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Microsoft, Massachusetts, and IT 233

Andy Updegrove writes "A big story in Massachusetts last week was the announcement by Microsoft that it would give $30 million in software to Bay State high schools and universities. Less noticed was the fact that an important economic stimulus bill adopted by the legislature lacked the amendment that sought to gut the power of the State CIO to set any new IT policies that might require compliance with certain standards (like ODF) or favor open source software. Should these two dots be connected, and if so, how? After all, why would Microsoft reward Massachusetts for taking no action to curtail an IT policy that favored ODF and rejected Microsoft's own XML format, especially after Microsoft has by all accounts lobbied so aggressively to bring about a change? As it happens, the fact is that the game isn't over yet: I've learned that the IT policy language hasn't been permanently defeated — its just been shifted out of sight to an 'outside section' of the current budget bill."
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Microsoft, Massachusetts, and IT

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  • by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <eldavojohn&gmail,com> on Monday June 19, 2006 @07:44AM (#15560912) Journal
    For those software companies that don't have an academic injection strategy, I suggest you develop one.

    Depending on the complexity/use of your software, you put it either in the primary schools (K-12) or secondary schools (colleges). And you make it free and secure. Use license pools/server or anything to get your product into the learning process. That's where the money is. That's where you ensure your future.

    Back in my undergrad days, I had access to Matlab, Pro Engineer, Mathematica, MSDN licenses, Windows XP, Rational Rose, the list goes on. I think it was Macintosh that originally discovered that putting your technology into the hands of your youth ensures your future. Why? Because Americans are predominantly lazy and we hate to climb learning curves. Macs especially build a sort of security sense that the user is safe and the machine is super friendly.

    You might call this the "bottom up" approach to seeding the public with your product. Because the students aren't customers but one day they will be raised to be customers and they will decide what will be used. If you don't believe this model works, you're a fool. Time and time again I've caught myself saying, I wish I could just script this in Matlab and let it dump it to an Excel sheet. It's not that it would be easier, it's just that I know precisely how to do computations in Matlab due to my undergrad years of using it.

    Now you have Microsoft trying to stop a "top down" effect in Massachusetts. Whereby they try their "MSDN Academic Alliance" strategy targeting a state's public schools. But why are they only targeting Massachusetts? Probably because of the ODF movement in the state government. If the government mandates that everyone (schools included) use ODF files and ODF software, where does that leave Microsoft? No longer the primary tool of the children, that's where.

    What's the lesson to learn from this article? The squeaky wheel gets the oil!

    Not enough funding for computers and software at your school? Well then, simply alert your local media and just try to enforce the ODF standard. I think you'll find that Microsoft will suddenly come (with the national media) to meet all your software needs!
    • You can always use Octave( http://www.gnu.org/software/octave/ [gnu.org] ).
      It works great, I did most of my numeric methods assignments with Octave on Slackware, with no issues.
      • Unfortunately, Octave is much less powerful than Matlab. In fact, professional use of Matlab usually involves third party packages (many open source, some commercial), and almost none of them will run on Octave without significant porting. Therefore, in reality, people who learn Matlab at university are generally stuck with it.

        Another problem with Matlab is that it sucks technically: both the language and its implementation have major issues.

        I hope open source can come to the rescue sooner or later, but O
        • Of course, heavy usage could be difficult.

          On the other hand, I did all my Numeric Methods, and Numerical Methods for Differential Calculus homework on Octave.
          I even used it lightly for Automated Learning, in order to solve QR systems within a Java program. No problems whatsoever. Of course, people who need Matlab, do need Matlab, for example for binary compatibility, or running existing programs, but Octave is worth a try, if you need a package for numerical stuff, and you know Matlab.

          There a nice community
    • by duffbeer703 ( 177751 ) * on Monday June 19, 2006 @08:44AM (#15561138)
      The other reason to target public schools is that they are essentially a second layer of local government and have the ability to act on certain things without much oversight. Specifically, I doubt that local school districts are accountable in any way to the state CIO.

      So if you establish Microsoft XML as the "standard" for politically powerful public schools, you've basically done an end-run around the state CIO. And when it comes time to ditch ODF, the teachers unions and school board associations will push hard to adopt whatever Microsoft is pushing.
      • But for a school district that receives a large portion (say, 40-70%) of its revenue from state funds, it takes only a short step for the CIO to mandate that the state's Department of Education (or whatever it is in Mass) require local schools to adhere to state technology standards as a matter of "accessibility" or something like that. If the schools don't comply, then they don't get their 40-70% from the state. In short, schools might put up a fight, but they'd comply.

