Chris Salzberg writes "Japan's public broadcaster NHK reported late last week that the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry plans to introduce the open-source operating system Linux for use within classrooms across the country in the near future. According to an investigation conducted in the spring of last year, there are currently over 400,000 computers at schools in Japan running on either Windows 98 or Windows Me, systems no longer supported by the software manufacturer Microsoft. The prohibitive cost of replacing these machines with newer models, as well as the rising price of proprietary software, prompted school teachers and administrators to propose the possibility of switching to open-source software as an affordable alternative. A conference held in Tokyo on March 2-3, attended by around 2000 government officials, teachers and education board members from across the country, considered the idea of reclaiming these older computers by switching from unsupported and out-of-date versions of Windows to the operating-system Linux, which can be freely downloaded from the Internet. A teacher from a high-school in Fukuoka Prefecture explained: "Having to always install the latest software is costly, and it makes things very difficult for us. From now on, I want to actively move toward the use of free open-source software." (continue reading at gyaku.jp)"