5 Reasons to Get Excited about Linux on the Netbook

For those following the developments in the open source world, particularly with the emergence of open source operating systems that may challenge the dominance of those in the current market, a recent item from the ReadWriteWeb titled 5 Reasons to Get Excited about Linux on the Netbook will be of interest. It ties in well with my recent post where I noted the swing towards the use of netbooks in schools in the US.

Last year the writers at RWW claimed that your next computer may be a Linux PC, based on the rise in sales of netbooks and the opportunity for these to be released with pre-loaded Linux OS. Unfortunately there were problems with this as the article outlines in its introduction, but now they feel the tide may be changing.

In this article RWW reports on five different operating systems that you could install on a netbook right now (or at least in the very near future). These include JotiCloudCloud1.0 from gOS, Moblin, the Ubuntu Netbook Remix, and of course, Google’s ChromeOS which at this stage is only an announcement.

Of course, this is an area that is still in its infancy, but is exciting to see the developments occurring, and the range of options that are emerging. What is interesting is how each of the OSs listed above is being optimised specifically for netbooks – a clear sign that the developers see netbooks as being a significant part of the emerging marketplace.

As I am hearing an increasing number of schools around the country beginning to think about purchasing netbooks for students (decisions being driven mostly by price considerations), my advice is to think also about the operating system that they might choose to install.

As a footnote, but still on the topic of software licensing and operating systems, I note that the the NZ Ministry of Education has signed contracts to provide schools with computer operating systems, office suites, anti-virus and web filtering software for the next three years. In the press release they note that..

“Schools will still be free to use any product they wish to. A number of schools are using open source software or browser based alternatives and they will continue to have this choice.”

Sounds good – but not all agree 🙂

8 thoughts on “5 Reasons to Get Excited about Linux on the Netbook

  1. Seems every online geek now wants their share of the Moe money so they can buy gear and run ubuntu or whatever for thier machines. Thing is nzs ability to remain lisenced is a risk the govt can’t afford to take. Imagine 100,000 computers running unlisenced os. It would take one court case and the Moe would be in the gun. The Linux solution for netbooks and free software solutions are great if you are an absolute geek but truth is that it might suit 2% of schools who are ready for that leap. And those 2% might argue that they should have their slice of the pie- but all if a sudden we make exceptions for a few and we have a crumble. The software lisence covers kidpix. Let’s take that off every pc in nz schools so cloud geek, Twitter freaks can have online speadsheets. The moe can keep my $500 bucks and chuck me the odd bit of current software.

  2. Hi Luke
    The question is one of choice and there are choices for all levels of users. I have computers that run Windows based OS and Linux. My daughter, who is 9, moves easily, even seemlessly, between Mac OS at school, Windows and Linux at home. She can easily use MS Office, Apple iWorks and Open Office for her basic needs. There is no need to prescribe a set of tools. There is a need for teachers, schools and students to be able to make choices about what suits them the best. If this is MS Office or iWorks great, but if it is to use open office, or Google documents or Zoho documents or Buzzword and to invest the funds from software in more computers or equipment they should be able to do this too.

    As to court cases, the liciencing agreement is dependent on accurate reporting of number of computers and software by the schools. The risk to MinEdu of inaccurate reporting and therefore liability is the same. Schools that deliberately violate copyright agreements will do this irrespective of a liciencing agreement.

    The misconception that to use Linux you have to be an uber geek is actually grossly inaccurate. Using Linux based OSes is no more challenging than Mac or Windows. They are icon driven graphic systems the same as Windows and Mac

    And if you want to categorise people as cloud freaks, I hope you realise that almost every one of your students is a “cloud geek” as they socialise in those cloud applications like Bebo, facebook, MySpace, Youtube, Animoto, Twitter, Diigo, MSN, Yahoo Messenger etc.



  3. I agree with Andrew students can move seamlessly between the different OSes. Linux did gain some traction with the eeepc and acer aspire one distributions. The young ones asked to rate the operating systems (no price constraint) I dear say would choose; if we asked enough; mac –> windows –> linux. I don’t see this change any time soon for the following reason. People can buy a DSE mp3 player or an ipod. The ipod is better end of but costs more. To install software, find drivers and customise a linux system is harder and less graphically impressive an intuitive. No you don’t need to be an uber geek but you need to do more for yourself than with window or macos. Linux is less intuitive. I run a music server using linux and totally enjoy it. We may see oem distros starting to get some traction but they too may face an uphill battle. What is changing the game is the rise of the web which is OS independent. We can save money by choosing linux but the next 150 netbooks we buy for students will be win7 and I’m thinking that is the best choice if you have the dollars. That said I do sense a storm a brewing. I pay for music you can download it for free! I am happy to pay for an OS that remains better than linux. So what would have to happen for more people to move to linux before people started looking on mass? Macromedia, itunes, gaming, imovie, garageband ? etc. Close but no cigar!

  4. my argument isn’t with open source, I have an eeepc that runs linux my 9 year old can use it with very little hassle. My hassle comes from people thinking that if the MOE license agreement was withdrawn then all schools would be absolutely fine. This is a head in the sand mentality. The notion that giving me the MOE licensing money and we will get better for me as an individual isn’t really an argument. It would mean that the poor schools (poor in skills) would be left floundering for infrastructure, the MOE has to let the future thinkers go ahead and use open source but still needs to ensure those windows plonkers keep getting their teletubbys desktops. I knew lots of schools that had hundreds of machines running windows that they didn’t have a license for, since the MOE stepped in we now have these schools protected, it was a massive problem with nearly 70% of schools breaking licensing law before the MOE stepped in. I know i wasn’t legal with operating systems.

    Dave and Andrew are write, kids can use linux – but school infrastructure would need to step up if we were to maintain these machines/op systems. just dont pull the pin on MOE software money because free stuff is there, as derek said its early days, we would be mad to committ blindly to free only to find the time it takes to upgrade maintain etc time = money

    I don’t disagree that open source, cloud computing and all those buzz words will be where we head but don’t move those plonkers who are still pushing control alt del everytime they turn on their Pee Cee

  5. Something that is not often mentioned on this issue is the cost of remaining with the status quo. In the last 10 years the Ministry has spent $100m on MS licences. Think about what we educators could do with that funding. At the very least we could have quadrupled the number of PCs in our schools or funded a 1:1 notebook program for every student in the country. I don’t want to see another $100m head offshore. Albany Senior High School is an open source school and we run 100 Linux desktops for students. Because we run Ubuntu (which looks and acts just like XP) we didn’t even need to train our students on how to use them. They found the on button and have been up and running ever since. They open/close/edit Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Photoshop, image formats- everything, all from Linux and all using licence-free software. It’s great.

  6. Just want to clarify two things:
    1. Linux and Free and Open Source software provide the best educational opportunities. There is no question.
    2. Linux and Free and Open Source software are free and open source *because* of their licenses. They are NOT license-free. They are, however, almost always free of a license fees. That is a very very important distinction.

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