[Linux-aus] Organizing an Australian Open Source Roadshow?

Con Zymaris conz at cyber.com.au
Sat Jan 31 19:48:02 UTC 2004

On Sat, Jan 31, 2004 at 08:41:55AM +1100, Mathew Robertson wrote:
> > > $10 million is a lot of computers that they could be buying.  I mean
> > > think if they are spending $1200 per computer, saving $10 million
> > > means they could buy well over 8000 extra computers.  Thats something
> > > to definitely make you stop and think about isn't it?
> >
> > Why are you looking at the prices of the computers. Microsoft isn't
> > selling computers to these educational institutes.
> Hi Anshul,
> You missed the point Ben was trying to make.

Or to bring you a specific example for this issue, notice the comments
below about the 50% reduction of set-up costs and the massive reduction in
ongoing admin costs for a thin-client Linux vs. Windows educational

- - -

In Portland computer circles, you can't swing a mouse without hitting a
partisan of Linux (pronounced "LINN-ix"). Walk into the little closet that
houses Riverdale High School's computer servers, look up, and you see a
gigantic flightless waterbird looming above you. For Paul Nelson, the
Southwest Portland school's affable geek-in-chief, it's all about the

Nelson uses open-source software to run all 110 Riverdale student
terminals. The terminals themselves are bare-bones: just monitors, black
$5 keyboards and nearly empty black boxes Nelson scrounged on eBay for $86
apiece, stripped of everything but video cards and the gizmo that connects
them to four central servers. The terminals have no hard drives, no memory
of their own. The servers (code-named Archie, Jughead, Betty and Veronica)
provide all the software--free word processing, spreadsheet, email and
web-browsing programs.

Nelson figures that the Linux system saved Riverdale about $50,000 in
set-up costs alone. And instead of shelling out for tech support when a
problem crops up, Nelson emails educators around the world, with answers
arriving minutes later from Norway, North Portland or elsewhere.

Most important to Nelson, the centralized system allows him to teach,
rather than wrestle malfunctioning machines.

"I used to spend three-quarters of my time fixing computers, and
one-quarter teaching," he says. "Now it's the opposite."

Portland Public Schools technology chief Scott Robinson says his district
has outfitted 17 middle schools and three high schools with labs similar
to the one at Riverdale, using Linux to power more than 600 terminals. He
claims setting up a Linux lab costs the state's largest district just over
half the tab for a Microsoft Windows lab--$21,000 per school, instead of

In 1996, Nelson and Eric Harrison, who works for Multnomah County's
Education Service District, founded the K-12 Linux Project, aiming to
spread this low-cost computing gospel. Any school in the world can grab
the Project's custom-tweaked version of Linux off Harrison's computer for
free. So far, the software has been downloaded more than 150,000 times.
Schools across the United States use it, as do teachers in places like
Pakkret, Thailand, and Bydgoszcz, Poland.

- - -


Con Zymaris <conz at cyber.com.au> Level 4, 10 Queen St, Melbourne 03 9621 2377 
Cybersource: Unix/Linux, TCP/IP and Web App. Development  www.cyber.com.au

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