Cybersource has prepared a free, Linux-based solution, for use by Australian Schools, which it claims makes it possible to bring one million new laptops to Australian school children.
"It's a simple proposition; we've prepared an open solution which delivers the best-possible value to education for netbook or laptop roll-outs," said Con Zymaris, CEO of long-running Linux firm Cybersource.
"Our proposal is to use low-cost netbooks, allocating one per two students, with the students using 'live' Linux USB keys to store their operating system, applications and school-work. This results in a major reduction in installation and maintenance complexity, but still allows the students flexibility in how they use their netbooks and applications."
The solution, in summary:
1) Each pair of students is provided with a new netbook (ie. Eee PC, Aspire One, Dell Mini 9, etc. style laptop).
2) Each individual student is given a 2-4GB USB key, which has a self-booting Linux OS and all the core apps they need. This greatly reduces ongoing IT tech support costs as the software is easy to 'install', update and 'revive'. Simply remove the old or non-functioning USB key, pop in the new one, and reboot.
3) The students store all their data on the USB key, and sync that data with a central server. They can access this data through a web-interface, ie, the school Intranet or Learning Management System (eg. Moodle or LAMS, both of which are free software).
4) The school's existing wireless/wired network is used for connectivity, so no additional cabling is needed. The school's existing power sockets are used to recharge the netbooks; no additional power resources are needed.
5) If "anything" goes wrong with the operating system or applications, the student's USB key is re-imaged with a fresh OS/apps copy, and their data is fetched from the central Intranet server.
6) If the student forgets their USB key at home, they can be issued a temporary one, and their 'data' is always available via the school's file-store Intranet.
7) The USB system and application image comes bundled with hundreds of free and open source applications (eg, Firefox, OpenOffice.org etc), for all manner of school and educational requirements: Maths, Science, Geography, Music theory, Multimedia and Languages.
8) No Linux or additional systems expertise is needed, as the technology to create (ie, image) new USB drives with a Linux distribution exists and is very easy to use. Therefore, there would be no issues with current IT staff not having the knowledge needed to deploy and support these new netbooks.
9) The students can use their USB key on any of the school-supplied netbooks, or, for that matter, any other PC they may have at school, home or in the local library.
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