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Does Your College Or University Support Linux? 835 835

yuna49 writes 'Lately I've been visiting colleges with my daughter, who is a senior in high school. Every school has proudly announced that they support both Windows and Macs, and most of these schools report having about a 50-50 split between the two. However we've been a Linux household for many years now, and my daughter routinely uses a laptop running Kubuntu 9.04. Sometimes I would ask the student tour guide if Linux was supported and was usually met with a blank stare. We're obviously not concerned about whether she can write papers using OpenOffice and Linux. Rather we've been wondering about using other computing services on campus like classroom applications, remote printing, VPNs, or Wi-Fi support (nearly all these campuses have ubiquitous Wi-Fi). Given the composition of Slashdot's readership, I thought I'd pose the question here. Does your school support Linux? Have you found it difficult or impossible to use Linux in concert with the school's computing services?'
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Does Your College Or University Support Linux?

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  • Move to Finland (Score:5, Informative)

    by AliasMarlowe (1042386) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @03:57PM (#29355861) Journal
    Most universities/polytechs/etc. are quite Linux-friendly here. They generally have a mix of machines, and avoid doing anything particularly hostile to any one platform.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @03:59PM (#29355905)

    Since the college's "mandatory" spyware only runs on Windows and Mac, you're out of luck.

  • by jojoguy (1347119) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @04:02PM (#29355971)
    I am currently attending UCF and my main laptop on campus is running ubuntu 9.04. I have no problems using any of the online course work/websites and have no issues connecting to the internet.
  • by kungfuj35u5 (1331351) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @04:02PM (#29355991)
    Does. I'm actually the president of an organization that prominently supports and promotes free software (Laboratory for Recreational Computing). http://pohl.ececs.uc.edu/ [uc.edu]
  • by JSBiff (87824) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @04:06PM (#29356055) Journal

    I was a CS major at a public University in Ohio. While the College of Engineering and the CS Department were pretty Unix/Linux friendly, the physics labs which every engineering student is required to take through the college of arts and science at this university, required the use of MS Excel 2003 or 2007, because the physics lab reports had to use a highly customized excel 'template' file which included Excel macros. Now, it may be possible that you could open and save the Excel file using OpenOffice, I was rather worried to try, because of the extensive use of macros in the excel template, I was afraid something would get screwed up, which would cause me to unfairly lose points for the lab(s).

    The point of this story is, even if the college/university is generally friendly towards other OSes (Linux, *BSD, whatever), you may run into some classes which require the use of some sort of software which isn't available on your chosen platform. For example, in an Engineering program, there might be some sort of CAD program which is Windows only, or in an architecture or visual arts/graphical design program, they may require some software which is only available on a Mac. It might be worth taking some time to look at the required and elective courses that your student is going to be taking, and finding out the requirements for those particular classes.

  • NC State University (Score:5, Informative)

    by toppavak (943659) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @04:07PM (#29356081)
    As a recent grad I can speak to the fact that NCSU supports Linux in a big way [ncsu.edu] by deploying it in computer labs, supporting it for students, having a very active LUG (the mailing list is very friendly, they meet several times a month and host regular install-fests), making Linux desktops available remotely through a Virtual Computing Lab and giving students remote access to a couple of on-campus beowulf clusters. To the best of my knowledge support is strongest in the College of Engineering and in the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences. I believe most of the other Colleges (Life Sciences, Humanities and Social Sciences, Textiles, Natural Resources etc) tend to use a mix of Windows and Mac workstations (and I'd heard somewhere that Design uses exclusively Macs).
  • by toppavak (943659) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @04:16PM (#29356253)
    After re-reading your post, I should probably also clarify that the University's IT infrastructure and services provided to students is one of the best I've ever seen, from personal experience its light-years ahead of UNC Chapel Hill and a lot more user-friendly and headache-free than GaTech's. I've heard similar stories from many friends that have gone on to grad school. With regards to Wi-Fi access, they use a fairly platform-agnostic web-based authentication portal supplemented by the ability to register your mac address (also a web-based tool) so you don't have to keep logging in. All VPN access either goes through Kerberos/AFS, SSH/SCP or, if you're checking out a virtual machine through the Virtual Computing Lab, RDP or a remote X-session. Remote printing is also a web-based interface and while some courses may require windows-only apps many, if not all, of these are available remotely (Solidworks and AutoCAD are the only two big ones that come to mind) and in computer labs.
  • by Nadaka (224565) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @04:18PM (#29356289)

    USM (University of Southern Mississippi) strongly supports linux. The default student userspace is hosted on linux (until recently you had to ssh into a shell account to check your campus email, they now have a web interface as well). The CS departments higher classes generally require the use of linux as a programming environment (more specifically ssh shell accounts into the CS departments server). As for IT support for linux desktops/laptops? I am not sure, but all the CS computer labs dual boot into SUSE and win xp when I was last there.

