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Creating a School Computer Lab With Ubuntu For $0

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  • by Dave Whiteside (2055370) on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @05:23AM (#40982377)

    Shock!
    I never knew I could download linux for free and get it to run a a decent rate on old hardware ....
    what have I been doing with my life.
    who passed this one line summery !!

    • Re:Linux is free (Score:5, Insightful)

      by pinkushun (1467193) * on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @05:39AM (#40982423) Journal

      While Microsoft locks into contracts [microsoft.com] with educational institutions it's a nice change to see this sort of thing happening.

      Now hand in your sarcasm badge, Sir!

      • So does Apple. Apple still has a HUGE lock today but with them getting greedy and not supporting a mac more than 3 years old that might change sadly.

        Anchorage school district is finally retiring its 2004 emacs and just updated city wide last year and the year before to new imacs. They also use Ubuntu netbooks for creative writting classes and other uses as you can't fit 30 macs in one classroom as easily.

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward

          /me dons flameproof suit

          Thank goodness somebody is finally retiring emacs! ;-)

        • by Teun (17872)
          emacs, hmm at least these kids are now fully aware of the limits of IT :)
        • by unixisc (2429386)
          Had they stayed w/ emacs, they'd not even have needed color monitors ;-)
        • by tlhIngan (30335)

          So does Apple. Apple still has a HUGE lock today but with them getting greedy and not supporting a mac more than 3 years old that might change sadly.

          Anchorage school district is finally retiring its 2004 emacs and just updated city wide last year and the year before to new imacs. They also use Ubuntu netbooks for creative writting classes and other uses as you can't fit 30 macs in one classroom as easily.

          Well, given the eMacs are 8 years old at this point... even Ubuntu doesn't support them (I think last su

    • by Nerdfest (867930)

      It's nice to see people doing it though, not complaining that "Open Office doesn't do everything MS Office does", then getting a few free lunches and other 'perks' from Microsoft and Apple reps to buy their hardware and software.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        It is a great pity that schools(on the instructional side, obviously certain people on the management side are essentially corporate excel jockies whose paychecks just happen to be signed by a public entity) don't take more advantage of the fact that it is largely impossible for students to give a damn about full compatibility with business-critical workflows laid down before they were born by companies that they don't work for, or interface consistency with the version of MS Office 2024 that they might enc

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Billly Gates (198444)

          I worked in 3 school districts in the last 6 years. One was all Windows, the other two use Macs. Apple still has large influences as MS realizes schools never update and are cheap and cash budgeted. Corps are an easier sell in comparison.

          But one thing working for Microsoft right now you do not see is they support their operating systems for 10 years! Apple used to do that but has stopped angering tax payers and many who do budgeting for the districts. The fact a 10 year old computer still runs on XP saves t

          • Re:Linux is free (Score:5, Insightful)

            by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @06:06AM (#40982581) Journal

            This makes me feel damn old; but today's "10 year old PC" is a 2GHz-and-change Northwood P4 with a GMA900 or GMA950. Probably a half-gig of RAM.

            That will run XP just fine(I'm currently showing some systems of roughly that spec, a bit more RAM, the door in fact); but its also pretty damn modern for everything except gaming and 64-bit memory spaces.

            At a computer-lab level, reliability among 10-year old PCs can be a bit troublesome; but the sheer power of what is considered no longer worth bothering with is not to be despised.

            • by Urza9814 (883915)

              That will run XP just fine

              Of course a ten year old PC will run XP -- XP is just shy of 11 years old currently, so that's probably what it came with!

            • by gbjbaanb (229885)

              is reliability such a problem for old kit?

              I mean, sure - fans on those heatsinks will need replacing (but a new fan = brand new), and old hard drives should be replaced with a new one too. The end result of 2 replaced items is something with the same reliability as brand new equipment (and with added burn-in so its possibly more reliable in some aspects).

              The problem is warranty - if an old PC dies, you can't phone up dell and have them send an engineer round to fix it. But I guess if you have a couple of sp

              • The 'ten-year-old' bracket unfortunately includes the tail end of the 'capacitor plague' era hardware. There would certainly be plenty of survivors; but motherboards and/or PSUs with substantial ripple on important rails, possibly just to the point of glitchiness, possibly to outright failure and rivulets of crusted capacitor pus all over the place next to what was once voltage smoothing for the CPU are definite possibilities.

                As long as you have some spares on the shelf, and a tolerance for the occasional d

            • by Shompol (1690084)

              That will run XP just fine

              ... and provide much needed habitat for all that malware created over the past 10 years. And then you add antivirus that runs in the background and consumes 70% of resources of your "2GHz-and-change" and "half-gig of RAM.", and they still need to be wiped semiannually from stuff the antivirus missed.

              Win XP is best run from a virtual machine these days, and I am sure those boxes are powerful enough to do it. Or you can abandon XP entirely and teach children a system that belongs to THEM, and not some cor

              • by timeOday (582209)

                ... and provide much needed habitat for all that malware created over the past 10 years.

                No, that's exactly the point, Microsoft still patches each new vulnerability discovered in Windows XP today.

                For all the bad things about Microsoft, they do pretty well in supporting old APIs and old products, which is enormously valuable in practice.

            • by CAIMLAS (41445)

              That will run XP just fine

              No, it won't. XP hasn't been able to run "fine" with less than 768MB since at least 2009. You'll sit through dogged waiting just to use a browser and it'll take a full coffee break to boot with 512MB. (A system with 512MB will run the initial release of Windows 7 better than XP.)

          • by kermidge (2221646)

            "Can Linux run with a gui on a 10 year old PC?"

