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Linux For The Home PC - 4681

Why should open source software be used in schools?

It is indeed a strange world when educators need to be convinced that sharing information, as opposed to concealing information, is a good thing. The advances in all of the arts and sciences, indeed the sum total of human knowledge, is the result of the open sharing of ideas, theories, studies and research. Yet throughout many school systems, the software in use on computers is closed and locked, making educators partners in the censorship of the foundational information of this new age. This software not only seeks to obscure how it works, but it also entraps the users' data within closed, proprietary formats which change on the whim of the vendor and which are protected by the bludgeon of the End User License Agreement. This entrapment of data is a strong, punitive incentive to purchase the latest version of the software, regardless of whether it suits the educational purposes better, thereby siphoning more of the school's limited resources away from the school's primary purpose. The use of such closed software in education may be justified only where no suitable open source solution exists.

Educators have been called upon throughout history to combat censorship imposed by various powers over the flow of information. The censorship being applied today comes in the form of licenses that lock away the tools to build the information age and laws that limit fair use in ways that are unprecedented in the modern era. The powers imposing this censorship attempt to create an artificial scarcity of information and the tools to work with that information to feed their greed. Where would education be today if, for example, the mechanism and idea of the Gutenberg press were not only hidden, but protected by threat of dire punishment under the law if anyone dared to attempt to "reverse engineer" it?

We are well into the beginnings of the Information Age. It stands to affect the people of the world at least as profoundly as the Industrial Age. It is time for the opening of the tools that will be needed to build this new age. Teaching our children to be passive purchasers of closed, proprietary solutions to problems is not enough. Constraining students to move the mouse within the confines of the instruction set of a few closed, proprietary programs merely cages those students and constrains our future.

Students should, at least, be given the opportunity to see how their new tools work. They should be given the opportunity to examine the inner workings of software. They should be given the opportunity to extend the functions of their tools, where they see or imagine possibilities. They should not be held back by locking the toolbox of the Information Age and told they must not peer inside, must not try to discover how it works, must not share their tools with others, must not use their tools without paying proper tribute to the software overlords, under penalty and punishment of law.

Conversations with high school students who complain of broken networks, unrepaired computers, too few computers, too few choices in programming languages, overworked and (so far as computers are concerned) undertrained teachers are the inspiration leading to this document. The main intent is to provide the following links so that those who wish to bring open source to their schools will have some 'ammunition' with which to persuade those in charge. Perhaps some money can be diverted from its current outflow to be used inside schools.

Documents supporting the case for open source software usage

Links are provided for easy navigation and to facilitate referencing individual items within sections.


[ Resources ]  [ News / implementations ]  [ Research / studies ]  [ General open source information ] 


Items: [edubuntu]  [k12]  [k12linux]  [k12os]  [emacspeak]  [openoffice]  [seul]  [lfsp]  [freeduc]  [opensourceschools]  [schoolforge]  [skolelinux]  [eduforge]  [iteachnet] 


    "Linux For Young Human Beings"

    Edubuntu is a complete Linux-based operating system, freely available with community based support.

    The team behind Edubuntu makes the following public commitment to its users:

    • Edubuntu will always be free of charge, and there is no extra fee for the "enterprise edition", we make our very best work available to everyone on the same Free terms.
    • Edubuntu includes the very best in translations and accessibility infrastructure that the Free Software community has to offer, to make Edubuntu usable by as many people as possible.
    • Edubuntu is released regularly and predictably; a new release is made every six months. You can use the current stable release or the current development release. Each release is supported with security updates for at least 18 months.
    • Edubuntu is entirely committed to the principles of free and open source software development; we encourage people to use free and open source software, improve it and pass it on.

    K-12 Linux

    Welcome to the K-12Linux Project!

    Linux is free in terms of cost and in terms of development because it's based on Open Source software. We are free to adapt the work of others for use in our schools. This kind of freedom produces better software and makes Linux the right choice for schools and agencies concerned with the ethical use of public funds.

    The K-12 Linux site is really 3 web sites each with a different mission:

    EmacSpeak -- Complete Audio Desktop

    By seamlessly blending all aspects of the Internet such as Web-surfing and messaging, Emacspeak speech-enables local and remote information via a consistent and well-integrated user interface. Available free of cost on the Internet, Emacspeak has dramatically changed how the author and hundreds of blind and visually impaired users around the world interact with the personal computer and the Internet.

  • is both an open-source application and project. It is free. The product is a multi-platform office productivity suite compatible with all major file formats.

    Mission Statement

    To create, as a community, the leading international office suite that will run on all major platforms and provide access to all functionality and data through open-component based APIs and an XML-based file format.

    Simple End User Linux

    The end goal of SEUL is to have a comprehensive suite of high-quality applications (productivity applications as well as leisure/programming applications) available under the GPL for the Linux platform, as well as a broader base of educated users around the world who understand why free software is better. SEUL is a volunteer project currently focusing on Linux in education, Linux in science, advocacy documents, managing and coordinating communications between projects, and hosting related development projects.

    Linux For Schools Project

    The goals of this project are to help schools do the following on their internal networks:

    • Manage Linux user accounts in bulk
    • Set up PHP and MySQL enabled personal webspace
    • Encourage pupils to write their own home pages
    • Help pupils learn the multi-user Linux environment.

    "Live CD-ROM of free software for schools"
    [thanks to Bruno Coudoin for this link]

    Until now - and probably for a while in most heads - the GNU/Linux system at school has been perceived as a good replacement of other proprietary servers. However the server is probably the least important things in term of freedom in a school network. It doesn't allow a teacher to share a workstation software with students. Supporting GNU/Linux in the workstation side can grant higher freedom and liberty between users in a school.. Therefore, OFSET has setup Freeduc, a tool to help to list, to evaluate and to package only free - non GPL exclusive - edu soft.

    [ ... ]

    We have build a live Freeduc system on CD-ROM which doesn't need any installation to be used. From the user point of view the system use XFCE and the applications are available from various drawers.

    The idea of the live Freeduc system on CD-ROM is to let the end user - mainly teacher - to easily access the free education application."


    News items submitted by schoolforge members
    [thanks to Karl Pinc for this link]
    Working together to unleash the power of open source tools in education.

    "Schoolforge's mission is to unify independent organizations that advocate, use, and develop open resources for primary and secondary education."
    "The Linux for School project"

    Developing a custom distribution based on Debian for Norwegian, Danish and Swedish schools.
    [Thanks to Edward Welbourne for this link]

    Eduforge is an open access environment designed for the sharing of ideas, research outcomes, open content and open source software for education.

    " is a community of those working or interested international education."

News / implementations:

Items: [warrington]  [houston]  [leete]  [gedda2]  [gedda]  [macedonia]  [necc]  [sunwah]  [hawaii]  [orwell]  [adelstein]  [extremadura]  [surran]  [miller2]  [greene]  [nunez]  [nunez01609]  [aaxnet]  [gonzalez]  [miller]  [trinity]  [dean]  [lehmann]  [pfaffenberger] 

    Ministry says no as school opts for free software
    School aims for zero Microsoft licences, but wants to keep budget savings

    By Ulrika Hedquist Auckland

    "We are saving the government money," says [Nathan] Parker [Principal]. "We are saving them 13 [Microsoft] licences this year, and hopefully we will be down to zero next year."

    Linux Makes the Grade

    By Melissa Houston

    "Our technology was more flexible and capable than ever before," says Klein, who has since become an open source advocate, speaking at conferences around the country. "We were able to turn on a dime when a new opportunity or idea came along."

    And, he continues, "We were able to smile when the latest security vulnerability surfaced, knowing that it wouldn't affect our systems."

    In the first year alone, Saugus officials estimate that the district was able to save $65,000 in licensing fees by using open source desktop software -- namely, OpenOffice, which includes a variety of easy-to-install applications, including software to run spreadsheets, presentations, and word processing.

    Switching art students to GNU/Linux

    By: Gurdy Leete

    I'm an art professor, and last semester I embarked on an exciting new adventure by erasing Mac OS X from nearly all of the Macintoshes in our digital media lab and installing Ubuntu in its place.


    The students' reactions to all this was inspiring. They felt empowered by the quality of the software and their ability to upgrade, share, and customize it freely. They also appreciated the immense array of additional GNU/Linux multimedia software available to them. And I found it inspiring how many of the students took enthusiastic advantage of other applications, not only by installing software via Synaptic from the Ubuntu repositories of more than 16,000 packages, but in some case by compiling source code from elsewhere.

