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Ask Slashdot: Best Choice of Linux Laptops For Elementary School?

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the while-they're-young dept.

Education 310

An anonymous reader writes "I work in the tech department of an elementary school and I am trying to show the tech director the world of Linux. I will be installing edubuntu but I am not sure which laptop to get. I know there are companies like System76 that sell laptops with Linux already installed but I wanted to ask you for your thoughts. We want something small and light weight for the kids. We do not need much horsepower as the main use will be internet/email/word processing and whatever other apps come with edubuntu. Basically, what we really want is something MacBook Air-like but not nearly as expensive. Thoughts?"

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Lenovo mini (5, Informative)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 2 years ago | (#40319057)

The Lenovo laptops always work well with Linux. The S110 (mini) may be good for elementary school. I am using one daily running Fedora 16.

Re:Lenovo mini (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40319103)

Lenovo support is also a boon in this kind of situation. Their driver website and technical documentation puts other vendors to shame, and in my personal experience the machines have fewer quirks or one-off features that typically don't mesh well with Linux.

Re:Lenovo mini (3, Informative)

Anne Thwacks (531696) | more than 2 years ago | (#40319761)

I have 4 Lenovo laptops of different models running Ubuntu here. All much better supported on Linux than on Windows XP or Windows 7. Have not tried Vista.

Re:Lenovo mini (5, Interesting)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 2 years ago | (#40319191)

Just spec up a bog-standard set of components with a Chinese manufacturer like Molo http://www.molo-electronics.com/product/Pro158.Html [molo-electronics.com] or Elijah http://elijahindustrial.en.alibaba.com/product/539115573-200670129/13_3_inch_wide_screen1_8GHz_DVD_ROM_Bluetooth_Camera_laptop.html [alibaba.com] .

It'll cost you a fraction of the price of the Lenovo or any other branded equivalent, look prettier for the kids and work fine with whatever distro you specify.

These things are commodities now, especially in an elementary school setting. Why pay a premium?

Re:Lenovo mini (5, Insightful)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 2 years ago | (#40319579)

Why pay a premium?

Warranty and overall build quality (including strength and durability of the casing) come to mind. Children are not the most careful bunch.

Re:Lenovo mini (4, Insightful)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 2 years ago | (#40319815)

Children can break anything. Why not get something that's cheap to replace?

Re:Lenovo mini (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40319755)

One of the main reasons I check slashdot is to see what's going on in "Trailer Park IT". Buying noname chinese shittops off Alibaba.com and giving them to school children is a new one, I will give you that.

One question: What happens when 50% of these things show up DOA? Just call Ms. May Elijah in Shenzhen, and she sorts it all out?

Re:Lenovo mini (1)

khoonirobo (1316521) | more than 2 years ago | (#40319219)

I'd also like to point out the lenovo x120e. It comes with the AMD APU which has quite decent graphics compared to the Intel Atom. Might be useful if there is some OpenGL app or game that the kids might like (like Celestia).

Re:Lenovo mini (1)

mathew7 (863867) | more than 2 years ago | (#40319693)

I second this line. x120e, x130e etc....although the x130e also goes as Edge E120 (europe/non-US maybe??? couldn't find a pattern). I bough the Edge E120 i3 version (the AMD version is E125....but apart from MB they're the same) after many years of a 14" T61. Linux is my main use, although I still have the shipped 7 Pro as backup. I'm a computer obsessed biker (motorcycle, not bicycle), and I wanted a nice small laptop for carrying along the minimal packing. Thinkpad was a great choice because of another feature: conditional battery charging....will never charge the battery if below 96% (percentage can be changed/customized easily). Even if you plug it in while it's powered off. I don't know about the "cheaper" lines from Lenovo, but this is one of the reasons I remained a fan (saw it in T61 first). It's great when you use it mainly on AC.

Too bad they changed the chasis of the x120e...I liked the hinges of that one.

Are you fcking Crazy ? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40319065)

You are in a elementary school - and you want linux ? Even companies with great IT support teams dont give linux laptops to anyone but developers.

Be rational!!

Most laptops come with a OS anyways (windows 7.. and now maybe 8) so that's done. Now if you want to reduce costs, go with some free open source software like Libre office.. etc. The kids will be able to actually identify with what's on the laptops.

Linux on laptops my ass.

Re:Are you fcking Crazy ? (2, Insightful)

bhcompy (1877290) | more than 2 years ago | (#40319087)

I think it depends on the point. If he's got Mavis Beacon and Math Blaster for linux, sure, go for it. If the point is just to give the kids a computer to dick around in, it would probably be better on an OS that will provide them better educational opportunities later on in their careers.

Re:Are you fcking Crazy ? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40319113)

Hey. You're gettin' a little bit speedy here and there. I think you need a bit of slowness... 0.5MPH...

Re:Are you fcking Crazy ? (5, Insightful)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 2 years ago | (#40319185)

What "educational opportunites"?

Computing is about gettting stuff done. It's not about using particular branded products. Even if you do choose to fixate on a particular brand, it's rather likely that the brand won't be recognizable by "later in their careers".

Schools should be teaching concepts not products.

Re:Are you fcking Crazy ? (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40319811)

That's true. Linux teaches students valuable concepts like configuring device drivers and doing free QA for distro companies, so they will be better prepared for the IT monkey jobs which will have been completely eliminated by the time they graduate. Yay! (sounds about as useful as my high school's classes in drafting and carburetor tuning)

Furthermore, students won't be distracted by vendor-specific products, such as how to unclip proprietary patented bra strap designs. Yay x2!

Let's face it, the only concepts kids are going to learn from these shitty chinese Linux laptops is that the ipad product they already own is much nicer. Horse is out of the barn, freetards.

Re:Are you fcking Crazy ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40319261)

Fuck those new-fangled graphics programs, all you really need is mathcastle. Which, btw, does run with FreeDOS in dosbox.

