Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Linux, me, and the 1 to 1 ratio.

I've been wanting to move this site onto it's own dedicated server for a while now, which for me involves getting working versions of Linux and Apache on a clunky 6 year old Compaq and combining that with a high speed connection.

A while back I tried Linspire (Formerly Lindows). The installer hung up every time.

Then I got my hands on a copy of Simply MEPIS. It would boot, but the GUI wouldn't load well and I'm not enough of a tech person too do command line stuff all the time.

Last night I burned myself a copy of KNOPPIX and, miraculously, IT WORKED! Alas, I couldn't figure out how to install it onto the hard drive. It's a Live CD, after all.

So now I'm torn between Debian (KNOPPIX is based off of Debian, so I'm guessing they're quite similar...) or KANOTIX (which says it's a Live CD but that it can install Debian). I'll probably try KANOTIX first, since it's fewer CDs to mess with, but if I can't create a swap file like I could with KNOPPIX then I just don't have enough RAM to run it.

So where am I finding out about all of these Linux versions and where to get them? Why, of course! If you have any interest in playing around with Linux (Even if you want to put it on a Mac - there are versions made for Mac hardware now!) I sincerely recommend trying that site out. You'll have to do a bit of searching, but it's worth it.

But why am I talking about all of this? It's partially so you all know what's going through this twisted mind of mine, partially because some Linux guru might email me and give me some sage advice on what to do or not to do, but mostly as an example.

I've learned more Linux stuff in the past week of playing with Linux installations than I have in the previous 27 years of my life. Why? Because I'm experimenting with it. I'm playing with the software and doing trial and error things that might crash my computer, but it's a spare anyway. I have a feeling that if you ask me again next week I'll know five times or more about Linux than I do right now. It's not as hard a learning curve as most people think it is, thanks to the graphical user interfaces that they have in most distributions now.

Imagine if a school on a budget crunch got a bunch of old PCs or stretched their tech budget by buying 10 old computers instead of 1 new one (That's not much of a stretch - I can easily get my hands on a computer with an 8 gig hard drive and 64 meg of ram for $70 or less), then installed Linux, OpenOffice, The GIMP, and Mozilla on them. They would have 90% of the functionality of a Windows machine for a fraction of the cost, and the school's Technology Coordinator wouldn't suffer too much from culture shock because of the change - provided he or she was given a little advance warning. I see this as a powerful option for schools who want to come closer to that 1 computer per student ratio. On top of that is of course the increased security found from using a non-Windows machine. (Yes I know Symantec just came out and said that Macs might be less safe now, but perhaps they should focus more on their own concrete flaws before they start talking about hypothetical ones.)

Now do I think that it's the best option? Personally I'd rather that every student was handed a shiny new Powerbook or iBook, but there aren't many school districts that are willing to toss out the cash for that. ... Maybe a Mac Mini for every student. After all, you can get an education discount whether you're a school, teacher, or student. (Yes I know Symantec just came out and said that Macs might be less safe now, but perhaps they should focus more on they're not so perfect either. Windows is still the least secure OS I've ever experienced.) When push comes to shove I'm willing to set aside my zeal for the Mac OS in favor of still having a computer available to as many students as possible.

Aw nuts, now I want my own computer lab more than ever.

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