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Education Government Open Source Microsoft Linux

Schools In Portugal Moving To OSS 319

Posted by Soulskill
from the seize-the-opportunity dept.
New submitter thyristor pt writes "In light of massive national budget cuts, the Portuguese government will force public schools to move to free/open source software (Google translation of original in Portuguese). Schools with some 50,000 outdated computers won't see their software licenses renewed, the main reason being the cost of hardware upgrade inherent to mostly Microsoft software updates. Will the Euro debt crisis be a driving force to the spread of open source software?"
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Schools In Portugal Moving To OSS

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  • by Mathinker (909784) on Sunday October 30, 2011 @02:26AM (#37884414) Journal

    We've seen this over and over again. Microsoft will just offer to give the software for free. They know that it's not in their best interest for it to become general knowledge how functional open-source alternative have become.

    • by xs650 (741277)
      In 3-2-1...
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Compaqt (1758360)

      Yeah, you said it, and beat me to it.

      Remember when "Blah moves to Linux" used to elicit thoughts of "Yippee! The Year of the Linux Desktop Advances"?

      Now these kinds of stories are just a kind of parody of themselves.

      Also the Linux Desktop has basically just jumped the shark (Gnome3, Unity), so I don't think there's any real joy from the geek corner for Linux Desktops anymore.

      Also, it's hard to wish a Linux desktop on anyone because instead of fixing old bugs, they've taken to creating 100s more.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I didn't like the Unity desktop at first, but it improved a lot since the first time it got implemented. You can get the hang of it in just a few minutes - if you are willing to give it a chance. Actually, it improved my user experience and i don't want to switch back anymore.

        • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

          by Hadlock (143607)

          I can't tell if you're a deluded Unity developer, or a Microsoft shill trying to push popular opinion towards a truly terrible GUI to Keep the Linux Man Down.
           
          Unity is a fucking terrible interface, they took the dock interface from Apple, and forgot to put in any of the features that make it worthwhile. What a mess. What a waste of time, money and effort, and what a huge step backwards for Linux usability.

          • by GauteL (29207)

            I can't tell if you're a deluded Unity developer, or a Microsoft shill trying to push popular opinion towards a truly terrible GUI to Keep the Linux Man Down.

            I CAN tell, however, that you are an utter arsehole that considers the opinion of others worth less than your own. I'm not the biggest unity fan but some people clearly like it.

            • by muuh-gnu (894733)

              > some people clearly like it

              "some people like it" is not gonna win over any siginficant shares of the desktop market. It wont win anything, it will just annihilate Shuttleworths money and then die off in an epic fail manner. Canonical should be in it to win it, not to merely corner some tiny irrelevant niche within the already tiny 1% Linux desktop market share. Ubuntu was supposed to win over Windows/Mac users, not to scare away its current user base.

              "some people like it" is just another way to say "al

          • Long time gnome user here. I have been using unity since about two weeks before Ubuntu 11.10 came out. It still has some strange bugs and I think Ubuntu will have to work hard to get it ready for an LTS release. But it works for me as a gnome replacement. It is definitely an easier UI for non skilled users. For the rest of us there is still fvwm ;).

            • by Dan Ost (415913)

              I've been using FVWM exclusively for close to a decade now, but I still hope that one of the "standard" desktop environments becomes usable enough that I no longer have to maintain my own.

      • >Also the Linux Desktop has basically just jumped the shark (Gnome3, Unity)...

        Xfce is stll there, kde4 apps matured, and they work the same on all platforms. On windows land, a 2ghz 2gb 160gb machine is `too old` for word documents only because it shipped with vista and now performs slower than a 450mhz ubuntu 6 box.

        • by mangu (126918)

          kde4 apps matured

          And still haven't reached the level of KDE 3.5

          For instance, when I browse a directory with Konqueror, in KDE 3.5 I could click on a picture and it sould be shown in full size. OK, I can still do that, but in KDE 3.5 there would be a couple of arrows in the tool bar to move to the next or previous photo. In KDE 4 I must re-open the directory with Gwenview to do that and then I lose all the convenience of Konqueror.

