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How Microsoft Inadvertently Helps To Fund FOSS 122

Posted by kdawson
from the i-has-ur-monies-kthxbye dept.
christian.einfeldt writes "The State of California sued Microsoft for anti-trust violations, and now the proceeds of the settlement of that case are being used to fund the acquisition of computers for any school district in California. The terms of the settlement allow every school district in California to be reimbursed a set dollar amount for the purchase of computers with the software of their choice. Microsoft probably anticipated that school districts would mainly use the settlement to buy more Microsoft products, with a few Apple purchases sprinkled in here and there. But now that Free Open Source Software is being commercialized by hardware vendors such as Dell, System76, EmperorLinux, Zareason.com, and TechCollective.com, acquiring computers powered by FOSS is straightforward. I'm a volunteer sysadmin at a northern California public charter school and in my Slashdot journal I detail the step-by-step process for using Microsoft's money to pay for the Linux purchases of your school's choice." And then there's the Ubuntu team in Belgium that is raising funds by auctioning off a copy of Windows Vista Ultimate that a Microsoft rep gave them at a trade show. So far the bidding is up to 101.76 Euros, about $144.
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How Microsoft Inadvertently Helps To Fund FOSS

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  • ...Linux funds Microsoft!
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jimstapleton (999106)
      Look at all the Linux users who buy pre-built machines with Windows, because until recently, they lacked many alternatives short of building their own.

      That's not just Soviet Russia my meme spouting friend.
      • Dammit, the Russkies won!
      • by Billosaur (927319) *

        Take it a step further: how about people who work on Linux who have Microsoft in their stock portfolios or as part of the 401 K where they work? Microsoft is funding Linux in myriad ways, even subtle ones.

      • by russlar (1122455)

        Look at all the Linux users who buy pre-built machines with Windows, because until recently, they lacked many alternatives short of building their own.

        That's not just Soviet Russia my meme spouting friend.

        You raise a good point. Much of Microsoft's dominance is cemented by the fact there is no good alternative out there for many of the Joe User types who just want to use a computer to surf the internets.

        You must remember, however, that while here in Amerika we do the spouting, in Soviet Russia memes spout you!

  • And then there's the Ubuntu team in Belgium that is raising funds by auctioning off a copy of Windows Vista Ultimate that a Microsoft rep gave them at a trade show.

    This is exactly why Linux will never gain mainstream acceptance... Shitty marketing. Instead of doing something cool with it, and making a big PR stunt out of it.. (i.e., blow up your Windows disks.. that worked pretty well at the "blow up your disco records" event..) they're... auctioning it. Good job, guys.

    • Re:Wow. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Sumadartson (965043) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @11:27AM (#20940635)
      IANAE (I am not an economist)

      Actually, I really like the initiative. If done properly (that's a big if), the auctioned price could give an indication what people perceive the value of Vista to be. My guess is that it will be significantly lower than the price Microsoft set for is. Which, in itself, is an indication of the market power of MS.
      • Re:Wow. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by jimstapleton (999106) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @11:30AM (#20940695) Journal
        Conversely, the though of supporting FOSS could artificially inflate the price, MS could ignore that fact, and could argue that people percieve Windows to be worth more than they are charging.

        Double-edged-sword, that.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          Or.. most likely.. the auction will come and go with little fanfare, and a handful of snarky Ubuntu users will get a good laugh, but that's about it.
      • the auctioned price could give an indication what people perceive the value of Vista to be

        Not really, since it's not a commodity good. What's more likely is that the final price will be just under what someone would need to pay directly to MS. That is if there is no perceived value added by the specific situation (such as the good feeling of 'sticking it to the man' by supporting Linux when buying a MS product, or the possible good publicity for a company choosing to bid high).

        If we really wanted to find

  • If they knowing sell on something with known defects (that copy of MS Vista) and it screws up someone's machine -- would they not be liable for any loss that they endured ?
    • by Entropius (188861) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @11:25AM (#20940593)
      I imagine they'll send the guy a complimentary (or should that be "complementary"? ;)) (K)Ubuntu disk in the mail, with the instruction "You'd probably be better off using this instead, but here's the Vista disk you bought."
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Bert64 (520050)
      Were that the case, microsoft would have been bankrupted many years ago.
    • Gees I dunno. Is any seller of Windows held liable? I haven't heard of any instances.
    • by jkrise (535370) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @11:51AM (#20941015) Journal
      If they(Canonical) knowing sell on something with known defects (that copy of MS Vista)...

