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Education GNU is Not Unix Microsoft

A Monocultural Alternative: TheOpenCD 267

GooseLiverPate writes "Computers and Composition Online has an article by Dr. Paul Cesarini concerning the risks of a Microsoft monoculture in education. He describes the relation between Open Source and Microsoft as: "one of gnats swarming around a large, slow-moving beast." and emphasises the lack of innovation in Internet Explorer and MS-Office. He suggests TheOpenCD as a possible bridge for schools and universities to Open Source, and includes a review of the newly released version 1.2."
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A Monocultural Alternative: TheOpenCD

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  • In advocating resistance to the Microsoft "monoculture" in schools, Cesarini is aiming at the wrong target. Public schools will probably be the very last to "resist" and switch from Microsoft. The "widespread budgetary woes" and "ever-increasing licensing fees" don't effect them. Microsoft gives its products to schools for free or at a steep discount, and is more and more likely to do so the more viable the competition becomes. I don't have any hard data, but I imagine that a transition to Open Source would be more expensive for most schools than hanging on to the goodies from Redmond. And if anybody wonders why MS is so generous to schools, it's not because Bill is such a swell guy - if kids spend their school careers using Windows, Office, Outlook, Exploer . . . well, the first one's always free, right?
    • "Public schools will probably be the very last to "resist" and switch from Microsoft." This is a very good point. Schools were also the last to switch from Macs... True, Macs are seeing a resurgence, but basically schools used to use only Macs and clung to them until recently when they started switching to PCs.
      • ...basically schools used to use only Macs and clung to them until recently when they started switching to PCs.

        When true, this is rather damning for a school.

        Schools exist to educate their students, after all. A "black box" system whose inner workings aren't available to students would be the last thing you'd expect a school to use. It would be proof that the school isn't interested in teaching their students to understand the computers.

        It used to be that the Mac was the most extreme black-box compute
        • by deacent ( 32502 ) on Thursday November 20, 2003 @08:37PM (#7524726)

          Schools exist to educate their students, after all. A "black box" system whose inner workings aren't available to students would be the last thing you'd expect a school to use. It would be proof that the school isn't interested in teaching their students to understand the computers.

          In many cases, this is exactly the point. Schools switched to using MS because "everybody knows that's what's used in the real world". Never mind that it probably bears little resemblance to what will be used in the real world when that kid graduates from school. Many schools are not thinking about teaching IT to the majority of their students. They're thinking of teaching them word processing, spreadsheet, and research skills. These skills are really platform agnostic, but that's not generally recognized.

          A lot of schools used to use Apples (not just Macs, but Apple IIs as well) because Apple gave enormous discounts to the educational sector. There was a point in time in the dark years when it started to become a foregone conclusion in some people's minds that Apple would be out of business soon, so you might as well get with the winner. Sadly, I think this had the effect of driving up the long term costs to maintain their tech which they're still paying for today. Like business, they have simply accepted that IT has to be expensive, but it's a necessary evil to stay competitive.

          • Sadly, I think this had the effect of driving up the long term costs to maintain their tech which they're still paying for today. Like business, they have simply accepted that IT has to be expensive, but it's a necessary evil to stay competitive.

            You're probably right. But they may well be wrong. After all, this was the same reasoning that, back in the 1970's and early 1980's, led many schools to install IBM equipment. Those schools then found themselves paying exorbitantly to stay in what turned out to
            • But there's an ongoing question of how much actual education most of our schools are really interested in. There's a lot of evidence to support the theory that schools' basic function is socialization, and education is mostly a side effect. One of the better pieces of evidence is the widespread use of closed, proprietary computer systems, which don't qualify as "educational" except in the most minimal sense.

              Not where I live. We have a very rigorous education system around here. I know the parents of one

        • When I said recently, I meant like 4 years ago. The time when schools started buying Macs again coincided with the iMac. Schools are kind of a mix of PCs and Macs nowadays for the most part, from what I have seen.
    • Uhhhh......no (Score:5, Interesting)

      by spartro ( 725789 ) on Thursday November 20, 2003 @07:35PM (#7524334)
      The "widespread budgetary woes" and "ever-increasing licensing fees" don't effect them.

      That is why I was told to use the leftovers from last years tech budjet to buy enough toner cartridges and ink cartridges for this year and next. We have already been told that the money isn't there. After many years in school systems, the only time I believe it when people tell me about future money is when they say it isn't there.

      Microsoft gives its products to schools for free or at a steep discount, and is more and more likely to do so the more viable the competition becomes.

      Could you please point me to where this is available for schools? All my MS products are at a marginal discount. At best.
      • Here ya go... (Score:5, Informative)

        by Seraphim_72 ( 622457 ) on Thursday November 20, 2003 @07:53PM (#7524449)


        The pricing my school gets is obscene - I have made the pitch to the head of technology about open source - then he showed me in real dollars what we pay for the entire campus for MS products - think everything but servers for a 500 seat computer set up - $14000 a year. Oh, and we are looking into it, but it probably includes free student versions of VS.Net for any student enroled in a .net class.

