Windows remains the operating system of choice in the U.S.A. That is true in schools as much as in the business world. The good news is that while Windows is not Free Open Source Software (FOSS), there is an abundance of powerful, useful FOSS that runs well on a Windows computer. Don’t feel you must jump to Linux just to participate in the open source “craze”.

The OpenDisk group has made it even easier. They also sponsor “Software Freedom Day”, an event which encourages teams to spread the good word and the open source software, too. You don’t need to go to site after site on the Internet to get the individual programs. These folks have done the searching and vetting of FOSS for you. They compiled many of the most useful FOSS programs into a CD-ROM image. A good Internet connection is helpful because the image is almost 700 Megabytes, making a full CD of great software.

http://www.theopendisc.com/

There are two versions of the disk. One is directed at educational users. Many of the programs are the same on both versions, but you will probably want the education version.

Highlights:

  • Open Office – word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, math typesetting, etc.
  • GIMP – image processing (make your pictures just right)
  • Firefox – fast, efficient, tabbed browsing of the Internet
  • Thunderbird – email client
  • Audacity – audio editor
  • …and many more

Once you get the disk image (an .iso file) on your computer, you must transfer it to a CD-ROM disk because you will install the software from the CD. You will need to have a CD-ROM writer (also called a “burner”) in your computer. CD Writers are generally standard in desktop or laptop computers that you have purchased in the last four years or so. Check the label on the drive’s tray.

Next you need a blank CD-ROM. Buy a package of 20 or more. Once you try some of this software, and you install it on the computers in your classroom, you will want to let your students have a copy of the programs, too.

Windows XP can burn CD-ROMs natively. Check out the Directions here:
http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/using/setup/learnmore/bott_03september16.mspx

Of course you can use commercial programs like Nero, Roxio, or the utilities that may have come with the drive, expecially if you installed or upgraded it yourself.

In the end, you will have a CD-ROM full of great FOSS software to install on your own computer, the principal’s computer, the superintendent’s, the computers in your school computer lab, the computers of all your students, and to give away to anyone you meet on the street. Well, maybe that’s going too far.

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