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Education Linux

Ask Slashdot: Best Choice of Linux Laptops For Elementary School? 310

An anonymous reader writes "I work in the tech department of an elementary school and I am trying to show the tech director the world of Linux. I will be installing edubuntu but I am not sure which laptop to get. I know there are companies like System76 that sell laptops with Linux already installed but I wanted to ask you for your thoughts. We want something small and light weight for the kids. We do not need much horsepower as the main use will be internet/email/word processing and whatever other apps come with edubuntu. Basically, what we really want is something MacBook Air-like but not nearly as expensive. Thoughts?"
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Ask Slashdot: Best Choice of Linux Laptops For Elementary School?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 14, 2012 @12:43AM (#40319127)

    Why not? I have always been thankful for the breadth of hardware I was exposed to in school (I was very lucky in this respect). I have told parents countless times that the reason I was able to succeed in compsci was through identifying the commonalities between the various platforms and recognizing those commonalities as rooted in computer science theory.

    They'll be exposed to Windows every day of their lives elsewhere. Let them learn something new.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 14, 2012 @12:54AM (#40319187)

    Thinking outside the box, what about something like the Asus Transformer Pad TF300? It's lightweight and cheap but should be fine for email etc and comes in a version with a nifty detachable keyboard. I haven't seen this particular version, but the previous gen. Transformer Prime seemed sturdy enough to cope with kids detaching the keyboard.

    A quick search turned up a couple of guides for dual booking the transformer prime, plus some articles about the bootloader being unlockable via asus, so perhaps this new one will be easier to install another OS on.

  • Re:Lenovo mini (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ozmanjusri ( 601766 ) <aussie_bob@@@hotmail...com> on Thursday June 14, 2012 @12:54AM (#40319191) Journal
    Just spec up a bog-standard set of components with a Chinese manufacturer like Molo http://www.molo-electronics.com/product/Pro158.Html [molo-electronics.com] or Elijah http://elijahindustrial.en.alibaba.com/product/539115573-200670129/13_3_inch_wide_screen1_8GHz_DVD_ROM_Bluetooth_Camera_laptop.html [alibaba.com].

    It'll cost you a fraction of the price of the Lenovo or any other branded equivalent, look prettier for the kids and work fine with whatever distro you specify.

    These things are commodities now, especially in an elementary school setting. Why pay a premium?

  • Asus/Google Tablet (Score:5, Interesting)

    by steveha ( 103154 ) on Thursday June 14, 2012 @01:10AM (#40319277) Homepage

    I think that an Android tablet might be a good way to go: very compact and lightweight, durable (no moving parts such as a hard disk or cooling fan), and very long battery life. Less expensive than a laptop, and you could buy accessories and software with the left-over money: get some sort of keyboard and Android software for word processing and such.

    Asus and Google are going to announce a low-cost Android tablet. The rumored specs are: 7" screen, Tegra 3 processor at 1.3 GHz (that's 4 general-purpose cores), probably 1 GB of RAM and probably 8 GB of flash storage. Expected price will be $250 or $200.

    http://www.pcworld.com/article/257296/googles_sub250_nexus_7_tablet_coming_late_june_report_says.html [pcworld.com]

    I have a Nook Color that I rooted, and installed "PhireMod 7.2" (a particular build of CyanogenMod 7). I am very pleased with my 7" tablet. It's big enough to be useful and small enough to carry around, and I love the battery life.


  • iPads? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Coward Anonymous ( 110649 ) on Thursday June 14, 2012 @01:38AM (#40319421)

    Have you considered iPads?

    From a form factor perspective is it imperative that the kids have laptops and not tablets?

    If budget is a real world concern then iPads either cost as much or are, more typically, cheaper than a decent laptop/netbook. Any potential software to be purchased can be purchased with Apple's education discounts. Tablets are easier for IT to manage (reducing TCO) and have a more portable form factor which the kids will probably prefer. In addition, kids will probably prefer tablets as they are more fun to use and the accommodate a kid's work habits (away from the table and perched upside down from the furniture).

    Bottom line, I think you are asking yourself the wrong question. Instead of asking yourself what Linux laptop you can afford, you should be asking yourself what serves your customers - the kids - best given your budget?

  • Re:Need? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gmuslera ( 3436 ) on Thursday June 14, 2012 @01:46AM (#40319445) Homepage Journal

    People from OLPC [laptop.org] may disagree with you, and at least the experience in my country, 5 years after it got implemented, seem to be positive.

