Robert Pogson

One man, closing all the windows.

Posts Tagged / education

  • Aug 20 / 2014
  • 0
technology

Reports Of The Death Of GNU/Linux In Munich Are Greatly Exaggerated

Here and elsewhere we read that the mayor and M$ are drooling to pave over GNU/Linux with that other OS in Munich…“Suggestions the council has decided to back away from Linux are wrong, according to council spokesman Stefan Hauf.
He said the council’s recently elected mayor Dieter Reiter has instead simply commissioned a report into the future IT system for the council.”
Not so. The mayor is grumbling and has asked for a review of IT in general. That’s a normal part of the life-cycle of any IT-system or version of software. I did that at several of the schools where I worked and the decision to go to GNU/Linux occurred frequently. In GNU/Linux, a result could be to go to a later release of Debian, or to adopt LibreOffice 4.x or to go with thin clients almost everywhere…

Of course, the mayor might get a different result if he accepts voluntary labour from M$ or hires his nephew to do the research, but the council is wide awake and understands the issues, so I doubt there will be some coup in IT.

Further, I can’t see this mayor being reelected if he urges the city to spend ~$30million on returning to the fold of M$ rather than maintaining GNU/Linux for peanuts.

See Ditching Linux for Windows? The truth isn't that simple, says Munich.

  • Aug 18 / 2014
  • 4
technology

Real People Now Ready To Accept A Real OS

Christine Hall writes about the evolution of the mental lock-in of ordinary people using IT.“cell phones and tablets have made people less afraid to move away from their Windows comfort zones. Indeed, I think that people have never been in love with Windows, it’s just what they knew. Now that they’ve seen that they’ve been able to learn to use Android and/or iOS like pros, they’re more than willing to move on when it comes to their PCs as well.” She’s seen what I’ve seen, that ordinary people a decade or more ago likely had no clue about anything except that other OS. Now people are willing to try GNU/Linux much more readily.

When I first taught in the North, no one I met had heard much about GNU/Linux and no one had tried GNU/Linux on a desktop, even myself. After a few years of using GNU/Linux in schools, everything changed. I met students, parents and members of the community who had used GNU/Linux before I arrived and I travelled to a new community almost every year. Students and community members also travel and several in each community had previously installed GNU/Linux or attended a school that used GNU/Linux much as I did. That was before Android/Linux and ChromeOS took off…

Today, a good fraction of humans have used Android/Linux on a PC-like smartphone or tablet and they are unafraid. They are used to operating without a EULA around their necks. They are used to an OS that doesn’t slow down or pick up malware like pocket-lint. They are used to an OS that doesn’t artificially raise the price of their PC. They are ready for an OS not designed by salesmen. They are ready for FLOSS and GNU/Linux on desktop/notebook PCs. Suggest they move on. Suggest they visit Goodbye-microsoft.com if they have the functionality to browse the web left in their PC. Suggest they visit Debian.org too.

See The Time to Recommend Linux & FOSS Is Now.

  • Aug 13 / 2014
  • 3
technology

Who Is Himangi Saraogi?

I was wandering through the LKML and found a blast of patches submitted by Himangi Saraogi. “I love coding”This blast started May 7, and so far there are ~300 patches. Many of them seemed related to fixing matters of style and coding faults dug up by “Coccinelle” (Lady Bugs, to me…). But no, this tool is not an insect walking around and eating parasites but a code-searching tool spotting patterns. This is all about fixing the problems that creep in when humans run amok changing things in complex and huge codes. Good! This should improve the quality and ease of maintenance of Linux, one of the wonders of the world of IT.

It turns out that this developer is a female student in India. She is learning by contributing to the Linux kernel! Look out world! She aims to succeed.

See Himangi Saraogi | CodeChef.

  • Aug 12 / 2014
  • 2
technology

iPad vs. Chromebook – No Contest

Recent news about the popularity of Chromebooks with schools may seem puzzling“Schools in Hillsborough, New Jersey decided to make an experiment out of its own program. Beginning in 2012, 200 students were given iPads and 200 students were given Chromebooks. After receiving feedback from both students and teachers, the schools sold off their iPads and bought 4,600 Chromebooks.”. After all, a keyboard is a great input device and writing is one of the three “Rs” but why not just by a notebook PC? The answer is that the high cost of maintaining the legacy PC is too great. Keeping content on the server makes the job easier and with Chromebooks, schools don’t even need to own the server… Then there’s the malware, the slowing down, the re-re-rebooting with that other OS… That makes the ChromeBook a winner in education and probably a lot of organizations large and small, even consumers. Of course, they could get those benefits with “straight” desktop GNU/Linux but it would take more technical knowledge. Again Chromebooks win.

See iPad vs. Chromebook For Students.

  • Jul 31 / 2014
  • 1
Linux in Education, technology

Converting A Small School To GNU/Linux in 1 Hour

Of course this can be done using Debian GNU/Linux but it takes more knowledge than a newbie might have. A distro designed for the purpose gets a teacher off to a good start. My first experience with GNU/Linux in a lab came from K12LTSP GNU/Linux when it was a real distro based on Fedora GNU/Linux. It installed a working LTSP server in less than an hour and all I had to do was collect a few addresses and edit a few files. Easy.

More recently I recommended EdUbuntu for the job but with the strange sharp turns of Canonical away from a near perfect desktop OS to some kind of compromise, I thought I should try Debian Edu/SkoleLinux which does the same but is based on Debian more solidly.

