Reviving old hardware en mass or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the ZorinOS Linux Distribution

Let's see how we can help upgrade and stabilize the school's computers in the classes and labs he saidBut as I wrote before the Local Council's finances are in dire straights. TL;DR The end may be happy. but the journey was glorious.


ZorinOS Logo  Copyright © 2014 - 2020 Zorin Technology Group Ltd. All Rights Reserved.



The state of computers in classes and labs

Hardware ranging from the last generation of dual core Pentiums to 4th generation i7s with a sprinkle of, surprisingly fast but with very low memory and cache, dual core 64bit AMDs. Packed with dust, ridden with useless software and desktops full of documents over Windows 7 and some Windows 10 build 1803 or less. The list of complaints on slow or stuck PCs is getting longer by the day. The phrase "It does not work" appears in every other row on a spreadsheet. It is the end of June 2019, School year starts September 1st, the teachers do not know what they need on the PCs but they need it working and time is running out.

250 Windows and Office licences...

Apparently Windows and Office licenses was the easy part. There is a business arrangement between the ministry of education and Microsoft for sponsored licenses for educational institutions. But would anyone install Windows 10 on a last generation dual core Pentium? Is it even possible? Does the bios support it? 

Vendors, BIOS and promises promises

Depending on the vendor a bios update would sometimes help with Windows 10 installations and sometimes not. The machines would run faster, albeit their slow HDDs, but eventually some windows update would come along and break things. There is also no domain controller available to regulate updates (see dire finances). So what can one do until new hardware is purchased or hardware donations come though? Push for Linux.

Convince us on Linux

When I was asked to "put my money where my mouth is" I had a huge dilemma... Use an XFCE based Ubuntu or Arch derivative or use the somewhat heavier Gnome Desktop on either. Gnome however is "strange" to the eyes of long time Windows users. I took a leap of faith with a Gnome based Arch derivative which was light enough for this ageing hardware.
The requirements I had to fulfill were "simple" enough: 
  • Disable background changes
  • Provide password-less login for students
  • Ease of use
  • An Office suite which is Microsoft Office compatible, it uses Microsoft fonts in Hebrew and saves as a Microsoft Office document by default.
  • Ease of upgrades
After a few hours of digging through online communities I had the whole thing set up. All I needed to do was convince the stakeholders. The demo went fine and the stakeholders where content albeit concerned. I made a case for students needing to think outside the box and be free of the chains of one OS. After all their cell phones are neither Linux or Windows and yet they manage. It is probably us, the grown ups, who are more worried. However convinced and confident I was there were still some islands of doubt as to how Linux would be welcomed by students and teachers alike.


Final stretch ZorinOS to the rescue

It was decided that Linux will go into computer labs with the thought that we would introduce some Scratch and Python courses to primary and middle school students and whatever is salvageable and upgrade-able will go to the class where teachers will not have to worry about meeting an unknown OS (at least visually).

After receiving some 32 ageing laptops (dual cores and first gen i3) we decided to take 10 of them and use them as the first Linux pilot in a special teamwork space/class. With 10 days to go I stumbled upon one more article about a surprising Linux distribution named ZorinOS that runs fast on ageing hardware. Going through their web site I discover they have an education version with requirements half the CPU and RAM I have in my ageing hardware across the board. I spun up a virtual machine and my mind was blown away!

Worry free and super fast

After initial installation one can see a clean desktop with calming pastel colors, such that even one who cannot stand bright backgrounds, like me (due to many years of bright CRT monitors and theme-less development environments), will not feel overwhelmed by the colors, a Windows like experience with the Zorin menu and all the apps neatly tucked away in categories. I only needed to add one application for video editing and the image was ready.

ZorinOS default Desktop

The desktop is apparently a heavily customized (but down to simplicity) Gnome desktop. That way I could apply the same background locks and password-less logins as before. I was in love!

Once I checked that I could fulfill all requirements I installed it on a slow dual core machine. The installation was fast and the machine was given a new life.

Within 48 hours I demoed it and started installing it on ageing laptops. The computers teacher at the middle school was thrilled by the speed and the educational applications as well as the ease of use. 
All that is left is gauge the acceptance of students and rush off to install more than 30 ageing machines. At this point if I was to recommend to someone a Linux desktop it would be either Zorin Core or Zorin Lite depending on the hardware at hand

Copyrights, thanks and disclaimers

This is the time to thank the Zorin team for a beautiful distribution, their permission to use their logos and graphics as well as the Zorin Support Community for their quick responses.

Finally from Zorin's own web site:

The "Z" logomark and the "ZORIN" name are trademarks of Zorin Technology Group Ltd.The "ZORIN" and "ZORIN OS" logotypes are Copyright © 2014 - 2020 Zorin Technology Group Ltd. All Rights Reserved.Zorin Technology Group Ltd. permits the use of Zorin OS branding and the above brand assets for non-commercial use only. Usage of these term(s) and/or associated image(s)/logo(s) does not and should not suggest affiliation, endorsement or sponsorship by Zorin Technology Group Ltd. or any of its subsidiaries. Zorin Technology Group Ltd., at its sole discretion, reserves the right to cancel, modify, change, add or remove its policies at any time without notice.


Comments

  1. Thanks! Just what I was looking for to revive an old laptop

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Zorin Edu installation for Eee PC Asus
      I tried to install the school version on the pc. At the end of the installation I have a crash message and the OS does not install. Help me!

      Delete
  2. Alberto, when you have time, test and review the this distros, named: Big Linux 20.04, Duzeru 4.1 and RegataOS.

    ReplyDelete

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