Resource review #1: Blazing Moon installation guide
Giesler, A. (2008). Installing Koha 3.0 on Ubuntu 8.10. Retrieved from http://www.blazingmoon.org/guides/k3-on-u810-1.html.
I had honestly forgotten all about this site until I googled it in desperation whilst trying to figure out how to set up our Library & Information Technology Association student computer’s installation of Koha to be accessible remotely. And I shouldn’t have forgotten, because it was written by Andy Giesler, who ran the LITA group on campus last year and actually did the install of Koha that I’m using now.
What he’s done is written up a nice, plain-english guide to installing Ubuntu, the open-source Linux operating system; Apache, the open-source server software; and Koha, the open-source ILS. All the software is free; the costs are all in the machine and the time and effort you put into figuring out the install process.
One of the problems with open source software, you see, is documentation. Writing help files and installation documentation is probably the least popular part of a programmer’s job, so when a programmer is working for free, for the good of the community, on an open source project, the documentation is going to suffer in an obvious way. That is to say, most documentation for open source software is terrible, and Koha is no exception.
It is possible to get good documentation and support for Koha — you can pay for it. LibLime is one among many companies who offer subscription support services for Koha, and Equinox offers a similar program for Evergreen, another open source ILS. If you can afford the support, you’re still getting a deal on the free software. If you’re trying to figure it all out on your own, it can be a little…trying.
Andy’s writeup of the install process will help lead most reasonably computer-savvy people through installing Koha, which is the first step in understanding how the program functions on a base level. If you want to play with the program itself, though, you’re still left with only the open-source documentation and your own patience.
Update 10/27/09: Yeah, I wrote this post in a flurry of frustration over not being able to accomplish what I wanted to accomplish as quickly as I wanted to. Allow me to rescind my statement: the Koha documentation does not really suck. (I’ve written a new post about it, above.) And, of course, documentation and support are two entirely different things; while you can pay LibLime for support, the Koha documentation is all free online, like the program itself. I will stop writing these posts while frustrated by software, I promise.