  • Re:Nope. (Score:3, Informative)

    by jhfry (829244) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @04:21PM (#29356341)

    Actually my experience is quite different. Most universities and Colleges I have attended or worked with/for (I used to work in higher education) are heavily dependent upon FOSS for infrastructure and servers. Though I will admit I spent much more time with smaller private universities where they were more likely to use homegrown FOSS solutions than expensive commercial products just to save money.

  • Re:Who cares? (Score:3, Informative)

    by randalotto (1206870) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @04:29PM (#29356457)
    At my school, we're required to use Exam4 software, which doesn't run on Linux, for ALL of our exams (unless we want to handwrite them.) Questions to the registrar and IT people about Linux support elicit a response, essentially, of "tough shit." So, I care. It's a pain in the ass to have to borrow a laptop or purchase Windows for the privilege of typing a final exam. I'm fine with the school not promoting Linux, but it shouldn't be actively hostile towards it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @04:30PM (#29356473)

    I currently study at the Turku university of applied sciences and it's the asshole of the world. The education standards are poor all around so it's no surprise the IT solutions come from M$ only. They never even heard of Linux here.

    I studied also at the Helsinki university of tech and that's another story altogether with hundreds of Ubuntu machines on campus. Also the quality of teaching and atmosphere were pretty consistently good there.

  • Oregon State (Score:2, Informative)

    by phoenix0783 (965193) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @04:32PM (#29356497)
    Half of all computers in engineering are Linux. OSU also hosts the osuosl [osuosl.org]. You get a free vpn client and other useful free stuff on a cd as a student.
  • by Seto89 (986727) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @04:32PM (#29356509)
    I'm in University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) and I feel like Linux is well supported here.
    It goes without saying that one doesn't get the same level of support with setting up certain systems as they would with a PC or a Mac, but everything works fine, and all the essential programs (Remote Desktop access through an NX client, ssh, engineering programs (like MATLAB), VPNs) are available from school's servers in Linux versions, and there ARE detailed instructions on our web, describing how to ssh that even a user that doesn't know what bash is can follow successfully. About a third of all computer labs here are running Red Hat and all engineers are required to take introductory CS course which among others teaches the basics of using the terminal (stuff like file management, submitting work, creating/opening archives, etc).
    So if you're an engineering student here, you have this nice intro and then because the system is all around you, people get used to working in it.

    Oh and all online course materials are almost always available in multiple formats, but with the current support of MS Office files by Open Office, I'm not sure whether the opposite would really be an issue...
  • by Dakiraun (1633747) <dakiraun.yahoo@com> on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @04:34PM (#29356529) Homepage
    I work as a Network Admin. at UWO, and we do support well known Linux distros, as well as the MacOS and of course Windows. We find the number of students choosing to use Linux is increasing every year, so we try to accommodate it as best as possible. Many of the folks in the NOC use Linux (an have used *nix OS's for years), but the weak link so far is in getting documentation to accurately reflect alternate OS's as much as Windows. Statistically, we're at about 5 to 7% *nix, 20% MacOS, and the rest as Windows (in the student population).
  • by dhilvert (608753) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @04:34PM (#29356533) Homepage
    The difference would probably be that Linux is not uncommon for either research or study, and that a university that cannot provide support to the point of supporting a sizeable minority of students using Linux-based systems probably also has inferior programs in areas where Linux would normally be used (CS, EE, etc.).
  • by SanityInAnarchy (655584) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @04:35PM (#29356545) Journal

    Due to a few bad decisions in college and the economy imploding at work, I am now going to Indian Hills Community College [cc.ia.us], trying to at least keep it together for a semester or two before I invest in a four-year college again.