  • [ URL too long to be useful as text ]
    Sydney school teaches with Linux monopoly

    By Rodney Gedda

    At the Lorien Novalis School in the suburb of Glenhaven, 350 students from kindergarten through to year 12 and 38 staff have been learning with the penguin for the past four years.

  • [ URL too long to be useful as text ]
    World's largest Wi-Fi network uses Linux

    Schools in Victoria get secure access.
    By Rodney Gedda

    If securely deploying 10,000 wireless access points across 1700 locations in five months to create what is said to be the world's largest enterprise Wi-Fi network sounds like a challenge, Victoria's Department of Education (DET) in Australia took it all in its stride - with the help of a little penguin.

    With 540,000 students, 42,000 teachers, more than 200,000 computers, and 40,000 notebooks spread across the 1700 sites, the department last year allocated A$6.5 million (US$4.8 million) to implement a wireless network aimed at easing connectivity, but at first its technology options were limited.

    "Macedonia installs 5,000 Linux PCs in schools"

    Macedonia may be well known for its place in books on ancient history, but it's now on the cutting edge of desktop Linux adoption. The Republic of Macedonia decided to deploy about 5,000 Linux desktop computers in 468 public schools and 182 computer labs nationwide last summer, based on a Ubuntu distribution with a GNOME desktop, the GNOME Journal reports.

    "Linux thin clients revitalize student desktops"

    by Steve Hargadon (Oct. 7, 2005)

    Schools can save up to 75 percent of their technology expenses by using thin-client Linux technology with open source software for basic productivity computers. The savings may actually be greater when the costs associated with maintenance, licensing, and technical support are considered as well. Additionally, teacher and student satisfaction with computing resources will also likely increase.

    Sun Wah Linux Chosen by Chinese Government for the Largest Linux Desktop Roll-Out in China's History

    NANJING, China -- Six PC makers, including Haier and Founder, announced yesterday that they have won contracts to provide a total of 141,624 PCs to the Jiangsu Provincial Department of Education for an educational program called, "School-to-School Project." At the same time, Sun Wah Linux's Debian-based Chinese Operating System RAYS LX was also chosen as the operating system used in all 141,624 PCs.

    "Nonprofit brings Linux and open source to Hawaii"

    Hawaii schools, affected by lean budgets like many other US states this year, have upgraded their computer systems through the help of the open source community and Linux. A local nonprofit, the Oahu-based Hawaii Open Source Education Foundation (HOSEF) has supplied over a dozen Hawaiian schools with computers "recycled" with the Linux operating system and raised awareness of OSS.

  • [ URL too long to be useful as text ]
    Orwell High School Case Study

    Overall, the project has been a resounding success. John Osborne said:
    "I can't believe how easy it has been to move to Linux. The systems were installed and working within a week and it has been a revelation how simple and painless the process has been. I have saved thousands of pounds per year and got a brand-new ICT infrastructure at the same time".

    He added:
    "Without switching to Linux, I would have been forced to cut back on our ICT hardware and software provision. There simply wasn't the budget to upgrade to the latest versions of the software nor to keep replacing suites of PCs on a three or four year cycle. Now I have no licensing costs to worry about for the Open Source parts of the solution. We shall be moving to a complete Open Source basis as quickly as is practical and hope to start working with other schools interested in this type of development to share ideas and best practise".

    "Linux Access in State and Local Government, Part III"

    by Tom Adelstein

    MESD [Multnomah County Education Service District] provides Internet connectivity for seven school serving 100,000 students in Multnomah County, Oregon. MESD network administrators tested free software in 1998. They installed Linux web proxy servers, realized savings from reduced bandwidth utilization and had a positive ROI within six months. Even with costs of bandwidth dropping since 1998, MESD continues to save $10,000 annually.

    MESD also replaced back office services with Linux. The replacement applications included file, print, web, mail and domain name services. The district report savings of $150,000 annually due to reductions in software licenses, maintenance and reduced personnel.

    In addition, MESD migrated to an open-source web filtering solution called SquidGuard and added a Linux firewall, for savings of over $15,000 per year. Estimated overall savings run about $2 per student, or $200,000.


    The program, which was instituted last year, has just completed installation in schools, with a ratio of one computer for every two students. All of the computers are using a customized version of Linux, called GNU/LinEx, and features the GNOME desktop. Other free software productivity programs are also installed on every computer. The total cost savings exceeded 18 million euros, or nearly one third of the total budget of 67 million euros.

