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Education GUI KDE Linux

A Year of Linux Desktop At Westcliff High School 283

jrepin writes "Around a year ago, a school in the southeast of England, Westcliff High School for Girls Academy (WHSG), began switching its student-facing computers to Linux, with KDE providing the desktop software. The school's Network Manager, Malcolm Moore, contacted us at the time. Now, a year on, he got in touch again to let us know how he and the students find life in a world without Windows." And they didn't even meet much resistance: "Younger students accept it as normal. Older students can be a little less flexible. There are still a few that are of the view that I can get rid of Microsoft Word when I can pry it from them. Staff are the same (although it is surprisingly not age-related). Some are OK and some hate it. Having said that, an equal number hate Windows 7 and nobody liked Windows 8. I think the basic problem is that Windows XP is a victim of its own success. It works fairly well from a user point of view, it's been around practically forever, and people don't like change, even some students, oddly."
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A Year of Linux Desktop At Westcliff High School

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  • by WillAdams ( 45638 ) on Wednesday July 31, 2013 @01:28PM (#44437275) Homepage

    I'd really like to see a desktop suite of alternatives which do away w/ the shackles of backwards compatibility and instead try to do things right:

      - LyX for documents
      - Flexisheet for spreadsheets

    Wish there was something other than Asymptote or METAPOST to suggest for vector graphics (I'd like to see a successor to Altsys Virtuoso and Aldus IntelliDraw and FutureWave SmartSketch).

    Other alternatives which aren't ``just'' clones?

    • by DutchUncle ( 826473 ) on Wednesday July 31, 2013 @02:03PM (#44437731)
      Easy to say discard compatibility; except that means EVERYTHING has to become compatible with this NEW system. All you're doing is trading one compatibility for another. Plus people already have older PCs with an installed ecosystem of programs.
      • All one needs is a reasonable set of import / export tools.

        • by nbauman ( 624611 )

          All one needs is a reasonable set of import / export tools.

          Can't be done.

          Two years ago I had to convert some important WordPerfect documents to Word, and then to Excel. They had a lot of tables, outlines and columns. It didn't come out right, and I had to manually correct every page. The margins, columns and tabs were changed. One page in WordPerfect ran over one page in Word. Text didn't fit into tables. Some of the fonts were missing. There were workarounds that didn't work any more.

          In searching the subject on the web, I found a message from someone who claimed t

    • Just FYI, LyX sucks at WYSIWYG document creation and editing. TeX is hard and LyX makes it easier, but it's still nowhere near ready for the masses.

      See, Microsoft had this brilliant idea to change their default document view from "Normal" to "Print Layout" that shows how the document would (should) look like when printed out. It's a small change; both views were present already. I don't even know if Microsoft came up with the idea first. But the difference is significant. One view makes Word true WYSIWYG wh

      • Microsoft didn't come up with the idea of a WYSIWYG text editor. I don't know who was first, but I know Apple's MacWrite in 1984 only had one view of the document, and it was like what Word calls "Print Layout".

        • by PRMan ( 959735 )
          I think Ami Pro was the first in 1990 or so to get it "exact". I remember that it would actually look at the printer driver to improve the quality of the layout. WYSIWYG in the 1980s involved getting an extra page in your printout because one line rendered onto the 3rd page in real life, when your document was 2 pages on the screen.
      • by aliquis ( 678370 )

        How many actually need or want WYSIWYG then? Wouldn't most people who use Office be better of with WYGIMBTWYCD (What You Get Is Much Better Than What You Could Design)?

      • LyX is a project that I'm very fond of. It doesn't follow the WYSIWYG model at all. Instead, it leverages TeX's different way of thinking about document creation entirely; separate the data from the presentation and manage the creation of both separately. The whole idea is to concentrate on the task of writing without getting distracted by constant re-formatting challenges. It works quite well once you learn to relax and not obsess over every paragraph and image placement while you're writing.

        Frankly, I

    • by aled ( 228417 )

      Please explain the features of Flexisheet that would put it in anyone shopping list. I could only find a domain for sale, a Sourceforge project with no released files and a CVS repository and also it seems only runs in Mac OSX.

