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Microsoft vs. Northwest Schools Part III 524

SymphonicMan writes: "As previously discussed on Slashdot, Microsoft threatened an audit for the 24 largest school districts in the Northwest. Now it appears they may be backing down, according to Steve Duin, the Oregonian columnist who orginally brought this to all of our attention in April. Not only that, he writes that Portland Public Schools is opening 16 Linux computer labs across the districts, at half the cost of a Microsoft-equipped lab. Looks like this might be more than just a PR victory for open source. I'm a senior in one of the districts (Beaverton) included in the audit, and our staff is still going crazy trying to comply. But with districts across Oregon facing major budget shortfalls due to the poor economy, removing the pressure of this audit would be very welcome."
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Microsoft vs. Northwest Schools Part III

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  • by Husaria ( 262766 ) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @03:46PM (#3560599) Homepage
    True, not only is this a PR victory for Linux, but more youth will be exposed to Linux and not only will they learn how to use a different operating system, they'll also pick up the abilities to adapt to learning new OSes. In time, this trend can be picked up in schools around the nation. In time, kids will show their parents how to use Linux, just as ten years ago, kids showed their parents how to use Windows.
    • by Lysander Luddite ( 64349 ) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @03:51PM (#3560653)
      Yep. If it worked for Apple, imagine what it can do for Linux!
      • Ah, but Apple is not the same as the Linux community. They targetted education solely. We target everything. If Linux can't run on your refrigerator and you can't spread Linux on your toast, someone else out there is working to make it so you can. Pusing Linux into another front (education) is just another victory in the ongoing war.

        • So what? Are kids going to be using refrigerators in class to learn? You make it sound like the goal of Linux is to simply be in as many places as possible. What good is that in and of itself?

          I'd rather own a product that does a few things well than one that does a lot of things in mediocrity. That's why I use a Mac in the first place.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @03:54PM (#3560678)
      It could backfire too, unless the staff (or more likely, some knowledgeable students) know what they're doing...

      Otherwise, we could end up with a situation like this 6 years from now, when those students are in The Real World, making purchasing decisions:

      "I remember Linux, we had in at my high school. It never worked right, let's just go with Windows XXL 2010(tm), you know that works."
      • I would agree with this. This has been biting Apple the same way. Since schools operate on shoestring budgets (except for district fat cats), the Apple computers that the school would buy would rarely be upgraded or maintained. Kids using them would compare them to the PC they had at home and would jump to the (erroneous) conclusion that Mac were slow, etc. They didn't realize that they were using six-year-old systems.
      • I never understood the fear linux users had of showing their OS to other people. "What if they can't use it and they go buy Windows?" Didn't happen to me. Have some faith in the product.
    • This has conviced me to stop looking at Linux as a passing interest and start including it as part of future work proposals (prototypes,
      I just don't want to be in future conversations with my clients saying that linux is still not an option and then hearing:
      "What do you mean is not an option, my little 10 yr old managed to install Samba and started her own web site at home with no problems!"

      Just my 2 cts.
    • I agree, with a little reservation.

      Having worked for a small California school district, I've found that the (not insurmountable) challenge facing school districts is that the kids already know enough about computers to creat a systems management nightmare. Those of us that are corporate system administrators have had it easy compared to those that have been exposed to what a 14-year-old can do to your app server.

      I'm not whining; this is a challenge, not a problem. But in an education system that's looking to cut costs, it's important to remember that management (and more importantly, retraining) costs factor in. What does it cost to retrain your instructors on a new OS? What does it cost *not* to?

      *Ponder Ponder*

      • If you just have hardware and no software, what does it hurt to let the kids mess things up. Hell find the bright kids like that, and create a class in which the ultimate project is to create a system management solution for the school. The bright kids who know how to mess things up, created the system and wouldn't want to destroy it. And hopefully at the same time, created some security in the knowledge that other students might mess things up. Of course this is being done on only a few computers till the system they develop has been finalized and a real system admin can check its security. Till this point in time you leave your old system in place for the rest of the students to use. Once the system goes live, the new computer students each year train the previous computer students in the system, and instill respect of the existing system untill the new students start thinking it as their own to protect. Of course no sensative data should be kept on these computers, but that shouldn't be a major problem.
      • Yes my friends are facing the similar challenge, that kids are smarter with computers than oldies. When you see it as challenge it wouldn't be problem at all.

        First for normal tutorial session the Linux boxes, each shared by 3 kids, are connected to a main server which has nothing but the course materials and the server will be reloaded periodically that minimze the impact of being hacked. Actually they are encourage to do whatever they can do, and demonstrate the most creative things they could do to score extra marks.

        For some tutorials which needs to have access to internet, we will install Debian [] which has decent default security level, and only give kids web-proxy to outside. Yes we know there are a couple of them who built private tunnels via web-proxy to play Quake, but we don't stop them - smart kids deserve privileges. :)

        For those fewer boxes which are needed full Internet access, we build a rbash system for it.

    • The story is even better than it appears. Check out The K-12 Linux Project [], also in Portland, Oregon. (Moderators: Please don't mod down people who mention this project in other contexts. Mod them up.)

      Linux Terminal software is used with diskless workstations to create a 5 workstation network for under $1,000.

      Here is a quote []: "All applications run on the terminal server. The workstations are "thin." They have no software or hard drives. Thin clients are perfect for schools because they are easy to install and require little maintenance. They are reliable and immune to malicious tampering and viruses".

      Intel is giving free processors to schools [].

      It's all set up and ready to go. Just download the software and follow the instructions.

      "The Multnomah Education Service District [] [Portland, Oregon, again] has moved most of it's core network services to Linux. Linux powers DNS, DHCP, mail relays, proxy servers, web filters, and directory services for the 45,000 administrators, teachers, and students within our agency and the school districts we support . For our agency and a couple of our districts, Linux powers the web, mail, FTP, and file servers."

      I was told that it took 4 full-time people to maintain the MESD system when it was using Microsoft software. Now it takes 1 person half time.

