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Sun Microsystems Education Software

Ontario Schools License StarOffice 536

Posted by timothy
from the gateway-drug-for-free-software dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Sun Microsystems has signed a contract with the Ontario Ministry of Education in one of the biggest deals yet for its StarOffice software. It covers 72 public and parochial school boards in Ontario. All will be licensed to use StarOffice 7 on all school-owned PCs. Financial details weren't disclosed but Ontario school officials said the cost is 'minimal.'" Reader Apostata adds that the move "will see the application suite used by 2.5 million students. No word on whether it ships with 'Canadian English' pack ;)"
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Ontario Schools License StarOffice

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  • Backstory (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mfh (56) on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @12:33AM (#9362837) Journal
    I think this move is the most enlightened move the Ministry of Ed has made since inception. Sadly it's only motivated by the shoddy budget for education, and not a move in ideology, necessarily. The backstory to the Ontario Ministry of Education using Star Office has to do mostly with politics. Even with $2bil increase to spending on education in the 2004 budget, this is still a lot less than years prior, due to Tory cuts to education. It's really a sad state of affairs for children today, in Ontario.
    • Re:Backstory (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Orgazmus (761208)
      In our school(Norway), we have about 60pc's running licenced versions of WinXP, while we're out of everything else :\
      Its sad..
    • by fembots (753724) on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @12:48AM (#9362925) Homepage
      Does that mean that the best way to lobby for OpenSource is to lobby for cutting funding in education?

      The ministry probably can't even get StarOffice if the budget is cut to $500mil, maybe then they'll start considering OpenOffice :)
      • Re:Backstory (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Daengbo (523424) <daengbo@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @08:47AM (#9364665) Homepage Journal
        What's really sad about this is that normally it's not the case. The K12LTSP mailing list is full of members pitching a thin client system to underfunded districts, saying that they can reuse all the machines currently in the school and accept donations from parents, while spending a relatively small sum on a couple of high quality servers.

        The overwhelming majority choose to totally upgrade their IT structure on MS's timetable while slashing teaching positions, instead.

        Some people don't have their priorities straight.
    • Re:Backstory (Score:2, Insightful)

      by neilcSD (743335)
      It doesn't matter what the motivation is. They could have switched from Microsoft because little green men from Mars made them. The bottom line is, the sooner we can de-indoctrinate (is that a word?) people from Microsoft products, and in greater amounts, the sooner they will go away.
      • Re:Backstory (Score:5, Insightful)

        by NanoGator (522640) on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @03:44AM (#9363555) Homepage Journal
        "The bottom line is, the sooner we can de-indoctrinate (is that a word?) people from Microsoft products, and in greater amounts, the sooner they will go away."

        Oh brother. So your motivation is "destroy Microsoft"? You just hate them, so be gone with them? +5 Insightful?

        Look, I'm not exactly in love with Microsoft here, but the reason that they're in this monopoly in the first place is they have made a VERY useful app. Spare me the "Oh they made a monopoly out of nothing and then put a gun to millions of people's heads" theories, as long as people are complaining that the alternatives are missing features then the Microsoft 'doctrine' is going to remain quite strong.

        It's cool that somebody took a leap and started using Open Office, but man, don't turn this into a "ding dong MS is dead" pitchfork party.
        • Re:Backstory (Score:4, Interesting)

          by tftp (111690) on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @04:34AM (#9363734) Homepage
          Spare me the "Oh they made a monopoly out of nothing and then put a gun to millions of people's heads" theories

          I'd use a different analogy: "MS gave users enough of their drugs so that the users are addicted now, and can't withdraw even when they are ravaged by some virus every other day."

          There is nothing wrong in curing a drug addict (assuming that it is possible.) Similarly, there is nothing wrong in weaning the users from the MS alcohol, even though it tastes great.