        When I was in high school, my schoo
    • by DoofusOfDeath ( 636671 ) on Monday June 19, 2006 @09:33AM (#15561386)
      Because Americans are predominantly lazy and we hate to climb learning curves.
      Oh, thank goodness! I had been thinking that laziness was an issue common to most peoples at most times. I'm relieved to hear that my own country is uniquely deserving of mention in this category, because that means the world is a better place than I thought.
      • Well, I'm not from the States and most of the time I'd be hard pressed to say whether a certain trait is common in the States. I could point out certain traits of the Germans, though. Maybe the GP talked about Americans because he didn't want to generalize from a sample size of one.

        Sure, laziness is inherent to humans (it's what makes us invent things to make our lives easier), but still what the GP said could be less of an attack on the people of the USA and more of an avoidance of overgeneralisation.
  • by scrabbleguy ( 980944 ) on Monday June 19, 2006 @07:45AM (#15560914) Homepage
    Regardless of the reasons why Microsoft donated the software the end result is that the kids are the winners. Their schools are now going to have some money that would have been spent on software that can now be spent on other things to improve their education. Motives aside, is that such a bad thing?
    • by mecanicaz ( 641010 ) on Monday June 19, 2006 @07:54AM (#15560942) Homepage
      Oh yeah???
      And having kids with the knowledge that nothing exists in this world except M$ products, it's this way all over the world, here in Egypt M$ subsidizes school software to the extent that it offers windows+office packages in the equivalent of less than $3 to students, and in the end we get students who don't know what's a spreadsheet or word processor, they only know Excel and Word etc..
      Yet even in the US I recently read on a republican blogger's page someone comparing emacs (she called it emac) with M$ Word and dubbing emacs of being a word processor of lesser quality.
      • by SubTexel ( 715118 ) on Monday June 19, 2006 @08:14AM (#15561008)
        Hrmmm... Kind of like what Apple did in the '80s and early '90s... Too bad for them it didn't work that way. But this is MS we're talking about so it MUST be some evil conspiracy.

        Break out the tinfoil hats everyone!
      • by castoridae ( 453809 ) on Monday June 19, 2006 @08:27AM (#15561061)
        Yet even in the US I recently read on a republican blogger's page someone comparing emacs (she called it emac) with M$ Word and dubbing emacs of being a word processor of lesser quality.

        Let's be fair here; being uninformed about what emacs is, and writing a poor comparison in her blog has NOTHING to do with being a Republican.
        • "Let's be fair here; being uninformed about what emacs is, and writing a poor comparison in her blog has NOTHING to do with being a Republican."

          Yes. Stupid Republicans! EVERYONE knows that EMACS is a better word processor than Word!

          A few weeks ago in fact my EMACS program became sentient. It now does all my word processing for me and files my income taxes to boot. I supposed I should say ITS income taxes, as it got a job online, posing as me and now has a hefty six-figure income.

          I'm getting rather tired
      • Hey, you ARE aware that Shelley the Republican [shelleytherepublican.com] is just a good old-fashioned adequacy.org [slashdot.org]-style troll/pisstake site?

        It's meant to be a) funny and b) get a letters page full of outraged howls of righteous indignation from people who don't spot the joke...
    • Wrong.. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by scsirob ( 246572 ) on Monday June 19, 2006 @08:04AM (#15560981)
      Microsoft offered $30 Million in *SOFTWARE* license. That's not money. That's advertising. It's the same principle as drug dealers on the corner of the street offering free shots. Once the kids are hooked, they have nowhere else to go.

      The schools can keep their $30 Million in the pocket when they use Open Source software just as well. The difference being that in a year from now they can get the next version for free too...
      • Re:Wrong.. (Score:4, Interesting)

        by PFI_Optix ( 936301 ) on Monday June 19, 2006 @08:36AM (#15561100) Journal
        The problem with OSS, as has been stated, is that it does not prepare students for what the vast majority of them are going to see in the real world.

        I work at a school district. We use StarOffice for most of the PCs here because Texas' stupid "Robin Hood" law strips us of about $22,000,000 a year, forcing across-the-board budget cuts. We *wish* we could use MS Office, because that's what the students need to know when the enter the workforce. Yes, it'd be better if they knew both. Yes, it sucks that MS has such a stranglehold on the market that we have to think this way. No, I'm not going to compromise student education for the sake of my ideals.
        • Re:Wrong.. (Score:2, Insightful)

          You really don't get it, do you? Get them hooked on the OSS software when they're young, so that is what they know best. You believe that the stranglehold that MS has on the market sucks, so how to YOU propose we fight it? By giving in and saying "Well, it's what they're going to need to know in the 'Real World?'*" No, by getting kids to learn the alternatives, like Open Office. Kids will learn it much faster than a seasoned MS Office "Pro", and they'll have more time to work with it. Once they get into t
          • Re:Wrong.. (Score:3, Insightful)

            You know, it'd be real nice if some of the anti-MS "break free of the stanglehold", "free the children", "fight the oppressors" enthusiasm around here was dedicated to something that really mattered. Like AIDS vaccines or potable water.

