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Education

Linux Win In Schools 456

Xaleth Nuada wrote to us about a Wired article that talks a school in Colorado choosing Linux over the traditional choices. The reason? Prohibitive costs for licensing, of course. The school's network is maintained by parental volunteers, and thanks to Linux, can be easily maintained remotely. And for what schools use computers for - primarily the Internet, it's a great solution.
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Linux Win In Schools

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  • browsers (Score:3, Troll)

    by JebOfTheForest ( 207893 ) on Monday August 20, 2001 @12:48PM (#2197785)
    And for what schools use computers for - primarily the Internet, it's a great solution.


    It's a great solution if by "internet" you mean ftp, news, mail, gopher, WAIS, etc. But if you mean "the web", you get...poor plug-in availability, instant lockout from loads of sites due to outdated flash plugin...

    • Re:browsers (Score:2, Funny)

      by Aerog ( 324274 )
      But by "the web" you mean High School, which really just means hundreds of horny, 15-year-old boys trying to download pr0n, and from my experiences, pr0n is pretty much platform-independent.

      Pr0n is pr0n is pr0n.

      On linux or Win or Mac, it's really all the same.

      • not true,

        there's a bunch of proprietary video codecs that have no linux player.
        Plus you can't watch any of those cool spank_my_ass_and_call_me_susan.mpg.exe videos ;-)

        -earl
    • Re:browsers (Score:2, Informative)

      by blayd ( 3655 )

      I don't know what rock you've been living under, but there is (and has been for a while now) a Flash 5 plugin for Linux. Granted it only works in Netscape, and to a lesser extent in konqueror, but it does exist. Go to Macromedia [macromedia.com] and see for yourself.

      Granted you will still get burned by things like Windows Media and Quicktime, but I figure students have better things to do than download movie trailers anyway.

      • It's been a few months since I actually visited a flash site, but I did get the flash 5 plugin working in Mozilla and thus Galeon and Skipstone. iirc, it was just a matter of putting the two (?) files for the plugin in the right directory (I don't remember which one that was).
    • The worst offenders are commercial sites of all places.

      But if they use their Internet connection for mainly educational purposes then I cannot see them having that many issues, if any at all. In fact most sites run perfectly well (never had Flash lock me out due to it being old! Had it lock out on some werid 3D stuff though).

      In fact some IE sites may just lock you out based upon the fact you're not running IE, even though Konqueror/Mozilla may well render the page correctly.

      Really your issues are purely FUD and are hardly based in the real world to any large extent. Right now I am using Konqueror.

      This is great that a school has done this. Hopefully more will follow, then finally the owners and designers will have to think about providing support for Linux. Support for Linux basically means good web design anyway.

      StarTux
  • Computer Literacy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Whyte Wolf ( 149388 ) on Monday August 20, 2001 @12:50PM (#2197809) Homepage
    Nice to see public schools moving towards a non-proprietary alternative to current software. Of course the reason for this now is budgetary concerns, but I can see a greater result--increased computer literacy.

    Its been my experience (as a web development instructor with a private post-secondary school) that teens these days, despite the stereotypes, actually posess less computer literacy than geeks of my generation.

    I learned DOS and UNIX on the command line. Windows and Mac will stunt your understanding of how a computer works, and make you think only of pushing around cute little icons. WIMP interfaces make people dumb. They can't understand how the computer works, so they end up relying on 'geeks' to fix their problems.

    Teach programming to everyone (Thanks to GvR) and teach kids a command line in school. Make them understand the technology that they'll use every day of their lives. Let our kids develop some computer savy and brains.
    • by acm ( 107375 ) on Monday August 20, 2001 @01:04PM (#2197898) Homepage
      Nice to see public schools moving towards a non-proprietary alternative to current software. Of course the reason for this now is budgetary concerns, but I can see a greater result--increased computer literacy.

      From what I can tell, this isn't a public school. Ridgeview "Classical" has a Mission Statement, .com address [www.ridgeviewclassical.com], and a fairly strict Dress Code [ridgeviewclassical.com] (warning, excel spread sheet), which includes "clean, neat, traditionally styled hair" with no wild colors, and shirts without any visible collarbone or logos of any kind.

      As a side note, their website appeare to be running on Solaris 2.6 or 2.7.

      acm

    • I think a subtle point you miss here is that nowadays children ARE more computer literate in the sense that they know how to use a computer to do things for themselves. The difference with these children is that they will be Linux-literate instead of Windows-literate.

