Robert Pogson

One man, closing all the windows.

Posts Categorized / Teaching

  • Jul 23 / 2014
  • 0
Linux in Education, Teaching, technology

Freeing Education Via GNU/Linux

When I was teaching in small remote schools in Canada’s north, I had the same sorts of problems schools in the south have.“I found that our technology was not up to scratch to meet the needs of our students. We only had a few desktop PCs located in each elementary and middle school classroom, and only a few in our high school computer labs. We definitely needed more machines so students would get more time to work on class projects and do research.” There weren’t enough PCs and the cost of maintenance was prohibitive. Along came GNU/Linux and a lot of problems were solved. We could spend money on hardware (productivity booster) instead of software licences (dead weight). Malware became a distant memory as installed operating systems just kept humming for years. Package management over the network saved tons of work, too.

I went with thin client technology to maximize the benefit of new hardware. Today, schools have the choice of letting Google spend money on hardware so a new kind of thin client, the Chromebook, works for them. It’s all good. They both use GNU/Linux. More money spent on IT goes for the education of students and less on making the rich richer.

See Bridgeport Public Schools Choose Chromebooks.

  • Jul 21 / 2014
  • 9
Linux in Education, Teaching, technology

Schools In Geneva Switching To GNU/Linux

“All primary and secondary public schools in the Swiss Canton of Geneva are switching to using Ubuntu GNU/Linux for the PCs used by teachers and students. The switch has been completed by all of the 170 primary public schools, and the migration of the canton’s 20 secondary schools is planned for the next school year. Ubuntu GNU/Linux offers powerful services to the teachers, is easier to maintain, faster, safer and more stable than the decade-old proprietary operating system it is replacing, the canton’s school IT department concludes, based on several four-year long pilots.” These guys took four years studying the matter and it will only take two years to switch their schools to GNU/Linux. It shows the Munich decade was some sort of aberration in terms of time taken to switch. The difference is the number of applications locked in to that other OS. Munich had hundreds. Geneva has only one or two. LibreOffice takes care of one…

Anyway, I think the migration in Geneva is remarkable because the Swiss are thorough. If they could be convinced in just four years, most of the rest of us should be convinced in a matter of hours. Get on with it folks. Take a look at Debian GNU/Linux and see what you’ve been missing: the freedom to use the hardware you own to its maximum capability, freedom from malware and freedom from paying about twice what IT should really cost you. In schools where I used GNU/Linux we easily had twice as much IT for the same cost and the cost of maintaining the larger system was less than the cost of maintaining the smaller system running that other OS. Freedom from the EULA of M$ which enslaves you rather than enabling you is the killer however. With FLOSS and GNU/Linux you can run, examine, modify and distribute the software to your heart’s content. Go with it. Seize the opportunity.

SeeGeneva class-rooms switching to free software | Joinup.

  • Jul 15 / 2014
  • 5
Linux in Education, Teaching, technology

FLOSS Is The Right Way

“a lot of children had never had any examples of programming. They’d used a computer, but in fact the computer had used them. They knew how a mouse worked, they knew how to save a spreadsheet, they knew how to load an XBOX game, but they didn’t necessarily know anything else about computing”I’ve seen this repeatedly, a classroom full of students who “knew how to use PCs” but had no idea how fast they were or of what PCs are capable. I demonstrated a few simple programmes in PASCAL to show them how fast the maths was. Even on decade old machines, hundreds of millions of FLOPS happen. These are computers that are sluggish under the bloat of M$’s software. Put on lean software like GNU/Linux and they fly.

I let them read the GPL and the EULA.txt and jaws dropped. They had no idea that their use of PCs was handicapped by non-Free software. I showed them the power they had with a bit of knowledge of FLOSS, and a screwdriver. They were liberated from needing to depend on the Wintel treadmill and Wintel itself for all aspects of their IT. A decade ago, it seemed every way forward for FLOSS was uphill because of the lock-in. Now young people can buy a small cheap computer with Android/Linux and “root” it and presto! they are free of the Wintel treadmill forever. A billion people have seen the light and it’s possible another billion or more will go to FLOSS this year alone. The world is just beginning this explosive migration away from non-Free software.

