Robert Pogson

One man, closing all the windows.

Posts Categorized / Linux in Education

  • Feb 02 / 2014
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Linux in Education, technology

Letter From Cyberspace

Out of the blue I received an e-mail:
“Dear sir,
20140202 Thanks for your website. I much enjoyed it.
Due to link from a Linux User Group, I visited your website. May I thank you for your informative reports on Linux use in schools. While I dual boot or use Linux (OpenSUSE13.1)in Virtual machine on my work machine (Windows 7 with MS Office as base OS) as I need to be compatible with the company I consult to as they are rigidly an MS set up; and unfortunately Linux does not have a FOSS UK VAT ( GSTax) program so I do my company books on Windows with Quickbooks.
I noted your comments that some programs interact only with Windows because of proprietary programs only working on Windows. Here In UK and European Union there is at least a movement away to FOSS software for government use. Germany some towns (Munich, in France the Customs set up and Gendarme forces, and in Norway of course they use SkolLinux.
Thanks for your reports and my greetings to you. I lived in Calgary for many years and my wife taught in Saskatchewan before we returned to UK.”

I thanked the correspondent and made this reply:
“The world can and does make its own software and because we are in a hole we dug with tools from M$ is no reason not to fill in the hole. Monopoly does none of us any good. What efficiency is gained by using common methods is lost through high prices and inflexibility. In schools where I worked there was much less lock-in and students and teachers thrived on great performance from old computers thanks to Debian GNU/Linux.”

The letter does describe reality for many individuals and organizations large and small. M$ created a monopoly with many lock-ins, layers of them, but it’s still worthwhile to break out. Gaining freedom is a one-time cost with infinite future benefits. From time to time the benefits may change but they are huge and real. For me, the first benefit was performance and I recouped all my effort in the first week of use. Organizations that are severely locked in may take years to recoup the investment to migrate to GNU/Linux but they will break even and laugh all the way to the bank and with an improved competitive position in their own activity.

  • Jan 31 / 2014
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Linux in Education, technology

Schools and Public Libraries

When I was young, public libraries played a huge role in my education. Schools had tiny libraries, barely usable and overwhelmed by numbers of users. We just could not afford to buy a ton of books beyond a few door-to-door encyclopedia, magazines and newspapers. The nearest public libraries were great places to borrow the books we needed and to do serious research. Now, in the Internet Age, libraries must change.

Carolyn Fox: “Public libraries (and public schools) have a critical role to play with improving the dearth of diversity in coding and open source.”

Internet access are today’s books, mail and messaging. It’s time libraries did more than lip-service. If businesses won’t serve the needs of the people, governments and charities should. Any community without widely available and affordable wireless access should at least provide good access in schools and libraries with no quotas. That takes money for hardware and service but they’re not spending as much on dead trees, so…

I suggest schools and libraries use recycled PCs running GNU/Linux. That will cost them little for hardware and software. I did just that for years when I was a teacher and my schools had the most wonderful resources at minimal cost: databases, search engines, filing systems, collaboration suites and all kinds of education utilities just for the cost of downloading. By keeping resources on local servers, our Internet connection did not bog down.

  • Jan 28 / 2014
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Linux in Education, technology

Finnish Schools Save Big With FLOSS

“Municipalities in Finland that have switched their schools to Linux and other open source solutions are saving millions of euro. Typically, our centrally managed open source computers are at least 40 percent cheaper than the proprietary alternative. The total savings could be 10 million.” This is what I have been writing about all these years. Using FLOSS and GNU/Linux in schools saves a bundle. There are the licensing costs straight up and then there is the flexibility of the GPL versus the restrictions of the EULA. Configuration and operation are trivial by comparison with FLOSS, because you can do whatever you want immediately. I’ve seen it repeatedly. New systems cost half as much and migrating old systems costs a fraction of that. The saving in money is important but so is the saving in time. In a typical school the effort could drop from many hours per week to minutes.

See Finnish schools using open source reap savings.

  • Jan 27 / 2014
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Linux in Education, technology

A Fine Example Of FLOSS, Students and Teachers Working Well

“Many school 1:1 programs restrict what students may do and learn with their devices. Installation or modification of software is typically restricted, often draconically, to IT personnel. This common practice cripples learning and dishonors students’ autonomy. In contrast, our program begins with a deep level of trust; student accounts are given sudo privileges and granted the liberty to install programs, spin configuration knobs, and freely experiment with the universe of open source software. Novice and accomplished students are welcomed and encouraged to learn the art of computing and pursue personal passions and interests. By starting the conversation with "We trust you," and providing an open platform for learning, we set in motion a train of student inquiry and discovery.” When I was a teacher, I trusted my students and was rarely disappointed. Students thrive when they own the educational experience. That’s true whether it’s mathematics, science or information technology that is the subject matter. The school in TFA article is allowing students to build operating systems, set up PCs and roll-out software. Good for them. I’ve turned students loose on PCs with screwdrivers and vacuum cleaners with no breakage. Students became adept at disassembling and reassembling ATX PCs. Installing software was easy. Even girls who, in high school, may have chosen non-computer-geek paths, can get into it and put to shame the computer-savvy boys who may not have as good an eye for detail and fine manual dexterity. It’s all good.