      Think about it. A big reason why I use Windows today is because I grew up using DOS. If I'd grown up using Linux and StarOffice, I'd probably be using Linux today as my main OS.

      The biggest problem I have with talking about Linux to most people is that they've never even seen it, much less used it. It puts them at a disadvantage, and since most folks like to pretend they know everything on the 'net, they certainly can't admit they're at a disadvantage. ;)

      These kids are going to grow up knowing better. And they're going to wonder why all these people bothered to pay money for office and OS software that was dramatically inferior to the free stuff.
    • Its been my experience (as a web development instructor with a private post-secondary school) that teens these days, despite the stereotypes, actually posess less computer literacy than geeks of my generation.

      I'll have to agree with you that today there are more people who don't know what they're doing using computers. However, I think that you've made the wrong diagnosis. I don't think that the WIMP environment has actually made anyone dumber.

      The symptom is that a larger percentage of people who use computers don't understand that they're doing. Guess what, that's exactly the point. The people who are fascinated by computers still learn what's going on and understand. The difference is that the people who don't understand can use a computer today. Unlike 10-12 years ago you don't have to be a propeller head to really use a computer.

      The propeller heads are still there it's just that they're not the only ones sitting in front of a computer anymore.

    • First off, the GUI doesn't make one computer illiterate it actually lets more people use computers. It raises literacy. Maybe not to the level you like, but that's your opinion. The millions who use PCs and have no understanding of their innards are about as much as a problem as the millions of people who can't rebuild the engine in their car or replace a C-V joint.

      Secondly, they're still using windows at home which is good because when they move on to college and then some job, chances are if they aren't CS majors they'll be using windows.

      The problem, if there really is one, is that no one is programming typical home machines and there's an assumption that you have to know C++ and some Unix to get a handle on it. If you're using windows, use Visual Basic.

      I'd much rather see a school teach VB or VBScript in a Windows environment to automate tasks and actually program the thing instead of being limited to whatever software you can buy.

      I don't have a problem with the linux + windows solution this school is using, but this elitist attitude of dropping the GUI is just short-sighted and stupid. With linux advocates like these its no wonder it has such a teeny tiny market share in the workstation market.
    • Real geeks use punchcards!
    • I just bought a new computer. As for my old computer, I'm giving it to a friend's kid. He's 14 and very bright.

      He gets the computer for no monetary cost. But there are strings attached. He can use Windows for all of his games, but harddrive two will have some form of Unix on it. And he will learn how to program with it.

      He is so exciting he can barely sit down. He's already downloaded djcpp onto his dad's computer and grabbed a book on C.
  • by Junks Jerzey ( 54586 ) on Monday August 20, 2001 @12:51PM (#2197814)
    And for what schools use computers for - primarily the Internet, it's a great solution.

    If that includes web browsing, I disagree. Sadly, most of the technical benefits of Linux are cancelled out of the horrible web browsing software available for it. The Linux kernel beats Windows in any test imaginable, but in browser tests IE 5 walks over everthing else by a wide margin. Sure, you *can* browse with Opera or Navigator, but only if you're willing to accept that you won't be able to view a good number of sites correctly. (You can take the idealistic "I don't want to see those sites anyway" road, but not everyone does.
    • ...except that in a school situation, I wouldn't want kids browsing, I'd want them researching. And from this aspect, most of the important sites (such as Google, online dictionaries and encyclopedias, and current news sites) come up fine. So they can't see Gamespy.com, PlanetQuake or Slashdot at school, awww, too bad.


      And, to what extent I've used it, Opera's tech releases for Linux have been looking pretty sharp and lacking little of the rendering functionality of the Windows version, meaning that unless the site uses not-available-for-linux plugins, it will look just right.

      • except that in a school situation, I wouldn't want kids browsing, I'd want them researching.

        I don't want my kids on the Internet at all while at school. The Internet is of dubious value to learning and teaching, whereas a kid sitting down with a teacher can accomplish a lot.

        A computer is a poor replacement for caring teachers, involved parents and a supportive community.

        • >A computer is a poor replacement for caring teachers, involved parents and a supportive community.

          How about as a replacement for uncaring or ill-educated teachers, uninvolved parents and an apathetic community? This is defacto for many/most kids you do realize?

