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Educational Software Thread, Open Source Schools: Getting technical staff on board in Technical; Right, we need to focus a bit here. I didn't orignally even think about anything to do with Linux-based clients ...
  1. #31

    dhicks's Avatar
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    Right, we need to focus a bit here. I didn't orignally even think about anything to do with Linux-based clients or workstations, my intention was to concentrate on getting open source software working in schools on Windows machines. For a Linux distribution customised for schools I'd have thought Edubuntu would cover most needs, and as others have pointed out the Karoshi project is there to deal with the server side of things. Both projects could doubtless do with some help, maybe page design and documentation writing in the case of Karoshi.

    I don't think SoftGrid is quite suitible for all systems - it seems to need a connection to a server to run an application. That wouldn't work so well for teacher laptops at home. I don't quite get what it offers that a Terminal Services or VNC connection couldn't.

    Installation: I can think of two styles of system. The Google Updater / WinLibre / apt-get-for-Windows model, where a bit of client software sits on each Windows machine and ensures it is up-to-date with a given library of software, complete with local caching of updates, maybe multicast support. The other is a library of well-constructed MSI files, probably produced by getting a server to do a nightly checkout of each product from CVS and build an MSI from each.

    Actually, the more I read over the above, the more I figure that probably both combined is going to be the best idea - a bunch of MSI files that can then be installed by a specialised application. Does anyone know:

    - How to construct an MSI file from a build environment / command line?

    - How to write an application to load up before the press-ctrl-alt-delete login screen in Windows, so I can write (effectivly) a replacement for the MSI installer process that Windows uses?

    Training: Anyone who wants to help, or wants a distribution point for their training material, is very welcome at Open Source Schools - in particular, I think we're looking for short video clips on how to do things on the computer, i.e. screencasts with narration.

    --
    David Hicks

  2. #32

    SimpleSi's Avatar
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    I use WPKG (in a simple way of course) as my automatic deployment tool as it doesn't rely on having an MS server - any OS that can share a folder to MS clients will work - I've use(d) Win98 and Linux servers and now I use w2k3 ones

    If an MSI exists - it is quite happy to use it to install a piece of software

    (I don't normally do that cause I can't spell MSI )

    regards

    Simon

  3. 3 Thanks to SimpleSi:

    dalsoth (18th February 2009), dhicks (18th February 2009), nephilim (18th February 2009)

  4. #33

    dhicks's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SimpleSi View Post
    I use WPKG
    Hey, looks like all my problems are solved :-) Thanks for the link!

    --
    David Hicks

  5. #34


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    Quote Originally Posted by dhicks View Post
    Right, we need to focus a bit here. I didn't orignally even think about anything to do with Linux-based clients or workstations, my intention was to concentrate on getting open source software working in schools on Windows machines.
    Just to sidetrack further, surely a better goal would be to encourage educational software providers to create software that was web-based, using platform neutral technologies such as java-fx ,flash, html5 (eventually) and have them package their applications in SCORM so that the only thing to be deployed is a browser. The educational apps that we can deploy on moodle as a SCORM file are much easier to deploy and update than any MSI or scripted osx/linux installation.

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  7. #35

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    Quote Originally Posted by dhicks View Post

    I don't think SoftGrid is quite suitible for all systems - it seems to need a connection to a server to run an application. That wouldn't work so well for teacher laptops at home. I don't quite get what it offers that a Terminal Services or VNC connection couldn't.
    Key difference from VNC, remote desktop etc is that the code is executed on the local machine, not on the server - this means that it doesn't need any kind of big server infrastructure.

    It does need an initial connection to the server but it then caches the programs locally. There is an option to require a server connection when it's running (eg for license checking; not relevant for open source!) but it can run completely disconnected.

    Softgrid is now replaced by Microsoft Application Virtualisation - the new name perhaps gives a better idea of what it's about. Key thing is that you're effectively running the apps so that they're isolated from other stuff. This makes it much easier to get things working - no worries about DLLs which might conflict etc. Upgrading also becomes very easy - you upload the upgrade to the server and as soon as a client connects they get the new version.

    Another benefit is speed of install - Office 2007 takes under a minute to run the first time it's used - much faster than any other kind of deployment!

  8. #36

    dhicks's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by srochford View Post
    Key difference from VNC, remote desktop etc is that the code is executed on the local machine, not on the server - this means that it doesn't need any kind of big server infrastructure.
    Ah, so it's basically dishing out a virtual machine of some sort to each client machine. Okay, makes sense. How much does this cost by way of licensing per machine? Do client machines need to have modern processors with hwardware support for virtualisation?

    --
    David Hicks

  9. #37

    dhicks's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CyberNerd View Post
    Just to sidetrack further, surely a better goal would be to encourage educational software providers to create software that was web-based, using platform neutral technologies such as java-fx ,flash, html5 (eventually) and have them package their applications in SCORM so that the only thing to be deployed is a browser.
    Oh, absolutely - it'd make this whole mess with managing networks and whatnot just go away. All you would need would be a web browser and your favourite plugins, nothing else. Just got to convince the world's software developers...

