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Building a Linux Computer Lab for Schools?

Cliff posted more than 9 years ago | from the penguins-in-education dept.

Software 464

joseamuniz asks: "After giving Linux classes to Secondary School Teachers, I got in touch with a non-profit organization called UNETE. This association has donated 1,523 computer labs to public schools in Mexico. I told them about Linux, and they are interested in equipping a beta computer lab with this Operating System, with Intel PIII, 256 MB RAM PCs. The more they like this lab, the higher chances to include Linux in the new labs donated by this institution." What hardware configurations and software packages would you install on such a machine to show off the real power of Linux in an educational environment?

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I'm Moving Tomorrow! (1)

Ads are broken (718513) | more than 9 years ago | (#11769026)

Is there anything I'm forgetting?

Yes (0, Offtopic)

Uber Banker (655221) | more than 9 years ago | (#11769049)

There is.

Re:I'm Moving Tomorrow! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11769058)

You're moving from one side of your parent's basement, to the other?

Don't forget your porn stash that's behind the furnace.

Software to Install (0, Flamebait)

repruhsent (672799) | more than 9 years ago | (#11769078)

Make sure to install some hacks to that stupid K tea cooker app to remind you to take a shower, since Linux users don't take showers - they're always too busy compiling their kernel to get power supply support to be interested in soap and water.

Wow .. what a coincidence.... (2, Interesting)

YankeeInExile (577704) | more than 9 years ago | (#11769027)

... I walk in the door from going to the Gigante to buy some food, and find this story. To think my change might help make a (much needed) dent in the Microsoft mindset here in Mexico makes me smile

knoppix (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11769053)

enough said.

Re:Wow .. what a coincidence.... (-1, Troll)

WordODD (706788) | more than 9 years ago | (#11769071)

Ahh yes the oh so lucrative Mexican market that Microsoft and all other software companies have been trying to break into for years...Maybe this will finally turn the tide for Linux.

Re:Wow .. what a coincidence.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11769139)

Anyway, haven't Miguel and the GNOME guys been flogging stories of massive deployments of Linux in Mexican schools since 1997? I see they've really taken hold...

Re:Wow .. what a coincidence.... (5, Informative)

niiler (716140) | more than 9 years ago | (#11769140)

I have used some old Pentium II 200MHz computers with 2GB harddrives and VectorLinux 4.3 to build a Spanish Language Lab at my wife's school. We have kverbos and Festival text to speech software installed, and other than that, we rely on the free online language services offered by the BBC, by the textbook manufacturer, and other sources. The computers were all donated.

The major cost was time in getting it set up since all the computers have a different configuration.

BTW, VectorLinux hardware detection on these old machines is awesome. Let's just say that after setting up nearly 50 of them, I've only had to edit the XF86Config-4 file two or three times. Also, no problems with strange cards. Also, VL, being Slackware based, is extremely FAST on old machines and boots into IceWM nearly as quickly as it takes my new 1.8 GHz Athlon to load KDE. (Please no flames about how KDE is bloatware, we've all been there.)

Point of the matter is that if you have the time and you have old hardware, setting up one of these labs is a snap.

No Xwindows (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11769029)

For education you dont need Xwindows. Command lines is fast on PIII. It will allow you to learn about real computing but it wont be very popular.

Re:No Xwindows (2, Funny)

yorkpaddy (830859) | more than 9 years ago | (#11769094)

For education you dont need Xwindows. Command lines is fast on PIII.
Grammar is helpful though.

Re:No Xwindows (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11769096)

Troll? Wait until metamoderation time to correct that unless of course your an Author.

Re:No Xwindows (1)

UWC (664779) | more than 9 years ago | (#11769123)

I imagine the "education" here is not educating about Linux but having the Linux boxes function transparently enough to be easily used as tools in education of other subjects. Like Windows boxes are supposed to be in most schools, or the old Apple //e computers gathering dust in corners in the late 80s/early 90s when kids weren't playing Oregon Trail on it after class.

Also, you are quite possibly (probably, even?) trolling. Ah, well.

