LangLab PASSPORT Release Notes

Version History

Version 2.2
Version 2.1
Version 2.0
Version 1.9
Version 1.8
Version 1.7
Version 1.6
Version 1.5
Version 1.4
Version 1.3.1
Version 1.3

LangLab PASSPORT Version 2.2 (Windows and Mac OS X)

A new look and a new name
Version 2.2 uses new logos and new buttons. It also introduces some compelling and pedagogically significant features. To mark the changes, we are adopting the name LangLab PASSPORT, a name already used by our U.K. distributor.

In addition to changes that make LangLab PASSPORT more user-friendly, this version gives teachers the ability to configure the text window so as to draw students' attention to key elements in the text for an item. Controls for a built-in HTML editor let teachers choose which font to use, the font color and size, whether to use bold or italics, and the background color of the text window. A teacher of younger students can use larger font and make the text more eye-catching, but even older students will benefit from text they can grasp more quickly because graphical elements help structure it. It is also easier to create answer boxes, since a button now brings up a window to specify their size (no special character is needed), and it is now possible to create true checkboxes that students can check with a mouse click.

Among other changes, enhanced functionality for handling the course roster now lets the teacher type in the roster directly and add or delete students, in addition to loading a roster text file. A new Manage Item button lets a teacher easily change the order of items in a lesson and delete an item in the middle of the sequence or move a newly-created item to a desired spot in the sequence. The teacher also now has a one-click way to put in a recording pause, without drawing a rectangle around a portion of the audio clip, just by choosing the spot, the length of the pause, and clicking the button (now labeled Recording Pause) to insert it. These changes and others are described more systematically below.

General changes

  • To simplify menu access to modules, a LangLabInstructor panel contains buttons for the Admin, Teacher, Monitor, and Let'sT@lk Monitor modules. Teachers click on the module they want to bring up.
  • Microphone calibration has been removed from all modules, and modules now automatically test the microphone input. Unless the input level is over a threshold value (100), the user sees a warning message, and the user can verify that the microphone is properly connected and selected as the source of sound input.
    Given the variation in response of sound cards, an arbitrary threshold level can never be an infallible guide to whether the microphone is working. Sometimes a warning message can appear simply when the user is in a quiet room with no background noise.
  • A new safeguard makes it harder to quit a module inadvertently. When the user clicks on the Quit button, modules now ask the user if the user really wants to quit the module. Before, the user might click on Quit without thinking about it. The user would then have to restart the module.
  • To save disk space, students’ log files are now deleted once use statistics for the teacher's Stats report have been compiled from them.

Admin Module Changes

  • Working on audio clips
    1. One-click insertion of recording pauses
      As mentioned above, a teacher can now put in a recording pause without drawing a rectangle around a portion of the sound wave. The button previously labeled "Insert Pause" is now a more explicit Recording Pause button, and there is a field to the right to specify a length of a recording pause in seconds. (The default is five seconds.) Clicking on the button inserts a pause of the indicated length wherever the cursor is in the sound wave. Drawing a rectangle around a piece of the clip and then clicking on the button still works, however; as before, it inserts a recording pause with the same duration as the rectangle, regardless of the figure displayed to the right of the button.
    2. The Audio Clip menu now has two choices: Delete Clip, which provides an easy way to delete the entire audio clip without having to select anything; and Insert Clip, which inserts the clip chosen at the cursor. If there was no previous audio clip, it simply imports the selected clip.
    3. The Edit menu has two new choices, amplify and reset. The first one lets the teacher make a portion of a clip louder or softer. To do so, the teacher draws a rectangle around a portion of the sound wave, sets the Volume slider to a desired multiplier, and chooses amplify from the menu. The reset choice makes the volume revert to what it was originally.
  • Enhancements for the text window
    1. Choosing fonts and colors
      As explained above, controls above the text window let the teacher determine the appearance of the text window by setting the background color, choosing the font type, size, and color, and using bold and italics where desired. The simple HTML editor manipulated by these controls works best if the user first types the entire text in plain text, including any questions or other text that will be accompanied by answer boxes, and then uses the controls to select and format it, inserting any text boxes required. In any case, whether the text is formatted or not, to apply new formatting characteristics to any portion, select it and use the controls.
      • A drop-down menu lets the user choose the font from among those available on the computer.
        N.B.: The font must be Unicode-compatible. Unfortunately, the Java program language used for LangLab PASSPORT has no function that would let the Admin module exclude from the list fonts that aren't. If the user chooses a font that isn't Unicode-compatible, the text is not converted to that font. Fortunately, most common fonts for Roman alphabets, such as Arial or Times New Roman, are Unicode-compatible. Teachers of languages that use other writing systems should check (outside Admin) whether fonts they have installed are Unicode-compatible and make sure to choose fonts that are.
      • A drop-down menu of relative font sizes lets the teacher decrease or increase the size used.
      • A B button lets the teacher used bold, and an I button lets the teacher use italics for the portion of text selected.
      • A Font Color button lets the user set the color of the font in the selected portion of text, while the BG Color button lets the user choose the background color for the whole window.
        The Choose Color tool brought up by these buttons gives the user three possible ways of selecting the color, each corresponding to a tab in the tool. In the first method, Swatches, the user simply clicks on a small square of the desired color, and then on OK. The RGB and HSB methods let the user choose a color numerically or by clicking on sliders, as with the Color Customization utility introduced in version 2.1.
      • A T button changes the selected portion of formatted text back into plain text.
    2. Creating response boxes
      A new button brings up a small window in which the teacher can specify how many rows high (NbRows) and how many columns (characters) wide (NbColumns) the box should be. The box is inserted at the cursor position. If the box is only one row high and one column wide, Admin will now create a true checkbox that can be checked with a mouse click, rather than a box in which the student has to type a character. If the box created is more than one line high, it will be scrollable in both dimensions.

      Since HTML tends to ignore spaces other than spaces between words, it is usually necessary to put in a hard space to separate a response box from a preceding number or letter and from the text following it. To insert a hard space, press the Shift key while pressing the space bar (a common command for HTML editors). If you don't put in hard spaces, the text with answer boxes will initially appear to be formatted correctly, but when you leave the item and return to it, the spaces on either side of the answer boxes will have disappeared.
    Notes on Using Text Formatting and Response Boxes
    • When the text for an item was created with an older version of Admin, LangLab PASSPORT automatically converts it to HTML and displays it properly. E.g., text that originally had double ampersands defining answer boxes will still work, but when the teacher inspects the text for the item in Admin, Admin saves it in HTML and the double ampersands disappear.
    • The HTML editor available for the Java programming language is somewhat capricious, but even sophisticated commercial HTML editor products for Web page design tend to be also, and there can be problems in changing text already formatted. As mentioned above, to minimize problems with text formatting and insertion of answer boxes:
      • First type the whole text as plain text, including all choices for multiple-choice questions.
      • Then, go back and select a portion of the text to format (highlight with the mouse).
      • Use the controls to put in the formatting characteristics you want for that portion.
      • Click to select spots where you want answer boxes (text boxes) and create the answer boxes. Use the Shift+space command to put in any hard spaces needed to separate a text box from a preceding numeral or letter and from the text following.
      It is nevertheless possible to select and modify or add to text that is already formatted and has text boxes. The user may sometimes experience difficulties in performing desired operations, but with some perseverance and experimentation, it is always possible to produce the desired result. Some possible problems that may occur:
      • Sometimes it is hard to select the last character in a portion of text the user is trying to highlight.
      • Sometimes it is difficult to put a return (Enter) after an answer box to type on a new line.
      • When the user adds a text box of more than one line to the end of a text, and tries to continue typing on the next line, the HTML editor tends to create two text boxes rather than one, and the user has to find a way to type additional text, then go back and delete the unwanted copy of the text box. (This problem seems to arise from a bug in Java itself.)
  • The Manage Item button
    It is now easy to create an item and move it into the middle of a series or delete an item in the middle of the series. Previously, only the last item of a lesson could be deleted, and inserting an item in the middle of a series entailed adding an item at the end and deleting some before it, after copying their elements to additional items created for the lesson. Now, clicking on the Manage Item button brings up a small window with arrows for moving the item to another position in the series and a button for deleting it. A click on the left or right arrows moves the item one position to the left or right. The current position of the item is displayed, and the display updates each time a change is made. The Delete Item button will work for any item, regardless of its position in the series. When the user clicks the button, the pop-up asks the user to confirm the deletion. After changes, the user clicks on the OK button to close the pop-up.