      Government administrators should note that it is their duty to insure that all government work be done on completely open systems. The citizens and taxpayers of a democracy must have full access to all documents, even 40 or a hundred years from now. There is NO room in a democracy for proprietary, hidden ways of doing things.
  • They would give away operating systems to schools, so that they could compete with the absurd dominance of Mac in schools.

    Then the students would grow up learning MS, and would be more likely to purchase/be dependent on it later on.
    • I am really glad that M$ is not that smart. One thing that still irks me though is that given the user-friendliness of almost all OS's right now, this really doesn't matter all that much. No matter what you use, you still click on icons, you still see them on the desktop, you still get to choose your own wallpaper...

      I think that pretty soon its not going to matter what you run as more applications are geared toward usage on any platform (think Virtual PC or M$ Word on a Mac).

      • actually they are that smart, as part of the setlement with the DOJ they proposed that one of the remedies is that they give away copies of windows and other MS products to schools, of course all of their competitors jumped on it and made sure that it was one of the points that the remaining states fought against.
    • Mac dominance in schools? Not in the last decade. MS has been by far dominant in schools in that period of time. This has been mostly due to donations from OEMs like Gateway, but there has also been influence from the business world, which tends to see school as job training.

      Basically, Macs have been relegated to art departments since the early 90s. Even my uncle, a high school teacher and die-hard Mac fan, eventually had to come over to the dark side.

      Besides, even when Macs weredominant in schools, that wasn't what people had in their homes. Apple's logic was flawed. It was the parents who were shelling out the cash for these systems, and they had the choice between the tech their 12 year old said was cool, or the tech they used every day at work. The only time the Mac won that arguement was when it was the tech the parent used at work, and graphic artists and teachers have never been a large subset of the population.

    • Correct. And MS knows this quite well indeed.

      They have an agreement of some kind with the Egyptian governmenet whereby they provide a subsidised package for Egyptian university students. And subsidised in this context basically means free. What else can you call Win2k, Office 2k, and Visual Studio for the equivalent of US$ 5?

      It's not like they have anything to lose; the beneficiaries, depriived of such an offer, would have gone ahead and pirated these things anyhow.

      And did I mention the story of how MS has the local authorities so wrapped up that they basically direct the actions of the local equivalent of the IP police? Oh wait, never mind. That would be blatant MS-bashing and off-topic to boot.

  • I don't see what was wrong with Apple IIe's in the class anyhow...
    • by NoMoreNicksLeft ( 516230 ) <`john.oyler' `at' `'> on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @04:49PM (#3561156) Journal
      The truth of the matter is, windows is perfect for what schools teach (which isn't much). They teach 99% of students to be typists, capable of using word and mucking around a bit in excel.

      Which is strange when you think about it... the age of the typewriter is dead, there will come a time when we don't have to employ wageslaves to type dead trees back into electronic form.

      So, what would you teach kids if not teaching them to be typing monkeys incapable of truly using a computer? Me, I'd dig those apple IIe's out of the closet, and teach them assembly language on the 6502. Teach them to write a compiler, and write their own programs with that compiler. The first kid to write a video game in such a fashion, gets an A+ and doesn't have to do anything but play the game the rest of the year. I'd teach them how to interface to that crappy 8bit bus, and have them dream up things to interface to it. We'd build them in class. They hate crappy resolution, with only a few colors? Maybe we'd take a crack at building an SVGA card for it.

      And maybe, just maybe, those who passed that class would be eligible for the classes that use Mac OSX or linux on the g4 powermacs. Why those? Because x86 stinks, even if the rest of the hardware that goes with it is tolerable nowdays.

      So, unless you were serious... tell me what *is wrong* with using Apple IIe's in the classroom.
  • So, people "free to innovate" (GNU, Linux, OSS etc. hackers) in a "free market" (USA) have started to win. Interesting.
  • by SethJohnson ( 112166 ) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @03:50PM (#3560635) Homepage Journal

    Linux labs, beyond the gains of remote administration, lighter hardware requirements, lower license expenses, etc., will also benefit these administrators because they won't have to deal with piles of warez installed. There might be some archives hidden away in user dirs, but I don't think those violate licensing audits.
  • by gripdamage ( 529664 ) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @03:51PM (#3560646)
    Give me your children until the age of 12 and they will be mine forever.
  • History (Score:5, Interesting)

    by surfcow ( 169572 ) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @03:52PM (#3560659) Homepage
    During the American Revolutionary war, the British consistantly believed that the colonies were full of loyalist supporters. When they found far fewer loyalists than they hoped for, they hired indians to fight for them. Suddenly, the large number of people in the middle swung over to support ... the rebels. Oops.

  • Good for budget (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nullard ( 541520 ) <> on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @03:52PM (#3560663) Journal
    In my school district, we are facing even more budget cuts, yet I never hear anyone talk about how to reduce costs other than cutting back on salaries or materials. We should be cutting back on other costs like electricity and software. By using 12v lighting, and putting solar panels on the roof of every school we could save a lot of cash. By requiring special permits for not using free (as in beer) software, we could save money there too.

    The reason I emphasise the use of "free" in the monetary sense is that I'm talking about school budgets, not software philosophy. Of course once people are into using free (as in beer) software, then you can more easilly talk to them about free (as in speech) software.
  • by llywrch ( 9023 ) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @03:54PM (#3560676) Homepage Journal
    I read Duin's article this morning, & one item that he emphasized -- & hasn't gotten any attention -- was that MS pulled this same tactic with other school systems across the US. As a direct result Randy Baker, the tech coordinator for 16 school districts (& 12,000 end users) in central Iowa, ``completely dumped Microsoft last summer and migrated everything to Linux."

    Anybody have more details about this migration?

  • Think that's bad? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @03:55PM (#3560687)
    Well, I'll tell you a story of mine.

    In order to fulfill my high school's community service requirements, I decided to volunteer at a local Head Start program for underprivliged children. It was a great feeling to work there and see the smiles on the faces of the children when I would show up in the morning, knowing that there was not much else to be happy about while living in abject poverty. They even had a few old computers (I believe 486s) running Windows 95 for the children to learn on. I always look back upon those last two weeks of my sophomore year (which were dedicated to allowing students to pursue their community service projects) with much fondness.