            I'm a huge fan of OSS and I'm trying to get my company to adopt linux and/or open office. (I'm an analyst, not technically in the IS infrastructure, but since the IS infrastructure is one person and the entire company is just over 20 people - it may work.) But these are bu
            • Re:Wrong.. (Score:2, Insightful)

              You know, it'd be real nice if some of the anti-MS "break free of the stanglehold", "free the children", "fight the oppressors" enthusiasm around here was dedicated to something that really mattered. Like AIDS vaccines or potable water.

              Ah, yes, because fighting for fair technological access, and freedom to choose who you give your money to are completely unimportant. There are plenty of people fighting for AIDS vaccines, hell, on my way to work each morning I pass several billboards with various celebrities
              • I've got no problem with getting a little perspective

                Really? You've got no problem with getting a little perspective? Apparently your "bold" tags are just stuck to the on position then?

                1. Do any of you seriously think MS is still going to be dominating the software world in a few decades? vs. Do you really think AIDS is still going to be rampant all over the world in a few decades?

                The fact that you seem to think this is a fair comparison is exactly what I'm talking about. If MS is dominant for another 1
        • Re:Wrong.. (Score:3, Interesting)

          by richlv ( 778496 )
          i've heard that usa has been slower at oss adoption, though i don't remember any hard facts.
          it is quite interesting here - a lot of companies, big and small, are starting to use more and more oss offerings. biggest drivers are firefox (which in't that huge as basic functionality is very, very similar for web browsers) and openoffice.org.
          from the privately owned companis that i know almost all are using oo.org to some extent (though almost all have one or two msoffice copies for problematic files).
          most users
        • Hmm, (Score:5, Insightful)

          by MichaelPenne ( 605299 ) on Monday June 19, 2006 @09:08AM (#15561247) Homepage
          perhaps 'education' is best served by teaching students the principles of spreadsheets, wordprocessors, and presentations, rather than 'click button X to accomplish task Y'?

          If that were the case, then perhaps educated students would be able to rapidly adapt to new interfaces rather than being stuck when a different product (or a new version of the product they were schooled on) is put in front of them?

          IMO, kids that memorize button positions rather than learning principles are always going to be less productive, as even the same exact product will go through version changes, menus are replaced with ribbons, the UI flavor of the day (say docking windows or floating animated helpers) is tried out, etc.

          IME, the real world in IT is one of constant change, and the folks best positioned to thrive there are the ones who are able to easily cope with multiple interfaces to the same basic task or principle.
          • Re:Hmm, (Score:3, Insightful)

            by bigpat ( 158134 )
            perhaps 'education' is best served by teaching students the principles of spreadsheets, wordprocessors, and presentations, rather than 'click button X to accomplish task Y'?

            Yes, when I left school I could write using nothing other than a "number 2" pencil. It was a tragedy which left me ill prepared for college. If only they had taught me to use any pencil, a mechanical one or even a pen, then my life would have been changed forever.

            • Re:Hmm, (Score:3, Interesting)

              by idonthack ( 883680 )

              I take that as a challenge. Imagine this:

              No. 2 pencils are the only kind of pencil anybody has. They're expensive though - about $50 for the cheaper models, and the ones with erasers go for $100 or more. And they are only manufactured by a monopoly that has complete control of the market, as far as most people are concerned.

              Little do most people know, you can go online and place an order to get a different kind of pencil mailed to you - for free. They also take suggestions. Because of all the suggestions

        • Maybe you are really bad at teaching your students then. The "basics" of word processing, using a spreadsheet, or creating a presentation typically apply across most office suites. Rather than teaching students to memorize exactly how Microsoft wants you to do things why not teach them to think logically and learn how to "learn" and adapt.

          When I was growing up and going through grade school MS Office didn't have the monopoly it does now. I learned on Word Perfect, a bit on Lotus products, and some oth
        • People like you are why American schools are a joke in the rest of the world.

          A kid doesn't need to use Excel to learn how to use a spreadsheet. Such skills can be acquired by using ANY spreadsheet including the original. You whine about robin hood and fantasy about wasting money all in the same breadth. You're pathetic.

          Don't get near MY part of Texas. Physical violence may ensue.
        • Re:Wrong.. (Score:3, Insightful)

          We use StarOffice for most of the PCs here because Texas' stupid "Robin Hood" law strips us of about $22,000,000 a year, forcing across-the-board budget cuts.

          As a Texan myself, I say yippee. Do you really expect that if Robin Hood disappeared the multiple school districts benefitting from your $22 mil would be able to purchase Microsoft Office for _their_ students? Of course not. The whole point of Robin Hood is to force all Texas schools to suffer the consequences of extreme inequity. Poor districts ca
        • The problem with OSS, as has been stated, is that it does not prepare students for what the vast majority of them are going to see in the real world.

