Linux: Ubuntu In My Lab

Choosing Ubuntu

As I stated earlier, I do all of my teaching in Ubuntu, and run Ubuntu as the primary operating system on my teacher machine. But why choose Ubuntu? There are several factors at work here. The primary reason is that when I first shipped to Kenya in November 2008, I carried with me very few operating system installation discs. My personal computer at the time was a Apple iBook from 2004, and I had no idea what I would be doing, and in packing for two years, unaware of my potential job assignment, OS discs just did not make the cut. However, as soon as I landed and was given my assignment, the first thing I asked for in care packages were Linux magazines, of which many are accompanied by OS discs. You can thank my parents for my introducing Linux to NYS. Otherwise internet connections are so slow and expensive that downloading distros is not a feasible option.

This situation left me with two distros to choose from: Fedora 10 and Ubuntu 8.10. I piloted Fedora on a couple machines as well as Ubuntu, and the fact of the matter is that Fedora is a great bleeding-edge distro, but just does not have the stability I need, and also seems to constantly change default programs. With Ubuntu, package selection is intentional and things just, “seem smoother,” (sorry for the subjectivity of that statement). However, 8.10 had some problems, so from January to April, I just didn’t bother, and taught on machines running pirated and virus-infested copies of Windows XP.

Come May 2009 however, my lab was moved and teaching became more, “real,” so I sat down and cracked some of the Ubuntu 8.10 issues and got dual-boots going on the 8 machines I had at the time. But there were rumblings the program would be growing and sure enough new machines arrived a few months later. I now had the capacity mentioned above, but did not want to hack the 8.10 problems again on the new Lenovos, so they sat until the end of July with just factory installed Windows XP builds.

Then I got the good news. Another Peace Corps volunteer had received in the mail copies of Ubuntu 9.04, and an organization I sometimes parter with, Camara, had painstakingly downloaded an entire mirror of the official 9.04 repos: main, restricted, multiverse and universe… everything. Despite a lackluster performance from 8.10, the decision was made: with such software at my disposal, I would sit down and make Ubuntu work. This was around August 2009.


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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.