The purpose of the Room 008 Linux Project is to:

·Learn to use modern software tools to help further education and support the curriculum

·Provide an engaging, empowering, and effective educational experience to sixth graders

·Explore how a Linux based thin-client network can be implemented in a classroom

·Provide a low-cost way of bringing technology to the classroom level

·Use open-source (free) software tools to support the curriculum

·Develop the requisite knowledge and skills to manage and maintain the technology in the classroom

Why not just use Windows?
·Windows is expensive. Not only must each user purchase a license to use both Windows and Microsoft Office (>$400 per seat), these software packages require the most expensive hardware (Pentium 4's with lots of memory) on which to run.
· Windows is unreliable. We have all encountered the so-called "blue screen of death" using Windows. Windows must be rebooted a few times a day and is very susceptible to viruses. (Nimda, I Love You, etc.)
·Windows requires a skilled IT staff. To properly maintain and administer the network a skilled IT (Information Technology) staff is required. Often they are overworked, and a simple problem in your classroom might take weeks to be addressed.
·Software Incompatibility. The software your students use at home may be different from (and incompatible with) what they use in school.

What is Linux?
Linux is the brainchild of hacker extraordinaire Linus Torvalds. It began as a project while Linus was a 21-year-old student at the University of Helsinki in 1991.

Linux, also known as GNU/Linux, is a free, powerful, UNIX-like operating system, developed originally for home PCs, but which now runs on a variety of platforms including PowerPC, Macintosh, Amiga, Atari, DEC Alpha, Sun Sparc, ARM, and many others. With millions of users worldwide, Linux is probably the most popular UNIX-like operating system in the world.

Linux has long been praised for its stability--Linux boxes are known for running months or even years at a time without crashing, freezing, or having to be rebooted.

Linux machines are also known to be extremely fast, because the operating system is very efficient at managing resources such as memory, CPU power, and disk space. More of the Web than one might expect is actually powered by old 486 boxes running Linux and the Apache Web Server, while NASA, Sandia, Fermilabs and others have built very powerful yet inexpensive supercomputers by creating clusters of Linux boxes running in parallel.

Linux has been developed and refined by a worldwide community of programmers and other computer professionals connected by the Internet. The talent of this research and development community far exceeds the resources of any single commercial software company.

The K12 Linux Terminal Server Project
A special implementation of Linux has been developed to bring low-cost networks to schools. The K12 Linux Terminal Server Project has everything you need to network your classroom or your school.

All of the software is free! Not only the software to run the network, but Open Office is available too!

Open Office contains a robust word processor, that reads and writes Microsoft Word files.

Open Office Impress is included. Impress is presentation software that reads and writes Microsoft PowerPoint files.

There is a powerful spreadsheet that any Microsoft Excel user will be right-at-home with. It reads and writes Excel files.

Also present is a drawing component that creates 3D graphs and charts.

It's all FREE!

We originally started with two Windows based computers in a sixth grade classroom. (These were not provided by our school, but at our own expense.)

Since we are bearing the entire cost of this technology, we need to keep costs down.

This year, using Linux we will increase to a total of SIX workstations in our classroom. We will also be able to provide each student with a copy of Open Office that runs under Windows, to use at home (for free).

Part of the allure of Linux, is that it will run on computers that Windows thinks of as obsolete. This keeps them out of landfills and helps us bridge the digital divide.

The six workstations are:

·3 old Dell Optiplexes (Pentium 166 MHz) that we were able to purchase refurbished from our local computer store for $29 each!
·2 old HP Pavilion 350's (333MHz AMD K6-2's) donated by friends.
·1 donated ancient Pentium.
·One monitor is a refurbished 15in. Sony that we got for $60!
·The other monitors we got from friends who were upgrading to larger monitors.
·The network cards were on sale at the computer store for $8 each!
·4 Keyboards - $10 each.
·4 used mice - $1 each.
·We are using the same 8-port hub that we used last year.
·The network cables ranged from $5 - $10 depending on length
·Our printer is my old HP Laserjet II that became available when I upgraded a newer laser printer that I use at home. Any workstation on the network can print through the laser printer
·We removed the hard drives from the workstations and boot the workstations from the floppy. A special Linux floppy disk talks to the network card and connects the workstation to the server. (The software for connecting the workstation with several popular network cards resides on the server)

All of the "heavy lifting" is done on the server. It has a 13 Gig hard drive and all of the software and data resides there.

Each student has their own folder on the server and can log in from any workstation, and access only their own data. They each have their own login name and password assigned by the teacher.

To backup the student's work, we use a USB Zip Drive that connects to the server.

Since the server is the heart of the network, it is the most powerful computer on the network. Most of our financial resources were directed at the server.

To keep costs down and performance up, we elected to build the server ourselves.

Most of the parts we found online at

Our Server consists of:

·A FIC 33E ATX motherboard - $59
·A 5-Bay Computer Case (300W Power Supply)- $29
·A VIA-C3 700MHz microprocessor - $39
·A 13 Gig Hard drive (donated by a friend who was upgrading)
·512Meg RAM - on sale - $100
·2 SMC Network 10/100 FastEthernet LAN cards - $8 ea.

Our server cost less than $250! - Memory prices have dropped lately, so we may increase to 1024Meg.

We are running the server "headless" (without a monitor). We can access the server from a workstation.

Our workstations cost less than $100 each. You cannot create a Windows workstation for that price!

The most important factor for network performance is RAM. You need about 50Mb per user.

I have not tested this, but by that formula we should be able to support 10 users with our current configuration.

The motherboard in our server will support 1024Mb RAM, so theoretically we could support 20 workstations on our network.

To increase the number of users, we would just have to add RAM and cheap workstations. Maybe we will have a bake sale to raise money for more workstations.

In the future we may change to a more upscale motherboard and a faster processor.

One of the big advantages of using Linux is that, now when people upgrade and donate their old equipment, we can actually use it!

In a Windows based network, this equipment would be useless. Our workstations could not run Windows 98, Windows ME, Windows 2000 or Windows XP!

Since the software is free and doesn't require a license, Linux is an ideal cost-effective solution for schools.

This type of network configuration has some advantages:

*All of the programs and data reside on the server. There is only one computer to maintain, secure and backup.
*We can upgrade the performance of the entire network by simply upgrading the server.
*Inexpensive, lower performance, otherwise obsolete computers make great workstations.
*Each user has their own home folder and password.
*All of the student's work is stored on the server. At the end of the year we will create a CD ROM for each student, containing all of that student's work in the sixth grade.

By switching to Linux, we are able to repurpose the 2 computers we used last year. These computers are 433 Mhz Celerons with 4 Gig hard drives. Perhaps they could become Linux servers for other classrooms.

On Parent's Night, a parent offered to donate 2 old computers that they were not using.

Our network may grow to eight workstations!

With this Linux Network capability and our ability to recycle older computer equipment, we have to ask ourselves:

"Are we making the best use of scarce technology resources with a Microsoft Windows or even a Mac solution?"

"Is there a better way…?"