Ubuntu 10.04: Never a better time to switch

Ubuntu 10.04: Never a better time to switch

Summary: I think most of us know that Ubuntu 10.04 launches today.

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I think most of us know that Ubuntu 10.04 launches today. I've been using the betas in both desktop and server environments for a while and have been incredibly pleased. It's fast, it's stable, and has great features and software, not to mention that this is one of Canonical's Long-Term Support (LTS) releases. It's been thoroughly reviewed on ZDNet and elsewhere, with the general consensus being that it will have broad appeal.

Of course, the same could be said of Windows 7 and Server 2008. However, no matter how inexpensive academic licensing is, the various Microsoft ecosystem products aren't free. That is something that definitely can't be said about both. We can argue the value proposition of Windows vs. Linux (and you might as well throw in OS X while you're at it) all day, but the real point is that in Ed Tech, summer is transition time. Is it this summer you're finally moving your desktops off of XP? Finally looking at virtualization? Time to roll out a new SIS or Moodle?

You get the picture. While students are away, the IT folks will play. Well, more like work their asses off, but at least they can do it in relative peace and quiet.

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Given the really positive reception that Windows 7 has seen for both consumers and in the enterprise, this will most likely be a summer of Windows 7 upgrades for a lot of schools. The question, though, is should you look at Ubuntu instead of (or in addition to) Windows 7 and various server upgrades.

Not only is this arguably Ubuntu's most significant upgrade in some time, but it's literally just in time to test with users and systems before the summer. There are actually some significant advantages to both Windows 7 and Ubuntu; similarly, on the server side, Server 2003/2008 are solid products, but in most cases, Ubuntu Server is highly competitive in terms of features and wins hands down on price (since it's free). Both have large software and support ecosystems and free technical help for either Windows or Ubuntu desktop/server environments are just a Google away.

So why leave Windows (or OS X) behind and switch to Ubuntu? Sometimes, you really shouldn't. If you've invested heavily in Microsoft infrastructures and your Active Directory is running well and students and teachers are interacting via Sharepoint and you've already rolled out Live@Edu, now is probably not the time to move to Ubuntu.

Your Office power users or those reluctant users that you've finally convinced to type a letter home to parents? Probably not the people to switch either. But what if that web server still chugging along on a Windows 2000 server could use a replacement? Do you really need to license Server 2008 to run web applications? Or how about that Moodle server you've been meaning to roll out? Moodle looks no different on Windows than it does on Linux.

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How about the media center lab in your school? Do you need to upgrade to Windows 7? I certainly understand why you might want to. Win 7 will give a lab sagging under the weight of XP SP3 and anti-malware software a nice shot in the arm, assuming the computer specs are reasonable. Guess what? Ubuntu would give the same shot in the arm for free and would still allow LDAP authentication as needed for students. Labs like these are primarily kiosks to the Internet; Firefox in Ubuntu looks an awful lot like Firefox in Windows and you can leave your anti-malware software behind. Setting up a kiosk mode or otherwise locking down the desktop is easy through graphical tools as well.

How many of your teachers use their computers for nothing but Internet access or running their SMART boards? Ubuntu supports that just as well as Windows, including access to network shares, printers, authentication, etc., all without cost and without anti-malware software.

It's almost May, summer is almost upon us, and chances are that we'll be feeling the pain of budget cuts starting July 1st. Yet in many cases, upgrades must go on. Before those upgrades happen, though, ask yourself if you can still meet user needs with Ubuntu 10.04. Wait a couple days to download it since it will be painfully slow today and then give it a shot. There may be plenty of places where that Windows 7/Office 2010 upgrade is absolutely justified and important to the way your users do business or to particular resources they need for learning/teaching. However, there are probably plenty of places where the latest and greatest (and it really is great) release from Canonical can save you money and hassle in the long run.

Topics: Open Source, Enterprise Software

Christopher Dawson

About Christopher Dawson

Chris Dawson is a freelance writer, consultant, and policy advocate with 20 years of experience in education, technology, and the intersection of the two.

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120 comments
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  • A balanced piece, Chris

    Of course, I would say BOTH Windows 7 and Ubuntu.

    Why?

    Because most families own Windows computers and most students won't benefit from having something different at school.

    On the other hand, Ubuntu in a classroom setting presents an excellent opportunity to introduce more geek-centric students to the basics of operating system function and modern systems administrations.

    The third point is that cash-strapped schools may find themselves with a pile of very old hardware which might better serve ed-tech needs as thin-clients to Ubuntu servers in settings (such as libraries) where Internet research is their primary function.

