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Microsoft vs. Northwest Schools Part II 555

sharkey writes "Simple End User Linux (SEUL) has an article about their visit to the ACPE 2002 conference. Microsoft's visit to the conference is outlined, as well as the school districts' attitude towards GPL software and migration issues. An interesting follow-up to an earlier Slashdot article."
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Microsoft vs. Northwest Schools Part II

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  • May be a different country, but the economics and usability issues are very similar indeed:

    Wired talks about it [], and there's a lot more info over on Google.
    • Note the date. Basically, this was two guys saying, "Hey, wouldn't it be cool if we could install hundreds of thousands of Linux desktops in Mexican schools?" They had no money or manpower.

      Ironically, after years of linking to that Wired article as though it's really happening, it turns out these paragraphs at the bottom were the important ones:

      In the United States, Oregon's Multnomah County will next month install 30 Linux servers in high schools -- the most ambitious Linux project in American schools to date, according to Paul Nelson, technology coordinator at the Riverdale School District in Portland. Nelson is one of the leads of the Linux in Schools Project.

      Like Espinosa, Nelson said he would love to see Linux desktop machines but doesn't think there is enough software available for the platform just yet. "It's made huge inroads in the server market," Nelson said, and "the desktop is next."

      It may turn out that this is the project that winds up making the difference in getting Linux into North American schools.
  • "The #2 fear facing schools is the thought that teachers will not be able to use the software. No one is worried about the kids."

    nuff said.
    • by gclef ( 96311 ) on Friday May 10, 2002 @02:58PM (#3498453)
      That may come across as annoying or foolish, but it's probably also true....just badly worded. The kids are not the ones that will have trouble learing the new technology.

      That phrase should be read "No one is worried about the kids [they'll adapt quickly]."
      • Thats what they are in school for.

        Teachers on the other hand, their job is to teach, you cannot properly teach something you dont know yourself. Teachers need to be trained.

        I worked as an instructor in the school system teaching computers when i was still a student.

        The students CAN be the teachers if they need teachers so bad. The students can also TRAIN the teachers.

        However my school was small (less than 100 students)

        In a big school, Its not as realistic
    • I think it can be easily determined that what is meant is that no one is worried about kids being able to use the software. Kids are much more adaptable to new technology than adults are, they're just not set in their ways yet. Its always been that way. A lot of teachers(and adults) struggle with OSes that have been around a long time, and fear having to learn something new on the computer because they just don't think they can do it.
    • It's kind of a sad statement about American schools when one is more worried about teachers learning something than their students. And we trust our kids to these idiots?

      I don't know about every university, but where I went, the faculty of education had the lowest minimum requirements for entry.
    • "No one is worried about the kids"

      Well obviously. The kids will be recompiling kernels and root-kitting computers before the software's been installed a day, if it's anything like the schools I know.
    • by flogger ( 524072 ) <non@nonegiven> on Friday May 10, 2002 @03:47PM (#3498800) Journal
      This is actually very true. I work in a high school, and software knowledge problems are from the educators 95% of the time. I have 10 computers in my classroom, and I installed OpenOffice on them when I was denied an office suite due to $$ restrictions. The students picked it up in 10 minutes (as an aside: Open Office also works great for opening corrupted powerpoint and excel files that office 2000 won't). During the summers, I train teachers how to use software, and it is FRUSTRATING when an adult looks at you as if you have strange jungle disease when you explain how to copy and paste.

      Can schools make the switch to Linux? Yup, Doing it now. No need for MS Proxy or Border manager when E-Smith [](the commercial site []) offers a great solution.

      Open Office / Star Office is the best thing that has come down the pipe for schools. If a student can learn to use these less expensive/just as robust software packages productively, then they can switch to using what ever MS office product that they may need to use on the job once they get out in the "Real World." What is wrong with education? I don't think computer illiterate teachers are the problem, but it fixing that certainly doesn't hurt.
  • by Hiro Antagonist ( 310179 ) on Friday May 10, 2002 @02:55PM (#3498440) Journal
    In our district we have God control over our machines and dictate all hardware and network decisions, but even then have had to give some leeway on software installs for political issues.

    I prefer to take a more hands-on approach and use "root", rather than a third-party administration product of dubious reliability, scalability, and quality. ;)
    • Oh come on now. Granted God rarely takes an interest in computers, but when he does, watch out. Nothing like lightening from the skys to remind people to be good. And life in the slammer is nothing compared to infinity in hell. Accually God hasn't been known to act directly in a few thousand years, but that doesn't mean he won't act again.

      Or do you belive in some other god with less or different powers? Thats your choice, as for me, when I'm told God is watching I'm extra careful as the potential enforcement is a lot worse than anything root can cook up. Root just is more likely to act.

  • Seems to me that they might be open to Open Source as well. Especially since people get confused and mistake Seattle, the Emerald City of truth and light, for Redmond, where the Dark Lord dwells ... ok, so he's really in an adjacent place, but it's still across the giant Lake Washington that's bigger than Seattle is.

    There are some firms, Adobe for example, which are more than helpful in donating software and helping with tech problems - they have done a lot for B.F. Day public school in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle where they're located. Microsoft seems to go between extremes - sometimes they're helpful, other times they're harmful.

  • by fabiolrs ( 536338 ) on Friday May 10, 2002 @02:56PM (#3498444) Homepage
    This is and old and known MS business strategy. They let their softs spread freely and then demand license regularization. Companies around the world used to have no alternative but to pay thousands of dollars on licenses because mass migration is expensive, user training on new OS is expensive and many other things. Even thou some years ago linux already existed it was not a so viable alternative, so companies, even knowing Windows is not the best OS out there, stick to it.