          • Re:Backstory (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Trent05 (70375)
            Why should Windows users be "cured". It's an operating system that is easy to use, is widely supported and easy to support. I have a Red Hat 9 box that runs like a champ but can be a pain in the butt sometimes and I'd hate like hell to support it over the phone to family. I haven't had a virus since ?Elvira? back in 94 or 95, and that's though using various Windows boxes from 88' to present.
            I'd LOVE to see Linux become mainstream, but it still ain't there yet. It's a differnt OS for a different purpos
        • Re:Backstory (Score:5, Insightful)

          by 1u3hr (530656) on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @05:31AM (#9363905)
          but the reason that they're in this monopoly in the first place is they have made a VERY useful app.

          Many, myself among them, would say that it's more to do with bundling and intimidation of OEMs who offered alternatives. Certainly MS Office does the job, but given an hour to get used to it, WordPerfect's suite, IBM's SmartSuite, or several other lesser-known ones would satisfy the vast majority of users. If you've ever been in a real office and watched people using it, most never stray from: enter text, style by clicking on the formatting bar, print/save/send.

        • Re:Backstory (Score:5, Insightful)

          by 16K Ram Pack (690082) <tim,almond&gmail,com> on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @05:35AM (#9363918) Homepage
          I don't support the "destroy Microsoft" line, but creating a genuine choice based on open standards would be a very good thing.

          The problem I can see for Microsoft is that once something like Open/Star Office reaches a certain point (say 20%), Microsoft could get into deep trouble. At that point, everyone will know someone who uses Star/Open Office.

          The biggest challenge for Open Office isn't quality of product. It's awareness and confidence.

        • Re:Backstory (Score:5, Interesting)

          by nathanh (1214) on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @05:46AM (#9363943) Homepage
          Look, I'm not exactly in love with Microsoft here, but the reason that they're in this monopoly in the first place is they have made a VERY useful app. Spare me the "Oh they made a monopoly out of nothing and then put a gun to millions of people's heads" theories, as long as people are complaining that the alternatives are missing features then the Microsoft 'doctrine' is going to remain quite strong.

          I'm no lover of Microsoft either but there's no denying that some of their products are quite good. Microsoft haters need to realise that Microsoft makes stuff that is "good enough". It isn't always the best but similarly it isn't always the worst.

          Of course, this "good enough" mentality in customers is what will destroy Microsoft. Free software like Linux is also "good enough". So Microsoft might invest considerable effort to make their products better but the vast majority of customers just won't care. Superior quality didn't save Microsoft's competitors in the 80s and 90s and it won't save Microsoft now.

          However, I will make a point that Microsoft got this large mostly through luck. They owned the popular OS which ran on the hardware platform that grew from the expected run of several 1000 IBM units to several 100 million cloned units worldwide. That success could have just as equally gone to Apple if the Apple II was a clonable platform, or to Digital Research if the Kildalls hadn't balked at IBM's NDA. Mr Gates was in the right place at the right time and knew someone willing to sell him the right product. You might call that "business genius" but honestly I think Gates isn't that smart. He might have had some inkling the deal with IBM was "important" but I doubt he realised it was worth tens of billions.

        • Re:Backstory (Score:3, Insightful)

          by kubrick (27291)
          . Spare me the "Oh they made a monopoly out of nothing and then put a gun to millions of people's heads" theories

          don't turn this into a "ding dong MS is dead" pitchfork party

          I didn't see either of these statements in the post you were replying to. Nice collection of strawmen you have there -- are they made from official astroturf?
        • Re:Backstory (Score:3, Insightful)

          by kiwaiti (95197)
          In many cases, MS Office is bought because users are assumed to be more familiar with it than with alternatives, not because it has any cool features alternatives would lack.

          Give millions of students a chance to take their first steps in Open/Star Office, and alternatives to MS may seem more viable as a choice for large office environments, where user confusion is a major cost threat.

