Linux in Schools

This is an excellent guest post by Scott Rowed on the use of Linux in K-12 schools, including strong evidence that school districts that do not have students using the Linux operating system are placing their students at a disadvantage, as well as a description of one outstanding success story in British Columbia.

Linux in Schools

Scott Rowed

What computer operating system should students learn at school? Most schools use MS Windows or Mac, but a number have switched or are in the process of switching to Linux. For schools the advantages are lower costs, greater security, no viruses or spyware, easier upgrades and better reliability. Lastly, there are very few licensing hassles or concerns about pirated software.

What about the students? One of the arguments frequently presented in favour of Windows is that students should learn on the systems they will be using after they graduate. But the computer world is changing rapidly, and it is difficult to determine if Windows will still dominate computer desktops to the extent it does today. More importantly, Windows in 2015 will almost certainly look different than Windows 7.

Learning Linux in school can be compared to French Immersion. Just as students in the French program still learn English, students learning Linux will still be exposed to Windows and Mac computers sufficiently to learn what they need. Linux, as well as French, can open up career opportunities that otherwise may not be possible.

The key question is whether Linux is relevant today and in the future. After all, if it’s just a fringe operating system with few real-world applications, then why burden the students with it?

Consider the following breakdown for market share by operating system as of June 2010.
“A” ….91%
“B”…..4.4%
“C”…..1%

One could easily assume that “A” is Microsoft Windows, “B” is Mac and “C” is Linux. This list, however, does not include family computers purchased at your neighborhood electronics store. Rather it looks at what’s happening among supercomputers – the fastest 500 computers on the planet. Now let’s identify the OS.
“A” ….91%……Linux
“B”…..4.4%….Unix
“C”…..1%…….Windows

(source)

What’s even more astonishing is that just twelve years ago, in June 1998, Linux first made the list with a single computer in the top 500.

Typically, these computers are custom built by IBM, HP or Cray. Number one on the list is the Cray Jaguar from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. Think your quad-core desktop system is fast? This one has 224,162 cores. And yes, it runs on Linux. As expected, many of the Top 500 computers are used by universities and research organizations, especially in science.

Let’s look at a few examples of Linux in the real world.

The Film Industry – Weta Digital

The film indusry is dominated by Linux. Even Pixar, the company started by Apple’s Steve Jobs, does its production on Linux. But for creating realistic fantasy worlds in 3D, there’s little doubt that Avatar sets the current standard. To achieve this, James Cameron collaborated with a New Zealand company, Weta Digital, which also did the digital work for Lord of the Rings and King Kong.

One of the biggest challenge in Avatar was to make the facial expressions of the Na’vi people photo realistic. Weta solved the problem by creating a facial capture system with helmet-mounted cameras directly in front of the actors’ faces. Using small painted dots on the faces Weta was able to render the human actors’ into their Na’vi counterparts in almost real time, allowing Cameron to check on the finished look as each scene was completed.

(see How Weta Digital Handled Avatar and

How James Cameron’s Innovative New 3D Tech Created Avatar)

I emailed Weta to inquire about their use of Linux and received the following reply from Matt Provost the Systems Lead at Weta:

I think it’s great that you’re bringing Linux to schools. Here at Weta Digital we use Kubuntu Linux for most aspects of our production process, from desktops to servers. At the scale at which we’re operating it’s really the only viable solution.

You can see on the Top 500 Supercomputer list that over 90% of those clusters are running Linux. These are the computers that are analysing data at universities and research labs around the world. We’re a minority, using ours to make movies.

The principal software that we use for 3D modeling and animation is Autodesk’s Maya which we run on Linux. Most of our compositing programs like Shake and Nuke also run on Linux. We run Pixar’s RenderMan software on thousands of Linux servers to generate the final images. Linux is the industry standard for digital special effects. There’s a long history of visual effects tools running on Linux from back in the Silicon Graphics days. Now all of those tools have moved to Linux. Linux provides a great platform for the desktop because it’s so stable and mostly it just stays out of the way and lets people get on with their work.

In addition to those commercial programs, we’re also big users of open source. Open source software is very important for us because it gives us the ability to fix things ourselves. When deadlines are approaching and we find a bug, we can’t always afford to wait for a service pack to fix it. It also helps us when we’re developing new software that has to operate very efficiently to deal with the amount of data that we process. We’re able to examine the entire system right down to the operating system kernel to see where the bottlenecks are and how we can deal with them.

Television Broadcasting – Harris Corporation

The Vancouver 2010 Olympics presented CTV with technical challenges to manage and distribute the huge amounts of HD video that was shot during the torch relay and the Olympic venues. CTV hired Harris Corporation, with their Harris ONE™ integrated broadcast solution for this task. Harris puts a Windows interface on their software, presumably because it’s more familiar to the majority of users, but all that does is hand over the commands to Linux, where the real work gets done. In a car that would be the equivalent of having a Windows gas pedal connected to a Linux engine.

The Financial Industry – London Stock Exchange

There’s a saying, “Windows is the safe choice. No IT manager ever got fired for choosing it.” Trouble is, it just isn’t true! Heads rolled at the London Stock Exchange for the expensive adoption and failure of their Windows-based trading system. Last year they finally gave up and adopted Linux. (See London Stock Exchange to abandon failed Windows platform and London Stock Exchange gets the facts and dumps Windows for Linux)

The Internet – Google

Google runs on Linux. Everything from their massive servers down to their Android operating system for phones and other mobile devices is based on Linux. Even their upcoming Chrome OS will Linux based.

