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MS Pressuring NW Schools: Pay Up, Or Face Audit 870

razvedchik writes: "As reported in this article in the Portland, OR newspaper, The Oregonian, Microsoft is pressuring 24 school districts in the northwest to agree to their Microsoft School Agreement licensing scheme or undergo an audit in 60 days. Multnomah ESD, which covers the greater Portland area and has around 25,000 computers, has to either decide to accept the license at about $500,000 or undergo the audit which it does not have time to prepare for. Of significant interest is the fact that a significant majority of these schools are experimenting with using Linux. Multnomah ESD has its own thin-client Linux distro called K12LTSP."
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MS Pressuring NW Schools: Pay Up, Or Face Audit

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  • by ChanxOT5 ( 542547 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @02:18PM (#3388589)
    What legal right do they have to inspect the premises? Why do these schoolboards have to submit to these audits. It's not like I have the right to inspect the computers of everyone attached to the network that I run.
    • I'm assuming that they allready have some form or site or educational license. All of Microsoft's large licenses do contain contractual provisions that they are allowed to audit. However, I remember hearing that this has never been challenged in court. IANAL however.
    • Read the license (Score:2, Informative)

      by wiredog ( 43288 )
      When you install a (note that, "a") copy of any MS product then you are explicitly giving them the right to audit you.
      • Re:Read the license (Score:5, Interesting)

        by dschuetz ( 10924 ) <> on Monday April 22, 2002 @02:44PM (#3388850)
        When you install a (note that, "a") copy of any MS product then you are explicitly giving them the right to audit you.

        Yes, but does Microsoft have any proof that you've accepted any EULA terms?

        If no, then make them get a search warrant to prove the existence of any microsoft products, and then they can enforce the "right to audit" provision of the EULA. And make them list specifically which machines they're going to check. And, once they've finally gotten their filthy little hands inside, refuse access to any machines that you know don't contain MS software.

        In short, deny even having any MS software in the first place. If you don't have any software, they've got no right to come in.

        Of course, school systems have even less cash than ubergeeks, so there's no chance in the world that any of these systems will force the issue, especially not in court. *sigh*

        Maybe they could get Scott McNealy to pay their legal fees, to force the issue in front of a judge....
        • Yes, but does Microsoft have any proof that you've accepted any EULA terms?

          If you registered even one copy of their software within the organization/school system, then MS would have the notion that you probably have more than one application of theirs... then they would have cause to audit you. Yes, it is a damn shame that MS (or any other company), but people still don't read/understand what they are agreeing to when the 'agree' to the EULA of any software. There was a story posted to /. not too long ago about this very topic...

    • It's not like I have the right to inspect the computers of everyone attached to the network that I run.

      You are the network administrator and you don't take responsibility for your computers? That's not how I run my network. The computers are the property of the company and all the data on them belongs to the company. The users have access to the computer as a tool, not a personal toy. I think you need to check where you stand, and if there are company policies that need to be installed so be it. You should have full control over those computers.

      • I'm not going to start the whole overblown argument, but employees DO have rights to privacy, even while at work. I'm not saying that a MIS, or similar, department shouldn't be aware of what's on a computer, but there is a limit to their powers. I can tell you that if someone came to me at work and told me to give them my password so they could check my linux box I'd probably tell them no, or at least demand a good reason why. That being said, I have no problem with my employer making sure the companies (legal) ass is covered.
      • "the company" in this particular example is the school, and not M$. If the school wants to perform an audit, that is fine. M$ doesn't have the right to force them to audit. THAT is the difference. Or are you saying that M$ owns all those computers because their OS is installed on it? If you are saying that, and you actually believe it, then I think there is a company in Redmond that would hire you.
    • by ProfMoriarty ( 518631 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @02:27PM (#3388670) Journal
      Ahhh ... obviously you didn't realize that the EULA is more important than a search warrent signed by a judge.

      And if you dare refuse, then you MUST be a criminal because you have something to hide ...

      end sarcasm

    • This is an interesting and very valid question. I can, however only engage myself in the law aspect from an norwegian law angle.

      The basis is the license agreement. The outside of the CD case or envelope containing the key to the program clearly states that you have to agree to the contract terms set forth by the manufacturer of the product in order to use it.

      This is a valid contract that you agree to as soon as the conditions are met. No matter how much I dislike the terms in the license agreement, I accept them by doing this. Individuals and cooperations have very wide opportunities to make contracts and agreements between themselves. This is how Microsoft can get away with the audits and other procedures that are elsewhere infringments.

      Microsoft have, from a juridical viewpoint, extremely draconian contract terms. I have read the license agreement, and believe that they are not lawful here (In Norway). We have a very strong consumer protection law and the Microsoft agreement violates this on several different occasions.

      Disclaimer: IAALS (I am a law student)

    • by Anonymous Coward
      I don't understand why the $lashdot crowd is so up in arms about this. By using their software, you EXPLICITLY GIVE THEM THE RIGHT TO AUDIT - read your Windows EULA. I'm sorry if you accepted it and installed without reading it over first - you were warned to read it. Agreeing to a contract without looking it over is stupid, and laziness/ignorance is no excuse for it. Don't whine about it after the fact, mmmkay? Thanks.
    • "Why do these schoolboards have to submit to these audits."