See Friends record their call to arms for open source!.

  • Jun 20 / 2014
  • 6
Teaching, technology

Google Doing Good

Google has long promised to “do no evil”. They’ve done better than that.“Google announced a $50 million initiative to teach young girls how to code, Google has promised to do all it can to recruit more women into Silicon Valley. Along with Chelsea Clinton, Girls Inc., Girl Scouts of the USA, Mindy Kaling, MIT Media Lab, National Center for Women & Information Technology, SevenTeen, TechCrunch and more, Google is launching Made with Code, an initiative to inspire girls to code” They are doing good by promoting computer programming for young women, really young women, actually girls. They have to because girls have been getting tracked away from computer science earlier than ever. That could be part of the success of IT in the world, bringing more information to everyone everywhere. Google found it had to get the message across earlier if it wanted to have more women in its own workforce. Good for Google.

See Google investing $50 million to get girls to code.

  • Jun 19 / 2014
  • 25
Linux in Education, Teaching, technology

John C. Dvorak, Educational Luddite

The Luddites were folks who tried to destroy new technology threatening their old ways of doing things.“When tech enters the classroom, the usual result is money squandered. This was obviously the case with PLATO and it is quite apparent today with daffy educators suckered into going all-in with PCs and tablets.” John C Dvorak is an educational Luddite. He decries the use of IT in the classroom. He associates IT with distracting from the activities of teaching and learning.

That is so far wrong I am amazed. Education is about training brains to absorb information and to modify information and to present information. What IT does is to make that information faster and easier to find, modify, create and distribute. IT is a great lever to increase the efficiency of education. Nothing moves information around and manipulates it faster than IT. What books, paper and pens did for education hundreds of years ago, IT, particularly with small cheap computers, is accelerated many times over.

For example, consider a school’s library. I have been in modern and effective schools which had thousands of dead-tree books on shelves mostly sitting there being dead. Using the library meant students had to travel individually or in groups to the library possibly wasting 10 minutes. A card-index slowed students down more minutes. A few quick reads might find a suitable book in 30 minutes or so. A quantum of time in the educational system being 45 minutes meant a whole quantum was wasted before any useful work was done except learning how to do things inefficiently. Now compare that with schools having a server with ~100K books/articles/images or good access to the same on the WWW. Teach the student how to search once and they have a lifetime of information available as fast as they can read. By the time the dead-tree-worshiping school has a book in the hands of a student, the new student may already have made progress to acquiring important information. Google has gone around the world digitising books. Should schools ignore that body of knowledge they could not possibly acquire any other way? There are about 20 students for each teacher. How many of those few teachers are experts in any field in which a student needs/wants to learn? Books, digital or not, are the best teachers and just getting the students to the books makes them winners.

Still not convinced? Consider teaching students to write cogently. How many books on a particular topic should a student read to form some sound thoughts on the matter? One, ten, twenty,…? How many books can a single school at some location afford to own? A school is a far better place for learning by having 10 or 20 times as many ebooks as dead-tree books. Remember the class sets, the ones bought for more than $1K that get used for a few days or weeks and then go back into storage? Think how inefficient that is to hold back every student to the pace of the slowest reader and to have expensive resources sitting unused. With one PC per child, everyone can be reading/learning at their rate all day. That’s optimal for every student who can read. Johnny can’t read? The PCs give the teacher more time to teach him. It’s parallel processing. It works. Schools should use it.

What is wasteful in educational IT is use of Wintel everywhere. The big old desktops were just too large for classrooms designed in the days of dead trees. The small cheap computers running FLOSS on ARM and wirelessly networked are custom-made for education.

One last example. Education is a building process. Each individual adds to his knolwedge one brick at a time. That’s a rate-limited process and can be improved. Suppose the work of all students was preserved/published/distributed so that each student not only benefits from the knowledge and experience of his teachers but also from other students in the building and students and teachers previously in the building or in the educational system. With networking, databases and search-engines, every school can be an inspiring space, not a box. Students who are motivated and challenged by their peers are vastly superior learners and that motivation can be magnified by IT. In communities where I worked, I put wikis on the servers so students could find stuff related to their families/communities rather than just “the world” out there. How many dead tree books are relevant to students, written by someone in a faraway place with a different dialect and vocabulary and published on some stranger’s dead trees? Try teaching reading and writing in English to aboriginal students who live in their local dialect. Try teaching them to read and to write about the people and places they know. See the difference? No one wants to learn stuff that is irrelevant. IT brings relevance to every school and student and a connection to the rest of the world in a way that dead tree books don’t. Economics, space, freight all make that impossible.

Education with IT bridges the digital divide giving every student everywhere an equal opportunity to learn. IT, in itself, does not replace teachers and is not about education, but IT is a far better tool than what most schools have used for centuries. Folks who decry IT in schools are Luddites, trying to hold back a tide of knowledge, knowledge of people, places and things but also new ways of solving problems and indeed examples of real problems that inspire students to learn. Most of my education was accomplished in the early years with dead trees and it worked but you know what I remember best? Examples my teachers brought in of new and interesting stuff, nothing from all those dead trees. Where teachers can manage to bring in dozens of memorable things, IT can bring in millions. Present them all. Let the students sort them out.

See Classrooms Need to Ditch PCs, Tablets.

  • Jun 09 / 2014
  • 0
Linux in Education, Teaching, technology

Education Done My Way, With Small Cheap Computers

A theme of my educational career has been that the right way to do IT in schools is to do as much as possible with IT.“The Gauteng Department of Education is planning to turn every school in the province into a textbook-free zone.” Obviously there are some things IT can’t do but there’s no faster/cheaper way to create, find, modify and distribute information. That’s about half the task of educations. The rest is actual thinking and problem-solving as well as physical activity: hand-eye coordination to basketball…

In my years as a student and as a teacher I was constantly annoyed by the need to shuffle paper or to shuffle students to where the paper was, like the dead-trees library or carrying around textbooks. Some schools have done the maths. In South Africa where families are strapped to buy textbooks, schools have discovered that students can buy PCs for less money and publishers can supply e-books for less money so the whole thing can be done for less money. That’s the right way to do education and IT.

Helping the rush to small cheap computers is FLOSS on */Linux. The world can and does make great software and share it making everyone’s cost of software less and lifting barriers to use of IT even in impoverished communities. We’re not quite there yet, but we are close to the point where IT will be in every classroom playing a major role.

See Gauteng schools to go textbook free.

“There will be no iPads at the event. The basic requirements are a seven or ten inch tablet running Google’s Android operating system with at least a Gorilla glass screen, and beyond that there’s free choice.”

See also Inside South Africa’s first textbook free government school.

  • Apr 16 / 2014
  • 0
Linux in Education, Teaching, technology

GNU/Linux Works In Computer Labs In Greece

After years of using GNU/Linux in schools and introducing it to many students and teachers,“All these tools together, Sch-scripts for setting-up PC labs, Epoptes for managing them, and LTSP are used in more than 500 schools, all over Greece. The free and open source solutions help save teachers valuable time. One grateful teacher posted a testimonial on the support forum for Sch-script in 2010: "Within one hour, a PC lab set-up which had been giving me all kind of headaches (8 computers with Windows 2000 and dozens of problems) became operable… from my laptop! Tomorrow, I am doing the first real test-drive with students, but it was amazing how fast and easy everything was. I’m speechless. Now I can share my desktop with all the lab PC users, and monitor them, it is incredible."” I became skilful enough to set up a lab in an hour or so, replacing that other OS with something that worked. That’s becoming “old school” these days with many distros provide setting up the software through the package-manager.

Now even more of the configuration and additional tools are all available by a set of scripts developed in Greece. 500 schools is a whole bunch more than I worked. GNU/Linux works in education. It can work anywhere. Finding the recipes for all this and sharing is obviously more efficient than buying solutions sold by M$ and “partners” that cost too much or don’t work at all sometimes. The world can and does make its own software better than those guys. This is just another example of doing IT the right way.

See Computer lab management tool in over 500 Greek schools.

  • Mar 17 / 2014
  • 0
Linux in Education, Teaching, technology

OMG! FLOSS Has A Hotel…

I’ll come straight out with it. I don’t like hotels.“The Linux Hotel is one of the hubs for open source in Germany. For years, the makers behind on the well-known software packages at a very special ( see here ) in the Linux Hotel. We also like to make contact when companies or individuals help or want to get involved personally! A stay at the Linux Hotel brings casual way considerably more than conventional or in-house training. But we do not overdo it. Those seeking relaxation uses bicycles, parking, fireplace room, sauna / gym …. Others take the framework program (alternating: vintage bus, musicals, theater, concerts, forging the historic “Hammer”, Railway Museum, GoCart, table tennis, yoga, barbecue, …). “ I don’t like travelling at all. However, if you need to take a course in FLOSS or GNU/Linux or meet GNU/Linux people, there’s no better place than a hotel if it means you can spend more time doing what you came for. This hotel has 8 hours a day of courses, GNU/Linux PCs all over the place, food/drink/recreation all over the place 24×7. It’s the Shangri-La of FLOSS.

This could catch on. Maybe it’s part of the reason Germany is a leader in FLOSS/GNU/Linux. All kinds of businesses are saying there is a shortage of GNU/Linux/FLOSS geeks. Maybe they should offer a few existing or potential employees an all-expenses-paid visit to this place. That might make the world a better place.

Google Translation of The Linux Hotel’s site.

  • Feb 21 / 2014
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Linux in Education, Teaching, technology

Penn Manor – A School System That Is Maximizing ROI For IT

Penn Manor is a school system committed to 1:1 student:PC ratio. That’s important because without ubiquity, PCs are just accessories in schools. You can’t plan every lesson around them. You can’t eliminate a lot of paper-shuffling and waste. You can’t use electronic search for everything. “Conversations in education are changing very rapidly from sorta old days where this was this insistence that we had to be teaching Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office”
A school without that ratio wastes time doing everything: trips to the library/warehouse of dead-trees, handing out papers, taking in papers, shuffling papers, losing papers,… It goes on and on. There’s nothing you can do with paper that’s not better/faster/cheaper with PCs. Art might be an exception but that’s just a niche in education. Schools for centuries have been relying on paper as a medium of exchange of information from generations past to future generations.
For example, consider an assignment to write an essay. Typically, there are not enough dead-tree books in a classroom to do all the research in the classroom unless everyone is writing on the same subject and some class-sets are available. What’s the cost of a class-set? Say, $50 X 24… There might need to be a dozen such sets to cover all the courses for that classroom and a student might need 7 classrooms to visit. It all adds up. Compare that with a class in a school with a good connection to Wikipedia or to a local copy of Wikipedia on a server and 1:1 PCs. Students can be on task in seconds compared to a trip to the library which may or may not bear fruit. Compare that with a school having ~100K electronic books on the server… Compare that with a school having a course management system like Moodle helping students and teachers slice and dice the subject matter and communicate in real time with assignments and responses.

With 1:1 PC ratios more education happens faster. Students can more easily work at their own rate. Teachers can more easily keep ahead of students who excel or students who lag the bulk of the students. Small and large group activities work in much the same way as students used to social media on the web.

Now, consider trying to do that with EULAs restricting networking of PCs, restricting installing and copying software, budgeting and paying huge numbers of licensing fees,… FLOSS is the right way to go. Schools can just do it with much less effort, time, cost, and way more flexibility.

See Interview with Penn Manor – PA Champions of Open Source.

See also Penn Manor Technology Blog

  • Feb 20 / 2014
  • 2
Linux in Education, Teaching, technology

Disastrous Donation Of 1800 GNU/Linux Notebooks To Schools May Have A Silver Lining

A business donated 1800 GNU/Linux notebooks to Romanian schools but they remain largely unused. Some have had that other OS installed. According to one principal, “It is impossible for teachers to teach using two different programs.”