      I imagine the support call to go something like this:

      Vista User: Hi! I got a problem with Vista.
      MS rep: Only one?
      VU: Yep.. I can't activate
      MS: Where did you get it? Or is it pirated?
      VU: I bought it from Ubuntu
      MS: Those guys haven't paid us protection money... like the good folks at Novell, Xandros..
      VU: But it is still Microsoft Vista on the package... It's got this shticker as well... can I have a license key?
      MS: Okay here you go... 54524524087698032413243064087513243404353040453204753047340873453207.
      VU: I didn't ask for Ballmer's bank balance; just a license key!
      MS: That's what I gave you...
      VU: Okay... I typed it all in.. still won't go forward...
      MS: Okay do this. Put that number in Excel 2007 and divide it by 345.43521; enter the first 128 digits, and then.. .hello? you still there????
      VU: ..................
      MS: Status: Waiting for customer. Next call please!
  • I wonder (Score:3, Funny)

    by Billosaur (927319) * <wgrotherNO@SPAMoptonline.net> on Thursday October 11, 2007 @11:25AM (#20940581) Journal

    Do you think there are people at Microsoft who go home and secretly work Linux by night?

  • ...now that Free Open Source Software is being commercialized by hardware vendors such as Dell, System76, EmperorLinux, Zareason.com, and TechCollective.com, acquiring computers powered by FOSS is straightforward...


    Isn't that conflicting with the definition of "FOSS?"
    • by kmac06 (608921)
      Of course not. No one said the hardware would be free.
    • by jhines (82154)
      Software by itself doesn't do anything, it needs hardware, training, support, etc to be a complete system. Teachers should be good at teaching, not being computer geeks.

      FOSS unlocks the software piece of the system, but the rest is still needed.
      • While that's a good point, is it a guarantee that Dell isn't charging anything for the FOSS being on the system? Dell may claim that they're not charging for the FOSS itself, but for the time it took to get that software set up when it shipped the PC (or something to that effect), but how do we as consumers know that they aren't ripping people off?
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by jhines (82154)
          The lines on the finances can be drawn anywhere, but to stay in business a company has to earn a little profit. Are they marking up Linux, or their services, the hardware, or?

          What is key here is that companies have noticed they can make a profit off of FOSS, rather than being forced to suckle at MS's teat. This isn't bad for FOSS.

          The business (and educational) world wants computers and software that just work.
        • Del pays about $50 for a copy of Vista premium, and the same for Vista basic (since they have to give the customer DVD software as well). So the 50 dollars less they charge for the Ubuntu machines spot on in terms of price.

          More annoying is their refusal to sell low end hardware. (Must but the nVidia card, even though there's a more than powerful (and compatible) enough Intel onboard graphics card in the D530, etc).
        • While that's a good point, is it a guarantee that Dell isn't charging anything for the FOSS being on the system?

          Just where do you get the idea that FOSS software must not be charged for? Really - can you give us any reference that says "Thou Shalt NOT Charge Any Gratuities For Free/Open Source Software"?












          We're waiting...

          And I quote [fsf.org] (from the GPL FAQ over at the FSF):

          Does the GPL allow me to sell copies of the program for money?
          Yes, the GPL allows everyone to do this. The right to sell

  • by muuh-gnu (894733) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @11:27AM (#20940633)
    > using Microsoft's money to pay for the Linux purchases of your school's choice.

    This isnt Microsofts money. This is the money Microsoft extorted from you and is now being forced to give back a tiny amount of this. Any cent that is not going to Microsoft (or even worse, to Apple), but to someone distributing Free Software is great, though.
    • Even worse? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jgs (245596)
      Why is Apple "even worse"? Just curious -- Apple has various unappealing qualities but unlike Microsoft they don't have a monopoly which they've been found guilty of abusing to extort money from you. "Even worse" would seem to be a pretty high bar.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Machtyn (759119)
        Perhaps, it is because HAD Apple gained the marketshare that Microsoft did, not only would we have closed software, we would also have closed hardware.

        While Apple certainly has an extremely creative group of engineers, would we have as much choice and innovation as we do now for hardware if 80+% of the market went with Apple? I think not. This is where the "even worse" comes in, it is in the possibility of what might have happened.