After their Chinese operation was hacked, Google is phasing out all internal use of Windows computers. Any employees wishing to use Windows on their desktop computer must get senior level security approval, otherwise they must switch to Linux or Mac. (see Google ditches Windows on security concerns)

Governments – French Police

France’s Gendarmerie Nationale, the national police force, is in the process of switching its 90,000 workstations to Ubuntu Linux. As of March 2009 they had saved over €50 million in licencing fees and reduced their IT budget by 70%. (See French police: we saved millions of euros by adopting Ubuntu)

“Moving from Microsoft XP to Vista would not have brought us many advantages and Microsoft said it would require training of users,” said Lt. Col. Guimard. “Moving from XP to Ubuntu, however, proved very easy. The two biggest differences are the icons and the games. Games are not our priority.

Also the Canadian government is now looking into using open-source software. Will our students be in a position to take advantage of that? (See Canadian government eyes open source, asks for feedback)

Other companies, organizations, schools and government agencies

The few examples listed above are just the tip of the iceberg for Linux use. Other organizations include Wikipedia, One Laptop Per Child, Amazon, Virgin America, IBM, Tommy Hilfiger, Travelocity, CERN (Large Hadron Collider) and numerous school systems around the world. (See 50 Places Linux is Running That You Might Not Expect)

The more powerful the computers, the more critical the operations, and the greater the security concerns, the more systems use Linux. It is simply more powerful, more stable, more secure and faster than competing operating systems. For students in school today looking to build careers in forward-looking organizations, a knowledge of Linux would be strong asset, whether or not they are in the IT department.

One trend is clear. Linux is increasing in relevance on the world stage and this will lead to increased demand for people familiar with Linux. This may also be reflected in higher salaries. But don’t take my word for it. According to a report sponsored by Microsoft:

http://download.microsoft.com/download/2/0/a/20ac945c-34d0-4a60-8245-f80e80fe954f/Vital_Wave_Consulting_Affordable_Computing_TCO11June08.pdf

Skilled Linux administrators can command 10% to 20% salary premiums compared to Macintosh, Windows and UNIX managers.

Now, it should be noted that this report is addressed to corporate management, attempting to argue that when it comes to TCO (total cost of ownership), Windows holds its own when compared to Linux. So far I’ve found no examples where Microsoft has used this figure while attempting to convince computer science students to focus on Windows instead of Linux.

The Trickle Down Effect

It’s worth repeating and emphasizing just how quickly this transformation has occurred at the high end of the computer market. And at the low end, Linux is in a strong position in gadgets and appliances running Android and Meego. (See The Year of the Linux…

The so-called “trickle-down” effect may not have worked in economics, but it seems to have a much better chance of success in technology.

Many schools in foreign countries and even at home in Canada have already switched to Linux. This is very troubling to Microsoft as they recognize that if students learn on Linux in school, they are likely to stay with Linux after graduation. In response, Microsoft has been almost giving away Windows and Microsoft Office to school systems planning to migrate to Linux.

Schools – Kamloops School District, British Columbia

What are the logistics of switching to Linux in schools? What are the advantages and drawbacks? The costs? The potential pitfalls?

Many of the large-scale adoptions of Linux in education have been overseas – Russia, the Philippines, Spain, Macedonia, Germany, Georgia, Switzerland, Italy and India to name some. Fortunately there is a good case study close to home, in British Columbia.

In 2006, the Kamloops School District started its journey into Linux at the Barriere Secondary School when the principal, Dean Coder, switched the entire school over to Linux. After the success of that pilot project the school district had difficulty keeping up with the demand from schools to help them switch. In September 2009, the transition was largely complete throughout the school district.

The people at Kamloops are very helpful to other districts and as of 2009 there were three other BC districts in transition – Chilliwack, Campbell River and Saanich.

An analysis of the Barriere model show substantial savings to the school in hardware, software licensing, maintenance and electricity. Of particular note is the savings of $30,000 per year on maintenance, for the small Barriere school alone. There are no viruses and the system is so reliable that it just doesn’t need much support. One surprising saving was in electricity. They brought in BC Hydro to analyze the electricity costs of the computers and found that the Barriere school was saving almost $5000 per year on electricity by using Linux diskless clients.

Summary

Linux is no longer a fringe operating system, but has widespread adoption at the high end of the market with organizations and companies at the leading edge of science and technology. Students who learn Linux may find a substantial advantage in job opportunities compared to those trained in Windows only.

Schools can benefit by lower costs. In these days of tight education budgets, money saved on computers can be put toward special programs, teachers and assistants, or reduced school fees.

Comments

  1. #1 Fred Magyar
    September 29, 2010

    when the principal, Dean Coder, switched the entire school over to Linux.

    Heh! I thought that was just a pun but the principal’s name really is Dean Coder Well gee, with a name like that what else could you expect. Cool!