That shows a spectacular lack of initiative and planning. It happens. Not every teacher and principal is a hero. Still, there is a silver lining. Having this debacle in the news will educate teachers. Clearly, they don’t understand that proper IT in schools is a powerful tool that should be optimally used regardless of software. If they didn’t know how to use the machines, they should have turned them over to students. Problem solved.

This is a problem from top to bottom in education. If FLOSS is not on the radar for planning, procurement, daily use and future development, schools will continue to have only feeble use of IT for education because M$ and “partners” care only about revenue and profit, not education. That keeps prices high and usability low. Crippled by the EULA and the need to force users to constantly upgrade, M$’s software is far from optimal for schools. GNU/Linux worked for every school where I showed it to folks and the problems of a different user-interface were tiny.

How much training did these teachers require to learn to use their Android/Linux smartphones? A brief introduction? That’s all that was missing here. The rest could easily have been supplied with a bit of imagination and creativity.

See Teachers Romania oblivious about open source.

  • Feb 18 / 2014
  • 0
Linux in Education, Teaching, technology

Digital Strategy

In a white paper recommending that organizations large and small have a digital strategy, IBM leads with these ideas:

  • “As of June 30, 2012, more than 2.4 billion people were Internet users.”
  • “By 2017, it is estimated that there will be more than 3.9 billion global mobile subscribers.”
  • “In a Pew Research Center study conducted in August and September 2012, nearly half of American adults (45 percent) and two-thirds of young adults (66 percent) reported that they own a smartphone”

Clearly a big shift is happening rather quickly. The adoption of the legacy PC and the use of legacy PCs to access the Internet were rather tame in comparison as M$ and Intel sought to tax adoption at every stage over decades. They restricted use at first only to business and the wealthy. Now small cheap computers are allowing the next couple of billion humans to become connected in real time in the space of a couple of years. The power of this shift is due to the comparatively low cost of production of ARMed small cheap computers running FLOSS and Moore’s Law bringing the cost of servers and clients down to acceptable levels. There are still billions of humans who cannot yet afford the new technology but it is everywhere so it is at least within reach.

This is all good for humanity. We are stronger and more capable together rather than divided. This is all good for consumers as they get a lot more for their money and investments in hardware and software. This is all good for producers as they don’t have to partner with a powerful monopoly holding them back. Organizations and individuals need to understand the new technology to see how it works for them.

When I was a teacher, I helped schools form a digital strategy limited only by the imaginations of staff and students rather than restrictive EULAs and budgets. Thanks to FLOSS schools were able to use their existing hardware to do far more: databases, internal websites, collaborative tools, search engines and the like, stuff they could not afford from M$’s “partners”. It was all $0 and took just a few minutes to install and an hour or so to configure for real needs. Instead of being a bottleneck and source of frustration the personal computers in the schools became powerful, reliable learning and collaborative tools.

IBM’s vision is much more complex and outward-looking but it’s the same idea. Use software and hardware for maximum benefit, not what M$ and “partners” offer. In this vision, Wintel is just a quaint memory unable to keep up with the pace of development and outrageously expensive.

See IBM Creating a digital strategy to provide exceptional digital experiences.

  • Feb 09 / 2014
  • 10
Linux in Education, Teaching, technology

A Bunch Of Reasons Why I Use The GNU/Linux Operating System

I just read a trollish/clickbaitish article, you know, one of those “umpteen reasons to use that other OS…” things. It was sickening. All the usual arguments evanglists of M$ use wrapped in a “user-friendliness” package with a ribbon were there. I won’t even link to it. It was just too far gone. I will write my own such article based on real experiences in the real world.

I used to put up with that other OS when it crashed a dozen times a day. I saved files early and often… When almost every PC on Earth shipped with that, what was the choice? I knew about UNIX but the last time I checked folks wanted $1000 for permission to use it. I had never heard of Minix and I though GNU/Linux was just for computergeeks or huge companies. I had seen a guy attempt to install GNU/Linux just once. It was a disaster and lead to a CLI (commandline interface) that was foreign. I had used DOS a lot but this was different. Nevertheless, I was in the Arctic with five PCs running that other OS, Lose ’95 flavour, and one or another crashed almost hourly. What I had tolerated as an individual user for years was intolerable to me when I was a paid professional teacher in charge of the futures of two dozen real human beings entrusted to me by their parents.

