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The Almighty Buck Software Linux

Ostrich Lessons In Oregon? 255

dalslad writes "Oregon Schools Prove Linux Saves Money, says the headline but this article says "One has to wonder if Northwest school districts took ostrich lessons; they must represent the biggest secret in the Linux community. If their successes occurred in New York, Microsoft would be fighting for 5% of the PC desktop share". Maybe so? I've seen a lot of sites with Linux success stories, but the K12 Linux projects show progress I never knew existed." Yeah, I don't think that the schools are going to prove to be the sole factor in Linux on the desktop, but it's a good step. More importantly, I think the success of the system depends on projects like the K12 Linux project and its like, especially for broader individual usage.
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Ostrich Lessons In Oregon?

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  • by sweeney37 ( 325921 ) * <<mikesweeney> <at> <>> on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @08:54AM (#6338385) Homepage Journal
    With Microsoft's desire to have complete market dominance [], how long before they start offering schools free, or cut-rate discounts all under the guise of "charity" []?

    Get 'em hooked early, then they'll never be able to stop using it.

  • by binarytoaster ( 174681 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @08:55AM (#6338391)
    Yeah, I don't think that the schools are going to prove to be the sole factor in Linux on the desktop, but it's a good step.
    Remember way back when, when Apple donated a bunch of Macs to the schools? Yeah, then the parents all bought Macs for compatibility and because their kids knew how to use them.

    That was when computers were new; however, teaching them how to use Linux at a young age can affect how they decide later on. Now when they see Linux, they won't think "Ugh, I'm not going to be able to use it, so even if it is free..." - they'll be thinking "Hmm, I learned how to do this in school, maybe I'll try it at home."

    This is a nice step...
  • by under_score ( 65824 ) <mishkin@ber[ ] ['tei' in gap]> on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @08:58AM (#6338415) Homepage

    Linux is great. I personally use it as a server (along with FreeBSD), and I have RH8 running in a desktop configuration. However, I still haven't completely rid myself of Windows because I am lacking certain types of software that will run on Linux. Dreamweaver for myself and my wife, and a multitude of educational games for our kids.

    So I have a question... what is available to replace this type of software? I haven't heard of _any_ educational games for kids! Is there some other way that I can solve this problem?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @09:02AM (#6338438)
    I was personally involved in pushing for linux use in school networks, and met with huge amounts of resistance - especailly immediately after that point at which MS threatened to audit Portland public schools with their gestapo license enforcement crap. I swear to honest god someone on the school board was getting paid off or some shit.

    We installed linux at a few schools anyway, on their network cores, only to come back later and see that the admins had come around and installed win2k right behind us.

    I wonder why MS isn't offering these cut rates to schools like they do to countries and organizations that are threatening to use OSS.

  • Maybe... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Infernon ( 460398 ) * <infernon AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @09:12AM (#6338498)
    I don't think that the schools are going to prove to be the sole factor in Linux on the desktop, but it's a good step.

    Maybe it won't be the sole factor, but it sure as hell is going to make a huge difference. Think of all of the lucky kids who are getting to know Linux at a young age and take that knowledge and (hopefully) preference into adulthood.
  • by WPIDalamar ( 122110 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @09:13AM (#6338504) Homepage

    I work for an educational software company... and I've never heard of anyone asking for linux versions of any of our products. If you want companies to make linux versions, you need to get on the ball and ask for them... hint hint...
  • by mmol_6453 ( 231450 ) <short,circuit&mail,grnet,com> on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @09:19AM (#6338539) Homepage Journal
    When I was in elementary school (K-6), my schools used Apples and Macs. (Remember that Apple did the whole "charity" thing once, too.) I don't think it had much of an impact on the students. It didn't have any affect on me or anyone I knew. The only reason I'd get a Mac would be to get a piece of that IBM's 970 processor.

    Unfortunately, I expect the same will be true of exposure to Linux. Most of the benefits that schools will see in Linux systems will come from the administrative end. To get exposed students interested in running the platform at home, there'll have to be computer clubs and activity groups that take advantage of the benefits of Linux.
  • by thornist ( 64703 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @09:21AM (#6338552) Homepage
    With Microsoft's desire to have complete market dominance, how long before they start offering schools free, or cut-rate discounts all under the guise of "charity"?

    In South Africa they've already done this. In fact the story goes that the Department of Information were making very positive noises about a state pro-open source policy a couple of years ago, and then just a couple of days later Gates had flown out to meet Mbeki and Mbeki was announcing the "generous" gift of free MS software for all South African educational institutions (don't have time to seek out the reference for this story right now).

    In South Africa the issue is more than just getting people hooked to the company. Bigger than that for us is the question of being dependent on the US for our IT infrastructure. What happens if South Africa falls into disfavour with the mighty America and we cease to be able to get software or support, but all our data is tied into MS proprietary formats.