        Here are a few links to get you started
        For programming stuff [msdnaa.net]

        For OS agreements w/MS [microsoft.com]
      • by amemily ( 462019 )
        http://www.edtech.wednet.edu/purchasing/

        Link to the WSIPC price list for Microsoft products is somewhere on that site.

        Prices are for Washington State school districts though.
    • Schools have to provide children with skills that they will need in the real world. They teach them how to use microsoft because that is what they most of them will use in the workplace.

      Once Linux becomes a major player in the business world then schools will start teaching it. You cannot change schools until you change business.

      • was the skill one had to learn, not pre-disposing kids to using MS software. The greatest fallacy I hear is how different 'other' OS's are from Windows...what a crock. Kids would be better served if they were taught word processing and spreadsheet skills independant of branding their skill-set as being profecient in 'MS Office.'

        Hell, the majority of working-age adults cut their teeth on Apple II's, and they seemed to transition to Windows units without much trouble, so I think the 'wisdom' of teaching ki
        • I definately agree. I'd never used Linux for more than a few minutes, I must admit, until buying my AmigaOne, which had Debian preloaded. I can't claim to be an expert in it, but the transition was extremely easy. KDE controls like Windows, but nicer, and learning anything new I needed to wasn't very difficult. Transferring skills you've learned on one OS to other OSs isn't too difficult anymore.
      • Are you serious? You're saying that if a kid learns Linux, he won't be competent enough to operate Word in the business world??! I believe you're under the assumption that OpenOffice is so different from other word-processors that it verges on the revolutionary. Please, you know that isn't true. Any monkey using one word-processor, will take 5 minutes to learn another (assuming the keyboard is in the same language).

        There is nothing, I mean nothing, so different in the application space as to cause the

    • Try again... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by forevermore ( 582201 ) on Thursday November 20, 2003 @07:49PM (#7524420) Homepage
      Are we so quick to forget incidents like this one [computerworld.com], where Microsoft started going after schools for license violations? Microsoft and the Gates Foundation may give away a lot of stuff to schools and libraries, but it's rarely enough to make a dent in the budgets of most schools (I still send a number of old computers to my mom's classroom - running linux or old versions of macos - because her school can't afford to give her the computers she needs).
      • Re:Try again... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by tshak ( 173364 ) on Thursday November 20, 2003 @08:23PM (#7524637) Homepage
        On the contrary. If MS is giving away so much software to schools, and giving schools a _steep_ discount on their software, it's a slap in MS's face to be pirating their software in schools. I'd go after them too. If the school can't afford the software, don't pirate it, use a cheaper alternative. I have no problems if a school determines that Linux will work, I do have a problem when a school determines that MS is a better solution, and then pirates $10 copies of WinXP.
    • I'm working at a large public school district. I've been successful at getting some Open Source tools in use here(CVS, Python, cygwin). Although there are academic versions of some of the Microsoft products, sometimes these aren't quite the same as the commercial versions. Also, event he discounted cost of some of the development tools is prohibitive.

      This district is in fact heading towards Linux-the big reason is that they are heavy users of Novell--and Novell is moving towards Linux in a substantial way

    • by t0ny ( 590331 )
      Ya, youre right, M$ is just giving to schools in order to create their new generation of Office-using drones. Because we all see how much software and hardware companies like Apple and WordPerfect threw at schools when THEY were in the dominant position.

      Im sure they have dumpsters filled with all the Lotus SmartSuite, Lindows, OSX, etc, that are donated to them as well.

      Or maybe its that MS is the first company not trying to gouge funds from the lucrative educational market? Nah, couldnt be- Mikro$loth is

    • Uh, last year Microsoft threatened to audit Northwest schools and charge them hundreds of thousands of dollars for any licenses they couldn't find. Doesn't exactly sound "cheaper" to me! Bear in mind half the computers are donated, not necessarily with documentation, and that most teachers have better things to do with their time then keep track of the Windows license that came with their computer... yeah, right, MS is _real_ generous to schools!
  • I disagree. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by H.G. Pennypacker ( 649549 ) on Thursday November 20, 2003 @07:04PM (#7524176)
    Open source is about choice. People should be able to stay with Microsoft if they want to. Why does anyone still on Windows have to be pestered by a swarm of open source gnats about their choice of OS?
    • Choose Windows? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by freeweed ( 309734 ) on Thursday November 20, 2003 @07:12PM (#7524225)
      I'll play devil's advocate here:

      Most (and by most, I mean pretty much 99.99%) Windows users do not use Windows because of choice.

      They use it because it came with their computer. They've become familiar with it and figure it's the best there is, because "hey, it sells the most".

      They use it because they've never heard of anything else. If they have heard, they're too scared to try. If they've tried it, they've gone back to Windows because there is no viable alternative for them.