Games (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11769033)

Dont forget to install a few games. Seeing more students using the computers should make them feel good about them.

Great, but... (3, Interesting)

Radres (776901) | more than 9 years ago | (#11769039)

What educational software packages are available for Linux? Something tells me they haven't ported Oregon Trail to Linux yet.

Re:Great, but... (5, Funny)

zackrentwood (828124) | more than 9 years ago | (#11769089)

I suspect that a Mexican computer lab wouldn't be all that interested in Oregon Trail anyway. Call me crazy, but I suspect it wouldn't fit into their history program very neatly.

Re:Great, but... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11769228)

Yeah, Grand Theft Auto would be more culturally appropriate.

Re:Great, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11769107)


Re:Great, but... (1)

CrazyJim1 (809850) | more than 9 years ago | (#11769122)

I was wondering something similar yesterday. I don't have kids yet, but when I do, I want them to have a wide variety of educational software to chose from. The educational software has to be fun and have some value.

The key between Free and Pay software, is that you can't stockpile a ton of pay software into a bundle to give out to everyone. With a nice standardized bundle, you have a great deal of educational and entertainment value to reap. Many of us play MAME or use abandonware, but that's not legitamate enough to give out in public or distribute to schools.

Re:Great, but... (1)

yaroze32 (689185) | more than 9 years ago | (#11769160)

then use a Commodore 64 or Apple ][ Version in an emulator

Software to be included... (3, Funny)

doodlelogic (773522) | more than 9 years ago | (#11769042)

Windows and Word on a second partition.

Re:Software to be included... (1)

Koiu Lpoi (632570) | more than 9 years ago | (#11769146)

Hah, that shouldn't be as funny as it is.

Me, I would go with AbiWord. Word processing without the bloat. Of course, Abi seems to have problems now and then (like, things randomly not rendering), but that may be a problem with the windows version. OpenOffice is nice, but takes bloody forever to start up.

Re:Software to be included... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11769224)

Abiword is nice but feature lacking, Open Office writer 1.9m79 rocks, use it.

Since its for the REAL WORLD education, use OpenOffice for Office interop and its more similar to Word than abiword is, damn zealot lost the plot.

Re:Software to be included... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11769151)

Yes, the most useful stuff to learn for the average person is MS Office.

Re:Software to be included... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11769162)

I would say Open Office, Mozilla (web browsing), and Thunder Bird (for email checking) are all must-haves (although I don't know bout Thunder Bird for sure since you might not want students checking their email at school?)

Why bother? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11769044)

Windows 2000 or XP will run wonderfully on that level of hardware. Hell, recent Linux distros are MORE resource-intensive than Windows.

Re:Why bother? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11769110)

Someone apparently logged into the wrong news site today.

uehm (0)

1nhuman (597328) | more than 9 years ago | (#11769045)


Security? Control? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11769046)

Since many students will be playing with the machine, what about a semi-secure desktop that can be administrated easily?

Morphix-lightgui (4, Informative)

Raleel (30913) | more than 9 years ago | (#11769047)

Only 256 megs of ram, so I'd stay away from the heavy guis. I'd probably use the litght weight knoppix (runs with xfce) and limit the number of applications on it. The only thing I'd add is OpenOffice. then I'd install it to the drive.

Either that or I'd run K-12 Linux terminal server project. which is a fine network absed distribution.

Re:Morphix-lightgui (1)

zackrentwood (828124) | more than 9 years ago | (#11769158)

Unfortunately, the GUI is probably much more important to adoption than the speed of the system. While I agree that choices should be made to limit RAM usage, I think that Gnome, KDE or similar will be vital to convincing the school that Linux is at least as good as Windows.

Re:Morphix-lightgui (1)

Raleel (30913) | more than 9 years ago | (#11769269)

When I did something similar, I used IceWM with an XP theme. That helped a great deal.