          Kiwaiti

    • Re:Backstory (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Florian Weimer (88405) <fw@deneb.enyo.de> on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @04:02AM (#9363628) Homepage
      They still have too much too much money if they license StarOffice, instead of just installing OpenOffice for free.
  • About damn time (Score:2, Insightful)

    by asit+ler (688945) *
    It's about time some major organization, even a non-profit, started using StarOffice, or OOo.
    • by bstadil (7110) on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @12:55AM (#9362966) Homepage
      I agree. We need openoffice to MS Office filters though. I am tired of sending .sxw or .sxc files to people and having to later point to OO.c for them to read it. (Sending .doc files is not an option, as it plays to MS)

      I would be much better if you could suggest a filter that they could use within MS Office to read and write OO.o files directly.

      Once OO.o reaches a 15%-20% marketshare, the battle is won as you can then demand they read your files not that they need to be "translated"

      • by aled (228417)
        And a standalone viewer would be cool. MS used to have standalones viewers for office, don't know now. Perhaps a simple app that xsl openoffice to rtf to open with wordpad would not be difficult.
      • by 1u3hr (530656) on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @01:12AM (#9363065)
        I agree. We need openoffice to MS Office filters though. I am tired of sending .sxw or .sxc files to people

        • plain text
        • HTML
        • PDF
        • RTF
      • by mrchaotica (681592) on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @01:53AM (#9363236)
        While I sympathize with your desire to punish MS users, they have to really want to read your document for that to work.

        Maybe you should get a big stack of mini-CDRs (or business card size ones) and give them a copy of OpenOffice with every document!
      • by Ckwop (707653) * <Simon.Johnson@gmail.com> on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @03:44AM (#9363554) Homepage

        Once OO.o reaches a 15%-20% marketshare, the battle is won as you can then demand they read your files not that they need to be "translated"

        Yeah.. Microsoft are going to give over that easily. Sure, they'll allow you to read the text in your Open Office document no problem but it wont look right. The font might be slightly different, or the margins might be annoyingly out, or that image you placed in the document might be a little off centre.

        Then a few months later you hear the board screaming about these faulty .sxw files. "Why don't those files load properly in Microsoft Office.. open office is a pack of shit" - It doesn't matter what you say in response they've already made up their mind..

        Remember, large companies are part of the battle but the real Microsoft heartland is the SME. In a typical UK SME, the IT provision usually falls under the control of the Finance director and in general they have no real desire to know the details of the IT industry. This makes justifying anything that isn't directly related to an impact on bottom line rather difficult.

        As a key example.. our main company database doesn't even meet first normal form. It's clear to everyone here that such a database is so deeply flawed that it has to be replaced. However, trying to convince them that the move into a normalised solution a whole host better is like trying to square the circle. It's not that they don't agree the proposed solution is better they simply don't see it as important enough to warrent change. It's very odd.

        Simon

      • Question... (Score:3, Interesting)

        by 16K Ram Pack (690082)
        When you send people the link to download OOo, what's their reaction?

        How about sending the file in PDF format?

  • Hosers (Score:3, Funny)

    by momerath2003 (606823) * on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @12:35AM (#9362852) Journal
    'Canadian English'?

    Will StarOffice append '", eh?" to every sentence? Or does it simply replace "about" with "aboot"?
    • Re:Hosers (Score:4, Funny)

      by ErichTheWebGuy (745925) on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @12:40AM (#9362882) Homepage
      Take off, eh!
    • Re:Hosers (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Mr. Flibble (12943) on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @12:43AM (#9362903) Homepage
      As a Canadian, I was going to make this very joke, but I was beat to the punch.

      However, I would like to know from those Americans on Slashdot: Where the heck does "aboot" come from? I have never met anyone in Canada that pronounces "about" as "aboot". Do any of you know where this originates?

      (PS: "Zed" not "Zee" ;)
      • Re:Hosers (Score:3, Informative)

        by momerath2003 (606823) *
        A lot of the great canadian references come from the movie "Strange Brew," based on characters from "The Great White North" which I believe was a Saturday Night Live skit.

