Laugh or Cry – There’s Something for Everyone in IT in This One

Sometimes true stories are stranger than fiction. Sometimes they make you laugh and sometimes they make you cry. This one is too strange to make up. It would hurt your head.

Recent themes on these pages have been about migrating hordes of users of XP to something better whether GNU/Linux, Android/Linux or that other OS. There are all kinds of views, data and attitudes.

Here’s the strange one. The city of Munich, which has migrated all of its desktop applications to FLOSS and which is in the process of migrating 80% of its desktop operating systems to GNU/Linux, has decided to migrate all of its PCs in education to … XP!

I am not making this up. They use so many “educational” apps that they feel are must-have that they cannot escape that other OS and they are running a horror-movie of apps from earlier versions of that other OS… that they feel they have no choice. In my last decade of work in education I have only seen one place stuck with NT and a few with Lose 2000. To find in 2011 a place “upgrading” to XP is unbelievable.

I expect they will have a ton of trouble and expense migrating that lot to XP let alone “7” and that GNU/Linux would have been simpler.

Lovers of that other OS must be horrified that more users will be locked into XP. Lovers of FLOSS must be in tears that such colossal ignorance exists in an educational system, in Germany, a country wallowing in FLOSS.

Additionally I am flabbergasted that the expense of migration to XP will likely be repeated in 2014 with even larger expenses and sacrifice of applications or expenses to buy new versions.

Read it and weep/laugh: Munich school network to be migrated to Windows XP. It’s not out of the cache or wayback machine. This is real. It’s happening this year and the migration will be completed in 2012.

UPDATE After digging (in German) via Google, I was able to find little about what is going on. It seems education is the responsibility of the State of Bavaria in the German federation. The State of Bavaria has just discovered the joys of centralized procurement of software and M$ is their sole supplier…
Press release 271/2011
Pschierer: trial by fire for procurement and sourcing software existed!

“Launched in February of this year for the productive use of shared procurement and purchasing software at the National Tax Office its test has completed successfully!” Enthused Financial Secretary Franz Josef Pschierer, IT representative of the Bavarian State Government, on Thursday (28.7.) In Munich. After invitation of the central ICT procurement of desktop systems has now also the tender to one trading partner Microsoft realized through the award application. The entire tender procedure was adopted by the 10th publication of the notice June 2011 up to the award at the 25th June 2011 exclusively handled electronically. Because of the bidders only electronic bids were submitted, could also be the evaluation of tenders via the module conducted paperless. “We can already two weeks after the end of the offer period to award the contract – after the previous procedure, we had to plan for up to six weeks.” Enthused Pschierer The framework agreement has been signed a contract worth an estimated approximately 12 million €. With that identified in the tender, a trading partner agreement with a term until 30 September 2013 closed. On the basis of a renewal option of the contract may be renewed twice, each for one year”

see lock-in defined.

So, the little project for education may cost next to nothing but it is part of a sweet deal with M$ for 12 million €. That can explain any strangeness.

About Robert Pogson

I am a retired teacher in Canada. I taught in the subject areas where I have worked for almost forty years: maths, physics, chemistry and computers. I love hunting, fishing, picking berries and mushrooms, too.
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36 Responses to Laugh or Cry – There’s Something for Everyone in IT in This One

  1. oiaohm says:

    I forgot to say that I am only able to get some of the money for what I do because I am able to hide some of the cost under providing studies in Multi-media production on equal to enterprise grade solutions.

    Yes my thin terminal system is a hidden and distributed cluster computer. Than can run maya blender and other proper 3d rendering software that runs on Linux for cluster processing. Thin terminal is just a side job on the cluster officially. Even that for few months a year there is no Multi-media work to process.

    Robert Pogson I guess you cannot tap that over. And I guess you were guessing I was up to something else sneaky with what I was doing.

    Contrarian Education requires being sneaky. I could not buy a Windows Server with a huge stack of cals but I can buy 1 small server a year to add to the multi media cluster. And I can sneak in an extra 40 seats.

    Cost and functionality becomes important. My DRBL connected computers are not just desktops but are also items I can use to provide extra processing power to the cluster.

    Yes I am sneaky. Most things are under the multi-media budget perfectly above board.

  2. Contrarian wrote, “the school board members and superintendents would lose their jobs if they tried to foist such a bizarre scheme on the taxpayers.”

