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Microsoft and the U.S. School System 501

Posted by michael
from the give-us-your-lunch-money dept.
4/3PI*R^3 has the dubious honor of being the first of dozens of submissions: "Salon has a story on how Microsoft is bullying cash strapped school districts into purchasing "compliant" licenses for Microsoft software. Best quote from the story concerning financial problems of education and the added burden that Microsft is placing on them: "It's kind of like AIDS in Africa and the drug companies," Kowalski says. "Can anyone expect a dying person to be concerned about the drug companies' profits?"" It seems silly to bitch about this - work at getting schools to use Free and free software instead.
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Microsoft and the U.S. School System

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    we dont need computers, we need teachers...

    Or at the very least, some apostrophes, and perhaps a Shift key.

  • Apparently the moderator was one of the students you talk about. Your troll got modded insightful!

    Math has changed tremendously in the past 100 years (although very basic math remains mostly unchanged). English is a constantly evolving language (read something from the turn of the century if you don't think so), HOW many "major events" did we have in the last 100 years? Are you sure you really want kids using 100 year old textbooks?

    I do love the use of random quotes, the unattributed sources (a poll even!), and the call back to the "good old days." What a masterful troll, I salute you.

    Pbthhhhhhhht!

    Down that path lies madness. On the other hand, the road to hell is paved with melting snowballs.
  • Who the hell would report a teacher for putting Office on 5 computers? Does the BSA have a reward system in place for tips or what?
  • "Whether we like it or not, M$ is the standard. The vast majority of the public uses M$ products. Period. End of story."

    I must strongly and completely disagree with the last three words. Don't even say 'end of story': it's utterly historically incorrect, misleading, conclusionary and just plain wrong.

    I suggest 'for now' or 'at the moment'.

  • I read the article looking for typical MS bully tactics, like arrogantly assuming that all computers have Windows on them so the orginization must buy a Windows license for each computer owned, or forcing the users to use MS office through bully tactics. I could find nothing like that. All I read was an article about some teachers who thought that their school shouldn't have to pay for a product they use because, well, they're a school, and schools are neato. Bzzzt. Sorry - I don't agree. If you use a commercial product, you pay what the company charges or you get the balls to go use something else and tell the company where to stick it (an option I would favor when it comes to Microsoft). Ideally, I'd rather see them not even using Office in schools, but IF they do, and it's by their own choice (rather than a bully "incentive" program), then yes they should have to pay for it.

    My opinion would be different if there were evidence of some of the bully tactics I've seen MS pull at other places, such that the teachers didn't have a choice but to use Office. But the article never mentioned any of these tactics being used in this case.

    If the schoolteachers want to cut the costs, stop using overpriced software like Office.

  • Microsoft has been found guilty of breaking the law in federal court. These schools are a slam-dunk nolo contendere for breaking copyright law.
    Even steven, eh? Take from the public, give back to the public? Sounds great to me...
  • Having worked in technology in a Public School District, and now in a Private School. It's not that easy to shift your OS even if it's free in a School District.

    Why?

    Training at the Administrative level. Most district's admin staff and school administration don't get any time off like teachers do. It would be *very* hard to train them. It's hard enough to get them used to Windows 9x or NT. The shift to KDE or Gnome would be very difficult to pull off and not lose alot of productivity.

    Then at the State level, there are files that have both platform and program requirements. The people at the State Education department arn't going to accept files not done on Windows.

    Microsoft pushed administration into a corner by cutting deals with the State, and now they know they have the power to dictate terms.

  • Because for the most part, the GUI in Windows hasn't changed much since 1995, nor has the interface in Office. And while I've not seen or used Windows XP or Office XP, I'd not expect a school to start using it in a staff position until 6-18 months after it comes out.

    The switch to Linux with KDE or Gnome would be much mor difficult, with training staff on a new office suite, a new e-mail client and in many cases a new web browser.

    If you take the time and listen to the whining of the Mac users that can't shift from Classic to OS X, image the screams from school staff members if they were forced to switch from Windows to KDE or Gnome.

    We had one user that *needed* an OS that would have "protected memory" for a database that liked to take all the ram and CPU cycles on her Win98 box. So we switched her to NT4 (I know...but it was the only thing this database software ran on) and within a week...because she "didn't like the way it worked" we had to spend 6 hours redoing her computer back to the crash-tastic world of Windows98.

    Staff members in public schools whine sometimes...and some of them have the power to whine for whatever they want, that and the fact of training staff members for a new OS that is different from what they are used to is an problem that will have to be over-come before Linux can be put on all Intel based school desktop computers.
  • Yep.

    Until Linux runs Reader Rabbit and all those other annoying K-3 applications with the annoying beeps and tones...Linux will not have a place in the classroom.

    Now I know there are schools using it, but we need to dumb it down some for the K-12s where the technology staff is overworked and underpaid. In my public school job, there were 3 of us to support 1600 computers across 8 locations.
  • I've noticed with all of these license stories that Microsoft doesn't ask people to remove their software, only pony up the money to become compliant. I wonder if they will accept someone removing their software as compliance, or if there's something more nefarious at work here (i.e. If you've used our software illegally, you have no choice but to pay the licensing fees to correct this situation). I wonder if people realize they have that option at all.

  • thanks. But sorry, I haven't a clue where to find such a breakdown (other than, "check google") :)


    hawk

  • >Really? You may be right, I have no numbers, but the places in US I
    >have been most of the Ph.D. students have been Asian or European.


    Yep, and they come *here* to get the degrees, while relatively few americans leave to get one . . . hmm, there might be a reason for that . . .


    The better graduate programs are primarily (but not entirely) here. On average, the foreign students *are* better than the american students--but this is comparing the graduate student base from the entire US population to the cream of the crop from abroad.


    Also, look at the ratios. The U.S. has what, 5% of the world's population? Yet we have far more than 1 in 20 of the graduate students in top programs. At 10%, we're *over*-represented, not under represented


    >I
    >sometimes think that the only reason USA hasn't become a third world
    >country is the amazing number of bright minds they import from the
    >rest of the world.


    a) It would be impossible for the U.S. to become third world--it's not a wealth/development issue. U.S./Europe/US-sphere is 1st world. Soviet Union and it's sphere is second world. Then there's the third world, not drawn in by either.


    b) we're running a hell of a racket, here :) We take the best minds in the world, and only send half of them back . . . but what do you expect? Our ancestors were thrown out of the best countries in europe!



    >They don't seem to produce many of their own.
    >Of course, this is in science and technology only. Maybe USA produce
    >the worlds finest doctors and lawyers.


    Yes, and the finest physcians, too (who tend to style themselve "Doctor" for having an M.D., a degree which lacks the most fundamental element of a doctoral degree, the contribution to knowledge . . .)


    hawk, a real doctor, not an M.D.

  • >. However, since I don't currently have the money
    > for it, I doubt it will happen.

    I took a 90% pay cut from what I would have made the next year as a lawyer, and it was woth evgery penny . . .


    hawk, who's still down 50% as a professor :)

  • >Where was MS Office at 5 years ago? I don't recall the version number
    >for Windows, but I believe the Mac versions of Word and Excel were at 3.


    way, way, off.


    Word 3 is somewhere around '86; I had it on an office machine in '87. Word 5.1 is late '92 or '93, and excel 4 along with it. These were also the last good products to come out of MS; I bought both of them.


    Word for Windows 2.0 was a half- baked port of 5.1.


    Then along came Word 6.0, so bad that they had to put 5.1 back on the product list. I kept using old macs to continue using 5.1 until I found lyx . . .


    hawk, who owned several macs

  • > BTW, I've been using Emacs as my main editor for about 15 years. Name
    > a piece of MS software that is still in wide use after 15 years?


    uhh, word, maybe? Perhaps excel? Flight simulator? BASIC? (OK, that's stretching it :)


    Other than Bob, can you name a microsoft product that's gone *out* of use?



    Besides, real men use vi.


    hawk

  • >The idea of using computers to write should be introduced, but this
    >can be done just as easily with Emacs as with Word (and Emacs ha been
    >in use much longer than Word has).


    Wait a minute, aren't those two names for the same executable? You know, that bloated editor that tries to do absolutely everything and requires 115% of the resources of any shipping computer?