    It is pretty good to see that this is changing. Microsoft tried to do this but now there is an alternative out there and that alternative is pretty strong and robust. It is good to see that even thou MS is a large company it cant do business like it did years ago because it is not the ONLY out there.

    Way to go!!! :))
    • Public education is a social institution, not a business. Traditional business rules do not apply to public education, hence M$ business tactics have backfired on them.

      Anybody curious about the absence of Apple Computers, who once had a stronghold in education?
      • Maybe because Apple isn't playing hardball with Schools (and maybe they are and we just don't hear about it).

        Of course, MS is trying to finally put Apple away on the school level with their new licensing structure: i.e. you pay MS for every machine you have in school, no matter what it is or what software it runs. Reminds me of the deals that MS had with builders in the 80s and 90s: i.e. you pay me for every box you ship regardless of what you ship it with. I wonder if Apple will sue them over that as uncompetitive behavior?

  • Well, duh (Score:5, Funny)

    by floppy ears ( 470810 ) on Friday May 10, 2002 @02:56PM (#3498445) Homepage
    M$ says: We never had any idea that there would be a reaction like this!

    M$ believes: How can this be -- our marketing research said that that everybody loves being audited!
    • If MS execs had any common sense, they would know they've been driving themselves into the ground for several years now.
      • by darkonc ( 47285 ) <stephen_samuel@bcgr e e n . com> on Friday May 10, 2002 @03:40PM (#3498747) Homepage Journal
        Microsoft is getting desperate. They've run out of market growth, and they're looking for a way to increase revenues (above already obscene levels). I disagree partly with the poster who described this as a good-cop bad-cop routine. I don't think that they intended to create a good-cop bad-cop scenario. On the other hand, having been bitten by the results of the bad-cop approach (which normally works), they brought out the good cop to soothe the ruffled feathers.

        As the article noted: The good cops didn't show up until the feces hit the circular air accelerator. Thankfully, I think that it's too late for them. Once a few school boards manage sucessful migrations and report back to the others on their results, I think that you're going to see a bulk migration away from MS so-called "solutions" in NorthWest schools.

  • by Renraku ( 518261 ) on Friday May 10, 2002 @02:57PM (#3498449) Homepage
    Now Microsoft is going to attack the government. Its just like a chess game, the government is putting pressure on Microsoft, and Microsoft is going to put pressure on the government. "Drop this antitrust charge and we'll drop the $50 billion in fines against your school systems."
  • The Usual MS MO (Score:3, Insightful)

    by vex24 ( 126288 ) on Friday May 10, 2002 @02:59PM (#3498463) Homepage
    They love to scare you into thinking they're going to press charges and levy fines, but it's just a good-cop, bad-cop routine -- the second the outrage hits, they're a different company; flexible and understanding.

    At that point we're supposed to believe MS is a big cozy teddy bear and really wants to help. They've done this more times than I can remember. It's time to walk away from them and not look back...
    • At that point we're supposed to believe MS is a big cozy teddy bear and really wants to help

      "Oh, sure, they look cute now, b-b-but in just a second they're going to get big, and they're going to get mean. Didn't any of you guys ever WATCH the show??"

      Let's get the schools switched to Linux before a Microserf eats Guy!

    • This reminds me so much of the girls who break up with their abusive boyfriends. The boys apologize, say they've changed and the girls fall for it again and end up getting abused again.

      I could never figure out why so many girls do this when it's so obvious what's going on. But I now see girls aren't the only ones susceptible to this type of behavior.

  • by FearUncertaintyDoubt ( 578295 ) on Friday May 10, 2002 @02:59PM (#3498464)
    1. Public awareness, bad publicity for MS. Microsoft can't afford any more PR hits, because the next rock could be the one that starts the avalanche. It's pretty clear that the most effective weapon against MS's tactics is public knowledge of their behavior. Sure, they can smooth it over, but as they say, a tiger can't change its stripes. Meow.

    2. Committed volunteers. As the article points out, the LUG was a big help. One of the cool things about the open source community is the freedom and diversity of work. But a pitfall is that it is not organized around a single goal like a corporation. If the Linux community said (i.e., leaders said), we are committed to getting all public schools onto free software and keeping them going, make that your priority, what amazing things could be accomplished? Instead many people would rather work on their own, probably less important projects. I love working on my own stuff just for the fun of it, but there comes a time to put down your own agenda and dig ditches for a greater goal.

    • PR hits (Score:3, Informative)

      by recursiv ( 324497 )
      Microsoft can't afford any more PR hits, because the next rock could be the one that starts the avalanche. It's pretty clear that the most effective weapon against MS's tactics is public knowledge of their behavior. Sure, they can smooth it over, but as they say, a tiger can't change its stripes. Meow.

      Sure they can afford more PR hits. Come on. They're Microsoft. Do you really expect a few PR hits to have any significant effect in the face of overwhelming advertising power and market dominance over most (admittedly mostly clueless) users? These people have come to expect PR hits and controversy as part of the industry. "That's just how it works." Microsoft wouldn't want to raise their expectations, now would they?

    • I have to disagree with the replies here. Bad publicity can go on forever, true, and MS can take small hits here and there for a while, but eventually the bad publicity will inspire others to organize around a better alternative.

      The "Linux Community" has been negatively focused on MS for years, and now that the software itself is getting more mature, I think people have more time to devote to positive alternatives.

      I think that if we try to make the entire goal of Linux "free software for the schools," that it will give people who want to crush Free Software a target to attack. I say, allow local Linux users and developers to choose their own battles. Mine was corporate acceptance of Linux from the bottom up in a professional software environment.

      On the side, my consulting business has made me money while saving my clients (small businesses with fewer than 10 employees) thousands of dollars on MS server licenses, using Linux/samba as a PDC and fileserver. And, unlike a large company, these customers know that Linux has saved them real money.

