W. Chris Shank on 19 Jan 2008 12:25:40 -0800

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Re: [PLUG] One True OS

 >> James is fortunate that he isn't replacing an existing  
infrastructure, but
 >> essentially starting from scratch, which makes the typical  
migration issues
 >> far less of a problem.

He's not starting from scratch, even if he thinks he is. I have been  
involved in enough of these to know there is always some legacy stuff  
they have to keep or some infrastructure they have to utilize. Now, if  
the school was still using green-screen dumb terminals and he was  
replacing it with PCs, he'd be starting from scratch. No, he has an  
exiting infrastructure he needs to get under control and move up from  

And it won't be easy. I've seen spaghetti network wiring in these  
schools with multiple patch panels spread randomly, switches buried in  
classroom closets for no reason, and other craziness that will leave  
you saying  - "What were they thinking". But in fact, they weren't. In  
most of the schools I've been in (probably a half-dozen so far) -  
their IT was strung together by a series of volunteers who ran out of  
time or motivation to see their project through. The computers  
usually  consist of mostly a random collection of donated equipment  
from various vintages with some of the higher ups actually having  
modern ones.  People think they are doing their school a favor by  
"donating" their old PC - when in reality, this donation turns into  
more of a problem for them, unless they have a _really_ well organized  
IT department. But staff like that is usually beyond the reach of  
their budget. What I have seen on several occasions is a lot of half- 
completed attempts to get things together. Of the schools I've been  
in, I've only seen one that was well organized. For that school, a  
parent volunteer who happens to be a high level MCSE set it up. That  
network is running well because of his skill and knowledge. However,  
there was a considerable software and hardware expense initially.

I'm frustrated with the notion that somehow replacing everything with  
Linux is going to save the day. Yes Linux is a great OS and yes it  
_could_ save money _if_ all your applications, peripherals, and  
hardware is compatible _and_ your staff is knowledgeable enough to  
transition to it _and_ all their tools are available and the students  
can take work back and forth, and - and - and - and. Unless the only  
applications they use are non-collaborative Email and web browsing,  
anytime you push Linux in without a significant plan - your setting  
yourself up for failure. And each time someone shoehorns Linux into a  
network without a clear plan for success, it becomes fodder for the  
anti-Linux crowd.

I'm sorry if I'm ranting. I'm really not anti-Linux. I use it to a  
tremendous extent and even commercially support about a dozen Linux  
desktops. So I know from experience, Linux itself isn't the answer to  
a poorly designed network or untrained users or crappy hardware or an  
inadequate IT budget. It will in fact will make your life miserable  
and make users skeptical about using Linux in the future when it truly  
has overcome the few remaining hurdles. I guess I'm jaded because I've  
been there - done that, and it sucks to see your effort fail. This  
hits close to home for me because I've been in James position and  
attempted to do just what he's trying to do about 5 years ago. Back  
then, instead of Vista as the problem OS it was XP and Windows 98 as  
the incumbent. But the story is very similar. Linux is more mature  
than it was then, but XP is also far superior to Windows 98, so the  
starting points aren't that far off.

What these schools need is a real _comprehensive solution_ that  
addresses all their needs and pain points. Just sticking Linux in the  
lab is only going to make his life harder because he'll have more  
complexity to try to manage.

Arrgg - sorry - i just find this whole topic so frustrating.

On Jan 19, 2008, at 2:07 PM, Matthew Rosewarne wrote:

> James is fortunate that he isn't replacing an existing  
> infrastructure, but
> essentially starting from scratch, which makes the typical migration  
> issues
> far less of a problem.

W. Chris Shank
ACE Technology Group, LLC
(610) 640-4223

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