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[Fwd: Re: [seul-edu] RE: [why schools don't adopt OSS]]

-------- Original Message --------

From: Jim Thomas <jthomas@bittware.com>
To: seul-edu@seul.org
Subject: Re: [seul-edu] RE: [why schools don't adopt OSS]

Jay Sun wrote:
> However, schools waste fair amount of money at same time, 
> especially at district administrative level in public schools. 
> you are right that schools use other people's money, so there 
> are a lot of things that are purely political, and the OSS 
> just don't make much sense in those situations.

I keep hearing this (that public schools spend other people's money) and
I feel compelled to respond to it.  I agree - it's very difficult to get
a public school (in the US at least) to adopt open source.  The "free"
argument doesn't go very far.  We have to tout *other* benefits of Open
Source to get into that sector, such as stability, viral resistance, an
actual security model, and capabilities.

It might be easier to start with private schools - especially non-profit
denominational schools, which operate on tight budgets and are somewhat
smaller than the public behemoths down the street.  These people really
do care about saving money, and they are not hobbled by large
bureaucracies either.  Once enough private schools adopt OSS, we can
collect their case studies and have a body of evidence to present to the
public sector.  Perhaps these arguments  apply to for-profit private
schools too, but I think this is a smaller slice of the pie.  I say
start small and build momentum.  This approach lets us work out the bugs
before tackling the giants.

Unfortunately, this strategy takes more time, and we're trying to
"strike while the iron's hot."  

I still think the community needs to come out with an Education
Distribution to ease installation.  As I see it, there are three types
of installations required in an edu environment: student machines, staff
machines, and servers.  When you install RedHat, it prompts for the type
of installation and suggests Workstation, Server, etc.  This doesn't
make sense for an edu distro.  

Right now it is no easy task to set this up.  The packages are
available, but not on a CD.  The installation procedure goes like this:
1) Choose one of a myriad of available installations
2) Install it, choosing packages from a tremendous list of confusing (to
the uninitiated) options (what does ypbind do?  do I need it?)
3) Locate educational packages
4) download and attempt installation, only to discover dependencies
5) Figure out what those dependencies are
6) Locate the package that will satisfy the dependency
7) Go back to step 4, and repeat as more dependencies are discovered.
8) Confiure the application

This is a lot to ask from a person with little or no *nix experience. 
An edu distro would reduce these steps to
1) Get the edu distro
2) Choose student, staff, or server installation
3) Choose applications (which should be well described)
4) Customize the configuration (but it should work pretty well without
this step).

A student installation would include:
Web/email client
Office suite
Educational apps (select by grade level and subject)
Games (this may be important for fostering acceptance)
What else?

A staff installation would include:
same as student install plus
Internet usage monitor
Account management SW
What else?

The server installation would be tailored for school use.  There could
possibly be more than one type of server too, such as a lab server (NFS,
NIS, DHCP) and a gateway server (firewall, httpd, email server,
squid/squidguard).  A library app (such as Koha) should also be
available for the server machine.

I have installed Linux at a private school, and the effort has largely
been successful.  Linux has still not achieved acceptance by the staff,
but I'm still working on that.  I'd like to introduce linux to other
schools too, but managing the one I'm involved with now still requires a
huge committment on my part (and I'm just a volunteer).  

Jim Thomas      **    Principal Applications Engineer ** Bittware, Inc
703.779.7770    **    jthomas@bittware.com **  http://www.bittware.com
The secret to enjoying your job is to have a hobby that is even worse.
 - Calvin's dad