Open Atrium: Intranet in a Box


Just under 15 years ago, I received a review copy of the Internet in a Box:

Internet In A Box is the first shrink-wrapped package to provide a total solution for PC users to get on the Internet. Internet In A Box provides instant connectivity, a multimedia Windows interface, a full suite of applications, and a complete online guide to the Internet. Internet In A Box is a product of SPRY, Inc. The box contains:

Two ways to connect to the Internet: five-minute automated connection via SprintLink or manual connection to any PPP or SLIP provider in the US and Canada.

A subscription to the Global Network Navigator(TM) (GNN (R)) an online interactive guide to the Internet.

Software: The Air Series applications, including Mosaic, electronic mail, USENET news reader, drag-and-drop file transfer, Gopher, and Telnet.

Three books that clearly describe how to use these resources: a special edition of Ed Krol's bestselling The Whole Internet User's Guide, a Getting Started guide, and an Install guide.

To use Internet In A Box, you need the following:

386 PC or greater, with a 3-1/2" disk drive

9600 baud modem or greater

MS-DOS 3.0 or later

Windows 3.1 or later

4 MB of RAM

Analog (standard) phone line

The Internet access account you choose

Those were the days: *4* Meg of RAM....

Fast forward a decade and a half, and technology has moved on somewhat, not least in terms of openness. Here comes Open Atrium:

Open Atrium is an intranet in a box that has group spaces to allow different teams to have their own conversations. It comes with six features - a blog, a wiki, a calendar, a to do list, a shoutbox, and a dashboard to manage it all.

And just in case, like me, you were wondering:

Shoutbox: Kind of like a private twitter, the shoutbox lets you share short messages, links, and information with just the people in your group.

Open Atrium is great example of one of the strengths of free software: you can build on other people's work, taking it even further in particular directions. It's based on Drupal, which makes it easy to extend it and build new modules. To facilitate that, the people behind Open Atrium intend setting up what they call a “feature server”:

At its simplest, a feature server is a website where someone can get features and get updates for those features. It could be a private repository for a network of Drupal sites within an organization, or it could be a public facing site from which anyone can download and add features to their own Drupal website.

The company behind Open Atrium, Development Seed, have an interesting history in free software:

Development Seed’s origins are a bit different than those of most communications shops. We got our start in the mountains of Peru deploying communications portals on open source software for international development organizations working on the ground. The first websites we built were for small grassroots organizations working to improve the economic infrastructure in the region and provide basic human services like healthcare. While the reach of our clients and the complexity of our projects has changed over the years, the underlying mission of Development Seed has not: to provide technological solutions to world-changing organizations.

From the beginning, we’ve been committed to using open source software as our programming base. We first chose to build our tools primarily with Drupal because it’s powerful, it’s stable, and it has a great community supporting it. Five years later, we choose Drupal for all the same reasons. Over that time, we’ve become core Drupal developers and lead the development of many key modules. We’re also involved in sustaining the community, and organized a recent international Drupal developers conference in Washington, DC.

Clearly their hearts are in all the right places.

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