          Konqueror until KDE 3 was the greatest desktop app ever created, it was perfect for navigating

          • by oakgrove (845019)

            Konqueror until KDE 4 was the greatest desktop app ever created

            I thought about it for a few seconds and you're absolutely right. Closely followed by Amarok 1.4. I was wistfully pining away for kde3.5 the other day in the ubuntu off-topic irc channel. I wish a real effort would be made to fork Kde3.5 and gnome2 and carry on. This new stuff kind of sucks.

      • by erroneus (253617)

        Jumped the Shark. I just love that expression. Funny thing is that most who use it, didn't see the "Happy Days" episode it was coined after when they were kids -- you'd have to be in your early 40's at least to have seen it.

        Yes, my initial reaction to Gnome3 was "holy fucking shit..." as I was not prepared for what I was seeing. I gave it almost a weekend, but I had to get back to my life soon and there was no room or time for adjustments to wildly new things. I had planned to go back to the previous ve

        • by 1u3hr (530656)

          Jumped the Shark. I just love that expression. Funny thing is that most who use it, didn't see the "Happy Days" episode it was coined after when they were kids -- you'd have to be in your early 40's at least to have seen it.

          Unless they saw a rerun or on Youtube [youtube.com]. Anyway, by that reasoning no one should use expressions from old movies (I was shocked, shocked... ), let alone the Bible, Shakespeare...

      • by errandum (2014454)

        The new Unity is highly usable, and I liked it so much I even moved my dock to the left. The current Unity is actually the closest on usability of a system I've found to Mac OS X, and it's actually free. I understand you're a diehard fan and that change is hard, but give it a minute or two and allow for the occasional bug (it was free after all) and you might be pleasantly surprised.

        • by oakgrove (845019)
          I actually like Unity but at leaston my hardware (core2duo t7200 thinkpad Intel graphics), it ran dog slow. I even went so far as to creates couple of my own indicator apps in python and customized my dock icons with custom menus. But on lark last weekend, i wwanted gnome2 so I installed debian stable on another partition and it was llike buying a nnew ccomputer. I mean the performance upgrade was unbelievable. Needless to say, I havent looked back.
        • by Compaqt (1758360)

          Fair enough. I'll give it a fair try (more than just a LiveCD) on the next LTS version.

      • by Teun (17872)
        A strange remark.

        What makes you think Gnome2 was the only viable Linux desktop?

        KDE is much nicer and better integrated from the get-go.
        LXDE is much lighter yet has all the clickety-click we expect of a modern GUI.

        Considering the story is about older HW we shouldn't even consider a Gnome/Unity or KDE4.

    • by udippel (562132)

      Why don't I have modpoints???
      +5 is adequate for this post, because it is spot on.
      Microsoft not only relies on the schools, the universities, for the 'first-shot-is.free'; they also rely on the low-priced OEM versions. Would they charge for the first shot what they charge later, piracy would be rampant, or people would be up in protest against them, like they are against banks. Very few people are willing to pay a full licence price (don't come to me arguing about student licenses), I repeat: the full price,

      • Microsoft ... also rely on the low-priced OEM versions.

        I don't know what universe you live in, but in this one, the Windows 7 Pro OEM DVD that I bought about 3 weeks ago was not by any stretch of the imagination "cheap".

        • Because YOU paid for it. Had the manufacturer or distributor paid for it, they'd have paid about $15/install.
          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward

            No. Prices close to that were true with XP back when Microsoft felt threatened with the linux netbook hype. I'm fairly connected in this area and have not heard of Microsoft selling modern versions of Windows on the cheap, not yet at least. This is why linux is again on the radar for netbook manufacturers.

