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Proposal for a mail system bundle for schools.

Last post 03-16-2009, 15:42 by arnaudherve. 12 replies.
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  •  02-17-2009, 15:41

    Proposal for a mail system bundle for schools.

    This is more a proposal for funding than a technical proposal. It is published here only because the webmaster has refused to create a forum category about funding issues. This proposal has been published before, offers serious perspectives for funding, but the first time it was not taken seriously by the Beta-Testers team. I am not sure it has been transmitted to David Harris.

     

    I propose to assemble Mercury and Pmail in a commercial bundle for secondary schools, for the teachers who are in charge of teaching their students basic computer skills.

     

    To my knowledge, most developed countries have some sort of education programm, to ensure that the whole of a generation acquires basic computer skills, that nobody is left behind, becoming a "computer illiterate". Then most teachers in charge of that desire a mail system that is really very very very easy to use, and very very very secure.

     

    And most secondary schools can pay 20 $ if the mail system is really convenient.

     

    Now if somebody is interested, I can develop more technical details.

  •  02-20-2009, 20:47

    Re: Proposal for a mail system bundle for schools.

    So? No answer? Not an opinion?

     

    It's not necessary to get money? It's not interesting to sell to secondary education?

  •  02-21-2009, 0:42

    • irelam is online. Last active: 04-03-2020, 22:24 irelam
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    Re: Proposal for a mail system bundle for schools.

    I have passed this on for comment

    Marttin

  •  02-21-2009, 3:43

    • David Harris is not online. Last active: 04-03-2020, 19:26 David Harris
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    Re: Proposal for a mail system bundle for schools.

    Martin passed this thread on to me.

    What exactly did you have in mind here? I'm willing to listen to any viable proposal, but bear in mind that I have very limited resources, and that proposals that either have an up-front capital cost or which require handling at the "back end" (for instance, order processing, guarantees of technical support and so forth) are potentially difficult for that reason.

    -- David --

  •  02-21-2009, 10:14

    Sv: Re: Proposal for a mail system bundle for schools.

    arnaudherve:
    So? No answer? Not an opinion?

    I've been very busy taking care of demands that make my living, therefore my presence here has had to lessen for a little while, and I can't keep up with all the threads. Sorry, it will most likely change for the better this spring again.

    arnaudherve:
    It's not necessary to get money? It's not interesting to sell to secondary education?

    Most public educational organizations are governed by purchase rules. Pegasus Mail is free, but Mercury can be licensed. Organizations like these demand invoices, and cannot pay for donationware. So in my belief, at least regarding Europe, "selling" as you say, is not possible to these type of clients with the current business model.


    Kind regards / Peter
  •  02-22-2009, 2:12

    Re: Proposal for a mail system bundle for schools.

    Hi, the idea is to sell the client and the server in a bundle, not for real life use, but customized for computer literacy exercises in schools. Here are a few of the particular needs:

     

    SECURITY

     

    When you are a teacher in a secondary school, you don't just transmit your knowledge like at the university, you are also the officer of law and order in your class. When you see teenagers approaching a computer, you must assume that a proportion of them will do anything stupid, including using hacking tools they downloaded at home. There are even forums for teenagers, where they explain to each others how to hack the system, for example to access the marks software or to see the teachers' personal files. And you might actually lose your carreer because a kid has successfully downloaded a pornographic image to his account storage.

     

    Therefore, ideally, the student must enter the computers room without any hope of doing something nasty. Everything must be locked up. It may sound paranoid if you don't have the experience, but I can assure you a secured system would be a huge relief for teachers, and therefore would offer a considerable comparative advantage to more open systems. In our case, it would be necessary that mail can never reach the Internet, but only access the teacher's server. It is also necessary that the student cannot modify the account of course.

     

    EASE OF USE

     

    Teachers sometimes have very low computer abilities themselves, or if they have they don't have time to look for solutions. It must work on the first time, or not work at all. No geeks discussions on geeks forums here.

     

    For instance, the install could be common to Mercury and Pmail, the teacher would chose the option "Teacher" for his own computer, thus installing server and client, and would chose the option "Student" for the other computers of the classroom, installing only the client.

     

    Also, once the server is installed on the teacher's computer, then the clients could automatically find the server on the network, instead of the teacher having to know and write the server's IP in the accounts. Ideally, the teacher should just have to chose the account's name, like "computer-1".