    Open source is a question of sustainability and survival for countries like mine.
  • by bigjnsa500 ( 575392 ) <.moc.oohay. .ta. .005asnjgib.> on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @09:22AM (#6338554) Homepage Journal
    I have been banging my head up against a wall for about 2 years now trying to get our University to at least make some sort of switchover to Linux servers/desktops. I mean, you don't need Windows to just check email and run telnet apps. Needless to say, they signed a multi-year, multi-million dollar contract extension to Microsloth.
  • Impressive (Score:5, Interesting)

    by YeeHaW_Jelte ( 451855 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @09:22AM (#6338557) Homepage
    With K12 linux, I found this especially impressive:

    "On the server side, two Compaq servers--a 933MHz dual-processor ML370 and a 1GHz dual-processor ML350--run Red Hat Linux and support about 220 concurrent users. "

    220 users! Thats 220 times the price difference between a thin and a 'fat' client, minus the servers.
  • by SatanicPuppy ( 611928 ) <> on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @09:26AM (#6338580) Journal
    Heh. You're taking exactly the wrong tack. Computer literacy is not about which software you know. We deployed StarOffice at a company and they cried and cried and cried because it wasn't MS, nevermind that, when they had been using MS they had to share 5 computers with MS on it. (Gov't agency; get audited all the time.) These people were complete computer idiots. I mean their big problem with the Linux desktop was that they didn't like the fonts.

    Turn this around; take an applicant who's just coming in for a job that requires a spreadsheet, a wordprocessor, and some sort of presentation software. What's going to impress you? Someone who just knows MS Office 2k, and gets hysterical when you give them Office 97 or Office XP. Or someone who has a good grounding in something a little different. "Have you ever used Word?" "No, but I've used Writer, Abiword, Islandwrite, and Emacs." Shows you've got flexibility, and that you've done something more than use yer grandmothers computer."

    Just my opinion.
  • by Build6 ( 164888 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @09:34AM (#6338629)

    Does anyone else think these guys now have a big bulls-eye painted on them? I'm no historian, but from what I remember of revolts that weren't crushed (heads on sticks, bodies swinging from gallows, babies thrown onto bonfires etc.) is that there needs to be a critical mass before being able to withstand the (lethal) reactions of any oppressive tyrant. One single village aflame with the spirit of revolution pretty quickly becomes aflame in a physical sense when the imperial troops arrive.

    Some new MS "education initiative" for those special school districts? Something else? How hard is it to replace the education board with different membership with different ... priorities?

    Then again, maybe I'm just operating under FUD/paranoia... .
  • by An Onerous Coward ( 222037 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @09:41AM (#6338665) Homepage
    I don't think that a majority of companies are going to stop using MS Office in the near future. But I do think that anyone with experience with one of the other products you cited should be able to figure out the major features of Office with no training whatsoever.

    Sure, there are going to be some managers/HR-bots who fail to recognize this. But we're not in the business of saving people from their own stupidity. :) Anyways, as the alternatives get more popular, such people are going to be less and less common.

    My advice to a job seeker would be to first point out that OO.o is your primary office suite at home, and if the dude looks at you funny, just tell them that you also have experience with MS Office. Whether it's technically true or not, it may as well be.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @09:56AM (#6338761)
    You mean like this []
  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @09:57AM (#6338770) Homepage
    When I was in elementary school (K-6), my schools used Apples and Macs.....It didn't have any affect on me or anyone I knew..... Unfortunately, I expect the same will be true of exposure to Linux. Most of the benefits that schools will see in Linux systems will come from the administrative end.

    your school didn't have the ability to at the beginning of the semester to hand you a free and legal MAC. with linux... here you go, a full legal copy of the OS...Oh and have a copy of the Office Suite too...

    This one tiny little thing is what will make it work better than apple could have EVER done. the kids get it for absolutely free...

  • by okvol ( 549849 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @10:05AM (#6338824)
    One of my daughters had a computer class in grades 1 through 6, in a decent funded public school. They had Apple IIs and Macs. They would only allow the Macs to emulate the Apple IIs to be fair to the students. I seriously doubt any student graduated and went on to recommend Apple IIs.

    The sad part is that no one cares about the level of tech in the public schools. This would be good news if it meant anything.
  • I read your post, and though this will surprise you, I agree with your position and sympathize with you. I'm one of those evil right wing Americans that you hear so much about that likes the fact that we're the dominant power in the world right now.

    So you might be shocked to learn that I completely agree with you. Open source software can help you. And if I were in your position, I wouldn't want to become beholden to one company's product no matter WHERE it comes from. An open, standards based information infrastructure is vital for that. China isn't developing Red Flag Linux to spur their software industry so much as to maintain their competitiveness with the US.

