A year of Linux desktop at Westcliff High School

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Around a year ago, a school in the southeast of England, Westcliff High School for Girls Academy (WHSG), began switching its student-facing computers to Linux, with KDE providing the desktop software. The school's Network Manager, Malcolm Moore, contacted us at the time. Now, a year on, he got in touch again to let us know how he and the students find life in a world without Windows.

Stu: Hi Malcolm, thanks for agreeing to the interview. Could you tell us a bit about the school and your role there?

Malcolm: Westcliff High School for Girls Academy is a selective Grammar School with a Sixth Form of about 340 students. It was founded in 1920 as a co-educational school in Victoria Avenue, Southend, and moved to its present site in 1931. Since then the school has grown to its present size of around 1095 girls.

The IT Support department consists of three staff: myself, Paul Antonelli, and Jenny Lidbury. My role is that of Network Manager. The IT Support department covers provisioning and support of all IT-related equipment within the school. This includes 200 teacher machines, 400+ student machines, 33 IMacs, 100+ laptops, and a few Android tablets. We also support all the multimedia devices such as projectors, interactive whiteboards, and TVs, etc.

Stu: Whose idea was it to switch computers over to Linux? What were the reasons for doing so?

Malcolm: We have used Linux as the OS for our email server, VLE (Virtual Learning Environment) and website for a while since I had used it before at my previous position in the financial industry.

It was my idea to move the students' PCs to Linux as it was becoming increasingly obvious that with the size, cost, and complexity of IT increasing seemingly exponentially, ultimately something had to give and professional pride would not let it be the quality of the systems we support. We tested a small set-up of 60 machines and got feedback from the students, adjusted it a bit and then tried again and so on. Once we had gone through this loop a number of times with Red Hat/Fedora and SUSE/openSUSE set-ups and we were satisfied, I put my proposal to the Senior Leadership Team.

The motivation was initially both cost and philosophical, in that, even in an outstanding school, funds are always going to be limited (politicians don't seem to get the saying: 'If you think education is expensive, try ignorance'). The cost of using Windows is high but not always obvious, Windows carries a lot of baggage that bumps the cost up considerably over a Linux environment. The philosophical angle was probably the philosophy of pragmatism.

We wanted to offer the best IT systems and education possible with the funds available. Money spent on essentially promoting Microsoft Windows and Office to students can be better spent on old-fashioned things like teachers and actual education.

Subsequently and fortuitously, the UK government threw out the old ICT syllabus, which was based largely on teaching students how to use Microsoft Office, and told schools to go for a more computer studies-based syllabus, which meant that we were in a position to hit the ground running, so to speak.

Stu: Was there any resistance to the idea and how was this overcome?

Malcolm: Surprisingly, very little. The Senior Leadership Team grilled me in two long meetings which was fun!

Once you actually take a step back from the misconception that computers = Windows, and actually seriously think about it, the pros clearly outweigh the cons. The world is changing very quickly. There is a survey that reports in 2000, 97% of computing devices had Windows installed, but now with tablets and phones, etc., Windows is only on 20% of computing devices, and in the world of big iron, Linux reigns supreme. We specialize in science and engineering and want our students to go on to do great things like start the next Google or collapse the universe at CERN. In those environments, they will certainly need to know Linux.

Stu: What choices did you make for the software and why? Was any new hardware needed?

Malcolm: We started out with the basic theory that the students had to like the interface, so 'pretty is a feature' was required for the workstations. For IT staff, stability is practically everything for the servers. Whilst I know there are many people who have favorite distributions, I only really know the RPM-based ones. If we had more resources, we could have looked at more, but we only tried Red Hat/Fedora and SUSE/openSUSE combinations. In the end, the SUSE/openSUSE won because of their KDE software support. Firstly, we did not want the change to be too much for students to handle and KDE's Plasma can be made to look very familiar. Secondly, during our testing, we encouraged students to try both KDE Plasma and GNOME. Plasma was by far the winner in terms of user acceptance. [The final software choice was openSUSE 12.2 and Plasma Desktop 4.10 - Ed].

