What if I told you that your child was being given the short-end of the stick concerning their education? It doesn't matter if they are A+ students at the best schools, if they are using Microsoft Windows, Google's ChromeOS, or Apple's MacOS platforms. In-fact, they are being horribly crippled for life, and I will tell you why. Less than 1 percent of the globe utilizes the Linux Operating System; the future platform for Automation, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Drones, and Self-driving Cars. Linux, an open-source operating system, is currently the most cost-efficient, empowering, and relevant operating system in the world.
Today, when you walk into a school, you will see students and staff using three types of computers 99 percent of the time: Google Chromebooks running ChromeOS, infinite brands of PC's running Microsoft's Windows, or Apple Computer's running the MacOS. Here's the issue with Google Chromebooks. While they are extremely attractive to cost-minded organizations and low-to-moderate income individuals, with prices as low as $159 for the Samsung Chromebook 3, the devices are meant primarily for web-browsing, which requires an internet connection. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, only 77 percent of Americans have an internet connection, meaning 2/10 individuals cannot even use a Chromebook.
Also, if you want to code and build applications locally on the device, or run advanced applications that are more computationally intensive, such as Machine Learning, or Robotic Simulations, the low-end systems that most Chromebook users have access to, fall flat on their face. Microsoft Windows requires a subscription to access many of its features, such as Microsoft Office, costing school Districts and low-income families anywhere from $150-$250 for the home/student non-commercial licenses.
Apple, in my personal opinion, is the most restrictive of the three, and extremely cost-prohibitive, as the average price of a MacBook ranges from $1200-$2200, which eats at scarce school district resources, and makes a MacBook a rare commodity among low and middle-income families. However, there are much cheaper alternatives that provide huge cost-savings.
For example, in 2018, the Baltimore County School District spent a total of $1,053 per laptop, to provide every student in the District with a laptop for home and school. The $140 million dollar contract provides Hewlett Packard laptops running Windows 8.1. The sad reality of this deal is that the School District wasted millions. Students primarily use these systems for internet browsing, word processing, accessing email as well as various applications.
Had the Baltimore County School District chosen a Raspberry Pi, a popular credit-card sized computer, costing anywhere from $35-$45 bucks, they would have spent roughly $5 million to provide computers with the same capabilities of the HP Computers chosen, but without limits. If the District wanted something more powerful, adapted for Machine Learning, A.I., or Robotic Simulations, the Nvidia Jetson Nano is barely larger than a credit card, but packs the power of 75 MacBooks for the price of $100. This is an outright steal in the world of computing, and would total $12 million if purchased for the 120,000 students in Baltimore County. Either option would have saved the District anywhere from $128 million with the more expensive but powerful Nvidia Jetson Nano, or $135 million in cost-savings with the newest Raspberry Pi B+.
Whether Windows 10, ChromeOS, or MacOS, each system confines the user to a heavily regulated environment. The ability to customize each of these systems is severely limited, thus limiting the imagination and potential of each user. Linux-based systems, such as the Raspberry Pi-based RaspbianOS, and others, including but not limited to DebianOS or the popular UbuntuOS, each provide the user with the unlimited ability go as far as customizing the source (kernel) of the operating system, to create an entirely new operating system if desired. Such systems also have one caveat, they force you to learn. If you wanted to download a new application, there's isn't a simple executable file to click on, while all of the nuts and bolts of the big three operating systems are hidden from the user.
These systems do require elementary knowledge of the terminal, which can be learned in less than a day, using gamified applications such as Kano's Terminal Quest. The power of freedom is undeniable, and nothing is different with open-source operating systems, especially those that are Linux-based. Meaning, there are no monthly subscription fees, all standard programs or applications are also free, such as the Office Libre Suite, which is also compatible with Window's Office Suite. The process of loading these devices with Linux-based operating systems, additionally teaches a student or user how to boot any operating system onto a device, including Windows, or ChromeOS, if so desired.
The Robotic Operating System (ROS), which isn't actually an operating system, but rather middle-ware allowing for low-level control of robotic devices, is the most popular system of its kind for the control of robots, drones, self-driving cars, and similar automated devices. The fact that only Linux is officially supported by ROS, is a testament to how limited access to this important knowledge and information is, concerning the inner-workings of automation and robotics. This puts the 99 percent of the world who are limited to the big three operating systems, Windows 10, ChromeOS, and MacOS, at an extreme disadvantage.
With almost 40 percent of jobs expected to be erased due to automation, schools and families, including working-age adults, should be hard-pressed to learn about Linux and all it offers to meet the future and current workforce challenges head on. An example of these challenges can be seen by Ford’s new collaboration with Agility, to create a bi-pedal delivery robot. The robot will curl up in the back of a self-driving delivery van, uncurl, and deliver the package to the very door-step of a customer.
The disruption and job-loss will be astounding. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are currently an estimated 1,400,000 jobs that would be lost, due to full automation of delivery vehicles and delivery robots. But there will also be many jobs created by those who are designing, programming, and maintaining these new robotic systems, and Linux is at the heart of it all.
It is evident that Linux, an open-source operating system, due to its low-cost, empowerment by endless customization, and it's relevancy due to its deep integration into current automated systems being deployed today, is more than worthy of consideration. The open-source Linux-operating system is an open-door for children and working adults across the globe, to create and innovate without restraint. The ability to customize down to the kernel level of the LinuxOS, provides one with the ability to create beyond imagination. With many newly deployed computing platforms in the field of robotics coming with Linux as a standard OS, there may be no other OS more relevant today. While many school districts and workforce development boards have yet to adapt to the inevitable, it is still not too late to make your own choice to join the 1 percent.
Ean Mikale, J.D., is the creator of the National Apprenticeships for Commercial Drone Pilots and Commercial Drone Software Developers. He is also the Founder of The Drone School, a serial Dronetrepreneur, current participant of the NVIDIA Inception Program for AI Startups, IBM Global Entrepreneur, and member of the National Small Business Association Leadership and Technology Councils. Follow him on Linkedin, Instagram, and Facebook: @eanmikale