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Education Microsoft Open Source Linux

NZ School Goes Open Source Amid Microsoft Mandate 305

Posted by kdawson
from the kiwis-and-penguins-sittin'-in-a-tree dept.
Dan Jones writes "Kiwis have built an entire school IT system out of open source software, in less than two months, despite a deal between the New Zealand government and Microsoft that effectively mandates the use of Microsoft products in the country's schools. Albany Senior High School in the northern suburbs of Auckland has been running an entirely open source infrastructure since it opened in 2009. It's using a range of applications like OpenOffice, Moodle for education content, Mahara for student portfolios, and Koha for the library catalogue. Ubuntu Linux is on the desktop and Mandriva provides the server. Interestingly, the school will move into new purpose-built premises this year, which include a dedicated server room design based on standard New Zealand school requirements, including four racks each capable of holding 48 servers for its main systems. The main infrastructure at Albany Senior High only requires four servers, suggesting an almost 50-fold saving on hardware requirements."
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NZ School Goes Open Source Amid Microsoft Mandate

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  • 50-fold savings? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PCM2 (4486) on Monday January 25, 2010 @02:56AM (#30886824) Homepage

    The school only has 230 students. I have a hard time believing they'd need 192 servers whether they used Linux or not.

    And BTW, as long as you're standing on my lawn, may I remind you that my own high school's expenditure on servers was exactly zero? How's that for savings?

  • 192 Server Capacity? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 25, 2010 @02:57AM (#30886834)

    OK, 4 racks * 48 servers/rack = 192 servers at new location.
    They say they are getting by (right now) with only 4.

    Is is because they just over built the location, or are they expecting to do something which needs more power on the back end?

    Ah, just hit me while typing. Server Capacity might be better read as rack units available. 42U is about a 7 foot rack.
    So maybe the someone assumed 1U servers (42/rack capacity) when it might end up being multi-unit NAS boxes or something?

  • FTA (Score:4, Interesting)

    by wizardforce (1005805) on Monday January 25, 2010 @03:00AM (#30886852) Journal

    a long-standing contract with the national government means the software giant is paid for technology for the school even though none has been used.

    Well isn't that lovely. Demonstrably corrupt.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 25, 2010 @03:07AM (#30886892)

    I can't do math right now.
    So when I say 42 I mean 48.
    Since 7 foot = 84 inches. If 1U = 1.75inches, 84/1.75 = 48.

  • by rdunnell (313839) on Monday January 25, 2010 @03:12AM (#30886920)

    So the article basically says that they have a machine room with four somewhat standard racks. That's pretty small. Figure that at some point you'll need some network gear which will likely take up at least one of the racks (switches, patch panels to other areas of the building, routers/firewalls), hopefully some UPS gear, a few servers.. four 48U racks doesn't go very far. And it only makes sense nowadays to have a couple larger servers hosting a bunch of virtual machines for mundane things. They would be wise to do that no matter what OS they run, and that more than anything is why you can cut down on the number of physical machines that are installed.

  • Re:50-fold savings? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by WillRobinson (159226) on Monday January 25, 2010 @03:13AM (#30886926) Journal

    I agree, we had no servers. And I will tell you the access time to any students records was guaranteed to be less than the time it takes to log in. The gall if it! We actually used folders, and paper! Humm can we sue Microsoft for prior art? I mean folder, and object inside like Pictures and documents! When my kids ask what our generation did, I tell them where do you think the computers and internet came from? You think Al Gore invented it? Pufft

  • Re:FTA (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Low Ranked Craig (1327799) on Monday January 25, 2010 @03:17AM (#30886948)

    Demonstrably corrupt.

    Not really. It's a volume license agreement for schools, etc. I don't see how "not-necessarily smart decision" == corruption, unless you know something we don't? And it could be a good business decision if the majority of the schools use Windows, etc - the volume discounts can be significant.