      Wow. $cientology conducts audits...

      Let's see... both have high powered lawyers to stifle any criticism; both have a tiered system that requires huge sums of cash to move up; both treat their followers cruelly while assuring them "it's in their best interest"; both make it difficult and even dangerous to "leave"...

      Welcome to the Church of Micro$oft.
    • by neo ( 4625 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @02:46PM (#3388865)
      When an educational institution buys licenses, then don't buy the sames ones you and I buy. They buy in bulk. These bulk licenses come in a form like this:

      1 CD
      50 Certificates

      You can now install the software on 50 machines. Sure.

      Now part of the agreement is that you have to maintain a database that includes a list of all the machines you have the software on and account for each one under license. So if you installed Office on 51 machines, you are out of license and need to buy more. At any time, MicroSoft can ask for an audit, and you have to produce the licenses and the list of computers. Pretty simple but....

      Since I've worked for education I can tell you one simple fact:

      It's understaffed and has a high turnover rate.

      So when Microsoft says "Where are the licenses for these NT machines.", the poor tech has no idea, because he didn't order them and the guy who did moved to San Francisco to work for a start-up. So microsoft then offers to look for you... and these guys comb through every little room to find stacks of machines you haven't plugged in for two years, and they boot them up. And the new lab you just installed with that same CD earlier... well, you can't find the certificates, but you're sure they were all covered.

      Needless to say things get ugly quick.

      So to answer you question, where do they get the right? You give it to them when you agree to the license.

  • by OS24Ever ( 245667 ) <> on Monday April 22, 2002 @02:18PM (#3388594) Homepage Journal
    This would be a perfect time for some large linux distribution company, or a consulting company to step in and donate time to help them migrate entirely to Linux. It would have to be a disruptive migration because of the audit in 60 days threat but they could do it.

    You would think with such a large focus on MS right now they'd not pull this kind of crap especially in a tight economy and a region full of protestors. Should be interesting to see how this develops.
    • " MS right now they'd not pull this kind of ...tight economy"

      It's probably down to the stock market reaction to Microsoft that they've all been told to pull their socks up and increase revenue. This in turn has resulted in things they'd never think twice about actually happening.
    • by razvedchik ( 107358 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @02:32PM (#3388731)
      The best way to help out in Portland is the following links:

      K12LTSP Project [] with some associated links and contact information.

      Portland LUG, who have been talking about this on their listserv. []
    • by gclef ( 96311 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @02:34PM (#3388748)
      Better yet, I'd like to see one of the big Linux vendors set up a "strike force" to do panic roll-outs like this. (Heck, it sounds kinda fun...I'd apply for a job to do this.)

      Think about it: you're faced with a huge audit, that you know you're going to fail. Do you a) pay the huge license & know you'll have to pay it again next year? or b) call in the Linux-install swat team to put Linux on every machine that you can't *prove* is legally a Windows machine, thus avoiding the whole issue for ever?

      If the support & panic install costs are low enough (and the guys who do it leet enough), you may very well be able to get a *lot* of people (like the ones in the article) calling for this kind of short-notice Linux migration.
      • by ThomasMis ( 316423 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @02:48PM (#3388893) Homepage
        This sounds like a perfect way to transform area LUGs from a bunch of guys who hold "installfests" every once inawhile, into social minded voluteer organization that can really help the school districts in the US lower costs ( SAVE TAX DOLLARS ). Bush has asked us all to voluteer our time more, I think this is a good way for linux geeks to make a postive impact. I think you're on to something....
      • by SurfsUp ( 11523 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @03:16PM (#3389185)
        Think about it: you're faced with a huge audit, that you know you're going to fail. Do you a) pay the huge license & know you'll have to pay it again next year? or b) call in the Linux-install swat team to put Linux on every machine that you can't *prove* is legally a Windows machine, thus avoiding the whole issue for ever?

        Cue theme: Who ya gonna call?? Billll-BUSTERS, Billll-BUSTERS!
    • It would be great if someone could create a website listing all the known audits that Microsoft has conducted in recent times and the financial outcomes of these audits. It could turn into a powerful tool to promote the use of an OS that doesn't carry such huge expenses in terms of both initial cost, as well as the administrative costs of maintaining software and licensing information about every computer in the organization. Has this, or something similar, been done already?

  • Capitolism at Work (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Telastyn ( 206146 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @02:19PM (#3388601)
    Hey guys, seriously, if the schools want to use Windows, they should pay for it. They pay for books, they pay for pencils, they pay for desks. Granted if Microsoft wanted schools to use Windows, they should give it to the schools for free (which I hear they routinely do).

    This is a pretty dumb move imo of course as it will do nothing but drive the schools to look to cheaper (free) OSes, but it's well within Microsoft's right to do dumb things.
    • by IamTheRealMike ( 537420 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @02:23PM (#3388642)
      I'd expect they are more scared that their students have installed truckloads of warez. This is a pretty dirty trick for MS to pull, as they know full well that most schools have some illegal software, often without them even knowing about it.