Re:Morphix-lightgui (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11769197)

we run KDE 3.3 on 256 MB ram p2 boxes it does just fine.
if you stay consistant with OO on all boxes then you don't really need to consider having second partition with windows/word

Well, to start .... (3, Insightful)

nanodude (826755) | more than 9 years ago | (#11769052)


Re:Well, to start .... (1)

Koiu Lpoi (632570) | more than 9 years ago | (#11769187)

No kidding, dude. No, actually, install WINE and Windows and run IE, because that's a good idea.

Seriously, other than, say Konqueror (which I wouldn't run on those computers), there's not much else non-mozilla based. And FF is the best in that department, IMHO.

First things first... (5, Insightful)

DrEldarion (114072) | more than 9 years ago | (#11769060)

Make absolutely sure that any software these schools really want to run either has a native Linux version, a practically-idential Linux version, or will run flawlessly under WINE. If the schools can't use the software they want to, it'll leave quite a bad taste in their mouths about Linux.

Re:First things first... (1)

JerkyBoy (455854) | more than 9 years ago | (#11769172)

And then install Ubuntu [] :)

Re:First things first... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11769208)

This is more true than you can possibly imagine. Too often people decide to buy computers because of their speed, size, brand, etc.; but educational usage is more often driven by the software.
Here I am thinking about the very particular packages that are used for very specific needs. It's not uncommon to have part of a special needs child's IEP a requirement for some ancient software running on an Apple ][.
This is actually one place where Linux could distinguish itself. Too often, older software will not run on the newest OSes- I'm looking at you, XP with SP2- and it might be possible to use the various emulators to extend the use of legally owned software.
You can argue until you're blue in the face that it's absurd to expect a 15 year old piece of Windows software to run- but if it fulfills an educational need, it's not absurd. And since most educational software has 1 version only, due to the economics, Linux might be able to save the day.

Re:First things first... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11769250)

Alternatively, explain to them that Linux is a different operating system, and doesn't run the same binaries as Windows, but has its own selection of available software. Trying to pretend like they'll have a seamless transition, when they won't, is IMHO a bad move.

Then point out the numerous other benefits to education (open architecture, freely available source, etc.)

Hrmm... (1)

halltk1983 (855209) | more than 9 years ago | (#11769064)

As much as I love my Gentoo (2 boxes + 1 server running it flawlessly) I think that the setup would be quite scary for them. Though if it was all on the same type of computer, you could make 1 setup, and just copy it from box to box.

But I think Debian or SuSe is more of what they are looking for. Any of the linuxes should be impressive, though, if they are used to Windows:-)

What kind of people who work with computers don't (0)

jdan (411331) | more than 9 years ago | (#11769066)

This post just sounds fishy to me. These people donate thousands of computer labs and they don't know anything about Linux? Is this for real?


Doesn't show off the power (4, Informative)

JaxWeb (715417) | more than 9 years ago | (#11769068)

It doesn't show off the power, but remember the KDE [] has a set of "Edutainment" [] programs of varying quality.

I've personally used some of these for school, and they are quite good. For example, "Logo" is replaced with KTurtle, and there are a few maths programs (KPlot for graphs and Kig for geometry, among others). There are quite a few language tools too. There is an impressive chemistry program which lists the periodic table and information about each element, too.

So KDE includes a great base. More schools should use it (especially when combined with KOffice)

computer lab software (1)

John_Sauter (595980) | more than 9 years ago | (#11769069)

Pick a well-known distribution, such as Red Hat or SuSE/Novell, and make all of its bundled packages available. Be sure the students can edit and rebuild the kernel; that is a great draw for future open source coders.
John Sauter (J_Sauter@Empire.Net)

Re:computer lab software (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11769145)

I think it would be awesome to write a short script which would let you change kernel options, compile the kernel, move the kernel to /boot, edit grub (or lilo) and then students could have fun making their own kernels.

Re:computer lab software (1)

Rakishi (759894) | more than 9 years ago | (#11769268)

Well it will teach them which options to select in order to make the system not work.

