Getting your Open University software running on Linux, Mac and Windows 64bit

The Open University is generally quite far ahead of the game when it comes to producing software to go along with its courses. Snag is, that those courses generally run for around 10 years and that’s a very long time indeed in software. The net effect of that is that it’s not quite so easy to just plonk in the DVDs and CDs that come with your course. However, it is possible, so here’s how….

Method one: for Linux and Mac

Almost all older OU software assumes that you have a Windows computer and generally speaking a Windows XP computer. However, you don’t need to have one.

1. Browse the CD/DVD and check if there is a setup.exe file or an index.html file.

2. If it’s an index.html file then you can probably just open it and carry on. If it’s a setup file, then you should install Wine (either from www.winehq.org, or from the Linux repositories); there’s no charge for the software.

3. Once you’ve installed Wine, double-click on the setup.exe file (for Linux, you will need to set the file permissions to allow execution).

If that doesn’t work, see method two.

Method two: for Linux, Mac and Windows 64 bit

This usually applies to older OU software and affects Windows 64bit systems in some cases too.

1. Install VirtualBox (from www.virtualbox.org or the Linux repositories); there’s no charge for the software.

2. Register at www.DreamSpark.com and then download Windows 2003 (you could download Windows 2008, but that’s too modern for some OU software). This gets you two files: en_win_srv_2003_r2_standard_with_sp2_cd1_X13-04790.iso and one with “cd2” in place of “cd1”.

3. Start VirtualBox and set it up for Windows. This will bring up a screen titled “Oracle VM VirtualBox Manager”. Click on “New” (top left icon on my screen), click on next and it should ask you for a machine name: it’s best to name it something like Windows2003. Also select the operating system (ie Microsoft Windows) and version (Windows 2003). Click next and it asked for the base memory size. For Windows 2003, 1mb is more than enough. Note: the size set here can’t be more than half of the memory in your computer. Next takes you to the question about the hard disk. This is the hard disk of your new VirtualBox/Windows machine, not your own computer! The default size of 20gb is more than enough for OU stuff – don’t worry too much about that size as it only expands to 20gb as you use it. Couple more nexts and you should get back to the original VirtualBox screen as at step one, with “Windows2003 powered off” or “Windows2008 powered off” listed.

4. Install Windows… Select Windows2003 then click on “Settings”. Click on Storage and you’ll see a CD icon saying “empty” beside it. Over to the right of that there is a CD icon underneath the heading “attributes”, click on that then “choose virtual CD/DVD drive” and browse to the first “.iso” file as per step one. Click on OK and you’re back to the first VirtualBox screen. Double click on your Windows2003 and it will start to install the software. For Windows2003 then you’ll need to select the second .iso file when prompted to insert the second CD. You’ve the various Windows settings to go through along the way but they’re just things like the time, date, and keyboard.

5. In parallel with step 4, you can copy the various course CDs/DVDs onto your computer as .iso files. On Linux, Brasero works well, for Mac you can use Burn (http://burn-osx.sourceforge.net/Pages/English/home.html) but in both cases there are loads of alternatives.

6. Once all that’s done (and it’s not nearly so complicated in practice as it might sound!), you just double-click on Windows2003 to start up the windows machine. You’ll need to attach the .iso files as required, which you do by clicking Devices, CD/DVD Devices, Choose a virtual CD/DVD disk file when you’re running Windows.

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