[Date Prev][Date Next] [Thread Prev][Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

Re: edubuntu

Hello again Gavin.

Nice to see your commitment to free software and a nice lists of 
requirement that certainly should be fixed in Skolelinux. 

Lørdag 29 juli 2006 14:21, skrev Gavin McCullagh:

> 1. Ubuntu has produced a clean, well-honed desktop.  Debian has not.
>  This is a combination of menu organisation, hotplug stuff, artwork
> (arguably) and other issues.  Edubuntu and Debian-edu are pretty much
> inheriting these.  This point weighs very highly.  We have teachers 
> coming from the Mac and Windows platforms.  Impression really is
> _very_ important.  Personally I now use Edubuntu on desktops and
> Debian on servers.

Schools have turned on support for USB-sticks on thin clients with 
Skolelinux. On half thick clients (diskless workstation) hot plug also 
has to be turned on. The schools who has turned on the USB support have 
few complaints from teachers with that kind of expectations. 

There are schools where the USB support is turned off, and they will 
continue to have it turned off. There is two reasons for this. 

1. The pedagogical one. All the schools uses Class Fronter, Moodle or
   It's learning as a Learning Managaement System. The pupils and
   teacher should exchange work done at school or at home with the
   learning platform. Introducing USB makes it easy for pupils to
   deliberately forget to deliver their homework because they "forgot"
   their USB stick at home.

2. USB is a security and technical nightmare. Some USB sticks don't
   work on different machines, other do work on a lot of
   machines. When the USB stick don't work, the pupils and teachers
   get angry, even if the stick does not work on Windows either
   because of hardware incompatibility. When it comes to security USB
   stics are a Virus and Worm spreader. Therefor many companies close
   the USB port with glue to get rid of a security hole. Other
   companies uses thousands of Euro on extra software to scan the USB
   stick before it's connected to the PC-system.

The schools does not have the administrative resources to handle 1 and 
2. But the do want USB, and a lot of schools turn USB on with 
Skolelinux. And the InOut does this for the schools that want that on 
thin or half thick (diskless workstations). 

> 2. Edubuntu installs a good, minimal selection of software by
> default.  It is very important to us that there _not_ be two word
> processing packages, browsers, etc.  Multiple ones cause confusion 
> and increase the support load.  

Thats totally true. In Norway the company InOut that sells Skolelinux 
installations with server(s) and a lot of client's, they does small 
adjustments to the menu, and removes and installs the software the 
schools expect: 


> These are non-technical people for 
> the most part, things need to be kept simple.  I raised this issue on
> this list before.  One reply was that OpenOffice was not localised
> for language X so Kword was necessary. 

It's more a pedagogical reason I believe. 

A lot of teachers in 1-5 grade in primary school perceive OpenOffice.org 
to be an uninteresting and to complicated application to use for 
teaching. Norway is probably the country in the world with most 
computer in the schools. The use of computers in the classroom has 
stagnated or reduced in the 7th and 9th grade. That experts blame the 
teachers that over focus in product training with working with a office 
application, not taking advantage of using the skills pupils have at 
home with chatting, sharing things they have made them self, and use of 
the different applications on the web with a browser. 

> My opinion is that this does 
> not warrant putting it in the default install, but I do understand
> the issue.  I realise I could remove stuff from debian-edu's
> selection but this causes issues with meta-packages, etc.  Besides,
> to me removing unneeded packages is rather backwards.

Totally correct. I've tried to promote the need for easy adjustable 
profiles for different grade levels a couple of year now. Luckily the 
new user admin system for Skolelinux will have a plug-in that give the 
teacher or the schools system admin the possibility to tailor the menu 
for pupils in different grades: 


The French Skolelinux add on CD have different simplified desktops and 
nice artwork for different grades and user groups. There are a couple 
of people asked to do even more simplification of beautification of the 
desktop with nice pictures and such. 

On the technical side we probably have to clean up some dependencies 
that is unwanted. And that will be more easy to do with you helping us 
with a bug report Gavin. 

> 3. Edubuntu's regular release cycle can be seen as both a blessing
> and a curse.  It's a pain to have to do regular upgrades -- though if
> it's a clean upgrade which makes improvements I don't mind.  At the
> immature point most OSS is right now, upgrades are very important
> both for improved functionality and interoperability (eg OpenOffice
> 2).  

For a while back municipalities i Norway was installing K12LTSP in 
combination with Skolelinux at all their schools. They have changed 
back to Skolelinux based on Sarge with upgraded OpenOffice.org and 
simplified meny with less is more approach. The reason, they say, is 
that they really need stability and slow release cycles. 

Skolelinux based on Sarge is good enough on the desktop after an update 
of OpenOffice.org to the backported 2.0.3 version, and new Firefox with 
all the necessary media plug-in and Java installed. 

> The difference in quality between the software in Sarge and that 
> in Dapper is substantial. Etch may come out by the end of the year,
> but if past experience is a guide, much of the software will already
> be months behind on the day of release and will continue to age.  

