Updates on Linux Educacional

Linux Educacional (LE) is a distro packaged by the SEED team at the Ministry of Education in Brazil. I posted about the previous versions already, you can find more info on the archives here and here.

The LE team has been working on the 2011 version for a while. Previous releases used KDE 3.5, and the next one is going to be the first deployed over a KDE 4.x desktop. Helio Castro and I went to Brasilia a few months ago to field some questions, discuss a couple of design decisions that are important for the transition and to offer the help of the KDE community, if needed. We were very happy to learn that among all the options available the decision was made to stick with KDE as the LE desktop: one of the reasons was the possibility of deep and easy customization offered by the Plasma environment; as well as the need to preserve the existing investment in training for teachers and IT people and the familiarity of teachers and students with the existing KDE-Edu software.

Then, during Akademy, we saw a lot of interest on this project coming from members of the Plasma, Edu and Oxygen teams. The plan was to foster collaboration between the KDE and the LE teams, and if possible to develop most of the customization features they needed upstream. A mailing list and a wiki page were created, and some ideas floated around.

But… working upstream proved to be very difficult for this project. There were language barriers, and also issues related to timing and the decision-making chain. I find it understandable, but personally frustrating. Development is happening mostly at closed doors, as I was told the team is under a very tight schedule. Apparently a portion of the project is now being handled by the computer science department of UFPR, a federal university in the Paraná state in Brazil. Their staff is known for its technical excellence and skill, so I have high hopes for the quality of the final implementation. Some of the people involved have been spotted on the #kde-brasil IRC channel, and the KDE community at large is still available to help of course, if required.

So, even if we could not really collaborate in the true open source fashion for now, it is nice to know that the work we are doing is useful and relevant to the educational community, and that a KDE4-based LE will equip thousands of computer labs next year. And I can see as well that this is a slow learning process, and maybe one day we will have the opportunity of really working together on a global scale on a deployment like this.

Thanks to all members of the KDE community who spent some time during Akademy and in the following weeks thinking about the educational desktop and how to contribute to efforts like the LE customization. I am sure we will have the opportunity to build on several of these ideas when the right time comes. For now, the “we build it and they use it” paradigm remains the most common, and it is not a bad one per se. But I still hope upstream development and collaboration slowly becomes the norm and not the exception.

4 thoughts on “Updates on Linux Educacional”

  1. I’m still absolutely baffled by the lack of publicity this gets. A KDE deployment that serves *tens of millions of users*, yet no one seems to know about it (isn’t this appreciably more than GNOME’s most optimistic estimates of their own userbase?).

    Meanwhile, we see every online news outlet (slashdot, osnews, etc) trumpeting something as thoroughly unexciting as a new GNOME partition manager. Honestly, the mind boggles.

    1. At least in the case of this project I believe the lack of publicity is intended. This year for example we have general elections in Brazil, and this (in theory) restricts the amount of publicity government agencies can make about their initiatives. Elections also limit the amount of resources that can be assigned to projects at least 6 months before the election date, iirc.

      In the same line of reasoning, I believe that maybe the need to abide to the bureaucracy is a factor that makes it impossible for the teams involved in government-backed projects to really collaborate in the open. I did not hear anything like that from the LE people, but anyone that has worked with the government knows how slow the machine moves.

  2. Interesting article and one which should be more widely known about in my view. Your level of detail is good and the clarity of writing is excellent. I have bookmarked it for you so that others will be able to see what you have to say.

  3. Mauricio, I read about 2 yrs ago your post about the Brazilian educational system and KDE and was stunned by the numbers mentioned: 50million students and 50,000 computer labs. This is a PHENOMENAL accomplishment and the numbers are mind blowing.

    Problem is… no one hears about. 
    As a non native english speaker, you must know how the tech media is: if it didnt happenin english, it didnt happen.

    I think the brazilian schools switching to Linux is an amazing story that deserves to be 
    known.  If you know any brazilian articles that talk about it maybe you could see with your KDE compatriots if there is a way to bring these to the english speaking audience.
    In terms of sheer numbers, it is very impressive but its value to others is the knowledge
    that the same can be done in their countries.

    I understand you have no direct say in that project but I was more thinking in you explaining how publicizing the Brazilian iniative is important to not only KDE but Linux and 
    FLOSS in general.
    Your country is a leader in FLOSS adoption but because of language, few know about it.

    thanks.

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