As far as the workstations go, no new hardware was required. One of our main reasons to go to Linux was that it runs well on older hardware. The usual merry-go-round of replacing 400 student machines every three or four years is a horrendous cost.

Many schools just simply can't afford that in these days of austerity. With the performance we have now, I intend to run these machines until they fall to bits! I would suggest to anyone however that they make sure they have a good network before embarking on this.

Stu: How did the switch-over go? Were there technical problems and how were they overcome?

Malcolm: The switch-over was done during the summer holiday of 2012. At that point we encountered no significant technical issues, although that isn't to say we didn't have any later!

Stu: Was there any software missing compared to the old systems?

Malcolm: We currently have students running Linux and staff running Windows 7. If there were a SIMS (Schools Information Management System) client for Linux, converting the whole school could easily have been considered. As it stands, that could have easily been an overreach. Nothing is missing as far as educational software for Linux, but we have retained a couple of Windows applications which we run under WINE so that students with work in progress can move slowly to alternative applications.

One thing that is interesting is the use of the Raspberry Pi and the suchlike in schools. The Pi team stated that one advantage of using the Pi is that students can experiment without destroying the school or family PCs. With Linux, students can experiment now.

Our ICT department is already teaching programming to students from year seven [around age 11], and in our environment, the worst thing they can do is crash their own account. Even if they completely destroy their area, it can be restored in minutes and will not affect the next person using the machine.

Stu: Did you contact KDE or openSUSE for assistance? If so, how was the response?

Malcolm: I have frequently contacted both KDE and openSUSE through the forums and bugzilla sites; both were exceedingly helpful. openSUSE forums can be a bit hostile at times when others think the questions are poorly worded or not well thought out. This, happily, is not the case in KDE forums where everyone has been very polite and helpful. In openSUSE's defense, some of the questions I posted were not done well. However, as I said before, there are only three of us and sometimes RTFM isn't an option.

There just aren't enough hours in the day. If I can post something and get an answer even if it seems dumb to others, it is a great help. If we had to learn everything about Linux, this project would never have happened, we would still be RTFM! Despite being called an idiot occasionally, we got good working answers to all our questions, so I can thoroughly recommend the forums even if it is necessary to be a bit thick-skinned at times.

Stu: What do the students, parents, and staff think of the change?

Malcolm: Younger students accept it as normal. Older students can be a little less flexible. There are still a few that are of the view that I can get rid of Microsoft Word when I can pry it from them. Staff are the same (although it is surprisingly not age-related). Some are OK and some hate it. Having said that, an equal number hate Windows 7 and nobody liked Windows 8. I think the basic problem is that Windows XP is a victim of its own success. It works fairly well from a user point of view, it's been around practically forever, and people don't like change, even some students, oddly.

Once we decided to go ahead, a special newsletter was sent out to all parents. We probably had less than half a dozen who disagreed, maintaining that learning Office was a more useful skill. Whilst I accept their views, I would argue that an 11 year old student starting with us in September 2014 will probably not reach the job market until 2024 or there about. What will Office 2024 look like? Your guess is as good as mine, but good basic skills and a logical and analytical way of dealing with computers will be good for a lifetime.

Stu: One year on, what worked and what didn't? What would you do differently or advise another school to do differently?

Malcolm: It would have been nice to say it all worked perfectly, but it didn't. The first half term was terrible. The primary problem was system speed and particularly logging into KDE Plasma. Our tests only had 60 or so machines in use as it was difficult to round up enough students at lunchtime and after school to really thrash the system. Plus, while we were testing, we were still having to maintain the 400 student Windows XP machines.

The bottom line is that Linux will run well on an old tin box, but if you have LDAP authentication and NFS home directories—as you certainly will have in a school or business environment, you must have a gigabit network. It will run with 100Mb, but it will be an unpleasant experience as we discovered to our cost. To that end, we had to replace about eight switches to bring our whole network up to gigabit everywhere (OK, it was planned to happen anyway, but I would have rather done it at my leisure!).

