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Ask Slashdot: Linux Support In Universities?

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the but-which-version-of-windows-is-that dept.

Education 432

An anonymous reader writes "I study Computer Science at a university in Melbourne, Australia. I recently went to a 'Directions of IT' seminar run by our central IT department, where students were invited to discuss issues with the senior management of IT. During discussion about proposed changes to our campus-wide wireless network, I asked if the new system would support Macs, Linux and other Operating Systems. Several of the managers laughed at this question, and one exclaimed 'Linux!' as if it was the punchline to a joke. The head of IT at least treated my question seriously, but I didn't get a concrete answer. So, I would like to ask Slashdot: Does your university/college provide support for Linux/BSD/etc users to connect to the on-campus wireless? How does IT support Linux users generally? Have IT staff ever ridiculed you for asking questions about Linux?"

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Shouldn't that be platform neutral? (4, Interesting)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399392)

Does your university require some sort of special software to access its wireless network or something? My university has hotspots just like any wireless service. You can connect to it with whatever OS or device you like. They don't support Linux directly, but they certainly don't block it from the network.

Re:Shouldn't that be platform neutral? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36399456)

Same here at University of Turin, Italy. A simple javascript probe which works virtually on any platform. However, I remember I had issues with another university here in Italy, but that was a wpa related problem.

Re:Shouldn't that be platform neutral? (1)

Anrego (830717) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399474)

That was mostly my experience as well.

They won't go out of their way to help you set it up or anything, but they don't actively support it either. Same as the ISP you are probably using. You can use Linux at home, but if you call their support line because you can't get a connection, well, good luck with that (even if it's an obvious line/hardware issue being reported by the modem itself)!

Re:Shouldn't that be platform neutral? (0)

Anrego (830717) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399482)

* don't actively block it .. sigh

Re:Shouldn't that be platform neutral? (1)

DrgnDancer (137700) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399608)

We had MAC address filtering, but nothing that would stop a Linux or Mac system (or indeed a phone or any other device you register the MAC for) from connecting.

Re:Shouldn't that be platform neutral? (4, Insightful)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399684)

The question that I have is what was meant by support. WiFi is usually platform independent so it should work for most devices. Do mean can you call them up and ask for help connecting? Probably not. Heck that is a support headache now for Windows. You have to deal with XP, Vista, and Windows7 plus manufactures often seem to want to add their own Wifi utility that you may have never seen before. On OS/X it just seems to work. Frankly on Linux if you have a good distro with on a system with a supported wifi chipset it also just seems to work.
But if you say you support every platform at a University you will get some pain in the rear that will be running Contiki on an old 386 notebook trying to log on to the network asking for help.

Re:Shouldn't that be platform neutral? (4, Funny)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399782)

Why you got to be a Contiki hater, man?

Re:Shouldn't that be platform neutral? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36399736)

I'm at The Ohio State University. We support it here, not just by not using special software, but there's instructions on how to connect devices using: Windows, MacOS X, Linux, Android, iOS, and Windows Mobile, plus a few more I think.

Re:Shouldn't that be platform neutral? (3, Informative)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399860)

One reasonably common sticking point that I've run into a few times on university networks comes up because of a hole in the set of options provided by "standard" 802.11a/b/g/n security mechanisms:

You can run the network fully open; but then everybody's packets are in the clear(unless encrypted by whatever protocol/program they are using). You can run WEP/WPA-PSK; but that pretty much sucks for anything larger than a home network(half your users won't know the shared key, the other half will make it public knowledge in about two seconds). WPA-enterprise, with radius, works well enough architecturally; but configuration is kind of a pain in the ass for university-type situations where most devices aren't configured by the IT overlords.

So, you get situations where the APs are run fully open; but the only thing visible is a VPN appliance of some flavor(usually rhymes with "nabisco"). Campus IT will provide a pre-rolled custom installer for windows, and sometimes OSX, that installs the (unbelievably sucky) Cisco VPN client, pre-populated with everything but your username and password, and away you go. Linux users can go whistle as far as IT is concerned; but there is usually a campus-specific FAQ written up by some benevolent CS grad student at the institution telling you what your vpnc config file needs to look like, and IT doesn't care if you do manage to connect by those unofficial means.

Some schools, thankfully ones that I've never dealt with, demand some sort of(usually windows-specific) "client health monitoring" or "clean access" software be installed. That is a bigger issue. If you are lucky, they only demand it of windows clients and look the other way at macs, xboxes, and other miscellanious stuff, and you can get away with just connecting a linux box. If unlucky, "other" is treated as a pariah category...

Re:Shouldn't that be platform neutral? (2)

UnresolvedExternal (665288) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399962)

This seems to be the key point to me. Those in charge of the network will presume that if you use Linux, you will be able to figure it out for yourself.

Not ideal but probably true.

Re:Shouldn't that be platform neutral? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36400032)

Does your university require some sort of special software to access its wireless network or something? My university has hotspots just like any wireless service. You can connect to it with whatever OS or device you like. They don't support Linux directly, but they certainly don't block it from the network.

Yes/No/Maybe. You don't need a university network to get basic internet connectivity. Access to school resources, materials, printers/MFDs, software/licenses, etc will rarely be OS independent. The more the school offers, the more OS dependencies you get.

The two schools I attended both maintained their own in-house distro. If you used that, you had soup-to-nuts support from the salaried support staff. If you used something else, you were directed to the volunteer help desk who were usually able to help.

Dentist appointment next Monday :( (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36399396)

How does IT support Linux users generally?

Not in university, but I would assume it’s still the same old “if you use something other than windows or maybe mac, you are free to do so however you are on your own to figure it out and resolve any issues!” attitude. Which really I think is fair. At least now Novel is mostly dead so you don’t need to deal with that shit ;p

I guess the question here would be, what specifically about the network do you need to support Linux. Basic connectivity should usually just work, unless they use some weird connection tool (do those even exist any more). Whatever web based systems your school is using _might_ work. Whatever standard tools your teachers dictate you use will probably be one platform only (and if they laughed at the mention of Linux, you can guess what platform that will be).