  • Easier management of course rosters
    This version simplifies managing the class roster by allowing teachers to add or delete students directly, without editing an external roster file and re-importing it.
    • To add a student, enter the login name and password in the fields provided and click on ADD. LangLab PASSPORT adds the student to the roster if the name is not already in the list and if the name and password both contain at least three characters. To add the student to a selected spot (e.g., in alphabetical order), click to highlight the student who should follow the new student before clicking on ADD. If no student is selected, the new student is added at the end of the list.
    • To delete a student from the roster, click to highlight the name and click on REMOVE STUDENT.
    • As previously, the IMPORT ROSTER button brings up a file-exploration window that lets the teacher navigate to a roster file and open it. The file must be a pure unformatted text file, in which each line consists of a student login name and a password separated by a comma. If either the name or the password is missing for a student, that student is not included in the roster and an error message is displayed.
    • The CLOSE button saves the roster and closes the Course Roster window.
  • New buttons to help find external files to link to an item and test a link
    • Previously, in linking an external resource in file form to an item, it was sometimes necessary to type in the whole pathname. Since URLs of Web sites appear in a browser address field, teachers can simply copy and paste them into the URL field of Admin. For files on a server, however, a teacher who uses a browser to navigate to a file and open it may not see the whole pathname displayed anywhere, especially if the browser does not display the file itself but rather calls another program to use or display the file. The teacher cannot simply copy and paste the pathname into the URL field of Admin. It can be cumbersome even to find the entire pathname (including the server name or IP address) and type it correctly into the URL field.
    • A new Link File button helps users find the right file and put its pathname into the URL field; a new Test Link button lets the user check what will happen when a student clicks the URL button in the Client module.
    • The teacher can use the Link File button to find and open (choose) a file on a server. For students to be able to use the file, it cannot simply be on the teacher's local computer, even through the teacher may be using that computer to create lesson items for the course and the teacher can find the desired file on the local computer.
      There is an important difference between how LangLab PASSPORT creates the small images that pop up automatically when a student comes to items that have them, and how LangLab PASSPORT handles external resources. When Admin makes small image files out of selected image files, it automatically stores the small image files in the appropriate course directory on the server. With external resources, however, Admin does not generate any copy or version of the file and store it on the server automatically.
      The teacher must first make sure that a file intended for use is placed on the server, in a directory students' computers can find.. The teacher should have technical staff make sure that all students can use the same pathnames to retrieve files. (For instance, there will be problems if the server drive on which such files reside is identified by one letter or name on some computers, and on other computers by a different letter or name. Students working remotely have to be able to retrieve files from the same place, using the same pathname, as students working on-site.) The teacher then navigates to this file, links it to the item, and the pathname (including identification of the server) appears in the URL field. The Test Link button will bring up the external resource, but it cannot tell if the teacher has made a mistake and created a link to a file on the local machine rather than the server.
  • Other changes in Admin
    1. Possible length of course names increased for naming flexibility
      To accommodate clients who identify courses by descriptive names rather than course numbers, the maximum length of the course name has been increased to thirty-five characters.
    2. User-friendly creation of course folders
      If the Administrator has not yet set up folders for a course that has been created, and the teacher tries to create lessons for the course, Admin will now automatically offer to create the missing folders.
    3. Easier importing of lesson files not originally created on the server
      Teachers may wish to import a course or lesson developed elsewhere or on a local machine and not originally stored on the server. Admin now facilitates importing of such materials. When a course or lesson is created, Admin can now check whether materials for it have been put on the server and, if so, add the course or lesson and its associated materials. A short document gives instructions for importing courses or lessons, and the instructions have also been added to the Administrator's Reference. The Teacher's Guide explains this possibility and has a link to the section of the Administrator's Reference.

Client Module Changes

  • Some buttons have changed, and are now similar to the buttons in the Let'sT@lk Client module.
    • A Replay button, with an arrow bent around, plays the student's recording if one exists.
    • The Play button always plays the master clip.
    • There no longer is a separate Pause button. The Replay, Play, and Record buttons turn into a Pause button when clicked, as with some media players, and the current operation can be paused by clicking on this button. When a teacher monitoring a class pauses the work of a student or the class to say something, the same transformation occurs.
  • The text window now reflects the formatting and display choices set in the Admin module, as well as the new style of checkboxes and text boxes for written answers.
  • Pop-up pictures are now displayed at the bottom right of the Client screen rather than in the corner of the computer screen.
  • Clicking on the progress bar to jump to another point in the clip is no longer possible during a recording pause. The student must wait until the end of the current recording pause to jump to another point. This change was requested to reduce the confusion for younger students who jumped to another point (perhaps inadvertently) while recording, listened to the jumbled result, and thought that the module wasn't working properly.
  • Lessons that are tests or quizzes no longer appear in the lesson menu until the teacher uses the Admin module to reveal them. When a teacher wants students to take the test, the teacher changes the status of the lesson from "Hide" to "Show" before telling students to bring up the Client module. Previously, a hidden lesson appeared in the menu, but students could not retrieve it.
  • The playthrough checkbox has disappeared. The playthrough formerly used converted digitized sound from the microphone back into analogue sound and sent it to the headphones, to help students hear how they sound to others. Unfortunately, the process of first digitizing the sound, then reconverting back into analogue sound was not fast enough (using Java sound tools) to avoid a disconcerting echo effect. Since there are ways of achieving playthrough without this latency problem (e.g., certain headphones with built-in mixers that simply send analogue input from the microphone to the headphones), and since the echo effect made Client's playthrough virtually unusable, it has been removed.

Teacher Module Changes

  • The text window now reflects the formatting and display choices set in the Admin module, as well as the new style of checkboxes and text boxes for written answers.
  • A new FILTERS menu lets the teacher make a selected portion of sound louder or softer. It provides the amplify and reset options that now appear also in the Admin module Edit menu, as mentioned above. As in Admin, the teacher can select a portion of the sound clip, select the Volume slider to a multiplier, and choose amplify. The teacher can choose reset to revert to the original volume.
  • A new report for viewing and correcting or providing feedback on students' typed answers:
    A Print Student Answers button in the Stats panel prints out an html-formatted report with all student’s typed answers for the lesson, listed by student and by item.
    A teacher can print to a file, then view the file in a browser or word processor. By bringing up the file in, say, Word, a teacher can correct answers in the file, extract each student's responses with corrections and comments, and e-mail them back to the student.
  • The date form used in specifying an interval for deletion of students’ recordings and in the Stats report is now the DD-MM-YYYY form, and the default date for the start of an interval uses the year 2005.
  • When a teacher records, the counter now shows elapsed time in bold font.

Monitor Module Change

After the teacher has clicked on the Call All button to address the whole class, the message the student sees has been changed to make clearer how to resume work. It now reads, "To resume recording or playback, please press the Pause button."









Previous versions


LangLab Version 2.1 (Windows and Mac OS X)

This version is an interim version before later release of a version with more significant enhancements of functionality. It has been released to meet an immediate need for an alternative system of licensing, by number of users rather than by number of lab seats, but it also uses a larger font size in the text window, simplifies installation of the demo version by eliminating the step of obtaining a license manually, allows user choice of colors for parts of screens, permits insertion of user-specified text in the top blue border of module windows (e.g., for the name of an institution or school district), and simplifies use of LangLab utility programs by making them available within a single LangLabUtilities module.

