Linux-based desktops, servers, and curriculum at private Christian SchoolForge updated September 20, 2011

How things got started...

We built our original computer lab using donated computers from surrounding businesses. These computers worked fine for a time, but when they began to fail, I started looking into new equipment. As a private school on a shoe-string budget, we needed to count every penny both for hardware and software costs.

Why Free Software?

It was during this time back in 2001 that I became aware of the BSA and Microsoft auditing public schools and levying heavy fines for lost licenses, misplaced certificates of authentication, etc. I also became aware that the EULA prevented me from moving Windows from our aging computers to new hardware. This and other revelations to the extreme vendor lock-in of the day (since then, MS has become slightly more school-friendly) made me look elsewhere. Elsewhere brought me to GNU/Linux, which I had tried back in the late 90s, but found unpolished. In 2001-2002, GNU/Linux was much better (as were the FOSS apps), especially for the desktop.

The plan...

In 2001 and 2002 we purchased new, barebone computers which I assembled for the school to help reduce cost. We installed Mandrake Linux on all our student computers, as well as our servers and most of our staff computers. We installed open-source applications relevant to education, including office suites, web site filtering, various educational programs, etc. I also began writing some of my own educational software for the classroom, using primarily the Python programming language, which is also taught to students in our school.


We've been using Linux for over 5 years now, and we've been extremely pleased. My boss is sold, as well are the students. In fact, my students often beg me for Linux installation CDs so they can put Linux on their home computers! We've literally saved many thousands of dollars, both in the initial switch and in subsequent upgrades. For example, we are now running Gentoo Linux which I update regularly, and yet we are using the original hardware purchased 5 years ago. The great thing is, unlike MS Vista, our Linux-based computers are faster now than in 2002 due to improvements in Linux. No artificial obsolecense to deal with!
To learn more about our program (which has been featured in a number of publications) and how you can switch to Linux, visit our Computer Technology homepage.

The Future...

I'm looking at adding a cart of laptops for the classroom. I'm also using open source tools in more embedded ways, including robotics, special-function computers, etc.
Of particular interest is our curriculum which educates students about the value of open source software and even teaches them basic programming. I have a number of students interested in pursuing careers in computer science based on their experience using Linux and other FOSS apps in a development setting.

Created: Oct 27, 2007
Greater Houlton Christian Academy
United States

Grade Range:K-12
Submitted by:
Michael Surran