Re:computer lab software (2, Informative)

Reene (808293) | more than 9 years ago | (#11769279)

I agree with the SuSE sentiment. SuSE + KDE is absoloutely perfect and looks enough like Windows not to scare away students/teachers used to Windows-looking GUIs. It has issues with package management (HATE HATE HATE YaST -cough-) and compiling is a pain in anything but Pro but these shouldn't be issues at all in most school environments. Also, AFAIK, SuSE still comes with a complete WINE software suite that _should_ allow them to set up whatever Windows programs they might need.

Speaking from experience here, my high school and middle school both went from Windows 3.x/95 boxes right to a bunch of Sun computers complete with Solaris (and all the usual programs like Many/most of the students hated the drastic change from Windows to Solaris and resented using the computers from then on. They just weren't used to that kind of environment. The rule of thumb is to avoid drastic environment changes at all costs (which is why KDE is a good idea) while showing them what Linux has to offer in the way of programs, which is plenty :)

Install Windows and Office (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11769070)

The most useful things to know when you get a real job, in general. Don't bother with Linux except for CAD tools.

Re:Install Windows and Office (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11769125)

Excel is the only semi-useful microsoft windows specific program there is.

If you don't know how to use gnuplot on linux, that is.

Re:Install Windows and Office (1)

AsbestosRush (111196) | more than 9 years ago | (#11769235)

I have several people in the office I work for that use Publisher. I have yet to see anything that can even *read* these files, much less do the same thing.

Then again, I may not know what I'm looking for either. :)

BTW, Gnumeric is a great replacement for XL, but I can't get it to print to my laser printer properly. :/

K-12 Linux Project (5, Informative)

Kidder1974 (580729) | more than 9 years ago | (#11769073)

Have you looked at the K-12 Linux Project [] yet? Seems like that would be a good place to start.

xfig (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11769074)

xfig. I love xfig.
gnuplot, although it's got a steep learning curve
xscreensaver with some of the cooler screenhacks (anemone, ifs) is always good for wow effect.

Distro (5, Informative)

gers0667 (459800) | more than 9 years ago | (#11769077)

Just to preach the common trend, I would suggest Ubuntu for the distro. The base desktop install is exactly what you would need. You get Firefox, Evolution, Gaim and It's a no hassle install, it's Debian and you can get support for it if you want. I wouldn't suggest holding off on Ubuntu until their next release, because it's pretty slick and comes out in about 2 months.

Also, you can get free CD's from them. Just request 100 or so and have them shipped to where ever that organization is. Technically you only need one, but you can give them out to the students if they like it. It comes with a livecd, so they don't have to destroy their home PC.

Re:Distro (2, Insightful)

Daravon (848487) | more than 9 years ago | (#11769261)

Granted they said they'd sent out free cds, but isn't asking them to send 100 cds to Mexico a little much? Why not just download Ubuntu, spend $20 on a spool of cds and print off some labels for the copies of the main cd.

the internet is the computer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11769080)

just set up firefox and ssh

(and maybe gnumeric and Open Office and gnuplot and R statistical package)

Catch up.. (1)

rf0 (159958) | more than 9 years ago | (#11769081)

Well you need it to work in the real world so you need something fun interface (Ubuntu or similar). Make sure you have OpenOffice on there as well as well as Evolution. Basically I know people don't like it but you are playing catch up to MS so you have to make it compatible to some degree otherwise what use does it have in the current business world?


Knoppix and USB Sticks (2, Interesting)

Artie_Effim (700781) | more than 9 years ago | (#11769087)

I have been thinking for a few years now, that Knoppix and USB sticks would work so well in this type of environment. You can easilly roll your own distro, give every kid a 128MB stick, burn a bunch of CDs and never worry about configuration problems or viruses again. It's time to jump on that bus.

easy (1, Informative)

tloh (451585) | more than 9 years ago | (#11769097)

the open cd []

and GNUWin II []

Though the included software is all relatively recent, developement on maintaining GNUWin has halted as of Nov of last year. They are currently looking for contributors who are motivated enough to help lead and continue the project.

egg on my face (1)

tloh (451585) | more than 9 years ago | (#11769130)

I guess it is just me, but it seems windows and linux has started to blur into one another in the last few years.

