BOSS was written in response to increasing class sizes (now often 300), and a need to mark and manage formative programming assignments quickly, efficiently and accurately. Started in 1993 as a text-based utility running under the Sun Solaris operating system, it gradually grew to support a graphical interface and a direct connection to central University student record databases. Additions to the software were written in a variety of languages, including C, Perl, and Tcl/Tk, and the mySQL database was used. As a result it had become difficult to maintain or enhance. Portability to different platforms was difficult, and networking was but a glint in the authors' eyes!
The World had changed, and with it the expectation, both by students and staff, of the software they should use. Students are now used to using computers, and demand a networked, platform-independent, secure product, with an up-to-date interface. Staff need to teach modern programming languages, such as Java, with graphical I/O capabilities, for which the original BOSS was not equipped. Staff also need to be empowered to manage their modules themselves, and intervention from Systems Programmers, which was sometimes inevitable, needed to be removed.
In 1999 a decision was taken to re-write the software from scratch, in order to bring it up to date with the new networked environment used by both staff and students, to make use of the latest technology, and to provide a solid and reliable foundation for the continued support of our Computer Science teaching.
In October 2000, the new version was deployed, and has since been tested with several large classes. Its specification upgraded in response both to feedback from students and staff, and to the experience of running the software under very heavy load.
In October 2001, this new version was finished and has now been made available as an open-source project, in the hope that further development can be fueled from the outside.
In August 2002, the latest version of the BOSS system, version 2.2 was released onto Sourceforge. This included many bug-fixes and improvements.
Version 2.3 of the BOSS system was released at the end of September 2002. The software now included a completely redesigned automatic testing system (with JUnit testing now included), code metrics capabilites and an upgraded Sherlock plagarism detection system which was now fully integrated into the system.
Version 3.0 was released in September 2003 as a result of a team development effort throughout that summer. Through integration of various third year projects from within the department three major new features were added: