Chromebooks in Schools

It’s 2013 folks, a whole new ball-game. No longer do schools see they have no choice of OS in school other than the most expensive to buy (MacOS) or the most expensive to operate (that other OS). The world has seen Android/Linux on smart thingies and GNU/Linux on netbooks. Now everyone knows they have a choice. OEMs and retailers are getting that.

“We want Google in Education to help open more doors and we’re pleased to announce there are now 2,000 schools using Chromebooks for Education–twice as many as 3 months ago.”

see Official Google Enterprise Blog: A Look Back at 2012: The Expansion of Learning on the Web.

It’s a good start for Chromebooks but with 400% per annum growth expect to see global impact in nearly every use of IT very soon. The key to success of Chromebooks is that Google manages the software so schools don’t need to do that and Google, unlike M$ is not out to enslave schools making them indoctrinate students. It’s all about escaping slavery of Wintel to freedom of FLOSS.

About Robert Pogson

I am a retired teacher in Canada. I taught in the subject areas where I have worked for almost forty years: maths, physics, chemistry and computers. I love hunting, fishing, picking berries and mushrooms, too.
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15 Responses to Chromebooks in Schools

  1. Nevyn says:

    @oiaohm

    Windows didn’t set those limits. It was Intel. Intel wanted to enter the mobile market (dominated by ARM) in which case, they offered a subsidy to manufacturers manufacturing devices using their processor that fit within a certain set of requirements – such as screen size. I’m not entirely sure where the RAM limitation fit in there, but calling out MS on every issue just goes to give credence that everyone complains about MS just because they’re big.

    As for the Chromebook – it’s all about usability. The hardware is GREAT! What a netbook should have been (SSD, speedy, low price point, great battery life etc.) BUT fails in being a computer.

    i.e. I should not have to see the “Scary Boot Screen” if I chose to have the device that I paid for, run a different OS.

    The fact that ChromeOS (and Android for that matter) run on an FLOSS stack doesn’t mean in the slightest that it respects user freedom. Let’s get real here – Google are quite happy to have the big naggy scary boot screen if you even think about not running Google’s way.

    However, in education, the emphasis is not on user freedom but rather concepts such as collaboration and authentic voice. Both of which are achievable on a Chromebook and are things that other vendors fail on. There is no excuse for MS Windows in education (in fact, I would say it’s practically anti-education given it’s main strength – central management). Apple, while it has some real strengths in terms of things like video editing (no one has come even close to a iMovie killer) and other creative endevours, fail in a 1:1 device due to price (on both device and software). Chromebook is probably a winner on this front EXCEPT that if it doesn’t run in a browser, you can’t do it. Photo editing – very little chance and a generally bad experience (lagginess, limited functions and functions you don’t want or need etc.). They should not be viewed as laptops but instead as Internet kiosks.

    So the question is, the locked down nature of a chromebook leads to it being very little more than a browser. What are you teaching the kids? Is creativity important?

  2. oiaohm says:

    eug no one likes netbooks as it because MS set the define insane.

    http://www.brighthub.com/computing/hardware/articles/37600.aspx
    ScreenSize: 10.2″ or smaller
    Memory: 1 GB RAM maximum
    Storage: No more than 250 GB HDD or 64 GB SDD
    Graphics: No limitation
    Touch: No limitation
    CPU: Single core processors that do not exceed 2GHz and have a CPU thermal design power less than or equal to 15 W, not including the graphics and chipset.

    Yet that is what Microsoft calls a Windows 7 netbook.

    Most Chromebooks are 11 to 12 inch screens. There are a few 14 in screens. Most have large harddrives than MS netbook allows. Also most chromebooks are 2G of ram+.

    Just to top things off Chromebooks are not limited to a single core or any processor speed limit. What ever the hardware maker thinks they can sell they can release as a Chromebook.

    This was also very common for the pure Linux netbook models to be bigger in all specs than a Windows equal.

    Chromebooks is basically the natural evolution of the Linux netbook line. Windows netbooks are basically dead due to MS with stupid spec limitations.

    http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2012/12/299-version-of-acers-c7-chromebook-kind-of-defeats-the-purpose/

    Something I forget to kick Der Balrog with. Is there are Chromebooks being produced with more specs than what ChromeOS requires. Only reason to buy something like Acer’s c7 chromebook is if you are planing to pave over and don’t want to void warranty the extra ram is not going to alter ChromeOS performance one bit. The larger hard drive also is not that much help running ChromeOS.

    Min specs of a chromebook is larger than what MS calls a netbook. Yes Linux netbooks exceeding MS spec of a netbook have existed for the complete time of netbooks.

  3. oiaohm says:

    Hans Gruber you are exactly like me. Still will buy a chromebook as long as we can pave over it.

