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Educational Collaboration

Hello All,

I am writing this letter in hopes of uniting several different - yet similar - projects. I am a firm believer of not re-inventing the wheel, and I hope that by bringing several wheels together, we'll be able to build something bigger as a collective.

My name is Kermit Jones and I am the founder of a non-profit in the U.S. that provides free technical support, hardware and software to homeschoolers, schools, churches, libraries and other non-profits. Naturally linux is a perfect fit. I see, however, a many other organizations and individuals doing similar tasks and often repeating the sames steps over and over. I think there is a better way, and I hope you each will take a moment to consider my proposal.

For those of you not familiar, Morphix is Linux distribution based Knoppix and, therefore, based on Debian. This LiveCD feature, many of you know, is an excellent way to quickly have an instance of Linux running and it allows people to check various issues out before installing. (forgive me Alex)

One of the tremendous strengths of Morphix, and the main reason my non-profit has chosen it, is that it very easily allows for customization of a LiveCD. Want KDE? Place the KDE-MainModule into the mainmod directory. Want to add OpenOffice? Place the OpenOffice-MiniModule in the minimod directory. One of you has graciously offered to begin working on a LTSP-server-MiniModule, with the distant possibility of a client minimod that automatically detects and configures a kernel and modifies the necessary files on the server based on MAC addresses. Think of how painless that would make a LTSP lab setup.

The folks at DebianEdu have a great start of educational .deb packages and meta-packages. They are in need of package maintainers, though. They reference the Ofset distribution Freeduc and ask for any integration of those programs into the DebianEdu system. That's great, because the lead Freeduc maintainer produces SciLix, which is a University focused LiveCD and he is using Morphix with an Educational-MainMod. Freeduc/Ofset has one of the most comprehensive lists of Educational Software selections. SkoleLinux has some great things going on, as well. I really like the options of configurations. Server, client, workstation, etc. However, how much easier would it be to simply maintain a module for each, insert, compress and burn a custom CD for that purpose. This isn't designed to be a summary of projects, though. We all have similar goals of Linux in Education/Schools. No one has enough developers or enough documentation. But together, I think we could accomplish far more than the simply sum of our efforts.

Our non-profit wants to help. There are several things we are in the process of implementing. First, a LiveCD distribution. It allows homeschoolers and schools to run the programs without a need to install (much like the FreeducCD). Second, we are writing documentation that explains how to implement each program in the classroom setting. A recommended Lesson Plan of sorts. Third, we are applying for Federal grant money that will allow us fund projects that directly support our mission. If you are getting this email, you qualify, though we are still in the process of obtaining the necessary funding. It may not be a lot, but we are going to try to fund others as much as possible. It may be monetary or hardware. Or both.

We are also drawing volunteers from various sources. In many instances, the clients we serve want to give back somehow. They often cannot code, but they are willing to test installation routines, programs, etc. They are willing to use a program and say, "Gee, this would work well in ____ and _____ subjects. Here's how to implement it." We will also use them to rate programs on their viability for use in education. It will allow review to point out what programs are awesome and which ones need helping along.

So you can see we're trying to coordinate a lot of things to achieve our goals. My hope is to first start by supporting some of the .deb maintainers and mini-mod maintainers (and morphix.org since it's the platform). We'll branch out from there. We will also maintain a server for the .deb and mini-mods related to education. I have a nice machine I'll put out there for you to do builds, etc., if it's needed (dual mp 2800+s with 1GB and SCSI 15K.3 drives). If you need equipment, odds and ends, I'll ship to you as I get it in. Whatever it takes to help you be more productive.

But if we can all get to a common base, it would allow for faster, more efficient work. Insert your module, change locales for language support, compress and burn. You instantly have a LiveCD customized for your specific need. There could even be mini-mods based on the levels of education (Primary/Secondary/College). Morphix has a nifty "Install to HD" icon that quickly installs it. I know Alex wants some help in adding some features, but just think... once you get it where you want it, you don't have to worry about the base installation method or hardware detection. The base Morphix module takes care of that. KDE is taken care of. Just add your Edu-mini-mods and go.

It's the same module approach many PHP programs use today. It allows for easy customization via apt-get, too. It allows you to focus on one or two key areas, like a specific mini-mod and language translation for your culture. In short, it allows for several countries to have nearly identical educational distributions localized for their region. That means that "new" documentation simply needs to be translated in many cases, and not written from scratch.

My apologies for the length of this letter. I've still only scratched the surface. I realize some of you have been doing this for a long time... years even. But please consider that uniting together allows for a better use of resources, frees up your time to focus on needed tasks, and give a broader base of users and feedback for improvements.

If you want to know more about our non-profit and philosophies/goals, you can download our White Paper:

This email is to simply touch base with you to see if you would be interested in proceeding in a joint venture. Please let me know if you have any questions.

Very respectfully,
Kermit Jones
Free Life Ministries

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