    Well, the next year, when the time to register for community service projects rolled around again, I went to see my service counselor about helping at Head Start again. However, I was shocked at what she told me. Apparently, the Head Start program had to be shut down in the beginning of the school year because Microsoft had decided to audit them and found that they didn't have nearly enough licenses for Windows to be running them on all of the 486s in the school (which were donated by a bank, IIRC). The legal costs alone bankrupted the program, and a bunch of little children will now miss yet another opportunity to enrich themselves and perhaps leave the downward spiral of destitute poverty.

    • by sputnik73 ( 579595 ) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @04:05PM (#3560780)
      I question the truth of this post. It's rather simple to make sweeping 'man on the street' statements about a company's practice without giving any hard details about the story and this type of attack can lead to some rather convincing evidence, in the public's mind. But what we have here is a story that is quite flimsy. As much as Microsoft controls the media, it's a bit odd that the author of this post offers no link to a news bulletin about this. I mean, certainly it was covered somewhere. The local paper should have picked up on it. Where is the link, my friend? And a few 486s running Win95? Microsoft has much bigger fish to fry.
      It's not that I'm implying that you're a liar. It's that I am calling you a liar.
      Note: this isn't flamebait. I just want people to give some proof of the statements they make when they are not simply voicing opinions. I really don't think this story is true.
      • > I question the truth of this post. It's rather

        Good point. It would have been nice if it were at least posted by a real person instead of an AC.

        Normally I wouldn't be so sceptical, but this message seems to be carefully crafted to send people up to Redmond with torches and pitchforks.

        OTOH: If someone can back this up, I'll bring a pitchfork. :-)
      • I question the truth of this post. [...] it's a bit odd that the author of this post offers no link to a news bulletin about this. I mean, certainly it was covered somewhere. The local paper should have picked up on it.

        I'm not going to partake in idle speculation on the validity of his claim. However, you're faith in local news coverage is largely undeserved. I live in a medium sized town and I've been privy to my share of newsworthy stories. And you'd be quite surprised just how many "big" stories don't get picked up by the local media.
    • That's pretty incredible, but not exactly unbelievable - considering the track record of "stop piracy at all costs", followed by the commerical software industry.

      Honestly though, it sounds like the folks in charge of this "Head Start" program sat back and accepted everything they were told without enough of a fight. Considering the nature of their program, it would seem a little media publicity plus a plea for MS to donate some licensing for the cause would have gotten them what they wanted.

      After all, Micro$oft has done quite a bit of charity work in recent years. (It's important to get those tax breaks, if nothing else.) A program like this would surely seem to qualify. By contrast, the local news stories about a program going bankrupt over some Win '95 licenses on old 486's due to a Microsoft audit wouldn't exactly help MS's reputation.
    • I find myself skeptical. It's certainly believable, but the details needed to check it out are missing.

      OTOH, the assertions would certainly appear to be a logical extension of their publically stated policies. So I wouldn't bet against it either. I'm sure that upper management wouldn't have been in favor of this, unless they were certain that they could kill any unfavorable PR. I'm much less certain that none of the lawers that shark for MS would do this.

      And if the assertion had been that this (the equivalent) had happened in Germany, then I'd just assume that it was true. (The laws being what they have been reported to be [or Why KIllustrator changed its name to Kontour]. ... I still blame Adobe. They chose to allow that lawyer to use their name without speaking up to as much as state in a PR release that he wasn't speaking for them.)

    • I call bullshit

      Head Start is a federal program. []
      Head start is still alive and kicking (my mom works for head start)
      Microsoft has not bankrupted the federal govenment (at least not yet)... :-)

  • Microsoft has been schooled. ;-)

    If the education system can teach those people something, they're doing something right, no? LOL.

  • Linux in Schools (Score:5, Insightful)

    by oldzoot ( 60984 ) <morton.james@comca[ ]net ['st.' in gap]> on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @03:59PM (#3560721)
    I have seen Gnu/Linux used in schools for several years now, mostly in the hidden infrastucture of dns, web, mail and proxy servers. This always made sense to me because of the good performance on medium strength hardware, the ease of implementation and the low cost.

    I think it is a very good thing (tm) to move Gnu/Linux to the classroom and computer lab environment. It will be just as easy for the students to learn the general capabilities of various types of applications (spreadsheet, word processor, graphics etc. ) as on a closed platform. In fact, schools that could not afford an integrated office environment for a Microsoft operating system can provide a similar integrated environment with open-source software at much lower cost. System management functions can be semi-automated and do not require a sysadmin to touch each computer to keep packages current and patched. With good planning, user accounts and files can move along with the students from school to school as they progress through their education providing a continutity in their computing environment. For students who are interested in computer science per se, Gnu/Linux provides a much richer environment to learn about computers and software for a given (low) cost than other, commercial environments.

    • Re:Linux in Schools (Score:5, Interesting)

      by somapoi ( 567221 ) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @05:09PM (#3561348) Journal
      The major problem with deploying Linux in the classroom stems from a lack of motivation on the part of instructors.

      I admin a small 2 year college. We have a M$ campus agreement to cover my desktops, but I run Linux completely on the backend (emulating domains with samba, running dhcp, blah blah). I have only one Windows box that serves any function besides desktop apps, and that is for Norton Corporate Antivirus and Altiris Deployment Server (gotta manage those windows clients somehow:).

      My problem lies is as follows:

      1. Our service area uses MS primarily and our instructional programs are designed to teach MS software.
      2. Our instructors know nothing else and are unwilling to learn anything new (ESPECIALLY when they can point to industry and say, "I'm teaching for these students to get JOBS, they HAVE to know MS specifically" and their point is completely valid.

      While OpenOffice is very similar in function to MS Office, how do you get a book to teach by (i know, i know . . a computer instructor shouldn't need a book . but mine DO . and I can do NOTHING to change that). . .

      so in the meantime, i employ open source in every nook and cranny. the only visible place you can see open source and the public can TELL that it's open source is our community web mail ( is MOST awesome).

