An Innovative Desktop OSS Implementation in a School

An Innovative Desktop OSS Implementation in a School

James Weller (University of Cape Town, South Africa)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-999-1.ch051
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This chapter presents a case study of a migration to open source software (OSS) in a South African school. The innovative aspect of the case study lies in how the entire implementation was motivated by the collapse of the school’s public address system. It was found that an OSS-based message system provided a more cost-effective replacement option whereby the speakers in the school were replaced with low-cost workstations (i.e., legacy systems) in each classroom. Interestingly, this OSS implementation happened despite the fact that, in South Africa, Microsoft Windows and MS-Office are available free of charge to schools under Microsoft’s Academic Alliance initiative. The chapter also analyzes some critical themes for adoption of OSS in the educational environment.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Microsoft Academic Alliance (MSDN AA): An initiative by Microsoft to promote the use of Microsoft’s developer tools, platforms, and servers for instruction and research by significantly reducing their price to educational institutions. In South Africa, government (i.e., nonprivate) schools can apply for free use of, inter alia, the Windows operating system and MS-Office software by teachers and learners (pupils).

Linux: An open source version of the UNIX operation system originally developed by Torvalds Linus. It has many distributions such as Ubuntu, Red Hat, SUSE, Knoppix, and so forth (also known as distros). Linux versions have been developed for an extremely wide variety of hardware platforms ranging from handheld devices such as cell phones and PDAs to massive super-computer clusters. The term Linux actually refers to the kernel around which the distros are built. Most of the software tools and applications included with the distros were developed under the GNU project of he Free Software Foundation; hence, a more accurate description is GNU/Linux.

OSS on Desktop or Desktop OSS: OSS applications that are utilized by everyday users to perform daily work tasks. This is in contrast to Server OSS, which are applications running on the server side. OSS on the desktop usually refers to a combination of an OSS operating system—usually a Linux distribution—and OSS productivity software such as OpenOffice, FireFox, or similar applications.

Open Source Software (OSS): Software distributed under a license that allows users to copy, modify, and redistribute the software.

tuXlab: As a joint initiative of (partnership between) the Shuttleworth Foundation ( ) and South African Schools tuXlab are computer centers installed with OSS as an economical and sustainable way to bring the power of computing to the learners in South Africa.

Mono: An open source implementation of the common language infrastructure, based on the .NET Framework specification ( )

Operating System (OS): Software that controls the execution of computer programs and may provide various services such as hardware control, file storage, input-output functionality, and user interface. It acts as the interface between the hardware and the applications.

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