(In case my sarcasm is opaque, I doubt schools are still using such ancient software as Math Blaster.)

Re:Are you fcking Crazy ? (2)

Haedrian (1676506) | more than 2 years ago | (#40319307)

Lets see, when i was in primary school, there was Windows 3.1 and Windows 95. Nothing at all changed in the meanwhile, no interface changes whatsoever.

Re:Are you fcking Crazy ? (3, Interesting)

1u3hr (530656) | more than 2 years ago | (#40319673)

When I was at school the only computer I ever saw was a HP calculator. I wrote a program to find prime numbers in its 50-step memory.

Re:Are you fcking Crazy ? (1)

kermidge (2221646) | more than 2 years ago | (#40319739)

And when I was in primary school the choices were pencil and paper, chalk an blackboard. Early grades, many teachers had a stack or three or flash cards for drill. Looking back, I think it odd that the abacus was not considered.

Re:Are you fcking Crazy ? (3, Funny)

bigdarryld (2551986) | more than 2 years ago | (#40319797)

When I was in school all we had was an apple....... and that was on a tree and I was told not to eat it, but my girlfriend dared me, so I did, and then the whole world went to shit.

Re:Are you fcking Crazy ? (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40319127)

Why not? I have always been thankful for the breadth of hardware I was exposed to in school (I was very lucky in this respect). I have told parents countless times that the reason I was able to succeed in compsci was through identifying the commonalities between the various platforms and recognizing those commonalities as rooted in computer science theory.

They'll be exposed to Windows every day of their lives elsewhere. Let them learn something new.

Re:Are you fcking Crazy ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40319809)

They'll be exposed to Windows every day of their lives elsewhere.

And then it won't just be their commonalities they're rooted in...

Re:Are you fcking Crazy ? (1, Flamebait)

BroadbandBradley (237267) | more than 2 years ago | (#40319183)

so much easier to support than winblows. the only issue you ever run into is training, and kids will figure stuff out on their own. I replaced various versions of Windows at my company 5 years ago and that's the last time I had to dick around with spyware and virus scans and reloading OS's, Ubuntu just works and users don't break it. go back to redmond where you work and stay there.

Re:Are you fcking Crazy ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40319253)

Good one

Re:Are you fcking Crazy ? (-1)

hairyfish (1653411) | more than 2 years ago | (#40319527)

so much easier to support than winblows. the only issue you ever run into is training

I'm guessing the irony of that statement is lost on you. Most people in this world run Windows or to a lesser extent Mac at home. Save the linux religious crusade for the computer club and stick with what people want to use, not what you want them to have.

Children want to understand the world (3, Interesting)

Casandro (751346) | more than 2 years ago | (#40319449)

Children want to understand the world. They want to shake something and have a sound coming out of it. They want to press the button of a typewriter for a letter to appear on the paper. They want to learn about cause and effect in order to understand the world around them. That is their basic instinct.

The older they are, the more complex those systems can be. However it is always important that the system behaves in a deterministic way, so the child can learn from it.

Unixoid operating systems provide that consistent behavior. They provide you with a command line and every time you type in those magic words, they will do the same. You can also combine them... just like Lego or other types of building blocks.
While you can do the same on Windows, theoretically, the learning curve is much higher. People will need to learn complex non-interactive programming languages to do the same unixoid people simply do on a console.

If you put a child in front of a Windows Box, you are robbing them of the experience that computers are reliable deterministic tools used extend their minds. It's like giving them a box of crayons which for some invisible reason work differently every time.

Re:Are you fcking Crazy ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40319631)

Obviously you've never heard of Unity or Gnome3 -- both designed exclusively for children.

Have you tried? (4, Informative)

buzzsawddog (1980902) | more than 2 years ago | (#40319101)

I have found http://www.linux-laptop.net/ [linux-laptop.net] useful in the past. Good on you for introducing them to linux at a young age. Wish I would have found linux before 14...

sounds like a Netbook (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40319129)

I'm using an Asus 1215T. It was $300 brand new. It runs KDE on Ubuntu just fine even with fancy kwin compositing, and has no problems with even heavy-ish software like LibreOffice and so on.

Cheap, quiet, lightweight, powerful enough to run most anything.

http://netbooksreview.net/asus/1215t-review/

Netbooks + RAM + SSD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40319157)

Get 10" netbook with a couple of gigs of ram and replace the internal drive with an SSD. It'll fly, have great (relatively) battery life and it will be kid sized.

solicit bids (1)

BroadbandBradley (237267) | more than 2 years ago | (#40319161)

I'm going to assume that you're going to get a bunch of these things, I'd contact several different manufacturers and solicit bids for laptops running Linux. Hopefully you'll be getting enough volume to be taken seriously and helped by people who sell computers. If it's for the Kids to use I'd look real hard at "Netbooks" because kids don't mind the smaller size and you'll find that you can get what you need at a much lower price point. Call Dell, Call IBM, Call them all and tell them you want Linux Laptops for a whole school what can they do for you.

Re:solicit bids (5, Funny)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 2 years ago | (#40319751)

Call Dell, Call IBM

Calling IBM won't help. Unless you want an IBM BladeCenter . . . every kid gets his own blade. Or why not virtualize and consolidate everything to one 24/7 zSeries. The server will have a better attendance record than the school kids.

IBM doesn't sell PCs. But they will sell you a cloud of them, so that would be easier for the school kids to carry, because clouds are lightweight. Hey, no need to worry about theft! How do you steal a kid's cloud like his lunch money? And since the cloud is nowhere and everywhere, the kids can use it at school and at home.

Of course, the ultimate solution would be to buy an IBM Watson system. It is so smart, that you can get rid of those damn kids in your school altogether.