    "Linux from Kindergarten to High School"

    By Michael Surran, system administrator and computer science teacher

    For us, switching to open-source software running on the Linux operating system has been the right choice, allowing us to provide our students with modern equipment and software for a fraction of the cost of a computer lab running proprietary software.

    [thanks to Les Bell for this link, see for some of Les's own work]

    "Largo loves Linux more than ever"

    By Robin 'Roblimo' Miller

    We noted on our last Largo visit, and note once again, that these are the least harassed, least worried, calmest sysadmins we have ever met. They have one of the smallest and least-worked help desks we have ever seen -- five people who support 450+ client units and over 800 users, and it is all done without any fuss, muss or hurry."

    [ ... ]

    Harold A. Schomaker, IT Manager/CIO for the City of Largo, says Largo spends a total of 1.3% of its gross budget on IT. This includes hardware, software, salaries, and incidental expenses. He says the typical small city spends over 3% of its budget on IT, with some approaching 4%.

    "MS in Peruvian open-source nightmare"

    By Thomas C Greene in Washington
    [This article includes an English translation of a letter from Peruvian Congressman Dr. Edgar David Villanueva Nunez in response to a Microsoft representative. The letter is perhaps the most effective, eloquent rebuttal to MS marketing FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt) to appear in public.]

    To guarantee the free access of citizens to public information, it is indespensable that the encoding of data is not tied to a single provider. The use of standard and open formats gives a guarantee of this free access, if necessary through the creation of compatible free software.

    To guarantee the permanence of public data, it is necessary that the usability and maintenance of the software does not depend on the goodwill of the suppliers, or on the monopoly conditions imposed by them. For this reason the State needs systems the development of which can be guaranteed due to the availability of the source code.

    Another source of the letter from Dr. Edgar David Villanueva Nunez
  • [ URL too long to be useful as text ]
    Dr. Nunez's Bill
    which sparked the letter from the MS representative.
    Both letters
    Dr. David Villanueva Nuez' letter of response to Microsoft Peru
    Juan Alberto Gonzalez' original letter from Microsoft Peru
    "Penguin Enrolls in U.S. Schools"

    By Angel Gonzalez

    Tux the penguin may become the preferred mascot of America's financially strained public education system - for Linux represents a way to avoid paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for software.

    Newsforge "Secretaries use Linux, taxpayers save millions

    By Robin "Roblimo" Miller

    Walk into the Largo, Florida, city hall and look at the two computer screens behind the reception desk. Instead of the typical Windows "Start" button in the lower left-hand corner, they have a KDE "Gear" logo, as do almost all of the 400-plus monitors on Largo employees' desks. Receptionists, administrative assistants, and division fire chiefs here all use Linux instead of Windows, and most of them don't really notice one way or the other. But the elected officials who are responsible for Largo's IT budget certainly know about and notice Linux, because using Linux instead of Windows is saving the city a lot of money.

    "Trinity drinks deeply at learning's open source"
    (Note: the article has since disappeared from the original news site, but may be found in other places linked from
    A reprint is also available at

    Trinity College, at Melbourne University, threw open the doors to open source in December last year when it discarded its Windows NT network. Educators and technical staff wanted a better, cheaper way to teach the 750 overseas students in its Foundation Studies tertiary bridging course, which introduces Western concepts and computing skills.

    Open Source Opens Education

    By Katie Dean

    "For every Linux machine I see installed, I know that they're saving a few thousand dollars that can be spent on other educational needs," said Mark Lachniet, information systems director for Holt Public Schools in Michigan, another district that uses Linux.

    Open Source and Education

    By Chris Lehmann, Technology Coordinator, The Beacon School

    Free exchange of ideas? Collaborative creation of a robust system that benefits all? It's not just Linux that has benefitted from Open Source, but schools, looking for new models of teaching and learning, have been working toward this ideal for a long time. Linux and schools should find each other, because whether it's operating systems or educational pedagogy, open source just makes sense.