            To all the people complaining about institutions using linux only to drive down the price of Windows, what's the problem? It's awesome that linux and the distros are making it cheaper for schools etc to ge

        • by udippel (562132)

          I'm not a lawyer and not aware of the country you live in.
          But you should know that you didn't even pay for a full-licence version. OEM could mean - at least if you ask Microsoft - that you are not allowed to run it on a PC of your choice; or transfer it to another PC once the current one is dead (what I do not hope for yours to happen). OEM-s are limited for the PC on which they are installed, and sold for this specific purpose: to be used by an Original Equipment Manufacturer at the production / assembly o

    • We've seen this over and over again. Microsoft will just offer to give the software for free. They know that it's not in their best interest for it to become general knowledge how functional open-source alternative have become.

      Did you notice that the issue is the hardware cost which is inherent with those updates? If they do not want to spend on the hardware upgrades, Linux will be hard to beat.

    • by Zemran (3101) on Sunday October 30, 2011 @03:40AM (#37884656) Homepage Journal

      It is not about the functionality. Most people use MS because it is all they know. They do not know and are not familiar with the alternatives. My mother went to university and studied art after she retired, and if you visit any of her uni friends, young and old, they now use Macs because they got used to them. If all the schools in one country switch to Linux, in few years all the universities will be full of people that are used to Linux and then, soon all the companies will be full of people that prefer Linux. It will be the OS that they are familiar with.

      Too many people get into the My Computer is Better Than Your Computer without realising that MS are playing a different game. They do not even try to be the best, they just make sure that they are what most people are familiar with. To do that they will happily offer free software and free 100% support to all education establishments if that is what is required to keep the status quo and the schools and universities know this. Portugal will be using 100% free MS next term.

    • by rnturn (11092)

      "Microsoft will just offer to give the software for free."

      So what if they do. Plenty of schools are not going to be able to undertake a wholesale replacement of their existing computers with something beefy enough to run whatever Microsoft decides to give away for free. When's the last time you saw a version of Windows require a less powerful computer than the previous release? Heck, for that matter, when's the last time you saw a new release of your favorite Linux distribution require less computer than

      • by igreaterthanu (1942456) * on Sunday October 30, 2011 @04:32AM (#37884834)

        When's the last time you saw a version of Windows require a less powerful computer than the previous release?

        You mean like Windows 7 and soon to arrive, Windows 8?

    • Microsoft deploys more than software donations. They employ political power. Note here how Hilary Clinton works hand in hand with Microsoft:

      http://techrights.org/2011/01/02/vietnam-with-proprietary-software/ [techrights.org]

      And that is just one country.

    • by erroneus (253617)

      Yes but there's one thing I have never seen Microsoft do -- buy them new computers.

      Yes, a volume license deal always has a downgrade allowance, but WinXP no longer updated, is office 2003 still supported? The point is that these upgrade DO require upgraded hardware as well. Microsoft only knows how to be bigger in their OSes and not smaller. This gives F/OSS a huge advantage. So it's more than just the software costs.

    • Well, in Hungary the government paid for 116.5 million for the MS licenses for educational institutions, so even if a school goes all OSS, they won't see any financial benefits, as they're not the ones who paid for MS licenses and they won't get a rebate.

    • I don't really think MS is doing that much anymore. The reason? Most attempts to convert to Linux have failed, some quite spectacularly. And some, such as Munich are so far over budget and late that it's tempting to call them failures, even if they succeed.

      The fact is, "switching to linux" is not typically a cost savings in the short term, and if you have no money to do the conversion then it's going to be a failure.

  • Will the Euro debt crisis be a driving force to the spread of open source software?"

    Not likely. Everywhere else money has been a problem, it has caused the spread of piracy. Open Source can only spread by being objectively better (in ways customers care about).

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I think a properly done open source installation can be better than the Microsoft alternative. At our university (Helsinki University of Technology) there are large Linux-only computer classes, and those computers just work. In Linux you will not have viruses, which is a big plus in the school environment use case. Also, managing those computers should be easy, although so is a properly done Windows installation.

      A Linux installation can also be made more lightweight than the Windows installation. Especially

      • by tibit (1762298)

        Heck, even running an older office version that you're licensed for on Linux under wine may be a genuine improvement! The underlying system is secure and on current maintenance. It's very easy to isolate the office suite with selinux so that unpatched security bugs in the office suite won't affect anything besides a small briefcase used to move files between the compartment and rest of the filesystem.