Need? (5, Insightful)

colinrichardday (768814) | more than 2 years ago | (#40319171)

Do elementary-school students really need laptops?

Re:Need? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40319285)

Wish I had karma to give you. Kids don't need this in Primary School.

Re:Need? (4, Interesting)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 2 years ago | (#40319445)

People from OLPC [laptop.org] may disagree with you, and at least the experience in my country, 5 years after it got implemented, seem to be positive.

But maybe would consider putting Sugar (i.e. from here [sugarlabs.org] ) as environment instead of a "normal" desktop and/or distribution

Re:Need? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40319327)

I'd guess the general curriculum and tools used aren't much up to him other than, "get me a laptop that will get kids to this site".

Re:Need? (1)

ChunderDownunder (709234) | more than 2 years ago | (#40319345)

My nephew, 11, and niece, 6, were both required to purchase iPads for the school year.

Computing is rapidly replacing blackboards and pencil&paper.

Re:Need? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40319409)

Really? Ipads are nice but easy to crack the screen if they are dropped and expensive to replace.

Wasting money now to be taught in schools... (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40319453)

Any school requiring my kids to purchase anything from a particular vendor, ESPECIALLY Apple is going to get sued by me, in addition to my pulling my kids out and sending them to a better school. (There must be a better school, since any school making such requirements is obviously inferior.)

iFad's are not necessary for education, in fact they're a distraction from it, (unless the education is on how to play mini-games). Any public or private primary or secondary school that insists on electronic babysitting of students rather than actually teaching them is part of the reason we are falling farther and farther behind other nations in education.

Why not take the money squandered on devices for playing games, and spend it instead on paying teachers? Maybe even buying them supplies like chalk, etc., so they don't have to pay for that stuff out of their own pockets, like mine did.

Apple must be loving that though... I wonder how much money Apple kicks back to the people running the schools every time one agrees to go along with that kind of harebrained idea to waste a bundle on technical toys from Apple... Plus, each time this happens, it helps entrench their "experience" (over functionality) in the minds of impressionable children, and reinforces the value of standoffish, jealous, closed-mindedness, versus the openness of the community that Apple has stolen so much from, (OS-X borrowed very heavily from a variant of BSD) and given so little back.

Re:Wasting money now to be taught in schools... (2)

Capsaicin (412918) | more than 2 years ago | (#40319825)

Any school requiring my kids to purchase anything from a particular vendor, ESPECIALLY Apple is going to get sued by me ...

Under what head of action? Wouldn't it depend whether it was a government school or a commercially operated one?

Re:Need? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40319455)

Toys are rapidly replacing blackboards and pencil&paper.

Couldn't agree more.

Re:Need? (5, Insightful)

Mindscrew (1861410) | more than 2 years ago | (#40319613)

Why would you EVER buy a 6-11 year old child a 300+ dollar piece of technology to take to school?

Are you really trying to just throw you money away?

If a school district ever required my (nonexistent) child to carry a device around that costs hundreds of dollars, i would pull my kid out of that district fater then they can say "but its our requirement!"

Are you KIDDING me? The last thing i want is for some 5th grader to steal my child's ipad that i paid for with my hard earned money.

If they want to provide them... and provide support.... and provide replacements to stolen ipads... free of charge from me... than fine. But this would never happen with our education budgets.

And dont come to me to replace the stupid thing when it comes up missing.

Im sorry but that is ridiculous.

Re:Need? (1)

ChunderDownunder (709234) | more than 2 years ago | (#40319661)

Yuppie private school sets its own rules, parents pick up the cost.

Re:Need? (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 2 years ago | (#40319769)

Why would a school require a specific brand of media player?
If they wanted to use computer technology, it would make much more sense to specify "a device capable of running a webbrowser with atleast 7" screen" or something like that.

Re:Need? (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 2 years ago | (#40319367)

No, they don't really. But one can't start their political education too early.

Re:Need? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40319381)

Mine has an iPad. It's educational and entertainment on one device. She always knows where it is so when she says what does "x" mean I can say "go look it up" and she doesn't say "I don't know where the dictionary is"? I'm teaching her to use Wikipedia. She can use the calculator to check her math work. She has some games. She watches some videos. Listens to some music.

She'd destroy a laptop, though. Can't even imagine what a boy would do with one.

Re:Need? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40319501)

All of my jobs except one would have laughed at me if I had asked for a laptop. Not in the budget. Apparently public schools have more money than corporations?

Re:Need? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40319689)

Define "need". Of course you could go without. But computers are really important tools for a lot of people and I don't really expect that to change in the near future. I would certainly support making sure children are comfortable using them and learn some basic concepts about them.

Of course there are problems:
* You need competent teachers that know what they are doing
* It's probably easy to mistake "doing things with laptops" for actual education

Use BSD. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40319173)

Linux is for sissies.

Netbooks (5, Insightful)

subreality (157447) | more than 2 years ago | (#40319177)

You don't want an Air. That's basically taking the parts from a full power, full featured laptop and using heavy integration to cram it into an extra thin case.

Doing that for cheaper is basically the definition of "Ultrabook".

But you're looking for less powerful and less expensive. That's square on what Netbooks were created for. Pick your favorite 12" model.

If you want something with more midrange performance, look at the Thinkpad X130 series. It's not a real Thinkpad, but more of a premium-grade netbook.

Re:Netbooks (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40319343)

But you're looking for less powerful and less expensive. That's square on what Netbooks were created for. Pick your favorite 12" model.

Fuck 12" netbooks with a chainsaw. Yes, you get an AMAZING 1366x768 on even cheap models (oh wait, the same as the better 9" or 10" machines), but in exchange you bulk up the chassis, make pixels the size of chiclets, and spend more power lighting up the extra square inches. Unless you are both an accomplished touch-typist and have high-school rather than elementary-school sized hands, the bigger keyboard which is the only real advantage of 12" machines isn't an advantage at all.

