It has been a while since I managed to publish the last interview,
but the Debian Edu /
Skolelinux community is still going strong, and yesterday we even
had a new school administrator show up on
#debian-edu to share
his success story with installing Debian Edu at their school. This
time I have been able to get some helpful comments from the creator of
Knoppix, Klaus Knopper, who was involved in a Skolelinux project in
Germany a few years ago.
Who are you, and how do you spend your days?
I am Klaus Knopper. I have a master degree in electrical
engineering, and is currently professor in information management at
the university of applied sciences Kaiserslautern / Germany and
freelance Open Source software developer and consultant.
All of this is pretty much of the work I spend my days with. Apart
from teaching, I'm also conducting some more or less experimental
projects like the Knoppix GNU/Linux live
system (Debian-based like Skolelinux),
(a blind-friendly talking desktop system) and
(Linux-based network boot console, a fast remote install and repair
system supporting various operating systems).
How did you get in contact with the Skolelinux / Debian Edu
The credit for this have to go to Kurt Gramlich, who is the German
coordinator for Skolelinux. We were looking for an all-in-one open
source community-supported distribution for schools, and Kurt
introduced us to Skolelinux for this purpose.
What do you see as the advantages of Skolelinux / Debian
- Quick installation,
- works (almost) out of the box,
- contains many useful software packages for teaching and learning,
- is a purely community-based distro and not controlled by a
- has a large number of supporters and teachers who share their
experience and problem solutions.
What do you see as the disadvantages of Skolelinux / Debian
- Skolelinux is - as we had to learn - not easily upgradable to
the next version. Opposed to its genuine Debian base, upgrading to
a new version means a full new installation from scratch to get it
working again reliably.
- Skolelinux is based on Debian/stable, and therefore always a
little outdated in terms of program versions compared to Edubuntu or
similar educational Linux distros, which rather use Debian/testing
as their base.
- Skolelinux has some very self-opinionated and stubborn default
configuration which in my opinion adds unnecessary complexity and is
not always suitable for a schools needs, the preset network
configuration is actually a core definition feature of Skolelinux
and not easy to change, so schools sometimes have to change their
network configuration to make it "Skolelinux-compatible".
- Some proposed extensions, which were made available as
contribution, like secure examination mode and lecture material
distribution and collection, were not accepted into the mainline
Skolelinux development and are now not easy to maintain in the
future because of Skolelinux somewhat undeterministic update
- Skolelinux has only a very tiny number of base developers
compared to Debian.
For these reasons and experience from our project, I would now
rather consider using plain Debian for schools next time, until
Skolelinux is more closely integrated into Debian and becomes
upgradeable without reinstallation.
Which free software do you use daily?
GNU/Linux with LXDE desktop, bash for interactive dialog and
programming, texlive for documentation and correspondence,
occasionally LibreOffice for document format conversion. Various
programming languages for teaching.
Which strategy do you believe is the right one to use to
get schools to use free software?
Strong arguments are
- Knowledge is free, and so should be methods and tools for
teaching and learning.
- Students can learn with and use the same software at school, at
home, and at their working place without running into license or
- Closed source or proprietary software hides knowledge rather
than exposing it, and proprietary software vendors try to bind
customers to certain products. But teachers need to teach
science, not products.
- If you have everything you for daily work as open source, what
would you need proprietary software for?