  2. #2 DGoodin
    September 29, 2010

    I made the switch from Windows to Linux as my primary, day-to-day OS about a year ago. So far, I have no regrets. I still use Windows (in a virtualbox) to run some software I need for my work, but for the most part I have been able to replace Windows applications with something as good or better (and free). The major problem I have is installing software, which is not as straightforward as on Windows machines. I currently use Ubuntu but have been reading lately that Mint may be a better choice among the Debian derivatives, since it is has fewer modifications from the original. I have been thinking about switching — is it possible to do this without having to reload all applications and data?

  3. #3 Frank Sfalanga
    September 29, 2010

    Our local school board IT Department is run by a managing member of the local PC users group. He has no interest in GNU or Linux. 70,000 students – no linux. :(

  4. #4 Timberwoof
    September 29, 2010

    Nice article! It’s good to see some positive examples of shifts to Linux, given the horror stories that Windows marketing types like to trot out from time to time.

    At work I use Windows and OS X. At home, I use OS X. I’ll admit I’ve have had a change of heart about Windows. I used to say “Linux for servers, OS X for desktops, and Windows for game machines.” But no longer. Now I say, “Linux for servers, OS X for desktops, and Wii for game machines.”

    The power savings is verified by Google, who care about such things. The same computer will use more power at idle running Windows than at idle running Linux.

    Frank, there was a survey a couple of years ago that showed income of IT professionals with various certifications. Having any of various Microsoft certifications causes a decrease in your income! Given the number of MacBooks visible on scientists’ desks on NOVA documentaries should tell anyone how important it is to expose students to a variety of operating systems.

    (Oh, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory is in Tennessee.)

  5. #5 spartan2276
    September 29, 2010

    We too have switched our servers from Windows to Ubuntu Linux and now have a much powerful/better stable environment. Also We are planning on switching our database from SQL Server to MySQL as soon as possible. By doing this we have managed to save tons of monies without the need to upgrade the existing servers or having to pay for new windows licenses. The whole thing about total cost of ownership is BS.

    My team has adapted well to the change in environment and has had no issues in fact they love the fact that they no longer have to worried about reboots or something malfunctioning or going wrong. Also there is plenty of software that otherwise we would have had to pay for and to some extend we still use some proprietary software that is available for Ubuntu Linux which is great.

    At some point we will also move our desktops to Ubuntu as well, most of the IT has done it already. We also managed to get our Windows XP/7 Desktops to play well with our Ubuntu Ldap/Email servers. Ubuntu has been great so far and the learning experience has been great. Lets hope that Ubuntu keeps growing as it has and that innovation does not stagnate as Windows has. For those of you who choose to have others do the thinking for you please don’t Windows is very limited as an operating system and actually holds you back in terms of knowledge and growth for any IT personnel whom wishes to keep growing and advancing look in to learning Linux you will not regret it one bit. If only the schools here in the US would adapt Linux. Specially with the way our economy is going it would be a welcomed change.

  6. #6 MadScientist
    September 29, 2010

    Uh – the Oak Ridge National Laboratory is in Oak Ridge, Tennessee and definitely *not* in California. I think my uncle would be very surprised to find that his workplace had packed up and moved west without him knowing.

  7. #7 MadScientist
    September 29, 2010

    @DGoodin: Mint (when I last checked almost a year ago) is based on Ubuntu. It seems much friendlier to set up though and when I checked K/Ubuntu, Mint, and Suse it was Mint which I recommended to a friend.

    Unfortunately switching is easiest to achieve by installing a whole new system. Even though the base package management system is still apt-get, I don’t think the hassle of using different software archives with slightly different versions etc. is worthwhile. As for your private data, that’s easily moved because it’s all in your home directory. If you have multiple users then you will need to do some post-install tweaking to ensure that all your users continue to exist and own the data they are meant to own. If you’ve spent a lot of time setting up things such as a blog and webserver, you can copy their settings from the /etc directory but you may need to use those settings as a guide to manually configure the new software – this is particularly common for network setups; even different Debian based distributions sometimes use different schemes and scripts for setting up networking.

  8. #8 MadScientist
    September 29, 2010

    @DGoodin: I forgot one thing in switching between UNIXes (or Linuxes) – the spool directories, especially the mail directories. If you maintain mailboxes on your machine you will need to find out where the information is kept and also backup/move it.

  9. #9 Greg Laden
    September 29, 2010

    Mint has a new version that is based more on Debian than Ubuntu is (called Mint Debian or something like that).

    Regarding changing distros: If you change distros, you probably should back everything up and put it back in manually (relatively easy in Linux). As MS says, pay special attention to mail spoolers.

    You will, of course, have to reinstall your software if you are using a different distribution. But, if you are changing distributions because you don’t like the way software is installed, than that’s a feature, not a bug.

    Having said that, I’m not sure why Debian/Mint/Ubuntu should be even a tiny bit difference in installing software. Using synaptic, you click on the sofware you want to install (or reinstall or uninstall) and say “apply” and it’s done Easier than that would be kind of freaky, like you just think about the software and it gets installed for you!

  10. #10 DGoodin
    September 29, 2010

    The motivation to switch from Ubuntu to Mint really doesn’t have anything to do with software isntallation. I haven’t has any problems with Synaptic, and apt-get install command is easy enough. Most of the problems I have had are with packages that have to be built from source. I am not real clear on how the whole ‘make’ thing works. My computing roots are in the VMS\Vax world, so I am pretty much a C student when it comes to Unix — wish I knew more. Regardles, I am enjoying the switch. I just like the way Linux feels. Hinestly, the reason why I was thinking about the switch was because I looked the looks of Mint a little better. Maybe it’s not worth it.

