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Education Microsoft Linux

Free Software For All Russian Schools In Jeopardy 265

Posted by kdawson
from the borg-not-taking-it-lying-down dept.
Glyn Moody writes "Last year, we discussed here a Russian plan to install free software in all its schools. Seems things aren't going so well. Funds for the project have been cut back, some of the free software discs already sent out were faulty, and — inevitably — Microsoft has agreed to a 'special price' for Windows XP used in Russian schools."
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Free Software For All Russian Schools In Jeopardy

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  • Costs (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Idiomatick (976696) on Sunday November 15, 2009 @10:35PM (#30111258)
    "Funds for the project have been cut back..."
    FOSS should seriously be cheaper to roll out than XP. Windows would have to reduce the price to near nothing... Does this say something sad about the usability of FOSS?
  • Re:In Soviet Russia (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Darkness404 (1287218) on Sunday November 15, 2009 @10:39PM (#30111286)
    It depends though. If you look at a lot of (American) schools technology is crap. About 2 years ago I was in an elementary school computer lab with computers still running Windows 98(!) on hardware made for Windows 95. And legacy software wasn't the issue the school just didn't have the funds or the motivation to switch. After all a kid can learn just as well on a Pentium II that takes 4 minutes to respond to mouse input as a Core 2 duo that responds instantly right? Even the small expense of some noiseless thin clients and a powerful server might be too much because until the HDDs are dead, the memory is bad, the CD drives are stuck and the monitor has exploded, they have no desire to upgrade.

    Retraining is also hard. Schools (at least in America) generally have a large amount of dead weight. Teachers long past their prime who teach boring classes who are apathetic towards students but who have been tenured and can't be fired without having to fight through the unions. These teachers have no desire to get a new keyboard, let alone an entirely new OS or new ways of doing things. In fact I'm sure a lot of them would rather have paper grades and typewriters. So when the price is $20,000 to switch to Linux $50,000 to upgrade Windows or just $0 to do absolutely nothing, many schools choose the free option especially in lower grades.
  • Re:Special pricing. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Beelzebud (1361137) on Sunday November 15, 2009 @10:49PM (#30111382)
    Yes because we all know that open source software never has problems that pop up in deployment...
  • Solaris time! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Akir (878284) on Sunday November 15, 2009 @11:36PM (#30111694)

    If the problem with deploying Linux is not having enough trained professionals, why not go with Solaris? OpenSolaris is free, and Sun offers training for it. Don't know if they have russian solaris training, though. Or they could go through multiple other training sources that are available for Linux. No matter how you put it, paying for windows, no matter how low your discount is, doesn't make sense. For chrissakes - if everyone in Russia were running Linux, wouldn't that get rid of the training problems?

  • Re:In Soviet Russia (Score:2, Interesting)

    by symbolset (646467) on Sunday November 15, 2009 @11:44PM (#30111746) Journal
    Ooh mister smartypants -the teacher did in fact buy the Windows from the government's official vendor at the going rate and he had no way to know they sold him cracked software. Nice try. You have no idea how government business is conducted in Russia, do you?
  • Re:In Soviet Russia (Score:2, Interesting)

    by symbolset (646467) on Monday November 16, 2009 @12:24AM (#30111934) Journal

    I don't know about the GP, but I've never done any command line or text file management of the Debian box I'm typing this on (up about a year now). Until I read your post I hadn't thought about at all but yeah, things have changed quite a bit in the last few years. I still wget on the command line and edit files by hand for programming projects, but for system admin? Not any more. I can't remember how long it's been.

    Now, to config a server to give some options to a thousand netbooted clients whether to start various types of thin client, VDI, DBAN, Clonezilla or select from available installer images? That's going to be a text file, but what the heck - you can't do that in Windows no matter what you edit. But xorg.conf or .desktop? I don't even remember the syntax. Are they still on M4 or whatever the heck that heinous syntax was?

  • by mysidia (191772) on Monday November 16, 2009 @12:26AM (#30111946)

    Not really.. it's not robust competition from MS. It's a special temporary deal to try to dissuade them from going to free sw.

    Once they're using MS sw, they'll be locked in pretty quickly and can't switch, the price will shoot right back up immediately.

