Open source WINs over television network

Australia's largest regional television network, the Wollongong, NSW-based WIN Television, has gone from no open source software to betting its business on it within five years.

Speaking at this year's Linuxworld conference in Sydney last week, James Purser, WIN Television development and network administrator, said the company's high priorities around the cost of IT led it to adopt more open source solutions.

"Four and a half years ago there was no open source at WIN - it was all Microsoft and some SCO; since then we have introduced a few things," Purser said.

"We now have a Postfix e-mail system on Ubuntu Linux with Amavis and SpamAssassin [and] they have been working quite well."

Cost, however, was not the only driver as reliability, support, features, and standards compliance - particularly with the advent of digital television - are all considered before any software is installed.

Purser also spearheaded a company-wide intranet which was a new concept at WIN and provided a beachhead for further open source use. The intranet comprises "wiki" technology which lets people share knowledge through a Web browser.

"We set up a three-part intranet with forums for information sharing between production departments, a wiki for IT-specific information about server configuration, scripts, and passwords, plus we have a general wiki used to document general information for users, for example, how to set up your e-mail client," Purser said.

"The IT wiki houses support and development standards information and uses the Mediawiki package which is easy to setup, use and lock down to specific users."

The intranet was built with the LAMP - Linux Apache MySQL PHP - Web application framework, and Subversion is used for source code management. Open source software has also played a part in preventing WIN staff from accessing undesirable content from the Internet with the Squid and squidGuard proxy tools.

With the new intranet in place, WIN then converted its public Web site, www.wintv.com.au, from ASP to LAMP, because "there is a lot more you can do with PHP and Perl than ASP".

Open source is not limited to Web applications at WIN but is also being used for generating post-production content.

"We use Blender and the GIMP in the production environment," Purser said. "The graphic designer uses Adobe so on the editing system GIMP has filled in nicely."

Blender, an open source 3D graphics application, is used to create the "billboard", or the short graphical interval between programs.

One area where Purser couldn't "declare success" was with the OpenOffice.org productivity suite.

"We had 20 machines [with OpenOffice.org] and it was slow so we ended up replacing it with Microsoft Office 2000," he said. "We still have an OpenOffice.org installation but no further plans at this stage."

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