Why not windows?
The reasons for ditching Windows are manifold. Read on.
Expense Windows is a commercial product, and it is quite expensive. We do not want to use it when several free alternatives are available. We also do not want to, even indirectly, encourage or endorse the use of pirated copies of the product by training people on it. On the contrary, we want to build aptitudes that are easily able to adapt -- from Ubuntu to Windows if need be -- by teaching the basics of computer use and not pigeonholing students into the norm. Young children are incredibly smart and receptive, and their minds are infinitely adaptable. We feel that by teaching them to use a generic OS, we’re making them better-equipped to transition into other systems as they see fit.
Open Source We are unabashed proponents of Open Source -- software that is open to be used by the masses -- to make our lives better without being prohibitively expensive. This is specially significant in developing countries such as Bangladesh where an overwhelming majority of the population can not afford an overwhelming majority of commercial software. The Open Source movement affords a population such as ours the ability to use free software -- from the entire OS to browsers to office suites to graphical image manipulators. Open Source software is also legally modifiable to suit any needs, which is exactly what we’re doing here -- modifying a read-only, demo copy of Ubuntu to run on a network for educational purposes with minimal hardware and support.
Technical reasons Windows is extremely support intensive. The infamous Blue Screen of Death is not a myth -- pretty much every Windows user has experienced it one or more times. Add to that the fact that power failures are common in Bangladesh, especially rural areas. Here are some reasons why technically, Ubuntu is a superior solution to Windows:
Power failures Since our OS is read off of read-only media, power failures will only cause the loss of whatever the user was working on -- there is no impact to the rest of the OS since it can not be modified. This means that after a sudden reboot, there are no lost clusters, no defragmentation to be done, no maintenance needed on magnetic media issues. This drastically reduces support engagements for the technical team.
Upgrades We will need to update software on our systems from time to time.
- On Windows Since Windows is hard-drive-based, support personnel would have to run an installer from a CD or DVD and follow through with on-screen instructions. This is terribly cumbersome when we’re operating multiple centers with multiple computers in remote areas -- we will not be able to schedule upgrades until adequate resources are available, and even then scheduling them will be a nightmare and a half -- not to mention keeping track of updates and what’s running where.
- On Ubuntu For these DVD-based systems, we simply send each center a box of new DVDs. An instructor at a center needs to:
- shut down each machine
- replace the DVD with one from the box they just received
- start up machine
And that takes care of upgrades. We can basically do upgrades as often as we can send DVD’s.
But isn’t Linux all text on green screen terminals?
No. Linux uses XWindows on top of shell (the ‘green screen terminal’) and it behaves just like any other Graphical User Interface (GUI) such as Windows or MacOS. Of course some things are different, but that is true of Windows and MacOS as well, for example. But essentially, it’s the same type of system, and it’s actually just as user-friendly as Windows. It has word processors and spreadsheets from LibreOffice just like MS Office, and it can handle PDF documents and print and scan.