          Fix those things you say? People try, but it's very very hard. Fix the 50 year old teacher that is just trying to get to retirement age without having to learn anything new? Fix parents that themselves never went beyond the equiv of 6th grade? Fix the community that votes down school bonds and that usually has 0 community attendance at things like PTA meetings?

          Yes, please - Go - Do. Many of us are trying. Just don't pretend it's easy. In the meantime I'd rather the kids have a few computers in the room where they can doublecheck that the history lesson they just got is accurate or just old wives tales. "Mrs. Grundy.. .it says here that that Washington cherry tree story you were telling is a..poc..ry..phpal, whats that?"

          garyr
    • by elefantstn ( 195873 ) on Monday August 20, 2001 @01:07PM (#2197921)

      I really don't understand this. What are these sites that people have trouble viewing with Linux? I mean, with Moz .9.3, Java 1.3, and Flash all running fine on my machine, what else is there? Is there some hidden internet that I'm not aware of that has amazing functionality only available to Windows users? The only web thing I have to go to Windows to do is play Age of Kings on zone.com, and I have to reboot to play the game anyway.

      • Is there some hidden internet that I'm not aware of that has amazing functionality only available to Windows users?

        Off the top of my head, how about shockwave [shockwave.com] and more importantly Shockwave arcade [clevermedia.com]? If you need a few minutes to kill while your brain regenerates, shockwave arcade has a ton of neat little video games.

        I'm sure ther eare others, this is just one of the ones that annoys me. Yeah, yeah, I know it's Shockwave's fault for not supporting us, the point is that there ARE sites that just don't cut it on Linux.

        • Yes, but we're talking schools here. The vast majority of shockwave is not content, it is entertainment. I'm sure we could find some genuinely educational content authored for shockwave but it is vastly outnumbered by the material authored in a cross platform format.

          In reality it isn't a religious war between operating systems, browsers and technologies, it is a simple cost/benefit problem for these schools. With windows they have all these nifty browser plugins and rotten administration capabilities, with Linux they loose some plugins and some sites look different but the parent or two that knows what they are doing can easily take care of the box in their spare time.

    • Slashdot doesn't work when I use Konqueror. 1.9.something (I think?). I have to hand edit the URL. An extra "slashdot.org" is in every link. I don't think that would be good in a school.
  • Look at colleges (Score:3, Insightful)

    by FortKnox ( 169099 ) on Monday August 20, 2001 @12:52PM (#2197816) Homepage Journal
    Most colleges use a UNIX environment (especially for CS and engineering). Putting a UNIX environment in high/elementary schools is the next step. And you know how school boards love to save money.

    Solution? Linux.

    It isn't very surprising to me, other than the need to have a good *NIX network administrator in your local school (seems odd, doesn't it?).
  • by Chairboy ( 88841 ) on Monday August 20, 2001 @12:52PM (#2197817) Homepage
    For every one story we read abotu a school adopting Linux, theres a few hundred schools that buy Windows.

    This is a fascinating story, honest, it's just buried in an avalanche of MS boxen.
  • ...To start teaching the free-software mentality. Since the parental volunteers and teachers are tacitly endorsing OSS and GNU principals by choosing Linux over the pay-for competition, they're letting their kids know that Free software is good and acceptible.

    This is in stark contrast to the days when I grew up. I remember my Pascal teacher 'giving' me an copy of Turbo Pascal compiler because she knew I didn't have one at home to practice with. Then I felt bad because I knew it had been illegally copied. If only she or I had known that there *were* OSS compilers out there. These were something I didn't discover until college.

    Let's see if the decision to include OSS in schools will mean things like a chapter in the computer literacy class about the GPL and the mentality behind it. I'd also like to see the schools encourage their kiddies to 'give back' to the OSS movement by releasing their programming projects and any software they custom-build under the GPL.
    • This is in stark contrast to the days when I grew up. I remember my Pascal teacher 'giving' me an copy of Turbo Pascal compiler because she knew I didn't have one at home to practice with. Then I felt bad because I knew it had been illegally copied. If only she or I had known that there *were* OSS compilers out there. These were something I didn't discover until college.

      If I were your teacher, I'd still have given you TP. I learned C from right-clicking everything I saw in Turbo C (which displays help on whatever you clicked on). Much faster than manpages, usually more examples too.
  • Hmmmm... (Score:2, Insightful)

    This is a huge step forward for linux... but ofcourse my high school still uses macs... and not just macs... iMacs! What kind of idiot came up withthat computer? GRRRR!!!

    Sorry just venting... i hate those colourful pieces of crap!

