Robert Pogson

One man, closing all the windows.

Posts Categorized / Teaching

  • Apr 16 / 2014
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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
  • 0
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.

  • Feb 05 / 2014
  • 3
Linux in Education, Teaching, technology

Schools Allowing Drug-Dealers To Operate In The Parking Lots

No, not literally, but figuratively, the generosity of many IT-companies to “help” schools afford IT is more about enslaving students to use and be locked-in to those companies’ products rather than choosing what works best for the students and teachers. I am surprised that M$ is not on the list…

  • “Apple’s pledging $100 million in iPads, Macbooks, products and teacher training.”
  • “AT&T is giving $100 million in mobile broadband for 3 years to middle schools and for teacher development.”
  • “The Verizon Foundation is giving $100 million to educate teachers, with the Verizon Innovative Leading Schools program, among other initiatives.”
  • “Autodesk will offer free design software to every secondary school.”

Sigh… No one should have to donate software for schools because FLOSS is already ~$0. They can use it for the price of a download. Training? Just use it. Most software can be figured out in a few minutes of poke-and-click. The web is full of collaborative sites that require little or no training. Know a school for FaceBook? GMail? The concept of requiring training in schools is silly. That’s just a euphemism for allowing salesmen into schools. Just turn the students loose on it and they will put it to good use within the first hour. The benefits are only limited by imaginations of users, not the agreements companies force on schools.

I recommend Debian GNU/Linux for schools. I have worked in dozens of schools where clients and servers just hummed on the LAN, trouble-free and fast with tons of FLOSS. Put a start-page on the browsers and stand back. Learning will happen. It will be hard to prevent. I have set up Moodle course management system in schools and local copies of Wikipedia, all for $0 and a few minutes of my time.

The high-speed Internet access is welcome, but how about cabling and wireless in the schools? How about gigabit/s to servers and multimedia stations? Is it there? What about thin clients? Is this “help” limited to expensive thick clients or to the optimal solution, thin client/server, for most tasks in education? Will students be able to learn anything beyond dependence on some monopolists?

See Apple And Others Fund $750 Million In Education Gadgets And Internet Broadband.

  • Jan 05 / 2014
  • 7
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.

  • Oct 25 / 2013
  • 0
Teaching

Maple, Yes Another One

I just received a notice in my in-box from the government of Manitoba:
“MAPLE is an online professional learning environment that will link teachers from across the province and allow them to access the latest curriculum, share learning resources and ideas on how to improve education and support students. MAPLE is part of our strategy to improve the quality of education in Manitoba by making sure teachers have the tools they need to support student success.”

Besides “Maple” being overworked in the world, this is wonderful, but it’s not OPEN!

“The MAPLE Site/Service is not available to parents, students or members of the public at large.”

see Maple.

Is it just me or does excluding parents, students and members of the public from sharing in ideas about improving education seem really STUPID? As a taxpayer and someone who interacts with students, employers, and graduates from time to time, I certainly have a few things I would like to say to teachers. I was a teacher and certainly have valuable information to share about experiences too. What’s with this? In this day of social media what is a tax-funded organization doing excluding taxpayers from the conversation? Get a clue, government. Teachers who have been students for decades but have little experience of life and employment certainly could use some input from the rest of us. This is an echo chamber, not a forum.

  • Oct 19 / 2013
  • 2
Linux in Education, Teaching, technology

Free Software And Society

When I first became aware of Free Software, it was just one distribution of GNU/Linux and a few applications on a CD recommended by strangers on the Internet. I was in trouble. I had 24 students and their families who depended on me to teach them stuff to prepare them for life in a modern world. I had divided my classroom into five areas:

  1. seating/desks,
  2. a “wet” area for science experiments,
  3. a “windows” area where students could view the world measuring distance, the weather, parallax and such,
  4. a “science” area where I had a cabinet of toys, and
  5. a cluster of 5 PCs where students could actually learn at their own pace from a non-judgmental teacher…

My plans were simple, divide and conquer. The students for the most part couldn’t read or write, so I needed to fulfill the curriculum designed for city-kids while getting them to read, write, and present as if they were up to speed in all areas. Did I mention that I had Grades 9 to 11? This five-ring circus needed to function so that I could assign projects to different groups that they could accomplish largely on their own while I gave lectures or helped the many helpless individual learners. It worked pretty well. I did some of my best teaching and students did some of their best learning. One true reader spread light amongst the other students. One maths wiz also helped. Others had mature outlooks on life in the Arctic. I learned more than the kids.

The one obstacle to the smooth running of my classroom was Lose ’95. It kept losing the game, freezing and BSODing in the middle of class. It was supposed to operate well in 16MB and these PCs had 72MB. So, they were old and defective. That was the common wisdom. I knew better. These were made by HP. They made quality hardware. My old PC only failed when I tried to print or do some other function of the OS. It never failed when I ran software that I wrote. Not so with the kids’ computers, they failed just idling. People told me GNU/Linux just kept running indefinitely. I had to have it.

I picked a distro that was “easy to install” and downloaded an .iso of Caldera e-desktop over ten days of nights and weekends by dial-up. I had never burned an .iso before and the Mac lab didn’t help me do the right thing until the second try. The installation was simple but all I got was a black screen. I had to edit a configuration file with the right sweep frequencies for five different CRT monitors. Fortunately, Alta Vista came through with the data and it worked. I did one machine on a Thursday evening and the rest on Friday evening. I played hard with them all weekend and they never froze once. Oh, the browser or the word-processor (StarOffice, installed separately) would freeze and X-kill could eliminate it in a few seconds but the OS kept running. No more re-re-reboots. No more interruptions of my classes for five minutes. No more lost momentum. The students and I could progress smoothly and we did that for six months with only one failure when a student cut the power and the EXT non-journalled file-system on an 800MB hard drive lost the thread. I re-installed and kept going.

