Linux Desktop in Peril. Solution? Education.

khess 0 Tallied Votes 284 Views Share

As I've written before (here and here), the Linux desktop in danger of extinction. If operating systems could be placed on the Endangered Species list, I'd lobby for it. Perhaps this is a legitmate task for the Linux Foundation: Preserve the Linux desktop.

I'm not quite ready to give up on Linux as a Desktop operating system--though I feel that I'm in the minority on this topic that grows mootier by the day. I think there's still a glimmer of hope in the unlikeliest of places: Schools.

I know it might sound crazy but it's true. Schools are notoriously cash poor. They are also the perfect places to innovate and stretch one's imagination to its limits. Children are very creative and excited about anything that will help save money, preserve the planet and help their schools. Believe it.

What's more creativity inspiring than the concept of open source software?

Explain open source to a child, any child, and watch their eyes light up in delight. Alternatively, explain the concept of proprietary, closed source and expensive software to them and watch their eyes glaze over. You should also expect a "That's stupid," remark or two while explaining that concept.

Don't get me wrong. There's nothing at all wrong with making a profit but should our children suffer without working computers because they're too expensive? The cost of hardware is only part of the picture--software often triples the original cost of the hardware.

The adoption of open source in schools,

1. Decreases financial entry point into computing.
2. Teaches children to solve problems creatively.
3. Introduces children to new concepts.
4. Lengthens the life of aging hardware.
5. Promotes the use of the Linux desktop.

There are ongoing programs around the world to use Linux and open source software in schools.

For example, one of my friends who works for a publisher in the Kansas City area is starting an open source conversion movement in her daughter's school. To read more about it, check out her blog for future updates as the project progresses.

As I see it, the way to promote the use of Linux as a desktop operating system is to start small--as in children. Everyone knows that when you convert the children, you convert the nation. Fortunately, this is a positive conversion with lasting effect.

Write back and let me know about any schools that are converting to Linux and open source software. If you're directly involved, that's even better.

Member Avatar for TKSS

The only bad part about schools is Macs are firmly entrenched there...and they pretty much give them away to the school. Along with that, Microsoft gives their stuff away on that level Linux doesn't have an advantage there either. I wish it were different, but it's not.

khess 95 Practically a Master Poster

Really? Maybe it's our school system. We have to buy our own computers in Oklahoma. Our PTA raises money every year to buy more computers for the school. They are all Dell with Windows XP--so far anyway. I'm trying to get the high school folks to try NComputing hardware (I gave them a set) and attempting to get them to look at open source too.

klrdn 0 Newbie Poster

Perhaps the combination of weak economy, Vista/Win 7 unpopularity and under-employed IT folks will weigh in Linux favor ?

windowsrefund 0 Newbie Poster

What exactly is "the linux desktop"? Of course, this question does not warrant attempts at providing answers since there is none. That's the entire point of Free Software (what this blogger mistakenly refers to as "open source"). There is no one size fits all presentation that all all users must tolerate. Different users have different needs and have developed thousands of ways to address those needs. That's the whole idea behind GNU/Linux distributions after all. Asking (or even speaking about) the "Linux desktop" just shows a complete lack of understanding about what drives free software to begin with. It assumes that there is (or should be) some single and exclusive grouping and presentation of all this "linux" software and that it should be referred to as "the linux desktop". Of course, that's completely idiotic when the overall history and progress of free software is considered.

As for the schools, the blogger is correct to point out the problems where Microsoft and other companies are treating them as a breeding ground to lock in their future customer base. In the same way that schools do not allow drug dealers to come in and peddle their crack, schools should be avoiding conversations with all of these predatory software vendors who only seek to create addiction to their wares. Getting back to this "linux desktop" thing however, anyone talking to schools about it is just setting themselves up for failure. You can't speak to someone about something that doesn't exist and you certainly are not going to sell them on it. It is far more important to discuss the issues of freedom with these institutions and apply to their agenda of education and knowledge sharing. After all, how is a student going to learn how to program if she or she can not have full access to the source code? You have to teach people to learn about and take steps to ensure their freedom rather than just trying to pitch them on a particular gizmo or widget. What happens when you sell someone on this "linux" thing and all of a sudden, Microsoft or Apple comes out with their "linux" desktop that is bound by a restrictive license? I know, I know... trademark issues aside........ think about the real issue that is being pointed out. If you're teaching someone to value a label rather its real value, you're just exposing them to being manipulated somewhere down the line when their label criteria is satisfied and the value is excluded.

LukaszR 0 Newbie Poster

Linux is definitely an OS that puts the mind to work. I think it'd be great to see the OpenSource Linux and other programs enter our school systems. It would definitely increase the knowledge of the users behind the monitor...and last but not schools tones and tones of money.

rntrent 0 Newbie Poster

All of the school systems I ever went through growing up had Microsoft. However, I found you article very interesting, and would like to learn more about Linux.


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