I read that GNU/Linux didn’t crash and I had to have it. It took 10 days of nights and weekends at dial-up speed to get one CD of Caldera e-Desktop. I had never installed an OS before except copying DOS to a hard drive, but I figured it out and the installation was flawless, except I couldn’t get the GUI to run. I needed to look up data for our five different monitors and put the sweep frequencies into a file. So, a day or two later I had five PCs that didn’t crash. They ran six months without a single crash. I was sold.

M$ had been able to sell that crap because they had exclusive deals with OEMs, retailers, ISV’s (not so Independent Software Vendors) and had extended the monopoly granted by IBM to the ends of the Earth. IBM had adopted GNU/Linux a year or so before I discovered it so M$ had to change but GNU/Linux was far ahead in the stability department. I was amazed that a dying application could not lock up the OS. I learned about “Xkill” and carried on. We had an office suite, StarOffice, and a browser, Netscape, that did everything I knew how to do on a PC about education. I and my students were free of M$.

No student complained that GNU/Linux was not that other OS or that some list of applications would not run on it or that other OS was prettier. No one cared. The PCs loved it. The students loved it except for a couple whose parents thought more than 15 minutes per day was excessive use of a PC. My students were getting more than 60 minutes per day. It was like having another teacher in the room. I worked out lessons for students and distributed documents or papers to those PCs and the students took care of the rest. Vocabularies improved. Writing skills improved. I was able to give more attention to the rest of the class. What’s not to love about GNU/Linux?

Since then, the things I was able to get GNU/Linux to do for me multiplied greatly. I learned about file-sharing and printing and X and openSSH so I could control one or a hundred computers as if they were one bringing more computing power to each user as needed. The use of the hardware was only limited by my imagination and the imaginations of students and teachers, not some stupid EULA…

Let me tell you about M$’s EULA (End User Licence Agreement). First off, it’s not an agreement. You are forced to say you agree to it if you want to use your PC. That’s not an agreement. That’s extortion. Pay us if you want to stay in business… Further, the “agreement” is unconscionable. You have to agree not to connect more than X PCs together. Yep. A school with 100 XP machines on a LAN would be in violation if they shared files or ran thin clients. M$ wants you to cripple your PCs so they can sell you a “server” licence with a per-seat charge. Then there’s the thing about not studying the OS. You are not legally able to study M$’s OS and figure out what it’s doing to you. M$ also wants you to agree that M$ should be able to install whatever malware it wants on your computer. M$ wants to use the hardware you own to work for M$. For agreeing to this enslavement, they also charge a fee. That’s insane.

GNU/Linux on the other hand runs on FLOSS (Free/Libre Open Source Software) licences. The common theme is that you can run the software any way you want on as many computers as you want making as many copies as you want and you may study the software including source code and/or modify it… Oh… Vive la difference…

That’s Software Freedom, actually freedom for developers and users to make the best use of IT. If you are a developer you will like the fact that you can start a huge project from scratch and reuse and modify all the software you can get legally and without a fee in most cases. That enables anyone to start a huge project that could go far for very little cost. That’s perfect for students, young folk and start-ups as well as individuals and organizations. It doesn’t get any better than that. If you’re a user, you can use your hardware to full advantage with few restrictions, very little cost and no organization can tell you what to do with your hardware. It doesn’t get any better than that.

GNU/Linux largely uses open standards so whatever applications and computers you have can all talk to each other and speak the same languages. That allows you to turn a lab or a school into a super-computer as needed. That allows you to set up as many databases, search engines, web-servers, clients thick (resourceful) and thin (using resources of a server), as you need, want or can afford. Basically, you don’t need a brand new PC to get great performance if you can connect to another powerful computer running the software you need. GNU/Linux lets you do that transparently.

