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Microsoft Software Education Linux

Roadblocks to Linux in Education 463

Posted by Zonk
from the redmond-sized-roadblocks dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The Open Source Industry Australia (OSIA) has lashed out at government schools and education departments for snubbing FOSS. In this column, OSIA says it has been trying for over two years to make headway with these government agencies but 'they tell me that they are scared of doing anything which will upset Microsoft.'" From the article: "If these departments suddenly stopped paying for proprietary software and switched to FOSS, the schools know they won't reap any of the purported savings. So, why would schools bother with trialling FOSS? Where's the incentive?"
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Roadblocks to Linux in Education

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  • If I had a few thousand workstation seats, some reason for wanting to stay in Windows, and were negotiating with an MS sales rep, I'd simply have a box of Red Hat Enterprise and of SUSE sitting on my desk where it couldn't be missed and let the sales rep bring up discounts.

    Afraid to upset MS? What have they got against saving money? Sounds like some people in education need to get their asses fired.

    • Unfortunatly it's ingrained in our culture. Australians have a lack of faith in our own abilities and power. The result is we allow ourselves to be bullied like this because we are afraid to make a mistake.

      We are a country of mummies boys looking to others to tell us what to do. We won't do anything original until someone else does it first. If one of us has a fantastic idea, or invention it is almost always completely ignored here until the inventer is forced to sell it to an overseas company.

      It's really
      • Unfortunatly it's ingrained in our culture. Australians have a lack of faith in our own abilities and power. The result is we allow ourselves to be bullied like this because we are afraid to make a mistake.
        Your 100% right you know.
        Also much of the educational software is written for windows, not much point having a crap load of PC's with no ability to use the tools the teachers KNOW.
        • "Also much of the educational software is written for windows, not much point having a crap load of PC's with no ability to use the tools the teachers KNOW."

          Apple leaned on that argument for years to keep itself the primary computer vendor to public schools in the US, but it only took a few large districts buying Dell and Compaq PCs to convince software vendors to port to Windows. Educational software is generally pretty simple stuff, about as far from the cutting edge as it gets, so porting it to a differ
      • Don't sell yourself short Roy.
        Aussies play some very good rugby, and I may go out on a limb here, but I think that Nad's No Hair Gel works miracles.

        I get a lot more respect around the office with my back all nice and smooth.

    • What have they got against saving money?

      The fact that it's your money, not theirs, and the fact that saving money makes it looks like they can stand to have their budget cut instead of increased.

      KFG
    • by vwjeff (709903) on Friday May 13, 2005 @11:51PM (#12526856)
      If I had a few thousand workstation seats, some reason for wanting to stay in Windows, and were negotiating with an MS sales rep, I'd simply have a box of Red Hat Enterprise and of SUSE sitting on my desk where it couldn't be missed and let the sales rep bring up discounts.

      Afraid to upset MS? What have they got against saving money? Sounds like some people in education need to get their asses fired.


      I can tell you have never worked in a K-12 environment. The objective of education is suppose to get people ready for life. Guess what, the vast majority of kids are going to work in an environment where Windows is used. Linux has it's place and it is not on the desktop, yet.

      I am the computer tech. for a K-12 school district. I and I alone must support 14 different buildings with a total of over 5,000 computers. Desktop management is extremely important for me. I currently use Zenworks to manage the desktops. There is nothing in the Linux world that compares with the options available for Windows management. Believe me, I have tested SuSE with Zenworks and it is not as refined as the Windows implementation.

      Management is important but application support is the most important factor in choosing a desktop OS. Our computer labs in every school run educational applications that are available FOR WINDOWS ONLY. One suite of programs for math is required by the state. Our administrators also must run programs available for Windows only. These include special ed IEP (Individual Education Program) programs, financial and asset tracking programs required by the state, and grade and attendance databases that only have Windows frontends. The database itself I have running on a Trustix Linux server, which brings me to my next point.

      Our district is in the process of migrating from Netware 6 and 6.5 to SuSE Open Enteprise Server. From my personal experience of using Linux for eight years at home I can say it is not ready for desktop use in an educational environment. I wish the application support was available but it is not.

      You mentioned that schools may be afraid to upset Microsoft. As a matter of fact we are. Our district along with countless others receive large grants, last year a total of $200,000, from Microsoft. This year they threatened to take away this years money since we are moving to Open Enteprise Server. I asked our sales rep. they made threats this year and not in the past. We have been using Netware since 3x. He said he wasn't sure. I bluffed and said we were also considering migrating our desktop systems to Linux. He replied back with an apology, $225,000, and two new computer labs.

