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Education Microsoft The Almighty Buck

New Zealand Rejects Office For Macs 317

Posted by kdawson
from the my-word,-how-can-our-students-excel? dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The New Zealand Ministry of Education has declined to renew a licensing deal for MS Office on 25,000 Macintosh computers in the country's schools. The Education Minister has suggested that schools use the free alternative NeoOffice. The article quotes a school principal who pointed out that the NeoOffice website warns users to expect problems and bugs: 'That's not the sort of software we should be expecting kids in New Zealand to be using.'" Schools are free to buy their own copies of Office. A blog on the New Zealand Herald site argues that the Ministry should have paid Microsoft this time, but not renewed the deal and instead developed a transition plan to open source.
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New Zealand Rejects Office For Macs

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  • by Ohreally_factor (593551) on Tuesday May 29, 2007 @08:05AM (#19307433) Journal
    How about, expect problems and bugs with any software?
    • by rucs_hack (784150) on Tuesday May 29, 2007 @08:11AM (#19307483)
      That's the trouble Open Source gets from being honest. Microsoft just hides the bugs and creates an illusion of problem free computer usage. Then they insist you keep windows update running all the time....

      In this case I think the fast transition will cause grumbles, but then again, if they waited the MSN (Microsoft Sales Ninjas) would be inbound, and before they knew it everyone would be parrotting the microsoft literature and the switch would be forgotten.

      • by jimstapleton (999106) on Tuesday May 29, 2007 @08:20AM (#19307549) Journal
        Except that NeoOffice seems to think they have more potential for bugs than MS office, and even go so far as to suggest that people use MS office instead for critical things. This is straight from their faq.

        Who should use NeoOffice?

        NeoOffice is not perfect. Although we try very hard to make NeoOffice free of bugs and crashes, our users still find new bugs and new cases that cause NeoOffice to crash. So, if you feel that you need software that has been heavily tested, we recommend that you use a commercially-supported product like Microsoft Office.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by niiler (716140)
          And yet in actual practice, we have yet to encounter said bugs where I work. NeoOffice works just fine on the couple of Macs we have, thank you and should be quite a bit more than what 99.9% of students need. In practice when I used to be stuck on Windows, MS Office crashed if you removed the floppy disk before closing the document, or if you inserted pictures into nested tables, etc. Please don't get me started on Micro -Blue Screen of Death-Soft's stability issues. NeoOffice is an excellent alternativ
          • by Khuffie (818093) on Tuesday May 29, 2007 @08:36AM (#19307683) Homepage
            So you're basing your judgement on Office and Windows circa 10 years ago?
            • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

              by Anonymous Coward
              If you're trying to suggest BSODs are a thing of the past, I have just two things to say:

              PAGE_FAULT_IN_NONPAGED_AREA
              IRQ_NOT_LESS_THAN_OR_EQUAL
              • by El Lobo (994537) on Tuesday May 29, 2007 @09:16AM (#19307967)
                Great example.Both of them are produced by hardhare problems. The same problem in Linuzz would cause a Kernel panic. Not, not blue, but BLACK..
                • by Zigg (64962) on Tuesday May 29, 2007 @09:38AM (#19308165)

                  I've personally seen the IRQL error several times on machines that run Linux flawlessly (and more often!) If it's something that rears its head only when there's bad hardware, then Linux must be a magical operating system that can turn bad hardware into good.

                  • Both of those errors are more often than not caused by Creative Labs god awful drivers. This is precisely why MS changed the Audio system for Vista. And also why it doesn't tend to effect *nix or any other OS on the same machine.
                  • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                    by Ed Avis (5917)
                    In the early days many machines would run fine with DOS and Windows but would crash with signal 11 on Linux, particularly when running gcc. As strange as it sounds this was usually a hardware problem - bad memory. There was even a FAQ on the signal 11 problem [bitwizard.nl]. Saying 'but it works with Windows' does not really excuse bad hardware. Similarly, if hardware is generating BSODs on Windows, and you have good reason to believe they're not caused by Windows kernel bugs, then most likely the hardware is faulty a
                    • I can't rule out that Windows prints a meaningless complaint about IRQ levels when the real cause is a bug somewhere else.

                      You know, hardware that utterly fails under one operating system can work flawlessly under another. They have different drivers. In almost all cases, windows drivers are binary blobs that are developed by the device manufacturer or someone they have retained under contract to do so for them. Most Linux drivers are reverse engineered or developed from specs and are open source drivers which come with the kernel.

                      In practice, either one might be more reliable; if the Linux driver isn't very good, which is often the case (it can be hard to write a good, stable driver without specs) then it might not work under Linux properly, but be fine under Windows. If the Windows driver is a pile of crap, it might work better under Linux.

