Free Software

I’m going to change course a bit and talk about one of my other passions. I’m a technology director for a K-12 school district and in that assignment I’m always looking for ways to provide the most bang for the buck for a small school district. About 5 years ago I read about the K-12 Linux Terminal Server Project. I downloaded the software back then and proceeded over time to learn more about Linux and Linux system administration. Following a trip to Portland, Oregon nearly two years ago with some other educational technologists I actually began to deploy a Linux terminal server in our school district. It’s been an un-qualified success and has saved our school district thousands of dollars and proven to be a very stable platform using a refurbished Dell PowerEdge 1425SC server and 33 thin client computers in four different computer labs.

There has been some resistance to the switch from Microsoft Office to Open Office but the experiment has proven that open source software can be a viable option for teachers and students who are willing to open their minds. Most of the resistance has come from teachers and students who insist that the only way to process words is with Microsoft products. I’m not a Microsoft hater, but we service a student population that contains many households that can’t afford Microsoft Office and Open Office has proven to be a viable alternative for most of the students. We can give them a copy of Open Office to take home and install on their Microsoft Windows computers. In the process we’re teaching them something about flexibility, transfer and ethics.

Most of our students don’t use Linux but there are at least a couple who do and those students can and do use Open Office on their Linux desktops at home. Today I finished up a pet project that I started over 6 months ago and that is an Internet kiosk in our town hall. I used donated computers from the local public school district and a special compilation of Fedora Core Linux put together by the K12 Linux Terminal Server Project. That is really great software put together by open source enthusiasts led by Eric Harrison and Paul Nelson. I encourage you to vist their site at K12 Linux Terminal Server Project, download the ISOs and try it yourself. You can use their distribution in small offices, libraries, and schools. It works well and it’s free.

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About Don Watkins

I'm a FOSS advocate, writer, educator, Python coder, Linux user, US Navy Veteran, Secular Franciscan, husband,father and grandfather. I blog about my life and experiences that give it meaning.
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3 Responses to Free Software

  1. Anonymous says:

    Congratulations on your success! It’s great that you’ve been able to supply your district with more bang for its technology buck. If your district decides to expand on your work and you need support from a tech company, we’d be glad to help. We’re Symbio Technologies, a developer of diskless thin client technology, and we work with schools throughout the US and Canada. Our CTO is a lead developer of LTSP, so we know our way around the technology. Check us out at http://www.symbio-technologies.com. Best of luck with your project!

    Diane Romm

  2. Joey Quinton says:

    Check out edubuntu at http://www.edubuntu.org/

  3. Don says:

    I use Ubuntu on my laptop. It’s great software. K12LTSP will run on Ubuntu. As a matter of fact Eric Harrison, one the developers of K12LTSP was flown to Australia in 2005 to help the developers of Ubuntu integrate K12LTSP’s work into Edubuntu.

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