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Free Cool Tools for Educators

By John | March 6, 2009

I attended SIGCSE 2009 yesterday and I had a blast. My main interest was to cover the new Alice 3.0 upcoming release; however, I found my self meeting extremely interested educators working with distributed computing. I found that a lot of the educators didn’t know about some of the really cool free tools I have be looking at over the last few years. Since I passed my business card out a few tmes yesterday I figured I would put a “Cool Tools” post.

Puppet from Reductive Labs

Puppet is free (open source) and it is vey cool. Puppet is based in Ruby and is basically pervasive in the wilde for companies providing automated infrastructure. At Puppet’s core it is an distributed configuration management system. Google is actually using it to manage some of its infrastructure.


RightScale has been called the on ramp to the Cloud. They are one of the leading Amazon Web Services partners for providing automated and scalable cloud infrastructure solutions. A lot of the services they provide to configure Amazon EC2 images are free Ruby based scripts. The scripts can be downloaded here. Also, Rightscale offers qualified education research institutions free Website and Grid edition services. Theses server’s normal cost $500 per month with a $2500 startup fee.

Amazon Web Services Public Datasets

If you like Hadoop you are going to love these guys. Amazon provides free snap shots of some great research data sets. Large public datasets containing biology, chemistry, economics, and encyclopedic data are available to AWS users. You sill need to pay for AWS services (i.e., EC2); however, the use of the data sets is free.


Eucalyptus is an open source cloud that maps the Amazon Web Services API. Eucalyptus was developed at UCSB as a student project. Since RightScale is located in Santa Barbara they received a good bit of help from their neighbors. In fact one of the POC test was to run the RightScale software on Eucalyptus platform and almost everything worked the first time. I figure I am going to send my boys to


Ubuntu 9.10

Ubuntu 9.10 now has cloud support. They have added three primary cloud support items. The Ubuntu 9.10 images will include an instable Eucalyptus image. Canonical also offers Ubuntu Amazon Machine images a long with a tool to build AMI bundles. Lastly, Ubuntu 9.10 will support open source API’s for cloud services.


Scalr is an open source software solution for creating elastic LAMP cloud stacks on AWS.

Eclipse Clouds

There is an Eclipse AWS plugin.


CohesiveFT is an AWS AMI factory. They will build software selected AWS machines images.

Hadoop in Python

Check out this blog article on using jython and Hadoop.


Lua combines simple procedural syntax with powerful data description constructs based on associative arrays and extensible semantics. Lua is dynamically typed, runs by interpreting bytecode for a register-based virtual machine, and has automatic memory management with incremental garbage collection, making it ideal for configuration, scripting, and rapid prototyping.

Open Source Clouds

Enomaly ECP

Map Reduce Tools for Eclipse


Hadoop + Python = Happy


Cascading is a feature rich API for defining and executing complex, scale-free, and fault tolerant data processing workflows on a Hadoop cluster.


R is a language and environment for statistical computing and graphics. R provides a wide variety of statistical (linear and nonlinear modeling, classical statistical tests, time-series analysis, classification, clustering, …) and graphical techniques, and is highly extensible.


Pig is a platform for analyzing large data sets that consists of a high-level language for expressing data analysis programs, coupled with infrastructure for evaluating these programs. The salient property of Pig programs is that their structure is amenable to substantial parallelization, which in turns enables them to handle very large data sets.


[WWW]Hive is a data warehouse infrastructure built on top of Hadoop that provides tools to enable easy data summarization, adhoc querying and analysis of large datasets data stored in Hadoop files. It provides a mechanism to put structure on this data and it also provides a simple query language called QL which is based on SQL and which enables users familiar with SQL to query this data. At the same time, this language also allows traditional map/reduce programmers to be able to plug in their custom mappers and reducers to do more sophisticated analysis which may not be supported by the built in capabilities of the language.


Disco is an open-source implementation of the Map-Reduce framework for distributed computing. As the original framework, Disco supports parallel computations over large data sets on unreliable cluster of computers.


Erlang is a programming language designed at the Ericsson Computer Science Laboratory. Open-source Erlang is being released to help encourage the spread of Erlang outside Ericsson.


Skynet is an open source Ruby implementation of Google’s MapReduce framework, created at Geni. With Skynet, one can easily convert a time-consuming serial task, such as a computationally expensive Rails migration, into a distributed program running on many computers.

10 Open Source Educational Tools

Topics: cloud, education, open source, other | 2 Comments »

2 Responses to “Free Cool Tools for Educators”

  1. People Over Process » IT Management & Cloud Podcast #38 - SIGSCE, Azure, Acquia, Groundwork Execs Says:
    March 8th, 2009 at 11:29 am

    [...] Education people having problems setting up cloud-based apps, thinking like operations folks. Bringing cloud-knowledge to the university. John collected his “cloud for edu” recommendations in a recent post. [...]

  2. Amazon tethers balloons for now; attention turns to crunching data in the Cloud with Elastic MapReduce web service | Paul Miller Says:
    April 2nd, 2009 at 6:06 am

    [...] Free Cool Tools for Educators ( [...]