The People Who Support Linux: Giving a Public System a Web Interface Lift

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As an IT manager for the Mt. Lebanon Municipality near Pittsburgh, PA, Nick Schalles recently faced a familiar but difficult problem for those maintaining public infrastructure.  How could they update an old system to meet the new demands of the digital age and stay within a public agency budget?

“Basically everything we have at work is custom built. All of our software was coded on an IBM mainframe years ago,” Schalles said via email.   

Nick SchallesThe system wasn’t very user friendly. The IT team sought to provide more functionality to users, without sacrificing stability and security.

Instead of updating the old code, they built web interfaces to access the code on Linux servers. This was a familiar transition for them since they use Linux in a variety of their servers including web servers, proxy servers, email relay servers, media encoders, routers and firewalls, Schalles said.

The new web services allow them to read and write data from the old system as needed. And the web interface gives a fresh, clean look to the data input screens as well as the reports, he said.

“By using Linux servers as the back end we were able to use open source tools by passing the commands through the web interface to create downloadable spreadsheets and PDF files,” he said.

Every Bit Counts

Schalles began using Linux 13 years ago as a cheap firewall for his home network because “it was very stable, had a small footprint and ran on the ancient PC hardware I had available to me at the time,” he said.

As an experienced user he now tries to help Linux newbies as much as he can in Linux forums. He also tells his friends to use Linux by demonstrating the stability, ease of use and cost saving advantages.

This desire to give back is what motivated him to join the Linux Foundation as an individual member.

“I guess I believe every little bit counts,” he said. “I just want to do my part to ensure the further development of Linux.”

Welcome, Nick!

Editor's Note: From June 3-30, 2013, new individual members of The Linux Foundation will receive a 50 percent discount off of their choice of LinuxCon/CloudOpen North America or LinuxCon/CloudOpen Europe.