      When I worked at Lotus, we were told to keep focusing on the smaller customers, because a MS tactic is to release immature software that works in low-end installations, and then, as the software improves, they nibble away at the high end market from below. Linux has been using this same tactic, sometimes unknowingly. But, because the licensing is free, Linus, Alan Cox. etc can work on 16-way SMP support while I can still afford to install it in a small shop. That is an advantage MS and Lotus never had.
  • by Hiro Antagonist ( 310179 ) on Friday May 10, 2002 @02:59PM (#3498466) Journal
    I think one of the biggest barriers to getting Linux installed at schools is the lack of software targeted at secondary-school teachers and students. I'm working on writing an open-source, Java-based gradebook application (still in initial stages, so there's no project homepage yet), and I'd really like to see people writing things like gradebooks, educational games, and the like.
    • by bcrowell ( 177657 ) on Friday May 10, 2002 @03:15PM (#3498562) Homepage
      I agree that there is a problem with availability of applications. For instance, I'd like to convert the physics labs at my community college over to Linux, but we don't have a replacement for our data-acquisition software that would run on Linux.

      There are three open-source gradebook programs listed on Freshmeat, one of which is my own []. I'd be interested in talking more about gradebooks off-list...

      One good thing about what's happening in the article is that they may get entire districts buying in to Linux. It's much harder for an individual teacher to do on a classroom-by-classroom basis. The computer folks at my school have neither the time nor the skills to help me integrate Linux boxes into their network.

      Another positive is that lots of schools are using Macs, and will soon be using MacOS X. That gets Unix's foot in the door.

      • Have you talked to your existing vendors about porting their data-aquisition & gradebook software?

        There could be hundreds of other customers who are all saying the same thing. The vendors might be thinking that none of their customers want to run Linux. If you get talking to each other, you might find that it benefits you both.

        • You're right, it's probably a good idea to at least make the phone call. But realistically, they're a small company, and I'm sure they can't afford to code up a whole new Linux version of their sofwtare just so they can sell it to 0.5% of the desktop market. And even if they did, we'd just be left with a closed-source app.

          The vendor is, however, good about documenting their peripherals, so it would be cool to see an open-source app written by teachers. I've even thought about doing it myself, but I'm not convinced it's as good a use of my time as other free-information projects.

    • Or the school could hire a single DBA/programmer (or have a CS teacher do it...or even the kids...ok bad Idea for the gradebook :) to create a Apache/MySQL system tailored to the school...hell, check it into CVS, then other schools could use and contribute to it.

      Schools do have people to admin their computers/networks, right? And with linux, the admin part is easy, so the admin could do other things, like writing custom DB's with web interfaces.

      • Schools do have people to admin their computers/networks, right?

        At my high school, the CIS guy was WAY over-worked. In fact, we mostly had to teach ourselves CIS since he was always on call somewhere in the school (which made the slow lost and the swift excelent par-none).

        Given budget cuts, the idea of adding additional staff probably doesn't sit well. And given the over-working of network staff, I would find it hard to impose additional burden apon them.


        Hehe.. Still don't think MySQL is up to the task of data-robustness (no roll-backs among other things). Given that grade-reports are more valuable than slash-comments, I'd argue for at least something like postgres (or better, even sybase/oracle on Linux).

        The biggest problem is that you _have_ to garuntee data integrity and security. You have hackers in the high schools, and now you're giving them network access to machines that they probably play with at home. You're basically betting that your developers are more sophisticated than the students (or students non-school friends). At least with the proprietary systems, the likelihood of students even knowing what's under the hood was slim.

        By the way, by network access, I'm referring to the fact that ethernet drops are generally available throughout the building (laptops can easily interface). Further, using Apache implies external access. (A developer _could_ forgo network access to the server, but this again implies that school sysadmins are sufficiently experienced).
      • or have a CS teacher do it

        More like, give it to a group of CS undergrads for their second-year university project
    • Preach on, brutha.

      You do relise that there are ways [] of getting anyone and everyone involved in creating Open Source tools for education. Make sure that everyone knows that you can contribute whether you're in Microsoft's backyard or across the globe.

      OSS tools for education. Hmmmmm.... Let's ponder for a few minutes on this, shall we?

      1 - We end up with a standard set of baseline tools that all educators in the US (maybe Canada, too) can use. The same grade book means more consistant results reporting.

      2 - Educators and students will be exposed to Open Source software, and can contribute them selves via bug reports. (As well, junior programmers can even contribute code ;^D).

      3 - Using/contributing to OSS builds community (potentially across the country), which IMHO is sorely lacking from todays curicula.
      As well, the tools themselves provide education in how computers and networks function. The same cannot be easily said about Closed Source Software.

      4 - There's no reason to abandon Windows immediately, since you can run Windows and use Linux apps anyway (X termial for Windows of some sort), or even reverse the roles by using Terminal Services(This little utility [] helps in that regard). That creates a relatively painless migration path. It also shows kids that there's more to IT than Windows and Macintoshes.

      These are benefits in addition to those espoused by Linux advocates. Sometimes the best competitive features of a tool are not it's price.

    • If I were you, I would write my applications with the Schools Interoperability Framework [] in mind, so that it can communicte with other programs run by schools.
  • by hij ( 552932 ) on Friday May 10, 2002 @03:00PM (#3498471) Homepage
    The Portland Public School switchboard was jammed for two days with calls from Linux users volunteering to come to PDX from all over the west coast to help with software migration.

    This is exactly the problem that schools face. They are looking at options, but except for an initiative at red hat, there is not a strong, coordinated effort from the linux community. Schools are over burdened and cannot afford somebody who is really good to come in and do the right thing. The schools don't need a flock of geeks, they need consistent, reliable support.