    More seriously, the major advantage that Word has over Word Star is footnotes. The tables are usefull, too, in some applications, and the spell checker is better at suggesting alternatives (now; it used to be worse). The rest is pretty myuch eye-candy.


    hawk

  • It irritates me to no end to have Microsoft use their company name and "philanthropy" in the same sentence. Going after an anonymous tip (can we say disgruntled employee?) the BSA and MS are all over a school district that is running $200 million in the hole. So MICROSOFT, being the PHILANTHROPISTS they are, have donated $20,000 to help Philly become compliant. Ok, here's $20,000 so we don't sue you for $1.5-$3 million? Not only are they running $200 million over budget, Philly School District might _not be able to pay_ its 27,000 workforce? If free software isn't implemented soon, or Apple (or SOMEONE) doesn't step up to the plate, Philly is just plain doomed. While copying copyrighted software is admittedly wrong and illegal, it is perfectly clear that Microsoft and philanthropy do NOT belong together. This is nothing new. There are plenty of bigger fish in the sea, but to further cripple a SCHOOL DISTRICT is down right despicable. -mj
  • Actually, homeschooling generally provides better education for any economic class, and also tends to have better moral education, too. I don't know about getting rid of public education, but it's not the only way kids learn.
  • You wouldn't care to support a family on $50,000? Do you spend money like water? I have a family, a house, and two cars, with my only debts being on the house, and I managed on $30,000. That also included a major medical disaster for the year. I have friends who get by (with more kids) on much less.
  • Actually, as a nation, we are all imports. I think it's amazing how far we've come, considering America started out as just being a mix of people that no other country wanted.
  • 1) Schools are not a business, they are a public service

    2) We are not saying that we are going to be giving things to schools, we are saying that with free software, we can charge full price for hardware and support, and still come out _way_ ahead of everyone else. Especially when you use thin terminals.
  • by johnnyb (4816)
    I think the problem is that teachers, by nature, want to share. They understand that information is freely sharable. Therefore, things like "licenses" to use instructions (which is what a program is) is absurd. I don't think they give it a second thought, because giving and sharing is part of who they are.
  • It does, technically. The problem is, you either let BSA come in and do an audit, or you let them come back with a warrant and the police, and instead of just doing an audit, they will take _all_ your computers and do it for you. The only difference is that the search warrant requires a witnesses to sign sworn statements about illicit behavior.
  • Not really. It runs some things well, but not a generic out-of-the-box program. It runs best if (a) you installed the program under Windows, and (b) you have the Windows DLLs installed somewhere. It's getting better, but still not there.
  • Actually, it's perfectly legal for students to photocopy large sections of books and entire articles for use at home. In this way, multiple copies _are_ being used at once.
  • "The problem with linux and especially X is:
    1) Consistancy
    2) Predictability
    3) Simplicity
    4) Standardization "

    Funny, those are the problems I have with MS stuff.

    Maybe it's just computers in general that aren't ready for prime-time.

  • Given the number of platforms it runs on now, and the fact that Sun wants a Java version soon, StarOffice is gonna fit that bill...

    Either that or the other suggested remedy (M$ opens up and publishes ALL file formats and changes BEFORE the software that runs those changes is put on retail) will be pushed as part of the consent decree. Its the same sort of thing that the DoJ got for IBM back in the 60s...
    --
    You know, you gotta get up real early if you want to get outta bed... (Groucho Marx)

  • Sounds like the biggest argument I've seen in this discussion is the fact that the teachers do not know how to use Linux/open-source software.

    Easy fix - instead of making them depend on the training leeches (Like the people that teach IIS Administration for $500/day/person), give them an free resource - volunteer your time to come in and teach a group of teachers about something that you know about.

    They can probably even find kids in their highschools that can teach the classes, but make the effort volunteer your time - think of the long term effect you'll have - Linux in the schools. No more MS/BSA audits.

    Call your local schoolboard and ask how to go about volunteering your time. Do it now, you know you want to!!

  • If insufficient people complain about Microsoft's insensitive behaviour, it will raise more ABM (Anything But Microsoft) feeling and consequently result in more people using ABM, which in the long term is IMHO a good outcome. Of course, a similar effect resulted if they tried to complain through MSN Messenger recently... (-:
  • Until more business' make a switch from Wintel, its really just not that valuable a skill to be teaching kids linux in high school...They need to be using what they'll be using later on in life, which currently is Windows...

    I'm now at the ripe old age of 24. I have used the following operating systems as my primary desktop: Commodore 64's bizarre combination of a disk-drive based OS and basic interpreter shell, two CP/M systems, a couple of different versions of MS-DOS with a variety of DOS shells, Windows 3.0, 3.1, 95, Debian 1.3 with WindowMaker, Debian 2.0 and Enlightenment, through to Debian unstable with a fairly stock Sawfish/GNOME desktop. That's not to mention the time at various educational institutions on, variously, an Apple II, an Amiga, Macs, VT100 terminals attached to Solaris and Digital Unix servers (with varying collections of GNU tools installed), SGI Indys, various NT boxen . . .

    Yes, I'm probably an extreme case (not by /. reader standards, but certainly by the standards of the general public), but the point is that training people at school for a system that "they'll be using later in life" is just not possible. At school, people should be learning general principles which they can then apply to the systems they come across in the future. Linux, being particularly flexible and transparent, is potentially an excellent way to teach some basic ideas about computing, ones that Windows derivatives go out of their way to hide.

    Go you big red fire engine!

  • I've told this story here before, but I'll tell it again.

    Simply put, educators don't want Linux any more than the leader of, say, MSNBC does.

    Once, a while ago, I volunteered my time and about a half-dozen old 386's. Rather, I should say, I tried to, because no one wanted them. "They need to be Pentium II's", they would say (not even the standard at the time! Most people still had plain-jane P5's!). "They need to run Word. We're teaching job skills here". I tried to say, learning to use a computer is much more than selecting text and printing. No dice. I eventually junked the machines because no one would take them, and spent my now free time doing nothing.

    The point is - and I do have one - is that encouraging Free Software is important, sure, but its going to fall on dead ears. People want Word. People know what Word is. People at large are not interested in the ethics of software. Most of them don't want to see MS broken up.

  • Just wondering.

    Not that MS pays taxes anyway, as I understand it, but would having inflated losses due to piracy be a deductable expense?

    Also, doesn't microsoft's "philanthropy" foundations give copies of Microsoft to schools (thus extending their monopoly and training a whole new generation of Microsoft-dependent users) and make annoucnements to the media that they have given away "millions" to education (which they can also write off)?

    W
    -------------------
  • Without simplicity, products are destined for failure. Great concepts are often complex concepts packaged in simple packaging. Why would a teacher unfamiliar with your product choose "K-12LTSP v.1.0" over "Microsoft Windows"? If you don't choose a name that you can build recognition with your products will be simply unrecognizeable (and thus unsold).

    Okay, how about Debian Jr. [debian.org] for a name then?

    Jay (=
  • I have a Linux system, so I use pdf2ps and ghostview. They could use the Acrobat Reader or something else if they don't want to install Linux. I could of course use StarOffice, but this seems to work just as well.

    You could also use acroread 4.0, or xpdf, or konqueror, or ghostscript. All work great for reading PDF files under GNU/Linux and FreeBSD. There is definitely no shortage of readers for reading PDFs, nor of word processors capable of writing PDFS (staroffice, applix to name just two).
  • Linux/Open Software in schools is a grand and awesome idea. On paper it looks great, and in a presentation it will make anything else look downright expensive. Except: What IS/IT people they have will fight it tooth an nail as they are usually MS drones, the CS teacher (Who is a MS preacher), some other teacher that knows a little bit about networking, students (and the faculty dont trust them), or volunteers from the professional community which are MS zombies with the letters MCSE tattooed on their brain.

    Over the course of one summer, an entire schools IT can be converted to linux, the administrators trained, the teachers trained, and in full swing as if nothing has changed.... But it wont happen.

    The volunteer Computer professional will rant and pout like a 3 year old, demanding it be NT/2000 (or worse XP).. The teacher that knows sometinhg will be scared because he has never touched anything but Windows 95/98, and the CS teacher will kick and scream that he cant teach kids on anything but microsoft... Complaining that you cant program or teach without a GUI based lanuage.

    until we get someone to mandate the changes to schools it wont happen.
  • Does anyone know of a school that actually uses Free Software?
    Yes. There are a few members of our local LUG who are teachers that have gotten Linux into their schools. Its not impossible to do, but it takes an interested party (teacher or administrator) from within the school.

    --
    I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations ...
  • These money grubbing motherfuckers are ransoming our future in very obvious and specific ways.

    Oh come on, that's a little melodramatic, don't you think? I did just fine in school with zero multimedia presentations, and in the past kids have done fine in school without even electricity or running water. If those kids future is so closely tied to the availability of cheap multimedia authoring tools, then we've already got much bigger problems.

  • Computers are needed in schools, but they aren't the reason that public education is often poor and why the public education system is frequently tottering on bankruptcy.

    The big reason that public schools have such problems is that school has ceased to be about education. It's become more and more of a welfare delivery system. Each new welfare program installed in schools under the guise of helping Johnny read needs staff people, administrators, office space and tons of other overhead that should rightfully go towards books, teachers, and facilities. And don't get me started on the massive subsidies provided to school sports, which were once a good use of gym equipment after school that have become almost entities unto themselves.

    The reason most school systems started being about welfare delivery is that they realized that if Dick and Jane haven't been eating, they don't learn. What they fail to realize is that bringing everyone up to the same socioecnomic level as the high-achieving middle class white students means solving a LOT of social problems, which takes a lot of resources, and the pool of resources the public is willing to assign to education is limited.