    I have no idea whether it's required, but there is a Unix/Linux class. But then, there's also a Visual Basic class.

    Aside from the fact that a few things (VB?) will require Windows -- though they at least have the decency to have an MSDNAA license, meaning free copies of Windows and nearly everything needed -- there's also the fact that Macs sort of get a passing reference saying "We hope it works, but we can't support you," and Linux gets no mention.

    The wireless fails out of the box with Ubuntu, yet works with Windows. Talking to the help desk, they basically said "We don't support that, we don't know much, but our vendor assures us that the problem is not with our equipment, but with Linux."

    To get it working again, I had to switch DHCP clients. Neither dhclient nor dhcpcd worked, but udhcpc did. It's worth mentioning, this is not a common problem -- I used NetworkManager's point and click interface pretty much everywhere, and it worked pretty much everywhere, from hotel rooms to hospitals to crappy little Linksys routers -- it even worked if I plugged into ethernet in school -- everywhere except the school wireless.

    The conclusion to this story? I mailed the helpdesk again with my findings, and with the little script I wrote to disable NetworkManager, bring up wlan0 manually, and run udhcpc. They seemed very glad to have a solution.

    So, I'm not really sure what to make of it. On the one hand, it was obviously a priority, and I was pretty much left to fend for myself. On the other hand, no one actually has a problem with me using Linux, most of the time.

    I realize that doesn't answer your questions about printing or VPNs -- I haven't had to do either yet. Printing, I've only done from lab computers (all Windows, naturally), and they don't require a VPN, though my personal VPN works fine from the school wireless. Their website is an abomination, but it mostly works fine in Chrome, with only one place so far which requires Firefox, and I haven't had to use IE yet, except on lab computers.

    Just for fun, another anecdote: Iowa State University, when I was there, had a lab full of top-of-the-line Linux workstations. In the classes I was taking, they were used mainly to run rdesktop, which seems profoundly retarded, but I never had a problem due to running Linux or OS X. This was around 2005-2006.

  • by nbates (1049990) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @04:43PM (#29356695)

    Why do you say it is a hobbyist alternative? The institute where I studied (the best reputed place to study physics and engineering on my country) not only does support Linux, it is the only operative system available on the computer lab. There are a few windows computers available for some very specific programs, but most of the desktop computers (and servers, of course)

    The reason for this is because it is the best solution for our needs, the most affordable one (best for the needs of the institution) and easier to maintain.

  • by outZider (165286) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @05:48PM (#29357983) Homepage

    Like Mac OS X, Linux anti-virus is primarily there to intercept crap on their way to a Windows machine.

  • For those who don't know, the WRK is a mostly-complete source code distribution of the Windows 2000 kernel (NT 5.0). It's made available for academic and research uses. While the source isn't included for every single component, there's more then enough there to understand how the kernel works, how its components communicate, and to write your own extensions or modifications (system calls, changes to the scheduler, doing things at different points during initialization, modifying included drivers and so forth).

    UW also offers OS courses based on the Linux kernel; which you take is a matter of preference as they satisfy the same prerequisites and are treated as equal in terms of degree progress.

  • Baseless accusations, much? For the TL;DR folks: UW uses Linux extensively, and it is required for many of our CSE clesses.

    The UW offers OS courses on both the NT and Linux kernels - Neil chose to take the NT one, but in terms of degree progress the Linux version of the OS course is exactly equivalent. The CSE undergraduate labs are a mix of Windows and Linux boxes. The department offers a few Windows servers for student use, but the majority of the servers, including the file server, mail server, and cycle server are all Linux-based.

    As for the required courses, one of the earliest courses in the curriculum teaches basic Linux knowledge, ranging from shell familiarity and manpages to scripting and regular expressions, plus gcc, make (and writing makefiles), and so forth. Later classes include security (one of the programming projects specificaly requires Linux and GDB knowledge), embedded systems (the latter half of the class uses an ARM chip running Linux, and we are required to modify a kernel driver and use the ALSA API), Networking (this one varies, but usually involves developing for a device like a router or N800, running Linux).

  • Re:Who cares? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Zordak (123132) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @08:39AM (#29364267) Homepage Journal
    The proctor.

Never ask two questions in a business letter. The reply will discuss the one you are least interested, and say nothing about the other.

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