Education


We had a great event at the Casa Larga Vineyard out in the east of Rochester NY, large crowd, lots of great questions, plenty of good food and comments about how helpful this was in helping people understand our offerings.

Our Linux Day events have been very successful in doing several things:

  • Getting the news about new and updated products out to the public
  • Showing the flag for Novell and in particular our Linux products
  • Getting good conversation and feedback on how people are using the products
  • Bringing in new customers and rekindling customer relationships anew

This was our last event for the Novell fiscal year, we on the team have really enjoyed doing our traveling events around the East region this year, many thanks to all who attended them, we’ll see at next year’s events for the latest and greatest!

RossB

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Starting off our new series called Vendor Spotlight is a company that I think is doing some very cool things, ThinFusion Inc. The interview was conducted by phone and included Brandon and Rick Vancleeve

What is ThinFusion?

ThinFusion is the combination of a Linux OS platform running in a thin client environment, while providing access to the majority of Windows-based applications. ThinFusion uses either a thin client OS local, paired to a session on a ThinFusion server, or alternatively allows the use of cross-platform client software to provide secure and very speedy access to the ThinFusion Server session literally from anywhere.

ThinFusion provides a single access point to all the Linux and Windows applications that a user needs. The administrative interface allows for simple drag and drop granting and revoking, in realtime, of access to applications on a group or individual level.

What applications can I run on ThinFusion?

This part is easy…
Since it accesses a Windows Terminal Server for Windows apps you can go to Microsoft’s site and find every supported program out there. You don’t have to go through a giant bug list of “quirks” when running Windows apps in a Linux shell. If it runs in a Terminal Server environment, it runs on ThinFusion.

On the Linux side, since you are in essence just accessing a Linux Desktop you can run all your Linux applications.

Who is ThinFusion Inc?

ThinFusion Inc, is a small company in the Mountains of Montana that have developed ThinFusion to meet the needs of K-12 Schools, Higher Ed, and Small to Medium Businesses. ThinFusion mission statement: Access your classroom from anyplace anytime.

What is a typical customer for ThinFusion?

The typical customer would be a school or business that has a need to control access to applications, reduce administrative and technical support costs and increase the quality of service for its users while maintaining the necessary security and controls.

What is a sample use case of ThinFusion?

A school district with a Laptop lab is an excellent use case for ThinFusion. Typically in this environment the Laptops would be running Windows with most applications installed locally. Often the students are issued the laptops and are responsible for physical security and transport, often including off school property and for all purposes becoming the students main machine for home and school. Such an environment has multiple risks and costs associated with it, including re-imaging regularly due to misconfigurations, virus and spy-ware issues and either malicious or inadvertent deletions and changes to the software.

Particularly if the laptops are issued and kept by the students does the risk of virus infection or inadvertent misconfiguration crop up, the possibility of infection and transport of the viruses and spyware becomes a virtual certainty, with some school environments literally being taken down for periods of time from such infections.

ThinFusion in this environment would remove most or all of the issues discussed. Two choices are possible:

1. Install a very slim Desktop Linux with NX Client software on the student laptop, all application access requires dialup or better Internet access to the ThinFusion Server, thus all applications are run in a very secure and less virus-prone environment.
2. Install Windows or keep the current Desktop OS, adding lockdown software and the NX Client software, requiring dialup or better Internet acccess to the ThinFusion Server etc.

Both of the above examples allow students and staff to securely access their school network just as if they were sitting at a desk in class, from anywhere/anytime. It extends the learning environment beyond the walls of the school, and it allows for collaboration beyond the bus bell. This is the mode that we see businesses transitioning to at record pace, as we see more and more workers using home offices and accessing data through secure remote scenarios.

This environment is effective for students and teachers, with teachers mostly falling into the category of # 2, they having the most need to run 3rd party applications that are typically Windows-based.

What are the support options?

A ThinFusion subscription comes with a full support, training and installation package. Higher levels of support packages are available.

What should you not use ThinFusion for?

ThinFusion is not a great solution for high end multimedia, neither for creation nor viewing. A class of 50 users running a very graphically oriented courseware would be fairly choppy.

