[Linux-aus] New Federal Govt's Education/PC plans

Paul Wayper paul.wayper at anu.edu.au
Mon Dec 3 07:00:49 UTC 2007

Phil Rhoades wrote:
> Since they are supposed to be new computers, we should be pushing a
> Linux OS as well . .

I'm all for this on the technical and Principles of Free Software
merits, but I'm against it on the practical and likelihood of success
merits.  The sheer dominance of the proprietary software mindset in the
Education arena is unlikely to be moved by one quick thrust; in my
opinion a series of gradual changes is more likely to succeed.

The key point I do want to make here is that a lot of the arguments that
the Proprietary Software lobbyists are going to advance as reasons not
to change from using proprietary software are mostly invalid:

* There is no shortage of people looking for work in the Open Source
field.  So there is no scarcity of people that would be available to
support this new pool of machines.  It is unreasonable to expect
existing staff to support such a new deployment, so hiring new people
would have to be done anyway.
* Since we're talking about new machines set up in a new configuration,
there is no precedent of software which has to be adhered to.
* The argument that "everyone uses Microsoft Office in the workplace so
that's what kids should learn" is not only obviously benefiting only one
vendor, to the exclusion of all others, and can easily be 'proven' by
whatever statistics you want to crawl through, but it is contradictory
(in my opinion) to every other thing we teach in schools, where no
student is taught a set of skills that applies to only one trade or
craft, and especially not to only one set of tools.
* To look at that another way, there is no shortage of employers looking
for people with Open Source experience.  So there is no danger of these
children learning 'useless' skills.
* While some proprietary software packages offer an educational or group
discount, the conditions on this often restrict the uses the software
can be put to.  In some cases, a student doing a portfolio or a CV would
be breaking the license conditions.  This also does not negate the cost
issue entirely.
* The security of proprietary software is a myth.  Microsoft-funded
studies 'proving' that Linux is slower, or has more bugs, or costs more
to run, than Windows have been proven time and again to be complete and
utter shams.  On the other hand, we see critical vulnerabilities in the
very fabric of the Windows operating system revealed almost every week -
things which can often threaten the privacy of these students.
* In many cases, the version of the proprietary software product offered
is an 'educational version' with many of its features disabled or not

On the other hand, we have a great set of advantages:

* You get great quality _and_ an unbeatable price in the one package!
* You can give copies away.  This cannot be understated.  Schools can
give copies to children, who can give copies to parents, who can give
copies to friends, who can give copies to their children, and so on.  It
is inconceivable that proprietary software vendors could ever offer such
a broad license.
* You get the full version.
* You get the updates for free, forever.
* For special projects, you already have the right to download the
source code, modify it and add to it as you please.  This means that
these projects, which may offer special access for disabled people or
add extra functionality specifically for Australian students (for
example), do not need any commitment or approval from the vendor to be
implemented by the working group in charge of the project.  In many
cases, this change can then go on to enable other people across the world.
* No student will be locked into buying a proprietary, costly tool in
order to read their own data in the future.

I know I'm preaching to the mostly converted here, but the key thing in
all of that is I'm not saying "Linux".  The Open Disc should reinforce
the idea that all of the above applies to a set of programs that people
can use right now on their Windows machines without a blink.  We should
not let FOSS, or proprietary software, be seen as an "all or nothing"

Is there an equivalent of the Open Disc for OS-X, btw?

Have fun,


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