First, protect the investment. (5, Interesting)

Zapman (2662) | more than 9 years ago | (#11769098)

Like it or not, these machines will be rooted or get seriously fouled up at some point. This is actually one area where Linux really shines. You can set up a net boot environment (or live cd) that brings the box to a known good state. Don't keep any real data on these boxes. You don't even HAVE to keep a desktop image. You can NFS mount / if you really wanted too (though it's probably better to have an OS image local that can be over written easily).

This means you'll probably need a more beefey (at least in hard drive space) server that this lab will live off of, but I assume you already knew that.

Re:First, protect the investment. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11769177)

Any modern OS can do that.

distro (4, Interesting)

kebes (861706) | more than 9 years ago | (#11769101)

I'm a total newbie to linux, so I'm not qualified to give detailed advice. What I will say, however, is that after playing with lots and lots of different distros, I find Mandrakelinux to be the simplest and most user-friendly introduction to linux. So I would recommend installing Mandrake to give the teachers and students a good flavour for linux with an easy transition. It comes with just about everything you need to get up and working fast.

How many? (0, Troll)

Jsutton1027w (757650) | more than 9 years ago | (#11769102)

This association has donated 1,523 computer labs to public schools in Mexico
Did he mean computers, or labs? That's a lot of labs if he is right. I didn't know that Mexico had the many public schools...

Re:How many? (1)

nebenfun (530284) | more than 9 years ago | (#11769280)

He meant labs...but remember the US to Mexico conversion rates.

68k (1)

kff322 (752112) | more than 9 years ago | (#11769109)

Mac Plus with the 68k processor man that thing flys! oR a 486, you can get X to run on them, talk about getting a lot with a little.

What OS are they deploying now? (1)

bogaboga (793279) | more than 9 years ago | (#11769119)

I will be quick. What OS are they deploying now? I guess it's the one from M$. Connectiva would be OK since it's from neighboring Brazil and has strong foundations in Spanish. If multimedia with the ability of sanely playing streamed radio from the internet is ever considered, do not forget Streamtuner [] . There is no sane way of playing these kinds of streams.

Freeduc (2, Interesting)

davezirk (675803) | more than 9 years ago | (#11769121)

Freeduc is just excellent. I set up a temporary summer lab with recycled machines stateside and set the default language to Spanish. At the end of the summer the students were able to take the machines home. The families of these immigrant students were thrilled. I was thrilled with the cost, plus the fact that I don't have endless calls for help from virii, spyware, etc.

wont work that easy (5, Insightful)

gargoleblaster (648977) | more than 9 years ago | (#11769128)

Im afraid most of the educational software taught at the school level is built for windows and wont support other OS's very well. So the primary thing is find out which software is needed by them and get those working on Linux. Not many school children are going to start out running command line programs, or coding in perl and C++. Most likely, they will browse, use rich text editors/spreadsheets, chat apart form educational software. Unless of course, we are talking higer grades, even then, not all of them are going to be computer professionals. -imho

This is bad for the students (0, Troll)

00squirrel (772984) | more than 9 years ago | (#11769138)

I know this won't fly over well with most of the /. crowd, but students would be much better served by a Windows lab. I taught computer literacy at my local university in graduate school and we were a 100% Microsoft shop. In fact, every university lab that I have visited is a 100% Microsoft shop.

It's an injustice to teach kids Linux, especially the non-geeks. Non-geeks just want to get work done, and when they hit college they are going to have to relearn Windows/Office to get their assignments done. Just a fact of life folks!

/puts on fire repellant suit

Re:This is bad for the students (1)

Anita Coney (648748) | more than 9 years ago | (#11769233)

I disagree. Why should kids use an inferior product merely because the rest of the world uses an inferior product?

Maybe after high school students start getting used to using Linux, and public schools start saving money by switching, it'll give universities an incentive switch too.

Re:This is bad for the students (1)

IncarnadineConor (457458) | more than 9 years ago | (#11769247)

Perhaps that is true for you, but here at URI we have a lot of macs in the labs, and some of the labs have computers that will boot into linux as well as windows.