                      For example, my last desktop system was an Athlon XP 2500+ with a Radeon 9600XT. The system would bluescreen on boot if I had the catalyst control center installed. But once I booted up in safe mode and removed CCC, the driver worked "fine" (it still sucked - we're talking about ATI here. but no bluescreens.) Some people just can't write a fucking driver.

                  • by jimstapleton (999106) on Tuesday May 29, 2007 @09:59AM (#19308439) Journal
                    I've seen Windows run flawlessly on machines that Linux isn't even borderline stable one.
                    I've seen Linux run flawlessly on machines Windows isn't even borderline stable one.

                    The fact of the matter is, there's a lot that stability depends upon, and even slightly different circumstances can lead to vastly different results.

                    In my personal experience, outside of really cheap computers, I've not had any stability issues with Windows. The exception being a computer with a SiL 2114 SATA controler, and using an IDE hard drive fixed that problem (Linux wouldn't even boot on that machine). I narrowed it down to the controller because all other machines tested work fine with the same SATA drives tested, and that machine runs fine with just IDE drives.

                    But I'm getting off track here. The point is that there is no "single" answer to achieving high stability, except putting in the effort to determine which (A) works with what (B), and some trial & error.
                  • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                    by Lockejaw (955650)

                    If it's something that rears its head only when there's bad hardware, then Linux must be a magical operating system that can turn bad hardware into good.
                    "Program testing can be used to show the presence of bugs, but never to show their absence!"
                    -- Dijkstra

                    The fact that it hasn't failed yet doesn't mean it won't, even if operating conditions remain pretty much the same. Computers are magical like that.
              • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

                by Anonymous Coward
                Actually IIRC this happens because of faulty drivers too.
                MS blames driver dev's of using undocumented API functionality and the driver dev's blame MS for delivering crappy API's..

                hmm.. why cant both be right? :)
              • by Hal_Porter (817932) on Tuesday May 29, 2007 @10:00AM (#19308467)
                If you're trying to suggest BSODs are a thing of the past, I have just two things to say:

                PAGE_FAULT_IN_NONPAGED_AREA
                IRQ_NOT_LESS_THAN_OR_EQUAL


                Those are due to driver bugs. Page fault in non paged area means a bad pointer - you touched a page that was marked as not present, but since the area is unpaged the OS can't do anything to fix it.

                IRQL not less than or equal is more interesting. NT has a concept of IRQL. It's an abstraction, and it means which interrupts are enabled. The lowest level in kernel mode is PASSIVE_LEVEL which means the scheduler is enabled. The next highest level is DISPATCH_LEVEL where it is not. Above that are the hardware interrupt levels. Now consider a spinlock, an OS synchronisation primitive. These are to protect shared resources. Drivers call KeAcquireSpinLock() to get them, do some stuff and then KeReleaseSpinLock() to release them. On a SMP system, KeAcquireSpinLock needs to raise IRQL and then acquire the lock. On a single processor system it just raises the IRQL.

                http://ext2fsd.sourceforge.net/documents/irql.htm [sourceforge.net]

                So IRQL in Windows NT is very important thing. If the system is running at a raised IRQL, someone is holding a spinlock, or an interrupt is in progress.

                Lots of kernel routines are documented in the DDK as being only callable at a certain maximum IRQL. Typically, IRQL_NOT_LESS_THAN_OR_EQUAL is caused by touching paged data at a raised IRQL which can't work as the pager risks a deadlock when it tries to acquire spinlocks to page it in, or less likely by calling a function which is documented as not being callable at that IRQL.

                If you look at the stackframe, you can see which driver is to blame and either disable or update it. If the system has always been unstable, check the RAM.

                Interestingly enough, Microsoft are experimenting with static code analysis and automated test cases to catch driver errors like this

                http://www.inf.uni-konstanz.de/soft/teaching/ws05/ seminar/scpresentation.pdf [uni-konstanz.de]
            • Exactly lets be truely fair here. Also most of us doesn't want Microsoft to improve their product over time, they actually did. Windows in terms of stability is just as good as Linux is. In terms of security it is lacking in some areas which cause bad programs which run a high access and mess up the system. But this could happen on a Linux system too. Running an application as root could cause Linux to crash as well. Linux has better defaults and the bulk of Linux applications work with these security
          • by CarpetShark (865376) on Tuesday May 29, 2007 @08:55AM (#19307835)
            Sounds a lot like Debian's idea of "unstable", which other people think of as "stable", or their idea of "stable", which other people think of as "military grade".
            • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

              by Anonymous Coward
              I think "unstable" is meant not in the sense of "likely to crash", but in the sense of "likely to change" rapidly and drastically with updates. Of course, there is some correlation: the rapid rate of updates means that not all of them are very well tested, decreasing the "stability" of the system in the conventional sense.