Additionally some things in KDE software do not lend themselves well to having NFS home directories, although I know it has been addressed to some extent in later versions. We now have several scripts that we run on our servers that force some KDE options to take the load of our network Once we had worked all this out and fixed it over the next half term holiday things quieted down a lot thankfully.

Stu: How could KDE make such a switch easier?

Malcolm: Documentation! You can configure KDE in every way imaginable using the GUI, but admins need to set up defaults for all users. The openSUSE defaults are OK for home or stand-alone users, but they need a bit of adjustment in a school. In the end we did it by taking a basic machine, making a change and then going through the dot files to see what had been affected (this and bothering Ben Cooksley in the KDE forums). It was hard work! The problem here—and I'm not sure there is an easy answer—is that with Linux, and now to some extent with Windows, the technology moves so fast that documentation is out of date before it's printed or even written in some cases.

Stu: Which applications (KDE or otherwise) have been particularly impressive? In which areas are applications lacking?

Malcolm: With the exception of about half a dozen students who are using GNOME, everybody loves the fact that now they can configure their desktops and applications. Most admins lock down Windows as it is fairly easy for people, particularly students, to butcher Windows.We have taken the view that we want to get back to a PC being a personal computer, so students can configure it any way they like as it gives a sense of ownership of their desktop. We have restrictions on configuring a machine inappropriately or in a way that is detrimental to work. Students generally get one desktop reset before we will 'have words'. Allowing this is a novel idea in schools. In the beginning, some of the desktops were configured to destruction! Now that the novelty has worn off the desktops are more sane, and we haven't had to reset an account back to a more tasteful blue in months. In this respect, it is a great success as students are now taking responsibility for their work environment and how they achieve tasks rather than be told, "Here is a generic Windows and Office. Use that."

Stu: Any other comments or observations on the experience?

Malcolm: Has it given me sleepless nights, yes. Has it nearly driven me insane, yes. Would I do it again... in an instant!

Stu: Thank you very much and best of luck in the future!


The example of Westcliff High School for Girls Academy gives us plenty to think about. Linux, with KDE software, can clearly work in such an environment, but there are still challenges in deployment and getting used to a new system. Malcolm's experiences underline the importance of the KDE forums in welcoming and supporting new users to bring free software to ever larger audiences.

Originally posted on The Dot blog. Reposted under Creative Commons.

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Stu Jarvis started using KDE software in 2003 and began working with the KDE Promotion Team in 2008 by writing articles for KDE's news website, KDE.News. He gradually got drawn into greater involvement with the promotion team activities such as writing KDE's release announcements became an editor with KDE.News in 2009. In 2010 he became a member of KDE e.V. and KDE's Marketing Working Group.


Thank you for this article! I've been working up a plan over the past 2 years to propose this to my local school district here in the U.S. They are always complaining about budget this and budget that... but go out and buy new Mac books..... just doesn't make sense to me. I've read other articles like this in the past and it really encourages me!

If there is anything I can help with just yell


What a great story, Malcom. Thanks for sharing. And thanks, too, for hanging around and graciously taking questions!

Great story! What system are used to deploy the OpenSuse computers?

We use Clonezilla


Great interview, thanks for taking the time. Are students' /home directories on the local machines or a server for roaming?

They are on servers (nfs4)


The detail that would have been interesting is: 'How much is this saving on Windows licences?', now and ongoing...

Not really. You already bought the Windows license in 99% of cases anyway. The Office license is a fairly major expense but even that isn't the big win. Especially for a school, Microsoft almost gives it away to ensure the next generation grows up using Office.

It is the rest of the stuff you end up buying to run Windows. The security software, the various solutions to allow a Windows PC to almost be used in a public lab but that never seem to actually work, requiring frequent reimaging and 'out of order' signs kept on hand. Then the expense on the back end for the server CALs. The generally higher labor per seat to keep things going, the upgrade treadmill, the endless hardware replacement cycle.

And the loss of function, to get a lab you almost always sacrifice everything that even people who like Windows expect to get until the first time they encounter a lab environment. Think you PC at work is restricted, go to you local library or uni lab and see just how bad the lockdown can, and almost always does, get.