  • by shermo (1284310) on Monday November 16, 2009 @12:42AM (#30112018)

    Maybe yes, maybe no.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Predatory_pricing [wikipedia.org]

    Predatory pricing is a great example of competition at work.

    PS. Can I get some of those windows licenses at that price?

  • by westlake (615356) on Monday November 16, 2009 @01:48AM (#30112338)

    Last year, we discussed here a Russian plan to install free software in all its schools. Seems things aren't going so well. Funds for the project have been cut back, some of the free software discs already sent out were faulty

    There is more to FOSS than Linux.

    One of the great strengths of the Windows platform is that it has always been licence-agnostic.

    The system never frets or complains when you try to install an app that doesn't meet Microsoft's standards of political correctness.

    The Linux distro can make you jump through a hoop or two or three before you get to that closed source app or binary driver.

    Windows does like to see a signature.

    Which makes perfect sense when you realize that there are thousands of independent Windows "repositories" with names like Download.com.

    OLPC ran into trouble because of its "all or nothing" attidude.

    The education minister was expected to buy into its bundle of hardware, software, and constructivist philosophy of education without any inconvenient doubts or questions.

    When the minister took his business elsewhere there was suddenly room in OLPC for XP and MS Office.

    The moral of the story being that it isn't always wise to try to take all the apple in one bite.

    You can successfully introduce FOSS into the Russian classroom without trying to replace the whole of the existing Windows infrastructure at the same time.

    The competition might even force you to look more closely at the quality of your open source product.

  • Re:In Soviet Russia (Score:4, Interesting)

    by symbolset (646467) on Monday November 16, 2009 @02:08AM (#30112416) Journal

    I've said this before in this thread so I'll cut you some slack and refer to my other posts. In Soviet Russia manpower is cheap. It's a very top-down management system. People are so resourceful that some of them don't just build their own schools from raw trees, they have to go out and earn the scratch to buy the tools to do so with manual labor or barter. This doesn't just apply to schools - in some ways their space program works the same way. It's terrible to think about what an engineer will do to actually get to perform some engineering. The whole ROI thing does not work in Russia. If people protest that they need Windows it's because they have been paid to do so or incentivised to do so by other people who have been paid to motivate them to protest, and even in that they accept some risk. In most cases these folks are glad to have books, heat, one computer per classroom and a classroom to teach in. This is nothing close to a free market economy. They achieve great things with these constraints because they are well motivated (inspired) and because they hope to bring about progress. On average, they're also bright because being stupid is in their system more fatal than it is in ours and in this case Darwin wins.

    Urban Russia is not like this but Russia is vast and Urban Russia is but a small fraction of the schools and those few are even more politically (and unoficially) motivated.

    Russians are very adaptable and resourceful in ways you cannot imagine. The difficulty in switching software systems is absolutely nothing to them. It's background noise. Compared to the difficulties of their normal lives outside of teaching it's not worth considering. Some teachers have not been paid their salaries for years and eke by on donations from the families of their students or in barter where they develop value above and beyond their official duties.

    Russia is a very different place than you are used to. So no, overcoming the objections you mount are so trivial to them as to not be worth consideration.

    OSS is great, but it is rarely free for non-personal use.

    Ok now you're just plain lying. There are some OSS solutions that are not also free, but they're so rare and limited as to be unworthy of consideration. How desperate must you be to lie about the plainly obvious? In FOSS not only can the average user download an operating system and 50,000 useful applications for every endeavor, they can do with it what they will whether it's personal or government or corporate use, without the risk of years in a Siberian prison that Microsoft solutions provide. They can install it on a billion machines and the only restriction is that if they make changes and share them outside their organization they have to include the source code. If they build on BSD they don't even have that problem as they can even sell their innovations for a profit and not share the source code. This may sound harsh to you but as an alternative to using your spare time to turn trees into homes for favored Russians who have cash, it's a slam dunk. The fact that Linux runs well on the legacy hardware they're faced with is just a bonus.

    It is very un-Russian to complain unless you are motivated to complain by some promised money. Where is this money coming from?

  • Re: you're very TRUE (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 16, 2009 @02:23AM (#30112480)

    I am from soviet union country and I was loving reading this post :D.

    The problem we faced was that not enough management was done to do complete switching to linux. And those managers in power had no idea about linux.