    But maybe would consider putting Sugar (i.e. from here [sugarlabs.org]) as environment instead of a "normal" desktop and/or distribution

  • by Casandro ( 751346 ) on Thursday June 14, 2012 @01:46AM (#40319449)

    Children want to understand the world. They want to shake something and have a sound coming out of it. They want to press the button of a typewriter for a letter to appear on the paper. They want to learn about cause and effect in order to understand the world around them. That is their basic instinct.

    The older they are, the more complex those systems can be. However it is always important that the system behaves in a deterministic way, so the child can learn from it.

    Unixoid operating systems provide that consistent behavior. They provide you with a command line and every time you type in those magic words, they will do the same. You can also combine them... just like Lego or other types of building blocks.
    While you can do the same on Windows, theoretically, the learning curve is much higher. People will need to learn complex non-interactive programming languages to do the same unixoid people simply do on a console.

    If you put a child in front of a Windows Box, you are robbing them of the experience that computers are reliable deterministic tools used extend their minds. It's like giving them a box of crayons which for some invisible reason work differently every time.

  • by Casandro ( 751346 ) on Thursday June 14, 2012 @01:52AM (#40319489)

    What can a child do with an iPad at that age?
    If it's just "reading books" and "playing games", then you should consider cheaper alternatives since obviously your child could also use books and games. The even more pressing issue is of course that tablets don't give tactile feedback. Playing with bricks, for example, gives that feedback. They need to learn how strongly they need to grip such a block and they practice that since they want to learn how to use the blocks. That's an experience a tablet cannot give them.

    Don't confuse the latest fad rich people have with something which will benefit your child.

  • Not an HP! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 14, 2012 @02:04AM (#40319537)

    First, my recommendations:

    Acer - I have seen minimal compatibility issues. Build quality ranges from pretty good to ok. Modifiable. Aesthetically respectable.

    Asus - Generally of pretty good build quality. Aesthetically above average. Usually quite compatible. Modifiable from my experience. Has made some unfriendly decisions regarding Linux lately. I am partial to Asus, at least until they push too far with Linux hostilities. They also make motherboards, which is a good skill to have in a manufacturer.

    MSI - Pretty good.

    Gateway - Pretty good from a few years back, though I am not sure now.

    Build Your Own - There are websites out there that will allow you to build your own laptop to your desired specs. More expensive, but you get what you truly desire.

    Now for the crap:

    HP - Sometimes they look great, they usually perform very well in Windows and Linux, of generally acceptable build quality. But they do something that really, REALLY pisses me off; they poison the BIOS to prevent hardware modification. I once tried to change my Broadcom wifi chip to an Atheros, both identical half-mini PCI, and the computer would refuse to boot, providing only an error message of "Unsupported Hardware Detected". I despise HP. I could go on too.

    Sony - (insert profanity here)

    Lenovo - Often pretty to look at, good performance on Win/Lin, but like HP they are hostile to customer hardware modifications and often poison the BIOS. You might also note that flashing the BIOS does not correct the problem easily. They sure aren't IBM anymore. But I think IBM may have also shared this authoritarianism.

    Mac - Beautiful little bastards. But I'll leave it at that.

  • by 1u3hr ( 530656 ) on Thursday June 14, 2012 @02:33AM (#40319673)
    When I was at school the only computer I ever saw was a HP calculator. I wrote a program to find prime numbers in its 50-step memory.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 14, 2012 @03:30AM (#40319891)

    Interesting. I'm sure that training the OP refers to is no worse than switching to a new Windows version.

    Over the years I've helped many computer illiterate friends and relatives install Linux on their home computers and things couldn't be better. It actually began as an experiment on my part to reduce support calls when these people want help with their computers.

    I've been very careful to explain the differences between Windows and Linux and what to expect from either (good and bad), and that it's entirely their choice. Many people (but not al) choose Linux, at least to try out.

    With most hardware it's much faster to install than Windows because all the software you need comes with the distro rather than having to reach for a mountain of CDs or trawl the internet for all the downloaders.

    End result? I've not had one person want to migrate back to Windows after using Linux, in fact they said that it would be hard because their new OS is 'more logical'. So there you have it, everyday people that use Linux because they want to. None of them have ever touched a command line or ever had to and I get far fewer complaints from them than with Windows, so yes it's easier to support too.

    Bear in mind that most of these people don't have money to throw around on new computers, however if they do I normally recommend a Mac if they can afford it.

    Conclusion? Different strokes for different folks really. Don't trash talk others preferred platforms for the sake of it; they all have very strong merits (and weaknesses) these days.

Happiness is twin floppies.