Massive Linux handout set for French schools

Local government finances project to distribute 64,000 packs of CDs with Linux and with free software for Windows and Mac OSes.

Thousands of secondary schools students in the French region of Auvergne will receive CDs containing free and open-source software when they return to school in September.

The project, which has been funded by the local government, will distribute 64,000 packs of CDs to students, according to Linux Arverne, a Linux user group involved in the initiative. The project aims to get students and their families more interested in free and open-source software.

Every student between the ages of 15 and 19 attending a school in Auvergne will be given a pack containing two CDs. The first CD contains free software for Microsoft Windows and Apple Computer's Mac OS X, including the OpenOffice.org office productivity application, the Firefox browser and the GIMP image editing application. The second CD is a Linux Live CD, allowing pupils to try the open source operating system without installing it. The Linux Live CD is based on Kaella, a French derivative of Knoppix.

The project is providing two CDs to make it easier for students to progress from a proprietary desktop to an open-source desktop, said Nicolas Spallinger, a member of Linux Arverne.

"The idea is to be progressive: start with FLOSS (free/libre and open-source software) on a Windows or Mac, try out a Live CD without the fear of messing things up, and then install your preferred" Linux distribution, he said.

The CD packs will be distributed on Sept. 2. After distributing the CDs, Linux Arverne hopes to set up training sessions and extend the project to younger pupils and university students, Spallinger said.

He added that three other regions have expressed an interest in this project, including the largest region Ile-de-France, which contains Paris.

"At least three regions are seriously interested so far in our project: Pays de Loire, Lorraine, Ile-de-France. We expect other people in the Francophone free software community will show their interest when the holiday period is over," Spallinger said. "We think this will get big."

Ingrid Marson of ZDNet UK reported from London.

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