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Windows Operating Systems Software Education Upgrades

UK Schools At Risk of Microsoft Lock-In 162

Posted by kdawson
from the apple-for-the-teacher dept.
Robert writes "UK schools and colleges that have signed up to Microsoft Corp's academic licensing programs face the significant potential of being locked in to the company's software, according to an interim review by Becta, the UK government agency responsible for technology in education. The report also states that most establishments surveyed do not believe that Microsoft's licensing agreements provide value for money." In a separate report, Becta offered the opinion that schools should avoid Vista for at least another year, since neither Vista nor Office 2007 offers any compelling reasons for schools to upgrade.
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UK Schools At Risk of Microsoft Lock-In

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  • by UPZ (947916)
    Monopoly on the OS market produces this.
    • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

      by pembo13 (770295)
      It's okay dude. Telling the truth will often get you modded as a troll here.
  • what! (Score:2, Informative)

    by Noobtrainer (780446)
  • Another Problem (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Red_Foreman (877991) * on Thursday January 11, 2007 @11:55AM (#17558074)

    In a separate report, Becta offered the opinion that schools should avoid Vista for at least another year, since neither Vista nor Office 2007 offers any compelling reasons for schools to upgrade.


    Another problem is that the "dynamic network tuning" will not work with all routers and switches, causing a massive increase in cost to replace the network hardware.

    • by Viol8 (599362)
      Only if you want to use it. AFAIK it can be switched off.
    • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

      by PFI_Optix (936301)
      Thankfully, we just replaced all our switches (well, the 95% that aren't cheap SOHO switches) so we're ready for Vista.

      We're considering making the switch to Vista in summer 2008. Two very good reasons:

      1) We need a way to pressure the school board into buying about 500 new PCs to replace a large portion of our inventory that dates to the late 1990's. Vista and its requirements are currently the best way we have to do it, since all other attempts have failed.

      2) We tested a number of our aging and poorly-writ
      • Re:Another Problem (Score:5, Insightful)

        by grcumb (781340) on Thursday January 11, 2007 @03:57PM (#17563034) Homepage Journal

        We're considering making the switch to Vista in summer 2008. Two very good reasons:

        1) We need a way to pressure the school board into buying about 500 new PCs....

        2) We tested a number of our aging and poorly-written edutainment titles on RC2, and most of them didn't work....

        In technical circles, this approach is known as 'New Bugs For Old', wherein you trade a host of new (but unknown) problems for a heap of old and all-too-familiar problems. The beauty of this approach is that no one can fault the logic of the switch until after the deployment is under way and the new problems begin to emerge. It has been effective for as long as humanity has had a weakness for shiny new things.

        Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go. I'm trying to pre-purchase my new iPhone. 8^)

        • by PFI_Optix (936301)
          Good luck with that $400 phone, I'll stick with my free-with-purchase one :D

          As for the "New Bugs for Old" thing, we really don't see it that way. Sure there will be some minor bugs with the OS, but the switch would force us into using a lot of web-based software, which is what we want. That essentially removes our software-related bugs.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Derwen (219179)

            As for the "New Bugs for Old" thing, we really don't see it that way. Sure there will be some minor bugs with the OS, but the switch would force us into using a lot of web-based software, which is what we want. That essentially removes our software-related bugs.

            Of course a thin client GNU/Linux [ltsp.org] set-up would also help push you to web-based curriculum software, with the added benefit of all the flexibility that Free Software brings.

            However that would save taxpayers' money, resulting in a reduced departm

            • by PFI_Optix (936301)
              Actually, we experimented with this last year. The cost savings weren't enough to justify the reworking of our network and time spent in deployment. It'd have taken us years to see a significant cost benefit, and the school board would never have gone for the initial investment based on such a slow return.

              It's not the managers you have to put up with in most schools. It's the elected people who know nothing about education or the technology it uses, yet have all the power over both.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Mister Whirly (964219)
          "In technical circles, this approach is known as 'New Bugs For Old', wherein you trade a host of new (but unknown) problems for a heap of old and all-too-familiar problems."
          This coming from the guy heading out to buy a version 1.0 Apple product...

          "Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go. I'm trying to pre-purchase my new iPhone."
          • by grcumb (781340)

            "In technical circles, this approach is known as 'New Bugs For Old', wherein you trade a host of new (but unknown) problems for a heap of old and all-too-familiar problems."

            This coming from the guy heading out to buy a version 1.0 Apple product...

            Ah, no sense of irony. How rustic! You might find this link [wikipedia.org] useful. 8^)

      • I see... And as soon as Vista doesn't work, makes more complains that you can handle and destroys all legacy software you'll rip it out and install some Linux.

        Very nice plan of yours :). Maybe I can use it too.

        • by PFI_Optix (936301)
          Yeah, I've had about as much headway pushing Linux as we have buying new computers. It doesn't help that I'm the only one even remotely familiar with Linux, and I'm a novice myself.

          If only I could have gotten Linux to boot on those Old-World G3 Macs last year. We'd have 60 thin clients rather than putting them into storage until they are recycled.
    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      Another problem is that the "dynamic network tuning" will not work with all routers and switches, causing a massive increase in cost to replace the network hardware.