    --
    David Hicks

  10. #38

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    my intention was to concentrate on getting open source software working in schools on Windows machines
    The most common problems I've seen (open source or otherwise):

    a) Needs **silent** [un]installation. MSI or EXE doesn't matter (you can wrap EXEs in an MSI for Windows native deployment).

    b) If an app must have it's own file open/save dialog that needs to honour relevant GPO policy e.g. not display hidden from Explorer drives and so on and so forth. Yes that's obsfucation, but it helps.

    c) App data needs to be saved where those now ancient Windows logo programming guidelines say it should be saved, especially if it's per user data.

    How to construct an MSI file from a build environment / command line?
    WIX

    WPKG (in a simple way of course)
    Less is more and it works for me like that.

    [I wanted/needed a modified WPKG, the code is a bit Heath Robinson and there are a few too many features for my liking. I really like the "Is it installed?" thing, but that's been hijacked to also cover "Can I install here?" which can end up a bit opaque. I don't like the multiple XML "cmd"s and the attempts to get local envvars working in them etc.. better to just have one "cmd" in the package XML that calls a real batch file]

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  12. #39
    somabc's Avatar
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    How about a packaging database/wiki on edugeek

    Everytime one of us figures an unattended install or msi they post details?

  13. #40

    russdev's Avatar
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    Sound good idea...

    Also check out AppDeploy.com - The Application Deployment Information Center meet the owners of App Deploy (KACE) at BETT other month.

    Russ

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    Quote Originally Posted by somabc View Post
    How about a packaging database/wiki on edugeek

    Everytime one of us figures an unattended install or msi they post details?
    I'd say just update appdeploy - help the world, not just edugeek plus all the stuff is there already and there's a wealth of knowledge too.




    +1 for GPO's to be included with software if it warrants one, ie: for lockdowns, default settings (it's great to change that when you deploy, but what if you want to change down-the-line?) etc

    Not that I'm 'down' with RM, do you need another MSI completely for RM CC networks? or will a properly constructed native MSI suffice?

  15. #42

    dhicks's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DrPerceptron View Post
    I'd say just update appdeploy
    I agree, that and WPKG - actually, the WPKG website strikes me as being rather more coherently structured and matches better with my ideas on how to distribute software to workstations.

    Not that I'm 'down' with RM, do you need another MSI completely for RM CC networks? or will a properly constructed native MSI suffice?
    Ah, this is something I don't know, and it'd be good if someone out there who does know could tell me. Obviously we all run our own networks in our own way, and it'd be good to hear what software distribution methods would work best for various different people. For our network, WPKG looks perfect (it basically does exactly the same thing as my own install script, but in a rather neater and more polished fashion). I'm guessing that some systems wouldn't want to use something like WPKG, they'd want a set of MSI files. Are there actually any networks like that out there - does anyone know of any (probably ones run by managed services or the dimmer sorts of County ICT services)? Does anyone run a system where some other install method is needed?

    --
    David Hicks

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    Quote Originally Posted by dhicks View Post
    Ah, so it's basically dishing out a virtual machine of some sort to each client machine. Okay, makes sense. How much does this cost by way of licensing per machine? Do client machines need to have modern processors with hwardware support for virtualisation?

    --
    David Hicks
    Don't know pricing now (it's a new product since I bought it and MS pricing and licensing is so wacky that there's no point in me guessing - it's worth asking your MS dealer for a price because it wasn't expensive.)

    You don't need virtualisation support - if the processor would run the package "native" it will run in in Softgrid.

    It's worth trying it - I'm sure you can download an eval.

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  18. #44

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    I forgot..

    d) Have GPO support or a master config file that overrides any user config. Specifically I do NOT want to have to stuff or modify a config file in everyone's profile etc.


    the WPKG website strikes me as being rather more coherently structured
    Yes. I've only looked at the WPKG pages for some of my "favourite" apps so far, but thought the same.

    RM CC networks
    Can use the same silent MSIs and EXE installers. For the occasional difficult app you can make a CC package run a batch file. The CC specific bit is that they need to be put into a standard folder structure together with an INI file (CC3/CC4) or an XML file (CC4).

    People who manage CC networks *should* know how to do all that, but although more folk have caught on now the batch file thing isn't something RM teach on their courses. The folk in some smaller orgs might not even be up to putting an MSI in the above-mentioned folder structure.

    RM now make "Blueprints" which painstakingly leads the web2 generation through packaging some apps for CC, and that includes a couple of open source apps. [The process typically gets a user to install the app then uses WIX to make the MSI and CC3 package structure behind the scenes]

    I'm guessing that some systems wouldn't want to use something like WPKG, they'd want a set of MSI files.
    That's every other vanilla Windows system at least. Yes you can wrap EXEs but it's much easier when you don't have to.

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  20. #45
    Hacksawbob's Avatar
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    Um just want to say wow, what a project. If it really worked it would truly shake the foundations of the money sucking leeches we have had had to support for years. Just in time for BSF where "we" will have no say in what systems are run, because I can assure you that the business models of the rm's and redstones do not revolve around local decisions over what client software is run. However just my 2d's worth if the apps do not run locally, taking the web apps model then all this becomes possible. locally all you need is a web interface that runs the apps remotely, no deployment issues beyond basic os and browser. Apps are deployed to your local server and run from there, its the future IMHO.

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