Josh from the open source community joins us for a week of work experience

josh holland and richard jones

At Mercian Labels we have benefited hugely from open source software, but unfortunately it is rare that we actually get a chance to help out anyone from the community back.  However, this week it has been a pleasure to host Josh Holland, who has been here hacking us with a new VPN connection on our ubuntu server and the technical stuff needed to integrate Zimbra email into our own CRM. Josh found us online whilst looking for an open source sys admin role for a weeks work experience.

This is Josh’s write up of his experiences this week.

“I am a 16 year old 6th Former taking A levels in Maths, Further Maths, Physics and Chemistry, and have been doing work experience on the Mercian Labels computer system for the past week.

I have set up a VPN to allow access to the network when offsite, and written (most of) an extension to the bespoke CMS that extracts all the emails to and from a certain address from the Zimbra groupware server and displays them. I have learnt the syntax of iptables, got to know my way around Zimbra and found out a lot about networking.

Would I have been able to do this without open source and the community around it? I doubt it, because the freedom to download, use and redistribute it allows people like me to try things out without having to spend a fortune on something. For example, I can run my own server on £80 per year with no setup costs because all the software is free. If I didn’t have a server, I would not have got the skills I used this week and would use in a real job, becuase Windows Server (say) costs a fortune and keeps people like me from being able to teach themselves.

Also, the community is a fantastic asset. When I hit a snag in setting up of OpenVPN, I was able to turn to the openvpn-users mailing list and get it working like a charm. Almost every major open source project has support mailing lists populated by volunteers, ready to help anyone who has a problem.

Getting all this for free is fantastic, and something that is very hard to find anywhere else. Open source systems have opened the world of IT for me; they have allowed me to teach myself the skills to work in a whole new sector of employment.”

Thanks to Josh for his hard work this week.  We have really benefited from his expertise, and hope that he does well in whatever career path he takes.  It has been a pleasure Josh!

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