              I run Debian testing/unstable, and it's very stable in the sense of seldom crashing, but it's also very unstable in that you never know exactly what's going to happen when you type "apt-ge
          • by klubar (591384) on Tuesday May 29, 2007 @09:00AM (#19307865) Homepage
            Funny, I find the the open office always crashes if I remove the ram in the middle of anything. Must be buggy.
        • by morgan_greywolf (835522) * on Tuesday May 29, 2007 @08:45AM (#19307749) Homepage Journal
          Maybe that's true, but they also feel that NeoOffice is stable enough for everyday use. From the front page:

          Released as free, open source software under the GNU General Public License (GPL), NeoOffice is fully functional and stable enough for everyday use. The software is actively developed, so improvements and small updates are made available on a regular basis.

          also the same FAQ says:

          NeoOffice is a reasonably stable version of the OpenOffice.org office suite that has been engineered to run natively on Mac OS

          I've not used NeoOffice, but to me, this sounds like the software is in the stage Firefox was in just before hitting 1.0 -- stable enough for everyday use; maybe there are a few bugs, but they get fixed quickly so downloading the latest release is usually a good idea before filing a bug report.

        • by WindBourne (631190) on Tuesday May 29, 2007 @09:43AM (#19308229) Journal
          hire several coders and help out on this. It keeps the money local and is still cheaper.
      • by suv4x4 (956391) on Tuesday May 29, 2007 @08:26AM (#19307605)
        That's the trouble Open Source gets from being honest. Microsoft just hides the bugs and creates an illusion of problem free computer usage. Then they insist you keep windows update running all the time....


        You know, I'm surprised at the Orwellian speak coming from both the likes of Microsoft and the anti-Microsoft crowd.

        We don't have Microsoft just "fixing bugs", oh no. We have Microsoft "HIDING bugs and creating the ILLUSION of problem free computer usage".

        How on Earth do you create the *illusion* of problem free computer usage? You let Word crash and popup a box "Calm down user, this was just a part of your problem free computer usage"?

        Office works fine enough, the sad part in all of this, is they don't have good enough competitors, because they have stagnated for years and years.

        Then Office 2007 which offered lots of innovation in the interface, features, wizard etc. But why? Is it because Open Source was picking up and MS Office were terrible at "hiding bugs"? No, it's because people just got stuck with Office 97: Microsoft's competing with their own software.

        It's sad.
        • > How on Earth do you create the *illusion* of problem free computer usage?

          Advertising. This is totally unrelated to how the software works in practice.

          Advertising for various commercial diets create a similar illusion. The illusion breaks down when you actually try it, just like the "problem free computer usage" illusion breaks down when you actually try to use their (or anyone elses) software.
        • by rucs_hack (784150)
          They do hide bugs, as in they do not disclose them up front on release, unlike open source projects. Their advertising talks of problem free computing, and then they get hammered by vulnerabilities.

          Probably no more or less then open source, but my point is that most of the time they don't talk about them till they are found out. That makes them seem worse then they likely are.

          Microsoft products are released on beta these days, but most open source projects are released early bugs and all, specifically so t
        • by evilviper (135110)

          How on Earth do you create the *illusion* of problem free computer usage?

          Simple. "It's not a bug, it's a feature. Every time you click save, Office is supposed to quit."

          Hardware support guys blame the software. The software support guys blame the hardware. The users are left to fend for themselves.

          In reality, 99% of the time it's a software bug, but you'll absolutely NEVER get Microsoft to admit fault, let alone fix it. Open Source products are at least honest about their own bugs and limitations, unli

          • by suv4x4 (956391)
            Simple. "It's not a bug, it's a feature. Every time you click save, Office is supposed to quit."

            Except, it doesn't quit. Anything else you want pull out of your rear?
    • by Ngarrang (1023425)

      How about, expect problems and bugs with any software?
      That part did make me laugh. As if Micro$oft's products have been the shining beacon of perfection. Though, I do have to admit that after a few years of service packs and other updates, M$ Office 2000 is finally stable. So is Windows 2000 Professional.
  • The article quotes a school principal who pointed out that the NeoOffice website warns users to expect problems and bugs: 'That's not the sort of software we should be expecting kids in New Zealand to be using.'
    Just because Microsoft doesn't include this disclaimer on their website doesn't make MS Office any less buggy. This guy's students have been using buggy software their whole lives, from MS and others. Welcome to the information age. At least NeoOffice is being upfront about it.
    • by suv4x4 (956391)
      Just because Microsoft doesn't include this disclaimer on their website doesn't make MS Office any less buggy. This guy's students have been using buggy software their whole lives, from MS and others. Welcome to the information age. At least NeoOffice is being upfront about it.

      We, in "information age" don't like fact bending and random discarding of information.

      Have you actually used the latest versions of Office and NeoOffice extensively to be able to tell how bad the bugs in each of those are.

      There's no c
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by seanyboy (587819)
        NeoOffice can be quite tricky to use. Or - It used to be quite tricky to use. I believe they've updated the version since I used it. It used to bug out on me all the time. In the end, I shelled out on Apple Pages.

        Saying that though, there's no reason students couldn't use it. I never lost any data or too much time using it, and it's fine for basic word-processing or spreadsheeting.
        • by Angostura (703910)
          Without knowing what version you used, we can't tell what version you used, or how long ago that was. v2.1 isn't bad and that's where we are now. I have yet to have it crash on me. To be honest, I think it would be absolutely fine for most school kids.
        • by rvw (755107)

          NeoOffice can be quite tricky to use. Or - It used to be quite tricky to use. I believe they've updated the version since I used it.
          Since version 2 it's a lot faster and usable for the average user. Speed was the main problem with version 1. It still is not as snappy as Microsoft Office though. I'm using it for about two years now. With very large documents it can be difficult to navigate.
    • Except that NeoOffice's Faq actually says that MS Office has more tasting and should be used instead in situations where that is important.

      So, I suspect NeoOffice is actually the more buggy of the two if they are recommending MS Office.
      • by asliarun (636603)

        MS Office has more tasting and should be used instead in situations...
        Did Bill Gates have to eat his Words to do this? ;-)
      • by 1u3hr (530656)
        So, I suspect NeoOffice is actually the more buggy of the two if they are recommending MS Office.

        No, he just has no incentive to bullshit. MS is in the business of selling MS Office. They hide their disclaimers in the small print you don't see until after you've bought it. If you want their support, have your credit card ready.

        How complex a wordprocessor does a school student need?

        For that matter, every office suite has far more features than needed by 95% of users. Thay probably spend more time dicki

  • How much? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by igny (716218) on Tuesday May 29, 2007 @08:12AM (#19307491) Homepage Journal
    How much do they save, and is there a way to invest some of this money into further development of NeoOffice?
    • by suv4x4 (956391)
      How much do they save, and is there a way to invest some of this money into further development of NeoOffice?

      If they had the money to give away, they'd just save themselves a heap of trouble with migrating to Neo and keep using MS Office.
    • Re:How much? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Domstersch (737775) <dominics@gmail . c om> on Tuesday May 29, 2007 @09:17AM (#19307977) Homepage
      It's unclear how much money they save. The total licensing deals the government has made with Microsoft are speculated to be worth about NZ$100 million (US$72m) over the next ten years. But the Maharey, the Minister of Education, said the dispute was regarding NZ$2.7m worth of Microsoft Office licenses that would not (otherwise) be used (because the macs in question aren't currently using Office) but which Microsoft insisted the Ministry pay for.

      So, we know they're saving more than $2.7m and less than $100m, but we're not told exactly how much.

      By the way, macs aren't extensively used outside of primary (roughly, elementary schools) and intermediate (school years 7-8) in New Zealand. Every high school I can think of (many) have one or two macs at most, and classes full of PCs. So, to my mind, Le Sueur is wrong, and NeoOffice _is_ the sort of software we can expect kids to use. It's unreasonable to claim five to twelve year olds have a need for (supposedly) superior, high-class spreadsheets, databases and business presentations.
    • by compro01 (777531)
      and is there a way to invest some of this money into further development of NeoOffice?

      this reminds me of a situation that has been going on at my college for a number of years.

      the instructors are heavy into open source (one guy uses it exclusively in all his courses) and they're wanting to kick some money towards the projects, but the guys in finances are absolutely baffled when they say that they want to pay for something that is free.

      i wouldn't be entirely surprised if something similar happens in this c
  • Death Knell (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ehaggis (879721) on Tuesday May 29, 2007 @08:17AM (#19307517) Homepage Journal
    Unfortunately the Ministry of Education has probably signed a death warrant for the adoption of an open source office package. Without planning, forethought, notice and buy-in, most projects will die on the branch. This is a poor introduction for many to open source software and will leave a sour taste.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by montyzooooma (853414)
      Agreed. I set up NeoOffice for my dad to use on his Mac Mini and it's fine for what he uses it for. But in a school environment you'll run across hundreds of teachers who simply don't want to re-learn how to use a word-processor. Somebody saw all these "Enterprise X switched to opensource and saved a bundle" stories and decided to jump on the bandwagon without implementing a proper plan.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by bogidu (300637)
        Shouldn't be much of a problem since the article clearly stated that teachers and staff would not be affected, they were only taking it away from the students.
      • Re:Death Knell (Score:4, Insightful)

        by TheRaven64 (641858) on Tuesday May 29, 2007 @08:48AM (#19307765) Journal
        My mother was a primary school teacher until she retired recently, and had no problem using OpenOffice at home and MS Office at school (or, to be more accurate, the same problems using both). Schools are very light on the features they need from an office suite. Even an old version of AppleWorks would probably be okay for them.
        • by jimicus (737525)
          That's as maybe, but to just one day uninstall Office wholesale across a network and install some other product, which is how this reads, is a surefire recipe for IT management disaster.
      • Re:Death Knell (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Chuq (8564) on Tuesday May 29, 2007 @09:53AM (#19308371) Homepage Journal
        But in a school environment you'll run across hundreds of teachers who simply don't want to re-learn how to use a word-processor.

        That's funny, when I was at school I was taught on ClarisWorks on Apples and Win3.1 at school, and used MS Word 5 on DOS at home. Now I used MS Office 2k/2003 on XP at work and OpenOffice.org on XP/Ubuntu at home. I thought learning how to use a computer meant just that - learning how to use a computer, not learning how to use Microsoft software.
    • by mrbluze (1034940)

      Unfortunately the Ministry of Education has probably signed a death warrant for the adoption of an open source office package.

      Mod parent up!

      However, there is a chance that it will not backfire at all. Indeed people can purchase their own office suite, but I have many friends who are using NeoOffice currently for Mac, and for all intents and purposes they have not encountered any problems that have led to complaint. I mean, nobody has lost work or time over the software. Although NeoOffice claims to be immature, it is stable enough for serious work in my experience.

    • "Without planning, forethought, notice and buy-in"

      Like how, he just dropped msOffice. This isn't rocket science, it's the adoption of a software package in schools. They already use Macs, the package runs on the Mac. Why not move the schools totally over to OpenOffice.

      was: Death Knell (Score:5, Insightful)
  • It'll do the job. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LaminatorX (410794) <sabotage@praecantator. c o m> on Tuesday May 29, 2007 @08:18AM (#19307529) Homepage
    I wouldn't trust NeoOffice to seamlessly handle a giant shared/published spreadsheet with lots of custom macros for dozens of users across a multi-office corporate WAN. OTOH, I'd trust it without hesitation to do anything a k-12 teacher or student would need to do with it.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 29, 2007 @08:36AM (#19307691)
      That's what I was going to say -- for graphing a quadratic function or pasting plagiarized text out of Wikipedia, it'll be fine.
      • by Bozdune (68800)
        Hey, that's very funny! Thanks for making me chuckle early on a virtual Monday.
    • by bhima (46039)
      You say that like Microsoft Office seamlessly handles a giant shared/published spreadsheet with lots of custom macros for dozens of users across a multi-office corporate WAN.

      It doesn't.

      Oh... and god help you if there is a language that is not English on any computer that opens this spreadsheet of yours.
  • They exaggerate (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bhima (46039) <Bhima.PandavaNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday May 29, 2007 @08:21AM (#19307555) Journal
    I haven't been to the NeoOffice website in a very long time, since I started to use just plain Open Office. But... the last time I was there the website had the least friendly, over the top disclaimers found any on the web, save Microsoft's "Get the Facts" FUD page.

    OK so the NeoOffice developers have issues with their social skills, does this have much to do with the feature set and bugs of NeoOffice as compared with Open Office, Microsoft Office, or iWork?

    Personally I think all three are way overkill for students writing papers. Hell, I don't think I've ever used more than 10 or 20% of MS Office's features and I use it work nearly every day and have for over 10 years. Is there an Open Source project like Apple's 'Pages'? This, I think, would be closer to useful and a lot more fun.
    • "I haven't been to the NeoOffice website in a very long time .. least friendly .. their social skills .. feature set and bugs of NeoOffice as compared with Open Office, Microsoft Office, or iWork? ...

      What did they say exactly that got you so upset. Personally I find Emacs more than adequate, as long as you don't want rich text, and frames and bullets and a spell checker that obscures the word it asks if you want to change :)

      "NeoOffice is a .. Based on the OpenOffice.org [neooffice.org] office suite"

      was Re:They ex
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by bhima (46039)
        It was their "don't whine at us if you have a problem, we are only developers" disclaimer.

        I don't remember it exactly but it was blunt, over the top, and probably unnecessary.

        Emacs!? When I comment that OOO.org, MS Office, and NeoOffice are so feature rich that they are too complicated for kids to bother with, you come up with Emacs? Let me tell you no child of mine is using Emacs! They'll being using VI!

        Wow... I wonder when the last time there has been an Emacs VI flame around here...

