Debian Edu / Skolelinux keep gaining new users. Some weeks ago, a person showed up on IRC, #debian-edu, with a wish to contribute, and I managed to get a interview with this great contributor Roger Marsal to learn more about his background.
Who are you, and how do you spend your days?
My name is Roger Marsal, I'm 27 years old (1986 generation) and I live in Barcelona, Spain. I've got a strong business background and I work as a patrimony manager and as a real estate agent. Additionally, I've co-founded a British based tech company that is nowadays on the last development phase of a new social networking concept.
I'm a Linux enthusiast that started its journey with Ubuntu four years ago and have recently switched to Debian seeking rock solid stability and as a necessary step to gain expertise.
In a nutshell, I spend my days working and learning as much as I can to face both my job, entrepreneur project and feed my Linux hunger.
How did you get in contact with the Skolelinux / Debian Edu project?
I discovered the LTSP advantages with "Ubuntu 12.04 alternate install" and after a year of use I started looking for an alternative. Even though I highly value and respect the Ubuntu project, I thought it was necessary for me to change to a more robust and stable alternative. As far as I was using Debian on my personal laptop I thought it would be fine to install Debian and configure an LTSP server myself. Surprised, I discovered that the Debian project also supported a kind of Edubuntu equivalent, and after having some pain I obtained a Debian Edu network up and running. I just loved it.
What do you see as the advantages of Skolelinux / Debian Edu?
I found a main advantage in that, once you know "the tips and tricks", a new installation just works out of the box. It's the most complete alternative I've found to create an LTSP network. All the other distributions seems to be made of plastic, Debian Edu seems to be made of steel.
What do you see as the disadvantages of Skolelinux / Debian Edu?
I found two main disadvantages.
I'm not an expert but I've got notions and I had to spent a considerable amount of time trying to bring up a standard network topology. I'm quite stubborn and I just worked until I did but I'm sure many people with few resources (not big schools, but academies for example) would have switched or dropped.
It's amazing how such a complex system like Debian Edu has achieved this out-of-the-box state. Even though tweaking without breaking gets more difficult, as more factors have to be considered. This can discourage many people too.
Which free software do you use daily?
I use Debian, Firefox, Okular, Inkscape, LibreOffice and Virtualbox.
Which strategy do you believe is the right one to use to get schools to use free software?
I don't think there is a need for a particular strategy. The free attribute in both "freedom" and "no price" meanings is what will really bring free software to schools. In my experience I can think of the "R" statistical language; a few years a ago was an extremely nerd tool for university people. Today it's being increasingly used to teach statistics at many different level of studies. I believe free and open software will increasingly gain popularity, but I'm sure schools will be one of the first scenarios where this will happen.