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Feature: Open Source

Online music school saves cash with Linux

By Tina Gasperson on November 15, 2007 (9:00:00 PM)

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WorkshopLive.com is a virtual music school that features dozens of professional instructors teaching lessons online for all levels of expertise, in guitar, bass, keyboard, and drums. When WorkshopLive was in the early stages of development, the company had limited funds to devote to hardware, software, and human resources, so CTO Marilyn Hoefner decided to give open source software a try. "We've been extremely happy," Hoefner says.

Hoefner's mandate was to create a site rich in multimedia, including video teaching and animated fretboards to demonstrate chord fingering. "We needed a fairly powerful platform, but we didn't have a lot of money to spend," she says. "I come from a corporate background and hadn't used open source before. But the developers here were very comfortable with it and felt it was extremely secure. Also, we had some outside contractors working on development and they were high on it."

Though Hoefner was not familiar with Linux and other open source software, she was quite experienced when it came to proprietary platforms. "It's extremely costly for support, and you end up paying huge license fees. So I went with the recommendation."

To host what is now a collection of over 10,000 videos and animations and some 1,800 lessons, Hoefner chose Red Hat servers managed by Rackspace. She says that open source software, coupled with support and automatic upgrades from Rackspace, has made her job easy. WorkshopLive is coded with ColdFusion, but Hoefner has been so impressed by open source that she's decided to use more of it in the development environment, including Subversion and other open source development tools. "In my previous life, I was spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on these things," Hoefner says. "My last job, the budget was over a million dollars for annual licensing alone. Here, I've got nothing in it. We don't spend a penny on any of these development tools."

Hoefner says the biggest benefit of using open source software has been the stability and security. "When you're running on a Microsoft platform, you're always worried about security, upgrades, and problematic patches. It's more time-intensive to support the end user and to maintain the applications, and we just don't have the staff to dedicate a full-time person to keeping the servers running. Our developers can spend their time developing code instead of administrating the network."

Her experience has been so good, Hoefner recommends other Web developers take a hard look at Linux. "I would just research it according to their requirements. Linux servers integrate very easily and they will reduce the costs. We haven't come across any pitfalls -- there's nothing negative. Test it out in a contained environment and I think they'll be very happy with it. It's definitely a platform I would invest in again."

Tina Gasperson writes about business and technology from an open source perspective.

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on Online music school saves cash with Linux

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great: variations on theme

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 66.122.165.195] on November 16, 2007 01:51 AM
This is a good idea and there mite be additional features such a sound and synthisizer or wave shaping. Multi track colaboration. I would like to see this as a modle in other educational areas including work or profesional training or competancy maintainance. A primary ellement perhaps addressed by the writers strike (I don'nt know the particulars) is the following. Many developing artists may or may not want access to puplic proformance other than recitals for real time development. The point I'm trying to make is that many students may be either recreational musicians or not yet qualified for commercial conquest. However, not only with music other areas of accomplishment could benifit from a generic onramp to compensation for their work. After a level of commercial viability is demonstrated it would probably be eisier to find conventional methods of exploitation. I would like to see a variety of formats that give concenting artists or designers or whatever tradable skill access to public review and various types of compensation. This mite be free material, paid for, ad sponsored, grant sponsored, combinations and hybrids. The general public or market target could demonstrate demand thus leaving the unqualified or missdirected to there own devices while not burrying those worth listening to. There are also oportunites for demonstrating technique at many levels and such teaching possitions could be qualified by past success or athoritive apointment, as an example, many graduate students are allowed to teach undergraduate courses. By providing cookie cutter percentages and compensation and a generic path, those unqualified aren't wasting time and the qualified are given greater access and experience. I have noticed that walking through an art school one finds discards that at first look well aplied yet by a standard that demonstrates greater skill are obvious failed atempts. The point hear is that not so good performers mite still find financial compenstation playing or demonstrating there level of ability to a novice at a cheaper price or more accessable venue. This would give them a fair appraisal of there ability and provide a market driven price performace venue.

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Online music school saves cash with Linux

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 70.176.93.202] on November 16, 2007 02:26 AM
I think this is great but are they also teaching their students about the great open source sound software and encouraging the use of open source software by making it easy for students use open source software to submit their assignments instead of forcing them to use proprietary office software.

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Not 4 me

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 209.112.137.187] on November 16, 2007 07:43 AM
I see that their interactive player uses shockwave.... well I guess I'll never sign up.

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Re: Not 4 me

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 67.38.16.86] on November 16, 2007 12:24 PM
I noticed that, too. However, my curiosity got the better of me and I downloaded the Windows version of Firefox and installed via Wine--along with the needed plug-ins, etc. The sample lesson loads but I still have not gotten it to play. Too bad the Linux enthusiasm doesn't extend to the user interface.

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Online music school saves cash with Linux

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 68.215.160.82] on November 17, 2007 01:53 AM
I read this article and thought to myself, "wow, what a great idea." Then I get to the site and surprise, Linux isn't supported. It is very disappointing.

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