    Hopefully we will install some sort of *nix by the time I'm a senior!

    I got a question though: What are they going to do about taking work home? Not every kid has a copy of StarOffice or AbiWord at home...
  • by pogle ( 71293 ) on Monday August 20, 2001 @12:56PM (#2197846) Homepage
    Honestly, they're volunteering so they're taking time to do things right the first time around. My old high school (which i keep tabs on, as I was the sole computer expert there for years) is horrendous with computers. Using the easily circumventedd security program known as Fortress, they wondered how everyone still played games. And the crappy cyber patrol software would block search engines and leave www.lotsofsexforyou.com open for anyone. For a county with more than 25 schools, all of them running through a single shared T1 (roughly), its pretty bad. Linux could fix a lot of it. The current problem is version differences, they've switched about half the staff over to Windows 2000 servers, leaving the other half on Novell. Thus, no one can access anything as the servers dont have access to the databases any more because the techs are ID10Ts. Rather than pouring money that should be going to teacher payraises and better books, they just upgrade windows again and break more stuff.

    Sorry, ranting a little there...but the computer mishaps that my poor HS goes through really bothers me, as it has a negative impact on perceptions of computers and the internet...
  • by Arethan ( 223197 ) on Monday August 20, 2001 @12:58PM (#2197858) Journal
    Linux is making an impression upon school kids now. Great! Now all we need to do is fix the biggest problem with Linux distros these days. They are all designed to be servers!

    In order for Linux to really make a good desktop OS, a distro must be designed with that goal in mind. Namely, get userspace programs out of the RPMs!! Nothing ticks me off more than having to search through a list of installed system RPMs just so that I can uninstall an old copy of mozilla. We really need to get a separate installer for applications, and get it distro immune. This way, people can start making professional looking install packages for their apps so non-geeks will take them seriously. (Sorry, but I don't know any grandmas out there who believe that source code is the best way to distribute applications. We need to start statically linking apps, and using a generic installer/uninstaller sort of like the Add/Remove programs in Windows.)

    Secondly, I haven't seen a gui application yet that I religiously envoke from the command prompt. Get gui applications out of the $PATH! If I wanted to run xcdroast from the command line every time, I would put a symbolic link in /usr/local/bin myself!

    There are other issues that I'm SURE will get me modded down (like X11 no longer being an efficient display method), but the two biggest problems that I see are the two I listed. There are other obvious issues (like the need for autoruns), but most of these have been taken care of. We really just need a desktop inclined distro, and a way to keep system packages separate from user installed packages.

    Okay moderators, down we go.....
    • Nothing ticks me off more than having to search through a list of installed system RPMs just so that I can uninstall an old copy of mozilla.

      And this is different from Add/Remove Programs how? You go through the list (in alphabetical order), find the one you don't want anymore, and click uninstall. It's not difficult, and even if you think it is difficult, it's no easier or harder than Add/Remove Programs. What's the difference?


      Secondly, I haven't seen a gui application yet that I religiously envoke from the command prompt. Get gui applications out of the $PATH! If I wanted to run xcdroast from the command line every time, I would put a symbolic link in /usr/local/bin myself!

      Why does this bother you? I don't run a whole lot of gui apps from the command line myself, but having them in my $PATH isn't exactly costing me hours of productivity. In fact, I don't see how it makes a difference in anything. Time, effort, anything. I don't even see the point in this at all. It's like saying "I never configure the look-and-feel of my panel in Gnome, so why is it in the settings program? If I wanted to configure L&F for the panel, I'd put the capplet in there myself!"



      Okay moderators, down we go.....

      I have never seen a post with this sort of comment get modded down.

      • And this is different from Add/Remove Programs how? You go through the list (in alphabetical order), find the one you don't want anymore, and click uninstall. It's not difficult, and even if you think it is difficult, it's no easier or harder than Add/Remove Programs. What's the difference?

        The difference is that the add/remove programs box has different tabs for programs and windows components. Most of the graphic rpm managers I've seen to this to some extent, but I really think that there should be a bit more separation between system utilities and user applications to make things a little more friendly. Any package that puts a file in /sbin or /usr/sbin shouldn't be very easy to uninstall. Anything that installs to /usr/local/bin or /opt should be pretty easy to get rid of if you find yourself not using it.

