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[K12OSN] FW: Steve Duin's column of 5/21/02

Follow-up article by Steve Duin of the Oregonian. This is a cut/paste
directly from:


Good news - at least short term - for Linux

Greg Long
Klamath Linux Unix Group http://www.maneuveringspeed.com/klug/index.html


For schools, it's Microsoft's way or the free way 


M icrosoft has beaten a retreat -- albeit a rumblin', bumblin',
stumblin' retreat -- from its proposed audit of the 24 largest school
districts in Washington and Oregon, but the battle between the software
company and Linux is only heating up. 
Stung by furious criticism after targeting those districts with a
"random" audit to "certify licensing compliance," Microsoft has backed
off while going out of its way not to reveal its fallback position. 

While it is still trying to peddle school agreements that require
"institutionwide commitments" and costly upgrades, Microsoft is no
longer using the threat of imminent audits as a sales tool. 

"Microsoft has put the inventory request on hold," said Catherine
Brooker, a company spokesman. "Microsoft realized it wasn't as sensitive
as it could have been with the timing of its request." 

How long the hold is on, however, is unclear. Steve Carlson, the
associate superintendent for information and technology for Beaverton
schools, said Microsoft has put nothing in writing: "We don't know what
to believe." 

What became clear after I wrote about the audits April 21 was that
Microsoft wasn't simply picking on cash-strapped school districts in the
Northwest. Terry Hippenhammer of Puget Sound ESD, said schools in 35
states have been audited. Annoyed tech coordinators in Iowa, Arkansas,
Utah and Philadelphia suggested that Microsoft's licensing tactics were
pushing them toward Linux and free, open-source software. 

In February, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said he considered the "Linux
phenomenon" the top threat to Microsoft's plans for world domination. 

No wonder Doug Miller, Microsoft's group product manager for competitive
strategies, immediately trashed it. "There really isn't much value in
free," Miller told Wired.com. "Free does not sustain a business. . . .
We have yet to see a business model in the Linux world that has any
chance of long-term success." 

Tell that to Amazon.com, which claimed in a recent SEC filing that it
saved $17 million in technology expenses by switching to Linux. 

Tell that to Randy Baker, tech coordinator for 16 school districts and
12,000 users in central Iowa, who said he "completely dumped Microsoft
last summer and migrated everything to Linux." 

Tell that to Portland Public Schools. 

B y September, Portland schools will have opened 16 new Linux-terminal
computer labs at a cost of $240,000, half of what those labs would cost
if outfitted with the usual Microsoft trappings. 

"We're very serious about Linux," said Scott Robinson, the district's
chief tech officer. "We're down to the last few dollars from the 1995
technology bond. For me to refresh the school's computer system, we have
to look at open-source software and a different server." 

Multnomah ESD is saving $190,000 a year in licensing, maintenance and
staffing by using Linux. In Iowa, Baker said the migration was motivated
by tight budgets and Microsoft's "well-publicized security problems." 

And if savings and security aren't reason enough to consider open-source
software, there's always Microsoft's attitude. That attitude was
exemplified in a notation on a Microsoft Web page titled "A Guide to
Accepting Donated Computers for Your Schools" that read, "It is a legal
requirement that pre-installed operating systems remain with a machine
for the life of the machine." 

That's not true. "It was very poorly worded," Brooker agreed. "Microsoft
has fixed it." 

While Red Hat is offering open-source software and free technical
support to all schools in North Carolina and Apple, Carlson said, has
worked overtime "to understand the culture of schools," Microsoft has
long been a royal pain. 

"Microsoft feels schools have no viable alternative," Robinson said,
"which isn't the case anymore. I find it ironic that Microsoft doesn't
seem to be interested in working flexibly with schools to make sure
their operating system is the first one those kids experience." 

In 16 (and counting) computer labs this fall, it won't be. 

Reach Steve Duin at 503-221-8597, Steveduin aol com or 1320 S.W.
Broadway, Portland, OR 97201. 

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