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SchoolOS @ Outreach

I am one of the member of cognizant outreach council (CSR wing of cognizant) . From cognizant we donated refurbished computers to schools. All the computers had pretty decent hardware configurations – mostly they are P4 processors with 256MB of RAM.  We donated 15 computers to “pallikaranai – Govt higher secondary school” and 2 computers to “Kannaginagar – Panchayat union primary school”.

Most of the computers didn’t have any operating systems installed. Some had Windows XP with no applications not even MS – Office. At the end of the day kids are not going to use P4 processors and 256 MB of RAM. They are going to use the applications and content inside the computer.

I learnt about School OS a Linux based operating system, built on top of ubuntu. It is a joint initiative by IIT-Delhi and NCERT – National council for Education Research and Training.  The creators of this operating system integrated lot of applications that targets students in schools.

Some of the applications worth mentioning here are,

1. Open Office – A software which is similar to Microsoft office.

2. Stellarium – A desktop planetarium

3. TuxPaint – A award winning drawing/painting program for kids

4.  supertux –  Addictive super mario type game

5. CodeBlocks – C/C++ IDE which is a better replacement for Turbo-C

6. Gnuplot, Octave– Math and plotting tools

and lot of programs related to maths,puzzles,chemistry,planets.

After getting approval from Outreach folks and my boss  i went to  ‘ pallikaranai’ school with a  bootable usb key  and my personal laptop. None of the computers had CD/DVD drive, so i had to install everything from usb and network.

When i was installing SchoolOS. A science teacher came inside the lab. She wanted to type something in Tamil and take a print out of it for the upcoming science exhibition . The computer teacher was using a Tamil Onscreen keyboard in Windows XP. It took her almost 30 minutes to complete typing a sentence in Tamil by clicking the onscreen tamil keyboard. The Geek inside me woke up!  I offered them to use school OS.  There is something called IBus in Linux , which helps people to type in almost any Indian language.  I enabled Tamil- Phonetic keyboard. With Phonetic keyboard if you type ‘amma’(mother) it will be converted into tamil equivalent to the sound  ‘amma’ .  I know know, with third party software you can enable this feature in windows XP 🙂 . With GNU/Linux it comes by default. Also  the whole SchoolOS user interface can be changed to use Tamil as the default language (Localized desktop).

It took 5 hours to install 10 systems with SchoolOS. I then spent some time with the teachers who used to manage the lab. I asked them to work on the operating system. They picked it up very easily. The teachers were amazed by the stellarium and  celestia. I showed them how to use codeblocks IDE to compile and run C/C++ programs. They agreed that it is better than Turbo-C.  I had to modify the C++ programs in the book a bit to make it work with the standard GCC compiler.

We are also planning to conduct events/training to students once in a week. To provide content and learning material for students, with the help from  Tamil Wikipedia community we started a mini project to download selected articles from Tamil wikipedia and make a CD out of it. Hope everything goes well :-).

Categories: foss, fun, install, Linux, work
  1. narendra sisodiya
    October 29, 2010 at 5:49 pm

    Great !!

  2. October 29, 2010 at 7:39 pm

    awesome work man.
    spread the freedom.

  3. webrsk
    October 29, 2010 at 9:05 pm

    Keep rocking 🙂

  4. Vatsala Dorairajan
    October 30, 2010 at 12:06 am

    Good show

  5. October 30, 2010 at 1:21 am

    Great Work….

  6. Thiagu
    October 30, 2010 at 1:58 am

    Real Service for education industry.

  7. October 30, 2010 at 5:27 am

    Excellent job man!!
    Keep doing such “godly” things!!!

  8. tom
    October 30, 2010 at 7:33 am

    First, you did a great work!!, I personally thank you for contributing your time and effort..

    Ok, now how was the performance of School OS on an 256 MB machine?, FYI Ubuntu runs sluggishly on My AMD dual core 481 MB RAM!, so I started using Debian XFCE, now swap usage is almost 0 except when I start running heavy apps simultaneously (like GNUIcecat with 8+ tabs, Synaptic, VLC) and many more plugins which always keep running in the background, normally the system remains fast..

    I am now planning to introduce Debian (XFCE/LXDE)/Knoppix 6.2 LXDE version/ gnewsense(Ubuntu based but 100% free as the non free blobs are removed)/ Mepis (KDE 8.5) on 128/256 MB ram machines(around 6 of them) in an NGO.. So your opinion/feedback on School OS is greatly appreciated!, I have not tested it yet, but I believe its performance will be similar to Ubuntu.

    In all the above mentioned OSes Debian still performs the best, next comes Knoppix(but it is not suited for HDD install) , and then gnewsense(it was unusable, but it did boot up, where as Ubuntu did not), and lastly Mepis which hung up while starting the KDE desktop, I tested everyone on a 800 MHz, 128MB RAM- virtual machine in Vbox Open Source Edition, so have the hope that these may perform better on a real system, but there is one more factor- others are more “user-friendly” than Debian.. so I’m stuck in these choices, as the users are mainly from windows land, who want an OS for Accounting, Documenting(Word and Excel), Database management, File sharing.

    And for children there is SkoleLinux which is Debian based, I am avoiding School OS as it requires a DVD disc, and I don’t think it will perform better on Old PC’s than SkoleLinux..(But correct me If I am wrong!)

  9. narendra sisodiya
    October 30, 2010 at 7:49 am
    • October 30, 2010 at 5:09 pm


      Gnome (especially ubuntu’s Gnome) is pretty bulky. we are also looking into possibility of having different desktop environment. If you are going to install schoolOS on a machine having 128 MB of ram, please don’t do it.

      Eventually we will move away from ubuntu to Fedora https://fedoraproject.org/wiki/FedoraForKids

  10. narendra sisodiya
    October 30, 2010 at 9:26 am

    I strongly suggest for using OpenZIM format for wikipedia article.

    • October 30, 2010 at 5:05 pm

      We will be using HTML.

  11. ramanchennai
    November 5, 2010 at 2:04 am

    Nice effort Arun. But how did you miss gcompris – an amazing software for kids upto 7-8 years? It is part of debian and ubuntu repository may be in fedora as well. It has over hundred activties for children. Look at gcompris.net.

    • November 5, 2010 at 3:57 am

      yeah! Just noticed that! Don’t know how the school OS creators missed it! Thanks for the comment

  12. November 9, 2010 at 4:51 am

    Congrats Arun for the good work. Glad to know about the background for Tamil Wikipedia CD.

    I haven’t used Fedora. But I feel Ubuntu is very user friendly and also has a great Tamil community behind it to support.

  13. September 4, 2011 at 4:33 am

    that’s absolute zero thing….;)

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