"Don't tell them that I love it"

These were my son's words after living with Ubuntu 8.04 on his laptop for a day.

These were my son's words after living with Ubuntu 8.04 on his laptop for a day. Interestingly, he said, "I never loved Windows either, but it always worked for me." Of his fresh installation (sans a Windows XP virtual machine), he noted that drastic improvements in boot and shut down times, stability and reliability of his core applications (especially Firefox and the installed plugins that handled any website he threw at it), and the desktop effects that could "amuse him for hours" all made the computer much more user-friendly.

He emphasized, however, that he didn't love it. Unlike his old man, but very much like most of his peers, he has no desire to tweak, fiddle, or otherwise waste time on an OS. This is where the latest version of Ubuntu really seems to shine and could have a more significant place in Ed Tech. Any administrator with a little bit of time to explore can easily have highly functional systems deployed and in students' and teachers' hands quickly and easily.

For our student users, training needs will be relatively minimal. A bit of clicking, point them to OpenOffice if they aren't already familiar with it, and off they go. The longest time I spent with my son involved showing him the extensive software repositories and how to install new programs. Using an actual software management application is a bit of a shift for Windows users and worthy of some training in and of itself. This actually won't be much of an issue for students, though, as we probably won't want them installing software on most machines.

Don't get me wrong. Ubuntu has not gone so mainstream as to lose the tweakability that makes Linux distributions fun for geeks like me. Most of our users aren't geeks, though. While some, especially the students, are fairly savvy, their mission in life is either to learn or to teach. For them, a computer must simply work. Any other fun they might have with it is gravy. Ubuntu 8.04 fills this bill quite nicely.

If anything, Hardy Heron has turned my oldest into something of a computer agnostic. He sees me use my Mac and is impressed with GarageBand and the easy video editing. He sees his friends largely using Windows, but can now do everything they do on his own laptop (previously, he had been somewhat limited by a bad install and lack of 64-bit support), in addition to having access to a huge range of free software. Does he love Linux? Nope, but he doesn't love OS X either. It's just another face on a tool as far as he and his friends are concerned.

From my perspective, however, it makes sense to give students an OS that is not only free, but largely malware-free and now so user-friendly as to be an easy Windows substitute. If you don't have applications that demand one platform over another, the ongoing evolution of Linux (especially *buntu) makes Windows a tougher sell every day, especially during further recession-induced budget cuts.