How do I learn more about ThinFusion?
Please visit their website (www.thinfusion.com), to experience demonstrations, tutorials, case studies and more. You can also reach them by phone at 1-800-432-0346.

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If you can think of an example of a vendor that is going something you can really appreciate and is good for the community, put a comment in or email me: rbrunson[at]novell.com

Enjoy,

RossB

IBM’s Developerworks continues to impress me with the level and quality of content related to Linux and Open Source.

Continuing in that theme is the “Anatomy of the Linux Networking Stack” by M. Tim Jones. The article starts out at the OSI 7 layer model and all the way up to the device driver level.

A good read.

RossB

There is a series of questions I answer over and over again, particularly when current or potential customers are just getting into the planning or investigative stages of using our SUSE Linux Enterprise line of products.

There are a set of authoritative tables that we all refer to in these instances, where for example someone who wants to run a system that has 2 CPU Sockets, 2 Cores in each socket and 16GB or RAM would typically ask me if that’s supported in the SLES product, and what the limits are.

If I don’t know off the top of my head, I typically refer to the Tech Specs pages, where I can find the Kernel Limits table.

kernel_limits.jpg

On this table you can see the various Kernel revisions, the Platform/Architecture and the Maximum values for things like RAM, CPU’s, Swap Space, Processes, Threads and Block Devices.

From there we typically move right into how many files they can have with what file system, what file system is “better” than the other, and the maximum numbers for all file system related items. These are easily found in the File System Features table.

file_system_features.jpg

From this table you can get just about anything you need about file systems features and limitations. I find it really helps to pre-load up an email with links for these tables (and others I’ll cover) so you can send that to the technical contact when you start to discuss such features, very helpful.

In the next installment, I’ll cover how to find out what packages are included in our various distribution versions and at what levels support exists for those packages.

Enjoy,

RossB

Another major win for SUSE Linux Enterprise – this time in India! From the press release

The Electronics Corporation of Tamil Nadu (ELCOT) in India is rolling out SUSE Linux Enterprise across 30,000 desktops and 1,880 servers in Tamil Nadu’s schools, after ELCOT itself has migrated its entire IT infrastructure from Microsoft Windows to SUSE Linux Enterprise Server and SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop from Novell.

They are so excited about the benefits they’ve seen from their adoption of open source, they even created their own success story video and are sharing it on YouTube. The video highlights their use and experience with SUSE Linux Enterprise, common questions, and even talks about the opportunities that this strategy is opening for them — including being able to bring an ATM to market for 1/5 the cost of competitors! Very cool! Here’s where you can see the official Novell success story and PDF.

More Novell announcements from Linux World.

Wow, sometimes you think you’re really tied into a product and who’s using it and where, but even I was surprised at the amount of people and institutions deploying, using and enhancing OpenOffice.org. The vast majority are kind enough to take the time to document their experiences so others can take advantage of those findings.

I can’t tell you how many discussions, presentations and other encounters I have had lately where people have been so kind as to share their objections and misgivings about OpenOffice vs Microsoft Office, and partly I wanted to make this roundup into a set of references that could easily and quickly be investigated by those who are OO-curious and want to go and see who is doing what and how with this great office suite.

Blogs and Articles

A very interesting blog posting recently by one Nate Grondin on the subject of OO in Schools started off this research project, and as I write this, there are over 50 Firefox tabs with relevant info waiting to be included somehow, this is an incredibly rich area of progress on the Open Source front.

Another interesting site and resource is the OpenOffice Training, Tips and Ideas blog, with a lot of good articles, links to free and commercial training and books etc, subscribe to the RSS feed and keep an eye on this one.

Projects and Coordination Sites

The Education Project, hosted on the OpenOffice.org site is a great starting place for those who want to help educators and students, either in classes or individually to help develop OO.o. The goal of the project is: “to help teachers as well as students or anybody involved in education to enter the OpenOffice.org project and find a place where to contribute or to find informations.” With it’s tools and development categories, it’s user and development lists and other documentation, this is a great resource for the Education community.