      I understand what Microsoft is doing. They are not making any money off of our district. What they are doing is molding future consumers. Am I ok with this? Yes I am. Any company in their position would do and has done the same thing. Apple became popular with schools because when you bought two computers you got a third free. We still have a few IIe's in service. Apple had a good thing going but they screwed up. Once the average user is comfortable with an interface, they do not want to change. Microsoft has change the interface to Windows very little in the past 10 years. They change it just enough for people to consider the upgrade but not enough to scare the same people off. I felt this way a few years ago when I upgraded my iMac from OS 9.1 to OSX 10.2. I use a variety of window managers in Linux so I am able to adapt and explore. I am glad Apple has not changed the OSX interface drastically. Perhaps they will be able to recapture a greater market share.

      My father, who was a Macintosh zealot, was scared off by OSX. He is now a Windows XP user and continues to use his Performa with OS 8.1.

      I think at this point I am writing for myself so I will finish up.

      The IT education environment is like none other. Right now Windows has the upper hand due mainly in part to application support; not stability, security, or cost. I hope more vendors will release educational software for Linux. Until then, we are stuck with Windows unless Wine makes more progress.

      I am done. If you have read to this point, thank you.
      • by shutdown -p now (807394) on Saturday May 14, 2005 @01:21AM (#12527265) Journal
        Microsoft has change the interface to Windows very little in the past 10 years. They change it just enough for people to consider the upgrade but not enough to scare the same people off.
        You obviously never witnessed someone "taught Windows 95" (that is, "click here then here then here to do that") trying to figure out how to find Wordpad in WinXP Start menu. That's one of the biggest problems with Windows and other MS software in education - when it's assumed to be the only product, students just learn the specific shortcuts and mouse-click sequences. Then, when they have to work with something different, be it Linux, Mac, or even the new version of Windows, you start hearing cries such as, "omfg where is that button??? help!!!!".
        • This is exactly right. If you expose kids (or anyone, really) to a bunch of different things, they very quickly learn the generics of computing. i.e. instead of "alt-this, ctrl-that works in Word", it's 'select the paragraph, then change the font' no matter what the system is.

          Every school lab should contain a bunch of different systems. At the very least, some Macs as well as Windows boxes. If the staff are up to it, all the Windows boxen should dual boot into a recent Linux distro. This way, kids wil
      • by kassemi (872456) on Saturday May 14, 2005 @02:05AM (#12527426) Homepage

        You state several times the lack of available software solutions for the linux platform forcing your school's decision to stick with Windows, and that is certainly an issue... And it will be for a LONG time if schools such as yours don't step up and find alternative solutions for these problems.

        One suite of programs for math is required by the state.

        Raise your voice. Make a complaint. What software suite is it, exactly? Make a large dent in the company's profits and they'll consider porting their software. Guaranteed.

        That attitude makes me sick. Developers make software for the operating systems of the people who will buy it!

        As far as desktop management goes... Although I'm not that familiar with zenworks, I do know that by simplifying your school's network you can do away with the need for many options that zenworks doesn't include in its linux product (if any).

        Until then, we are stuck with Windows unless Wine makes more progress.

        Give me a break. Reallocate funds saved on Windows licensing. Hire programmers to create solutions that are even better adapted than the ones you currently use.

        I could be wrong about everything above, but I do know this: Change isn't always easy. But when this much money can be saved, it's worth it. Give those teachers a fat bonus, if anything :)

      • We're also using Zenworks Linux Management and while the current version is significantly lacking when compared to Zen for Windows, version 7 changes all of that. I'm currently on the beta and they've managed to bring almost all the same features to the Linux platform. It won't be out for a few months probably but when it does you should take a look at it. It is a revolutionary tool for Linux desktop (and server) management and doesn't really resemble the current version (which is essentially Red Carpet
  • Try now, save later (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dcnjoe60 (682885) on Friday May 13, 2005 @10:32PM (#12526486)
    It's true that by switching to FOSS now, they won't save anything, today. They've already paid for the proprietary software. The real savings comes in the next year or two when they don't have to pay for new software to stay on the proprietary upgrade path and they won't have to pay for new hardware to meet the demands of the new software.

    It sounds like these government schools are being a little short-sighted in their reasoning.
    • Well, you gotta figure, why not just switch to FOSS in the next year or two when the proprietery upgrade comes knocking? They won't be any more vendor-locked than now, since they'll still be using the same products as they are today.
    • by hazem (472289)
      It sounds like these government schools are being a little short-sighted in their reasoning.

      The reality is that if a school switches to FOSS and saves $100,000 a year, that much money will just be cut from their budget. It's not like they'll get to keep the money and use it for something else. Why bother.