    HAHAHA! Another good one! How is that going to happen in a world where people largely do not know what an operating system is? I have been in education a long time and never heard of “the board” or the superintendent losing jobs for anything so trivial. Mostly these are elected/appointed board members and no one even contests the position. The super might lose his position at contract renewal time if the board can form a quorum.

    The kinds of things that trigger change in education are questions like “Is Johnny learning anything?” or “Was Johnny bullied today?”. IT is far off the radar except in a few large divisions where $millions appear on the budget. In schools where I teach the budget for IT is non-existent and actual expenditures made from the school’s budget for break-fix might be as little as $2000, not enough to argue about. Schools typically spend more per student annually than they do for the whole IT system. They get PCs donated for $0 and plug them in. Where I was last year we had PCs stacked up we could not plug in for lack of outlets and power bars. No one was fired because the curriculum was not implemented (IT integrated into every classroom).

  3. oiaohm says:

    Contrarian. When you enter the real world tell me.

    There are Public Schools in Australia, USA, New zeland and Canada I know of who are using systems like I and Robert Pogson described. Those school boards have not lost there jobs. In fact most are praised for getting results. “Bizarre scheme” claim is because you know nothing about the real world of IT in schools. Contrarian tight budgets sometimes force some very strange deals.

    It might sound bizarre until you wake up that not all classes need the same things.

    Lot of cases Linux labs start from a pure cost point of view. Making sure you have enough seats for students doing research and other activities.

    The big issue here is if Linux Servers did ADS servers perfectly. There are cost savings just running the Windows clients fully from Linux servers.

    Yes you can afford 2000 dollars worth of server hardware per 40 machines if you don’t have to pay Microsoft server licenses.

    Maybe something did not cross your mind. All those Linux servers running thin clients why are they only running at 1/5 of cap. There is a reason they are also a data processing cluster for multi-media classes. So yes kids get to play with work-flows like proper 3d movie studios use.

    Yes windows labs and Linux Labs with full computers exist. Sorry the Linux machines are not running fully FOSS. Even more interesting is some labs are transformers. Windows clients if booting from harddrive Linux computers if network booting art of DRBL linux.

    Issue is not all classes need those full computers. Cost savings can be made by correct targeted deployment of Linux. My thin/thick client system is done in 40 machine blocks. Result is that there can be enough seats in every room so every student in every class can be sitting at a computer for less cost.

    Ancient computer architecture. Is a joke right? The architecture used is well documented tested and dependable.

    Downtime figs for the thin terminal computers is almost zero. Remember drbl my system is fallback so complete windows rooms can be converted to Linux in case of infection and cleaned up without requiring the machines to be taken fully out of operation.

    There is a bug in Windows ADS. When primary ADS server goes down. You can end up with a cascading failure starting from the time the primary ADS is brought back online. Result is everyone will go offline even if you have backup ADS servers.

    This is a major pain in ass. Older LDAP system is better. Setup so that Master goes off line. Slaves let login but don’t auto raise to Master. So when Master is brought back online you don’t have a huge server to server dispute over what server should be in charge.

    Yes Microsoft with ADS added a so called self healing network feature in the year 2000. It still don’t work right. Being ancient sometimes has some nice super advantages like all the major stupid errors that prevent recovery not existing.

    Soon as I have Samba with ADS support that is production ready. More of these Education networks that will be able to be Windows Server free even if they are not Windows client free. Resulting in stronger network design.

  4. Contrarian says:

    “Then wake up that most schools are over 150 seats setups. There are some impressive saving using Linux in particular computer labs.”

    It really does not matter so much if you are stuck with Linux, FOSS apps, and such ancient computer architecture, #oiaohm. In a modern country, the school board members and superintendents would lose their jobs if they tried to foist such a bizarre scheme on the taxpayers.

  5. oiaohm says:

    Robert Pogson I normally like splat coverage.

    100 dollars per seat I end up with enough redundancy to kill any problem. Each 1500 dollar box in a pinch can handle quite well 200 to 300 seats. But that is pinch. So yes I am running that at 1/5 of max capacity. This avoids the disc I/O issues and network issues. $10 dollar a seat is just getting way to low for my liking. $30 dollars is most likely in safe range. $50 is most likely in my style of hating failures.

