French students to get Linux CDs

Linux Live CDs are to be distributed to thousands of secondary school students in a government-funded initiative

Many secondary schools students in the French region of Auvergne will receive CDs containing free and open source software when they return to school in September.

The project, which has been funded by the local government, will see 64,000 packs of CDs distributed to school pupils, according to Linux Arverne, a Linux user group involved in the initiative. The project aims to get students and their families more interested in free software.

Every student between the ages of 15 and 19 attending a school in Auvergne will be given a pack containing two CDs. The first CD contains free software for Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X, including the office productivity application, the Firefox browser and the GIMP image editing application. The second CD is a Linux Live CD, allowing pupils to try the open source operating system without installing it. The Live CD is based on Kaella, a French derivative of Knoppix.

The project has provided two CDs to make it easier for students to progress from a proprietary desktop, said Nicolas Spalinger, a member of Linux Arverne.

"The idea is to be progressive: start with FLOSS [free/libre and open source software] on a Windows or Mac, try out a Live CD without the fear of messing things up, and then install your preferred [Linux] distro," he said.

The CD packs will be distributed on 2 September along with school documentation for parents, to give the pupils and their family access to the software.

After distributing the CDs, Linux Arverne hopes to set up training sessions and hopes to extend the project to younger pupils and university students, according to Spalinger.

He said three other regions have expressed an interest in this project, including the largest region Île-de-France, which contains Paris.

"At least three regions are seriously interested so far in our project: Pays de Loire, Lorraine, Île-de-France. We expect other people in the Francophone free software community will show their interest when the holiday period is over. We think this will get big," said Spalinger.