    Schools need to stop trying to solve all the socioeconmic problems. It's not to say the socioeconomic problems aren't worth solving, but the education field is the wrong place to solve them. Educating the people first may actually solve more problems in the long run because you're producing people who are capable of integrating more fully into the economy and society.
  • Math has changed tremendously in the past 100 years (although very basic math remains mostly unchanged).

    OK, math has changed. I'm sure the field of mathematics as an academic pursuit has changed, and it probably has had a major impact on science, engineering and fields for whom statistics plays a major role.

    But how much of the math that even well-educated people actually know and use in everyday life has changed in the past 100 years? Most educated professionals who aren't in a math-intensive field seldom use much beyond very basic algebra. Have significant new digits in Pi changed much? Are there bold new techniques for solving for X?

    Even in the calculus classes I took in college school, much of the "soft" education about the subject involved guys like Newton, Leibniz and other people who were long-dead. We never learned about significant advances in calculus in the past 100 years (although I don't doubt there were at least a few), let alone the past 10 or 20 years.

    I'm sure math has changed, but I'm willing to bet that most of the math taught in high school hasn't changed meaningfully in the past 25 years and only trivially in the past 50. Academic math in colleges has probably changed dramatically, but that's largely meaningless for most high school students.
  • But how much of the math that even well-educated people actually know and use in everyday life has changed in the past 100 years?
    The math that well-educated people use hasn't changed much, but...
    1. The field of math education has developed; more is known about how students develop their knowledge of math, and therefore, how to most effectively teach it. (Not all practicing teachers are keeping up with this research, but that's a separate problem....) The Algebra Project [algebra.org], for example, has done some interesting work in techniques for teaching algebra to inner-city students.
    2. The proportion of students needing to know math has grown. A hundred years ago, most people left formal education before high school and went off to work in the farms or factories. Today, if you don't have at least a degree from a two-year college, you can't get a job that will pay enough to support a family. Therefore, if a student isn't doing well in math, it's more important for the teacher to say "hmm, what can I do to help this kid understand?" than to simply write the student off as a failure.

    --
  • ...quoted in the article who said, Oh, yeah, we violated Microsoft's copyright, but we're a poor school district, blah blah blah. I'm no libertarian, but there's a difference between setting aside private-property rights for the public good (e.g., Brazil's cheap AIDS drugs) and putting an altruistic spin on one's individual violations of the law (this case).
    --
  • You ellude to a good point here about where Microsoft is heading. The problem they face is that their stock price, employee compensation, etc, are all dependant on continued rapid growth. The problem of course is that unless they are going to expand into the Martian software market they can only go so far.

    As they start reaching their limits they'll get more deperate. They'll do things like this which, despite bad PR, keeps up the cash inflows. Their new licensing scheme for XP is further evidence that they are desperate to milk every last drop of revenue they can. Also make note of the fact that the release cycles for their products have been getting shorter and providing less significant enhancements. It went from Office 97 to Office 2000 to XP being released in 2001. It went from NT which was released how long ago to Windows 2000 to now, within a year, Windows XP.

    Also notice how Microsoft is trying to leverage their control of the desktop to expand into other areas rapidly, trying to keep revenues increasing. X-box to get into the consumer entertainment market. Smart Tags to extend their power back to their media properties.

    I just get the sense that Microsoft is a high performance engine that's been redlined for just a little too long. Sure the government will probably settle the anti-trust case but a resultant barrage of private lawsuits is going to at least distract them if not outright hurt them. Add to this slowly growing interest by corporations in using open source software. The odds are stacking against them fast.

    Microsoft is desperately flailing around to find ways to keep itself growing. They'll hide their desperation in well developed PR campaigns and certainly the more paranoid amongst open source supporters will make their apparent position seem that much more powerful. But in the end, unless they learn how to survive as a more methodical and slow growing corporation they are going to be in trouble very soon.

    ---

  • I'd venture that you don't need application software.
    I think what would really get kids jazzed is to see their *own* work, not Carmen Sandiego or Rug Rats or whatever passes for educational software.
    Buy a cheap scanner for the school. Get it to work on a Linux box. Set up Apache.
    I'm sure kids and parents alike would much rather see scans of crayon drawings and digital photos of the Christmas Pageant than anything from any of the 'educational software' companies.
    Give each kid directions on how to log in or FTP in and how to chmod the files in ~/public_html so that they can show off *their* work. Work with them and make it easier
    What kind of box would you need? (My webserver is a PII that I *Found in the Trash*.)
    Get a couple of boxes donated and set them up as Linux/ Apache /Samba/Gimp/Abiword/ MySQL boxes for specific tasks or general hacking. Get the school to donate the use of a couple of analog phone lines for use after hours for dial-in access to email and the kids user space. Get every parent/student/teacher set up as a user. Get the High School computer club to be administrators. Form a Linux club and donate some time to it.

    Someone mentioned that their school district holds "Windows Night" once a month. Um, so just hold "Linux Night" once a month. Take a CD Burner and a stack of blank discs and burn copies of Redhat or Debian or Mozilla. Show people how to install them. Encourage them to bring an old PC to set them up on. Provide donuts and coffee
    Find out what your school district spends on software licenses - I'm sure the school's budget is public record - Let people know how much of that could be saved. Did they spend $2,000 on licenses for MS Access? Did they know that MySQL is *free* and also runs on Windows and the apps they develop could probably be written as a CGI app using perl or PHP?
    Promote your Linux night as a way for parents and teachers and students to learn the basics, whatever you consider that to be, (be it KDE or Gnome and StarOffice or Bash and pine and Pico.)

    The way to get Linux into homes and offices is to promote it as a "Second Box" solution. If they have a PC, they probably have a copy of Windows and a license. Don't compete with that - Get Linux on the second PC, the kid's PC, the print server, whatever. That's the benefit of MSBloat - The copy of Office that comes with the box they bought recently will run like a slug on the box from 2 years ago. Linux will make better use of the resources that they probably have. Your office getting rid of some Pentium 133's Grab a couple, set them up with a workable linux configuration and give 'em away to people who are interested.

    Most of all, let your kids' teachers know that you want your kids learning Python, not PowerPoint, Ansi C, not Excel macros.

    I think that this recent wave of MS/BSA crackdowns is the best thing that could happen. Remind people that a MS Office CD is a lot like a credit card. Use it and it's going to cost you $500 a pop. If you manage to avoid getting caught, you are a thief.
    I think licenses should be strictly enforced at schools and businesses. Once you buy the software and install it, the install CD should be locked up in the school's safe - (The liability is just too high.) Does the school leave its credit cards lying around for the convenience of the teachers? No way, that would be madness.
    How is this any different?
    OK, I should stop ranting...
    Cheers,
    Jim

    MMDC Mobile Media [mmdc.net]
  • It is a privelege bestowed by law, for which the constitution explicitly allows but does not grant outright.

    I understand where you are coming from, but you worded your post quite badly. If the EULA has been agreed to by the school districts, then Microsoft certainly has the right to enforce those contracts. This is a much different thing than the privilege of copyright.

    (whether the EULA counts as a valid contract is another matter)
  • I think the whole situation is funny. One monopoly is charging high prices to another :-)

    Microsoft has about a 90-95% market share. Public schools have about a 95-98% market share.
  • > Top 6 reasons to have computers in schools:

    I suspect the real reason we have them is that they make more socially acceptable babysitters than televisions do.

    It is not at all obvious (to me) that a computer teaches (say) how to multiply integers any better or more cost effectively than (say) flashcards do.

    --
  • The reason you see a lot of non US people doing Ph.D's in America is because the division of the subject between different levels is different. You get a broader, less detail undergraduate degree and make up for it with a 5 year Ph.D that includes sitting courses. In the UK (where i'm from) the undergrad degrees take the subject further but are narrower, and then you do a 3 year Ph.D comprising of just (more or less) research.

    The upshot of this is that for the best education you can get, a good degree in the UK or somewhere similar, followed by a US style Ph.D seems to be very popular.
  • What I personally like is the guy who was installing Office so that people could read Word documents. I guess he never heard of the freely available Word Viewer program which is available on Microsoft's website.

    What a great attitude these people have. "Gee, I fucked up by installing illegal copies of software - damn Microsoft sucks!"
  • The anti-trust case has certainly proved otherwise. Both the original court case, and the appeal concluded that MS has a monopoly, and that they abused it.

    Thus, my statement is not exactly without merit.

  • I have often thought U.S. schools don't focus enough on computers. I remember there was one computer lab in the school I taught at briefly in Opelika, Alabama. Students were allowed time there to work on class projects and what not. These were old IBM PS/2 boxen that were so out of date it was pathetic. Not to mention the fact that programs like "Carmen San Diego" and "Oregon Trail" were long considered excellent ways of incorporating computers in the classroom. How wrong could taht be? All that does is use new technology to teach the same thing a book or movie can. Pretty much in the same fashon too!

