The Australian Service for Knowledge of Open Source Software (ASK-OSS) provides a national focal point for advice, management, governance, storage and dissemination of Open Source Software (OSS) for research and higher education. ASK-OSS provides unbiased, pragmatic guidance on: selection of appropriate OSS for research; choosing appropriate OSS licenses; management/governance for OSS development; and storage and community development of OSS.

ASK-OSS is a Department of Education, Science and Training funded initiative as part of the MERRI round of SII under the Backing Australia's Ability initiative. ASK-OSS supports research and education partners in the use and policies around Open Source, as well as providing general information that will be of benefit to anyone investigating the unique opportunities and challenges of Open Source Software.

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Open Source infrastructure in Education

This case study takes the experiences of an Australian University and an Australia school and how they used Open Source tools for infrastructure and education. QUT wanted to explore the differences and similarities of the Higher Educator Sector and school sectors. Many thanks to both QUT and Lorien Noralis for their time.

Please note, the following text comes from those involved in this case study.

Project Details - University Case Study

Name of project: Queensland University of Technology Open Source Infrastructure

Brief overview: QUT are using Open Source in elements of their infrastructure. On the desktop, web platforms, development environments and more.

Standards used: SAML V2 for authentication, SPML, HTML, BPEL (business process), XML

OSS technologies used:

Desktop – QUT dual boots Fedora and Windows on the computers in the IT faculty. The majority of other computers are Windows and also includes some Macs. There are also other Open Source OS's managed in a guest Virtual Machine (VM) which allows for better management of updates etc.
Backend - Most of the QUT web servers (including the QUT homepage, phonebook and more) are Red Hat servers with Apache/Tomcat. They heavily use VMWare on blade servers to host multiple Linux instances. The main database is Oracle but they also use also MySQL, and where there is a necessary MS dependency they use SQL server.
Development - Fedora is the main desktop environment for the infrastructure/developer team. Many Open Source development tools are used including Eclipse, Java, subversion, and loads of OSS libraries including Spring and Hiatus. ESOE – single sign on – uni developed and open sourced (Apache 2 license).

OSS projects contributed to: ESOE – has been open sourced. On several of the other Open Source projects the team at QUT have reported bugs and bug fixes, in particular they have contributed to the Java project.

Implementors (internal, external): Internal

Conclusions

Rationale of Open Source technologies used:

QUT believe Open Source is good for better control over systems, to get inside the code, to fix bugs and to understand how it all works. There is a big community of people working on Open Source, and as such is generally looked over more than closed source. So there is less likelihood of holes and where there are holes they are fixed quicker.

It is also cheaper, as QUT can experiment with and implement Open Source software without large licensing costs. It generally is more platform independent and so can run across their diverse range of systems (Windows, Solaris, Linux).

They say there are certainly downsides as well. Finding the right Open Source tools can be tricky (due to a different approach from vendors), it often requires internal people to already know of a great tool as specific tools are rarely pushed by vendors. There is usually a community of folk who will highlight the better pieces of Open Source code, by finding those communities can be hard.

Contact Details

Date of case study: Ongoing

State/s: QLD

Name of institute:  Queensland University of Technology

Contact person: Terry Smith

Contact details: t dot smith at qut dot edu dotau

URLs (project and institute):  http://www.esoeproject.org/

 


 

Project Details - School

Name of project: Lorien Novalis School for Rudolf Steiner Education

Brief overview:

Lorien Novalis School, as a Steiner school, does not use complex technologies to support the education of young learners. However students from upper primary through to year 12 are engaged in a creative program leading to ICT savvy graduates, many of whom take up ICT as a career.

Senior students and staff decided to explore Linux (including on desktops) as the core of students' ICT experience.

