advice for Forbes Library, Northampton MA


So I was just at the Forbes Library in Northampton, Massachusetts. It’s a lovely old library, full of books and music and comics and they offer Internet access to just about anyone who walks in the door, which is nice. While there I noticed they were currently hitting up the locals for $25,000 worth of technology equipment. $25K is enough for a decent number of books, but it’s actually not lot of money when it comes to computer hardware, so if I were in charge there, I’d want to make sure I got the full value out of every drop. So:

Ditch Windows in favor of Ubuntu Linux. Here’s why:

  1. Ubuntu is cheap. Ubuntu is free and will remain so. That means it would offer feature and security updates for years to come for no extra cash. It also runs like a champ on low-end hardware, which brings me to #2.

  2. Ubuntu runs like a champ on low-end hardware. This means you could not only upgrade the machines you have now without costly licensing fees, but new machines could be super low end and still offer crazy good performance. I just build myself a KPC shuttle box for around $240, and you could add a monitor on to that for about $90 more. And Dell offers Ubuntu laptops for $500. So at $330 per desktop and $550 per laptop, you could get about 38 desktops and 22 laptops. That’s 60 new machines!
  3. All you really need is Firefox anyhow. Each copy of Ubuntu comes with Firefox, probably the fastest and most compatible web browser out there. Your own web brochure says the main reason for this tech upgrade is to get more people on the internet. Perfect fit — plus no machine gets a virus because someone went to the wrong page.
  4. Ubuntu would be dead easy to administrate. I can see why a place would worry about administering a bunch of linux machines, but it wouldn’t actually be that hard. In fact, I would suggest, instead of worrying about it, adopt a no-troubleshooting policy — if there’s any serious issue with a machine, just wipe it out and install Ubuntu from scratch. The install takes about 10 minutes (and my mom could do it!), and then add another 5 minutes after that for installing Flash, installing Microsoft’s fonts, setting the printers and configuring Firefox’s home page. Compare 15 mostly idle minutes to the time required to troubleshoot a flaky Windows install, and there’s no contest.
  5. But what about..? …content filtering? Will our library content filtering run on Ubuntu? Don’t bother. Use Open DNS and block porn and other “adult content” from the network entirely. What about printing? Ubuntu recognizes pretty much any printer with no problem. What about our existing library databases? They’re web-based, so it doesn’t matter what web browser they use.

What do you think? Crazy, or just so crazy it might work?

~Jeff

8 thoughts on “advice for Forbes Library, Northampton MA”

  1. I actually submitted this idea to the Library tech people this morning, so, we’ll see!

  2. I wouldn’t do it. Linux is fine for people who want to spend lots of time with computers, but unless the library has qualified people, and will continue to have qualified people, it might not be a great idea. Also, there might be library software (the database for the books?) that might not work with linux. Obviously, you did what you should have done, which was to suggest it to the library tech people. I’m curious as well to see if a regular business can handle linux.

  3. “The Library Tech People”… Let’s see, hmm, would that be the woman who bought the wii for her grandson at Christmas, or the guy who is ‘thinkin’ about gett ing a cell phone…”

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