It has been a few busy weeks for me, but I am finally back to publish another interview with the people behind Debian Edu and Skolelinux. This time it is one of our German developers, who have helped out over the years to make sure both a lot of major but also a lot of the minor details get right before release.
Who are you, and how do you spend your days?
My name is Jürgen Leibner, I'm 49 years old and living in Bielefeld, a town in northern Germany. I worked nearly 20 years as certified engineer in the department for plant design and layout of an international company for machinery and equipment. Since 2011 I'm a certified technical writer (tekom e.V.) and doing technical documentations for a steam turbine manufacturer. From April this year I will manage the department of technical documentation at a manufacturer of automation and assembly line engineering.
My first contact with linux was around 1993. Since that time I used it at work and at home repeatedly but not exclusively as I do now at home since 2006.
How did you get in contact with the Skolelinux/Debian Edu project?
Once a day in the early year of 2001 when I wanted to fetch my daughter from primary school, there was a teacher sitting in the middle of 20 old computers trying to boot them and he failed. I helped him to get them booting. That was seen by the school director and she asked me if I would like to manage that the school gets all that old computers in use. I answered: "Yes".
Some weeks later every of the 10 classrooms had one computer running Windows98. I began to collect old computers and equipment as gifts and installed the first computer room with a peer-to-peer network. I did my work at school without being payed in my spare time and with a lot of fun. About one year later the school was connected to Internet and a local area network was installed in the school building. That was the time to have a server and I knew it must be a Linux server to be able to fulfil all the wishes of the teachers and being able to do this in a transparent and economic way, without extra costs for things like licence and software. So I searched for a school server system running under Linux and I found a couple of people nearby who founded 'skolelinux.de'. It was the Skolelinux prerelease 32 I first tried out for being used at the school. I managed the IT of that school until the municipal authority took over the IT management and centralised the services for all schools in Bielefeld in December of 2006.
What do you see as the advantages of Skolelinux/Debian Edu?
When I'm looking back to the beginning, there were other advantages for me as today.
In the past there were advantages like:
- I don't need to buy it so it generates no costs to the school as they had little money to spent for computers and software.
- It has a licence which grands all rights to use it without cost.
- It was more able to fit all requirements of a server system for schools than a Microsoft server system, even if there are only Windows clients because of it's preconfigured overall concept of being a infrastructure solution and community for schools, not only a server
- I was able to configure the server to the needs of the school.
Today some of the advantages has been lost, changed or new ones came up in this way:
- Most schools here do have money to buy hardware and software now.
- They are today mostly managed from central IT departments which have own concepts which often do not fit to Debian Edu concepts because they are to close to Microsoft ideology.
- With the Squeeze version of Debian Edu which now uses GOsa² for management I feel more able to manage the daily tasks than with the interfaces used in the past.
- It is more modular than in the past and fits even better to the different needs.
- The documentation is usable and gets better every day.
- More people than ever before are using Debian Edu all over the world and so the community, which is an very important part I think, is sharing knowledge and minds.
- Most, maybe all, of the technical requirements for schools are solved today by Debian Edu.
What do you see as the disadvantages of Skolelinux/Debian Edu?
- There are too few IT companies able to integrate Debian Edu into their product portfolio for serving schools with concepts or even whole municipality areas.
- Debian Edu has beside other free and open software projects not enough lobbyists which promote free and open software to politicians.
- Technically there are no disadvantages I'm aware of.
Which free software do you use daily?
I use Debian stable on my home server and on my little desktop computer. On my laptop I use Debian testing/sid. The applications I use on my laptop and my desktop are Open/Libre-office, Iceweasel, KMail, DigiKam, Amarok, Dolphin, okular and all the other programs I need from the KDE environment. On console I use newsbeuter, mutt, screen, irssi and all the other famous and useful tools.
My home server provides mail services with exim, dovecot, roundcube and mutt over ssh on the console, file services with samba, NFS, rsync, web services with apache, moinmoin-wiki, multimedia services with gallery2 and mediatomb and database services with MySQL for me and the whole family. I probably forgot something.
Which strategy do you believe is the right one to use to get schools to use free software?
I believe, we should provide concepts for IT companies to integrate Debian Edu into their product portfolio with use cases for different countries and areas all over the world.