Linux: Ubuntu In My Lab

This entry is the third in a series covering GNU/Linux, an Operating System consisting of the Linux Kernel and applications from the Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) community, with an emphasis on its connections to the developing world. These articles assume at least a moderate understanding of the Linux and FOSS communities. For more information regarding these, I would direct interested parties to as well as the Free Software Foundation and finally, for the truly interested, the GNU Manifesto. With all of this knowledge now in hand, I hope you enjoy the series. If you have not already done so, I suggest you go ahead and read the first and second posts in the series: Linux: Not Ready for the Big Time and Linux: It’s Everywhere and Nowhere.

I have been teaching at National Youth Service for a year now, and I have been administering a modern computing facility for about nine months. For those nine months the computers in my lab have been dual-booted with Windows and Ubuntu. Over these nine months I have learned a thing or two about administering systems in the developing world and thought that I would continue my Linux series with an overview of what I have picked up, so that maybe my experiences will help future system admins finding themselves in a similar position as myself.

The Setup

Let’s get the details out of the way. My computer lab currently consists of one HP Compaq Dual Core Intel machine which has been designated the teacher’s computer (i.e. me), though it has accounts on it for anyone to interact with. I also have 8 HP Pentium D machines with 120 gig hard drives and 512 MB of RAM. Finally, I have 15 Lenovo machines running Intel dual cores with 1 gig of RAM and 80 gig hard drives. There is also a rudimentary network connecting the 9 HP machines together and also to an HP Laserjet 4250 through the use of a D-Link 24-port switch and D-Link 4-port wired Ethernet router. Currently the network is down because it traditionally serves the purpose of allowing the HP machines (due to proximity) to print, but currently we have no toner for the printer, and thus I have not rebuilt the network since taking it down for safety concerns over the holiday.

As for software, all computers are currently running Ubuntu 9.04 and the 8 HP’s (not including my teacher computer) dual boot into Windows XP SP2. Before my Linux-enthusiast readers get all huffy, the fact of the matter is that many people who already know how to use a computer in Kenya have learned on Windows. I am slowly gaining converts, especially considering now the majority of computers run Linux, but for the sake of practicality, it’s good to have a Windows partition or two lying around for those, “must-have,” cases. I teach exclusively in Ubuntu however.


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One response to “Linux: Ubuntu In My Lab

  1. Great post on some of the problems with ITC in Africa. USB viruses are the bane of all volunteers existence. Do you have all your teachers put an autorun.inf folder on the drive? At least stops the virus from spreading.

    The distribution model of Linux is horribly suited for the low bandwidth experienced here, but when I used it back home in the States it was amazing! The amount of FLOSS software that is out there is amazing. Though not all of it lives up to professional standards that are definitely sufficient for everyday use. One thing I really want to do here is a photo editing class using GIMP, but the right combination of motivation and timing from my counter parts hasn’t happened yet.

    Have you looked into the games available in the Ubuntu repos. Might be another good way to get people to try them out. Personal I like simple logic games like those found in the package sgt-puzzles, but there are tons of 3-D games too.

    Thanks for the link to Looks like a cool organization, need to look into it more.