    Hans Gruber problem is I see this from a more complex point of view.

    ChromeOS devices are using a form of coreboot as firmware and the source code to that is fully open. Most other computers you by the firmware source code is mostly hidden.

    Samsung, HP and most of the other companies starting to release ChromeOS devices have historically used closed source firmware. Yes effectively black box firmware. This in my eyes is 2 step forwards.

    Unfortunately with ChromeOS the device takes 1 step back. Still resulting in some good progress forward.

    The big thing google is listening to there customers. The up coming changes to requirements for chromebook devices will make them more friendly to run non Chrome OS and secure running non Chrome OS. Final kicker stable running non Chrome OS.

    This is quite a step forwards from having to go on-line read huge stock piles of information to find what device you can place Linux on and have it work correctly.

    For Microsoft its also a threat. Most netbooks still used closed source firmware. Also not all netbooks used the same maker of firmware. Chromebooks is basically netbooks back again. This time they are sharing a common open source firmware so reducing the complexity of supporting the models from different makers and also if a maker screws up a firmware it will be possible for the community to release a fixed addition of the firmware.

    Now I would love to see coreboot to start appearing on more hardware. This is already happening with Sagebios that is a coreboot distribution.

    Yes we could see the end of the closed source bios makers that have ruled the PC industry very soon. This will also end the defective versions of these bios that cannot be fixed leading to Linux and other OS’s not being able to run on particular hardware.

    The events at the moment I would say are preparing the ground for Linux. The question is will Linux be ready when the ground is. The road blocks to Linux are disappearing.

  4. Hans Gruber wrote, “Chrome OS does what for FLOSS exactly?

    Can I run Firefox, LO, VLC, etc on it?”

    You can run just about anything on it. It’s a browser, after all. Most applications can be made web-applications and run from the browser. Since Chrome OS is FLOSS, one can hack it and install whatever you want on it.

    see Getting the Source Code

    The layout is similar to most GNU/Linux systems except they have a secure-boot thingy. Since developers can build the whole thing, they can make room for any application alongside the browser.

  5. Hans Gruber says:

    >It’s all about escaping slavery of Wintel to freedom >of FLOSS.

    Sorry but jumping from the fire into the frying pan does NOTHING for FLOSS or freedom.
    I get that Google is Linux friend but Chrome OS does what for FLOSS exactly?

    Can I run Firefox, LO, VLC, etc on it?

    While I trust Google more than Apple, locking myself in their own restrictive little world is a step back, not forward.
    We often talk about how walled gardens might be beautiful but they dont promote freedom and in this respect moving to an all Google environment seems like switching from one master to another.

    Yes, Chome uses Linux but if I cant use free software on it, then its just useless to me.

    My Dell 9 is nearing the end and I will buy a Chromebook and put Kubuntu on it. Heck, Ill maybe even dualboot it but by itself, it doesnt cut it.

  6. oiaohm says:

    ssorbom also google is planning on releasing all the instructions to unlock the master firmware to make you own firmware for chromebooks with 100 percent your own keys.

    The tools to make a new master firmware exist in chromuim OS source code. The problem is how to disable the hardware write protect in the different chromebook to allow the firmware to be rewritten.

    This documentation will be coming.

    Reality chromebooks are the most open hardware we have seen in a very long time.

    Yes future plans for chromebooks do include developers being able to add there own software approval keys.

    Chromebooks are basically the exact other way to most UEFI devices.

  7. ssorbom says:

    Good to know, thans.

  8. oiaohm says:

    ssorbom reality unlocked chromebook has the same security as pre UEFI boot machines almost. You cannot change the boot order on most unlocked chrome-books and this is a critical fact.

    If you are going to force a UEFI machine to use legacy bios mode the security is also the same as an unlocked chrome-book as well so if the laptop you get has UEFI problems you could be forced to give up security.

    Also not all Chromebooks are created equal. Some you can unlock and secure fully. Reason some boot from sd card as first load ahead of usb or internal harddrive when unlocked. Guess what the sd can be switched read only and contain a verification boot-loader.

    So coreboot chromebook to company secure bootloader on sd card set read only that then loads harddrive. Attacker is screwed possible worse than UEFI.

    Most of the chromebooks in unlocked mode first boot sd card a few without sd card slots you are kinda screwed. Read only usb stick stuck out side of machine is not a highly hot idea. So far I have found no one making a really small usb stick that is read only unless of course I do custom orders of usb rom sticks.

    Yes Matthew Garrett is right and wrong at the same time. Does not happen often. You don’t want an random Chromebook. There are Chromebooks that can be secure as well if not better than a normal laptop while unlocked.