        /Won't somebody please think of the games?!
        • Apple purposely chose to appeal to a niche market, with a closed architecture, so there never was a threat of an 80% Apple market. The closed system/just-works mentality of Apple is so ingrained in their corporate culture, the chance of Apple developing open systems will never been an option. This isn't to say that Apple doesn't WANT a huge market share, it is simply stating that Apple would rather make as good as products as possible and that having a large market share has no correlation to the quality
          • by fjhb (1169335)
            I don't get it; then why do they sell all these iPhones without locking them down? *g*
        • by zenhkim (962487)
          > Perhaps, it is because HAD Apple gained the marketshare that Microsoft did, not only would we have closed software, we would also have closed hardware.

          Ironically, Apple Computer did have an enormous share of the market in its early, Apple II years -- then Steve Jobs went and commandeered the low-cost Apple II development project, codenamed "Macintosh", whereupon he royally screwed with it by turning it into the overhyped, overpriced closed-design system we've all come to know and [love/hate].

          Since it d
      • Why is Apple "even worse"?
        Like the grandparent poster said, this is money extorted from you. It doesn't belong to Apple, thus it can't be stolen from Apple when we redistributed it to the rightful owner, FOSS.

        How the money got into your hands, or why you thought you had a right to decide how to spend that money, is beyond the scope of this thread :-)
    • by jkrise (535370)
      This isnt Microsofts money. This is the money Microsoft extorted from you ....

      Well said!! I wish more people realise this simple fact; and the amount of clout money can bring.

      Still, it would appear that a hatred of Microsoft; and the idea of subvreting the business of an 800lb. gorilla appeals to some people. Personally I wish people use Linux because they LOVE its Unix-like architecture, and the the freedom offered by the GPL; not because they HATE Bill Gates, Ballmer or Microsoft. The latter is a transien
      • I wish people would use software because it's the best tool for the job. Loving and hating operating systems and software, or fretting about licensing, is the hobbiest and geek fascination. If MS-Word has some function that's a must-have and can't be found in OO.org or some other competing word processor, then use Word.

        What I don't like is when people use arguments like "Windows is easier to use" when, in fact, it's really not that much easier to use. I find Ubuntu's installer and update system far easie
        • by G Morgan (979144)
          I can't remember when the last time I saw a 'must have' function that wasn't common across all systems was (other than automated package management of course but you've already mentioned that). There is, in reality, little that is exclusive to programs like Word that come even close to the feature of using an open standard.

          Most of these killer features are little more than party tricks of limited real use. Take the ribbon, a system that makes general functionality slightly more difficult to use in order to
  • Cool! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Penguinisto (415985) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @11:29AM (#20940663) Journal
    I like the fact that schools are (finally!) looking at Linux as a viable OS for the classroom. Seriously, we've come a long way - I remember trying to get it introduced as curriculum in 2000 at the college I taught at, and it took a metric ton of tooth-pulling to get done.

    I've seen (at least in Utah when I lived there) schools transitioning from NetWare servers to Linux-based ones, but the classroom pretty much was all Windows, all the time.

    Now when will we see OpenOffice being taught in the High School and collegiate business courses, instead of you-know-who?

    /P

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ExE122 (954104) *
      I come from a nerdy IT college that was almost exclusively Linux. However I've worked on setting up labs with a friend of mine at another college down the road, and they insisted on being exclusively Windows. Their argument was that Windows was more "user friendly".

      I think the problem is that most schools don't realize that running Linux doesn't mean you have to learn how to write bash scripts, develop C code, and use vi to edit documents (even though regex editing pwns).

      I think Linux vendors just n
      • I wish... (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mpapet (761907)
        ... they insisted on being exclusively Windows... I think Linux vendors just need to do a better job of marketing themselves

        This is the equivalent of the Photoshop/GIMP discussion that's endlessly recycled on /. "If only GIMP had feature X...." Well bad news, even when GIMP gets feature X, they'll have a new reason for not switching.

        In both cases they are so single-minded they happily accept all of the limitations/expenses they bring upon themselves. Trying to convince them otherwise is a steep, nasty,
      • by kwandar (733439)

        I've been on Ubuntu Linux for about 3 months, and had dabbled in it many, many years ago. I'm an XP user both at work and at home, and I'm not a techie.

        I was absolutely stunned at how much easier Ubuntu was to use, than Linux. Cleaner desktop and with Expose from Compiz it is a wonder. The only thing is that while you can use it, you need further learning curve if you want to get in any deeper (like where files are, etc).

