Linux School Implementation Report

    We bring to your attention an interview with Yuri Azovtsev, who is the coordinator of the Nizhny Novgorod Linux User Group (NNLUG). NNLUG is a non-profit organization that deals with various projects in one way or another related to open source software (Free Software). Currently, the group is actively involved in the implementation of open source software in schools in Nizhny Novgorod and the region. This interview was published in the October issue of Web Analytic.INFO magazine, which was recently published and is available absolutely free in PDF format on the publication’s website. Interviewed by Alexey Shaferov aka lsh .

    Alexey Shaferov: Hello, Yuri! I am glad to see you on the pages of the journal Web Analytic.INFO. Yuri, please tell us a little about your acquaintance with Linux and how you learned about NNLUG.

    Yuri Azovtsev:Good day, Alex. I am 26 years old, Linux I have been studying for about 8 years. The first acquaintance with Linux almost coincided with joining NNLUG. It all started with the creation of a home computer network. A year in 2001, a small local network between neighboring houses was thrown with a neighbor and several other children. One of the houses was located at some distance, and to connect it, an intermediate computer with several network cards was required, the computer connected networks of different types. For this purpose, we had an old system unit with Windows 98, which had a problem with IP addresses. The fact is that every time after restarting the computer I had to yank and plug the wires to determine which IP on which connection "sat down" this time. Once I was fed up with this and I decided to try to configure the same system but using Linux. In the radio market, only RedHat was found on three CDs. At the same time, the guys from the market had only two second and third discs. The first installation CD was missing.

    After asking my fellow students at the institute, I found out that we have an Internet club in NNGASU and a guy who knows Linux works there. So I met one of the NNLUG members - Sergey Smirnov (aka Sergous). He told me when and where the meetings took place, and I decided to go to one of them.
    It was late autumn, the meeting took place on Gorky Square. At the meeting, there were three NNLUG founders, from whom I received the SlackWare distribution. About two weeks I spent some time with the distribution, expecting to see the familiar graphical interface after installation. But, as I later found out, there were some problems with the video card on that old computer. During these two weeks I managed to buy and read a SlackWare book. Actually, from this my acquaintance with Linux began, so to speak, immediately “in practice”. Linux ensured the smooth operation of the local home network, connecting its various parts with each other, and subsequently providing access to files, movies and music hosted on it.

    A. Sh .:An interesting story, I remembered how I started with Red Hat 7. Yuri, tell our readers about the creation of the group, its activities and development.

    Yu. A.: The group appeared about six months before I appeared in it. The founders of NNLUG were Mikhail Zvonilov, Alexander Sidorov, and Dmitry Gubanov. In the first few years of the group's existence, we studied Linux. Almost every NNLUG member had a small local area network at that time. And at the meetings we did not lose the opportunity to consult on the settings of certain things with Mikhail Zvonilin and other founders of the Nizhny Novgorod LUG.

    About a year and a half later, we learned that free seminars on Linux were held at the Nizhny Novgorod Polytechnic Institute. As representatives of NNLUG, we could not miss such an event, and attended the second seminar. There they met a lecturer - Samsonov Eugene (aka SabutR), who, in collaboration with the Student Council of the Nizhny Novgorod Polytechnic University, organized and conducted Linux courses. We offered our help, and further courses were already held with the participation of NNLUG. Also, Eugene became one of the active members of our group.

    Over the eight years of the group's existence, our activities have changed many times. We have implemented and are continuing a large number of projects, among which I would like to note:

    • Translation of the film RevolutionOS (2006) into Russian.
    • Creation of a Ubuntu repository for users of the Nizhny Novgorod Internet ring (2008).
    • Open Linux workshops at the Polytechnic University, which have already become an annual tradition (2004-2010).
    • Linux InstallFest conducted on the basis of the Nizhny Novgorod RadioTechnical College, where everyone can get help installing and configuring Linux (since 2007).
    • Transfer of the Nizhny Novgorod Radio Engineering College (NRTK) to open source software (from 2007 to the present).
    • Installation of open source software in schools in Nizhny Novgorod and the region at no cost (2010).

    A. Sh .:As far as I know, many projects are connected with the Nizhny Novgorod Radio Engineering College, the largest of which is the transfer of the college to STR. Please tell us more about this process. Where did it start?

    Yu. A.:One of the largest and longest projects that continues to this day is the transfer to Linux and open source software and support for the NRTK information system. The project began in 2007, when after the “Ponovos case” the question arose about the licensed cleanliness of the software used. Having considered the cost of purchasing licenses for all software used at that time in college, the college director decided to start the transition to open source software. NNLUG participants, in collaboration with the staff of the NTC Scientific and Technical Center, began the process of converting college infrastructure to Linux. The main technical work was completed in 4 months. Then began the training of employees and teachers, as well as the search and study of free analogues of the software used earlier.