      If anyone has any hints on how to move the entire area opensource, please let me know (I'm already working with local computer providers to install OpenOffice for home users . . .:)

  • They'll Be Back (Score:2, Interesting)

    Let's face it: If they're backing off now, it's because the "punishment" part of the trial isn't over and they don't need more "Monopolistic, Destructive, Evil" press then they normally get.

    The second the court slaps their wrist (really hard, promise), they'll be back with twice the auditors. Switch now. For your sake. For our sake. For the children's sake.

    • Re:They'll Be Back (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mickwd ( 196449 )
      Sadly, I think you're right, but for another reason.

      The first time this hits the headlines, it's big news - and a PR disaster for Microsoft - so they back off.

      The second time it happens, it's still news-worthy, but not new.

      The third time, it's getting repetitive.

      Then it stops being news, stops being reported as widely, .....
      • It's always big news to the citizens in the local district, though. True, you won't always get this kind of coast-to-coast coverage, but this is also pretty abstract. People have e tendancy to think "Ouch, good thing that would NEVER happen to me", and the only thing that really slams it home is when it does happen at home.

        MS may not get as much PR fallout under your "diminishing outrage returns" system ;), but they would still be inciting outrage in localized areas, causing various districts to switch as time goes on.
  • Half the cost? (Score:2, Flamebait)

    by Zeinfeld ( 263942 )
    How can using linux halve the cost of a computer lab when the cost of operating system software is typically $100 per machine or less and the cost of hardware is typically $800 or more?

    There is an advantage to teaching kids on multiple operating systems. However Unix is not at all suitable for general introductory courses. If you have highly motivated and intelligent kids they could probably learn on anything, including JCL. But most kids are not in that category (just as well or else our skills would not be in the same demand).

    I suspect that this is simply a guy who wants to wage religious war rather than someone who wants to do the right thing for the kids. He will be lauded on slashdot but how much will the kids learn? Will they look at the csh command structure and conclude that computers are very hard to use, mysterious and probably deliberately so and resist using them? I suspect so.

    US education is too full of people persuing their own agendas at the expense of the kids. The creationists want to ram their religious propaganda down everyone's craw. There are quack educational theories calling themselves liberal and even more quackish ones calling themselves traditional. In some parts of the US recess has been abolished - ignoring several centuries of experience and all psychological studies that show that kids have a limited attention span and will learn more with regular breaks.

    When I started with computers the machines were much less powerful than anything in use today. But the big advantage of learning on an 8K PET computer is that you could quickly get the feeling that you understood how it worked. That is not true of Linux or Windows which are both overly complex.

    • Re:Half the cost? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by chuckw ( 15728 ) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @04:08PM (#3560807) Homepage Journal
      "There is an advantage to teaching kids on multiple operating systems. However Unix is not at all suitable for general introductory courses."

      You're wrong there. Young kids are a clean slate. Their minds are not yet warped by one way of doing things. Kids can follow instructions and will adapt to whatever you put in front of them.

      Kids learn better with a lump of clay than they do with a solid block of concrete...
    • Real simple. The hardware is usually donated or it is older systems no longer used by the administrators. The buearocrates use the new computers. The students are stuck with old 486 and Pentium 1 systems.
    • Re:Half the cost? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by anderman ( 242958 )
      Depends on the software they are using. Office XP Standard has prices ranging from 396-449 (quick search with google). Most PC's in school contain Word and Excel so that can add up quickly. This is assuming they are using Office XP, don't know the price of the other versions.

      As far as hardware costing $800, went to Dell and they had systems starting at $599, pretty close to the software. Besides you usually upgrade hardware less than software so the hardware cost is less than the software cost over time.

      OS doesn't matter as long as you have a stable enough window manager you tell them what to do and they will do it.
    • How can using linux halve the cost of a computer lab when the cost of operating system software is typically $100 per machine or less and the cost of hardware is typically $800 or more?

      On top of the operating system, add Microsoft Office (or "Works Suite" -- still not cheap,) the cost of Windows 2000 Server, CALs for each machine, and any other "educational networking" programs and you've got quite a bit of money tied up in software.
    • $800?? Try half that for a quite-decent x86 box. And the OS isn't the only cost. One needs a word-processor and development tools too. Plus, a Windows machine usually requires an anti-virus program.
    • Re:Half the cost? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by phliar ( 87116 ) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @04:22PM (#3560921) Homepage
      the cost of operating system software is typically $100 per machine or less and the cost of hardware is typically $800 or more?
      More lies.

      How much does Windows XP cost? (Not the "home use only" version.) How much does Office cost? And how often do you have to keep paying Micros**t?

      Schools often have a lot of donated machines that don't cost anywhere near $800 each.

      Unix is not at all suitable for general introductory courses.
      Also untrue. I have taught your average US high-school students (i.e. the "dumb" ones that the media and the Republicans keep telling us about) intro computer stuff on Linux. I taught them how to use emacs (optional) and LaTeX (required). Not that the US public education system doesn't need serious help -- but you are doing students an even greater injustive if you underestimate them and feed them pablum.

    • Re:Half the cost? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by llywrch ( 9023 ) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @04:27PM (#3560961) Homepage Journal
      > However Unix is not at all suitable for general
      > introductory courses. If you have highly motivated and intelligent kids they could probably learn on anything, including JCL.
      > But most kids are not in that category (just as well or else our skills would not be in the same demand).

      At first glance, you might have a point. But last Saturday I heard from a schoolteacher in the Portland Public School District who clearly stated the opposite: the kids actually prefer the computers runing Linux because they are more stable. And she likes them because fixing problems in a Unix-like environment is far easier than tracking down the cause of another hex dump crash in Windows.

      The problem isn't with the kids learning: they do quite fine at that. It's the adults who know nothing better than pointing & clicking -- or have to unlearn the three R's of troubleshooting MS Windows: reboot, reinstall, reformat.

    • Re:Half the cost? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Frater 219 ( 1455 ) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @04:33PM (#3560997) Journal
      How can using linux halve the cost of a computer lab when the cost of operating system software is typically $100 per machine or less and the cost of hardware is typically $800 or more?

      A computer lab isn't just a bunch of standalone computers any more. The computers are networked, and usually talk to at least a file/print server. Students then can store their work on the reliable server rather than on floppy disks or on the individual computers' hard drives.

