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Re: [K12OSN] Letter to local schools - draft [ rationale ]



I decided I'd follow-up to this to provide rationale for some of what I
wrote. ;^)  I dunno, maybe I'm bored...



On Thu, Oct 16, 2003 at 10:34:46PM -0700, Bill Kendrick wrote:
> 
> My name is Bill Kendrick, and I'm with the Linux Users' Group of
> Davis, a non-profit dedicated to the Linux computer operating system,
> and to 'Open Source' software in general.

Many in the community are familiar with LUGOD.  At the very least, they
can see I'm not just some random nutcase.   (I'm a _specific_ nutcase ;^) )

I also mention "Open Source ... in general" so that they, hopefully,
don't immediately jump to the conclusion:

  "This is some Linux evangelist trying to make me throw away Windows"

Sure, in the long run, that's the goal. :^)  But in the meantime, I want
everyone to know about great things like OpenOffice.org and Tux Paint,
which run on Windows and Mac, _too!_


> I'd like to bring to your
> attention a variety of software which you might find useful at your
> school.  Best of all, it's free.

(Ugh, I hope that doesn't sound lame to everyone else ;^) )


> If you're not familiar with Open Source, then allow me to explain.
> What's commonly known as the 'Open Source' movement began over 20
> years ago, and was simply a formalization of the tradition of sharing
> information that computer programmers had been doing since the 1960s.

Happy birthday to GNU & GPL, if I'm doing my math (and Slashdot recollection)
correctly.  Of course, RMS was just fighting change... that is, the increasing
proprietarity of software.  Hence the 'tradition ... 1960s' bit.

I hope my dates are generally close enough.  The idea is to instill the
notion that Open Source isn't some "newfangled doo-hickey", but is really
just the roots of the computer/hacker spirit...


> Software that is released under an Open Source license is available
> freely to everyone.  The human-readable source-code behind the program

I've used the term "human-readable source-code" to describe 'source' so many
times that it comes out without me thinking.  Do you folks think it makes
sense to lay-people?  (I might be mailing principals of K-6 schools, and not
necessarily comp lab folks with IT backgrounds, remember!)


> is available, and this accessibility allows people to fix bugs, add
> features, and even create completely new software based on the
> existing code.

...just a summary of my bullets below...


> Open Source provides people with the ability to share ideas and work
> together freely.  It's like the scientific method, which works well
> for physicists, doctors, and researchers.  It's ideal for software
> creation too!

I forget exactly where I read the quote which I'm paraphrasing/hacking
here.  (I actually quote it on my home page right now.)  One thing the
original had in there was "It's not communism." :^)  So, the quote was
kind of a rebuttal to non-believers.

I don't want to assume my reader had jumped to that stupid 'communism'
comparison to BEGIN with, so I left that part out.  The rest of it sounds
great, though, no?  I _love_ the "scientific method" comparison.
Something educators should find interesting. :^)



> In fact, Open Source software is being embraced by schools,
> governments[1], corporations[2], and individuals all over the world.  The
> Internet itself has always been build on such open software, but today
> more Open Source software is being created for 'the average person,'
> including teachers and children.

Tried not to waste space with the words "servers" and "DNS/BIND" :^)
If they don't understand, they can ask.  I just want them to get the jist...


> Along with cost, the Open Source model has a number of other
> advantages over commercial software:
> 
> * Extensibility
>   Authors of Open Source software are often amazed at the kinds of
>   uses other people come up with for their work.  Apple took an Open
>   Source web browser and replaced Microsoft's Internet Explorer with it
>   in their Mac OS X.  IBM took the Linux operating system and made it
>   run in a wrist-watch.

I think I read LinuxDevices.com too often.  Other than the gas station
fuel pump running Linux, I couldn't think of much more here that could
fit in a few sentences.  I'd love some suggestions. :^)


>   When programmers get an 'itch,' they can easily
>   'scratch' it, without paying licensing fees or worrying about asking
>   for permission.

