I was browsing this morning and came upon an advertisement for system administrator for a small northern Canadian school division. I was surprised to see that there was not a single mention of a GNU/Linux product involved, not even on servers. They were locked in securely to the Wintel world, even in their virtual machines.
I have worked in places like that a decade ago, but thought them totally obsolete by now. Even the most staid organizations see that GNU/Linux has its place, particularly in servers. I was working in one such place and was encouraged to give a presentation to all the IT people about rolling out a GNU/Linux server in each school. That was 2004. Eight years later, to still find M$-only shops still exist is surprising.
Since that time I have had very little push-back when I proposed complete or partial migration to GNU/Linux. It just makes so much sense in schools:
- no per-unit licensing costs,
- freedom to run the code on anything, and to distribute the code to everyone connected with the school, including students,
- huge repositories of software for every application in education from file/print to sophisticated databases and collaboration applications installable in minutes,
- no need to track “certificates of authenticity” or to allow software to “phone home”, and
- complete control over every aspect of IT in the schools making the best use of hardware.
Why would any school make itself dependent on a monopoly bent on making money instead of educating students?
I recommend Debian GNU/Linux for schools. It’s the right way to do IT. Some examples of tools available in a few minutes on any server or PC in a GNU/Linux system:
- LAMP stacks: Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP, a good basis for web applications accessible by any PC on the LAN or on the Internet,
- web applications like Wikimedia (as used on Wikipedia) an editable database of human knowledge, PHPbb bulletin-board, Citadel e-mail/calendaring/bulletin-board system, Centre student information system, Gallery image management database, and Moodle course management system, and KOHA Integrated Library System,
- applications for terminal servers and thick clients: GIMP image editor, LibreOffice office suite, FireFox web browser, Audacity audio editor, Pitivi video editor, vlc media player, and Gcompris a suite of educational games for younger students,
- tools like ffmpeg and ImageMagick for scripting multimedia processes, and
- local search engines like Swish-e and Lucene to end time-wasting manual searching for documents,
- for teaching students how to create their own software, programming language tools of many kinds.
GNU/Linux is so easy to set up in a school and it just works trouble-free for years unlike that other OS which requires constant updates and anti-virus to keep running and needs periodic re-installations. With GNU/Linux you will not be forced to upgrade your hardware and you can run it until it dies. That is really good for the budget and the taxpayers. In short there are no good reasons to use that other OS and plenty of good reasons to use GNU/Linux in education.