Integrator Goes Back To School With Linux Desktops


The Granite Bay, Calif., company offers a solution for schools called Technology Rescue, in which old PCs--usually running Windows 98 or Windows 95--are connected as thin clients to a server running the Fedora K12LTSP Linux platform, said founder Steve Hargadon.

"We're really an integrator," Hargadon said. His Linux terminal solution for schools, though, is more than just an open-source operating system. It also serves up education applications.

"We're providing word processing, spreadsheets, educational computer games," Hargadon said. "We can have five or 10 computers in a classroom instead of two."

And because the solution centers on Linux rather than Microsoft Windows, the result is that more classrooms are putting more desktops to use for more students for greater amounts of time, Hargadon added.

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In school districts and private schools nationwide, austerity budgets have limited the ability of many administrators or teachers to upgrade classroom technology. But some states are looking to broaden the number of platforms used in classrooms with students.

For example, the state of Indiana has moved 22,000 students to Linux desktops over the past year under a grant program, and Pennsylvania recently solicited bids on its $200 million Classrooms Of The Future initiative, in which the state aims to roll out at least two OS platforms to Keystone State students.

Hargadon said his own son last year told him that most of his computer time in the classroom was spent watching a Windows 98 PC simply boot up.

"The schools most proactively interested in a Linux solution are typically private schools," Hargadon said. "They have a different decision-making process, and they don't have choices. They'll tell me, 'I've got to raise $50,000 to put in 50 more brand-new computers, and I don't have it. We're using Windows 98 and limping along. We're just sort of patching things as we go.' "

Hargadon said it usually takes him a day or so to load the Fedora K12LTSP Linux solution onto a server and turn the older PCs into thin clients. With OpenOffice, a Firefox Web browser and select educational software and games, he said he can provide a low-cost, full-blown upgrade, as well as give teachers and administrators a half-day of training on the new technology.

"The use and implementation of the thin client is definitely picking up," Hargadon said. "We're seeing a nice bump."