Project of the Month, August 2011

iTALC

iTALC is a powerful didactical tool which allows teachers to assist their students in computer labs. It gives the possibility to view, control and lock pupils' computers remotely. iTALC provides additional features such as broadcasting the teacher's or a student's screen, locking workstations and launching programs. It supports Linux as well as Windows XP/Vista/7 and even can be used transparently in mixed environments!

Why and how did you get started?

In 2004, it started as a tentative solution at my school where simple computer lab monitoring was required. Features were constantly added and in 2006 the software was extended to run on the Windows platform as well.

Who is the software's intended audience?

iTALC is used in educational courses in computer labs where the students are supposed to solve tasks using computers and may require the teacher's (or supervisor's) help.

What are a couple of notable examples of how people are using your software?

iTALC is known to be used for districtwide unified school IT infrastructure solutions e.g. in Chemnitz/Germany.

What are the system requirements for your software, and what do people need to know about getting it set up and running?

iTALC can run on Linux and Windows hosts and has rather modest hardware requirements. For some features such as the screen broadcasting, it is recommended to have Gigabit ethernet connections. The teacher's computer might require a little better hardware configuration. On Linux, it is usually installed using the packages supplied by the user's distribution, on Windows, the supplied installer can be used. Once installed, everything can be set up and managed using the iTALC Management Console.

What gave you an indication that your project was becoming successful?

Mainly the increasing number of downloads as well as feedback and support requests.

What has been your biggest surprise?

According to feedback, one major reason for using iTALC always is the lack of money for purchasing proprietary solutions. This seems to be symptomatical for the educational sector worldwide.

What has been your biggest challenge?

Keeping on working on iTALC. Maintaining multiple open-source projects besides real life is a challenge (but possible!).

Why do you think your project has been so well received?

Besides the facts that iTALC is free software and runs on multiple platforms, one important point is that it has been developed in cooperation with teachers and thus fits their needs and is simple to use. Surely, being available in many languages is a factor of success as well.

What advice would you give to a project that's just starting out?

Carefully plan before coding! iTALC has been developed in a very evolutionary manner which resulted in quickly presentable results but made everything more and more hard to maintain. With iTALC 2, most of the software architecture has been rewritten—this possibly could have been avoided.

Where do you see your project going?

iTALC 2 is on the road, is faster and offers more flexibility to the user compared to iTALC 1. Based on iTALC 2, the development will go on towards iTALC 3 which will have a revised user interface, a support for plugins and much more. The plugin support will allow external developers to easily add new features in the future.

What's on your project wish list?

Support for more operating systems and/or platforms. Already being a cross-platform project, there's a big demand for running iTALC on OS X as well.

What are you most proud of?

Thanks to iTALC, education can be improved for free worldwide.

If you could change something about the project, what would it be?

Having more time for it.

How do you coordinate the project?

Being the person doing 99% of the work, coordination is rather a simple thing. I usually receive patches, improvements, translations etc. via e-mail and integrate it myself.

How many hours a month do you devote to the project?

That differs from month to month. There are times when I spend just a couple of hours while in other situations, dozens of hours per month are invested.

What is your development environment like?

Currently a Kubuntu 11.04 machine with multiple virtual machines (acting as student computers) is serving me very well. A typical combination of VIM, GCC, GDB, CMake and Git results in a maximum of productivity. The Windows version is built via cross-compiling.

What does the future of iTALC hold?

iTALC 1 has been the first version being available for both, Linux and Windows, has been serving very well for many years. As of iTALC 2 more modern technologies have been introduced and hopefully this version will be a solid base for the development of the next years–such as iTALC 3.

How can others contribute?

The developer section in the Wiki provides information for people being interested in contributing to iTALC. This also includes non-programming jobs such as creating translations.


More projects of the month

Project name: iTALC

Date founded: 2004

Project page: http://italc.sourceforge.net/

Project Leader


Tobias Doerffel

Tobias Doerffel

Occupation:Maintainer and main developer
Location:Chemnitz, Germany
Education:cand. M. Sc. (Computer Science)

Why did you place the project on SourceForge.net?

SourceForge offers all resources needed by open source projects like iTALC and performs very well.

How has SourceForge.net helped your project succeed?

It provided all the required infrastructure such as version control repositories, bug trackers as well as website and file hosting.

The number one benefit of using SourceForge.net is:

Everything is important :)