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Education

An Informal Study Of K12 Classroom Software Costs 455

PGillingwater writes "Rob Lineweaver has written a concise summary of how much it would cost (and the savings that can be achieved) to set up the (almost) complete infrastructure in the Harrisonburg City Public Schools. He estimates that using commercial packages instead of open source would have cost the K12 schools an extra $27,000 in software license costs. More interestingly, he states that this is not only about cost. He says: 'This makes it apparent that not all of the benefit of open source software deployment in is the form of cost savings; much of the benefit is in terms of capabilities gained. In other words, through the use of free software, I am able to do more within my budget than I could if I only had commercial solutions available.'"
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An Informal Study Of K12 Classroom Software Costs

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  • I believe the students would learn some really valuable skills using Linux and other open-source software. Linux is, IMHO the best development environment and a Linux lab in a school would create a great learning environment.
    • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Wednesday November 20, 2002 @04:22PM (#4718195) Homepage
      not only that, but when little sally asks how a webserver works, instead of the Microsoft answer that is "it just does" you can show her the sourcecode to apache and watch her little head explode.

      seriously.. having the ability to look at the nuts and bolts makes better students... teaching the kids the normal click and drool is not computer science... it's office machines / secritarial. It's about damned time that computer science classes MEANT computer science.
  • yea but... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mschoolbus ( 627182 ) <travisriley@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday November 20, 2002 @03:58PM (#4717969)
    Getting the software for cheaper (free) is one thing, but what kind of "costs" are you going to get for using this software. Sure you may save $27k but what happens when something break? Will you need to hire someone capable of handling open source software and how much will he cost per year? What if something breaks and a service is down for a while, there will be no company to hold up their software and support it, it is now up to you.
    • Re:yea but... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by mrojas ( 32032 ) on Wednesday November 20, 2002 @04:05PM (#4718039) Journal
      once again the known answer, you can get support from the community

      i was the reponsible of the computer lab in a little school in mexico about two years ago, we ran linux, staroffice, gnome, kde, gimp, whatever you can name, aside from apache, sendmail, etc., and never run into troubles, nothing gets broked, no virus, etc, etc

      oh, and the school owners where extatic about not having to pay a cent in licenses ;)

      of course, if you take a project like this, you need to know some things, but hey, isn't about learning and having fun with the process? :)

      so, maybe it's just a case of knowing what resources you can get from the community, and use them
      • Re:yea but... (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Ummagumma ( 137757 )
        once again the known answer, you can get support from the community

        Playing devils advocate here, that statement is a *very* hard sell to upper management. They want contracts, they want someone who can be charged back/billed/sued if something goes wrong. They want SLA's and the like.

        At that level, its all CYA.
      • The problem with all this is that for the people that read /. using open source software is fine, they can figure the problem out themselves or enough of their geek friends are good with linux and will know the answer. They fufill their own prophecy that OSS is cheaper because they can get past the installation issues and and subsequent problems.

        But for people who don't know much about computers and really don't want to, or have the time to, is it really cheaper? Do they know how to use a newsgroup? do they know how to use IRC? Are they going to use these resources that for the most part are unstructured and not dependant? The community support for a product is only good if _a lot_ of people use it and _a lot_ of people have a the time to read newsgroups etc... Ever post to one of the CVS newsgroups? A lot of questions go unanswered, and it's not alone.

        I'm all for OSS, but no one thing is an end all. OS's, applications, programming languages, etc... are simply tools. Use the one that is best for you, what you need to do, and the resources you have.
    • We always had at least one geek teacher, and if your geek teachers were anything like mine I'm sure they'd have a good go at fixing the problem, or finding someone online who'd do it for free.
    • Well, from experience with schools now with schools (especially the bigger they get) and software problems on student machines is that they fart with it for about 15 minutes. If it isn't fixed by then they just reformat and reinstall anyway or ghost it. If that doesn't fix it, strip it for parts and/or surplus it.

      Its not exactly that they are lazy, its just that with the new flavor of the week viruses that go around (think windows), it's just easier.
    • Read your EULA (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Rupert ( 28001 ) on Wednesday November 20, 2002 @04:39PM (#4718347) Homepage Journal
      Who do you call when commercial software breaks? Unless you're paying additional monthly or annual maintenance fees, chances are the vendor isn't going to want to talk to you.

      Someone pointed out the third "free" is free as in market. With commercial software, only the vendor can support you. You pay their price or you get nothing. With free-as-in-speech software you get free-as-in-market software support: you can pay as much or as little as you'd like, for varying levels of support, and presumably varying levels of expertise.
    • Or slightly better. Microsoft onsite service or other 24/7 support options for Microsoft products likely is more expensive than a RedHat service contract, RHCE, or something else due to the lack of competition.
    • Re:yea but... (Score:2, Insightful)

      by lexcyber ( 133454 )
      Yes, when there is OSS it is up to you if the company or the individual writer goes belly up. But then you have the code so you have the possibilty to change the code and fix it to suit your needs. If a commercial software vendor goes belly up or just stop supporting the software you have bought. You are stuck with your closed source binary. And you can't do a first thing about it.

      This happend with the video editing tool Edit from discreet. (Just to take one example). They just stopped the development and closed the office. So now alot of people are stuck with edit, the version they have. And they will never release a update that will make it work on Win2k for instance.

      OpenSource and free software is best, you cant make any statements that will make closed source alternetives better. It is not possible. Since you get all thoose benefits with opensource and you get the source to. You get the same and more.

      The gift that keeps on giving, opensource =).

    • Re:yea but... (Score:5, Informative)

      by delta407 ( 518868 ) <slashdot@@@lerfjhax...com> on Wednesday November 20, 2002 @04:51PM (#4718445) Homepage
      As others have said, support is close at hand with the community of both users and developers.

      As the primary author behind an open-source school administrative package [lissard.org], I understand this situation, and I understand that if something breaks someone will need to know what's going on. That is why I have the support policy [lissard.org] that I do -- if someone is using LISSARD (the aformentioned software), they can go through the normal channels (mailing lists, etc.) in case of a problem or they can talk to me directly by phone, even at home.

      No, it's not a promise of 24x7 support. But, remember that you're not dealing with trained monkeys on the other end of an 800 number, but rather someone that no only knows what's going on but why it happens that way and knows the situation backwards and forwards. In the end, my open-source project has better support than any of the other commercial offerings, because a resolution is reached within minutes rather than hours or (in some cases) weeks.

      One more thing: the support contract never needs renewing. I will help whoever is using my software, because I know what it's like to be totally ignored.
    • Re:yea but... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by ChaosDiscord ( 4913 ) on Wednesday November 20, 2002 @05:14PM (#4718683) Homepage Journal
      Will you need to hire someone capable of handling open source software and how much will he cost per year?

      And someone skilled at handling proprietary software will be cheaper? Sure, you can get someone cheaper, but you get what you pay for.

      What if something breaks and a service is down for a while, there will be no company to hold up their software and support it, it is now up to you.

      If you think a local high school computer class teacher (who is usually the entire schools "computer guy") is going to get any sort of support from a large proprietary software company, you've got some strange conceptions. Instead you're going to get the clueless "Try rebooting, try reinstalling" we all face when we call the outsourced support centers of various companies. And while you're getting the barely useful support, you are stuck on the phone dealing with it. Not much of a win.

  • by SexyKellyOsbourne ( 606860 ) on Wednesday November 20, 2002 @03:59PM (#4717981) Journal
    While all that he posted is very true, as how they were going to save money if the local redneck tech people could maintain a Linux network at the schools properly, introducting technology was never the point of bringing PCs to every school.

    The whole reason we even have PCs in schools in the US is just the fact that it is outright corporate welfare to computer companies such as Gateway, IBM, Dell, and sometimes Apple, due to shady deals with politicians.

