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Re: [school-discuss] Talking Linux in School is a Serious Blunder!

Leon Brooks wrote:
On Saturday 05 March 2005 09:57, Michael Dean wrote:
My main point, which I probably didn't communicate well enough, is
that the real battle is NOT at the device level, the operating system
level, not even at the middleware level, but at the user application
level.  And here, the Linux/BSD GUI is still nothing more than a poor
copy of other's.

GUI, singular?

Trollie, go home. You obviously know squat about window managers.

Cheers; Leon


I am presenting concepts, but Leon, you are fast to judge and fast to label, but you can't deal with concepts, especially if they conflict with your ideological stance. A sure sign of an inflexible personality..  We all know there is a proliferation of windows managers in the Linux world, most with some unique functionality, but as a group, still NRFPT on the desktop of average users, teachers intent on teaching content, and students mastering content.  Perhaps for a programmer, this proliferation is good, because, after all, the more freedom we have to choose, the better.  Well, from the perspective of actual users, not the perspective of programmers, that is BAD!  Users don't want to master a dozen ways of doing things, they even resist mastering one!   They don't want to take time to choose between Yet Another WM, they want to get on with their lives.  And this perspective holds for all aspects of software.  For instance, lets take the field of statistical analysis software.  SPSS has been adopted in undergraduate classes, but to actually get the work out in corporate America, it is SAS all the way.  SAS is the largest private software company, and is revered for its treatment of employees.  Go on any job board, look in any newspaper job classifieds, rarely will you find any statistical skill required other than SAS.  There is also a nifty open source program call VisTa, which attaches to Excel.  When I asked the author if he could port it to OpenOffice, he said no -- there is no dedmand, it would be a waste of his time.  I concluded that he was right, and for me to port it would also be a waste of my time.   There is also the S language and its open source analog R.  And there is a dozen or so other propritary packages as well.  But ONE takes the lion's share of users.  Why? Because SAS has put together all the crucial pieces --especially training, support, quality.

My point is that a new process must take place before schools, other than computer science departments of universities, will take Open Source seriously. Yes, some school admins have arbitrarily forced it down their teachers and students throats, but adaptation comes from pull not push forces in our society.

First, conduct a systematic and thorough needs assessment.

Second, document the school/admin processes -- i.e. how they do things in the real world now.

Third, assist the school in formulating their goals, objectives -- their purpose related to automation. 

Fourth, Calculate and Demonstrate a ROI for the school.  DO NOT use Total Cost of Ownership(TCO).  Microsoft chose that on purpose, but it is only part of the necessary equation. 
Fourth, search the world over for single BEST Practice applications software that meets their purpose, as well as the BEST practice  middleware software underlying these best practice software applications..  Schools are tired of being picked clean by specialized proprietary software.  $25,000 for a library management system is outrageous, when Greenstone is available.  Start at the highest level of abstraction -- the user software -- and work down the stack.

Fifth, Cover ALL the OSI layers.  At the hardware level, for instance, Linux suffers from lack of device drivers for some anti open source video boards, 3com encryption boards where they partnered with Microsoft, etc.   Also, over the last few years a majority of schools in our area bought either Mac G3's or Dell boxes.  Dell's BIOS for their  laptops and desktops are VERY similar, and generalized distributions like Knoppix and Gnoppix (your little KDE and Gnome WM's) just don't work without lots of manual fiddling.  Try it and see.  So work on this layer is needed.  Apple G3's can easily accomodate a specialized open source distribution.  And so on up the abstraction ladder.  Whether at the operating system layer I would choose Linux kernel, MACH kernel (as Jobs did a decade or more ago) or OpenBSD would be addressed in terms of which best meets the needs of the client school, not which is hyped the greatest as commercial products in the marketplace.

Sixth, sidestep the perceived and actual installation nightmares by creating a bootable reference CD with all the stuff on it.  If the school's name is St. Mary's Elementary School, then the name of the distribtion is St. Mary's Elementary School Systems Software, or something like that -- the ultimate fork!  It would not boot up with the big red N all over the place (which for me meant my graduate school alma mater - University of Nebraska, not Novell), or bare feet, and we would not have to suffer interminably by seeing everything spelled with a beginning K.  All of the images associated with a particular generalized distribution would be gone, and all images on St. Mary's Software would be related to the vision, mission, goals, objectives and practices of that school.  All we as open source consultants did was create the appropriate minimalist toolkit for the school. 

Seventh, devise, staff and guarantee training, upgrades, service and support through your own organizationfor years to come.  This is a legitimate profit center!
Cut and run just does not cut it in the schools. 

Well, Leon, thanks for getting me going.  I hope you can pick apart each and every concept I have presented (I wrote this in about 13 minutes) , but pick apart the concepts with more viable concepts and pick apart the suggested practives with more effective practices, not by hurling labels and name calling.  Also, have you ever taught school? 
fn:Michael Dean