      They use it because their workplace makes them use it, and a surprising number of people take work home with them.

      They use it because their ISP only supports it. Or their hardware only supports it. Or, little Jimmy down the street who is "good with computers" supports it, because he can click more efficiently than they can.

      I think I've met maybe 5 people in my life who actually CHOOSE to use Windows, when presented with viable alternatives for what they do.

      No one in the OSS movement (well, no one sane) advocates forcing people to get off of Windows. What they do advocate is educating users so that they CAN make a choice, which in most cases, is currently unavailable.
      • Re:Choose Windows? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Kenja ( 541830 ) on Thursday November 20, 2003 @07:20PM (#7524263)
        Your right, they dont advocate forcing people not to use Windows. They, like you, just claim that anyone using Windows must be being forced to do so and should be liberated. I choose to use Windows becuase (are you ready for this) it runs the software I want to use. Linux, BSD, Macintosh, Solaris, IRIX, BeOS, Palm etc do not. Yet I get Linux advocates telling me I should use Linux all the time. Dispite it not running the apps I want and in many cases dosn't have anything even close to what I need a computer to do.
        • Re:Choose Windows? (Score:2, Interesting)

          by q.kontinuum ( 676242 )
          This might be right for You and the Software You need. For most schoolars its not. They could do pretty well with OpenOffice, Mozilla and stuff like that. For the most technical subjects there is enough educational software available as well, plus some software development tools for programming lessons, a data-base and a better networking support. Why should a proprietary, expensive (well, not expensive for the schoolars, but expensive for those who are blinded for other choices later on) System be the defa
        • Re:Choose Windows? (Score:3, Interesting)

          by cmacb ( 547347 )
          I don't think the issue is so much with individuals and what software they choose to use. If you are an avid game player and have to have Windows to run your games that's fine. Do so at home, with my blessing. In business and government, it's another matter, particularly in government. Here are my two first hand experiences... compare with your own...

          At the Department of Energy I worked with a group of 100 or so OS/2 users. This was back in the early 90s. They loved OS/2 and had no desire to change.
        • by Dalcius ( 587481 ) <chrism3413+slash ... m ['ail' in gap]> on Thursday November 20, 2003 @10:27PM (#7525229)
          Hey buddy, I'm really sorry for the Linux newbies who are still fawning over Linux, but don't lump us all up with the idiotic zealots. That's just as much of a logical fallacy as to say nobody uses Windows because they like it over all the other alternatives.

          Any true Linux user is all about choice. That's what makes Linux great.

          If Windows suits your needs, then so be it. That's great! I'm honestly happy for you. I wish Linux could provide that, maybe someone can help fill that need. It's the same thing I tell the folks I know: Linux isn't for some people.

          If there is one piece of advice I can give anyone to understanding the rants of a Linux person, it's this:
          Most Linux folks don't care what you use. They found a system that is elegant, suits their needs and let's them tweak things to their exact preferences. They found a system that is very in tune with the way they use a computer. And they want to share the gem that they found. This can start the rabid zealot rants, especially from a new Linux convert. I used to fall in this category; then I got over it, realized that not everyone will do best with Linux and moved on.

          NOW, my biggest thing is education. It hurts to see someone down-talking Linux when they know little to nothing about it. I enjoy showing people Linux as most people don't know what it is -- maybe they'll enjoy it as I have. It's when people start spewing misinformation that I get mad.

          This has been my experience. I sincerely hope that Linux folks can be a little less rabid and I hope that Windows users will be a little less defensive.

          Cheers
      • I'm a Gamer.

        I choose Windows.

      • Re:Choose Windows? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by t0ny ( 590331 )
        You say most people use Windows because they arent 'given' choices. I have dealt with TONS of users, and I have a quite different opinion- they use it because they have adequate skills using it, and because they dont CARE to know anything else.

        Why should a doctor, lawyer, CEO, or even secretary have to learn all the ins and outs of a new OS? THEY DONT CARE!!! They are too concerned with being doctors, lawyers, CEOs, secretaries, etc. These people arent computer geeks, and for the most part they arent ev

        • Maybe they shouldn't be using computers anyway. A typewriter is much easier to use than Word (oh, never mind, you have to spell correctly... no squiggles when you 'mispell' a word), a notebook stores notes quite nicely. If you're *typesetting*, then a computer is essential, but for memos it is a waste. Computers are good at doing math. Computers are good for writing computer programs. That's what they're for. Quake and Word are bastrdizations of the microcontroller.
          • Maybe they shouldn't be using computers anyway. A typewriter is much easier to use than Word (oh, never mind, you have to spell correctly... no squiggles when you 'mispell' a word), a notebook stores notes quite nicely. If you're *typesetting*, then a computer is essential, but for memos it is a waste. Computers are good at doing math. Computers are good for writing computer programs. That's what they're for. Quake and Word are bastrdizations of the microcontroller.