      It's about fear and control, nothing else. It's funny, and a little scary to watch them scrambling like this: it can only help the competition.

    • They probably DO pay for it, but they probably don't keep immaculate records (you know, those ugly little "certificates" that come with Windows?).

      MS is coming in and saying "Give us a half mil, or we'll make your lives hell."


    • But the issue is not so much whether they have paid for it or not, but that it is an ultimatum which may have a deadline too close for the administration to prepare for. Record keeping is notoriously bad in terms of keeping licensing info. Digging that info up is a non-trivial task, even if everything is legal...
      • Its a dirty lawyer trick, to put pressure on the opposition. The common way is
        to file a motion as close to the close of business as possible, giving the
        least amount of time permissible under law. Like 3 days to comply, filing it
        at 4:50pm on a Friday and they have to have it by Monday. Only in this case,
        MS is hoping that they will just give up the money, if they really wanted to
        make sure they were in compliance, they would give them more time.

    • Is this a troll? What MS and the SPA etc demand is PROOF OF PURCHASE. Let's say that a school has a donated Gateway. Gateway has not sold a pc without a bundled windows license since before the last elected president took office. Doesn't matter - the schools have to show the license.

      Total horseshit. And it puts schools in a position of refusing donations and ripping out existing boxen to comply with this unreasonable standard.

  • Volunteer (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Krieger ( 7750 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @02:20PM (#3388611) Homepage
    I would humbly suggest that readers in that area volunteer to help get books in order for the audit. And or help to switch over systems to Linux away from Microsoft.

    Help the schools out with a little bit of your time and expertise.
  • Opportunity (Score:2, Interesting)

    Uh, time for someone to undercut the proposed license fees with a counter plan involving a cheaper, more reliable alternative?
  • by billstr78 ( 535271 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @02:22PM (#3388625) Homepage
    This is no way to win over the K-12 education crowd. Apple did it in the 80's by offering quality, easy-to-use computers at discounted prices.

    Bullying the local school children mob style probably won't win them the following they were after in the first place. I wonder if the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will start to pick on all the Public Libraries they have pushed Windows on.
  • Whatever happened to the concept of 'Innocent until proven guilty'? The district shouldn't be considered guilty simply because they cannot afford to run an internal audit of their own. Innocence should not have to be bought.
  • by t0qer ( 230538 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @02:26PM (#3388655) Homepage Journal
    Not just schools, it's a form of retaliation against the .gov by microsoft, in response to the recent trials.

    A friend of mine works for an arm of the VA (Veterans Affairs) According to this friend, the VA is being systematically searched by M$ for license compliance, so far with grim results. Supposidly the VA is about 20million out of compliance with M$ products. It doesn't just stop at M$ stuff though.

    While M$ is doing their "sweeps" they will make it their business to report any competitors product being out of license as well. This includes everything from an over the limit shareware version of winzip, to "borrowed" installed copies of quicken, and the like.

    It's pretty clear what is going on. The states that have fined M$ are owed money, but all M$ has to do is prove they are out of license compliance.

    .gov M$ you owe us $15million
    M$ We pay up when you pay us for our software

    It's a pretty smart tactic on M$'s part when you think about it. It's not like M$ hasn't known for years everyone pirates their software to hell. It's just kinda funny how they use it as a trump card to save their ass.
    • While it may be a bad tiem for them to do an audit, I can't really fault MS for doing one if the VA is out of compliance by $20 million. this isn;t a few licenses shy, this sounds like whole departments that aren't licensed. This isn't MS being nit-picky and going after people that are 2 licenses short, these are people who knowingly are installing massive amounts of software that is not licensed. MS has every right to go after major offenders like this.
      • these are people who knowingly are installing massive amounts of software that is not licensed.

        Seems unlikely, since every PC the VA bought undoubtedly came preinstalled with a licensed Windows OS, and probably Office as well. Which is more likely: that the VA knowingly mass installed thousands of illegal copies of MS products, or that it misplaced the licenses?

    • It certainly seems to me that this sort of tactic, especially against government agencies, is something you can only pull is you're a monopoly, and can be certain that they've been given the right by an EULA to search every single computer.

      Which means that the next line should be:

      .gov Okay, you owe us $15 million, plus anything we pay due to your sweeps

      Of course, that would require some more time in court. But it's not good for long-term viability to base your business on illegal profits from the government, because they'll want the money back eventually.
  • interesting timing (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ndevice ( 304743 )
    Interesting that this was issued to take effect in 60 days (late June) [now, is this 60 real days or 60 business days?]. If this school district is anything like the school districts I'm familiar with, they would just be gearing down for end of term at around that time.

    I sure wouldn't want disruptions then. I wonder why they didn't time it so that the audit had to happen mid-summer or some other non-peak time instead.
  • I wonder why... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nizo ( 81281 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @02:27PM (#3388664) Homepage Journal
    ...Microsoft hasn't pulled this same stunt on the various state governments that are still pushing the case against them? They might as well, since after the info in this article becomes more widespread I can't imagine how they could look any worse. I have to admit, lamebrain tactics like this probably do more for the Linux community than anything.