    Schools simply don't have the programs for technology education, and even in the high schools there is, at best, only a typing and a Microsoft Word class, and if you are extremely lucky and well funded, a class that will teach Q-Basic.

    Most computers in schools just sit around in the science room, and are used only once per semester, and sometimes as entertainment devices for a public school system that's nothing more than a communist daycare center anyways.

    However, PC companies, with Microsoft behind each one, get rich off our tax dollars, and hence we have PCs in schools. Putting Linux wouldn't ever fly, as it's purposefully $27,000 a year in corporate welfare to Microsoft.
    • by entrager ( 567758 ) on Wednesday November 20, 2002 @04:05PM (#4718048)
      I have to disagree with this generalization. While I agree that many of the PCs in the school system are pretty much a waste of space and time, that doesn't mean they don't have a place.

      At my high school (I graduated in '99), I took multiple classes about multimedia design and computer science. In fact, the Computer Science 1 class I took in high school gave me college credit which transferred easily to just about any major university in the state (Colorado).

      At the same time however, there were 3 large computer labs at my high school and I recall being herded in there several times only to waste half of the class time learning completely useless software that barely demonstrated what we were supposed to learn. Given that, I think it's fair to say that computers in schools may be overhyped, but that doesn't mean they don't belong there.
    • Schools simply don't have the programs for technology education, and even in the high schools there is, at best, only a typing and a Microsoft Word class, and if you are extremely lucky and well funded, a class that will teach Q-Basic.

      Dude, I don't know where you are, but when I graduated from high school in 1997, every school in the county had programming classes. The richer schools were using Borland C++, the rest of us had to do with some flavor of UNIX.

      These are middle-class towns in Bergen County, New Jersey. Is this a "Northeast Elite" thing?

      • Well, when I graduated in 1999, our "CS" class was using Pascal on a set of 386s. I believe that we were one of two or maybe three schools in the city that offered computer science. (I believe that they were planning to move to C++ to reflect the changes in the AP exam. Of course, the wonderful people writing that exam, in their haste to follow the latest fads, switched to Java just a couple years later, so they're probably still busy buying new books and adjusting the curriculum.)


        Lest you think I'm complaining, I don't think we needed anything more. I don't see why schools are on the upgrade treadmill when the primary applications -- typing, web browsing, basic programming -- can be done perfectly well with old systems. Every time I hear that a school has spent another half-million dollars on computer equipment, I wonder why they don't get to the important stuff first. (Did anyone else attend schools where the same textbooks had been in use for 25 years?)

    • Excuse me! I come from a redneck tech area. I now run the IT dept for a Biotech, and I'm damn good at it. The high school I went to had old 386 computers and were peer-2-peered with twisted pair cable running Windows 3.1 when I attended. I learned BASIC, Pascal, AND C++ while attending there and I also maintained the network. We actually had a good computer curriculum and it wasn't because MS or Dell came in and just gave us a bunch of useless machines that weren't going to get used. It was because we had good teachers who were willing to teach us the things we wanted to learn. Tech education is EXACTLY the point of PC's in schools (from the school standpoint) even if the corporate standpoint on it is to gain a tax break. But I think it is deeper than that. I think tech companies are trying to increase what American students learn about computers partially to replace the people who work for them now but wont in the future and partially because many companies are tired of hiring below-par foreign workers and having to sponsor them in this country.
    • by American AC in Paris ( 230456 ) on Wednesday November 20, 2002 @04:20PM (#4718174) Homepage
      The whole reason we even have PCs in schools in the US is just the fact that it is outright corporate welfare to computer companies such as Gateway, IBM, Dell, and sometimes Apple, due to shady deals with politicians.

      Uh-huh.

      Because you just know that Apple had Congress in their pocket when my school had Turtle Logo and Number Munchers on a bunch of Apple IIe systems back in the early '80s.

      Show those fscking politicians "Oregon Trail", and all they saw was dollar signs.

      Hell inna handbasket. Liberals! Liberals, I tells ya! And fluoride in the water!

      fnord

    • Schools simply don't have the programs for technology education, and even in the high schools there is, at best, only a typing and a Microsoft Word class, and if you are extremely lucky and well funded, a class that will teach Q-Basic.

      Whaaaa?

      In 1986 I took my first computer class in school. I learned how to program in BASIC on an 8086. We later got in several 286 machines, which was awesome. This was in a town of 3000 people, and our computer teacher was about 40 years old at the time. We obviously didn't have a huge budget, and there was no such thing as a network.

      Are you telling me that today, in high school, they only use computers to teach typing? I find it extremely hard to believe that computer education has gotten worse in 15 years.

      You can be cynical all you want, but don't project it onto the education system.

    • My high school (not a big or fancy one) had a C++ course, a typing course, and a course over basic computer applications. There were also computers in the art lab and the journalism studio. I would say that there are plenty of legitimate uses for computers in schools. Basic typing itself being enough to justify at least one computer lab.
    • Interesting choice of pejorative statements just because their population density is different that the, obviously backward, town where your school computer was not used in your presance.

      I graduated from highschool in 1980, attended 2 different schools in the Knoxville, TN area and both had computers maintained by the students way back then. Not sure what my first school had, since I did not take a computer class until 1977, but it did use punch cards. The machine I was familiar with was a DEC machine hooked to 3 teletype terminals and paper tape memory.

      Even years later, rural highschools in the area were using microcomputers to enhance the football coach's play-calling ability and defense coordination. How do I know this? One of the coaches was a helicopter pilot in my National Guard unit and told us about the setup during a bad weather day. BTW, the coaches were the ones setting up the computers and programming them. So much for the stupid hick jock theory.

      In the same area, my son received his CCNA through his highschool during his Junior year. All of the equipment and instruction was provided by Cisco, free. The networking cable was surplus and installed by the students in the networking classes. The T-1 line was provided, free, by the local phone company. So much for the the direction of "welfare cashflow".

      The only thing holding back computing in schools is people like *you* that assume just because *your* school was full of helpless, clueless dolts that a smaller school *must* have a lesser level of ability, be it their accent that you do not like or some other non-issue.
    • Alright I'll bite.

      I went to 10 grade in technical magnet West Virginia. Where deer hunting was more popular than computers. This was back in '86 we had dual disk drives IBM pc's. First year was BASIC second year was pascal. Third year was advanced PASCAL. There were probably 15-20 people in programming class.

      My parents moved to New York I went to a elite public HS where the CS classes sucked(CS was a vocation class???) while the engineering classes (yes, pneumatics,etc) and JK Flip-flops were considered the best in the nation(at least the state of New York).

      May want to rethink your rant
  • by fitten ( 521191 ) on Wednesday November 20, 2002 @04:00PM (#4717987)
    I know of lots of educational software titles for Windows. How many titles are available under Linux? How many of the Windows titles will run under Wine?
    • by b0r1s ( 170449 ) on Wednesday November 20, 2002 @04:05PM (#4718037) Homepage
      And equally important, what kind of computer skills are these kids going to leave the classroom with?

      Facing the facts: 90% of those using these computers are not going to be software developers, engineers, or sysadmins. Most of these kids are going to go out and work for relatively little money. They're going to need basic computer skills, and for corporate america, this means familiarity with MS Office.

      Putting "Familiarity with Open Office" on a resume is fine if you're a sysadmin, but it won't get you very far if you're trying to work for a company that uses MS software, as most do.
      • by gad_zuki! ( 70830 ) on Wednesday November 20, 2002 @04:35PM (#4718309)
        >but it won't get you very far if you're trying to work for a company that uses MS software, as most do.

