Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Technology Enhanced Learning: Part 2 of 3 - Can Free Open Source Software (FOSS) successfully replace any proprietary software used by teachers?

Note: First published on 17th July 2016 via my LinkedIn account

The chart below clearly shows that Windows has the largest market share of desktop operating systems. The next contender is (Apple) Mac at 8%. These two proprietary software providers supply 98% of the desktop operating systems used today.
However, I do suspect that this pie chart will be changing over the next few years as the little red sliver named Linux is already building up to take 2% of the market share. Linux is free and open source software (FOSS) and therefore, not proprietary.

This 'new boy on the block' is starting to have an impact on three fronts:
1) Multiple user interfaces available... as Linux is not a whole operating system, it is the kernel. Other FOSS software is combined with the kernel to produce what are known as distributions or 'distros'. There are a number of distros which emulate the Windows and Apple user interfaces such as shown here... Education establishments and businesses are starting to realise that older PCs and laptops can be rejuvenated by installing a Linux based operating system instead of destroying working equipment that has just slowed up or won't cope with an upgrade to the next Windows operating system.
3) The Chrome OS (which also use Linux) is the operating system powering Chromebooks. These light and powerful laptops are increasingly being used by students and teachers in many education establishments.
My distribution of choice is Ubuntu which uses a very friendly user interface named Unity. A screen-shot of my desktop is shown below:
Ubuntu also has over 78,000 free software packages which can be downloaded and installed through their simple to use software centre tool. The categories listed include: Accessories, Developer Tools, Education, Fonts, Games, Graphics, Internet, Office, Science & Engineering, Sound, video and Themes & Tweaks. I will be exploring some of these software packages in my next posting.
Many distros have their own specialisms/visions and Ubuntu is no different; as Ubuntu's own vision is to provide a single software platform that runs across smartphones, tablets, laptops and PCs. It is designed to help make converged computing a reality: one system, one experience, multiple form factors. I can personally see how one interface that works on all my computer based equipment (including smart TVs) would save time, but the creative side of me would also like to tweak it to my own preferences. I guess this is why I have been attracted to using Linux based distros since 2004 as I feel I can have the best of both worlds.

Ubuntu operates at its best when installed on a modern high specification machine, such as provided by Dell. However I will be providing tutorials on how to:
  • 'Test drive' Ubuntu without fully installing it.
  • Install Ubuntu alongside your normal Windows installation, so you have a choice of which operating system you use when first switch your PC on.
  • Carry out a full Ubuntu installation on an older PC or a brand new PC which you may have just built using the latest hardware.
Please don't under estimate the impact Linux is having on computer based equipment, for example the Android operating system which is powering phones and tablets is also based on Linux. It is clear to me that Linux has proven it is a strong, stable and robust force which provides the power behind many operating systems like Ubuntu, Android, Chrome OS and many others
Therefore I believe that Free Open Source Software (FOSS) can successfully replace the operating system on PCs/Laptops used by teachers!

My first post (1 of 3) explored how FOSS provides a successful VLE (Moodle).

This post (2 of 3) explores whether FOSS can successfully provide a replacement for a proprietary desktop PC/laptop operating system.

The final post (3 of 3) will explore whether FOSS can successfully replace any proprietary software applications used on a desktop PC/laptop.