        The positive of running, say, office 2000 under wine is that its hardware requirements are AFAIK lower than

        • by Mathinker (909784)

          > even running an older office version that you're licensed for on Linux under wine

          Are you sure that some of the fine print in that license doesn't say that the software has to be run under Windows? I suppose that in Europe that might not fly, they have stricter laws concerning interoperability.

          • Are you sure that some of the fine print in that license doesn't say that the software has to be run under Windows? I suppose that in Europe that might not fly, they have stricter laws concerning interoperability.

            AFAIK Crossover (the commercial Wine distribution) has never gotten in any legal trouble either in Europe or the US, so I doubt that.

      • they might the educational software for free from Brazil. Same language

        Sorry, but not really. While they're both Portuguese, until recently they didn't even use the same orthography, and while that has been fixed, we still don't use the same vocabulary nor phrase constructions.

        Don't get me wrong, we can understand it just fine (as it's evidenced by the millions of Portuguese people who watch Brazilian soap operas ever night), but it's not close enough for an educational setting.

    • Re:Not likely (Score:5, Informative)

      by ozmanjusri (601766) <aussie_bob&hotmail,com> on Sunday October 30, 2011 @02:55AM (#37884520) Journal

      Open Source can only spread by being objectively better (in ways customers care about).

      Have you tried Libre Office lately?

      Most people I've set it up for like it a lot better than the current ribbon-infested Microsoft version.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by jones_supa (887896)

        Have you tried Libre Office lately?

        Most people I've set it up for like it a lot better than the current ribbon-infested Microsoft version.

        Recently LibreOffice corrupted line art horribly in my documents which made me quickly switch to Office. I still cannot trust LO to be compatible with the rest of the world. Maybe for basic text-only stuff you're good.

        • I still cannot trust LO to be compatible with the rest of the world.

          You seem to have a basic misunderstanding of who is creating the problem...

          Having said that, try making sure you're saving the file on the native format for the version of Word you're using - eg, .doc for Word 2000-XP, .docx for Word 2007 and above. Word messes up formatting enough between versions, let alone with documents exported from a competitor's product.

          • by jimicus (737525)

            You seem to have a basic misunderstanding of who is creating the problem...

            Having said that, try making sure you're saving the file on the native format for the version of Word you're using - eg, .doc for Word 2000-XP, .docx for Word 2007 and above. Word messes up formatting enough between versions, let alone with documents exported from a competitor's product.

            Oh, plenty of people understand who's creating the problem. And it's not hard to explain to those who don't.

            But in all my life I have never heard of a business choosing F/OSS software purely on the basis of price. There's always a degree of pragmatism involved - "cheap and adequate" is usually how it pans out. As soon as you have to interact with someone else who's using MS Office, there's a good chance it ceases to be adequate.

            • Re:Not likely (Score:4, Informative)

              by Super_Z (756391) on Sunday October 30, 2011 @08:25AM (#37885488)

              But in all my life I have never heard of a business choosing F/OSS software purely on the basis of price. There's always a degree of pragmatism involved - "cheap and adequate" is usually how it pans out. As soon as you have to interact with someone else who's using MS Office, there's a good chance it ceases to be adequate.

              There are lots of world class open source projects out there that gets picked because they are simply better than their closed source equivalents - linux, apache, postgresql, spamassassin, varnish, ruby, python, gcc/llvm, webkit, postfix, dovecot etc.

              I have used Word for years, but after having been forced to write a 50 page user manual in it, I stopped using it. I have never looked back.

        • You can't trust Office 2010 to play nicely with Office 2007, or 2003, either. When I need to send a document to someone, I make it in LibreOffice, and then hit that nice convenient Export to PDF button. PDF may not be the nicest of formats, and it's not editable without some source file voodoo, but it's still the best guarantee the end reader will be able to read it, and read it exactly as I made it.

      • by Pieroxy (222434)

        LibreOffice is well and good, but if what you need is interoperability, you're just screwed.

