Education Case Study: Move from DOS to Linux stirs interest in teachers and students

Marbury School
Aldgate
Australia

Website
Submitted by:
Ian Sheppard
Email: is marbury.sa.edu.au

How things got started...

At the end of 1998, we were looking at an upgrade of our DOS network. We wanted to still use the 386 equipment and it seemed that the Microsoft terminal server would do what we wanted. However it was expensive and we would also need the citrix software. Then a former student suggested that we try linux. The only loss would be the time and effort of setting things up and the ex-student was prepared to do that for us.

Why Free Software?

It was free in terms of software.

The plan...

Yes it worked, so over the Christmas break we purchased a server (Celeron 333 with 256MB RAM), put cabling through the main heritage listed building and then purchased 20 oex-govt 486 machines ($200 each) to operate as x-terminals on the network. Running X on the 386's was slow. The total cost was about $6000 for 25 terminals, of which the software cost was 0, but many hours. We have done various pieces of upgrading since then.

Evaluation...

The system does have problems from time to time but is remarkably robust and stable for those that have come from a DOS / Windows background. The recent upgrade to RedHat 7.1 has caused a few problems but the functionality associated with KDE2 has been welcome. It would appear that the server will need to be upgraded soon as there are times when it does slow down. Suggestions are that we need 50MB RAM per work station. This is far more than we currently have. Students in the secondary school help each other and are able to use the system readily. In the primary where the teachers have had less exposure, there is a desire to use specific educational programs . These have usually been written for win/mac and the effort involved in getting these to run under wine, win4lin or vmware has been too much to date. Apart from wine the system would struggle to support such programs.

The Future...

There are numerous small projects and evolutions of the system envisaged. These include server upgrade, faster internet connection, switches to replace some of the hubs, involvement in Open Source Projects by staff and students, monitoring new applications tha would be of use.