Monday, March 2, 2009

I do it with Ubuntu

Its been quite some time since I ditched windows and shifted to using Ubuntu full time. My windows laptop had started treating me like a step child and offering the blues (read BSOD) . Thats when I had enough and formatted my dual boot (windows xp/Ubuntu) to single boot Ubuntu. The thought of buying windows vista to install in my laptop appeared stupid to me since I agree with Linus torvalds over “Software is like sex: it's better when it's free.”

By this time most regular tech blog readers must have arrived at either of these conclusions:
yeah ,Another wannabe Linux enthusiast strutting his hollow vision of Linux and free software
ya ya Another windows bashing Linux blog

Well ,if you are ready to move beyond these conclusions ,then read on. I am neither a windows basher nor do I have a hollow vision of Linux and open source. Ubuntu (or rather Linux and open source) philosophy in general that every computer should have right to access/download free software without paying licensing fees can do wonders if adapted in educational domain say in a country like India.

Just simple change like replacing windows with Linux in future desktops of computer labs say in government aided and private schools could help the government save CRORES of rupees.

Along with being a coder I have been involved in marketing as well for some time so I do know the importance of facts/figures before making a statement like above. Here is a simple analysis.

According to link:

The total number of secondary schools in Maharashtra are 10982. Out of them I assume 60% of schools are well-equipped and don't require government funding for computer labs ( My assumption is way too positive when I say 60%). So that leaves us with 40% schools (10982 x 0.4 = 4392) . Say government realizes the importance of computer education in schools and decides to allocate funds in its next five year plan for at least 6 computers per school and invites tenders from computer dealers. Here is what a typical tender involving vista could be guessed at :
Hardware cost +
Total number of schools = 10982 x 0.4 = 4392
Total number of computers = 4392 x 6 = 26352
Typical windows vista = $ 199
I am assuming educational licensing discount (far fetched)
Vista educational copy = $30
Total operating system cost = 26352 x 30 = $ 790560

Amount in INR (x 50) 39528000 (read 3 crore if I am not mistaken).
Installation cost (vendor labor cost) = $2 per computer = $ 52704

As opposed to this a tender involving Ubuntu would be
Hardware cost +
Installation cost (vendor labor cost) = $2 per computer = $ 52704

The above analysis pockets a savings of around 10 crores (3 crores goes under table to our babus and if I were to be less critical in selecting above numbers the savings were much higher). Please note I just analyzed secondary schools and that too in just one state Maharashtra. The savings from this analysis could be diverted in subsidizing fees of millions of poor children who cant afford even basic education.

I anticipate the cynics to claim this idea/analysis as far fetched and Ubuntu/Linux can never make into mainstream educational domain and its difficult to understand. Well people generally don't prefer change and when they say Linux is difficult to use only means they grew up being familiar to windows and have never used Ubuntu/Linux. I bet the UI and experience of using Ubuntu/Linux is as intitutive as using windows. But I cant imagine a kid growing up using Linux to be addressing the same some years down the line.

Since I took the liberty of being ambitious I will just go the extra step ahead and get carried away with presenting further possible benefits :

1.Linux teaches you to do it yourself. Yes for a BE fresh out of college there's only one thing you could do it yourself. As against to this imagine a future generation of kids from secondary school who if not for anything else would surely learn how to at least try solve problems themselves ,something which we have traditionally lacked.

2.Using Linux makes you pragmatic. That's how I want my son or daughter to be.

I can go on and on with benefiets this change can bring but above two points pretty much summarize what our future generation can be like.

For all social entrepreneurs and NGO's here's definitely an idea worth consideration.



  1. To my knowledge (1) volume pricing for Windows machines is much cheaper (for Rutgers machines - $0, if buying for non-Rutgers machines $25-$50) (2) starter editions for Windows are usually used in low-income regions (read India) making it even cheaper.
    It would still be a considerable saving to use Ubuntu, I agree, but not as high as you're making it out to be, thats all.

  2. Sev..Sorry for misinterpreting VISTA licensing fee. I have updated the figures (first time readers please note my initial analysis were based on $100 VISTA licensing fee)and I guess they still appear significant enough considering its just Maharashtra and secondary schools.

  3. now...another fact...why do most companies in the corporate sector use windows for production...simple...because since windows isn't open source so no one can get to production data and mess around with it....linux is great as a college hackbox, do it yourself thing but when it comes to the real world it still has several lengths to go....also companies use windows for production because windows server etc. other products get bundled with the main OS at a highly subsidized rate...

    so even if the scenario becomes possible and kids got 'linuxed' then how would it help them to 'khud ke pairon ke khade hone ko'. Rather instead of doing away with windows altogether keep a separate partition for it on school labs and incentives should be offered to kids who want to go the linux way.

  4. abhishek I agree with you when you justify use of windows in corporate. I still think linux has a long way to go in that domain.
    But kids getting linuxed will have its advantages over kids getting windowed. Linux in a way encourages users to be their own customers so in a way it will help kids in developing the do it yourself attitude as opposed to getting used to windows. Also , we belong to the windowed generation and I don't see our windowed generation having any advantage in being part of the corporate brigade which uses windows for production.
    So a no licensing cost based Linux system definitely presents a better proposition in educational domain than spending any licensing fee for windows license. I did mentioned investing the licensing fee in subsidizing education for underprivileged.

  5. Pravin - take into account the time and money spent in installing antivirus software and taking care of Malware on Windows. Linux machines do not require such stuff.

    Shrek - Which company in the world uses Windows for production servers??? I agree for the desktop environment there are many Windows capable apps and IDEs I would be shocked if a company relies on Windows for its production environment!!

  6. thats true as i mentione dbefore..growing up with windows doesnt really matter in getting a job for writing code for production servers