    Seriously tho, what keeps the school from telling them to bugger off? Could Microsoft get a court order to allow their audit teams to search (especially if the school sent a statement to the effect of "we won't be using your software anymore, so don't bother with the audit")?
    • Could Microsoft get a court order to allow their audit teams to search (especially if the school sent a statement to the effect of "we won't be using your software anymore, so don't bother with the audit")?

      IANAL ... but probably not. The reason cops DO get court orders, is because of the investigation of the cops, it is believed that there is enough evidence to convict the person in question.

      In Microsoft's case, they are on a fishing expedition, and as such, probably would be denied a court order, unless they could prove that the person they want to audit is committing a crime.

      Of course, they could just bill the school system, and then offer to reduce the bill by the actual number of machines legally licensed. The problem with this, is that the school system gives up several rights that are (should) be protected by the Constitution.

    • I hope they do, I hope they do. The government needs to learn a lesson.

      Well the school doesn't have much of a choice. Let's say they have MS Word, Windows, etc. courses, do you think that they have the time to change all those courses and find qualified OpenOffice, Linux, etc. teachers before next semester?
  • by WildBeast ( 189336 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @02:27PM (#3388667) Journal
    Seems to me like MS is taking it's revenge for the anti-trust suite by trying to audit every government institution. I don't know the details but that's what it looks like to me. But you know what? I don't feel sorry for any of them.
  • Let's say that MS shows up at my door and says "We want to audit your machines". What would happen if I just slammed the door in their faces? What right do they have to audit anybody?

    Note: I'm not talking specifcially about schools, but rather a business that presumably has made no contractual deals with them.
    • Read your EULA. It will SPECIFICALLY state that M$ has the right to inspect/audit you at any time.

      So, if Microsoft can prove that you EVER bought ANY Microsoft software, they can enter your premises and audit you.

      Now, if you've NEVER bought anything legally from them, that's a different story... interesting...

    • I think the point is that MS says that you are entering into a contract when you click "I agree" on any of their installation license windows. One of the terms is that they can come in and audit you at any time.

      But, what about a business that says "we used to have Windows, Office, and SQLServer, but now we use Solaris, Linux, StarOffice, and Sybase. Get bent."

      Would they sue? What would their burden of proof be to get their audit approved? How far could I take this argument: "I will not expose any of my computers or the sensitive data on them (like school records) to ANY outside party."

  • I'm sure someone reading this in MW, or a local LUG, has a spare few hours and a hundred dollars or so write a couple of hundred Linux CD-ROMs and post them with a clear and reasonable letter to the govenors of these schools, pointing out the benefits of OSS software.

    With a little effort you'll have done a lot of good for the schools of MW and shown Microsoft for the callous bastards that they are.
  • I live in Portland (Score:5, Insightful)

    by legLess ( 127550 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @02:31PM (#3388710) Journal
    Several years ago there was a property-tax revolt in Oregon, similar to an earlier one in California. In Oregon we don't pay sales tax, so property taxes are higher. Some businesses view this as a problem, since they typically own high-value property. Since the tax-limitation measures, state revenue has fallen dramatically. If the state hadn't started legalizing gambling (video poker machines, mostly) they'd be in even deeper shit than they are now.

    So what the combo of less property tax and more gambling has done is shift the tax burden for schools from business to individuals, and disproportionately to poorer individuals, who tend to gamble more (this is not a value judgement, just a fact).

    Also, Portland currently has the highest unemployment in the nation - about 9.5% last I checked. Furthermore, our Superintendent or Schools ... well, we don't have one right now. Ben Canada (tenure of less than a year) was summarily dismissed for a variety of reasons (*cough* most of which were brought up in the hiring process, not that I'm bitter). This is one of the worst times, financially and politically, for the Portland Public Schools since they were founded.

    I hope that helps put this quote from the article in context:
    "What would it cost Portland Public Schools, which is already facing a $36 million shortfall, to sign that Microsoft School Agreement?

    "A rough number? $500,000," Robinson said, "which translates, roughly, into 10 teaching positions."
    The trouble is, if 60 days isn't enough time to audit 25,000 machines it sure as hell isn't enough time to convert them to Linux. It boggles my mind that Microsoft is going so far out of its way to piss people off. [Insert ob. Princess Cinnamon-Bun quote here]
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 22, 2002 @03:05PM (#3389079)
      IT lessons in Portland over the next month:

      "Hi Kids, today we are going to learn about Linux. We will do this by installing Linux on the computers you are using right now. Thanks to the friendly guys at (RedHat|Mandrake|SUSE|Debian|etc) we each have a CD on our desks. Please put it into the computer and power-on."

      "Now we can learn about hard drive partitioning. See that picture which has a big red bar with FAT32 written in the middle? Select that with the mouse and press "Delete". That has got rid of Windows, and saved us a lot of money. Now click on "Defaults" and click on "Next" until it is installed, then reboot".

