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Overview of Edubuntu – a FREE OS for schools General
Monday- May 15, 2006 @ 20:58:41 UTC General
Overview of Edubuntu – a FREE operating system for schools

About Edubuntu

Edubuntu is a free Linux-based operating system, designed specifically for use in educational environments. It provides a centralised management of configuration, users and processes, complete with collaborative working facilities. The Edubuntu package comes complete with some of the very best free software and digital materials for education.

The principle of Edubuntu implementation is that an educator can setup a computer lab, or establish an online learning environment in around one hour! Then administer that environment without extensive computer knowledge, or expensive further training.

Edubuntu has high quality support provided by an active community of enthusiasts and professionals.

The Edubuntu Manifesto (abridged)

The team behind Edubuntu makes the following public commitment to its users:

Edubuntu will always be free of charge.
Edubuntu includes the very best in translations and accessibility infrastructure that the Free Software community has to offer, to make Edubuntu usable by as many people as possible.
Edubuntu is released regularly and predictably; a new release is made every six months.
Edubuntu is entirely committed to the principles of free and open source software development.

 

About Ubuntu

Edubuntu is Ubuntu, customised for classroom use and is currently the most popular Linux distribution. Ubuntu, its creators, developers and users have won multiple awards in the industry for Best Distribution , Best Community , Outstanding Contribution to Linux , Linux Journal's Reader's Choice , and many more.

"Ubuntu" is an ancient African word, meaning "humanity to others". Ubuntu also means, "I am what I am because of who we all are". The Ubuntu Linux distribution brings the spirit of Ubuntu to the software world.


User

The Edubuntu desktop provides a child friendly (but easily customisable) intuitive environment, which is similar enough to other major operating systems (in particular Windows) that it takes just a moment for most users to orientate themselves and begin working.

Edubuntu comes with many hundreds of pre-installed applications to enable almost all users to perform whatever task they please immediately . The Edubuntu repository (a massive store of trusted software) also contains over sixteen thousand further packages , which can be accessed and installed easily and quickly if desired.

The pre-installed software includes a full office suite that is compatible with Microsoft Office, so enabling use of pre-existing files and exchange of files with Windows users, with only very rare compatibility issues to worry about. Also included are many educational games, graphics design software, desktop publishing applications, course-planning software, SchoolTool (for course planning, student management, calendar and timetabling, etc.) and hundreds more.

The installed educational software includes games to practice maths, spelling, reading and advances through to include typing, chemistry, languages, geography, etc. even astronomy, and computer programming!

All of the software can be given to (or downloaded by) students or parents. It may then be used at home, ensuring total continuity from school to home. There are no licensing issues with doing this.


Administrator

Edubuntu has been designed throughout to ensure it can be administered by teachers, rather than requiring specific IT personnel. This means that the skill set required is no more than that of an interested, informed and competent teacher.

The Ubuntu (and related) websites provide comprehensive documentation regarding all aspects of installing, administering, maintaining and using Edubuntu (and other products in the Ubuntu range).

The vast and active Ubuntu community provides rapid and effective support through the forums; however, professional support is also available from many companies, in particular Canonical, a company created specifically for providing professional support for Ubuntu, by Ubuntu's creator.

By using Edubuntu's terminal server system to create a network, only the server for each group needs software maintenance. This means only one computer to apply security patches, only one PC to update virus software, only one PC to reconfigure when anything changes (e.g. policies, colour schemes, pupil names, teachers, the theme of the week, or term, etc.)


Security

Linux distributions are widely regarded as the most secure operating systems available today.

Some simple facts demonstrate this:
Number of known viruses for Windows = 60,000 (approx)
Number of known viruses for Linux = 40 (Approx) and most of these are confined to research laboratories!
The German military have banned the use of Microsoft products due to concern over “back-doors” built-in to the operating system.
The Chinese government use Linux as their official operating system, due to similar security fears.
The USA 's National Security Agency ( NSA ) developed Secure Linux for its own use.
All open-source software (where the developers publish the code) is under constant scrutiny from peer review , something that can never happen with closed-source applications.
To install applications using Linux requires an administrator password , so a pupil cannot bring in a disc from home and break the system, similarly a virus infection cannot actually do anything without admin privileges.



Hardware

Edubuntu and Linux in general are very effective at using resources efficiently. When compared with the more popular operating systems, Linux requires lower specifications to perform the same task, uses them more economically and can be customised more easily to produce even sleeker operation.

However, where Edubuntu really excels is the built-in terminal server implementation. This enables just one powerful machine (the server) to provide a pre-processed feed to many “ thin-clients ” (low powered computers, often recycled, obsolescent machines , with no hard drive). The powerful machine does all the work for the thin-client, which just has to render the graphics on the screen and feedback the mouse and keyboard operations to the server.

This enables users to continue using (and often take out of retirement ) older computers which were considered useless.

Side Note:

It may be possible to “cluster” a couple or a few mid powered machines to create one “ super-computer ”. This groups computers and shares resources as though they were all in one enclosure.

For example, four single processor computers with 512Mb RAM each, would “cluster” to produce, in effect, a four-processor server with 2 GB RAM.

When upgrading, the cost is minimal as an upgrade to the server has an immediate impact on the performance of all the client computers!


Teaching

The effect of implementing Edubuntu is to allow teachers to take control of their computers, their software and thus their classrooms, rather than relying on some, often-absent, IT specialist . They will better understand the process of deploying the equipment and software. They will have masses of fantastic, pre-installed, educational software at hand, all free ; and they can get on with the job of teaching children, rather than fighting with their computers.


Cost

The cost is one truly astounding part of Edubuntu - it is free!

Edubuntu comes with hundreds of complimentary applications!

Edubuntu provides unlimited access to hundreds more educational packages! These alone would cost thousands of pounds when purchasing equivalent software for proprietary operating systems.

There are no lock-in contracts with Edubuntu or any of the supplied software, meaning you are free to change at any time, with no financial penalty.

When using the forums, support is also free of charge!

By recycling old computers to create a terminal server network, the hardware cost is minimal!

If required, to serve the network, the purchase cost of just one high-powered server is far less than many single mid-powered machines, one for each student or classroom.


References

http://www.edubuntu.org/

Edubuntu website

http://distrowatch.com/

Linux distribution popularity chart

http://www.ubuntu.com/

Ubuntu website

http://ubuntuforums.org

Ubuntu community forums

http://www.schooltool.org/

ScoolTool is included with Edubuntu

http://moodle.org/

Course Management Package

http://edu.kde.org/

KDE Edutainment Project

http://www.skolelinux.org/portal

Skolelinux website (another education focused operating system)

http://k12linux.org/contents.html

Linux project resources

http://www.tux4kids.com/

Tux4Kids website

http://schoolforge.net/

Open Source based groups working with schools

http://www.ofset.org/freeduc

directory of free software for education

http://canonical.com/

Professional Ubuntu support company

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2003/10/06/linux_vs_windows_viruses/

Register article discussing viruses

http://www.aaxnet.com/news/M010318.html

Security article

http://manueldublan.org/computerlab/

Case study of a school implementing Edubuntu

BECTA References:

http://www.becta.org.uk/corporate/publications/documents/BEC5606_Information_Sheetrev.pdf

http://www.becta.org.uk/corporate/publications/documents/BEC5606_Full_report18.pdf

http://www.becta.org.uk/corporate/publications/documents/BEC5606_Case_Study_16.pdf


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