        As for hearing anyone but them say it this way, the only peoples who I personally have heard with such an accent are those in Minnesota, which, as you probably know, is geographically very close to Canada. ;)
        • Re:Hosers (Score:5, Funny)

          by Pxtl (151020) on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @12:50AM (#9362935) Homepage
          SCTV actually (where John Candy got his start) - it was a Canadian show, but aimed for the American mass market. There was a minute or two of extra time at the end of the show because of the difference between Canadian and American timeslot lengths, so they decided to add something "uniquely Canadian" and put in Bob and Doug in the "Great White North".
        • Actually, it was an SCTV [sctv.org] skit. And yes, I would imagine that "aboot" comes from the Minnesota area, which is actually geographically close to Kenora, Ontario (right across the Lake of the Woods) and parts of Manitoba.
      • Never been to the east coast then, eh, b'y?
      • I don't know where you live, but I used to travel extensively to Ottawa. I have definitely heard people in the Ottawa area pronounce the word "about" somewhat like "aboot". Don't know if there's a specific part of Ontario they were from, and I know the "aboot" is recognizable as a backwoods Minnesota accent too, but I've certainly heard it in Canada.
      • Western Ontario (Score:2, Informative)

        by eisenbud (708663)
        I drove west across the Trans-Canada Highway in '98 on my slightly roundabout way to California, and there was a definite patch of people saying "aboot" in Western Ontario. It was a long time ago now, but I think it was mostly between Sault Ste. Marie and Thunder Bay.
      • Re:Hosers (Score:5, Interesting)

        by sommerfeld (106049) on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @01:06AM (#9363034)
        It's real. Vowels tend to wander in regional dialects so what sounds like an "au" to you might sound closer to an "oo" to me. Google turned up "Canadian Raising" [yorku.ca] which explains this particular difference better than I can.
      • Re:Hosers (Score:5, Funny)

        by bigdavex (155746) on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @01:16AM (#9363079)

        I have never met anyone in Canada that pronounces "about" as "aboot".

        The Canadians I know say "aboot" but they don't know it. One of them asked us about the reference in South park. "What's all that aboot? We don't say aboooot."
      • Re:Hosers (Score:3, Informative)

        by Zeebs (577100)
        There is more then one "Canadian Accent" Just ask a Newfoundlander, a Quebec'er, ect... Where I'm from Greater Toronto Area Ontario, I don't hear aboot.

        Speaking of odd pronounciations though, why do yanks say sarry, like the Indian dress Sarie. SORR-Y :P
      • Re:Hosers (Score:3, Insightful)

        by 0racle (667029)
        Talk to some Maritimer then. especially someone with a thick Newfie accent.
    • Re:Hosers (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Champion3 (599877)
      At least it will flag any occurances of "y'all."
    • by Trillan (597339)

      A few years ago, I added a spell checker to an application I wrote. I tried to find a Canadian English wordlist, either complete or as a supplement to a British or American dictionary.

      It's very difficult to find. I eventually concluded I was going to have to contact some Canadian publishers, and around that time I decided not to bother.

      Presumably, other Canadians did what I did -- use the American dictionary and correct it from time to time.

      • You can download the Canadian English (or even NZ or Australian English) spellchecker dictionary for OpenOffice / Star Office from this location [openoffice.org].

        Dictionaries for several dozen other languages are also available. Includes some that probably aren't available for MS Word - Moari, Faroese, Setswana, Zulu, etc.

    • Re:Hosers (Score:2, Insightful)

      by njm (556768)
      So, about this "oot and aboot" business... it's just plain wrong.