        Nonsense, the decision to hire someone has a lot more to do with than what software they're famaliar with. I know that sounds crazy to some geeks, but if you're doing hiring based soley on whether Jane knows Outlook, Notes, Pine or just Hotmail then your company is in deeper trouble than any commercial software package can fix. Your post also ignores the fact that most office software can be learned in an afternoon and the user can be brought up to the level of intermediate user if not expert in a couple weeks of real use.

        You can't have it both ways. Either commercial software is easier to use than OSS thus making learning easier or you're admitting that commercial software has no real benefits over OSS.

        Secondly, being exposed to a typical office app or a browser regardless of brand is more than enough to teach someone "computers." If you can use Moz you can use IE. If you can use Open Office you can use any office software.

        Your post sounds like another justification to do whatever the market is doing regardless of costs. "So what if we have to cut the arts and science budget, people are using MS!!" There are priorities in education and teaching the latest and greatest and most expensive is simply unrealistic.

        Even in CS this problem is pretty non-existant. A school can teach new CS students Java for nothing or they can open their pockets, raise tution, etc and buy a copy of VB for everyone. If you know Java then learning VB is cake.
        • by mgkimsal2 ( 200677 ) on Wednesday November 20, 2002 @04:56PM (#4718510) Homepage
          Nonsense, the decision to hire someone has a lot more to do with than what software they're famaliar with.

          COMPLETELY dependant on the HR person in companies big enough to have those, which I think the original poster probably had in mind.

          I know that sounds crazy to some geeks, but if you're doing hiring based soley on whether Jane knows Outlook, Notes, Pine or just Hotmail then your company is in deeper trouble than any commercial software package can fix.

          Most companies ARE in deep trouble when it comes to effectively dealing with technology.

          Your post also ignores the fact that most office software can be learned in an afternoon and the user can be brought up to the level of intermediate user if not expert in a couple weeks of real use.

          HR people don't care. Many don't know much themselves about the ins and outs of computers, and generally don't assume anyone else can learn past what they know.

          I tried using a headhunter agency once to find me a job. I didn't have 'CGI' on my resume, just Perl and Python and PHP and a few others. He said I wouldn't get hired anywhere. I took 30 seconds to explain that CGI was effectively shorthand for someone who knew Perl or something like that. Didn't get an interview, didn't get called back, never returned calls, etc. I'd insulted him by showing him up, even though I was trying to help him more effectively do his job, which was keeping up with technological buzzwords.
    • Mod parent up please.

      I work in a 2000 student K-12 public school district; the poster is exactly right.

      GradeQuick, Accelerated Reader, CCC/Successmaker, NovaNet, to name a few Windows titles. Our statewide student/financial management APSCN software [k12.ar.us] is Windows only also. When the computers we buy come with Windows, the educational software is written for windows....

      If you don't know of any titles, please don't argue against computers in the classroom
      "kids need to be on a console or reading books", not using a gui, blah blah, either. That may be true, but it doesn't answer the fact that there is little in the way of enterprise educational software for Linux.

      With the budget cutbacks we've seen the past year, we're always looking to save money. We are using Linux as our mail server and for some proxy firewall applications, but on the teachers' desktops and in the student labs, we need some quality Linux educational software solutions before something like swithing over is a reality.

    • A lot of comments have been similar to this one. However, from my reading of the document, they're not talking about the systems that the students would use, but the infrastructure - the file servers, the webservers, the firewalls & routers. That's why Samba and Netatalk are on the list. It would be a very strange setup if this wasn't the case, because they've got 4 Samba servers, 7 Netatalk servers, but they're only claiming to have saved 22 commerical OS licenses, which would mean only 11 clients!

      Everyone agrees that the desktop and the server are very different environments, don't use arguments suitable for one when discussing the other.

    • I don't know, I got my education in software on a C= 64 with no permenant storage device (no floppy, no tape, nothing)

      What did I learn?

      I learned about math, logic, problem solving. I learned about doing things in an orderly manner. I learned how to program in Basic.

      What has that helped me?

      Put any piece of software in front of me with a halfway decent manual and I'll know more about it than most people would get out of a training session on the software.

      Teaching people how to use MS Office when they are scared out of their minds that they'll break something doesn't make them computer users. It makes them comfortable.

      I say that everyone who uses a computer should have a basic understanding of how the things work.

      Just like everyone should know how a car works before driving.

      Generally speaking you should have an idea of what you are doing before you do it.

      What next, give people pilots licenses because they've flown MS Flight Simulator? Pilots know way more about how a plane works before they even get their license than the general population knows about how cars work.

      Stop being afraid!
  • by neurostar ( 578917 ) <neurostar@@@privon...com> on Wednesday November 20, 2002 @04:00PM (#4717994)

    Apologies to those who don't like this idea, but it seems like there have been a lot of "we saved x dollars by switch to linux" or "we lost x dollars by using commercial software."

    /. is a bastion of open-source advocacy. People don't come here to read "I saved money" when everyone here already knows that commercial software is more expensive. It is basically preaching to the choir. The people who don't know that free/open-source/GNU software is cheaper aren't reading /.

    So it seems kinda pointless to keep stating the obvious over and over again.

    Just my $.02

    neurostar
    • but (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Asking Slashdot to stop preaching to the choir is like asking your ass to stop taking a shit.
    • I sit in my little /. world wandering if anyone else gives a fuck, I see a story like this posted and I see that others do. I feel content and have more drive in my religion.

      I can now say, look other people are doing it, I'm not a freek any more.
    • But let's remember that just a few years ago there weren't *ANY* articles like this. You need some way to measure how well you're doing, and this is one.
      • But let's remember that just a few years ago there weren't *ANY* articles like this. You need some way to measure how well you're doing, and this is one.

        True. It is just my opinion that they are starting to get old and repetitive.

        neurostar
  • by SecretAsianMan ( 45389 ) on Wednesday November 20, 2002 @04:02PM (#4718007) Homepage
    It's a great idea, but out in the real world, people use commercial software. If kids aren't educated in how to use it, they won't be able to compete. I think introducing free software and its concepts into the education system is a good idea, but we shouldn't forsake the kids' futures for the sake of indoctrination. Teach both, and let the kids decide what's best.
    • Is it better to train/indoctrine kids with one brand of software? Or expose them to multiple brands and variations, so they learn to think and are able to adapt to newer or different software?

      I crige everytime I hear someone say they only know MS Word. It's not all that hard to learn how wordprocessors work, and then it's easy to understand that there is a format menu w/ Character and paragraph formatting. Every word processor I've seen has this same concept.

      Open Source gives students an oppertunity to learn to think about how a computer works. School is supposed to teach kids to think, and not just memorize.

    • by Penguinoflight ( 517245 ) on Wednesday November 20, 2002 @04:16PM (#4718138) Homepage Journal
      Yeah, but when we were growing up, schools used macs, when people in the real world were using windows. Now people in the real world (well, everything but servers, high end graphics, video editing, computer animation, web site design, programming) heh, that's a lot that's done on Linux. And Linux usage isn't going to get smaller, by the time these kids are in a good job Linux will be standard. Of course by that time they will have forgot it all anyway, so what's the fuss? :-)
    • On the one hand, Sun spread "back in the day" by getting good coverage in college CS departments, which led to new hires driving purchasing decisions once they left school. Sometimes the real world is what the schools were 5 years ago.

      On the other hand, Apple's been trying that for 20 years and getting nowhere.

      we shouldn't forsake the kids' futures for the sake of indoctrination.

      You didn't go to school in the US, did you?

