Free Open Source Software comes to UK schools

EDU_OSDC_BYU_520x292_FINALIt is great to hear that at least one Open Source company has now made it onto Becta’s official list of suppliers to the UK education sector. 

As usual it’s all about money. The Open Source community has always advocated that schools in the UK adopted Free Open Source Software (FOSS) on the grounds that there were considerable cost savings to be had which would directly benefit schools and the taxpayer alike.

As long ago as 2005 a report from Becta strongly supported this assertion. However this was a time when huge amounts of a cash-rich Government’s money were being poured into developing school ICT and value for money was not really on the agenda. As a result the incumbent proprietary vendors enjoyed a feeding frenzy and Open Source solutions were ignored. Indeed it was impossible, despite persistent lobbying, to get an Open Source company on the official school suppliers list. As I said, how times change. If we revisit school’s ICT finances 2008 we see a different picture.                         

                                                                                                     Sirius

As Becta suggested two years ago, the current UK ICT structure requires a level of funding which is unsustainable, adopting Free Open Source Software could directly benefit schools and tax payers alike.

Microblogging @ Jokaydia Unconference

I have to say a big thank you to Henny Zimer in Second Life aka Jeff Agamenoni. I presented a Microblogging session earlier as part of the Jokaydia Unconference. If you missed it then you missed out! Well done chaps, it was a really interesting session.

The Jokaydia Unconference has all but drawn to a close for today, with an informal get together to round off the evening, followed by tomorrows scheduled events.

Microblogging session
Microblogging session

Images cc-by-sa  ty teachandlearn

Magento Install Guide and Case Study

Ahh Magento, released on the 31st of March it is already widely considered by many to be the new rising star of Ecommerce. Developed by Varien, Magento is open source and boasts many powerful features as well as a slick and modern design.

Some of the general features include:
• An excellent backend (see demo site admin/123123)
• SEO and keyword options
• Checkout and shipping
• Analytics and reporting
• Customer accounts
• Order management
• Shipping
• Coupons
• Catalog and product browsing
• Newsletter and email management

This post is a walk through of an installation for a live and functioning UK-based online furniture site. With no coding skills the process was a bit of a learning curve but manageable, with almost 400 products the most time consuming aspect was definitely building the catalogue.

Install Guide

  1. Download the zip or tar file, upload it to your host and decompress. Decompressing can be done via the file manager in your hosts Cpanel or within your FTP client. Do not decompress the files locally on your computer before uploading as there are about 8000 files
  2. Create a MYSQL database with a user/pass that you will need to input to Magento later
  3. Make the following writable (777) by your web server: magento/var/.htaccess – single file magento/app/etc – directory
    magento/var – directory
    magento/media – directory and all the directories under
  4. Browse to the location that you uploaded the files. http://www.yoursite.com/magento/install/ If you do not want the Magento folder in your URL path simply upload the files to your root directory. You can change the access in your FTP program, usually right clicking on the desired file/folder and selecting ‘change permission’; ensure these are set to 777 which is basically full permission
  5. Follow the install wizard – this process is relatively straightforward, you will need to enter your MYSQL details and change some file permissions. There are options for custom installation but most default settings should be guessed for you
  6. Finished! Now goto http://www.example.com/magento/admin to access the backend and start uploading your products

Conclusion

In the end, the person I set this site up for was very happy with the finished product and now has a fully functional open source Ecommerce website. For me, the most challenging aspect was the lack of a WYSIWYG editor, though this is rumored to be added in a future release.

In case you plan on giving it a blast, some of the major lessons I learnt during the process were:

  • Install the sample data – this helps so much to learn how static-pages are created and gives you a great head start on a sexy front page
  • Resize all product pictures – pics with a high resolution (2000 x 2000) will not display properly
  • Decide on your shipping price and if you are going to have different shipping prices BEFORE uploading and creating all your products
  • Make sure you spend enough time learning the product creation process and understand the implications of all the different features
  • Decide what products you want to be ‘related products’ or ‘upsells’

The next step for Furniture Depo is a Google Adwords PPC campaign in order to bring some instant traffic to the site before investing in expensive and long-term organic SEO. If there is enough interest I will post a follow up of the progress and success of the site.

Overall I found Magento to be a powerful and feature-rich software suite. For those wishing to sell only a couple of products it might be overkill as it can take a while to learn and configure. However if you’re willing to invest the time, Magento has many features to help you stay ahead of the game and the polished feel really goes a long way to reassuring your customers that you are indeed a genuine Ecommerce business.

This post was by Jack, creator and author of Nubtub

Jokaydia Unconference

The Jokaydia Unconference will be held this weekend in Second Life. Everyone is welcome to come along and participate, for further information click here

Newbies Please Note: We have planned a number of sessions especially for educators who are interested in gaining some Second Life skills! Join us to ask questions, learn about the Second Life interface and find out more about the Islands of jokaydia!

