One of the first questions for a software designer is "What will be required for someone to use my software?"
The answer could be anywhere from:
- "It requires a dedicated, proprietary server-box, and expensive, Windows-only software licensed per high-end workstation with Digital Rights Management."
Since we are aiming Markus at high schools and junior colleges, we are assuming there is a computer capable of running Apache or another web server, and a capable web browser such as Firefox.
The choice of hardware requirements should be the minimum needed to accomplish the task. Markus is not particularly resource-hungry, a server or workstation capable of running the software components below should work fine.
Any workstation capable of running a recent version of Firefox or other current browser should be adequate for the client side of Markus.
Software for the Server
We have chosen to support a server with Apache as the web server, with PHP5 as the programming language and MySQL for the database backend. While these could run on a Windows or Mac server, we do not have enough recent experience to support those operating systems, so we would strongly recommend a Linux-based server at this point.
Software for the Client
Markus can be accessed from the server that is running Apache, PHP5, and MySQL, or from a workstation on the school Intranet. Actually, it could be used remotely if the web server is accessible from the Internet, but there are security issues that should be explored before exposing your school’s data on the Internet. If you are going to put your school server on the Internet, you should be familiar with security issues, and we can work with you to be sure Markus meets your security requirements. These issues involve workstations as well as servers.
Almost any current browser has better security than MS Internet Explorer, so if you want to use a Windows workstation, we would recommend installing a browser like Firefox.
One advantage to web-based applications is that you usually do not need to do anything special on the workstations. Installing Firefox is very easy on most versions of Windows and Linux.
The cooperation of the school administration is critical. Usually, most questions relate to costs. Almost all schools, especially in developing nations, are funded poorly, so administrators must be convinced that your open source project will solve an important problem, save them money, or (unfortunately) provide an easy way to pass the cost on to students. There are other issues, but we have found these to be the most important.
Another important question is who will install and support the application, and train the users. This presents a problem if the school’s IT personnel do not have the skills or time to do these tasks.
Markus Screenshots, Setup Menu