    If school systems are honest about teaching computer use in schoool, teach students how to use tools such as search engines and newsgroups to find information for reports. Use programs like powerpoint (or Star Office/KOffice/whatever Gonme's calling it's office app today) to add multimedia to their reports. Better yet, partner with someone like Macromedia and/or Adobe to use flash annimations on web pages designed through GoLive or Dreamweaver (after learning HTML programming by hand of course). Get copies of "Learning Perl" or some of Laura Lemay's "21 Days" series. Teach kids how computers are used in the world. Teach them why they're useful and how they work. Teaching the standard Microsoft line will not allow students to see how applications work in anything beyond a superficial standpoint (a diagram in a book). It will also more than likely produce more people who expect an AOL-ized or M$-ized version of computing -- simplicity to the point of absurdity. Don't get me wrong, computing for Joe User should be pain free, but wouldn't things be great if Joe User could remember something from high school computer class like, "if your password's not working, check the CAPS Lock key!"?

    Microsoft is not necessarily needed for all of this. For programming-based classes (which should be limited to basic web programming (HTML, with intro to JavaScript, DHTML, and possibly XML), Perl and C to cover the basics). Anything from Linux to one fo the BSDs would work fine. Schools could arrange a deal with local vendors to sponsor computer purchases through fund matching programs and what not. Imagine how far universities could go with CS programs if most incoming freshmen already knew all this information.

    I know more and more students are learning this stuff on their own these days, but why can't schools look to expand their computer learning beyond learning Office apps and playing outdated and useless geography and history games with little to no interactivity. I realize most people qualified to teach this stuff can make lots more money than a school system can offer, but when you think about it, lots of teachers could make more money doing something else too! It's not about money so much as it's about how passionate someone is about his cause. In this case, I'm asking how passionate people are about teaching school kids about computers and programming rather than how to use one OS and a handful of marginally useful applications.
  • I work for a very large educational publishers in the US in the education software division (they call it New Media). I can't recommend any software because I honestly don't know of any that runs under any Linux distribution. But I can tell why you will be hard pressed to find any. It's the same in the schools as it is in business. Educational software publishers put out their software for Windows and usually the Mac. The schools buy Windows or Mac because that's what the software requires. The publisher looks at what their customers have and say, "We need to make sure our future software works on Windows and Mac" and the cycle begins again.

    Linux is apparently making some in roads, though. A few months ago, my manager came to me asking about supporting Linux. I asked which one. Apparently he didn't understand that there are flavors of Linux. Since then, we've determined that Flash 5 would be advantageous to develop in since we're pretty experienced in Macromedia tools and Flash 5 seems to have wide support, including open source plugins. But I still can't see us doing a CD-ROM distribution for Red Hat, Mandrake, Yellow Dog, etc. It would take forever to QA and the software is typically done as incentive to buy the textbooks, not as way to make money. Even so, we think it might be worth focusing on Red Hat, since it seems to be the most user friendly distribution and K12LTSP is supporting it.

    -Jennifer

  • English, Math, Social Studies change all the time. New ideas, formualas, and ways to teach math are available all the time. English is constantantly evolving. And we're learning more about the past than we every thought we would, this has lead to a re-interpretation of everything. It happens all the time. Part of this change involves actually getting kids exposed to computers and showing the right and wrong ways to use them. Computers are part of the "basics". Things have changed even in Kansas. Failure to realize that in the modern society is a failure of education.

    Investing in children costs money, and the money just isn't there.There is a teacher shortage, but that is directly due to teacher salary. There simply is no money for anything. The government would rather give ill concevied tax uts to everyone instead of paying for education. When the government is ready to really, really invest in education, and pay teachers a reasonable wage then, things will begin to change. Till then , we're stuck on the same cycle of not enough money.

    I doubt though that American Kids are the DUMBEST in the world. That seems a little drastic. We do score lower on test, but that is because we test everyone and not just those who'd pass the test. We end up with the same or more numbers of phds and master students per capita.
  • For once, Microsoft is completely right, and the the schools are on the wrong side. Before you tag this message as troll or flamebait, let me explain.

    Microsoft sells their product under certain conditions, one of them being, that you may not install them more than once. These conditions are silly, used to harass the user etc., nevertheless they are what one must accept to use the programs.

    If a school or teacher wants to use MS-Office, they need to get a legal copy. The facts that schools have no money to buy the licenses, are in a poor neighborhood, don't want to spend the money or perform very important service for the community gives them no right to override those conditions.

    Basically, the school has only three ways of resolving the problem:

    - Asking Microsoft to donate some licenses or give at least huge rebates and hope they'll get it. This may work where Microsoft sees a benefit, but it also may not work.

    - Getting the money to buy full licenses. This shouldn't be a problem in any civilised country that value the education of its youth. Something is really wrong in a country, where schools don't get enough money to do their job.

    - Using cheaper or free products. There are great freely usable programs out there for most tasks a teacher will ever need. I really loved the line about there being no replacement for outlook available. As if Microsoft inventend email.

    All three ways are reasonable courses to take for the schools and the involved teachers. There is no reason for breaking silly licenses. If they choose to do it anyway and have the bad luck of being caught at it, they get what they deserve and I don't have any sympathy for them.
  • My mistake. I have nothing against the BSD licenses at all (I use OpenBSD for my mail server).

    What I should have said was "free of per-user/per-use/per-seat" fees. I want to be able to install the software on any number of educational systems without additional cost.


    --
    Charles E. Hill
  • What really torques me off about the situation is that as soon as the pharmacutical lobby complained, our "liberal" vice-president Gore was threatening to impose sanctions on South Africa if they allowed the manufacture of generic AIDS drugs.

    Of course, back when South Africa had apartheid, imposing sacntions would have been "premature" and "counterproductive". Immoral bastards, the lot of them.
  • You're thinking of college. We need to acknowledge that there are two distinct tracks in HS. Those who will be continuing their education and those who won't. Concepts can be useful to those who are continuing on, but some students NEED to learn skills. And you may know that if someone knows one word processor, they can likely figure out another, but does the hiring authority for an entry level job know this? Maybe not. A lot of folks might shrug off someone who has no MS experience for someone who does.

    Everyone needs to learn the concepts. Reading, writing and arithmatic (and critical thinking and problem solving) are important for functioning as an adult in society, regardless of your job/profession.

    And among the students who won't go on to college, it is not clear cut that they will be using an expensive office suite at their crappy, low paying jobs. Off the top of my head I've seen telemarketers, data entry folks, random hospital clerical staff, clerical staff at the DMV and other municipal offices, bank tellers and customer service reps all using various proprietary systems. And of course, the construction workers, waitresses, sweater folders, plumbers, assembly line workers and orderlies don't seem to be using any computers at all.

    In fact, the only jobs I've seen specifically requiring MS office experience are secritarial positions, but now that the bubble burst, I imagine the HS grads will once again get stiff competition from the people who can't get a better job with their English BA (hey, remeber the 80's).

    On the other hand, the HS grad may benefit from knowing how to use free software to set up the $499 computer they got on sale at Best Buy, since they can't afford to buy and upgrade software that cost half as much as thier computer.
  • Most district's admin staff and school administration don't get any time off like teachers do. It would be *very* hard to train them. It's hard enough to get them used to Windows 9x or NT. The shift to KDE or Gnome would be very difficult to pull off and not lose alot of productivity.

    Why would it be any harder than a shift to XP?
  • by Wansu (846) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @11:33AM (#95708)
    Really? You may be right, I have no numbers, but the places in US I have been most of the Ph.D. students have been Asian or European. I sometimes think that the only reason USA hasn't become a third world country is the amazing number of bright minds they import from the rest of the world. They don't seem to produce many of their own.

    You're right about most of the PhD students being foreign and it's been that way since the early 70s. This has happened for a number of reasons. First, PhDs are overproduced. There simply isn't very much demand for them. Many take post-doctoral work because they can't find suitable positions. Most US PhDs seem to be underemployed. Second, a PhD is not necessary to do most technical work. Third, grad students typically don't make much money. So there isn't much incentive to get a PhD other than strong personal desire. An experienced plumber can make more money. Many of the foreign students get PhDs to gain a foothold in America.
  • by hawk (1151) <hawk@eyry.org> on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @09:55AM (#95709) Journal
    > And Lawyers don't usually get PHD's. They get JD's.


    hey, some of us do :) After five years of practicing law with my J.D., I went and got a Ph.D. . . . :)


    The J.D. and M.D. are professional degrees and not "real" doctoral degrees.


    The J.D. is the same degree as the L.L.B. (Bachelor of Law), but in the U.S., requires a regular bachelor's degree for entry. There is also an L.L.M., most typically in a tax area, that can come after the J.D./L.L.B.. Finally there is the "real" doctor of laws, the L.L.D. (or J.S.D. [doctor of jursiprudence]), which *very* few people have.


