Q1 2019 openEQUELLA Open Source Support Briefing

Published on: May 2, 2019
Chris Beach, Software Developer

openEQUELLA logoThe quarterly openEQUELLA Open Source Support (OSS) Briefing is an opportunity to share the contributions performed on behalf of the OSS program, highlight Unicon's perspective on contributions, share happenings in the community, and describe opportunities to engage further with Unicon.

On Thursday, April 11, 2019, the Unicon OSS team held the openEQUELLA OSS Briefing for Q1 of 2019.

Discussions focused on community news, sustaining engineering, technical updates, upcoming events, and looking ahead to the release of openEQUELLA 2019.1.

Community News

We kicked off the briefing by reviewing efforts from some of the community meetings in Q1.  

The Community Developer Meeting (CDM) is hearing good discussion and movement on creating an inclusive environment for folks interested in seeing openEQUELLA progress technically. This quarter, we’ve worked on better GitHub branch management, consistent code styling, and test harness automation.  We also prepared to move all repositories from the EQUELLA project into the Apereo GitHub organization and rename them to reflect the open source name of EQUELLA as openEQUELLA. GitHub will provide any redirection needed, so your cloned repositories won’t break after the move.  The move is planned for Q2 2019. For more details, the agendas and minutes of the CDMs are here: https://github.com/equella/Equella/wiki.

The openEQUELLA Advisory Board also met in Q1. The meeting focused on roadmaps, how to enable greater Open Educational Resource (OER) availability, upcoming events, and forming the openEQUELLA Security Group. OER availability is an important topic, especially to a group centered on content management. One of the benefits of openEQUELLA is that various external repositories can be harvested and searched in your openEQUELLA institution, acting as a sort of meta search engine. To enable this, having a known set of repositories/adopters that are willing to share their content is important to allowing OER content to be exposed.

We gave an overview and discussed the purpose of the new openEQUELLA Security Group, and received guidance on how it could best serve the community. The openEQUELLA Security Group was formed in Q1 2019, and its purpose is to field sensitive security issues and guide resolutions.  More details will be forthcoming, including the group’s coordinated vulnerability process.

Sustaining Engineering

We then moved into a focused look at how Unicon consulting and sustaining engineering benefited the openEQUELLA open source code. Our primary efforts were around Blackboard integration. There are two methods to integrate with Blackboard: through a custom building block and web service (B2/WS), and through Blackboard LTI / REST. While we did development work on the LTI / REST flows, a new opportunity arose that allowed the B2/WS to work with modern versions of Blackboard (including SaaS and the Ultra UI). We developed Version 2.0.3 of the B2/WS in concert with the community, and adopters can now use the latest versions of Blackboard and openEQUELLA together. We also worked on the openEQUELLA Toolbox. It was moved into its own repository, https://github.com/equella/openequella-toolbox, and the FileLister, Emailer, and Thumbnailer functions were added.

Tech Updates

After the sustaining engineering discussion, the OSS Briefing flowed into technical updates. We touched on some integration notes:

  • At least some distributions of ImageMagick, starting with 7.0.8, no longer have the legacy commands of [identify] and [convert] installed for the needed openEQUELLA integration points.
  • There is a bug in Ghostscript 9.26, at least on Windows, that does not allow PDFs to be thumbnailed correctly.  You can backlevel to Ghostscript 9.25 as a workaround.
  • The clustering backend technology, Zookeeper, has shown success in AWS with version 3.4.10.

We then returned to the Blackboard integration discussion. The B2/WS revisions should allow adopters to integrate openEQUELLA with Blackboard until the Q2 2020 release of Blackboard, at which point key functions, namely the SOAP Web Services, will be removed (currently they are just deprecated). This emphasizes the idea that the LTI / REST integration is still the future. In openEQUELLA 2019.1, basic LTI / REST Blackboard integration features will be available, and more advanced integration points are being developed for openEQUELLA 2019.2. The goal is that adopters using openEQUELLA 2019.2 should be able to use the Q2 2020 Blackboard versions (and beyond).  If you have Blackboard integration needs, please consider giving resources (design work, funds, and/or testing) to help make this integration enhancement a reality.