More about these changes:

  1. Licensing
    LangLab is now offered with two different licensing systems, by number of seats or by maximum number of users, and it is also possible to purchase licenses for certain modules only. Because version 2.1 works with a license key that has a different format, current LangLab users who are entitled to updates and who wish to use version 2.1 will need to use the LicenseMgr program of the LangLabUtilities module to obtain new permanent or temporary licenses. (Clients who use a single master license file with license keys for all client computers should ask E-LangLab to send them a new file.)
    • Institutions short on funds can begin with a minimal installation corresponding to immediate needs, and as their resources and needs expand, they can purchase licenses for the complete suite of modules. Normally, however, institutions license either the full suite of modules, including the Let'sT@lk modules for pair and group work, or the basic set of modules--Client, Monitor, Teacher, and Admin--without the Let'sT@lk modules. (In special circumstances E-LangLab may grant licenses for a reduced module set, e.g., the basic modules without the Monitor module, or the Let'sT@lk modules as a stand-alone product.) License keys tell LangLab which modules are authorized.
    • Instead of licensing LangLab for a certain number of lab seats, with students and faculty obtaining temporary licenses to run LangLab on computers outside the lab, an institution can license it for a maximum number of users. A minimum purchase is for 100 users, and there are licensing levels available for 300, 500, 750, and 1,000 users, as well as levels beyond 1,000 in increments of 100. As with per-seat licensing, there are prices for the basic set of modules, without the Let'sT@lk modules for pair and group work, and prices for the full suite of modules, including Let'sT@lk.
  2. The Text Window
    The font used in the text window is now larger and easier to read. (A coming version of LangLab will include controls that will allow a teacher who prepares lessons to choose font and font size, font color, background color, bold or underlined characters, etc.)
  3. Installation
    To simplify installation of the demo version, the demo version of LangLab now creates a demo license automatically when it is first used. It is no longer necessary to bring up the LicenseMgr and click a button to obtain a demo license. Additionally, a single installer includes both the basic modules and the Let'sT@lk modules.
  4. Screen Color Customization
    Three utility programs that were formerly separately-launched programs have been brought together within one module, LangLabUtilities, and a fourth program, for customization of screen colors, has been added.
    • LangLabUtilities has buttons for the LicenseMgr (formerly a separate module), the Status Report (formerly LangLabReport, a program that provides information about an installation that may be needed for technical support in the event of a problem), Install MP3 Files (formerly LangLabCopyMP3, a program that puts files needed to use MP3 sound files and SFTP remote access in the appropriate Java directories), and Customize Colors.
    • The LicenseMgr is no longer used to obtain a demo license, since LangLab creates one automatically. It is used to obtain permanent and temporary licenses under a per-seat licensing system or to obtain a site license for a server that allows use by a defined maximum number of users. There is no longer a field allowing entry of a special key for license creation, in cases when a computer does not have Internet access to connect to E-LangLab's server. Instead, E-LangLab will simply send a license key to the client in these circumstances, and the client can put it in the LangLab folder on that computer.
    • Color Customization brings up a screen that resembles the main screen of the Client module, with controls for choosing colors. To use it, click on a colored box corresponding to the current color of a screen feature. A Choose Color panel appears, and you can click on a color to use that color for the feature (the Swatches method) or go to RGB and HSB tabs that let you select colors numerically or by clicking on sliders, etc. To reverse a change just made, hold down the Ctrl key and click on the colored box; as you keep clicking, changes will be reversed in sequence. To cancel all changes and revert to the default LangLab colors, click on the LangLab Colors box. Changes will not be saved unless you click on the Save Changes box.
  5. Identifying Banner
    It is now possible to customize the text that appears in the top border of module windows (normally blue by default). Previously the text said simply "E-LangLab, LLC." What appears is now determined by a user-editable file in the LangLab folder, LangLabTitleBanner.txt. A client can use a text editor to change this banner to text identifying an institution, organization, etc.




LangLab Version 2.0 (Windows and Mac OS X)

This version contains three notable enhancements:

  • It lets you link video clips, Web pages, and other kinds of instructional materials in file form to a lesson item. This supporting material supplements whatever the students sees in the text window of the Client module and any image that pops up when the student comes to the item. Client displays a button with the URL (location, on the Web or on a server) on it, and clicking on the button brings up a browser or display program (e.g., Windows Media Player, an image viewer) that retrieves the Web page, video clip, Powerpoint, or other kind of file.
  • It lets you connect over the Internet using a simple form of secure remote access (SFTP), when you retrieve lesson materials from a server and put files onto it. (Monitoring connections still use the SMB protocol.)
  • It lets you import MP3 files that come with ID3 tags without first stripping out the tags.

These changes are explained in detail below. Version 2.0 is also designed to be used with a more recent Windows Java version: Java 1.5, also known as JRE 5.0. (For the Mac, you should use Apple Jave 1.4.2.) Additionally, for those who have previously used demo or licensed versions of LangLab, installation may require manual removal of one file that installers for previous versions put in a Java directory. This step is explained in an IMPORTANT NOTICE below and in installation instructions.

  1. Version 2.0 enriches the pedagogical toolkit by providing a way to link items to any kind of instructional material in Web page or file form, including video clips, Powerpoint presentations, audio clips in addition to the one in the item, documents with text and images, etc. The Admin module now has a field for entry of a URL--i.e., the address of a Web page or a file on a server or even on the local machine--for a lesson item. When a student using the Client module comes to that item, Client displays a button labelled with the URL. Clicking on the button launches the default browser, which displays the designated Web page or document. If the link is to a file other than a document displayable in the browser itself, the browser launches the display program needed to use the file, such as Windows Media Player or an image viewer.

    All a teacher has to do is type the URL in URL: field underneath the text window or--even easier--use the browser to open the URL, then copy it from the URL line of the browser and paste it into the URL field of Admin using the Ctrl+v command. Using the correct format is important, however, since Admin does not have the ability of many browsers to figure out from an incompletely or improperly specified URL what the user intends. Here is how to do it:
    • For a web page (we'll call it webpage.com) the format is
      http://www.webpage.com
      and it won't work without the http:// at the beginning.
    • For file on a server (not the local computer), the format uses file:// followed by the name or IP address of the server and the pathname, using slashes (not backslashes, even for a server using Windows). E.g.,
      file://123.45.678.901/LangLab/Spanish/videos/videoname.mov
    • Sometimes the file may be on the local computer, including on a CD or DVD that a student is supposed to insert. In this case file:// is followed by the pathname starting with an additional slash (not backslash, even under Windows). E.g.,
      file:///C:/LangLab/Spanish/videos/videoname.mov

    As mentioned above, a file a URL points to can be a video clip, another audio clip, a Powerpoint presentation, or a document of some kind with text (including fill-in .pdf files), photos, embedded sound, Flash animation, etc. If the default browser has the required plug-in, it will play the video or audio clip or do what is necessary for display. Otherwise, it will offer to download the file and the user can open it with the appropriate program.

    Sample uses
    The item can, for instance, have students watch an external video clip (perhaps with a dialogue or a speaker asking questions) or listen to an audio clip of a conversation, then record responses to oral questions or do oral exercises in the item's own audio clip that are based on the external video or audio clip. The file the URL designates could also contain a montage of pictures with embedded sound to teach vocabulary, or a document that presents points of grammar or discusses some aspect of civilization, and is longer than what a teacher might want to put in the text window. The item would then use this material as the basis for the learning or assessment activity.

    The variety of types of materials that can be linked to items--sections of textbooks (with the publisher's permission), audio clips of music, image files of paintings, buildings, maps, graphs, etc.--enable LangLab to be used for enriching literature, civilization, and film courses, but also any subject for which the recorded oral response and written response capabilities of LangLab are useful.

  2. Version 2.0 provides a means for more efficient secure remote access to a server than what was previously possible. The following explanation of this enhancement is intended to be generally understandable to users, but will primarily be of interest to technical personnel responsible for setting up remote access and ensuring the security of remote connections.

    In previous versions of LangLab, access to an institution's server required using the Samba protocol. For remote access, because a connection of this type does not have much intrinsic security, some system administrators disallow it. Often, Samba access is made secure by use of a VPN (virtual private network) in which data are encapsulated ("tunneled") and encrypted for the transfer. Adding this layer of security, however, required the institution to have the third-party software for the VPN and the system administration expertise to manage it.

    To avoid this complexity and still enable secure connections to the server, E-LangLab has modified LangLab to permit secure ftp and ftp access, and has licensed and incorporated into LangLab third-party software that makes possible secure ftp access from remote client computers. Virtually any computer can function as a server using connections of this type. All that is necessary to use ftp or sftp access is to add one line to the local LangLabCourse.txt file. This file on the local computer previously had a single line directing it to fetch a file with the same name (LangLabCourse.txt) from the server. Now, the local file has an introductory line telling the local machine to use ftp or sftp access, and providing the username (account login name) and password required for the connection. In the case of a server with the IP address 123.45.678.901, and a user with login abcdefg and password xy19vu28, this line would be, using SFTP:
    SFTP|123.45.678.901|abcdefg|xy19vu28
    and for FTP, the part before the server name or number would be FTP|. The second and last line is as before. LangLab can, of course, continue to use the Samba protocol for remote access, without this extra line.