    A. Sh .:Yuri, as you said, the main project at the moment is the installation of open source software for schools in the city and region. Why did you decide to do this? How did the project start?

    Yu. A.:One of the tasks formulated in the manifest on Linux user groups is listed as “promoting Linux and informing users”. If we are called NNLLUG, then we accept some responsibility and obligations. A community can exist only if there is real work. On the other hand, schools have a problem with software licensing. We raised this question before, talked with different schools, but the answer was about the same: “there are no guidance documents from mines. education for using Linux in the learning process. " Two and a half years ago, by order of educational mines for schools, the Free Software Package was created, which from a technical point of view is one of the Linux distributions. Initiative and support from the ministry paved the way for Linux to schools. But here, as always, our reality intervened. They made a distribution kit, methodological material too, but they didn’t think who would implement all this. Here NNLUG is the most indispensable structure. On the one hand, it unites interested and competent people, on the other, it has connections and a name in the academic environment.

    The project officially began at the end of May with an offer to students attending the HowTo Linux 2010 Open Workshops to take part in short-term Linux School administration training. School Linux Administration Seminars began in June at the NTC. And initially, from 20 to 30 people came to them. After about a month, about 12 interested participants remained, most of which were included in the main project team.

    A. Sh.: What is the current state of this project?

    Yu. A.:Over the three summer months, we completed the installation of a comprehensive solution in 20 secondary schools of Nizhny Novgorod. In Pavlovo, Bor, and in several other cities of the region, schools also got the opportunity to smoothly transfer the educational process to School Linux over the next six months. In August, the project switched to the second round. Director of ELSIS LLC and at the same time NNLUG participant Sergey Bessonov held talks in the Education Department of the City of Dzerzhinsk and told them about our success in Nizhny Novgorod. Employees of the administration were very interested in our experience, and subsequently it was decided to implement School Linux on all schools in the city of Dzerzhinsk with further training of teachers. Within two weeks with the active support of the Education Department of the city of Dzerzhinsk, NNLUG participants installed School Linux in all 48 schools in the city of Dzerzhinsk. The NNLUG School Project officially ended on September 1. But, despite this, we still receive applications from various schools in the city and region.

    A. Sh.: How do you find schools for implementation?

    Yu. A.: At first, these were schools in which relatives or friends worked for one of the NNLUG participants, or they studied there themselves and left contact with their computer science teacher. Then the staff of one of the schools told us about us, where we were already at a meeting in NIRO and began to call us.
    There were attempts to make rounds and calls to schools with the proposal to install School Linux. But this method was not effective. The questions “Who are you?” Constantly arose. Where are you from?" and we came across a wall of misunderstanding. We decided to abandon the "persuasion of those who do not want" and work only with those who "want to do it yourself", but there were a lot of such schools.

    A. Sh.: What attitude have you met from school staff and teachers?

    Yu. A.: The whole project took place in the summer and at school we met only as an informatics teacher or director. Other employees were on vacation, but those who were present welcomed us very warmly. Still, IT specialists who are ready to help solve technical issues with computers in the computer science class do not appear often. And during the installation, NNLUG participants managed to fix broken system units, mice, keyboards and other peripherals for half a year already.

    A. Sh.: Tell me, why did you choose Alt Linux, and not some other distribution?

    Yu. A.:We examined various distributions. I must say that the Nizhny Novgorod RadioTechnical College has been working on the Ubuntu distribution for two years now, and Ubuntu was a bit closer to us. But after looking at School Linux, we found in the distribution a lot of interesting and useful information for use in computer science class.

    First, it was an iTalc class management system. It is already included in the distribution and is installed with the entire system.

    Secondly, after clarifying the technical feasibility of installing Content Filter, it turned out that the "recommended" for all schools NetPolice content filter exists only in the version for School Linux. In theory, it can also be installed on Ubuntu, but it will require additional labor.

    And thirdly, all the teaching materials and developments made during the “Freedom Code” contest and posted on the website were made using School Linux. All pictures and illustrations demonstrate precisely its interface.

    By and large, the distribution is not so important, it is important that the developer supports it. At first, teachers will have to learn a lot of new things, and it is advisable to facilitate this process. First, let them have a unified solution on the basis of which they can exchange experience and use the knowledge gained at our seminars. Once they become comfortable, the distribution kit will not play a role, and they themselves will be able to choose what they like best.

    A. Sh .:You said that ESIS helped you negotiate with the city of Dzerzhinsk. And besides this, does she help you with something else? Maybe other companies support you?

    Yu. A.: The school project was supported by several Nizhny Novgorod IT companies. We received the main support from ELSIS LLC (assistance in organizing, information support, hosting for the project site, contacts, communications) and GNU / Linuxcentre-nn (equipment, contacts, communications).
    I would like to express special gratitude to Yury Evgenievich Bayevsky. At the beginning of implementation in Dzerzhinsk, we needed equipment that he provided free of charge in the shortest possible time.