    • I would have to disagree with you that commerical software is what we need to teach our nation's children. Software keeps changing and people need to relearn features for the new version. So why should we teach students a specific commerical software package that will change by the time they get to the real world? I don't want our English teacher training students on Word XX to create their term paper because that's what the real world uses. Learning how to do a term paper at this point probably involves a word processor, so there may be lab time that the students get hands on time with a one. Does it really matter that they used an open source word processor as apposed to the one from Microsoft? Learning the basics of a word processor or a spreadsheet program should translate to other versions be they open source or commerical. We should teach students to do things not use products that will be obsolete in the near future.

    • first line of the article:

      Cost savings of open source software in the server room
    • true. since they all think AOL is the internet anyway, and AOL is dragging their feet with the non-Windows versions.

      (shudders convulsively remembering teaching college freshmen how to use a non-AOL browser to search...)

      And we all know that it's so much more beneficial to 'know Word' than it is to 'know how to use a word processor', except that your knowledge of Word only applies to one version, since Microsoft's most apparent changes are to move things around in the menus between revs. (which then completely obsoletes all user manuals or instruction materials you may have at your school)

      --mandi

    • it's a great idea, but out in the real world, people use commercial software. If kids aren't educated in how to use it, they won't be able to compete.

      I believe you are not thinking this out completely. By the time the kids entering the job market, whichever specific software package they happened to use in school will be obsoleted or morphed beyond recognition. In fact, your argument only stands if we assume the students can not or will not learn beyond that which they were taught in school. Were this true, most of us would not be able to hold a job today; technology would have already overrun us.

      The important point is that we need to teach the principles and techniques of computer use, not any particular software package. OSS is quite well suited to teaching how to use a computer, word processing, programming or almost any other computer based task. Why spend more money?
    • The purpose of the general education system is to teach students to think and understand the world we live in. The point of school is not, and has never been, to train our youth to join the ranks of the working. That is the purpose of trade schools. If you teach a child how to learn then they will be able to tackle whatever work most interests them. Same goes for teaching programming languages in schools. Stop trying to teach Java to high school students; instead focus on something like pascal or better yet some kind of functional programming. These may not be used in the "real world" as much, but they sure do make you think.
    • What have you been to a public school latley? Kids can learn to type, point and click, and copy each others assignments on linux and those skills will transfter to many other systems ;)
    • "It's a great idea, but out in the real world, people use commercial software."
      Granted, but to the end user, there's not a whole lot of difference between the most used proprietary applications and their open source equivalents.

      Web browsers? For 95% of what 95% of people do, there's no difference. Type the URL in the address bar, click on the links, and hit the Forward/Back buttons. Anyone who is kind of familiar with IE will understand Mozilla pretty well.

      Word processors? OpenOffice behaves much like MS Office. There are quirks, of course. But to say that someone who has been using OO will be "unable to compete" with all those knowledgable Office users, or that an OO kid will fall on her face when presented with Office, is absolutely silly.

      We can also claim to be effectively at parity regarding mail clients (Outlook/Evolution) and desktops, if you take it to mean that a person using one would have a pretty good idea what to do with the other.

      You could argue that, when you get into the power user range, there's a lot of knowledge that just doesn't flow freely between the proprietary and open software worlds. So what? Teaching such skills to anyone prior to the 9th grade is a waste of time anyways.

      "If kids aren't educated in how to use it, they won't be able to compete. "
      My firm opinion is that teaching computer skills to youngsters (excluding strong typing skills and a few "this is what the mouse does" basics) is a horribly ineffective proposition. For example, for the cost of about twenty middle-of-the-line computers, you could fully fund a music program. The only difference is, half of the instruments will still be usable in five years.

      I've also got strong reservations about most of what passes for "education software" these days. Aside from mostly being poorly conceived, poorly written, and badly matched to the end-user's skill level, when a kid is playing on it he's not getting the human interaction that should be a vital part of his education.

      "I think introducing free software and its concepts into the education system is a good idea, but we shouldn't forsake the kids' futures for the sake of indoctrination."
      Agreed. Indoctrinating kids to any particular agenda is bad. But we do it all the time. If we provide a "Windows only" school, we're promoting a Microsoftian agenda. If Coca-Cola or Nike pays to place banners around the school, we're promoting their agenda. If we teach evolution in schools (or refuse to), we're promoting the agenda of one entity or another.

      In the case of computer software, it shouldn't be about teaching "computer skills" which most adults could pick up in a one week crash course. At best, we should be looking at ways to use technology to aid learning about other subjects. We should also be open to the possibility that the technology is actually interfering with education. More below.

      "Teach both, and let the kids decide what's best."
      My response: Teach neither. Get technology out of the classroom.

      The year I got to Junior High (1989) was the first year the "Channel One" fiasco started. Our already terminal attention spans were ratcheted down a couple more notches by all the fast, pretty pictures, vacuous (but good looking) "reporters," and manipulative commercials. Plus, thanks to the suddenly ubiquitous classroom televisions, it became much easier for teachers to integrate "multimedia" into the curriculum. Trust me, for every hour I spent in high school watching something intellectually mind-blowing, there were a good three or four hours of questionable videos.

      Oh, and don't even start me on the number of hours I spent cooling my heels while the teacher tried to figure out what was wrong with the blasted equipment. I remember a geometry class (the hour before mine) where the teacher spent literally a third of her time fussing with cranky "telecourse" equipment. She didn't have the choice not to, because she was responsible for teaching a group of twelve kids located a hundred miles away.

      In order for technology to be useful in the classroom, it has to be reliable and intuitive enough that it practically blends into the background. It also has to be cheap enough that we're not dipping into other, more important resources in order to obtain it. At the moment, many of the things people are trying to do in the education field are too intrusive and too expensive to be justified.

      Okay, I'm probably being too harsh on many points. But thanks for letting me rant.

  • by proky ( 627414 ) on Wednesday November 20, 2002 @04:02PM (#4718010)
    The title of the report is "Cost savings of open source software in the server room." If you let the kids back there, you might be in trouble.

    Of course, this will probably just have the effect of freeing up $27,000 for windows machines in the classroom.
    • Of course, this will probably just have the effect of freeing up $27,000 for windows machines in the classroom.

      What Open Source software would you suggest for a Kindergarten or First Grade classroom?

      There's a tremendous opportunity for Open Source software in the educational market, where budgets are always tight. The problem is that there are few (if any) apps that would be appropriate for the lower grade levels. I'm talking about age appropriate programs that will help young children learn the letters of the alphabet, or the names of the basic shapes, or improve basic reading and arithmetic skills. These are commercial apps that run under Windows or MAC OS. I am not talking about pure entertainment games.

      Many people complain about the use of commercial operating systems such as Windows in schools, but what choice is there? Perhaps the best interim solution would be to try to get some of the existing educational apps to run under Linux or Lindows. Is anyone working on this? If not, then stop complaining.

  • I wonder (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Ann Coulter ( 614889 )
    How long will it take for Microsoft to come after the Harrisonburg school system? Harrisonburg is their major target with regards to breeding fear into the minds of other districts. I wouldn't be surprised if Microsoft goes as far as employing students, using terrorist threats, causing economic damage to the community, outright buying of Harrisonburg politicians, multiple lawsuits, federal intervention, or real physical attacks against the Harrisonburg school system. This is a major battleground between open source and proprietary software. Microsoft has already gone after Harrisonburg twice with EULA threats. It is a certainty that they will employ more malicious means in the future.
  • The Other View (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    (Mods, this post pertains to the story, read completely)
    I was at work a bit ago, trying to convince a company to switch from a commercial product to an open source project. We're talking a giant app cost difference (well over $100k), and very small difference in efficiency. Open source was as reliable, as maintainable, and cheaper.

    What was I told? First of all, politics (partnership with the company) is more important than cost, but the biggest issue was that SUPPORT was a bigger issue than cost.

