Archives For Open source

An article at about a new open source library circulation system caught my eye recently. We’ve had quite a battle getting a new library system going at work, and although I don’t usually use this space to beat up on vendors I feel compelled to name names. Think long and hard before buying InfoCentre from Sagebrush. OK, I’m done. I feel better.

Koha has been around for quite a while, and I almost installed it on a test server a couple years ago. The article mentions a newcomer called Evergreen, and it looks pretty promising too. With two good options out there I think it’s time to give serious consideration to moving away from the expensive, proprietary library systems.

We almost have our InfoCentre system running acceptably now, but our media specialists are so frustrated that I think they’d be willing to consider other options. And here’s another situation where our move toward a virtualized server infrastructure pays off. We can create two fully isolated virtual test servers for Koha and Evergreen without having to scrounge up any real hardware. It’s not the highest priority at this point, but I’ll post some observations about both systems when I get around to trying them.

koha, evergreen, ils, library, infocentre

Here are the links for the open source tools that I mention in my talk at the TIES Conference.

Update: Here are a few more links to products that came up during the session.

ties, ties2006

I’m doing a talk at this year’s TIES Education Technology Conference called “Open Source Tools You Can Use.” Here’s the description:

From tech support systems to graphics applications, there are hundreds of free and open source applications that will fit easily into your school’s technology environment. Participants will learn about the open source software model and get a “top 10” list of open source applications.

Now I’ve got plenty of ideas in my head about what apps will constitute my top 10 list, but I’d like to hear from you. What open source applications would make it on your All-Star team?


Parakey, the Web OS

5 Nov 2006

Blake Ross is something of a wunderkind. He starting working for Netscape at age 15 and cofounded the Firefox project soon after. Not content to stop there, an article in IEEE Spectrum describes Ross’s latest project called Parakey. Parakey is an attempt to obviate the need for separate desktop and online applications. For example, I use iPhoto to manage and edit photos on my Mac and Flickr to share some of those photos with the world. According to the article:

Parakey is intended to be a platform for tools that can manipulate just about anything on your hard drive—e-mail, photos, videos, recipes, calendars. In fact, it looks like a fairly ordinary Web site, which you can edit. You can go online, click through your files and view the contents, even tweak them. You can also check off the stuff you want the rest of the world to be able to see.

Ross is the prototypical digital native. He says, “We all know ­people…who have all this content that they are not publishing stored on their computers. We’re trying to persuade them to live their lives online.” If this is how young people think, is it any wonder that their digital immigrant teachers don’t understand them?

blake ross, parakey

This isn’t a political blog, and I don’t intend for it to become one. But I just can’t ignore the technology angle that’s brewing in our upcoming U.S. election. I’ve been concerned for some time about the potential for fraud and errors associated with the current state of electronic voting devices. Jon Stokes at Ars Technica has an excellent article summarizing the latest information about voting problems and potential problems with these machines.

Party affiliation is irrelevant here. It’s likely that thousands of voters next Tuesday will have their votes miscast or not accepted at all. While I don’t discount entirely the possibility of carefully planned attempts to manipulate the results of the vote, I’m also reminded of what Napolean said, “Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence.” My bigger concern is that large numbers of voters will be disenfranchised by simple technical glitches that won’t be properly handled by poorly trained (however well-intentioned) election judges.

Others have called for a government-sponsored project to develop open source voting software and hardware. I think that’s the only solution that has any hope of producing a secure, reliable, and trustworthy system. I would also recommend the Verified Voting Foundation as a good source of information on this topic.

Please read the Ars Technica article and be prepared to stand up for your right to vote next Tuesday.

electronic voting, midterm election, verified voting foundation, election 2006

NeoOffice logoThose of us using OS X haven’t had the easiest time with Running that open source office suite has always required additional (but free) software that isn’t usually installed by default on OS X systems. Once installed, the software never really fit in with the rest of my system since it wasn’t a native “Aqua” application. Thanks to NeoOffice 2.0 I finally have a native Aqua version of for my PowerBook. MS Word and Excel import and export work great too. Give it a try and you may find that it does the job for you. There must be a lot of computer labs in schools where this software would come in very handy.

openoffice,, neooffice, office suite

I discovered Stellarium recently and suggest anyone teaching science add it to their toolbelt. From the project FAQ:

Stellarium is an open source desktop planetarium for Linux/Unix, Windows and MacOSX. It renders the skies in realtime using OpenGL, which means the skies will look exactly like what you see with your eyes, binoculars, or a small telescope. Stellarium is very simple to use, which is one of its biggest advantages: it can easily be used by beginners.

I love the fact that it’s open source and cross-platform. There’s no reason not to download it and try it out, but if you want a bit of a preview you can check out the screenshots. Just beautiful.

stellarium, astronomy, astronomy software

There is a bunch of open source software available for Apple’s OS X operating system. Thanks to Open Source Mac it’s now a lot easier to find. Many of the apps have obvious educational uses and other are just for fun. The list is growing so bookmark it and check back occasionally to find new entries.

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