on a Virtual Machine would be a good way to go. By supplying two installers for VirtualBox, we would be able to have the attendees install VirtualBox, set up the virtual machine, boot it and be ready to go. Simple, right? Well...

First of all, while Macs tend to be pretty consistent (we had no issues with installing to Macs yesterday) PC hardware is all over the map. I had a true Arthur Carlson moment yesterday (Station manager of "WKRP in Cincinnati") who famously quoted in an episode, "As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly".

Well, in that classic fashion "as God is my witness, I thought all Operating Systems supported 64-bit configurations in 2018".

Oh silly, silly Testhead!!!

To spare some suspense, for a number of participants that had older PC hardware, the option to select a Linux 64 bit guest operating system wasn't even available. Selecting a 32-bit system presented the users with a blank screen. Not the impression I wanted to make at all. Fortunately, we had a lot of attendees that were able to load the 64 bit OS without issue. Some other details I hadn't considered, but we were able to overcome:

- Hyper-V configured systems don't like running alongside VirtualBox, but we were able to convert the .vdi file to a .vhd file and import the guest OS into Hyper-V

- one of the participants had a micro book that had 2 GB of RAM for the whole system. That made setting up the guest with enough space to run in a realistic way to be difficult.

Plus one that I hadn't considered and couldn't... one attendee had a Chromebook. That was an immediate "OK, you need to buddy up with someone else".

In all, we had about eight people out of the 28 participants unable to get the system working for them. By the time we got everyone sorted, settled and we felt sure we could continue, 30 minutes had elapsed. That's better than the hour I'd routinely experienced, but we had what is, to me, an unacceptable level of people who couldn't get their systems to work.

Through talking with other workshop facilitators, we all tried a variety of options and one that I think will likely have to be the one I use going forward is the "participant install prerequisite" which one of the instructors instituted. He encouraged all of the participants to contact him before the course started and make sure they could install the environment. If they couldn't they would work out what would be needed for them to be able to do so. While this might take more time for all involved prior to the workshop, it would be balanced by the fact that all attendees were confirmed ready to go at the start of the workshop. My goal was to speed up that adoption by using a sandbox environment that was all set up. It was partially successful but now I know there are other variables that I need to pay closer attention to. Good things to keep in mind for next time.

1 comment:

Ty Andal said...

I was one of the few where it didn't work, but it was all good. I paired up with my neighbor and was able to follow along just fine. My issue was related to my work computer having beyond trust(security application) installed which blocked me from running things properly. I thought the talk was a lot of fun with the gaming analogies especially since I'm also a huge JRPG fan as well. Thanks for sharing. I know a lot of work and thought went into this workshop :)