Carsten Haerle is talking to us about Smalltalk in teacher support. Schools may have hundreds of PCs and thousands of users, with many applications to install and manage - typically without a dedicated system administrator. This leaves the task to teachers, who are also trying to teach the students. Another problem is making PC's tamper proof - including the ability to roll back to a known state after each class. There's also the need to do internet filtering, and make sure that the same content is displayed/transmitted to each PC.
They wrote an application Beno which integrates a few other (non-Smalltalk) Windows applications: DX-Union - that handles deployment issues - management of what should be where, etc. Another application - Dr. Kaiser - makes PCs tamper proof. NetO handles screen transmission, and Cobion/Time does internet filtering. Beno is an integration platform for all of these applications. This created a single point of interaction for all of the supported functions. So, now comes a demo - something that doesn't come across well in a blog :) What he's showing us is how you can use Beno to push an installation (In this case, the Google Toolbar) out to a set of managed PCs.
It's a cool and useful suite of applications - written in Dolphin Smalltalk. They are the biggest distributor of this kind of software in Germany. Why Smalltalk?
- Cost savings in Smalltalk
- Faster Development
- Better Diagnostic capabilities
- Able to do this with a 6-7 person team - could not have done that with VB or C++ or Delphi
Unlike a lot of Smalltalk applications, this is a shrinkwrap application, and they are likely going to get MS logo certification. Which Smalltalk? Dolphin, which they consider to be the replacement for Digitalk Smalltalk.
Update: I made some corrections to the text based on an email from Carsten.