Hi :)
Most articles about this sort of thing focus on the cost savings. If you really want to know then look up other articles.

It really depends on scale. If the desktops are not running Windows then none of the Servers need to run Windows Server. Also software that would normally have to be purchased has rquivalents that tend to be free. In Spain something like 70,000 desktops moving over to Gnu&Linux was estimated to save around 30 million Euros. That's only 150 Euros per machine so it's likely to be a low estimate in the longer run.

The article mentions that under Windows they needed to replace machines every few years. How much is a machine? Now that MS Office is trialware that needs an additional purchase after a month that adds an extra bump that is hidden away. now they don't even need new hardware so often let alone the extra cost of new licenses for software.

Regards from
Tom :)

Hi :)
oops, that was around 500 per machine which sounds a lot more reasonable but that only really covers the initial cost of a new machine.

In the early stages of the migration some machines are still likely to be bought and maintained with newer versions of MS Office and Windows. So although it's not difficult to make savings right from the start those savings are not as big as the ones made in the longer term. Of course by then it becomes impossible to compare what a system might cost under Windows because there are so many hidden factors and hidden costs in running and buying Windows.
Regards from
Tom :)

Debian Edu (aka. Skolelinux) aims to produce a similar sort of system out-of-the-box, in what I'd describe as a more 'formalised' structure.

Even though GNU/Linux is really flexible, there is huge potential if a similar core configuration and set of components is used at many locations. That makes it easier to find the IT staff to administer it, and users may be already familiar with using it at other schools.

Most 'teething troubles' will have been seen already at other deployments, and only need to be fixed once with a configuration change. Centralised NFS storage, for example, can be thrashed by Firefox's default settings for caching in the home directory, or by icon caches and thumbnailers.

Having similar configurations of software, makes it easier to share experience of what hardware is suited for a given number of users, and how best to configure that too. An NFS server likely needs more disk spindles than your typical web/apps server, and either plenty of RAM or a hardware RAID card (in faster configurations, e.g. RAID 1/10, not RAID 5/6).

Hmmmm, I read the exact same question and answers elsewhere well over a month ago.

A few years ago I was working for the RI Sec of State's office. We had two offices that had public facing machines. They had been Windows PC's and were a nightmare to manage.

Finally we got the bright idea, throw Ubuntu on the machines, create a rescue CD that way if they screwed up the Ubuntu install, you just popped the CD in and typed the word 'nuke' and it would wipe the system and re-install the custom image.

In addition we updated our SquidProxy servers and also installed DansGaurdian to catch the really egregious stuff. And we limited the network speed service those computers to 384kbps.

They still run that system today, some 6+ years later.

Great story. Schools often restrict classroom computers to the point where the learning tool becomes a brick. I applaud Westcliff's efforts to take a risk and return control to students.

I work at a company with 58 people. We needed to upgrade more than half the workstations in the office because they were growing out of date using XP, security was a nightmare, no AD just antivirus. The owner was the worst, he did "Lord Knows What" with his computer and the SysAdmin I replaced just gave up and reformatted his computer quarterly. After his trip to Cambodia I swapped his computer for Mint 13 Workstation. He loved it so much he asked what it would take to swap the office. I had already put together budgets for windows based systems. We would of paid hundreds per station to go to windows 7 pro and office 10. I converted everything over to Mint at first then I changed to Ubuntu and mate. We could of chose any linux really. Ubuntu's quicker release cycle was chosen over the other. Security was considered priority #1. The hardest part was LibreOffice, steep learning curve for our over 50 crowd. Accounting had little problems but Sale! You would of thought we were killing them. Software has not been a problem. We switched to web based products, OpenERP (Accounting), Zimbra (Email), PIAF(Phone with chat),MediaWiki (company knowlage base), RT (Internal Tickets), pFsense. OpenVPN was great, dual auth (password and key), and support for iPhone, Android, Linux, Mac, and Windows.

Good interview! Thank you, Malcolm, for being so candid with your answers. It's nice to hear both the pros and the cons from someone who actually implemented a solution. By the way, I really liked the last line... "in an instant" Quite motivational!

