Behind Debian Edu and Skolelinux there are a lot of people doing the hard work of setting together all the pieces. This time I present to you Andreas Mundt, who have been part of the technical development team several years. He was also a key contributor in getting GOsa and Kerberos set up in the recently released Debian Edu Squeeze version.
Who are you, and how do you spend your days?
My name is Andreas Mundt, I grew up in south Germany. After studying Physics I spent several years at university doing research in Quantum Optics. After that I worked some years in an optics company. Finally I decided to turn over a new leaf in my life and started teaching 10 to 19 years old kids at school. I teach math, physics, information technology and science/technology.
How did you get in contact with the Skolelinux/Debian Edu project?
Already before I switched to teaching, I followed the Debian Edu project because of my interest in education and Debian. Within the qualification/training period for the teaching, I started contributing.
What do you see as the advantages of Skolelinux/Debian Edu?
The advantages of Debian Edu are the well known name, the out-of-the-box philosophy and of course the great free software of the Debian Project!
What do you see as the disadvantages of Skolelinux/Debian Edu?
As every coin has two sides, the out-of-the-box philosophy has its downside, too. In my opinion, it is hard to modify and tweak the setup, if you need or want that. Further more, it is not easily possible to upgrade the system to a new release. It takes much too long after a Debian release to prepare the -Edu release, perhaps because the number of developers working on the core of the code is rather small and often busy elsewhere.
The Debian LAN project might fill the use case of a more flexible system.
Which free software do you use daily?
I am only using non-free software if I am forced to and run Debian on all my machines. For documents I prefer LaTeX and PGF/TikZ, then mutt and iceweasel for email respectively web browsing. At school I have Arduino and Fritzing in use for a micro controller project.
Which strategy do you believe is the right one to use to get schools to use free software?
One of the major problems is the vendor lock-in from top to bottom: Especially in combination with ignorant government employees and politicians, this works out great for the "market-leader". The school administration here in Baden-Wuerttemberg is occupied by that vendor. Documents have to be prepared in non-free, proprietary formats. Even free browsers do not work for the school administration. Publishers of school books provide software only for proprietary platforms.
To change this, political work is very important. Parts of the political spectrum have become aware of the problem in the last years. However it takes quite some time and courageous politicians to 'free' the system. There is currently some discussion about "Open Data" and "Free/Open Standards". I am not sure if all the involved parties have a clue about the potential of these ideas, and probably only a fraction takes them seriously. However it might slowly make free software and the philosophy behind it more known and popular.