OpenLab International has announced the international release of its Linux distribution OpenLab4. Already installed in more than 500 schools and community centres across Africa, OpenLab caters for desktop as well as server users. OpenLab also simplifies the process of installing and setting up Linux thin client-based laboratories.

OpenLab started development in 2001, with OpenLab1 released in April 2001 in the UK as a thin-client, diskless computer centre solution, based on Linux Terminal Server technology. The initial release was based on Mandrake (now Mandrivia) and catered to the education market. AJ Venter, chief software architect at OpenLab, says the distribution has evolved enormously since its first public release in 2002. "But it was really with the release of OpenLab3 in 2004, particularly 3.2.8, that OpenLab started to get international attention," says Venter.

"OpenLab 3 was developed on the base of Slackware, and this tradition has continued with the release of OpenLab4," he says. Venter says OpenLab4 allows users to use a wide range of different PC configurations, from obsolete to state-of-the-art, from stand-alone fat-clients to diskless workstations.

"You will be surprised at the new lease on life given to older PCs through this solution. Old PCs can perform as new, enabling schools and community facilities with limited resources to bridge the Digital Divide", says Denis Brandjes, MD of OpenLab International.

Brandjes says OpenLab4, is bundled with a range of desktop productivity applications and back-end server software. "OpenLab4 has a look and feel just like that of other graphical desktops, based on KDE." OpenLab also, however, caters extensively for the educational sector and includes specialist educational software and a range of applications ensure that the tools are available for an effective and meaningful educational experience, says Brandjes. OpenLab4 is distributed across a number of CDs. The base distribution is OpenLab4-LIVEcd, which is available for free download or low-cost CD. LIVEcd contains the entire operating system, and all basic applications including KDE, OpenOffice and Firefox, all on a single CD. The Live CD can also be used to install the operating system. Two other CDs are also available: the POWERcd and the KARMAcd. The POWERcd includes a lost of desktop add-ons as well as the software required to set up a thin client server. The KARMAcd includes language packs and games. The LIVEcd is available for download from OpenLab International. The two additional CDs can be ordered from the company.