Linux in the Real World
Leviathan is a niche server, publishing information of interest mostly to adult distance learners and educators. We have the obligatory information describing the organization, and searchable abstracts and texts of selected agency publications. The clip-art collection has grown to over 1,600 individual images, from three states, available in multiple formats, with another 999 nearly ready. We added a small experimental slide image collection that may be accessed through a “Contact Sheet Image Selection” imagemap using a pointing device. The TAEX Computer Technology Group “OnLine” computer user newsletter is available online, and the “Master Gardener Problem Solver” has been extremely popular. The TAEX Software Catalog is available interactively and may be downloaded in PostScript, text, HTML, and WordPerfect formats.
Leviathan also serves documents from sources external to Extension. The Texas Telecommunications Strategic Plan and its Executive Summary are accessible. The National Performance Review documents are available. A large collection of Internet information, including all RFCs (Requests For Comment), FYIs (For Your Information), and STDs (STandards Documents) to date may be browsed. Leviathan includes convenient links to all WWW and gopher servers and enables easy access to other Cooperative Extension information servers. To aid others who wish to establish WWW sites, Leviathan provides a collection of icons (some developed locally) and links to pertinent tutorial and technical documents.
TAEX is preparing a newer, faster server with more storage capacity to better serve Leviathan's users. The immense popularity of the clip art collections has stimulated us to prepare even more. We are preparing an extensive collection of slide images that may be distributed freely for use in demonstrations and publications. We are updating our online personnel directory with plans to provide color photos and sound clips of everyone in the agency for easy access by the traditional media. The online personnel directory may someday be linked to a “home page” for every person that includes a description of individual expertise and experience. We are considering making several large topical databases accessible online. The popular Master Gardener series begs to be updated with color images, sound clips and animation sequences. We plan to add more on-line newsletters replete with color graphics. We are considering distributing some free software packages by gopher and http access.
TAEX is working with several other departments and agencies to stimulate the proliferation of more information servers. The South West Agricultural Meteorological Information Service (SWAMI) has been supplying pertinent weather information from a Sun workstation for several months. More recently, “Monarch”, the TAEX Planning, Performance, and Accountability Server, came on-line on a DOS/Windows platform to keep the public and state legislators appraised of agency activities. Three of the Texas Research and Extension Centers plan to establish information servers. Two more experimental servers using alternative free software are currently “under construction” as TAEX explores this evolving technology.
The combination of telecommunications and computer innovations will together produce a technological imperative for change. This may require a major paradigm shift from information distribution toward providing information access. TAEX is preparing for the day when all of the information produced and distributed by the agency may also be made available digitally and online. With luck, it may actually be ready when the public is.
Leviathan has achieved some degree of national and international recognition. The NCSU list of “Top Ten Home Pages by Cooperative Extension Workers” points to us, as does their list of “Top Ten Extension-Related WWW Pages”. Other Cooperative Extension services across the US and in Australia, Mexico, India, Israel, and Czechoslovakia have downloaded clipart. A cookbook, published in the UK by an author from Bangladesh, incorporated some of the clip art as illustrations. An Australian server began mirroring Leviathan down under. Leviathan has been mentioned in several Canadian Agricultural publications. Leviathan was designated as a “Gopher Jewel” by several sites, and America OnLine lists it as their first agricultural information site.
The on-line software and image distribution has cut distribution costs considerably and made TAEX products more easily accessible. For example, Leviathan distributed 2.6GB of clip art on-line, saving taxpayers almost $17,000, compared to traditional floppy-based distribution methods. Each download of the Software catalog saves $5.00 in direct printing and mailing costs and has increased software distribution activity substantially. The National 4-H Enrollment Management software, distributed across the Internet has saved taxpayers more than $1,200 so far and provides more timely dissemination of updated versions. The 500MB of “Master Gardener” files would have filled 100,000 pages if printed, but being available electronically has saved $4,000 to date in printing costs alone. Most importantly, Leviathan has created an awareness of information server technology as a viable adjunct to traditional information distribution techniques.
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