IT managers and technical staff

by Elena Blanco on 1 July 2005 , last updated


Experience and awareness of open source software varies widely across managers and technical staff within the UK academic sector. Whilst government policy and advice on institutional policy matters are clearly important, practical matters are paramount. We have gathered here the resources that we believe will be of practical help and interest to those who are involved in the technical deployment and support of IT systems and software.

The best place to gain practical experience with open source software is directly with the software itself. Since open source software is, in most cases, available for direct download, this allows prospective users to try it out easily themselves, without needing to rely on demos given by a supplier.

Let’s set the scene

Whatever your level of experience with open source software, this set of resources aims to introduce the key issues that are relevant to technical staff from sysadmins to programmers, or those that manage them. Even if you are already experienced with some open source software, you may find it useful to re-cap or possibly fill in some blanks.

Choosing and deploying open source

Most organizations’ and individuals’ first engagement with open source software is through ‘consuming’ it. Of course it is well known that simply by using the Internet you are using open source software but here we are thinking about choosing open source software for your desktop or server. This may relate to a single application on a single machine or an organization-wide rollout of operating systems and applications. Naturally, this process of choosing includes procurement and support models.

Quick and easy trial of Linux

If you have never used Linux, you may want to explore it and some common open source applications without going to the effort of installing the software.We suggest that you start off by looking at Ubuntu, a very popular Linux distribution []. Why not visit the Ubuntu website to download Ubuntu onto a CD or USB stick and run it from there?

Contributing to open source

So, you’ve deployed some open source software and now you want to realise even more benefits by actively developing some open source software. When we say developing, we mean contributing effort in a broad range of activities; it’s not just about writing code. Writing documentation, language translating, creating artwork, proving feedback and testing are just some of the ways of contributing to an open source project. If you are developing software in-house then you will need to think about the licence and intellectual property rights. These resources explore aspects of open source software development from the perspective of the contributor or project manager.

Stay in the loop

To keep up to date with what is happening in the open source world as it relates to IT managers and technical staff in the academic sector you may wish to

OSS Watch also provides institution specific consultation workshops for universities and colleges seeking assistance in thinking through their engagement with free and open source software.


This document contains Creative Commons licensed photos by Flickr users ForestForTrees, LeeLeFever and Canada in Afghanistan.