    • I think the main thing is that distros assume you want to run services. For a desktop box, you probably don't want to run any, except maybe identd, which can be fake anyway. It's really easy to administer a Linux box; the kernel rarely has remotely exploitable bugs. What's hard is administering all of those random programs that tend to get installed.

      You're right in thinking there needs to be a standard installation method. The technical details of it don't matter at all to the average end user, so long as it can be automated. Autoconf, aside from being a huge complex and hard-to-debug hack, is, in some ways, the best, though. If you had a program which displayed four bars, one for "tar -zxvf $1", one for "./configure", one for "make", and one for "make install", the user wouldn't know the difference between a binary installation and a source installation, except that the source one would be a bit slower and wouldn't mind having different builds of the libraries.

      An uninstaller would be really nice. It would probably actually solve many problems if "install" were the only program able to put things in /usr/local (aside from in directories owned by apps, which would, as directories, be subject to this policy), and if "install" kept track of what program put what where.

      Very good point about the GUI applications. If you can't *use* the application with a command line, there's no reason you should be able to *run* it that way.

      It is an interesting exercise, if you have time, to build a Linux system exclusively from the original sources. It really makes you aware of the programs you actually want when you have to go get everything individually, and you realize at some point just how much stuff you don't need.
    • From my perspective, your complaints seem far off-base. So, I must not understand something. To me, SuSE Linux 7.2 Personal's default install will give you everything you're asking for in a distro. YaST2 and a well-setup KDE2 desktop go a long, long way to making things obvious and point-and-clicky enough for the average computer user.

      But, that's just my perception. What am I not seeing?

      Or...have you tried the latest version of the more user-friendly distros out there? Things really are getting better by leaps and bounds.

    • I actually find it very useful to call GUI apps from the command line. It's really handy to be able to pass command line arguements so you don't have to wade through menus and dialogs to get it to do what you want.


      Examples of useful command-line calls:

      • netscape foo.html
      • gimp mypicture.jpg
      • gv -seascape bar.ps
      • kpackage someprog.rpm
      • emacs adocument.tex


      I agree that it's good to have these things in menus and such, but please don't take away ready command line access. As others have pointed out, having stuff in $PATH doesn't hurt anything.

    • Secondly, I haven't seen a gui application yet that I religiously envoke from the command prompt.

      I've done tech support for windows at various places, and solaris at Sun, where the secretaries use solaris and CDE and do just fine thanks, and most users are trained on and prefer the command line, and often don't have any other way to launch many applications. Netscape might be launched from the browser button on the panel, but brio for example is launched by clicking the terminal icon, then typing "brio" (no & needed, the universal wrapper for many apps would nohup the actual app). This works on anyone's desktop anywhere on the network anywhere in the company, no matter how it's been configured. Regularity like that is a nice thing. As for windows, I had people running winipcfg and regedt32 from start->run all the time (yes, regedit, they didn't give the helpdesk remote registry access, this is typical in IT shops).

      And for christ's sake, stop fucking whining about being potentially modded down.
    • Apparently a few people disagree with what I've stated. (Which is the reason for the 'probably going to get modded down'-like phrases.)

      Let's address these one by one, shall we?

      Statically linking applications:
      I've mainly only gotten "are you nuts" and "no thank you"'s on this one. Windows applications have C library functions at their disposal, yet the maintainer doesn't need to worry about updating their version of libc, or even worry about what version their application needs! It's just there. The required functions are compiled into the application. End of story. You're not looking at duplicating your libs all over the place. Just the functions that are used (and dependants), and only in the applications they are used in. Most of the griping I'm getting is about graphics libraries. Which is another reason why X needs to die. Applications are becoming too dependant on those various libs. End users just want it to run out of the box. End of story! There is no arguing about what is efficient and what is 'leet' or 'proper'. What matters is what works, and what work OUT OF THE BOX! Remember the general user's mentality. Put the cdrom in the drive, click 3 buttons, and the program is ready to use.

      Also, people are complaining about the $PATH variables. I agree 100%. If you like having these applications in your path, FINE! Do it! By all means! Just don't force it upon other users! Remember, a desktop aimed distro is going to be VERY dumbed down. Keep it SIMPLE! CLI is fine, use it if you like it. But keep user installed applications out of the path by default. CLI should only be available for pre-installed system applications. (like grep, less, more, awk, sed, lpr, ls, echo, init, list goes on...)