      The flaw in the logic is that the government doesn't see money as a limited resource. They can just raise taxes and fees. (Yes, economically this doesn't make sense - but government's not about makin
      • " It's not like they'll get to keep the money and use it for something else. Why bother."

        They are tax payers too, and less money in the school budget in many places in the world means lower municipal or provincial taxes.
    • The real savings comes in the next year or two when they don't have to pay for new software to stay on the proprietary upgrade path and they won't have to pay for new hardware to meet the demands of the new software.

      assumming there are commercial quality, off-the-shelf, replacements for every Windows app. and that you will never need to upgrade a Linux box when you upgrade the O/S or software.

      • Most schools, once out of the early grades rely on Office as their sole computer curriculum for students. But, even so, someone already posted a link to other educational software available for linux. So, yes, there are off-the-shelf replacements available.

        And assuming you are referring to hardware in the upgrading a Linux box, surely you don't think a linux box would cost more to replace than a windows box, and it would only need to be replaced a fraction of the time that a windows box would need.

        Cas
    • Public schools? Upgrade software? HAHAHAHAHA!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 13, 2005 @10:34PM (#12526497)
    Teaching children GNU/Linux and other free software exclusively will merely limit their employment opportunities.

    Teaching it alongside Microsoft software would be great. However, it is unlikely that schools that do such would continue to receive discount prices on Microsoft products.
    • by Dcnjoe60 (682885) on Friday May 13, 2005 @10:37PM (#12526512)
      Teaching children GNU/Linux and other free software exclusively will merely limit their employment opportunities.

      If you listen to all the Microsoft hype about how unix/linux administrators cost companies more money, then not teaching children GNU/Linux and other free software will limit their employment opportunities!
      • . . .unix/linux administrators cost companies more money. . .

        And specifically because there is a shortage of them. Supply and demand.

        KFG
    • I think the problem with this line of reasoning is that it assumes that most kids either don't have computers at home, or use the same software at home as at school.
      I think it's safe to assume that a large majority of kids have Windows boxes at home, and are probably somewhat familiar with essentials like Word and IE.
      In this case, I would argue that showing them a different platform is better, or at least as good, as teaching to MS. Instead of teaching them Word or Excel, teach them the basics of how to
      • I think it's safe to assume that a large majority of kids have Windows boxes at home, and are probably somewhat familiar with essentials like Word and IE.

        The problem here is that if everyone is using MS Office at home and at work, you'll meet stiff resistence introducing alternatives into the classroom. Our local schools all have evening programs teaching MS Office skills. which remain marketable in a very tough environment. Anyone substituting OpenOffice.org as a matter of principle wouldn't last a week.

    • by jrcamp (150032) on Friday May 13, 2005 @10:57PM (#12526610)
      I have always been told you go to school to learn how to learn. It applies in K-12, and even moreso in college. We should be teaching students concepts, not how to memorize a certain interface. Teach them how to wordprocess a document. There's paragraphs, tabs, fonts, etc. These are the same in Microsoft Word as well as OpenOffice.org.

      Teach them how to send an e-mail. There's a to field, subject, and body. Again, the same in any e-mail client. Teach them how to intelligently use a search engine to find information. I'm sure you can see the pattern here. If not, maybe Clippie can help you out.

      The point is to teach them the concepts so that they are confident enough later in life to adapt to new things.

      Children are not completely fragile objects, contrary to the popular belief by some. Too often today people are treating them like single-celled organisms with no brains. Teach them the concepts and they will be able to thrive on their own in any environment.
    • Teaching children GNU/Linux and other free software exclusively will merely limit their employment opportunities.

      Right.

      It'll lock kids out of the business world because kids who can point and click around an Open Office GUI won't have a clue when they're faced with a Microsoft Office GUI.

      It'll lock kids who want go into CS out of these programs, because there aren't any colleges where CS classes are taught around Linux.

      It'll lock kids out of IT in the business and enterprise world because the use of

    • Teaching children GNU/Linux and other free software exclusively will merely limit their employment opportunities.

      Um, yeah.. My school used DOS 5.0 machines and taught Turbo Pascal... Oh boy does that help expand my employment opportunities today... I mean, I can't tell you how often I've needed to know how to run TSR programs, set HIMEM in my config.sys and program in Pascal. Without those skills, I'd be unemployable today.
    • Exactly. I'm aware that the UVM tried this a couple years ago in their Business Management major and when their students graduated and tried to find employment, that they practically screamed bloody murder at the department since the skills they had were not nearly as useful as perceived at the time.

