03 February 2009

Now Brazil Goes Big on the GNU/Linux Desktop

At the end of last year I wrote about a big Brazilian project to provide 150,000 GNU/Linux notebooks for schools. Now the Brazilian Ministry of Education has topped that by ordering 324,000 "green" workstations running on GNU/Linux (although I can't quite tell whether this is as well as or instead of - anyone know?).

Here's the announcement by the Canadian company Userful, which is providing the very cool technology:

Userful, ThinNetworks, and Positivo today announced that they have been selected to supply 324,000 virtualized desktops to schools in all of Brazil's 5,560 municipalities.

This initiative will provide computer access to millions of children throughout Brazil. It is a historical achievement being: the world’s largest ever virtual desktop deployment; the world’s largest ever desktop Linux deployment; and a new record low-cost for PCs with the PC sharing hardware and software costing less than $50 per seat.

The workstations are "green" because they are virtual desktops consisting of just a screen and a keyboard/mouse, all plugged into a central unit; up to 10 such low-energy setups can run off one PC. The claimed savings are considerable:

Userful's ability to turn 1 computer into 10 independent workstations will save the Brazilian government an estimated $47 million in up-front costs, $9 million in annual power savings and additional savings in ongoing administration and support costs. The computers will use 90% less electricity as compared to a traditional PC-per-workstation solution.

Modern desktop computers sit idle while we check our e-mail, surf the web, or type a document. Userful's PC sharing & virtualization technology leverages this unused computing power to create an environmentally efficient alternative to traditional desktop computing. Up to 10 users can work on a single computer by simply attaching extra monitors, mice and keyboards. "This deployment alone saves more than 140,000 tons of CO2 emissions annually, the same as taking 24,000 cars off the road, or planting 35,000 acres of trees”, said Sean Rousseau, Marketing Manager at Userful. Turning 1 computer into 10 reduces computer hardware waste by up to 80%, further decreasing its environmental footprint.

Sounds like a pretty impressive solution, in terms of cost and energy. It's particularly suitable for schools, where large numbers of users need to work at the same time, but not intensively. The size of the deployment should ensure that other countries get to hear about it, and maybe even try it. Are you listening, UK?

Update 1: As you may have noticed, the link above to the press release no longer works; all references have been pulled. I'll try to find out what's going on and update this post.

Update 2: Apparently the original press release had some "errors", currently unspecified. I hope to have the revised press release soon, and I will update the story as necessary. It seems that the gist remains unchanged, which is good.

Update 3: Press release has now reappeared.


Anonymous said...

According to this... the PR was wrong?


What happened?

Glyn Moody said...

Interesting - the main Userful press release has disappeared too...the plot thickens.

Thanks for pointing it out.

Unknown said...


The link below is from a Brazilian IT magazine (Portuguese):


The news cite 159K computers. 152K will be deployed as follows: 8 desktops per school supporting 17 virtual desktops. This totals 323K virtual desktops. It is not clear how the other 7K machines will be deployed. Apparently each one will be used to set up a virtual lab, and support 5 virtual desktops each.

I did not find official links in the Brazilian Education Ministry confirming the news, so I would consider this at best unofficial.


Glyn Moody said...

@dlessa: many thanks for that. Strange that Useful still aren't responding/updating.

Anonymous said...

A few months ago, the blogosphere was talking about KDE developer Mauricio Plancentini's blog which showed the numbers from a brazilian gov. site which spoke of the Linux in school iniative.

The numbers bandied (i checked and they matched on the portugese languaged site) were something like 30,000 (50,000 by the end of 2009) computers labs would be installed which are basically one computer/thin clients which would serve 50,000,000 brazilian students (again, I checked the stats and the number matches the under 18 population).

That 50 million number has stuck with me.

Is this thing you speak of part of that project?
If not (or even if it is), can you add some more info about the one I mentioned?


PS: Just found the link, dont feel like changing any number errors up there but you can take a look at:

Glyn Moody said...

Yes, I wrote about that at the time:


It certainly sounds similar: I'll try to find out.

Anonymous said...

Yes that's all true. The Brazilian government is making a huge effort to include every student in the digital age.

The 50 Million number is also correct and it tells that everyone in Brazil will have access to a computer in scholl.

Here, yes I'm in Brazil almost next door with Positivo, there are 2 types of schools, private and public.

The computer purchase is under the Ministry of Education and Culture program called ProInfo. The will ensure that every public school receives a certain amount of computers for it's students.

But the Linux as even a bigger role under the program ProInfo. They have assembled a Debian varian of Linux long ago called Linux Educacional (Educational Linux) that's already in it's 3th version.

This means that the ProInfo program is set to standardize all schools in Brazil with Linux.

This is already in place in a huge amount of schools, it isn't a new program.

The important is it will be Linux for everyone (at least 50 Million.)

The program's Linus ISO download page and setup instructions (in Portuguese) is located here.


This is the official page from the Brazilian Ministry of Education and Culture.

Kind Regards

Glyn Moody said...

@Joao: thanks for the information. This is all great news: Brazil is really leading the way here.

Anonymous said...

yes indeed the plot thickened. unfortunately, the PR service we contracted, sent the press release out prior to the official announcement by the Brazilian Ministry of Education. Please do not let this diminish the significance of this project to bring Linux to the forefront as a stable method of digital inclusion. Many governments have mandated the use of Linux, but have yet to implement it with such wide success. Userful will build on this momentum, and I have taken note of the zero carbon by 2015 initiative in UK schools

Glyn Moody said...

That's great to know. I agree, this is a very big announcement.