To Linux or not to Linux?

Summary:One request that actually made it past the budget gods for FY10 was 60 convertible Classmate PCs (30 for each of two schools). These will replace aging stationary labs in the schools, freeing up needed space and allowing for redeployment of the older computers for individual classroom and student use.

One request that actually made it past the budget gods for FY10 was 60 convertible Classmate PCs (30 for each of two schools). These will replace aging stationary labs in the schools, freeing up needed space and allowing for redeployment of the older computers for individual classroom and student use. This leaves me with a question to answer, though: Do I use Windows XP Home or Edubuntu?

The teachers largely favor Windows. It's familiar and they'll have enough to do learning the new applications and integrating the tablets in class, let alone learning a new operating system (or so they say). Yet Intel has assured me that there will be an equivalent software stack between the two operating systems, I've found that our RTI software runs quite well under Wine, and Edubuntu itself has quite a body of educational software available in its repositories.

I have yet to test Edubuntu on the Classmate. That will be happening soon and obviously I need to put it through its paces before I make a decision. We know that XP is pretty snappy on the little machines, though, and new firewalls with some pretty heavy duty gateway anti-malware should keep them running safely without performance-sapping client-side anti-virus (we, unfortunately, won't be able to send them home, meaning that the firewall and weekly scans with ClamWin should do the trick).

On the other hand, XP Home is remarkably dated and Windows 7 will not be available by the time we purchase the netbooks. Windows 7 would carry its own learning curve anyway, making it less attractive by the teachers' original argument. Edubuntu, particularly as based on Canonical's Netbook Remix, is new and shiny, inherently secure, and quite mature.

Something important to remember, however, is that *buntu is about as easy as Linux gets. In fact, it's about as easy as desktop computing gets. The students won't have an issue no matter what I put in front of them. I think the teachers will be pleasantly surprised at the usability and features in Edubuntu.

Barring any unforeseen problems in testing, it's going to be Edubuntu in kids' hands. The convertible Classmate really represents a whole new way of integrating computers into classroom instruction. As we train teachers to utilize all of its capabilities, we'll ensure that they are comfortable with the new OS as well.

Topics: Windows, Hardware, Linux, Microsoft, Networking, Open Source, Operating Systems, Software

About

Christopher Dawson grew up in Seattle, back in the days of pre-antitrust Microsoft, coffeeshops owned by something other than Starbucks, and really loud, inarticulate music. He escaped to the right coast in the early 90's and received a degree in Information Systems from Johns Hopkins University. While there, he began a career in health a... Full Bio

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