    In fact, you're going to love this. I'm rooting for you here. And for everyone else across the world adopting OSS instead of MS products for their nation's needs. Why?

    It isn't that I hate Microsoft. Far from it. On many levels, I truly admire Gates and his company. I'd like to see them stay successful.

    What I don't want to see them do is dominate EVERYTHING. I want to see Apple succeed. And SGI. And Red Hat. And SuSe, etc, etc. I want OSS to be widely adopted across the world so that open standards rule the day. I have no problem with incredible numbers of people using MS stuff. This is heresy here to say this, but MS, unlike the past, makes a lot of good software now. I just want that software to use those same open standards that others use. I want other software to be able to interact and operate with MS software. Massive OSS use across the world can ensure that. When I go to a bank website, I want Mozilla to work too, not just IE.

    So thornist, I say good luck to your country in it's quest for building a strong, open infrastructure. It's good for you, and frankly, it's good for us too.
  • by gentgeen ( 653418 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @10:41AM (#6339044) Homepage

    It all comes down to what the kids and teachers are using the computers for. I'm a teacher at a small charter school. We house about 250-300 students between the middle and high school grades. We have a lab for the middle school and a lab for the high school. Each teacher has a computer in the room. All of the computers in the building are WinXP, including the servers. The majority of the time kids are in the lab they are using either MS Office or the Internet. We have some educational software, but not a lot. That is a lot of tech money wasted in my eyes.

    I set up a K12LTSP server in my classroom with a total of 8 terminals. Although the kids spend some time crying about it. (This is an old computer, this isn't MS blah, etc), once they say that it did the same things -- No more crying. If fact many kids have come to use my computer instead using the ones in the lab.

    It really just comes down to what you use it for. If the teacher's/students are not using a lot of the special software, why pay all the extra cash. Why not set up 1 lab with Windows/Mac for the software and one with K12LTSP for Internet, Office apps, etc. You just saved yourself 50% of your budget.

    P.S. - Linux does have some great ed games and apps (see the Seul/Edu Application Index []. They are just a little harder to find then"Mathblaser" []

  • by slashkitty ( 21637 ) * on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @10:53AM (#6339148) Homepage
    Did anyone notice the testimonial at the end? The "Grant Tracking System which had previously been developed with state funds at the office of the Governor." A quick check at shows this description for the app []:
    Front end is developed in Microsoft Access 97. The database runs on SQL Server 2000 The online portion of the application requires a windows NT Web Server running IIS 4.0
    It doesn't look like the reporter did the research on this example.
  • by ajs ( 35943 ) <ajs AT ajs DOT com> on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @11:10AM (#6339287) Homepage Journal
    Wrong answer still, though I think you're closer than some others.

    When interviewing for a job, you should know the tools that the job requires. If you are looking for office jobs, you should know the tools used in those jobs, and if that's MS Office you should learn MS Office, and learn it well.

    That's also beside the point of the original thread. What should be used in K12 is any tools that teach the basics that you will need to move on to college or independant learning later in life. You should not be using MS Word as a (sole) example word processor absolutely because it's likely to be the one they'll use later on. They should be using something that will make them learn the basic skills of modern tools, and then switch to something else on another platform.

    Schools should have PCs with Linux, PCs with Windows, Macs with MacOS, and anything else new or old they can get their hands on. The art of maintaining diverse platforms should be the key hiring criteria in K12 IT admins these days, because a) you should be able to take any freebies that come your way and b) you should be able to keep a diverse environment that makes kids keep learing new things while they're able to pick up these things MUCH faster than adults!

    If you need to interview for jobs that require MS Office (or some other) skills after you get out of High School there are dozens of little 2-week certificate courses you can take that range from $100 to thousands and then there's simply getting a computer that comes with Office and trying it out. If you're poor, you can even find assistance programs that will teach you these skills for free!

    What you can't find easily is a tool that makes you 14 years old again so that you can learn to learn.
  • yup.. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @11:59AM (#6339750)
    I dunno.. seemed like when I went through school (K-12) it was pretty much all Apple computers .. Apple IIe, IIgs, Mac classic, Power macs, etc..

    Did using that platform cause me (or my peers) great pains when using Windows? nah..

    Why not?

    Simple -- the concepts are the same. Both platforms (as well as Linux) have word processors, spreadsheets, games, databases, etc. Nowadays, both can access web content, email, multimedia titles, etc.

    So whats my point? Schools are for EDUCATION. K-12 schools should NOT be thought of as a place to train youngsters for the job market. By not providing a microsoft centric platform, it will force the student to separate concepts of computing from the implimentation/interface of computing.

