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Even internet computers want to be free: Using Linux and open source software on library public desktops
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Even internet computers want to be free: Using Linux and open source software on library public desktops

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Use of open source software (OSS) is common in the server rooms of many libraries. Many have even taken the step of switching their public workstations to the open source web browser Firefox. However, …

Use of open source software (OSS) is common in the server rooms of many libraries. Many have even taken the step of switching their public workstations to the open source web browser Firefox. However, making the jump to an open source operating system for public computers has not caught on quite as well. In this presentation, we will detail how several libraries in Coos County, Oregon, have switched their public internet terminals predominantly to open source software, specifically Ubuntu Linux, Firefox, and OpenOffice. We show how Coos County libraries are able to provide the excellent range of services - and indeed improved over the services - available on Windows- or Mac-based public computers. We detail the software we use, the costs and benefits of the change, and how the switch has been received by the public and library staff. The presentation includes screenshots of what patrons experience when they sit down at a computer. It also provides tips for supporting the wide variety of media, file types, and devices that patrons may bring to the library.

This presentation was delivered on February 5, 2010, at the Online Northwest conference (http://www.ous.edu/onlinenw/).

Published in: Technology, News & Politics

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  • Hi Gareth! Funny you should mention that, because one of our libraries is actually beta-testing a free and open-source computer management software called Libki (http://libki.org/). The current version only has time management, but the next release (which is being actively developed right now) will include reservation functionality and print management.
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  • Cool, is there any public computer network management software though for Linux?
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  • 1. This presentation is licensed under a Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution United States license. For more information, visit http://www.creativecommons.org Even internet computers want to be free Using Linux and open source software on library public workstations Matthew “Buzzy” Nielsen Assistant Director, North Bend Public Library Sean Park Network Administrator, Coos County Library Service District 02/05/2010
  • 2. What patrons usually see Microsoft Windows Operating system Microsoft Internet Explorer Web browsing Microsoft Word Word processor Microsoft Excel Spreadsheets Microsoft PowerPoint Presentations
  • 3. Even in some Coos County libraries Although there's some rebellion.
  • 4. Dependencies Microsoft Windows Operating system Microsoft Internet Explorer Web browsing Microsoft Word Word processor Microsoft Excel Spreadsheets Microsoft PowerPoint Presentations
  • 5. What Coos County patrons see Ubuntu Linux Operating system Mozilla Firefox Web browsing OpenOffice Writer Word processor OpenOffice Impress Presentations Openoffice Calc Spreadsheets
  • 6. What Coos County patrons see
  • 7. An interlude: About CCLSD
  • 8. An interlude: About CCLSD
  • 9. 8 communities Lakeside North Bend Coos Bay Coquille Bandon Myrtle Point Powers Dora
  • 10. Different strategies
  • 11. Why'd we switch? Reason #1 Cost (In no particular order)
  • 12. The Windows tax (Don't get smug, Apple fans – There's a Mac tax, too.) Even buying through OETC will set you back $100 per license.
  • 13. The power of free (With apologies to Chris Anderson.)
  • 14. Why'd we switch? Reason #2 Security & continuity
  • 15. Sad but true
  • 16. Need more stuff on security User's settings are easier to maintain. Settings are easier to change. No 3 rd party anti-virus is required. Fewer administrative privileges given to users by default. Security updates are made and pushed out quickly.
  • 17. And because we love xkcd so much
  • 18. Why'd we switch? Reason #3 Efficiency
  • 19. Breathe life into old hardware The specs: Processor: 800 Mhz Pentium III RAM: 512 MB HDD: 20 GB Circa: 2000 At their death, they ran Ubuntu 9.04
  • 20. Or make new hardware wickedly fast The specs: Processor: 2.6 Ghz quad core AMD Phenom RAM: 8 GB HDD: 80 GB Circa: 2009
  • 21. Why'd we switch? Reason #4 Philosophy
  • 22. Free software is a matter of liberty, not price. To understand the concept, you should think of 'free' as in 'free speech,' not as in 'free beer.' “ ”
  • 23. You want the information in your library to be open & accessible. Why shouldn't your software be as well?
  • 24. Why'd we switch? Reason #5 Features
  • 25. So what can they do?
  • 26. Everything IE can do . . .
  • 27. So what can they do?
  • 28. Hey, I can see my house!
  • 29. And my library
  • 30. So what can they do?
  • 31. Give us your cameras, your SD cards
  • 32. Manage your photos with F-Spot
  • 33. Or just browse them
  • 34. So what can they do?
  • 35. Like Photoshop, but better!
  • 36. So what can they do?
  • 37. Like Clippy, except it's useful
  • 38. Drag, drop, write
  • 39. Or make music or video discs
  • 40. So what can they do?
  • 41. If you can use Word . . .
  • 42. Writer
  • 43. Calc
  • 44. Impress
  • 45. We can even do multimedia
  • 46. Of the removeable kind, too
  • 47. Browse files easily
  • 48. And a few more things
  • 49. The staff's favorite part? Automatic shutdown!
  • 50. But it wasn't all simple and rosy.
  • 51. Obstacles we faced Obstacle #1 Printing
  • 52. Simple on the patron end . . .
  • 53. . . . but hardware can get in the way Say hello to the hellspawn printer. Main issue: Print jobs taking extremely long to print, sometimes get dropped.
  • 54. Obstacles we faced Obstacle #2 PDFs
  • 55. An unfortunate necessity Main issue: Completing, saving and printing fillable forms. Adobe Acrobat
  • 56. But no longer
  • 57. Obstacles we faced Obstacle #3 Flash plugin
  • 58. The bane of our existence Main issue: Some Flash animations/applications unplayable. Okay, admittedly this is a screenshot from Chromium, not Firefox. Adobe Flash
  • 59. But we can handle most things
  • 60. But we can handle most things
  • 61. Obstacles we faced Obstacle #4 Compatibility
  • 62. Formatting Compatibility fix: Defaulting to save in Microsoft formats.
  • 63. Formatting Compatibility fix: Install commonly-used licensed fonts.
  • 64. Firefox can play pretend Compatibility fix: Installing User Agent Switcher plugin in Firefox.
  • 65. A glass of Wine a day
  • 66. A bit of freedom hating: IE6 Compatibility fix: Installing some Windows applications through Wine.
  • 67. More freedom hating: MS Word Compatibility fix: Installing some Windows applications through Wine.
  • 68. We eat our own dog food Email Content management Online calendar Internet filtering Instant messaging Network monitoring WebCalendar Nagios Pidgin DansGuardian qmail WordPress
  • 69. Our recommendations Recommendation #1: Make sure that you have an open-minded staff. Recommendation #2: Try (or at least research) before you buy. Recommendation #3: Help your patrons by making things look familiar. Recommendation #4: Accept that trial & error is a given. Recommendation #5: Don't upgrade your particular flavor of Linux right away. If it ain't broke...
  • 70. Thanks! This presentation was made using open source software. Ubuntu Linux Operating system OpenOffice Impress Presentation program Mozilla Firefox Web browser GIMP Image editor Shutter Screenshot utility
  • 71. Questions?
  • 72. For further information Information on live DVD: http://info.cclsd.org/linux View this presentation on slideshare: http://www.slideshare.net/nbpl/linux-desktops Or email us: Buzzy Nielsen, [email_address] Sean Park, spark@cclsd.org