In Tim Wilson’s recent skypecast interview with Paul Nelson of Riverdale High School in Portland, Oregon, Paul explains no one should expect a single operating system to meet all needs and functional requirements. Paul is the school technology director and co-creator of the K-12 Linux Terminal Server Project.

Paul’s story and perspective on operating systems is worth hearing. Why should school districts continue to throw thousands (and added together, millions) of dollars of precious budget monies down a black hole of unneeded upgrades motivated more by corporate quarterly profit desires than educational needs?

In their cost analysis, Riverdale High School saved 50% installing Linux with a thin client network architecture instead of a commercial alternative. The school still utilizes some Macintosh computers for video, sound, and multimedia editing, and some Windows computers for Pagemaker in journalism classes, but all “basic” computer functionalities are handled well (and RELIABLY) by Linux thin clients and servers: word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, web surfing and research, etc.

Paul points out that Apple and Microsoft’s refusal to openly share the CODECS for their QuickTime and Windows Media architectures is a major downside (currently) to using Linux. In advocating for and carrying the banner for web standards into the world outside the blogosophere, educators should also insist that companies provide Linux-versions of media players like QuickTime and Windows Media. This may not be in the narrow interests of Apple and Microsoft who want more people to purchase and license their operating systems, but it is certainly in the broader interest of educational stakeholders and society in general.

In addition to listening to Tim and Paul’s short skypecast, check out the K-12 Linux in School Project and Edubuntu. The day of broad adaptation of open source solutions in educational environments is dawning. It’s time more school leaders, teachers, and other educational stakeholders take notice and make plans to move at least some (but perhaps not all) of their workstations into the Linux / Open Source fold.

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2 Responses to Embrace Linux

  1. Jason says:

    I think you do a great job of articulating a big selling point for Linux.

  2. Jason says:

    I think you do a great job of articulating a big selling point for Linux. I know it is easier to maintain a single platform but it seems silly to have a full blown multimedia machine at every workstation when a scaled-down thin client or even an old machine with an open source install will do. I have an older computer that I have hooked to television that I use only to display the daily schedule. I run Ubuntu on it with 2.0. It is not a necessary machine by any means but it is nice to have a free software solution to keep that machine running without worrying about license fee and upgrades.

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