            Actually, I recommend we issue each per

      • The seperation of an OS and a computer is ludacrious from a consumer standpoint. It's like seperating the OS of your cellphone and saying that the consumer did not "choose" the software/OS of the cellphone. The consumer chose Windows just as much as they chose the computer in which they purchased. You can purchase Apple computers, in which part of that choice is choosing OSX. What's different about the x86 hardware platform is that it's more open and therefore has many OS's that run on it, but that does
        • by Anonymous Coward
          I agree, but then you come to the next hurdle - MS punishing any company who tries to diversify into linux/x86 machines, and MS punishing any hardware OEM who releases specifications to linux developers.
      • Have you ever considered that linux just really doesn't have the software base for my needs? I use linux on my webserver and on my laptop (used mostly to maintain my web stufs, or rdp into my xp box when I'm on the go.) I'm not just some wanker zealot saying that linux is dying, but yes, I use both, and I would never use linux on my main desktop. Collectively, because they don't have a instant message client equal to Trillian. Most of my contacts use MSN, but a few use either icq, aim, or even yahoo, I
    • Re:I disagree. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by oobob ( 715122 )
      Open source is about choice. People should be able to stay with Microsoft if they want to. Why does anyone still on Windows have to be pestered by a swarm of open source gnats about their choice of OS?

      I agree - people should be able to choose what OS and programs they run, which is why I'm so against OSS ninjas sneaking in the labs and my house at night, installing their versions of the software I love to pay for.

      When you say pestered, I think you mean exposed to. How many non-techies do you know
    • "Why does anyone still on Windows have to be pestered by a swarm of open source gnats about their choice of OS?"

      Because we as a nation foot the bill for MS products in one way or another. I nor any other opensource user really cares if you use Windows or not. It is however the duty of all opensource evangelists to pester Schools and Universities to support Free and Open Software when they are an option. For example if the local school is spending X amount of dollars on MS Office just so students can learn
    • In the many years I spent in various US schools, I never saw a choice about any educational material. It was extremely rare for the teacher to do the choosing. The universal approach is that the school administration makes all such choices, and both the teachers and students have to attempt to use what "choice" was handed to them.

      Suggesting that school student are "choosing" Microsoft (or sometimes Apple) is one of the most cynical comments that I've read here in a very long time. They no more chose the
    • The whole "gnats" analogy is pretty depressing. After all, have gnats ever brought down a large beast? As a rule, the large beast just gets annoyed but keeps on going.
  • Formatted Article (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 20, 2003 @07:05PM (#7524179)
    A Monocultural Alternative: The OpenCD
    Dr. Paul Cesarini
    Assistant Professor,
    BGSU College of Technology

    A Brief History of The OpenCD / Resisting the Monoculture / The Future / Conclusions / Works Cited

    Introduction: A Brief History of The OpenCD
    In April of last year, Henrik Nilsen Omma was discouraged. He and other enthusiasts of freely distributable Open Source Software (OSS) such as the Linux operating system grew increasingly frustrated at the lack of widespread appeal of this and similar software, beyond the so-called "techie" crowd. They knew the problem was not with the software itself. Free software such as the excellent Mozilla web browser was feature-rich compared to its often-patched, yet feature-bereft Windows counterpart. The same could be said for OpenOffice, a full-featured, free office productivity suite that included many standard features unavailable in then-current versions of Microsoft Office. Nilsen Omma voiced his concerns in an article on Newsforge, one of the premier sites devoted to Linux and related OSS. In this article, titled An Idea for a Free Software CD, Nilsen Omma argued that:

    "there are many hurdles when persuading people to switch to Free Software. Most people will not change their entire operating system just for fun; it's too unfamiliar, and they will lose the use of all their favorite programs at the same time. ...The key, as I see it, is to encourage people to use the high-quality Free Software now becoming available in the OS they are already using" (Nilsen Omma, 2002)

    The article generated a great deal of interest from the open source community. At that point, Nilsen Omma set up a basic site for the project, dubbed The OpenCD. The goal was simple, if complicated: Create an Open Source showcase, where "new users can try out Open Source software in the comfort of their own, familiar operating system, rather than having to take the drastic step of reformatting their hard drive to install Linux". By focusing on showing the benefits of Open Source Software to a broader audience than that which typically uses it, Nilsen Omma hoped to encourage its adoption. (TheOpenCD, 2003)

    Numerous volunteers joined and a considerable amount of time was spent debating the focus and scope of the project, coordinating tasks, and writing documentation. The group decided on releasing a CD, rather than just creating a site with download links to the respective programs. This decision was based on the fact that such sites already exist, and that the targeted demographic for the project -- those new to OSS -- might generally prefer not to have to download programs, and might instead prefer simple CD-based installation.