  • by ittanmomen (596981) on Monday January 25, 2010 @03:58AM (#30887168)

    I suppose what the article means is that there are 4 x 48U racks installed in the server room. It is fiction that each rack could actually loaded with 48 x 1U servers! Potential problems are: cooling, weight, air (fire hazard), power supply.

    Most likely actual rack usage looks as follows:

    - Rack with 5 Servers
    - Rack for Patching and switches
    - Rack for phone system / phone patches
    - Rack for backup.

    If they have remaining capacity, they could rent it out/sell to other community organisations.

  • Not a matter of cost (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Casandro (751346) on Monday January 25, 2010 @04:05AM (#30887204)

    Today it's just sensible to use open source.Not only does it cause far fewer headaches, it also enables children to learn more about the technology.
    It's much easier for interested children to expand their knowledge. For example if they want to learn about TCP/IP, they can just use netcat, and then later maybe wireshark.
    Others might learn about programming by using shell scripts.

    Over time you will have many people in lots of different jobs knowing a bit about computers. This will lead to departments having one or two persons with such experience. The knowledge of those people will then slowly diffuse in the department and cause higher efficiency.

  • Re:Huh? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MichaelSmith (789609) on Monday January 25, 2010 @04:32AM (#30887350) Homepage Journal

    Its the same where I work. A rate is negotiated based on the number of systems (and in my case) vmware images running windows. But if we save on windows licenses it helps in the long term because future contracts will get buy with fewer licenses.

  • Re:FTA (Score:5, Interesting)

    by WeirdJohn (1170585) on Monday January 25, 2010 @04:32AM (#30887352)

    The catch in Queensland is that unless you are using the MOI (mandated operating interface) you are screwed. Using Firefox? Sorry, can't help you. OO.org? Same thing. Not Outlook? Then it's your fault you have an email issue. Does AVG show a virus? Not a mandated scanner, so you are NOT infected. Try using squeak in the classroom, and you get slapped. Don't use linux, or cygwin etc. In fact any non-approved software can (and often will) be deleted if your laptop is dropped into Information Services, as your problem is put down to "non-mandated software" as the 1st option.

    This clearly makes support simpler, but can make teaching more challenging, especially if you want the kids to use computers as tools for thinking, and not just document management systems.

  • Re:FTA (Score:5, Interesting)

    by thoughtfulbloke (1091595) on Monday January 25, 2010 @04:37AM (#30887380)
    And you would be exactly correct. To provide some added context, when the government was negotiating the 2007-2009 volume licence period, it was not economical to get a full New Zealand wide licence for schools for Microsoft Office for the Macintosh so that part of the licence was dropped. The recommendation [minedu.govt.nz] was to substitute iWork (via an NZ wide licence negotiated via Apple) or Open Office (or buy individual MS for Mac licences). The Ministry of Education works out how many copies are in use, and if it is worth a nation-wide site licence.
    Keep in mind that, in New Zealand, the software that is used in schools will ultimately be paid for by the Ministry of Education either through a general licences or as part of the budgets devolved to schools, so it is in the Ministries interest to minimise the overall cost.
    And, as a semi-aside New Zealand has been the least corrupt country on Transparency International's index pretty much every year since 2003 (some years were ties with Denmark), and the volume licence was an example of the Government serving the needs of individual schools well (who were going to use MS stuff anyway), rather than a corrupt deal.
  • Re:50-fold savings? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 25, 2010 @05:07AM (#30887528)

    The school's roll is projected to grow to 1400 within 5 years.

  • Re:Huh? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by styrotech (136124) on Monday January 25, 2010 @05:36AM (#30887632)

    Standard slashdot bias and hype. FUD FUD FUD

    You're blaming slashdot for that statement? It was taken directly from the article on CIO magazines website.

    Sounds like you've got your own set of biases going on.

  • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Monday January 25, 2010 @08:57AM (#30888666) Homepage Journal

    School is simply not what you should look at, if you want to educate your children to become creatives and leaders.

