I'm working on a project to change the network on my school to open source
software only (FreeBSD/Linux workstations only).

Excellent. Some lucky students there!

I knew about NIS from readings of the handbook years ago, so I revisited
it today, but there' is something that's missing. I understand the NIS
accounts reside on the master server and I have to add users on the master
server. But then, users on workstations will have their home directories
etc referring only to the local machine.

I considered doing the same thing... using NFS mounts. My problem with it was security. I think NFS v4 has better security. I ended up using thin clients to one single server. Works quite well. Depends on how many clients you need though.

Since I plan to switch the whole network from windows to FreeBSD / Linux
(only adding linux because other people want it :-P), I'll need to
substitute the following applications:

- Visual C++ (anjuta)

KDevelop is quite nice

- MS Access (?)

There are a few still in early stages of development. I think that Kexi (http://www.koffice.org/kexi/) and rekall (http://www.rekallrevealed.org/) are the most access-like, but there are others too...

I don't know much about access, but I believe it's possible to have a ms-access database server.. if that's the case, is there a open source client with a similiar GUI to ms access available ? (note: mysql/etc won't do, the school program says ms access, so we need something similiar)

I think that's backwards, really. The database that comes with access is pretty weak, but many people use access as a front end to better database engines like postgresql.

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