Live blog: Can a student go fully open source for 48 hours?

Live blog: Can a student go fully open source for 48 hours?

Summary: With academia saturated by Windows environments and a minority of Mac and Linux labs, can a student go fully open-source for 48 hours? Live blog

TOPICS: Open Source

2010 has brought me one daring New Year's resolution: to embrace open-source technology and to break away from the typical Windows environment. Windows is still the major player in the world of academia, with Mac and Linux labs coming in second and third, specifically to serve the minority of students studying specialist subjects.

Even though I am no longer a computer science student and now studying the social science of criminology, one could be considered as an "ordinary" student. So with this, how would an "ordinary" student cope using a non-Windows environment for 48 hours? Would there be any particular advantages, or find more disadvantages than it's worth for long term use?

I wanted to find out and it's not the first time I've attempted something like this. Starting Monday 11th at midday (London time), I'll be using Ubuntu 9.10 for an entire 48 hours, and will only be able to use open-source applications. You can see the live blog below as and when things happen. Feel free to leave your suggestions before the start in the TalkBack section - ideas of applications a student would need, from office software to instant messengers - or chip in throughout by leaving a comment in the live blog window below.

Topic: Open Source

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  • 48hrs??? What a stupid test .....

    48 hrs is a weekend. I know you plan to use Ubuntu, but based on your criteria you can just open Firefox and do nothing but web surf and you met the full test.

    What about trying spending a full semester using nothing but open source (including the OS)? That is a real test ... not a stupid 48 hrs.
    • Re: 48hrs??? What a stupid test .....

      I wouldn't personally say it's 'stupid' (I'm older than 14, both in real life and on these here Internets), but you'll need 48 hours just to do the install(s) and configure your machine the way you want it -- so I agree with the gist of the previous post.

      Give it a whole term!
      • Completely agree

        Any half tech-savvy person can install Ubuntu and use it to browse the web during a weekend, but it's not until you have to actually do work over a pretty extended period of time until you run into the roadblocks that prevent you moving to a new app-stack/OS.

        Move to an entirely FOSS stack for a term and THEN report back.
      • I think he pre-installed it

        set it up, and tweaked it over the weekend already.
        John Zern
    • I don't think he'll just surf...

      Yes, 48 hours is the equivalent of a weekend. But, unless his college courses are running Wednesday through Sunday, he's not just going to be able to surf the web and call it a day.

      He started today at noon GMT. So, that means that he has to do his coursework on Ubuntu and everything else that he normally does on Monday and Tuesday.

      I do agree that he should go longer (I'd say a week or two with the option to continue after that).

      Have a great day:)
    • Yes, a semester makes more sense ...

      ... because it more closely resembles the problems people who must interact with the outside world encounter - and find themselves with "occasional needs" which just cannot be met without proprietary solutions.

      Once people become dependent upon particular applications, or who much interest with those dependent upon such an application, things get a whole lot more complicated.

      Nearly every open-source title for Linux has been ported to Windows but the reverse is simply not necessarily true. Aside form commerical products, there is also a growing volume of open-source software ported to Windows but not Linux.
      M Wagner
      • Porting direction

        There's a reason Linux programs are ported to Windows(tm) on a fairly routine basis. They tend to be written using portable coding techniques and libraries.
    • Symptomatic of ZDNet's perspective. No news here.

      Are we surprised that someone at ZDNet thinks it's a big deal to run Linux for 48 hours?
      Are we surprised that nobody higher up killed the story as an insulting false premise? As though Linux were so difficult the only people who can use it are those of us who were already doing so?
      Are we surprised that ZDNet thinks (judging by their teaser line in the e-mail of "Let's find out" if a student can "cope" without Windows(tm)) they're the first ones to write this story?

      I'm not at all surprised. Many at ZDNet treat Linux as a hobby OS nobody really uses, in spite of the proven fact that a lot of big-name companies do use it for all kinds of things.

      But I agree... the test should be longer... and probably will end up being, if the author is seriously trying the OS out. It wouldn't be the first time someone tried it and found it to be what they wanted to keep using.
    • It is a 48 hour blog, the test is longer

      I see so many comments about a 48 hour test being dumb. His comment was that he would do a live blog for 48 hours but would keep using Ubuntu, along with Windows, for a longer period.