And some general advice: don’t go too crazy trying to do _everything_ in Linux for the principle of it. If it’s easy, do it, if not, just get a windows VM up and running to do your work. Unless you enjoy that kinda stuff, the frustration of trying to get a teacher to accept the work you did in a tool he has never heard of on a platform he isn’t familiar with just isn’t worth it for the warm and fuzzy feeling.

Re:Dentist appointment next Monday :( (3, Insightful)

Relayman (1068986) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399612)

... unless they use some weird connection tool (do those even exist any more).

You, you've never run across Cisco's Clean Access Agent? Lucky you!

Re:Dentist appointment next Monday :( (1)

Anrego (830717) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399894)

Is that the deal where you had to spoof your user agent to a mac browser or it would think you were windows and try to make you download some connection client?

Re:Dentist appointment next Monday :( (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36399986)

My school uses Clean Access and its annoying. But recently they changed things, and it supports linux just fine. I was only using win7 before so Im not sure if that was one of the changes.
At another campus I take classes on theres pages of instructions on how to connect with all windows OS back to 95 and all MacOS, but nothing about linux. I went to IT between classes thinking they would be using some sort of linux for some of their work, but the guy looked at me blankly and I figured it out while he sort of mumbled behind me.

Re:Dentist appointment next Monday :( (1)

richlv (778496) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399848)

And some general advice: don’t go too crazy trying to do _everything_ in Linux for the principle of it. If it’s easy, do it, if not, just get a windows VM up and running

is that an offer to cover the cost for anybody, or a suggestion to pirate it ? :)

WPA2 or Windows-only VPN? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36399420)

Given the high usage of Macs in education to ignore them would be a gross act of stupidity within a university.

In my opinion it would have been useful to ask about support for iPads and Android tablets too.

Surely the wireless network would be using standard encryption mechanisms though (i.e., WPA2)?

It Supports It Now, Why Would That Change? (3, Interesting)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399430)

During discussion about proposed changes to our campus-wide wireless network, I asked if the new system would support Macs, Linux and other Operating Systems.

What is the authentication and accreditation methods/technologies involved with this "new system?" It's entirely possible the meeting was for 10,000 feet people and not the actual IT folks. For instance, your current system appears to support Linux [] (PDF Warning) and I would be surprised if the plan was to drop this.

When I went to the University of Minnesota 2000-2004, the wireless was more or less agnostic to the operating system and their documentation has gotten much better [] . When I was there I helped set up some Gnu OCR stuff on Linux so that people could scan books in the labs and at halls--perhaps if your response had been to investigate and volunteer documentation for a Linux solution, they wouldn't have treated you as the punchline to a joke? (I know that not everyone has as much free time during college, this is just a suggestion.)

Have IT staff ever ridiculed you for asking questions about Linux?

Yes, of course, back in 2000 when I was fresh off the farm, I was constantly ridiculed for asking questions about Linux. But for different reasons. Because I didn't know the difference between Linux, Unix, Solaris and BSD. The labs at UMN supported all of those widely with many many seats (well, maybe not BSD) and when I sat down at one I was temporarily outside of my comfort zone and would ask incredibly stupid questions. If you adopted the role of being the friendly helper to your administration, perhaps they could, as did I, eventually realize the amazing awesomeness and power of these operating systems? If they don't, you can always argue that diversity is great and offer to help with supporting your operating system of choice by making some documentation.

Re:It Supports It Now, Why Would That Change? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36399550)

The U was very helpful with Linux. The CS department, for example, is a Linux shop through and through. Campus Wide IT is a tad more worthless. They once banned a Windoze box of mine that got hosed by a virus by my UMN USERNAME. Not Mac Address or something useful..

Use plenty of goat-turd repellent (0)

For a Free Internet (1594621) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399438)

Utherwize they will get you, I swear, and it will be totallyfuckedyo, homie!

Romania's approach :D (1)

venatir (1562801) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399450)

You would get the same answer in Romania if the question was about Windows :))

Re:Romania's approach :D (1)

venatir (1562801) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399522)

Not to mention that all the free internet access computers are Linux based :D

Re:Romania's approach :D (1)

mario_grgic (515333) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399616)

It's good to hear there are sane countries out there. Peddling Windows in this day and age is just retarded. If your CS department is any good you will be downloading Linux kernel source code, studying it, modifying and compiling it etc. You should come out with good knowledge of UNIX foundations etc. If not, then I'd suggest dropping that school and moving somewhere where they actually teach you something useful.

Re:Romania's approach :D (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36399756)

Gorsh... eye em sofa king retarded Windows guy I can't figger owt how to spend my six figure salary. Windows is becoming less relevant... doesn't mean it is obsolete or unnecessary today or in the next 5 years.

Re:Romania's approach :D (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36399880)

If your CS department is any good you will be downloading Linux kernel source code, studying it, modifying and compiling it etc.

No, if your CS department was any good your foundations would be completely OS agnostic and would NOT be exclusively focusing on Linux.

UNC Greensboro (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36399452)

Does your university/college provide support for Linux/BSD/etc users to connect to the on-campus wireless?

No, although many faculty run Linux or OpenBSD. I have been able to discuss several different methods with faculty to connect to the WPA-PSK network; general consensus is that wicd works better than NetworkManager, and OpenBSD works better than wpa-supplicant based distros.

How does IT support Linux users generally?

They don't. Officially recommended to run MacOS or Windows.

Have IT staff ever ridiculed you for asking questions about Linux?

Yes. They seem to be from the MS School of thought. You remember those people...everything must run MS and if it doesn't, it sucks. The guys who run Ultimate editions of everything even though they don't need it, and brag about having a beta version of Office. Well now they work in IT.

