There is another project that is very similar to Skolelinux: K12LTSP, based on RedHat, Linux and LTSP, is also focused on providing schools with thin clients running Linux. So how does Skolelinx differ from this project - is this a case of reinventing the wheel?
The strong points of Skolelinux are to be found in the architecture and in its use of the Debian apt-get system for upgrading software. In addition, the Skolelinux project is developing a better system for installing the Debian distribution.
The focus of the Skolelinux project is:
The K12LTSP project is mainly focusing on the thin client and some other fundamental and cruical issues in connection with a school computer network. A significant amount of manunal work is involved in the configuration.
For someone who knows both RedHat and LTSP, it is not terribly hard to setup a thin client server. K12LTSP makes the thin client part easier, and it gets you started with 3-4 network services. But if you need to have a school computer network with 15-16 services, that is also robust and easily extendible, the school IT-staff will have to invest significantly more time in order to achieve the level of competence required.
IT staff at many schools consist of teachers who maintain the school network on a part-time basis. It is not uncommon to find only a half time IT administrator being responsible for 10 schools with 450 computers, while the municipal adminstration has three full time positions and a boss to serve the same number of computers.
So school IT staff are often overburdened and underfunded, in addition to not having much experience with Linux. In addition, passing on and spreading the required competence is in itself an enourmously time consuming task. The Danish GnuSkole project is an attempt at doing this. They provide a detailed description (Danish) of the amount of manual work involved in setting up RedHat
Therefore, caution is required in comparing the various Linux-in-Schools projects, as it can easily turn into a case of comparing apples and oranges. Our Danish colleagues are fully aware that the ambitions of the Skolelinux project are far higher than just providing a user manual for setting up a number of services on a Linux system. The aim of Skolelinux is to provide all required services completely configured out-of-the-box.
When the school IT staff gets the network "readymade", their time can be reallocated for more important tasks in the everyday use of computers in the school. School IT staff that we have been in touch with are very concerned that students and teachers use computer tools in a smart way. They are less interested in purely technical matters.
One person with Linux competence is able to server three times as many users as a person with Windows competence, according to a report.from the Danish Board of Technology
In addition, using Linux can double the productive life of hardware and remove all licence fees. This enables the municipality to make better use of it's IT resouces for schools. This makes Skolelinux a competence-building project. To ensure rapid sharing of competence, the time spent by IT councellors on network configuration must be reduced. At the same time, the material available to teachers is in great need of improvement, regardless of whether they are using Linux or not.
As you have now explored the differences between the projects, you are in a position of being able to judge for yourself what the missing pieces of the puzzle are, and where you can make a contribution most effectively . It does not matter whether you contribute to k12ltsp or to Skolelinux, as we all hate wasting effort on doing the same thing twice over. We already "recycle" solutions where the k12ltsp project has contributed to the LTSP
Companies like IBM and Linpro (Norwegian), as well as HP, seem to agree with the Skolelinux project's out-of-the-box plugable server architecture made possible by basing Skolelinux on Debian.