Home of The Tiny Guide to

Real World: Open Source in Education

July 30th, 2005 Benjamin Horst

Miguel Guhlin (, Director of Instructional Technology for a school district in Texas, shares some of his experience via the EdTech mailing list:

Since we are facing budget crunches (especially in Texas where state legislators are into a 5th special session to figure out funding, and districts are worried that there won’t be any money except federal funds and what was left over from last year), open source software may be our only alternative.

Allow me to share an example of a real school district issue. Three years ago, we developed a high tech, grade 6-8 curriculum that incorporated Macromedia Studio MX. The curriculum focused on information literacy approaches (such as Big6) that focused on problem-solving at higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. We provided Macromedia Studio MX licenses to 15 campuses for around $45K-$50K. We also provided extensive professional development.

In analyzing the work done so far, after 2 years and multiple professional development sessions, campus visits, etc., it’s clear that some teachers are working at the higher levels of Bloom’s. Yet, others are still not moving beyond computer literacy. This is not unusual and I appreciate that it takes time to make the transition from computer literacy to information problem-solving.

But what worries me is that neither teachers or student were using the computer software that we paid so much money for to its full capacity, whether they were teaching information problem-solving or computer literacy. As I look back now, I feel I made the wrong decision. I should have started with open source software FIRST. After all, upgrades on that software are free and we could have saved a LOT more money that could have been used for other purchases.

School districts just do not have the money to keep upgrading year after year, or even waiting two-three years, all their proprietary software. We can’t keep spending loads of dollars in schools, providing the very best when students aren’t even going to use a fraction of the power…let’s be even more blunt about the truth, the software power our students and teachers may actually use may not tap the depths of the open source software we get for “free” much less the proprietary software we go into debt for.

In my district, we’re going to introduce open source options. Here are the options…instead of…

…MS Office, suggest OpenOffice
…Inspiration, suggest Cmap Tools
…Fireworks/Photoshop, suggest THE Graphics Image Manipulation Program (GIMP)

When you consider the cost of these programs–let’s say $99 for Office, Inspiration, Macromedia Studio–and multiply that by the total number of computers in a district (18,000 in mine), imagine the savings. There are also free anti-virus alternatives ( instead of Symantec AntiVirus), the savings increase.

Multiply $99 x 18,000 computers, and we save $1.8 million—now, did you know that my District’s total tech allotment now is $1.2 million for 56K students? Wow, we could double funding for technology if we only took advantage of open source.

Total cost of ownership? What is against open source software initiative in schools? I honestly believe it’s our comfort level. We don’t want to try new tools and would rather continue to pay…we pay for expensive tools but then fail to use all but their most basic features.

Let’s stop believing in proprietary software and put the money back into our children’s education. Asked another way, how many more teachers could we hire with $1.8 million?

Time to Switch to Open Source?

July 29th, 2005 Benjamin Horst

TechNewsWorld asks, Is it time to switch to open-source software?

“Should you or your business consider open source? Bernard Golden thinks so. He’s the author of the recent book Succeeding With Open Source, published by Addison-Wesley. The book is a how-to guide for organizations who want to move away from high-cost commercial software”

Dvorak on OS X vs. Vista

July 26th, 2005 Benjamin Horst

Infamous columnist John C. Dvorak thinks that Microsoft’s lackluster products will cause it to lose market dominance, while Apple and others will rise to take over. The second page of this article is where it gets good.

Open Source Deal for New Zealand Schools

July 26th, 2005 Benjamin Horst

The kiwis might be on to something. Stuff reports that “The Education Ministry has signed an 18-month software licensing deal with Novell New Zealand, the ministry’s first deal to provide open source software to schools.” The schools will be able to choose SUSE Linux with Firefox and OpenOffice, while receiving formal support services from Novell.

Vnunet Reviews OpenOffice 2 beta

July 25th, 2005 Benjamin Horst

Though not a thorough or well-researched piece, Vnunet reviews OpenOffice 2 beta. They chose a beta that’s several months old, and seemed to miss the existence of Draw, but it is publicity, and the conclusion is positive, so I’ll take it for now.

Microsoft Office 2003 Sales Disappoint

July 21st, 2005 Benjamin Horst

Our chief competitor is falling behind its projected sales for Office 2003, according to the Channel Register. The article does not even mention OpenOffice, just the difficulty of getting people to switch from older versions of MS Office to newer. However, with some estimates placing OpenOffice at 10% – 15% global marketshare, that means it might be as widespread as MS Office 2003 — wow!

“Office 2003 appears to be falling behind in targeted sales for this point in the product’s lifecycle, according to Microsoft’s own internal figures and guidelines. Just 15% of PCs are running Office 2003, two years into its life, with Office 12 – the next edition of Microsoft’s ubiquitous suite – now on the horizon. However, Microsoft traditionally expects between 50% and two thirds of customers to be running the previous version of Office when the new copy ships.

During a recent press roundtable Chris Capossela, vice president for Microsoft’s Information Worker product management group said that Microsoft is holding firm on these numbers, and expects two thirds of the 400m Office installation base will be running Office 2003 at the time when Office 12 ships.

That means an awful lot of sales, marketing and product development work by partners during the next 18 months, in order for Microsoft to hit those figures.”

Novell and LVM Versicherungun Run Linux

July 18th, 2005 Benjamin Horst

Computer Business Review follows up on Novell’s internal migration to Linux and OpenOffice, while also covering a German insurance company (LVM Versicherungun)’s move of 8,500 desktops to Red Hat Linux.

“With most of the users moving to Novell Linux Desktop, launched in November 2004, and some in engineering to SUSE Linux 9.2 to meet additional development requirements, Anderson estimated in September 2004 that Novell had made savings of $900,000 on Microsoft Windows and Office licences as well as maintenance costs from the move.”

“Red Hat has recently celebrated a couple of sizeable European corporate wins for its Red Hat Desktop operating system, including German insurance company LVM Versicherungun, which has signed a contract to migrate 8,500 clients to Red Hat desktop from a self-configured Linux platform that the company has used since 2000.”

Quickies from Peru and Brazil

July 17th, 2005 Benjamin Horst

Great blog post about Free Software in Corporate Environments from an employee at the Lima, Peru Chamber of Commerce. They’ve spontaneously moved to Firefox, and have deliberately begun an OpenOffice migration.

The OpenOffice Brazil project maintains a list of corporate and government migrators on its wiki. The page also contains links to a number of relevant opinion pieces and technical and news articles on the subject.

Linux User Group of Davis

July 14th, 2005 Benjamin Horst

LUGOD, the Linux User Group of Davis (California, unless there is another I am not aware of), compiled a list of links and quotes arguing for user and organizational migrations to Linux. Case studies, TCO studies, and news articles are all collected.

July 11th, 2005 Benjamin Horst

Fundable offers a way to collect money for open source projects (as well as other endeavors). Using a “threshold pledge” in which people pledge money that is refunded if the overall goal is not met, the site allows groups to collect money and set a deadline for their fund-raising. It’s already being successfully used by smaller open source projects.