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Indian State Logs Microsoft Out 142 142

slack_prad writes "An Indian state, Kerala has chalked out a plan for migrating its high school students to free software platforms in three years. This was apparently in response to RMS's recent visit to the place. The education minister for the state said that the Free software guru Richard Stallman's visit last week had nudged the schools to discard the proprietary software altogether. 'Stallman has inspired Kerala's transition to free software on the lines of an exciting model of a Spanish province.' Initially, schools were given the option to choose whether teachers were to be trained in Linux systems or Microsoft. The option has now narrowed down to migration."
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Indian State Logs Microsoft Out

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  • by hector_uk (882132) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @01:47PM (#15985365)
    my schools network is pure hell and the school is half a million quid in debt because it never works, and they refuse to hire more tech to fix it due to lack of money, ironically the staff are pro linux/mac but the stupid headteacher is a Microsoft bitch.

    schools need to actually do a proper investigation into what'll actually work best rather than the idiot head teacher who's only expertise were woodshop in my case choose based on what they use at home.
  • Huh? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by PhrostyMcByte (589271) <phrosty@gmail.com> on Saturday August 26, 2006 @01:49PM (#15985371) Homepage
    I love to use and code Open Source stuff as much as the next guy, but shouldn't schools/governments be worrying about the best tool for the job instead of making blanket statements like "100% open source by 20xx"?
  • Re:kerala (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) * <whineymacfanboy@gmail.com> on Saturday August 26, 2006 @01:53PM (#15985388) Homepage Journal
    I hope RMS is not just talking it up and has some real plans in place to measure the benefits that are thought to be possible.

    Dumb.

    RMS travels around attempting to persuade people/states/organisations the benefits of Free software. MS no doubt is similarly talking to the Kerela govt to persuade them to use their software.

    The government makes the choice, then it's their responsibility to monitor the outcomes.

    Would you suggest that MS should monitor each sale they've made where they've caused a switch to ensure there's 'real benefits' of the switch.

    I know random RMS bashing is popular on slashdot, but please, try to make your trolls less stupid.
  • Re:Huh? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by richlv (778496) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @01:56PM (#15985395)
    they could have investigated the situation and decided that the opensource nature would radically promote incentive and ability to explore and learn it field.
    they might have made estimates and came out with figures that show big savings over a longer period of time.
    or it could be that actual policy is more sophisticated and longer than the headline.
  • Re:Huh? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) * <whineymacfanboy@gmail.com> on Saturday August 26, 2006 @01:58PM (#15985408) Homepage Journal
    I love to use and code Open Source stuff as much as the next guy, but shouldn't schools/governments be worrying about the best tool for the job instead of making blanket statements like "100% open source by 20xx"?

    I see where you're coming from - but consider, if you're in a position where you need a certain amount of control over the software you're running, then nothing but F/OSS is going to cut the mustard.

    Vendor independance, ability to control your own destiny, freedom from the possibility of foreign government intervention, possibility to independantly audit code, etc etc etc.

    You can write all of that in your requirements or just 'OSI approved license". *Shrug*, the second is certainly shorter....
  • Re:Huh? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by anagama (611277) <obamaisaneocon@nothingchanged.org> on Saturday August 26, 2006 @01:58PM (#15985410) Homepage
    Maybe the "best tool" is one that allows people to get work done without exporting millions of dollars or pirating software. It may be relatively easy to pirate now, but who knows what the political climate is like ten years from now. Or perhaps the best tool isn't the one that will saturate network infrastructure with spam from zombies -- helps keep the infrastructure costs in check.
  • Re:kerala (Score:3, Insightful)

    by richlv (778496) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @01:59PM (#15985411)
    wtf ? do you expect rms to personally deal with every project on the world than involves oss/foss ?
    the local authorities, businesses and citizens are the ones who should evaluate, choose and rate the decisions. which, i suppose, already happens.
    rms is evangelizing - which is good - but it is not feasible for him to push his preferences, make decisions and overall control processes in whole world.
  • Re:kerala (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 26, 2006 @02:04PM (#15985424)
    I hope RMS is not just talking it up and has some real plans in place to measure the benefits that are thought to be possible.

    The benefits RMS advocates consist of freedom to run, modify and share software. It's difficult to "measure" that. It's like asking whether we've measured the benefits we get from freedom of speech.