Re:UNC Greensboro (1)

richlv (778496) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399888)

Yes. They seem to be from the MS School of thought. You remember those people...everything must run MS and if it doesn't, it sucks. The guys who run Ultimate editions of everything even though they don't need it, and brag about having a beta version of Office. Well now they work in IT.

the manager from the summary... why not publish his name so that we can ridicule him ? ;)

If the network is ever working... (1)

mastermind7373 (1932626) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399476)

It's not supported at College of Charleston, so setting it up was a pain, but I digress; it was self inflicted pain, I purposely used Gentoo and wpa_supplicant. I don't even bother with "real" IT, but the tech guy in the Computer Science building is helpful and fine with it.

You aren't being ridiculed (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36399478)

Generally, they're laughing because they've had the same discussions internally. I work in a university, and my servers mostly run Linux, but sometimes the software required for various user/student/client activities is only available on Windows (and if we're lucky, Mac). Linux just doesn't have enough of a userbase to be a roadblock to some software being adopted. Mac didn't used to, either, although that has changed in the past few years.

And, keep in mind, like in a lot of places, the most technically minded people aren't always the one making the final decisions. Heck, sometimes it's not even IT making all of the IT decisions.

Re:You aren't being ridiculed (1)

f16c (13581) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399944)

"And, keep in mind, like in a lot of places, the most technically minded people aren't always the one making the final decisions. Heck, sometimes it's not even IT making all of the IT decisions."

Private or public this is true across the spectrum of institutional networked computer installations. There are lots of reasons for and against Linux support in an enterprise and it always seems to only be adopted in cases where the cost of licensing the OS itself is the prohibitive factor. Universities are not startups and have a wide user base to support. In the case of Linux being the nasty newcomer anywhere other than the CS wing there is very little knowledge or, in most cases, demand for support. The easiest thing in the world for the university is to either say "you're on your own" or "no you can't". The first option seems to be the default position. They have a fixed budget and preset limits to what they can do so if you can help them to support those running Linux please offer to help at the start of school because they are likely to appreciate it.

You are correct, though, in that most IT decisions are made by folks with access to budgets but less knowledge than really needed to decide things. This works very similarly to the private sector where the CTO may have been a geek years ago but now acts like any other manager and has very little deep understanding of the systems deployed in the enterprise but gets to decide those things anyway since that's why he makes the big bucks.

This is 2011 (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36399494)

Who is still talking about Linux ?

Re:This is 2011 (1)

luis_a_espinal (1810296) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399520)

Who is still talking about Linux ?

You'd be surprised.

Re:This is 2011 (4, Informative)

JSBiff (87824) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399584)

Yeah, I'm mean, seriously, at this point it's a GIVEN that some University students and faculty will be using other operating systems - Mac especially, and pretty much any University that has a Computer Science, Software Development, or IT program should have classes in which students are at least exposed to Unix/Linux and are taught how to do development and/or administration for Unix and Unix-like systems (as they are used a lot in Enterprise IT).

You shouldn't even have to ASK about Mac and Linux compatibility this late in the game - IT should KNOW that they need to provide compatibility with those OSes.

The good news is, that unless you are using some exotic extension to WiFi (like requiring some sort of Active Directory-based login before you can even get an IP address), Mac and Linux users WILL BE compatible with a WiFi network already, as it is an IEEE standard which both have supported for about 10 years.

Re:This is 2011 (1)

captbob2002 (411323) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399980)

Our central IT staff is still hoping the the Macs will just "go away." We won't even talk about any for of UNIX or UNIX-like systems. I'm the PIA for them b/c my shop has been using System V and its spawn since 1986. They figure if you are not paying big money for the software, then it is useless - gotta' have a vendor to "stand behind" the products. Must be why they still like Lotus Notes so much.

Re:This is 2011 (1)

just_another_sean (919159) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399640)

We are. You're welcome to join the discussion!

Re:This is 2011 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36399770)

I've heard people on this site [] are big into it. Have you ever heard of it?

RMIT, I thought you said a University (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36399536)

Well duh. Go to a real Uni that hasn't blown its whole budget on a broken ERP system.

Re:RMIT, I thought you said a University (1)

captbob2002 (411323) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399922)

That explains technology support around here!

get out while you can (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36399554)

A University with a Computer Science study that laughs when you bring up using something else than windows simply can not be taken seriously.

Re:get out while you can (2, Informative)

JSBiff (87824) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399696)

I've struggled with this over the years - the IT department at a lot of Universities is completely separate from any college or program. They'll get the bright idea of doing something not supported on Linux (they'll usually try to support Mac as it has greater representation among the general population), then the CS departments and students, maybe the IT academic department (that is, the department which TEACHES IT as opposed to the University-wide department which MANAGES IT), and maybe some of the scientists (Physicists, Chemists, etc) who use Linux have to complain that IT broke compatibility, and *hopefully* it gets fixed.

In an ideal world, IT would consult users about PROPOSED changes, incorporate feedback about such problems, and find solutions, beforehand. Yeah, right.

Worthless CS degree? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36399556)

Sounds like a worthless CS degree you're getting there...

At University of Oslo you'd be hard pressed to even find a windows computer anywhere except the humanistic faculties, the idea of wasting resources on maintaining windows boxes just didn't make much sense.

All computer science programs should support Linux (1)

Relayman (1068986) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399560)

A computer science program that doesn't support Linux is worthless. I know you were talking to IT, but the computer science department should have enough involvement with IT to force support of Linux.

P.S. Everything these days is tied to operating systems. Yes, any wireless method should be platform independent but that means all platforms support it, not that there's no connection between the wireless method and the operating system.

To me, support of Linux is a litmus test of whether you support openness or you are tied to a specific platform. Don't support Linux? I'll call you proprietary.