    • > a flock of geeks

      I always thought it was a gaggle of geeks or a nest of nerds.

    • The schools need a bunch of geeks, but they need them to be reliable. If a LUG could come out and say, "we have 10 committed people who combined will give the district 2 hours/day every weekday for 6 months minimum" a school district will be much more likely to listen. Having a geek say , "Sure I can help set things up" is meaningless unless that geek backs it up with a strong, long commitment to maintain what they've setup.
    • The schools don't need a flock of geeks, they need consistent, reliable support.
      ...because consistent, reliable support is what Microsoft is known for.
  • Exactly (Score:2, Insightful)

    by beleg777 ( 551987 )
    Quoting, "We never had any idea that there would be a reaction like this. Our two words for today are friendly and flexible."

    That is exactly the problem. They don't try to decide if it's good or ok or ethical, they try to decide if they can get away with it. If they don't forsee money loss they don't see any reason not to do it.
  • The problem is (Score:5, Insightful)

    by snarfer ( 168723 ) on Friday May 10, 2002 @03:01PM (#3498477) Homepage
    The problem is that Microsoft's licensing requires the schools to decide NOW, and then locks them up for years. (Right in the middle of finals.) The same is true for their corporate licensing. They have to decide NOW and then are locked up for years.

    Desktop Linux isn't quite ready. It's getting close. That's why Microsoft is forcing them to decide NOW. And it isn't really a decision now. Maybe even in a few months. But, of course, Microsoft is forcing them to decide NOW and commit to years.

    So they have to choose between Office and Star Office NOW, (and that means 5.2, but even 6 isn't QUITE right.) Or gobeProductive, which is really great on Windows, but isn't QUITE ready on Linux yet, and there isn't enough time to do a proper evaluation anyway. So they have no choice, really, except to commit to Office.

    So it's just another monopolistic extortion scam from the company with $40 billion cash in the bank. You'd think that the corporations that are the victims of this licensing scam would recognize what they have unleashed by putting Bush into ofice. Or you'd think that the municipalities with the school districts would be talking to their members of Congress. Education was suyppose dto be the big Republican thing, right? But the first thing Bush did was free up Microsoft do go after --- other corporations and school districts! Is this really the kind of country they wanted when they coughed up all that cash to put Bush in office?
    • Education was suyppose dto be the big Republican thing, right? But the first thing Bush did was free up Microsoft do go after --- other corporations and school districts! Is this really the kind of country they wanted when they coughed up all that cash to put Bush in office?

      So, if the Justice Dept. hadn't settled, they could've gotten a restraining order on Microsoft's sales division? Jesus, people. Not everything in this country revolves around Microsoft.
    • So they have to choose between Office and Star Office NOW, (and that means 5.2, but even 6 isn't QUITE right.) Or gobeProductive, which is really great on Windows, but isn't QUITE ready on Linux yet, and there isn't enough time to do a proper evaluation anyway.

      So how much time is Microsoft giving them to do an evaluation of XP before they have to sign on? Or of the next version of Office? The license they are pushing is for future versions of products. This will be even more explicit with the upcoming subscription model: You will have no opportunity to evaluate upcoming products before your existing installed base is declared obsolete.

      This is the same FUD as the user training issue. "We can't move off of Windows because we'd have to retrain all our users." But they all moved from Win3.1 to Win95 didn't they? Does anyone really believe the difference between (for instance) KDE3.0 and Win2K is greater than that? In short, don't apply a higher standard to the Linux offering thatn to the Windows offering.
    • Yeah, Bush sucks. I remember the good old days when Bill & Al were in the White House and Microsoft was just a socially conscious underdog struggling against the tyranny of Apple..., or did I get that wrong?
  • The article says:

    Of course it was humourus watching the Microsoft reps. kissing up by keeping the hosted bar open for hours after its scheduled shutdown. As if we will forget that quick....

    People might not forget about Microsoft's transgression in a few hours, but they will in a few months.

    And that's the problem, because it means that Microsoft can put the squeeze on the school districts a bit more slowly and achieve nearly the same thing but without nearly the same backlash.

    Frogs and boiling water come to mind...

  • by pongo000 ( 97357 ) on Friday May 10, 2002 @03:02PM (#3498487)
    As a high school technology teacher, I'm probably more incensed over the way M$ is trying to blackmail the education system than those who aren't involved in education, as I see first-hand the struggles involved with trying to integrate very inflexible software into the education system. But I'm also a taxpayer in the school district I teach in, and it makes me angry that our school district has also chosen to be a whore to the M$ brothel.

    There's a related article [] over at The Register which exposes yet another nefarious plan by M$ to fleece the public: They are proposing licenses on a per computer or per FTE basis, without regard to whether computer or person runs, installs, or is in any way associated with M$.

    I think it would be interesting if those who are sickened by these business tactics were to request from their school districts those EULAs and agreements which govern the use of software in the district. As a taxpayer, you're entitled to this information: If they won't give it up willingly, then surely it can be acquired via an FOIA request (in the states). I know our district has used passage of a $36 million bond issue to outfit our 50,000-student district with more M$ products...exactly what is not needed.

    I plan on requesting our district's EULAs through official channels first, then through FOIA channels as a taxpayer. The reason why this situation exists in the first place is the failure of the taxpayers to monitor how their money is being spent.
    • The reason why this situation exists in the first place is the failure of the taxpayers to monitor how their money is being spent.

      I agree, however this would be a full time job in and of itself. Tax money is so widely dispersed that any given taxpayer might be funding several hundred seperate projects at the same time (e.g. street repairs, many aspects of education, homeless shelters, and so on).