      In my travels across the country and visiting schools. Thats the general concensus for business and MIS. CS there is more of an argument as it can be a *complimentary* tool as the parent mentioned.

      Schools that
  • Crystal maze (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 13, 2005 @10:35PM (#12526506)

    If it's reached the point where you are scared of upsetting your sole source for software you depend upon, that's a clear sign you need to GET OUT NOW!

  • by kimanaw (795600) on Friday May 13, 2005 @10:35PM (#12526508)
    1. Always spend at least 5% more than your budget (so you'll get more next budget cycle).
    2. Never underspend your budget (or they'll trim your budget in the next budget cycle!)
    3. The department director with the biggest budget wins.
    Nuff said.
    • You're right. That's why they should use the money they save by not buying Windows to buy new Auditoriums, classrooms, teachers, books...
    • That it's not their money. Those funds come from the taxpayers and therefore the burocrats don't need to "save" it. Their salaries won't go up if they do and they won't get any recognition if they do. The only way you'll be able to bring about a switch would be to do a study showing exactly how much money would be saved and if it's a hefty enough percentage of the government's IT budget, take those numbers directly to the taxpayers.
  • Sadly... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by xeon4life (668430) <devin@devinto[ ]s.com ['rre' in gap]> on Friday May 13, 2005 @10:43PM (#12526536) Homepage Journal
    Sadly, kids need skills with Windows, specifically its office applicatons for jobs and the real world(tm) in general. I can't get hired by some places because I've refused to learn how to learn some MS products.
    • Re:Sadly... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Dcnjoe60 (682885) on Friday May 13, 2005 @10:50PM (#12526569)
      Sadly, kids need skills with Windows, specifically its office applicatons for jobs and the real world(tm) in general. I can't get hired by some places because I've refused to learn how to learn some MS products.

      That's pretty much a myth since most schools don't teach kids how to use these apps except in the most rudimentary way. Granted, if you had no exposure to a word processor or a spreadsheet, that might keep you from being hired, but most kids coming out of school don't know anything but the minimal basics of those products. Otherwise, why would businesses spend so much money on training courses for employees?

      Kids don't need skills in Windows or Microsoft products. They need skills in using word processors to put their ideas together in a coherent and esthetical fashion. They need to know how to use a spreadsheet to solve a problem, but first they need to know how to solve the problem, conceptually.

      None of those things require a single Microsoft product. If it were the case that those skills don't transfer from one vendor's product to another, then we'd all still be using Wordstar and Visicalc.

      • Re:Sadly... (Score:2, Insightful)

        by xeon4life (668430)
        That's pretty much a myth since most schools don't teach kids how to use these apps except in the most rudimentary way.
        Oh yes, it most certainly is a myth, but it's a universally accepted myth. Using MS products = skills in MS products. Nobody is going to listen to someone touting that using FOSS implementations are going to help you use the equivalent MS product. People are just too shallow minded for that.
        • In time, it will change. For the last ten years, more and more kids in college have been exposed the Unix/Linux/bsd variants. As they enter the work force and migrate up the corporate ladder into management positions, they won't be as resistant to change as their predecessors were.

          This has happened before. At one time, the IBM Mainframe reigned supreme. PCs were justs toys to play with. Eventually, though, enough people exposed to PCs moved into management positions and new their potential that today,
    • Sadly, kids need skills with Windows, specifically its office applicatons for jobs and the real world(tm) in general. I can't get hired by some places because I've refused to learn how to learn some MS products.

      But that's a lie... The programs you could have learned in High School are NOT the same ones that are around today. Next time you go for a Job interview and they ask you if you know how to use Word 2003, say "No, but I know how to use Word 3, so that's ok right?" and you'll get the same damn res

      • That's true.

        The real problem is the employment process in this country is broken beyond all repair. There isn't a corporation in existence that knows how to hire someone. It's all resume scanning for buzzwords.

        Every company wants somebody who knows ONLY and EXACTLY what they're using - and they want at least two years experience in it - even if it only came out two years ago. If you weren't working for a company which adopted it when it came out, they don't want to talk to you.

        They justify this stupidi
  • sounds familiar (Score:2, Insightful)

    by PrivateDonut (802017)
    Sounds just like our stance towards the US when they moved into Iraq. "Oh, we don't want to annoy America, so we'll piss off the general Australian population instead."
  • by zaxios (776027) <zaxios@gmail.com> on Friday May 13, 2005 @10:48PM (#12526558) Journal
    One school I worked at in NSW had a network of Windows 98 boxes drowning in malware, to the extent that they were almost totally unusable -- it took literally five minutes after logging in before any program could be launched; crashes were hideously regular; Internet Explorer had shady toolbars, popups in Google and refused to open a link in a new window. Disturbed that students actually had to try and work on these computers, I told the network administrator that he should install some antispyware software and Mozilla Firefox.