    Sure, switching all your windows boxes over to linux saves you $25k. But what happens if you run into a road block? You ahve to either hire or contract in someone to fix it.
    Lets face it. Windows support is a lot cheaper than linux (unless you have someone hired on that just asks questions to newsgroups).

    Yeah, going with linux is good, but don't forget the baggage associated with it.
    • Re:The Other View (Score:4, Insightful)

      by irix ( 22687 ) on Wednesday November 20, 2002 @04:48PM (#4718418) Journal

      but the biggest issue was that SUPPORT was a bigger issue than cost

      Support is available with Linux and Open Source.

      For the distro itself, all of the major vendors offer support, as do specialized shops like Ximian.

      You can find commercial support for applications too - StarOffice and Apache come to mind as examples.

      You can also find commercial support for development tools and libraries. Most of the BSD/LGPL libraries I use as a closed-source software developer have commercial support available for them.

      Windows support is a lot cheaper than linux

      Maybe you can hire an MCSE for less than a competent Linux admin; I don't know. However, given the prevalence of Linux certification courses and the general downturn in the tech economy, I'd be surprised if you couldn't find a Linux admin for a reasonable salary.

      As for other support costs - price out what per-incident and contract support costs are for Linux distros and Open Source applications. I think you'll find they are right in line with their closed-source counterparts.

  • by 91degrees ( 207121 ) on Wednesday November 20, 2002 @04:06PM (#4718056) Journal
    But not by using open source. No, instead, we use pirated software.

    Clearly, this does make it possible for the BSA to close us down, but the fact is, that they will not get anything from us. We're a not for profit organisation. They know that if they sue us they'll suffer from so much bad publicity that it's not worth it. They'll not get any money from us. We have none.

    It would be nice if they prosecuted. We would use as our defence that we have a licence since I clicked "I agree" when it was installed. We may then be able to prosecute them if they caused damage. Not that we'll get a lot of money. The BSA is a non-profit.
  • Isn't another roadblock that Apple, IBM, and Microsoft all offer significant educational discounts? I'm not sure if this is still the case. Maybe someone else can enlighten us on that. Also, isn't another roadblock that principals, administrators, and educators are really clueless about technology and that open-source really seems foreign a concept; ie, the adoption factor is inversely proporational to the fear-factor (tm)?
  • by intermodal ( 534361 ) on Wednesday November 20, 2002 @04:08PM (#4718075) Homepage Journal
    Why? simple.

    1) because it saves time and work in keeping track of windows licenses.
    2) because it actually teaches children about computers, rather than just about GUIs and what can be done on them. When all the low-level things are done in the background, its no wonder the average american doesn't know what formatting a hard drive does aside from kill all their data.
    3) teaches troubleshooting. Using nothing but windows, you'll never realize how much easier it is to use a command line tool for something simple.
    4) provides compilers and development environments for those who are adept enough to care to use them
    5) difficult for learning students to bring down the whole computer from a user-class account
    6) it's free, and provides alternatives to almost anything that can be done under windows that they'll need to do in anything but very specific areas (which will catch up with time anyway).
    7) UNIX is time-tested as a style of environment. Windows is controlled by the whims of the market.

    There are others, but that pretty much covers the basics. Anything I missed, besides:

    8: PROFIT!!!!
    • 2) because it actually teaches children about computers, rather than just about GUIs and what can be done on them. When all the low-level things are done in the background, its no wonder the average american doesn't know what formatting a hard drive does aside from kill all their data.

      And in other news, drivers ed classes will now require that student rebuild an engine.
      • Bah, most people SHOULDN'T know or rather shouldn't NEED to know about formatting their disk. Unless you can tell me how radio circuit work, how to build a tv, how to service every part of your car, refrigerator, house, washing machine, lawn mower, etc than you've just presented yourself as a great example of a person who uses tools without fully grokking them. Computers, ESPECIALLY in K12 are tools, means to an end only.
      • Actually, perhaps not rebuilding an entire engine - but teaching students how to check and change fluids, spark plugs, filters (oil, air *and* gas), as well as other basic maintenance (shocks, belts, hoses, etc) would go a long way to showing that an automobile is something that can be made to last far longer than the "3 years" that manufacturers seem to want you to use a car for. Not to mention that knowing how to do all of those things could save them money and time down the road (I can change my oil and filter FAR faster than a quickie lube place, and it costs less, too).

        There is nothing wrong with teaching and expecting someone to know more about what makes the tools they use everyday work (and I shudder to think what it would have cost me to get a new booster and master cylinder installed in my truck at a shop - I did it in about 3 hours last Sunday, for the cost of parts - pretty simple job, actually).

    • Sorry man but I disagree...

      1) because it saves time and work in keeping track of windows licenses.

      While this may have been true in the pre win2k server days, using group policies you can really keep a handle on both OS and application licenses. Don't want a student installing that warezed copy of photoshop? Make a group policy, Only want the art computers to have photoshop? Make a group policy.

      2) because it actually teaches children about computers, rather than just about GUIs and what can be done on them. When all the low-level things are done in the background, its no wonder the average american doesn't know what formatting a hard drive does aside from kill all their data.


      So if I use a dos boot disk and type "format c: /s" that isn't teaching me? It doesn't matter if its pc windows linux mac or nextcube black, if a person doesn't know what formatting is and they nuke their hard drive the OS they're using has no relevance to that. Next point..

      3) teaches troubleshooting. Using nothing but windows, you'll never realize how much easier it is to use a command line tool for something simple.

      From my experience on the corporate lan, %85 of all trouble tickets go to outlook/exchange issues, %10 to network issues, and the other %5 go to hardware issues. So if you took outlook/exchange out of the loop and just dealt with the other %15 your troubleshooting methods would be the same on a windows machine as they are a linux box.

      [on the network]
      Open up a shell/dos prompt. Ping that router, ping that nameserver, do a NSlookup.
      [hardware]
      jiggle that card, make sure that ram is seated correctly, make sure cables are plugged in where they supposed to be, smell for smoke

      So basically you learn the same either way. The most basic networking tools exist on both platforms.

      4) provides compilers and development environments for those who are adept enough to care to use them

      You mean GCC? Here you can get it for windows too http://gcc.gnu.org/install/specific.html#windows

      5) difficult for learning students to bring down the whole computer from a user-class account


      I'll go back to my first point with group policies on that one.

      6) it's free, and provides alternatives to almost anything that can be done under windows that they'll need to do in anything but very specific areas (which will catch up with time anyway).
      I spent a month on RH8, i've got to say, it sucked for a desktop. Sure I love using it for a router and the website im in charge of uses it (check my sig) for a desktop it just plain sucks (didn't we have a discussion on this last week?) Sure there is open source alternatives (Read GIMP) but gimp isn't professional grade yet, it doesn't do CYMK seperations. Kids need to learn whats in the real world, real world desktops use windows.

      7) UNIX is time-tested as a style of environment. Windows is controlled by the whims of the market.

      So unix is like a stubborn child and windows does what the parents want?