Re:This is bad for the students (2, Insightful)

hcdejong (561314) | more than 9 years ago | (#11769251)

Nonsense. Computer skills taught in schools should be just that: computer skills. Not 'keyboard shortcuts for Word 97', but skills that can be applied to any computer. Let's face it, any specifics you learn in secondary school are going to be obsolete by the time you get your first job.
An example: My secondary school had a lab full of Apple IIs. By the time I needed my own computer, I bought a Macintosh. % of specifics that weren't obsolete: zero.

Re:This is bad for the students (2, Interesting)

CoderBob (858156) | more than 9 years ago | (#11769264)

Disclaimer: This isn't meant as a flame.

I know that Michigan State has MS labs, Solaris labs, and Mac labs. Most of their CS research was done on Solaris. Same thing at University of Michigan.

Granted, not everyone has to use the non-MS labs. But people still do.

There are enough GUI environments that mirror Windows that they won't have to "relearn" the whole OS. And OpenOffice does a good job at being very similar to Word.

If they're learning to admin systems, however, yeah, there is a world of difference...

I would argue exactly the opposite (5, Insightful)

mdarksbane (587589) | more than 9 years ago | (#11769275)

Those who use only windows at home and at school learn just that, how to use windows.

Force them them to use something else, and they no longer just know how to use windows, but how to use a *computer*.

I've heard it said that the best way to learn how to learn language is to learn many of them. This is why we teach spanish, or why a good CS program should involve several different programming languages.

The concepts for using any OS are the same, and that's what should be taught in school, not exactly where to find what button in Word. You wouldn't say that kids should skip reading Shakespeare because every newspaper in the country is a 100% modern English shop, would you?

Re:This is bad for the students (2, Insightful)

kebes (861706) | more than 9 years ago | (#11769276)

In a certain sense I agree with you. I want more people to use linux, and it is a disservice to those students if we force them to use linux to further our own personal opinions or political goals. Ultimately, for them to succeed in the world (at least the current world), they will need to learn MS Windows.

On the other hand, let's give students the credit they deserve. If you provide students with learning both on Windows and linux, they will have a greater skill set when they go onto university and workplace. Since linux can dual-boot, I don't see any problem with teaching them how to use different operating systems. And once they've learned two different OS+GUIs, it won't be hard for them to adapt to new technology (e.g.: they won't be intimidated by a Mac).

I'd show them GNUstep (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11769143)

It's really great, have a try: []

K12LTSP (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11769144)

Don't go any farther than [] . They have the best all around linux solution for k-12 schools. Period.

Debian (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11769148)

A well-configured Debian setup will be great. Runs good on older hardware and is easy to maintain. Every software package under the sun is available. What more could you want?

Re:Debian (1)

harley_frog (650488) | more than 9 years ago | (#11769199)

Agreed. I run Debian 'Sarge' on the public access computers in our library and have little to no trouble with them.

As far as programs, Debian has several, but don't forget to check out Sourceforge [] and Freshmeat [] for software.

Novell (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11769152)

Novell has started pushing a Linux desktop based on SuSE ES 9. You should take a look at it.

Should we? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11769157)

Should we do this?
Linux is still in the domain of the educated user. From what I know of secondary schools here in the states, most people that run computer labs have trouble enough configuring MS products, much less running linux.
Unless the people in the labs know what they are doing, I would stick with something simple.
Microsoft wins again :(

Why not Apple? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11769165)

You might pay a little more than with Linux, but Apple's niche is the schools market. It's the best combination of Unix and compatibility with Microsoft.

Just buy a mac ;-)

GUI (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11769166)

Make sure KDE or another GUI package is installed, most kids probably have Windows (IF they have computers) at home. It would also be beneficial if Wine was included to run any edu-ware that doesn't have a Linux port.

Software (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11769168)

Personally, If I was a person coming from a non-programming / non-linux background (as I'm sure some or all the students will) I'd use RedHat or Mandrake :)

In terms of actually using the software, I'd include Open Office for word processing / spread sheets.

