Why the MDP ED&L Disk System?
This document describes why the MDP EDaL disk was created, how the project evolved and what benefits it offers.
History of the EDaL Disk
The MDP disk was originally conceived as a simple database of textual resources to support the main aims of the MDP. However, it was soon became apparent that although engineering courses were becoming more reliant on software package many students did not have easy access to main stream software when off campus. A review of the options for ensuring students had opportunities to use experiment with a range of software showed that the system would have to be essentially free and also easy for students to install and academic staff to support. Further studies were undertaken into exactly which operating system such a system should be developed for and although Windows would seem the most obvious it brought a number of difficult support issues. The decision was taken to use a live Linux disk which removed a number of installation issues and gave access to a wealth of open source/free software that has been developed for Linux together with possible future extension to other computer architectures, e.g. Macs.
Principle Aims Of The EDaL Disk System
- To provide a suite of documentation and resources for engineers
- To provide access to a number of useful and powerful engineering tools that are available for Linux
- To provide a system which runs on a wide-range of hardware, and is light-weight enough to run on slightly out-of-date machines.
- To provide a user-friendly interface which makes the resources easily accessible by people who have no knowledge of Linux (which will be the majority of users)
- Provide access to an office suite that includes presentation facilities. Open Office - a free office package, which is compatible with Microsoft Office
During the period of the project the capabilities of the system has been extended in a number of ways including:
- operating on low-cost networked machines (currently used as the main computing environment for students at CUED)
- use under emulation in other operating systems
- extended textual resources. (Only available on the DVD versions of the disk)
Benefits of the EDaL Disk
- The standard version can be freely copied and re-distributed to everyone.
- With a bit of technical knowledge, new versions of the disk can be created which are customised to a particular University or course requirement.
- It provides the potential to run all of the freely available and useful tools that exist for Linux, on machines that don't have Linux installed.
- There's no installation problems because there's no installation - all programs just run straight from disk.
- Since the operating system and all the programs are contained as a single unit, the system is standardised so administrators only have to support a single system. This feature also simplifies the generation of teaching material.
- No installation means that it's easy to try out the disk with the minimum, or often no modification, to the host computer's existing setup.
Most of the benefits of the MDP EDaL disk are common to all Linux Live CD/DVDs. However, the MDP disk(s) contains applications and resources specific to education and engineering, and runs better on low specification machines than many of the heavy-weight Live CDs. However, if you are not interested in education or engineering, then it may be better to start with a more general purpose Live CD, such as one of the following :