Re: A small Debian-NP detail
On Wednesday 26 May 2004 09:20 pm, Holmes Wilson wrote:
> Hi John,
> The ball is still just getting rolling, so we haven't put all the
> information up there yet about our experiences, and we didn't really
> have the people to put together learning materials. I got really busy
> with other projects, and a few other people left town. But, the lab
> has been a pretty successful after school drop-in program for local
> kids, many of whom don't have computers and most of whom don't have
> internet access. So that's pretty positive.
> The thing I've been most impressed with by LTSP/Debian has been the
> stability. We have a bunch of young kids in there 4 days a week for a
> few hours clicking on pop-up ads, messing around with the settings, and
> generally beating the crap out of the computers. But in almost a year
> we've done practically no maintenance, and everything still works fine.
> If we had Windows PCs we'd need to do a clean re-install every two
> weeks or the computers would be completely unusable. That's the one
> thing that makes me really confident in recommending linux for
> nonprofit labs: the reliability.
> I'd say the biggest downsides are:
> 1) really crummy cut and paste functionality between Mozilla and
> This is a killer, and it was really surprising how big a deal it was.
> First, you can't copy images from Mozilla into openoffice-- you have to
> save the files to disk and then "Insert an Image". All the little kids
> got a crash course in how directory trees worked each time they wanted
> to put a picture in their report. Second, when you copy a big section
> of text it tries to paste it into openoffice.org as html, which throws
> ooo into its completely-inscrutable html editing mode. It would be
> better if it just pasted plain text. And we'd do this all the time
> because in order to save paper we really wanted people to paste images
> and text into documents, so they'd print out more efficiently (no 20
> page printouts with 30 pt text). But quite often it simply wouldn't
> work, or it would have to be fiddled with. I've even tried this with
> the latest versions in Fedora Core 2, and it still doesn't work. That
> made me want to switch to Konqueror and KWord, but the version of
> Konqueror for Debian stable really sucks.
I'm running Debian testing with KDE 3.2.2 and was able to drag and drop an
image from Konqueror into OpenOffice.
> 2) no local CD/floppy support.
> I know they have this working, I just couldn't figure it out.
> Hopefully it will come out of the box in newer versions
> 3) Clicking on a program multiple times opens multiple instances of it.
> This is a terrible thing for beginners, especially on underpowered
> hardware. There should be some global switch that allows you to shut
> it off, or at least to make it impossible to launch the same
> application twice within 30 seconds. We have a hack that does this for
> Mozilla, but it should come out of the box.
> 4) no local sound support.
> We got it working on one computer, but it was really tricky and had to
> be manually configured each time. Also, lots of old computers have ISA
> soundcards that linux rarely autodetects.
> My general issue with Debian is that it's too slow to incorporate new
> stuff. This makes sense for people running servers where everything is
> already more or less good enough. But for Desktop users linux is *not
> good enough yet* and so it's really important to get the newest
> versions of everything onto peoples' computers quickly. It seems like
> Fedora Core is going to be pretty good at getting out the new stuff. I
> think we'll be switching to K12LTSP.org with FC 2 when it comes out.
I think if you want desktop functionality, you probably will have to run
Debian testing. I don't know about Gnome, but the time between a new KDE
point release and the time it hits testing is very short.
Don't let the "testing" label scare you: I've been running testing and KDE
3.2 every day all day for a couple weeks and have not had a single
> Plus, I just checked out your organization's website. It looks
> awesome. Myself and some friends are really interested in putting
> together a compendium of tech tools and resources for nonprofits and
> activist groups.
> On May 26, 2004, at 8:46 AM, john stanton wrote:
> > Hi Holmes,
> > Your site and project looks great. For my part I would be interested
> > in hearing about your sucesses and obstacles etc using LTSP/Debian in
> > the lab. Are you planning on putting any info on the site about that?
> > Also are you developing/using any curricullem for the labs that you
> > can share?
> > John
> > npotechs.org
> > Holmes Wilson wrote:
> >> Hi,
> >> I just joined the list. My name's Holmes Wilson and I'm involved
> >> with running a program that uses donated computers and linux to set
> >> up labs in my town of Worcester, Massachusetts: worcestercoop.org.
> >> It's similar to Freegeek, but a lot smaller, and still just getting
> >> going. A big part of my interest in the project has to do with
> >> turning nonprofits on to the benefits of free software, so I'm really
> >> into the idea of Debian NP, and I think making a live CD was a very
> >> good call.
> >> Anyway, I just tried out the Debian-NP live CD, and I have a couple
> >> small points that I think could make the next version better suited
> >> for its purpose:
> >> The first was that I really think the default background art should
> >> be replaced with something more conservative. Not because I don't
> >> like the graphic, or because I personally think people should have
> >> boring Desktop backgrounds--I hate Windows98 green just as much as
> >> the next guy. But speaking as someone who's really tried to pitch
> >> Linux to skeptical, non-tech-savvy people who run community groups,
> >> it's always seemed like the number one challenge is convincing them
> >> that linux is not some weird wacky thing that will make their
> >> computers even more inscrutable. To that end, I think Debian-NP
> >> would be a more effective demonstration if the computer looked a
> >> little less weird. A solid, darkish color or a nice gradient would
> >> be a lot better, I think. If it were subtly branded with something
> >> like "Debian-NP: Linux for nonprofits", then so much the better. But
> >> I think the beaker filled with magenta liquid is a bit too trippy for
> >> people who are already nervous about changing computers (and may
> >> already be leaning towards thinking I'm some hippy idealist :)
> >> The second issue was with the menu in the panel. Having a separate
> >> menu for Debian apps is confusing and strange. Things are set up
> >> that way too at an LTSP lab we run, and I've seen it confuse people.
> >> Most people aren't going to know what Debian is, and to beginners
> >> (nearly everyone, when it comes to Linux) it's bad to introduce
> >> unnecessary arbitrary terms for things, because it confuses people.
> >> Some of those programs shouldn't be in the panel menu at all, and
> >> other very useful ones are buried under several layers because
> >> they're in the "Debian menu". If we could put all the programs
> >> considered useful in a single panel menu that would be a lot less
> >> confusing for first-time users.
> >> Thanks everybody, for putting together such a nice tool, and I'm
> >> looking forward to being part of this discussion.
> >> Holmes
Mark Bucciarelli, www.hubcapconsulting.com
GNU/Linux user #266,902 at http://counter.li.org