    The result was the 1.0 version of The OpenCD, released as a freely downloadable ISO CD image, last December. Nilsen Omma acknowledges that going with an ISO is somewhat of a necessary evil, in that such disk images are typically meant for more technical users. However, the general assumptions is that these users will "download it, make CDs and give them to their less technical friends."

    The criteria for determining which applications were included on the CD image were and still are fairly detailed, and involve a nomination process where testers review potential applications for quality, usability, and related factors. These testers then post their findings in forums on The OpenCD site, where further discussion takes place. The only "hard and fast" rule is that the CD image will not include two similar applications, even if bothare good. This is done to help reduce any likely confusion among the target demographic for the CD. Nilsen Omma considers this one of the projects best strengths. He asserts that their job "is to make difficult choices so that the user doesn't have to." (Nilsen Omma, personal communication, September 18, 2003)

    While specifically hoping to attract "non-techies" to OSS, secondary and higher education institutions are also a key target group for this project. They have kept
  • Though it seems to be a tad bit dated ( did they loose interest? ) its another good way to show people there are alternatives....
  • by burgburgburg ( 574866 ) <splisken06.email@com> on Thursday November 20, 2003 @07:05PM (#7524185)
    fire ants, who through our concerted, stinging, burning efforts, have forced the slow-moving stupid beast to drop to one knee, confused and infuriated by the pain. If we redouble our efforts, hopefully we'll soon be feasting on big, dumb Microsoft carcas soon.
  • by nicodaemos ( 454358 ) on Thursday November 20, 2003 @07:05PM (#7524186) Homepage Journal
    ... relation between Open Source and Microsoft as: "one of gnats swarming around a large, slow-moving beast."

    Funny, I would have described it as "one of flies swarming around a large pile of shiat."
  • mirrors (Score:3, Informative)

    by millette ( 56354 ) <robin @ m i llette.info> on Thursday November 20, 2003 @07:06PM (#7524190) Homepage Journal
    Here are a few mirrors: http://www.mirror.ac.uk/sites/gd.tuwien.ac.at/pc/O penCD/ ftp://ftp.mirror.ac.uk/sites/gd.tuwien.ac.at/pc/Op enCD/

    I've verified it's the newer version, dating yesterday.

  • by BagOBones ( 574735 ) on Thursday November 20, 2003 @07:06PM (#7524191)
    They taught word processing, and how to use a spread sheet. It really didn't matter what system it was on because the schools never taught anything but the general concepts.

    Innovation in office products? Don't you mean bloat.

    Word already does over 100 things I don't need it to do when I am writing a paper. You think it needs more?
    • There's an implicit bit of thinking there that "innovation"=="more features and buttons" which has, I guess, been promoted by a lot of software houses in the effort to sell their latest set of minor new bells and whistles. It's still a "too many clocks" syndrome. Rather than adding a new clock to the car and calling it innovation, why not redesign the engine - or create some cunning gearing system that gives the benefits of a manual with the ease of use of an automatic.

      Innovative new office products migh
    • I love the dichotomy. We all want computers that just do what we want them to and get out of the way the rest of the time, but we don't want software that babies us too much.

      For the 100 things Word does that you don't want it to do: dollars to donuts there are at least 10 that speed up your personal paper-writing process. Innovation is getting to be pretty difficult in office software; there are only so many things you can do better when you're still communicating on pressed sheets of shredded wet wood. MS
    • They taught word processing, and how to use a spread sheet. It really didn't matter what system it was on because the schools never taught anything but the general concepts.

      Well, word processing and spreadsheets are the same whether you're using Word or Excel, or OpenOffice, or Lotus, or Kwrite, or Gnumeric, or Abiword, or whatever. Almost anyone can sit down with any of these programs, and they all do the same things in about the same way. Once you understand the concepts, which takes about 10 minutes,
  • A similar offering (Score:4, Informative)

    by cos(0) ( 455098 ) <pmw+slashdot@qnan.org> on Thursday November 20, 2003 @07:06PM (#7524192) Homepage
    A software compilation to the OpenCD is the

    Open Source Software CD [myip.org]

    ...which is updated monthly with the latest versions of the most popular, high-quality open-source software out there.

    Anyone can download it via BitTorrent.

    Be sure to check it out.
  • It's slashdotted already... mirrors?
  • Interesting examples of lack of innovation, considering that in the case of Office, no open source office suite comes close. The best we've got in open source are things like OpenOffice, which are good enough to painfully get by with. No other commercial office suite comes close, either.
    • What's painful about OpenOffice? If you want more fonts and clip art, buy StarOffice, which uses compatible file formats with OOo.
    • Exactly what innovations have we seen in IE lately!? I use mozilla+mouse gestures+multizilla all the time at home (on linux) and whenever I'm forced to use IE somewhere it feels like a browser that was obsolete years ago, oh wait...it actually was! It's so frustrating to use IE when you're used to clicking the middle mouse button to load links in the background and making gestures with the mouse to add bookmarks/open windows/close windows/move back/move forward/reload... (it's a long list).
  • Not I. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by aaron_ds ( 711489 )
    Most schools are immersed in a Windows monoculture.
    My highschool was quite the opposite, Most of the computers ran MacOS, with a few running win98/xp, and none running any kind of open/free software.
    It's great that a CD like this was made becasue people need to be given a chioce. However, I hope this doesn't become a war of dogmas (free/ proprietary). As nothing good can come of that.
  • by cmorriss ( 471077 ) on Thursday November 20, 2003 @07:12PM (#7524226)
    and emphasises the lack of innovation in Internet Explorer and MS-Office.