      (Teacher now relaxes for the 10 minutes it takes everyone to install Linux) :)

  • Generic software (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jvmatthe ( 116058 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @02:31PM (#3388715) Homepage
    The comment in the article about generic software is a clever observation. After all, we have generic drugs, generic foods, off-brand clothing lines. Each of these is most likely a lucrative market for the companies that don't command name brand recognition. A significant portion of the population of the world can't reasonably afford the top o' the line products.

    So it seems that generic software, which does almost everything that name brand software does, should be a natural part of the computing world. Yet, where are those generic word processors and spreadsheets and even operating systems? Why is 95% of the desktop market, including these important applications, controlled by one company with nearly impenetrable barriers to entry?

    And does this news article point to an example of that very company moving to stamp out a potential insurgence of that generic software? Would we stand for Del Monte moving to shut off the supply of generic branded vegetables on store shelves, especially when someone pointed out that many families couldn't afford the more expensive brand? Why should we stand for Microsoft bringing in jack-booted thugs against schools that have budget shortages?

    Yeah, that's inflammatory language. So what? :^)
    • Re:Generic software (Score:3, Interesting)

      by drinkypoo ( 153816 )
      Yet, where are those generic word processors and spreadsheets and even operating systems? Why is 95% of the desktop market, including these important applications, controlled by one company with nearly impenetrable barriers to entry?

      Food is controlled by the FDA. Oh yes, sometimes bad food does slip through, but in general, one company's canned food is as healthy as another's, though the flavor, texture, and so on may not be the same.

      Software is controlled by... Hmm, software isn't controlled. You stick with a brand name you know will get you software which will let you get the job done.

      In addition, even "generic" is sometimes a brand name these days, so "generic" is not the word. Maybe off-brand? Though the assertion that linux was "off-brand" would get you flamed nine ways from sunday around here.

      The reason linux hasn't taken the desktop market? It's not ready. Your OS has to be usable by idiots, and supportable by idiots, or it can't be scaled to that much market share without collapsing in on itself. There are too many flavors of linux (competition is good, but all consumers see is a fragmented brand name) out there for prime time. And the apps are simply inferior (in terms of features) to the microsoft, adobe, and so on equivalents.

      Linux cannot be taken seriously as a desktop market contender at the moment. It's getting better! But it's just not there.

      Also, people don't go to websites to compare two cans of string beans, but they do go to check out the features of different operating systems, TCO, and so on. Computers are just too different from food, you cannot draw any useful comparison.

  • In my spare time, I do charity work. Much of it is non-technical, but some is the obligatory website and or a bit-o-help when thier office network goes kafloooie.

    With the recent annoucements of user friendly distributions such as Lycoris [] and Mandrake [] (I've yet to give the new Debian [] a spin), I have been trying to get the office staff of the church I attend to make the switch.

    Sure, they won't get ALL the power of MS Word, but then again, THEY DON'T ever really use all that power anyway.

    Recently, I had been warning them about MSFT's draconian licensing practices ... which generally fell on deaf ears.

    I'd like, at this time, to thank Microsoft for making my case for me.
  • What's with all these companies suddenly asserting rights to audit schools, businesses and such? Since when does any company get to bust on in and dig thru your stuff? If anyone can do it, I'm starting a company where I break into your house, check your perscription medicine bottles, and if any are expired, I take your teenaged daughter.


  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 22, 2002 @02:36PM (#3388774)
    1. The audit request does not specifically say that they can forego the audit by changing to the very expensive School License Agreement. It does point out, however, that the audit request came from the marketing department and included brochures and FAQ's for the SLA.

    2. Most Schools purchase their MS software through Volume License agreements which have a clause stating that periodic audits are a term of the agreement.

    3. The Oregonian article stated that if schools choose to have MS conduct the audit, they need to pay MS's costs if just one computer is found out of compliance. I believe the actual clause states that they need to be more than 5% out of copliance district wide.

    Having stated this, I am an employee at one of these districts and the amount of work is staggering. I thought I was going to be the only Anti-MS zealot to see what a heavy handed tactic this is, so I am pleasantly surprised that many others see it and feel the same way.

    FYI...I have posted Anonymously since my e-mail makes it easy to see who I am and which district I work for, and many here don't feel that getting rid of MS software is a good idea.

    Keep passing the opem windows...

  • Did anyone else notice this? On my SuSE 7.3 with Mozilla 0.9.9, viewing this page (be that online or offline after wget'ing the page) crashed Mozilla! It's not the ads code, I just cut it out and re-opened the disk file, Mozilla still crashed. It's the first time I have this kind of problems with Mozilla, and I'm not amused for it to happen on *slashdot*.

    This comment brought to you by konqueror.

  • Protection money? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sg3000 ( 87992 ) <> on Monday April 22, 2002 @02:37PM (#3388779)
    > At the busiest time of the year for those
    > districts, Microsoft is demanding that they
    > conduct an internal software audit to "certify
    > licensing compliance." In a March letter, the
    > software giant gave Portland Public Schools
    > 60 days to inventory its 25,000 computers.

