Unless it seems like a senseless endeavor, we're intending to put together patches for the server applications discussed in re: Ubuntu's school in a box blueprint[1].

I'm hard pressed to justify doing it justify doing just so we can say it's been done. It seems, however, like the easier we can make deploying education technology, the more time educators and school administrators can spend looking for creative and efficient ways to put these open-source technologies to work. The downside I have in focus right now is that several of the server applications on the list aren't in the repos.

In any event, Mahara is in the repos and it looks like powerful stuff. Jerel, one of our seniors, is particularly keen on some of its features. So unless there's a compelling reason not to begin down this course, we'll begin work on a Mahara patch presently.

Feedback of course is welcome and even craved after.

[1] https://wiki.ubuntu.com/Education/EdubuntuServer

Jeremy Davis's picture

By the look of it roughly half of the appliances already exist or have had patches provided (some by yourselves!) My (very brief) reading of your link suggests that all apps are to be installed in a single server (hence the "School-in-a-box" title I guess). I'm assuming thats the direction you were thinking?

Whilst I'm sure that some would really like that (and for that reason I think it's worthy of consideration) I would encourage you guys to consider each as a separate appliance first, and then look toward a completely integrated solution as a final product. You will probably need to do some tweaking of each appliance/patch to get them to play nice together, but that could be a good learning experience too.

I base this suggestion on my dream for TKL (which I believe is at least somewhat shared by the core devs) is for a TKL hypervisor (Meta-Core) running on bare metal with tighly integrated (but still individual) TKL VMs running on this base. Thus from the outside and for many average end users it is a single unit/install but internally it has a level of redundancy that allows components to be added/removed/tweaked/tested/replicated/etc with minimal disruption to the operation of the whole. I think this sort of cinfiguration has advantages for small business/educational institutions/etc as well as large. It makes for a highly scalable solution which can start with a single physical server but spread to many without any interuption to service as the load grows.

Anyway thats my 2c...

Thanks Jedmeister! Having spoken to Alon and Liraz, we're going to focus on each as a separate appliance. Your suggestion reinforces that. I had originally thought to put together an all-in-one solution, but that's not a solution I'd recommend myself, for TKL or otherwise. So I absolutely agree with you. If someone else likes that idea, maybe our work on individual appliances can be a resource.

So glad you like the idea. We will see where we end up and enjoy the journey.


Alon Swartz's picture

Rik, glad to see that you and your team are ready to dive in and bring the initial idea into existence.

For those who might of missed it, school-server-in-a-box is the project I mentioned in my UDS-N summary. We are in contact with the folks from Canonical leading the project, as well as others. I'd love see this project materialize as it can be a big boon for education as well as open source.

Jedmeister, I have to agree with you. We discussed this issue right off the bat as Rik mentioned, but let me quote Liraz as he put it so eloquently:

Liraz Siri wrote:
Doing one application at a time as a TKLPatch would probably be a better
direction than cramming all of them into an all-in-one appliance mega
TKLPatch. That's a more manageable, more secure and more modular
approach that fits in naturally with where we're going with TurnKey.
We would be more likely to be able to leverage separate TKLPatches for
these applications to add them officially to future releases of the library.
I can understand the appeal of an all-in-one solution I just don't think
all-in-one appliances are the way forward so I would recommend against
investing too heavily in that direction.
If you traveled a couple of years into the future I think you would see
a meta TurnKey / "mothership" appliance optimized to setup TurnKey based
appliances in lightweight virtual machines (e.g., OpenVZ / lxc).
You'd install that on bare metal and it would give you a TurnKey network
in a box. A multi-core 32GB machine could easily run 64 or so of these
appliances at the same time.

Mahara VM for VMware is complete for both TKL LAMP RC and LAPP RC. Will post build notes and a link for downloads to a new forum, if that's what's appropriate. We'll follow shortly with the patch.

Jeremy Davis's picture

I think a new thread is completely appropriate! That way you can attach the patch too.

This looks like a very interesting piece of software. I notice that on their website they talk about connecting it to Moodle. Perhaps figuring that out (for the TKL appliances) and documenting it, better still writing a helper script could be a useful addition!?

Jedmeister, great catch. If we pull off the LAMP and LAPP patches for Mahara, we may next try the Mahoodle suite, depending on feedback. Best case scenario, it's a matter of a couple of sqldumps. We shall see (he said overconfidently).

New thread for Mahara patch here: http://www.turnkeylinux.org/forum/general/20101204/mahara-tklpatch .

Jeff Hales's picture

Mahoodle might be changed to something less... well... I spit a bit of water on my keyboard and almost flung my mouse to the floor when I read that. 'nuff said. :p I truly look forward to following your progress on this education assistance endeavor!

It made me think about it.
It made me.
Think about it.

