LINUX ENABLES SAFE COMPUTER DONATIONS TO SCHOOLS|
The Internet, Tuesday, 07 May 2002: In an official announcement from the
SchoolForge 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 and Open Source applications,
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 - 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
The most important benefits were outlined 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'," 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 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 showing the immediate financial advantages of this strategy. The
K-12 Linux Terminal Server Project group 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.
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 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
 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/
 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
 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."
 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.
 http://www.microsoft.com/education/?id=DonatedComputers first Q&A
question, as at 05 May 2002.
http://archives.seul.org/seul/edu/May-2002/msg00129.html (and see the
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
 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.
 leon AT cyberknights DOT com DOT au; http://www.cyberknights.com.au/
leon AT cclinic DOT com DOT au; http://www.cclinic.com.au/
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