    To me, this sounds like Microsoft is threatening to have its goons "audit" the school at a time when the school probably can't afford the staff to do the audit.

    > Ah, but wait. Microsoft has an offer it thinks
    > you can't refuse, if only to avoid the audit: the
    > vaunted Microsoft School Agreement. Under
    > the terms of this agreement, a school or
    > district simply counts its computers and
    > pays Microsoft somewhere in the
    > neighborhood of $42 per machine for one
    > systemwide annual license.

    If the school can't afford the audit, they can pay Microsoft a yearly tribute to not audit them, but they lose access to the software once they stop paying. And they have to pay for even non-Microsoft computers, like iMacs.

    > The school districts are considered guilty of
    > software piracy until they can prove they're in
    > licensing compliance. If the district can't
    > drum up the staff to manage the inventory,
    > Microsoft is willing to show up with its own
    > audit crew, but if a single computer is found
    > with illegal or undocumented software, the
    > district must pay for the audit.

    I wouldn't be surprised if once they get schools into this subscription idea, eventually the annual tribute for Microsoft software for Apple computers will be higher than that of Windows-based computers.

    Man, someone should stop them before they become a monopoly!
  • Could someone please explain to most of us clueless folk how this audit crap works? How is it that M$ is able to legally go on the premises and invade the schools computers or force them to provide proof of ownership etc?

    Do they have to get some sort of subpoena? before a judge? if so, how is it they seem to be able to get subpoenas easier than the fbi to bust into an arabs house?

  • by gnovos ( 447128 ) <> on Monday April 22, 2002 @02:41PM (#3388819) Homepage Journal
    After all, what better things could a school district spend $500,000 dollars on than identical copies of software licenses? Teachers salaries? Teaching materials? Lab equipment? Naw, it'd all just go to waste, but those microsoft licenses will last a lifetime.... right?
  • "Due to unforseen 'computers in education' expenses, we have to cancel the field trip to the amuzement park control room and the Box Factory this year..." Actually that IS quite educational - not only do they take several years experience with Msft products with them into the workplace, but also experience with what happens when your business doesn't track licenses properly. Just another line item in the TCO.

    Well, they took the free crack, now they are addicted and have to pay the only local dope dealer..
  • by Steffan ( 126616 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @02:41PM (#3388821)
    I just emailed the author of the article and I'm going to try to get in touch with the heads of the information department at the districts in Portland and Beaverton. I'm willing to donate my time and expertise to help them migrate systems where possible.

    If anyone else in the Portland metro area is interested, send email to linux-school[at]

    It would be great to be able to line up a team of people to do migrations / training / auditing. I think there are few reasons why the district couldn't switch a majority of their machines over, leaving only the Windows machines that they absolutely require.

    If nothing else, you have the opportunity to possibly reduce your tax burden, both as a resident, and as a deduction for your time.

  • Why does M$ get the right to set an arbitrary timeframe, and what keeps the schools from hiring some, shall we say, wildly inaccurate (and cheap!) auditing firm to audit their machines?
  • Wouldn't it be neat to have this as a challenge to install Linux?

    Likely the school board probably already has the $500K earmarked to come from somewhere. The education of kids is too important, that's why the convicted monopolist is pulling the shenanigans.

    So instead of having bake sales, why not get the communities together to do installfests? If they can get the computers changed over in 60 days, then the schools get to keep the money, albeit in a different PTA account.

    Perhaps a template can be designed at Sourceforge that allows for a mass CVS action of doing the installs (keeping track of the installs and the problem computers and etc).
  • Looks like a choice between one-time big pain and pain everlasting. Hope the schools find a reasonable way out.

    It's reminiscent of the bind MS's big corporate customers are finding themselves in with the new Enterprise Agreements and their requirements for current software.

    Microsoft may not be the last organization on earth to which I wish to give a blank check, but they're close enough.

  • OK. Now I'm MAD (Score:5, Interesting)

    by datastew ( 529152 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @02:47PM (#3388873)

    This is going to be a total rant, but here goes.

    This time they have gone too far. I live here in Oregon and have three kids in public schools. I work for a state agency which, like many other state agencies in Oregon is undergoing significant budget cuts.

    Portland is a bit of a drive for me, but I am seriously thinking about taking some time off and volunteering to go up there and help them audit machines, wipe hard drives, and install Linux clients or whatever they need. In fact, anyone else who wants to do the same could join me in emailing them here [mailto] or maybe the help desk here. [mailto]

    Put your money/time where your mouth is.

  • by VB ( 82433 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @02:49PM (#3388902) Homepage

    My last employer put together a contract for a charter school a few years back for 25 workstations and a server (win95 / winnt), 4 printers and cd-server that never worked (but got hacked a few times). Total bid was about $80K ($55K for machines, $3K for our services and the rest for licensing). I remember thinking what a shame that so much was tied up in licensing (25 workstation licenses; plus Office; plus the 50-user NT license.)

