CALI Presentation – CALI Conference 2014

After a two-year break from CALI, I presented at the CALI conference at Harvard Law School in June, 2014. I did a three-hour long workshop on setting up Virtualbox virtualization software and installing and configuring Linux Mint 17 to run within the Virtualbox environment. I used the fantastic Screensteps software from Blue Mango to create documentation for the presentation – there are multiple posts on this site from the presentation; just do a search for “Virtualbox”.

CALI Presentation – CALI Conference 2011

I presented at the CALI conference at Marquette University in June, 2011. Here’s the presentation summary; a link to the slides is attached.

Using open source tools for data warehousing and reporting

Increasingly, IT shops are being asked to contribute value back to their law schools by providing data analysis and “business intelligence” tools and services. Historically, this has been done in Excel. We’re trying to move beyond that at Emory, and so we’ve been exploring the use of open source tools to respond to these requests. There is a new generation of reasonably easy-to-use cross-platform tools, mostly written in Java, that can help with some of these needs.

I’ll be talking about using open-source software to access and report on data from institutional systems such as PeopleSoft, Symplicity, and ACES2. The focus will be on the Pentaho BI Suite Community Edition ( I’ll walk through using the Pentaho Kettle tool to extract, transform, and load data from Excel and flat files into MySQL data tables. Then we’ll discuss MySQL GUI-based access via SQL Power*Architect ( and data clean-up with Data Cleaner ( Finally, we’ll go through report-writing using the Pentaho Report Designer tool.

Slides: Using Open Source Tools for Data Warehousing

Link to video (Silverlight required)

Open Source Potpourri

I did a presentation at the CALI2010 conference held at Rutgers-Camden. Here’s a link to the wiki pages that were the basis for my talk:

Here’s the summary of the talk from the CALI web-site:

That’s right – it’s “a mixture of dried, naturally fragrant plant material, used to provide a gentle natural scent in houses”, or at least that’s what the great Wikipedia says. I’ll be talking about some fragrant open-source software projects that we use to add a gentle natural scent to Emory Law IT operations.

PING (“PartImage is Not Ghost”). We’ve used PING for some time now to image computers at the law school. PING allows you to back-up and restore disk partitions across the network. See for more details. I’ll discuss how we use it and how we’ve customized it to make it as painless as possible to make and restore images across the network.

OpenFiler ( is a terrfic open-source NAS distribution. I’ll talk about how we use OpenFiler to host the images that we create with PING and I’ll discuss some of the configuration gotchas with OpenFiler. I’ll also detour a little bit into the construction of the box that runs the OpenFiler software and mention a super-simple script that updates us every day on the status of the RAID controller in the OpenFiler box.

ThinStation ( provides “a basic and small, yet very powerful, Open Source “thin client” operating system supporting all major connectivity protocols.” There are some complexities with configuring ThinStation, but our plan is to use it to provide a very basic web browsing machine as a temporary replacement for users’ broken machines.

SystemRescueCD ( provides a wealth of system recovery tools, but I primarily use it as an easy way to partition hard disks.

If there’s time, I’ll talk about how I’ve built on some of the other great MythTV work that’s been done to add in classroom recording for five classrooms at Emory Law. We feed the recordings into a single older IBM PC with four video capture cards. I’ll talk about some scripting to manage a Kramer switcher and also some of the post-processing that we do.

Previous presentations

Django: Painless web application development in Python, CALI Conference, University of Maryland School of Law, Baltimore, MD (June, 2008)

This session will introduce attendees to Django (, an open source web development framework. Like Ruby on Rails, Django tries to save web developers time in creating rich, data-driven web-sites. Unlike some other web frameworks, Django provides an out-of-the-box administrative back-end so that you can quickly have users inputting data while you polish the templates for the front-end site. Another distinguishing feature of Django is that it comes with excellent documentation, including a free online book “The Definitive Guide to Django”, available at, and also published by Apress. Because Django was developed to satisfy the needs of a paper and online newpaper operation, it values speed and clarity. As the tagline for their site says, it’s “the web framework for perfectionists with deadlines.”

We will discuss the Django-based class management system we developed at Emory Law School. In 300 lines of Python, this portal provides faculty with a facebook for their classes, a way for them to email students, and access to CSV files of student emails and contact information, as well as links for them to request class mailing lists and BlackBoard classes. They can also view the other classes in which their students are currently enrolled.

Law School Business Continuity and Disaster Preparedness, with John Mayer, CALI Conference (June 2006).

Hurrican Katrina, 9/11, floods, ice-storms, flu pandemics, electrical outages…the list of possible ways that your law school may be shut down is long. This doesn’t mean you have to lose an entire semester or endure major disruptions to your faculty and students’ lives. CALI is proposing the creation of a Law School Disaster Preparedness Plan where two web servers will be hot and ready to go with a variety of pre-installed software that law schools can use in case of small and large disasters. At the very least, this can be a single location to get information out to your constituency and at the most, it can be a place to deliver educational content in the form of web pages, blog posts, podcasts and video so that you don’t have to cancel an entire semester just because your building is unavailable for a couple of weeks. Ben Chapman and John Mayer will lay out the basic plan and then use the majority of the session to discuss details like what other services should be offered, how can schools pre-prepare for disaster and what are law schools willing to do about disaster preparation.

Content Management Systems Case Studies, panel presentation, CALI Conference (June 2003).

Ben Chapman will discuss the experiences of the University of Tulsa College of Law after two years using Zope (an object-oriented open source content management system built on top of Python; available at to manage a dynamic site. He will also discuss the next generation of the Tulsa Law site, web standards, accessibility, and XML.

Upgrading 1970s Era Facilities With Current Instructional Technologies, panel presentation, CALI Conference (June 2003).

Open Source Website Content Management with Zope, CALI Conference, Chicago-Kent School of Law (June 2002).

Zope is a free, open source web application server/content management system based on the scripting language Python. The University of Tulsa College of Law is in the process of changing its web-site over to Zope. Ben will talk about the joys (many) and trials (few) of moving a traditional web-site into a strongly object-oriented web application server such as Zope. We’ll also demonstrate some of its features, including through the web content management, security, site search, dynamic generation of navigational tools and menus, and scripting. Zope is downloadable from and runs on Windows and Linux, among others.)

Practical First Steps with XML, CALI Conference, Suffolk University School of Law (June 2001).

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