Ubuntu breathes new life into school's abandoned hardware

Repurposed PCs use Kubuntu to run school's Web based student library system

When 3Ghz dual core computers running 2GB of RAM weren't being used for many heavily CPU-intensive applications in a Victorian secondary school library, the school's IT department initially joked about replacing them with older and previously abandoned hardware. Then it saw the serious side.

When the KDE-centric Ubuntu derivation, Kubuntu, was installed on the old gear -- a mixture of Acer Veriton 3600s and 2.1Ghz V5100s -- the school found it performed just as efficiently as on the newer hardware. So the IT department installed six Kubuntu desktops in kiosk mode on the old gear for its Web-based student library system, and sent the newer hardware back into classrooms where they could be used by students to their full potential.

Implementing a kiosk mode Kubuntu setup allowed Westall Secondary School, located in eastern Melbourne, to save money, exact greater control over security measures, and extend the life of older and discarded hardware without sacrificing performance, said Westall's network administrator Daniel Stefyn.

But according to Stefyn, the "huge amount of flexibility" offered by the Linux operating system was the primary motive behind its adoption.

Using Kubuntu, we can easily extend the life of older hardware with little performance drop

The library system at the college uses a Web-based service that students can access from six Linux desktops located throughout the library.

Initially, the school trialed Ubuntu with the GNOME desktop, but found that Kubuntu, with KDE's kiosk tool, allowed for greater control in locking down workstations.

"The KDE Kiosk admin tool is currently used as there didn't appear to be enough flexibility with the GNOME setup to allow for a decent lockdown," Stefyn said.

"Using Kubuntu, we can easily extend the life of older hardware with little performance drop. It was easy to secure the workstations and train a student technician to maintain the hardware."

Library staff only need to turn on the computers which automatically log onto a restricted Ubuntu session. By default, a library search screen launches in Firefox with a kiosk lock down extension.

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Andrew Hendry

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