     

    INDEPENDENCE

     

    For many teachers, it is a technocratic hassle to access the school's server and install the mail system there. And also, secretaries or the director or the nurses in other parts of the building have nothing to do with his mail exercises. Therefore, the mail system should be installable by the teacher in his own classroom, independently of whatever server or system administration exists at a superior level.

     

    Also, the accounts on the clients must remain independent from the students' accounts at the school's level. The student must write to "computer-1" and not to Joey or Stevie. One account must be usable by any student from any other group who sits in front of that computer. Therefore the account's folder must be installed away from Documents and Settings folders created by the network logon. On the contrary, it would be great if the account's local folder automatically acquired total rights for any user, so the teacher doesn't have to set that himself.

     

    I hope I have not been too long, and you got the general idea. I am available to write as much as you wish on this concept. I suggest we advertise the bundle as "Iris", since you already have Latin gods' names for Mercury and Pegasus.

  •  02-23-2009, 15:46

    Re: Proposal for a mail system bundle for schools.

    David Harris:
    ... (for instance, order processing, guarantees of technical support and so forth) are potentially difficult for that reason.

     

    About technical support, it depends how much you dumb down the system. And dumbing down is precisely what is requested by the clients.

     

    For instance, if teachers have to insert the server IP into the accounts by themselves, I expect very few will be able to find that IP, and you will have to provide a lot and very boring support. If the accounts can detect the server by themselves, you don't have to provide support, and you please the client.

     

    Same thing for the Mail folder being allowed in reading and writing to any user on the computer. If teachers have to change those rights by themselves, I expect, an endless series of questions. If the folder is automatically opened to any user, you don't have to provide support, and you please the client.

     

    In short, just as I said you have to lock the system so no teenager can even think of hacking it, you have to lock the system so no teacher can possibly make a mistake.

     

    Now as far as your accountancy is concerned, I am not an expert, but I would venture to say you can automate a lot of it. I suppose Paypal already offers some solutions for that. There are also ebuying cms, and solutions provided by some banks.

  •  02-24-2009, 1:42

    Re: Proposal for a mail system bundle for schools.

    Arnaud et al.

    I think that the problem is the unpredictable scale of many of these (project) ideas. They are good and definitely worth considering. However, they most likely require far more time and (hence) funding just to be thought through properly ... not even talking about putting them into action ... In my view (and humble experience), it is the lack of this base funding which brings many good projects and ideas to a complete lock down. Unless some of this (reliable) base funding can be secured little room is left for analysing, discussing, planning and then systematically expanding and approaching the various ideas (which then could pay for themselves). Teach me wrong ...

    So what models would there be for David worth considering to secure this base funding?

    - Major single donor ?
    - Many smaller donors committed for a certain time?
    - Partnership with organisation/company which would provide some base funding?
    - ...

    Cheers

    Thomas

  •  02-24-2009, 2:30

    Re: Proposal for a mail system bundle for schools.

    Why not try the New Zealand education system first?

     

    http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/BU0901/S00322.htm

     

    (Please note that in the article, the author confuses literacy and illiteracy several times Geeked)

  •  03-15-2009, 1:19

    • Sharkfin is not online. Last active: 10 Jan 2015, 19:14 Sharkfin
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    Re: Proposal for a mail system bundle for schools.

    I think that the idea of encouraging organisations with simple needs to use our favourite mail system is superb. Unfortunately, as stated in a previous reply, things need to be thought through (or at least explained here) a little more clearly.

    If all you are proposing is some way of giving a school a quickly-installed solution for sending internal mail (for the purposes of having students learn how to send mail), just slapping Pegasus onto the fileserver, configuring access rights and installing shortcuts achieves that. I would hope that any IT teacher - as opposed to an IT technician, could do that. No configuring of IP addresses or POP3 accounts necessary (though again, if an IT teacher has problems with that...).

    More importantly, and somewhat annoyingly (but true), schools would want to teach e-mail use with a tool which most closely resembles the average user's experience. That means picking a client that looks and acts more like either Outlook or Thunderbird than does Pegasus. It's far easier to transfer learnt skills if the real world is the same as the training environment. Why do so many schools use Microsoft Office? Because they are expected to teach kids to use the tools they are most likely to be presented with in a job. However, that is different argument altogether...

    If you are envisaging teaching the students something more complex such as the intricacies of setting up a mail system, then yes, you'd probably want something specialised. You'd also want the network manager involved, I'd say. That being the case, IT specialists don't need a "simplified" system - Pegasus is hardly difficult for an IT professional.

