This week is taking place the Ubuntu * Summit, in Seville, Spain. The event is formed by the Ubuntu Educational Summit, days 3 and 4, I skipped the Ubuntucon at 5th and joined the first days of the Developers Summit. There was several other Intel engineers around here, and much more Classmates than OLPC. I went there specially to the Educational Summit to understand better the subject.
The first day started with Richard Weideman explaining the motivation for the Summit. The main focus is Edubuntu, the distro based on Ubuntu to educational propose. Edubuntu is not a distro intended to be used on desktop, it is intended to build laboratories with LTSP. To take the most advantages of any educational project, they didn’t want to be restricted to Gnome or KDE, so they ported both within Edubuntu. This causes extra load and space consuming, all the libraries need to be installed and loaded to both environments. So they decided to work with LTSP team and develop an environment easily configurable to non technical administrators – teachers. Edubuntu has graphical tools to make this possible.
Also were presented several projects, like Tuxlabs and mEDUXa. TuXlabs is a project which have well documented and prepared in 7 steps the implementation of laboratories for schools and universities, now based on Edubuntu. I found very interesting some tips they gave on the end of the presentation, about things they learned along the years working with the project: for example, a computer lab means nothing if the educational curriculum do not have a propose for it, it needs to have activities involved in the courses.
The mEDUXa project is a distribution created with the same educational propose, but to me it looked a step forward in the interface item:
I talked longer with Agústin, one of the responsible by the project, and he told me he had a list with educational software which was presented to the Canarias Islands government, with analyses and suggestions. The list was made some time ago though, it would need some updates. Then, he said he would take the content and publish in a wiki page – according to him, everything on the web now is made in wiki pages. And two days later, he shown to me the results – available here. The list with the applications is growing fast. That was the first great surprise of this conference, where several chats resulted in real actions.
At the first night, during a session of beer and “tapas”, I meet some people from the Andaluzia government, which gave me very impressive numbers about the usage of free software in schools and universities – something up to 165.000 computers, servers and clients. We talked about high availability too, which takes major importance in this scenario: if just 1% of the computers have failure, this means more than 1500 computers. And also they told me they do not just go giving and setting up computers and laboratories to any institution which ask so. To get this, the institution needs to present a project saying what they want to do with this laboratory, to propose changes in the educational program or show how the lab would fit on the existent one. And this was the major reason to Andaluzia to be chosen to host this Ubuntu * Summit.
Also was presented the Classmate PC by its team. The subject is well know, it is the project of Intel to lower cost notebooks and developed aimed to educational proposes. Just to remember: it is a Celeron 900 MHz, with 256MB RAM and 2Gb memory flash. Oliver Grawert is a Ubuntu developer, and was asked to demonstrate if Edubuntu would run on the Classmate. 24hs later, the result:
I played with it a little bit, it works, but it is still away from the ideal. The 2Gb were 98% used, so any two applications running in parallel causes a major load on the Classmate. But now Oliver can make adaptations, minimize or remove unnecessary pieces, as ttys, LTSP and others. But the viability were well demonstraded.
During the Developer Summit days, I joined a few of the “official” sessions. One of them was the Kubuntu session, where I talked directly with one of the Adapter developers, and solved several doubts. The thing is, I tested Ubuntu several times, as well several other distributions, and I prefer KDE for graphical environment, so I always went with Kubuntu tries. And even that I have several successful cases in friends computers that I installed, everytime was my computer, the problems shown up. I use to say I have this gift or curse for finding bugs. Last time, Xorg was not working properly, so I thought “if I’m going to edit the xorg.conf, I’m going to install Slackware”. But as so much projects going on with Intel and Ubuntu – one of phrases I heard most was “how many Intel people here!”(we have even an engineer dedicated to port the development and patches to Ubuntu). So, this time, I decided to solve the problems. And one of those were the fact that Adapter didn’t find any package I wanted, like irssi. So I learned that the Add/Remove Program is an application intended to new users, so it has an basic interface and few set of software. To find any package for Ubuntu, I need to go to the Adapter Manager, in the System menu. I know how to use apt-get, and I had to use it some times, but if I’m going to use a distribution which claim to be user-friendly, and I’m going to present that to friends, I need to know how to use all the tools. So the developer took a note to create some kind of icon or box to inform the user about the difference and make easier to find the entire set of software available. And at that session, I even got my Compiz and desktop-effects working smoothly. I enjoyed a lot to play with squashing windows or running the cube of desktops. But everything is still black 😛
So, I had much more fun than I expected. I would like to especially thanks Jono, Oliver, Melissa, Rolla, Willy, Jane, and so many fun and welcoming people. Although they are bad influence for me 😀 – we always end up drinking until 3 in the morning – it was a memorable event. Who knows I maybe go to Ubuntu Live?