      Once you introduce a file server into the system, the costs of feeding the MS monkey on your back rise rapidly. How come? Simple: Microsoft servers require per-seat client licenses. This is a foreign idea even in the commercial Unix world, so it's understandable that Linux folks might think it unconscionable, but it's how it is for Microsoft-addicted organizations. Per-seat licensing can easily drive your cost of operation up, to the point where you may be paying several times your hardware cost in license fees.

      Another savings is that Linux-based OSes can usually be made more efficient in their use of hardware resources than Microsoft systems. "Bloatware" is no myth, which is why the "minimum hardware requirements" for Windows keep escalating. While there are some things you can do in Windows to strip it down and make it more efficient, such as substituting an alternate graphical shell for Windows Explorer, these are not as well known among Windows professionals as the equivalents are among Linux and Unix professionals. Also, due to the less well-designed integration of the Windows system, such changes are more likely to make it unstable.

      There are other ways, as well, in which Microsoft systems can cost your organization more. Microsoft recommends, for instance, that you separate your services out among several machines, so that if one crashes, the others remain. While this design is also used for Unix and Linux systems sometimes, it is much less necessary -- you can usually "get away with" less hardware without risking instability.

      And then, of course, there are the clerical costs associated with license accounting ... the legal costs and downtime associated with license audits ... and the miscellaneous other costs of "compliance" with the lifestyle demands of a Microsoft addiction. Like any other addiction, dependency has opportunity costs and social costs as well as the direct damage it causes.

      So no, it is not at all surprising that a Linux-based computer lab would cost dramatically less to operate than a Windows lab, once you factor in all the costs involved.

      • Re:Half the cost? (Score:4, Informative)

        by sharkey ( 16670 ) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @06:58PM (#3562185)
        What we have here at my workplace:

        Windows Professional: $275
        Office Standard: $355
        SQL Server CAL: $137
        Exchange Server CAL: $64
        SMS CAL: $40
        Windows CAL: $34

        Total MS Software Cost: $905

        Harware: Athlom 1.3GHz, 256 DDR RAM, 20GB ATA-100 HDD, 10/100 FD/FC NIC, Intellimouse, TNT2 display: $687
        17" monitor: $163

        Total Hardware Cost: $850

        Removing the MS software would reduce our desktop prices by half.
    • First of all, there is more software to buy than just the $100 operating system. The compilers, the office applications, all the educational games for windows are typically extra or third party
      applications that cost more money. Several hundred dollars more money per machine. And to make sure the licenses are in compliance they need to spend that on every machine its installed on even if its not used, so they're caught with either tailoring each machine to only the applications it can be used for, or doing bulk installations and paying extra to avoid the hassle.

      And yes, hardware costs $800+ per system, but consider that this is the hardware needed to run the latest windows applications. Or at least run them well. Also, don't forget that the great majority of systems for schools don't require the prebuilt OEM systems that you see running at your local best-buy. They don't always need sound cards, $200 video cards or 17 inch monitors. They
      don't need CDROM burners or CPU's in the 1ghz+ range.

      Software and operating system Maintenance is also cited as a reduced cost with a linux based network. Mass installations can be easily scripted, and since the majority of the software is free you don't have to concern yourself with extra installations becoming a problem for future audits. In addition, the schools can choose to invest a lot in one or more primary server systems to run all the application software and use the rest of the linux machines as X stations, saving a lot of money on individual systems as they won't require the processing power or storage space.

      As for introductory students, they probably will never use the shell prompts in their application courses. They can do everything they need to do without ever leaving the comfort of their GUI. When students get into programming or basic system admin, then they can tackle those things.

      And don't assume that kids will always give up the first time they see an obstacle. Kids will overcome ANY obstacle if they want to, its simply a matter of providing adaquate incentive. Something as simple as being able to change the settings of the desktop might motivate someone to learn how to edit a configuration file, and they'll probably pick up a few other skills at the same time. When computers became cool, a whole lot of people that would never have touched a computer in their lives quickly picked up how to use them. It wouldn't matter how "hard" or complex it was, if all their friends were doing it, then they would too.

    • Re:Half the cost? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by hire_me ( 580609 )
      #1. "...the cost of operating system software is typically $100 per machine or less and the cost of hardware is typically $800 or more?"

      This is incorrect. If you choose to purchase a copy of a Linux distribution from a distributor then you may pay anywhere from $20 to $120 for the operating system - true. This would be a one time purchase however, not for each seat as with Windows. And as a consultant that builds many systems and deploys many systems, Windows gets very expensive very fast, no matter what it's intended use. Linux does not. Furthermore, if the school or school district has a compitent IT staff (or just a tech or two that understand Linux) then a free download version of your favorate Linux distro (excluding SuSE) would be suitable. Myth #1 has been debunked.

      #2. " There is an advantage to teaching kids on multiple operating systems. However Unix is not at all suitable for general introductory courses. If you have highly motivated and intelligent kids they could probably learn on anything, including JCL. But most kids are not in that category (just as well or else our skills would not be in the same demand)."

      It is true that proficiency in multiple operating systems is beneficial. But this statement does not fit the context of this arguement. The purpose of Linux in schools is to save money (in this case). The use of Linux and open source tools foster and fuel creativity and give teachers more software options with a smaller budget (if they use *free* software, then almost no additional budget). Furthermore, whatever solution kick-starts the greatest amount of computing know-how in children is obviously the better choice.

      #3. "Will they look at the csh command structure and conclude that computers are very hard to use, mysterious and probably deliberately so and resist using them? I suspect so."