    ITYM public school. You know, where the leaders of our country don't go. One big problem with the existence of private schools is that our leaders have no concept of what life is like for the average child. I was one of about four kids in my class who were always done early, and got top marks. But I couldn't just lay my head down on my desk and wait quietly when I was done, as I was expected to do, and ended up writing lines and shit like that for "disrupting the class", literally by doing things like "looking at the other children". Public school is a system intended to create soldiers and factory workers, and guess what? Most of the factories are gone. What's left?

  • by hey! (33014) on Monday January 25, 2010 @09:50AM (#30889078) Homepage Journal

    Really?

    The "peripatetics" we so named because Aristotle taught his students by strolling around and chatting.

    The "stoics" were named for the *stoa* or marketplace, bucause that's where they used to shoot the shit.

    The "cynics" used to lurk under bridges, from whence they could hop out and intellectually ambush the unwary traveler (making them the first *trolls*).

    The one thing you'd never see in ancient Greece is a group of students sitting in a rectangular grid of seats all doing identical work in parallel. That would have been seen as very strange indeed. Now we can't lay this entirely at Bismarck's feet, because it goes back further, to the need to impart Latin grammar to large number of aspiring but not too wealthy students (thus the "grammar school"). You wouldn't teach a gentleman that way, he'd have a tutor.

    This class distinction remains in education today. Look at a top tier "prep" school that cater to the economic elite of this country, and you'll see a model which (unlike the standard classroom) would have made sense to the Greeks: a small number of students, maybe half a dozen, sitting around a table and having a discussion with a professor. That's because the results really matter; the aim is to produce an elite class. The method used to train our elite could be done walking around, or hanging around the marketplace, although lurking under bridges. They're supposed to be able think for themselves, but only within certain confines (i.e. not questioning the existence of an elite).

    I'll go back under my bridge now.

  • Re:Huh? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by hey! (33014) on Monday January 25, 2010 @09:51AM (#30889094) Homepage Journal

    Weird huh?

    A private company taxing *the government*.

  • anonymous bullshit (Score:3, Interesting)

    by viralMeme (1461143) on Monday January 25, 2010 @11:31AM (#30890558)
    "I have worked with hundreds of NZ schools IT in my career"

    In what capacity, what are the names of these schools.

    The schools with Linux networks BURN CASH on consultants .."

    Absolute rubbish, once a Linux server is installed and configured, (and baring hardware failure)it just runs. Perhaps you should have consulted the people at Albany Senior High School.

    The tight time frame -- two weeks for evaluation, one week for design and two weeks for implementation -- didn't create too much disruption, Brennan said. "Although everything wasn't as polished as it could have been, when the school opened all of the core functionality was there. And it's been running for a year with no significant intervention. It hasn't really been touched in any fundamental way since then [cio.com.au] "

    Where do you get your 'BURN CASH on consultants' from. Come again .. perhaps you aren't very good at your job.

    "This school is new as such has lots of startup funding .."

    Where does it say they had lots of startup funding and running for a year is hardly new.

    "Posting AC for obvious reasons"

    Because you're talking total bullshit ..
  • by advocate_one (662832) on Monday January 25, 2010 @01:29PM (#30892714)

    This class distinction remains in education today. Look at a top tier "prep" school that cater to the economic elite of this country, and you'll see a model which (unlike the standard classroom) would have made sense to the Greeks: a small number of students, maybe half a dozen, sitting around a table and having a discussion with a professor. That's because the results really matter; the aim is to produce an elite class. The method used to train our elite could be done walking around, or hanging around the marketplace, although lurking under bridges. They're supposed to be able think for themselves, but only within certain confines (i.e. not questioning the existence of an elite).

    don't forget that the original universities were gatherings of students who employed the best professors they could find and afford... completely unlike the "modern" universities these days, where the staff have managed to reverse roles and set themselves up as "establishments" of "learning" that confer the award of degrees on those students who survive the hurdles set in place...

Whenever a system becomes completely defined, some damn fool discovers something which either abolishes the system or expands it beyond recognition.

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