    So often Microsoft is decried as unoriginal with all its products and with this I certainly agree. However, and I'm not trying to troll here, rarely have I seen Open Source software do anything but the same.

    Most innovation comes from small closed source companies that have an idea and want to make some money off of it. Microsoft moves forward by either emulating these companies or buying them outright. Open Source software seems to move forward almost exclusively through emulating these innovative companies (Either directly or indirectly by emulating Microsoft).

    Almost all open source software provides a piece of functionality already provided in closed source or non-"free as in beer" software

    This all begs the question, why doesn't open source encourage more innovation? I really don't know why. Does anyone else have an answer to this?

    • Poster:However, and I'm not trying to troll here,

      Mods:Score:0, Troll

      Come on, guys. A post isn't a troll just because the poster doesn't refer to RMS as "Our Father, who art in FSF..."

      Of course, I suppose a post isn't NOT a troll just because the poster says it's not, either...

    • by An Onerous Coward ( 222037 ) on Thursday November 20, 2003 @08:30PM (#7524679) Homepage
      Okay, I'll bite.

      First, I'll admit that there isn't a whole lot of fundamental innovation when it comes to end user desktop software. Gnome and KDE take a lot of their interface decisions from Windows and Macintosh. Mozilla's interface is comparable to IE. GIMP has a totally different interface from any other image manipulation system I've seen, but from a functionality standpoint, it's not doing anything too far above and beyond the call of duty (unless you can master the Lisp-iness of their filter language).

      A lot of this "lack of innovation" is due to the fact that people have come to expect these applications to behave in a given way, and the applications have to live within that framework. Another is due to the difficulty in discerning just what new and wonderful features can be added to the system. For example, I can't think of a single thing that I could suggest adding to Microsoft Word that would be gratefully used by more than a few percent of the user base.

      Where the real innovation occurs is in niche applications and other small projects. BitTorrent, anyone? FreeNet, Wiki, Slashcode... all strike me as impressive, non-trivial ideas. The Linux kernel is constantly adding new features, and the development methodology is about as innovative as anything I can think of in the computing industry.

      Finally, a lot of "innovation" is simply programmers implementing what the users suggested. If you have an idea for a nifty new feature in a software project, drop the developers a line. If it's not something of the "Sharks with friggin' laser beams" variety, they'll probably be grateful for the interest.
  • Why didn't they put ZINF (formerly freeamp) on that CD. It's open source isn't it?
  • GNUwin (Score:3, Interesting)

    by spartro ( 725789 ) on Thursday November 20, 2003 @07:14PM (#7524236)
    I have always been a big advocate for open source at the schools, but most of the big education software is win/mac only and most technology coordinators at schools are hesitant to give the K12LTSP a shot. This week Igave a speech to a bunch of other school technology coordinators about the GnuWin CD. Plenty Open Source for Win. I downloaded at the Open CD once and found GnuWin to be more comprehensive. I guess I should take a look at the new version. Most schools were highly interested in OpenOffice and AbiWord, so the foots in the door here.
    • Lesson one, public schools get state money and are constantly pimped by vendors. Don't even bother with those guys, go after the scools that pay out of pocket. It is suprisingly easy to convince a private school to switch to a LTSP setup. Most of these places run on donated gear which cannot even run 98 decent. As for LTSP good luck, I have done many linux terminal based installs but I do not use LTSP as it is to complex and hard to maintain. Most of these places already have computers I load linux local an
  • Compliments from MS (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Melissa Bra ( 725769 ) on Thursday November 20, 2003 @07:17PM (#7524251)
    http://www.eweek.com/article2/0,4149,1331169,00.as p "Addressing several thousand attendees at the Worldwide Partner Conference, he took a swipe at Linux, open source and StarOffice, saying, "they simply accept the view that what they have is good enough. That view does not foster innovation. Being where we were with Office 1997 is not good enough for us," he said." Microsoft admitting that OO is already equal to something they spent millions and millions on and also happens to be much more widely used than Office XP is the best thing they could have said. I mean that. Office 97 is still very popular. One of the biggest challenges MS has is moving people off that since many businesses find that Office 97 is all they need. The fact they think OO has met the quality level that most of world thinks is "good enough" is excellent news. Congrats to the OpenOffice.org team and thanks to Microsoft for the marketing material.
    • Being where we were with Office 1997 is not good enough for us
      But it's good enough for me, and I believe to a vast percentage of users. If someone gave me Word 95 with native mousewheel support, I'd use it. Native support came in Word 97, which I didn't want, except for this one feature. There are no other new features since then that I've personally wanted. MS is finding I'm not alone - they're increasingly using dropping support as a weapon to force people to upgrade.
    • "Being where we were with Office 1997 is not good enough for us," he said.