For programming a nice IDE would come in handy, something like Anjuta or KDevelop.

To do graphics, you have GIMP.

As for the rest, I'm not too familiar with any other (touch typing / language) packages.

ubuntu universe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11769183)

have a look on ubuntu linux site for educational - math etc packages availiable....
it's a good place to find many of them...

Maple (3, Interesting)

Vliam (579739) | more than 9 years ago | (#11769184)

I can speak from some experience on this. At my university, they had very few Linux machines. The labs that did have them were for our calulus classes. The ran Maple under RedHat. The systems at the time were probably very close to the systems which you describe. They were a pleasure to use. I think Maple would serve to show the power of such a system.

Linux Terminal Server Project (1)

JoeCommodore (567479) | more than 9 years ago | (#11769189)

Check out the Linux Terminal Server Project [] , there are a few education LTSP projects linked in there (example) [] , I think it would make management of the computer lab much more simplier and keep the overall hardware costs down.

Take a look at TJHSST (5, Interesting)

astebbin (836820) | more than 9 years ago | (#11769198)

Thomas Jefferson High School for Sci./Tech.- this school has an entire computer systems lab with running on Debian, complete with Cray SV1 and cluster of 386's. The lab is run largely by student system administrators who know and learn much about the Linux operating system during their stay at TJ, which helps to prepare them for entry into the business world and tech industry where UNIX based operating systems are the common standard. TJ is a public school located in Fairfax County, Virginia. It also has a Wikipedia entry that goes into more detail than my post here (Sorry for lack of link, but Wikipedia seems to be running slowly for me as of late and I couldn't get the page).

Inclued this before any MS (1)

chivo243 (808298) | more than 9 years ago | (#11769222)

Open office. I use it to open one student's office files and print them (as we are a win/MAC environment), the "only" student who has loaded linux at home and seems serious about it. I have used OO at home to open my MS word docs no problems...Oh, right, I am network support at an international secondary school. IMO a good basic start.

Here is what I would install. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11769223)

. I told them about Linux, and they are interested in equipping a beta computer lab with this Operating System, with Intel PIII, 256 MB RAM PCs. The more they like this lab, the higher chances to include Linux in the new labs donated by this institution." What hardware configurations and software packages would you install on such a machine to show off the real power of Linux in an educational environment?

Reformat and install Windows XP if you want them to be of any educational value. At least then most of the kids will have experence on the OS that will get them the most jobs.

What Apps? (1)

pirogoth (856284) | more than 9 years ago | (#11769226)

If it's that wide of a scale I'd get a distro with support. Red Hat, SuSe or Unbuntu are rather nice distro's of that nature. With those specs you'll want a lighter interface, XFCE would do nicely. Make sure the basic things are installed, firefox, evolution, and the like.

I had a similar setup running RedHat in a school lab. Ran well and the students migrated almost effortlessly. Tried with Debian and Fedora with the same results. It shouldn't be too difficult to show the power.

If you want to have some educational tools on there, try having a few CAD programs, maybe video editing (cinelerra) and I'd suggest Blender 3D. Blender is a big draw to people. At least it was in my lab. Rendering is faster in linux anyway (compared to windows. At least in my experience. I don't know about Mac's.)

Any distro (1)

gatkinso (15975) | more than 9 years ago | (#11769231)

Select "Install Everything" (or it's equivalent).

You Fail It (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11769234)

you to join the wall: *BSD faces a We''l be able to

For software... (1, Insightful)

Paralizer (792155) | more than 9 years ago | (#11769238)

You have the classic battle between OpenOffice [] and Microsoft Office [] .
After just Linux and OpenOffice installed, it will be evident the advantages are much greater than using Microsoft products, namely because of the price. If these guys are donating thousands of computers to schools, reducing software price from $200-300 per unit to $0 is going to enable them to construct out quite a bit more labs.

There are quite a few Gnome [] applications which would help in everyday usability. Of course, Gnome or KDE [] would probably be your desktop of choice, especially if the organization is coming off of Microsoft Explorer; keep it familiar to effectively show advantages.