I don't think HP still offers the mini-note 2140, and I don't know how whatever successor notebooks line up, but that would've been my pick for this use a couple years ago when I was shopping for a netbook. (I ended up springing for a Fujitsu U820 instead, but its successor UH900 is probably a bit too expensive for a school program.)

Thinking outside the box (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40319187)

Thinking outside the box, what about something like the Asus Transformer Pad TF300? It's lightweight and cheap but should be fine for email etc and comes in a version with a nifty detachable keyboard. I haven't seen this particular version, but the previous gen. Transformer Prime seemed sturdy enough to cope with kids detaching the keyboard.

A quick search turned up a couple of guides for dual booking the transformer prime, plus some articles about the bootloader being unlockable via asus, so perhaps this new one will be easier to install another OS on.

lots of school software is windows only (1, Insightful)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#40319197)

lots of school software is windows only so linux may be a no go.

Re:lots of school software is windows only (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40319291)

Lots of school software is Linux only. Your point?

Re:lots of school software is windows only (1)

fredgiblet (1063752) | more than 2 years ago | (#40319447)

-1 Funny 7/10, would laugh again

Re:lots of school software is windows only (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 2 years ago | (#40319785)

Depends on your definition of "lots".

Re:lots of school software is windows only (3, Insightful)

niftydude (1745144) | more than 2 years ago | (#40319571)

Submitter said he wanted to run edubuntu.

Edubuntu doesn't run on windows...

Re:lots of school software is windows only (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 2 years ago | (#40319779)

VMWare, VirtualBox, VirtualPC and lots of others disagree.

Acer Aspire 11.6" (2)

steveha (103154) | more than 2 years ago | (#40319217)

I have an Acer laptop with an 11.6" screen and I am very fond of it. The size and weight are great.

The model I have is no longer made, but the Acer Aspire One series is still made.

Most of those seem to have an Atom chip. I also have an Acer with an Atom and I pretty much hate the Atom... very slow. It's possible that newer Atom chips suck less.

I haven't tested the AMD "E" chips yet, but here is an Acer Aspire One with a dual-core "E" chip.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16834215340 [newegg.com]

The only thing is that for kids, it might be better to have an SSD rather than a spinning-metal hard disk, but that model has a 320 GB spinning-metal hard disk.

Oh, on at least my Acer laptop, modern Linux distros like Ubuntu or Mint just work. All hardware detected correctly, WiFi works out of the box, etc. As I said, I haven't tried the newest one so I can't promise anything for sure.

steveha

Lightweight, light power, secure, internet / WP... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40319251)

Sounds like a perfect use case for Chromebooks.

Yea and I'd like... (4, Funny)

bmacs27 (1314285) | more than 2 years ago | (#40319275)

...a Bugatti in sort of a Camry price range.

Asus/Google Tablet (4, Interesting)

steveha (103154) | more than 2 years ago | (#40319277)

I think that an Android tablet might be a good way to go: very compact and lightweight, durable (no moving parts such as a hard disk or cooling fan), and very long battery life. Less expensive than a laptop, and you could buy accessories and software with the left-over money: get some sort of keyboard and Android software for word processing and such.

Asus and Google are going to announce a low-cost Android tablet. The rumored specs are: 7" screen, Tegra 3 processor at 1.3 GHz (that's 4 general-purpose cores), probably 1 GB of RAM and probably 8 GB of flash storage. Expected price will be $250 or $200.

http://www.pcworld.com/article/257296/googles_sub250_nexus_7_tablet_coming_late_june_report_says.html [pcworld.com]

I have a Nook Color that I rooted, and installed "PhireMod 7.2" (a particular build of CyanogenMod 7). I am very pleased with my 7" tablet. It's big enough to be useful and small enough to carry around, and I love the battery life.

steveha

Linux netbooks. (1)

blind biker (1066130) | more than 2 years ago | (#40319279)

There was a flurry of models with Linux installed (and there still are some being made/sold), and then the community created instructions for installing basically almost any other distro, on them. Best of all
- small
- lightweight
- cheap

I installed xubuntu, mint, DSL and SLAX on mine.

Linux Netbook [linux-netbook.com] is a good resource, if you decide to go this route.

Buy bulk (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40319281)

I bought a smaller laptop from a popular Linux vendor, and the thing is 1) not really a great build and 2) rapidly breaking down. Just this month the power light on the power button failed. Three months ago, all of the metal badges (including the "brand name") came off. The machine came with a note that said that basically the SD card reader would never work. OK...whatever, I can live with that I guess.
 
My advice would be to go after the 14 or 15" models because they generally have working parts and can take a bit more abuse than the smaller models like the one I have.

Sidenote (0)

jones_supa (887896) | more than 2 years ago | (#40319299)

We do not need much horsepower as the main use will be internet/email/word processing and whatever other apps come with edubuntu.

That could be written "internet/email/{word processing}" as it can otherwise be interpreted as "internet processing, email processing and word processing".

ThinkPenguin is the answer (4, Informative)

aloniv (1972020) | more than 2 years ago | (#40319321)

ThinkPenguin is one of only a few OEMs that sell hardware that is fully supported by free (as in freedom) drivers (so the hardware will continue to work even after the manufacturer stops supporting it). If you visit libre.thinkpenguin.com then the Trisquel distro (a fully free distro based on Ubuntu without any proprietary software) gets a share of the profits.

Phil Zimmermann's post-PGP project: silentcircle (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40319337)

Phil Zimmermann's post-PGP project: privacy for a price:
https://silentcircle.com/ [silentcircle.com]

Phil Zimmermann released PGP for free, but he's planning to charge about $20 a month for his new Silent Circle encryption service. It's unlikely to be applauded by encryption-wary law enforcement agencies.

