High school switches to Linux

September 15, 2006 at 8:46 am Leave a comment

If you haven’t heard of Linux, you’re probably not a high school student in Indiana. The Department of Education has installed 22,000 Linux workstations in 24 high schools over the past year and the number of schools is expected to grow to 80 this year. Like Windows, Linux is an operating system, the basic set of software that lets you run programs, manage files, and so on. Unlike Windows, however, Linux is available for free. Developed over the last fifteen years by hordes of eager volunteers, it has become a solid, reliable operating system suitable for both desktop computers and the servers that run the internet.

Mike Huffman, special assistant for technology at the Indiana Department of Education, said “The amazing part of this is, with everything we’re doing in the classroom, teachers don’t bring up Linux. They don’t bring up open source. They bring up curriculum.” Huffman asked a student, last year, what he thought of using a Linux-based computer instead of a Windows-based one. The student answered, simply, “who cares?” Huffman explained the impetus for the switch: “We have a million kids in the state of Indiana. If we were to pay $100 for software on each machine, each year, that’s $100 million for software. That’s well beyond our ability. That’s why open source is so attractive. We can cut those costs down to $5 [on each computer] per year.”

With a savings like that, it’s a wonder more schools haven’t made the switch. Currently, of the five active computers in my office, only one — a file server — runs on Linux. My next laptop, however, will definitely run Linux rather than Windows. Would you want to see your kids’ schools switch to Linux? Have you considered making the move yourself?

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