Category Archives: Open Source

I Switched to PCLinuxOS

I finally made the switch from Ubuntu 11.10 to PCLinuxOS. It took me some time because I wanted to make sure that a new Linux distro would be right for me.

So I read as much as I could reviews about the various Linux distros available. I was surprised to learn that there are a lot.

There are 2 major reasons why I gave up on Ubuntu and didn´t wait anymore for its upgrade set to be released on April. One, I did not like their Unity desktop, which was forced upon its users with the 11.10 version. Before this users had a choice between the classic desktop and Unity.

Many users disapproved of Unity, but the Ubuntu developers went on and forced it down our throats. It doesn´t bode well for developers when they don´t listen to their users. The least they could do was continue to give users a choice.

The second reason I gave up on Ubuntu is because I could no longer use RecordMyDesktop with the upgrade to Ubuntu 11.10. RecordMyDesktop is a screencast software that I use extensively for my tutorials. And nobody seems to know a solution. My post about this problem in the Ubuntu forum continues to be in Limbo. I know I´m not the only one with this problem.

So PCLinuxOs it is. My only disappointment is that Libre Office didn´t come in the package. It had to be downloaded and installed with what they call an lomanager. But that was a minor issue with me. Otherwise, PCLinuxOs looks good and is functioning nicely.

I made a video (yes, created with RecordMyDesktop) showing the PCLinuxOS desktop. It´s right below. As always, I appreciate your feedback.

The Best Alternative to MS Office

I’m of course talking about Open Office. The best argument there is to choose Open Office to MS Office is it’s free.

This doesn’t mean it is a bare bones suite of applications. It is quite robust. I prefer Open Office Writer, for instance, to MS Word. For one it can save documents in both Open Office Writer format (.odt) and MS Word format (.doc). This means I can pass on documents to colleagues who only have MS Word and to others who may only have Open Office. OO also has versions for Windows, Linux and Mac for an even wider reach.

OO Writer has all the functionalities that you would need to be productive whether you use it personally or in the office. It has the all-important mail merge for sending out copies of a single letter to different recipients. I made a simple video on how to do this, which you can view here.

Personally I like the “Export to PDF” function of the Writer. In easy steps you can convert a document to .pdf format. PDF is another document format that the major operating systems can read. And if you’re into creating e-books, this certainly comes in handy.

You can also create letterheads with OO Writer. I’ll create a video in the next few days that instructs how to do this.

In short, if you want functionality and productivity in writing documents but without a hefty price, Open Office is the way to go.

You can get Open Office at their site at

Small Businesses Ride the Open Source Tailwind to High Profitability

By Ashok Ramachandran

Open source software (OSS) vendors are reporting spectacular growth in a year when many businesses are offering excuses about the economic downturn. So, how does it matter to you as a SMB? A well known quote from investment guru Warren Buffett is “One of the lessons your management has learned – and, unfortunately, sometimes re-learned – is the importance of being in businesses where tailwinds prevail rather than headwinds.” As a small business, you want to take advantage of the tailwind, whenever you can, so that you sail faster towards your goals.

xTuple ERP Doubles Customer And Partner Base

Norfolk, VA based xTuple is a vendor of Business Suites, also known as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software. xTuple announced a very successful 2009 despite tough market conditions. They doubled their customer base by gaining over 100 new commercial customers and doubled their partner base as well. The free OSS PostBooks edition has been downloaded over 320,000 times and they have seen a dramatic acceleration of their global user community to over 20,000 active members. This is the prospect pool from which their paid support customers will emerge.

GroundWork Increases Customer-base by 105 Percent

GroundWork Monitor Community Edition is free OSS for monitoring the data center, suitable for small medium businesses. Groundwork reports outstanding growth in 2009, increasing its customer base by 105 percent.

Sugar CRM Adds Over 2000 Customers And 50 New Partners

Sugar CRM recently announced that it enters 2010 with record momentum across revenue, community partnerships and international growth. They reported adding over 2,000 commercial customers and securing over 50 new partnerships. They also expanded their international reach during 2009, conducting transactions in over 75 countries. In addition, Openbravo, vendor of open source Business Suites (ERP) as well as Point of Sale (POS) software, announced successful growth of its global partner community, which includes over 100 partners across more than 40 countries. Also, in early 2010 they reported reaching 1.5 million downloads. JasperSoft, a vendor of open source business intelligence solutions, expect to reach 60% growth despite the down economy.

Take Advantage Of This Open Source Tailwind

It is fairly obvious that the wind is blowing in the direction of using more OSS for cost saving, have flexibility in modifying the software to the special needs of your business and in automating your operations for better customer service. Isn’t it time you leveraged this open source tailwind to reach your revenue and profitability goals too?