  11. #11 David Bucknell
    September 29, 2010

    Thanks for this article. We moved our school to Linux starting in 2003 over a three year period (servers in the 1st year, all free/open source on deskstops in the second, and all Linux desktops in the third) except the accountants. Now with better alternatives, it’s time to address the finance office. The second year is to get people used to the same apps they will use on Linux; in the third year, they learn how much easier it is to navigate using Linux than it is in Windows. Case closed — until the new teachers come who only know win and mac. We’re a success story barraged with advice from people who have more tech problems than we do and who want us to be like them.

  12. #12 David Bucknell
    September 29, 2010

    Thanks for this article. We moved our school to Linux starting in 2003 over a three year period (servers in the 1st year, all free/open source on deskstops in the second, and all Linux desktops in the third) except the accountants. Now with better alternatives, it’s time to address the finance office. The second year is to get people used to the same apps they will use on Linux; in the third year, they learn how much easier it is to navigate using Linux than it is in Windows. Case closed — until the new teachers come who only know win and mac. We’re a success story barraged with advice from people who have more tech problems than we do and who want us to be like them.

  13. #13 Earl
    September 30, 2010

    Great article. I moved to linux about a year and a half ago, it is a great platform, especially if you like tinkering. Ubuntu is my weapon of choice, but I have tried out many other distros. Mint, fedora, opensuse, knoppix and gentoo. They all have their use, but ubuntu is what I would suggest to others.

  14. #14 Scott Rowed
    September 30, 2010

    I’m not sure how I listed the Oak Ridge National Laboratory as being in California. Anyway, thanks for the correction.

    Earier this month I stopped in at Kamloops, where John Cuzzola, the Director of IT for the Kamloops School District, gave me a tour of the system in operation at two schools, including classes in progress at a couple of computer labs. Throughout the district there are about 15,000 students and 5000 Linux diskless clients.

    It’s a very smooth operation with almost 100% uptime and very low maintenance. When the ran under Windows they would always expect two or three of the computers in a lab to malfunction, but now they have come to expect every station to work. On the rare occasion when a workstation does encounter a hardware failure, they simply replace it with a spare box, which is very quick as all the programs and data are stored in the server. Updates to the system take only a few minutes instead of days, again because the diskless clients get their data from the server rather than local hard drives.

    Each workstation consists of a monitor, keyboard, mouse and a box containing an inexpensive motherboard with an nVidia graphics card – total cost about $300 Cdn.

    Prior to adopting Linux, the IT staff spent much of their time fixing problems. Now they devote that time to teaching students and teachers how to be productive with the applications and operating system.

    They are justifiably proud of how well their system works, the cost effectiveness, and the benefits to the students and teachers.

  15. #15 wheatdogg
    September 30, 2010

    I’ll weigh in here as a former IT coordinator for an independent high school in the USA.

    I started using Linux at home in 1999, just to see what it was like. By the time I was called upon to be the school’s IT guy in 2001, I was already a diehard Linux fan. But the school had long ago committed itself to Windows (over Mac OS), so I had to go with the flow. As time passes, I got more proficient with both Linux and Windows Server environments, enough to pilot putting our school intranet on an unused (as in retired) server. No one noticed the difference. As long as they could do the same things as before, the OS on the server made no difference.

    Many school systems, as well as my former school, have School Management System (or School Information System) software to manage admissions, grades and so on. These packages are typically Windows-based, sometimes OS X-based and rarely Linux-based. Client access to SMS/SIS servers is usually browser-based, but the server itself usually has to be running Windws. And the vendors invariably recommend the database (Oracle in our case) run on its own dedicated Windows server. Their support staff are usually Windows-centric, so proposing a Linux box as a DB server just causes their eyes to glaze over.

    I’m throwing this out here to suggest that a total switch-over to Linux may not be possible in all school systems, because of software and vendor issues. Technically it is possible, but most school systems don’t have the IT staff who have the necessary skills to make it happen.

    If I could have had my way, I would have much preferred managing an OS X or a Linux environment than a Windows one. As it was, I was a lone wolf crying at the moon.

  16. #16 Greg Laden
    September 30, 2010

    A school district may have buses, pickups, a few other vehicles. No one says that all the vehicles must be the same model and make. A school building has many classrooms and some bathrooms. No one says that since bathrooms are critical all classrooms must have toilets.

    Yes, there is a lot of software used by teachers in data recording and management and sometimes teaching that is Windows based, because MS has done a good job at marketing. This does not mean that every single computer in the school has to be a Windows computer.

    By the way, if the school software goes in the same direction as other categories of software (and it will) it will become server based, thin client usable, browser delivered, and not even run on servers physically located in the schools, and the backend will probably merge with something bigger. Think email: Schools are still often using local servers with some god-awful software designed for businesses. Or, they are simply switching to institutional level accounts with gmail. In effect, they have moved from Windows to Linux without a word spoken about operating system.

    Or, a company interested in providing what is now provided could simply try it with an OpenSource/Linux model and undercut the competition by a significant percentage in cost. The purchasers/clients don’t even need to know what kind of operating system they are using.

