DireqLearn has announced the South African release of the OpenLab3-edu computing solution at the Innovation in Education, Schools ICT Conference, held at SACS, Cape Town, 5-7 April 2004. OpenLab3 is a thin-client, diskless computer centre solution, based on Linux Terminal Server technology.

The deployment follows two previous releases of DireqOpenLab, since 2002, deployed in over 80 sites throughout South Africa, Namibia, Mauritius, Nigeria, Zimbabwe and Kenya. The system allows for the use of varied computer technologies, ranging from obsolete to state-of-the-art, in a diskless workstation configuration, designed specially to suit the education environment. The workstations boot off a pre-programmed network interface card, which circumvents the many technical problems such as corrupt file systems and failures typically associated with local hard disk drives in school computer labs.

Computer facility security is a major problem that is overcome with this solution. All the workstations are diskless and therefore "softwareless". Should these workstations be stolen, they have low resale value on the black market. The functionality and power of this system resides almost completey on the server, a powerful yet well-priced PC, with enough RAM and hard drive space to meet user and workstation needs. Security requirements and cost are reduced because it is only the server that needs to be fully secured, as that is where all functionality resides. "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 with limited resources to bridge the Digital Divide", says Denis Brandjes, Group MD of DireqLearn.

OpenLab has been developed as a comprehensive educational solution. The EduPack includes LearnThings, the award-winning educational software, covering most learning areas, across all grades; DireqPortal, which is a treasure-chest of educational content offerings; and DireqCafe, an Internet Cafe management systems, through which schools can offer Internet connectivity to the community, to assist towards sustainability.

Brandjes adds, "The solution, based on the Open Source Software model, comes bundled with a range of relevant productivity applications including office applications software and more. OpenLab3 has a look and feel just like that of other graphical desktops. Server-based, browser-based, platform-independent, specialist educational software and a range of applications ensure that the tools are available for an effective and meaningful educational experience".