    If the licensing had been a little more reasonable, the school would have been able to afford more of our services and we probably would have been able to make their network more useful as a result. I ended up spending a couple hundred hours of my own over a couple years to help nurse things along, but I recall thinking that if the school licensing had been given to the school, they could have gotten a lot more value out of it. Also, since most of the 300, or so students were entering the business world in a few years, having them trained in M$ tools would have been great for the software vendor.

    It's too bad M$ doesn't take a different approach to licensing for schools. It would be a great tax write-off and would further proliferation of M$-based skillsets to further promote their software in businesses, where these youths would eventually wind up. Not to mention a much better PR message than this article sends. I hope people consider things like this when the Bill and Melissa Gates foundation offers token contributions for their pet projects. A little perspective....
  • by j09824 ( 572485 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @02:52PM (#3388933)
    But Microsoft has put a new spin on the agreement, requiring an "institution-wide commitment." That means the district must include in its count not only the PCs, but all the iMacs and Power Macs that might conceivably use Windows software.

    If this isn't blackmail and anti-competitive, I don't know what is.

  • by hoggoth ( 414195 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @02:54PM (#3388951) Journal
    The tighter you close your fist, CEO Gates...
    The more schools will slip through your fingers!

    If schools weren't sure about using Linux, these Gestapo tactics will sway them. I think power has driven Gates insane. This is a stupid move.

  • by fm6 ( 162816 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @03:01PM (#3389020) Homepage Journal
    Multnomah ESD has its own thin-client Linux distro called K12LTSP.
    Sigh. A client actually executes part of the app locally. A thin client is a low-end workstation that runs apps that live on an special application server. Also known as "Network Computers."

    Terminal servers are aimed at the same market, so naturally the marketroids have stolen the "thin client" jargon. But it's a totally different technology. Whoever invented the LTSP acronym knew this -- let's all emulate him or her.

    And if you actually read the page you pointed to, you discover its not a distro either. Which is actually a good thing, since you can combine it with a distro to run it on a variety of platforms. Hmm, should work with my 386, 486, and Sparcstation doorstops. I should maybe configure it, then donate the result to some public library where they have long lines of people waiting to use the Web machines.

  • by anholt ( 3908 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @03:06PM (#3389088) Homepage
    I was a student sysadmin/techie for four years at Franklin High Schoolin Portland, OR, along with a few other students and one hired admin. I also was involved in a student union, and we knew about the funding problems: $20 million in the hole in this budget, if I remember correctly. Another $500,000 will mean even fewer teachers, when we have been losing teachers already.

    However, to those of you saying "Just use Linux," I tried. You know what, administering classroom Linux systems is hard. I was working on a X terminal Linux (then FreeBSD) network at Da Vinci middle school for over a year. It had to be X terminals because the little machines couldn't handle it. The staple computer at FHS is the P166 with 16MB RAM from CTL ("Crap Technology for Losers," as it was called), the middle school had some machines even worse. These machines can handle Office or IE on win95. They couldn't handle X with Netscape/Mozilla or StarOffice. With a server running the programs it was almost usable. However, we didn't have automounted floppy drives working, sometimes samba was flakey, sometimes people would have troubles opening netscape (it was _slow_) or something else happened. The teacher I was working with was really interested and excited, but didn't have the proficiency to be a sysadmin. I didn't have the time to be it, after spending my days at Franklin.

    A number of teachers at a school can do basic Windows repair, but paid admins rarely stay at a school for more than a couple of years. The warm fuzzies of working for the public schools did not make up for the lack of pay or the crap they had to put up with ("I need you /now/!" or little help messages from teachers like "the box is missing, come fix it [ed. note: that's the computer!]"). Making our computers use Linux would have been with quite a bit of dissatisfaction on the part of the teachers. Existing operating systems needed to be reinstalled about once a year depending on their use, but other than that didn't require much adminning or much knowledge on the part of the users. We few Linux/BSD users didn't have time to teach about CAB to kill frozen X or training people to log out or train other techies to handle linux troubles (we had about 8 mac/windows techies at FHS, with maybe two really proficient in linux/bsd). It really requires a full-time sysadmin, at least for every couple of schools. This does not exist. We used to be special at Franklin because we had a part-time admin. We don't have a dedicated admin at Franklin any more. We were already just scraping by on Mac/Windows maintenance, and I think a Linux or BSD network would be impossible now.
  • by nolife ( 233813 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @03:14PM (#3389165) Homepage Journal
    The author pictured in the title story [] looks a lot like Mike Holgram []. Who just so happens to coach the Seattle Seahawks [].. Coincedence? I don't think so. Looks like MS marketing screwed up with a 6th day violation.. ;)
  • by Kevinv ( 21462 ) <kevin AT vanhaaren DOT net> on Monday April 22, 2002 @03:29PM (#3389304) Homepage
    Microsoft's School Agreement 3.0 [] (Word doc of course)

    iteresting bit is that you must pay for all eligible machines, if they run microsoft software or not:

    "School Agreement requires an institution-wide commitment. To that end, you must include all of the eligible PCs in the participating school(s) or district. Eligible PCs include all of the Pentium machines, Power Macs, iMacs or better. You must also include any number of 486 machines or below and any Apple, UNIX, or Windows Terminals on which any of the software will be run."