    A. Sh.: You conducted a fairly large-scale implementation of open source software, now you are engaged in support. Tell us about the technical and organizational difficulties that arose during the implementation of such a complex project.

    Yu. A.: The main technical difficulty was the need to save the existing OS on computers. Windows is a very moody operating system. Often it was not possible to resize the existing partition due to incorrect shutdown of the system. Sometimes we had to pack the entire system into an archive and deploy the entire geometry of the disk to deploy back. Basically, these processes ate up to 70% of working time.

    I would also attribute the presence of not very good peripheral equipment to technical difficulties. For example, printers from Canon. The manufacturer, although it produces drivers, but the printer works very badly. However, in Dzerzhinsk, we were lucky in this regard, and there were no more than fifteen percent of problem technology, and the Dzerzhinsk Education Department decided to simply replace the problem periphery.

    I would attribute two points to organizational difficulties. The first is overhead. Although the project was voluntary, we still incurred overhead expenses for travel (we were provided with meals on the spot). This is to some extent an appeal to those who will continue to work with LUGs. Do not forget that the guys go to you and carry at least a set of equipment for work. It costs money and it is advisable to compensate for it, even if they do not ask about it.
    Secondly, sometimes the questions “Why Linux?” Arose. Such issues were resolved with the support of the Office of Education. It was much easier for us to answer such questions when the initiative came from the governing structure.

    A. Sh .:You say that sometimes the question “Why Linux?” Arose. And how in general could you characterize the attitude of teachers towards STR?

    Yu. A.: For the most part "flat." Teachers simply do not know what it is and do not know how to relate to it. Some of them feel that open source software is an additional burden for them for the same money and they express some negative, but not because of the programs themselves. As one of the school principals told us, "We are ready to work on Linux, but give us plans and teaching materials on it." If the teaching materials were developed systematically for all years of study, then everyone would simply love Linux.
    Not often, but we met really interested teachers. It was very nice. They usually say, “Linux has already appeared, and students will soon know it. I can’t know less than a student! ” We hope to improve this situation with our courses.

    A. Sh.: Please tell us in more detail what the courses are and how they go.

    Yu. A.:In early September, together with NIRO, we conducted continuing education courses for 8 schools from the Council for the Pilot Implementation of the PSPO. It was a 36 hour course that included all the highlights of using Linux in school. Over the course of a week, we walked through the office suite, mastered the basic techniques for processing digital photos in GIMP, worked with vector graphics in InkScape, and acquired the skills for processing and editing video in KDENlive and audio in Audacity. And of course, we reviewed software for teaching astronomy (Celestia, Stellarium), physics (Step), chemistry (Kalzium), algebra and geometry (KAlgebra, Kig). In this course we did not touch programming languages.
    As part of this course, a conference was held on September 7 for most schools in Nizhny Novgorod. At this conference, we got the opportunity to share our lessons learned with teachers on using Linux in the educational process, and visited the “Internship Site” with them at the Nizhny Novgorod RadioTechnical College, where they were able to watch the educational institution that has been working on Linux for the third year live.

    One of the interesting topics at this conference was a speech by Sergei Bessonov “Software licensing in the Russian Federation”, where he gave an overview of the legislation related to software licensing and reviewed the terms of free licenses and various licenses from Microsoft. You can find the video of Sergey’s speech on the NIRO website. Now we are conducting a 72-hour course for teachers of schools in the city of Dzerzhinsk. The course is more advanced than it was at NIRO and is designed for 9 weeks, one day a week. From the experience of conducting courses for teachers, I can say that many of the problems with teaching computer science in schools, which are discussed on the forums, are associated more with a lack of information. Teachers really want to learn how to work in various systems, and editing photos, and video processing,

    A. Sh.: What are the further plans for implementation and support? Will there be paid services?

    Yu. A.: As long as the NNLUG participants have the desire and time, we will continue to make implementations. By the new year, most schools in Nizhny Novgorod will be in a situation like in the Russian proverb “until the rooster pecks ...”, so I would like not to bring it to that. Paid support? Yes please. NNLUG is a non-profit organization, therefore we offer technical support on behalf of ELSIS LLC. NNLUG members receive funding for their activities. Suggestions for those. Support for schools can be found at They are very democratic and we tried to make schools get the maximum service for an acceptable amount of money.

    A. Sh .:Yuri, thank you very much for the interesting conversation. I wish your project good luck and further development.

    Yu. A.: Thank you, Alexey.

    Download the October issue of the journal Web Analytic.INFO on the website of the publication .

    Links: - NNLUG. - a project blog for setting up open source software in schools. - site of the project for the installation of open source software in schools.

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