About the Author:
Ashok guides small medium businesses (SMB) leverage open source software. He writes articles describing how SMBs can use free open source software to improve customer service, free up their time by automating operations and pull together data to make better decisions. He has developed the Open Source Difficulty Level OSDL Rating to help SMBs climb the open source learning curve confidently. Visit and register today.

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Open Source Software in Higher Education

By Anthony DiSanza

The higher education sector is quite unlike other industries. It has its own processes and a different set of demands. Most commercial proprietary application vendors develop their applications focused on a wider domain spread across industries. This, academics complain, creates a distinct disconnect between software vendors and the end-users in academia.

To overcome these shortcomings, the education industry started looking to “open source” as an alternate model. Around a decade back, institutions started debating total cost of ownership in adopting an open source based community approach vis-à-vis proprietary applications, viability of open source based business models, sustainability and security issues.

The success of community developed open source software is quite well established. Linux and Apache are ample proof of its success. A similar trend, though not that widespread in its reach, can be traced to the development of community projects in education like the Moodle and Sakai.

Through the course of its formative years, the open source community based approach in education has developed several alternative models. Some of these models and schools of thought have thrived and been implemented successfully across a significant spectrum of the industry. Progress and success in open source projects like the Sakai, Moodle, Kuali, uPortal, Shibboleth, and many more are being closely watched by the industry.

Community Source Model

One school of thought believes that open source sharing is more a philosophical approach than a viable alternative. The adoption of open source in higher education seems to suggest otherwise. FLOSS (Free/Libre and Open Source Software) communities are thriving well in learning environments too.

The FLOSS model has been extensively used in initiatives like the MIT OpenCourseWare and Open Source Biology. Project Gutenberg, the Wikipedia, The Open Dictionary project are prime examples of how open source has been successfully adapted to education initiatives.

In a community source project, multiple institutions come together to partner in the project. All partners contribute financially as well as in employing human resources for the effort. In the early stages, the partnering institutions provide all design and development efforts and only in subsequent stages is the project opened to the broader community. This way, the initial support is secured and the institutions have a substantial influence in deciding how the application is modeled and designed.

The initial focus of community source projects is on collaboration between institutions. The focus in the crucial first stages is therefore to form a common economic outlook and an appropriate administrative framework rather than forming a community around a shared code. Most community based open source projects slowly migrate to open source in the later stages.

The Sakai project, for example, started as a joint effort between four institutions (Michigan, Indiana, MIT and Stanford). The initial agenda was to set up a framework of common goals that would produce appropriate software based on an agreed list of objectives. The scope for participation was later increased by forming the Sakai Educational Partners Program (SEPP), whereby other institutions can join and participate in the community for a small fee.

The Current Landscape

An education enterprise like any organization has its own needs ranging from resource planning to budgeting. Additionally, they have typical requirements like the need to integrate with financial aid programs of the government, multiple payroll cycles, and student information systems (SIS) that handle admissions, grades, transcripts, student records as well as billing. All these call for robust ERP systems. Until recently, colleges and universities mostly rely on either custom-developed systems that are more than 15 years old, or have transitioned to commercial products from vendors like Oracle, SAP, PeopleSoft or vendors like SunGard that are geared towards the higher education market.

Kuali Financials was borne due to the lack of open source solutions Enterprise applications in the higher education sector are comprised of a mix of some proprietary application vendors and some key open source community initiatives. PeopleSoft, Oracle, SunGard and Datatel are some key vendors that offer tightly integrated ERP packages for the education sector.

Recent consolidation in the industry, like the acquisition of PeopleSoft by Oracle and of WebCT, Angel, etc by Blackboard, has caused considerable unease in the education fraternity. The concern stems from the fear that the trend of consolidation would lead to the monopoly of a few key vendors. The plans of these vendors to offer tightly integrated systems heightens the fear that this will provide an unfair leverage to these vendors as it would extend the community’s dependence on them.

One area of concern about proprietary applications is a seeming disconnect between the industry and software application developers. Institutions also have strong reservations about the currently available administrative software and course management systems. The feeling is that applications provided by vendors such as SAP and PeopleSoft are adapted from other industries and does not work well for educational enterprises. Moreover, the proprietary nature of the applications implies that the source code is not available and customization efforts involve substantial costs.

In the context of such a wide breadth of requirements, open source can prove to be a viable alternative. In fact, these constraints provided the impetus for open source initiatives in higher education. Some of the success has helped provide a strong foundation to building an alternative support model for the education industry.

