Spreading Linux within Interamerican University of Puerto Rico

Expanding alternatives and broadening educational opportunities, the SNAP Development Center sponsors its first Linux installfest.

My colleagues and I came to the Bayamón campus of the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico earlier this year to open the SNAP Development Center. Subtitled the "Open Source Laboratory of Interamerican University of Puerto Rico", our vision is to "create a thriving open-source software project within a university setting that will significantly impact the Puerto Rico software industry, generating new opportunities for economic development."

It's not easy when you're the only ones around promoting and using Linux and open-source software, and it had been lonely while we launched our Open Source Laboratory. But now, after six months of work, we finally were ready to change things--we were ready to kick off our first Linux installfest.

Before everyone settled into their patterns at the beginning of the current semester, we decided to shake things up a bit by hosting the first-ever installfest on the Bayamón campus. We knew it would be difficult to set this up, considering the wide range of architectures and technologies spread across the campus, so we decided to host Linux Awareness Days prior to the installfest. The objective of the Linux Awareness Days was two-fold. First, we wanted to give students an opportunity to see Linux and, if they dared, ask questions and try out one of our demonstration machines. The second objective was to create some buzz and anticipation for our Linux installfest.

We scheduled our Linux Awareness Days for August 30 and 31, 2004, with the installfest scheduled for September 9. On August 30 we set up three computers outside the Information and Telecommunications building. We had two desktops and one laptop, all running SuSE Linux 9.1. One of the machines was wired to the Internet. We also had a television monitor playing Revolution OS. During the four hours we were there, about 20 or so students actually came up and asked questions, while some got in a few rounds of Frozen Bubble and Pingus. A larger crowd lurked around but never got too close. We distributed about 150 flyers for the installfest and shut down for the day, expecting to repeat our efforts the next day. Unfortunately, the 31st turned out to be a Hurricane Day, and classes were canceled due to the threat of Hurricane Frances. Frances never hit Puerto Rico, but it did go on to hit Florida.

After the Awareness Day, a stream of visitors started coming to the SNAP laboratory requesting copies of SuSE Linux. We felt certain that September 9th would see a decent turn-out for the installfest. Between the events, we busied ourselves with creating a full day of presentations and demonstrations. We weren't sure how many students might show up to complete actual installations, so we wanted a full agenda of educational and entertaining sessions. We also wanted to make sure we accomplished one of primary goals for the installfest: we wanted to improve the reputation of Linux, open source and our open-source laboratory among students.

On the day of the installfest, right from the start, we saw that participation was going to exceed our expectations. One student arrived early, eager to get started installing Linux on his desktop computer. Following that, students begin to roll in and fill up all of the available seats. I launched our activity with a brief introduction to our project and then proceeded to share my perceptions on the changing Linux marketplace. I also shared my predictions concerning the future of Linux. Throughout the day, I organized presentations for three of our student software engineers: James O'Malley, a leader in the Puerto Rico Open Source community from Altamente.com, Inc.; PJ Cabrera, our software architect; and myself.

One of the SNAP Development Center student software engineers walks the audience through his "The Command Line: Unleash the Monster Within" presentation.

While I gave my presentation, PJ led the efforts to install Linux on the various computers students brought. Most students wanted to install SuSE Linux Professional 9.1, which had been demonstrated at our Linux Awareness Day. Throughout both of our activities, students constantly asked us about how easy it is to install Linux. I answered by sharing what has been my observation in my limited experience installing Linux. Installing Linux usually is simple, but when things go wrong, they go very wrong.

The results from our first installfest supported my observation. We tried to install SuSE 9.1 on four machines, and all of them were unsuccessful for a variety of reasons. Most of the machines were older models, and SuSE apparently did not have the right drivers for the machines. We even were unsuccessful at booting Knoppix from these machines' CD-ROM drives, because they did not have sufficient RAM to load Knoppix into memory. These machines were a mixture of older machines and new but non-factory standard machines. Our only installation success came when using Linspire. After trying unsuccessfully to install SuSE and Knoppix, we remembered that we had a copy of Linspire around. Linspire installed easily, so the student also took a copy home to install on other machines.

In the end, we were satisfied with the success of our activity. 31 students participated throughout the day, and we passed out numerous copies of SuSE, Knoppix and Linspire. We were able to collect contact information for these students, which will help us when organizing future activities, including the search for additional student software engineers to work with us on the project. Due to James O'Malley's participation in the event, we were able to provide students with an opportunity to network with local companies using Linux and open source. Our only negative comments demonstrate our success: our laboratory wasn't quite big enough and there weren't enough seats.

During the 18 months we have remaining at the Bayamón campus, we intend to host at least five more installfests. I will have to check if the campus auditorium is available--it seats 700.

Kevin Shockey is the program manager for the SNAP Development Center, a research and commercialization initiative for the Bayamón campus of Interamercan University of Puerto Rico. With Bachelors and Masters degrees in computer science, he now is re-inventing himself as an entrepreneur.



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Write on partition

Anonymous's picture

Hi all,
I installed Knoppix 3.7 but i dont seem to be able to write or copy anything onto the partitions.
Any help please.
Thanks in advance!

Re: Knoppix install problems

Anonymous's picture

The author mentioned that they had difficulty installing Knoppix to some PCs. Today Wednesday October 20, 2004, I installed Knoppix 3.6 to the slowest working PC I could find. The PC in question is:
- Compaq Deskpro 2000 M5133/2500
- Intel Pentium 133MHz
- 32MB RAM - Four 8MB SIMMs
- Cirrus Logic integrated video
- One 8GB hard drive as Master on Primary IDE
- One 16X IDE CD-ROM drive as Master on Secondary IDE
- 3Com 3C509 10Mbit ISA NIC

I boot Knoppix 3.6 with the following boot cheat codes:
knoppix 2 vga=normal nodma

However depending on the PC's hardware, the following boot cheat codes might be necessary:
nousb noapic noapg noscsi nosmp nofirewire

At command prompt, use cfdisk to partition hard drive into one 4GB root partition, 500MB swap, 3.5GB for user data.
# cfdisk /dev/hda

After cfdisk completes, it tells me to reboot. After reboot with the same boot command, format the partitions.