See Educators to jump on board with open source once they learn to trust.

See also Welcome to the Laptop Machine, where they describe the factory where students roll out the systems. It’s FLOSS throughout. No need for that other OS, budgets or severe lockdown to hold students back.

  • Jan 23 / 2014
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Linux in Education, technology

APEC Legacy PC Market Shrinks by 10% in 2013

“IDC’s preliminary results show that the Asia/Pacific (excluding Japan) PC market declined 10% in full year 2013 to reach 108 million units.”So much for an expectation of good news tomorrow in M$’s quarterly report… Asia is the biggest growth centre for IT and the legacy PC is not part of that growth. Further, IDC predicts that in Philippines the rampant growth of tablets, and the resulting negative feedback on legacy PCs, will continue in 2014. About the only bright spot for legacy PCs was in India where the government is stuffing them into schools, often with GNU/Linux [1][2][3]

See Asia/Pacific PC Market Shrinks by 10% in 2013; Marks Region's First Annual Double Digit Decline.

  • Jan 22 / 2014
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Linux in Education, technology

FLOSS Works – Flexibility, Performance and Price in IT

You just can’t beat FLOSS for flexibility, performance and price. FLOSS licences allow users to run, examine, modify and distribute the code. What else could you do with it? Nothing. It just works for users. Because their are no secrets about FLOSS the performance is as good as anyone wants. Otherwise they would improve it further. The price? $0, usually, plus a little installation and maintenance. It’s all gravy.
“Oslo Library’s Digital Services team explains on its website that it selected KOHA after having considered purchasing proprietary alternatives and developing one of their own. Decision criteria included the possibility to adapt the system to future needs, the potential for integrating it with other systems and the costs involved in procurement and operations.”

See More libraries switch to KOHA catalogue system.

The same choices could be made for any FLOSS, from the GNU/Linux OS to desktop and server applications. The world can and does make its own software and it’s hard to beat.

Check out Debian GNU/Linux and Koha, two of my favourite packages of FLOSS. You don’t have to be a large organization to use either. Even a single user on a single PC can benefit from using either.

  • Jan 20 / 2014
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Linux in Education, technology

The Price Of IT These Days

I am glad I have lived to see the day. Today, consumers are paying what IT costs plus a bit for the profit of designing, making, distributing, servicing and selling of the devices. Gone are the days when folks like M$ and Intel just wrote zeroes into the price, what they could get away with given the Wintel monopoly on retail shelves. Today, we wouldn’t pay $1 for a screw that costs 1 just because M$ or anyone else has a monopoly on screws sold retail. That’s just as silly for software and hardware as it was for Wintel personal computers.

“The average BOM cost for a white-box tablet – most of which adopted a dual-core processors – stood at about US$25 as of the fourth quarter of 2013. Dual-core processor pricing could not drop any furrther, as their average prices came to about US$4, only less than US$1 higher than that of a single-core one.”

The result is likely that billions more human beings will be able to join the human race of IT-users. That’s good for all of us as communication bridges barriers and has potential to make us all more harmonious and friendly. At the same time businesses and organizations large and small will really be able to act locally while thinking globally. This is important for individuals, education, government, business, and all the daily things we do.

I see this commoditisation of hardware also being a boon for software freedom, the licensing of software with permission to run, examine, modify and distribute software with no strings attached because it delivers software at the lowest cost through re-use, reducing duplication, and recycling software and the ideas it represents. It’s all good. This stimulates creativity everywhere in every way because the cost of entry into the software business is least and the number of users accessible to a developer is maximized.

See China white-box makers add extra value to tablets as cost reduction is no longer possible.

  • Jan 20 / 2014
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Linux in Education, technology


This is big news. India, one of the largest democracies in the world has a new state government, Delhi national capital region, committed to FLOSS (Free/Libre Open Source Software). In particular they intend to ban monopoly in the retail space, the key roadblock to widespread use of FLOSS. They also have a lot of influence on the government of India. It’s about time.

This guy, Arvind Kejriwal, is young, energetic and in a key position to promote change.
“Delhi government is set to opt for free software. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal held initial discussions with free software guru Richard Stallman. The meeting was facilitated by Joseph C Mathew, former IT advisor to the Chief Minister of Kerala V S Achuthanandan, before he was shunted out falling foul of the powerful official faction of the CPI {M} in Kerala. The first phase will be introduced in the education sector. Significantly, this new initiative follows close on the heels of Kejriwal’s announcement that monopolies will not be allowed in the retail sector. Stallman said that he shared the philosophy of the Aam Aadmi Party.”

See 'Delhi government for free software'.