  • Re:In Soviet Russia (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Spad (470073) <slashdot@@@spad...co...uk> on Monday November 16, 2009 @05:26AM (#30113274) Homepage

    If anything, Microsoft is moving *more* stuff to the CLI. Look at Exchange 2007; half the management tasks can *only* be carried out from the Powershell management interface and it looks like they're headed the same way with most of the new versions of their core apps (including Server core, obviously).

    Not that it's a bad thing (I love Powershell, having been stuck with VBScript for automating Windows admin tasks for years).

  • Re:In Soviet Russia (Score:3, Interesting)

    by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Monday November 16, 2009 @05:29AM (#30113286) Journal

    Wow thanks...I so rarely get to use this in a sentence....WOOOOSH! Way to not read the post there pal! Kinda miss the part where I said i didn't want to be their free admin for life? What should I do, constantly trawl forums for lists of supported hardware and hope like hell somebody doesn't drop any Lexmark printers or Broadcom wireless chips off?

    The POINT was it don't take squat for time to show someone how to admin a Windows box. Lock it down, only allow limited users, hell your already halfway home! And then there is the MAJOR hardware issue with Linux. Does this wireless work? What about this printer? Can you tell me RIGHT NOW without looking it up which items on sale at Best Buy, walmart, and Staples work perfectly with Linux? Are YOU gonna rush out there every time a distro update borks video and/or sound?

    I've said it before and I'll say it again-Linux is NOT like Windows, but is much closer to a Mac. It works fine IF and ONLY IF, you get the right hardware/software and don't mess with it. But we are talking donated machines? You know...bunches of Dell, HP, Compaq, eMachines, all with different funky ass hardware. Ever try to get Linux working with an Ali sound chip? How about a SiS network/sound/video combo? Just because it works good on the SINGLE box you picked out JUST FOR Linux, or tweaked for a day to get it just right, doesn't mean Linux will work in the situation we are talking about. You are talking apples, we are talking oranges.

    And finally yes, I know about ipconfig. The point is this-do you know how many times I have HAD TO drop to CLI in Windows? In the nearly 15 years I've been working I can count the number on one hand. Last was during the Win9x era. Sure it can be faster to just go CLI, but you should NEVER EVER have to. And with Linux it is the opposite...often that will be the first, last, and ONLY answer you get to a problem. Yeah, no thanks. I have no desire to be a free admin for life just to push a "free OS" when I can reinstall the Windows license on the box (so it is free to them) and be done with it. My after sale/give away support costs? Zero dollars. That is the "free" that I care about. But hey, call your local school, I'm sure they'll be happy to have you admin the entire school for free, just so you can "sell" them Linux. Good luck with that.

  • by ledow (319597) on Monday November 16, 2009 @07:51AM (#30113882) Homepage

    In theory, you may think you're right.

    In practice - by the time these kids get into management, it's unlikely that anything will even be similar. I grew up on BBC Micros, BBC BASIC and a CP/M word processor in school - and I'm only 30. The entire face of computing changes on a regular basis (e.g. the whole Internet thing becoming popular).

    Additionally, you go with whatever makes business sense. If MS makes business sense to you, go with it. If not, then don't. It's quite simple. There are no end of dirty tricks, especially in education, but to say that what the students grow up with determines the future is incorrect. What they grow up with determines what they *fix* in the future.

    And I'm a complete OSS fanatic. But I work in education. There, the child matters. I use OSS servers and OSS web apps and OSS utilities and little OSS programs. But the bulk of the desktop in a school is proprietary educational software with *no* free equivalent at all because it takes decades of teaching experience to write a good program, it needs to be kept up to date with all the latest curricula (down to the letter) and not overwhelm the user with curricular choices. The only OSS desktop app I've ever got into schools in a big way was TuxPaint in primary schools (because over here it effectively replaces something called RM Colour Magic that's a heap of shit)... and only because it worked on Windows too.

    Education is a *completely* different market and you can't understand it until you've worked in it. Backend? Nobody cares. Whether the desktops actually run Windows / Office, nobody cares. But if something they want to pay £5000 for a site licence for can't run (because it saves the teacher 30 mins a day in the course of their job), that's a dead system to them. Percentage of software that is *required* for my current school to operate for this term, which can run under WINE? About 5%, not including Office (which can be replaced with an equivalent).

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