Imagine the most diverse team of Moodle designers, developers, and educators. They come from all walks of life. Now think about which kind of laptops they use. The chances they all have the same system settings are pretty slim. How can they properly collaborate from their own vantage points?
Since the 1960s, the field of computer science has sworn by one solution: Virtualization. It defines the practice of creating a system within a system. It works independently from the original system and can be completely different. As personal computers became more powerful and internet speeds quickened, teams became able to use “virtual boxes” to access those sub-systems from their own systems. Teams could get access to the same sub-system and develop any application. They would no longer have to worry about different settings.
Today, virtualization services have evolved to provide full-blown specialized systems for any purpose. Moodle is no exception. We find many commercial and Open Source solutions that make sure a team has fast and easy access to the latest Moodle version and all its supporting technologies. Another advantage is the ability to quickly create new content with the settings you set up for an earlier system. If you are a developer, you’ll understand the amount of time this can save and the headaches it can prevent!
Below we review some of the Moodle Virtual Boxes available:
Vagrant is an open-ended virtual development environment service. Moodler Heitor Silva created a “Moodle Box,” that developers can use in Vagrant to set up a Moodle site. The box includes a Debian (Open Source operating system for servers) and the PHP, MySQL, and Node.JS technologies needed in Moodle development operations.
Bitnami is a very simple way to test a Moodle site, and one we have covered in the past. A cool feature is the Moodle demos, or “Bitnami Moodle Stack,” deployed on the cloud using AWS with just one click. It lets you play with an up-to-date Moodle site for an hour. You can download the Stack to deploy it into your own server or cloud service.
Like Bitnami, Turnkey Linux offers a “Moodle Box” that can be set up on AWS, another cloud, or a private server. It features secure login and authentication options. A demo is also available here. However, there is no information on the Moodle version included.
A singular take away from the cloud, Raspberry Pi Open Hardware technology embeds a completely functional Moodle site into the Pi, a computer that fits into the palm of your hand and is a favorite among Open Source Internet of Things (IoT) developers and tinkerers. MoodleBox includes everything needed to create a site and put it on the internet or a local network, which means a remote school without internet access could still take advantage of Moodle and students’ devices.
Shorthand for “Moodle Shell”, Moosh has been described as “Fan-effing-tastic“. Unfortunately it is currently available for Moodle up to 3.5 only. It features built-in commands that allow admin operations from a command line, such as adding or removing Activities, managing Users, installing plugins, and completing many other recurring maintenance duties. Moosh was developed for Linux, although some users have reported to being able to use it on Windows.
Similar to the MoodleBox for Vagrant, MoodleHat includes the Behat, Selenium, and PHPUnit technologies for behavior-based automated testing. A thread on the Moodle forums suggests the Vagrant Moodle boxes (including Moosh) would do well to join forces to increase their productivity and support.