    • Performance isn't often the main motivator for piracy. People pirate because they want to install the same software at home that they use at work, or because they need compatibility with some system that they interact with frequently. Change the environment, and people's piracy interests will change:

      If they can impose linux in all schools, then a lot of people will want to have linux at home just to be compatible. Open source use will grow, Microsoft piracy will shrink.

  • Free And Good Enough is wonderful, but what are they sacrificing? I'm not going to stand on the MS makes great stuff - I'm 25 years in this industry, and my only windows exposure is trying to repair and troubleshoot family and friends computers (damn you Apple, why didn't you get your game on 10 years earlier).
    Every time I'm confronted with linux distros, I'm stuck with that odd sort of feeling like when your 5 year old makes breakfast for you. It isn't about the quality of the breakfast.
    Here, Canada,

    • by sammyF70 (1154563)
      You could, of course, rephrase the story title to "Portugal might find out that GNU/Linux and FOSS kick ass once they start their budget-bound migration". It's a bit lengthy, obviously hypothetical and not particularly inflamatory, and therefore not up to /.'s standard of short, inflammatory and generally plainly wrong titles. seriously though : if institutions are not forced to migrate they won't, no matter how much their current system suck. Complete infrastructure changes based on quality assessments ar
    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Sunday October 30, 2011 @04:41AM (#37884868) Journal
      I strongly suspect(as a linux user who has done some school dept. IT work, largely Windows with a sprinkle of Mac) that "they", the students, will neither lose nor gain all that much.

      Some of the admin layers will have it tough(so they probably just won't switch those people), because that is where the spreadsheet-jockies, the users of obscure proprietary student information systems, etc, etc. congregate. The techies will be split: the microsoft crew will resent losing relevant skill, the FOSS-enthusiasts-just-working-a-job will be gung-ho.

      As for the students, though, I doubt they'll see much change. Unless the computers are the explicit focus or means of pedagogy(as in something like the OLPC experiment), which is rare and nontrivial to do. Think what you will of their results, they built a previously unavailable sort of hardware along with a new security model and a variety of other tweaks to get that going. In the majority of cases, 'educational' computers are just tools. The teachers want them to be working, reliable, and running the browser/word processor/whatever required to get the classwork done. Admin wants them to be not disruptive, to be a not excessively good porn source, and IT delivers as it can. Because most of 'educational' IT is so peripheral to learning(yes, there are plenty of arguments for why office is better than LibreOffice. None of them have any bearing on whether you'll be able to learn to write a decent essay by writing a bunch of crap essays and revising. VI might be pushing it a little; but notepad should be enough), it is good that they are going with the cheaper option, to free up money that can be better used; but I'd expect virtually no change in how pupils are expected to interact with technology.

      Hey, you are using OSS! You can make changes however you want! No, actually, your user account on our system is locked down to keep you out of trouble, just like it was on Windows. The school wants you to be able to log in, get your files, and use programs X, Y, and, Z. We've delivered.

      Outside of strictly vocational schools(later in the student's progress, so they will still be fresh when they hit the workforce), where learning specific tools might be what the doctor ordered, or outside of ground-up computers-in-education-rethinks, which make student exploration of the computer a focus, not a problem, educational use of computers is really incredibly generic. Web, email, word processing, copy-pasting.

      A minority of specialist users will simply be un-switchable, certain specialized software isn't multi-platform, has no real competitors, and is too costly to try to duplicate. It just isn't worth it. The vast bulk, though, really get a very constrained view of computers at school. It barely matters what they run.
  • As listed, this only applies to outdated computers made between 2004-2007. Namely, Pentium 4's, Pentium D's, and perhaps some Core 2's from 4-7 years ago.

    But as the article states: "A lot of these devices, given their age, will not be in good working order and does not support the latest versions of Microsoft products."

