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Uncool Solutions: Fighting Dirty
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February: Fighting Dirty
(c) 2003 The Tayler Corporation, All Rights Reserved
Colored by Jean Elmore

Winning Entries

Here are the winning entries that were submitted for February's Fighting Dirty comic strip. If you would like to try your hand at solving a comic strip problem with a Novell products, check out the current contest.

Here's the Question:

The power of the Open Computing movement lies in the fact that contributing code can be -- and IS -- written by anyone, whether or not they work for a big software company. Now that Novell has entered the fray you can expect to see not only Novell employees contributing to Open Source projects, but Novell itself as a company providing official contributions.

For this month's Cool Solutions "Uncool" contest, we want to know what problems you've solved with a mixture of Novell product, home-grown code, and Open Source code. Maybe you hacked together a qmail scanner for Linux to sit in front of GroupWise on a NetWare server. Perhaps you have a home-grown PhP app serving content through a SUSE Linux webserver. Maybe you distributed "Hello World" with Red Carpet to test throughput.

Here are the winners:

1st Place

A Homegrown Printing Solution - David Bussenschutt

Novell + homegrown+opensource? Here's my story:

Before: The printing system for our approx 30,000 students was an abomination. We have dozens of Windows, Mac and Linux student labs across 5 campuses (at a conservative guess, probably 700 PC's total). We have around 60 high-throughput printers. (student like to print a LOT!). There was no manageability, no logging, no interoperability, no control, no feedback. All we had was photocopy card readers hard-wired into each printer, and a queueing system built on old (and reliable) Netware 4 technology (ever heard of Qview?) Yuck!.

Now: Printing a job goes thus:

  1. user logs into Novell Network at startup of PC.
  2. prints from PC to Novell NDPS server.
  3. sent from NDPS server to Linux LPRng server. (open source!)
  4. 5 linux LPRng "print management" servers (one per campus).
  5. Job is archived (a copy stored for 30 days), analysed (pages counted, title, user, date/time etc), and web-published using home-grown perl scripts to link LPRng output to custom interfaces(for 'CelQueue' see below) and web portal.
  6. stats are stored in MySQL database/s, and web server is Apache (open source again x 2 !)
  7. job is made available for later use/reprinting/review through a web portal as a PDF document using ghostscript for conversion from Postscript (opensource).
  8. users can login to web portal using same username and password as Novell login - web perl scripts use LDAP calls to Novell server to authenticate access.
  9. print jobs are also made available to "print-release" PC/s that are located next to each printer (via Samba - OSS again!). Print-release PC's run commercial software that validates user credentials against a Novell LDAP server - the commercial software is called "CelQueue" and uses Novell SDK (software development kit) components to perform secure LDAP queries.
  10. Users insert photocopy card into card reader that is now attached to the serial port of the "print-release" PC, NOT the printer...making it much easier to relocate/replace printers too.
  11. 1 finally.... job prints!.

Results:

We now have permanent record of how many pages each student prints for the duration of their study at our uni, and when. We know peak periods etc. We know per-campus utilization of resources (paper/toner/etc). We know which campuses are more prone to printing (a page-per-minute/week/semester-per-student-per-campus statistic is interesting!). We know when printers need more paper/toner/service (they're on the ethernet now, so select ppl can manage them remotely). We know percentages of submitted jobs to actual printed ones. (we know exactly how much each print job cost a student. We know how much money we are making/loosing! We know the average number of pages printed per job (including at different times of year - students print bigger average jobs later in semester!). We know everything! Oh, and we have a complete digital copy of ALL print jobs for the last 30 days. (it only takes around 300-700GB of space for this)

Did I mention that these printers are 4 or 5 different brands and dozens of different models, including full-color and B/W only printers, and they ALL work with our system.

Who would have guessed it, but we had 500,000 print jobs submitted to the system in the first 6 months of use. (a much smaller percentage of those were actually "printed" though).

2nd Place

A Budget Request Form on SUSE Linux 9.0 - Stewart Harrison

I am a Network Administrator for the Department of Student Activities at the University of Georgia. We have a small IT staff of 2 full time workers, including me, and a graphic artist is our print shop who is also our chief web designer.

Our Business office along with the Student Activity Fee Committee, is in charge of handle budget requests from the top 48, in terms of money allocated, Student Organizations who receive Student Activity Fee Monies. The total amount of monies allocated to those 48 Organizations is around $2.5 million. In the distant past we had to use typewriters to type up the budget requests, and more recently had these organizations submit their requests in Lotus Spreadsheets and WordPerfect documents.

The problem was not everyone had the same versions of those software packages, and some didn't have those software packages at all. A problem arose when a student would create their budget proposal in Microsoft Works, which not even MS Office 2000 Pro can read, and then the student would be gone for Spring Break and would be unreachable. So then we tried using PDF forms, but even that had its problems as some people didn't have up to date versions of Acrobat Reader, and even if they did they could not work on their proposal a little at a time and save their work unless they had the full version of Adobe Acrobat.

So, I setup a SUSE Linux 9.0 Professional machine on an old desktop that we were going to surplus, installed Apache2, PHP, and MySQL. And I created a PHP web application to handle the budget submissions while authenticating users against our campus wide eDirectory server(s). As far as how well it is going, well I'll let you know after it is all said and done.

Total cost to our Department, ~$60 for SUSE Linux 9.0 Professional off of Amazon.com.

3rd Place

A solution so good it's commercial - Cobus Burgers

Download the details here







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