  17. #17 xutre
    September 30, 2010

    What! No mention of Weta Digital’s ironic association with Halo? Tut tut.

  18. #18 David Bucknell
    September 30, 2010

    I just saw Wheatdogg’s comment and would just like to say that while he is right about the way vendors push for windows (and Mac), there are great Web tools for schools (and I’m sure he knows about them), and I’ve been using them for years. Granted, someone looking to find a reason not to use them, will. However, someone looking for a way to make do with and build on free/open source will find the following, to name a few starters:

    * Open Admin (http://openadmin.ca), among others, for the student information system.
    * Koha (http://koha.org) for the library.
    * Drupal-based installation profiles such as http://openatrium.com or Drupal Commons (http://acquia.com/products-services/drupal-commons) and Open Scholar (http://openscholar.harvard.edu/home) which can be adapted for schools and many of us are doing so. Check out the Drupaled group on drupal.org.
    * We’d love to have your participation in further developing the possibilities for k-12 at http://flossed.org

  19. #19 Scott Rowed
    September 30, 2010

    Another thing John Cuzzola emphasized to me is that it’s essential to have an enthusiastic and knowledgeable Linux supporter in the IT department – maybe a recent graduate. You also need a teacher with a working knowledge of Linux. Then start fairly small, possibly with one computer lab switching to Linux and letting the support grow from there. Trying to force the change onto unwilling IT personnel and teachers is an invitation to failure.

    The Barriere school was an exception to that rule, where the entire school switched at once at the request of the principal.

  20. #20 Shawn
    September 30, 2010

    Windows is an OS you use; Linux is an OS you learn. The difference is that you can get inside Linux and learn how an OS works. And it seems that in the future, Windows will only dominate the desktop. Smart phones and pads will be running a distro of Linux.

  21. #21 Abe
    September 30, 2010

    I’m not sure how I listed the Oak Ridge National Laboratory as being in California. Anyway, thanks for the correction.

    I believe you were think of Sandia National Laboratories, which is in California and uses Linux quite a bit. See this link

    https://share.sandia.gov/news/resources/news_releases/sandia-computer-scientists-successfully-boot-one-million-linux-kernels-as-virtual-machines/

  22. #22 Greg Laden
    September 30, 2010

    Shawn: “Windows is an OS you use; Linux is an OS you learn. ”

    When was the last time you actually used each operating system? This is a very incorrect characterization of the modern Linux desktop.

    “The difference is that you can get inside Linux and learn how an OS works. ”

    Very true, and just to be clear “can” does not mean “needs to” or “this is the main thing you want to do with it.”

    “And it seems that in the future, Windows will only dominate the desktop. Smart phones and pads will be running a distro of Linux.”

    We’ll see about the desktop, but yes, for other uses it has already happened, long ago, despite MS’s best efforts.
    Bill Gates and other leaders at MS have made no secret of the fact that their plan for years was to put Windows inside everything. Gates once said “some day your washing machine will be smart, and it will be running windows” or words to that effect.

    Windows isn’t used in ANY embedded systems (that work) to speak of. Linux is the all purpose operating system that is used in most. This simply means that it is highly adaptable and very very stable and reliable (and the price is right!)

  23. #23 Sean
    September 30, 2010

    I tried a DVD boot of Ubuntu last night and was impressed that it allowed access to my wireless and file systems. I think I will try a dual boot on that machine, because most every day crap I can do in Linux. I was not as impressed with a USB boot on my netbook, but I will try to read more about that and figure out if it will work for me. I need to do some major cleaning of my systems to make a decent amount of room, but I think this will be a good move. I will only install dual boots though, because I can’t live without my pirated PS!

  24. #24 Randall
    September 30, 2010

    Good article. However, “Linux” is a kernel. Don’t take my word for it though, download Linux here http://www.kernel.org/pub/linux/kernel/v2.6/linux-2.6.35.7.tar.bz2 and try to run it.

    My point? One cannot run Linux without a ton of other stuff (Grub, GNU software, a desktop environment, etc etc). It’s a subtle yet important distinction that I hope you’ll get right next time.

    If you must label it as “Linux”, please try something like “Linux-based OS”, “GNU/Linux” or perhaps even try calling the OS by it s real name: Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Fedora… or other distribution name.

    Cheers,
    Randall
    Ubuntu Vancouver LoCo

  25. #25 Curly
    September 30, 2010

    In addition to the London Exchange, the “Merc” (Chicago Mercantile Exchange) is also using Linux, as well as a good part of the banking industry, not to mention parts of the U.S. Military. A link to other businesses that run on Linux http://www.linux.org/info/linux_industry.html

  26. #26 djk
    September 30, 2010

    I use Windows at work, and Linux at home. Over the years I’ve found that one just uses Linux, and keeps repairing Windows. Linux updates are fast, and no re-boot necessary.

    I changed our 3 teens from Windows to Linux about 6 years ago. Six months later, one of them asked me how to print from Windows. I explained that he wasn’t using Windows. He said that he was, so I asked him to show me. He had been using Linux and OpenOffice all this time and had never noticed.

  27. #27 Greg Laden
    September 30, 2010

    Randall! Did you click the link I added to Scott’s post, where the word “Linux” is first used???!?!???