      Though for Americans "aboot" is what might sound closest to many Canadians' pronunciation of the word "about," it isn't correct. The sound present in some dialects of Canadian (and American!) English results from a phonological process known as Canadian Raising [yorku.ca]. The "ow" sound is pronounced pretty universally in America as [aU]--i.e. a diphthong whose first element is like the a in father and whose second is like the u in put. However,
    • Re:Hosers (Score:5, Funny)

      by MochaMan (30021) on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @03:08AM (#9363449) Homepage
      Well, I just come in the log cabin from hunting caribou whilst fending off grizzlies (and a couple o' vicious salmon) and I see some post on slashdot mocking Canadian English, eh. Well, as a born and bred Canadian, I feel it's aboot toime someone set the record straight on this whole sordid affair, 'fore a body ends up with a frozen mukluk to the arse.

      I'll give it to you straight -- we may wear toques, sit on chesterfields, and pay for our two-fours in loonies, and we may even say "aboot", but we get more beaver than anyone else on the planet.
  • by mini me (132455) on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @12:39AM (#9362869)
    The Ontario school board used Word Perfect in the past, which made sense, giving money to an Ontario company. I don't know why they didn't just use OpenOffice now. Unless times have changed since I was in the Ontario school system it will only be used for word processing anyway.
    • Far in the past, yes. I was a student in Ontario for many years, and at *least* the past 5, probably much more have been with Microsoft Office. Now, we also had old versions of Corel Office stuff along with it, but everyone just used Office.
    • The Ontario school board used Word Perfect in the past, which made sense, giving money to an Ontario company. I don't know why they didn't just use OpenOffice now

      You might just have answered your own question. Last I heard, (could be out-of-date now), OpenOffice had no wordperfect filters, but Star Office did. Legacy documents, anyone?
  • No chance (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lavalyn (649886) on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @12:40AM (#9362883) Homepage Journal
    Corel had a huge deal with the Ontario Board of Education a few years back, to get WordPerfect onto every computer. They got it installed... but nobody used it. The Microsoft hold was too strong by then. And this was like 2000. I don't think this had changed...

    I recall talking to the "computer" teacher/sysadmin at the time, suggesting WordPerfect or StarDivison's Staroffice on the additional Word licenses the school held. His answer was basically "but nobody will use it." Educators after all aren't accountable for costs like private businesses would be.
    • Re:No chance (Score:4, Insightful)

      by CoolGuySteve (264277) on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @03:39AM (#9363537)
      I was in school around that time. The problem wasn't so much that Office was good but rather that Word Perfect sucked. It was unstable, would present artifacts on the screen at times, was ugly, and was generally slow to load. Office was fast and relatively nice even though dealing with its autoformatting was a huge pain in the ass.

      The NT4 systems just tended to rot away after a while and need reghosting. Maybe the rotting took a heavier toll on WP.

      That being said, both word processors had little quirks that made them weird to use for students. To find the word count in Word Perfect, you have to go to File->Properties and click a tab, none which is immediately obvious. In Office, to doublespace a document, you had to go to Format->Paragraph and set line spacing to 2.0. You'd figure both companies would have gotten their acts together enough to make their products appeal to those who would ultimately choose one for a good part of their life.

      And as an aside, another argument used against WP was that Office was what was used in business and for some students, high school would be the only access to any kind of computer training in their lifetime, especially if they didn't have a computer at home. Not everyone goes on to post-secondary education.
  • by teklob (650327)
    Just because I'm bored I'll post some canadian-american english translations
    American - Canadian
    Soda - Pop
    11th Grade- Grade 11
    well thats all i can think of, that sure killed 2 minutes
  • OpenSOURCE! (Score:2, Informative)

    by Piranhaa (672441)
    I know as a fact, that computer systems in schools cost a huge amount of dollars (buying licenses for hundreds of computers at a time). I think the move to open source for schools will reduce the amount of prices associated with computers and allow for that money saved to be put towards something other than software (like gym equipment, or something more useful). When they move to open source operating systems, that will dramatically decrease problems associated with Windows (as there are right now)...
  • Cost? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by LinuxInDallas (73952) on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @12:45AM (#9362908)
    Interesting that the Canadian government can choose not to disclose the money spent on the contract. That's definitely in contrast to here in the US where even a teacher's pay is public record.
    • Re:Cost? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Zeebs (577100) <rsdrew@gmaiCHICAGOl.com minus city> on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @12:51AM (#9362944)
      Well it is somewhere, the problem is that no one cares to look for it unless the money is declared missing by the opposition party. I believe on a whole we trust our government a slight bit more, until that it is it's brought to our attention. Good thing there is a federal election here on June 28th, god willing a minority liberal government will be in control.

