Lessons from teaching DSpace

Yesterday I spent the day with a colleague delivering a training day aimed at new or potential DSpace administrators as part of my role working with the Repositories Support Project (known as the RSP).

We had a fun, interesting and busy day talking about DSpace, but a few hiccups along the way.

With each event we run, we learn new things about planning and delivering events. Whilst we’ve never had a bad event, there have been issues from time to time. With this event, the main issue was the hardware provided to us in the training suite at New Horizons in Birmingham. The staff were great, and the facilities good, the food was excellent, but the PCs were, ummm, a little on the old side! We were teaching DSpace, which is a piece of server software, so requires quite a bit of ‘infrastructure’ in terms of software requisities. Each trainee had their own PC with a copy of DSpace installed so that they had their own copy to mess about with, configure, and populate. To make this a little easier, we used the Ubuntu Linux distribution.

So when we combined Ubuntu (not a lightweight distro) with Postgres, Java, Tomcat, and Cocoon, lets just say that the poor 7 year old Pentium 866’s with 256 MB of RAM couldn’t quite cope. In fact, they couldn’t cope at all! Our other problem was that we’d configured the machines to launch Firefox as soon as they booted, so that the users were presented with DSpace straight away. Firefox had two tabs opened automatically upon startup, one for the JSP interface, and one for Manakin the XML interface. This meant that Tomcat then had to startup these web applications, at which point the whole machine came unusable and started swapping like crazy.

Our solution was to run round each machine and delete the more resource intensive Manakin user interface, and teach the course using the JSP interface instead. Even then, the machines were slow, so we had a lot of the trainees using one of our test servers back in the office instead.

So what is the lesson to be learnt from this?

Make sure you agree (in writing) the spec of the machines that you’ll be provided with at a training suite.

It sounds obvious, and we were probably just naive to assume that a PC training company would have machines that weren’t quite so old. But we live and learn, and have now negotiated a better room for our next course. Now to get the agreement in writing….реклама недвижимости

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