Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The kids are all right with Linux

Posted by Dana Blankenhorn @ 6:12 am

School starts early in Georgia. The kids are all back at it.
It was on a pre-semester visit to my son’s high school that I got a shock on Friday.
The PCs were gone. In their place were banks of terminals, with small flat-panel screens, all hard-wired to the desks. A teacher’s son was messing with one, causing a reboot.
And that’s when I got the shock. Linux.
Apparently my son’s school spent the summer ripping out the old PC system and replacing it with a centralized Linux server and terminals.
Now here’s the real shocking part.
No one noticed. There’s not even a mention of it on the school Web site.
The kid who re-booted his machine didn’t notice. Within a few minutes he’d found the Firefox icon and was back on Cartoonnetwork.com. (I think he was 7.) His brothers and sisters were all happily online as well.
The new system should be more rugged than the old, the terminals are cheaper to replace, and the central system is physically inaccessible, so there will be less mischief. Before any kid can hack into it they have to learn some Linux.
Our previous years’ experience with computing has been a terrible disappointment. A few teachers got themselves Web pages, where they listed assignments and grades. Most didn’t.
Why? Because not all the kids have home access to the Web like my son. And the school system was unreliable. Let’s see what happens with Linux.

The real story is how transparent all this is. It’s much like the system my pharmacist got last year — a vendor did it and there’s no learning curve because all his applications are still there.
This is how Linux is slowly taking over. The pharmacist’s salesman gave him a better deal on printers and integration. The school system is delivering more power to more kids, with less maintenance.

Where have you seen Linux lately?

Dana Blankenhorn has been a business journalist for 30 years, a tech freelancer since 1983. See his full profile and disclosure of his industry affiliations.
© 2008 CNET Networks, Inc., a CBS Company. All rights reserved.


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