          Perhaps I have the wrong notion of the purpose of schools other than vo tech schools... but I would like to think not. Wouldn't it be better to teach students the principles rather than the application du jour?
        • The problem with OSS, as has been stated, is that it does not prepare students for what the vast majority of them are going to see in the real world.

          No, the problem here is that you don't understand what educating children is supposed to be about. Educating children is supposed to mean teaching them how to think, not what to think.

          Do NOT teach them MS Office, or even OpenOffice.org. How about we "get back to basics". Basics like how to spell, how to calculate, and how to write. Writing "Great job!" at the t
        • We use StarOffice for most of the PCs here because Texas' stupid "Robin Hood" law strips us of about $22,000,000 a year, forcing across-the-board budget cuts.

          That's the most rational government act I've heard of lately. Congratulations to Texas for understanding that price and quality are two different attributes!

          By your logic, Texas should be upgrading every PC in the state to Office '07. After all, that will be the current "state of the art" when this year's upcoming senior class graduates, and we w

      • Re:Wrong.. (Score:3, Insightful)

        by IAmTheDave ( 746256 )
        I gotta tell you, I know people love open source software here, but kids getting free access to Microsoft Office apps while allowing the schools to spend the $30M elsewhere is not a bad thing.

        The main reason it is not a bad thing is because most jobs in this country that aren't purely physical labor require the knowledge of Microsoft Office applications. Whether it's a future you appreciate or not, there is no reason that these kids shouldn't be prepared for the future they will be dumped in to - especiall
      • Re:Wrong.. (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Citizen of Earth ( 569446 ) on Monday June 19, 2006 @10:43AM (#15561870)
        That's advertising. It's the same principle as drug dealers on the corner of the street offering free shots. Once the kids are hooked, they have nowhere else to go.

        This analogy reflects unduly harshly on the drug trade because once kids are addicted, they can go to *ANY* drug dealer and score a hit. Microsoft's game is much more insidious, because you can only score your next hit from them. Drug dealers sell a commodity item in an open and free market. Please consider this before insulting them by comparing their business practices to Microsoft's again!

      • Microsoft offered $30 Million in *SOFTWARE* license
        accounting for the value of the asset at a standard "lesser of purchase price or market value",
        given that OpenOffice costs $0.00, thus establishing market value,
        The value to the school districts is zero! Boy is that ever a good deal!
    • The whole state is losing on this ODF issue. Anytime you lock yourself into a vendor when you don't have to be locked in, it's a financial exposure. It's also entirely illegitimate to have to possess the software of one particular vendor in order to read public documents.

      Besides, in the end, if they go with an open document specification, they may end up saving the equivalent in money that way. It's also $30 milllion in software that was donated, not cash. It's bribery, and in public infrastructure when the company making the "donation" is the topic of hot discussion, it's clearly corruption.

      The entire process of getting ODF in Massachusetts stinks. Those arguing against it are using invalid arguments, and now it's being pushed in a bill that's unrelated (I don't care how much of a good cause something is... all these rider bills are a plague upon the public as well). Not to mention the amount of pressure a company from a different state is capbable of putting on a state government.

      P.S., I'm running the State House in my own state becuase I am that fed up with seeing this kind of thing.

      You should try it... it's a heck of a learning experience, even if you don't win. Still hoping to win, though.

      • by g2devi ( 898503 ) on Monday June 19, 2006 @08:48AM (#15561149)
        For the record, here's a slightly less objective measure of the relative (perceived) corruption between countries:
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corruption_Perception _Index [wikipedia.org]

        Based on the assumption that perception and reality are correlated and the CPI measure accurately measures perceived corruption in a standardized way, the US is definitely far less corrupt than most countries of the world, but there are several countries that a significantly less corrupt than the US.

        Back on topic, the "donation" might have a lot more to do with Google than ODF. The money seems to be geared towards web delevopment tools. One thing Microsoft has been pushing is XAML as a web standard to replace HTML. If Microsoft can succeed in getting children to be hooked on XAML and Microsoft specific tools instead of web standards, schools will pump out children without crossplatform skills. These children will bring their MS centric viewpoint into the workforce, and that may change company's intranet (or internet) policies. Let's face it, you can design much fancier applications in something like XAML or XUL with less headaches, but sacrifices have to be made if you want to be crossplatform, avoid vendor lock-in, and have added infrastructure flexibility. It's hard to convince with people with a "Microsoft is the only thing out there, they created web standards better than any crossplatform standard and everyone uses IE and MS is so big that it will last for ever and everyone else had better adapt or die out of being useless" view of the world that these things matter. That, IMO, is what Microsoft is counting on more than anything else.

    • It is just not a bad thing as first hit for kiddie from drug dealer.

      I just wonder how it is allowed BY law, because it is clearly dumping from monopoly in one vitally important market segment.

