The complete and free “out of the box” software solution for schools, Debian Edu / Skolelinux, is used quite a lot in Germany, and one of the people involved is Bernd Zeitzen, who show up on the project mailing lists from time to time with interesting questions and tips on how to adjust the setup. I managed to interview him this summer.
Who are you, and how do you spend your days?
My name is Bernd Zeitzen and I'm married with Hedda, a self employed physiotherapist. My former profession is tool maker, but I haven't worked for 30 years in this job. 30 years ago I started to support my wife and become her officeworker and a few years later the administrator for a small computer network, today based on Ubuntu Server (Samba, OpenVPN). For her daily work she has to use Windows Desktops because the software she needs to organize her business only works with Windows . :-(
In 1988 we started with one PC and DOS, then I learned to use Windows 98, 2000, XP, …, 8, Ubuntu, MacOSX. Today we are running a Linux server with 6 Windows clients and 10 persons (teacher of children with special needs, speech therapist, occupational therapist, psychologist and officeworkers) using our Samba shares via OpenVPN to work with the documentations of our patients.
How did you get in contact with the Skolelinux / Debian Edu project?
Two years ago a friend of mine asked me, if I want to get a job in his school (Gymnasium Harsewinkel). They started with Skolelinux / Debian Edu and they were looking for people to give support to the teachers using the software and the network and teaching the pupils increasing their computer skills in optional lessons. I'm spending 4-6 hours a week with this job.
What do you see as the advantages of Skolelinux / Debian Edu?
First: Every person is allowed to use, share and develop the software. Even if you are poor, you are allowed to use the software included in Skolelinux/Debian Edu and all the other Free Software.
Second: The software runs on old machines and this gives us the possibility to recycle computers, weeded out from offices. The servers and desktops are running for more than two years and they are working reliable.
We have two servers (one tjener and one terminal server), 45 workstations in three classrooms and seven laptops as a mobile solution for all classrooms. These machines are all booting from the terminal server. In the moment we are installing 30 laptops as mobile workstations. Then the pupils have the possibility to work with these machines in their classrooms. Internet access is realized by a WLAN router, connected to the schools network. This is all done without a dedicated system administrator or a computer science teacher.
What do you see as the disadvantages of Skolelinux / Debian Edu?
Teachers and pupils are Windows users. <Irony on> And Linux isn't cool. It's software for freaks using the command line. <Irony off> They don't realize the stability of the system.
Which free software do you use daily?
Firefox, Thunderbird, LibreOffice, Ubuntu Server 12.04 (Samba, Apache, MySQL, Joomla!, … and Skolelinux / Debian Edu)
Which strategy do you believe is the right one to use to get schools to use free software?
In Germany we have the situation: every school is free to decide which software they want to use. This decision is influenced by teachers who learned to use Windows and MS Office. They buy a PC with Windows preinstalled and an additional testing version of MS Office. They don't know about the possibility to use Free Software instead. Another problem are the publisher of school books. They develop their software, added to the school books, for Windows.