      What would really be nice (and maybe a good project for your students) is a website that allows you to plug in how much state taxes/federal taxes you payed and it tells you what exactly you are paying for and the details of each. Probably impossible as much of that data is not on the internet. Come to think of it, it probably never will be since somebody would make this site and everyone would be pissed at what they were paying for!

      Thanks for the comment, good insights. Troy
    • I have to agree that Microsoft's per computer licensing options do in practice unfairly push out the use of other OSs. However, there is also a justifiable reason for them to offer them. Keeping tracke of licenses for a large organization and making sure that legale software is on each computer is a big job. The result is that it costs a lot of money to track the licenses. Offering a license on a per computer basis makes auditing your software as simple as counting the number of computers. Microsoft is willing to give discounts for going with this method as well, since it makes things easier for them and encourages customers to only use their products. In the end, even if you run another OS on some of the computers, your total licensing costs are lower, and the cost of maintaining the licenses is MUCH lower.

      At a previous job, going with this kind of license ended up saving us money and a lot of headaches, but over 95% of our desktops ran some form of Windows. If you run a lot of PCs with other OSs, then it maight not be a good value for you.
      • You just described a site license: you have the right to install as many copies of windows as you want in your company/school. Microsoft won't sell that though, they will sell one license per comptuer, which is not the same. (with a site license up to so many seats, if you can prove that some machine runs linux it doesn't count)

        Of course since it is impossibal (for practical purposes) to buy a PC without windows today, I think they have a good arguement in court "I'd like to call to the stand Mike Dell who will testify that this model of comptuer was never sold without windows".

    • Have you called your Member of Congress yet to discuss this? That REALLY CAN WORK.

      Also, anyone reading this -- Go here: and enter your zip code to find out who represents you in Washington. There will be two that say Sen. and one that says Rep. (For the engineers - that's Senator and Representative, for the Senate and the House of Representatives) Call ALL THREE at their Washington or Local office and leave a message about your concern with hte aide that answers.

      This DOES GET NOTICED and DOES MAKE A DIFFERENCE! Especially since it concerns education.

      Part of the reason things happen the way they do in Washington is because so few people pay attention and let their representatives know what they are thinking.

      Seriously, try it. Imagine if the phone lines of the politicians got /.ed, maybe something would get done about Microsoft.
    • If we had more teachers like you out there, our schools would be in much better shape!

      Keep fighting M$ :)
    • But I'm also a taxpayer in the school district I teach in, and it makes me angry that our school district has also chosen to be a whore to the M$ brothel.

      Technically, the role played by the district is of a "john" in the MSFT brothel: They pay money to get screwed, and possibly catch a dangerous virus.

  • They did a great job of disarming the most worried school folks and then hosted an open bar for the rest of the afternoon.

    I think that says it all.
  • by TheNecromancer ( 179644 ) on Friday May 10, 2002 @03:12PM (#3498545)
    Flame me all you want, but Microsoft reacted the way that any business would when confronted with angry customers. Sun, IBM and others would have reacted in the same manner if they were in MS's shoes.

    Never underestimate the power of bad customer support or angry customers!

    • You are right! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by smoondog ( 85133 )
      You are correct. Unfortunately "any business" doesn't have monopolistic power, either. The reason we have laws against monopolies is to prevent business from applying normal business practices in a competitive vacuum.

  • by SystemFork ( 578511 ) on Friday May 10, 2002 @03:12PM (#3498546)
    The Portland Public School switchboard was jammed for two days with calls from Linux users volunteering to come to PDX from all over the west coast to help with software migration.

    That's mighty impressive. There's a lot of awfully good people in the Linux world. With a sense of community and pride like they have, who knows what they'll have accomplished in a few years time.

    It makes me think. How can Mercenary programmers working for corporations possibly compete with those doing it for the love of the game?

    I'm not a 100% Microsoft hater, but it's hard to see them vanquishing a determined, diversified foe like this (who doesn't have to make a profit to continue fighting.) I'm betting my future skill training on Linux. They're absolute berserkers on the OS battlefield!

    Hand me that stack of O'Reilly books.


  • I suggest that K-12 schools get together and lobby congress for a software exemption similar the the following one for sheet music. Problem solved. I can just imagine the tightened sphincters at M$

    "[T]he following are not infringements of copyright:
    (1)performance or display of a work by instructors or pupils in the course of face-to-face teaching activities of a nonprofit educational institution...
    (2) performance of a nondramatic literary or musical work or display of a work, by or in the course of a transmission, ..." 17 USC 110
  • by datastew ( 529152 ) on Friday May 10, 2002 @03:17PM (#3498581)
    And I do mean really serious, then one place where the Portland Linux/Unix Group is collecting information is here []. I am still waiting for them to contact me, but I am certainly willing.
  • by feldsteins ( 313201 ) <> on Friday May 10, 2002 @03:18PM (#3498589) Homepage
    It hasn't been mentioned in the article, nor in this discussion so far as I can see...but is nobody aware that the computer maker that sells more boxes to the educaton market is Apple?

    I realize that many in the slashdot crowd see any solution other than free/oss ones as inherently evil...and that companies with these solutions are engaged in nothing short of extortion and theft...but c'mon. Isn't one of the best options for these schools to simply buy more Macintoshes? Of course it is!
  • [They] said a lot about understanding the hardships schools face and how we were hurting for funding.

    Yeah, right. []

  • Perhaps Microsoft is learning something from their interaction with NW school districts. Even better yet: It appears that school districts have learned something too.
  • by Ian Wolf ( 171633 ) on Friday May 10, 2002 @03:35PM (#3498705) Homepage
    I just moved into my town a little over two years ago, and learned shortly after moving in that the School District had just launched a major effort to completely overhaul their IT infrastructure. The bill was enormous as the district opted for MS products across the board.

