A path to Linux

Doghouse – Expanding the Base

Article from Issue 269/2023

Linux can be a great new option for users from Windows XP owners to students with a range of interests.

It is not often that I write about our work at the Linux Professional Institute (LPI, lpi.org), but there are a couple of projects spearheaded by LPI that I think are worthy of note.

The first project is Upgrade to Linux (upgradetolinux.com), which was originally focused on Microsoft Windows users who will be unable to upgrade to Windows 11. Either because they need more RAM or another graphics card, or they are missing the proper TPM module, these Windows users will have to upgrade their hardware or (in some cases) buy an entirely new system. This particularly impacts institutional owners such as schools, governments, and large enterprises who tend to buy "economy" systems that have smaller amounts of RAM or less expensive graphics cards – which run earlier Windows systems but will not meet the requirements to run Windows 11.

It is not only hardware that Windows 11 will abandon. There are software features of Windows 10 that will not make it to Windows 11.

Of course Microsoft points out that they will support Windows  10 for a long time, and by the time the customer really wants to upgrade their software to Windows 11 they will probably "naturally" have purchased a newer machine. But there are still millions of people using Windows XP who have not, for one reason or another, migrated to a newer version of Windows.

It is for this reason that LPI and others have advocated upgrading to Linux instead.

However, the Upgrade to Linux program does not just talk about the path from Windows 10. It talks about a lot of the advantages of moving to Linux even if you have new equipment, or (better yet) never getting stuck with Windows in the first place.

In pursuing this upgrade program, LPI realized there were a lot of myths about free software that either were never true about FOSS or might have been true at one time but are no longer. FOSS, and especially Linux, are now mainstream and are worth considering as your upgrade path.

The Upgrade to Windows program isn't limited to LPI. At this writing Ekimia, GuruTeam, Blue Lighthouse, and ownCloud have also joined, and LPI invites others.

The second initiative is Linux Clubs (https://www.lpi.org/clubs). Based on the great work of Stu Keroff at Minnesota's Aspen Academy, the Linux Clubs program makes it easier to start a club that makes learning about computers easier and fun. In using Linux in an environment that is not tied directly to class work, the learning takes place in an environment that encourages learning by doing.

Examples of projects can include recycling laptops and desktop systems for people (and institutions) that cannot afford new computers. Using free software on top of these systems removes the issues of license violation so often found when an older Windows system is transferred to a new user without buying a new license for it. Plus, the club participants can delve down into the software as deep as they want to go, because all of the source code is available to them.

Linux Clubs can foster interest from students who are not just interested in computers. Because Free Software covers a huge range of software tools, it allows students who have interests in photography, music, video, math, physics, and other areas of study to find, use, and improve the tools in a wide range of areas at low or no cost.

The Linux Clubs program reminds me of how I got started in computers in 1969 while a student at Drexel University. I was studying electrical engineering and having a difficult time (besides almost being electrocuted by 13,600 volts and 800 amps) when I took a correspondence course in how to program an IBM 1130 computer in Fortran as a co-op student. After returning to Drexel to continue my formal education, I found a small electrical engineering lab that had some Digital PDP-8 computers in them. By reading books and practicing, I learned how to program these machines in assembly language. Using software that was freely available for the cost of copying from the Digital Equipment Corporation Users' Society (DECUS), I gradually transferred from electrical engineering to data processing (we did not have "computer science" back in those days … it was more like "computer black magic"). Eventually I started the Drexel Computer Club, which helped to start my career both as a programmer and as an educator.

LPI has expanded the concept of Linux Clubs by offering free training materials and showing potential Linux Club leaders how to get funding for the hardware that might be desired for the club participants.

I like both of these projects, but I am particularly happy that Upgrade to Linux evolved from a rant that I made one day to the LPI staff.

Carpe Rantum.

The Author

Jon "maddog" Hall is an author, educator, computer scientist, and free software pioneer who has been a passionate advocate for Linux since 1994 when he first met Linus Torvalds and facilitated the port of Linux to a 64-bit system. He serves as president of Linux InternationalÆ.

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