Sanako Lab 100 Format Issues

I spent some time this week resolving an issue with our Sanako Lab 100 (formerly Elice) language lab software. One of our language teachers digitized about 300 audio files this summer for use in our language lab. When I dropped those files onto the lab’s storage server, they would not play properly, returning an “unsupported file type” error. Then I found our that you must use the Lab 100’s Move command (in the Menu button) to convert files to a compatible format. The specific format is not immediately apparent, but it may be a codec specific to the Lab 100 software. The file format is WAV — I don’t know why, since the files are five times larger than the comparable MP3! All of the above is well-documented, albeit a hassle, because the Move command will only operate on one folder at a time.

What is less well-documented is that the source files must be on the teacher PC, not the MSU, in order to convert properly! If you use the Move command to convert a file that is already located on the MSU, the files will still not play properly. After much trial and error, I found that saving the files to the teacher PC and then using the Move command works.

Some of this problem is due to the two-computer setup in the Sanako language lab. One computer is a Windows teacher PC, which houses the lab software and student recordings. The other is a Linux-based storage server, directly connected to the teacher PC by crossover Ethernet cable. The Linux-Windows communication periodically results in file transfer issues. Why Linux? Perhaps to save cost. Why WAV? I’m not sure — perhaps MP3 royalty issues (more about that).

It appears that the Lab 100 software is best suited for automatically storing the current lesson’s source material on the MSU, and less well-suited to importing a large number of previously digitized files. The good news is that we should only have to perform such an operation annually, at most. Other than these software quirks, we love our language lab!

On an unrelated note, I copied most of these audio files to our web server last semester, so teachers can make them available to students for study outside of lab time. Students with iPods can even take these files to go!

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