    Most IT Departments in school systems have been switching to Windows 7 as a cost-cutting measure, not just because XP security updates expire in 2 years. The deployment tools on Server 2008 R2 for Win7 are insanely excellent. One can pull a central server to a distant school just once from a PXE boot, and it will peer-to-peer on the local network, rather than download a ~10GB file 30 times. Any additional drivers, software, and updates can be installed on the spot -- think Ninite, except before the installation. Doing things like installing XP from Ghost and babysitting the systems for an hour are obsolete, as is the staffing required for it.

    But Windows 7 requires 1-2GB of RAM to run properly depending on software installed. With the crisis in the EU (PIIGS especially), it's very unlikely that they'll spend the money to buy DDR1/DDR2 to upgrade systems that don't. A 7-year old system is going to have hardware problems that low staffing can't troubleshoot, to the point where they won't even bother. And they certainly won't have the staffing required to take the time to set up an OSS system, much less train their staff on it, as it was only "recommended."

    At best, someone might set up the ability to install Edubuntu through PXE boot, but they'll just be Edubuntu systems, nothing more. Some kids might play around on them at times, but otherwise, these old systems are just going to collect dust.

    • Gah, typos, it's late.

      * Did not mean to insinuate Core2's were 7 years old, just the range of CPUs would be 4-7 years old.
      * "One can pull an image from a central server"

      • by mevets (322601)

        Christ, you were taking this crap from ad-copy, doesn't W7 support cut+paste? We all like the new hood ornament, must you jam it down every-bodies throat?

        shill.

    • uh, yeah, think bootp circa 1989.

      Its an interesting phrase "to run properly"; I'm sure that one day there will be a Windows that "runs properly". The real question is, can Windows 7 run properly?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Hymer (856453)

        "The real question is, can Windows 7 run properly?"
        Nope, it keeps asking me for admin password all the time. ...and on Windows servers it became next to impossible to use a browser.

        • by emj (15659)

          Yes seriously why does it do that? I tried setting up Windows 7 with a separate Admin account, and it asked for admin password all the time. :-(

          • by jimicus (737525)

            Because while Windows was designed with the idea of separation of privileges, an enormous amount of user-land software wasn't.

            It doesn't help that Windows prevents you doing all sorts of arbitrary things without admin rights and - it's not like Unix where if push comes to shove, you can chmod the appropriate device in /dev and let anyone in the right group do something.

            You can usually work around the need to do something as an admin with judicious registry and permissions tweaking - but most software doesn'

        • I have always asked myself; why the fuck is it impossible to use the default browser on a windows server past w2000 as is (I am not going to white list every page I want to download software from)?

  • It is galling that despite free software having become the industry standard on the web, being demonstrably more reliable and secure than Microsoft products and more flexible and configurable than Apple products, people consider it chiefly as the low-cost option. They shouldn't use Linux because it's free, they should be using it because it's better.

    This is a problem because any information infrastructure, even a Linux-based one, will suck if you don't have the funding to afford enough hardware and support. As long as only schools with gutted IT budgets use Linux, Linux will retain an awful reputation among schools. The circular effect is that schools will avoid using it as long as they can afford outrageous license prices, and even schools with Linux will abandon it immediately if they ever gain enough funding to move back (combined with Microsoft giving them a sweeter deal on license packages). This will in turn reinforce the image of free software as a cheap alternative that should only be used if you can't afford commercial software.

    • by mevets (322601)

      I agree with you, but its worse than you say. Beyond the 'does this hardware work' problem lies a brave new world of 'does this software-as-a-service work'?

      My experience is mainly no. There is wicked entrenchment in many areas - though I've noticed it most in education - that is bolstered in the rush to go back to mainframes (or clouds, as they now apparently are).

      Vendor lockin loves the clouds; your data is our data, but ours is really ours and you can't see it is bad enough. That the effective portal

      • +1 - But, I am really anti-cloud and I realise that this would put me in the minority because the cloud is convenient. I like to retain my own data and the rights to it on my own PC. Also, while I understand the stupidity of the stated reasons for going to an all OSS platform for Portugal's school system, in a very small way it makes sense. Linux will run well on older hardware and generally needs less of the niggling day to day hands on monitoring than Microsoft. If one could scrounge up spare parts fo

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