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Education Open Source Portables Ubuntu Linux

How Linux Saved A School's Failing Windows Laptop Program (opensource.com) 255

OpenSource.com reports on a Minnesota school's 1:1 program -- one device per child -- where "Lots of the Windows laptops were in very poor condition and needed to be replaced." An anonymous reader writes: An Indiegogo campaign triggered extra money and donations of laptops, allowing the school's Linux club to equip much of the school with Linux laptops. "When you're using open source software you're free to use operating systems and application software without the hassle of license keys or license tracking inherent with proprietary software," says Stu Keroff, the school's technology coordinator. "This allows a school to experiment [and] gives them the freedom to make mistakes...

But there's also another benefit. "By empowering the students to be part of that process we were able to get more done, and to generate more excitement about the learning that the students were taking part in." There's now a waiting list for the school's Linux club, where they'd planned to cap membership at 35...until 62 students applied. Instead, they found themselves creating two Linux clubs, one for the sixth graders, and one for the 7th and 8th graders.

And to answer the obvious question -- they're using Ubuntu, with the Unity desktop.
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How Linux Saved A School's Failing Windows Laptop Program

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  • Using MEPIS, they were able to hold onto older hardware that was still serviceable, just needed a lightweight OS to keep things ticking along. They were happy with the results, and the kids got Linux exposure from an early age.

    • Using MEPIS, they were able to hold onto older hardware that was still serviceable, just needed a lightweight OS

      I am using Mepis now. It is/was brilliant. However it is now defunct - has not been updated since 2011 (although the underlying Debian has of course). As its desktop is KDE, it can hardly be called lightweight either. I'm preparing to change to Devuan with Xfce.

  • by hcs_$reboot ( 1536101 ) on Sunday October 30, 2016 @03:07AM (#53177851)

    they're using Ubuntu

    Not an "obvious" question. As long as they're using Linux, I'm happy!

  • by thsths ( 31372 ) on Sunday October 30, 2016 @03:13AM (#53177861)

    Somehow I doubt it. I have tried Linux on laptops many times, and it was always painful. Laptops are much more complex and specialised machines than desktops built from standard components, and as a result you get difficulties with suspend, with WiFi, with the display, with the camera... it is just too much to try to fix unless you really enjoy that kind of work.

    Now I have a Chromebook, and that is the first "Linux" laptop that really works. You can even run Ubuntu on it, although it does struggle with the HiDPI display.

    • by buchanmilne ( 258619 ) on Sunday October 30, 2016 @03:41AM (#53177909) Homepage

      I have used linux on an IBM Thinkpad, a Dell Inspiron, and 4 HP laptops of various lines, and this is the full list of hardware that didn't work:
      - One TV tuner
      - The fingerprint reader on at least 1 laptops (one other laptop with fingerprint reader worked). I haven't checked if there is a solution for the newer fingerprint readers.

      All have suspended/resumed adequately compared to their behaviour under Windows. WiFi worked out-the-box except for one that required extraction of the firmware from the Windows driver (didn't require any command line though).

      My current laptop has a Windows partition that gets almost no use, my usual linux distro, and an installation of RHEL7.2. The installation of my normal distro suspends fine, but the RHEL7.2 installation won't suspend. So, there may be differences such as this between distros depending on their focus.

      • I have used Linux on way more machines than you have, and a way higher percentage of it has had problems. Suspend-Resume has worked properly on less than a third of the systems I've tried it on, for example. Graphics don't work at all on one system in spite of it having very old ATI graphics. No, wait, because it has ATI graphics. R690m, fuck you ATI, fool me once. I don't think my next CPU will even be from AMD and they mostly have been for years now but that's another rant — but it is a rant on Linu

        • Are you STILL bitching about a driver that takes all of seven steps [ubuntuforums.org] to install in Linux and doesn't even need Bash? Give me a fricking break.
          • Are you STILL bitching about a driver that takes all of seven steps to install in Linux and doesn't even need Bash? Give me a fricking break.

            It doesn't work. It's still glitchy AF in the best case. Not acceptable. The power saving for that era of processor is still garbage, too.

    • by Alioth ( 221270 )

      It depends on the laptops and how well the manufacturer supports Linux. I find Hewlett-Packard laptops work just fine with Linux, I have a couple at work, both run Debian and there's no problems with the display, wifi, suspend/resume etc.

    • by dbIII ( 701233 )

      and that is the first "Linux" laptop that really works

      Sadly (by stating that you've only had it working when someone else did it for you) you've just revealed you've done this far too few times to know much about it. It would be more convincing to hear from people with dozens of successes who are then able to blame the tools instead of their workmanship in the cases when they failed.
      Me? I piggybacked on the success of others by choosing models that were reported as working so I don't have much to add eith

    • I have never run anything *but* Linux on any of the laptops I've ever owned (mostly Acers and one HP).

