Best Linux Distro for a primary school?

Part of my yearly summer vacation duties is looking after my wife and kids’ primary schools computers. So far, I have 16 quite slow PCs running on Ubuntu Linux (9 point something or other). Kids are mostly working on text, or on a few education programs that run in WINE.

One PC has been the dedicated “server” where every other PC had an NFS mounted folder. That worked most of the time, but sometimes broke due to flaky network connections.

Next week we’ll try something new. I’m looking for a Linux distro that is cloud oriented, i.e. either gOS (is that still being maintained?) or PeppermintOS.

I’m looking for pre-installed Chromium browser and Google Apps support. I’ll be installing DropBox to share and backup (!) files, and replacing OpenOffice with Google Docs.

Has anyone done that yet? Is that a feasible approach? There aren’t going to be any dedicated email accounts, it’s all about backing up and sharing files. Is it possible to share the WINE drive via DropBox? Any creative ideas appreciated.

Primary school goes Ubuntu

Recently we managed to fund the purchase of 16 new computers in my wife’s primary school. The old hardware were Pentium III 500 MHz boxes running Windows 98. When I connected the computer room to the DSL router (Linksys WRT54G running DD-WRT), they were all crying for security updates.

I wasn’t going to put Windows 98 on the new PCs, so what options did we have? Buying new Microsoft licenses was not covered by the budget, and probably not needed, anyway: the only software that was already available was a set of outdated education programs, most of which could easily be replaced by stuff available online.

After a brief trial with OpenSUSE, my choice was Ubuntu. The reason to go for OpenSUSE was that it’s available with german language pack – going to Linux and english at the same time might have been a bit too much for 3rd graders ;)

But then I found german Ubuntu CD images, and I was good to go. I prepared 5 CDs and installed 14 PCs in less than two hours, including account setup and Firefox preparation (start page to a kids friendly site, Adblock).

Very nice. The next thing to do will be to set up a common file storage, and to look for educational software (1st to 4th grade primary school, in german). Any hints gladly appreciated.