Linux for Irish schools was Re: [ILUG] AGM 2004
adelaney at cs.may.ie
Sun Oct 17 14:44:29 IST 2004
On Sun, 2004-10-17 at 02:28 +0100, Ronan Cunniffe wrote:
> On Sat, 16 Oct 2004, Lee Hosty wrote:
> > Noirin Plunkett wrote:
> > > Asterisk, and Brian Scanlan, who talked about the opportunities for
> > > developing (and supporting) Open Source solutions for schools.
> > And the promised surprise project was?
> There is money sloshing towards providing broadband for schools. HEAnet
> is heavily involved in connecting all the bits, but their responsibility
> ends at the router, but Brian's observation is that there is an
> opportunity here to present what I think he termed "a standard Open
> Source desktop" - he suggested a translation of Skolelinux as already
> mostly set up for this.
I've not used Skolelinux in this regard, but I have used Debian. With
regard to your "infrastructure" point below. Many of the schools I know
do have infrastructure. However it's equipment that has been built up
over a number of years, so they need an OS that can run on Win98 PIIs
and WinXP P4s. Thus, Skolelinux looks (to me) to be a little resource
hungry. The problems are the requirements
1) Support for teaching/learning the ECDL
2) Support for educational software
3) Support for users with special needs
4) Support for the Irish language.
5) Easy user management tools.
I've been trying to do (1) with little success. I basically don't have
the time to write the curriculum. It's not difficult to do though. But
with reference to my "infrastructure" point above, this will have to be
done with Abiword + Gnumeric.
(2) is a problem for a lot of software that schools have purchased. Im
talking about the Macromedia Flash type software games that they buy on
CDs. I have successfully convinced a school that their need for ECDL +
reliable software outweighs the need for support for software games that
are not linked to the curricculum. Anyhow, Gcompris does an excellent
(3) suggests Gnome desktop environment. KDE could be considered after
Version 4 when they'll have good accessibility support.
(4) is required if we want to argue the advantages of GNU/Linux over
their current systems.
Schools (especially Irish primary schools) are structured in a specific
manner, we need to take advantage of this. There's no point in
using /etc/passwd for user management, however there's no need for
something as configurable as LDAP. I would use LDAP but provide a nice
schema that is editable by a nice user interface (probably web based).
> There were various points raised:
> 1) Most school don't have any real IT infrastructure, and are not going to
> take a leap in the dark.
I think this depends on how this is sold.
> 2) Teachers talk to each other, so successful pilots are very, very
Very, very true. My future wife is a teacher, so I know this one from
sitting in the pub talking to her co-workers.
> 3) Schools are likely to prefer corporate support than volunteer - may shy
> away from a project not backed long term by a "credible" support
I think this _is_ important. We need to come up with some standard
setup that could be supported by local businesses.
I think it is possible to offer two options to schools
* LTSP and
* standard thick client install
(My apologies for mixing tech-talk with this email) but have them based
on a slightly tweaked version of a major GNU/Linux distro. With hard
emphasis on _slightly_. I would hope that only the user
management/authentication and email should be tweaked to "our" LDAP
The aim is to offer a focused product with only a few options.
Configure it _specifically_ to the needs of schools (whitelist of email
address to accept mail from, filter student email for swear words
etc...) and "sell" it. This is both a medium sized tech job and a large
Aidan Delaney email: adelaney at cs.may.ie
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