        Tell your non-nerdy colleague to try a Ubuntu Live disk (probably Mandriva, SLED a

      • by maxume (22995)
        Professional solutions pwn.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by halber_mensch (851834)

        I come from a nerdy IT college that was almost exclusively Linux. However I've worked on setting up labs with a friend of mine at another college down the road, and they insisted on being exclusively Windows. Their argument was that Windows was more "user friendly".

        I rather think that users and observers commonly mistake "user-friendly" to be "a familiar type and amount of pain". Windows is less easy to use than it is familiar, and remembering the pain it took to gain that familiarity many users will shy from diving into something new fearing what new pain to unveil from a different system.

        • And let's remember that every major new revision of Windows has had a lot of pain for users. Going from Windows 3.1 to Windows 95 was a helluva big change, and moving from Windows 95 to Windows XP was, while somewhat less daunting, still getting used to changes. Hell, look at all the people screaming about Vista and how things don't work like they used to and how they can't stand all the popups and so on and so forth.

          The fact is that there would be no more pain in going to Ubuntu or to OSX if that's what
          • And let's remember that every major new revision of Windows has had a lot of pain for users. Going from Windows 3.1 to Windows 95 was a helluva big change, and moving from Windows 95 to Windows XP was, while somewhat less daunting, still getting used to changes.

            But it's got (Can you believe it?!), Reversi! And all this for $500? $1000? Even more? No it's just $99! All these feature plus reversi all for just $99, what an incredible value!

    • by argiedot (1035754)
      I've always wondered why people were 'taught' Office. It sounds so ridiculous. Or maybe you do some fancy stuff, because in school our questions were like, "What is the shortcut key for Italics?"
      • I've always wondered why people were 'taught' Office. It sounds so ridiculous. Or maybe you do some fancy stuff, because in school our questions were like, "What is the shortcut key for Italics?"

        The classes I'd seen (I had taught CompSci, not Buisiness) were more for the 'trade-school' type courses, where it serves to help, say, suddenly divorced and/or single mothers... It gives them enough basic and intermediate office app skills to land an entry-level position in a typical office. It's also helpful to budding accountants, entry-level managers, receptionists, HR types... positions where you have to use the thing on a daily basis for anything beyond writing a letter, memo, or a simple spreadshe

  • by neokushan (932374) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @11:29AM (#20940681)
    But Microsoft owns all of the copyrights for Linux anyway, according to Ballmer, remember?
    • Novell owns all the copyrights. Ballmer just wishes they owned the copyrights - just think how much money they could make on copyright infringement. Have you ever heard of companies having copyright cross licensing agreements? Didn't think so. MS could keep all the money for themselves!!!
    • by fjhb (1169335)
      Not at all! They don't own copyrights, they own a thing called "Intellectual Property". Nobody really knows what IP means though. Maybe they mean patents, but then again nobody knows which patents and where.

      All in all, I think they just own *something*. Well, probably. :-)

  • And! (Score:1, Redundant)

    by Otter (3800)
    But now that Free Open Source Software is being commercialized by hardware vendors such as Dell, System76, EmperorLinux, Zareason.com, and TechCollective.com, acquiring computers powered by FOSS is straightforward.

    Don't forget the teaching-mental-patients-to-install-Ubuntu-on-old-computers-and-that's-much-more-important-than-saving-the-gorillas guy!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 11, 2007 @11:37AM (#20940805)
    with the Gates Foundation grants. Unless the process has changed since the last time my organization went through it, it's possible to spec out alternate equipment and software instead of accepting the "recommended" equipment. That, and if you have funds remaining after your purchase, you can buy more equipment, so long as it's for public computing. I funded a LTSP-based thin client server that way...
  • Not to sound like a dick but this sounds pretty anecdotal. I'd be willing to bet 90%+ will still be going right back to Microsoft.
    • Well, there's a third option. How about using the money to get new hardware and transfer the existing licenses? I'm fairly sure a good deal of schools will go for that.
    • @ Selfbain

      Not to sound like a dick but this sounds pretty anecdotal. I'd be willing to bet 90%+ will still be going right back to Microsoft.

      IMHO, the more school administrators who know that they can just buy an off-the-shelf Linux box from a commercial vendor like Zareason.com or System76 or EmperorLinux or TechCollective.com or Dell, the more likely they are too feel comfortable making a purchase of FOSS-based computers.