Were it up to me, it would certainly have a saavier name than that. In fact, we use Moodle in a production environment and I'm embarassed to have to say to parents "please vistit our Moodle site...". So I'm with you 100%. Unfortunately, that's the name the devs of both projects adopted. Meantime, thanks for the encouragement. Feel free to check in with us at http://9while9.com to check up what we've managed to squeeze out. I'm probably more verbose here, though. Clearly. :)

Jeremy Davis's picture

I have been doing a bit of reading around a school in Auckland, New Zealand that have gone open source IT. Currently they run Ubuntu desktops and Madriva servers (with KVM hypervisor). Very interesting work! I think it's fantastic to see especially when MS have the Education market pretty much sewn up (even though the school aren't using any MS software at all, they still need to pay the license fees because of the Govt deal with MS). Read some more here.

It seems that the main driving force is the Deputy Principal who has a blog called "The Open Source School". When I get a chance, I'm pretty keen to have a bit more of a read of it. It could be interesting to pull their model apart a little and see whether there's anything for us there. I'm sure there is!

I need to commit some time to seeing what the reality is on the ground in other districts, systems, and especially inidividual schools. These links will be helpful to me as I work to position myself or start making very committed proclamations. As an administrator's point of view, this is especially helpful.

OpenSIS is on the list of applications at https://wiki.ubuntu.com/Education/EdubuntuServer. We've got the patch worked out, but I want to make sure it's a viable candidate for TKL before we build.

1) It's not in the repos, and I know that's a concern on several - or at least a couple - of fronts.

2) I'm confused by the license. It's gnu for community edition; but will they play nice with TKL if they're offering premium and super deluxe models?

I just wanna check with the community before we invest time in this.



Jeremy Davis's picture

I don't know anything about OpenSIS but I would like to see you guys TKLPatch it, mostly for my own selfish reasons (I'd like to have a play with it, without having to muck around installing it myself)!

At a glance, I think it's basically suitable in the sense that its a genuine open source project; in their words: "OpenSIS Community Edition: Developed by Community volunteers and OS4Ed staff. Continuously evolving. Totally FREE. Suitable for small & medium schools with IT staff on board."

From a quick look over their site it seems like a very professional product that it is fully featured and the Instalation Guide looks very nice and seems pretty clear. The pay-for versions contains a few extra features, but it appears that the main feature is the hosting and I'm assuming that with that the IT infrastructure/support side is managed for you.

The only thing missing seems to be easily accessable free support for the community version. There is a wiki on sourceforge but it seems to be empty except for a little dev stuff. Beyond that it looks like most of it is behind a paywall (although in fairness, support can be bought by the hour at pretty reasonable rates). Having said that, I did finally find what seems to be an official community forum. (in fairness to os4ed a google for "opensis forums" returned it as the first result so perhaps it was just me - I didn't see any obvious links to it on the main OpenSIS website). It also seems like it integrates quite tightly with Moodle as of last year so that could be pretty cool!

Thanks Jedmeister. Based on your feedback, we're committing to this patch. You pointed to everything that concerned me, and managed to massage all the hesitancy away. We've got this patch ready to go. I've tested a draft patch; as soon as students comment it up and identify my red herrings, get the skeleton built and apply the patch, we'll be ready to share. In the meantime, I'll post to a new thread.

Jeff Hales's picture

Hi JedMeister. I just wanted to point out the forums are listed first on the OpenSIS community page. :)

It made me think about it.
It made me.
Think about it.

However, I trolloped through the support forums a bit, and found them significantly underdeveloped. In some cases, the answer was "seek our support option", in other cases questions are left unanswered. Maybe I didn't delve deep enough. But those first impressions, combined with the time I've spent in the empty #opensis room on Freenode left me feeling a bit brisk. But Jedmeister turned me around, as you can see.

Jeremy Davis's picture

Not sure how I missed that!? It's pretty obvious - right there at the top! Must've had my blinkers on!

@Rik - Good on you mate! Look forward to having a look at this once installed, although from what I've seen and what you've said already it may well be overkill for what I had in mind. Anyway, still keen for a look.

Thanks for the encouragement and the invitation for further Dialog, Casey. We'd love to script the integration of OpenSIS and Moodle - but I anticipate it'll take more than bash to do that. Without guidance, my instinct is to configure Moodle and OpenSIS to integrate, and then do a mysqldump of both databases. Then in the script we'd import the databases - but I'm anticipating there's a way to provide OpenSIS/Moodle integration preconfigured using a better method. Is there anyone who'd be willing to partner with us to provide the necessary insights?

Visit the thread here for the submitted patch and some whimsical notes. Your feedback is strongly encouraged; we'd really like to address issues if you experience any while using the application.

As usual, the patched ISO is available at http://9while9.com, along with virtual appliances for VMware and VirtualBox. The patch is also available there.

SchoolTool was first mentioned at TurnKey Linux in response to a blog post by Liraz [1]. As it's included in Ubuntu's School Server in a box blueprint, I've begun work on a SchoolTool patch [2]. I didn't intend to, but I started and couldn't stop. It's a quick one. SchoolTool is another school administration technology the includes calendar, gradebook, and scheduling features.

I think the appropriate thing to do is start a new thread from which to provide build notes and the patch.\

As I will note on the new post, it requires fonts from multiverse for PDF functionality. They clearly know this isn't ideal, but haven't seemed to settle on an alternative yet.

[1] http://www.turnkeylinux.org/blog/gnu-high-school#comment-3571

[2] http://book.schooltool.org/htmlhelp/index.html

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