      PS for Canadian Slashdot'ers: Voting is as easy as ABC, Anybody But Conservative
  • by Granos (746051) on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @12:56AM (#9362972)
    Before everyone starts complaining about why they didn't use a free alternative like OOo, look at the Star Office 7 link in the summary. It IS free for educational use:
    Education No license fees; cost of media and shipping
    It was probably cheaper than trying to burn and distrubute thousands and thousands of OOo CDs, since most schools don't have CD burners available that would be able to produce a quantity like that. They bulk of the 'minimal' amount of money probably went to a support contract.
    • This needs modding up. That's a pretty big detail to have been overlooked.
    • CD's? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by phorm (591458) on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @01:22AM (#9363110) Journal
      Our school district uses OO, and we don't burn CD's. That's what network shares are for. For unconnected machines, sure - you can use a CD - we techs have them. A user could burn a copy if needed.

      It's easier to network-install 3-5 copies rather than popping CD's in and out anyhow, and I'd imagine most PC's are not standalone these days.
  • by tisme (414989) on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @12:56AM (#9362975)
    Microsoft is not going to let this happen, and I think I know what they will do. First, drastic price cuts will be implemented followed by the creation of additional tools and resources for schools and teachers.

    The reason Microsoft will refuse to give in, even if it means that they might lose a load of money in the short run, is because they understand that if they can get students hooked while they are young, they can keep perpetuating a monopoly. My younger siblings want Microsoft Word/Powerpoint/Excel on their computer/laptop simply because they know it from school.

    It will be a tough fight if larger inroads are made, because Microsoft will certainly retaliate. Another problem is schools are still able to opt for Microsoft Office instead, which many of them will certainly do.
  • Correction. (Score:2, Informative)

    by Raven42rac (448205) *
    It is not "Canadian English", it is "The Queen's English" that pretty much every other English-speaking country other than the US uses.
  • by Qwavel (733416) on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @01:00AM (#9362995)
    For anyone interested, here's (my interpretation of) the political and economic context in which this happened. This is a big win for OpenOffice, and I think this contextual information is relevant to the school boards decision to stop using MS Office.

    Ontario, the most populous province in Canada, has had almost a decade of right- wing government: tax cuts and spending cuts. The economy has, on the whole, been pretty good but the debt and deficit have continued the rapid rise that began with the 89-93 recession.

    Over this period the government has fought its main battles with the powerful teachers union to try and save money on their education budget.

    In the recent election, both the incumbent right-wing party and the centrist party lied outrageouslly about what they could do in spite of the state of the budget. It seems that you have to do this to get elected these days. (The only party that told the truth about the budget got clobbered.)

    The centrist party won the election and then had to come thru on its promises, which included a better relationship between gov't and teachers. This was clearly impossible, so they had to look at every conceivable way to save money without hurting teachers or letting any more schools fall apart. As usual, this exercise in cost cutting didn't yield even a fraction of what was promised, but it did get them to drop MS Office.

    So, maybe debts, deficits, cuts, and politians aren't all bad.

    But don't expect to see anything similar in big businesses. In my time doing systems consulting I found that, while government, small businesses, retail, and manufacturing were pretty strapped, most sectors of big business were wallowing in cash. The amount that these big companies are wasting on MS software is a tiny fraction of what they waste on all sorts of other things.
  • by mfuhrer (677972) on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @01:33AM (#9363151) Homepage
    Expect to see more such moves if the Green Party of Canada comes to power in this month's federal election. Not that they will actually win the election, of course, but the Greens do explicitly support open source software in their platform [greenparty.ca]
    • by Idarubicin (579475) <allsquiet@ho[ ]il.com ['tma' in gap]> on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @08:28AM (#9364512) Journal
      Expect to see more such moves if the Green Party of Canada comes to power in this month's federal election.

