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Iceland's soil conservation service saving millions with open source

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Icelands's Soil Conservation Service is increasingly relying on free and open source software solutions. Using the database management systems Mysql and Postgresql and other open source tools, helps in saving "millions of Icelandic kronas per year."

The agency's tasks include combating desertification on the island. This means halting the encroachment of sand and fighting soil erosion. The organisation also promotes sustainable land use and helps to restore degraded areas.

Postgresql is used to manage the agency's many geographic databases. At the moment, most staffers use proprietary Geographic Information Systems, but some are trying out Quantum GIS, an open source alternative. "Qgis is pretty easy to learn and use, but it is not compatible with the proprietary GIS software that we are used to", says IT manager Óðinn Burkni Helgason. "So, using the proprietary GIS software, we create special files that we can use in Qgis. We're planning to start using Postgis. That will increase our use of Qgis even more."

The small IT department uses many different open source tools. Linux, of course, is running a multitude of servers. On many of these Mysql is yet another open source database management system, used for example in combination with Joomla for the agency's web site.

Recently the Soil Conservation Service began experimenting with the broadcasting of recordings of educational seminars. Helgason: "We use Bigbluebutton to allow us to broadcast videos. The presentations are recorded with Camstudio, converted with Ffmpeg and then displayed on our Joomla website."

Everything is open
The Soil Conservation Service also uses Nagios to monitor computers and other IT components. Less than one year ago, the organisation switched to Fully Automated Nagios, which includes an easy to use web-interface and makes it easier to map IT services and components geographically.

The service even uses open source for its telephony. It combines Asterisk and its management tool Freepbx. IT manager Helgason: "I've looked at another option, 'PBX in a Flash' but I have not found the time yet to try that out. We are only two here in the computer department."

More information:
Open source at Iceland's Soil Conservation Service (in Icelandic)