    But no, I doubt you are going to get people to do that . First of all, requiring that the distro name be used in a general discussion is impossible. I get the point, but GNU/Linux has just not caught on.

    This is why I do things like calling it Linux but pointing to the GNU site.

  28. #28 apexwm
    September 30, 2010

    Good post. I own a personal business in which we solely use Linux. Why? Because it allows us to run as efficiently as possible. Also, Linux may not be used by everybody else, but it’s extremely reliable and very compatible with other technologies and formats because it is an open platform. No vendor lock in.

    Don’t trust the whitepapers and propaganda released by Microsoft and Microsoft-sponsored companies. They are all skewed and do not provide real world scenarios and data. Consider only information posted by real users of the software, and see what you find.

  29. #29 Snarkyxanf
    September 30, 2010

    To summarize, Linux now dominates the computers that people get paid to work with, and is making progress into the computers people work on.

    That is, the servers, supercomputers, embedded systems, etc of the world are mostly linux based. Windows and Mac OS are confined to end user machines (workstations, home computers). That alone is a good reason to expose students to linux.

    Also, I’ve never met a linux user who couldn’t figure out windows if necessary. Can’t say the same about the reverse.

  30. #30 linuxiac38
    September 30, 2010

    Friends of the Library, Seminole County Florida, sells HP d530 Pentium 4 computers with the 2.66 GHz CPU for $50, and with the 2.8GHz CPU for $75. All come with Linux Mint 9 on the hard drive, a Keyboard, a Mouse, the AC Cord, and a 30 day warranty.

    Linux Enthusiasts And Professionals – Central Florida hosts the monthly Install Fest and support group for those great systems.

    Sold over 600 systems, since Linux Mint 6 came out.
    With Linux Mint 9, weekly sales top a dozen.

    All proceeds benefit the Libraries, while the GNU/Linux user base grows with secure, stable, fast systems which are immune to the million Microsoft virus! A definite win for the taxpayer, Libraries, and the patrons!

  31. #31 Recent Linux Guy
    October 1, 2010

    Why do most people use windows? Cuz that’s what their machine come preloaded with. It’s a monopoly I tell ya. If machines came preloaded with a properly configured and adequately documented and mainstream version of GNU/Linux, people would mostly use GNU/Linux.

    The jump from windows to GNU/Linux is a big one because we are asking people to install GNU/Linux on their own machines, while risking their windows installation. Most of these people couldn’t burn a file to a cdrom, much less try to install an operating system on their computer, and not erase the windows in the process.

    But you know what? GNU/Linux has turned “regular” users into people who can install an operating system on their computer. How? With the LiveCD and multi-operating-system-aware GNU/Linux installation process. This is brilliant! If someone where to install windows AFTER installing GNU/Linux, the windows would stomp all over the GNU/Linux and make it not work anymore. Kinda makes you wonder why.. I mean GNU/Linux is open source, the source code is even downloadable from the Internet! Microsoft could easily make their windows be multi-operating-system aware, and not trash GNU/Linux on installation… So why don’t they? Because the monopoly is convenient, that’s why.

    But one day, perhaps sooner than later, people WILL realize there is a better way than being force-fed a monopolized operating system, and then technology will finally flourish.

    Help with this process. Buy GNU/Linux preloaded from places like zareason(dot)com, system76(dot)com, and others.

    Be a part of the revolution in technology, get your dignity back, and make things better for everyone! Use GNU/Linux!

  32. #32 Alex
    October 1, 2010

    I know there are ways to approximate Active Directory in Linux based Network and MacOS have Opendirectory (which I have no experience with) but Active Directory is one of the best things since sliced bread. And the granular permission levels on Windows boxes is just awesome. Until someone creates an opensource package, maybe even a paid package, for linux that approximates AD, and adds the ACL enhancements (I know a package all ready exists to do it) automatically you are not going to see a mass exodus in school systems and the like. I admit once setup a Linux system is almost always trouble free. And using this like thin clients and remote desktops make administration even easier, forgoing requiring AD, but I still think that’s what Linux needs. Maybe Samba 4 will be that, I don’t know.

  33. #33 Curt Howland
    October 1, 2010

    Considering how Stallman reacts to the word “Linux”, pointing “Linux” to GNU.org is not a good idea.

    Much better would be linking to Linux.com or Distrowatch.com

  34. #34 BrianX
    October 1, 2010

    I think Linux is a better choice for schools for one very good reason: the students can learn a lot more about what’s going on than they can on Windows or Mac. Unfortunately, I think there’s a definite trend away from good computer education these days…

  35. #35 Drivebyposter
    October 1, 2010

    Uh Hi.
    Occasional reader of this blog here. This post has increased in my interest in using Linux. There are a few things holding me back though.

    First of all, my laptop is less than a month old and runs on windows 7. While I don’t have much real difficulty with it, I don’t like that it takes about a quarter of my RAM to run W7 and all of its related programs and services.

    Is there a one-size fits all answer to whether or not installing linux would void my warranty or would I need to find that out from reading and trying to interpret the warranty’s fine print. I’d like something less resource intensive but not at the sacrifice of the warranty.

    There are a couple other things, but those are secondary to this.

  36. #36 Greg Laden
    October 1, 2010

    The warrantee on the hardware or the software?