      Like I said before, i'm not trying to dis linux/unix in any way, but it's still not ready for primetime. If you wanted to give kids an insight into unix, get a bunch of macs with OSX. Then that way you can give them the best of both worlds.
  • More Information? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Vladislas ( 537527 )
    I really wish the Commercial Solutions whose costs he estimated for his comparison were listed. For all I can tell, the prices could be totally arbitrary. This takes alot of the impact away from such a comparison. I definitely wouldn't show it to management and expect a response in my favor.
  • I'm a high school student taking a computer repair class at my school, we are currently running linux and windows under vmware on linux. I spear-headed this movement and my teacher supported me fully, we are now in the process of teaching all of the students in the class how to use linux. I think that using linux is great, students are learning that they have a choice in which operating system goes on their computer
  • by wumarkus420 ( 548138 ) <wumarkusNO@SPAMhotmail.com> on Wednesday November 20, 2002 @04:11PM (#4718103) Homepage
    As somebody who has lived close to this area in the past, I must say that Harrisonburg City only has 4000 students TOTAL in only 6 schools (only 1 high school and 1 middle school). So I would think of it less as a city and more as a small rural community. This means there is likely only one or two people that would essentially be setting up and running this network. Perhaps it will indeed save them money when deploying their new infrastructure, but god forbid this guy move out of the area! I also must question some of the software packages and their "amounts" that he has determined. While I am not advocating Windows by any means, Apache, PHP, mySql, analog, and plenty of other packages he has listed run completely fine on a Win32-based system. I would be concerned about how well the teachers/faculty/students will be able to utilize the system efficiently (reminds of yesterday's kids on linux post), and be able to do trivial tasks. I'm just not sure that these costs are in line with the size of their school system, and whether or not the savings are actually going to amount to a better learning experience for the school community.
  • by mao che minh ( 611166 ) on Wednesday November 20, 2002 @04:13PM (#4718112) Journal
    I saved a local state college-ran-library about $35,000 with a migration to Linux on their 35-40 desktops and their app/file/web server. Basically, they had a bunch of pentium 233 systems running Windows 95, Novell clients (so that the IT staff could manage them with ZenWorks), MS Office, and some C and C++ development utilities. To run newer software and some hardware (odd peripherals used by some librarians) they were going to have to move to Windows 98 (for USB and software support), which in turn would force some hardware upgrades (CPU and memory, near complete overhauls for some systems). And of course, their office and Windows licenses were about up, and they were looking at thousands of wasted dollars on their NT server and it's software alone.

    I just moved the desktops over to Red Hat (I can't remember the version, but the kernel was 2.4.x), and installed free development utilitiies. OpenOffice wasn't really "there" yet, so I used Star Office. With the ability to lock down the machines efficiently (something difficult to impossible to do with Windows), the Novell client licenses were no longer needed. OpenBSD became their server. Voila, absolutely zero dollars were spent on licenses or new hardware. I billed them a measly $475 for my trouble (I used to work there, so I cut them some major slack. Besides, I really wanted to win one for the Linux crowd).

    The downside: my pay had to come under the table, because the state was so locked for funds they were not allowed to out source - even though they were still allowed to visit their local MS salesman and blow $30,000. Go figure. In the end, the manager just told the brass that his admin had thought it all up. :)

  • by bcrowell ( 177657 ) on Wednesday November 20, 2002 @04:14PM (#4718123) Homepage
    I work at a community college, which is not that different from K-12. My experience at my school was that I could not generate any interest at all in Linux.

    The kind of money they're talking about is not that much in terms of the total cost of having all the computers. The big costs have nothing to do with Windows licenses. They have to do with network infrastructure, paying people to maintain the hardware and software, and keeping the hardware current.

    The other problem is that the faculty and administrators want the machines at work to use the same OS they're used to using at home. That means Windows for 95% of them, and MacOS for 5%. I don't know a single person besides myself on my campus who uses Linux at home. It's hard enough to convince them to support MacOS.

    There's also the problem of unavailability of the relevant applications.

  • by yorgasor ( 109984 ) <ron.tritechs@net> on Wednesday November 20, 2002 @04:14PM (#4718124) Homepage
    On Monday, I attended a Linux-in-schools roundtable discussion at the end of RH's tour at Riverdale High School in Portland, OR. Riverdale built its entire network on a shoestring budget. It got a bunch of small IBM cases for $15/ea on Ebay, a $50 mobo and donated P2-350s from Intel, but they splurged a bit on 15" flat panel monitors. All their desktops are used basically as xterms that students can use to log into one of 4 beefy dual xeon servers (it's a small high school) over their gigabit network.


    They've got these computers scattered all throughout the school, all running linux. The art dept uses gimp for photos, etc. But their core apps are really a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation, email & web. The beauty is, their elementry school is connected to the same network. Students get their account & homedir in 4th grade and it follows them until they graduate.


    They can do much more interesting things with these networks, offer better classes w/ more technical focuses with everything they have. They don't need to worry about forking out several $k for licenses for certain software just to teach programming concepts, administration, etc...


    This is exactly the kind of school I want my kids to grow up in, and if I don't end up homeschooling them, I'll do whatever it takes to get them in this one.

  • First and most blatant, the author does not list exactly what these commerical software line items are, he only compares them with what the OS application he is planning on using. Just as a simple example, he lists WU_FTPD and then assigns a cost of $50x3 for the commerical "equivilent". What is this commerical package? Can't he just use WU_FTPD (assuming the "cost" is the same for the Win32 version as the Linux). The ftp server that ships with Win2K doesn't require any licensing fees (though it's feature set is a bit week compared to other packages). Win2k also comes with a dns server and dhcp servers, so what are the costs that he is associating with these? I'm not saying that these are made up, just that his article is basically useless without it.

    One other thing, why is Samba listed as an expense? Presumably if you were going with a Windoze solution you wouldn't need it? Do they have other non Windoze boxes that currently don't connect to existing Windoze boxes that going with Windoze with force them to purchase Samba?

    All these things call cast into doubt the accuracy of his article. If he'd at least list the "commerical" packages, then one could make a truely educated attempt at determining the "real" cost savings.
  • by Pedrito ( 94783 ) on Wednesday November 20, 2002 @04:20PM (#4718178)
    He saved money using free software instead of commercial software? How's that? Can someone explain the math to me? Duh...

    It's about a lot more than the up front costs. His pricing is simplistic and the writeup, pardon me for saying, but sophmoric, at best and doesn't apply to a number of other real-life situatins.

    How much is support going to cost? Are you going to have in-house experts? How much are they going to cost compared to the people who don't have to be as smart to run the equivalent Windows software?

    There are a lot of other fringe areas that need to be considered to come up with a true lifetime cost for software, and this doesn't even scratch the surface.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm all for Open Source. I love my Open Office and I'm having a blast with Linux. But I'm a geek.

    Someone else mentioned the fact that most real-world companies use commercial software and these kids won't have experience with it. Good point.

    Sorry, but this is hardly a booster for Open Source. This is like saying, "People save money by shopping during a sale." Not exactly news.
    • I see you are living the myth. A skilled Linux Guru cost the same as a equally skilled NT admin. Plus the Linux boxes could be a simple custom Knoppix CD that uses remote auth and your home dir is a nfs share. "This is being done fairly regularly now" What are your admin. costs then?

      A Gnome or KDE interface is not so foreign that it takes any real time in training. Here is how you start a web browser, here is how you start openoffice.

      I know that webmail "Like TWIG" is pretty hard to learn, but I think they would get over it.

  • ".., the web server that served this web page to you is running on an old, retired PC that has been recycled after its lifetime as a Windows desktop has passed.

    If you consider a dual MP with 2GB ram outdate I guess this could be true. That's about what it takes to withstand the /. effect.

    Jokes a side. The article fails to mention the anti OSS advocats main argument, TCO. I am a strong support of OSS, but I don't think anyone can claim that OSS has a $0 TCO. The article should have mentioned that keeping a healthy system for someone without a Linux guru or extensive IT dep. requiers outside consultans, and support is always useful. In addition training of personell requires relatively heavy investment. OSS stands out and is by many conceived as harder to learn than software that follow the MS standards that tey're used to. The $27,000 is therefor IMHO a bit to high.

    On the other hand I believe this is outweighted by the (almost) $0 upgrade costs - user interfaces and basis funcitonallity rarely change - the more-for-the-money argument and the no-bloated-window-managing-for-servers argument.