    As if the sorry state of the network wasn't disgusting enough, the administrator replied that he'd received a Department of Education directive which said he couldn't install any programs for which there was a Microsoft equivalent. That meant no Firefox.

    So, in my experience, the impression that the article gives of our school system not forcing Microsoft to actually compete for its business is pretty much spot-on.
    • One school I worked at in NSW had a network of Windows 98 boxes drowning in malware,

      Just out of curiosity: when was this? I've seen several high school networks in a sorry state but it's been a long time since I came across one where Windows 98 was still in (major) usage.
    • define "equivalent" (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Kaenneth (82978)

      Requirements Specification for Educational Document Retreival System. (Web Browser):

      Software must retrieve documents from Internetwork Uniform Resource Locators.

      Software much display said documents using standard HyperText Markup Language and Cascading Style Sheets.

      Software must allow multiple documents to be presented simultainiously within a single instance. (tabbed browsing)

      Software must not allow executable modules to contaminate the base operating system. (no ActiveX)
  • Take a look at this passage from the article:

    Most government primary and secondary schools don't care about saving costs by using cheaper alternatives. You see, they effectively pay nothing for their proprietary software -- the schools' owners, the respective Departments of Education do. And the mandarins therein don't like anything that rocks the boat, and are thus greatly threatened by Free and Open Source Software (FOSS). Nothing rocks an ICT boat like FOSS does.
    The larger an organization, the slower it moves. The more insulated from the free market an organization, the more bureaucratic and hidebound it is.

    A federal bureaucracy is, by defintion, among the slowest and most hide-bound of organizations. Remember, all bureaucracies run not on incentives (i.e., making a profit) but on constraints (i.e., following rules). These constraints lead to organizations that are manifestly inefficient compared with their private-sector counterparts. Absent signs from the marketplace that its methods aren't working, a government agency might persist in pursuing an unsuccessful strategy for years. As James Q. Wilson notes in his book Bureaucracy, "the Ford Motor Company should not have made the Edsel, but if the government had owned Ford it would still be making Edsels." Remember, America's federal government pursued a welfare program aimed at ending poverty a full decade after it was obvious that it was having exactly the opposite of the desired effect.

    In America, this problem is somewhat ameliorated by the doctrine of Federalism, which incorporates the idea of subsidiarity, i.e. that government functions should devolve to the smallest unit of government which can carry them out. The federal government should not undertake something which can be handled by a state government. A state government should not undertake a function which can be handled by a county government, etc., all the way down to, in this case, a local school board. (Let us admit here that America's system of federalism has been steadily erroded for the last 70 years or so).

    By centralizing their software buying decisions in their federal educational bureaucracy, Australia's education establishment persists in error when a smaller, more nimble organization would moved on to a more optimal solution, i.e. using software which isn't an expensive, kludgy, virus-and-security hole riddled piece of crap.

    • So you start with the incorrect premise that school boards are Federal, then proceed from there. In fact, school boards are elected, run in each county, and do their own purchasing.

      Subsidiarity is a tenet of Catholic social teaching, by the way, one of the most centralized and top down of all bureaucracies. So it's ironic that you brought it up.

      Since your premise was wrong, suffice to say I disagree with you.

    • It would help if you got your facts straight before spouting off telling us poor, ignorant Australians what to do. The first step would be to actually read your extract from TFA. Note the use of the plural form where it refers to "Departments of Education". It does this because Australia, too, has a federal system of government, and education is managed by the states. (Having said that, the Commonwealth, i.e. the federal government, has a lot of control over education funding as a result of its primary auth

    • It is Microsoft that is acting as the detached over-sized buraeucracy, not the schools.

      If Australian school districts started moving to FOSS in significant numbers, what are the chances that Microsoft would use the new "Free Trade" agreement to bully them?