    Interestingly enough, it turned out that the guy in charge of the whole implementation, was one of my best friends. A truly brilliant guy, he has always been firmly entrenched in the world of Novell and Microsoft. When I told him, that they really should be looking at Linux for the file, print, and web services he immediately began to recite so much recycled FUD I thought I was talking to Bill Gates himself. Myself and another friend of mine spent hours debating Linux and other open-source solutions, and in the end he conceded some points, but was still largely unmoved.

    Well, to make a long story short, he called me last night to tell me that the bill for the School work was getting a little too high for their budget, and they were shopping around for vendors with some Linux experience. His boss, who's even more Pro-MS, told him that they can't lose this contract and that someone needs to "ramp-up" on Linux fast.

    We install Linux on his box tomorrow! When it comes to the education market, cost is king.

    • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Friday May 10, 2002 @05:35PM (#3499473) Homepage
      you have a very delicate situation on your hands. you need to be sure you dont bad-mouth windows or MS. but show how "this free version is as good as the windows version.

      if you keep talking in their terms and stroking their egos you will get very far and win completely.

      Open office introduction... "It's not as nice as Office XP yet, but it costs nothing to own, has zero liability, and can do most of your work, want to give it a try?" if you throw in the fact that they can legally give copies to students, faculty, and even to parents, stranges, and bums on the street AND they can never be charged,or audited for it.... it starts looking a whole lot better than anything microsoft can make.

      good luck! and good hunting!
  • Existing Software (Score:3, Interesting)

    by chill ( 34294 ) on Friday May 10, 2002 @03:38PM (#3498735) Journal
    One of the big issues isn't running Linux, but using all of that already-paid-for Windows educational software.

    The performance of WINE is going to be a major lever in moving schools to Linux. If it can be shown that they can use most or all of their existing, paid-for (proprietary) software like Reader Rabbit, Carmen Sandiego, etc. then the migration will be that much easier.

    Yes, GNU software is better. However, trying to get them to jump 100% from what they ahve to GNU is going to have one major speedbump -- and it will be made from the pile of existing software that they paid for and still works.

    Step #1 is removing Windows, MS Works and MS Office and replacing them with Linux and OpenOffice (or KDE Office, or Gnome Office, or ...).

    Another step would be a good, reliable list of Windows Educational software and how it works on WINE. (Heck, most of it is still Win 3.1 compliant!)
  • by JLester ( 9518 ) on Friday May 10, 2002 @03:39PM (#3498737)
    As the IS Manager for a K-12 school system that uses Linux for our main servers, I really see the advantage of it over NT. Also, I can see using KDE + Mozilla + Star/K/Abi Office for business classes and office PCs. The problem is what do you use to replace all the curriculumn and remediation software like Plato, Abacus, Destinations, Accelerated Reader/Math, STAR Reader/Math, etc.? There aren't any open-source or Linux-based alternatives that I'm aware of.

    On the school office side, what do you use to replace SASI/Pentamation/WINSchool/etc.? for student management, grades, attendance, etc.? What do you use in the libraries to replace Follett?

    These are all questions that need to be answered before many school systems would even consider switching. Until there is a good answer for all of them, it isn't feasible to switch away from Microsoft and/or Apple.

  • by tulare ( 244053 ) on Friday May 10, 2002 @03:42PM (#3498760) Journal
    As a low-level admin at a K12 district, I was pushing Linux, to what appeared to be deaf ears, until a couple of events took place, which sparked a renewed interest in Linux. As a result, we now have one of our webservers, two firewalls, and a proxy server all running Linux. And I can say that as a direct result of:
    1) The greatly improved security and performance of the machines when Win2K server was wiped from them in favor of Linux, and
    2) The action up in Portland, and Microsoft's generally jackbooted-thug-like behavior toward schools right in the middle of a major budget crisis

    We will be headed more and more toward OSS in general and Linux in particular. And our district is by far not the only one. I hear from the other local districts and guess what? They are doing the same thing.
    M$ has shot itself in the foot. It is possible that they can get some educators drunk at a conference and buy a little forgiveness, but how many people do you think were there in the context of how many people are dealing with Microsoft audits now? Not too many. And when Microsoft alienates the education market, they don't just piss off some administrators: if and when those administrators migrate some or all of their services and equipment to OSS, the effect inevitably trickles down to the students being educated in that district. The last thing Microsoft wants is for high school students in the process of making college choices to see the superiority of OSS to their own crufty product, and make decisions based in part on that information. But that is just what is happening. So the events going on right now will have ramifications well into the future. Count on it.
  • by TheViffer ( 128272 ) on Friday May 10, 2002 @03:45PM (#3498787)
    Of course it was humourus watching the Microsoft reps. kissing up by keeping the hosted bar open for hours after its scheduled shutdown.

    Linux is not just like "Free Beer", it gets you "Free Beer"!

  • Here's [] a photo of Bill & Paul counting up their licenses for a Digital Equipment software audit, at Lakeview HS, 1968.

    Actually it was machine time DONATED to the school, boy what a mistake that was!

  • Hi, I will volunteer (Score:5, Informative)

    by Raleel ( 30913 ) on Friday May 10, 2002 @03:59PM (#3498888)
    I'm from the TriCities Linux Users group in Richland, WA, a mere 3 hours down the road.

    I will gladly volunteer my time to this project. Not Just weekends. Not just a couple of hours here and there. I'm a unix system administrator with about 5 years of solid linux experience. I have experience in educational systems (I learn and admined linux at a university).

    Please contact us. Our mailing list can be found at

    I might suggest you see if there are volunteers from the OSDL (Open Source Development Lab) right there in Portland.

    I would also suggest a good leader for this. This is going to be a lot of "heads" arguing back and forth, and having a "this is the way it's gonna be guy" is gonna work best.