      About LyX, I guess most people wouldn't want it a little rough, wouldn't them? From the site:

      It does look a bit rough, but don't worry, because the output will be fine

      I think most people would want to edit text, not mathematical formulas for LaTeX and science papers which seems to be the main focus of this editor. It may be very good for that for all I know

  • Exactly! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sootman ( 158191 ) on Wednesday July 31, 2013 @01:31PM (#44437311) Homepage Journal

    > [Windows XP] works fairly well from a user point of view, it's
    > been around practically forever, and people don't like change.

    Yes, yes, and yes. Too bad MS didn't realize that -- they could have just spent the last few years refining XP and keeping people happy.

    Apple actually has a pretty good thing going on with OS X -- like them or not, "small changes every year or two" beats "monumental fuckups twice a decade."

    • Redeveloping things was necessary with Vista/7 to handle newer hardware and concepts, but the problem was they threw out half the baby with the bathwater when they significantly changed the main interfaces. There was no reason to mess with that when people were happy with it. I'm not even sure what they thought they were trying to beat by doing so.

    • I don't know if they know how to "refine" things. Their CEO is a salesperson. Salespeople can't understand how making programs start up 10% faster and use 50% less overhead, would be a good selling point. On the other hand, a brand-spankin' new, snazzy interface is a great selling point.

      And part of the "brand-spankin' new" selling points is actually changing the version number. Look at what Firefox started doing when Chrome became popular.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 31, 2013 @01:34PM (#44437353)

    One of the reasons we see so much Windows in education is that its cheaper than Linux. Microsoft gives out free software and hardware deals to schools as "donations". At my University, our CSE department had clearly been supplied with a lot of Windows stuff (I got 3 free Windows licences, and lots of other stuff as a student, I suspect the Labs got similar offers). The ratio of Windows to Linux machines was higher than most of the students wanted (It was often hard to find open Linux machines).

    My High-school got all its computers replaced through some deal with Microsoft while I was there, and they were all Windows.

    Microsoft makes large investments in getting its products into education so people get used to them. The people who resist change will then be stuck with them and but it in the future.

    I assume this kind of thing is not the case everywhere, but their efforts seems to be keeping Windows as the standard OS in education. I'm really happy to see people working (and succeeding) at escaping this.

    • My High-school got all its computers replaced through some deal with Microsoft while I was there, and they were all Windows.

      Microsoft makes large investments in getting its products into education so people get used to them. The people who resist change will then be stuck with them and but it in the future.

      But, but, philanthropy. Gates foundation. Common good.

      Bullshit. This is what happens when criminals like Gates are allowed to run free.

    • I think a lot of the reason also stuff like in the article

      If there were a SIMS (Schools Information Management System) client for Linux...

      Interactive whiteboards that only have features written for MS Office, teacher resources that are windows only, and things like mental health/nursing applications that are mandated and windows only. There are replacements for some of this stuff but sometimes not.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 31, 2013 @01:38PM (#44437411)

    The author mentioned that some parents protested because they felt learning Microsoft Office is crucial to their children's success. However we now live in an era where Microsoft is beginning to lose that stronghold. With Open/Libre Office always improving and solutions such as Google Apps gaining traction, I fail to see how this is really a factor anymore. By 2024 MS may not even be the major player anymore in the office space. This is like the prior generation telling us we must be proficient at using a typewriter or hand writing in cursive to land a job.

    • I would've agreed with those parents 10 years ago as well, but the fact is most users (even adults) aren't pushing Office suite products enough for the specific software to matter. Most provide the same cursory experience which is definitely good enough for high school students. I gave my GF my old laptop to replace her ancient one and tossed OpenOffice on it. I don't even think she realizes it's a different app!

    • by brit74 ( 831798 )
      So... your argument is that the technology *might* not exist or be common in 10 years? Let's all pile on. We might not be driving cars in 2024, either. Let's get rid of automobile driving courses. We might not be using a keyboard in 2024. Let's stop teaching kids to use a keyboard. Intelligent computers might do all our calculations for us. Let's get rid of math classes. Learning that stuff is like the last generation teaching us to be proficient at using a typewriter or handwriting in cursive!
  • Open office has some compatibility with office files but in the most part people need to use office as that is what is being used in most work places.

