RasPi as a basic school desktop replacement

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by Robert Jameson » Sat Feb 11, 2012 5:01 pm
If you're making a big transition like this - or even a simpler one, such as simply moving your school computers to Linux - I think it's pretty pointless to worry yourself about the operating system you're used to, the software you'd like to carry on using and so on! It's a great thing to be able to start from scratch on a whole new educational adventure. Don't get bogged down with worries about compatibility or about what you're used to having.

Just tell your staff it's a completely new system and that they should start dealing with the future instead of worrying about the dying computer ecosystems of the past. Expensive, power-gulping Wintel desktop monstrosities belong to the past. The future is Raspberry-flavoured!
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by Jaseman » Sun Feb 12, 2012 9:40 pm
The Raspberry will need to have become established/proven before you should even consider this.  If enough people buy them, then it could be viable.  I would also put that thin client idea through significant testing before going out and buying a whole bunch of RasPi's.  My concern is the latency of such a set up, especially if you have a lot a thin clients and too little resource at the other end.
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by sharrisct25 » Fri Jan 04, 2013 7:28 am
I find this thread very interesting and a good example of the reality that many people in technology face today.

Without going into to much detail I am involved with a handful of educational facilities that are trying to address similar challenges. To start off they are all higher ed so that does change things a bit and at this point each of them consider the potential of something like a Pi as a thin client to be a science experiment. Granted one they are very interested in but still very much isolated to the lab.

What I can say these organizations have learned through experience is the following.

VDI is an excellent solution in scale but it is less for financial than other factors like control, security, response times for new projects, mobility, and long term maintenance. Now each of these have costs associated with them but they are often discounted from a ROI when it gets to their finance people. The potential of a very low cost thin client is of key interest here because it can help tip the scale in the analysis of the costs that their finance teams really care about. In fact two of these organizations are looking at the exact same idea a 19 inch LED monitor and a usb powered Pi competitor that runs android with the VMware view client. Estimated total desktop cost of $230 and zero local desktop config if there is a problem they are replacing a cable, component, or SD card.

The next thing I would pass on is that it is all well and good to debate the benefits and use of the Microsoft stack but the reality in my experiance has been that anything outside of MS is pushing water up a hill. Of the 3 situations I know of where a education organization seriously tried to do this the student body blow back killed it. What I think is perhaps commonly overlooked is that it was not really killed by student preference the factors that changed the game were around external influences to the students lives. Stories about having issues exchanging files with graduate programs and potential employers. There was one situation that carried alot of weight where a partner organization that did internship placements made file exchange issues a big enough problem it got to the president of the college. Students and parents upset because recruiters told soon to be graduates that their inability to state they had MS Office experience kept them from being competitive in the job market. One I found particularly interesting was about how parents at a middle school revolted because of the "specialized computer requirements" the school had and how that complicated their lives. So what I have seen is that the reality of the software decision is much bigger than the organization itself and the comparison of technical capabilities. In my experience outside of developing countries where the decision is between have and have not most educational leaders would need to see enormous benefits to not using MS software to make fighting the battle worth while.

Now before any debate starts let me just say I am not endorsing these decisions nor am I aligned with one technology or the other. I do work for a technology provider but we are cloud focused and do not sell VDI or MS software licenses. My point here is just to help provide prospective and minimize any false starts. Technology projects are challenging enough so knowing what you might be up against is a big part of being successful.
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by morphy_richards » Mon Jan 07, 2013 7:50 pm
" Students and parents upset because recruiters told soon to be graduates that their inability to state they had MS Office experience kept them from being competitive in the job market."

I can see the issue but I also think it should be possible to help manage their applications so that they can demonstrate generic office tools experience which if worded in the right way should show the experience as being much more valuable.
To illustrate, we have moved to Office 2012 and I now spend half my time googling to find out where eg. Pivot tables have gone , and this seems to be a recurring theme with every iteration of the MS Office bloodline.

I think a well worded statement should be able to take all that into account and show that the student has appropriate digital literacy for the job.
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by mediakill » Fri Jan 11, 2013 2:38 pm
Not much point as even at the low cost it doesn't seem worth it overall. Unless your teaching a programming class its not practical. Better to prepare students for computing in the real world that means using windows machines that would better prepare them for using real world office and business that's means windows is. Better to get some cheap pcs unless your trying to train programmers and engineers. Trust me it would be money better spent to get some cheap netbooks and desktops that are more cost effective and practical overall. Even in a third world country aka poor one getting some cheap pcs might be better for preparing them for the modern workplace.

Not sure why everyone claims Linux is the way to go as I'd rather try to show a kid how to use applications and an os that will 99% of the time be in my place of employment. Chances are not very good that the poor kid will suddenly be desiring to program vs, say letting them have a go at a machine with os and apps he'd more likely encounter in the modern workplace

Also implying pi is cost effective overall doesn't seem practical. Factor is cost of additional hardware cases,etc and trust me it adds up. For h.s kids and your like omg we can teach them to be programmers! Seems stupid and foolhearty. Better to give them cheap windows pcs and let the learn office on a os they will encounter daily. For programmers in a college class? Ok this might work but as supplemental to using Linux and pc workstations
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