Choice in Operating Systems: Why not?
SFU Surrey is an extremely modern campus focused on technology, with students specializing in a variety of fields including Mechatronics, Interactive Arts, and Computing Science. With such a strong technological student base it would be expected that our campus would provide us with the latest technology. As far as hardware goes it does a great job. The campus is filled with multiple labs of computers equiped with dual core processors and gigabytes of ram, but where they fall short is in their software setup. More specifically: their restricted choice of operating systems.
Sure, we have Windows XP and a great set of programs in most of the labs, Mac OSX in a few others, and Ubuntu Linux with a lab of its own. Mac OSX has to be run on its own hardware, at least by any legal means. However, it was the university's Macs that made me actually realize this proposal. The Macs already dual boot both Windows XP and Mac OSX. The Windows computers could follow suit and dual boot, for example, Ubuntu Linux as well. Logically, the Ubuntu computers could also dual boot Windows. The great hardware should not be restricted by software choice.
There are many advantages to this setup, which outweigh the disadvantages, especially from the user's standpoint. One advantage is the freedom it allows in the choice of OS when working in group settings. Currently when in a lab if the majority of group members prefer Windows, which is certainly the most likely case, a group member who prefers Linux would be forced to use Windows if they want to sit with the others. Another advantage is that no computer hardware goes to waste due to users not liking the software on it. For example, the Linux lab is often nearly empty because people prefer to use Windows, but if each computer dual booted both Ubuntu and Windows XP usage would be much more evenly spread. Labs would not have to be restricted by course either, and Linux using courses could use whichever lab that was convenient and vise versa.
Having different operating system options also is great for educational purposes, especially for students in Computing Science and Mechatronics, to open them up to the idea of alternative operating systems for usage in computer programs and electronics. Alongside Linux, there is a great collection of free, open source operating systems that are much less known to the general public. Having, perhaps, a couple computers dual boot some of these lesser known operating systems serves a great advantage to students interested in the field. Ever heard of Solaris, BSD, ReactOS, .. Syllable, ... Haiku?
Disadvantages: Harder work for the IT teams, and a slightly more difficult-to-implement update process. Nothing they shouldn't be able to handle while learning a lot along the way.
The operating system market is vastly dominated by our two corporate giants, Apple and Microsoft, so much that the general population does not know that anything else even exists. Linux and other OSes are not nearly as scary as they are said to be, they simply do things differently. We just need to shed our fear of the unknown.
Comparison of open source operating systems. (2009, March 17). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 03:50, March 18, 2009, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Comparison_of_open_source_operating_systems&oldid=277841377