      An finally, my changing of the install model. This stretches across my previous two explanations quite a bit. The system install, should include system applications only, PERIOD. If I want KOffice, I'll go get it, or (better yet for Open Source projects out there) I'll buy it. I don't need some fancy OS installer app to decide what applications I may want on my computer. If I want it, I'll install it AFTER I put in the OS. Leave the pre-installed software to OEMs like Dell and Gateway. MS doesn't put Office in when you install Windows, why should Linux??? So this means what again? ...That applications are NOT part of the OS!! So keep them out of the $PATH! If they want it in the $PATH, let them put it there. That's fine. But keep it out of there by default.

      Plus, I forgot to mention this one earlier. Applications need to pick a directory, and stick to it, and stay out of each other's way! So unless your app is a CLI only app, and is a really big help with CLI-type operations, DON'T put it in /bin or /usr/bin. For god sakes, put it in /opt! That's what that directory is for! Put your application in /opt under it's own subdirectory, and don't put anything ANYWHERE else! (Okay, maybe you can put some configs in /etc, but PLEASE put them in their own subdir in there as well!)
      Explaination: I haven't seen an automatic installer yet that doesn't die at some point or another. Putting apps in their own dirs makes it easier to remove an application after your installer database dies. Especially when the app doesn't put little bits of itself all over your harddrive. "I don't want abiword anymore. (rm -r /opt/abiword) There. What else did I want to do today...."

  • Your time has no value.

    I am a Linux user, both at home and work, where my advocacy sometimes gets me in hot water. I think it's great that these schools are going Linux, but having "parental volunteers" maintain the network is, or can be, a recipe for disaster. Unless you get some slick Linux people in there, the AOLers and the A:\SETUPers will not be able to support it properly. Thus, it will be a classic straw-man case for Windows. Any budding MCSE geek can keep a Windows LAN limping along, and there are a lot of them.

    That all being said, I think this is a great way to teach people, kids especially, how computers and networks actually WORK, instead of creating another generation of double-clickers.
    • Unless you get some slick Linux people in there, the AOLers and the A:\SETUPers will not be able to support it properly.
      Or, another way to look at it is, the AOLers and A:\SETUPers among the students won't be able to screw it up. On the Windows boxes in our Arts & Sciences department, the only way the tech people could keep them running from more than a few days at a time was to revert the drive from an image on a central server on every reboot, since a few students there were convinced they needed extra stuff like MSN Messenger on them. (These are low-end computers we're talking about, and they would slow to a crawl if you had much more than a Web browser loaded into memory.) Our engineering department's Solaris lab is infinitely more reliable than our NT lab, since you can't easily put crap on the Solaris boxes that stop them from booting. (And it's not just because there's fewer students using the Solaris lab, because they teach all the introductory courses on Solaris so people can Telnet/SSH to them and do homework.)

      So what you see as a liability, a school would see as an asset, since you're talking about a lot of students the age when AOLers start turning script kiddies. Obviously, it won't lock out the most determined students (then again, neither would any other OS) but it'll pretty much halt kids who think they're l33t because they can install Snood on the computers.

  • From reading the article, it looks as if this school district is doing the same thing as Largo Florida. They're basically taking a bunch of old and otherwise useless machines and outfitting them into Linux thinclients that run off a master server. This is great so that schools aren't only strapped to keep up with costs for software, but this frees them from having to keep up with the latest hardware to run that software. Bottom line for the residents of the towns using linux are either (A) lowering taxes from not having to spend so much on computing resources, or (B) better overall school performance by using the extra cash to help the school run better.
  • So yeah, it's happening more and more and we see a story here and there... some city government adopts Linux and now some school. That's wonderful!

    Some other reader comments that it's a mystery that it took this long for that to start happening. Well, no it's not... the teachers and administrators often choose the computers and OS's. What *is* a slight mystery is why Apple failed to donate to the school... now that's a mystery... are they slipping or can they no longer afford to do that?

    The best part of this is that it better assures Linux's acceptance from the ground up. Now it's in the hands of more kids. Let's face it, the younger Linux users fit the profile of that kid (played by Matthew Broderick) from "War Games." Now we should (hope) to see an increase in comfortablity with this "new OS choice." (Okay, so it's not "new" to us, but it's still going to be very new to a lot of people and isn't that part of the detractor of Linux? It's new and/or unknown?)

    As for these 43 machines... I have to wonder if they are "good enough." Will the impression grow that Linux is slow to the point of being unusable? My first adventures in Linux were on my scrap computers... not powerful enough for my Windows usage... But since Linux was making a name for itself (at the time) for being able to run on my more modest hardware, I expected great things. When I didn't get great things I was very disappointed.