    You will have the people to do it. Just ask. We will save your school district money. We will make it work. You will not feel forced into a companies bottom line ever again.

    --Doug Nordwall
  • by PotatoHead ( 12771 ) <doug@openge[ ]org ['ek.' in gap]> on Friday May 10, 2002 @04:02PM (#3498914) Homepage Journal
    Their first move was to appear sorry, smooth over the tense situation then, MEET WITH EACH SCHOOL ONE ON ONE.

    Diffusing the group is their primary objective. Once this is done, they can continue to manupulate the ones in charge into bad contracts.

    PR 101 in action here, I am surprised that these two did not see it coming.

  • This is the real issue: the power microsoft has over you, once you start using their software (and agree to their license in doing so). It's not about Microsoft selling bad software that crashes, it's not about the price of the software in the shop, it's about the price you pay later, when you have to rely on Microsoft to alter their software, when Microsoft presses the rights the license gives them, and when you realize that because of undocumented formats your own documents are yours no longer.

    The arguments of that peruvian congressman apply in a much broader sense: it's not only states who can't afford to be subjected to the whims of just one corporation. Also his argument considering costly migration is valid here too: if migration is costly now, well, it will only get worse later, and the more you depend on microsofts continued service, the more they can demand for it.

    And finally the schools should realize, that while Microsoft may be nice about it now (in face of an unexpected reactions) the license gives them the right to repeat the exercise any time they want, only then they will probably pick one school after the other (divide and conquer). They are at the mercy of MS, and will continue to be so, as long as they use their software.
  • by bluGill ( 862 ) on Friday May 10, 2002 @04:14PM (#3499020)

    I remember back when I was in school we had big problems with comptuers. Seems both the macs and the PCs were single user systems, and so students would regularlly, and intentionally change something on the local disk. (the stupid ones just deleted something critical, the "smarter" ones changed something subtile that you didn't even notice for a while. Remember, these are teens going through the worst years of their life from an honesty standpoint.

    Linux by contrast was designed from the ground up to be a multi-user system. Give someone a login, and they get access to their files, and only their files. They can run programs, but only the ones allowed by the administrator. (it is fairly easy to mount home noexec, and move programing students to a different disk)

    I graduated in 93, so win3.1 was the latest windows, and the macs were m68k. things have advanced some (windows 95 is a little better for multi-user, but it still sucks compared to linux when you cannot trust the users)

    Remember, these are students, not employees. They are immature, and untrustworthy. (I wasn't, and I was one of the more honest students)

  • by mttlg ( 174815 ) on Friday May 10, 2002 @04:20PM (#3499061) Homepage Journal
    As mentioned in the article, the biggest concern about Linux in schools is support. Somehow, I don't think telling them that Larry over at the local LUG said he'd help out if you run into trouble would go over too well with the administration (assuming the debate even gets this far). It would seem that if there were an organization like the AAA that offered emergency support, training opportunities, and instructional publications all for a low annual fee, regardless of what kind of Linux boxes/boxen you have or where you got them, a lot of the reluctance to switch to Linux would be removed. (I know that there are some small companies that do this sort of thing, or at least there were during the .com boom, but I'm thinking of more of a LUG-for-hire outfit.) With the current situation in the Northwest, the stage seems set for a few of these organizations to spring up, eventually merging into a single nationwide Linux support organization. Anyone have any venture capital they need to get rid of?
  • by geekotourist ( 80163 ) on Friday May 10, 2002 @04:48PM (#3499239) Journal
    Because cumulative knowledge and a searchable database are the only ways to fight this- the BSA otherwise has all the power.

    It is an extremely one sided system- as they unethically designed it to be (1). As many have pointed out, the system is set up to make you feel you cannot possibly fight it, given the unacceptable risk if you lose.(2) However, if you can find other cases where people have fought, and you see how they did it, you might have hope.

    People need to know how bad it is for schools. Example: Slashdot on Microsoft / BSA vs the LA School District, [](3) where "hundreds" of unlicensed copies were found. the threat was $150,000 fine for each copy of a $100 per license product. ($100 at best. 1/3 was MSDOS, and schools get very good rates). They "negotiate" down to a $300,000 total fine, and the school district probably felt very grateful for this kindness of the BSA.

    This is a 150,000% fine negotiated down to a 1,000% fine. (or 1,500x down to 10x). How does the BSA get to levy fines so out of proportion to actual damages? Yes, illegal copies are a crime (as is speeding), but the LAUSD wasn't running a mass piracy operation. Assuming that "hundreds" = 500 copies found, then the LAUSD had found roughly 1 copy per school, or 1 copy per 120 employees. The BSA got to treat the LAUSD as if it had found widespread felonious behavior rather than a few years worth of a few people deliberately or mistakenly making copies. No proof of bad intentions needed.

    Extraordinary fines should require extraordinary proof, but instead the BSA has you do all the work, and even if you are entirely innocent you can still get hit. Unless a mistake can cause extraordinary harm, you don't usually get to treat mistakes like a felony! What makes the BSA so special? They get to threaten fines in line with fines for damage to life and health. Is software piracy that much worse than discharging toxic substances into waterways (max fine $125,000)? Misbranding a drug in interstate commerce (max fine $100,000)? Violating the Sherman Antitrust Act (the fine listed in Section 3571 (d) is "not more than the greater of twice the gross gain or twice the gross loss" caused by the conduct...)?

    The LAUSD is not a happy ending story- but this current story might be. A collection of all cases like it would be useful for anyone just receiving a dreadful BSA / Microsoft letter. The site should be part of a high-Google-rank site, so that it is easy to find (for non-technical folks). The database should also have easy to find links to all user groups, by geographical areas, so that anyone can quickly get advice / quotes / support.

