This was a presentation this morning at TCEA 2006 by David Thornburg. David gave me permission to share the audio recording I made of the session later as a podcast. I’ll be posting that here soon (probably next week.)

Presenting with the Linspire Linux operating system today

– how many of you are using open source software?
– how many are using Linux now?
– how many tantalized by a free alternative

Movie March of the Penguins came out as David was preparing this preso
– how many of you go way back with TCEA? It is has been going on a long time
– remember debates like DOS between AppleII

Argument then was that students need to use DOS because that is what they’ll use in the real world

Should students use basic or pascal?
– we’ve always argued about these things, it is always fun, esp for the spectators (image of medieval combat picture)

What makes an operating system worth putting on someone’s desktop
– reliability (no blue screen of death)
– ease of use
– total cost of ownership
– easy networking
– all essential for large installations (either corporate or educational)

Look at Apple
– there was a time when I bled rainbows
– I was one of the first inventors at XEROX-PARC
– been a Mac user since 1973 when Jobs and Woz were in elementary school
– rest of the world didn’t see that till 1984
– it was called Alto not Mac, and I wrote their first manual

Apple still going strong now in niche markets
– shift to intel based chips causing some folks to wonder

Microsoft OS is still important and relevant for some reasons

Story of why I moved to the world of the penguin
– background story
– have been using windows more and more
– had a couple of things happen to me in the last year: was doing a presentation at a conference like this, had videos, etc, left computer on all night
– in the night there had been an upgrade for XP installed on the system while David slept
– none of his movies worked anymore with Windows Media Player
– MS had chosen to simplify things by not recognizing old video codecs
– “that was our decision, it is actually a feature”
– at T+L conference in Denver, I tried to boot the machine and it didn’t

MS problems
– code base is huge
– the code is secret

Tremendous volume of great titles are still just available on Windows and Macintosh, not yet on Linux

Back to Linux, Danish developer Linus Torvalds
– wrote free version of Linux
– code was going to be made public

Current OS
– Windows 92%
– Linux 5%
– Macintosh 3%
– Linux installations coming at expense of windows

Pros of Linux
– finally it is easy to install and maintain
– I used to be a real geek, I have a pocket protector and I know how to use it!
– I used to wear white socks and pants short enough to show them off

it is now easy to maintain, reliable, has low TCO

My son is a professor at ASU and boots his Macintosh into the terminal!

Total installation time for Linux was 10 minutes
– there is not installation code
– after installation, you are asked to please share the install CD with someone else

80% of what students do is supported in Linux, other tools

Data on understanding wikipedia
– article in Nature a couple months ago: intensive study of Encyclopedia Britannica v Wikipedia on accuracy
– found that Wikipedia was just a little bit more accurate, but it is more than 10 times larger!
– that means it is WAY more accurate
– how could this work?
– there are no barriers either to digital vandalism or digital fact

Price is not an issue here
– it is larger and better
– totally counterintuitive
– highly recommend you play with it!

Was in New Orleans looking at Fats Domino old house status, and Wikipedia had

Grokker has existed in desktop version
– now it is totally online
– categorizes things online

Lots of java based, online services
– these don’t care about OS

Open Office is free
– this preso was done with open office
– version 2.0 (just released) is very nice
– is image processor: GIMP (like PhotoShop)
– Audacity for audio recording
– Lphoto (think iPhoto)
– Adobe Acrobat Reader
– Firefox browser
– Cmap (Inspiration-like tool)
– netLogo (spectacular programming tool)
– NVU web authoring (may take the place of dreamweaver)
– more coming every day…..

