Jeffrey J. Nonken on Fri, 11 Jul 2003 15:58:10 -0400

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Re: RE: [PLUG] Community Service Project (Devil's

Knowledge is what you have coming out, not going in. It's an opportunity, not a guarantee. Some kids will learn a lot, others will learn very little, but I doubt the OS is going to change those proportions by much. Kids are information sponges and will soak up whatever they can. And certainly if Windows is easier to operate, getting them started on a more complex OS will ultimately be doing them more of a favor than spoon feeding them the easy stuff. If they're required to use Windows later in their lives, it surely won't be as much of a learning curve as trying to go the other way.

Windows 98 is already obsolete by Microsoft standards, and they've been trying to coerce a phase-out of existing installations. Older versions of Linux have problems and are less likely to be directly supported, but I can still grab an old Linux distro and get it running on an old 486 and have a working, usable machine. One that Microsoft hasn't deliberately made incompatible with current distributions. That will be true of systems set up now with current or recent distributions, they'll still be usable years in the future. As for running *nix on lightweight machines, well, RH9 may be a bit much for my 486, but there are lighweight distributions of Linux, lightweight versions of Unix, and lightweight graphical desktops. 

Can you even get Windows 98 any more? I mean legally. I haven't kept track, but I gather that only 2k and XP are available now, and while 2k is pretty stable as Microsoft products go, it requires a more modern machine to get any performance out of it. ... OK, I see here Windows ME for $200 at XP is slightly cheaper at $183. Personally, I wouldn't touch ME with a 10 meter cattle prod.

Since Microsoft is on a deliberate campaign to require upgrades every few years, and since the newer versions are so bloated as to require hardware upgrades every few years, I don't think trying to teach them Win98 is going to work. Installing Win98 on older computers is handing them already orphaned computers. You can't predict their futures, so trying to teach them exactly what they'll need a decade from now is an exercise in futility. On the other hand, if you're set on them learning computer concepts and computer essentials, rather than Linux or Windows, you're giving them the basis they'll need to grow later. "Teach him to fish," as somebody already said. You're building the infrastructure now, not the house. For that effort, the OS will probably be mostly transparent. 

Given all that, I strongly favor Linux. Surely there is a distro that is lightweight enough to use on these machines and free to copy?

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