Are you frustrated with non-working, unreliable, expensive,
or hard-to-maintain computers? If so, you are not alone.
I've been repairing, refurbishing, and re-selling computers
for the last 16 years, and even I've been frustrated with
how difficult it can be to keep computers running well. I
love computers, but it was the last thing I needed when
coming home from work to hear the kids say, "Dad, the
computer's not working." It seemed like every time I turned
around there was some virus, or spyware, or patch requiring
my immediate attention. As if there weren't other important
things to do with my time!
I don't mind a little upkeep, but I just wanted my
computers to run without constant care and feeding
(money!). The average school with 75 computers is estimated
to spend $2,251 per computer per year to keep it running.
That's because the cost of buying the computer is only the
start. You also have software and license costs, upgrade
and repair costs, and usually lots of staff time.
It can cost more in time and money to recover from a bad
computer virus than the actual price of the computer. And
in the first half of last year alone there were more than
4,000 viruses unleashed into the computer world. I'll bet
you've seen more than your fair share.
Is there an answer, then, to providing affordable and
reliable computing in schools? Yes, but it took me two
years to figure it out. Two years of dropping sales and
tightened school budgets for us to look for an alternative
way to help schools with their technology needs. The answer
is called K12LTSP, which is the "Linux Terminal Server
Project" for schools.
Please don't be frightened by the word "Linux." Linux is a
free operating system built by the collaborative efforts of
programmers all over the world, and it is definitely ready
for prime time. 60% of the worlds web servers run Linux
now. You and I will notice that the icons are different
than on our Windows® or Macintosh® computers, but the kids
will just start using it. And it's free. Really. No license
costs. No upgrade costs. No software audits or
But it's not just Linux that makes K12LTSP a great
solution. There are two more factors that are really
First: all the other software on the system is also free,
and free to upgrade. Open Office, which comes installed
with K12LTSP, has word processing, spreadsheet,
presentation programs and more, all for free. The default
file formats can be the same ones you are used to (*.doc,
*.xls, *.ppt) You also get Firefox web browser and dozens
of other educational programs pre-loaded as well. Both Open
Office and Firefox are widely respected programs.
Second: because of the unique way that Linux runs, all you
need to do is to install a state-of-the-art Linux server,
and most old, donated, or otherwise useless computers will
run as client workstations off the server. You can sit down
at an old Pentium 1 computer that's been relegated to the
obsolete pile, but now it runs at the speed of a Pentium 3
The benefits of this "terminal server" (also known as "thin
client") technology are tremendous. Instead of keeping all
of your computers maintained, you now only have one server
to be concerned about (and because it's Linux, you don't
have to worry about viruses or spyware). All of the
workstations, or terminals, are interchangeable and don't
even need hard drives to run. They "boot" off the server.
When a student logs in-whether in the library or a
classroom-they have access to all of their settings and
data, since everything is stored on the server.
I know this can be hard to imagine. I had to see it to
believe it. We've installed K12LTSP in schools in Hawaii,
California, Utah, and Indiana so far-and I can tell you, it
works. As you'll see on the enclosed flyer, we estimate
that Grace Lutheran School in Sandy, Utah, is saving around
$24,000 a year using K12LTSP on their 60 computer
workstations-computers that they already had, most of which
had been running Windows 95® and were seen as dinosaurs by
the students. That $24,000 a year is money that they can
now put into other programs, or toward teacher salaries.
At just under $200 per year per computer in total costs
(versus the $2251 I mentioned earlier), it's been a long
time since technology costs could actually take a
reasonable place in a school budget.