    50 dollars per seat server cost. 50 dollars for client hardware. Yes I know I can do 30 dollar and lower. But is such a huge saving already there is no need to cut my throat.

    Some cases the server for the room in fact deployed at the teachers desk so teacher can view exactly what students are up to as well as switch deployed in the room. This reduces network traffic. If it fails N+1 servers in the server room can pick up the load and the teacher can use thin client until server is fixed.

    Most of my failures are minor disruptions. Switch failure are quite major at times but this again only takes 1 or 2 rooms off line complete. If its a major interlink switch each group of 40 can keep on operating isolated until repaired.

    Basically the 50 dollar per seat in server cost gives me a very strong system.

    Its the only following this saying. “Just because can and do something does not mean you should.” 200 users 1 server it fails you are dead man walking.

    Mostly this is to get away from the old school windows network issue. Central ADS sever goes splat everyone is off line. Each server in my system is basically a backup of every other one. So they can be interchanged with each other without issues. And I do exploit some vlan tricks in switches as well. So allowing me to connect in a server from the server room to a room and disconnect the server in room if it malfunctioning very quickly. Most of the time in the server room only 2 servers are on. Internet cache/filter and the N+1 server for everywhere else doing nothing other than maintaining backup. This is one of the big differences. The hardware in the server room is not that large. Its more a spare parts room.

    Yes rack cabnets around the place are commonly this configuration. 1 switch 1 server 1 UPS. Were in most networks they would be just 1 switch. So solving a major network bottle neck problem with thin clients and reducing cabling cost. It also has other effects. Like any building can lose power and not everywhere will be disrupted.

    Yes I am running a decentralized network. Very resilient. Also due to the 40 per server setup drbl works very well when full clients can be got.

    I am looking forward to Samba with proper ADS. So that I can keep the same model for Windows Rooms off the same server.

    I really do think there should be a max limit on how many seats you should have dependent on 1 server or 1 cable. 40 seams about right. Most cases that number down can be worked around. If server price drops I might consider going to 20 per server.

    Basically windows servers are god darn too expensive so you cannot deploy enough of them to make network proper resilient.

  6. Right on. Here in Canada hydro-electricity is very cheap and renewable but in places where diesel power is still used, the savings in electrical power consumption pays for the cost of conversion to thin clients very rapidly.

    In Canada, schools can get used notebooks and desktops for $0 or just freight but they make good thin clients except for the size, noise, power and heating. The beauty of thin clients is that most of the maintenance goes to the server and scales down dramatically and at the same time you get improved performance because of caching and file sharing.

    With the multi-core servers available now the bottleneck will be in disc I/O or network I/O so it is quite feasible to have hundreds of clients on one terminal server. Largo, FL, uses servers costing about $40K and running 400 clients on them, $400 per client. My optimized el-cheapo servers cost about $30 per client.

  7. oiaohm says:

    Contrarian your price tag of 50 dollars is close. If you are just talking about the box the screen and keyboard connects to.

    Robert Pogson uses a lot of thin clients. Something I don’t exactly agree with. I am more likely to run thick clients. But he is open about it.

    The cost for thin clients for most school stuff if the thin client system is Linux based is about 100 AUD or 100 USD a seat at the moment. And that is without recycling old hardware.

    Of course I have not included screens and keyboards. Due to size wanted being a huge factor in cost.

    HP T150 and T100 are less than 50 dollars a Unit there are some unbranded thin clients that are cheaper. The 100 dollar a seat covers the cost of the switchs and the central computer to run it. Of course that is based on a min of 40 seats so you have 2000 dollars for the server and switches. Yes 4000 dollar 40 users. Yes 8 work locations(that is if you can get a PC for 500 dollars) not networked vs 40 for the same money networked. Also Windows terminal services is not that cheep to use.

    The 4000 figure is about stable. Because about every extra 40 users you add it can be wise to add another server and switch.

    Yes the 4000 figure is presuming you have the network cables in place and enough keyboard and screens. But extra seats anyhow would require running more cable.

    Yes the money maths are simple Contrarian. Also the 40 thin clients and Server uses less power. Majorly less. Worst grade thin clients

    Also 40 machines funny enough works out almost ideal.

    Yes the most expensive item in the complete setup on the desk with thin clients is the screen. The thing that I always ask is when is a thin client hardware going to come out built into screens. At that point its going to be a hard question. Since the complete box with windows in it will be extra hardware.