        Seriously though my
  • by malsdavis (542216) on Tuesday May 29, 2007 @08:23AM (#19307575)
    If the experiences from U.K. councils and schools looking to ditch Office and Windows is anything to go by, Microsoft will probably return to the New Zealand government with an even better offer!

    Microsoft are terrified of the thought of educational and public authorities ditching MS products as they know that successful operation of non-MS products in these sort of institutions will lead others - and ultimately corporations (their biggest market) - to consider alternatives.

    Several U.K. local councils and schools pay virtually nothing for MS products to prevent them trialling Linux.

  • by bestinshow (985111) on Tuesday May 29, 2007 @08:25AM (#19307589)
    I've been pleasantly surprised by the speed of NeoOffice 2.1 + the latest patch.

    It starts up almost immediately on a 2.0GHz Core 2 Duo iMac.

    Previous versions take ages to start up.

    They've also improved the GUI appearance no end from the primitive OpenOffice look and feel which is stuck in the mid 90s.

    This is a perfect solution for education as it will handle all educational needs without a problem, and save the education authority and schools a lot of money. This is a sound business decision for education.
  • by starseeker (141897) on Tuesday May 29, 2007 @08:26AM (#19307607) Homepage
    If they don't want to fight it out with NeoOffice (no idea how hard that would be, I haven't used it) why not just work with AppleWorks? I assume Apple would be reasonable, since they are not the 800lb gorilla - and they have to know getting it used in Education could only help them. (Plus, they would want to keep the Macs there as well, and I'm sure someone will eventually suggest converting to all Windows PCs as a cost savings and getting Office everywhere...)

    I mean, this IS education we're talking about here. Their needs should be fairly basic - if not I would be suspicious of their teaching methods. If it were up to me I would build plans on AppleWorks but also introduce students to NeoOffice. Using both would force them to develop flexibility and the ability to learn new software. It is something they will need to do for the rest of their lives.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Appleworks hasn't been updated in years. If you're talking about iWork, well, Pages is more about layout than plain old word processing, and probably costs about the same as Office, when volume/education discounts are included. And then you don't get a spreadsheet program.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        It's clear you don't know what you're talking about. On Windows I love OO.o, but I tried NeoOffice and found it slow and not fun to use. That's not to disparage the hard work these folks have done on a very difficult project.

        But your blanket statements about iWork are incorrect. I have bought iWork twice and it's a heck of a good software suite. Since we're talking about text docs instead of presentation I'll inform you it's the word processor that gets the use of styles RIGHT. OO.o was close, Word has
  • by EzInKy (115248) on Tuesday May 29, 2007 @08:27AM (#19307617)
    I don't understand why schools let themselves get enslaved by proprietary software when kids could learn a whole lot more by experimenting with different solutions to problems.
    • Mod the parent +1 Wise (or /. equivalent).

      Give students tools that they can use freely and change to build new tools with if they want to. Education money should be spent educating students and training teachers, not on something as costly and hopeless as software licensing.

      The Real World is a jumble of versions and standards of everything, differing remarkably from job to job. The only way to prepare for the Real World is to understand the concepts.

      And start with the important concept that a salesman does
  • by zerofoo (262795) on Tuesday May 29, 2007 @08:46AM (#19307755)
    I'm the Network Manager for a small private school. Recently, our school was audited, and we found that we were short on our MS office licensing.

    I proposed Open Office as a viable replacement for most of our machines. Administration would continue to use MS Office alongside of Open Office. The school's administration tried Open Office, and after a short learning curve, they liked the software. The only real complaint was that the menus were different from MS Office. Administration assumed that teaching "professionals" would learn the new software and continue on with their jobs.

    It took an entire year, but the whole school was eventually migrated to Open Office, and it worked for most people. A few, very loud teachers, hated it.

    Those very loud teachers made lots of noise - so much so that administration finally coughed up $11,000 for MS Office 2007.

    After another lengthy deployment process, we had Office 2007 in place. Now the very loud teachers are complaining the new software is different from the old stuff.

    You can't win with Teachers.

    -ted
  • by david.emery (127135) on Tuesday May 29, 2007 @08:52AM (#19307789)
    Several times recently I've been handed a PowerPoint file (from a Windows user) with graphics in it, that either fail to render, or worse that crash Microsoft PowerPoint. The files open just fine in NeoOffice... I've also used an old version of Keynote (1.1) to work around Microsoft PowerPoint bugs opening PowerPooint presentations...

              dave
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by repetty (260322)
      Yep. I've used OpenOffice to access documents that crash Microsoft Office applications, too. These are good tools to keep around for this reason alone.