This article is inspiring and makes excellent reading. I wish that more schools and organisations would break away from Microsoft tyranny and put the computing back into computing.

Thank you.

Congratulations with your brave move!
What was actually missed: LD-assisting technologies with many helpful applications for Windows and Mac to assist with writing and reading for those with dyslexia and dysgraphia.

Linux has some TTS applications, but about nothing for professional LD-dedicated word-prediction and literacy support.

Wine is a great emulator, but assistive software is using various hooks and speech technologies and rarely successful via Wine.

Ghotit Real Writer & Reader has added recently a port for Linux, so it can provide good literacy support for your LD-students.
Try it!

I think it would have been better to use LXDE instead of KDE because it runs better on older hardware and it looks closest to Windows XP. It would also be great if my school switched to Linux, but alas that will probably never happen.

Probably true, but KDE is very pretty and most of the load it puts on a machine is graphics and network based. The load on the network caught us out a bit but we made sure beforehand that even the old machines had a Nvidia card in them. Adding a £20 graphics card to an old machine works really well and is a cheap upgrade

Have you implemented LTSP for the very old hardware? Myself and my colleague implemented the Linux thin client system into our old school in Stanford-Le-Hope. The 10 year old machines were booting over the network and allowing kids to be typing work and surfing the web quicker than on the new machines booting from their hard disks.

Oh, the money we'd save with such a move.

Please tell me you are collaborating with WHSB as my eldest boy goes there and I have been enthused reading this. It is your whole approach to making students and teachers sit up and show them that computers != windows/office that really impresses me along with the obvious fact that you are trying to put money where it is really needed - teaching!
When we first looked around senior schools about five years ago, I was appauled at the sort of stuff they teach in the name of IT. That made it very obvious why new graduates and trainees who come into the work place were so void of the basics. They had no interest in programming or actual problem solving.
I am glad to see that programming and hardware is coming back in vogue though. We have managed to destroy a large chunk of a generation when my generation had the benefit of learning from the ground up.
Your whole team deserves a serious round of applause as you will send more students into the world with a greater understanding and ability to face the ever changing landscape of computing. Also, with the extra cash available for core subjects, maybe we will also get back to employees who know how to write properly :)
P.S. If you ever need volunteer help, just ask.

Excellent and honest piece, and a great result one year in.

My concern, as compared with XP that was updated continuously for over a decade and even today will run the latest software, would be the short support cycles for upgrades and repositories in Linux desktop distros: how soon before a new version will have to be installed on 500 machines to keep up with security and software?

A good point Albin,

I have switched from Gentoo to Ubuntu as my primary desktop/laptop distro. Ubuntu features an application called Landscape which from what I understand will allow all machines to be kept upto date with the same software and setup. Update one, they all change. Obviouslly this could have it's faults too but a great tool for such a scenario all the less.

Alternatively, LTSP thin clients could be the way to go for the 'general' machines offering web surfing and office productivity - update the LTSP server, all machines booted from it will offer the new applications immediately.

LTSP could allow the cash to be spent on new machines where it is really needed, such as on video or audio editing workhorses.

One person can re-image 400 student machines in a week, that wasn't possible with Windows. This means that if it comes to it we can update the whole school in a half term holiday. If you don't leave it too long you can update ( rather than re-image ) a single ICT room of 33 machines in a lunchtime if you need to. As I said in the interview, the first half term didn't go as well as I hoped but because we can make and roll out images much faster now we could fix the things we discovered and during the first half term holiday we rolled out another image that fixed all the things that were broken. The short cycles do create a problem but not the way you would think. OpenSuse do a release about every 8 months and as rolling out a new version is relatively quick and easy there is a terrible temptation it think 'Oh, version n.x has some nice features, let's push that out.' You have to remember that students are still learning to use computers. Having a rapidly moving target is a bit unfair.


Thanks for an informative answer. It is certainly quicker in my experience to get a new Linux install up to speed than Windows, but as I noted above you simply don't have to do it very often with Windows - normally you just keep and update the Windows install the the machine shipped with.