    So if you sign up, then move to something else, you still gotta pay.

    Not sure if you pay per package installed (i.e. do you pay for Windows OS on iMac's?)
  • by Eric Damron ( 553630 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @03:35PM (#3389346)
    Microsoft once again makes a miscalculation. This has the potential of backfiring big time. When Microsoft starts messing with public schools they're messing with one of the foundations of American culture and more importantly they are messing with our children.

    In a civil case people on juries have preconceived ideas about defendants. Right or wrong, people generally place schools in the "good" category. Microsoft will come off looking like a complete ogre.

    Many of the computers our poor, under funded schools have come from donated computers. Many of these computers came with no documentation and no original software CDs. By Microsoft's own licensing agreement binds the operating system license to a particular PC. If the person who donated the PC kept the original CDs, the computer still has a license.

    These schools need to make this an issue. They need to make sure that it becomes news. Microsoft will be forced to back down or die in the public opinion. After that I would recommend that the schools fdisk every single computer that they own and install Linux.
  • by Logger ( 9214 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @03:41PM (#3389394) Homepage
    I don't know why everyone complains about Microsoft. They're certainly doing their part to promote Linux. I wonder whose product MS's marketing thinks their promoting?

  • by Erore ( 8382 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @04:16PM (#3389575)
    IANAL, but, I've heard that people who have copyrights have to defend them if they want to hold onto them. Same thing for trademarks. Or maybe it was just trademarks. Basically, it amounts to the fact that if you do nothing to defend your rights, you don't have those rights.

    Microsoft has done nothing meaningful in the past to prevent piracy of their software. They, along with everyone else dropped copy protection on the software. Fine, consumers wanted that. But, on the Macintosh side we see vendors all the time make their software AWARE of other copies of it running on the network. When I install Photoshop TWICE using the SAME registration code, it complains when that second copy is running at the same time. Since my users need to run it simultaneously, I need to purchase a second copy (or disconnect a user from the network...which isn't viable.)

    Microsoft, if they really wanted to prevent piracy, would have done the SAME THING. They would have made their applications network aware and they would have checked to see if a second copy was running somewhere. If they had done this, there would not be piracy in the corporate, government, or academic environments to the extent there is today.

    It is hard to keep track of every piece of software that an end-user might sneak into your company. Since Windows 9.x didn't have any security, you couldn't stop users from installing it. Because the applications weren't network aware, you wouldn't know when someone installed duplicate copies...not even when an administrator did it.

    Because Microsoft did not take reasonable steps to prevent piracy, I think Microsoft should not have the right to force people to audit and payup. At least, not until such time as Microsoft plugs the holes that make piracy so easy.
  • by verloren ( 523497 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @04:46PM (#3389739)
    A thought on how to keep MS at bay while you fix the situation:

    1. Switch all the PCs off.
    2. Invite them in to do the audit.
    3. If they ask you if a machine has Windows on, tell them no.
    4. If they want to power up the machine, ask them how they intend to power it, as the school board doesn't sell or donate power to third parties.
    5. If they want to take the PC away, point out the school policy on theft.
    6. If they want to bring in a generator, point out the for safety reasons such equipment can't be used in school buildings.
    7. If they want to remove the hard drive, point out the school policy on vandalism.
    8. Goto 4.

    By the time they've figured out how to see what's on the machine you can have Linux on a sufficient number that licenses will cover the rest!

    Still haven't bothered with a .sig...
  • by west ( 39918 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @05:26PM (#3390128)
    Now here's an interesting point. In essence, any time you purchase any MS software, you really need to factor in the cost of maintaining 100% license compliance. I figure (given how machines move around, etc.) that this has got to be at least $50-$100 per machine per year for the life of the machine. After all, that sort of 100% accurate record keeping does not come cheap. I wouldn't want to have 1 person handling more than 500 machines (imagine, he get's to track down exactly what software is on each machine that school has in closets, loaned to a teacher, moved to new lab, etc.!)

    I suspect that if the price of software was put in those terms to schools any time they purchased Microsoft software, they might start seriously looking at alternatives. Compared to the base (education) software price, the compliance price might be many times higher.

    Besides, what teacher wants to have the cost of the compliance agent subtracted from his budget each and every year?
  • Get the word out... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bdowne01 ( 30824 ) on Monday April 22, 2002 @05:29PM (#3390150) Homepage Journal
    I'm in the midst of running a Linux consulting service company in the Detroit area that focuses on schools and now to "de-Microsoft" them.

    Many of the schools I've talked to love the idea of using a free & open operating system in their classes, but the thought of moving over to Linux "just becuase" is hard to sell.

    Articles like these are the ammunition I need to show these schools the "light" and have them migrate over. If anyone has any articles like this one (involving schools) or good reference contacts I could use, please let me know! (see website for email addr.) I've done the Googling and found some good stuff, but it's always nice to get the word out.

If graphics hackers are so smart, why can't they get the bugs out of fresh paint?