Best Linux distributions to replace Windows in schools

Q I am a network manager in a large secondary school. I am interested in trying to reduce ICT operating costs by using Linux and open source software. I currently use an FC4 server for our intranet and web server, but I would like to extend the use of Linux and open source software with additional servers for file sharing/printing and also eventually to classroom workstations. What distributions would you recommend for server and workstation? Do you know of any good sources of information for using Linux in education?

A The best advice I can give is to download and test various different distributions until you find one that suits your needs and that you feel comfortable with. The website www.linuxiso.org has many Linux distros available for download and burning to CD/DVD, including FreeBSD, NetBSD (which are not strictly speaking Linux, but are free to download and try). Mix and match distributions in your environment until you find one you like. I'd recommend a distro that is compliant with the LSB (Linux Standards Base www.linuxbase.org), which should mean that you get some compatibility between distributions and enable software applications to run on any LSB conforming system.

As to the question of which distribution is better to use in education, all the popular distributions that I have come across give opportunities to learn and develop the mind, so whichever one you pick for that purpose should be a useful asset to have in the classroom. And don't forget that you can legally copy and distribute all Linux distributions that are released under the GNU General Public License to your pupils, so they can continue to learn about the system at home. (For more on using Linux in schools, see our feature on p50.)

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