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The school I'm working for as an administrator requested a system upgrade. Currently we are using a government-suggested Linux distribution called SuliXerver - it would be great, but most of the admin functions have been disabled, and are controlled by the company managing the distro. As there are major issues with it that are ignored by this company, the school board decided to switch to something else.

As our budget is limited, Windows solutions are out of the question. This leaves us with open-source and free software.

I've been looking into education-oriented distros, but the thing is, none provides (by the things I see) the level of comfort for the end-user as SuliXerver did - mostly the unified web interface, which, while being limited, had all needed features (user management, user network access control, email, etc.).

I'm still undecided though about the best choice. The distros I've checked so far:

  • Debian Edu/Skolelinux - apparently the best choice for us. Supports a grand part of what we need be supported, BUT is limited when it comes to modifying the initial values it is preloaded with - the LDAP schemes, network setup, domain, server name, etc.
  • Karoshi Server - seems limited in my opinion, and still not yet ready for prime time. Also less maintained compared to Skolelinux
  • ClearOS - while not directly meant for schools, a great deal of the system can be salvaged and slightly modified to work with our setup.
  • Zentyal - same as ClearOS but limited functionality in regards of the web interface. Also has better support, and the interface is easier to use.

Is there any other distribution I've missed, that would be a better match for our solution? Due to the limited timeframe I was given to complete the whole transfer (by the end of October I should have a working prototype system, and latest end of December, transition must be done), I do not feel up to the task to write our own solution.

Requirements:

  • Unified web interface that is easy to use for students, teachers, and admins. Teachers should be able to control the rooms' internet access via proxy settings, modify students' passwords, but not core system settings. Students can change their own password.
  • E-mail system - web interface is given (RoundCube or RainLoop), back-end is not yet decided (would like to have Exchange ActiveSync)
  • OpenLDAP + Samba for Windows domain login and Documents storage (to store user settings, bookmarks, files). Also automatic assignment of network drives.
  • Web server - either Apache or NGINX, running with PHP and MySQL.
  • Print server for the offices
  • DNS server for local computer name resolution
  • Good question, but I'm very much afraid there isn't a silver bullet in that sector. This is one of the edges where the whole distro scene starts to fall apart. And sadly most of the institutions that put together their own solutions don't end up generalizing them to be put back in the OSS space. – Caleb Oct 4 '14 at 12:06
  • Not really an answer but if you go to distrowatch.com/search.php and restrict the OS type to "Linux" and the Category to "Education", you get a nice list of distributions, one of which might be what you're after. – terdon Oct 4 '14 at 12:59
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    Hmmmm. I hate to sound like I am bragging, but I know how to set those requirements up on any dist.. to answer correct I estimate I would be in a lab environment for 2.5 days. I hope I have time to do this long answer. – Tyler Maginnis Oct 6 '14 at 16:20
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    Maybe it's worth to evaluate something like FreeBSD or more specific FreeNAS which has much functions included an accessible through a nice web interface – Sir l33tname Oct 8 '14 at 6:19
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    I'm talking about versing it with management interfaces. One of my projects is a KVM virtual-machine that runs Samba+management interfaces. – Tyler Maginnis Oct 9 '14 at 13:45
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+25

https://www.edubuntu.org/ seems to be popular amongst schools....

here is a list of where it is run:

==> https://wiki.edubuntu.org/Education/UbuntuSchools

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I personally like Debian very much, but if you are happy with SuliXerver why don't you adapt it to your needs?

If there are admin functions you don't have download them and use those. If it is just a permission problem, change root password with a live CD/USB and you're ready to go.

  • I would prefer a Debian based system too. Thing is, SuliXerver is licensed to us, and the company makes changes that we don't like, but must take. Also our access to modify the system is utterly limited - we can't even install packages or manage permissions locally! – fonix232 Oct 9 '14 at 13:40
  • OK so we discard SuliXerver. What exactly are the Debian limitations? are you sure they are actual limitations? I can't see what limitations regarding "network setup, domain, server name" are you facing but if you post them here maybe someone has a solution for them. – YoMismo Oct 10 '14 at 7:44
  • DebianEdu/SkoleLinux for starters works on its own domain and IP segment, which is hard to change (I do not want to go hunting for all the scattered segments of info left here and there). Then there's the language barrier, and also the web UI is quite limited in terms of ease-of-use management for teachers. If I had the time, I'd make the web UI myself, but I do not have it, and thus, can't get on it. – fonix232 Oct 10 '14 at 13:26
  • About its own domain and IP segment... If it is Debian changing IP and therefore segment should be as simple as editing /etc/network/interfaces createng a "iface eth0 inet static" entry and adding ip, network, netmask, etc... To modify the domain you have the steps in the next link serverfault.com/questions/490825/…. Regarding the UI if you find one that suits your needs you can allways download and install that one in your Debian distro. The thing is that it is going to be difficult to find a distro that suits your needs completly, but you can ... – YoMismo Oct 13 '14 at 6:50
  • gather the tools that suit your needs from here and there and adapt the distro. Regarding the language barrier, I thing Debian comes with plenty of languages support, what is the language you don't find? – YoMismo Oct 13 '14 at 6:51
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The myskool server is the best solution i have ever encountered..

http://cyberorg.co.in/myscool/

check this out this has been impemented in India and Indonesia also

  • No offense, but that distro seems to be more limited than our current setup. I repeat, I don't want fancy desktop apps - just a server, that can host the domain (user login, file access), with a web interface where teachers can control student access. – fonix232 Oct 9 '14 at 13:45
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As you are not looking for desktop applications but are more concerned with the administration side - I guess what you are really looking for is an easy management interface?

No matter what distribution you choose, they will all use the standard tools to provide the sundry features you expect.

Are you specifically looking for Linux? The OSX Server does everything that you need, has strong BSD underpinnings, plus I challenge you to find a better out-of-the-box UI experience.

It does not have a per-user license; your only cost would be the physical hardware. It it is only licensed for use on apple hardware; so you are restricted to what you can afford there. My recommendation would be to go with a couple of mac mini "server edition", that come with two hard drives and OSX Server pre-installed.

I will not pretend that there aren't ways to run it on commodity hardware but that it is a silly risk to take.

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A french solution, out of the box is "SambaEdu", with a unifies web-interface.

http://wwdeb.crdp.ac-caen.fr/mediase3/

Francois

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