I’m not recommending this, just observing…

We need

Novak is still around in Florida, for concept mapping he has upgraded his work to CMmap
– all those lit up globes on the screen are Cmap servers around the world
— are looking at collaborative mapping process
— this is all available and free, content creators can put their map on a global server, and set permissions as read-only, read and comment, or read/write
— can setup your own school server

85% of America’s teens have computers at home

Benefits of Linux
– send software home with kids
– no license issues for multiple system installation
– bug reports go to human beings
– developers are usually responsive
– can fix bugs yourself if you want

[my thought: I really need to help my own children develop their skills as programmers, so they can have a robust programming skill set that will serve them today (for fun) and later in life (for fun as well as vocational employment)]

It is really cool to get your head wrapped around thinking of things differently
– most of this stuff happens on college campuses with kids studying engineering

Limitations to open source
– titles are based on programmers / developers interest
– forks can emerge: StarOffice v. OpenOffice

There are about 40 different flavors of Linux now worldwide
– Sprint uses Linux to handle all of its long distance call switching
– they took out everything not related to running a telephone company

Linux really starts to shine when we get to the issue of 1:1 computing
– case in point: State of Indiana just finished beta test of Linux for high school students
– study was done on 21,000 machines
– it was successful, not scaling up to 300,000 computers– one for every student

Website for Mr. Michael Huffman: Special Assistant on Technology:

Because of Indiana, you are going to start seeing some familiar names coming onto the scene for Linux
– New Hampshire is moving to Linux
– Maine is moving to Linux
– $100 laptop is Linux based (minimum order is 1 million units, they claim to have 3 orders so far world-wide)

Suddenly the attention level has come up
– this is a lot of hardware that needs software
– that is what is happening in the 1:1 world

In the future: maybe we won’t worry about operating systems at all in the future
– XML, Ajax, etc will transform software development
– all applications will move online
– students can use USB keychains for everything
– maintenance is remote

– doesn’t solve 24/7 issue (the world is not ready for this)
– 15% of America’s youth don’t have computers at home
– schools lack adequate bandwidth

Even if you have access for every kid in your school, you don’t have enough bandwidth for everyone to be running bandwidth intensive

New technology funding that came out this year allows you to buy Linux, because it is zero dollars

Operating systems:
– Mac, Windows, Linux, USB keychains

Recommendation: get a spare machine at home and just play with it
– then you’ll be all set when it is ready to go
– we don’t have enough software yet, but it is coming
– it will remind you of the old Apple2 days

Is it easy?
– sign: “Watch for SNAKES and SCORPIONS”
– example: when you want to boot up, if you boot with projector in it just sends signal to projector

– when you are booting up, you don’t have time to
– this laptop is less than half the speed of my windows machine

dthornburg at

CD has PDF catalog of open source software
– also includes several software titles

Last: in the spirit of full disclosure: netlogo doesn’t boot with one click in Linux, have to launch from the terminal

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9 Responses to March of the Penguins: Linux on the Student Desktop

  1. JimMc says:

    Awesome Wes! I love these lines that read like they’re straight out of The Onion:

    Microsoft: Despite the fact that it dominates over 90% of the desktop market, it’s still important and relevant.

    The government is finally funding Free and Open Source Software in it’s total Ed-Tech budget: zero dollars.

  2. Wesley Fryer says:

    David Thornburg has a good, dry wit I enjoy. I guess there are silver linings to most things if we look hard enough. Hungry people often innovate, and that can move the cause of change and reform forward. Hopefully if that happens in this case, the direction will be the right one…..

  3. Wes, thanks for sharing this presentation. I was on my way there but I was waylaid by some dear friends, one of which shared some neat info on CyberSafety (
    I encourage you and your readers to listen to this….

    I’d like to point out that Download a la Mode web site has all these programs and more online at
    You can get an ISO which can then be burned to CD-ROM.

    Thanks again,
    Miguel Guhlin

  4. Wesley Fryer says:

    Excellent Miguel, thanks for these links! I will post that link in a bit, I need to post the podcast of David Thornburg’s preso today however– Marc Prensky wanted to review and approve the recording he let me make of his, so that one will be delayed longer.

  5. […] Also, check out Wesley’s text notes on the presentation. I love this stuff! […]

  6. jogio says:

    i really like all this stuff.
    this site is really very informative.

    New Balance

  7. The adoption and diffusion of desktop Linux is the U.S. has lagged behind other parts of the world; however, federal, state and local governments in the U.S. are adopting desktop Linux much more than in the private sector.

  8. Leo says:

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  9. Alisya says:

    I suspect that’s thereason general public want to read blog….Internet visitors generally create blogs to declare themselves or their secret views. Blog grant them same matter on the monitor screen what they specifically needed,so as the above stuffs declared it.

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