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Bacone College Stays Cutting Edge With OpenOffice.org - page 4

Sound Strategy

  • March 11, 2004
  • By Rob Reilly

Most of the rest of the transition to the new plan went off without too much trouble.

The new machines were phased in over time, starting with the Library, then the Computing lab and finally the Cyber Cafe.

Interestingly, the Bacone team decided to stick with Windows 98 as their operating system platform. A program called 98Micro was used to strip out all un-needed fluff in Windows 98 and make the program as lean as possible. Windows 98 had worked for Bacone, it just needed to be fast and reliable on the old hardware. OpenOffice.org, Mozilla, and other Open Source software were also loaded on the school's machines.

IBM Thinkpads were chosen for the Library and new Dell desktops were purchased for the Computer lab. Bacone was able to work out some pretty healthy discounts with Dell because of their educational institution status.

Although the "trial" students on the library machines didn't really notice much difference between using OpenOffice.org and MS Office, some of the faculty and staff resisted initial use of the Open Source packages.

The difficulty was minimized by burning CDs of OpenOffice.org to be taken home and tried out on personal machines. Most of the doubt turned out to be the belief that moving over to the new applications "couldn't" be that simple or compatible. Several of the people that installed OpenOffice.org at home, later wholeheartedly jumped on the bandwagon and even shared the program with family members.

As the Computer lab PCs were moved into the newly built Cyber Cafe, Morphix Linux on CD was used to provide OpenOffice.org access and Mozilla for web surfing. Running Linux from CDs minimized maintenance and made it easy to stay standard on the Cyber Cafe machines.

Overall, Dr. Duncan said that the work to improve his school's IT program wasn't all that difficult.

We've seen the techniques that were used by Bacone College successfully accomplish a rollout of new hardware and more standardized software. No case study would be complete without a summary of the steps that were take to reach the goal.

The Bacone team:

  • Identified the need to standardize office productivity software across the campus.
  • Inventoried the school's IT resources.
  • Evaluated options for hardware and software
  • Persuaded personnel to trial the new changes in infrastructure.
  • Set up a partnership to obtain the textbooks needed to support the project.
  • Rolled out the implementation in phases.
  • Eventually, flipped the switch and started using the new hardware and software.

Rob Duncan summed it up when he said that it was "Not a complicated implementation."

Bacone has since enjoyed the fruits of its labor with the upgrade of its IT infrastructure.

They were able to transfer documents between machines and across groups without any compatibility issues. They maximized their investment by extending the life of existing hardware, while minimizing the outlay of cash for new equipment. They were able to provide good support via online manuals. And, finally, the school created a Cyber Cafe that was easy to maintain and stable.

No doubt, Bacone College will continue to provide outstanding education value for it's students, for a long time to come.

Rob Reilly is a freelance technology writer, speaker and consultant whose articles appear in LinuxToday.com, Linux Journal Magazine, NewsForge.com and PC Update magazine. He offers professional writing and seminar services on Linux desktop applications, portable computing and presentation technology. He's always interested in covering cool Linux stories. Send him a note or visit his web site at http://home.earthlink.net/~robreilly.

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