We had a monthly Dean’s Wine and Cheese gathering at Furman Friday evening. As Laura and I arrived, I was been hailed by some of her colleagues as an expert in Moodle. I don’t know about expert, but I have recently installed the program on a Linux server, and we are starting to use it for some of our staff development. Furman, it seems, has grown weary of the licensing shenanigans at Blackboard, and has decided to go with the open-source Moodle as their instructional content provider. I’m probably about two months ahead of them with their implementation.
As our table discussed the program, I pulled a USB drive out of my pocket, and pronounced it as "Moodle on a Stick." The drive had a XAMPPLite installed, along with full implementations of Moodle, WordPress, and php-Nuke. The idea is that you could plug the USB drive into any computer, run the webserver, and work on any PHP-MySQL application.
That’s the idea, however, the reality is much convoluted.
XAMPPLite is intended for production work only, and lacks certain security features needed for a live environment. Plus, trying to serve up applications from a thumb drive would NOT be reliable, and would be akin to trying to suck peanut butter through a straw.
Even knowing these limitations, the USB implementation has other problems. Looking at Moodle, in particular, there are settings in the config.php file that point to specific drive mappings. If you put the drive into another computer, the mappings will most likely change, and Moodle won’t work. Even though XAMPP doesn’t write anything to registry, there is a little install routine that has to be run before the web server will work. Sometimes this routine gets confused, and the Apache server just won’t run.
In short, Moodle on a Stick is a cool idea, but is fraught with problems. Assuming you can get it to work, it might be nice for demonstration of various applications. However, for true production work, it might be better to use something semi-permenent, like hard drive space on a laptop.