Re:All computer science programs should support Li (1, Insightful)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399688)

Any CS department that doesn't acknowledge Unix in general is just retarded. This includes MIS types from the business school.

VPNs? (2)

worldwise001 (1607651) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399576)

I am not sure how many other campuses are like this, but our campus (Southern Illinois University - Carbondale) makes use of Juniper VPN in order to allow students, faculty, and staff to log onto wireless. Basically the access points are open to all, but you need to use VPN software in order to be able to access the rest of the campus network, and ultimately the internet. For Linux users like me, it was a little bit of a pain to set up, since it makes use of a Java client to automagically set everything up. Luckily I use 32-bit Linux. 64-bit users from what I hear are generally out of luck. Also out of luck are students who want to use their Android device on our network, since a Juniper client hasn't been set up/made available/customized? specifically for our campus yet.

This is funny, because I've had no issues with campus-wide printing service for Linux.

Re:VPNs? (1)

The1stImmortal (1990110) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399652)

So in other words, they chose not to use any proven standards for wireless access. Clever given the standard of proprietary crypto work (see Sony et al) vs open standard crypto work (See WPA2 & AES)

IIT Guwahati, India (1)

MurukeshM (1901690) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399590)

Here, they don't actively support Linux (in the sense that there's a WSUS here, but no official mirrors of the Fedora or Ubuntu repos), however they do use Fedora for most computers in the lab, and the wifi seems OS agnostic. Ever since the IT administration decided to switch from WinXP to Fedora for the Computer Centre, people have been showing more interest in Linux.

Some! (1)

omarius (52253) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399592)

Linux support at my university is on a "best effort" basis (which usually means you get to talk to me). To be honest, I've never had to address wireless issues, but I can't think of any reason why one couldn't connect--it's as straightforward as WPA2-Enterprise gets, I reckon. iPads and Apples have no problem. At a guess, I'd say the faculty are ~15-20% Mac users and growing all the time.

As a side note--when I got nominated the academic support Linux guy, I was terrified I'd get sneered at by rocket scientists trying to write device drivers for cyclotrons or something. I was--am--super relieved that problems usually turn out to involve things like firewalls and fstabs. :)

Choose a U. with a LUG (2)

rwa2 (4391) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399604)

Search around for your prospective university's Linux User Group. They would have all the information about how easy it is to run Linux in their environment, whether it is officially supported or not.

CMU (2)

synthparadox (770735) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399610)

As an alumnus of Carnegie Mellon, I'm going to assume this is no big deal, but possibly at least confirms what people think. CMU has several Unix clusters, as well as Mac clusters. All of the downloadable software is supported on as many platforms as the software is created with. In fact, several classes (especially the digital IC design with CADENCE) are operated only in *nix environments.
VPN access to on-campus resources are also provided in all operating environments, and having used both the PC and *nix ones, I can say documentation is quite complete. This is a relatively recent development, however, as the documentation and support has greatly improved since I started at CMU.
It greatly helps when the professors are experts in the software they're teaching and help debug problems with the IT department. (The Hadoop cluster was especially fun to debug, especially with the broken JAR file passing in 0.20.1).

Not exactly (1)

prefect42 (141309) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399638)

They support it in the sense that they publish all the information that you should need to use things in an OS agnostic manner, but they're not going to help you with any of the specifics. It's unreasonable to expect them to. That said, if there were fundamental setup issues stopping a service working on linux and changing it to make it work wouldn't impact existing users, it's very likely that change would be made.

Supporting linux internally is very different to supporting it for student use. Where I work, we support and use linux internally, but don't support it for student use. But using mail / VPN / file stores from linux is all functional, and we publish the necessary information required to use them.

I wouldn't say you get ridiculed, but you'll inevitably come up against people who don't have a clue what you're talking about.

How about.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36399650)

Over here at UWA, support is given for Windows, OSX and a few flavours (and plenty more, if you come across person at the helpdesk) without trouble.

Linux and OSX are only used by some faculties/schools across campus, but the systems provided by the central IT body are chosen and implemented with non-windows usecases in mind. Even Active Directory can be used without locking into windows, thanks to the wonderful (and at times torturous) samba and ldap, so it's laziness and plenty of ignorance on the part of whomever is running the ship over at your institution.

TBH, I thought RMIT was a bit more up-to-par than this annecdotal story suggests. Either way, you can't change things unless you've been working your way up the university IT ladder for more than a few years.

ridiculed? (3, Insightful)

Ephemeriis (315124) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399660)


Linux was an integral part of my Computer Science education.

The first few CSC courses were all run from a lab with tons of Alpha terminals. Later courses were conducted in labs where all the machines dual-booted Windows and Linux. Almost all of our programming assignments were done in a Linux environment.

Plus, half the university's servers were running on some sort of Unix-like OS.

And you're getting ridiculed for asking about Linux?

Seems a little weird to me... Is Linux really such a marginal part of a modern university environment?

Re:ridiculed? (1)

mugurel (1424497) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399816)

Same here. I switched to GNU/Linux for private use only after I'd learned to use UNIX (by necessity) for my studies.

Re:ridiculed? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36399920)

To be fair, when I arrived at my last university, the admins sneered at Linux, too. They were Solaris shop through-and-through and looked at Linux like it was Fisher Price Unix 4 Kidz kind of toy. They slowly started changing their tune and integrated more and more Linux into the mix over the years, though.

Re:ridiculed? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36399958)

I concur, 100%. My CPSC department was hard core Linux (Slack was teh favorite flavor at the time). Heck, my second degree was in Meterology and while the terminals were Windows, everything supporting the network was Linux (Slack, then RedHat and now Debian). The name servers, file servers, web servers, mail servers - all Linux. From what I hear, 10% of the terminals in the Library are now running Ubuntu (about 5 boxes) and several are Mac. I have no problem with the WiFi and my Debian laptop. I did have some issues getting the Broadcom chipset to work, but that's a Broadcom + Linux thing and I won't make that mistake again.