      Post scriptum: free software doesn't have monopoly, so don't even brother with arguing about that...
    • It is a bad thing if you want your kid to suceed in life and not just with M$ software (diploma). Giving your kid the ability to manipulate software helps your kid learn more because learning isn't subjected to "the Microsoft way of doing things". Long term sucess requires the source code (knowing how someone did that in the past).
    • Motives aside, is that such a bad thing?

      The motive is obviously a long-term strategy, to forestall any ideas schools may have of using anything but MS software.

      Their schools are now going to have some money that would have been spent on software

      Only if they were going to buy the software MS is now giving them. Very likely in the absence of the gift (which despite its stated value of "$30 million", costs MS a few dollars in CD replication charges) they would have struggled on with their current sof

      • Don't kid yourself. This software will only be in the form of license numbers, the duplication of cds will be up to the schools. As others have said, no documentation or other training. 30 Million in advertising against no cost, the only winner here is Microsoft
    • Software $$ but none for training, administration or hardware... Doesn't sound like a winner for kids in school to me. I'ts like a car compnay donating cars for drivers education but the school can't afford drivers ed teachers or liability insurance.

      Having a ton of propietary software to manage (not to mention the 'free' licenses) isn't necessarily a good thing.

    • by Daengbo ( 523424 ) <daengbo.gmail@com> on Monday June 19, 2006 @08:49AM (#15561155) Homepage Journal
      Regardless of the reasons why Microsoft donated the software the end result is that the kids are the winners.... is that such a bad thing?
      I don't know.... About three years ago I was living in Thailand and actively involved in the hot Linux uptake there. The government had a five year plan to move to Linux and was promoting it everywhere. The Thais in the gov't FLOSS program were even talking about "official government OS" for LinuxTLE (NECTEC's distro). People were talking about the empowerment of the local IT business and over half of the computers on display in Carrefour and Lotus were running locally produced Linux. Thailand even famously broke MS's "one price around the world" policy. It was like a revolution under colonial rule, I kid you not.

      After a year of this, MS walked in and offered a "deal" which legitimized all the currently installed MS operating systems within the government and promised lots of software for schools. Since the schools were mostly without computers and the government had the same problem with copyright infringement that the rest of the country had / has. It cost MS nothing but the price of the plane ticket and maybe some money under the table -- I don't know about that.

      The FLOSS movement died right there. Nobody talked about it anymore, and I can't even find Linux in the stores anymore. The revolutionaries were quieted and the unrest was quelled. Everyone went back to being the good little MS users they were "supposed" to be.

      There's something truly evil about a deal like this. The kids in Thailand certainly didn't profit by losing their empowerment to a foreign company. The IT industry is again dependent on one.

      Now that I'm in Korea, I keep hearing the same kind of talk here, but I've never even SEEN an installed Linux system outside my own.

      Too much talking on my part.
    • I agree that the donation helps the kids, but what gets to me is the choice of Massachussetts. It seems to me that any donation would be far more useful for states like New Mexico or Mississippi, which have consistently underperformed when compared to wealthy New England states, such as Massachussetts or Vermont.
    • by mangu ( 126918 ) on Monday June 19, 2006 @09:33AM (#15561387)
      Their schools are now going to have some money that would have been spent on software that can now be spent on other things to improve their education. Motives aside, is that such a bad thing?


      The schools would have a lot more than $30 million if they didn't spend any money at all on commercial software, using free software instead. Free software in schools is interesting in that it's one thing that's both better and cheaper at the same time.


      What constitutes a better education? Should children learn to push buttons, or should they learn the fundamentals? Using MS-Office in schools because that's what most of them will use professionally later is like having them read the National Enquirer instead of Moby Dick.

    • I advocate giving school kids free herroine for the same reason.
    • Their schools are now going to have some money that would have been spent on software that can now be spent on other things to improve their education.

      Maybe this year. After looking at licensing costs for future years, the money spent to maintain computers that run the software, and the support costs in teaching the teachers to run this software, I'd be hard pressed to see a net win here. OTOH, once one has made the decision to start doen the slippery (and expensive) slope to have computers in the classr

  • So it would seem (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MECC ( 8478 ) * on Monday June 19, 2006 @07:47AM (#15560919)
    From the quoted article:"To be fair, the commitment of Bill Gates (at least) to education is sincere"

    Apparently, that is, up until now. Maybe this is the one of the reasons he's leaving as CIO (well that and to get out of the way of Vista, since there's no Dave Culter to tell him to stop pestering the project this time). Maybe he just doesn't want to be seen as a corporate dirtbag any longer, or at least, further legitimatize real philanthropic pursuits. Then, maybe not.