      Well, that's an interesting remark on several levels.

      Education policy is in the purview of the provinces, not the federal government. It's a right that the provinces have historically jealously guarded; they would probably defy such suggestions from the feds just as a matter of principle.

      'If' the Green Party comes to power? Nationally, they have less than 10% support. As the parent notes, they're not coming to power. If a minority government is elected, they might hold some swing votes in a coalition government.

      In Ontario, it was a provincial Liberal government that adopted StarOffice. Based on this precedent, it could be argued that one should vote Liberal for more such moves....

  • by Jardine (398197) on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @01:57AM (#9363251) Homepage
    For those who may be confused as to why the Ministry of Education is signing deals for parochial school boards, Ontario has two seperate publicly funded education systems.

    There's what is now called the public system (used to be the Protestant system) and the Catholic system. Technically the Canadian constitution has a similar freedom of religion clause to the one in the US constitution which would prevent a publicly funded religious school system but the Ontario constitution also has a clause that allows for one. So we get two sets of school boards. Great fun.
    • by JohnnyCannuk (19863) on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @09:46AM (#9365213)
      Uhmmm, not quite, but close.

      Firstly, you've got things WAY out of whack.

      First of all our public school system in Ontario is NOT and old protestant system. It has always been a public school system. It was created by Egerton Ryerson (name-sake for Ryerson University in Toronto) in the early 1840s, after the Rebellion of 1837. This public school system was created as part of the reforms brought in by Lafontaine and Baldwin to address the causes of the rebellion.

      So the public school system in Ontario is actually older than Canada itself. Religious schools did not recieve government funding.

      But during the negotiations for Confederation in 1867, Ontario (predominantly Protestant) agreed to publicly fund a Catholic school system and Quebec (predominantly Catholic) agreed to fund a separate Protestant system. These systems existance were and still are part of our constitution - the British North America Act (1867) (and now the Canada Act 1982). The only issues we have had have been around funding - Ontario would only fund the Catholic system up to grade 10 until 1984, when it funded it fully.

      Now, the section of the Contitution dealing with freedom of religion and separation of church and state was added as part of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982. So the original requirement for funded religious schools is still there until challenged by someone who will take it to the Supreme Court.

      One would think it would be easy to get rid of it, since Quebec no longer has Protestant schools - it now has public English and French systems. Even in Quebec, religious schools such as the Catholics must pay for their schools themselves.

      Now, as a father of two children of school age, I agree that our province should not be funding both a Catholic and Public system, both on the basis of expense AND on the basis that it give special status to the Catholic religion that no other religion enjoys (and no religion should enjoy special status). I'm quite sure this violates the separation of church and state, but the ability to challenge it has only been around for about 22 years. And the Catholics have a lot of votes in this province. Also, our Charter has specific provisions that state that it applies to the laws of Canada but not to the other sections of the Contitution itself, so even if it is declared in violation of the charter, the charter may not appply to the section of the old British North America Act that deal with this. It may actually take a contitutional amendmant to fix it (and we all know haow easy THAT is).

      So I agree that it is an idiotic system and we should put all of our money into a single, excellent public shcool system with no religious affiliations, but your simplistic explaination of it is just wrong. You need to see it in it's context to see how really silly it is.

  • Logo Computer (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hey (83763) on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @02:03AM (#9363271) Journal
    Anybody remeber the "Logo" computer that was developed by the Ontario Ministry of Education. In the eary PC days. (No, I don't mean the Logo language.)
  • Picking on Canada? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by gwoodrow (753388) on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @02:55AM (#9363411)
    What can be said about this article but bravo? Whatever the reason may be - whether motivated by money or otherwise - it's a good choice. Anyone who works in the tech industry knows that the people who usually handle money and decisions regarding computing are usually clueless. Far too often they just throw money at Dell or Gateway and say "Send us school stuff." This indicates that there was actual research done and is a good sign that administrators may actually be catching up with the technology.