    A sound discussion on economical benefits of OSS should always include counter arguments. One angled articles are hard to take serious.
  • Cost savings of open source software
    in the server room
    An informal case study in K-12 education

    1. What is open source software?
    2. Listing of open source software used
    3. Cost savings versus capabilities gained
    4. Implicit savings in hardware
    5. Other implicit cost savings
    1. Security
    2. Lower virus vulnerability
    3. Upgrade costs
    6. The roadblock to using open source software
    7. A big thanks to OSS developers

    1. What is open source software?

    It is often difficult for people to understand that some of the most secure, reliable, and efficient software in the world is not owned by a company but rather is under an open license. Open source software is software that was developed with the source code freely available to the public. Anyone may download and use the software, and make changes to it as necessary, with the hope that any improvements made by individuals will be committed back to the main source tree so that everyone can benefit from the modifications.

    While this may sound like a strange way to develop software, it is surprisingly common and effective. For instance, in October 2002, SourceForge.net (a site that offers free hosting for open software development projects) reached the milestone of hosting 50,000 open source projects with over 500,000 registered developers. Many people who, if asked, could only name two operating systems would be staggered to learn how many free and open source complete operating systems exist in the world (and that there are several free OS's that could run on the very hardware you're reading this web page with).

    Although few people in my school division know what Linux is, every one of them uses it indirectly every day. Open source software has a particularly appropriate niche in budget-strapped public education institutions. This document aims to describe the benefits that Harrisonburg City Public Schools has reaped from the deployment of open source software in its server rooms.

    2. Listing of open source software used

    While certainly not comprehensive, the list below contains a large sample of the free software products that we employ in HCPS. I have attempted to estimate the cost of replacing these free software installations with commercial products. It should be noted that in some cases my estimations are really just wild guesses as to the cost of various commercial solutions. As a general rule I have tried to estimate on the conservative side. Another thing to note is that commercial solutions for a number of the products below often come bundled as one product, making it very difficult to assign individual replacement costs to the items. For instance, most commercial mail server solutions bundle an SMTP server and an IMAP server together while the open source community's philosophy is to create one product for each discrete function.
    Software Estimated cost of
    commercial solution
    Linux distributions
    Red Hat Linux
    Linux distribution for i386 (PC) hardware $150 x 17 = $2550
    YellowDog Linux
    Linux distribution for PowerPC (Macintosh) hardware $130 x 5 = $650
    Web server software
    Apache
    The most widely used web server on the internet $500 x 6 = $3000
    PHP
    Server-side web scripting language $700 x 5 = $3500
    MySQL
    Structured Query Language database server $500 x 3 = $1500
    phpMyAdmin
    Powerful web-based database administration tool $100 x 3 = $300
    DataMiner
    User-friendly web-based interface for managing database content $50 x 12 = $600
    ht://Dig
    WWW Search Engine Software $200 x 1 = $200
    Outreach Project Tool
    Web-based group project collaboration environment $500 x 1 = $500
    Phorum
    Web-based forum/message board software $100 x 1 = $100
    Mail server software
    Sendmail
    Internet standard MTA (Mail Transfer Agent) $150 x 1 = $150
    UW IMAP
    University of Washington IMAP/POP3 mail server $150 x 1 = $150
    OpenLDAP
    LDAP server for intregrated authentication and directory services $200 x 2 = $400
    MailMan
    Full-featured mailing list manager $150 x 1 = $150
    Horde Groupware
    Web-based email, address book, and calendaring software $500 x 1 = $500
    Firewalling/Routing software
    netfilter/iptables
    Stateful IP filtering system $1000 x 2 = $2000
    Cross-platform file server software
    Samba
    File server for Windows clients $800 x 4 = $3200
    Netatalk
    File server for Macintosh clients $500 x 7 = $3500
    Other network server products
    ISC BIND (Berkeley Internet Name Daemon)
    Internet standard DNS server $100 x 9 = $900
    ISC DHCP
    Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol server $100 x 8 = $800
    WU-FTPD
    FTP server software $50 x 3 = $150
    NTPd
    Network Time Protocol server for synchronization of computer clocks $50 x 4 = $200
    Squid
    HTTP caching proxy server $200 x 2 = $400
    rsync
    Incremental backup solution $50 x 12 = $600
    Network management and monitoring
    MRTG (Multi-Router Traffic Grapher)
    Monitors traffic on switches and routers a lot x 3 = 3 lots
    Nagios
    Monitors servers and routers and notifies me of outages via email $300 x 1 = $300
    Ethereal
    Network analysis and packet sniffing tool $1000 x 1 = $1000
    sntop
    Monitors network connectivity $30 x 1 = $30
    LanLord
    Monitors leases on DHCP servers Bundled with
    commercial products
    Webalizer
    Web server statistics reporting tool Bundled with
    commercial products
    Analog
    Web server statistics reporting tool Bundled with
    commercial products

    The list above comprises about $27,000 of (roughly) estimated cost savings in software purchases for HCPS.

    3. Cost savings versus capabilities gained

    The commercial replacement cost of the free software that we currently use is obviously very high. However, if I were forced to deploy commercial solutions for all of the above, you could probably guess that I would trim back what we needed to buy significantly. For instance, if it cost me $1000 per web server for the server OS and web server software, you can bet that I wouldn't be running six web servers in my server room like I am now. Rather, I would cut back and only run one or perhaps two web servers. This makes it apparent that not all of the benefit of open source software deployment in is the form of cost savings; much of the benefit is in terms of capabilities gained. In other words, through the use of free software, I am able to do more within my budget than I could if I only had commercial solutions available.

    4. Implicit savings in hardware

    Linux can do a lot with only a little hardware. Here in HCPS we have a number of Linux servers running on hardware that would be inadequate for commercial server solutions such as Windows 2000 or Mac OS X. For instance, the web server that served this web page to you is running on an old, retired PC that has been recycled after its lifetime as a Windows desktop has passed. If I were to use Microsoft's IIS server software or Apple's Mac OS X, I would not have considered using this piece of hardware as a web server, and I would have needed to buy new hardware. By enabling me to reuse otherwise useless hardware, open source operating systems have saved our school division a considerable amount of money in hardware costs.

    To provide a very rough figure on these cost savings, I estimate that I am currently running 11 Linux servers with hardware that would be inadequate for doing the same job with a commercial solution. To replace those servers with new hardware could easily cost well over $25,000.

    5. Other implicit cost savings

    1. Security
    Many companies put a lot of effort into monetary assessments of the liabilities of security risks on their networks. Such cost assessment is not as common in public education but nevertheless the possibilities for such costs exist and should not be ignored. If my installations of open source server software are more secure than a commercial alternative (and I believe they are, although a discussion of security issues is beyond the scope of this document), then we have a lower risk of losing data or productive staff time needed to clean up after a security breach.
    2. Lower virus vulnerability
    I am not qualified to provide a full analysis of virus vulnerabilities of various server operating systems, but I think everyone would agree that historically open source OS's have fared far better than... ahem... other operating systems. The HCPS technology staff spends a fair amount of valuable time combatting viruses on our client PC's but a virus infection on a network server can be devastating in terms of data loss, down time, and staff time required for reconstruction. Open source servers that are less vulnerable to virus infections provide cost savings in terms of decreased liability in these areas.
    3. Upgrade or recurring licensing costs
    The cost of a software solution is not merely the purchase price of the software. The usable lifetime of a commercial software product is rarely longer than 4 years, but where server software products are concerned I would contend that the lifetime is even less -- perhaps only 2 years on average. At this point one must purchase a newer product or an upgrade to the existing one. With open source software, updates are continually free, and I am able to keep my servers running the latest software versions without having to worry about whether I can afford the upgrade.