    I hope this new direction goes smoothly for these new pioneers because these first impressions can mean a lot. Now we are starting to migrate from FUD to FACT and Linux's reputation is even more on the line than ever. The solutions to problems may ultimately be simple but if the answers aren't to be found, it often makes some situations appear impossible under Linux. It's not time to celebrate yet. I would love to see a follow-up on this story with interviews of the support crew, the faculty and the students about their reflections on the migration to Linux. It could be important information for anyone who is concerned.
    • What *is* a slight mystery is why Apple failed to donate to the school... now that's a mystery... are they slipping or can they no longer afford to do that?

      Perhaps you mean all those Apple ]['s back in the 80's? Those weren't donated, they were bought and paid for by a tax strategy crafted by Apple and Sacramento. In short, Apple got more than a typical tax write off - they got to write off 3 times their manufacturing cost on every Apple ][ that they placed in the public schools. Why 3 times? At the time, it was customary to compute street cost at three times cost of goods.

      At least Sacramento had the sense to limit the "gift" to one computer per classroom.

  • Today, kids, you're going to learn about state history and how to grok a kernel...


    Make room everybody, Bernie has brought in his Beowulf Cluster for show & tell...


    Instead of giving her teacher an apple on the first day of school, Suzy brought in a G4, running LinuxPPC.


    As someone who came of age in the days of cassette drives and TRS-80 model 1's [ridiculopathy.com], I cannot imagine anything cooler.

  • I remember that it used to be Macs everywhere in the schools. The major difference I can see between the Mac of the late 80's/early 90's and linux today (at least as far as the general public would see it) is that there wasn't an abundance of business software available for the Mac back then. There is a ton of quality, low/no-cost business software available for linux today.

    There is also a good number of 'fun' software packages out there too -- MP3 players etc. to attract the Internet surfing masses. We just need a killer browser.
  • My first experience with Linux was almost 10 years ago, while in grad school. I had a choice. Hump up to the campus at night, and slug it out with DEC Ultrix on a system shared by a zillion others, or code my projects using SlackWare in the comfort of my own home on a machine that was all mine.


    More recently, I've seen several churches and charities make the switch. Again, it's an issue of licensing. Such organizations usually get 2 or 3 year old hardware donated to them, Linux fits the bill in that it doesn't necessarily need to be the bleeding edge to do the "office stuff".


    As other applications, such as attendence, inventory and other fun stuff get up and onto sourceforge & freshmeat, and as long as Linux to get friendlier and friendlier, more and more charitable organizations will make the switch.

  • by maroberts ( 15852 ) on Monday August 20, 2001 @01:31PM (#2198018) Homepage Journal
    I think that a number of events may conspire to give Linux a possibility of entering the mainstream market over the next few years, the most prominent events events being...

    a) MS tightening up on casual user piracy by actively preventing multiple user installs.

    b) added cost of licensing MS products under the new scheme, this will mean that companies will think twice about paying for MS when a similar amount of bucks buys you a single RH Linux disk and a fairly hefty admin staff.

    c) some (currently small) demonstrations that Linux now has the capability to function in school and public service environments

    d) KDE and Gnome genuinely appear to offer almost everything on the desktop that Windows does (OK the Office suite for KDE is not there yet, but real progress has been made).
  • Bad Thing (Score:2, Insightful)

    by SlamMan ( 221834 )
    This is not a Troll, but are you all on crack? This is not a good thing. For hardly anybody. Putting Linux in a k-12 school system is not a good thing. Despite what anybody here says, Linux is not as easy to use as a Mac, or even windows. I make no bones baout this, and it may be part of the reason I love it so. Linux was designed for servers, and high end workers, not kindergarteners who have enough trouble putting their coats on, much less operating KDE. As someone who supports an elementry school's computers, software for schools often needs to be bright, simple, and colorful. You guys remeber MECC software, and Broderbund? Elementry school are places where using Print Ship can be a challenge, and the concept of "where did I save my work" or "I have to save my work?" are allmost insurmountbale. 9 times out of ten, teachers tend to be the least computer savy people you'll ever meet. And this is not necesaarily a bad thing, since they deal with very small children each and every day. Perl scripts aren't skills they need. Remember the idea here is total cost of ownership. Linux takes time to learn, time that teachers don't have to put in.
  • It's nice that everyone feels that Linux use in schools would be good. But if you want to see Linux in use at your local K-12, get out and volunteer with their technology committee. I did, and it was an eye-opener.

