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How Microsoft Inadvertently Helps To Fund FOSS 122

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,, and, 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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  • 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.
  • 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?


  • Re:I wonder (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Bert64 ( 520050 ) < ... NBSDom minus bsd> on Thursday October 11, 2007 @11:29AM (#20940679) Homepage
    From the "CREDITS" file distributed with current linux kernel versions:

    N: Raymond Chen
    D: Author of Configure script
    S: 14509 NE 39th Street #1096
    S: Bellevue, Washington 98007
    S: USA

    So yes, at least some do or have done.
  • by Julie188 ( 991243 ) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @11:42AM (#20940915)
    "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 --> schools paying --> microsoft ... end result Microsoft has the money. But that's not the case so it's all cool.

    -- Julie

    Microsoft Subnet []: the independent voice of Microsoft customers

  • Even worse? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jgs ( 245596 ) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @11:57AM (#20941103)
    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:Still not funding (Score:3, Interesting)

    by russ1337 ( 938915 ) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @12:16PM (#20941375)

    MS paid a fine. What the state chooses to use that money for is their own business, and has nothing to do with said fine.
    It seems ridiculous to use the money to buy Microsoft products with the money you took off them, essentially giving them the money back.
  • by fm6 ( 162816 ) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @04:19PM (#20945087) Homepage Journal
    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 considered "computer literate" but are really completely out of their depth if they have to deal with something unusual. They have "training" in how to write a letter or print an envelope, but give them a word processor document with some weird formating and they have no idea what to do.

    Serious computer education gets away from "how to do stuff" and gets you thinking about "how stuff works." It teaches you to think about the tech you're using, so you don't get lost the moment you wander off the beaten path. You could actually teach that stuff using a standard Microsoft config (one could learn a lot about how software works by fiddling with Word and Excel macros) but FOSS configurations are better because they're more "hackable".

    Nowadays people associate "hacking" with penetrating computer security. (There are still a few linguistically ignorant folks who insist that the "correct" word for this activity is "cracker", but we can safely ignore them.) Hacking is actually a broader range of activities where you fiddle with technology in order to understand it better. Hackers like to say that they're making the tech "work better" (and sometimes they are), but that's just an excuse for intellectual curiosity.

    Where Microsoft products expose a few macro engines and APIs, FOSS systems exposes everything. That's why FOSS is popular with technogeeks (who like to know how everything works) and unpopular with the "computer literate" who are afraid their brains will explode if they learn too much.

    Kids aren't afraid their brains will explode. But they are terrified of boredom. So they're prime candidates for a computer education that requires thinking skills, as opposed to "job skills".

"It ain't over until it's over." -- Casey Stengel