    I work on cost per seat. So cost of the server licenses and other items get factored in to the seat cost.

    About time you cost out price of windows clients boxs to a windows server on a per seat base Contrarian. The figure is scary. Do 40 seats.

    Then wake up that most schools are over 150 seats setups. There are some impressive saving using Linux in particular computer labs.

  8. Contrarian says:

    “The maths is simple”

    Lets see about that. If we denote the number of computers that we need as N and we accept the Microsoft tax is the $50 they charge the OEMs who fail to use Linux instead, and we denote the cost of a computer as C, then the statement becomes

    0.5 * (N * C + 50 * N) = N * C

    collect terms,

    25N = 0.5 N * C


    C = 50, regardless of N.

    Now it is doubtful that your school system is buying computers for $50, #pogson, so the simple math shows that you are grossly exaggerating the issue.

  9. In places I have worked the decision is simple. You can half as many computers as you need with that other OS or all the computers that you need with FLOSS. The maths is simple. It is much easier to use IT in education with a cluster in every classroom. Many schools cannot afford both labs and clusters with that other OS and go with labs. Labs work for computer courses but not for random use in the classroom at the moment the student needs them. At one school there was a “high school” lab that was available at odd times by schedule for elementaries. I added clusters to the high school classrooms and the high school kids no longer needed a lab freeing it up for the elementaries to use all day long. When that other OS or the internet connection would fail, elementaries used to come to the high school classroom because I had web applications on the LAN that were useful even when the Internet was down. GNU/Linux fits very well with education.

  10. oiaohm says:

    oldman I will be sure some of the 700 applications will not be Windows 7 friendly either. Yes it all about disruption.

    While you have willing people wanting you to go open source you might as well open up the list at min of the applications that will fail to make it to Windows 7 asking for cross platform solutions.

    FOSS always has to be looked at oldman. Remember a person like me. If FOSS is not upto the job Closed source gets used. Or if location cannot afford the closed source the FOSS gets used even if it slightly weaker. Like a few non for profits running thunderbird and lightning instead of Outlook. May not have the polish of Outlook but it gets the task done at a tag they can afford.

    Schools are different to businesses because Microsoft Software for schools is insanely cheep. Under 100 dollars a seat for everything Microsoft makes.

    oldman basically I will want to help them either way they want to go. Contrarian statements were just badly off time frame just not going to happen under normal conditions. Particularly taking vague wording as solid fact. Something Contrarian need to learn to avoid.

    Some schools I know are running Linux clients from centerl server with terminal sevices from windows server. Does not work too badly.

    Really for me the best of both worlds should be provided to students. Of course how is the problem since there are many ways to achieve it.

    Windows in Linux, Linux in Windows and other mixed solutions.

    Yes I do accept that a lot of FOSS applications like Linux more than they Like running on Windows. This is why I don’t believe a people gets to see what FOSS applciations are really like if they have not seen them on Linux.

    Of course there are the annoying odd balls. Like Firefox that does in fact run better on Windows. This is why people need to be exposed to both. Some solutions Linux wins. Some solutions Windows wins. Some solutions Apple wins(what is a reducing number). Some solutions they all sux then its trying to pick the one sux the least.

    I still remember handing out disks of Linux livecd’s that I had burnt so a network could be fired up for a day all the school work they had todo was on-line. And having the teacher accuse me of piracy. Note the Linux livecd was very much like modern day chrome OS. It just fired up firefox.

    After getting past the teachers mistake the students got all there work done. In fact while the students were doing there work I was virus scanning the computers and removing the virus in background.

    All about disruption avoidance that would go smoother in some cases if people understood a little more. That there is software that is not Microsoft that is free and legal and can get the job done at times.

    So yes I and a lot of other cross platform people strike incompetence from the other side. This does have side effect of sometimes make us over defensive of what we use. Mostly so that when we are in a location where we have to use it we don’t have people calling us pirates or other things.

    You don’t need in a mess people saying they will not use something because it second rate. Yes this is another problem. People are not trained any more to just get the job done with what they have at hand when things goes wrong.

    Like you oldman presumed at one point that everything I would be using and pushing FOSS. Not true I use some commercial were it suits and is profitable for me.