Declan McCullagh | by Declan McCullagh | June 12, 2012 5:30 AM PDT

http://news.cnet.com/8301-1009_3-57451057-83/phil-zimmermanns-post-pgp-project-privacy-for-a-price/ [cnet.com]

"PGP creator Phil Zimmermann says he thinks people will pay $20 a month for secure communications.
(Credit: Declan McCullagh/CNET)

He rocketed to privacy stardom over two decades ago with the release of PGP, the first widely available program that made it easy to encrypt e-mail. Now Phil Zimmermann wants to do the same thing for phone calls.

Zimmermann's new company, Silent Circle, plans to release a beta version of an iPhone and Android app in late July that encrypts phone calls and other communications. A final version is scheduled to follow in late September.

This time around, Zimmermann is facing not the possibility of prison time on charges of violating encryption export laws, but a more traditional challenge: convincing would-be users that protecting their privacy is worth paying Silent Circle something like $20 a month.

"I'm not going to apologize for the cost," Zimmermann told CNET, adding that the final price has not been set. "This is not Facebook. Our customers are customers. They're not products. They're not part of the inventory."

Silent Circle's planned debut comes amid recent polls suggesting that Internet users remain concerned about online data collection (or at least are willing to tell pollsters so), with Facebook topping health insurers, banks, and even the federal government as today's No. 1 privacy threat. Yet even after a decade of startups that have tried to capitalize on these concerns, consumers spending their own money remain consistently difficult to persuade that paying for privacy is worth it.

Zimmermann hopes to overcome this reluctance by offering a set of services designed from the start to be simple to use: encrypted e-mail, encrypted phone calls, and encrypted instant messaging. (Encrypted SMS text messages are eventually planned too.)

"We're going after target markets that have a special need for this," Zimmermann said. "For example, U.S. military serving overseas that wish to speak to their families."

One sales pitch unique to Silent Circle is Zimmermann's own history of high-profile support for civil liberties that recently placed him in the Internet Hall of Fame, including spending four years under threat of criminal indictment for releasing PGP in the early 1990s. At the time, encryption software was regulated as a munition, meaning unlicensed export could be a federal felony. Zimmermann later founded PGP Inc., now owned by Symantec.

Symantec has focused far more on selling PGP-branded products to corporations, not individuals. Symantec's Web page for PGP Whole Disk Encryption, for instance, boasts that the utility "provides organizations with comprehensive, high performance full disk encryption" to protect "customer and partner data."

PGP "moved too far away from individual users," Zimmermann says. "It was geared so heavily toward enterprise that I felt it was hard to use for ordinary people. That was kind of sad. My original intent was individuals. Now I get to go back to individuals again."

Also involved in Silent Circle are Mike Janke, a former Navy SEAL sniper turned privacy advocate; Vic Hyder, a Navy SEAL commander and founder of a maritime security firm; and PGP co-founder Jon Callas.

Silent Circle's app will securely scramble conversations -- using end-to-end encryption and the ZRTP protocol -- between two people if both are using its software. If only one person has the app, the connection will be scrambled only to Silent Circle's servers, which could still be valuable for overseas users worried less about the FBI and more about their own government eavesdroppers.

"We will have a Windows PC and a Mac version as well," says Zimmermann, who after selling PGP founded a now-defunct startup called Zfone. "We don't have that now. For our beta, we're just going to have the smartphones, iOS and Android. We'll have the other platforms for the real release."

Law enforcement, which warns that tech advances have made it far more difficult to wiretap Americans suspected of illegal activities, is unlikely to applaud Zimmermann's new venture. As CNET reported last month, the FBI has drafted a proposed law that would require providers of VoIP, instant messaging, and Web e-mail to alter their code to ensure their products are wiretap-friendly by building in backdoors for government surveillance.

"If you create a service, product, or app that allows a user to communicate, you get the privilege of adding that extra coding" as long as it reaches the threshold for a minimum number of users, an industry representative who reviewed the FBI's draft legislation said.

The FBI's proposal would amend a 1994 law, called the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) that currently applies only to telecommunications providers, not Web or peer-to-peer VoIP companies. The Federal Communications Commission extended CALEA in 2004 to sweep in broadband networks and VoIP providers such as Vonage (which uses the telephone network) but not Skype-to-Skype calls (which are peer-to-peer).

Depending on the final wording, the legislation could target Silent Circle -- meaning that, 21 years after he released PGP, Phil Zimmermann has not lost his knack for vexing the U.S. government."

© 2012 CBS Interactive. All rights reserved.
- http://www.mccullagh.org/ [mccullagh.org]
- http://www.twitter.com/declanm [twitter.com]

This might help (1)

Haedrian (1676506) | more than 2 years ago | (#40319357)

https://friendly.ubuntu.com/ [ubuntu.com]

This is a list of hardware models which have been user tested to work with ubuntu. I assume edubuntu will work just as well.

Linux Terminal Server Project (LTSP) for Education (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40319361)

is a much better option which lowers support costs and with the proper configuration allows students access from school, library, and home to the applications they need for their education.

In the end (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40319393)

Just tell Microsoft you are contemplating Linux and they will happily supply you with free OS's and software...
Happens again and again..

Probably a used Thinkpad (1)

Casandro (751346) | more than 2 years ago | (#40319403)

Ignoring the point whether they actually need a laptop at that age, I'd go for a nice used Thinkpad X40 or something. That's more than enough processing power, they are small and light, durable and cheap.

The demands of little children and bank managers are fairly similar. They both are likely to damage "cheap" consumer notebooks (which often cost substantially more than a used Thinkpad) easily, so you need something durable.

What's more important than the hardware is the pedagogic framework behind it. It's no use giving a child access to a computer without helping it to learn how to program it.

laptops needed? (1)

ChunderDownunder (709234) | more than 2 years ago | (#40319405)

Raspberry pi? $35 per student plus screens and peripherals.