In the Sakai project, the participating institutions decided to integrate and synchronize their educational software into a pre-integrated collection of open source tools termed Collaborative Learning Environment (CLE). Sakai has active implementations running at multiple institutes including the University of Michigan and Indiana University.

In parallel, Sakai also established a set of activity based communities that have spawned an active cooperation between the industry and application vendors. The Sakai Educational Partners Program allows educational institutions to participate in the program for a small fee. Besides, there are the Sakai Commercial Affiliates, who offer fee-based services for installation, integration and support..

Kuali, on the other hand, mainly addresses aspects of educational administration. The Kuali Financial System (KFS) is the most prominent application. It handles administrative and operational tasks like general accounting, purchasing, salary and benefits, budgeting, asset management and grants. The system is designed around modules that enable it to be tweaked to work with existing commercial applications. For example, at Indiana University, Kuali applications work together with PeopleSoft’s HR and student system. The Kuali Foundation is a non-profit consortium of multiple universities and some hardware and software companies. The Kuali Commercial Affiliate program operates on similar lines like its Sakai counterpart. The community has been growing and now includes the University of California, Cornell, Michigan State University, San Joaquin Delta College (Calif.), and The University of Arizona.

Significantly, according to the 2008 Campus Computing Survey, around 13.8 percent of the survey participants have already identified an Open Source LMS – either Moodle or Sakai – as the campus standard LMS.

Besides these, several other projects offer SIS functionality. For example, openSIS manages student demographics, scheduling, attendance, grades, transcripts, and health records, and its parent company makes add-on modules to support additional features like disciplinary tracking, billing, food service, and bulk email/SMS messaging for emergency contact.

Other Key initiatives are

JaSig community developing uPortal, and CAS (Central Authentication Services) two components serving as input to Kuali Rice.

Internet2 – A consortium led by universities working in partnership with industry and government to develop and deploy advanced network applications and technologies including products such as Shibboleth and Grouper

Open Source Curricula

As with any “open source” activity, open source curricula by its very definition is one that can be freely used, distributed and modified. A model like this would seemingly be antithetic to the concept of higher education as it strikes at the credibility of the education environment. Campus education is designed to operate as a structured learning methodology. The concept of community collaboration involving academics and students on the same platform brings a lot of unpredictability into the scenario

However, FLOSS communities (Free/Libre and Open Source Software) in education have proved to be quite successful. A key principle of this learning approach is its root in adapting it to the context of ones’ experience. With its stress on learners and their preferences, this learning approach focuses more on learning by collaboration, communication and sharing.

Significant initiatives include the Connexions Project at Rice University, the OpenCourseWare project at MIT and the social learning medium of Wikipedia.

The FLOSS approach in higher education has been operating in combination with traditional teacher centered approaches. The objectives of the FLOSS approach are not to replace traditional methods but to achieve synergies in combination and offer the learner an enhanced learning environment.

The ‘FLOSS-like education transfer report’ published in September 2008, as part of the FLOSSCOM project, notes that FLOSS communities can create effective learning environments. The study has also come up with three different approaches that could be combined effectively with traditional teaching approaches.

Economic Models of Open Source

One aspect that clearly marks the adoption of open source as a winner is the fact that in this scenario, the developers are most often also the users of the software. This removes the perceived disconnect between the developer community and the end-users unlike in the case of proprietary applications. However, this is less evident in the case of administrative applications like payroll or HR. In such cases, adoption of open source has to be a directed process.

Initiatives like the Kuali project have proved that open source can also build up sustainable models that provide adequate support mechanisms. In such models, there is active collaboration between the community that comprises not only developers and end-users, but also an extended support group comprising commercial vendors. These support groups are available to offer timely support to mission critical applications. The community approach also ensures that the code is not closed and that an active community of interest ensures that enhancements keep happening as necessitated.

Projects like uPortal have been developed with minimal resources but are deployed across hundreds of institutions. The community approach has proved sustainable as in the case of the Sakai project. In terms of funding, the Sakai project garnered an investment of $6.8 million over two years.

The viability of the open source, community based model stems not from the monetary or cost aspects but principally the adaptability that it offers. The debate over cost of ownership between commercially available proprietary software and open source applications is yet to be proved empirically. However, the fact that the code is open means it can be easily adapted to suit new requirements and does not involve significant investments in terms of customization or enhancements. This does make significant economic sense in the longer term.

The case for open source in higher education is nicely documented in a study by the Alliance for Higher Education Competitiveness. In a 2005 study report titled, ‘Will Open Source Software Become an Important Institutional Strategy in Higher Education?’ Rob Abel notes how open source is a “great fit for higher education”. The study, based on an analysis of open source projects in education, opines that the community-based approach is an interesting model that also helps reduce the inherent risks in adopting an open source approach.