Looking forward to it!

One Laptop Per Child

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Ok well perhaps that should read, half a laptop per child.  News just in from The Inquirer, the first batch of Classmate PCs has been delivered to Portuguese schools. 3000 of an approximate 500,000, due to be distributed over the next three years. Current student to PC ratios stand at about 5:1, this should be reduced to 2:1 hopefully. So they cannot boast to having one laptop per child, but its at least a vast improvement.

Delivering on a promise made just a couple of months ago, first- through fourth-graders throughout Portugal received yesterday the new lappies for next to nothing (€50) or for free in the case of low-income families.

I think that giving children the opportunity to have access to a PC from an early age is really important, they can learn through doing, and can have access to educational games, and the internet.

Eee PC – gadget of the year

The Stuff Gadget Awards was held on wednesday night in London at the Dorchester Hotel, and the big winner of the night was Asus winning the gadget of the year award for the Eee PC 901.

This great little laptop has helped to kick off the netbook craze and has offered a really affordable way to be online and mobile, as well as offering people the Linux operating system, which we here at superuser.com applaud. Well done Asus.

Need help with your new Eee PC? Checkout Superusers Computer Repairs Brisbane.

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Social Networking Vs Porn

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Bill Trancer from internet tracking company Hitwise has been focusing research on social networking. He has information on more than 10 million web users, and has discovered that the number of 18-24 year olds searching for porn sites has decreased dramatically.

Searches for porn have decreased to only 10% a huge reduction  from 20% as it stood ten years ago. Trancer has noticed this shift stating that “young users spend so much time on social networking sites that they don’t have time to look at adult sites”. 

Its really interesting to see how the growth of social networking sites has changed our online habits.

Lenovo ditches Linux

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I was reading desktoplinux.com and found this interesting article:

Lenovo, which years ago purchased IBMs personal computer business, appears to have quietly stopped offering Linux as a pre-installation option. None of the company’s 49 ThinkPad and IdeaPad notebook models — nor its many ThinkCenter and IdeaCenter desktops — can currently be ordered with Linux.

Lenovo does offer four high-end ThinkStation workstation models without any commercial operating system software, but all of its other systems now carry the “Microsoft Tax,” it appears. That is, in order to purchase one of the systems, you have to pay for a Microsoft Windows operating system license.

Lenovo’s executive director of external communications, Ray Gorman, denied in vague terms that the current situation marks a strategic shift, though he did admit the company is “refining its Linux strategy.” He added, “Lenovo is not abandoning its commitment to choice of operating system, and actually is increasing the role of the Linux operating system in Lenovo’s product portfolio.”

All evidence to the contrary.

Gorman continued, “In 2008, Lenovo offered preloaded Novell SLED 10 Linux on some of its ThinkPad notebooks, targeting business users. We are now seeing greater demand for Linux from consumers and those in education, and are bringing Linux preloaded on soon-to-be announced Lenovo netbooks targeted to education.”

Actually, Lenovo already announced its Linux-based S9 netbook models, when it launched its netbook line about a month ago. However, the company provided pricing and availability information only for the Windows XP-based “S10” model, saying that the Linux-based “S9” model would be limited to overseas education markets.

In other words, if the government of some large country wants to order a few hundred thousand of them, they’ll build some, and not before.

Anyway, interesting news, wanted to share it with you. Very tired, off to bed. Peace out…

Cyberpsychology

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Nottingham Trent University have introduced a Cyberpsychology masters degree, the first of its kind in the UK. The course is open to postgraduates and will look at online gaming and gambling, social networking as well as online dating.

Dr Monica Whitty, who’s running the course said that:

“As well as being academically challenging, with the possibility of students going on to do a PhD, the course has been designed with the needs of industry firmly in mind.”

The course has been designed to be academically challenging but also attuned to the needs of the industry. As a result the academic team have incorporated a work-based module in the curriculum.

This module will allow students to experience an intensive period of work over a three week period. The work will be within industry (e.g., online dating and online gaming companies) and will:

  • enable students to display a comprehensive understanding of key theoretical, philosophical, and methodological issues, debates and initiatives that lie at the forefront of research in cyberpsychology
  • develop students’ understanding and skills in a range of research methods and techniques applicable to advanced scholarship in cyberpsychology
  • enable students to conduct ethically sensitive research in the area of cyberpsychology
  • enable students to apply theory and research in the field of cyberpsychology to practical contexts.

This sounds like a really interesting course.

OpenOffice.org 3.0

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Exciting stuff, OpenOffice.org 3.0 release candidate 1 is available to download from the website. It is not recommended for production deployment at this stage but it is suitable for use for anyone who wants to help with initial bug reporting, issues or errors.

Anyone wanting to download OpenOffice.org 2 can do so here, it is a great software package and it is totally free of any licence fees, and free to distribute.