Let me give you an example. I like the application, GNUmeric, for doing spreadsheets. It makes the lovely graphs I display on my blog. They are SVG so they scale nicely no matter what size your screen. They take just a few seconds for me to set up from templates and they are infinitely customisable. The latest version of GNUmeric does not run directly on the version of GNU/Linux I have on my main PC, Beast. It wants the latest version of GNU/Linux. So, I set up another PC, a virtual one, that runs on Beast, installed the latest version of GNU/Linux from the Debian organization, and interact with it as if it were installed on Beast in the usual way by creating an icon that runs this simple command, ssh -Y jessie “gnumeric”. The “ssh” part runs a remote secure shell on the other computer, jessie. The “gnumeric” part runs GNUmeric for me on the other PC and the -Y part connect the application to my PC in a transparent fashion, a window automatically appears in front of me and I’m off. I also share the directories where I download and keep my documents so the apparent file-structure on Jessie is identical to my normal one. It’s all transparent to me, the user. I basically get to use two PCs as if they were one. If necessary, I could make Jessie some powerful super-computer and get better performance, or I could run more applications simultaneously by having more RAM on two systems than I could on one or… See? It’s only limited by my imagination, not some crazy EULA designed to sell more licences to remove crippling. The city of Largo in Florida does this for all their major applications. There are a bunch of powerful servers running their pet application for hundreds of users who access the application from small cheap computers on their desks. This is the lowest cost and the highest performing system you can have. Essentially, you don’t need a noisy, bulky heat-source in your working environment. It can be cool and quiet and serene thanks to GNU/Linux. M$? They charge extra for that and you still have all the other problems of that other OS: malware, re-re-reboots and the damned EULA.

So, we’ve covered reliability and flexibility and freedom. What about the actual design of the software? GNU/Linux has many parts. The GNU part is an ancient imitation of the UNIX OS from the olden days. The Linux part is a kernel that knows just about every bit of hardware you can connect to a PC and a benevolent dictator, Linus Torvalds, herds the Linux developers/cats in good directions, keeping things from breaking as much as possible and always trying to improve performance and security. On the other hand, M$ is anxious to sell as many licences as possible by every trick in the book including breaking things so a new licence will fix things until M$ needs more money, inviting malware in so computers slow down or “fail” and they are not above installing stuff that slows down your computer so you constantly feel the need to buy a new one, hoping faster hardware would save you from M$. M$ is run by salesmen. GNU/Linux is a product of the world which can and does make its own software to work for us not against us.

Have I missed anything? Probably. I will finish with some of the fabulous software I use in my home doing the computing that I do. There’s no lack of valuable software available from the Debian GNU/Linux repositories and I can install any of it in a few minutes by typing simple commands or clicking a mouse a few times.

  • Gnumeric, which I have described above,
  • LibreOffice, a general office suite which does almost everything perfectly for me except huge documents and the graphs in spreadsheets,
  • Lyx is what I like to create huge documents like books. It allows the writer to concentrate on content rather than formatting,
  • Inkscape is a programme designed to create and modify SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) images,
  • FireFox web browser,
  • ImageMagick, a toolbox for handling image files,
  • Gimp, a complex image editor, capable of almost anything for images used on the web or computer screen,
  • VLC, a video viewer/streamer/convertor,
  • Mplayer, a video player,
  • OpenShot video editor,
  • SoX, audio toolbox,
  • Audacity, audio editor,
  • Apache web server,
  • MySQL/MariaDB database,
  • PostgreSQL database,
  • Swish-e search engine,
  • Recoll search engine,
  • AutoKey, which inserts various strings in my texts by typing simple “hot keys”,
  • APT software packaging system,
  • and thousand of others

Notice that several of these are usually found on servers, not PCs, like Apache or MySQL. That’s OK. GNU/Linux doesn’t limit your freedom to run whatever you want wherever you want. Remember? Some trolls might mention that most of these can run on that other OS but if I don’t have to sell my soul to use my PC, why should I run that other OS? I don’t owe M$ a living. I don’t own M$ anything. If anything, I should send M$ a bill for the thousands of re-re-reboots they inflicted on me over the years.

There, I’m done. There are no good reasons for me to run that other OS and plenty for me to run Debian GNU/Linux. You should too unless you’re a slave and want to remain a slave.

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