    A person like me will have fall back locations. Complete fall back will be fully FOSS. So that no matter what I can keep on working even if my performance is down a little. Now if the closed source does the tasks I need better I will buy it.

    The funny thing is most heavy Linux users are not software pirates. Goes against our nature. We don’t like stealing. We are willing todo almost anything to avoid being a thief. Issue is a lot of the FOSS people are defensive because people do call us thief s or jack up on using items to get the job done.

    Yes I have had the nightmare of a tech refusing to use kvm or xen to run a few servers because of so called issues and want to wait for the vmware licenses to turn up. It was more stupid that those worked loads had only been running on other servers under kvm for the last 2 years in the same business.

    Software I use migrating Linux between vwmare kvm and xen is just a few mouse clicks. So they are just backends to me. And I will use wisely what is on hand todo the job. This is why you hit a raw issue before. Hardware sitting drawing power not doing something is a cost. Yes the guy had plugged the server in even that everything was not on hand for the way he would do it.

    Incompetence is my biggest annoyance. FOSS are not unique for Incompetence. Incompetence exists in volumes on both sides.

    Even you when I suggest a FOSS solution to a particular problem was 100 percent sure there would be a closed source solution that did the job better. This is not always true.

    My solutions are normally a Mixture of FOSS and Closed source. Taking advantage of what each does well. Even you are using Linux in places because it does a better job. This does still apply to desktop usage.

    Basically anyone suggesting pure FOSS or pure Closed source is normally lieing their head off. At least the FOSS normally does not blow the acquirement budget on items that is useless.

    Its also lieing to say that FOSS are the only ones that over sell there product.

  11. oldman says:

    “Most you can say is Munich will be doing an assessment for a migration to Windows 7 start of 2012 and if everything will just work maybe a Migration by mid year. Part of doing the assessment is in fact deploying the OS at every location in Limited copies to train staff and test applications they are using. This is normal so expect time frame for normal is 2 to 3 years.”

    Your probably right on the time frame for a conversion of this size. I do think that you are engaging in wishful thinking if you think that they will not be moving to a newer version of windows. The only reason that I can fathom for the jump to XP pro at this time is that it is the most modern version that they can run on current hardware that hasnt been upgraded from the now unsupported windows 2000. At least doing this they gain some time and can continue to avoid disruption.

    What happens next is pure speculation. If the people who have been pushing the conversion to a pure Linux can meet the requirements of the school system, than the conversion will proceed. If they cant, then some for of windows will be put in place.

    If course the biggest problem, other than IMHO incompetence, of the true believers running the conversion is that most of the FOSS that they will be pushing runs quite will (often IMHO better) on windows.

    But, then again, we shall; see

  12. oiaohm says:

    “We”? Shirley, you jest! In fact I don’t. I am not a coder on wine. But when wine support systems were a mess I worked with the one of the Developers to developer up a culture promoting doing support.

    We not referring to coders but referring to support people.

    And serous-ally some of them that have requested wine support in the IRC for windows are suggesting many strange things to get it.

    30 odd years Contrarian doing up solutions and other items for schools and businesses. “Consultancy company” what do you think I do.

    Here is the thing Contrarian some of the things I don’t charge a cent for up front. Software assessment the way I do it is quite simple. I will be paid 20 percent of the saved license cost for the next 12. Basically I get paid nothing if the solutions I offer are not taken up. In fact for the number of hours it takes most cases I can end up making 200 to 400 dollars an hour for it. Paying me an hourly rate todo it normally does end up cheaper. So yes 2 cents upfront is an overcharge.

    Contrarian You don’t want to be brought back to reality.

    I know the school face saving. They always want to appear to the public to be running modern and current. Even when they are running dino stuff.

    6 months to migrate everything to Windows 7. Is In fact not a possible path with most schools due to old software that will have to be replaced. Anyone who knows the software that schools will be running knows this.

    So particular lines schools say are face saving. Right we are migrating to XP how are we going to make sure we don’t sound to the public that we are going to be running dino software.

    “The latest generation of Windows is expected to be deployed across Munich’s entire educational network by mid-2012.”

    Yep perfect. expected not will key wording This way if they decide not to at all its fine. Also means the time frame is rubber. Its a short timeframe so the public think they are staying current. This is all Public Relation slide of hand. And you are a sucker for it Contrarian. Mind you I have worked in a Company PR department checking documents. One of the most despicable jobs I have ever done.