    • It's more of that the larger bureaucratic unit shoudl not take on projects that WILL be handlesd by a smaller. For instance, every county and township in north america COULD independently build and maintain the continent's road system, including highways... but they wouldn't. This is the gray area of federalism that leads to disagreements-- it's the place where politicians have to make a qualitative descision about what will be a problem before it arises. So don't be too hard on the poor bureaucrats in t
  • by guaigean (867316) on Friday May 13, 2005 @10:54PM (#12526589)
    This is a relatively easy switch, and it's amazing most don't make it. First, start by switching to Firefox and OpenOffice. You already start saving money on MS Office licenses. Once people get used to using these apps on Windows, you switch out the OS underneath, and the learning curve is extremely limited. These are high school kids and younger, they aren't regularly demanding Visual C++ and MS Project software, they need to write papers and do web research. Doing that on Linux is a breeze, and people need to stop treating it like EVERY aspect is hard. It's not. If you wanna be a developer, sure, there are more hoops to jump through, but I don't see this being a big issue with grade schools, and by the time it is Linux will be even more polished than it is now.

    • Good points.

      They (the kids anyway) also aren't running tons of Back Office server products like Exchange or SQL Server (although the school district probably is.)

      As for educational software, I wouldn't be surprised if Linux equivalents either existed, or that Windows-based products could be served up on thin Linux clients. Some US schools have done this and realized cost savings and improved maintenance and reliability.

  • by NeuralAbyss (12335) on Friday May 13, 2005 @10:55PM (#12526599) Homepage
    I've had extensive experience with use of FOSS in Victorian Schools, or rather, the lack of.

    The crux of the matter is, most educational software ('games', if you will), comes for Windows. True, there are alternatives for Linux, but the teachers hear on the grapevine from one another about the popular packages (i.e. Windows-based).

    On the server end, many Victorian schools use WinNT/2k/2003, as the licensing arrangements with Microsoft give them basically free OS licenses. All they pay for is the media. There's an instant reason for them not to change - they won't be saving much, as you can find a MCSE going for much less than a unix sysadmin.

    On the other side, a few schools are moving towards Linux on the server end - the school that I previously worked at had a number of Linux servers for fileserving, web, proxy etc. OSS can be utilised heavily on the server side, and is being pushed from the top (Dept. of Education) - a prebuilt proxy/wireless authentication box, "Edupass", is being sent to all schools, complete with documentation.

    There are inroads being made with OSS to Victorian Schools, but on the client side, nothing will happen until schools are willing to undertake PD with staff on how to use Linux, and there is sufficient educational software available.
    • Preexisting software investment, and perceived software availability for a given platform, seem to be the biggest problems in the schools I've worked with. They all use various windows-only educational software, but the bigger roadblock to FOSS adoption seems to be student management software.

      This is the software that lets teachers enter grades and attendence in their classrooms, automatically prints report cards and creates student schedules, and gives parents access to progress reports about their childr
      • "A district running this proprietary Windows-only software would need to find somebody that makes a Linux version of student management software, dump the old software (money down the drain), redesign their tech infrastructure to fit the new software's requirements, retrain everybody in the district (notably, most districts seem to have finally on training their staff in tech - this would mean starting from scratch again), AND converting/importing all the old data from the windows software package to the ne
  • Scared of doing anything that will upset Microsoft....

    I gotta wonder if its the illegal criminal activity of MicroSoft that they are skerd of...

    Maybe the people of the country need to let them know there are bigger things of being skerd of..
  • The Victorian (Its 2nd biggest state) gov't decided they were going to roll out fiber to all the schools. They gave the nearly monopoly telco $90 million to do it. The result is now the very few regional ISPs that used the schools to help make sure their business plan was solid just lost that to the monopoly telco.

    The Fiber they are rolling out is good for 4 megabits a second. Wow!

    And for the people winging about the low density... get your facts right 1st. Victoria has about the same population and s
  • 1. Become manager of IT at a high school 2. Switch all computers over to Linux late one night but don't tell the budget committee that it cost significantly less 3. Sell the spare copies of MS keys lying around 4. Profit!
  • Save the children (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Unless you learn to play the game, you will never succeed in government.

    When it comes to schools, two things matter, saving the children, and the teacher's lobby. The debate needs to be framed in the way that the opposition has been framing it since they first entered the sector. You need to put FOSS savings in terms that teachers understand, and in terms that parents and others with vested interests in schools understand. Therefore, the next fiscal crises (there is one everytime new taxes are conside

  • > If these departments suddenly stopped paying for proprietary software and switched to FOSS, the schools know they won't reap any of the purported savings.

    What is the value of "savings" on stuff you don't buy?

  • I'll tell you why (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 13, 2005 @11:18PM (#12526709)
    As a school district employee I tell you why. Microsoft cuts us some sweet deals on our software. They make it worth our while to keep using them. Beside how do you think teachers would take it when I said "Sorry, but Accelerated Reader won't work on Linux" or "Whoops, SASI isn't supported without using wine. And you need Libs X, Y and Z to run it. Guess you'll have to do attendance the old fashioned way." Microsoft is best at ease of use and wide application support, I would have ten times the headaches moving to linux as I have running windows. Plus with Websense and a kick ass firewall we rarely fall victim to spyware and virii. So it's a non-issue.