    Note that I'm not saying that you have to value those freedoms as he does. In fact that's the point, it's subjective. If you think those freedoms are vitally important then they're going to be worth having regardless of e.g. monetary costs and hardship. If you think they're wothless then... well, you think they're worthless :) "Measuring" the benefits isn't very meaningful either way.
  • Re:Huh? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by macshit (157376) <snogglethorpe AT gmail DOT com> on Saturday August 26, 2006 @02:08PM (#15985436) Homepage
    shouldn't schools/governments be worrying about the best tool for the job instead of making blanket statements like "100% open source by 20xx"?

    Governments and goverment agencies often have other goals which they try to satisfy (e.g., "buy american"). Typically that kind of thing will slightly increase the cost, but the other goals are deemed worthy enough to make this acceptable.

    There are a number of worthy goals which can be helped by adopting free software, and presumably they judge the increased cost of re-training people used to microsoft products worth it.

    Mostly it's only businesses that have a "short term utility regardless of the long-term cost" attitude.
  • by Jekler (626699) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @02:24PM (#15985482)

    "schools need to actually do a proper investigation into what'll actually work best..."

    Ah, classic "No True Scotsman Fallacy".
    First you're operating under the assumption that they haven't performed a proper investiation.
    Second, it wouldn't matter what investigation they did. You want the school to, (ahem), "investigate" until they come up with the answer you've predetermined to be the correct one. It's obvious that you want an answer that doesn't involve Microsoft, therefore any investigation which results in a Microsoft platform being preferred you'll just claim is not a "proper" investigation.

    It's entirely reasonable to think that an instutition with political and financial concerns, that are invisible to its attendants, are at play here. You might think their decision is wrong, but how sure are you that the head teacher is even the one pulling the strings? I've seen plenty of situations where the person who appears to be making the decisions is really just doing what their superior has determined they should do. The person who makes decisions is seldom obvious or directly accessible to the underlings.

  • by honkycat (249849) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @02:28PM (#15985496) Homepage Journal
    I don't think you give RMS credit. Sure, his public appearances and talks focus on evanglism. However, he and the organization he built do a lot more than cheerlead for free software projects. As others have pointed out, one person only has so much time available, and only a fraction of that in the public eye. Just because he focuses on one aspect doesn't mean he's not interested or not working on other fronts as well.
  • by timeOday (582209) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @02:39PM (#15985542)
    Whatever. It's easy to criticize RMS, except that his ideas have turned out to be wildly successful, and he will be long-remembered. I enjoy the benefits of OSS every day, even though it doesn't meet all my needs like he wishes it would (and so do I).
  • by GreatDrok (684119) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @02:41PM (#15985551) Journal
    Ah, that old straw man. Are schools teaching computing or Windows? All the basic skills they need to use any computer GUI can be taught with Linux just as well as Windows. In fact, having variety will make the students much more comfortable with the idea that things move and so in order to find the setting you want you need to hunt about a bit. People worry about the time to retrain users but you can put a Windows user on a Mac and within an hour they will be able to function and quite possibly be as capable as they are on Windows within a day. Most people who claim to know Windows really don't know much beyond using a bit of Office (badly) and the file manager. I say to people that if they can use a keyboard and a mouse they can use a Mac and the same is true of Linux, especially in a supported environment where all they need is to be able to do their work and someone else will keep it running. Sure, for home users Windows may be the best option (well, no, it isn't, buy a Mac, but that is another story) but where you don't have to run the system yourself you should be able to cope with whatever you are put in front of. At our site we have a mixure of Windows, Linux and Macs and the only people who really have problems are the PA and secretarial types who really don't know anything about their computers and function by remembering where stuff is. Move anything and they panic. Everyone else, the younger more computer literate types are happy enough on whatever they get. There is no benefit teaching students where to find something on version X of Windows, teach them what to look for based on what it is that they are trying to do and when it moves they will still be able to function.
  • Re:Huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by miskatonic alumnus (668722) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @02:58PM (#15985613)
    Many, many school districts in the US run Windows and things operate just fine.

