Asia Pacific College is one of the best examples of Linux education in the Philippines and a favorite venue for Linux- and tech-related events. I e-mailed a few questions to Chris Haravata, who started the Open Source Lab.
1. Why did you start the Open Source Laboratory, and how would you describe your progress so far?
When I was still the system/network administrator of APC 2 years ago, I'd already wanted to put up something that would let me work (read as research) on Linux alone. After I took a month-long leave back in July 2001, I embarked on setting up the Open Source Research and Development Group (OSRDG) as it was formerly known. Finally, on January of 2002, I was given a couple of workstations, a couple of servers, and some pats on the back for thinking about this. The only consideration was that I rename it to something else, as the management abhorred anything named Research and Development. So, the Open Source Laboratories was born, with the main objective being R&D, but seconded by teaching these researched materials to students... much like a transferance of knowledge.
The progress? I would say it has been a great 2 years for the OSL. One of the good things that came out of the OSL is the addition in the Curriculum of a 4-term course named OSS, a full-Linux study, of and about Linux (device driver development, GUI programming, creating your own Linux via LinuxFromScratch, etc). Students at APC now have confidence in using Linux in their everyday lives. Whereas before...
2. What was the biggest problem you faced setting up the Open Source Lab and how did you deal with it?
Logistics! Just like in any new venture, this would be the biggest problem to hurdle. But with the use of about 26 Pentium 100s, a couple of 16-port unknown switches, and one roll of UTP cables, I've managed to set up the laboratory, with the use of [Linux Terminal Server Project]. My initial installation of LTSP two years ago is still the same installation up until now, with just a few additions and alterations.
3. How did you get students interested in Linux?
That's easy! We integrated Linux into their studies... parang we force them into it. I've found out over the past couple of years that if you give students choices on what to use, they will readily turn to the Dark Side, since that would be the easiest way out. But if they find out that they HAVE to learn it or fail the subject, then you will be surprised at the outcome. Students, later on, come to me and say "Sir, thank you nga pala. Kung hindi dahil sa course nyo, hindi ako matatanggap sa trabaho ko ngayon." The feeling of hearing those words will really make wonders to your heart.
4. What are some of the coolest projects that have come out of the Open Source Lab?
I can't say they're the coolest ever, but since they came out of the OSL without any help from outside forces, I'd say [one project] would be the Student Login/Logout Facility using a Smart Card and a Reader, being used in tandem with Linux. I've seen so many products using the card and the reader, but none of them ran entirely on Linux. It is now being used. Parents and guardians can simply call the OSL and find out if their child is in school or not. Cool, no?
There are others, like the IPv6 research we have been doing. Now, THAT is making a headway! We can now do several servers all running on IPv6. Though still not pure, as they still need to piggyback over IPv4, but at least, we are the only school in the country (that I've heard of) doing such a thing.
5. What are you planning to do next?
[...] I believe that that office can do wonders, with the right person at the helm (ehem, ehem.. hahaha) and with the backing of the management. There is a limitless potential to Linux. As I always tell my students, biases aside, Linux will be the computing platform of tomorrow, if not today!
E-Mail to Chris G. Haravata