      I suppose that you have never seen or used KDE or Gnome?
  • Why Linux? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anomolous Cow Herd ( 457746 ) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @04:04PM (#3560769) Journal
    No, really. Why replace Windows with Linux? It seems that the most logical move for the school district to make would be to buy Macs. Think about it:
    • They'll have a longer product cycle (Macs last forever and retain their value much better than cobbled-together PCs), which means the district won't have to upgrade their hardware nearly as often.
    • They'll upgrade their software for much less than with a Windows solution and they won't be compelled to upgrade.
    • Macs are already entrenched in education for a good reason: they're ease of use is legendary. Quartz is, without a doubt, the best user interface ever.
    • There is a plethora of commercial applications for Mac OS. These are generally easier to use and are better-supported than Free software applications.
    • They're inexpensive. You can already get an iMac for $799, and the education discounts that Apple gives are significant.
    So, while I don't want to start a flame war here, I do believe that Apple is the most logical solution for education. While Linux is an excellent OS for those who love choice, freedom and hacking (in the "programming" context), it isn't really ready for widespread use on the desktops of non-technical users.
    • Re:Why Linux? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Because schools run quite a few donated computers. also, while an imac runs $799, a low end pc costs just a couple hundred.
      if they run ltsp or whatever then the workstation suddenly doesn't matter and it can be some pos 486.

      not saying macs are a bad idea at all but linux really does save quite a lot of money
    • Re:Why Linux? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by bcrowell ( 177657 ) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @04:45PM (#3561116) Homepage
      I recently switched my work at home from MacOS X to Linux, but in a school environment, I think what you're saying makes a lot of sense.

      One big problem with Linux is that there's no standardization of user interfaces. For instance, Galeon uses Emacs keybindings, so ctrl-A means go to the beginning of the line, but other apps use Mac/Windows control sequences, so ctrl-A means "select all." It may seem trivial, but it's also a PITA that widgets in different apps all have different looks and feels. All of this is a serious issue to naive students, and the (often even more naive) teachers.

      The big problem at the school where I teach is that they don't have enough funding to hire enough people to support and maintain all the computers. Given that constraint, they really don't want to support more than one OS: Windows. If it's two OSes, then it's going to be Windows and MacOS, simply because the faculty wants to have what they use at home, and most of them either use Windows or MacOS. If the school was going to support Linux, it would have to be the third OS, and they're just not going to support three. There's also a real problem with availability of applications on Linux. When a teacher has developed curriculum around a certain piece of educational software, they're not going to want to switch to Linux if the software doesn't run on Linux.

      Although I applaud schools that are going lock, stock, and barrel for Linux, I think it's not a realistic option for most schools. More realistic options would be:

      1. Run Linux on some machines that only get used for websurfing, e.g. ones in the library.
      2. Use open-source apps on Windows to avoid paying for Office etc.

      Macs last forever and retain their value much better than cobbled-together PCs
      In my experience at the school where I teach, hardware longevity isn't an issue. In fact, there are some machines that I wish would go ahead and die, because then they'd get replaced with something running faster than 100 MHz :-) The problem is that the school's IT people want to run the same OS on every machine. These old machines used to be just fine, but now the ones I use take 6.5 minutes to boot with the latest version of Windows on them.

    • Note, I am a Mac user and strongly encourage the use of Macs especially in education whenever possible. However:

      A *LOT* of schools have a budget of perhaps $0.00/computer to spend. They take what is donated. If PC hardware is what is donated, then their best option is to use and operating system that doesn't cost anything and that they don't have to worry about licensing issues for.
    • Macs last longer than Windows machines, but that's just because new versions of Windows don't run on older machines. Linux, on ther other hand, is perfectly happy running on 7-year-old hardware (like my server, for instance). I haven't seen any PowerMacs lately, although they may still be in use. Is there even a version of OS X for pre-G3 hardware?
  • I could see (Score:2, Insightful)

    by da_Den_man ( 466270 )
    Where having labs that are running Linux are suitable, if the student is only expected to learn the principles of Web, E-Mail, and Network services. With the "free" software available, they should be able to conduct basic skills enhancement to HTML structures, e-mail configuration/administration, C++ coding skill sets, and just overall general computer use.

    However, if they are learning the "Business" side of the systems, they will be sorely lacking in how to run MS based Windows applications, which apparently is what 90% of the computers in the world run.

    I have to applaud the efforts of the schools themselves, being as I live in the area and do understand the needs of the schools (although I don't feel it is as bad as everyone says it is here), and I think saving money now and in the future is the best approach. As long as the curriculum meets the needs of the students in real world applications and approaches.

    Linux will at least give the students opportunity to learn about computers, thereby negating the initial "fear" that most people still have. It is a good start, but until the industry itself changes, the course can only be considered "generic" in the sense that it is NOT teaching what is in the workplace nor what the industry is doing.

    it may not be the best approach, but it is definitely a start.
  • by dcavanaugh ( 248349 ) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @04:14PM (#3560863) Homepage
    At first glance, schools are a dream target for the BSA. They have lots of machines, minimal system administration, and plenty of rogue software installations from faculty & students. If you're looking for piracy, you won't have to look very hard if you visit a school. From the "Let's justify our existance" perspective of BSA, schools are a target that is too juicy to be ignored.

    But there's a catch: Schools are chronically short of funds. Paying the BSA "fines" or submitting to extortion is not part of anyone's budget. Never underestimate the penny-pinching creativity of a school system. They won't hesitate to throw labor at a problem to make the short-term cost go away. Considering their resources (teachers on salary and students as slave labor), they have inexpensive man-hours available if there is cash to be saved.

    What starts out as BSA's dream turns into a nightmare when the schools use their resources to migrate to Linux. For starters, M$ loses the upgrade revenue. Then we have students learning non-M$ technology. Parents who discover that the school finds M$ to be very expensive. If the schools are successful in ditching M$, they become role models for parents who face the same BSA nonsense at work.
    • You have a good point on the "cheap labor" aspect of school district solutions. The one thing they have is time - since they sure as hell don't have any money.

      Let's add something to this. Parents and students and staff will all pull together with "The bake-sale-thing" in order to do something good for the school. New uniforms for the football team, new books for the library, a swing set for the playground - what have you. Now, imagine those same parents being asked to throw together a bake sale in order to raise money for "fines" imposed by a BSA audit.

      The FIRST thing on every parents mind is going to be "Who are these bastards taking money away from my kid's education?!?"

      Pissing off parents is a Bad Thing (tm). Kids remember things like this. They remember the soccer team not getting to go to the finals because the district was broke after an audit. The backlash you mention will (we can only hope) be farther reaching than just a switch away from M$ in the schools - but will represent a whole mindset shift away from the business model that spawned this stupidity in the first place.

