Kiwi school stands up to government and Microsoft

A New Zealand High School has told the Government and Microsoft to go forth and multiply and saved a bomb by running only open saucy software on its machines.

Microsoft and the Kiwi government recently signed a deal where by all schools would have to use software blessed by Steve Ballmer.

However Albany Senior High School in the northern suburbs of Auckland has been running an entirely open source infrastructure since it opened last year and it has saved an absolute fortune.

Wikimedia CommonsHowever it has caused a few problems for the school as the cosy deal that the government signed with the National Party government after the latter’s win in the general elections means that most planning documents for education presume an Microsoft infrastructure.

The project was run by Patrick Brennan, lead engineer from Open Systems Specialists and and was turned around in a month. It uses Ubuntu on the desktop and Mandriva for four key servers (one firewall, one storage and two KVM hypervisors). Mandriva was selected because of the ease of using Mandriva Directory Server to manage the school’s LDAP directory, but Brennan said either desktop or server OS could easily be replaced.

The network is not restricted solely to Linux desktops. “We wanted students to be able to bring devices in, whatever they were, and connect them to the network and expect them to work and use it as a learning tool,” Brennan said. Hardware ranging from PSPs to Macs has been connected, with a “hostile network” approach used to ensure security. NFSv4 is used to connect users into the system, allowing them to remotely mount into their home directory on the server via Kerberos.

The school uses OpenOffice, Google Docs, Moodle for managing education content, and Mahara for student portfolios. The Koha software used by the school library was also customised to integrate more closely with the LDAP security system and to allow book recommendations.