The fact that this has turned up also on the SuSE Linux schools list
and the fact that such a list exists (and has about 150 members) shows
that there is a bit more to it than this.
Of course there are usability and learning-curve issues. And yes, there
is a certain style of advocacy which is really the opposite of advocacy...
And I can't use `vee-eye' either. But I think gnome and kde (version 2 on
it's way) are both pretty usable and efficient.
As to the issues involved in making Linux more usable in the specific
conditions of schools, both as a server and a desktop OS, there are
constructive discussions going on in various quarters, particularly
Malcolm Herbert's inititatives (http://www.ose.org.uk).
And the speed at which Linux is getting more usable is pretty amazing (how
long ago was it that I was totally baffled trying to get my first slackware
installed and X running...? - it's so much easier now.)
(Of course the points about teachers' pay, workload and status are more
than valid. I was one of them, though in most ways one of the more
On Mon, 18 Sep 2000 davef(a)gbdirect.co.uk wrote:
> On Mon, Sep 18, 2000 at 11:32:26AM +0100, Gary Stainburn wrote:
> <simon says snip>
> > An excellent letter, with I believe just the tone required. I did notice
> > that you used the longer www.wylug.lug.org.uk instead of the (one less
> > lug) www.wylug.org.uk. I believe that the shorter name gives a better
> > image.
> I heartilly agree ... except I'd go further and get rid of the three Ws
> My 3 'peneth on the offering (speaking as someone with recent secondary
> teaching experience):
> Basically, linux in its raw state is no use to anyone in schools except
> for after-school tinkering by comp sci clubs or geeky physics/maths
> teachers, etc ... and there are not many of the latter with much time for
> In short, any offering must be completely and simply packaged (Mac-like)
> and fully supported.
> Anything less will simply be a waste of time for both wylug members and
> any targetted schools/teachers.
> P.S. Sorry for the stridency, but with the current state of UK teaching
> (i.e. shite pay, shite status, no time and the blame for all social
> ills) the usual bollocks which over-skilled Unix-gurus come out with in
> response to serious useability issues just won't wash
> Please, if you feel compelled to remind me about the amazing efficiency
> and useability of "vee-eye" and the bash ... don't bother
SuSE Linux Ltd
The Kinetic Centre
020 8387 1482
As world online are dumping free unmetered access, I am dumping them.
As a side effect I came across the following whilst checking out my former
which offers grants of up to £25,000 or £75,000, through the Lifelong Learning
Awards, and the Futuretalk Schools awards,.
I couldn't see any reason why open source projects for schools would not be
acceptable. Perhaps you could all rummage around the site and see if anyone has
any good ideas?
I've registered the Leicester Linux User Group with their Education Network
Database, as a potential partner for anyone applying for an award.
Sorry if you all know about this already.
My three ha'pence worth...
> From: Christopher Dawkins <cchd(a)felsted.essex.sch.uk>
> To: Schools List <suse-linux-uk-schools(a)suse.com>
> Subject: Re: [suse-linux-uk-schools] Linux in schools letter
> Date: 19 September 2000 20:43
> >> I agree with Dave Foster on this, as it echoes the point that I was
> >> to make several months ago, about the useability of Unix in general by
> >> non-technical users.
> Perfectly usable if it has been configured by a technical user first, but
> I agree, good technical backup is essential.
It is actually one of our pupils who sets up the Linux systems here - OK,
just a couple of workstations and our secondary server (all of the
public-access files on the network). Yes, he is an excellent techie, but he
makes the decisions on how to implement my requirements, while I nurse the
Win'95 client systems and coax them through the latest failures.
> >> They ... need a system which is easy to use NOW.
> > I don't think there is any such system.
> Most systems are easy to use till they go wrong or need expansion. At
> stage they all become difficult.
> > According to Becta some 500 out of 27000 secondary schools are using
> > open source in some way.
> and some in a big way.
We aim to migrate 30-odd systems next summer (hopefully).
> > What are the costs and time involved in pampering a MS based system
> > to actually work?
> and to keep working in the teeth of usage from male teenagers - that's
The main reason for going over to Linux - and the main cause of systems
failures (not including the several Jinxes who sit down and immediately get
a blue-screen! :)
Just how are we supposed to deal with half a dozen boys who's career
ambitions are to "be hackers"? (With sufficient nouce to make life
difficult under Windows, but too daft to be really criminal!) - Maybe a new
HowTo would be in order <g> ... or even a man page called acles (then you
would type the command 'man acles'? - sorry)
> Our 51 Acorn NCs average perhaps one visit each per year, so far only to
> fix mouse, keyboard or screen, or to upgrade RAM from the inadequate 8MB
> originally fitted. Our seventy discless X stations require a little more
> attention, partly because they are based on older hardware, maybe 15
> minutes each per year. Our forty RISC OS machines need their network
> numbering reconfigured locally whenever we change the numbering system,
> which seems to average once a decade.
> Our thirty Windows machines seem to need an OS reload on average once
> every six months, plus substantial amounts of other attention.
> >> Whilst Linux can be free, the machines are not.
> Yes, you are right, it is a pity we have to pay money for the hardware.
> pay about 25 pounds each for the base units, plus 30 for cheap monitors
> 150 for good 17" ones. The result is generally between 100 and 250 pounds
> each for discless workstations capable of Netscape, StarOffice, GIMP &
> email. Plus expensive server machines of course - about fifty
> per station. And network infrastructure - again about fifty pounds-worth
> per station.
> > I assume that we are not going to ask 5 year-olds to use the Linux
> > command line.
> I agree, here it's not till they are 8, when they get a shell account
> accessible from VT100 terminal windows, and pine for their email. It's
> till their teens that they get into things like altering their .cshrc
> files to customise their prompts (from 8 to 13 they have a menu shell
> front end, and few know anything of what they can get at behind it).
> >> Linux gui at a reasonable speed a fast Pentium is required (my 500 MHz
> >> Toshiba is slow running the Linux gui). Fast Pentiums cost a lot of
> Yes, agreed, we are going to buy a couple of 750MHz servers to replace
> two 500MHz Athlons that are currently sharing the load of 70 discless
> stations. We are also going to upgrade our central p166 server - it is
> definitely a bit strained handling over 1,000 shell logins, 1,200 emails
> and 12,000 intranet web requests each day.
Sorry, I have to DISAGREE STRONGLY - I have 2 workstations at home - an
optimised 500 (256MB RAM) running Win'95 and a 300 (128MB RAM), and far
from optimised running SuSE 6.4 (& KDE)- any guesses which is quicker?
(Clue, not Windows.) - some of the larger apps (Star Office is the worst
for this) are painfully slow at times, but most run well enough. Even a
166, here, runs acceptably when compared with its Win '95 equivalent.
> >> I find the Linux gui complicated to use, so what chance a 5 year old?
> They seem very confident with the Acorn one, and they graduate from that
> to KDE remarkably well.
Most of our users have expressed a preference for the KDE desktop to
Windows - and claim that it makes more sense than the Win desktop (I think
they just like the configurability - most of them like to tinker)
> > This evidence that Acorns are still useful machines seems to be in
> > contradiction to your earlier assertion that a feeble machine with a
> > command line is of no practical use.
> Feeble machines with command lines work very well as our main servers,
> anyway. The Acorns have an optional command line which most users never
> >> If the Linux community is intent upon getting Linux into schools,
> >> it should look at the possibility of getting Linux installed onto the
> >> existing RiscOS machines, which are not costing anything to the
> > I think most schools have more PCs than RiscOS machines nowadays.
We don't possess any RiscOS systems, and few local schools seem to, either.
> which one presumes they chose because of the many fundamental design
> features that make these machines so appropriate both for schools and for
> networking. It's presumably never the case that a school has chosen these
> machines for reasons such as "everyone else has them" or "there's no
> Christopher Dawkins, Felsted School, Dunmow, Essex CM6 3JG
> 01371-820527 or 07798 636725 cchd(a)felsted.essex.sch.uk
Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, 2000.
You are warned that all electronic communications are subject
to interception for regulatory, quality control and crime
Edgehill IT Department Email Service.
Please check sender's address from body of
Message for return address.
Find us at:
On Tue, Sep 19, 2000 at 08:24:19AM +0100, Phillip Marsden at WYLUG wrote:
> I agree with Dave Foster on this, as it echoes the point that I was trying
> to make several months ago, about the useability of Unix in general by
> non-technical users.
> While Roger Whitaker is correct in that the Linux useability is improving
> rapidly, it must be remembered that teachers are not given the time to
> bring themselves up to speed with these new systems. They, like many in
> commerce, need a system which is easy to use NOW.
I don't think there is any such system. Any kind of computer or
network of computers requires time and effort if you're going to do
anything that is not trivial. Unfortunately, the government has
thrown money at schools but none of it is being used to educate the
teachers. Schools also seem loathe to spend money on technicians but
will happily blow huge amounts on the very latest hardware.
> Frank Shute makes the point that 'quite a few' schools are using Squid etc.
> It would be interesting to know how many of the 260+ schools in Leeds alone
> (not counting further education) are using Linux (in any form), never mind
> the many thousands in the rest of the country. The 'quite a few' probably
> means 'hardly any'.
According to Becta some 500 out of 27000 secondary schools are using
open source in some way.
I'd say that is `quite a few'. Remember, a couple of years ago
businesses didn't even know what linux was, they certainly do now
and a considerable number are making use of it, despite the much
hyped `usabilty issues'.
As more graduates leave universities, where a lot will have been
exposed to it, a lot will get first jobs as network admins and
technicians at secondary schools where they will make use of it. The
number of schools using it is set to grow.
> I assume that we are talking about schools, and not cash-rich colleges and
> universities? If so, the issue of getting Linux into schools is not just
> the Linux advocate's old mantra "lets get rid of Microsoft". There are
> other factors involved, namely cost and time.
What are the costs and time involved in pampering a MS based system
to actually work?
> Whilst Linux can be free, the machines are not. I assume that we are not
> going to ask 5 year-olds to use the Linux command line. In order to run a
> Linux gui at a reasonable speed a fast Pentium is required (my 500 MHz
> Toshiba is slow running the Linux gui). Fast Pentiums cost a lot of money,
This is nonsense with all due respect. I use a 300MHz Celeron as a
workstation and performance is not an issue. I also use a 486 as a
mail and news server and for masquerading/firewall. OK it wouldn't
hack it on a network of any size but it could still be put to use.
> Do not forget that schools cannot afford to use the 17/19/21 screens that
> some Linux enthusiasts (inside or outside universities) seem to think are
> normal. Pentiums use a lot of power. Apparently in many cases school
> computer rooms have had to be rewired because of the greater power
> consumption by the PC machines (more cost).
I visited a school where most of their machines were idle running
screensavers, APM was something that they obviously hadn't even
heard about. Their primary concern seemed to be about the kids
altering the screensavers to something rude! This Celeron uses less
than a quarter of the power with APM; what would their savings on
electric have been over a year if they had heard of it?
> The number of problems that arise in the WYLUG forum indicate that many
> problems do exist with the system. Imagine a school full of these things,
> and think what it would be like for the school technician to manage them.
> Teachers are not the only staff in schools with a heavy workload.
What about the technicians workload when the kids trash a few
critical files on their Windows machines? At this school I visited
they spent all their time just keeping the machines running, they
didn't have any spare time to sort out services such as email.
> I find the Linux gui complicated to use, so what chance a 5 year old? There
> is already a system in the schools which 5 year olds are perfectly happy
> with, and pick up with very little tuition. It is fast, but low on
> electrical power consumption, it does not need upgrading every school term
> or school year to cope with bloatware. I have a gui wordprocessor which is
> fully capable of writing a book (Douglas Adams wrote one of his first books
> with the earliest version) which fits on one floppy disk! It is the
> much-maligned Acorn (or RiscOS machines as they are now known). It rarely
> crashes, has the OS in ROM, is far more resistant to viruses than
> Microsoft, and reboots inside 15 seconds. Linux is available for it (ARM
> processor), but is unlikely to be used in schools as the native RiscOS is
> more than adequate.
This evidence that Acorns are still useful machines seems to be in
contradiction to your earlier assertion that a feeble machine with a
command line is of no practical use.
BTW, you might have a wordprocessor on a floppy but I have a working
linux system on a floppy - tomsrtnbt :)
> I am a member of an Acorn group, and it appears from listening to members
> from all over the country (many of whom are in education) that the Acorn
> gui is the one preferred by not only teachers, but by pupils also. It is
> backed by a community that appears to know about educational requirements.
> The Linux community, whilst having some very talented people, is not likely
> to have this background.
Tell that to Roger!
> If the Linux community is intent upon getting Linux into schools, perhaps
> it should look at the possibility of getting Linux installed onto the
> existing RiscOS machines, which are not costing anything to the schools.
I think most schools have more PCs than RiscOS machines nowadays.
BTW, it's worth subscribing to the Suse school's list where there is
plenty of informed discussion on this, send empty mail to:
| Boroughbridge | Tel: 01423 323019 | PGP keyID: 0xC0B341A3 |
Mark's points are well made. Most of you know the Linux world better than
I, but are there not quite a few GUI type tools available to help with the
administration of Linux systems add-ons? Could the solution be found in
scripted text type tools like Yast? Are these modular enough to encourage
someone to develop front ends to make the config easier?
Sorry if these are obvious questions.
From: Mark Evans [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: 19 September 2000 11:36
To: Simon Wood
Subject: Re: [suse-linux-uk-schools] Just what is needed from 'projects'
to make them usable in school s..?
> Hi all,
> I'm very keen on promoting the use of Linux (and other OS code) in schools
in my area (West Yorkshire). I hope that the work that WYLUG and myself put
in will be useful to the rest of the country/world.
Please ensure that you keep your lines under 80 characters it will make
things easier to read.
> It seems that the largest problem that OS projects are likely to have is
the underlying complexity of the code, this is (in most cases) beyond what
the average school user/administrator wants to take on. Basically what I
think is required is a system so simple that it will take next to no time to
set-up and administer on a day to day basic.
You appear to be confusing code with operation by an end user.
Also there is a "trap" in that something which is "easy" for one
can be horribly complex for another because design assumptions have been
which hold only for the first, requring the second to work arround them.
Most real world situations and requirements are not simple or trivial.
Setting up is also a different issue from "day to day" operations, ideally
day today operations will be mimimised because the *computer* will perform
repetitive actions (be they hourly, daily, whenever year 11 is out on work
> For example, take the idea of putting the School Canteen Menu up on the
intranet. This could probably be achieved by a series of PHP pages (maybe
with some form of database), this could be updated on a daily/weekly basis
by the canteen staff and viewed by anyone on the intranet.
Except that this is probably more useful as an academic project than
a practical idea. Simply because it's more a "gimick" than something with
much actual real value to a school. An Alice or SIMS replacement is far more
use than something to replace a poster. (N.B. Whilst it might make sense
to have a book search using a web interface this probably isn't the best
interface for a librarian or the secretary entering admissions.)
> The work on the 'project' can be broken down into 3 areas:
> 1). Coders/Designer - Complex, requires advanced PHP knowledge, probably
not designed/coded in the school.
> 2). Installer/Administration - Simpler than Design, still requires some
knowledge of, say, tar.gz's or rpm's
> 3). Operation - Simple, MUST be otherwise the system will never be used. I
would imagine that the days menu would be entered via web interface after
logging in as a 'Cook'.
You've missed out one important issue, does this system have it's own
user/password database or not?
Because the last thing most schools need is yet another app which requires
separate usename/password administration. (Because someone found it too
much trouble to use /etc/passwd or passwd.byname for authentication.)
St. Peter's CofE High School
Phone: +44 1392 204764 X109
Fax: +44 1392 204763
I'm very keen on promoting the use of Linux (and other OS code) in schools in my area (West Yorkshire). I hope that the work that WYLUG and myself put in will be useful to the rest of the country/world.
It seems that the largest problem that OS projects are likely to have is the underlying complexity of the code, this is (in most cases) beyond what the average school user/administrator wants to take on. Basically what I think is required is a system so simple that it will take next to no time to set-up and administer on a day to day basic.
For example, take the idea of putting the School Canteen Menu up on the intranet. This could probably be achieved by a series of PHP pages (maybe with some form of database), this could be updated on a daily/weekly basis by the canteen staff and viewed by anyone on the intranet.
The work on the 'project' can be broken down into 3 areas:
1). Coders/Designer - Complex, requires advanced PHP knowledge, probably not designed/coded in the school.
2). Installer/Administration - Simpler than Design, still requires some knowledge of, say, tar.gz's or rpm's
3). Operation - Simple, MUST be otherwise the system will never be used. I would imagine that the days menu would be entered via web interface after logging in as a 'Cook'.
As you can see the required level of 'Guru' knowledge in the school doesn't actually need to that high, in fact parts 1). and 2). could easily be undertaken by external bodies providing the 'project' is well designed and stable. Surely it's up the project leaders to ensure that their projects meet these requirements.
It may be that a keen member of staff might what to change/improve the system, maybe that could become a project for the pupils, but that is really falling back into category 1). and will require expert knowledge.
Very rare I feel compelled to reply to this group but this one roused me..
> Perhaps schools should not be educating their pupils in little more
> than an ability to push a mouse around and taking instruction from a
> paper clip.
> Shouldn't they perhaps be teaching them to use applications such as
> bash and vi to get a more solid grounding in how computers actually
> work? After all most can learn the GUI stuff at home or at school in
> their own time.
I think that this is just the sort of attitude that damages ICT in schools.
We are not here to make junior computer scientists, but rather to engender
an environment of achievement and success in ICT. For many mastering the
ability to use a mouse and operate Office programs is a very real skill,
and often one of the most valuable vocational skill they will leave school
We should leave all this GUI stuff for them to learn at home?? Then what is
our function as ICT teachers to teach them all to program and nothing else,
to scorn at the systems and programs that 90% of the world of work uses??
In a school there should be room for all abilities and interests, but lets
face it, we need to start with the basics and work up, respect for all
aspects of ICT must be cornerstone of any good department.
Yours (with typo's)