Are you sure that guy wasn't laughing because he expected more from a Linux user attending an IT meeting? Just sayin'

Wrong question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36399674)

I don't understand your question - what does it mean that computer network doesn't support Linux and other OSs? I'm pretty sure that the operating system of the switches and routers facilitating the network itself don't run windows ;) Also if no *nix courses are taught in your school, it kinda questions the practicality of the instutucion, because about 70% of the worlds servers run on linux in opposed to below 20% windows share.

My uni in Czech Rep. taughts and runs on Linux almost entirely. Other OSs like Windows, Mac, Solaris etc. are used when they are needed to (like CG).

Sort of? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36399678)

My campus "supports" Windows and Mac by forcing them to download programs that install something onto the computer to verify its a student account whenever they try to connect, however Linux and Unix are able to openly connect without any authentication. Only real reason I can see is they don't have any Unix programmers and were too cheap to buy something.

We have full support when possible. (1)

FictionPimp (712802) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399682)

I have made it an imperative on my campus that we have as much cross os support ( and cross browser ) as possible. I can only think of one or two classes on campus (that are not windows it classes) that require windows (and soon each student will have a college supplied virtual desktop. ).

We also make sure all in house systems like webapps work on all major browser (ie7+, chrome, firefox, opera, safari, elinks, etc)

University of Oxford (5, Interesting)

hotseat (102621) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399686)

Oxford's campus-wide wireless LAN project, OWL, operates like a hotspot scheme with open access points and a redirection to a login page for temporary credentials when you open a web browser. If you're a student or faculty member, you can instead use Cisco Anyconnect to access the university VPN and bypass the login screen.

Not only does the university support Anyconnect on Linux clients, it also provides guidance for setting up an entirely Free Software alternative for those who would rather not download the official software. It's really quite good.

Further details at []

Re:University of Oxford (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36400008)

That's improved a bit. If I wanted to get online I had to walk to the computer lab or, if it was available, use kermit from my college's solitary PC.

Linux (1)

Lord Lode (1290856) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399690)

My Belgian university (at least the electronics department and the computer science department) used Linux only in the computer labs, ran Matlab etc... on it, supported spreading your calculations over multiple workstations in the lab, and had posters "Linux is Education" hanging around. An introduction to Linux commands was given to all students when just starting with this.

Re: Ask Slashdot: Linux Support In Universities? (1)

vivekvc (801784) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399692)

IMHO, the managers are not aware of the fact that GNU/Linux based operating systems do have a fairly mature collection of device drivers for most wifi devices though this area is still a work in progress. I feel the reaction from the managers were more due to a lack of awareness about the possibilities of FOSS based operating systems to do wifi that caused them to react to you the way they have. On your part you can point them to sites like [] or conduct a small awareness campaign the the University of Melbourne about the possibilities of using Free/open Source Operating Systems for wireless networking. Since you have identified a need, you can even make that a academic project if you want to.

Dixie State College of Utah (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36399702)

The Computer Information Technology Program at Dixie State College of Utah is centered around Linux, Mac, and Windows operating systems. The Systems Administration classes teach Linux systems administration. Not only is it supported, its promoted.

Adelaide University does (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36399708)

I'm not doing Comp Sci at Adelaide Uni (South Australia) myself, but first year CS subjects are done on macs with good exposure to the UNIX base of them, and then they work with Linux (RHEL) before finally touching on Windows PCs.

Things changed this year with the new building, but I think there are ~50 iMacs, and then *every single computer* for the Engineering, Comp Sci & Maths faculty (ECMS) is dual boot between RHEL & Windows XP, and that's over 500 machines, most of which are accessible 24/7 for ECMS students

As far as wireless goes, they have guides for Win XP/Vista/7, OSX, Linux (Ubuntu), as well as WP7, iOS, Android & Symbian 3 -- fairly comprehensive!

I may have other complaints about my university's IT dept, but diversity of platforms is not one of them, most likely due to persistence from ECMS staff

Re:Adelaide University does (1)

The1stImmortal (1990110) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399822)

Heh - I remember working in the emacs lab there (which was ancient even then) - first thing I'd do would be to fire up X and launch a desktop session from the Eris sun server

I much prefered working on a solaris desktop than an osx one...

Johns Hopkins Peabody Institute (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36399728)

When i worked at Johns Hopkins Peabody Institute back in 2001 every computer in the building ran Linux!

GMU - 2 thumbs up (1)

kirtu (908082) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399732)

I was last on campus at George Mason University in Fairfax for a class in 2003 but they did support Linux. They are essentially os neutral - except that it wasn't all that long ago that Windows would have elicited that response there (okay, it *was* quite a while ago - I just remember it).

Indiana University Does (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36399734)

IU explicitly supports Fedora, SUSE, RHEL, and Ubuntu [] . A friend of mine running gentoo was having trouble, called them up, and they got him in touch with someone who helped him out the same day.

Rutgers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36399740)

so, I know that my school provides very limited support for Linux....basically, if anyone working at their support center knows enough about it, or if the Sr. techs have free time, they will try and help out. Luckily though, our CS department hosted their own wireless service separate from the rest of the university, so most of the time we could just use that.

Best Endeavours (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36399758)

Officially we support Windows XP Pro and Win 7 64bit, since they are the core of the Student and Staff builds we support - everything else is on a best endeavours basis.

In reality, most people are OK, and we have guides available for Windows, OsX, iOS and Linux for common things (wifi [Cisco VPN], email client config etc). We also have a Windows terminal server with a full copy of our student build on it, so people can use a supported environment for Uni work, without having to compromise on their personal choice of device/OS.

Android is tricky atm, since to get working VPN you neet to root your device, and we're not comfortable telling people to do that.

To be honest tho, day to day support of Linux and Android relies heavily on me, since the rest of the support staff don't have an interest. And Apple support comes from a couple of fanbois in the office too.