    The modern M.D. (As opposed to the classical M.D. of the doctors of the university, which matched the Ph.D., L.L.D., and Doctor of Divinity) was largely concoted in the nineteenth century for the specific purpose of borrowing the respect of the doctors of the university. At the time, getting medical treatment was *much* more likely to harm than help the patient. The A.M.A. deserves a *lot* of credit for this fundamental change in the quality of medical care, but for an M.D. to attepmpt to disparage the Ph.D. with the "I'm a *real* doctor" bit is the height of chutzpah--not only is the Ph.D. the eductation to which the M.D. pretends, but the typical M.D. has never done a scrap of researh to contribute to the knowledge base.


    hawk, j.d., ph.d., a real doctor

  • by malkavian (9512) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @07:43AM (#95710) Homepage
    is to get a 'company' together, owned jointly by players in the open source arena (Red Hat, FSF, so on), with sales and marketing experience to go and run demonstrations at schools.
    This is exactly how many places got exposed to MS in the first place. A suit turning up, running a slick presentation, demonstrating how EASY it is to run, and giving a professional image.
    After all, it's the exposure and image that gets the beancounters to spend the money.. Or not, in the case of open source.
    Once the presentation is made, a small brochure can be given on where to get support for open source, what it's about, how easy it is to use, where to get the free apps that can drive the institution, and so on.
    Also, have a team on standby to do a few installs, in case institutions want to 'try before they buy into it'.
    This same team to provide basic training on installation to members from institutions (possibly for a small fee to cover the costs of placing someone at a site, possibly hosted by the institution itself). After all, it doesn't take much to teach someone how to install a Mandrake (or Debian, FreeBSD, Red Hat etc) distribution from a CD image.This will be a loss maker financially, but, given that you can call around and have talks with many schools in an area in a day, and take one day to get maximum exposure for a demo, the costs can be minimised.
    As has been mentioned on posts here, the school system is a good place to raise awareness. And once that awareness is present, and people are used to using particular software, it can then slowly move out into the business arena.
    After all, even the more clueless PHBs out there had to have used software at Uni, or somewhere previously (assuming they use it at all). If they KNOW that the Open Source apps work as efficiently for a user (at least) as stuff they pay for.. No prizes for guessing what option they're going to take.
    But, the push needs to come in a slick, businesslike package, presented by the kind of people that are well versed in selling a concept

    Hopefully, this is something already out there, or soon to come about...

    Malk
  • by FreeUser (11483) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @06:40AM (#95711)
    Although it is most certainly distasteful, it is (under current law) their right to do so.

    Stictly speaking, it isn't a "right," such as the right to free speech, the right to bear arms, the right to not testify against yourself, etc. It is a privelege bestowed by law, for which the constitution explicitly allows but does not grant outright.

    The mistake of calling such priveleges "rights" is a common one and an understandable one ... another example of how the English language has been manipulated by the use of such terms as "copyright" rather than "copy restriction," which is a more accurate and descriptive term for what the law is designed to accomplish. Very similar to other forms of linguistic manipulation and propaganda, such as calling those who violate the copy restrictions placed on software by law "pirates" or "thieves," in direct opposition to the reality of their actions (nothing is being stolen, merely replicated, and no acts of violence are being committed at sea).

    It behooves us to, where possible, refrain from adopting their choice of language, as language does by in large define the parameters of our thoughts and to some degree the limits of what we can think. Certainly in this context it biases the conversation to the self-serving point of view the Copyright Cartels wish to promote and to some degree undermines our ability to discuss the topic with anything even remotely resembling an unbiased or criticial perspective.
  • by ethereal (13958) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @07:23AM (#95712) Journal
    How many entry level jobs say "KOffice Experience Required"?
    ...
    I don't see a lot of Apple ][e's around today to remind me of my HS education.

    And yet, when you got out of HS, somehow you survived having been trained on Apples when the business world wasn't using them. Do you really think it's that much harder for kids today, who are more technically savvy than you or I in HS?

    School is supposed to teach concepts, not what menu in Word to use to get the right fancy font. Students can write essays, do math homework, and research papers on any platform. If you can prepare a presentation in StarOffice, you can do it in PowerPoint, and vice versa. Office suite compatibility in schools is the worst reason to stick with Microsoft. And heck, Microsoft software is so easy to use, those kids shouldn't have any problems making the slight adjustment when they reach the world of business, should they? :)

    Sure, there's some educational software that only runs on Windows, and in those cases the applications provide a good reason to keep some Windows machines around. But general-purpose productivity applications, which are probably what the kids will use most of the time, are not sufficient reason to remain tied to Microsoft.

  • by trcooper (18794) <coop@NOspaM.redout.org> on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @08:35AM (#95713) Homepage
    School is supposed to teach concepts, not what menu in Word to use to get the right fancy font.

    You're thinking of college. We need to acknowledge that there are two distinct tracks in HS. Those who will be continuing their education and those who won't. Concepts can be useful to those who are continuing on, but some students NEED to learn skills. And you may know that if someone knows one word processor, they can likely figure out another, but does the hiring authority for an entry level job know this? Maybe not. A lot of folks might shrug off someone who has no MS experience for someone who does.

    What has to be realized is not all students are going into our professions, most won't. Also, not all students have the ability or desire to take concepts and apply them. The latter may be a failing of the educational system, or it may just be a fact of life, but that's certainly another debate. I am just of the mind that we need to provide students who are going to look for jobs right out of school with some skills they can use immediately.

    And yet, when you got out of HS, somehow you survived having been trained on Apples when the business world wasn't using them. Do you really think it's that much harder for kids today, who are more technically savvy than you or I in HS?

    I had apple ]['s in school. At home I had an 8088 , and later a 286 to play with. (I even had access to a server that allowed me to telnet) Which were machines that the buisiness world was using. I was a rather privlidged person. Most people that I went to school with didn't have these. Schools should allow less privlidged students access to what is being used in the "Real World"tm, because they are more likely to be in the group of people who will not continue their education.

  • by MindStalker (22827) <mindstalker@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @10:55AM (#95714) Journal
    Ok it appears the nobody on slashdot today has any idea what the AIDS reference was about. Here is the story.

    In many countries in Africa around 50% of the population has AIDS and its a horrible epidimic. These governments want to help their people (probably only so those people can stay there, if you don't have any people you don't have a government, but thats another discusion) by providing AIDS medications for them. But the medications are VERY expensive when bought from the people who created these medications so the countried have found suppliers who will supply generic versions of the medication even though its under patent. So these American drugs companies are litterly trying to drag these countries throught the mud with the UN's court system, declariing that they have violated International Patent laws. Anyways the point is there countries are too poor to afford the medicine and are finding it other way. And the US drug companies have no sympathy. This draws many parralles to the situation with MS and schools, though the MS situation is not nearly as serious.

  • by brianvan (42539) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @08:29AM (#95715)
    is how Sun pretty much paid to be the exclusive computer vendor to my university - well, not exclusive, but my university was still in bed with them.

    The end result is that very little of our computer science work was done outside of Solaris. Perhaps none, even.

    I mean, Solaris is a solid OS, but not only do I have no Windows knowledge from college whatsoever, I also don't really know Linux or MacOS or any other operating system... or any other flavors of Unix, pretty much. The CS department was also very inflexible about introducing anything into the cirriculum that would promote variety and not propriety. There was a LUG on campus, but it was strictly extra-cirricular and outside the scope of the CS program. But it was at least something.

    It would have been NICE to have some variety thrown in there. It also would have been nice if they actually had a user group or any kind of initiative to TEACH us Solaris. Upon entering the CS program, it was assumed that you knew basic Unix commands. While this may not be too much to ask, they had little in the way of reference guides and decent user assistance. If a professor wanted you to do something, he told you what commands to type. Yes, there were MAN pages, but man pages are sometimes cryptic and not a very useful resource to someone who doesn't know they're even there. I fault the university AND Sun for this - their OS is not user-friendly, but it's not learner-friendly either.

    I suppose the worst part was when a professor gave an assignment and left you hanging as a result - through incorrect permissions on class files, typos on command-lines for step-by-step instructions, misplaced binaries, etc. - and the solution was to ask a fellow classmate or computer site operator for assistance and receive many sneers, dirty looks, and belittlement in the process. "OH, YOU DON'T KNOW HOW TO USE CHMOD? *GRUNT* " Reading the FAQ was more like going on a search engine and reading endless pages of technical documents to find simple command references, help files, and troubleshooters. On certain projects, this took hours.

    There was no use trying to learn to use Solaris as a user OS, either. Every student in the university had an e-mail account on the central servers (4 MB limit to files, limited user time) that served as our work environment for CS. Yes, we got extended user time (but you had to switch groups for it for EVERY CLASS, and professors had a funny habit of not mentioning the group number on the syllabus or in class), but as you can imagine our capabilities on the systems were somewhat limited - except for the glaring security holes, but that's another story. The "where" command was disabled, and few applications were installed or accessible to students. In essence, if you wanted to use Solaris as a user OS, you pretty much had to have your own computer to use for it.