    Unfortunately, like many have noted (and I have experienced) so much computer 'training' is simply telling people to click this icon, type in this text and presto, it works. Essentially, training consist of learning the interface, but not really learning the concepts. As a result, when the interface changes, instead of seeing similar concepts between different platforms, these individuals are completely dumbfounded and need to be 'reprogrammed'.

    Sure, when a student gets to college or a trade school, they should learn the applications that will ultimately get them a job. However, by understanding that there is more than just one way to accomplish a task will undoubtedly provide more flexibility in their thinking patterns and increase their overall producitivity to the organization (easier to train on a new platform, able to think of concepts instead of "cookbook step by step instructions", etc..)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @12:08PM (#6339818)
    When MS threatened the Portland schools, Portland had a big Linux advocate (either in Portland Public Schools or in the Multnomah ESD, IDK which) who took that as ample provocation to simply remove MS from the schools and they really acted as if they were willing to do it if push came to shove. MS backed off. MS didn't audit the Portland schools. Portland did some kind of quick internal audit and settled with MS on terms favorable to the school district.

    The Portland schools have a site license for Win98, and they can now put Win98 any any new machines that they acquire at $0 additional cost. They use Win98 to teach kids office and desktop applications, but they have no plans to upgrade to anything newer from MS. The servers run linux. The non-technical classroom teachers like MS, but the tech teachers are behind linux and they hope that Open Office is good enough to replace MS apps by the time that they feel that Win98 is obsolete.

  • by Doug Loss ( 3517 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @12:10PM (#6339834)
    Folks, let me tell you how it is. I lead SEUL/edu []. Right now, I'm with Paul Nelson and Eric Harrison (and a bunch of kids from Riverside High School in Portland), representing K12LTSP [], and Harry McGregor of the Open Source Education Foundation [] at the National Educational Computing Conference in Seattle. We're doing the evangelism where it's needed, in the educational community, rather than were it isn't, in the Linux community. Linux folks already are convinced of its usefulness, but folks in education need persuasion.

    That's one of the reasons you may think we're being very quiet--we're not talking directly to you! But if you're interested in what's actually going on with open resources in education, go to any of the websites above, or to Schoolforge [] and look around and follow the links.

    Another reason is that whenever we've submitted links about such things to /. (I asked Paul about this a minute ago, and his experience has been the same as mine) they have been rejected. If you're not interested in telling people about what's being done, don't expect them to know about it! We've stopped submitting our stories here, since they're never used. We try to use our energy more constructively now, but submitting our stories to educational journals, etc.

  • Tech Cadre (Score:2, Interesting)

    by descil ( 119554 ) <{teraten} {at} {}> on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @12:12PM (#6339850)

    I was the CEO of a NW Oregon company called 'Tech Cadre' for less than a year. Tech Cadre has some interesting properties that a lot of companies don't possess. For one thing, no employee can possibly last more than four years, and none have yet lasted more than three. The company does its firing, then waits several months before hiring anyone new - although at times it loses half its workforce in one of these three-month changeovers.

    Tech Cadre is an in-school business, and all of the employees are students. They do webdesign, and some very good web design, along with other support for clients. I'm no longer an employee nor an employer, but I still recognize them as what they are: the best of their kind. The business is completely run and funded by students and the work they do, is completely volunteer-based, and is currently in the process of moving partially from Windows to Linux. The Tech Cadre also supports Milwaukie High School in its computing efforts, and has plans to put Linux in the classroom as well - in some places, these plans are already in effect.

    You see, we the students already know what K12 needs. It doesn't need Linux or Windows, it needs both. Even in the Tech Cadre, a group of nerds who hates Macintoshes, we run a few Macs in order to keep part of our customer base satisfied. We run Windows for the same reason and for real world experience, and Linux to keep our servers running. A monopoly on either side of the wire is pointless - a company should never buy into just one OS, despite the technical knowledge needed to run two or three. Each operating system has its place and a tremendous value, and the Tech Cadre recognizes that. Can you professionals recognize the same thing that a group of amateurs does?

    Tech Cadre []

  • by czth ( 454384 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @12:15PM (#6339873) Homepage

    So flexibility matters, but specific skills matter far, far more if that's what the recruiter wants. (for developers: imagine you went to an interview, said I know C++, and the recruiter said 'brilliant, that shows you're flexible 'cos we only do java here' :-)

    That's basically how it happened for me at an interview with Trilogy in Austin, Texas (second set of interviews, "Microsoft style", they flew me down there for a long weekend, tour, several interviews, etc.). They knew I didn't know Java, so any interview questions specific to programming were asked in C++. They knew I'd be able to pick up Java. As it happens, I was offered the job but wasn't all that sure about taking it (mainly because I wasn't all that sure that I liked Java), despite the decent benefits and salary. Before I could make up my mind they had to withdraw the offer as they were letting people go (but I'm told reliably by someone that worked there that if I had accepted sooner I'd have been hired).


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