Was this the RMIT University seminar in May? (1)

quantumphaze (1245466) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399760)

I went to the 'Direction of IT' seminar at RMIT a month ago and no one I talked to looked down their nose at Linux. In fact they are planning to try to be platform neutral as much as reasonably possible. All critical systems work and only problems are when random people use funky .docx or .pptx files and expect you to submit the same but IT doesn't really enforce that.

Wireless works better with Network Manager than with Windows (which needs SecureW2) and I even got it working with WICD and strait up wpa_supplicant (I can give the config if you want). I am only worried if they decide to change the wireless system to something that is "simpler" for Win/Mac like WPS that isn't supported in Network Manager and scrapping the now legacy WPA Enterprise EAP/TTLS thingy. (Then again, XP doesn't do WPS so they won't scrap the current system before WPS is added to NM)

I spent most of my time there asking about the viability of a campus Minecraft server.

Lower your expectations (2, Interesting)

telekon (185072) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399762)

I work in IT at a university, and Linux support is on a best-effort basis. Wireless isn't an issue, because we use WPA2 Enterprise. If your IT department isn't using open standards for something like wireless, I hate to think what else you have to deal with. The biggest Linux issue I have is VPN access. Unfortunately, the support/use of open standards kinda ends with the WiFi network. The VPN is Juniper, and requires a horrid Java-based client to access it. The web portal you have to use to get the client is an ASP abomination, and ineptly attempts OS detection, routinely failing on Linux. It's possible to actually get the client, but not without 1) Digging into the page's source to find out where the clients are, 2) using the JS console to trigger the function that actually retrieves the client, 3) writing a bash script to load the client and required Java libs, and (on a 64-bit machine) 4) installing 32-bit JRE and using that location in said bash script.

I had expected a university with a top-notch CS department would be better than average on basic IT stuff. But no, it's Windows cargo-cult bullshit everywhere you go. Don't get me wrong, there are always pockets of interesting stuff going on... But universities in general... brilliant faculty and students, but the place is actually run by retarded monkeys.

Maybe they laughed at your ignorance of networks? (3, Insightful)

poity (465672) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399764)

I'm pretty sure networking hardware and the software they use are platform-neutral with respect to client connections, and they took your issue as an instance of "THAT dude who thinks he's leet for using linux yet doesn't know how networks operate."

Can you build an alternative? (1)

Neil_Brown (1568845) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399766)

I guess it would depend on whether you needed access to certain resources which were only available from within the domain, and you couldn't VPN in, but could you and fellow students not build an alternative to the "official" network?

I remember at Uni (Southampton) there was an alternative wireless network, not run by the University, which had pretty good coverage across the campus ("SOWN" was the SSID, I believe) - this might or might not have been run by students (I cannot remember), but it was not an official university network.

For learning about working around problems, and solving things, uni can be great, whether as part of your course of study or not.

Yes (4, Informative)

Enry (630) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399788)

I work at a major University in the US (rhymes with Schmarvard).

I lead a team of 6 that offers Linux training, OS installs, desktop support, and a Debian-based HPC/Web/Database/Tomcat/Wiki/RT environment. We used to get lots of requests to install Linux on laptops or desktops, though those have mostly slowed due to the fact it's easy to install. The desktops are almost all Ubuntu.

Most everything else we do is OS-agnostic since there's a lot of OS X on campus. I think the only thing that's really specific to a Windows environment is Exchange and the Outlook client. I just fire up a VirtualBox VM and run Windows 7 in it.

From an IT Peon (1)

DigitaLunatiC (452925) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399802)

I frequently find myself working for the IT department wherever I am, but not high enough up the food chain to know anything about policies or what is "officially" supported - not caring may also be a factor. I man a help desk, people approach me with a question/problem, I answer/fix it and then send them away. I, personally, support Windows, Linux, Mac stuff, and the occasional smart phone. Only one of us worked that desk at a time, so I have no idea what the others did.

Does your university/college provide support for Linux/BSD/etc users to connect to the on-campus wireless?
At my old university you were fine as long as you could handle WPA2 Enterprise. At my new university, Windows users are required to use the Cisco Clean Access Agent and everyone else just gets to connect (for both wired and wireless).

How does IT support Linux users generally?
At my old university the best route to Linux support was to go bug the guys in the Clemson Linux Users Group. At my new university they seem pretty clueless, but there are a lot of people I haven't met yet.

Have IT staff ever ridiculed you for asking questions about Linux?
I've never had a reason to ask the IT staff for help with anything, but it seems more practical to ridicule the Windows users who can't find where they saved an e-mail attachment than the Linux users who are having trouble with what always seems to be a more technical issue.

University of Utah (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36399854)

I'm a masters student at the university of utah and they do a great job of supporting all OS's.

Windows on a network? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36399866)

When I went to University, I took my Amiga with me. That worked just fine connecting to the campus network. Only a few people had Windows systems, but they worked as well. Most of the course was based around working on SunOS. I don't think anyone had a Linux desktop, but I'm pretty sure they would have worked just fine.

From my experience (1)

Yaruar (125933) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399882)

All the universities I've experienced in the UK (including ones i've worked for in senior ICT roles) have been platform agnostic, to the point that it's a nightmare as an admin. Running messaging systems we weren't allowed to dictate to users at all what they chose to connect and dealing with things like the buggy IMAP implementation of the last release of Eudora caused no end of headaches!

There were some managers who tried to push their agendas either way and as a department we certainly encouraged people to work with standardised platforms and software, but ultimately as long as the end platform was secure with AV/etc you could connect with whatever you could get working.

On the other hand we did ridicule people who people who tried to push their own agenda (be it FOSS or Microsoft) when they didn't actually have the knowledge or ability to back up their demands...