As for the cost model, the study notes that while open source has helped generate cost savings in the range of 20 to 30 percent for the commercial sector, the same may not be entirely true in education. The community-based approach, the writer notes, with its associated participation fees, may prove only marginally beneficial in terms of costs. Institutions that have their own infrastructure and resources may however, benefit from substantially reduced costs from their open source initiatives.

The Future

Open source has proved to be adaptable and a reliable platform for collaboration and learning. In their quest for ideal application software to handle administrative, operational and education platforms, most CIOs are looking at interoperability, reliability and scalability of applications. Applications like the Sakai and Kuali have proved beyond doubt that open source applications offer great configurability.

Development communities and the support of commercial vendors, as in the case of Kuali and Sakai, fuel a greater rate of innovation. Moreover, the advantage that is offered by collaboration also provides an impetus to continued improvement of the system. Support systems and enhancements for future requirements are ensured.

On the question of how to approach or adopt open source as a model, the answer would depend on the needs, the infrastructure and the means available to an institution. The community development model has shown that costs can be broadly distributed amongst participants. Experience shows that universities and colleges can collaborate to produce open source software that caters to their needs in a way that is superior to some commercial products. The collaborative model enables educational institutions to pool their financial and technical resources. Moreover, a larger community ensures that the applications are tested in a variety of testing environments, thus aiding in building robust solutions.

In term of core academics, learning systems will evolve to accommodate formative assessments and evaluation outside the classroom. Many higher education institutions have taken the lead of MIT and are offering online course materials that are accessible by anyone, free of cost. It has been adopted at Yale, Notre Dame, Tufts and Stanford School of Engineering, to name a few. The United Nations has launched an initiative that would leverage social media technologies and ideas to offer higher education opportunities to people who would otherwise not be able to afford the costs.

Commercially, open source projects have taken their first steps in the marketplace. The model is evolving aided by some significant commercial vendor backing. For the community-based open source approach to prosper, substantial financial backing is an absolute necessity to prevent it from faltering and to avoid the pitfalls that arise form source code being easily modifiable and rebranded by a different vendor. From the commercial perspective, projects like Sakai and the Kuali Foundation are likely to thrive as they have substantial stakeholders from both the academic and the corporate world.

What could derail further adoption? There are several potential risk areas:

* Lack of understanding of entry points for adoption
* Lack of support to adopt the applications
* Minimal staff to support the applications
* Lack of training / documentation to train staff
* A “runaway” project that consumes much press and develops a negative bias toward the project

Many of these risks may be mitigated though co-operative initiatives between the foundations developing the open source solutions and commercial affiliates looking to support the solutions – and develop complementation solutions. Some examples:

* Further publicity through conventional, non-education related channels such as Google and industry-based sites such as edu1world
* Further innovation and cooperation – whether through ‘summer of code’ collaborations; or community collaborations that will transform the current listservs to more accessible forums
* Commercial affiliates offering training and webinars
* Commercial affiliates offering ease of use entry points, such as pre-installed servers or virtual images that can be downloaded and used out of the box

In conclusion, open source initiatives in higher education have a long way to go before they enter the commercial mainstream in a significant fashion. However, with industry and academic collaboration, it has a great potential to change the higher education landscape in the longer term.

About Innovativ Consulting Partners: Innovativ Consulting Partners is one of the leading education consultants in the country. Innovativ provides consulting services to clients in the Higher Education and Public Sector industries. Innovativ is a premier Open Source consultant and provides products and services to support Kuali solutions. The Innovativ team have delivered Drupal consulting services and led successful implementations for clients within the Education and Public Sector industries Innovativ is an Oracle Partner

For more information, visit:, email: or call 800-787-1889.

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Advantages of Open Source Software

by: Fat Jack

PHP-Nuke, PHP PostNuke, TikiWiki, Xoops, b2evo—you can find them everywhere in the web. These are all the open source software solution used in various areas of web applications. These are most of the time free applications released under special licensing terms. This allows the coding to be shared by all and edited to suit the unique needs of the user.

What is the secret behind this immense popularity of all these software? The use of open source software has some practical benefits. Let us discuss about them in details.

You get the core framework for free

For a start up company, budget is a major factor. You can save on your initial investment cost by adopting open source software which comes free of cost.

Modification benefits

With Open Source software, the code is openly available and that enables the users to fine tune the codes to suit their needs. It also contributes to the improvement of a software product by making it adaptable to changing conditions, fixing of bugs, security problems and so on.