  3. In version 2.0., the Admin module can import MP3 files that have ID3 tags. Such tags (packets of information about the artist, the album, etc.) no longer have to be removed outside LangLab, using software such as iTunes or special-purpose tag strippers.

In addition to these enhancements, version 2.0 fixes several minor bugs. E.g.:

  1. It fixes a problem that made it sometimes difficult in the Teacher module to switch from one student to another.
  2. Previously, when a teacher entered a number in the Extend Pause field of Admin but forgot to press Enter afterward, then left the item, Admin did not record the desired increment. Now, however, whenever a user goes to another item, Admin reads and records the value in this field, even if the user has forgotten to press Enter (just as it does for text in the text window).
  3. In the released version 1.9, setting the status of a lesson to Hide prevented a teacher from seeing a student's written work for the lesson. This problem has been corrected.
  4. In version 1.9, when the last item of a lesson was deleted, the text or image file associated with the deleted item became associated with the previous item (now the last item), supplanting any text or image that was associated with it before. This problem has also been corrected in version 2.0.

Documentation has been revised to reflect these changes.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: Because LangLab uses some recently-introduced Java tools designed for use with Windows Java 1.5, E-LangLab now considers use of Java 1.5 a system requirement when using Windows, and does not guarantee complete compatibility with previous Java versions. (Most functions may continue to work properly, nevertheless, with previous versions.) For the Mac, these tools are compatible with Apple Java 1.4.2, which is now a system requirement when using OS X. Additionally, installers for previous versions of LangLab put a javalayer.jar file in a subdirectory of the Java directory. If you have Java 1.5.0, for instance, and installed version 1.9 of LangLab (demo or licensed version), the pathname for this file is

for Windows, C:\Program Files\Java\jre1.5.0\lib\ext\javalayer.jar
and, on a Mac, /Library/Java/Extensions/javalayer.jar
This file is incompatible with version 2.0 and will keep it from working properly. On many computers, file permission settings may not let the installer for version 2.0 remove this file. (It tries to do so.) The user should find this ext (on a Mac, Extensions) folder and look at what is in it. If the javalayer.jar file is still there, the user should delete it.




LangLab Version 1.9 (Windows and Mac OS X)

This version contains several major enhancements and changes:

  • the ability to link an image file to an item of a lesson
  • support for typed answers to questions
  • a scrollable text window capable of accommodating longer texts as well as series of questions and answers.
  • a new way for the Client module to communicate with the Monitor module, making monitoring more resistant to network and computer performance problems.
    • One benefit of the new design is that the Client module now automatically "connects" and tells the Monitor module when a student has logged in. It is no longer necessary for the Administrator to specify a particular monitoring computer, nor it is necessary for the student using Client to confirm it.
    • As a result, the Connect to: field in previous versions of the Client module has been replaced by a simple Monitoring? checkbox (initially checked if a teacher normally monitors the class) that determines whether the Client module is available for monitoring or not.
    • The new system also allows a teacher listening to a student to hear what the student is saying into the microphone even if the student is not actually recording, except when sound from a clip is coming through the student's headphones.
  • To simplify installation and administration of LangLab, this version lets the LangLab Administrator run a program that copies files needed for using MP3 sound files into the appropriate Java directories.
  • This version also helps the Administrator avoid or diagnose problems by running a report that checks LangLab files and shows if links are working and if directories that hold course materials are accessible.

These changes are described in more detail below.

  1. Linking an image file to an item of a lesson
    A teacher using the Admin module can find a particular picture file and link it to an item; the picture will then pop up whenever a student using the Client module comes to the item, and will disappear when the student moves to a different item.
    • A Picture button in Admin brings up an Item Picture tool. It lets the user LOAD a picture (find it and link it to the item), display a picture already linked to the item, or DELETE a picture previously linked to the item.
    • The LOAD button brings up a file-finding pop-up that lets the user find and choose (Open) an image file. Once it is displayed, the user clicks on SAVE to link it to the item.
    • If an item already has a picture, a teacher can replace it with another one by using the LOAD and SAVE functions again.
    • The DELETE button removes a picture previously linked to an item.
    • Regardless of the file size of the original image (which can exceed 5 MB with modern digital cameras), Admin and Client use a 240x340 pixel display. Admin converts the original file to another file of vastly smaller size. Consequently, for remote use, transfer of image files does not slow down use of LangLab, as it otherwise might.
  2. Support for typed answers to questions
    A teacher can use Admin to create response boxes of arbitrary size in which a student using the Client module can type answers to questions. These response boxes can be single-character checkboxes used for answers to true/false and multiple-choice questions, single-line rectangles of various lengths used for fill-in-the-blanks answers, or full-width (95-character) multi-line boxes in which students can type free-response answers. An item can contain response boxes of several types. If a student has typed answers to questions, a teacher using the Teacher module to evaluate students' work will see the student's answers. (No means of inserting written comments or corrections has yet been introduced; the teacher can, however, provide such guidance in oral comments inserted.)
    • When a teacher creates text instructions and/or written questions for an item, the teacher also types commands that create answer boxes. The text window in the Admin, Teacher, and Client modules now scrolls to accommodate series of written questions and answer boxes.
    • The command that creates a response box is simply a pair of numbers separated by a comma and surrounded by double ampersands, in the form &&x,y&&. The x tells LangLab how many lines high the box should be, and the y indicates how many characters wide to make it. To create a simple checkbox for true/false or multiple-choice answers, type &&1,1&&. Put in a space between the box and the word following it.
    • Students use the checkboxes by typing an x or another character in the box.
    • The teacher can put each checkbox on a separate line, or can fit on a line as many as the maximum 95-character width will accommodate, with the rest on another line.
    • For a fill-in-the-blank answer, the teacher specifies a one-line box with a number of characters slightly greater than the length of the answer expected.
    • For a longer free response on, say, up to ten lines (you can allow for more), the teacher would type &&10,95&&. (The box can also be narrower if desired.)
    • Students using the Client module can move from box to box by pressing the Page Down key. Doing so will cause the text to scroll down automatically, so that what the student is supposed to complete is always visible in the text window without the student having to use the scroll bar at the right. The Page Up key will cause the cursor to regress through the response boxes. (The Tab key will also move the cursor to the next box, and Shift+Tab will move it to the previous one, but the Tab key will not make the text scroll down automatically.) The scroll bar will also let a student scroll down and skip to a box by positioning the cursor on it and clicking the mouse.
    • When the student using the Client module types a long free-response answer, the text automatically wraps (and Client inserts line breaks) even if the student forgets to break it into lines by pressing Enter.
    • Response boxes work for languages with non-Roman characters if the appropriate Unicode font is installed on the computer and the appropriate system for typing in the language is used (e.g., keyboard remapping, copy-and-paste from a utility that permits ideogram creation, etc.). Text entry for languages with right-to-left order, such as Hebrew and Arabic, will work in response boxes.
    • Java versions prior to 1.5 (also known as JRE 5.0) may have problems displaying characters for Chinese, Japanese, and Korean (though apparently not other non-Roman characters used for languages such as Greek, Arabic, Hebrew, or Hindi). These problems may interfere with use of response boxes in the Client module. Institutions that wish to use LangLab for teaching these languages should install Java 1.5.

These enhancements make it possible to use LangLab in many new ways. An item can ask oral or written questions about a picture, have the student describe what the picture shows, or tell the student to say something to a person shown in a picture or ask the person questions. Written questions can test students' ability to distinguish between phonemic features or tones in a language, or test the student's ability to grasp information delivered in the audio clip. They can also be used as one means of delivering standard practice in writing skills, dictation, translation, and so forth. Additionally, the scrollable text window can simply display longer selections of text that the student is supposed to read, perhaps dialogue of a scene the student is listening to in a clip. (The item may also ask the student to record what one character is saying, or ask oral or written questions about the passage.) Such longer texts can be copied from an existing document and pasted into the text window using the Ctrl+v command. It is also possible to copy portions of text in an item by highlighting them and using the Ctrl+c command. One can then paste what has been copied elsewhere in the item or into another item.