At Warwick in the UK... (1)

biodata (1981610) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399890)

IT support is generally focused on Windows (IT Services support a managed desktop for general users), though Mac support is also now creeping in due to demand. Of course, anyone can connect to the wifi with anything. In individual departments focused on compute-intensive work (Maths, Physics, CompSci, Engineering etc) many people use Linux as their desktop of choice, and a specialised managed desktop is available for high-performance computing based on Linux. Most of the high-performance backends are Linux, with a couple of Mac clusters also, but the backend general purpose web and email servers probably are Windows (I don't know tbh). So to answer your question, support is mainly for Windows, because it's reasonably easy to provide and support a managed service that suits the needs of people who mainly do email, web browsing and word processing. The higher you go in terms of expected functionality, the more of your own system you are expected to support, except for the case of high-performance work, where Linux is system of choice and is provided for as a specialised service separate from regular IT services. Macs are big in biosciences though, and I expect support for Macs for general purpose use to increase alongside Windows.

Which uni? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36399908)

Which university is this? I attend the University of Melbourne and from what I understand linux related operating systems are pretty well respected and supported (at least for the staff, clubs and subjects). As to if individual students are supported, I can't think of a way that windows is especially supported so I can't really comment on linux. I suppose the only real support is by the IT staff who *are* qualified to give support on only windows and mac, but I imagine that if you're running some distribution of linux then you would be able to work it out for yourself...

York University CS (in Canada) uses Linux (1)

davecb (6526) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399910)

They have for some years, and Unix before that.
Other faculties use various combinations of Windows and Macs.


DCU does (Dublin, Ireland) (1)

Tomahawk (1343) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399914)

I'm using a college computing as I type this. This PC, as do all the PCs in the building, dual boots on Windows XP and Suse Linux. There's a dedicated administrator for the Linux part, and there are Linux servers too. Some of our subjects (specifically those relating to secure programming [buffer overflows] and network programming) were all thought on Linux. All relevant printer drivers are setup to work under Linux just fine.

Some of the lectures use Linux (Suse, Ubuntu, others), NetBSD, and Mac OSX on their own laptops, and these are all used on the college network.

I bring my own laptop in and I have no problem accessing the WiFi networks under either Windows7 or Linux. I can't access the servers directly - need to use SSH to access them. Nor can I print (I think - to be honest, I haven't tried printing from my laptop, but I would guess I can't as I need to be logged into the network so the printers can debit my printing account for each page).

So, yeah, no problems here. They expect us computing students (especially us older students) to come in with anything to use, so they allow everything. Even my Android phone has no problem connecting to the network, and since I started last September they changed the policy to allow the android phones to be able to connect to without going through a proxy - actually, I think they removed the requirement to using a proxy for anything, as I can access any website from android.

Kudos to them!

Re:DCU does (Dublin, Ireland) (1)

Tomahawk (1343) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399938)

Forgot to mention that one of the campus societies (RedBrick, which is the computing society) does Linux admin training using the computers in the computing building. The computers on the rest of the campus are Windows only, but the WiFi will accept anything and allow it to work.

I *am* Linux support at my university... (1)

danaris (525051) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399926)

I recently took a position as general tech guy for one department of a university, liaising with central IT for stuff that they handle better. However, part of the deal is that, since I actually have Linux experience, I'm more or less the Linux support guy for the university now...

So far, not much has come of that, but it's been less than a year...

Dan Aris

Two Universities experience (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36399932)

The University of Ottawa had some Fedora virtual machines accessible from school computers, but the campus wireless is very irritating. There are instructions for connecting to the WPA2-Enterprise-encrypted network (which didn't have a proper certificate server), but the old VPN didn't have a Linux client. That did not mean that everything was fine and dandy. For some reason, my laptop running Ubuntu or Arch would often get kicked off the wireless network or refuse to connect altogether, with no proper error message. When the same laptop was running Windows 7 and another laptop running Windows XP tried to connect, they almost never got kicked off or had trouble connecting (maybe once in a month instead of once every 5 minutes on Linux.

The University of Prince Edward Island has zero support for Linux or Android on its wireless network. The encrypted wireless network is a relatively straightforward WPA2 Enterprise network with RADIUS server authentication, which requires a certificated on the device that is attempting to connect. The problem is that the only way to get the certificate is via a special program on Windows or via a *.mobileconfig file on iPhone or via some other means on Mac that doesn't actually work. There's no way to extract the certificates from any of the other methods to manually put onto a Linux or Android device, so they are stuck with the unencrypted wireless that uses a web sign-in.

Moral of the story: even if there is "support" for other operating systems in that the protocols used are completely standard and/or there are instructions on the website for connecting, don't expect anything to work the way it should, and don't expect any help from tech support either.

Can't Imagine a CS department without Linux (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36399936)

At my university, the computer science, software engineering, and computer engineering departments are dominated by computers running Linux. Linux and Unix have a strong presence in all the other engineering departments. The math department is running mostly Macs. The material science, computational chemistry, and physics departments all have clusters of computers acting as small supercomputers. None of the supercomputers are running windows. The business department runs at least one IBM z-series mainframe. The school of medicine has all kinds of strange stuff.

At one point, the computer engineering department was threatening to revolt and create their own campus network. At another, someone installed some Cisco wireless software that only supported Windows stations. Both those battles are now behind us. The campus computer department supports both Apple Macs and Linux, and support they support those stations well.

Linux is a first class operating system, to the point that the Electrical and Computer Engineering departments recommended Masters and PhD thesis style sheet is in LaTex.

Does anyone even know of a research institution with a hard-science presence, that does not have a large Linux user base? and at least one Linux cluster?

Sigh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36399940)

Whiny bitch.

