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LINUX ENABLES SAFE COMPUTER DONATIONS TO SCHOOLS

The Internet, Tuesday, 07 May 2002: In an official announcement from the SchoolForge[0] group today, spokesman Leon Brooks refuted statements on Microsoft's website which have been widely interpreted as a roadblock to the acceptance of donated computers by schools and other needy organisations.

"Using Linux, OpenOffice.org and other Open Source software, a school or charity can safely accept almost any donated computer,"he said. "Simply wipe it and replace the software with Linux[1] and Open Source applications[2], then use the computer as a powerful workstation or server. It's an excellent idea to erase the existing operating system anyway - this also erases viruses and trojan horses, protects the donor's privacy, and complies with the typical EULA[3] - so why not upgrade to Linux while you're there?"

Brooks also noted that Linux removed many of the burdens, costs and legal risks of licence management and software asset auditing faced by most businesses, organisations and individuals.

The price tag is also attractive. "School decisions are often dominated by cost; much Open Source software is available at little or no cost, and runs well on donated computers," Mr Brooks explained, "Linux is easy to set up as a fast diskless workstation or `thin client', so many schools are rolling out networks using this robust technology with both donated and new equipment."

"On top of this, Open Source software is immune to almost all existing viruses, has an excellent security record, is extremely reliable, and in an educational setting often provides a deeper spontaneous involvement in computers than programs deliberately designed for the classroom, of which it has many."

The most important benefits were outlined[4] by Peruvian Congressman Villanueva, Daniel Estrada and Jacques Ackerman after sponsoring a bill to require State agencies to use Open Source where possible: greater autonomy, development of local talent, greater security, more complete accountability, and adherence to standards (interoperability).

The ecological advantage in keeping computers and toxic parts out of landfill speak for themselves.

"Microsoft claims on their website that `it is a legal requirement that pre-installed operating systems remain with the computer for the life of the machine',"[5] Brooks said, "I see this kind of problem often with Microsoft's software, as with viruses and security issues. The approach that many schools, charities and public bodies have taken is simply to use other software without this handicap. This happened[6] when Oregon and Washington schools recently found themselves being pushed into a software audit."

The Simple End User Linux group has dozens of case studies from real schools online[7] showing the immediate financial advantages of this strategy. The K-12 Linux Terminal Server Project group[8] are also recording the extensive benefits of the thin-client approach. They have scores of real examples submitted from real schools by the people using it on the front lines.

ABOUT SCHOOLFORGE

SchoolForge is a rapidly growing international coalition of over 70 schools and education-related organisation dedicated to enhancing communication, sharing resources, and increasing the transparency of development in the area. As well as providing documentation and experience, SchoolForge can arrange to field volunteers to help schools and charitable organisations get started in the stable, secure, safe world of Linux.

SchoolForge is always looking for new associates. The benefits of united and widespread negotiating power are considerable.

ABOUT LEON BROOKS

Leon Brooks[10] is computer consultant working from Perth, Western Australia. Operating through the consulting companies CyberKnights and Computer Clinic, Leon has worked with Open Source operating systems (including LTSP) and applications in a variety of businesses, private and State schools. Business is booming, and both companies are interested in adding talented local Open Source consultants to their teams. Leon also uses and recommends membership in the Perth Linux User Group. His business is 100% Linux and Open Source, and so (except for one Macintosh) is his household; there are Linux applications that his wife would fight to keep.

Footnotes and Resources

[0] http://www.schoolforge.net/

[1] See http://www.linux.org/ http://www.bluelinux.org/ - other good OS choices may be found at http://www.freebsd.org/ http://www.openbsd.org/ http://www.netbsd.org/

[2] http://www.openoffice.org/ or http://www.koffice.org/ for excellent Open Source office suites; http://www.mozilla.org/ or http://www.konqueror.org/ for web browser suites; Mozilla or http://kmail.kde.org/ or http://www.ximian.com/products/ximian_evolution/ for email clients. There is an enormous list of Open Source applications at http://freshmeat.net/ with a Linux vs Windows break down at http://www.bluelinux.org/equiv.php

[3] For example, the copy at http://nl.linux.org/geldterug/license.html says
"Microsoft may terminate this EULA [...and...] you must destroy all copies of the SOFTWARE PRODUCT and all of its component parts."


[4] http://www.gnu.org.pe/resmseng.html - at the time of writing, interest is so intense that GNU Peru is redirecting queries to Google's cache of the page to avoid overloading.

[5] http://www.microsoft.com/education/?id=DonatedComputers first Q&A question, as at 05 May 2002.

[6]http://archives.seul.org/seul/edu/May-2002/msg00129.html (and see the link),http://archives.seul.org/seul/edu/May-2002/msg00152.html and http://archives.seul.org/seul/edu/May-2002/msg00129.html including these notable quotes: `No one was talking about using software without paying for it. It's just that when they came face to face with the power an EULA gives MS, they saw things in a different light. MS software in schools was seen as a logistical and financial liability when compared with GPL licensed alternatives.' and `The Portland Public School switchboard was jammed for two days with calls from Linux users volunteering to come to PDX from all over the west coast to help with software migration.'

[7] http://casestudy.seul.org/

[8] http://www.k12ltsp.org/casestudy.html

[9] Western Australia's Computer Angels[9a] already use Linux rather than risk being destroyed at the whim of a well-supported business[9b] as `PCs for Kids'[9c] effectively was late last year, and a similar organisation in New Zealand was in 1997[9d] - although their primary reasons for choosing Linux is that it provides computer literacy (as opposed to rote patterning with specific applications) far more effectively, and costs far less than available proprietary systems. Linux suppliers and users have a long tradition of supporting[9e] worthy organisations. Larger and American organisations are not immune, there's a long list of victims[9f], with only one fine under USD$50,000 and some exceeding USD$500,000.

[9a] http://www.ca.asn.au/

[9b] http://www.bsaa.com.au/

[9c] http://www.pcsforkids.org/
http://www.cnn.com/2001/BUSINESS/asia/08/09/aus.microsoftkids/

[9d] http://www.idg.net.nz/webhome.nsf/UNID/1B2EA829EEBB476CCC256A8F000AD1BE

[9e] http://www.idgnet.co.nz/webhome.nsf/UNID/DC8B080246F1F98CCC256A940001A54C

[9f] http://www.softwaremetering.com/fines.html



[10] leon AT cyberknights DOT com DOT au; http://www.cyberknights.com.au/ leon AT cclinic DOT com DOT au; http://www.cclinic.com.au/
http://plug.linux.org.au/


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