    • Re:So it would seem (Score:3, Interesting)

      by elrous0 ( 869638 ) *
      The problem for Gates is that there is an inherent contradiction in participating in both a cutthroat industry and in philanthropy at the same time. As he is getting older, I suspect he has begun to think more and more of the REAL legacy he wants to leave behind and has decided to focus on the philanthropy.

      I do think he will still have a long way to go to shed the more tarnished aspects of his reputation (that may be impossible among the geek community, but MUCH more likely among the general public). But at

      • I do think he will still have a long way to go to shed the more tarnished aspects of his reputation

        Problem is, he has a good reputation. I know it's hard to believe, but among those whose opinions mean anything -- i. e. executives, board members, etc. -- his karma is definitely positive. In Sweden, he received an honour doctorate degree (link in Swedish) [microsoft.com] for his "valuable contributions for IT". I (and everybody else here) know it means nothing, but those who really ought to know, don't.

    • Gates commitment to education can't be measured simply by looking at what MS does. The Gates foundation has given a ton of money to education. I'm talking about real money, not free MS products.
  • by intnsred ( 199771 ) on Monday June 19, 2006 @07:53AM (#15560940)
    Should these two dots be connected, and if so, how?

    Please tell me you're not from the US -- please!

    Because if you're from the US the question is the height of naivete and clearly demonstrates you don't have a clue about how US politics work and the levels of bribery and corruption inherent in US politics.
    • by SpecTheIntro ( 951219 ) <[spectheintro] [at] [gmail.com]> on Monday June 19, 2006 @08:06AM (#15560985)

      Is there some sort of filtering process during slashdot's account creation process that requires you make stupid, overzealous statements about the evils of government and politics? If you honestly believe the US is a bastion of corruption, you should try visiting a few other continents. My family is from Iran, and I've been back plenty of times, and I have to bribe the goddamned luggage handlers so I can get out of the airport in a timely fashion. And that's the tip of the freaking iceberg. I've been to Japan, Turkey, Hungary, Romania (where policemen are beaten for reporting police brutality), Bulgaria, the UK, France, and let me assure you, bribery and corruption are everywhere. I'm by no means a nationalist, but I know a good thing when I see it, and you have no idea how much better the US is when it comes to the rule of law.

      P.S. Don't even get me started on Mexico.

      • by Danse ( 1026 ) on Monday June 19, 2006 @08:43AM (#15561135)
        I've been to Japan, Turkey, Hungary, Romania (where policemen are beaten for reporting police brutality), Bulgaria, the UK, France, and let me assure you, bribery and corruption are everywhere. I'm by no means a nationalist, but I know a good thing when I see it, and you have no idea how much better the US is when it comes to the rule of law.

        So the gist of your argument is that corruption here in the US is ok because it's not as bad as some other places? That's got to be the weakest argument I've ever heard. Corruption should be fought whenever it is found. Yes, maybe things are better here, but they could be better still if we'd fight this kind of thing whenever it rears its ugly head. That's how we keep things better here.
      • Is there some sort of filtering process during slashdot's account creation process that requires you make stupid, overzealous statements about the evils of government and politics?

        No, but now that you mention it...

        Look, here in the United States, those of us born, bred, and fed here look at the world in a different light. On the one hand, we are the greatest country on the planet, bar none. On the other, we have the most corrupt and contemptible form of government imagineable, where the little guy is

        • Look, here in the United States, those of us born, bred, and fed here look at the world in a different light.

          I was born and raised in the US. My family is from Iran; I am not, at least not technically.

          On the other, we have the most corrupt and contemptible form of government imagineable, where the little guy is run roughshod over by special interests and votes in Congress and for President are for sale.

          I really can't take you seriously after this point. If you honestly believe this, you have not trave

          • I really can't take you seriously after this point. If you honestly believe this, you have not travelled enough. Our government provides the most avenues for recourse for the general citizen than any other form of government today. We have plenty of problems, (my particular beef is with the overbearing power of the oil lobby, and our completely asinine foreign policy when it comes to Israel), but we are light-years ahead of any other form of government, and really any other system in the world that I've se

      • Bribery and corruption in the US is corporatized. You don't bribe the baggage handler at US airports (unless you want to give them a tip) but you do pay a hefty fee to the airport and airlines. It's hidden in the cost of your ticket and taxes you pay but the result is the same. Your money goes to the corporations. The same it true in telecoms, transport, health care (25% of your health care dollar goes to insurance company overhead and profit), etc.

        I spend a lot of time in developing countries in Afric

  • by geoffrobinson ( 109879 ) on Monday June 19, 2006 @07:56AM (#15560951) Homepage
    Sometimes donations and campaign contributions are more akin to extortion payments than bribes.

    Like Microsoft's monopoly or not (I don't), they ran into problems in the late 90s because they didn't give out much campaign contributions. They learned their lesson well.