    (1) Because a good ethical system (think Categorical Imperative []) includes consistency in applying rules. The BSA would never accept their rules applied to themselves: imagine a Software Consulting Association sending audit letters out checking for late payments to consultants. If you've paid a consultant more than 30 days late, you get fined 150,000% of the daily rate.

    (2) You'll fight a traffic ticket because you can afford to lose. What if the original ticket was $100,000, with a "negotiated" fine of $1,000? This is extortion, not a negotiation- you'll accept whatever the court says. Not to mention if *you* had to show that you didn't speed, even a little bit, and lack of evidence = proof of guilt. And it took a minimum of 5 days in court and they get to dismantle your car and replace equipment to test its maximum speed! That is what these audits are: time consuming and they can place programs on your system.

    (3) Also see Inside the BSA (2/02) []

  • by Webmoth ( 75878 ) on Friday May 10, 2002 @04:51PM (#3499259) Homepage
    I'm wondering why we even need computers in grades K-6. I can't really see how it helps the learning process; I and generations before me did just fine without computers (the first classroom computer in our school came when I was in the 6th grade).

    I can understand giving the teachers computers for tracking grades, lesson planning and such, but I think it is not appropriate to use it as an educational tool for young children.

    One should learn to do basic skills -- reading, writing, arithmetic, social skills, arts -- without the use of computers. You will get a much deeper understanding this way; you will be able to solve problems much quicker.

    I think it is ridiculous that grade schoolers are being made to write reports using computers. Perhaps using the internet for research is OK, but with a computer the student doesn't learn spelling, grammar, or penmanship because the comptuer does it all for him. Use the computer as a reasearch tool, but write the final report by hand. You can't learn to write by typing.

    Once you learn these basic skills, then (and only then) should you use the computer. Granted, when I was that age, computers weren't widely available, but we weren't allowed to use calculators until algebra, and typing was prohibited until you were an upperclassman. If the teacher couldn't read your handwriting, well, that was YOUR problem and you got an F.

    A computer is a tool, but we're teaching our kids to use them for crutches because we're too lazy to teach them how to do things for themselves.
    • by happyclam ( 564118 ) on Friday May 10, 2002 @05:10PM (#3499351)

      Many excellent points. In elementary school, however, computers are not widely used for things like writing reports (at least not in the dozen or so classrooms I've seen). Instead, they are used to run educational games and programs focused on certain skills or lessons. High-tech worksheets, letter and number exercises.

      The best use for computers in elementary school I've seen was for long-distance communication/collaboration. My stepmom's 5th grade class hooked up via email/message boards to collaborate on various projects; the usage was on the order of a music or art class: pretty much once a week, with structured objectives. And my stepmom's computer literacy? Somewhere around my ability to read/write sanskrit (i.e. nil).

      Where I see computers can play a role in elementary school is in promoting diversity and in exposing underprivileged schoolchildren to computers. Thus: The little rich kids who play with computers at home all the time (like most of us here were) collaborate with a poor rural or inner-city classroom on a research project using the internet. The poor kids at the other school who don't even have books or pencilss at home would get the benefit of exposure to computers, hopefully reducing the technology gap between the haves and the have-nots. The rich kids would get a taste of diversity, hopefully encouraged to interact with their sister classroom's kids individually and as a group.

      Does this alone justify "computers" in elementary classrooms? Probably not. But if all schools are wired, I don't see why a single linux server couldn't have several dozen thin clients in the classrooms to achieve these types of applications.

    • by JonToycrafter ( 210501 ) on Friday May 10, 2002 @05:24PM (#3499416) Homepage Journal
      and typing was prohibited until you were an upperclassman. If the teacher couldn't read your handwriting, well, that was YOUR problem and you got an F.

      And that's the point, isn't it? Speaking as someone who spent three years at a school for students with learning disabilities, because I had/have subtle motor problems that makes writing for me especially difficult, I would be the first to welcome the death of "penmanship" as a graded skill.

      For years, people assumed I was unwilling, or unable, to do my work. I failed classes that required any amount of writing, and in 4th grade, that's pretty damn hard. After three years of intensive occupational therapy, and self-paced learning, I managed to not only finish high school, but get accepted to, and earn a degree from, a first-tier college. In an average week, I rarely scrawl anything more than a phone number or two, and that's usually in Graffiti, at that.

      I agree that computers aren't necessarily an effective educational tool, especially in a classroom setting. However, many of the skills you mentioned simply aren't as relevant to one's education as they were when they incorporated into the elementary school curriculum. It's important for us to rethink even the fundamental elements of the educational process.

      And while we're at it, let's start by rethinking the assumption that assumes that the purpose of education (according to the Federal Gov't) is for us to be efficient economic producers. I'd rather use my education for MY own improvement, not the GDP's.
  • In the county where I live and attended school, when computer science classes where first offered, they were taught by a handful of math teachers. Most of them did not have a background in programming or designing a computer science curriculum, yet they took the classes and taught them the best they could.

    Unfortunately, they quickly gravitated to Visual Basic. The reason one stated to me is that it was an easy language for him to pick up, and it allowed the students to see quick results.

    Now, the majority of the local school systems are solidly entrenched in Visual Basic as the primary tool that's used in all the high school computer science classes.

    I recently ran into one of my old teachers, and I brought up the subject of Linux and open source software. He had no interest in even discussing it. He says there are plenty of VB sites on the Net with source code provided, and that Linux will never be be an option in the school system because he can't run VB on it. End of discussion. He even started to get a little hot-tempered with me when I tried to tell him about Kylix and some Borland products that were available for Linux.

    These teachers all have the ear of the school board. And they seem to speak with a united voice in favor of Microsoft, regardless of price.

Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons.