Linux in Schools: A's in What?
Decisions in schools, especially Catholic parochial elementary schools (k-9) are not made on any of the criteria this author prefers to talk about. If you internalize his criteria, you may have won the battle but lost the war coming out of the chute! Schools can't be sold on Linux functionality, but rather on overall open source educational applications within an established infrastructure of support and maintenance. The support is NOT there and we all know it. Applications at the desktop are not sold correctly. OPen Source must eschew its laissez faire attitude, and start programming for the real guy in the schools, nonprofits and businesses of the world, rather than for what programmers want. Recently, a school resolved to go open source, but did an abrupt about face and bought 150 XP licenses and 4 MS Server2003 licenses because the secretarial staff just didn't like StarOffice! And quite frankly, I don't like it either! Even openoffice.org is a programmer's wet dream which just doesn't cut it with staff in prestigious or upper middle schools used to a steady sex life with MS Office Professional. Even Novell Suse Linux 9.2 is not ready for Prime Time, because contrary to the hype in the Open Source World about using older computers, Suse Linux can't support Dell built-in ethernet or Dell Raid. Dell being the major supplier of school computers.
My take on Open Source in Schools is an F! Forget about the Server side, we know that is usually OK, except for my Dell example, it is all decided on the desktop! OpenOffice.org is SLOW, SLOW, SLOW. It has LOUSY security! NO digital signatures, no document expiration dates, no restrictions on recipients with documents, no database support, no email client, no collaboration calendar, no clip art, no good templates, no speech recognition, text to speech, no context oriented help, and just as many guessing games going on with the menu structures. So what if it supports Palm? How many educators use Palm? It doesn't have a grammar checker, now thats a BIG HOLE! It doesn't support foreign language translation, do bar code support, it doesn't even support the calculations needed to produce a correlation coefficient. And if you create a presentation, it can't even generate a presentation CD. This spells not ready for Prime Time, and Sun, the company losing all the money because of non-comptitive products and loosing out with Java -- it is not going to do much to fix an office suite. They are a systems company, after all, didn't you know, who quite frankly won't be around much longer. Collectively, Sun as a company has their head up their royal rectums, are out of touch with reality, and are loosing money bigtime. Schools should base their computer initiatives on that? Duh.
And this is just one example! So, guys, do us a favor, spend more time finding out what potential customers really need, rather than patting yourself on the back and staying in some oblivious state of quasi-nirvana.