[K12OSN] The HOSEF Way

Steve Hargadon steve.hargadon at gmail.com
Tue Feb 8 07:54:22 UTC 2005


I feel a little betrayed.  

You asked me to donate a server for use at your recent conference.  It
cost me $300 to ship it to Hawaii for you, and it will cost me the
same to get it back.  You asked me to cover those costs.  If I can't
make a profit from Linux thin client, I can't afford to supply a
demonstration server.  Are you only comfortable accepting donations
from companies making a profit outside of schools?

With no profits, there is no advertising, no phone support, no
emergency technical support, no direct accountability.  Granted, this
technology exists because of generous individuals who have donated
their time.  But it will likely stay a fringe technology if you
continue to portray that it is not right to have profitable companies
coexist with the volunteer support.

To portray that "entrpreneurialism ... extract[s] a few more dollars
that belong in the hands of a teacher or a principal that the decay of
America's education infrastructure will become more eminent" is to
leave the computer technology of 120,000 US schools in the hands of
volunteers.  I love the "idea."  But call any of our school customers,
especially the school boards, and ask them if they would feel
comfortable with that, and you'll find out how much you've limited the
growth of LTSP.

You actually do charge your customers.  You charge them for server
hardware.  You buy it from NewEgg.  Would you have NewEgg not make a
profit on those sales?  Of course not, because you need them to be
profitable to be able to continue to provide good product and stand
behind it.

I personally applaud what you have done.  But I think you run as great
a risk in your model as you see in the for-profit one.   The risk that
not working to find a revenue model--and actually seeming to say that
making a profit is not appropriate--will lead to driving out the very
entrepenurial energy than can expand the use of Linux thin client.

I have sold used computer equipment for 16 years.  Some years we have
sold close to 10,000 computers to schools, saving them significant
amounts of money.  Believe me--I haven't gotten rich doing it.  There
are also non-profit refurbishers providing schools with computers. 
The total volume from the handful of "for-profit" resellers to schools
is probably greater than the combined volume 400 non-profit
refurbishers doing the same thing.  Would you have us shut down our
operations just because we are "for-profit?"  I don't think that would
benefit anyone, least of all the schools.

Some of the "non-profits" actually charge more than we do to provide
the school with a computer.  They call it "cost-recovery."  The
Canadian government supplies 80,000 computers a year to their schools
through their "non-profit" refurbishment program.  It actually costs
them 3 times what it does anyone else to "refurbish" those computers. 
For all the faults of for-profit companies, the non-profit model can
have its own inefficiencies.

This is a unique time and opportunity.  When I am talking to schools
about LTSP, they are responsive and have heard a lot more about Linux
in the last six months than they ever did in the last six years.  We
have a chance to really make a difference for schools, and I think the
only way we will be able to do so it to find a way to work
together--the "for-profits" and the "non-profits."  I think you have a
cadre of "for-profits" on this list who are interested in playing a
thoughtful role in the development of LTSP.  Please don't alienate us.


Steve Hargadon
916-899-1400 direct

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