    Because school administrators aren't technical, they decide what to implement based on what other schools in their area are doing, and the Windows status quo is maintained. Install Linux? What's that? How would you do it? It's free, sure, but without an expert to help them learn, all but the bravest will stay away. They have too many other issues to worry about, like getting electrical upgrades, equipment, and developing computer curriculum with teachers that aren't up to speed.

    If you volunteer and work as part of a school technology team, you'll be helping them move through all of these issues with minimal risk. It's then that you'll be able to bring up Linux, piquing their interest with the cost, helping them understand why it's better, and assisting with the implementation and the learning. They'll be exceedingly grateful, and you'll get to increase your karma somewhere other than here.
  • There are computer room monitors at the local high school. They are there to help students when they can't figure out how to do something. Unfortunately, these people were given jobs for some political reason and not for being actually qualified for the job.

    When I was there, NOBODY was allowed to use the 40 IBM machines in another room, everybody had to use the 20 Macs. There were many reasons why we weren't allowed to use the DOS/Win3.1 machines. I personally was blamed for attempting to crash the hard drive by removing the "Leaf" wallpaper from Windows 3.1. They really flipped out when they saw me sitting in from of a command prompt typing in DIR. Apparently that causes hard drive crashes as well.

    They EVENTUALLY got off my back and let me do whatever I wanted after I kept ignoring them and using the IBMs anyways. Gee, no HDs ever crashed either.

    But the moral of this story is that no matter how many computers you have, you still need somebody to show the kids how to use it. And how many schoolkids are going to have Linux geeks for parents? Do Linux geeks have the ability to get a date, let alone procreate? Just kidding. But I don't see this helping out so many rural schools due to lack of knowledge and lack of funds to acquire knowledge. Linux may be free but somebody has to learn how to use it. Of course, if one of the major distros were to have an install feature for "Super-Secure-Only-StarOffice", then it may make this a little more likely in a lot more schools.
  • A question that might be a bit off topic, but I think not: what about educational software? You see, I am considering helping out my local school by donating some old hardware (some of my own stuff that's gathering dust in the basement, maybe use my contacts in the IT biz to get some more), but I really don't want to give them something for which they would have to shell out a load of money for software licenses (thus leaving the computers unused for lack of OS/software).

    Installing Linux is something I would be thrilled to do, since it is what I work with and it is the OS I am the most familiar with - plus it won't cost them anything. But what good is that if there is no educational software available? I'm thinking elementary school stuff, like spelling/grammar, mathematics, geography, educational games - that sort of stuff.

    I'd prefer if it was opensource - not because I'm a zealot or anything, but since english is not our mother tongue, I guess I'd have to do a bit of translation work before they can use it.

    I'm totally ignorant as to what's available, any suggestions (reply or mail) would be very welcome in deed.

  • I hate to rag on Wired, but this article is a huge Linux puff piece that takes as fact everything that the people involved with the effort say. Why don't they have any responses from people at Microsoft or Apple (who in particular is hugely invested in the education market) to any of the issues brought up?
  • Great... (Score:5, Funny)

    by krmt ( 91422 ) <(therefrmhere) (at) (yahoo.com)> on Monday August 20, 2001 @02:11PM (#2198291) Homepage
    Now we're going to have third graders screaming their heads off at each other about the merits of emacs vs. vi and Gnome vs. KDE!

    If you thought the arguments were juvenile and immature before, just wait until those first graders get /. accounts!
  • This is a victory for "free as in beer"; "Free as in speech" wasn't a player. Implications with respect to political agendas, possible corporate countermeasures, etc. should be obvious.

  • It's sad that the primary use of a computer in a shcool is "The Internet"

    whatever happened to expressing creativity through code? I remember when I was in High School, our computer room was a bunch of TRS-80 model III's. Computers in schools should be a tool to learn. Internet access??? Why? Maybe a networking class, with your own web and mail servers to play with.

    Let's not forget why children are in school. To learn important skills they can't get elsewhere. How does being able to browse web pages help this?
  • You bet schools mainly use their computers for 'net access. Judging by all the emails I get about horny schoolgirls wanting me to check out their websites, they must be at it 24/7.

    ...j

Mathematics deals exclusively with the relations of concepts to each other without consideration of their relation to experience. -- Albert Einstein

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