    In conclusion, I have little to no programming experience outside of Solaris (I kinda stopped going to the LUG after a while, mostly because I didn't have access to a Linux box), but I don't really know how to use Solaris either. Furthermore, I no longer have access to Solaris either. I'm poor, I can't afford another computer, I don't have enough HD space to dual boot, I've got a lot of cheezy hardware that I don't want to go to waste (webcam, digital speakers, obscure network card, TV tuner), and I'm not involved or interested in any projects at the moment. And unlike the days of MS-DOS, Solaris has little relevance as a desktop OS at the moment - and even if it did, I wouldn't know about it.

    This is why I don't like Sun. They don't just want to beat MS, they want to BE MS. They try to force their own brand of uniformity into institutions as well. They suck just like MS does, but in different ways. I'm glad I didn't get the Bachelors of MFC in CS, but what I have is somewhat useless to me at the moment. After four years of college, I still can't write usable programs on my home computer. At least with some diversity in OSes, I could have had more choices to find something that interested me and that I would want to work with even after college. I think that's what we need to focus on for kids today - let them learn different things so they don't get stuck on one thing in the future. Then maybe people won't have to dual-boot in the future just to use proprietary software/hardware when needed.
  • by weave (48069) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @06:27AM (#95716) Journal
    Microsoft already heavily discounts software for schools. I can buy full blown Office licenses under their select program for under $50 for example. At those prices, it's not worth it to pirate it.

    What the school systems have problems with is the personnel to enforce licensing, the resistance to lock down teacher machines to prevent software installs since they claim they need to install educational software, stuff that comes with texts, etc, etc... Ensuring license compliance is tough in a school, even if the school administration is doing all they can to be legal.

    What I find highly disgusting is Microsoft trying to profit from this situation by nailing them to the cross instead of trying to work with them to make them legal at the cost of the licenses.

    For example, one program Microsoft has is to sell unlimited per-seat site licensing for their software based on the number of FTE (full-time equivalent) staff. This agreement includes installations on student lab PCs of an unlimited number of copies. It's called the "Campus Agreement" and would be ideal in many of these cases. They should approach the schools and offer that to them with no penalties and not force them to do a costly audit and in real hard-luck cases, offer them grants to help pay for it (and since it's only a paper license, the marginal cost to Microsoft is almost zero...)

    This frees up the school from a costly logistical nightmare. Now why the hell can't Microsoft work with the schools instead of trying to make examples out of them?

  • > And when you don't like the laws, you don't break the laws.

    Uhm, sorry no. Civil disobediance at an unjust law works faster then any "by the book" method.
  • BGates is giving money and HW/SW [yahoo.com] to schools on one hand.
    The other hand is making profit from other schools.

    He must have read Machiavelli [utm.edu]. Look like an angel in the public eye, act like a devil in reality.

  • by heffel (83440) <dheffelfinger@@@ensode...net> on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @05:50AM (#95719) Homepage Journal
    Modern linux distributions are as easy to use as Windows. You can point and click your way to pretty much anything.

    I don't think any windows user would have much trouble using one of these distributions.

    As a case in point, my 14 year old brother came to visit the other day (we live thousands of miles apart), he had never seen any computer running anything other than Windows. He had no problem whatsoever using my Mandrake 8 machine.

  • by drnomad (99183) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @05:07AM (#95720)
    Unfortunately, Microsoft Office is like a virus. If one of the offices you connect to uses it, it means that you have to use itserlf. In that way, Office usage is spreading like a infectious disease.
    --
  • by demaria (122790) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @06:01AM (#95721) Homepage
    No, installing linux, recompiling a kernal, and using a command prompt does not in and by itself show how a computer or operating system works.

    Typing "/usr/bin/emacs" and clicking "Start -> Programs -> emacs" merely launch emacs. Likewise, clicking an icon in a GUI that represents the file location does the same thing. Just because you got unix does not mean you know how program execution works.

    The problem with linux and especially X is:
    1) Consistancy
    2) Predictability
    3) Simplicity
    4) Standardization

    These can be very fustrating to new users. Heck, it annoys me, and I consider myself experienced enough. :) I just live with it. But if I was new to the system, I wouldn't want to use unix. It is way to hostile of an environment. The younger the kids, the more annoying these inconsistancies become. And then you turn kids off to computers.
  • How can Microsoft prosecute schools when they're all still running on Apple IIs?

    The version of Basic [everything2.com] built into the ROM of all Apple II computers from II Plus to IIGS is copyright Microsoft. "Pay up on Office, or we'll terminate your Applesoft Basic license, and you won't be able to use your IIGS lab."

  • by pjrc (134994) <paul@pjrc.com> on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @09:36AM (#95723) Homepage Journal
    Don't like your school?? Are your teachers a bunch of jerks? Maybe you just don't like getting out of bed early in the morning?

    Now's your change to "get back" at them and cause them some pain. Quoting from the article:

    Once discovered -- typically through tips that come via hotlines like 1-800-RU-LEGIT -- they're treated just like any other violator, says Jenny Blank, BSA's director of enforcement.

    So there you have it: the number to call. It might help to actually know there's some unlicensed software on a particular machine or two... but my guess is they'd be glad to have any tip, even a lie, as an excuse to conduct an audit (there will almost certainly be machines with unlicensed software, which means profit for the BSA)

    Of course, it's Summer, so to maximize the pain for your school district, you'll probably want to wait until shortly before or right about the time school starts back up. In the end, doing this will only make the environment worse for everyone (except the BSA and maybe Microsoft), but it will put a lot of additional stress on teachers and administrators in the short term.

  • by dmccarty (152630) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @06:21AM (#95724)
    Well, we have a solution. The K-12LTSP v.1.0 project

    When I first read that name I thought you were joking. No wonder why so many Linux companies are failing: lack of connection between the products and their potential customers. Here you go through the entire schpiel of a car salesman, and when it comes to the point of naming the car you blurt out some cryptic code that no one who isn't a car technician would understand. Detroit doesn't name their cars the GMC 225HP-WB-180/25-14. No one would buy such a hideously named monstrosity. And if they did, the owners would decide on a pronouncable name and call it that.

    Without simplicity, products are destined for failure. Great concepts are often complex concepts packaged in simple packaging. Why would a teacher unfamiliar with your product choose "K-12LTSP v.1.0" over "Microsoft Windows"? If you don't choose a name that you can build recognition with your products will be simply unrecognizeable (and thus unsold).

  • by SnapShot (171582) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @07:16AM (#95725)

    It's a non-issue anyway. Imagine a large school district -- Philadephia, New York, LA -- announced that, due to the cost of licenses of MS products, they were standardizing on Debian (or pick your favorite distribution) with StarOffice, Gimp, and Mozilla for the 15,000 computers in all of their schools and administrative offices. Approximatly, 16 hours later a fleet of helecopters from Redmond would swoop down and drop crates of MS products compliments of the Gates foundation. Microsoft may want everyone to pay for their software, but the one thing they can't risk is an entire city of children and educators who realize that there are options other than MS for your software.

  • by SubtleNuance (184325) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @10:04AM (#95726) Journal
    How about you config your email server to strip any *.doc *.xls *.mdb file and send a reply to the sender:

    The file attachment sent to the %user_name has been found to be of a proprietary and closed standard. The computing lab at %school_district maintains an open and commercial-vendor neutral computing infrastructure."The file you have sent is unable to be opened save specific proprietary software(s). Please retransmit your files in some of the following suggested formats:

    *.doc - *.rtf

    *.xls - *.csv

    *.ppt - *.html
    Your intended recipient, %user_name, has been notified of this transmission.
    "

  • by SubtleNuance (184325) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @08:56AM (#95727) Journal
    Schools have a responsibility to give students some real world skills that they can use not to enlighten or indoctrinate

    Schools are meant ot teach conecpts - not as job training. Enlightenment is *EXACTLY* the goal. Indoctrination is another matter altogether, which is a bit to far offtopic - suffice it to say - "Indoctrination" occurs all around you - it is trying to instruct or teach a group of ideas... and when you run the school system, you are indoctrinating.

    Teach a person what it means to 'copy a file' on a 'fixed media' is what is necessary - the implementation is trivial. cp or copy or 'cut-paste' is simply 'copying a file' afterall.

    Teaching people how to use 'M$ Office XP' is a wrong - teaching them about word processors, spreadsheets and SQL/RDBMS is the *right* thing to teach.

    Vocational schools (trade schools) teach job-skills. "General Public" schools should be preperation for University... and the foundations of general knowledge... otherwise the person should be sent to a vocational school.
  • by phaze3000 (204500) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @05:29AM (#95728) Homepage
    "The copyright law should be applied universally," she says. "What is it we're trying to teach these children anyway? Are we teaching them that its OK to steal? The message we need to get to them is that intellectual property deserves to be respected."