In 2002 students, teachers and parents converted an old classroom into an ICT laboratory  and e-learning centre using donated, new and secondhand hardware and GNU/Linux software.  This is now the main classroom for computer related activities consisting of 30+ networked  workstations, file and proxy servers, ADSL, printer and scanner stations and 120 user accounts. Recently the school was awarded $46000 under round one of the Federal Government's Secondary Schools Computer Grants Program, and is in the process of upgrading to Mandriva Linux 2008 on state-of-the-art hardware.

Standards used:

Lorien Novalis teaches the students how to move between different platforms (open standards like Open Document Format, and common standards like MS formats), and how to convert data so they are better empowered with their own data down the track. They try to inform students about all the possibilities and try to store all their own data natively in Open Standards like ODF.

OSS technologies used:

Infrastructure: Typical small business applications are used in the school including networking technologies (DHCP, YP, DNS), account management (LDAP, NIS), File and Print (SAMBA, CUPS) and the website which is Joomla and Apache. Lorien is also testing Koha for library functionality. Lorien uses Mandriva Linux on the desktop, and is experimenting with Ubuntu Linux.
Education: OSS education applications include audio visual (GIMP, Tuxpaint, Audacity, VLC, Kino, OpenOffice Draw), office productivity (OpenOffice), & ICT skills (Python). Lorien uses INGOTS for technology skills certification.
Methodologies: Older students (Yrs 11/12) are included in the planning and rollout of new technologies to help them with practical experience and vocational training. Older students are also encouraged to help and train younger students.

Implementors (internal, external): Internal – parents, staff and students

Conclusions

Rationale of Open Source technologies used:

Lorien requires all of their students become adept at using a wide range of computer applications but more importantly that they develop a deep understanding of the nature and ethics of the technology as such. They believe if the school were only to promote expertise in applications such as graphics tools, word processors, spreadsheets and Web2 networking tools, without deep critical reflection, then they would merely be preparing 21st Century factory workers. They say their philosophy can be seen in part, in their requirement for students to look through the hype of Microsoft, Apple and commercial Linux distributions to the underlying nature of operating systems. The school's philosophy is also expressed in their wide use of FOSS (Free and Open Source Software), promotion of open communities and Copyleft, their use of Linux on desktops and in their wide adoption of VET IT across the senior school.

Contact Details

Date of case study: 2002 - ongoing

State/s: NSW

Name of institute: Lorien Novalis School

Contact person: Stuart Rushton

Contact details: stu at lorien dot com dot au

URLs (project and institute): Details of the project are available at http://www.lorien.nsw.edu.au/joomla/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=39&Itemid=61

 
Finding the right Open Source Software

Below are some pathways to finding the right Open Source Software for you. Another way to see what is useful locally in Australia is to look at the Case Studies we are continually adding to our website, to see what software other people are using. We would also recommend you carefully look at the licence of the software you choose, as well as scrutinising the standards used (is the software based on Open Standards), the documentation (manuals, HOWTOs, install guides, forums etc) and the community around the software, as all of these are a useful way to determine whether the software will meet your requirements.

Do keep in mind, the average GNU/Linux distribution has anywhere between 3000 and 10000 packages available as part of the distribution. So if you are running a GNU/Linux distribution, ensure you explore what software is available as part of the distribution before looking to other repositories.

Software Matrices 

There are several useful software matrices comparing, describing and defining Open Source projects to make what you need easier to find. Then you can simply find the software from your GNU/Linux distribution or from the project website which is usually linked.

Open Source Repositories

Below are some good repositories of Open Source Software, most that runs on GNU/Linux, but some that runs on Windows, Macs, and many other operating systems. 

  • Freshmeat - a collection of Open Source software some of which runs on several operating systems
  • SourceForge - a very large repository with over 100,000 projects and over a million contributors. Some software runs on several operating systems
  • The Open CD - a project focused on culminating useful Open Source Software for Windows on one easy to use CD. All components are usually installed from the CD, so simply order it online or download the CD image and copy to a CD to use
  • SchoolForge and EduForge - two repositories for education specific Open Source Software repositories
 

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