  • Makes sense (Score:5, Insightful)

    by babbling ( 952366 ) on Monday June 19, 2006 @07:57AM (#15560955)
    They want the schools to use Microsoft everything. They failed to change policy that would give people choice, so now they're just giving people Microsoft software.

    Having a software monopoly helps to hold the monopoly together. They're smart, so they seek to maintain their monopoly even when it causes them to lose money.

    In short, this is just a good investment for Microsoft.
  • by Frosty Piss ( 770223 ) on Monday June 19, 2006 @07:59AM (#15560960)
    Microsoft is embracing Open Source, haven't you heard? It's been all over Slashdot these last few days. Don't worry about Massachusetts, look some other direction. Hey! Look over there! A two-headed chicken...
  • Huh? (Score:5, Funny)

    by edittard ( 805475 ) on Monday June 19, 2006 @08:00AM (#15560963)
    Less noticed was the fact that an important economic stimulus bill adopted by the legislature lacked the amendment that sought to gut the power of the State CIO to set any new IT policies that might require compliance with certain standards (like ODF) or favor open source software.
    Nice writing. I had to draw a Venn diagram, a state table and a probability tree to work out whether the bill is good for M$ or not. And I'm still not sure.
  • ...emmmm, it is actually nuclear weapon's launching pad :)

    Yes, I know, it looks good at press, but are journalists that stupid? Honestly... 30$ milions my ass. I set a tag and give you a gift, how nice of you Bill.
    • Actual value of the media and stamping costs = ~$75. Maybe more if they throw in some of those nifty nylon binders. This is just Microsoft conceding that they can't compete in the MA education market with OSS. They simply priced themselves out. So, recognizing that since they lost that fight, they could make an investment in making sure that the kids learn MS software instead of OSS, and therefore fear anything that is not Windows/Office, they jumped at that as the next best thing. Schools paying for M

  • Meh... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jhjmonnee ( 981313 )
    It's almost the same as when the NFL sold out to EA. M$ is just using this as good P/R and the kids will like it because, hey, it's free stuff. Then again, some of these kids don't even know the potentially disasterous effects of using a M$ OS and neither do their teachers. Who wants to bet in a year, 50% of the software donated is infested with your everyday mal/spy/adware courtesy of their M$ OS.
  • by rabun_bike ( 905430 ) on Monday June 19, 2006 @08:17AM (#15561028)
    Microsoft has a long history of donating to charity and then taking a large tax deduction for the full retail price of the product. Since the physical manufacturing costs are so low for software after the initial investment of developing it, free software for education is both a PR win for Microsoft as well as well as a great tax shelter. But more importantly the schools that accept their software will now be future customers. And, the kids that use them will grow up to be consumers. They have been doing this for some time. They even give themselves the full retail sales price deduction for the software which is not customary among corporate donators (or at least it was not in the past).

    And don't forget about the anti-trust settlement which allowed them to print money in the form of free software [zdnet.com] on CDs. Now, that's a sweet deal any company would jump at. Apple's opposed [com.com] the deal since it hurt them.
    • Sure, those in tech circles have strong opinions on Microsoft and its alterior motives, but to average citizens, the big payoff here is perceived goodwill. Parents and voters will be less likely to oppose a company (any company) that give products or services to schools, especially when they hear teachers complain almost daily (as they do here in my city) that budget cuts (or freezes) have been so bad that teachers need to buy nearly every supply necessary to conduct their lessons. They get their single r
  • by MikeyTheK ( 873329 ) on Monday June 19, 2006 @08:28AM (#15561064)
    If Mass. can deploy OO.o or other office tools for free, then the value of M$'s office tools to those same institutions is...essentially nothing. So what we are finding is that M$ is giving away software that is being given away by others anyhow. Granted OO.o isn't the same thing, doesn't have the same shine or finish to it, and is probably several years behind M$ in terms of features, but I am willing to bet that the vast majority of schools and schoolkids won't notice the difference.

    Heck, I use office products all day every day, on one machine that has M$ office, and one that has OO.o and I can't say that I have noticed a significant difference in terms of my productivity, either.
    • If Mass. can deploy OO.o or other office tools for free, then the value of M$'s office tools to those same institutions is...essentially nothing.

      Not when Microsoft's version offers utilities and functionale (particularly in Excel) that doesn't exist in OO.org's offerings (as an engineer... as of the 1.9.104 release there was enough missing to make it counterproductive). I can offer you a piece of toast for a nickel, that doesn't mean that a full 5-course meal should run a nickel as well...
      • Engineers have a saying "Anybody can build a bridge that stands, but it takes an Engineer to build a bridge that barely stands"; so the question is how many public school students need accounting software with the functions and utilites to perform engineering calculations, when it's improbably that they will ever calculate double declining balance depreciation?
  • I'm from MA, and the schools I went to all outfitted themselves with macs. Schools (other than colleges) don't have the budget necessary to get an IT team to set the school up in linux. During one of our shop's arguments with the dean (drafting, as the only windows shop we were under constant administrative fire) he actually showed us the budget charts; It would cost more to pay someone to set everything up with linux than it does to just buy something that doesn't need to be configured. The cost to trai
    • n reality, with linux you can't simply set it up and leave it.

      Ahh, I see you've never actually *run* Linux.

  • Why favor OSS? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bhirsch ( 785803 ) on Monday June 19, 2006 @09:02AM (#15561207) Homepage
    Why should the state legislate favoritism toward open source software? Aren't they supposed to be unbiased and viewing IT policies from a strictly pragmatic point of view?
    • Re:Why favor OSS? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by tddoog ( 900095 )
      Governments exist for the people, so they should be doing what is best for the people .

      Recently governments in the US have begun working only for people who make the most campaign donations and not doing what is best for all. If the government were to invest its vast resources into supporting OSS instead of closed solutions, then all of the people would reap the benefits of their investment and not just a select few. I agree the government should be pragmatic in determining what to spend tax dollars on, b

      • Regardless, building favoritism toward open source solutions into legislation makes just as little sense as building in favoritism towards closed source solutions. As you said, they should be making the best choice. Assuming that OSS is always the best choice may be the opinion of evangelists, but it is a prejudicial and biased one that many knowledgeable and impartial people disagree with.
    • They are. That's why they are favoring open standards.

      But, perhaps more importantly, if open source were just a commercial competitor to Microsoft, states would have to favor open source, simply because they generally have to buy the cheapest of a choice of equivalent products. So, even if MA actually mandated open source software, that would certainly be in line with their duty to tax payers.
  • ...just threaten to standardize on ODF.

    That is the message other states should take from this.
  • Re: reward (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ltwally ( 313043 ) on Monday June 19, 2006 @09:17AM (#15561308) Homepage Journal
    "After all, why would Microsoft reward Massachusetts for taking no action to curtail an IT policy that favored ODF and rejected Microsoft's own XML format...?"


    This isn't a reward: this is good marketing. It's marketing because it costs Microsoft next to nothing to give software away (they've already paid to create it, and MA wouldn't buy it from them -- hence, very little lost $$). However, by giving it to students, they can train future generations on their software, thus helping to lock them into Windows & Office. When these students go out into the Real World, their only software experiences will be on MS stuff -- and thus, their employers will have incentives to use MS stuff rather than retrain them for something else. It's good marketing because, as stated above, it doesn't cost MS much $$. And smart companies always jump at the chance for cheap marketing.
  • by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Monday June 19, 2006 @09:34AM (#15561398) Homepage Journal
    Microsoft wins when it stick a new generation of kids with its software. The kids will then be on the "Microsoft track", much more likely to use their Microsoft skills to ensure more Microsoft software is bought for them, and the people they communicate with, for the rest of their lives.

    With so many colleges, Massachusetts is very influential in forming "software habits", apart from its rank as the 4th most populous state.

    If Microsoft can use those "free bags" of smack to lure the state into making Microsoft's brand of junk into law, that's a big bonus. But just getting the kids hooked is worth doing, even if they have to wait for the state to require addiction.
  • Proprietors will reduce their price to lock in an audience [slashdot.org]. Pursuing free and open standards is better than focusing on price or an efficient development methodology.

    Andy Updegrove asks:

    After all, why would Microsoft reward Massachusetts for taking no action to curtail an IT policy that favored ODF and rejected Microsoft's own XML format, especially after Microsoft has by all accounts lobbied so aggressively to bring about a change?

    They wouldn't and they probably aren't, but they see that they ar

  • I see a lot of people here saying that MS is doing this to get the kids now so later, they stay with MS software. Well, that theory doesn't work and hasn't ever worked. One word: Macintosh. They tried this for over a decade, and what do they have to show for it? About 4% market share, if that. And this is coming from a Mac user.

    No, kids will always still buy whatever their parents get for them, which usually happens through marketing, or whatever they have at work, etc. The schools haven't had any real power over this, ever.

  • by hotspotbloc ( 767418 ) on Monday June 19, 2006 @12:43PM (#15562760) Homepage Journal
    TFA:

    About 42,000 of the public high schools' computers, a little fewer than half, will be able to run the software immediately. But the other 50,000 are too old to handle such new programs and will be weeded out of the system anyway, said Education Commissioner David P. Driscoll .

    So 50k machines out and say $300 per seat (IMO way too low but ...) equals $15M USD in hardware upgrade costs.

    Before people freak clearly some machines would need replacing anyways but how many could be still used if they running something like ubuntu, xubuntu (lighter system requirements than the stock ubuntu) or even pupply gnu/linux? Why not phase in the upgrades and squeak an extra year or two out of the older hardware?

    This is not a dig against MS but at the MA elected folks that agreed to this IMO costly "gift".

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