    Although we still have pentium ones around and it would be nice to move from windows 95 to Linux. But even though teachers may teach, I found they hate to be taught.
    • Re:I'll tell you why (Score:5, Interesting)

      by voss (52565) on Friday May 13, 2005 @11:32PM (#12526769)
      I cant believe this guy got modded down. Just because his facts were incovenient. If people want to get Linux used in education they need to work with education software makers (like Accelerated Reader, and Scholastic) to produce Linux versions of those software products. Even Openoffice in some parts(Presentations and the database) doesnt work as well as Microsoft Office. IBM are you listening? Wine is not acceptable alternative, you must have native linux versions of these products.

      All of his statements are dead right on. As someone who also works in a school Ill verify what he says.
      Except teachers dont hate to be taught...they dont have time to be taught.
    • Somehow, Microsoft replaced Apple as the education platform at a time when all education software was geared towards Apple. If schools could switch platforms then, why is it so hard to do so now?

  • If a product costs $1,000 the margin is higher
    than if it's essentially free.

    With more $'s in the total deal's profit,
    there's more $'s available to "share"
    with decision makers, eg, in State Educ Dep'ts.

    But, wait, there's more...

    Consider the jobs issue.

    More M$ software => more need for administrators
    => more jobs

    Political parties like to show reductions
    in joblessness when they were in office.

    Noting that FOSS provides opportunities for
    VOLUNTEER work on proj
  • Same Thing In The US (Score:3, Informative)

    by Master of Transhuman (597628) on Friday May 13, 2005 @11:27PM (#12526742) Homepage

    City College of San Francisco converted some years ago to the Banner college MIS system made by SCT (recently bought by SunGard). The system cost over a mill (IRRC); annual license fee in the neighborhood of $150K - which is supposedly for support as well, right?

    Well, the school pays a consulting firm ANOTHER $115,000 - just now raised ANOTHER $80,000 to $195,000 - for ACTUAL support. And this just to "finish the upgrade to Banner 6" - and now they're talking Banner 7.

    The consulting firm gets to recommend itself every year for a new contract...Nice racket.

    If the school had any brains, they would hire somebody (like me) to bring the system in-house over a period of 2-5 years, and subsequently save themselves $250-300K a year (not to mention license fees for Oracle, HP/UX, HP servers, etc.) - not to mention getting a higher quality product.

    And now, despite the presence of tons of successful OSS workflow packages, they want to go out and spend another God knows how much (figure I heard was $250K) on a commercial workflow package.

    The library spent $100K on a new integrated library system (ILS) on the contractual condition that the vendor integrate it with the Banner system. Banner is complex enough that it is not likely the vendor will do this, resulting in a reneg on the contract, for which they will undoubtedly offer a small rebate as an incentive. Then they'll raise the maintenance fee (around 12% is standard for the ILS industry) to recoup. Standard software business tactics. The library will undoubtedly knuckle under.

    All of this is invariably justified under the rubric "support", as in "Who will support the system?" Translation: Our ITS department doesn't know what it's doing, doesn't care to find out, and we are too timid to look at alternative support mechanism such as second-sourcing support or - heaven forbid - actually developing the stuff inhouse and KNOWING how it works so support is also inhouse.

    It's bullshit. It's amateur night. I don't care how many corporate types weigh in with "Yeah, but they're right - support is all-important!"

    It's not. And as SCT - and Microsoft - has proven, you don't get support from commercial software vendors. You get promises.

    I read an article recently about a company that switched to OSS software and was very worried about support - until they found out the stuff "just works" - and they don't need support other than what can be provided by the OSS community which developed the software.

    People in government organizations like schools don't care - because it isn't their money and it isn't their jobs because it's very hard to get fired from a City job after you've been around a while. So they always take the easy way out - and when it doesn't work, they either ignore it or they just spread the blame around and let it talk itself out - after first being talked to death BEFORE it was implemented (usually for years.)

  • Teachers (Score:2, Insightful)

    by dantheman82 (765429)
    Many teachers are technologically backward (by choice or because they don't have the time) and thus some very basic things that the kids can do are very difficult from them to handle. It's one thing saying to give the kid a Linux box and high-speed internet and quite another to tell someone from his parents' or grandparents' generation.