      --Richard
  • by simong (32944) on Tuesday May 29, 2007 @08:56AM (#19307845) Homepage
    It just means that ac.nz won't be buying Office Mac 2008 (or whatever the next version for Mac is) and rolling out NeoOffice on new machines. I have to admit that I'm not a big office app user but I use NeoOffice on my Macs at home and the speed and stability improvements on version 2 and the regular patching regime have made it very usable, and it will be difficult for a native port of OpenOffice to OS X to catch up. I only hope that the NZ government will see their way to giving a tenth of their licensing costs for MS Office to Neooffice.org. It might stop them worrying about money so much.
  • Whether the software has bug is obviously out of question. It's more interesting to see how often you encounter a severe bug in a product. This should actually become a metric for any software. Something like MTBC: Mean Time Between Crash. Someone ring Gartner :-)
  • by SplatMan_DK (1035528) on Tuesday May 29, 2007 @09:12AM (#19307945) Homepage Journal
    I think it is a good thing that they will attempt to make a switch to NeoOffice. But sadly it is for the wrong reasons!

    In reality, it seems like the Education Minister is just being plain old-fashioned cheap.

    If they were serious about using NeoOffice/OpenOffice, but have concerns about the stability of the software, they should consider contributing to the project. There are tons of ways an Education minister can make that happen. He could encourage the IT related universities in his country to make projects that contribute to the products. He could donate cash to the NeoOffice and/or OpenOffice teams - say a mere 5% of the money they would otherwise have spent on commercial licenses? Or he could have contracted a local software company to improve (contribute) to the software for a specified amount.

    Open and free software is good. But choosing it simply because the initial price tag is low (read: nil) is a bad motivation - especially for an Education Minister. And it doesen't really help the product or the community either.

    An Open Source product is only as strong as its ACTIVE contributors.
    • Here's a hint as to why this won't happen: it's not the Minister of Education's job to spend my (yep, I'm a kiwi) tax money on helping "the product or the community". But do you know what is his job? To ensure that children in my country get the best education they can. And that means that when he has the choice of donating money to a software development group or spending it on one of the underfunded schools throughout the country, he must spend it on the kids.

      You hear the "somebody, think of the children" argument a lot these days. But this is one case where it applies well. It is Maharey's job to think of the children. And they are best served by using the money elsewhere.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by SplatMan_DK (1035528)
        You seem to totally miss the point. And I believe you have misunderstood the very foundation of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS).

        By using free OpenSource software the minister is saving a shitload of money. Money he would otherwise have to use on commercial software licenses. The only reason he even has the option to save this huge pile of money, is because a lot of other people already donated work, money and resources.

        By taking/using the product without contributing anything at all, he and all the
  • NeoOffice (now 2.1) is better than it has been, but there are some issues still, though most are with other features than operational stability (print formatting is one I can think of readily).

    OpenOffice for Mac is either X11 or the 'real soon now, honest!' Aqua version. The X11 version beign that it has to go through X11 is slow and feels klunky (and feels less stable then NeoOffice).

    The good points about OpenOffice/NeoOffice is it has a lot more graphics abilities (the draw layer) and as a Mac user who r
  • I was making a big presentation with a lot of figures on my Macbook pro. After several days of working, the Powerpoint became extreme slow. I tried to close the file and reopen it, rename the file and all kinds of things I can imagine, but it doesn't speed up. Then I downloaded a copy of NeoOffice, it worked, way faster than the PowerPoint. However when I finished editing in NeoOffice and reopen the file in Powerpoint, all my vector drawings in windows meta format were corrupted, and the font in the side

  • Don't know what type of Macs are being used, but Office is still not a universal binary. The other issue is that at $500 a license it is not cheap. Now multiply that by 25000 Macs and you are looking at $12 500 000. Okay they probably don't pay full price, so lets say $200 a license and we are still talking millions of dollars worth. At that price paper looks like a great solution and it doesn't even need upgrades ;)
  • The funny part about this article is it's assumption that the kids will suffer from using Neo Office ratherr than Windows Office. The exact opposite is true. We calcified adults have trouble using anything but Windows and Microsoft Office... our fingers have learned the keyboard shortcuts. Kids are blank slates, and weening them on FOSS can put them on the path to self discovery. The deeper you dive into a FOSS program, the more you discover. If you dive into Microsoft Office, all you get is worthless,
  • Just have the kids fix the bugs when they find them! Google around on something like "Microsoft Office Bugs" and you'll see that NeoOffice is not alone. They're just more up front about it.

    Back in the day they taught us how to write our own applications and we understood how they worked and why they broke. Perhaps you should consider what it is exactly that you want to teach your children about computers.

  • Is there something wrong with Mac Office 2004?

    They've been using it for 3 years now and it's doing great. Maybe I missed something? Are there NEW Macs without Office that need licenses, or are they simply stating that they will not be upgrading to the latest/greatest word processor and spreadsheet suite?