  • Look at it this way. Microsoft forced several school districts to switch to Linux. If Microsoft keeps this practice up, schools which are afraid to stand up to M$ will eventually be running either Mac OS X on Macs or Linux on their PCs. Microsoft will have to focus its marketing strategy on maintaining its hold on the home user market, because their software audits would have alienated their business, educational, and public service customers.
  • by pgrote ( 68235 ) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @04:16PM (#3560879) Homepage
    At the risk of being slammed in moderation, thank goodness they are adopting Linux. Not because it's the way to go, but because it means they are no longer possibly pirating software.

    Many many many people believe that tactics used are heacy handed ... they are. Many people believe that for some reason Microsoft is evil because they charge for their product. They aren't.

    It's when the two get together you have horrible perceptions. Heavy handed tactics ... school districts crying poor ... Microsoft wanting money ...

    Going to Linux solves the money issue and most of the potential piracy issues. Is it a victory for open source? Not so much as it is a victory for living within your means.

    It's a choice for schools ... do they do it legally or do they do it on the sly.

    I say legally.
  • by ScrewTivo ( 458228 ) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @04:19PM (#3560902) Homepage
    of complying to EULA's.

    License mgt costs Admin time sure but, getting notice of an audit could cost untold sums in legal and additional admin (checking to make sure, real sure) time in preparation.

    I hope every school board across the nation is at least taking a look at this!
  • by dpbsmith ( 263124 ) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @04:26PM (#3560957) Homepage
    As I've tried to explain, usually unsuccessfully, to some of my managers in the past, when you evaluate any proprietary software, you are making a judgement about the nature and future conduct of the company. The licensing terms may be acceptable now, but they can change in the future. The "life cycle cost" of the software is your estimate of the length of time you will be using the software (often more than a decade) and your estimate of what the behavior of the vendor with respect to licensing is likely to be over that period of time.

    Are they likely to change the license terms or pricing drastically? Is the bundle (the items the software "comes with" likely to change?)

    You're making this judgement every time you buy proprietary software. You can make it consciously and with forethought or you can make it unconsciously.
    • I tried to argue the same thing in my former emplyer's office. I was worried that Allaire's Cold Fusion put us at the mercy of Allaire. I urged moving to PHP and Apache-friendly tech but to no avail.

      6 months later we had a new VP of IT and it was decided that we would then switch to VB and ASP. Made the entire staff get retrained in that.

      So how much money was lost on that? It never ceases to amaze me the sheer amount of waste that is due to people making arbitrary decisions on what we should use based solely on analysis of past performance.

      Oh well. Not my money being flushed.
  • Piracy! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Quill_28 ( 553921 )
    Not sure if this has been mentioned before, but I believe piracy has helped Windows alot more than it has hurt it. This is not an excuse to pirate Windows, but I really think it has helped Windows by allowing it to become a monopoly, which by the way is any software company's goal.

  • by Petronius ( 515525 ) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @04:30PM (#3560976)

    Principal: Screw MS, we're going to Linux!
    Teacher A: great, and let's put Gnome on these boxes!
    Teacher B: Gnome? are you crazy? what the kids need is KDE!
    Teacher C: well, actually, they should use OpenStep...
    Teacher D: the rugrats should only be allowed to use the console in text mode!
    RMS: actually, the real name is GNU/Linux...
  • I sincerely hope that the schools have learned a valuable lesson from this. That keeping donated computers running a Microsoft OS isn't a good idea. Any donated computer that does not come with a valid license should be FDisked and Linux should be installed.

    I also hope that they realize that Microsoft never stops. If M$ appears to be backing down now it is only to regroup and hit them again sometime in the future. They should use this time to install Linux on all of their computers.
  • If you are really serious about helping out, 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 Kengineer ( 246142 ) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @04:39PM (#3561040)
    The tighter you squeeze, the more school districts will slip through your fingers.

    - failure opening file coldbeer.can
  • Its funny that the Microsoft campers tend to be hugely focused on audio, video, multimedia and office...

    I mean Office is a cool application suite per-se... But most true production types, geeks and hardworkers could produce their documents in a standard text editor.. Hell many of law firms still use DOS based Word Perfect just fine...

    Microsoft has created an economy where you need to add a few hundred megahertz each release and double your RAM and quadruple your disk just to essentially do the same damn thing with just another new layer of bloated GUI and some silly media sounds and similar crap..

    What they have created is very expensive wordprocessing dumb terminals for dummies.

    Education requires greater controls on users and limitations... Something that is utterly hard to truly manage and be creative about in a Windows environment.

    Beyond that, with most people's property taxes being jacked by related school district taxes, I am certain the public at large would rather pocket the cost of open source over Microsofts every-changing always charging, terror enforced software.
  • If microsoft sees linux as a threat in the schools, they'll start "giving away" Windows, like they're "giving away" X-Boxes, because of the threat from Sony. We all know Sony is just going to kick their ass anyway. Can linux do the same?
  • hey (Score:3, Funny)

    by bilbobuggins ( 535860 ) <> on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @04:49PM (#3561154)
    old school vs. GNU/School

    *ba-dum ching!*

  • by cfulmer ( 3166 )
    So, I may be missing something, but...

    What authority does Microsoft or the BSA (or any private enterprise, for that matter) have to come in and 'audit' some business, government entity or charity? I can understand it if they have probable cause and go in under a warrent, accompanying law enforcement. But, just choosing a school district and saying "I'm going to audit you"? Why doesn't the district just say "Go to hell"? It seems to me that Microsoft has as much right to do that as Madonna does to come into my house and 'audit' my music collection for illegal copies of her music.

    Sure, piracy is a big problem for the software industry, but there still needs to be some reasonable evidence of wrongdoing before you can inflict a search on somebody.
    • none (Score:3, Interesting)

      by RelliK ( 4466 )
      That's a very good question that very few people bother to ask. There is a clause in their so-called "license" which states that they are allowed to "audit" you; and that clause, presumably, gives Microsoft the right to send in the enforcers. However, legally, it does not hold any water. Even if we assume that EULA is enforcible as a whole (a dubious assumption), that particular clause would be thrown out if the matter ever went to court.