      Funny, it seems to be good enough for everyone else. The only reason anyone I know upgraded was incompatible file formats. How hard is it to make a word processor that works and leave it alone, rather than constantly breaking things? Ah well, WYSIWYG isn't my bag anyway.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 20, 2003 @07:20PM (#7524262)
    Disc not inserted. Please close tray and try again.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 20, 2003 @07:22PM (#7524272)
    As I am no way in hell able to afford Microsoft Office, I can only use it at College, not at work or home.

    OpenOffice 1.1 has saved my life. Even complex presentations, with Animations, Transitions, Pcitures and Sounds are imported flawlessly in Version 1.1 and it is very fast.

    Many students I also know are starting to use it. OpenOffice, together with KDE is perfect. I admit OpenOffice 1.0 was a bit slow and ugly, but version 1.1 is perfect.
    • Couldn't agree more - I avoided using OO 1.0 because it simply didn't work as well as MSO. With 1.1 that's all changed. I regularly use OO now and find it just as comfortable as MSO for most ordinary activities. The draw program is acceptable, the word processing works and imports every MSO document I've thrown at it. Charting in the spreadsheet still isn't the best, but will do in a pinch.

      I just finished off a 40-page report to the government on our research project, complete with charts and graphs

  • Like the suject says, OpenCD v1.2, 5$ my mail anywhere in Canada.

    Nattor, the Little CD Vendor catalog [waglo.com]

  • gnuwin.org has not released a new CD in some time now. I'm glad to see a new CD like this from another group. I have not downloaded this CD yet and I'm sure they have spent a lot of time trying to package these programs up neatly for end-users. I love giving people choices in what software they can use, but why do all of these so called Open CD's that contain sofware for Closed Systems contain software that can only be found on that closed platform?

    I really like FileZilla, but it is not based on Mozilla
  • The web server hosting the BitTorrent files is Slashdotted, so I am mirroring the ISO torrent here: http://limpet.net/files/TheOpenCD-1.2.iso.torrent [limpet.net]
  • > He describes the relation between Open Source and
    > Microsoft as: "one of gnats swarming around a
    > large, slow-moving beast."

    An _extremely_ poor analogy. The gnats draw their sustenance from the beast and would die without it. Free Software exists entirely independently of Microsoft and would replace it were to die.
    • That's not entirely true. Linux owes it's existance to all those old PCs that too underpowered to run the latest bloatware from Redmond. If there had been no M$, there would have been no PC, and hence no Linux, and Unix would still only be running on $10,000 proprietary workstations.
  • the website's list of included software [sunsite.dk]
    • Office & Design
    • OpenOffice.org
    • AbiWord
    • GIMP
    • Internet & Communication
    • Mozilla
    • FileZilla
    • TightVNC
    • WinHTTrack
    • PuTTY
    • Multimedia & Games
    • Audacity
    • CDex
    • Crack Attack!
    • Sokoban YASC
    • Celestia
    • Really Slick Screensavers
    • Utilities & Other
    • 7-Zip
    • SciTE
    • WinPT
    • NetTime
  • Since when could gnats force a slow beast to work twice as hard and even threaten its very existence?

    Free Software developers arn't gnats, they are a swarm of killer bees, wasps, tetse flys and mosquitoes carrying Ross River Fever and Malaria.

    The analogy is even better when you realise that a heterogeneous swarm of poisonous and infectious insects would spend more time attacking each other than attacking the beast, just like real open source developers. That leads me to another question: Does human societ

  • Great Christmas gift (Score:3, Informative)

    by hey ( 83763 ) on Thursday November 20, 2003 @08:55PM (#7524828) Journal
    I gave the OpenCD to manty people for Xmas last
    year. Its cheap and they seemed to like it.
  • You can use BitTorrent to download the OpenCD ISO, in addition to the traditional mirrors. Henrik Omma (the project founder) put up .torrent files here:

    http://theopencd.sunsite.dk/torrents/ [sunsite.dk]

    Note: there are TWO torrents. One is the binary ISO, one is the source code. Make sure you know which you want (most people will just want the regular ISO, not the source code).
  • You know, it might be best to avoid words like "A", "The" "Alternative" (non-plural) when you decry the existence of a monoculture . . .
  • by bcrowell ( 177657 ) on Thursday November 20, 2003 @09:24PM (#7524976) Homepage
    I've been trying hard to make open-source inroads at my own school, but the devil is in the details. Examples:

    I teach physics lab courses, and would like my students to be able to use OSS to do their graphs. (E.g., it's a drag when they save their Excel file, take it home, and find out they can't read it with the older version of Excel they have at home.) Unfortunately, Open Office is missing some critical features, like the ability to fit a line to the data and find the slope of the line. (Or maybe the feature is there, but I couldn't find it.) There's other OSS that can find the slope, of course, but my students need something with a familiar-looking UI.