  • 3-4 year old systems can run windows as well as for cost cutting holding on to systems for 5-6+ years just seems like pushing it out also the old P4 systems can be big power hogs as well.

  • by gadget junkie ( 618542 ) <> on Wednesday July 31, 2013 @01:43PM (#44437485) Journal
    If Ballmer is able and willing to pull the plug on both win XP AND windows 7, in favour of windows 8, it will be easy to predict a booming interest in Linux on the desktop.
  • Bring back XP (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Skapare ( 16644 ) on Wednesday July 31, 2013 @02:00PM (#44437683) Homepage

    It's OK to upgrade it with drivers for newer hardware, and plug up more security holes. But give us the same user interface (as a choice).

    Really. We CAN go back and run most older window systems/managers on a new Linux kernel and maybe new X server. We can get the old user interface. We can even get something that emulates Windows 95 (seen it). Why can't the core Microsoft Windows system do that? Just provide an app that chooses which user interface to use.

    • It's OK to upgrade it with drivers for newer hardware, and plug up more security holes. But give us the same user interface (as a choice).

      Is Windows 7 really different enough from XP that most people will notice? I don't use either much, but they seem almost the same to me.

  • by timmyf2371 ( 586051 ) on Wednesday July 31, 2013 @02:24PM (#44438023)

    A study one year on is useful, but what would be even more interesting would be a longer term study focusing on the experiences of students as they grow up and leave school.

    It would be interesting to see whether using Linux and a non-MS office suite affected them academically, and as they start to look for work - particularly with many jobs coming with a requirement to be proficient in Microsoft Office (try getting Libre Office past those HR drones). Perhaps a higher proportion of students than is normal at a girls' school will end up working in the tech industry, having had more experience at school using a Linux system.

  • The last time I stopped by my Mom's house, I was surprised to see that she had an old laptop running Ubuntu and XBMC hooked up to her TV. Apparently my uncle had the laptop laying around and decided she could use it as a home theater PC. I thought my Mom would be lost in an environment outside of Windows, but she seemed to learn the interface pretty quickly and rarely complains about it. I think with the proliferation of smartphones, tablets, and other devices with different interfaces is making users le
  • The ability to learn new tricks is not really age related.

    Old dogs that can't learn new tricks couldn't learn them when young either. []

  • It seems all TFA does is measure resistance to change and who all likes coke vs pepsi.

    Back in the day I liked DOS word perfect... reveal codes and all just fine. What does that prove?

    It would have been refreshing had there been any discussion of metrics or outcomes for users.. After all computers are just tools... Its not what you "like" its what the tool assists you to achieve.

  • by tocsy ( 2489832 ) on Wednesday July 31, 2013 @02:49PM (#44438397)

    "There are still a few that are of the view that I can get rid of Microsoft Word when I can pry it from them."

    I've been using linux on my primary computer for 5 years now and I'm still the same way - LibreOffice, OpenOffice and StarOffice can't hold a candle to MS Word, especially when you need to share your documents with collaborators. Same goes for the open "equivalents" of Powerpoint - if you make (or even modify) a slideshow in Libre, Open or Star, you have about zero percent chance of your presentation looking the same on any other computer.

    I think a lot of people, including myself, will resist giving up MS Office until either a)EVERYONE uses the open equivalents or b)the open equivalents flawlessly port files to and from MS Office without formatting or display issues. I also think neither of these is likely to happen any time soon.

  • People are always down for a change that improve things - if they have a choice and they can refuse if they don't like it.

    But how many people would like to sit behind the wheel to drive to work, and suddenly find their entire dashboard reorganized and the wheel moved to a different angle six inches to the left?

    As only one example, it always amazes me when supposed computer professionals are surprised when users were just fine with things exactly how they were. I still don't like the stupid ribbon interf

  • I understand Microsoft's motivation to change things, because they're selling stuff, and by nature they're almost required to change things in order to make a profit. If they don't update the interface, people become too productive, and never buy another copy--they just use the one they have. With upgrades and security patches being free and automatic, Microsoft really HAS to change change things in order to continue to make a profit.

    But why does Linux do it? Why not create an XP equivalent of an OS/GUI and

"You must have an IQ of at least half a million." -- Popeye