      This "auditing" clause essentially amounts to a search without a search warrant by a non-government agency. In case you didn't know, even the police cannot come to your house and search you whenever they feel like it. They must first obtain a search warrant, which is signed by a judge. And to get the warrant, police need to show that there is a likelihood of finding the desired evidence.

      There are two problems with BSA/Microsoft audits. First they are not the police, so they have no authority to conduct the searches. Their "license" doesn't hold any water -- there are certain rights that you cannot sign away. Second, even if the BSA was ever annointed as the official copyright enforcement police, they would still need to show that there is some likelihood of finding unauthorised copies of software at whatever school/business they were trying to search. Random searches wouldn't be permitted. BSA admits -- nay, brags! -- that the vast majority of their tipoffs comes from disgruntled employees. In a court of law such "evidence" would be dismissed as hearsay. And that's without even getting into the issue of good-faith efforts of the companies to stay compliant with the license vs. the unauthorised installations by individual employees (or, perhaps, outright sabotage -- see note above about disgruntled employees).

      So, as you can see, legally, Microsoft enforcers have no leg to stand on. BSA backed off the few companies that did decide to fight it.
  • by r_j_prahad ( 309298 ) <> on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @05:05PM (#3561314)
    I lived in the Beaverton area for a couple of years, it's not the kind of place that's going to be easily bullied by MSFT, or anybody else for that matter. One of the nicknames for this area was the "silicon forest", a takeoff on the Bay Area's high-tech reputation. There's a very high ratio of technologically clueful folks there. There's also an unusually high level of disdain for MSFT, especially among the Intel folk I used to work with. I never did understand it, why Intel engineers disliked MSFT so much. Anyways, it was up there I got introduced to Linux for the first time.

    But it would really surprise me to see the schools that got audited dump MSFT lock, stock, and barrel anytime soon. The only clueless folk I ever did any business with up there were the schools. Stupifyingly dense and criminally arrogant. Thankfully, they're also almost totally inneffective as administrators so they won't be able to keep Linux out.
  • by caduguid ( 152224 ) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @05:25PM (#3561501)
    Say whatever else you want to about him, but you've got to give RMS this: selling free software (including linux) on the basis of anything other than freedom is risky business.

    I remember once, just out of highschool with an awful sales job, (for home pop machines, if you can believe it), my sleazy boss used to always say: never try to sell people on cost. They'll get bogged down with numbers and you'll never make the sale. Sell them on xxxx (in that case convenience) and let people work out the numbers for themselves. His logic was that numbers were easy to fudge when you're trying to rationalize something, and better they play around to get the numbers to make themselves happy than they catch you playing around with them.

    In the context of free software, the same logic almost holds:

    -for a big enough or strategic enough account, you can't beat MSFT on financial terms. That is, they can always either reduce/forgoe the licensing fees or heck, _pay you_ to use the stuff if they want it badly enough. (Just ask Miguel about Vicente Fox and the Mexican initiative.) You can't, (well, _I_ can't), outbid Microsoft.

    -on technical merit, they can argue any particular point into the ground, or even, for big enough or strategic enough cases, find what's broken and 'fix' it. (gasp)

    But sell freedom and you're onto something. (You _may_ even have people/past-victims making the technical/financial arguments for themselves.) The best part is that, when they use sledgehammers like the BSA, MSFT make the case for you.

    Try as they might, MSFT is going to have a hard time erasing the memory of these audits/sales-tools from the overworked/underfunded school systems. Sure, they let you slide on the licensing now... but stick with them and you'll never be free of the threat of the audit. (And that whether you're in compliance or not.)
  • by Spencerian ( 465343 ) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @05:46PM (#3561635) Homepage Journal
    Keep in mind that the officials that buy computers actually don't. They receive their information from their technical staff.

    Which means, if the school has more of a PC base (the subject of this topic since MS was trying to audit them), then the IT person would probably consider Linux because it would be the path of least resistance--they already have PC hardware, so why rip it out to replace it with Macintosh? Have the students use OpenOffice and Konqueror. Problem solved.

    If the school has a mix or a majority of Mac OS systems, an IT person may consider simply ripping Internet Explorer and Word off the systems, and use Netscape and AppleWorks instead. Problem solved again.

    I don't understand the Linux zealots who feel that going Apple or Microsoft "locks" them into anything. By using Linux (as in the kernel, not the OS), aren't LINUX USERS "locked" into a single kernel, unable to change (or highly recommended not to change it for fear of instability?) There is no such thing as a democracy in the computer world. You have to pick a side and use what that side offers you. Nothing says you have to stay on that side, and there may be more options and freedoms available on some sides (Apple, BSD, Red Hat, etc.) than others (Microsoft). Try getting a free multiuser licenses from Microsoft. On the other hand, try opening an embedded Outlook mail document inside a Word document in Mac OS X. There is relative good on each side. Don't piss on that of which you have no clue.

    And another thing to these fact-challenged people in this topic: While Apple no longer has the vast 75-90% majority of their computers in schools as they did in the '80s, they still have a very large presence overall, especially in the K-12 market. Dell and Apple are the largest percentage holders in a virtual heat for about a year now. The rest is broken up by other manufacturers.

    Don't just say "Windows" when you mean to say a PC brand: If you break down the market shares by brand in various areas, Apple still has a presence, and a significant visionary one if nothing else.

  • by Locutus ( 9039 ) on Tuesday May 21, 2002 @06:19PM (#3561875)
    There's a phrase used in American history which mentions the first shot of the American Revolution was "the shot heard around the world".

    The Microsoft audit policy might just be known as "the backfire heard around the world". With Linux stability, usefulness, and capabilities where they are today, there's not much stopping most public school systems from switching all their classrooms and labs to Linux. Maybe they'll need one or two with Wine or even a WinFrame system or two but it'll still be cheaper running Linux and "look ma, no more audit threats"

    BANG! What a backfire. :) We just need the press to pick this up.... Dan Gilmour, CNN, USAToday, etc where are you?


Air is water with holes in it.