Unofficial support (1)

feranick (858651) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399942)

I have seen in many case that while IT departments do not offer official support, they themselves provide link to either internal community based support or provide resources. So, you should look into that, and if none exists, I am sure you can work with a Linux user group at your University. They MUST know...

some universities have their own Distros (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36399960)

The University of Michigan has their own distro

Computer Science without Linux? Think again.... (1)

jim_kaiser (1696460) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399968)

I studied Computer Science from IIIT Hyderabad" [] in India. Almost on the very first day of classes, we get a mail account and a programming account on locally hosted servers, to which we ssh through putty on Windows machines in the labs. Of course, it was just a matter of weeks before we installed Redhat on all the machines, considering this was 2003. Not that we were the first, we just inherited the prevalent culture. Also, the students were the admins of the labs and some senior students become the student Sys-Admins of the servers and infrastructure.

Also, being a university, only open technologies were part of the curriculum with some rare exceptions. So, Windows didn't make too much sense from a programming perspective. We only used Windows for multi-player gaming in the hostels (Quake, CS-CZ, UT, BF2, Warcraft etc..).. ah.. good ol days! :) Even our personal machines in our hostel rooms were dual boot config and the time apart from gaming was spent in Linux (SUSE and then Ubuntu). The only issue we had back then was that wired access wasn't available in all the rooms and wireless drivers were hard to find in Linux especially for a D-Link card, the only solution being Ndiswrapper.

The other premier institute in India, the IIT's [] use Solaris instead of Linux as the standard system.

I find it shocking to read about the response of the IT staff in your university. I think you need to start a campaign to modernize/enlighten your university. The first thing you learn after C programming being Computer Architecture, Compilers and OS Internals, it would be wise to use an OS which is open, not a closed source proprietary OS, which is now incidentally targeting your grandma as their new demographic with their latest release.

Practicallity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36399984)

As an IT professional in the business world, Linux for end users is not practical for configuring and installing, if you cant make your linux connect to a basic wi-fi connection then you shouldn't be running linux.

UML (1)

xaoslaad (590527) | more than 3 years ago | (#36399988)

University of Massachusetts at Lowell has Intro to Linux and Linux System Administration courses. Many of the courses that fall within the CS and IT degree programs also allow for submission of papers in (well now LibreOffice I guess...) formats. There are still some, like an Intro to MS Office class that I had to take that I would have been hard pressed to complete without a copy of Windows; but then the same can be said in reverse of some of the other courses...

Things really just depend on the professors; I have taken a couple classes with one now who almost always says, "if you're on Linux|Solaris|Windows"

As far as wireless goes I guess my wife's university (Bridgewater State) has two wireless networks. They have to install some client to get on one and it may be Windows or Windows and Mac only, but there is a second that supports a wider range of devices and does not require the client. She mentioned why one was better than the other, but I honestly can't remember, so it's a fairly anecdotal statement, except to say that they have provisions for the 'other' operating systems.

Good Luck with that (1)

throbber (72924) | more than 3 years ago | (#36400006)

I'm assuming the politics at RMIT haven't changed that much. Students are not clients of ITS, so good luck with getting them to do anything for you. About the only way you can get them to do anything useful is lobby your School's or Portfolio's Director of IT and get them to argue with ITS for you.

Monash? (1)

Demonoid-Penguin (1669014) | more than 3 years ago | (#36400020)

Don't ask the teachers - if they knew the answers they'd wouldn't be teaching ;-p As the library staff or the student union, ask the support people. Or use Google. I've never had any problems accessing any of the major East coast uni networks. Monash [] Melbourne will tell you they don't support Linux - but then they're barely capable of reading the side of a Windows box... if you find translating the instructions for Windows users too hard (you should probably give up Linux and uni) ask the local LUG (the members can be found huddled over laptops without guis in the bar). Have phun

Georgia Tech, GA, US (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36400022)

I go to Georgia Tech (formally the Georgia Institute of Technology), in the college of computing, and I'm proud to report that they support non-windows OS'es fully.

I have a Debian Linux laptop, which I use on the institute-wide WPA wireless network. I also have an Ubuntu workstation, where I log on to a college-wide network, and my home directory is actually an NFS mount to a remote server (so my home directory follows me between workstations, and is backed up). Additionally, the college printers are already set up on my workstation, so everything 'just works'.

Bristol University supports Linux to some extent (1)

unts (754160) | more than 3 years ago | (#36400026)

For some services such as wifi there are instructions for various flavours of OS - Windows, Mac, Linux, Android. We have Enterprise WPA2 and the university requires you to install their certificate, but they've done a pretty decent job of documenting it for these OSes. Unfortunately some of the software they advocate is very Microsoft or Windows centric. The Computer Science department goes quite a bit further - its lab machines run CentOS. Up until a couple of years ago there were some old Sun machines knocking about somewhere in the Engineering Faculty.

If you need support... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36400028)

If you need supported to use Linux then you shouldn't use it in the first place. I installed Linux from floppy disks in the mid 90s when I attended college and I didn't feel like I needed to ask anyone for support or permission for which operating system I used on my computer. Seriously... just do it and when you run into problems search out solutions and support yourself. That is the whole point of using Linux.

I've been ridiculed by best buy (2)

axlr8or (889713) | more than 3 years ago | (#36400030)

Yep, wanted to buy computer. I was looking for a specific model and asked them if I could get the rebate by having windows uninstalled. Can you believe, the guy says, "Why would you want to ruin your computer by doing that?" I told him that I would rather have some distro of a linux os on it. Like Debian. He responded by 'educating' on why windows is so much better. And since apparently he had 'personal knowledge' of Debian he said that the performance of a linux distro would never match the performance of a venerable OS like... gasp.... VISTA! The truth is the same now as it always has been. People who don't understand something always think its worthless by default.

At mine they did (1)

Guspaz (556486) | more than 3 years ago | (#36400042)

At Concordia University in Montreal, all public computers in labs dual-boot Windows and Linux. When I graduated, this was Windows XP and Fedora, but I suspect they've changed since.

IITS, our IT department, normally provided wireless connection instructions for Windows, MacOS X, and Linux (GNOME, if memory serves).

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