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5/23/2013
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Linux-Based Education OS Gets New Features

Edubuntu update includes several new packages, including a touch-typing tutor and a mindmapping tool.

12 Open Educational Resources: From Khan to MIT
12 Open Educational Resources: From Khan to MIT
(click image for slideshow)
Edubuntu 13.04, released April 25, brings the education edition into sync with the latest version of Ubuntu, the popular Linux operating system.

While schools are advised to stick with the Long Term Support (LTS) version, Edubuntu 12.04.x, the new release is "intended for enthusiasts and users who would like to try out the latest and greatest software," according to the release notes on the Edubuntu home page.

Those curious about where in the world Edubuntu has been deployed can check out this user-contributed map at Edubuntu.org.

Unlike Ubuntu's LTS releases, which are supported for five years on both the desktop and server, releases like 13.04 (codename: Raring Ringtail) are supported for nine months.

The new default packages in Edubuntu 13.04 include:
-- klavaro: flexible touch-typing tutor
-- krecipes: recipe manager and collection
-- gramps: genealogical research program
-- chemtool: chemical structures drawing program
-- fritzing: easy-to-use electronics design software
-- Einstein: puzzle game inspired by Einstein's puzzle
-- vym: mindmapping tool
-- bluefish: wysiwyg html editor

[ Will cash prizes encourage software developers to build educational applications? See Education Tech Vendors Launch Apps Contest. ]

Formerly known as Ubuntu Education Edition, Edubuntu came into the world in October 2005, coinciding with the release of Ubuntu 5.10, on which it was based. Both Linux distributions are the administered by U.K. firm Canonical.

In April 2012, Edubuntu celebrated its first LTS release, based on Ubuntu 12.04. An important feature of that version was a major new release of Linux Terminal Server Project (LTSP), or thin-client support in Linux servers. With LTSP, inexpensive thin clients, as well as legacy PCs, can handle a variety of common tasks, such as browsing the Web, sending email, creating documents and running desktop applications.

In the most minimal LTSP configuration, a workstation needs only RAM and a network card to boot up; the server provides its OS. This architecture is both manageable and secure, and it may be very attractive to cash- and staff-strapped school IT directors.

In an LTSP setup, "fat-client support" seems paradoxical, until you understand that LTSP v5.x added support for a thin-client type known as "fat clients." This setup retains the manageability of an LTSP client-server architecture but uses the local machine's CPU, graphics and RAM, rather than rendering server windows on the client. This means better use of the LTSP server's resources for the other attached clients and, probably more importantly, better multimedia and 3-D application performance.

Edubuntu 12.04 also included new classroom management software, Epoptes (Greek for "overseer"), which replaced iTalc. The new software allows for screen broadcasting and monitoring, remote command execution, sending messages and imposing restrictions like screen locking or sound muting.

There are pre-assembled Edubuntu packages for different age groups:
-- ubuntu-edu-preschool (ages 5 and younger)
-- ubuntu-edu-primary (ages 6-12)
-- ubuntu-edu-secondary (ages 13-18)
-- ubuntu-edu-tertiary (university level)

The second of four scheduled point releases of Edubuntu 12.04 was released in February. Edubuntu 12.04.2 brought updated hardware support, bug fixes and security updates. Users already on Edubuntu 12.04 LTS systems who have applied all available updates are already running 12.04.2 and need not reinstall.

Media downloads and installation guides for all versions of the education distro are available on the Edubuntu download page.

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