    On a side note, I must remark on all the Canada jokes. I myself am not Canadian, nor have I ever been there - but I find the jokes rather tired. Considering most of us that will be reading this spend our spare time INDOORS on COMPUTER TERMINALS while using terms like l33t and w00t!, I think we lack the necessary leverage to effectively make fun of any country or native persons of said country. Yes, that includes Canada. America Junior has just as much of a right to respect as we geeks do. Pocket protector jokes are just as tired for me as 'aboot' is for them, I'm sure.
  • only StarOffice? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by latroM (652152) on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @04:56AM (#9363800) Homepage Journal
    I wonder if they have same kind of a setup than in my school where both M$ Office and StarOffice are installed. Microsoft provides very cheap school agreements so there isn't a big incentive to choose only StarOffice. And guess which one of the office suites is used primarily in my school.
  • by myov (177946) on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @05:26AM (#9363886)
    ... doesn't mean they'll use it. The TCDSB (Toronto Catholic school board) IT department is so pro-microsoft that even anything Mac related was not supported. Even when it had to do with cross-platform software like FileMaker (used for elementary report cards, and owned by APPLE!) IMHO, the policy was reversed only because schools were buying Macs out of their own budgets for media use/etc.

    Their student information system (Trillium), developed either by the Ministry of Education, or at least by a few school boards, runs on Microsoft (SQL server with a horribly written front end, most likely in VB). The alternative (Oracle) wasn't well supported IIRC.

    The grade 9 "intro to computer" and compsci courses are taught with Office & VB and from what I've seen tend to focus on learning those programs, not the general concepts.
    (Where would I be if I focused on learning the 1993 version of Works, rather than generic database/spreadsheet concepts?)

    Finally, if nothing else, their education agreement probably ensures that licensing is cheap enough and/or forced on every machine, or prevents them from installing competing software.
  • by frank249 (100528) on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @07:27AM (#9364163)
    For many years the Ontario Teacher's pension fund was a major investor in Corel and Corel basically offered WordPerfect for free to Ontario schools. When Corel was stolen by Vector the pension fund lost over $500 mil. Now with no reason for a special relationship and with the WordPerfect - Student/Teacher version [businesswire.com] costing $99 and it makes sense that the Board of Education would look for a better deal. Bill Gates and Vector(owners of Corel) probally thought this would force the schools over to MS Office but in this case it back fired on them.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @08:09AM (#9364380)
    Not only does Ontario have a multitude of high schools...they also have several world-class Universities. University of Toronto, University of Waterloo, Queens, and McMaster are just naming a few. I myself go to U of Waterloo and I know that in our engineering labs we're given the choice of using either OpenOffice or MS Office (forced to use OpenOffice in some of the lower budget labs). Now who attends Ontario Universities? Ontario students! If these students develop a preference for Star/OpenOffice, it's likely that you'll start to see MS Word disappear from our institutions of higher learning. Once you have everyone familiar with StarOffice and Netscape 7.x (it's offered as an alternative to IE on all school machines, despite the fact it's clunky as sin), a full switch to a Linux-based environment is just a hop, skip and a jump away. Now if only some of the more specializing companies made linux ports of their software.
  • by SoVi3t (633947) on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @09:22AM (#9364969)
    Well, almost. My father worked for the Board of Education about a decade ago, give or take, and when a move was made for C++ to be used instead of QBASIC (yes, that was how bad our education system was), Microsoft made the offer of "it's free for you to use, and no licensing fees....as long as nothing ever gets released." So basically if anybody wanted to make something and then release it (a game, an app, etc), they had to consult with MS first.

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