    Well, that all depends on who you ask, doesn't it? I don't know about school districts, but I can speak first hand about working as a mathematics instructor at a community college and being restricted to using Microsoft products. Things DON'T operate just fine. Have you ever tried to prepare a mathematical document with MS Word that doesn't look like it was scrawled by a 6-year-old? I thought not. It's fucking impossible. So, I went to our "Admin" to request her kind permission to install LaTeX on one of the sacred MS boxen. She did, and things were okay until we got new computers. So, I asked her again to put LaTeX on the new machine. Her response was, "Last time it broke the e-mail client, so I'll not allow it." Ahhhh, the genius and worldly knowledge of the MS slave. So, I prepared my documents at home, exported them to .PDF files (since the bloody MS boxen couldn't even read postscript files), took them to work on a disc, and printed them out on the school computers using the single useful program installed on them --- the free Acrobat reader.
  • This is education? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jc42 (318812) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @03:24PM (#15985693) Homepage Journal
    An obvious observation here is that however they decide such a question, the decision is profoundly anti-education. Anyone with the slightest interest in education would start by rejecting the dichotomy that the only choices are Microsoft and linux. And deciding on only one means that you have no intention of allowing your students to get a real education in the subject.

    Any actual educator would want their students to become familiar with many different kinds of computers. They would have a bias against Microsoft, of course, because MS systems don't permit the students to study much of the system's innards. Apple would also be fairly low on the list, since their software's inner workings are somewhat more accessible to students, but not as accessible as most of the alternatives. The list of accessible systems would rate linux highly, of course, but not a lot better than the various *BSD systems or OpenVMS. Or OpenDOS, for that matter. And the iTron system should be on the list, as the world's major open real-time system.

    OTOH, I suppose those Americans and Europeans worried about a takeover of the computer industry would applaud this decision. A cohort of students who grow up knowing only linux would be nearly as damaging to India's computer industry as if they knew only MS Windows. OK; not that damaging, but damaging enough.

    Of course, enough schools in America and Europe are MS-only right now that we can look forward to a general loss of dominance in computing, as schools graduate students who think that computer expertise consists of knowing how to make Word docs and Powerpoint presentations.

    A real educator would more likely reject them all, and set their students to the task of building their own computer system, following the precedents of Tannenbaum and Torvalds (and the Berkeley gang). They'd have a lab with a few of each available system, for showing what has been done and asking "How could we do it better?" But they'd put the emphasis on learning by doing.

    But having only linux in a school makes about as much sense as, say, having only Honda in the auto (driving and shop) classes. OTOH, having only Microsoft computers would be like having only drivers' ed classes using Honda; the "shop" classes would only read about cars but would never be permitted to open up an engine compartment or remove a dashboard.

    Sorry; that's not a real education program.

  • by jesterzog (189797) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @03:51PM (#15985754) Homepage Journal

    Initially, schools were given the option to choose whether teachers were to be trained in Linux systems or Microsoft. The option has now narrowed down to migration.

    I realise that schools have other priorities (eg. teaching reading, math, science, history, etc), and limited resources, not to mention that having computers in schools isn't always primarily to teach about computers. It's a shame, however, that children can't be trained using multiple platforms.

    I feel I have a much better appreciation of computers, and feel more comfortable using them, because I appreciate the differences between things like Windows, Linux distros, Macs, Amigas, even DOS, and whatever else. (I'm sure many people here could run off a long list.) I know what I prefer to use for different tasks, and I know why I prefer it..

    Restricting teaching to one OS and accustomising students to one way of doing things doesn't seem like preparing them to make their own choices at all.

  • by too_old_to_be_irate (941323) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @04:26PM (#15985850)
    Well, sort of, perhaps, maybe...

    An awful lot of schools in the UK haven't had RM networks for many, many years. I have been working as IT Support for schools in Norfolk (UK) for the past decade, and have seen only one RM network, and then only in passing as it was thrown out into the skip. The norm is a pure MS based network, with something like Winsuite on top if it is considered that local expertise is insufficient to set up and maintain proper security profiles, etc.