    That's funny, at my school we were always taught to share. If you had something that someone else could use, and you didn't need it, you should give it to someone else. This was never portrayed as stealing at any point during my education..

    --

  • by tenzig_112 (213387) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @05:34AM (#95729) Homepage
    The 9x OS is a bit of a commodity, something consumers think they cannot do without, something with only one source. Perhaps only a psychological monopoly, but real enough.

    And with the growth of the industry stagnant, the Baron has ordered Raban to sqeeze all he can from Arakis, SQUEEZE!

    [New slogan = "Through Windows I set my mind in motion."]

    I'm less worried about what the move does for school budgets as much as what it will do to kids. "Dad, when I grow up I want to be a robber barron."

    The education squeeze is nothing compared to the hurt they're putting on the suits. The new Software Assurance program may increase software operations costs for some businesses as much as 40%.

    The deadline delay is supposed to make them look magnanimous: Kinder, Genter Microsoft Delays Buggery of Corporate America [ridiculopathy.com]

  • by dcavanaugh (248349) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @06:20AM (#95730) Homepage
    Of all the places that M$ could look for money, school systems are probably the least effective. They generally don't buy anything without budgeting a year in advance. Even then, anything that is not a state or federal mandate can be deleted at a whim. I suspect that a great deal of software is grant-funded. This means an even longer lead time, and the approval process is even more unpredictable. Even if the schools want to cooperate, they will expend most of their energy on reducing license utilization, not buying more licenses. Never underestimate the ability of a school system to pinch pennies.

    Besides, M$ should be giving the product away.

    Digital used to give away just about all their software to colleges via the "Campuswide Software License Grant" program. For a while, it really worked. DEC expanded their market share in higher ed., and students graduated with DEC experience. It wasn't enough to stop the PC trend, and DEC watered down the program in a desperate search for cash. However, it was a great idea, especially as a tax writeoff. The cool part was that they could write off the full value of what the colleges used (not what they bought or would have bought). If they used 3X as much software as before, the whole program became revenue-neutral compared to the old practice of trying to get blood from a stone.

    The alternative is the current M$ strategy, which creates a huge opportunity for open source. Considering the escalating per seat cost of M$, the schools would be better off hiring open source consultants to install & train. The only problem is the availability of educational software (unless WINE becomes a reliable concept).

    Apple tried the donation method and failed, but you have to consider that the stuff was pricey (for traditional paying customers), and not all that well suited for business (at the time).

    M$ could easily follow the DEC/Apple example, and probably get better results than DEC or Apple did. Not only could they do this, it would not be an anti-trust issue because it's already been done by companies that once had commanding market share in the market where they were giving the product away. Besides, since when was there a limit on charitable corporate donations?

    Instead, we can watch the latest example of M$ foolishness. It tells us who we are dealing with and what their priorities are.

    Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer or tax advisor. This is not legal or financial advice.

  • by lcypher (446291) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @07:38AM (#95731)
    My question for the BSA was, "When is the last time your member companies have been audited?"

    First they told me that member companies are not audited. Then I asked how they could expect other companies to perform costly audits if the member companies that are trying to enforce thier copyrights are not audited themselves.

    Then they told me that there had been audits, but they are not publicized. I asked how the public found out about BSA audits and fines in the past if they weren't public. They claimed that the companies that infringed the copyrights and were fined were the ones making public the results of the audits. So, copyright infringers are tattling on themselves when they get caught?

    I guess the best way not to get audited by the BSA would be to become PART of the BSA. Then you can go after companies and schools that don't comply to standards that you don't comply to yourself. How do you spell "hypocrisy"?
  • by night_flyer (453866) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @05:01AM (#95732) Homepage
    kids arent learning, math hasnt changed in 100s of years, english hasnt changed in almost as many, history, well it changes once a year, but major events dont happen that often (besides that is what "current events class was for) books are reusable and dont need to be "upgraded". instead of using this money on computers and internet access that is NOT needed, why dont they invest some TIME and EFFORT into the children themselves. the latest polls show we have the DUMBEST KIDS in the WORLD... meanwhile my grandparents were taught in a one room schoolhouse with no AC (its now used as my parents garage). they learned ALL the basics PLUS a whole lot more... and their parents were POOR farmers in the southeast corner of Kansas... we dont need computers, we need teachers...

    _______________________

  • by euroderf (47) <a@b.c> on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @04:59AM (#95733) Journal
    People round here might demonise Microsoft, but at the end of the day education is education and it doesn't matter how it is provided or who by, as long as it is impartial and rounded.

    I read an interesting article on this topic at adequacy.org [adequacy.org], the controversial discussion site, regarding the education of children.

    The article [adequacy.org] considered the sort of education that children get from unlikely sources, such as games, and the dangerous relations of this to commercial companies and some of the adverse effects.

    Seems to me that we should not be overzealous and deny education and educational equipment, nomatter the provider.

    That would be taking zealoutry too far.
    --

  • by chill (34294) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @05:06AM (#95734) Journal
    I've donated a couple of old PCs (and their respective Win95 licenses) to my kid's school. I've considered installing some Linux boxes (ThinkNICs) to assist but...

    When I walked in the class there was a shelf full of (properly purchased -- for the most part) Windows educational software. None of that would run on Linux. Not much point installing a PC that couldn't run any of their existing programs.

    I am in the process of gathering as much educational (elementary, middle & high school) software for Linux as possible so I can present them with an alternative.

    Ideally GPL, since it will be installed on 8-10 workstations. (That's the "for the most part" part of the Windows software -- they own 1-2 copies of each, not 8-10.)

    Does anyone have FIRST HAND experience with educational software for Linux that they could recommend? Not just a site that promotes the stuff, but specific programs that are worthwhile.

    --
    Charles E. Hill
  • by Foxman98 (37487) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @04:55AM (#95735) Homepage
    I think comparing a very horrible, deadly disease to software problems is very tasteless.
  • by Tackhead (54550) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @05:57AM (#95736)
    > Take away Microsoft's demand at this level and this will most likely continue through the student's lives.

    Entirely true. I got into Solaris because Sun dumped about $250K worth of IPC workstations and 21" black-and-white monitors into our CS lab when I was in college.

    Strangely, everyone I graduated with also thought Sun gear and their OS was pretty cool, soundly beating the crap out of those MS-DOS boxen we had in our dorm rooms. We laughed when we saw Windows 3.1, which was the "really cool thing because you could run more than one program at once".

    Opportunity to any Linux consultant-type geek: Find a school district. Point out the costs of MSFT licencing. Offer, for $20 per box, to install Linux and KOffice.

    If you're in high school and are a consultant-type geek, offer to do it for free for your school, then $20 per box to other schools.

    "Bring a child up in the way in which he should go, and when he is older, he will not depart from it".
    - Proverbs.

  • by maddogsparky (202296) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @05:30AM (#95737)
    ...comparing a very horrible, deadly disease to software problems is very tasteless.

    I believe he was refering to the practice of large companies applying the same arm-bending tactics to financially-stricken individuals and groups as they do to organizations and individuals that clearly have the capability to pay without severely impacting the other parts of their existence.

    If schools have to pay outrageous prices for software that costs next to nothing to reproduce, at the expense of paying for teachers, facilities, books, computers, etc., the kids attending those schools are disadvantaged because it will be difficult to get a good education. AIDS is bad because of the quality of life it bestows on the stricken. A poor education often results in poverty. Either way, a person is reduced to scraping to get by in life, when it doesn't have to happen.

    If the means exist to treat both (drugs for aids, better teaching aids in schools), and large, profit-centric companies exacerbate the problem instead of helping, how is this a bad analogy?

  • by Gehenna_Gehenna (207096) <cavanetten@noSpAM.gmail.com> on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @05:04AM (#95738) Homepage
    but most of the teachers in elementary schools don't have the first idea how to use Linux, or other non-windows os's. The applications and operating systems have yet to come to the point where "joe Elementary School Teacher" would be able to use it effectivly, much les instruct others on how to use it. Please do not flame me, all you computer literate elmeantery school people, you KNOW that most of your collueges are apart of the AOL crowd...
  • by evocate (209951) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @07:11AM (#95739)
    I followed the links from here to the BSA piracy study [bsa.org]. I was impressed by their estimate of piracy costs last year - almost US$12 billion. This is an interesting number because it's based on wholesale prices set by commercial software publishers. These prices are already padded to offset piracy losses. There is a reflexive [soros.org] relationship between wholesale prices and piracy losses. If the BSA reports higher dollar losses due to piracy then wholesale prices will rise to offset the increased loss. Reflexively, these higher wholesale prices result in higher dollar losses due to piracy. A vicious circle for consumers, a benign circle for publishers of popular consumer software.