Meanwhile "long term support" is something of a fantasy in Linux. You might get some OS updates, but I would expect repositories to truly and fully "support" their basic, i.e. preinstalled software such as the default browser, Libre/Openoffice, GIMP, media software for the three years of advertised "long term support" (e.g. that Ubuntu promises.) I'd think students should get benefit of the latest software updates as they would on a Windows machine.

Interesting. I'd have thought you would opt for a 5 year LTS. Did you experience any problems upgrading from one release to another or do you 'upgrade' by doing a full new installation?

One more thing, you mentioned Clonezilla. If take one system set up and optimized, clone it and use the images on other networked machines, are there any issues with disk identifiers, mac addresses or anything like that?

Thanks for the read.

It's generally quicker to do a new full install unless it's just a single app. For instance we upgraded Libreoffice once to get a later version that cured a nasty bug. In our original images we did Nvidia 'the hard way' but that makes doing a full upgrade very slow as you have to do the Nvidia thing again on every machine, now we just do it via the repos, you might not get the absolute latest version but it makes life a lot easier.

The only things you have to do before you upload the image is remove the entry for the network from udev otherwise when the imaged machine comes up it has two networks a 'phantom' one from the original machine and the actual one that is tied to the mac address in the imaged machine. The only other thing we do is the disks/fstab by label rather than by GUID or UUID this is not the Suse preferred way as it means that the machine probably won't boot if the hardware changes but In our environment I see this as a bonus.


Once upon a time, with the principal's approval, I installed a K12LTSP server using old PC's for thin clients in a computer lab in a nearby school. If memory serves, this was with K12LTSP 3 or thereabouts. The K12LTSP server was a dual AMD Athlon with twin IDE disks and 4GB DRAM. Student home directories were stored locally. There were about 25 thin clients. Performance was quite good. Support work was nearly non-existent; the system just ran and ran. Kids got their work done and liked using the system.

When MSBlaster and Nachi came a-callin', the K12LTSP computer lab was the only computer system that kept running without a hiccup. The principal was pleased. The computer lab maintainer was pleased. The teachers were surprised, but while their PC's were getting cleaned/reimaged/whatever, they would come into this computer lab to do *their* work!

All was going great for about a year and a half...until some manager at the main district IT office, who hated anything "not Microsoft", got wind of it. Seems this individual had a lot of unofficial pull and could get away with much more than what his position normally would afford him. He came in with his people and ripped this functioning K12LTSP system out of the school, threatening to pull *all* support if they attempted to resist. I remind you that the school's principal had approved the K12LTSP lab conversion and appreciated the results. She was not pleased.

Ironically, this same district IT manager ran the district's public Web site, and anything else Internet-facing, not on Microsoft Windows Server, but on Sun Solaris (later GNU/Linux)! Why? Because he knew Microsoft Windows was insecure and wanted to keep his job and influence. That right there says a lot.


It's part of really unlucky experience. I hope this IT manager will blow up or change his mind. But influence and knowledge in professional network drive human behaviour. So be patient, time will come for true skill and innovation.

I know its a bit late, but you really should have considered something like www.ltsp.org...

Works fine (for most things) on 10/100Mb, and makes maintenance *so* much easier.

Just invest in a few more powerful servers, and away you go.

Hi :)
With Ubuntu systems i've even had luck just rsync'ing a partition over a network to a target machine and then found Firefox opened with all the same tabs open!

I've found that people envy the look of Ubuntu but then grumble about actually using it. I might give KDE a go.

However, this article is more focussing on the process of the migration rather than on specific details.

People were given choices and were happier with that than the usual freedom FROM choice and wrist slapping that goes with most school systems. Instead of getting "told off" for experimenting and learning their way around the systems the students were actively encouraged to learn. Surely that is one of the aims of such schools but typically they seem more intent on churning out wage drones rather than innovators, at least wrt IT.
Regards from
Tom :)


Linux BRINGS IT !!!! Westcliff High Rocks!!!

That is why open source equals freedom. I am impressed with Westcliff, and I hope other schools will follow their example. These students will definitely be better suited having experience in linux over Windows.