    We have lab equipment that we interface to, and the software doesn't run on Linux.

    I've tried using Samba to print on the shared laser printer from my desktop FreeBSD machine. Unfortunately, the postscript files I generate have a tendency to cause an error which stops the queue. My co-workers are not happy when that happens, so now I print at home, or, if I have to print at work, I transfer a PDF file to a Windows machine.

    Our instructional computing staff is undermanned. They already administer two operating systems (Windows and MacOS). I can't really blame them for not wanting to administer three.

    There is no critical mass of faculty members who want to use an open-source OS or open-source apps. The typical reaction is that Linux sounds hard to use. And you know what? They're kind of right. Try explaining to most people -- even the science geeks I work with -- about shared library conflicts, or explaining to them why cut and paste doesn't have consistent behavior.

    • by bstadil ( 7110 )
      Unfortunately, Open Office is missing some critical features, like the ability to fit a line to the data and find the slope of the line.

      How about using the Slope Function inside the Math section on the spreadsheet itself.

      Or even better tell them how Linear regression is done, IF you are able to.

    • The typical reaction is that Linux sounds hard to use. And you know what? They're kind of right. Try explaining to most people -- even the science geeks I work with -- about shared library conflicts, or explaining to them why cut and paste doesn't have consistent behavior.

      Why should anyone bother explaining to these folks shared library conflicts and flaky cut/paste behavior? The two problems exist in Windows, yet everyone mysteriously accepts it under Windows and cries about it in Linux.

  • You can tell people are desprite when they try and point the fingure at Microsoft for not inovating. If they where to say something about the bugs/holes in the software than i'd have to agree, but inovation?

    Maybe theirs not much inovation in the user interfaces but behind the scenes they're always something new going on.

    Like XML Data islands and Data binding. In my mind that was an inovation that led to .NET web services, a larger inovation. And if you'r going to us Firebird or Mozilla in your argument,
  • by dbn3 ( 239079 ) on Thursday November 20, 2003 @11:28PM (#7525531)
    I teach for a very large school district in Texas. This past year the district purchased laptops for all the teachers. The laptops ran $1050. The license for office was $50 a pop. That is an amazing price, but the district refused to pay. Instead they bought a district support contract from Sun for StarOffice.

    No one uses it. Attachments still all show up as .doc (or .pdf) files, never the StarOffice format. In addition, many teachers I know are not very good at using computers. They have a hard enough time learning how to use MS Office without learning StarOffice, too.

    Yes, its the same functions in a slightly different interface, but that's not the point. Teachers are never interested in doing extra work that they do not see will have a direct impact on their classroom. Its just too easy to ask the tech teacher for a copy of MS Office and install it anyway.
  • by h0lug ( 722710 ) on Friday November 21, 2003 @04:35AM (#7526817) Homepage
    ... just building a bit on both this story and the earlier slashdot conflag' entitled Vietnam goes open source [slashdot.org]

    Two great new Vietnamese language Linux CD-distros are now available -- and make great toys for loading up Windows or Linux partitions straight past most file security most people apply:

    01 KDLC 9.2 rc1 - Mandrake/Gnome based, ftp iso download [vnlinux.org]

    02 knoppix 3.3 caugiay - Knoppix/KDE based, ftp iso download [vnlinux.org]

    We're approaching fully localized OSS OS's and Office suites for the vast majority of the 80 million plus Vietnamese who can neither speak English nor afford MS's global one-price policy for licenses.

    NB: MS promised an effective Viet-localized Windows/Office release back in '95. But, to date, nothing they've delivered has made a dent in the pirated US-English MS Vietnam-market-share (90%+).

    Viva la HeteroISCult[TM,01]!
    Down with HomoISCult [02].

    All the best from,
    The h0z at h0lug

    Notes:
    [01] heterogenous info-systems culture
    [02] What does inbred pitbulls and an MS-monopolized IS infrastructure have in common? They're both crazed and dangerous.
  • by master_p ( 608214 ) on Friday November 21, 2003 @04:44AM (#7526834)
    It's easier for a teacher armed with Windows to teach computers to small children than using Linux, because Windows have a more consistent GUI and the need for diving into the command line is less often.

    On the other hand, children are like sponges, they learn much quicker, and it's far more likely to become experts in Linux rather than their teachers; something most teachers would like to avoid.

    There are also economical reasons (i.e. MS giving away Windows and Office) for MS dominance.

    So, I don't expect MS to be replaced with Linux anytime soon.

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