You didn't specify what type of educational environment the labs target, but for programming Anjuta [] is a great alternative to Microsoft Visual C++ [] .

A few other mentionable applications would include Mozilla Firefox [] (over Microsoft Internet Explorer), and [] The Gimp [] (over Photoshop [] ).

For networking with existing Windows labs, Samba [] is an effective alternative.

mmm, my high school used linux... (4, Interesting)

Goeland86 (741690) | more than 9 years ago | (#11769240)

Ok, so, Gould Academy [] is where I went, and they use linux for everyday use, in the labs, classrooms and even faculty offices. Mostly what students learned to use was IceWM, Konqueror as a file manager, OpenOffice, Mozilla (although Firefox might be a better choice), gAIM (not in class!), the Gimp and xpdf.
They didn't have a big budget for the computers, so they used the old 386 (true, I've used them!) and a bunch of old machines, bought a dual Xeon 733 MHz server, and ran LTSP on the whole thing. They had a special file server with a quota of about 1 Gig for students in their home directory, which was plenty, and a separate mail server.
I think that if you install those PIII with LTSP you'll be missing out on responsiveness, so instead maybe install the same distro on all of them, and use a NIS domain for login (with gdm, or even better, Entrance, which is prettier than gdm to look at!) and getting one machine with several drives to use as NFS server for the /home directories would be good.
Then if you want to start a multimedia class, it turns out a lot of people are actually thrilled when using Blender [] . A whole bunch of people active on Blender forums right now are not much older than 13. I've basically taught my Linux professor at Gould to use blender, and the Advanced Linux class at the same time.
I think that's plenty of things to show eye-candy and the real horse-power you can get in the managing of such a lab with linux.
Also, most of these programs have spanish localizations, iirc.

not old stuff still.. (1)

dAzED1 (33635) | more than 9 years ago | (#11769244)

ok, yes. Linux will run well on an old comp. Ok! I agree!

But it seems like educators are going to associate linux with "that free software that's installed on those old free computers" or whatever.

Get 1 or 2 boxes in the lab that are relatively modern, so that they understand that the old p3 with 256M RAM is slower than the teacher's new G5 mac mostly because the old PC is, well, old?

beyond that, the software that is installed depends completely on the software they need. What do they need?

BZFlag (1)

Phu5ion (838043) | more than 9 years ago | (#11769255)

make sure you have enough horsepower on those machines to play BZFlag. [] Awesome game to play in the lab with friends when you are procrastinating. Trust me, my senior project consisted of many-an-hour playing BZFlag in the CS Linux lab.

Packages (1)

Jeffrey Baker (6191) | more than 9 years ago | (#11769260)

R, Octave, gnumeric, gnuplot, gcc, f95, TeX.

What ever happened to doing your own homework... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11769265)

or has slashdot become a one-shot, quick-fix to all IT consultants, unless of course you work for pesos.

You can start your research with distrowatch,, or There are at least a dozen distributions created by and for academic/research centers, including specialized funky distros. If you don't find the answer(s) there, then come back to slashdot and ask for the solution(s).

First... (1)

Marthisdil (606679) | more than 9 years ago | (#11769267)

I'd install VMWare. Then I'd install Windows XP in a VMWare session. Then I'd install all the games I really wish I could play on Linux, but won't ever see, because it'll be FOREVER before Linux becomes widely used on a home desktop for gaming... :P

Brandywine CATs (1)

AviLazar (741826) | more than 9 years ago | (#11769277)

This is a vocational school (Business, mechanics, computers, and a couple other areas) where kids from other HS' spend half their day there. The computer teacher instructs them on how to program (C++, web) then going to network infrastructures, computer maintenance. He also has them setup different OS' in an "enterprise" fashion (including Linux, Windows, Unix). He then gives them a chance to do their own project. Teachers have a lot of latitude at times and can come up with some pretty cool things - even if the hardware (big cost) is not there.

They did make an arcade (they even fabricated the arcade box) :)
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