Other changes:

  • Client module
    1. The Connect to: field has been replaced by a Monitoring? checkbox and connection is automatic.
      • In the new infrastructure monitoring uses, there is no longer a direct connection to a specific computer. The Administrator who sets up a course uses a similar checkbox to indicate whether or not the normal condition is for students in the course to be monitored. If so, the Administrator checks the box, and the box in the Client module will be checked when a student in the course brings it up.
      • When this Monitoring? checkbox is checked, the Client module tells the network every fifteen seconds that the user logged in is available for monitoring. A teacher using the Monitor module on any machine sees that the student is logged in. The teacher can move to a different machine and monitor without any adjustment needed on the part of the student.
      • If the students in a course are normally monitored, but a student wants to work unmonitored (and the teacher allows it), the student can simply uncheck the box, and check it again when the student wants to be monitored.
      • If the default condition is for students to work without monitoring (in a drop-in lab, for instance), the box will not be checked initially, but if a teacher wants to monitor the class, the students simply check the box to make themselves available for monitoring.
    2. A teacher listening to a student can now hear whatever the student says into the microphone, even when the student isn't actually recording, except during sections of the clip in which the student hears something. I.e., if the student says something while the clip is paused or stopped, or during a silent (recording pause) section of a clip the student is playing without recording, the teacher can still hear it. Previously, the microphone input would be sent to the teacher only when the student was speaking during recording pauses; a student who paused the clip to practice something and forgot to get it going again, for instance, would prevent the teacher from hearing what the student was saying.
  • Monitor module
    1. There is now an initial login screen for the Monitor module. The reason for it is to restrict monitoring a teacher is doing to students in the teacher's course, if there is a class working in the lab but also students in other courses who are working independently. (These students' Client modules would otherwise try to connect to Monitor, and the students would appear on the Monitor panel. The teacher could not use Call All to address the class without also disturbing these students.) When the initial screen appears, the teacher selects a course, enters the teacher (course) password, presses the Go button (with the arrow wrapped around), and the main Monitor panel appears.
    2. As just noted in regard to the Client module, the Monitor module now receives microphone input from the Client module of a student the teacher is listening to even when the student is not actually recording. If a student is in Play or Record mode and sound is coming through the student's headphones, however, the teacher will still hear not the microphone input but what the student is hearing. This change permits a teacher to hear what the student is saying most of the time, including if the student pauses the clip and forgets to restart it.
    3. Additionally, to alert the teacher to the fact that a student has paused a clip while in recording mode, the lesson name and number turn green while the clip is paused.
  • Teacher module
    It also has a scrolling text window. When a teacher retrieves a student's work for an item, the student's answers in response boxes are highlighted in yellow.

  • Admin module
    As mentioned above, the Course Parameters window has changed: the Default monitoring computer field has been replaced by a Monitoring? checkbox, since monitoring is no longer linked to a specific computer. The Administrator simply checks the box or not to indicate whether monitoring is the norm for the course.

  • LicenseMgr module
    It now allows the user to remove a temporary license from a computer, as it previously did only with a permanent license. A student or teacher who wants to replace a computer that runs LangLab outside a lab can now remove the license from the old machine, making it available, then run the LicenseMgr on the new machine to obtain it again for that machine.

  • Installer
    For users choosing to use MP3 sound files, installation of the necessary MP3 support files in the appropriate Java directories is now accomplished by a program installed along with modules and documentation. To run this program with a PC using Windows, the user selects
    Start->Programs->LangLab->LangLabCopyMP3
    and enters the Administrator password. The files, including those for the MP3 encoder, will automatically be installed in the appropriate directories. The Mac user finds and runs this program in Applications. Because MP3 encoding files don't yet exist as Java files for the Mac, however, the Mac version of LangLabCopyMP3 can automatically install only the MP3 Java support files. The Mac user must therefore still download and install the LAME MP3 encoder, as described in the document Install LangLab.

  • Administration
    A new LangLabReport utility checks the integrity of files and directories used with LangLab. The Administrator brings it up (from the LangLab menu with Windows, and from Applications or the Dock with a Mac), enters the Administrator password, and this program tests whether directories with course materials are available and whether links work. It produces a report with information about the system, courses, lessons, and items.
    This report shows text and questions for items, including items in hidden lessons designed to be used as quizzes or tests. The Administrator should take care not to let it fall into the hands of students.

  • Fixes
    1. It was previously possible to click twice very rapidly on the Go button of the initial screen of the Admin and Teacher modules, thereby launching two instances of the main screen instead of one. This bug has been fixed, and now only one main screen will appear even if the user clicks the button rapidly more than once.
    2. The infrastructure of monitoring has been changed to make it more resistant to network or computer performance problems and to disruption of communication between the Client and Monitor modules.
      • Previously, when a teacher was monitoring a class, the functioning of the Monitor module could be disrupted if, while a teacher was listening to a student or communicating with a class or an individual student, the student-teacher communication was interrupted by a hardware problem such as the student's computer crashing or a networking cable becoming unplugged. In such cases the communication could not be properly terminated, and since the teacher's computer would be waiting for an acknowledgement of the end of the communication by the student's computer, and this acknowledgement never came, the Monitor module would cease to function properly and would have to be restarted. Now even such hardware failures cannot paralyze the Monitor module. The module registers error messages in the log file when such incidents occur, but the teacher using Monitor can go on to other things without having to restart the module.
      • Previously, if a teacher was talking to a student and the communication was disrupted for some reason--for instance, if the student inadvertently clicked on Pause, Play, or Stop during it--the Client module would freeze. Now, both the teacher and the student see an error message, but the Client module is not paralyzed, and the teacher can resume the conversation by clicking on Talk again.
  • Documentation
    The Teacher's Guide, the Student's Guide to the Client Module, Exploring LangLab, and on-line help files for the Admin, Client, Monitor, and Teacher modules have been updated to reflect the changes described. The Administrator's Reference document has also been updated to include mention of image files and to clarify system requirements and other matters. The document Install LangLab has been modified to reflect the change in procedure for moving MP3 support files into the proper Java directories.

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LangLab Version 1.8 (Windows and Mac OS X)

The recent release of Java 1.5 (also known as JRE 5.0) required internal modifications of LangLab in order to accommodate changes in Java. Version 1.8 of LangLab is fully compatible with both Java 1.4 and Java 1.5. Previous versions of LangLab are not fully compatible with Java 1.5 and should be used with Java 1.4. Any LangLab users wishing to update their Java version to 1.5 should also update their LangLab version to 1.8.

There is one major new feature as well as one significant performance improvement in this version:

  1. The Teacher module now includes a Show Stats button, which calls up a report showing which lessons each student has completed, which are in progress, and which the student has not yet begun. After the user has selected a lesson, it shows the same information for the various items of the lesson.
    • This report also shows how much time (in hours/minutes/seconds) each student in a course has spent on each lesson, or on each item of a lesson selected.
    • The Teacher module reads the log files created by the Client module to derive the figures shown.
    • Each time this report is produced, the user clicks on Compile Stats to update the figures from the previous time the report was produced.
    • The first time the report is produced, if a substantial volume of log files has accumulated, it will take LangLab a while to read them and produce the report. Updates thereafter will appear more quickly.
    • To see the figures for the various items of a particular lesson, the user simply selects the lesson first and clicks on Show Stats.
    • A report can be saved as a comma-delimited file that can be brought up in a spreadsheet for further analysis. Clicking on Save brings up a file-exploring tool that lets the user choose in which folder to put the file.
  2. Version 1.8 of LangLab makes it possible to create text instructions in Chinese and Japanese for lesson items. Previously, although LangLab is Unicode-compatible, text instructions in Chinese and Japanese were not displayed because the default font used for text instructions lacked the appropriate character set for these languages. When text instructions are created in a language with a non-Roman alphabet in version 1.8, the Admin module will search for a font loaded on the computer that possesses a compatible character set, and will use this font for display of the text instructions. (Display will not work, of course, if the user does not already have such a font on the computer.)
    • When LangLab version 1.8 is used with Java 1.5, text instructions in Japanese and Chinese (simplified or traditional) will be displayed correctly as soon as entered in the Admin window, by typing directly in Admin's instruction window using keyboard remapping or by using Control+V to paste a text composed in a word-processing program into the window.
    • When LangLab version 1.8 is used with Java 1.4, however, text instructions in Japanese and Chinese entered in the Admin window are not displayed correctly until the user goes to a preceding or following item, then returns to the item in question. Texts in other languages are displayed correctly immediately, without first having to leave the item. Once a text in Chinese or Japanese has been displayed correctly in an item, the user can replace it with a different text and the new text will be displayed properly immediately, without the user having first to leave the item and return to it.
    • Once texts have been created in Admin, they will be displayed correctly in the Client module if the font used also exists on the computer running the Client module.