The last technology point was the use of Oracle JDK / JREs. Oracle is now charging license fees for the use of Java technology, and since openEQUELLA runs on Java (and up until recently, the recommendation has been to use Oracle’s JDK), we recommend revisiting your use of Oracle Java technology with openEQUELLA. There are other JDKs that are open source and could be a viable option, such as Zulu and OpenJDK. The community is working to ensure the openEQUELLA lifecycle is not tied to the Oracle JDK -- from developing and building openEQUELLA, to running on the server and the client side. Client-side Java affects the functionality that end users utilize: the Admin Console, File Manager, and In Place File Editor. In order to allow a clean and simple build of openEQUELLA, the community is working to remove the need for client side Java. While the functionality of the Admin Console (launched via Java Web Start) is being migrated to a modern HTML frontend / REST backend, the Admin Console is being pulled out into its own application (https://github.com/equella/admin-console-package) to remove the requirement for browser-supported Java Web Start. Based on the desire to remove Java Applet technology from openEQUELLA, and from survey responses from the community, the File Manager and In Place File Editor will most likely be removed in openEQUELLA 2019.2. Adopters have expressed interest in turning the File Manager into a modern UI widget with the same core set of functionality as its Applet predecessor.  

openEQUELLA 2019.1

We wrapped up the technical part of the briefing by reviewing the roadmap for the next release of openEQUELLA.2019.1. Some highlights include the Admin Console being moved to a separate launcher, the initial features for the Blackboard LTI / REST integration, cloud providers, login page customizations, and continued efforts to migrate features into the new UI. To stay up-to-date on what is making it into the 2019.1 release, please review the 2019.1 milestone: https://github.com/equella/Equella/milestone/11.

In addition to helping with 2019.1 efforts, we are aiming to assist with the initial open source release of BYU - Idaho’s application ‘EQUELLA Sync’ into the community space.

Upcoming Events

After the tech discussion, we then moved on to highlight several upcoming events that may be of interest to the openEQUELLA community:

  • Unicon OSS openEQUELLA Briefing Q2-Q3  2019 (moving to 2 times yearly)
    • Web call - October 10th - 9 PDT / 12 EDT
  • Apereo Africa (already occurred, but recordings should be made available soon)
    • Cape Town, Africa - April 15 - 17
  • Open Apereo 2019
    • Los Angeles, CA - June 2-6
    • Several openEQUELLA-focused presentation proposals from the community have been approved, including openEQUELLA Workshop, openEQUELLA Cloud Providers, Many Faces of openEQUELLA, and the State of openEQUELLA.
  • EDUCAUSE 2019
    • Chicago, IL - October 14-17

We encourage folks to participate in these events to deepen the excitement around the value-add of openEQUELLA.

Conclusion

We appreciate the attendance and participation in the call. We encourage you to reach out to the community, get excited about openEQUELLA, join the community at the upcoming events, ask questions, and help shape the future of this open-source Content Management System.  

Community Engagement

Apereo openEQUELLA website: https://www.apereo.org/projects/open-equella
Apereo Users Google Group: Send email to equella-users+subscriber@apereo.org
Apereo Dev Google Group: Send email to equella-dev+subscriber@apereo.org
Apereo # equella Slack Channel: apereo.slack.com
GitHub issues: https://github.com/equella/Equella
Documentation: https://equella.github.io/
Community Repository:  https://community.edalexcloud.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/EQUELLA

Click here for the video recording.
Click here for the briefing slides.

Chris Beach photo

Chris Beach

Software Developer

Chris Beach is a Software Developer at Unicon, Inc. and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science. Chris is currently involved in the support and development of open source software, focused on EQUELLA and uPortal. Chris was previously a Senior Support Analyst for EQUELLA at Pearson, where he was involved with hosting support and escalated client support for EQUELLA.