      So, Selfbain, if you would like to help make sure that 90%+ do NOT go back to Micr

  • "Microsoft probably anticipated that school districts would mainly use the settlement to buy more Microsoft products, with a few Apple purchases sprinkled in here and there." That's a pretty big "who cares" isn't it? Whatever Microsoft thought the fine would be used for doesn't make a bean of difference. The true irony would have been if the money WAS really being used to buy mostly Microsoft products. Then you'd have bamboozled consumers paying --> microsoft paying --> government fines paying -->
    • by smussman (1160103)
      While Microsoft may end up with the money, the school districts end up with newer, hopefully better equipment, without having to pay from their regular budgets. Microsoft is still being forced to give up something of value.
  • The headline and Christian's summary are pretty misleading. They make it sound like the voucher money is being used for a massive adoption of FOSS in California. But all Christian really knows about is his own efforts to implement FOSS at his own charter school. I suspect that most of the money is actually getting spent as Microsoft thought it would: on Microsoft technology. This would be particularly likely at the non-charter schools that still make up the vast majority of the California system. The educat
    • I'm not trying to be argumentative, but could you defend your statement that FOSS allows for a greater educational impact? You aren't wrong, btw, I just like other people to see why. My MA Education thesis is steeped in Educational Technology, and I'm constantly amazed at how many people think we need to teach kids how to use Microsoft, because "that's what they use in the business world". This declaration is ridiculously short-sighted and fails almost every premise of the purpose of using technology for
      • by bcattwoo (737354)

        I'm not trying to be argumentative, but could you defend your statement that FOSS allows for a greater educational impact?
        For Pete's sake, if you like other people to see why and you did an MA thesis on it, why don't you tell us yourself? The roundabout ways that people try to make points on here sometimes drives me crazy. I really would like to hear about the greater educational impact FOSS has on high school students though.
        • I'd tell you myself, but I don't know why FOSS allows for better education, because my research didn't focus on FOSS. This is why I'm asking this guy to tell us. I'm not trying to make ANY point about FOSS, nor am I going about it in a roundabout way. Like you, I would LOVE to hear about the impact FOSS has on education.

          What I WAS trying to do, however, was not sound like an argumentative jerk. I apologize for being too apologetic. (Oh, the irony of that statement).

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by fm6 (162816)
        Your graduate studies and my own unschooled intuitions and prejudices seem to have led us both to the same place: an impatience with people who don't grasp the difference between "education" and "training". The one gives you general mental skills that serve you in a variety of situations; the other just teaches you how to perform various tasks. Education is always useful, even in situations you haven't specifically prepared for; training is just useful for the specific situation.

        I know a lot of people are c
        • Best post this month! You summarized my research in the first three paragraphs. Why the hell did I even bother? I spent all that money, and you spent none, yet we come to the same conclusion. Don't I feel like a fool now :-)

          A school I used to work at started handing out faux-Microsoft certifications for kids who where able to figure out the features of Excel, Word, PowerPoint, etc. which is kind of scary, since: a) real certifications already exist, and b) they were only demonstrating a mastery of tr

          • by fm6 (162816)

            You summarized my research in the first three paragraphs. Why the hell did I even bother?
            Because when I say it, it's just an opinion. But research results are evidence.

            Are you sure those Microsoft certificates are fake? The real ones are absurdly easy to get.
    • @fm6:

      You wrote:

      But his story is really a How To item, not news item about Microsoft being hoisted by its own petard.
      This program is still early. There is still time for other schools to use this program. Many FOSS vendors and school administrators and FOSS advocates might not know that this program exists. That is why I submitted this story to Slashdot. We need to get the word out. Slashdot is good at that. ;-)
      • I'm not criticizing you for publicizing your efforts (which deserve to be publicized). But please don't portray your work as part of a trend. You need more than one data point to draw a curve. And you're following in the FOSS tradition of claiming your success before it's actually happened — a tradition that is not good for your credibility.
        • @fm6:

          You wrote:

          I'm not criticizing you for publicizing your efforts (which deserve to be publicized). But please don't portray your work as part of a trend.

          Thanks for the nice comment in that first sentence. With regard to portraying my work as a trend, I'm not sure that I did say anything that would say that such a trend existed. Please read the summary carefully. I said that getting a pre-installed FOSS box is now "straightforward." I said that

          But now that Free Open Source Software is being comme

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