    How about another even more outrageous reflexive relationship? If the BSA is successful at international enforcement of U.S.-based licenses, they will be able to extract rather large amounts of capital from rather poor countries. The trade balance will swing in favor of the U.S. and result in a stronger US$ (currency strength always follows the balance of trade). A stronger US$ in turn requires these countries to pay out even more for software licenses and swing the trade balance even further in favor of US commercial software publishers.

    Soros's reflexivity theory explains boom and bust market cycles. It also explains why booms build slowly, reach a frenzied climax, and then bust violently (like the dot-comedy). Usually, some new factor (a disruptive technology) enters the picture and reverses the direction of the circle, changing beneficiaries into victims and vice-versa. It's no wonder Microsoft abhors free software alternatives. There are many such vicious circles in the software industry that are fueled by the current commercial software model. Microsoft's entire business model depends on these circles remaining intact. And as you know, free software is the only realistic way that these circles can be reversed.

  • by opkool (231966) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @05:08AM (#95740) Homepage

    Celebrating the release of version 1.0 this last July, 4th. let me impersonate a car-dealer:

    Do you want a computer-lab in your school?

    Do you need 100% uptime?

    Do you want to have a maintenance-free environment?

    Do you want to teach, not re-install Windows?

    ... but you do not want to spend $20,000 and need crash-less computers?

    Well, we have a solution. The K-12LTSP v.1.0 project

    For about $6,000 (less if you already have "old" computers), you can set-up a lab with e-mail, browsers, office suites, image programs...

    On Linux, of course.

    Newsforge article [newsforge.com]

    K12LTSP home page [k12ltsp.org]

    Work with Legacy equipment [k12ltsp.org]

    ... and a " girl magnet [k12.or.us] " as stated on their site:

    Salut and education,

  • by Caid Raspa (304283) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @05:42AM (#95741)
    We use AppleWorks for word processing but I put Office on their computers because they couldn't read the Microsoft Word attachments they kept getting from the district's central office

    This is their official reason for violating the license. I've had the same problem (management droids send MS attachments), but my solution is legal and working: When I get an e-mail MS attachment, I reply near-instantly:

    Sorry, I could not open the file you sent me. Got an error message 'unknown file format' or something like that instead. Could you re-send it, and please use the pdf format this time, it seems to work better on my system.

    Thanks.

    Most managers are not computer literate, and sometimes this would even be a plausible reason (corrupted file etc.) So, MS Word gets the blame.

    Most of the managers send then a pdf. Sometimes I've had to show them how to make this. (Repeat after me: Save-as-pdf) After a few mailings like this, some guys have actually started sending pdf attachments instead of 'corrupted' MS-Word docs.

    I have a Linux system, so I use pdf2ps and ghostview. They could use the Acrobat Reader or something else if they don't want to install Linux. I could of course use StarOffice, but this seems to work just as well.

  • by jneves (448063) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @04:58AM (#95742) Homepage
    A good reference for schools to use in this area is SEUL [seul.org].
  • by Enry (630) <`enry' `at' `wayga.net'> on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @05:34AM (#95743) Journal
    Bull pucky. *honks your nose*

    The reason why most people (businesses) won't make the switch from Windows to Linux is that Linux will take too long to retrain employees. Teaching Linux and OpenOffice in schools is the perfect way to get this training done right the first time.

    These students then go off into the world, wondering where OpenOffice is and what this crap software called Word is supposed to do.
  • by Per Abrahamsen (1397) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @05:26AM (#95744) Homepage
    > We end up with the same or more numbers of phds
    > and master students per capita.

    Really? You may be right, I have no numbers, but the places in US I have been most of the Ph.D. students have been Asian or European. I sometimes think that the only reason USA hasn't become a third world country is the amazing number of bright minds they import from the rest of the world. They don't seem to produce many of their own.

    Of course, this is in science and technology only. Maybe USA produce the worlds finest doctors and lawyers.
  • by GauteL (29207) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @05:07AM (#95745)
    Although it is most certainly distasteful, it is (under current law) their right to do so.

    I'm not sure it is in their best interest though. It may seem so right now, because of their monopoly-situation, that trying to maximise short-term profit using this kind of strategy is wise.

    I believe it is just this sort of thinking that may eventually lead to their downfall.
    If schools get sick enough of forced-upgrading, high prices, anti-piracy-schemes etc.. they will switch because of their low budget..
    And since they may very well help influence thousands of kids each, I think Microsoft should continue to be gentle to them (which my understanding is that they've mostly been so far).
  • by Kenneth (43287) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @05:54AM (#95746) Homepage
    Come on people. Why bitch about this? Instead encourage schools to use Open Source. I can't believe the lack of thought I've seen on these message boards.

    Remember that one of the major attributes of all educators in the public education system is a heavy concern for money. You'd have it too if you were making 1/3 of most other people with a similar level of education, and had to hear about how the budget didn't allow for this or that necessary item.

    Just what do you think the most effective way to advocate Free Software to educatiors is? Note that we should call it Free Software when advocating to schools. The idea confusion between free beer and free lunch will help us here where it hurt us in the business world.

    All we have to do is point out to horribly cash strapped schools that not only can they get this great software for little or no money, but they can copy it to their heart's content and put it on as many computers as they want.

    There will be some problems since educators often tend to be technophobic as well, but simply pointing out such incidents in the mainstream press will go a long way to make them consider a Free alternative.

    Why bitch about this? Why not just encourage Free Software? Because bitching about this IS going to be the most effective way we can encourage the use of Free Software in the education system. Sure it's scare tactics, and smacks a little of FUD, but WE aren't making this up. As far as I'm concerned Microsoft dug their own grave here, it's just up to us to take advantage of it.
  • by sstaton (51605) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @05:36AM (#95747) Homepage
    Good luck getting any non-Microsoft software into school districts. At one time, Apple was the defacto king of educational computers, but in the last couple of years Microsoft has very successfully marketed their way into most middle and upper-middle class schools. My local elementary has "Microsoft nights" where parents are shown Microsoft products -- all pitched under the auspices of the local school district (McKinney ISD, with which I have recently had a few disagreements [deltos.com] and which has been noted in Slashdot here [slashdot.org]).

    It's unlikely that Linux or branded Linux systems would ever be permitted in this environment. I'll be that Microsoft has sold the MISD licenses that forbid alternative operating systems on any desktop or server in the district, all in exchange for a cheaper Windows license. Well, Linux costs nothing, and as a tax payer, that really fries my bacon when tax dollars are spent on more expensive products that don't really offer any services that the school district's rather restrictive IT policies allow in the classroom.

    I wonder if another monopoly court case could be construed from this?

  • by nowt (230214) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @04:57AM (#95748)
    to bitch.. open/free software the way for schools to go... this would foster a generation of people who are knowledgable in open/free appliactions.

    Take away Microsoft's demand at this level and this will most likely continue through the student's lives.

  • by daniel_isaacs (249732) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @05:11AM (#95749) Homepage
    We do need computers. But we need teachers that understand how to use them. Not as you and I use them, but as a pervasive tool to incorporate into the classroom. Like desks.

    But what they really need are roofs that don't leak. Stomaches that aren't empty. Hearts that are not hopeless.

    It's silly to think a computer or ten will substanitively improve one's education. At least, when more basic needs are not met. Most of the hurdles facing Education in the US are Socio-Economic. Not technological.

    Please pardon my spelling. I went to a public school with no computers.

  • by GreyPoopon (411036) <gpoopon @ g m a i l . com> on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @05:09AM (#95750)
    Mark it up to arrogance or stupidty, but they are on a path of desctruction. Years ago, Apple Computer worked tightly with educational institutions (mostly universities) to get their hardware (and software) installed for students. Many times, their products were provided at little or no cost. This investment paid off big time. Many college students ended up buying Macintosh computers when they left college. Why? Because it was what they were used to.

    Now, Microsoft is irritating the people that educate young minds. They are very clearly handing the very places where people are first exposed to computers a darn good reason for jumping on the Open Source / Free Software bandwagon. Honestly, somebody with some financial resources should contact these schools and offer to help them transition to Free Software that will prevent them from ever being hassled over licenses again.

    After reading all of these latest releases about Microsoft bullying people, I can't help but think that they are either incredibly stupid (not likely), or they have an ace up their sleeve that nobody knows about yet. All of this sheds light on an experience a company I used to work at had. A few years ago, Microsoft did a license audit at the site (a hospital, BTW), and mysteriously discovered that they weren't in compliance. Now, I wondered how that could possibly be true, as we had more licenses than were being used. Anyway, under the disguise of benevolence, Microsoft agreed to forget the penalities from being "underlicensed," as long as the institution agreed to purchase an "Enterprise License." So, many many budget dollars were redirected to purchase the Enterprise License so that the institution wouldn't get sued. Quite a few high profile projects had to be scaled back or dropped altogether. I wonder what effect that might have had on patient outcomes....

    GreyPoopon
    --

"I've seen the forgeries I've sent out." -- John F. Haugh II (jfh@rpp386.Dallas.TX.US), about forging net news articles

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