In addition to these Release Notes, the following documents have been modified to reflect the changes explained above:

  1. Install LangLab
  2. Administrator's Reference
  3. Exploring LangLab
  4. Teacher's Guide
  5. Student's Guide (version number only)
  6. Help files for the Teacher and Admin modules

A new note in the Teacher's Guide and in Exploring LangLab suggests that, in importing a class roster, the teacher add a certain number of fictitious students whose identities can be used to record conversations of pairs or groups. Such conversations can occur when students actually sit together, run one instance of the Client module for each pair or group, and use a stand-alone microphone that can be passed back and forth.

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LangLab Version 1.7 (Windows and Mac OS X)

New features, performance improvements, and bug fixes in this version:

Client (Student) Module

  1. A new playthrough function: When selected, the microphone input is sent to the headphones. Since it must first go through a digitizing stage, however, there is a slight latency and a resultant echo effect. The degree of latency depends on the processor and sound card of the computer used. Though we have tried to minimize the echo as much as the programming tools available in Java will allow, on most computers this echo is still unsettling. We recommend, whenever possible, using a hardware playthrough instead, since it avoids essentially all latency. On some computers, however--for instance, on a Mac G4 Powerbook--the echo of version 1.7's software playthrough appears acceptable.
  2. Easier pausing/resuming of activity during monitored work
    When a teacher interrupts a student, either to speak with the student individually or by using the new CALL ALL function to address a class, the interruption pauses the clip the student was working on. (The suspension occurs in both recording and listening modes, and has the same effect as if the student clicked on the Pause/Resume button.) When the instructor has finished talking, a message alerts the student to resume work by clicking the Pause/Resume button.
  3. Faster loading of clips

Monitor Module

  1. A new Call All function: Call All allows the instructor to address all students simultaneously. Afterward the instructor resumes normal listening to students and communicating with them individually.
  2. Faster Client-Monitor communication: A new communication protocol for the Client and Monitor modules smoothes listening or conversation by reducing any lag between when the speaker says something and when the listener hears it.

Teacher Module

  1. An easy way to delete old student recordings: After a semester or quarter ends, the teacher or the Administrator can use a new DELETE CLIPS button to remove student clips no longer needed. This function makes it possible to delete all student clips (and associated log files) created within a specified range of dates.
  2. Insert Pause bug fix: We fixed a bug that, in some cases, caused the Insert Pause function to delete part of the teacher's comments just added.

Admin Module

  1. A new Delete Course function: The LangLab Administrator can now delete a course when it will no longer be offered. The Administrator can choose to delete the associated audio files or to retain them for possible use in lessons that may be created later. (Our new Administrator's Reference document explains how to manage menus of courses, removing those not currently taught from menus without actually deleting them, when the courses will be offered again in the future.)
  2. Bug fix for long sound clips: We fixed a bug that corrupted some LangLab files. When trying to create too long a clip, LangLabAdmin would freeze (because the computer lacked sufficient memory), and some files would be corrupted. We have limited the size of a clip to 15 minutes to avoid such situations. Long clips can be loaded in segments of this length. To make retrieval of specific exercises or activities easy, it is advisable to keep lesson items relatively short (1-2 minutes). Longer clips loaded initially can be split into several items using the cut-and-paste functions of LangLabAdmin. Similarly, cut-and-paste or copy-and-paste functions allow reconstituting a section split in two by the need to limit clips loaded to 15 minutes: the user can extract a portion preceding the split from one item and a portion following it from another item, and paste them into a third item that does not exceed 15 minutes in length.
  3. Ability to change the course folder: The LangLab Administrator can now specify a different folder as the Course Folder of a course, even after the course has been created. However, it is the responsibility of the LangLab Administrator to move the files to the new directory.

Documentation

  1. A new Administrator's Reference discusses client-server installation, file permissions, setting up courses, managing the list of courses to appear in menus, how to name multi-section language courses, sound file formats, and similar technical issues.
  2. A new Exploring LangLab provides a guided tour of the demo version for those new to LangLab.

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LangLab Version 1.6 (Windows and Mac OS X)

E-LangLab, LLC gratefully acknowledges the aid of Dr. Jack Burston, Director of the Foreign Language Technology Center, College of Liberal Arts, Rochester Institute of Technology, whose meticulous testing, many helpful suggestions for enhancements, and thoughtful questions have contributed enormously to the preparation of this release. We look forward to adding other enhancements Dr. Burston has suggested to future releases. Any problems that may remain in version 1.6 are, of course, entirely the responsibility of E-LangLab, LLC.

Enhancements

Admin Module

  1. The password system now uses two levels: an Administrator password and a course password. Previously, with a single password for all personnel, one teacher could change the password, forget the new password, and lock everyone else out.
  2. The LangLab Administrator password lets you perform the following tasks:
    • Create a new course and set its data directories;
    • Change directories in which original sound files and students' recordings are kept;
    • Change other course parameters (but not--for unavoidable technical reasons--the sound file format, the location of the text files folder, or the course name, once these have been chosen);
    • Use Admin to create or edit course materials;
    • Change the Administrator password;
    • Set a course password as one of the course parameters;
    • Change the course password, even after a teacher has changed the course password initially entered.
  3. The course password allows the instructor to:
    • Change two course parameters: the course password and the Max. duration of a clip (in sec).
    • Use Admin to edit course materials;
    • Use the Teacher module for that course (see below).
  4. A green recording light comes on during recording. The light, with a time counter, appears next to the record button.
  5. The length of a minimum pause, in seconds, is now displayed below the sound wave. This number changes when the user clicks on Longer or Shorter. Pauses have to be at least this long to make the green recording light go on when a student is using the item in Record mode with the Client module.
  6. Course parameters now include a default monitor address, either a host name or an IP address. This address is automatically displayed in the Connect to: field of the Client module. (See Client module enhancements.)
  7. A new file conversion algorithm allows a greater variety of WAVE or MP3 sound files to be loaded directly into lesson items.

    However, because Java itself still lacks the appropriate tools, LangLab still cannot handle MP3 files that have ID3 tags (used at the beginning or end of a file to encode supplementary information, such as about the artist or the album). If you try to load an MP3 file and LangLab tells you that the file format is not supported, it is probably because the file has ID3 tags. When new Java classes for handling ID3 tags become available, we'll try to build a tag remover into LangLab.

    It is easy to remove ID3 tags outside LangLab and then load the file into a lesson item.
    • Mac users can do so in iTunes: the user adds the file to the music library, selects it, clicks on Advanced and then on ID3 tags. The user then checks the option None. The transformed file can then be loaded from the music library. Be careful to load these untagged versions (you can move them from the iTunes library to another location) rather than any version on the computer that still has a tag.
    • There are equivalent Windows utilities for removing ID3 tags. One freeware tag remover is currently available from http://www.snapfiles.com/get/mp3tagremover.html.

Teacher Module

  1. The Teacher module accepts the course password, not the Administrator password, if the passwords are different. (The section above on Admin enhancements explains the new two-level password system.)
  2. A green recording light comes on during recording. The light, with a time counter, appears next to the record button.
  3. The user can now switch courses without quitting the Teacher module, as in the Admin module.
  4. Recording pauses--i.e., those longer than the minimum pause length--now have blue lines at the end, as in the Admin module. Only these pauses allow recording (and make the green recording light go on) when the student is using the Client module.

