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Open Lab is a model for a K-12 computer lab. It combines affordable open source software and recycled or thin client hardware. Affordability is the key. Compare tens of thousands of dollars for new hardware and software licenses for every computer in your lab to recycled or thin client hardware and free software. The cost difference is staggering.
The lab runs on software called K12LTSP (K-12 Linux Terminal Server Project). It is simply a terminal server appliance version of Fedora Core. The server itself powers diskless workstations that make up the individual computers of the lab.
In other words, the individual systems in your lab won't have hard drives and therefore won't have software installed on them. It all runs off the server. This makes the individual systems much easier to manage.
Only the server needs maintenance.
It also keeps down hardware costs because the diskless client systems don't have to meet the demanding hardware requirements of today's software. You can build your lab with outdated, even donated hardware for the clients. With little more than minor upgrades, this older hardware works well in the Open Lab environment. Or you can buy new thin client hardware, which is very inexpensive and widely available.
K12LTSP includes the Fedora Core operating system and range of open source educational software applications, including the OpenOffice office suite, Mozilla web browser and e-mail, as well as graphic editing, drawing, and basic programming applications.
The advantage of Linux applications is that many are freely available and don't require an individual license for every client the software is running on. However, K12LTSP can also run Windows, and Windows-compatible software.
K12LTSP was designed by educators for educators. For more detail on K12LTSP, as well as How-Tos and hardware compatibility, visit www.K12ltsp.org.