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The experiences of an Australian student who uses Linux.

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Australian Federal government 'Student Laptop' system

Posted 04-02-2010 at 06:32 AM by William (Dthdealer)
Updated 04-03-2010 at 07:13 PM by William (Dthdealer) (Added to Category 'Australia Politics')

This article in no relation to the distribution of laptops by the OLPC organisation in remote communities of Australia, which I believe is a good scheme.

An election promise by Labour government was to provide Australian high school students with free laptops before their next election. The second year of the running of this system, I have some comments to make on it.

The concept was good. Each year year 9 students receive a free small netbook, loaded with remote immobilisers and satellite traceable components in the event it is stolen or sold. A simple way to insure the students actually use their laptops instead of flogging them off as well as avoiding children being targeted for carrying expensive equipment.

Therein comes a problem. Loaded with $4000 of software, it can be argued they are a waste of money in some respects.

Loaded with Windows 7, Microsoft Office 2007 and the whole Shenanigan of Adobe Elements you would automatically believe that the government is arming students with strong weapons for computer-based education.

But then you must ask the question, what percentage of students will use or need to use Adobe Elements in the schooling at least once, let alone at all. The small netbooks are not designed for the big professional software either, taking a far amount of time chugging through the Adobe splash screen.

A better system would be to include free alternatives such as the GIMP and transfer the expensive Adobe software over if their elected classes require it. MS office is only used for the sole purpose to an average joe wordprocessing=Word, spreadsheets=Excel and slideshows=Powerpoint. OpenOffice ( although just as slow, big and clunky IMHO ) would be equivalent but complainable.

Finally the freedom of choice is removed from the laptops. Children cannot run any executable not pre-installed on the computer, pressing the next genoration's head into the logos of billion-dollar companies. Note that Internet Explorer is the only available web browser on the laptops, also leaving a bad security imprint on the students.

They have to do this however. Allowing software to be installed would allow students to use them for games ( which they do anyway ) and also perceivably open them up to predators. Seeing as the laptops were not only given to them by the Department of Education but they remain the dep's property, they would be held responsible.

Luckily some free software is installed on them. From what I have seen they contain Audacity, Dia and Freemind in the least, but definitely not the GIMP or Inkscape.

Don't trust my opinion though. It is based off minimum information, and talking to an actual owner of one of these laptops would be a better path before you take your opinion.
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