Get the woodworking kids to design cases for them.

Re:laptops needed? (1)

SeaFox (739806) | more than 2 years ago | (#40319559)

Woodworking in elementary school?

Re:laptops needed? (2)

ChunderDownunder (709234) | more than 2 years ago | (#40319573)

Balsa wood, glue, done.

Re:laptops needed? (1)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 2 years ago | (#40319653)

I for one was doing simple woodworking in my primary school. Especially the later years. I also joined a carpentry club at the time.

That did not include the use of power tools, by the way. If any power tools were needed the teacher/supervisor would do this. The rest a 10-12 yo can handle. (Jig)sawing, hammering a nail, glueing: it may not be so perfectly straight yet, but they're old enough to do it.

iPads? (2, Interesting)

Coward Anonymous (110649) | more than 2 years ago | (#40319421)

Have you considered iPads?

From a form factor perspective is it imperative that the kids have laptops and not tablets?

If budget is a real world concern then iPads either cost as much or are, more typically, cheaper than a decent laptop/netbook. Any potential software to be purchased can be purchased with Apple's education discounts. Tablets are easier for IT to manage (reducing TCO) and have a more portable form factor which the kids will probably prefer. In addition, kids will probably prefer tablets as they are more fun to use and the accommodate a kid's work habits (away from the table and perched upside down from the furniture).

Bottom line, I think you are asking yourself the wrong question. Instead of asking yourself what Linux laptop you can afford, you should be asking yourself what serves your customers - the kids - best given your budget?

Re:iPads? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40319473)

The topic is about teaching kids how productively to use computers. Not consume content. There is nothing to learn from an iOS device.

What is the concept behind an iPad at that age? (5, Interesting)

Casandro (751346) | more than 2 years ago | (#40319489)

What can a child do with an iPad at that age?
If it's just "reading books" and "playing games", then you should consider cheaper alternatives since obviously your child could also use books and games. The even more pressing issue is of course that tablets don't give tactile feedback. Playing with bricks, for example, gives that feedback. They need to learn how strongly they need to grip such a block and they practice that since they want to learn how to use the blocks. That's an experience a tablet cannot give them.

Don't confuse the latest fad rich people have with something which will benefit your child.

Re:iPads? (1, Troll)

hairyfish (1653411) | more than 2 years ago | (#40319539)

>

Instead of asking yourself what Linux laptop you can afford, you should be asking yourself what serves your customers - the kids - best given your budget?

Hey this is a Linux crusade, your logic is not welcome here.

Re:iPads? (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 2 years ago | (#40319637)

I don't know, I've watched my niece and nephew playing educational games on iphone and android, and they seem to be learning a lot. They play counting games or whatever, and they're young, but do you have any reason to believe they can't teach kids? It seems kind of close-minded to reject laptops as useless when you haven't even tried.

Re:iPads? (1)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 2 years ago | (#40319643)

transformers would make more sense.

at least they'd be linux and with a kb.

Re:iPads? (1)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 2 years ago | (#40319703)

My kid is reaching primary age now, and I dread the idea of having to buy a tablet for him. Some schools here actually give iPads to their students... a waste of money.

Tablets are OK to read books, watch a video, browse the Internet or read an e-mail, but all of those (except watching video) he can't do yet. He can read/write maybe a hundred Chinese characters plus a handful of English words by now, but he first should learn to write them properly. Not just because it teaches him to write, but it also teaches fine motor movements, and that's something that people tend to forget about.

He will later need a computer to type homework, but for proper typing nothing beats a good old keyboard.

A tablet you can't type on AND read the screen at the same time unless you bend yourself in a cramped position. Eyes point forward, fingers point downward. There is a reason most laptop screens don't hinge 180 to flat down above the keyboard.

When he's older, and can read well, a tablet may be a textbook replacement. It definitely has it's advantages: compact, light weight, easily updated, can add more videos and images. Yet that's P3 at the earliest. A tablet may or may not be useful for inputting Chinese characters as it may allow handwriting input, though finger drawing on a touch screen is a big difference from pen writing on paper.

To come back on the subject: in my case, I'd look out for a netbook for him. Smaller keyboard is no problem for small fingers, they're cheap so not too much lost when broken, and often built quite rugged compared to normal laptops - at least that's my feeling from holding them in my hands. Furthermore for normal web browsing, book reading and word processing they're plenty powerful enough.

I remember when . . . (0, Flamebait)

drsmack1 (698392) | more than 2 years ago | (#40319427)

. . . kids went to school and learned critical thinking skills and 'how to learn'. Teaching computers or with computers in k-12 is the biggest fraud ever perpetrated on the american education system.

Teach someone how to think and they'll be able to pick up any necessary skills they haven't gotten from their own (outside of school).

And before one of you autistic fucks start your little knee-jerk arguments about "preparing little Susie for the internet age", do this:

* First, go fuck yourself

* Then go find some random 18 year olds (and I mean RANDOM, not your own little autistic fucks) and start asking them things that a graduate of HS should know. They won't know any of it.

And I know that there are a few of you who are silently nodding along and think that they agree with me. Sorry you autistic fucks, I'm not talking about teaching creationism or whatever BS that you are using for political advantage. I'm talking about the wholesale churning out of kids who can't write complete sentences.

Queue the downvotes by those who like the system just the way it is - a production line producing "adults" that are not capable of self-government. Look at a fucking map sometime of who votes democrat in this country. If you ever found yourself driving somewhere where you feel compelled to roll up your windows and lock your doors - guess what? I betcha you are in a blue spot on the map...

And yes, I understand that on average those living in the red areas aren't real technically inclined and all that - because you know, that is what makes people functional adults, capable of being happy and helping others to be happy; right? For all your sputtering arrogance; are you happy? Do you make those around you happy?

Well, no worries, being able to memorize lengthy bits of pi is more important than being neurologically healthy; right?

