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[K12OSN] Privacy vs vendor support



I just rolled in from the National Educational Computing Conference (NECC).

One of the interesting problems we face when talking with vendors is 
that they ask for number of users. Since it's open source, we don't
really have any idea. We can tell them how many downloads we've had off
our servers, but not off the various mirrors, or how many have been
burned onto CDs and handed out, etc, etc.

We can see how many people are on the K12OSN list (850 last time I checked).
We can see how many sites are syncing to the SquidGuard web filter black
lists (~2,500). But we don't really know that the installed base of K12LTSP
happens to be.

I'm a big privacy advocate myself, so I'm not very fond of the idea of
installing spyware. On the other hand, it is really hard to get vendors
to listen to us if we can't give them some sort of reasonable numbers.

The best idea I have so far is to create a package (maybe named something
like "privacy_violator" ;-) that added an anacron job that ran once a
month which did something like "wget -q http://k12ltsp.org/I_USE_K12LTSP";
That would leave a log entry in the K12LTSP.org web server logs that 
looked like this:

12.34.56.78 - - [02/Jul/2003:19:11:43 -0700] "GET /I_USE_K12LTSP HTTP/1.0" 200 0

where "12.34.56.78" would be the IP address of the server (or the address of
the NAT server).

This would give us a general idea of how many K12LTSP servers are in use
while revealing as little information as possible (the IP address). It 
would also be very easy to disable.

What you all think? Does anyone have a better idea?  Is a small decrease
in privacy worth greater influence on vendors to help support us and/or
port their software?

-Eric




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