[K12OSN] Microsoft's insidious domination in Australian schools

Joe Guenther jguenther at chinooksedge.ab.ca
Thu May 4 18:39:58 UTC 2006

Dear all,

After having read all the comments, I have a few comments to counter the
rage.  First, I have already setup 3 LTSP labs in this school Division. 
They run well. They save us a swack of cash.  BUT they are not a complete
solution.  There are still Windows apps that we must run. They do little
for our audio/video editing users. They run on old hardware that
physically dies and has to be constantly rotated ... speak you need a
constant supply of old stuff to keep the labs running. Generally that is
not a problem, EXCEPT it takes time and support.  And that brings one of
the primary arguments for single platform networks - support.  Not all
places have the support time and know-how to setup and run Linux. 
Remember the initial cost of the computer is only about 50% of the total
cost of ownership.  Support costs contribute significantly to a large
fleet of computers.  That is the magic touch that managers are trying to
get by demanding a single platform environment.  This is not Microsoft's
fault. It is the fact that there are many developers/manufacturers that
will not port their software to Linux. They won't until Linux becomes
dominant on the desktop - which will not happen until they start to
develop for Linux ... and around and around we go.  Fortunately my school
division is open to using FOSS and has allowed LTSP to thrive in a few
cases. (They have also played with Sun terminals, but wish they had stuck
with LTSP instead of Sun terminals ... more options on the Linux
platform.) We are also moving to standardize more ... away from multiple
OS & platforms to a more unified environment.  Having to support Windows,
Novell, Mac OS X/9/8/7, Solaris, Linux, OpenBSD & AS\400 I understand the
extra effort, time and cost that this precludes to get so many different
platforms to inter-operate. So although I feel you pain, I also understand
the direction of large environments to go single platform.

Joe Guenther

On Thu, May 4, 2006 3:10 am, Gavin Chester said:
> (This email is written with many concepts explained that may already be
> familiar to you because I am sending this as an open letter to readers
> from
> a wide range of backgrounds and interest groups).
> I write with heavy heart and a good dose of old-fashioned rage at the
> injustice meted out to the next generation.  Okay, that's maybe a bit over
> the top, but I encountered a ludicrous situation that came to a head today
> at my local government primary school of around 75 students (K-7), located
> in a rural area of Western Australia.  It's under-funded and
> under-resourced, as you would imagine.
> Through contacts I have in the local Linux user group (PLUG), I had tapped
> into a supply of up to 15 PII PCs about to be cast-off by a large company.
> They were more than happy to donate the lot, plus spares, and deliver them
> more than 100km to our school.  These PCs are useless for running any
> recent
> version of Microsoft, but they are great for running Linux.  I presented a
> proposal to our school Principal of the concept of making use of these
> computers in a teaching lab, utilising one or two of their high-end
> desktops
> as a server.  The latter part of the concept was a short-term solution and
> I
> aimed to beg, borrow or steal a purpose-built server once I got the lab up
> and running, and proven.  I also was going to donate my time to setup the
> system and administer it and asked nothing of the school staff in this
> regard.
> Underpinning the concept was that it was to be a K12LTSP lab, since I have
> been following the project for about three years and run a small setup at
> home for my kids.  For those who don't know, K12LTSP is an offshoot of the
> LTS Project that allows low-end PCs to be used as thin (i.e., no hard
> drive)
> clients running off a central Linux server.  Another, similar Linux
> project
> is 'Edubuntu', which is based on Ubuntu Linux, itself based on Debian
> Linux.
> Those of you in the know will realise that there are other projects out
> there that do similar things and also are tailored for an educational
> setting, but K12LTSP is the one with which I am most familiar.  The beauty
> of any of these projects is that all the software is very worthy and it is
> FREE and you get to recycle old PCs, which not only saves them from
> polluting at landfill but also means that the hardware is usually FREE.
> Moreover, you can run a large PC lab (30 or more PCs, or clients) with
> only
> one server to administer instead of lots of separate PCs with their own
> operating system.  See these links for more information if you're not
> already familiar with these software projects:
> http://k12ltsp.org/contents.html
> http://www.ltsp.org/
> http://www.edubuntu.org/
> Despite being cash-strapped, the school did have some cash to spare for
> incidentals so I was going to be able to buy some missing bits, like basic
> networking gear.  I was even prepared that the lab be isolated from the
> rest
> of their system with no access to their existing server and internet link
> (the reason for this will be soon be apparent).  Well, today I was told
> that
> thanks, but no thanks.  Apparently, higher powers in head office dictate
> that every computer located in any government school across the whole
> State
> MUST run Microsoft - even if the hardware on which it runs is donated.
> Also, every computer in the school must be powerful enough to run XP.  It
> simplifies administration and help-desk support, you see.  That's despite
> the fact that no one from head office ever comes near the school's PCs,
> and
> despite the fact that the school can't afford to have more than about one
> working PC for every six students in the school because of the hardware
> requirements of XP.  I should point out that the ratio is an estimate,
> since
> I've only anecdotal evidence of how many PCs are used regularly in the
> school.  If I've erred, I believe I've been generous regarding the ratio
> of
> students per PC.
> As you would imagine, I was aghast at being told this today.  I
> incredulously stated to the Principal and the school administrator that
> "it
> is our responsibility to teach our children computing, not Microsoft".
> But
> my pleas fell on deaf ears because they are bound by head office policy,
> apparently.  I don't write this open letter to serve as a means to 'vent
> my
> spleen' and rant like some Linux zealot at a ridiculous situation.
> Instead,
> I ask that recipients consider the implications of it and then act.  If
> you
> are able to contact someone who may have some influence, or know someone
> who
> knows someone else who may have influence, I want to see if we might
> effect
> a change in education policy to stop this happening in West Australian
> government schools.  Just where are our tax dollars being spent in
> education?  Into the pockets of Microsoft and Intel, I think.
> I see the use of free software and recycled hardware as another
> opportunity
> to better our next generation, yet it is being shot down by FUD (fear,
> uncertainty and doubt) emanating from the halls of (educational) power.
> The
> teachers here at the 'coal face' don't seem to mind too much because "we
> don't have to pay any licensing fees out of our budget - head office
> pays".
> I was dumbfounded that such an attitude can exist.  Contact me if you have
> any ideas or similar sad stories to relate.
> Regards,
> 	Gavin Chester
> 	962 Williams Rd (PO Box 62), Dwellingup, Western Australia.  6213.
> 	Tel: (08) 9538 1102
> 	E-mail#1: mailto:sales at ecosolutions.com.au
> 	E-mail#2: mailto:gc at gwchester.com
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= = = = = = = = = = = = =
Lantech - Didsbury
Chinook's Edge School Div.

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