Sadly, I repeat the "licensing fees" junk below.  Again, help appreciated
here. :^)



> * Security
>   Because the source is available for peer review, bugs and errors are
>   found more easily.  Open Source software has a very good track record
>   for repairing problems quickly.  (Even if the original creator of the
>   software is unable or uninterested in fixing it, others are free to do
>   so -- to the benefit of all of the users.)

I avoided doing my "Linux is like Pizza" analogy that I think I've
irritated my LUG members with. ;^)


> * Interoperability
>   Open Source software does not just mean programs for Linux!

There!  I said it!  Loud and clear!  ("does not" is in italics, even.)

For those with a VAGUE idea of what Linux & OSS are, I want to make sure
they don't think they are THE SAME.


>   Countless Open Source programs are available for Windows,
>   Mac, Unix, and other operating systems you've probably never heard of!

BeOS, SymbianOS, Amiga, BSD... :)


>   They run on all sorts of hardware, from the ubiquitous
>   Intel-compatible PCs to hand-held PDAs.  And nobody likes software
>   that won't work with other software; the Open Source movement is also
>   about open file formats, which can be used anywhere without paying
>   royalties or dealing with patents.

I didn't want to delve too much into this, but I wanted to mention
open formats.


> * Control
>   Open Source software, like Linux, can't be controlled by a single
>   company.  You are not at the mercy of a single vendor. There is no
>   forced upgrading, and no pay-per-user licensing policy.  Your school
>   is freed from the obligation of tracking license certificates, and
>   freed from the risk of audits for improperly licensed software.  Open
>   Source provides true free-market products -- an alternative to
>   monopoly.

I'm paraphrasing a friend's excellent description of Linux for a small
busiess some of us are putting together.  (It's specifically in a
"Linux Advantages" section of the website and brochure.)

I'm /guessing/ permission will be granted for me to yank it like I did. ;)


> I'd be happy to sit down with you and tell you more, if you'd be
> interested.  Feel free to contact me via e-mail at:
> bill newbreedsoftware com, or call me at home: (XXX) YYY-ZZZZ.
> 
> I'm personally involved with a non-profit in Arizona,

"Tux4Kids", of course.  (Hi Sam!)


> and have created of a number of educational Open Source programs for
> children.

Again, I wanted to be a /specific/ nut-case. :^)


> I'll be holding a handsn demonstration of one of them at the
> Davis Food Co-Op later this month (Sunday, October 26th from 11am to 3pm).
> I'd be more than happy to answer any questions then, as well.

Invitation to come visit me, to go along with my invitation to come visit
them...


> For now, I'll leave you with a small list of some useful Open Source
> software that you can download today, and begin using on your
> computers tomorrow!

Unfortunately, my list could be better, I think.  Though the size is
perfect... My letter comes out at exactly 2 pages (US Letter with .5" margins
on all sides) :^)


> Celestia                                  http://www.shatters.net/celestia/
<snip>

I have no direct experience with it.  I've played with KStars and love it.
Sadly, I think KStars is NOT yet available for Windows. :^(


<snip> 
> OpenOffice.org                                   http://www.openoffice.org/
<snip>

Obviously got to mention it if I dedicate a 4-page (or 2-page, double-sided)
pamphlet to the thing! :^)


<snip> 
> Tux Paint                         http://www.newbreedsoftware.com/tuxpaint/
<snip>

All ego.


<snip>
> Tux Typing                                  http://tuxtype.sourceforge.net/

Hi Sam!


<snip>
> Wikipedia                                         http://www.wikipedia.org/
<snip>

The idea to throw this in came when I was using this very site to come up
with good ways to explain Open Source! :^)  GNU FDL... perfect example of
Open Source _non_-software. :^)


<snip>
> [1] England, Russia, China, Japan, Korea, India, Brazil, Israel, and the
>     state of Massachusetts, to name a few.
> 
> [2] IBM, Oracle, HP, Sharp, DreamWorks, Intel, AMD, Apple, Amazon, and
>     Google all use the Linux Operating System, for example.

Good broad ranges in both cases, I think...  Also, the first I could
rattle off the top of my head. :)

-bill!




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