    6. The roadblock to using open source software

    So you're probably thinking, "If open source software saves people so much money, why isn't everyone using it?" Two words: learning curve. For people who are used to point-and-click administration of their servers, open source software is often bewilderingly complex to install and configure. I'll admit that you have to be somewhat of a geek to even try out an open source operating system such as Linux. The learning curve that must be followed by a first-time Linux user can be very time consuming and frustrating. For many, especially in public education, this difficulty constitutes a roadblock to the deployment of open source solutions in their district.

    7. A big thanks to OSS developers

    As you have seen from the informal analysis on this page, I (and indeed my school division) owe a huge "thank you" to the thousands of developers and other people involved in open source software projects.

    Copyright 2002
    Rob Lineweaver
    Last Modified: Friday, October 25, 2002 Product names on this page
    may be copyrighted by their respective owners
  • 'This makes it apparent that not all of the benefit of open source software deployment in is the form of cost savings; much of the benefit is in terms of capabilities gained. In other words, through the use of free software, I am able to do more within my budget than I could if I only had commercial solutions available.'"

    I have to plug Openchallenge [openchallenge.org] as this is one key part of the message to the schools & teachers: if you have some specific need for educational software - submit it to Openchallenge [openchallenge.org] - maybe it builds enough effort for making that software a reality. I believe there is lots of "niche" software needed in education too - atleast I remember crafting a few pieces of software for my mom who was a teacher - there just was not the software for these purposes, and it was possible for me (with no magic skills) to craft it during a few evenings, when I was around 14-16 years old.

  • by dudemaster ( 228232 ) on Wednesday November 20, 2002 @04:27PM (#4718238)
    For a project at my son's school (I ws a parent mystery guest) I demonstrated to the kids how easy it is to install Linux over a Microsoft laden box and what you could do with it.

    For the most part the kids loved it, and they were so curious what the software was that could actually replace the great beast. Some of them thought it ran ontop of Windows. BTW - the kids are in 4th grade.

    So I left them with the disks for RH7.3 and now they get a kick out of installing RedHat over the XP disks they had paid for, and vice-versa. It's quite funny, but now they're learning how to replace the OSes back forth (for practice I 'spoze). I'm thinking of going in to show them more - dual boots, other things they can do w/ it.

    The real funny part is that my son said that a couple of kids got in an argument over what OS was better than the other, available s/w, games - etc. I think it's quite funny. Good think it didn't come to blows!
  • by Xzisted ( 559004 ) on Wednesday November 20, 2002 @04:28PM (#4718249) Homepage
    I went to college in Harrisonburg. It is the home of James Madison University. JMU's CS curriculum teaches people on the UNIX platform. Most all of the programming assignments are submitted via one of the Sun boxes there. There are a couple programming classes for MS applications but they are by far not the most popular. Also, they teach simple networking based on UNIX and linux as well. So if the city really wanted someone to support the infrastructure they built in the public schools, all they would need to do is form some sort of joint program with the college to have students come over and support it. Maybe give them Internship/CO-OP credits for it. The reality is that if more schools would work with colleges in a format like this then there stands the great possibility of major advancement in technology curriculum on BOTH sides.
  • considering... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by night_flyer ( 453866 ) on Wednesday November 20, 2002 @04:33PM (#4718283) Homepage
    school children [yahoo.com] are failing at the basics, I say we are spending to much money on computers/software.
  • Open source software is great, it's free and easily modified. Now that I've given the Open Source movement the usual hurrah, I'm also pretty sure that most real-world companies that use computers use Microsoft products. I'm also reasonably certain that this isn't going to change, due to both monetary and support issues. Even though Linux is free, it isn't free to pay someone to convert your Windows network to a Linux network.

    This creates a problem in the public school system in that public education is supposed to teach individuals useful skills. Unfortunately, if kids are taught open source software, they are going to be at a significant disadvantage entering the job market than individuals who have been taught how to use Microsoft products. As nice as it would be to see these individuals converting companies over to Open Source solutions, it's not terribly likely.

    So, in my opinion it would be reasonable to teach kids both, but if you're only going to use one type of software, use what The Real World (tm) [No affiliation with MTV] uses. Teaching software, languages, and other things that the average joe never uses in the Real World gives the public school system a bad reputation from the very people who attend it.
  • Getting sucked in (Score:5, Insightful)

    by octalgirl ( 580949 ) on Wednesday November 20, 2002 @04:35PM (#4718310) Journal
    eSchool News [eschoolnews.com] just did a recent story on Linux in schools. Nice read.

    For us, we are so locked into MS right now - the licensing fees are unbelievable. Servers, Cals, Office, Mail, etc cost us around 30K per year. In one recent example of price schemes - Office 97 and Pub 97 were separate packages (we didn't get Pub). For Office 2000 MS combined them and you got Pub for free. Office 2002 - they yank Pub back out (nice bait and switch!) and it costs an additional $5 per seat (5x1000+ pcs) We opted out and decided not be jerked around like that. We are a very technologically robust district with a computer at every teacher's desk and 1 to 5 computers in each classroom for student use, plus labs, libraries and tech ed rooms. In addition to the MS licensing, we have a huge investment in educational software and various databases to run the district. Our student pop is around 4000. Our anti-virus alone runs us 10K a year, plus firewall and citrix 10/10. There's more. I am stunned at how much we spend, versus starting with a meager 100K budget for everything, several years ago. We need our enterprise antivirus and firewall. We need our student information database and electronic libraries. But we were sucked into the MS spiral out-of-control licensing. We have invested years of training students and staff and administrators. It is very difficult to switch now. If I were starting fresh, I'd switch to free/open in a heartbeat.
  • by talks_to_birds ( 2488 ) on Wednesday November 20, 2002 @04:53PM (#4718471) Homepage Journal
    ...of going before my local school board and demanding a disclosure of the board members' holding in Micro$oft.

    One guy in particular single-handedly killed an implementation of the Linux Terminal Server Project [ltsp.org] at the high school with a relentless barage of FUD..

    t_t_b

  • I have noticed many posts that are claiming Linux will save money, or Windows has better support, or that the kids need to learn reality (Windows-Office), or that kids need to be exposed to all kinds of software. The truth is, regardless of which way a school district goes with their technology, they are likely to get it wrong. If they go with Windows, they may have cheaper support, but still don't bother to support it anyway. Hardware breaks and they cannot get it fixed because they "saved money" by skipping support contracts and doing it themselves with one or two people for 20-30 schools.

    In CA in 1997, the state legislature passed a bill to put a computer in every classroom by 2001. Most high schools took advantage of the program only to have the supplemental money for support, training, and licensing (ie: tithes to the church of MS). Of course there are no warranties on the hardware, the support staff has been let go, and nobody has any plans to fix it.
  • What about Apple? (Score:4, Informative)

    by MalleusEBHC ( 597600 ) on Wednesday November 20, 2002 @05:00PM (#4718563)
    On /., the rage is always "Look I can replace this proprietary setup with Linux/OSS/FSF/whatever." While this can be an excellent idea given the right personel, what about a solution that is more feasible for a successor who is not necessarily a Linux guru to maintain. Given the list of what this guy wants/needs, he could get it all set up (other than the x86's) for under $3,000 using Apple hardware and software. For $2,500, a K-12 school can get an XServe that comes with an unlimited client license for OS X Server. All the server software he lists either comes with OS X Server (usually with a nice GUI) or can be compiled under Darwin. For the 5 Macs, he can get OS X for 70 bucks apiece (education discount again) for a total of $350. So aside from whatever he chooses for the x86 desktops, he could have everything else set up for $2,850. So rather than having a setup where it would require someone with a pretty hefty knowledge of Linux to administer, for a few grand more he could have a setup that is able to take advantage of all that open source software while providing a much greater ease of use.

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