Excellent support base free of cost

With open source software you are not tied to a single company or do not need to fall back upon it for fixing all your application related problems. This dependence proves to be very expensive. But with open source software, you get the support of the entire support community on which these applications grow and thrive.

Forking leading to a new product

The open source software keep open the possibility of forking when the existing code base does not work thus leading to the creation of a new software altogether.

The entire online community is indebted to the various open source software for what they have contributed to transform internet into a vast collaborative community that it is today. With an array of open source software, you may conclude that the days of commercial software are numbered. But it requires time for their installation, implementation and trouble shooting. If you lack the time then you have two options—go for the expensive commercial software or hire an efficient and renowned web host who will tackle these problems for you. The second option is definitely better.

About The Author:
Fat Jack Hosting is the Internet Marketer’s Dream when it comes to hosting. Not only do we have great ongoing 24/7 support, but we understand the small business owner, entrepreneur and internet marketer because we are owned and operated by an extremely successful one. That’s why you get great customer service, tips, strategies and support. Go here right now to get your hosting account—>>

How to Select the Best Open Source Shopping Cart Software

By Ricky Bracken

Open source software has taken the marketplace by storm. Small business owners and multinational companies alike are using open source software to run their daily business operations. Today, open source software can meet the needs of various industries and market segments including those requiring an application server, web server, productivity suite, CRM tool, project management, integrated development environment (IDE), point-of-sale software, enterprise resource planning (ERP) software and ecommerce shopping cart software just to name a few.

Community developed software provides a low cost alternative to traditional proprietary software. Merchants have the ability to customize community based products to meet their specific business requirement. When trying to select a shopping cart system, to run your online store, business owners must evaluate and assign value to the technical and operational specifications before deploying to production. Since one size does not fit all; merchants must choose the best product based on their unique requirements.

So how do you choose the best open source shopping cart software? First we’ll start by listing the major players in the small business market. In order to make my list the open source shopping cart must meet the 10 minimum requirements listed below.

Required Features:

1. Centrally controlled source code
2. An active developer community
3. Mature third party extensions (including PCI Compliant payment gateway extensions)
4. Support Linux and Microsoft Windows hosting environments
5. Software download must include all features listed on website (e.g. not crippleware or demoware)
6. Well written installation guide and user guide. Documentation may be available as a PDF document or as an HTML file.
7. Installs on a standard SSL certificate
8. Provides a custom notification email to the merchant and customer
9. Provides timely bug fixes and safe upgrade path
10. Installs in a dedicated and shared hosting environment

Now that we have our minimum requirements list we can begin to look at the top free shopping cart programs. In my opinion, the top free shopping carts for the small business market are:

• Magento Commerce
• VirtueMart
• osCommerce
• ZenCart
• CubeCart
• UberCart
• AbleCommerce

All of the free shopping carts listed above can be downloaded, installed and configured at no cost to the merchant. However, since most community based product installations come with a standard (non commercial quality) user interface most merchants will want to upgrade the GUI (graphical user interface). In order to upgrade the GUI and improve the end user experience merchants can choose to hire a web developer or simply purchase a custom template from sites like templatemonster. Template Monster (and others) provides thousands of affordable custom templates so merchants can easily deploy great looking online stores.

In order to ensure you’re selecting the best shopping cart for your business merchants should consider the following:

Capacity – The merchant must know and understand the product capacity limitation. For example, if you have a product catalog of 1000 products but the shopping cart has a 900 product limitation then that solution is not for you. Note: All of the open source products listed above have an unlimited product catalog.

Performance – If your ecommerce web store is slow customers will simply shop someplace else. Therefore, you must check performance with high user loads and with increased data loads. Both scenarios can bring a web store to its knees.

Community Support – Verify a strong development community exist. Review the online forums to see if the product has an active community of developers. Look for online questions then see how long it took for the user to get a response.

Technical Support – Ensure technical support is available via an active developer community or as a fee paid contract. There is nothing worse than having a production issue and waiting 5 days or more to get an answer.

Payment Gateway Support – In order to accept and process credit card payments the open source shopping cart must provide third party payment gateway extensions. The leading payment gateway services provide secure payment modules for many open source shopping cart programs.

Search Engine Friendly URL – Once you deploy your ecommerce web store you must submit your web store to the top search engines. In order to be indexed by the search engines your online store must have search engine friendly URLs.

Ricky Bracken is President & CEO of SaleManager Merchant Services. SaleManager Merchant Services provides enterprise class payment solutions to small and mid-size businesses. Our payment solutions include PlanetAuthorize Payment Gateway, Certified Shopping Carts, CRM Payment Modules, POS Terminals, Mobile payment solutions and Merchant Accounts.

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