  37. #37 Drivebyposter
    October 1, 2010

    The hardware itself. I could give a crap less about the programs installed on here, it’s all replaceable. The computer is not.

    Thank you for your help.
    I asked my dad whether he knew much about warranties and I had to explain why. Long story short, it would appear he doesn’t know what Linux is. He thinks it would be hard to explain the existence of Linux on my computer in case I had to send it in for repairs.

  38. #38 Greg Laden
    October 1, 2010

    I’ve seen this come up before. SOme individuals had a problem with the warantee because of a change in OS. If this was an apple product, changing the OS woudl violate the warantee.

    I’ll go out on a limb and say you will not be violating the warantee if it is a Dell or an HP. Dell sells laptop and desktop computers with Linux, and HP sells Linux servers and is generally a *nix shop. Not that that matters but at least you can say “Hey, this blogger told me …”

    If you put Linux on your computer and it breaks, just claim that the hard drive died and when they recover it and Linux is there say “Holy crap, who put that there?”

    Or, invest 80 dollars in a new hard drive. Swap out the drive, install Linux. If you need to take the computer into the shop, just swap the drives back again.

    Later, when the warantee is over, you’ll have a barely used hard drive you can reformat and use .

  39. #39 Drivebyposter
    October 1, 2010

    Alright. Thanks.
    By the way, it is an MSI computer. Which, the company released at least one computer with the option of Linux or Windows. I assume that should help allay my fears some.

    I was thinking I could try to make a Linux live cd or flash drive while I look into this in more depth and learn more about Linux. Or would this put me in pretty much the same boat as just installing Linux (in some way I can’t comprehend)?

  40. #40 Greg Laden
    October 1, 2010

    No, the live cd or the USB stick could in no way violate your warantee. No way.

  41. #41 Drivebyposter
    October 1, 2010

    Ok thank you for your help. I thought that was the case, but one might as well check while they have contact with an expert of sorts.

    I will have to leave more comments in *read with a booming and echo-y voice* THE FUTUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUURRRRRRRRRRRRRRREEE

  42. #42 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    October 2, 2010

    @drivebyposter –

    I have a Toshiba laptop, and when I was buying it the salesperson was all like “well you are going to love the new stuff on Windows 7,” and I was all like ” I could give a rat’s ass about all the new stuff on Windows 7 because I am going to put Linux Mint on it” and he was all like “but that will void the store warranty.”

    They gave me a free 6 month trial subscription to some anti-virus company anyways. I haven’t taken advantage.

    I don’t know about the Toshiba warranty, but parts are fairly easily replaceable these days, so I don’t really think it will make a big difference. I don’t know what a virus defender subscription costs, but I would think that you are saving money by not buying programs every time you want to do something new, not buying all of these security softwares, and you will come out ahead financially.

    Also, you don’t have to pirate software in order to use it for free.

  43. #43 DuWayne
    October 3, 2010

    Mike –

    While that might void the store warranty (though I am not one to take a lowly salesperson’s word), it will not void Toshiba’s warranty. While they don’t support Linux, they can run a hardware scan through bios if you have to send it in during the warranty period.

    Though if you want kickass support for a Linux machine, HP is actually pretty damned good. They actively support Linux drivers and offer Linux compatible printing software. My folks just gave me their rather sexy “all in one” printer and when I looked to make sure the Hlip driver would work for it, I noticed that they offered the print/fax/photoshop software suite for Linux. In theory, if I still had an actual phone number attached to Skype, I could send faxes with it.

    Driveby –

    I would totally second switching out the HDD if you’re concerned. If you goto Amazon there are all sorts of drives for under fifty bucks. Look for a bit and you could probably find a 500gb drive for right around that. And if you’re a student, sign up for their student membership. You can get more discounts and a free year of Amazon Prime, which gets you two day shipping for free (on Amazon fulfilled items).

    Then, when you decide to stick with a Linux distro (and I know you will), you can either format the drive and use it as an external, or sell it as a Windows boot drive. You could even sell it on Amazon and probably make a little profit. System builders are all about that sort of thing, even if they would simply clone the drive to an SSD. Win7 for system builders is about $100 for home edition and that just gets them the disc and code. Though if you do that you want to make sure you copy all the info from the Win sticker on the bottom of your computer.

    Seriously though, you should take the plunge. You can even go baby steps (like I did) and install Ubuntu (just google) as a Windows install and dual boot. If you decide you don’t like it, you can simply uninstall like you would anything else. If you decide you do, you can just use a 1gb thumb drive with the ISO on it and boot your computer to that – whether you use a new drive or write over the one you have. That will give you a few options to select (if you have 4gb or less ram, 32bit will recognize it) and in about half an hour at the most, you will be up and running.

  44. #44 Scott Rowed
    October 3, 2010

    DuWayne,

    You mean you can sell your OEM hard drive with Win7 and have the license transfer to the new owner? I always thought that the license was specific to one computer. This would make for an easy way to get money back or a Windows license that wouldn’t be used anyway. Some people have gotten around that by refusing to agree to the Windows license during the first time they boot the computer, then sending the computer back to the manufacturer (i.e. Dell, Asus etc) and having Windows removed along with the sticker. A hassle to be sure, for getting back about $65 (and of course, the principle), and you’re without the computer for maybe three weeks. But if you can just buy another hard drive and sell the original along with the license, that would be much easier.