    Linux in Higher Education: Open Source, Open Minds, Social Justice

    By Prof. Bryan Pfaffenberger, Univ. of Virginia

    They're discovering what Linux users already know--namely, that Linux, compared to Microsoft Windows, offers an unbeatable combination of advantages, including a zero price tag, do-it-yourself flexibility, freedom from licensing headaches, stability, performance, compliance with public standards, interoperability with existing systems, and a design that reduces the threat of computer viruses (see Prasad 1999).

Research / studies:

Items: [beingfluent]  [kegel]  [wheeler]  [orzech] 

    "Being Fluent With Information Technology: Executive Summary"

    A report by The Committee On Information Technology Literacy, Computer Science and Telecommunications Board, Commission on Physical Sciences, Mathematics, and Applications, and the National Research Council.

    Generally, "computer literacy" has acquired a "skills" connotation, implying competency with a few of today's computer applications, such as word processing and e-mail. Literacy is too modest a goal in the presence of rapid change, because it lacks the necessary "staying power." As the technology changes by leaps and bounds, existing skills become antiquated and there is no migration path to new skills. A better solution is for the individual to plan to adapt to changes in the technology. This involves learning sufficient foundational material to enable one to acquire new skills independently after one's formal education is complete.

    [Too often, a "computer course" in school involves no more than learning basic usage of one or more software products from a single software vendor. I have spoken with far too many students who complain that the only courses offered which are related to computers depend, and focus, entirely on the use of Microsoft products. Even something as simple as the creation of a basic web page is taught as a series of mouse clicks on menus within a Microsoft product, with little or no instruction concerning standards, the platform agnostic goal of the World Wide Web, or the underlying, simple HTML text tags which define a web page.]

    "The Case for Linux in Universities
    by Dan Kegel

    Businesses and universities are hiring people with Linux skills, deploying Linux on servers to save money, and even evaluating Linux on the desktop. Microsoft's pricing and security policies have made Linux an attractive alternative. Linux's open source nature makes it an excellent tool for teaching. Linux now comes with free alternatives to Internet Explorer and Microsoft Office which work well enough for the average user. University IT departments should start planning to support Linux on the desktop in recognition of its increased importance.

    Why Open Source Software / Free Software (OSS/FS)?
    Look at the Numbers!
    by David A. Wheeler

    This paper provides quantitative data that, in many cases, using open source software / free software is a reasonable or even superior approach to using their proprietary competition according to various measures. This paper's goal is to show that you should consider using OSS/FS when acquiring software. This paper examines market share, reliability, performance, scalability, security, and total cost of ownership. It also has sections on non-quantitative issues, unnecessary fears, OSS/FS on the desktop, usage reports, other sites providing related information, and ends with some conclusions. An appendix gives more background information about OSS/FS.

    "Linux TCO: Less Than Half The Cost of Windows"

    By Dan Orzech

    The cost of running Linux is roughly 40% that of Microsoft Windows, and only 14% that of Sun Microsystem's Solaris, according to a new study which examined the actual costs of running various operating systems over three years.

General Information About Open Source

Items: [business]  [netaction]  [hoffman]  [radding]  [bbc]  [yager] 

Editorial comments:

There appears to be a disturbing trend among former news sites on the internet. Many sites either discard non-current articles or place them into pay-per-view archives.

As Edward Welbourne put it,

Yes. Truly perverse. They're *news* sites - their stock-in-trade is *news*, so it's funny they haven't yet noticed the logical business model; have a nice stable archive accessible to everyone (the loss-leader that gets public respect and encourages folk to link into your site), have each article's page include a forward-in-time links section that leads readers to follow-ups (a service readers really do want) and make the most recent week's news subscription-only. Maybe make the most recent day's news available only to "gold" subscribers. Then subscribers (who will rapidly lose track of the fact that they had to pay for access) will send their friends links to articles they can't read, or won't be able to read until a week later, hence bringing new site-visitors onto the above follow-up chain. seems to understand -- open archives and subscriber news.

Others rearrange their websites, breaking the original links, then provide search tools which send a barrage of "sponsored links" that requires superhuman persistance to wade past to find the real news archives. This feels like the selling of history to the highest bidder, to me. Perhaps it is just an extreme reaction to the so-called "dot-bomb" bubble, when so many online business ventures collapsed. Regardless of their reasons for pushing "sponsored links" as news, I will try to remove links to such sites from this page.

Copyright 2001-2007 Terry Vessels. Verbatim copying of this article is permitted in any medium, provided this notice is preserved.

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