To me Free Software was my saviour and the best thing since sliced bread. I kept using it in more challenging roles every year and it always delivered: new distros, LTSP, servers of all kinds, local repositories, gigabit/s RAIDED file-serving on the LAN, databases, everything…

Only later did I read GROKLAW and US DOJ v M$ and realize that my students, schools and communities had been freed forever from the great Satan, M$, its “partners” and the many sins of non-Free software. I learned to love Free Software for what it was:

  • a brilliant concept of Richard Stallman,
  • an efficient and effective way to develop software, and
  • a boon to human beings everywhere who needed to create, find, modify and present information.

The latter was what I lived for as a teacher and lifelong learner. I soaked up technology of all kinds. I could soak up and distribute Free Software. I could not legally soak up and distribute that other OS and much of its software. I worked in remote communities in the North where there was no corner fix-it shop and no local computer geek usually. There was an ecosystem of re-re-reboots and recycled installation CDs but that was it. I showed students how to maintain and repair PCs, install operating systems and applications on those PCs all without spending much more than a download on the software or a blank CD, legally and getting better software in the process.

Students loved Free Software. They were horrified to read the EULA. You see, FREEDOM was something they understood. They were free to do just about anything in their lives: hunting, fishing, partying, playing, but they could not legally use a PC in the North because there was just no way to keep them going because the software was designed to sell more licences, not work for the user, and the EULA closed most reasonable options a non-expert could conceive, copying. They loved the GPL. If it felt right, do it. Install it any way you want and share it. That was Freedom in the North. That’s how people lived with everything else. Why not IT and PCs and servers?

All over the North of Canada, I taught students how to install GNU/Linux on PCs old and new. Students who could barely read explored the Internet, had full-text searching of thousands of books from Gutenberg Project, had local copies of Wikipedia in which they could embed local content, had the ability to turn any PC into a server with web applications and databases. They were promoted from serf to kings in a few weeks in my classrooms thanks to Free Software. They could learn using IT optimally, not restricted by the whims of some rich guys in the South. Thank you, RMS and the world of Free Software.

Free Software and Society is being celebrated by the Free Software Foundation:
“LibrePlanet is the annual conference of the Free Software Foundation and will be held in March 2014 in Cambridge, MA. This year, the theme of LibrePlanet is "Free Software, Free Society." How can free software protect journalists, whistleblowers, activists, and regular computer users from government and corporate surveillance? How can free software, or free software values like copyleft, community development, and transparency, be used by people fighting to create free societies around the world? What challenges are standing between us and our goal of free software ubiquity? With your help, we’ll tackle these questions and more at LibrePlanet 2014.”

see LibrePlanet 2014: Calling all presenters, volunteers, and exhibitors — Free Software Foundation — working together for free software.

  • Oct 03 / 2013
  • 1
Linux in Education, Teaching, technology

22% U.S. School Districts Use Chromebooks

Children are the future and most of them are in schools using IT of some sort. “About 22% of the school districts in the U.S. are now using Google Chromebooks. That’s over 5,000 K-12 schools”

see 22% U.S. School Districts Use Chromebooks.

Wintel cannot undo the “damage” to the monopoly of millions of children experiencing other operating systems. MacOS/Apple is getting a share and so now is ChromeOS/Google-and-partners. Already Chromebooks are getting retail shelf-space. The monopoly is on its last legs in its home base, USA. Within a year or so even GNU/Linux will get a share of retail shelf-space all over USA. M$’s revenue from clients is heading for a drop of at least 25% and more likely 50%. That’s not growth. That’s decline. Get used to it. This is happening at a time when legacy PC sales are dropping, a double whammy. Clearly, “anything but M$” is a growth industry on the client side. It won’t be long before everyone realizes they can do without the Windows tax.

I recommend Debian GNU/Linux for clients, servers and everything else. It’s the universal operating system and it has none of the drawbacks of Wintel: high price, low reliability, malware, re-re-reboots, etc.

  • Sep 28 / 2013
  • 3
Linux in Education, Teaching, technology

Debian GNU/Linux Works In Education

It’s good to see that the satisfying results of using Debian GNU/Linux in schools that I experienced continue to please teachers around the world.

  • “Giorgio Pioda, system administrator, who is using Debian Edu at SPSE (Scuola per Sportivi d’Élite) in Tenero, Switzerland (Cantone Ticino, Italian speaking part), says: "I can report that I’m on production with Debian Edu Wheezy since mid-August and it works rock solid, we are using it every day."”
  • “Nigel Barker, IT Coordinator at Hiroshima International School, Japan: "I was able to get a new Tjener and computer room ready for the new school year in only 4 days following the beta 1 release. I have been very happy with the way things have been running during the first month of school."”
  • “Lucas Nussbaum, Debian Project Leader: "Debian Edu is a fantastic project, for at least two reasons. First, because it exposes a wider public, and specifically children, to Free Software and Debian. Second, because it demonstrates how one can build a successful distribution on top of Debian, while doing all the work inside Debian."”

see Debian Edu / Skolelinux Wheezy — a complete Linux solution for your school.

I was never happier than when I discovered that a working lab could be converted to GNU/Linux or updated in an hour simply by making machines boot PXE, installing Debian GNU/Linux as a LTSP server. If you need thick clients, it’s simple to install on one and re-image the rest in parallel with Clonezilla and multicasting. Clonezilla is being tested for inclusion in the Debian GNU/Linux distribution for the next release.

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