Wednesday, July 28, 2004

LINUX Will Save Schools Millions, But With a Twist

LINUX Will Save Schools Millions. but not for the reasons
that everyone is thinking.

As an operating system, Linux is becoming a popular
substitute for Microsoft Windows(tm), and is getting a lot
of positive press right now. With no licensing costs, many
are finding it a good alternative as an operating system
for computers.

However, just saving on licensing fees isn't going to make
it worthwhile for schools to take advantage of
Linux--realistically, it would not be worth the work of
conversion and retraining, especially since you are still
maintaining individual computers. But there is a form of
Linux that will to save schools millions of dollars: the
Linux Terminal Server Project, or "LTSP."

We were introduced to LTSP three months ago, and, in turn,
wrote to our readers about what we were learning. Since
then we have studied the technology, given many
demonstrations, are finishing test installations at a small
university and three school districts, and have agreed to
help the Canadian government install LTSP in 1,700 schools
in Africa (a total of 34,000 individual computer

I would personally like tell you more about this
technology, or find an opportunity to demonstrate it to
you, as we are looking right now for schools to serve as
demonstration sites around the country.

LTSP will make a significant difference for schools and
students for four main reasons:

1. You can use your older, obsolete computers, and they
will perform like Pentium 4 machines. This means that you
can now also accept donations of equipment that previously
you would have turned away because of compatibility or
speed issues. It also means that you are no longer, in
practical terms, limited in the number of computers you can
easily deploy in classrooms.

2. You will decrease your computer maintenance
dramatically. There is no individual pc maintenance--no
virus programs, no defragmenting of hard drives, no
individual computer configuring, and no troubleshooting.
The hard drive on each computer is removed, so you reduce
heat and energy consumption, allowing the computers to last
longer. Should a computer fail, you unplug it, plug in
another, and within a few minutes you are up and running
again--no software installation, no configuration. All
system maintenance is done on the server, and there is
nothing students can do that will mess up a computer. As an
added bonus, students can log into any machine in your
network and have access to all their own work.

3. You will have more software choices for less money. LTSP
is fully compatible with Windows(tm) software, which can be
accessed through a Microsoft Windows(tm) server or in a
variety of other ways. Or you can use OpenOffice (which has
also received great reviews lately) and the other Linux
software and avoid any licensing costs. My children now use
LTSP computers at home, and they don't have any idea that
they are not using Windows(tm)--it looks the same to them.

4. You will save money. Not only are LTSP installations
significantly cheaper than installing new computers, but
they will last longer, require less maintenance, and as a
client-server technology, may qualify for E-Rate funding.