    • oh I RTFA and see that they never bought the software to begin with. Hmm what a pity. The cost would have been amortized over 4 years at least, probably as good a deal as what MS gave them ("But you'll get free upgrades whenever they come out (hehehehe every 3 years that is) %-$").

      Well this is what you get when you lease. Lease is out and you're locked in, so the company doing the leasing has you over a barrel.

      OTOH 25,000 copies at the student/teacher price of $149 for a full version only comes to 3.75 Mill
  • Does OpenOffice run on Mac/OSX as well as it runs on Linux? Why split the "free office" market with NeoOffice, especially when both packages need more critical mass to fix bugs (apparently, NeoOffice even more)?
  • Considering that Microsoft has said they will pull the plug, it only makes sense to start looking for alternatives. Better do it now instead of waiting until last moment.
  • by xirtam_work (560625) on Tuesday May 29, 2007 @10:36AM (#19308959)
    The New Zealand Government is going to save a bucket load of cash by using Neo Office instead of Microsoft Office. Plus they've got peace of mind that not going to get stung for going over their licences or be reported for piracy, etc.

    Why not donate a significant amount to the Neo Office project each year to encourage development and/or place a bounty on features that they'd like to see included or fixed.

    If every district/county/state/country did something like that we'd have the best of breed open source software in the world available for everyone to use for free.

    Even though some software is free as is beer, the reason for this is so that it can truely be free as in freedom. Free as in beer doesn't stop you contributing back whatever you can to benefit everyone.

    I'm no tree-hugging GPL/GNU beardy freak, but I do appriecate the efforts these guys have made for the Mac Platform and have been thinking about donating myself - even though I only downloaded and used it once to open a single document.
  • by misanthrope101 (253915) on Tuesday May 29, 2007 @11:11AM (#19309421)
    Is that it doesn't (as far as I know) replicate my single favorite feature of OpenOffice. With OpenOffice, I can copy/paste text from a webpage into it, and the hyperlinks will still be intact. Print-to-pdf, even in OS X, doesn't send the hyperlink information, so that's no option--OpenOffice is the only solution I've found. I can save the page, but the ability to copy/paste the sections I want and keep the links intact, and then export to PDF, is simply awesome, and is the "killer feature" of OpenOffice for me. If I just want to write a document, I'll use Abiword or LaTeX.

    When I copy/paste into Neooffice, I get just the plain text--no links are preserved. I looked through the options to try to figure it out, to no avail. Haven't opened up NeoOffice since then. If anyone knows a way to fix that problem, please tell me. You can even throw in some gratuitous "lame noob" insults if it makes you feel better.

    On a side note, I really wish someone smarter than me (is that a big enough labor pool for you?) would write a print-to-pdf type program that keeps the hyperlinks intact. I don't know what mojo OpenOffice uses to preserve the hyperlinks from text copied to the clipboard, but there is no doubt a way to make a one-trick application that prints a section of html to pdf while keeping the hyperlinks intact. Yes, I'd pay for it. Any ideas?

  • Office in schools (Score:3, Informative)

    by JasonWM (991689) on Tuesday May 29, 2007 @11:30AM (#19309653) Homepage

    Working as the the technology admin for a school district, I can vouch for the insanity that runs through educators minds.

    I'm amazed when the majority of the people tasked with teaching our children the fundamentals of computing (basic word processing etc..) in a completely controlled environment can even turn their computers on and log in. Most educators learn to navigate around in MS office and the mention of new software generally causes them to wet themselves. Anytime a move to a open source solution is discussed, it is almost immediately destroyed by administration. This is despite the fact that most public schools are extremely cash strapped and moving to open source makes immediate financial sense. This has more to do with fear than anything else. Even though education recieves discounts from MS and others, the costs can still be considered high.

    Lobbying for open source office solutions makes sense in school settings for a simple reason: anyone can acquire and use this stuff at home. I can't tell you the amount of times we've had to help students convert files between platforms so we get their work to jive with MS office. Most people can't afford or are willing to purchase this software for home use, yet in schools we are using full versions of MS office.
  • Experience (Score:3, Informative)

    by Lodragandraoidh (639696) on Tuesday May 29, 2007 @12:38PM (#19310533) Journal
    I use OO (Open Office) on my Sun workstation and MS Office on my desktop machine at work, as well as OO on my Linux workstation and NeoOffice on my Macbook Pro at home.

    To compare MS Office and OO/NeoOffice and say MS Office has no problems would be stretching the truth. I've had to deal with some show stoppers on MS Office - particularly its inconsistent spreadsheet support for .csv formatting, and lack of scalability with its Access database. I have yet to run into similar issues, or any issues for that matter, running OO or NeoOffice.

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