I downloaded the beta CD from
http://ftp.skolelinux.org/cd-wheezy-amd64-i386-netinst/MD5SUMS

and
http://ftp.skolelinux.org/cd-wheezy-test-amd64-i386-netinst/debian-edu-amd64-i386-NETINST-1.iso

One can verify the correctness of a 600MB download using the md5sum command on a working GNU/Linux system or just trust to luck. These days it is rare to have a bad download. One can boot from the CD and do an internal test as well.

I created a virtual machine of 40gB and booted the CD. Screenshots follow. The process installs applications, an OS and services to boot a bunch of PCs by PXE and run sessions on the subject PC. This is a great convenience. One installation does the whole bunch. One just needs to set all the client PCs to boot PXE/network from the BIOS and it helps to have two NICs (Network Interface Controllers) on the server PC. One will connect to the outside world and the other will supply the clients in the school or lab. If the server PC has 200MB RAM per client and a good modern CPU, it should be able to run 24 PCs with no problems for normal click and gawk computing. It’s not a super-computer, so don’t expect all clients to be able to solve the secrets of the universe simultaneously but they sure can give a nice snappy learning environment. GNU/Linux runs well under load.

This installation pulls packages in from the Internet, so speed is dependent on that connection. I have a local server which makes things much faster but one needs to select “expert” to be able to specify the proxy.

The installation guides the newbie through the steps:
result
result4

There are 2600 packages installed in the main file-system and the chroot for thin clients. It even installs LDAP and xrdp, much more than a minimal installation. I fear this is bloat for a lot of schools who just need a lab running… Without a fast local mirror, this installation takes many hours and I can see teachers taking up much of a weekend to do it.

I recommend doing a minimal installation of Debian GNU/Linux and adding the LTSP parts manually to avoid the bloat. That way you can get XFCE4, turn off encryption and use a local mirror or cache of packages. That will save downloading packages twice, once for the file-system and once again for the chroot and if you need to repeat the installation, the second try will be much faster.

  • 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 22 / 2014
  • 0
technology

France, Spain And Greece Loosen Their Shackles

You have to admire the bold moves many European governments have made towards using FLOSS to do their IT. More organizations should follow their examples.

France A parliamentary report recommends securing the Internet from attacks by various players and using more FLOSS.
Valencia, Spain Valencia has saved $millions over the years and it’s not about to stop using FLOSS.
Greece Universities have organized a summer course for civil servants and others who need to learn more about FLOSS and how to use it.

The French report pulls no punches:(translation from French)
On FLOSS, among many other advantages, It helps reduce the dependence, strategic and economic, of France vis-a-vis foreign suppliers: “In these lean times we would find many advantages to using open programs like LibreOffice, OpenOffice or FireFox instead of paying a fortune to Microsoft” emphasized Mr. Francesco Ragazzi

My favourite recommendation?
“promote a progressive migration of their IT infrastructure to FLOSS. This can happen, in particular, by a preference for open source software in tendering procedures for public procurement and the imposition of open standards.”

I couldn’t have written it any better than that.

See also, France parliamentary committee: ‘encourage European open source software market’

  • 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!.

  • Jul 14 / 2014
  • 11
technology

Ho Hum. Yet Another Organization Saves With FLOSS

For years the sycophants of M$ and “partners” have told the world, at least anyone that would listen, that FLOSS costs more in the long run…“Open source gives the university more features, more flexibility and lower costs. Next year the costs will already be 30 per cent lower and after five or six years, the difference with the proprietary system will be 70 to 75 per cent.

We are being approached by many public administrations from large central government institutions and municipalities. They do the math and they see the enormous financial gains that are possible.”
Meanwhile, in the real world, folks can do the maths and save a huge chunk of the cost of IT, not just licences, but maintenance, flexibility, performance, … Everything is better with FLOSS. In my own experience with desktop and server systems, schools where I worked broke even on costs of migration almost instantly as the licensing was a huge fraction of the capital cost and we used that saving to get almost twice as much IT for the same money. Maintenance dropped by a huge factor because the distributions managed most of our updating/upgrading for hardly any cost besides deciding to upgrade.

Use FLOSS and GNU/Linux. That’s the right way to do IT.

See Coimbra University to save plenty with open source ERP.

  • Jul 12 / 2014
  • 2
technology

Trend-Setting Countries For GNU/Linux On The Desktop

I have written about many countries making positive moves to adopt GNU/Linux on the desktop. Here is a graph showing some. With the exception of Cuba, handicapped by US embargo…, the trends are all positive. Those who give GNU/Linux a try benefit from that and expand their usage. Further, this continues to happen even with the decline in shipments of new legacy PCs because of the move to smaller and cheaper computers of all kinds. The world would be a better place sooner if the slope was higher but we lack salesmen and space on retail shelves so we get what we get.

This sample, while chosen with high-adopters in mind, is quite representative of the world having countries from rich and poor, east and west, north and south. Taken together, this is proof that GNU/Linux can work for any kind of people from anywhere. Besides absence from some retail shelves, all it will take to get other countries to adopt GNU/Linux more widely is some local talent and initiative, perhaps inflamed by the current USA/NSA scandal compounded by USA spying on its allies. To be secure in this world, I think one has to avoid M$’s OS simply because M$ is beholden to USA for not putting M$ out of business despite illegal practices, scandalous insecurity and plagues of bugs. If USA put as much pressure on M$ as they did automakers, M$ would be a very diffferent operation today and GNU/Linux would have had a fair shake on those retail shelves. Whatever. The world is becoming a better place both despite USA and it’s favourite software-maker and because of USA and it’s favourite software-maker. It’s all good in the long term.