Client (Student) Module

  1. The default monitoring computer address appears in the Connect to: field; the student simply presses Enter to use it. If no address was specified in the course parameters, then the default localhost is displayed. Students may override the default address and enter a different one. If the address is incorrect or if the monitoring computer is off-line, the system automatically reverts to localhost.
  2. Students may change the monitoring computer address at any time, and the Client module will automatically connect to the new address. This feature allows the instructor to switch computers during a LangLab session.
  3. The font used for text instructions is now larger, and the window background is now white, as in Admin, making text instructions easier to read.

Monitor Module

The name of the lesson and the number of the item a student is working on now appear under the student's name. Their font color switches from blue to red when the student switches from listening to recording. It is now easier for the instructor to avoid interrupting a student who is recording.

License Manager Module

The License Manager allows the user to obtain a temporary license, usually valid for the duration of a class (semester or quarter).

All Modules

  1. A debug mode option (activated by checking a checkbox on the initial panel) records additional information in log files. It is better not to use LangLab in this mode routinely, because recording the additional debugging information slows down operations.
  2. When a module displays the number of a lesson item, it also displays the total number of items in the lesson.
  3. The LangLabCourse.txt file, which contains the list of courses available to LangLab as well as the encrypted administrator password, can now be stored on a server. The folder with LangLab programs includes a file, also named LangLabCourse.txt, with a link to the LangLabCourse.txt file on the server. Previously, the course list itself was on each computer licensed to run LangLab, and whenever the list changed the new file would have to be distributed to each computer.
  4. A server license system now lets the server store a single file that contains license keys for all licensed machines on the network. In the LangLab program folder, a file named LangLabKey contains a link to this file with license keys on the server. Such a system facilitates daily imaging of cloned machines in a lab.

Fixes

Admin Module

  1. We fixed bugs associated with insertion, display, or removal of pauses (especially short ones).
  2. We removed a previous limitation on the number of pauses in a sound file. This limitation had hindered use of commercial lesson sound files with many short pauses for emphasis (pauses not intended for recording).
  3. We limited the possible initial actions by a user in Admin: the user must start by either selecting an existing lesson or creating a new one.
    • To create a new lesson, the user must first choose a lesson name.
    • The user can change the lesson name later, and Admin will accept the new name.
  4. This change fixes a problem that occurred previously when the user created a new course, then attempted to create and save an item without first having chosen Create a New Lesson.
  5. We put in checks on what the user enters in the Extend Pause box of the Admin module, to prevent inadmissible entries from paralyzing the module. Valid entries are integers from 0 though 60.
  6. An error message appears if users try to use MP3 files, but LangLab cannot find the files needed to support use of the MP3 format in the proper Java directories.

    This situation can arise in the following circumstances:
    • If users who wish to use MP3 files have not followed the instructions in our Readme file about installing files required to support use of this sound format.
    • If the user has installed the necessary files in an existing version of Java, and then downloads a newer version of Java (used by default) without remembering to install the MP3-related files in it as well.
  7. We added checks to improve how the Admin module handles importing a class roster--for instance, when the user forgets to specify the number of students or enters an incorrect number. If the number of students is left as zero or is greater than the number of lines in the roster file, LangLab imports all lines in the roster. If the user enters a non-zero number smaller than the number of lines in the roster, however, LangLab imports that many lines.

    Specifying an incorrect separator when importing a class roster produces an error message, but the user can simply enter the correct separator and re-import the file.
  8. We fixed a bug in Admin that had caused loss of work the user was doing to create a lesson item if the user tried to load an unsupported type of sound file in it. Now other changes to the clip remain even if the load or insert operation fails.

Client Module

A message now informs the user when a sound file is being loaded, and other operations are disabled during the loading. This change avoids situations in which clicking on other functions during loading can cause problems.

Monitor Module

  1. We removed the limitation on display of more than 24 students, which had been put in to avoid possible display problems with the demo version of LangLab. Now the window scrolls to allow display of as many students as desired.
  2. We deactivated the X exit button in Monitor, forcing the user to exit by clicking on the Quit button and ensuring that Java resources will be freed up.

Documentation

We have replaced our previous Tutorial for Teachers with several documents, in order to remove from it material that concerns the LangLab Administrator rather than the teacher as well as references to an initial demo. Our documentation is now structured as follows:

  1. A Teacher's Guide that reflects changes in this release, and that avoids topics (creating courses, setting their parameters, organizing files on a server, etc.) appropriate for the Administrator.
  2. An Administrator's Manual, in preparation as of the date of initial release of Version 1.6
  3. A Quick Tour of LangLab designed for use with the demo version (in preparation).
  4. A Student's Guide to Client, updating the previous Tutorial for Students
  5. On-line Help files of LangLab modules, updated for the current release
  6. Install LangLab, our instructions for installing LangLab and associated supporting files (Please note that our instructions for installing the OS X version of LangLab have changed for version 1.6.)
  7. Release Notes such as this document.

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LangLab Version 1.5 (Windows and Mac OS X)

The Mac OS X version is no longer considered a beta version.

In addition to minor bug fixes (e.g., for a problem with the LAME encoder in saving MP3 files exceeding a certain length, with the Mac OS X version) and small cosmetic changes, these versions contain two new features designed to help support clients.

  • A logging system, in which all operations performed with LangLab modules are recorded. It is also possible to obtain debugging output with even more detail.In case of a problem, clients can e-mail the files to techsupport@elanglab.com and we can see what is going on.

    The log files for the Client module are stored in the same folder that holds the sound clips recorded by students (e.g., student_files, in the LangLab directory). The log files for other modules are stored in a special LangLabLog folder. For the Mac OS X version and for Windows 2000/XP, this folder is created in the user's home directory: in /Users/[user name] on the Mac, and in /Documents and Settings/[User name] with Windows 2000/XP. With Windows 98, this folder is created under /Windows. Those who download the demo version of LangLab can delete this folder with its log files once they are finished trying the demo.
  • A License Manager, to assist clients in installing permanent license keys. A help file for this module explains how it works. Briefly, E-LangLab assigns a client number and password to the client institution, and authorizes the number of permanent license keys specified by the client's agreement with E-LangLab. The client enters this number and the password using the License Manager; if the computer is connected to the Internet, clicking a button makes the License Manager download a permanent license key automatically from E-LangLab's server. If no Internet connection is available, the client sends the computer's hostname and client number to E-LangLab, E-LangLab sends the client a program key for that machine, and the client enters the program key in the License Manager to create the permanent license. A similar system will be put in place for easy creation of temporary licenses for instructors and students at client institutions who wish to use LangLab on computers outside a lab.

LangLab Mac OS X Beta Version 0.4 and MS Windows PC Version 1.4

We consider our new Mac OS X version of LangLab a beta version. Although we have tested it, it has not yet been tested as extensively as previous PC versions, since it has not yet (unlike the PC versions) been used regularly in actual language classes over a sustained period. We are therefore allowing interested institutions to use it without charge, not simply for demonstration purposes, but also for actual instruction if they wish, until April 30, 2004. We request that users bring to our attention any residual bugs that they may discover, in order that we may fix them promptly.

To create the Mac OS X version of LangLab, we had to make a number of changes in sound handling, and we have implemented these changes in a new PC version also. We have done so to preserve compatibility of modules running on Macs and PCs-- to ensure that a Client module running on one kind of machine can communicate with a Monitor module running on the other machine. These changes should be invisible to the user. Since no obvious functional enhancements have been introduced since Version 1.3.1, Mac OS X Version 0.4 and PC Version 1.4 should look and behave like that version, described below. We have also found and fixed two minor bugs. We strongly recommend that the Mac OS X version be run on at least a G4. This version can run under MacOS 10.2 (Jaguar), but OS 10.3 (Panther) is preferred. Version 1.4.1 of Apple's Java is required; it is supposed to require Panther, but seems to run satisfactorily with Jaguar as well.

The accompanying ReadMe file explains how to install the required Java files in the proper folders, for both PCs and Macs. Please note that LangLab cannot run unless you install the Java Run-time Environment. Please also read what the ReadMe file has to say about use of MP3 files.