Joshua- You might be interested in our high school 1:1 student program. We are deploying 1700 student laptops exclusively running Linux and open source software: http://www.pennmanor.net/techblog/?p=1590. This program adds to our existing fleet of 1600 elementary/middle school open source powered laptops: http://www.pennmanor.net/techblog/?page_id=882.

This may sound lame, but reading it brought a tear to my eyes. First, you are using my absolute favorite linux distro, second, I've never heard of Ubermix, but it seems uber-awesome, and third, I was glad to see ownCloud was listed among the list of open source software. I don't use it as much as I like, but it is definitely handy. Thanks for sharing.

ok, again, I was sorry, it has been a couple of days, and I am STILL AMAZED by this school with the wisdom of LINUX.


You are a model school, let us spead the word out, and fix this problem we all have in the Education Industry. It is time to as I say here (Low Tech Gone Wild) because I have produced many things with what I have now sometimes even better than things you have to buy to do the same thing.

Is is time to let openware into the mainstream, education is the key to this because it will be part of our daily lives.

Not just a class in Linux, but Linux in Class !!!

Thank you,

772 8072295.

Congrats Malcolm and Westcliff High School!

Personally, I would recommend Debian or an Edu spin of it like Skole Linux (not seen it myself). Debian stable has the caliber to run in a high volume deployment. It is very low fuss and easier to maintain than most distros.

It also is the best philosophically: a meritocracy of 1000's of good-willers unwavered by corporation or government. A huge team of technocrats. Truely a project for the people by the people.

this is a great story and using of linux is a good thing as it is an open source and available free.

<a href="http://www.educationworld.in/institution/bengaluru/schools">Educationworld</a>

Malcolm, will you publish the details of your Open SUSE Linux setup and networking on some website for other educational institutions to duplicate and study?

I liked Mint Linux 14, and used linuxliveusb tool to download and install to a USB Flash Drive for use with a Windows Laptop. The Linux Mint 14 was about 1.4Gigabytes in size.
Puppy Linux is about 170Megabytes in size and can be loaded, totally run from RAM on a 256Mbyte - 512Mbyte machine.

LSTP seems a good way to go, too for using Fast New Hardware to support many older hardware machines.

Linux and the Linux Terminal Server Project (LTSP) have provided this kind of technology for at least a decade for free. It is being used in large rollouts in the 3rd world where the technology cost issue is most important and in the 1st world where the human costs are the main issue. Before you sink $thousand$ trying to stack proprietary technology upon proprietary technology, why not see what some free software can provide? If you have the (minimal) hardware, you can have an LTSP system up and running in about 2 hours. No licenses, no signatures, no faxes, no crippleware, no POs, no RFPs, no bids, no lawyers. And surprisingly few tears.

My 2 cents for an individual Linux to use,is Puppy Linux, or Slacko Linux, or Simplicity Linux. Boot from a CD-R disk or from a USB Flash Disk. The USB Flash Disk allows you to keep your programs, documents, files, environment with you and any changes made during your session. After you shut down your Puppy Linux session and pull the USB Flash drive out from the computer, no trace no changes are left behind.

http://puppylinux.org version 5.7.1 September 19, 2013
http://slacko.01micko.com/ Version 5.6 August 13, 2013
2 tools to create a bootable live Linux in a USB Flash Drive.
http://linuxliveusb.com WIN32 tool to burn a linux distro into USB Flash drive.

ISORecorder http://alexfeinman.com/isorecorder.htm
WIN32 power tool to write/burn a .ISO image file to CD or DVD disk.

So here are free tools to use to create your own Linux environment for computing. Go for the learning adventure.

http://simplicitylinux.org/ is the correct URL.

http://puppylinux.com other puppylinux links

http://bkhome.org/blog2 Barry Kauler's Blog about Linux
http://bkhome.org/blog2/?viewDetailed=00340 Precise Puppy Linux 5.7 August 3, 2013
http://distro.ibiblio.org/quirky/precise-5.7.1/ download from here.
http://bkhome.org/blog2/?viewDetailed=00346 Precise Puppy Linux 5.7 announcement.