The schools in Norway used that argument about Skolelinux 1.0. But after 
2.0 they have experienced that the 12-18 month old version of the 
destkop is not longer a problem. It's new enough, the schools says. 
Also the users get conservative about the destkop. They don't want it 
to change to much to often. Also, they have installed this list of 


The municipality of Kongsvinger has made a script doing the necessary 
installations. The script does some more things that has to be removed 
and tested. The municipality at Hurum does this quality work just now. 
I believe this will be popular scrips for many schools. 

> You can argue that this provides stability and I would agree, but
> stabilising an immature product is not necessarily attractive.  As
> dapper is LTS we can stick with it if we wish, though I suspect we'll
> upgrade next summer.

The system admins at Norwegian schools have not more than 2-4 hours a 
week to maintain a school network with 50-70 client machines. They 
often have a computer operator at the municipality also, with 2-4 hours 
a week for every school to maintain the system centrally. Upgradeing 
could have complications, and after what they tells me, they don't have 
the time resources to upgrade every year or every sixth month. Every 
secound or third year should be enough. This is much about resources. 
To upgrade every 6 month or 12 month, the schools don't have the 
resources - or they have to cut teaching and use more hours 
on system admin. 

> 4. I think the LTSP project is getting close to making local device
> (ie usb disk) access work on thin clients.  This is a killer feature
> for us. This really extends [3] in that we want to keep to a recent
> version of LTSP so we can have this ASAP.  I'm not clear of the
> details but it sort of appears debian-edu has forked LTSP. 

The MueKow is the new LTSP project. People from Debian, RedHat and 
Ubuntu has work together fixing and improving a lot of things that did 
not work good enough with the old LTSP. The MueKow LTSP is currently in 
a developing and bugfixing mode. Ubuntu servers as upstream for the 

We have also encountered some memory problems: 

-- Edubuntu expects 128 MB RAM on every thin client
-- Skolelinux supported thin clients with 32 MB RAM in version 1.0

When introducing the joint developed MueKow LTSP in Skolelinux 2.0 a lot 
of thin client installations broke bacause the 64 MB RAM limit. A lot 
of schools removed it, and reinstalled LTSP 4.2 (with USB support) and 
swap turned on. Look at this bug report outline the problem: 


There also made a guide installing half thin client with Skolelinux 
where hot-plug USB, sound and all other things work as expected. This 
guide needs some improvements, but it get most of the job done: 


> Edubutnu has a plan for this, albeit not really with a roadmap.

I believe the different issues of development and status is outlined in 
this wiki-document: 

> 5. Edubuntu's administration is _much_ simpler.  There is one
> network. There is a simple user manager under System->Administration.
>  The two IT teachers will need to learn how to deal with lts.conf but
> this is not a big deal.  WLUS is not very nice (sorry, but it isn't)
> and it seems impossible to give a teacher limited access to
> webmin/wlus which would have been very nice.  

The concern about delegated simplified user admin for teachers that has 
to change password for pupils that (deliberately) forget the password, 
has been addressed. Two solution has been made, one from Finn-Arne that 
is very easy to use. An other from Kongsvinger that makes it easy to 
give delegated user admin functionality for teachers. 

But the user admin tool should be even better than it is today. And the 
work with CipUX by the German and French Skolelinux developers probably 
gives the right solution from a functionality and usibility viewpoint: 


> For now, we can work 
> with one network, one set of IPs.  We will need a second thin client
> server in the coming months and at that point we will look again at
> whether we need to re-divide the network (I hope not with a gigabit
> backbone).  A third thin client server would likely force the issue,
> but that's okay.  If we get to that point, the project is already an
> overwhelming success.

After talking a lot with the maintenance operation that runs > 30 
Skolelinux installations in Norway, they have this list of requirement 
for next Skolelinux:

-- Laptop profile with the power management working, and a nomad
   coupling that connects the laptop to the Skolelinux network when it
   recognise that, and the home net when that is nearby (wifi-radar
   support etc.).

-- All the decoders have to be easy to install (for Windows Media, DVD
   encryption, mp3, mov, mpg etc.).

-- USB out of the box. This is turned on by InOut an others by
  manual configuration. It's fixed out of the box in Debian Etch.
  USB support will also be pressent out of the box on half 
  thich clients (diskless workstations) and thin clients (if the 
  clients are not to old, and have USB version > 1.0)

-- FEIDE out of the box (FEIDE is a ministry driven authentification
   system for pupils and teachers in Norwegian schools).

-- Get more of the pedagogic software installed, and tailor this to
  the different grades

-- Pedagogic content. Open Content is increasing. The Norwegian
  Ministry of Education uses 6,3 million EURO to digital teaching
  content in 2006.

-- Turn on the the swap on thin an half thick clients (diskless
   workstations) as default.

-- Improved user admin with CipUX 

What more do you want to add on to this list Gavin and others?

Oh. There are a lot of people working with getting Moodle out of the box 
with Skolelinux integrated with CipUX. A debian package is ready for 
testing, and will with 99% probability be a part of Debian Etch. 

Best regards

Knut Yrvin

Reply to: