This summer was “The Summer of Linux”; we experimented with Linux for the desktop, Linux for the server, and Linux in clustering. We used the Ubuntu distro for the desktop and server. We actually used the Long Term Support (6.06) version for the desktop, the older version of Ubuntu. I learned that the newest isn’t always the best, as version 7.04 would not install on our hardware. I got a chance to ask my questions about LTSP, to a developer on the Edubuntu irc channel, and we were successful in creating a thin client environment. Of course clustering was a great project where we hit some dead ends, but we recovered before the summer ended, having a functional cluster. Although I had some experience with Ubuntu, using it on my computers, this was a very educational summer. We became the admins and got a chance to implement Linux in a test environment, emulating a school computer lab, where we had to make sure the end users would be able to use Linux without any discomfort. We had to cover everything, from managing user rights to making sure every program a school computer would have, would be included in our Linux machines. In addition, we gained some experience in networking; we received some managed and unmanaged switches, configured them, and had thin clients boot over our network.
Linux has become more user friendly over the years. Ubuntu, for instance, has the nice Gnome interface, a GUI. If this were to be implemented in a school, most end users would be able to adjust. Instead of having a list of programs at the bottom, we have everything at the top. Some applications may be different, the OpenOffice suite vs. Office. It may be slightly more difficult for the end user at home installing it on his/her computer, though, especially if you run into problems. However, if one is dedicated enough, solutions to problems are all over the internet, and you can also ask questions on the Ubuntu irc channel. Once you become used to how Ubuntu works, Synaptics for downloading applications, the Linux alternative software… etc, it becomes easier. If you have to do something beyond the basics, though, you may have to use the terminal. For instance, the Grub bootloader wasn’t booting to the correct partition once, so after determining the path looking at GPart and a little bit of guessing and checking, I accessed the Grub file though the terminal. Or, you may want to install something using the terminal. Personally, I think Linux, due to distros like Ubuntu, has become more appealing, because for basic needs, it can be used without much difficulty.
This was a great summer where I was able to test several environments in which Linux can be used. I am thankful to Mr. Birchall who let us have this experience, allowing us to experiment on our own as long as we documented. We were able to finish all our projects with success, and I was glad documenting our experiences has helped people with their own Linux adventures. Linux and distros like Ubuntu with a cost of nothing are very appealing. Although many people begin using Ubuntu because of the free CDs their friends give them, if some loose ends were tied up (like the bootloader attempting to boot from the wrong partition) and marketed more, we could see an even greater rise in Linux usage.