    • change is slow

      i understand what you mean. you need more than a
      weekend. if we get one more person to look at
      freeware, that's one person who knows more. god
      only knows that i have tried to get my friends to
      try ubuntu and it takes time. Long live freeware!!
  • RE: Live blog: Can a student go fully open-source for 48 hours?

    You really need to commit to more than 48 hours. A
    better test of whether you can use OpenSource is to try and
    do something with the technology. When I decided to
    really learn Python, I choose to do it about the same time
    that my license to Matlab was set to expire. That way, I
    had an impetus to make a serious effort. If I was
    successful, I would never have to fork over thousands of
    dollars for Matlab ever again. If not, then I would know
    that I had made an honest effort.

    It took three months, but I learned Python. I've even
    moved all of our code over to it. Now that we're past the
    painful learning stage, people are actually happier (Python
    is a much better language in addition to being
    OpenSource) and more productive.

    I recently decided that I was going to learn R (the statistical
    language) and I am repeating the same process. My
    license to SPSS has expired, so I have no choice but to use
    the software.

    Any time that you attempt to learn new tech -- whether it
    be application, programming language, or operating
    system -- there is a learning curve. To really know
    whether you like it, you need to get over and through the
    curve. In most cases, that requires more than 48 hours.

    If you wanted to do an honest experiment, you should go
    at least a week. And even better, a month. During that
    time, you should try and do real things: write papers, listen
    to music, work on specialty programs, etc. At the end of
    the time period, then you could write a real review of
    OpenSource in Academia.

    I think you might even be surprised at how well
    OpenSource meets your needs.
    Rob Oakes
    • An interesting test, but what happens ...

      ... when you get hit by a truck and your employer needs to find someone else who is intimately familiar with Python or R?
      M Wagner
      • I guess he just needs to check these boards ...

        From what I read here daily there are plenty of self proclaimed Linux experts here to choose from.

        Hey, Maybe DT Schmitz is free, he obviously has way too much time on his hands.

        Or Maybe Ole Man, he would probably do it for them for free, cause you know that is the only way to go. ;-)
  • RE: Live blog: Can a student go fully open-source for 48 hours?

    I disagree with "wackoae" calling the test "stupid" in any sense. Zack's not doing this on the weekend, but at the start of the typical school week(Monday to Tuesday), so there's going to be a tangible effect despite the short time span.

    I would consider it a "taste test" of how well a digital native college student can pick up and go with only FOSS software. However, a longer test such as a week would be a good follow-up if the 48 hours ends successfully.
    Tony Agudo
  • I'd be pretty shocked if you couldn't.

    I mean, unless you need some kind of specialized software, I
    can't imagine that you (or almost anyone else) can't do this for
    48 hours.

    Try a few months if you really want to do an experiment.
  • I'm doing it for almost a year

    Except for flash MP3 and their sort.
    Studying for B.Sc in information technology
  • Check these tips and tricks for Ubuntu 9.10

    This will probably be useful for you:

    Have fun! :-)

  • I did it for months..

    I decided to write my thesis using only open sourced OS and applications. Using Ubuntu, OpenOffice, Gimp, Inkscape, bibliography tools, software development tools..

    I had little experience with Linux and non-Windows applications before, but it worked out extremely well. I didn't miss a thing, didn't even really have to adjust.
  • Yawn.

    Set the bar lower, Dude. My youngest (sociology) hasn't used anything but Linux (Kubuntu for the last three years) since she left home in 2003, and she's ABD now.
    Yagotta B. Kidding
  • Clarifications

    I agree that sure, it might be best during a longer period of time - but for a blog which is updated pretty much every day, it's not really viable.

    Also, I've very very rarely used Linux of any kind. The most I've ever used it was the Nokia N900 a week or two ago now. I've always used Windows and to be plunged into a Linux environment with no knowledge or understanding, firstly this is a good indicator.

    48 hours is the benchmark time - I did this for living in the cloud before and makes sense to do it again. This is to simulate the first beginning stages of an ordinary student being plunged into a Linux environment with no prior knowledge or even warning.

    So bare with me. I reckon it would be interesting, but for now, it'll do.