The openSUSE.org site has a great education page, run by our friend James Tremblay from Newmarket NH. The goals of the project are to:

  • Catalog and collect all educational software built or converted to run on Linux
  • Separate all cataloged software into server and desktop categories
  • subdivide all collected software into it’s curricula discipline and age groups
  • build the “Edu-cd” (which is an add-on CD/DVD specifically for education tools/programs)

Additionally, on this page you can find links to the Education News, how to make an account and get involved, the IRC channel info, links to the Education Application Index including the currently collected lists of Desktop and Server Education Programs, HowTo’s and a Wishlist. This is an excellent project to get involved in, it’s very easy to contribute and you’ll get a lot out of it.

Another resource on the OpenOffice.org website is the Major OpenOffice.org Deployments Wiki, where a complete world-wide overview of deployments of OpenOffice.org are listed by categories including Governments, Schools and Universities, Private Sector and other areas. There are 14+ major deployments listed in North America in the Schools and Education category, there must be more, get your deployment listed and join in.

Other major resources you’ll find as part of the OpenOffice.org site are the OpenOffice Marketing Project, the Why OpenOffice Wiki and the very comprehensive Case for Switching (to OpenOffice.org) Wiki pages.

The most authoritative location for documentation of OO.o is the official OpenOffice Documentation Project site. With it’s plethora of information, links and resources, and broken up into Users and Developers sections, this is the main location for OO.o documentation and it’s creation. If you want to contribute to the project, go here and get started.

The OSDI project is one that wants to distribute OO.o CD’s to people in dis-advantaged environments, they’re raising money and almost have the amount they need to do the first big push, give ’em a few bucks and help get OO.o into people’s hands and their computers and free ’em from the Microsoft Tax.

Focusing on the K-12 market is a great site called K12OS whose goal is to provide news, links, resources and discussion about the use of Open Source in the K-12 market. With it’s discussion forums, listserv’s and loads of links, this should be on every educator’s daily rotation.

Training and Tutorials

Linked off the official OpenOffice Documentation Project siteand the OpenOffice.org Wiki, but not obvious, is an incredible resource called the OOo Help Outline, with it’s long list of FAQ’s, HowTo’s and per-application help documentation it’s a must for everyone.

Then visit the somewhat simplistic but very useful Tutorials for OpenOffice howto site. Check out the various categories, organized by the application in OO.o, and contribute if you feel so moved.

Next up, is the ByteBot site with it’s OpenOffice.org training materials. You can download the materials and use them, just please do ask them if you use the materials commercially. They also have a rudimentary Linux training course you can get the same way. ByteBot also has an archive of the mysteriously missing OpenOffice Unofficial FAQ, which should be located at OOAuthors, but seems to not be linked properly.

A very nicely done site and great resource is the iTrainOnline site, it offers Open Source documentation and courseware, including OO.o Write and Impress mini-courses.

Statistics, Other Roundups and Misc.

The OpenOffice.org Market Share Analysis site is excellent for those who want to see how OO.o is making inroads in their market, or to show others that a grassroots change is happening, or just to keep an eye on the numbers and see what is happening in each area for OO.o deployments.

Last, and surely winning an award for the most links in a single HTML page is the Why Open Source in Schools article. I have yet to fully investigate the articles, lists and other resources listed there, but I’ll add the most useful ones to the Education page for our blog.

Hopefully this roundup is helpful for everyone, we’re very serious about helping Open Source get implemented in the Education environment. If you have resources or think we missed something, or might have a cool project you want to get some free publicity for (subject to review and approval) leave a comment or email me.

RossB

From SearchEnterpriseLinux.com, here’s a nice collection of three stories — a city government, a school, and a corporation — each has made the transition from MS Office to OpenOffice.org, and they have some interesting thoughts and advice around what they might have done differently.

One of the stories even comments that while they got some initial advice from Novell, they opted not to follow the voice of experience (Novell has done this migration several times mind you, including our own internal migration from MS Office to OpenOffice.org).  “[the interviewee] wishes more of their advice had been followed early on, however.” 

I guess you can add that one to the “Oops file”.

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