    Before you can say a Migration to Windows 7 is happening more precise document need to turn up with a proper plan todo it not just wishful thinking.

    Most you can say is Munich will be doing an assessment for a migration to Windows 7 start of 2012 and if everything will just work maybe a Migration by mid year. Part of doing the assessment is in fact deploying the OS at every location in Limited copies to train staff and test applications they are using. This is normal so expect time frame for normal is 2 to 3 years.

    Contrarian your problem is you are reading more into it than what the words are saying or what the time frame is saying. Most odds say that It will not be all machines by middle of 2012 with Windows 7 heck if its 10 percent of the network this will be great.

    PR written text I normally just disregard until better information turns up.

  13. oe says:

    “Clearly, GNU/Linux lends itself to enabling educational systems to implement these. Because all the money goes into hardware, a school can provide IT more easily with GNU/Linux.”

    Well said but goes further towards supporting reuse, recycle ethic when you can use 10 year pcs as donations as very effective thin-clients. Effective on two fronts, it delays them going to the landfills and such equipment though not as energy efficient as purpose intended thin-client systems, certainly use a fraction of that of WinTels latest blast-furnaces…

  14. Contrarian says:

    “Either it is about the apps or it isn’t.”

    Well, it is both, #pogson. It is about the apps when one considers changing from Windows to Linux and comes to the understanding the the current apps will not work with Linux and possibly there is no version of that app that will. That is usually a showstopper and the user quits thinking about changing. On the other hand, there have always been things about Windows that have annoyed users and that have been fixed or mitigated by after-market software.

    The antivirus software makers have sold tens of billions of dollars worth of “fixes” for malware threats, for example. Way back when, Norton got rich selling a variety of utilities to perk up the performance of Windows 3.x. Over the years, successive versions of Windows have filled these needs and many of these opportunities for third party vendors have evaporated, but it is clear that needs for platform improvement are seen to exist and changes are made by Microsoft to accomodate these needs of their customers.

    “Wintel is not about a better OS”

    There has been some discussion in other threads about how upgrades are done by Windows customers, the consensus being that most often it is effect by simply buying a new computer with the latest version pre-installed. That being the case, it is not very important as to how the improved version is presented, i.e. as a service pack or as a new release. The revenue is the same.

  15. Contrarian wrote, “a better Windows than the previous Windows.”. Come on. Either it is about the apps or it isn’t. You cannot have it both ways. How does an app run any better on “7” or “XP” than it did on NT?

    Wintel is not about a better OS. It’s about a never-ending series of upgrades for no better performance. “7” is just Vista debugged, but, because M$ wanted more revenue, they called it a release instead of a service pack…

  16. I charged way more than that for the big school I set up. It was a bargain. My school got twice as much IT as they could have afforded with that other OS and new thick clients and it worked better, too. They got a semi-trailer filled with equipment instead of PCs in a pick-up.

  17. Typically, there is nothing in an education system’s curriculum to dictate OS. Usually there are social concepts that do support some of the ideals of FLOSS like sharing and cooperation, which that other OS does not support. Since about 1995 there have been moves to increase the use of IT in schools. That was accompanied by increased use of GNU/Linux and that other OS and less of MacOS.

    Here are some key elements of the plan to integrate IT in education in my province:

  18. Budget: School leaders set priorities to ensure that students and teachers have the necessary supports and resources to develop literacy with ICT.
  19. Technical support: School leaders ensure adequate and timely technical support, and do not expect teachers to provide their own technical support. They also ensure that decisions regarding technical support are made in the best instructional interests of the students and teachers.
  20. Access to ICT in the classroom: School leaders establish ways to provide just-in-time access to ICT in the classroom.
  21. Clearly, GNU/Linux lends itself to enabling educational systems to implement these. Because all the money goes into hardware, a school can provide IT more easily with GNU/Linux. Technical support is easier to obtain as well. I normally teach high school kids in sufficient detail that they can set up routers, a LAN, servers and clients, both thick and thin, so that a school can provide its own IT without burdening teachers. This is excellent training for students. Of course schools prefer not to have students in charge of confidential matter. That can be accomplished by having staff computers covered another way. Since there are about 20 students per teacher, the bulk of the PCs in the school can be managed by students.