    On the other hand, if more people refused the license agreements and sent their computers back, it might help convince the manufacturers to offer computers either without an OS or with Linux installed. Personally I’d just as soon install my own Linux. A few months ago Newegg Canada had a shipment of Asus notebooks without an OS. They sold out very quickly, although I don’t know how many they had.

  45. #45 DuWayne
    October 3, 2010

    Scott –

    Yes you can. While I have never tried to transfer a license code for someone to use on a fresh install (which I am told doesn’t work unless you deactivate windows from that “computer”), all the license info is on the drive and goes with the drive. If you have something like an HP, which has HP recovery tools it might be a problem, but even then I don’t see why. It’s only software and should work just as well on another machine (like WD’s HDD cloning software works for other drives). Indeed I rather like HP’s recovery softeware, because you can create a boot recovery disc that doesn’t contain all the bloatware, instead containing what you actually had.

    Of course with Linux that just isn’t an issue.

    I actually just gave a friend of mine my OS drive out of my desktop with XP on. I also cloned my laptop HDD before I installed Ubuntu, for another friend who just built a super-badass gaming rig. He uses Linux for most everything, but apparently the games just don’t make it in Linux, even with a super-badass box. Both transfers went quite smoothly – though for the XP changeover, we needed to filter the contents of the old drive through my Ubuntu netbook.

    Windows got mucked up on his desktop and claimed he needed to register Windows – mind you he has been using this rig for years now and never had a problem, nor had the person who owned it before him. When I went to transfer files off his old drive onto the one I gave him, it wouldn’t let him open his files – even his documents and shit. So we opened them on my netbook, transfered them to an external drive and then from that, onto the “new” drive. The amusing thing is that all the documents and media files will go right back onto that drive, because after formatting it will be mounted as storage.

    He is seriously considering Ubuntu.

  46. #46 Shannon VanWagner
    October 5, 2010

    If you like this article, you should also checkout Dan Kegel’s paper entitled “The Case for Linux in Universities” located at: http://www.kegel.com/linux/edu/case.html

    Cheers!
    Humans Enabled – that’s what Technology is for!

  47. #47 HF
    October 6, 2010

    Greg, great article. Just wanted to let you knwo that the link to “How Weta Digital Handled Avatar” is broken. I think this is the right one…
    http://www.studiodaily.com/filmandvideo/currentissue/How-Weta-Digital-Handled-Avatar_11701.html

    Cheers

  48. #48 Xavier Sythe
    October 10, 2010

    @DGoodin Mint is worth it. It’s so much better than Ubuntu.

  49. #49 perspectoff
    October 14, 2010

    SkoleLinux from Norway has a nice pathway that includes LTSP (multi-monitor management) and a lot of structure that is useful for schools.

    Mint is pretty but not radically different from (K)Ubuntu.

  50. #50 darkduck
    January 19, 2011

    Russia plans to implement Linux in schools for ages. But project always fails.

    Though, there are some decent Russian Linuxes. I wrote about some in my blog (http://linuxblog.darkduck.com)

  51. #51 sitara
    January 24, 2012

    I would just like to know how schools adapting this OS handle usage of specialized software that does not support Linux. I am have a difficult time understanding usage of this OS when many of the things that I need my students to be able to use are not supported on this system. I am not an IT individual but rather a teacher and am coming across limitations with this OS regarding software that I need for my students. I would like to find out how things like this are handled.

  52. #52 Gabriel Forster
    March 8, 2012

    What a great perspective. We have implemented linux in our school from a standpoint of financial responsibility. But it really opens the doors for so many more opportunities than anything else out there.

    You can read about our switch to linux here.

  53. #53 John Kim
    Los Angeles, CA
    May 29, 2012

    Fantastic post. I’m actually trying to convert a high school in Los Angeles into Ubuntu because Windows XP just feels so obsolete. Through Linux, students open new doors to exciting career.

    Money, skeptics say, is the least of issues for a school running Linux. It’s a matter of compatibility of administrative services and appeal to the Linux-ignorant mass.

    I’ve been blogging about this project. Please check: epikvision.blogspot.com

  54. #54 jim
    Sheridan, OR
    July 1, 2012

    In answer to Sitara, I switched my school from WinXP to Linux mainly for the cost savings but also because the machines could not handle Win7 or above and with no money to replace the hardware or the software. I have received many thanks from the students and much panic from the staff. The main reason that I found was that the staff was so engrained in the MS and other highly marketed packages the teachers were not willing to look at anything else. The staff has spent so many years teaching the tools and not so much on the the more important concepts. The students see whatever is provided as a tool and learn to use alternatives fairly quickly. I am also finding that if there is more than a single option provided, the students will decide what works best.

    The only 2 packages I have not been able to replace (until recently) was the district Student Information System (SIS) and the meal transaction system. I found that both of these were originally designed in the late 1990’s and they are still based off of that core. We recently decided to move to the cloud version of the SIS and I will try more to replace the meal system next year. One left!

    There are very few software packages that cannot be replaced with OSS ones, there are some though. The main question becomes one that you need to ask of yourself, are you teaching the concept or are you teaching the tool?

Current ye@r *