I have been busy for the last two weeks deciding which netbooks we will use for the school trial as well as assessing, evaluating and trialing open source software applications that we can add to the student netbooks. We narrowed the choice to the Intel Classmate 3 and the HP Minibook. HP Minibooks won out because of durability, a 4 year on site warranty, price and features. As for software, there is no end to the amount of free software you can easily download for Ubuntu. Some of the highlights so far Open Office 3, which can save and read in word.doc format, The Gimp, which is an excellent Image manipulation program, iTalc which lets you view and control other computers in your classroom network including seeing what all users are viewing and locking screens. There are just too many more programs to mention here. And yes, there is no need for authentication codes or money. The other pleasant part is that when I couldn't work out how do something using The Gimp, for example, I posted a question on a forum and had solution really quickly. I have never had that kind of success with Microsoft software problems.
To add to this, the process of downloading and installing the software is very simple. Ubuntu uses a Synaptic Packet Manager to manage all downloads. You search for the software you want inside the manager. It looks for the software download site on the internet. It downloads and installs it with one click. Simple.
I only had one major software problem that looked to be unresolved. The school uses Promethean IWBs in all classrooms and I couldn't find Promethean software and drivers to support Ubuntu. If we couldn't get around this it would mean that teachers would have to keep Windows running on their computers so they could use their IWBs. It was the only piece of Windows software that we couldn't do without. I sent a lot of emails everywhere trying to get some help and fortunately Promethean decided to release a Linux version of their software and drivers. I downloaded it easily and so far it works like a charm. So far so good.