Yeah champ; you keep telling yourself that.

There is one simple and unalterable fact: without the 90-99% rubber stamp vote by the most apathetic, lazy, ignorant, and easily propagandized groups of people in the USA, liberals/socialists/hucksters would be unable to win any sort of nationwide elections at all. Doesn't sound like they have any actual motivation to succeed in what they *say* they want to accomplish.

If Republicans are "for the rich" and "against the poor" - which group do they have a vested interest in growing? Who gives them their power?

If the Democrats are "for the poor" - which group do they have a vested interest in growing? Who gives them their power?

This is the sort of simple *human* understanding that separate the parse-everything-and-understand-nothing autistic fucks and the neurologically closer to normal people.

You want to know if you are one of the people that I am talking about (autistic fucks)? Look inside yourself and note how you are processing my little screed. If you find yourself looking for minor caveats and unimportant exceptions instead of thinking of a argument against the *idea* that I am putting forth - you are one of the people who are the problem.

And no, not every autistic spectrum person out there is a Einstein or Tesla. No. You see, for every nut like those two fine fellows that actually generated a net positive for the world, there are hundreds of thousand who have all of the deficits and none of the abilities of those two. And you fuckers DO NOT understand human nature, so you are soooo easily fooled by any bit of rubbish that is wrapped in some sort of pseudo-scientific bs.

And you greasy foreigners out there. You can read this, you can read that - but you have no fucking idea WHATSOEVER about what is going on in this country. None. Unless you can go back in time and really do a study on how institutions worked in the USA in the 1950's, you have no frame of reference and your opinions are simply not applicable. If the USA had blinked out of existence in 1900, the world would now be the same kind of cesspool of human bondage and misery that was the entirety of human history before.

When this country implodes within the next fifty years, we won't be able to offer a military deterrent anymore. Guess what happens then? All your little paradises of socialism that you point to and endlessly praise will be destroyed but whoever the bully in the neighborhood is. Who is going to stop them? Canada? Japan? Hmmm?

We are in a bubble right now; not unlike the tech bubble. The current state of humanity, the average quality of life for every being on the planet is better now than at any time in the past. And that has happened because the USA exists. When the USA destroys itself, who will protect you?

You think there won't be any more Hitler's? No more Stalin's? Go back and look at the world when it was at the mercy of their predecessors. Warlords sacking whole cities, civilizations being ground to dust, wholesale genocide whenever that suited their needs.

All that AGW bullshit will seem a lot less pressing when foreign soldiers fill your streets and your leaders are publicly executed.

You are all children, and you know not what you do. It really is sad, and nothing can stop it.

Re:I remember when . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40319477)

nice troll, but i think u should have said 'autistic' more often...

Asus EEEPad Transformer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40319437)

Dual functionality. Cheap. Fast. Customisable

Re:Asus EEEPad Transformer (1)

thsths (31372) | more than 2 years ago | (#40319619)

It is nice, and kids love touchscreens. But it is not cheap, and functional is a question of definition. Most software will not run on it, that makes it a lot less useful, especially in an educational environment. If you can solve these two problem - great, otherwise you are stuck.

A netbook with HD Ready resolution may be a good alternative.

something MacBook Air (0)

cjeze (596987) | more than 2 years ago | (#40319471)

If you want something of high quality like the MacBook Air you need to pay for it.

MBT shoes our bodies were notflat foot while walki (-1, Offtopic)

hote552200 (2661737) | more than 2 years ago | (#40319493)

The unique design of the MBT sole makes your body work harder with every step you take. The natural rolling movement of walking on an uneven surface expends more energy. According to research conducted by independent labs, your lower leg muscles are 18% more active when walking in mbt shoes [mbtpromotions.com] than in normal athletic shoes. Your thigh muscles work 19% harder, and your buttocks work 9% harder. Even the muscles of your abdomen and upper back work harder. The end result is more toned and shapelier muscles.

Chromebook (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40319509)

Samsung has a nice one, total cost of ownership is a lot lower, replacement is trivial, and the web gives you all the apps you need. What's not to like?

Not an HP! (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40319537)

First, my recommendations:

Acer - I have seen minimal compatibility issues. Build quality ranges from pretty good to ok. Modifiable. Aesthetically respectable.

Asus - Generally of pretty good build quality. Aesthetically above average. Usually quite compatible. Modifiable from my experience. Has made some unfriendly decisions regarding Linux lately. I am partial to Asus, at least until they push too far with Linux hostilities. They also make motherboards, which is a good skill to have in a manufacturer.

MSI - Pretty good.

Gateway - Pretty good from a few years back, though I am not sure now.

Build Your Own - There are websites out there that will allow you to build your own laptop to your desired specs. More expensive, but you get what you truly desire.

Now for the crap:

HP - Sometimes they look great, they usually perform very well in Windows and Linux, of generally acceptable build quality. But they do something that really, REALLY pisses me off; they poison the BIOS to prevent hardware modification. I once tried to change my Broadcom wifi chip to an Atheros, both identical half-mini PCI, and the computer would refuse to boot, providing only an error message of "Unsupported Hardware Detected". I despise HP. I could go on too.

Sony - (insert profanity here)

Lenovo - Often pretty to look at, good performance on Win/Lin, but like HP they are hostile to customer hardware modifications and often poison the BIOS. You might also note that flashing the BIOS does not correct the problem easily. They sure aren't IBM anymore. But I think IBM may have also shared this authoritarianism.

Mac - Beautiful little bastards. But I'll leave it at that.

Re:Not an HP! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40319557)

Had a little Linux Mint x freeze and lost my original post and forgot Toshiba:

Tougher than pickup truck, often ugly, sometimes have a few bugs in Linux but nothing intolerable, modifiable so far as I've seen, ugly. I have abused, used, modified and loved every Toshiba I've had.