    I left out Mac OSX because, even at educational discounts, Macintosh systems are not cost-effective except when the need cannot be met by less-expensive alternatives.

    If ed-tech decides to introduce Ubuntu into the classroom <i>as a replacement to Windows 7,</i> you should be prepared to provide to students direct, school-sponsored, access to Windows ports of the open-soure software you intent to support under Ubuntu. This will allow students to use the same applications on their Windows computers at home as they will use on the Ubuntu computers at school.
    M Wagner
    • RE: Ubuntu 10.04: Never a better time to switch

      @mwagner@...

      Those apps are already available. OpenOffice is already ported to Windows, the GIMP has a windows port if it has a use, Firefox is on windows, what other software would you think needs to be ported?
      tmsbrdrs
  • RE: Ubuntu 10.04: Never a better time to switch

    And, you won't have to upgrade the PC's if you just
    switch to Ubuntu leaving you with a HUGE saving in
    hardware costs.
    photoncollector
  • This is a better way then to buy licenses

    In the sense of schools, the school can save a boat load on the Free Open Source applications rather then buying new licenses on newer versions of Office other other applications such as development IDEs.

    Friends of mine are saving a boat load of money by utilizing my servers running Ubuntu for social applications, VOIP, data backups, and more. And frankly it'll be rebooted finally since the last upgrade from 9.10.
    Maarek
  • RE: Ubuntu 10.04: Never a better time to switch

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  • For the majority of teachers and students, Ubuntu is the way to go.

    Of course if you still insist on teaching bloated office
    suites from the last century, OpenOffice is available on
    Ubuntu.
    DonnieBoy
    • Bwa-ha-ha...Now you're attacking OpenOffice. Now that's news...

      [i]Of course if you still insist on teaching bloated office
      suites from the last century, OpenOffice is available on
      Ubuntu. [/i]

      But you're right OpenOffice is a bloated and uselss office suite...
      transposeIT
  • AD/GPo

    If I switch to Ubuntu, then what do I do to manage the desktops in an AD environment? Is there an agent that will allow me to apply group policies with custom adm's? How about group policy preferences?
    People
    • You can't

      There is no way to centrally manage linux. Its download source and compile and hope for the best.
      Loverock Davidson
      • Your as bad as the Linux fanboys...

        Any server/cleint system can be centrally managed.

        Doing so just requires one to be a qualified network admin... something you are obviously not.

        Windows and Linux are just two different tools for which you can accomplish the same job.
        ShadowGIATL
        • But I'm right

          Linux lacks the applications to be centrally managed. No way to push software and updates from one place.
          Loverock Davidson
          • remote software installation

            For RHEL subscribers, rhn.redhat.com allows for remote installation of software (software, hardware queries, etc).
            bcmoore87
          • You wouldnt be an irrational zealot if

            you believed you were wrong.
            Viva la crank dodo
          • You are right

            You are right, what use is an OS if Bulgarian Keyloggers can not be remotely installed and managed?
            kenift
          • I never thought of it that way.

            I would like to subscribe to your newsletter.
            Viva la crank dodo
          • LOL...

            I really wish I had your sense of humor. Can you say "repositories"? Last time I checked windows has nothing like it.
            Dave32265
          • You should wish you had my smarts as well

            Of course Microsoft Windows doesn't have repositories, it doesn't want the hassle of them constantly getting hacked. Repositories are not a solution for PC management. You can go to each PC if you want and download your code from the repository and compile it. Instead Microsoft Windows has much much better systems that let you push the software and policies to the PC's. You don't need to visit each PC like you would in linux. LOL repositories, LOLOLOL! Just the fact that you mentioned that as a solution is pretty hilarious.
            Loverock Davidson
          • Compile what?

            I haven't compile anything in years. Funny man
            Dave32265
    • I think this could help for a start.

      http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=280702
      https://help.ubuntu.com/community/ActiveDirectoryWinbindHowto
      Grayson Peddie
    • FSVO "Group policies"

      [i]If I switch to Ubuntu, then what do I do to manage the desktops in an AD environment? Is there an agent that will allow me to apply group policies with custom adm's? How about group policy preferences?[/i]

      I assume you're not asking about how to apply Internet Explorer policies to non-MS systems or user accounts.

      Otherwise, there are plenty of admin tools which you can use to administer masses of *nix systems and user accounts. As with most thing *nix, there isn't One True Way. For instance, even though point-and-grunt tools abound old greybeard *nix admins generally run things with script collections that they've accumulated and passed around over the course of decades.

      Those inclined to mock this approach haven't seen what a true BOFH wizard can do with negligible effort.
      Yagotta B. Kidding