    There are reasons for this. Pragmatically, teachers do not want to move out of their comfort zone, which means Windows. It is still not uncommon for IT to be taught at Secondary level by teachers who do not have IT as their first subject. This is changing, but very slowly. As it is also the norm for a particular teacher to be 'in charge of' IT (i.e. holding the budget, shaping the policy as best he or she sees fit), it is not going to happen very often that a school will deviate from the safe option. Up until recently, NGFL funding enabled schools to equip themselves in a half-decent fashion, and if spent prudently, money was no more of a problem for IT procurement than it is for any other area of school budgeting. As a consequence, most schools have modern, fast networks with decent desktop machines to work on.

    Should those desktops be running Windows? Well, from a techy quasi-political point of view, maybe not. But IT in schools is not a purely techy thing. In many of the schools I have worked in, IT is seen as an empowering skill. Before you get all indignant, think on this. At the last mainstream Secondary school I worked at, there was a considerable basic skills deficit. Literacy and numeracy, to you and me. Reading, writing, and arithmetic. OSS ain't gonna make the difference. Being comfortable with the machines those children will meet in their day to day lives MAY make a difference. Their parents are not going to be installing UbuLinuxHat, and they won't be seeing anything other than Windows machines in the real world (in THEIR real world) any time soon... And yes, for many of these children, the difference between Windows and *nix is enough to cause confusion, and to dissuade.

    Until recently, I would have argued vigorously against what I've just written. But now, working at a special school has rather driven the point home. Yes, it's a different client group, but that only serves to emphasise the point that children with difficulties, whether in mainstream education or not, need the comfort of the familiar in order to stand any chance at all. And at the moment, the 'familiar' is Windows. That may be an uncomfortable conclusion for the evangelists, but until Linux (or MacOS, for that matter) is a commonplace in the real world, a significant proportion of children are better served by not being pawns in an intellectual slanging match.

    As an aside, it may be that the children in the developing world will be among the first to see Linux in their 'real world' for economic reasons - and yes, their education should reflect that.

    Tuppence worth.
  • by belmolis (702863) <billposer@@@alum...mit...edu> on Saturday August 26, 2006 @04:29PM (#15985857) Homepage

    Before you can say anything intelligent about what kinds of computers/OSs are needed, you have to be clear as to what you want to use them for. What is appropriate depends on the application.

    • If the purpose is to enable students to use computers as part of their education, they just need systems that let them surf the net, write, maybe do calculations and so forth. This they can do perfectly fine using just Linux or FreeBSD or indeed pretty much any single system. I don't see any particular benefit to diversity here.
    • If the purpose is to teach about how computers work and programming, again a single system will do just fine, and an open system like Linux or FreeBSD will be superior to a closed system like MS Windows.
    • For the specific purpose of teaching classes on topics like "Operating systems concepts" or "networking" there may be value in having a variety of systems to play with.
    • If the purpose is to teach "computer literacy", such as how to use word processors and spreadsheets, again a single system will work just fine.
    • If the purpose is to prepare students for jobs in which they will have to use specific systems or pieces of software, e.g. to train secretaries to use MS Word, there is reason to have the specific systems and software for which they are being trained.
    • If the purpose is to prepare students for jobs as general purpose computer techs, salespeople, etc., then it will be desirable for them to know about a variety of systems.
    • If the purpose is to use computers for administrative purposes, diversity is probably a bad idea as most of the users will be inexpert and you want the system to be easy to maintain. In this area, availability of appropriate software may be a decisive factor in the short term, and may well favor MS Windows. On the other hand, as security is presumably a major concern here, that would be a strike against MS Windows.

    It looks to me like there is no virtue to diversity, and a big advantage to open systems, for most of the purposes for which one may want to use computers in primary and secondary education. The cases in which diversity is a virtue, or there is a need for MS Windows in particular, involve certain types of vocational classes that would only be offered at a secondary level and a few CS classes of a type rarely offered below the college level anyhow. In short, it seems to me perfectly reasonable to make Unix-type open systems the foundation for educational computing and to provide other systems only for the limited set of secondary level classes, mostly vocational, for which there is a need for something else.

  • Re:kerala (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 27, 2006 @08:06PM (#15991423)
    "i just cant imagine a kerala, say 5 years from now, having a linux generation.. the proposition is great but the implications most prolly wont last.."

    You just described the situation in Extremadura, Spain, which has been reported a few times here in Slashdot. And I can see a "linux generation" in Extremadura in 5 years; you already can see the seeds only in three/four years from inception.

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