      I've had one or two cases where I had to extract the Windows wifi driver or to build a 64-bit version of a wifi driver from source. And I've not even bothered to worry about onboard wifi since smartphones and tethering became a thing. I have a 12-year-old Acer still running an ancient distro that for some reason doesn't support the built-in card reader, and I already had a couple of USB card readers on hand

    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      You need to check out the respective entries on http://www.linux-on-laptops.co... [linux-on-laptops.com] before you buy. The problem are mostly with the vendors, not with Linux, hence you need to avoid bad vendors. With this approach, I have zero problems so far, except for one fingerprint-reader, which I do not care about anyways (they are far to easily tricked to qualify as security-mechanism).

    • by thsths ( 31372 )

      And I have to say the "Linux community" is not doing Linux any favour. The responses are unfortunately rather predictable: half agree with my experience, the other half calls me an idiot. I used to defend the style as "matter of fact", when actually it is sometimes just rude.

  • How it went (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 30, 2016 @03:13AM (#53177863)

    "Kids, today we learn about how to search on the internet. First, connect to www.google.com and then enter "linux bluetooth keyboard doesn't work". Your assignment for tonight is to read all the forums and write a 2-page report due tomorrow on how to fix the linux bluetooth driver. Good luck, dismissed!"

    • I share a bluetooth keyboard and a wired mouse between 3 laptops with 2 displays(5 total), I have yet to write a single command to 'fix' or 'connect' anything.
    • by Calydor ( 739835 )

      "But ms. Teacher, my bluetooth keyboard doesn't work! How do I write the search string?"

  • em the freedom to make mistakes... Like adopting systemd.
  • One thing that can be said for Unity is that it once someone is past the novice stage, it can be a great incentive to learn how to change you choice of desktop environment.

  • by cyber-vandal ( 148830 ) on Sunday October 30, 2016 @07:53AM (#53178347) Homepage

    I've had enough of the stupid flaws, bad desktop environment and shit built in software.

    The Software Center is a lesson in how not to build an application. I went on to it yesterday and it told me I had 11 updates. There were Install buttons next to each one and an Install button at the top right (should really say Install All to be clear what it does, but never mind).

    I click this button, get the spinning circle and then get returned to the update screen a minute later telling me I've got 14 updates. No error message, no suggestion of what went wrong, nothing only now the Install All button has disappeared. Great design, great testing. I'm sure if I wasted half an hour fucking about with the command line it would work but then what's the point of having this application?

    Linux is supposed to be better than Windows. This is not better. This is really poor. I'm going to try Mint and see if that's any better because I want to be able to use Linux over Windows, I really do but my experiences always seem to suck, especially on laptops.

  • Come on this is great! A Linux club, with a waiting list? Any way you look at it if you are a Linux enthusiast you had to have smiled a bit, even if it was on the inside, when you read that.
  • I am a computer teacher at a middle school and I requested some of the surplus computers for my students to learn something other than Microsoft and Google office tools on. Quite literally, the school dumpstered the old computers instead. I am explicitly forbidden from teaching about the computer (yes, the topics I am not to discuss are in the state curriculum, I am just not to teach those sections).

    I am not to teach scripts or programming outside of the robotics class, in that class I am to only use the Le

    • by hey! ( 33014 )

      I've worked many years in and with non-profits and government agencies, and have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. You get bad and ugly when there's too little or too much money.

      Too little money is pretty straightforward; as a department is starved for resources and expertise it adopts a defensive posture. More time is spent trying to avoid work it can't do than doing work. The theme of the under-resourced department is stop the world from changing so we can catch up.

      Too much money is just a more cos

  • The problem here is not one of technology, it's a lack of resources, planning, and project management. While I'm very pro open source, the operating system is a minute detail in all of this. Linux won't magically be a saving grace because it too will have problems. I like making open source a choice versus forcing it down everyone's throat like some religious dogma. The laptop program failed due to incredibly poor planning and resource management. As much as I hate saying this, teaching kids Linux won't pre
  • by Ken Hansen ( 3612047 ) on Sunday October 30, 2016 @06:25PM (#53180949)
    From the linked-to article:

    What was the genesis of the Asian Penguins?

    In 2011 the Community School of Excellence launched its 1:1 program, which supplied each student with their own with Windows 7 laptop. Inadequate staff development and logistical problems hampered the initiative. Stu said, "We encountered a lot of problems with students breaking their laptops, losing their laptops or just not taking care of them properly. This became a major issue when trying to use technology in the classroom when 25% of the students were missing their laptops. At that point I began to wonder what I could do change the dynamic." Stu applied for a grant from FreeGeek Twin Cities, and received four desktop PCs for his classroom. [Emphasis added]

    Ok, from the top:

    In 2011 the Community School of Excellence launched its 1:1 program

    The laptops are 6 years old, being used daily by elementary and middle school aged children. Based on my personal experience in public school K-12 education, the laptops shouldn't be expected to last six years...

    "We encountered a lot of problems with students breaking their laptops, losing their laptops or just not taking care of them properly."

    And how, exactly, did changing the OS installed on them correct the broken, left at home, or mis-treated laptops?

    trying to use technology in the classroom when 25% of the students were missing their laptops.

    Obviously, once they installed Linux on them everyone made sure they were working properly and remembered to bring them to class... There wasn't anything mentioned that can be attributed to running Windows 7 on the laptops.

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