            In '04 I was running Xandros OCE on an old Dell Optiplex, a GX100 built ~'99, had a Celeron-A @533MHz and RAM upgraded to 384Mb, added a 500GB HDD. Ran fine.

          • by dbIII (701233)

            Can Linux run with a gui on a 10 year old PC

            Of course, even the most recent knoppix live CD can do that. There are also current distributions designed to run at a decent speed on even older hardware.
            The old xfree86 drivers became the xorg drivers. I've used a PCI video card over a decade old when I needed to test a machine with a dead PCIe card.

      • by crazyjj (2598719) *

        For a school, Open Office is fine. It's not like they're going to be doing the really advanced shit anyway (pretty sure most students aren't going to be writing VB scripts). The only (possible) problem is that they'll have a hard time adapting to MS Office once they enter the workforce or college. But the two are functionally similar enough that I doubt that would matter much either.

    • Re:Linux is free (Score:4, Interesting)

      by captainpanic (1173915) on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @06:30AM (#40982747)

      Not exactly newsworthy, but a good inspiration to other schools nonetheless. Let's hope some teachers read this, because education could use a little boost that costs nothing at all.

  • by dejanc (1528235) on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @05:26AM (#40982397)
    Keyboards in the article picture look a lot like old mechanical keyboards. They could probably make a bit of cash by selling them on e-bay and buying some cheap disposable ones... It would probably make the computer lab a lot quieter, too :)
    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @05:50AM (#40982477) Journal

      In my (thankfully limited) encounters with formal disposal rules, public and private, 'just flog the stuff on ebay' is frequently far more trouble than it ends up being worth.

      One major factor is that a successful institution needs to be set up so as not to be easy meat for dishonest functionaries(at least before they've worked their way to the top). Common result? Low level cogs selling things, especially things with unclear value, is not encouraged. This goes double if the said low-level cog has some degree of purchasing authority. It's just too easy to use official funds to pay at the front door, then flog gear out the back door for direct personal profit and/or kickbacks of some flavor. This does cramp a lot of perfectly legitimate plans by honest people; but tends to remain in force because nobody has a better idea about how to discourage the entrepreneurial tendencies of the chronically dishonest.

      • (one common flavor: There will be two separate processes for asset disposal: If an institutional asset is judged to have no internal use and no value, it can be disposed of, subject only to any hazmat/environmental restrictions(in practice, any outfit slinging a lot of IT gear has some recycler who will at least lie credibly enough about responsible disposal, so this isn't hard). If, however, the asset has no internal use; but is judged to have value, it is kicked to an entirely different 'Surplus property

      • by Hatta (162192)

        nobody has a better idea about how to discourage the entrepreneurial tendencies of the chronically dishonest.

        Discourage them? Hell, we make them executives.

    • by CAIMLAS (41445)

      Yes, but then they'll have to buy new keyboards a couple times a year or so, whereas those keyboards (not withstanding the kids stealing/breaking/etc. the key caps) will last until their grandchildren go to school. :)

  • by pinkushun (1467193) * on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @05:32AM (#40982413) Journal

    An old idea in action is refreshingly inspirational. It humbly reminds us that newer is not always better, it's what you make of it that counts.

  • Can't tell if RMS in comments or troll.

  • by Yvanhoe (564877) on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @06:01AM (#40982541) Journal
    I think that today, in any OECD city of a moderate size, if you post an info saying "Technomancy next Tuesday at the mall ! Bring old computers, we help you install linux. Get back with a functioning, if slow, computer. Hardware donations accepted." you will have a lot, and I mean A LOT of donated hardware.

    Within a few week we had to refuse too old hardware, because our usable volume was full.
  • by Compaqt (1758360) on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @06:15AM (#40982643) Homepage

    With the onslaught of Apple, it's touching to read a Linux success story, like in the old days of Slashdot.

    The story of these 6th graders gives lie to the claim of TCO, training and so on. If kids can figure it out, what's wrong with you (talking to you dumb office workers).

  • Annoying (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Murdoch5 (1563847) on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @07:15AM (#40983007)
    Here is why this is Annoying, in grade 8 back in 2000 I got in trouble for asking that Linux be installed on a school computer. Apparently asking for something the "board certified" computer tech didn't understand was against the rules. I'm glad Linux is finally making its way into the class room but it's about 12 years to late. If school funding is always a key topic for debate then why the hell are we spending money on bloated under featured operating systems and office suites when everything exists for the big cost of 0.
    • by Shompol (1690084)
      12 years is not too late. I have been wondering why the fuck does everyone run Windows when Unix is so much better since 1995. Unfortunately this is a single case, so rare that it is newsworthy. Microsoft has been busy promising untold numbers of free licenses to schools just to keep them from switching. Let's just say Microsoft has been busy for the last 12 years :)
  • by KalvinB (205500) on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @08:07AM (#40983387) Homepage

    I've been volunteering at the Boys and Girls Club while I transition careers from web developer to high school math teacher and they have many old computers and brand new ones. The reason the brand new ones run horribly slow is because of all the "protection" software that's one them. A cleaned up P4 they have in stacks runs really well after I clean installed Windows XP. Their dual core 2+ Ghz systems the kids use now are tedious to work with. Windows spends more time preventing kids from breaking the computers or visiting the wrong sites than just doing what you tell it to do.

    I'm teaching a week long class there now that involves tearing down and putting together old computers and seeing how much parts cost. I'll be having them put Ubuntu and LibreOffice on them to make them useful. There are about 12 donated systems that claim to be Windows XP ready. I'm holding off on the P4 ThinkCentre's until I get more enthusiasm for what I'm doing. That will be more of an investment since they really need new hard drives which are the biggest cause of slowness in them. The kids will get to take the computers home so they can do homework and what not.

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