  - Anon from above comment

Linux on the desktop is dead (-1, Flamebait)

hairyfish (1653411) | more than 2 years ago | (#40319555)

When are you guys going to accept that Linux on desktop/laptop is dead? It went from nowhere to next to nowhere and is heading back that way quickly. If you hate Windows, go Apple, or if you hate Apple go Windows. Most kids are not interested in programming, You owe it to them to teach them something that they'll actually see and use out in the real world.

Re:Linux on the desktop is dead (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40319593)

Care to explain anything beyond video games that Linux can't do well on a desktop? Did you forget about the thousands of free education applications? About the free, uh, everything? Unless sabotaged, I just don't see how Linux could ever die before the desktop dies itself. But I don't live under a bridge.

Re:Linux on the desktop is dead (2)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 2 years ago | (#40319773)

Most kids wouldn't care much about what OS is installed, either. The person who has to provide technical support to the devices, does.

Besides one shouldn't teach a child "windows" or "word", one should teach concepts such as: files and folders, types of storage media, text input (including touch typing - I've never had proper courses myself unfortunately, computers were considered so simply that you don't need to learn to type), basic text layout, serif vs sans-serif font, input methods (an issue for Chinese input), basics of a spreadsheet: what it is, what it can be used for. Maybe even basics of databases. Don't go deep: most people don't need that in daily life, and if they do need it they have the foundation to build upon.

By the time your current primary school kid reaches the workforce, our current computers and software will be obsolete, yet the concept of files and folders goes back many decades already and is likely to stay with us for a very long time. Fonts also stay with us, as do layout principles.

And to learn those concepts, it really doesn't matter which OS is installed. They all use the same concepts, even when it looks a bit different. Seeing the same concepts in a different environment can even be a boon for learning as it shows more of the idea of the concept being universal, and independent of the exact presentation.

Stop It (5, Insightful)

KalvinB (205500) | more than 2 years ago | (#40319565)

You know what would educate kids better than some flavor of laptop?

Teachers.

Portuguese elementary school laptop (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40319581)

Portugal implemented last years a national initiative to let every child at elementary schools a laptop.
The project has been labelled 'Projecto Magalhães' (from XVI century navigator Magellan, as you english speaking people called him).
As far as I know, that laptop has been exported at big scale to other countries.
I suggest you to take a look at
http://www.jpsacouto.pt/pt/home/-o-10734/magalhaes-o27272/
and
http://comunidade.magalhaes.caixamagica.pt/ (unhapilly only in portuguese)
This last address points to a Linux implementation for Magalhaes laptop.
Best regards,

José

Android Tablet 10" (1)

should_be_linear (779431) | more than 2 years ago | (#40319599)

It have adequately big IPS display, attachable keyboard when you need one, and it is not expensive (like $200).

Any Acer product less MS tax (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40319655)

"MacBook Air-like but not nearly as expensive" - wow, that's a big ask, I'm sure there's an undiscovered gem out there to fit the bill. Not.

Try any old Acer product, preferably with an AMD processor. Here's why: http://acer.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/280/kw/windows%20refund

I've done the refund, Acer is awesome. Windows refund? Big deal, been there, done that.

Laptop Choice recommendations/considerations (1)

thatkid_2002 (1529917) | more than 2 years ago | (#40319679)

Obviously you want an Ultra-book of some type. They're basically the same as the Macbook air (yes, even aluminium unibodies) but you can get them slightly cheaper (especially in the USA). I don't know which one to recommend on basis of Linux compatibility but I'd suspect most would work well. They also (by Intel requirements) use Intel graphics which pretty much always play nice under Linux - and usually the battery life of an ultrabook is great. In 6 months I would bet that there will be $700 ultrabooks as I can currently find $799 ones.

Distribution wise I would be looking at Fedora (and it's complete ecosystem) or Linux Mint (Debian Edition, MATE and Cinnamon are *great* Gnome 2/3 replacements) rather than the tumultuous *buntu distributions.

The Dell XPS 13 ultrabook apparently going to be shipped with Ubuntu as a "developer" option however the reliability of the Dell consumer range is *terrible* and they also seem to have a $999 price tag. Maybe officially refurbished Macbook Airs are an option as they come with warranty for about $800 and maybe there could be a better education discount.

I would also be consulting with teachers about how/what *they* would want to use whatever hardware. Teachers are mostly concerned about *learning outcomes* and if they don't integrate the laptops (or tablets if you go that route) into the syllabus then they just won't get used.

BTW, on the server side of things you may want to check out Resara Server as an Active Directory replacement - this is more your area right :) ?

Buy something that actually works (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40319695)

I think you should first limit yourself to distributions that are fully free. Teach the kids solid values. Here's the list http://www.gnu.org/distros/free-distros.html [gnu.org]

Then make a Live CD and go to a brick-and-mortar and give the candidate laptops a test drive. The components that most likely will give you grief are graphics cards (3D) and wifi.

What's wrong with Primary kids using laptops? (2)

jampola (1994582) | more than 2 years ago | (#40319771)

Over 20 years ago each classroom at my Primary School (Australian for Elementary School) had an Apple II and by the time I went into High school, they had an Mac in each room.

20 years later, my 7 year old nephew is proficient at working his way around his little Netbook running Debian with lxde, typing emails to me after school and putting together his Primary School grade projects using LibreOffice Draw and he can do it with his eyes closed. He's a smart kid but he's not alone. Many kids these days can muster this without batting an eyelid. Don't underestimate the kids!

For those of you who think that it is unreasonable to have someone at that young age to own a laptop, you need to get out more and get with the times. I think it's a great thing if the school has the opportunity to enable every kid to have his or her own laptop. This kind of thing (along with proper parenting and supervision) is what will make the kids of today absolute geniuses compared to us old farts of yesterday.
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