    And all those (generally) useless educational games are basically solely for Windows (or Mac).
  • by Comatose51 (687974) on Friday May 13, 2005 @11:48PM (#12526849) Homepage
    Schools that I know, which are Florida schools so bottom of barrel, aren't run by the most tech literate or most intelligent people. They're run by principals who could easily be a life-long middle manager somewhere, never rising above his position. What will he do when he needs tech resources? He'll look to well-known names and people with certifications from well-known names. Yes, they'll hire MCSAs. I'm not saying OSS is difficult. In fact, I find Linux to be simpler. However, mention the words "compile", "code", and "command-line" these MCSAs will freak out. Plus they want the job security of all Microsoft shop. Essentially, you have a tech clueless principal hiring someone who's barely competent with a recognizable certification to do IT. Can he get it to work? Yeah. That's what Microsoft aims for. Even the dumbest of us can build a network with Microsoft products. Is it going to be good? Not really. I remember how easy it was for us to bypass all their "security" features. In fact, my friend email-bombed the principal using the school's own mail server. You think any of these people involved in the decision making is going to risk trying something different? If they go Microsoft and it blows up, they can always blame Microsoft. Anyone will accept blaming Microsoft. If they go with OSS and it blows up, what the hell were they doing with "cheap" software with no corporate backing? In PHPs' minds, a corporate logo is a stamp of approval.
  • Maybe if Free Software advocates starting making Free Software arguments instead of "cost saving" arguments we'd actually get somewhere. For an example of how different a Free Software argument is to an Open Source one, read Richard Stallman's "Why schools should use exclusively Free Software" [gnu.org] paper. There's some good truths in there that can and should be presented to educators.
    • "Why is it always about costs?" Because it's business/budget managers who make the final decision. All of Stallman's philosophy in the world won't answer the simple budget question of "How much will it cost?"
  • Kids and FOSS (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ad0le (684017) on Friday May 13, 2005 @11:53PM (#12526872)
    We have several computers lying around the house. Anytime I see a PIII or beter, at a garage sale or pawnshop I buy the damn thing. As well, I have several highend machines in the household. With my daughters (9 and 4), they make very little distinction between the underlying OS. My 9 year old in particular loves wikipedia and chatting with her girl pals.... We have: Windows XP : IE, Firefox and Trillian Mac OS X : Safari, Firefox and Fire (multui client chat) Linux : Firefoxand gaim. guess which one shes uses the most? The one with the best looking monitor.. she could care less about the differences between the OS's. I moved the 17 inch LCD she loved around to all flavors of OS and she followed the monitor not the OS. It was a unique experience. She now have a little X-Terminal in her roow (with a modest 15 inch LCD she loves). When I finally asked what OS she liked the best, her answer was somewhat amusing. She cose Mac OS X because the mac mini was cuter than the others. Kids adapt as long as the apps are there, it's us adults that muck things up.
  • by Neo-Rio-101 (700494) on Friday May 13, 2005 @11:57PM (#12526889)
    MS probably has a lot of governments on the ropes. Think about it for a minute. MS is a foreign investor in many countries. It is cheaper to pay MS for software than it is to annoy Microsoft and lose millions of foreign investment capital
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 14, 2005 @12:07AM (#12526940)
    I work for a state educational service district, and many of our schools pay for Microsoft School Agreement purely out of fear.

    One of our schools was being courted by Microsoft last year, and the district politely gave Microsoft the finger, explaining that between Open Source software, pre-installed Windows OSes and Microsoft Select licensing they were perfectly happy with their current licensing and budget.

    Two weeks later the Business Software Alliance came knocking. Three months of legwork and tracking down purchase orders and the district is facing a five-figure fine (and grateful it wasn't six) because of one copy of a piece of software they believe came pre-installed on a beige box workstation but can no longer prove it.

    The average district would be looking at seven figures based solely on the decade-old workstations no longer networked, sitting in the corners of their elementary schools and probably stuffed with bargain bin titles from the local superstore.

    Though under a dozen of our districts have been audited, not one of our School Agreement schools has been contacted. News like that travels around.

    Could it be prevented with Open Source software adoption? Sure. But as other posters point out, public pressure to adopt industry standards and internal pressures to support proprietary curricular software are too strong for district support personnel to take a stand.

    Unfortunately, they're also the first ones out the door when the lawyers and that five-figure fine comes.
  • by walterbyrd (182728) on Saturday May 14, 2005 @04:58AM (#12527982)

    I think it might make more sense to phase in F/OSS, rather than making a sudden switch.

    Start putting Linux in this lab, or that. Use it a leverage against msft. Start using non-msft apps as often as possible: openoffice, firefox, etc.

You can measure a programmer's perspective by noting his attitude on the continuing viability of FORTRAN. -- Alan Perlis

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