    Reason you are in full control over security method used from the sd card on. Being set read only same with the core firmware in the machine attackers cannot break this.

    ssorbom yes google has provided a way around secure boot with no direct in device firmware third party option. But the mandatory boot order of most unlocked chromebooks provides you with a third party option to secure by simply inserting a read only sd card with security boot-loader from then on the boot chain of the device is secure.

    Lot of ways the unlocked chromebooks are simpler to replace the security method if the security method is found wanting. Yes pull out one sd card insert next sd read only card.

    Matthew Garrett is a firmware focused person. He did not look at the boot order of the device and missed the fact in most of them you cannot change boot order.

    Matthew Garrett is only human he does miss things from time to time. Google method they never have to sign third party binaries.

    It would be so many time simpler of the PC had gone with a read only boot SD card option. Insert right card into motherboard for the OS’s you wish to use. This is many times more secure than the UEFI solution because you only have the keys you are using. No extract keys attacker can possibly exploit.

  9. ssorbom says:

    Oiaohm,
    Then what is the difference between buying a chromebook and a regular old laptop? Sure, the laptop is more expensive, but the chromebook has its own set of issues:
    http://mjg59.dreamwidth.org/22465.html
    I think it is cool that Google publishes a way around secure boot proccedures for those that want other choices, but that feature is mostly marketed to geeks and developers.

  10. oiaohm says:

    http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2012/12/how-to-install-ubuntu-on-acers-199-c7-chromebook/

    –Where in your deranged head does it make sense to buy a Chromebook for the sake of not having to bother with system-administration tasks, and then install another Linux distribution on it which you have to take care of yourself?!–

    Because you want data privacy. No different to applying company image to new desktop PCs. Schools use ghosting software a lot to nuke vendor installed software and place the software they want on the devices.

    –Students use Chromebooks with Google’s ChromeOS which depends on Google’s infrastructure, which forces invites them to freely use Google services, which in return gives Google data and influence.–

    Der Balrog and this is exactly why some take lets treat a ChromeOS machine like we treat PC machine infected with crapware. Nuke off face of earth.

    Changing the OS to Chromium OS that looks very much the same allows redirection of service control to local servers.

    Serous-ally some Chromebooks have quite a decent size hard drive. Yes 199 machine with a 300GB Linux install partition is quite nice.

    Der Balrog something else Google mandates the means to switch off secure boot on all Chromebooks so they can be changed. Google will need new programmer in future. Some of those programmers will be OS developers.

    Chromebooks and Nexus devices are to make sure that not every device is locked that hard that the next generation of OS developers and future goggle staff have something to learn on.

    Google Interest in schools are many sided.

    Der Balrog heck a lot of businesses looked at installing windows on chromebooks until they found out due to motherboard firmware Windows will not run.

    Really are you so much of a idiot that you think businesses run computers infested with what they class as crap.

    UEFI done by Microsoft is a pure mess. Chromebook coreboot based firmware is simpler to deal with.

    Der Balrog key thing to accept is business running Linux commonly do nuke Windows and other pre-installed OS’s out of existence. Heck companies running windows commonly nuke pre-installed out of existence to replace with company image. To a business want is pre-installed almost means nothing.

  11. Der Balrog says:

    I personally don’t give a crap about Microsoft. No idea why you bring them up. My criticism of Pogson’s gullibility has ZERO to do with Microsoft.

    But you should be intelligent enough to know that schools — or businesses or whoever else thinks Chromebooks are good for them — will not install another Linux on their frackin’ Chromebooks.

    Where in your deranged head does it make sense to buy a Chromebook for the sake of not having to bother with system-administration tasks, and then install another Linux distribution on it which you have to take care of yourself?!

    Why does Google want Chromebooks in schools? For the sake of education and the promotion of FLOSS? No, because they like the free advertising that comes with it.

    Students use Chromebooks with Google’s ChromeOS which depends on Google’s infrastructure, which forces invites them to freely use Google services, which in return gives Google data and influence.

  12. oiaohm says:

    Der Balrog chromebook hardware is insanely nice for running other Linux based OS’s.

    Google is at long last merging the Chromebook coreboot alterations mainline.

    Der Balrog chromebook is simpler to convert to Linux than some of the Windows 8 based machines with stuffed up UEFI.

    If we have to choose our future competition what should the FOSS people choose.

    Der Balrog the reality is competing against Android and Chromebooks is a far more open competition than competing against Microsoft.

  13. Der Balrog says:

    It’s all about escaping slavery of Wintel to freedom of FLOSS.

    Is it then? I thought it was about leaving “slavery” to enter a new form of “slavery”.

  14. Der Balrog says:

    Your Google fixation and uncritical God-bless-them articles are really annoying. Certainly a data dealer and collector like Google is interested in giving out Chromebooks for altruistic reasons alone.

    Yeah, as if.

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