    Pegasus is a very powerful client. There are so many "nooks and crannies" which the kids could (and would) play with, that unless you create a version with most of the menu items permanently removed and the remaining options and buttons vastly simplified, you're heading for trouble. I have experience in this sector. Younger kids would likely be put off by the Pegasus interface (as currently, are non-technical adults) while older kids would definitely find a way to cause trouble.

    Plenty of universities use Pegasus but then they already have Netware and adults are that bit more sensible. Pegasus is not for teaching e-mail basics.

  •  03-16-2009, 4:08

    Re: Proposal for a mail system bundle for schools.

    Sharkfin:

    Pegasus is a very powerful client. There are so many "nooks and crannies" which the kids could (and would) play with, that unless you create a version with most of the menu items permanently removed and the remaining options and buttons vastly simplified, you're heading for trouble. I have experience in this sector. Younger kids would likely be put off by the Pegasus interface (as currently, are non-technical adults) while older kids would definitely find a way to cause trouble.

     

    I agree that the interface must be absolutely bulletproof. The kid must enter the room without the slightest hope of doing something wrong. I also have experience and I think that talking of merciless military defence is not exagerated.

     

    Most of the work would indeed consist in removing options. It's not like rebuilding the code entirely. 

     

    About the teachers, defining them as competent or incompetent is not complex enough:

     

    - Some can already install Mercury/Pegasus as they are now, some have trouble using their own email. We must prepare for the worst case scenario, and present an interface that "normally" doesn't allow mistakes.

     

    - Many don't have the time. Installation must last 30 mn at most, and no bugs and no forums asking afterwards.

     

    - For many, accessing the school's server or calling the network administrator is a hassle: forms to fill, reasons to give, appointments to make... then you don't know who touches your server at the upper level... then you have to call the administrator back... I really think that it would be a superior commercial advantage to propose a system that can be installed in one room, with just the teacher's and the kids' computers.

     

    Think also of the primary schools that don't really have a server, just three computers. It is a lego system. Not a system "for real". It's like "playing mail".

     

    But my main point is that we should offer a system that guarantees no access at all to the internet. We have changed era. At the beginning of the Internet it was assumed that networking schools was giving them access to universal knowledge. We are now in a situation where teachers risk their careers if they let the kids access the Internet, and also where many prefer not to use the Internet, in order to use certified and dependable material only.

     

    I could write books on that. I really did research on computer literacy. For 4 years now. We are in the right time to propose "no Internet" systems for schools.

     

    EDIT: It must work without a network administrator. That is an essential part of the philosophy.

  •  03-16-2009, 14:42

    • Phil is not online. Last active: Tue, Jan 12 2016, 11:44 Phil
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    Re: Proposal for a mail system bundle for schools.

    It's a good idea but imho there is no need to create a special version of Pegasus Mail and Mercury an howto description is enough, and the wiki seems to me to be the right place to put it. And Mr Hervé is the right guy to write it both in English, German, Italian and French which are the only languages where PM is localized and the ones he can translate from and to.

    The only security problem that can occurs is about Pegasus Mail user's preferences as Mercury and Pegasus Mail (and their configurations) would be located in a share where the users would have only the right Read and Execute, to avoid any security problem with the use of Pegasus Mail the extension Disable.fff (or .ffr for the French version) can be used, it can be found on Han van der Bogaerde web site (http://www.vandenbogaerde.net/files/disable32.zip) but I'm not sure if it is the last version.

    HTH

     


    Philippe Chartier
    French translation team leader
  •  03-16-2009, 15:42

    Re: Proposal for a mail system bundle for schools.

    I think that most network administrators naturally want to develop things that make network administrators necessary.

     

    You can see that on many opensource development platforms: powerful tools in theory, but that need expert finish in order to become usable. You can also see that in the reports of some large public institutions that contemplated adopting opensource software: there is no economy, you just shift the budget from buying commercial software to hiring network administrators.

     

    A programmer who needs money will on the contrary want to make a product that will immediately satisfy the client. I think the education market is craving for a simple tool that needs no network administrator.

     

    So, technically, would it be like the Mercury/Pegasus that we know now? Yes, that's why I'm proposing it, it's feasable. But commercially, it would be a complete repackaging.

     

    Just think of the market of primary schools alone. Just think 20 NZD for each primary school on the global market. It would not be a shame to package a toy-like version, would it?

     

    It is really a priority that DH earns the money he deserves. And when I say a priority I mean it is really above the opinions of the supporters, me included. It is really above personal tastes.

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