I have used Puppy Linux for about 5 years since 2008. Starting with version 4.1.11 and now version 5.2.8, soon to move over to version 5.7.1.

I enjoyed using Tiny Core Linux. They just came out with version 5.0. I tried version 4.7 and was able to work with my WIFI setup after installation to surf the internet.

Puppy has a good out of the box experience, Tiny Core is more configurable or customizable.

Hi :)
Choice and diversity scares people.

There are many flavours of ice-cream. Which one is best?
There are many styles and colours of trousers&jeans. Which is best?
There are many types of vehicles. Which is best?

Does it make any sense to ask which is best? What 1 person prefers in 1 place might not be what another person wants. Should we restrict the amount of choice so that different companies can focus on getting the 1 flavour really good instead of "fragmenting the market" by having people in different companies working on different versions?

Each distro has minor differences on the surface but all work in much the same way. All tend to come with the same programs preinstalled (or very similar equivalents) any of which can be swapped out for almost anything you prefer. So, immediately after install you can use the machine for almost anything.

Security is so tight that many programs now write 1st for Gnu&Linux and then port to Windows. Other times a favourite program might not be available but Gnu&Linux has a very similar program. Many popular programs, such as Firefox and Chrome, started out with only a Gnu&Linux version and didn't get onto Window until much later. When you run updates (or get auto-updates) then all programs and everything gets updated all at the same time.

With Windows after you install it you then have to install tons of programs, such as Office. Almost everything you want to do means buying and installing another program. Usually the place you buy the machine from has chosen which programs they want you to use but a fresh install means installing them all yourself. When you use auto-updates or choose to update the system any extra programs don't get updated and that leaves your system vulnerable.

With Windows the different versions (Xp, Vista, Win7, Win8) are different ages. Some are more mature and more familiar to more people. Some are newer and built to withstand newer types of attacks. All are very different on the surface and require re-training or take time to get used to.

All the different distros are much the same and all are built to withstand the newest types of attacks and tend to be secure against future types of attacks too. If you are familiar with one then you can use another very easily.

So, unlike Windows, you can pick one at random and keep using it until you realise you want something a bit different and then you can choose another.

Much the same way you can pick an ice-cream flavour at random but if you realise you don't like strawberry then next time choose chocolate or something else.

Top of the charts at the moment is Android which is a fairly unusual flavour of Gnu&Linux and more vulnerable than most but nowhere near as vulnerable as Windows or even Mac. Also it's not for desktops at the time of writing although i hear they plan to release a desktop version.
2nd place is Mint (is daughter of Ubuntu and in the Debian family and very easy for noobs),
3rd is Debian (not for noobs and is often found on Servers rather than desktops),
4th is Ubuntu (looks more like Android but is found on desktops and servers)
5th is Mageia, daughter/son of Mandriva but is free from French politics. Another excellent 1st choice for noobs desktops.
6th is Fedora which is in the Redhat family along with CentOS and Scientific Linux. Redhat is used in a lot of companies but usually only on servers. Fedora is better on desktops and is another excellent 1st choice for noobs.

While all those families are very similar Puppy is quite different but in a slightly different direction from Android. Both are less easy at installing or removing programs. Mac is in the BSD family but that family is more different than Android or Puppy.

An example of a difference is that all in the Debian family use "apt-get", on the command-line, to install or update programs while Redhat family use "yum" or something. Both can use "Synaptic Package Manager" to install or update stuff by point&clicking on the desktop.

A surprisingly accurate chart is at
(although it misses off Android and Mac (but does have others in the BSD family)). Note that openSUSE is 7th and Puppy 10th. Slackware and Arch are usually quite low because neither are good for a 1st timer even though either are possibly better than any of the others when installed by their experts. Redhat and others are artificiallly low because their users don't visit the DW site so much. (see the DW dislaimer about their own chart)

DW's main aim is to keep us informed about a lot of the "under the bonnet" stuff in all the differnt distros and NOT to tell us which flavour is currently considered 'best'.

Regards from
Tom :)

I am in the process of writing up our adventures

... stay tuned :-)


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