  • Jan 14 / 2014
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Linux in Education, technology

Dead Ends

In evolution, a dead end is a branch of life-forms that failed to adapt to changing conditions and became extinct. There is the real possibility that other OS will become a dead end in technology. Never ending complexity kills economic advantages and capabilities of IT.
“simple tasks turn into dead ends with Windows when things don’t work the way they should. Think of updates that fail to execute and apps that create problems for the user. Problems that present themselves with a dialog box with an error message that provides no information to the user on how to proceed. I call it the Windows dead end.”

The dead end that killed that other OS in my life was when crashes resulting from routine operations wasted time in the four-ring circle I operated in my classroom. Time wasted for that other OS to reboot was the last straw. That disruption was negating the tangible benefit of having multiple PCs in my classroom and derailing my interactions with my own students. I had tolerated that kind of performance for more than a decade in my own work. I had accepted that as normal because I saw no other OS working smoothly in the same environment.

Similar moments of clarity have come to countless millions of users of IT in the last year or two: smartphones that just work getting the job done in hostile environments, tablets that do everything anyone needs done that fit in one hand, and all costing less than a legacy PC with Wintel Inside… That realization cannot be put back in the bottle. That other OS is obsolete. M$ added endless features to sell new copies which just increased the fragility and complexity. The result is that M$ cannot revise its OS to just work without jerking around all the slaves who now serve the slave-master. The slaves revolt and choose freedom. That happened in a big way in 2013 with no growth at all in shipments of that other OS and there is no upside on the horizon. It’s all downhill from here on and the decline will probably grow more rapid as OEMs, ODMs, retailers, consumers and businesses all find the exit.

See Biggest hurdle to overcome with Windows 9: The dead end.

  • Jan 10 / 2014
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Linux in Education, technology

In Macedonia, People Use GNU/Linux At Work

You can plainly see a pattern of usage in StatCounter’s web-stats for Macedonia. The weekdays have a high value for page-views from GNU/Linux, more than double the weekends. The weekday highs are also increasing while the weekends are stuck at ~1%. That reflects an employer/government who values GNU/Linux and retailers not offering choice.

Since 2005, Macedonia has had a policy of getting one computer seat per child. In 2007 they had 180K computer seats, about halfway to their goal. Those are thin clients, too. Smart.

By 2011, Macedonia was well advanced in accepting FLOSS in government and using e-government to make interactions with government simpler, faster and less expensive.
“During March 2011, four public meetings are organised in cities of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia aiming at promoting and discussing the draft National Policy for Open Software, by involving the public in the process of finalisation of the text. At the same time, the events mark the last stage of the project for the adoption of this policy.
The events have taken place in the cities of Tetovo, Štip, Skopje and Bitola. Main presenters included representatives of the non-profit organisation promoting Open Software ( Слободен софтвер Македонија) in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the Metamorphosis Foundation and the Ministry of Information Society and Administration.
The public events format was chosen to introduce the reasons behind the adoption of this policy. During the presentations, the implementation of the ‘Computer for every child’ project was described as a good example upon which the future policy should be built; the project’s weak points were also addressed, so as to implement better projects in the future. Moreover, all the recommendations contained in the policy document were explained. “

Chuckle. It seems the more open and accepting an organization is, the more FLOSS and GNU/Linux are chosen as the right way to do IT. I expect more governments, organizations and businesses will see the benefits of FLOSS sooner rather than later. There still is a problem with those retailers not offering FLOSS to customers… Retailers now seem to offer Android/Linux. Why not GNU/Linux?

  • Jan 06 / 2014
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Linux in Education, technology

Brazil, We Knew You Would Come Through

What was it? The NSA scandal? Google supporting a client OS? OEMs shipping it? Retailers selling it? What?

For years we knew that the government and schools in Brazil used GNU/Linux widely and OEMs in Brazil made millions of GNU/Linux PCs and retailers sold them but it never showed up in the web-stats… Along came Google and OEMs and retailers and now Android/Linux takes off like a rocket. GNU/Linux makes a move too… whatever.

  • Jan 05 / 2014
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Linux in Education, Teaching, technology

Maths Lesson For Estonia

M$ has been giving Estonian governments a discount. This was to expire this year but a new deal was reached wherein the rates would rise gradually instead of in a single savage jump… Do the maths, Estonia. If the rate slides up linearly until 2017, you will pay half what it would have cost going “cold turkey”… You are the frog in the pot, not noticing that you are being cooked slowly.

“Tallinn, which has 6,500 school computers under its administration, only pays 15,600 euros annually for the license to use Windows operating systems and Office. Had the agreement not been reached, that figure would have risen to 364,000 euros.
A conversion to free software such as Linux was an alternative, but Estonia does not have enough Linux server administrators.”

Meanwhile, Estonia could have eliminated any shortage of GNU/Linux experts with courses for IT guys or volunteers, even students while paying $0 for licences. Would not Estonia be better off paying Estonians to fix Estonia’s IT instead of being addicted to M$’s crapware forever?

See Ministry Extends Microsoft Deal to 2017, Staving Off Major Price Hike.