Please note that there are some differences in the Mac version compared to PC versions. For instance, the audio controls work differently on the Mac, and the button that brings up the Volume Control panel in the PC version cannot do so on the Mac. (A message tells the user that the Volume Controls are unavailable. The user can go into System Preferences to change sound output volume and microphone sensitivity.) Additionally, some Macs have incorporated microphones, but one can generally use a headset with microphone that plugs into the USB port in a setting in which use of a microphone incorporated in a screen would disturb others.

Similarly, importing sound files on a CD into lesson items is less straightforward on a Mac than on a PC, where one can simply bring up the Volume Controls panel, change the sound source to the computer's CD drive, and use the CD player controls to import only the portion of a track one wants. In contrast, iTunes will import a whole track, and the resulting file may be inordinately large. Because of idiosyncrasies in Apple's implementation of Java, file conversion within LangLab's Admin module may be much slower than on a PC. Instead, it is better when using a Mac to import tracks outside LangLab and then load the files into items, and it may be necessary to use an external CD player connected to a line-in or USB port. Lastly, Macs seem to have general problems with slow file transfer in wireless networks; consequently, for monitoring to work, at least the monitoring Mac will probably have to be connected to the LAN via an Ethernet cable.

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Enhancement in Version 1.3.1 vis-ŕ-vis Version 1.3

This portion of the document describes two LangLab features in Version 1.3.1 not present in Version 1.3. For changes in Version 1.3 vis-ŕ-vis Version 1.2, see below.

We have added two related features to the Admin module:

  1. In the sound wave, the end of a pause is marked with a vertical blue line whenever Admin considers it a "true pause"--i.e., one that should trigger the green recording light to go on when students record using the Client module.
  2. You can now keep the green recording light from going on during brief pauses not intended for students to respond. To give you this ability, we added a control that lets you change the minimum length of what Admin will consider a true pause intended for students to record something. We added this feature because even though Admin's editing tools let you cut out unwanted pauses, it may be difficult to remove them without leaving a small portion that will trigger the green recording light when you don't want it to.

Here is some more information:

  • This special Admin function is controlled by the Min Pause menu, with two choices, Longer and Shorter. It lets you lengthen or shorten the minimum duration that a pause has to have for Admin to consider it a true pause. If you increase the minimum--make it longer--you can keep short pauses not intended for recording a response from triggering the green recording light when students record using the Client module.
  • Remember, all true pauses now have vertical blue lines marking their end. If you see a blue line, you know that the green recording light will come on during that pause when students record using the Client module.
  • Why we added this function: frequently, there are pauses on lesson tapes or CDs that are not actually intended for students to respond. Sometimes a speaker pauses to catch a breath or at the end of a sentence, for emphasis.
  • You can cut out unwanted pauses with Admin's Cut and Remove functions, but it is sometimes hard to avoid leaving in a slight pause without cutting out something that should not be removed.
  • In such cases the pause may still (at first) be marked by a vertical blue line, indicating that it is still considered a true pause that will trigger the green recording light when students record using the Client module.
  • Admin lets you fix the problem in any item by changing the minimum length that qualifies a pause as a true pause.
  • Each time you choose Longer from the Min Pause menu, you increase the minimum duration pauses in the item have to have to be considered true pauses.
  • If you increase the minimum duration enough, a short pause Admin considered a true pause (with its end marked by a vertical blue line) will no longer have the minimum duration. Admin will no longer consider it a true pause, and the vertical blue line marking its end will disappear. It will no longer trigger the green recording light.
  • If you make the minimum too big, and a pause you want to be a true pause suddenly loses its blue line at the end, you can choose Shorter to decrease the minimum again and restore the status of the pause as a true pause that triggers the green recording light.
  • This manipulation of minimum pause length for an item applies only to that item, not to other items.

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LangLab Version 1.3 - Changes vis-ŕ-vis Version 1.2

This portion of the document describes LangLab changes in Version 1.3 from Version 1.2.

In addition to adding some functions, we have changed the user interface for all modules; we hope that you will find it more attractive and even simpler and more intuitive to use. We have revised the tutorials and added on-line help screens for the Teacher, Monitor, and Admin modules.

In order to accommodate considerably longer sound clips, we have changed LangLab so that it can use more of your computer's memory (up to 128 MB of RAM).

  • When you launch a LangLab module, you may see a black window appear. (It is associated with the program that allocates the right amount of memory for your needs.) With older versions of Windows (98 and before), the window may remain on your screen even after the module screen itself appears. You can close it manually, by clicking on the X box at the upper right corner. With Windows 2000 and XP, the window will disappear automatically, and you may not even see it at all.
  • Because modules may be using more of your computer's memory (and because other programs running on your computer also use memory, including programs you may not know about that are running in the background), you'll need at least 128 MB of memory. With older versions of Windows, if you have insufficient memory and use several modules in sequence, your computer may run out of memory and freeze. Once you reboot, you'll be able to launch LangLab again and use it. A student using only the Client module should have no problem, nor should a teacher using a computer with enough memory.

Client Module

A Record button (with a red circle on it) replaces the former "Record" and "Listen and Record" functions.

  • It records input from the microphone, if no audio clip for the lesson item is present and the instructions direct the student simply to record something.
  • If there is an audio clip, it plays the audio clip and records the student's responses within the audio clip's silent pauses.
  • A Play button (with a triangle pointing to the right, like that of most media players) replaces the former "Listen" and "Replay" functions. It plays both
    • the original audio clip of the lesson item
    • the audio clip just recorded by the student.
  • If the teacher has recorded comments on the student's work, the message "Instructor has recorded comments on this clip" appears on the screen. A student can then check the Select comments? box to Play the comments or to record or re-record a response, as directed by the teacher.
  • The text instructions for a lesson item can be as long as five lines of up to ninety-five characters each. (See changes in the Admin module for more details.)
  • When a student is supposed to record, the box to the right of the Record button turns into a green recording light. It displays
    • either the number of seconds left for recording each response, if an audio clip exists for the lesson item,
    • or the number of seconds the student has been recording.
  • Colors and style have changed, and buttons have been rearranged on the panel. The new display offers a more user-friendly interface. The Pause/Resume and Stop buttons now resemble those of most media players.

Admin Module

  • A button has been added to access the Windows "Volume Control" panel (as in the Client module).
  • The button with a question mark on it brings up an on-line help document.
  • The window for composing text instructions to accompany a lesson item has been expanded. It now accommodates five lines of up to 95 characters each, instead of one line only. Wrap-around is automatic. However, if a line is longer than 95 characters, a warning message is displayed, and the user must click on the Return key to break up the line.
  • To speed up cycling through lesson items when Admin is used remotely (communicating with a server over the Internet or a campus LAN), sound files do not load automatically when you move to an item that has one. Instead, Admin tells you that a sound file exists for the item, and you can click on Play to load it if you wish, but you don't have to load each sound file if you are simply moving through a series of items to get to the one you want.
  • A Step button has been added. Each click on Step moves the cursor one-fifth of a second forward and plays that portion of the audio clip. This fine-tuning helps the user place the cursor at a precise point in a recording.
  • You can now cut or copy a portion of an item of a lesson and paste it not only into another place in the same item or into a different item of the lesson, but also into an item of a different lesson.
  • Color and style have changed, and buttons have been rearranged on the panel. The new display offers a more user-friendly interface. As in the Client module, the Pause/Resume and Stop buttons now resemble those of most media players.

Teacher Module

  • A button has been added to access the Windows "Volume Control" panel (as in the Client module).
  • The button with a question mark on it brings up an on-line help document.
  • A Step button has been added. Each click on Step moves the cursor one-fifth of a second forward and plays that portion of the audio clip. This fine-tuning helps the user place the cursor at a precise point in a recording.
  • To speed up cycling through lesson items when Teacher is used remotely (communicating with a server over the Internet or a campus LAN), sound files do not load automatically when you move to an item that has one. Instead, Teacher tells you that a sound file exists for the item, and you can click on Play to load it if you wish, but you don't have to load each sound file if you are simply moving through a series of items to get to the one you want.
  • Color and style have changed, and buttons have been rearranged on the panel. The new display offers a more user-friendly interface. As in the Client module, the Pause/Resume and Stop buttons now resemble those of most media players.

Monitor Module

  • The button with a question mark on it brings up an on-line help document.
  • Color and style have changed.

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