Acadia moves ahead with desktop Linux

Starting in September, about 4,500 Acadia University students and faculty will have the opportunity to use Xandros Inc.’s Linux desktop operating system.

All Acadia first-year students receive notebooks as part of their tuition. This year they will be receiving Dell Latitude D600 laptops pre-installed with both Microsoft Corp.’s Windows and Xandros Inc.’s desktop Linux distribution. Of these 4,500 users, Acadia expects between 300 and 400 of them — mostly in the computer science and math departments — to regularly use the Xandros desktop, said Donald Teed, academic software administrator at Acadia in Wolfville, N.S.

In total, Acadia will purchase 9,000 Dell D600 laptops but will only obtain the next 4,500 when the batch to be distributed in September is retired. Acadia’s notebook program has been in place since 1997 and the Linux template has been available for students since 1998, Teed said.

Previously, Acadia used both Debian and most recently Slackware as part of its notebook program. However, the university abandoned Slackware just this year in favour of Xandros. With Slackware, Teed said he had difficulty with power management and getting winmodems to work. Additionally, the computer science and math departments at Acadia were pushing for a better version of Linux on these notebooks, one that had more robust functionality and greater application support.

Ming Poon, vice-president, engineering at Xandros in Ottawa, said Xandros desktop Linux differs from those of Novell Inc.’s SUSE, Red Hat Inc. and because it integrates better with Microsoft networks. Acadia looked at both Linspire and Red Hat before settling on Xandros.

As part of its deal with Acadia, Xandros certified its operating system for the Dell Latitude D600 and performed some customization. Acadia would not disclose the cost of its deal with Xandros except to say that it cost significantly less than a similar solution from Red Hat, according to Teed.

“The key features I found Xandros provided were ease of use, online maintenance, a good orientation towards the desktop user, extendable for the power user and good hardware compatibility with notebooks,” Teed said. Additionally, he said there are many packages available for Xandros and almost every Debian-ready application will also run on Xandros.

One application Acadia will be using is Sun Microsystems Inc.’s StarOffice, which can be used for free by any academic institution. Also included are Open Office, the Bluejay and Eclipse integrated development environments (IDEs), a variety of mathematical applications, Postgres SQL database and myriad programming languages.

Xandros, headquartered in New York, and its software developers, based in Ottawa, were acquired from Corel Corp. in 2001.

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