Monday, August 8, 2011

Partimus Install Day - Setting Up Ubuntu Machines for an SF School

It's fun to talk about the latest and greatest tablets and debate the merits of various hardware for educational uses, but this weekend, I got a good look at the reality of technology in the classroom.  I read about all these initiatives to get computers in the hands of the students, and I think they're great, if your school can afford it.  Students should have as much exposure to computers as possible, as they are a reality at about any type of job out there, and will only be more ubiquitous in the working world as these kids get closer to graduation.

This past weekend, I had the privilege of helping a school that can't afford any amount of classroom computers, beyond the lab they got a grant for, get set up with some classroom computers.  KIPP Bay Area is a middle school level charter school in the San Francisco public school system.  This is one of the top charter schools - one that parents hope to get their kids into.  And they had no computers outside of the grant funded lab.  Partimus, a non-profit organization that provides repurposed computers running free and open source software to students and schools which need them, has donated dozens of machines to get these classrooms (and those at several other area schools) into the digital age.

The video station installs in progress.
Our task for the day was to set up machines in 3 different classrooms.  A social studies teacher got six machines so her students could go online to do research.  A math teacher got 6 machines so his students could do online math programs.  The final classroom was set up with two of Partimus's better boxes to do video editing.  And all of this at no charge to the school.  The hardware is donated and the software is free.  We spent the day getting piecing together working sets of towers, monitors, power cables, mice, keyboards, hubs, switches, and ethernet cable, and then installing and updating Ubuntu 10.04.3.   This is the long-term support version and will be current until the next LTS release comes out in April of 2012.

Many of the machines were already running older versions of Ubuntu, or Xubuntu, and I think we did encounted one that still had windows of some vintage on it.  In 14 machines, we only encountered one bad hard drive.  It's amazing what older hardware is still capable of, especially with the lighter running Ubuntu.

Just as we were cleaning up and heading out of the social studies room, the teacher arrived to do some set up and she was so happy to have internet access for her students to be able to do research.  It didn't matter what kind of computers she got, or what OS they were running, she was just so grateful that her students would have access to the whole internet's worth of information.

It was great to get to be a part of something like that. 


  1. I was pleased to see that MuseScore is available in Linux, so if the school wanted to provide music notation software, that would be available, too.

  2. Ooo, I haven't heard of MuseScore before, I'll have to try that. I've recently started playing with RoseGarden ( and I'm close to getting SmartMusic 2012 going under wine. I've gotten farther than I ever got with 2011, but not there yet.