#mke2fs -vj /dev/hda1
#mkswap /dev/hda2
#mke2fs -vj /dev/hda3

Once that is done, run the knoppix installer.
# knoppix-installer

Select "configure a new install", choose a Debian style install to hda1, type in a username, type in a password, type in a root password, and then confirm & begin the install.
Phew! (check wristwatch and wipes forehead). The install took 2.5 hours. Back at the prompt, I mount hda1 and edit inittab to default to run level 3 instead of 5. Then I unmount /mnt/hda1 and reboot the PC.
# mount -t ext3 /dev/hda1 /mnt/hda1
# vi /mnt/hda1/etc/inittab
# umount /mnt/hda1
# shutdown now -r && exit

Reboot into new Debian system.

Also check out the Knoppix forums at http://www.knoppix.net/forum/

knoppix 3.6

anonymous's picture

It is very useful for me because i have an old pc : HP 233mhz, intel pentium 2, 96 mb ram one 32 and one 64 SDRam, cirrus logic and a graphic card ATI rage pro 16mg 128 bits, one master Ide 10Gb hard drive and one 4 Gb slave, cd rom 24 x. I tried for months to install corel and mandrake, it dint work. Recently, i tried mepis but i dont have enough knowledge about linux, so on internet they say that knoppix is the most easy linux to install on pc. I tried what anonymous said and it works!

Re: Knoppix install problems

Anonymous's picture

Unfortunately, only the more technical among us would feel comfortable doing this procedure. I, as a professional network and systems engineer, have no problem following your directions above, and I too have installed Knoppix to the hard disk. However, most folks can't yet do that, and it is this market that Lindows/Linspire is addressing.

I've used LindowsOS 4.0 in Spanish (I'm bilingual), and I found it to be pretty darned good for a translation of a gringo product. :-) LindowsOS 4.0 Spanish Edition was certainly good enough to put in front of my Peruvian friends and have them use. I would guess that Linspire 4.5 is even better. Thus, I see it as also a valid choice for installfests.

It is true that, old or new, your hardware does need to actually be functioning well to run GNU/Linux or any of the BSD's. Unlike Windows, which doesn't seem to use as much of the hardware, the popular Free OS's might intermittently have problems if you've got, say, flaky RAM or CPU cache. I recently discovered this with an older (Socket 7) box that has started to get flaky on me, both with Slackware and Knoppix. I tried the same OS's on another, identical box, and they were happy as a clam. Troubleshooting revealed bad DRAM. Funnily enough, OpenBSD installed on the flaky box just fine; go figure.

The moral: Make sure the hardware's okay before you blame the OS.

Re: Knoppix install problems

Anonymous's picture

As i know Puerto Rico got a community called Vidalinux.com that have more than 3 years promoting, teaching, using Linux, and developing open-source software, would be nice if projects like this help the Puerto Rico Linux community, changing ideas, participated on current projects and get involved with people that are already using Linux in Puerto Rico.

BTW another project is the UPR High performance facility, this facility provided mirrors for a lot of opensource projects and have people using Linux by years.


Anonymous's picture


  1. University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez have been running Linux since version 1.X.
  2. UPR Rio Piedras have their Knoppix Distro named Bio Knoppix for its biology students.
  3. Vida Linux and Linux-PR websites have been up for years.

I'm happy that this is being done as well, but it would've been more useful if these resources are pulled in together, specially if the infamous "technological western corridor" and the upcoming Port of the American ever see the light of day.


Re: Linspire?

Anonymous's picture

I don't question the choice of Linspire under certain circumstances. I must grudgingly admit that I have found Linspire supports devices 'out-of-the-box' that other distros do not (my USB Linksys WiFi adapter, for example).

However, I question the compliance to the licensing terms of the software. Linspire is a distro that is normally purchased, and cannot be freely re-distributed (as far as I am aware).

Mark Jensen

Re: Linspire?

Anonymous's picture

Linspire is a distro that is normally purchased, and cannot be freely re-distributed (as far as I am aware).
IMHO: True in that it is normally purchased. False in that it can not be distributed. Linspire (the company) is distributing Linspire (the distro) via bittorrent P2P technology. In fact it is in Linspire's (the company) best interest to get their distro into as many hands as possible since it is not the CD/ISO/distro itself that generates revenue, but subscriptions to their CNR (Click-N-Run) installable program archive.
See also Linspire.com - Michael's Minutes: Lindows.com Does P2P

Re: Linspire?

Anonymous's picture

That is just Linspire Live (the Live CD version), and is not installable, as far as I know...

However, I didn't know that Linspire was offering *anything* via p2p, so perhaps these people have properly followed a version of the Linspire licensing I am not aware of.

Re: Linspire?

Anonymous's picture

They have been for some time now. This includes not just BitTorrent, but other P2P networks such as KaZaA. I refer you to this link:


This is for LindowsLive, now called LinspireLive.

BTW, the OEM version of the "full", i. e. installable-to-hard-disk Linspire is available in Micro Center for US$9.95. Yep, that's ten bucks. So, next time you need some DRAM or upgrade your CPU or whatever, you're good to go.


Re: Linspire?

Anonymous's picture

Perhaps they are now offering more than just Linspire Live via bittorrent? - http://info.linspire.com/p2p/p2p-pr.html