Honest about Linux

Reinstall Reinstall ReinstallSome very good friends of mine aren’t going to like this, but my enthusiastic support of Linux is taking something of a hit. I’ve said it before. It isn’t my Mac, which is always there, ready to do what every I want to push it to do. But I have to confess that the amount of time I have spent tweaking my Linux machines (one 8 year old Dell desktop and one six year old Sony laptop), is really hard to justify, with everything else I have going on. The experience of installing and uninstalling software is never the same, and the maze that is the file directory continues to baffle me.

Admittedly, I’m going at this with almost no previous knowledge of Linux and no subsequent formal training. I’m sure there are easier ways to do the things I’m trying to do. But isn’t the tipping point for Linux in classrooms, not needing a Penguin Guy looking over your shoulder.

To be fair, almost no classroom teachers are allowed to tinker with their PCs or Macs, to the level that I’m experimenting. Someone sets it up, and it runs reliably for that teacher (most of the time). Linux could be set up with the software the teacher needs, and the machine would run reliably (most of the time). But it isn’t painless yet. They level of Linux knowledge required is probably not would it would have been five years ago, or perhaps even one year ago. But there will be a learning slope to climb. Of course, most techies enjoy mountain climbing, when it comes to learning new technology.

Anyway, I’m sitting here waiting for Ubuntu to reinstall on my Dell, because it finally became clear that its hard disk was too small to run KDE. It rendered FTP useless, and many of my SQL files are enormous. I just love that kind’a talk 😉

4 thoughts on “Honest about Linux”

  1. I wish you could sit here, and see my students working on their laptops, smiling, working cooperatively, helping each other on difficult concepts. The technology is invisible, seemless, and works. I send on time maintaining, formatting harddrives, reinstalling the crashed operating system, trying to figure out the difference between a KDE and a SQL. We are paid to teach, not learn how to use computers. Call me spoiled, lazy, or whatever, if I had no choice and was forced to use Linux only, I would be forced to revert to an overhead projector and a chalk board. 🙂

  2. I completely agree with you. Linux has an enormous learning curve, at least for original set up and maintenance. However, to an experienced sysadmin, deploying 50 or even 1000 machines (with identical hardware) in a classroom (or even enterprise) setting is as easy as using rsync and System Imager. Once you’ve got that one system working exactly as you want it, you can make everything else transparent for your users. Simple shell scripts can be written to deploy new software packages, instead of running around to every machine with a CD-ROM and a license key that costs more than 10 plane tickets. There’s definitely a place in an educational environment for Linux and open-source software, but it will be a while before desktop and workstation use becomes commonplace.

  3. Hello.
    In my Center of secondary education we had 1200 students and than 700 computers equipped more with Linux. These are maintained by a Center of Management Outpost, that is in charge of the maintenance of software.

    In addition, we have a central servant from whom, in less of five minutes, we can recover the image of any hard disk of the center. The truth is that our experience with Linux is being wonderful.
    I request excuses by English my google.

  4. I’ve seen this before, and part of the problem is the age of your hardware. I know they say Linux can make better use of older equipment, but if you are wanting to run KDE or Gnome, 256MB of RAM isn’t going to cut it. (You didn’t say how much memory is in your machines, but 6-8 years ago 256MB was a luxury).

    Second is the learning curve. It’s steep, although the graphical tools do help. Whenever I am teaching beginning Linux to tech coordinators, I emphasis that they will want to reformat and try different things, experiment, until they are comfortable.

    What it all boils down to is the fact that computers still are too difficult for beginners, no matter if you are Windows, Mac or Linux. Sitting down with new people is an eye opener, and it’s so far removed from my current skill set that sometimes it takes me a moment or two to realize how they are looking at a particular roadblock. (One time I helped a new user set up a database for her books. When I went to help her sort and find books in the database, I couldn’t figure out why some things just wouldn’t sort correctly. It turns out that this person was used to old typewriters that didn’t have a zero or one key, and she was used to entering a lower case L for ones and an O for zeros…) 🙂

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