      You can probably turn that off somehow. But what is more serious is that Vista has an all-new network stack, and it has been shown to be written by dumbfucks in that attacks like land work against it (or at least worked against beta releases, I don't know if land still works on the release version.) The prior network stack was believed to have

      • by LurkerXXX (667952)
        The prior network stack was believed to have been lifted from BSD (based on fingerprinting techniques) and regardless of where it came from it was very reliable, relatively secure, and pretty much just worked

        NT4's network stack was copied from BSD. You could find the BSD licensing bits if you looked around for them, no fingerprinting needed. They rewrote most of it for 2k. The 2k stack was pretty vanilla compared to what they are trying to put in Vista. This one looks much different and worries me a lot
  • by Gothmolly (148874) on Thursday January 11, 2007 @11:55AM (#17558080)
    ALL schools, or in fact anyone who signs an über-licensing agreement with MS are at risk for "lock in", especially if you define "lock in" as being "we spent all our money on products from company X, so we have none left to buy products from company Y".

    How is this even news? What's next, if you spend a dollar today, you don't have a dollar tomorrow?
    • ...is that large government agencies that analyze and drive policies are recognizing this as a risk with substantial potential costs.
    • by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Thursday January 11, 2007 @12:17PM (#17558472)

      ALL schools, or in fact anyone who signs an über-licensing agreement with MS are at risk for "lock in", especially if you define "lock in" as being "we spent all our money on products from company X, so we have none left to buy products from company Y".

      That's not "lock-in." That is "limited resources to allocate," something entirely different. Anyone spending money pretty much assumes they have limited resources and are not surprised by that fact. What does surprise people is that when a purchasing decision they make today results in purchasing decisions they make in 5 years being made for them because the product they bought is intentionally designed to not work with open standards or components from anyone else.

      How is this even news?

      This is news because people are still making decisions on behalf of constituents and children that result in long term risks for short term gains.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by kfg (145172)
      "we spent all our money on products from company X, so we have none left to buy products from company Y".

      This isn't the issue. The issue is:

      "We can't use a product which company Y supplies for free because our products from company X don't play well with it. Thus we are stuck with purchasing further products from company X."

      KFG
  • A lot of schools cant afford to 'upgrade' anyway. Thats why they still have apple ]['s.
    • by bloosh (649755)

      I'm a network admin at a school that has a mostly LTSP based network. 58% of our machines (76) are Linux only.

      We still have about 25 Apple //e machines in use that the administration wishes to remove because they look old. I keep fighting this because I believe the 20+ year old software is better than most of the so-called educational software in use on the Windows machines. The Apples are also easy to maintain... they almost never fail.

      I'll eventually be forced to replace them, but I'll do it with Mac

      • by nurb432 (527695)
        I wasnt dissing the ]['s. Just commenting on funding.

        Wouldnt mind having another ][e myself.
  • by ILuvRamen (1026668) on Thursday January 11, 2007 @11:57AM (#17558114)
    Remember what Apple did with giving away free macs to schools so that kids used that at an early age and were familiar with them instead and thus wanted them at home? I bet Microsoft will do the same for Vista in schools everywhere but this time, instead kids won't say "aww that's cool!" they'd probably say things more like "why the hell is this taking 10 minutes to boot" (we say that at my college already) and "oh look, the IT people let us be able to do this!" since nobody's extremely familiar with all the things you have to do to Vista to make them middle school kids with technicial skills proof lol. So yeah, there's compelling reasons for Microsoft to get schools to upgrade to Vista and lock em in with a license but there's definitely tons of reasons for schools to not upgrade. And of course it's a massive waste of money that could be better spent anywhere else in the school
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Howserx (955320)
      I agree, I would rather my kids have textbooks from this decade(or century) then have new computers. There are better things to learn then powerpoint. I'd rather my kids not have access to computers in school anyways. I want them to use their brains, not software.
      • I'd much rather kids have 40-year old textbooks, except perhaps in science. Modern textbooks are too full of pointless or unexplained pictures, and silly things like how to program you TI graphing calculator to do simple things. With the exception of science, no textbook should use more than 2 colors of ink. Most science books can stay within the 2 color limit too.

        Look at things like the Feynman Lectures and high level college math books to see what I mean. Books with a serious attitude about presenting the
    • In my experience, elementary and middle schools put such tight restrictions on the computers that you can barely tell that it is windows and not something like os/2. That leaves no room for young kids to develop a brand loyalty in school. By high school, kids these days probably already have well-formed opinions about computers. Also, if a high school blocks myspace or facebook, the students will be too pissed to notice it is vista.
    • by westlake (615356)
      Ibet Microsoft will do the same for Vista in schools everywhere but this time, instead kids won't say "aww that's cool!" they'd probably say things more like "why the hell is this taking 10 minutes to boot"

      In two or three years, the kids will be running Vista at home.

      The schools will migrate to Vista as the families they serve migrate to Vista.

      The schools will migrate to the new Office as the businesses they serve migrate to the new Office. You'll see the move begin with the night classes, adult educati

  • by b0s0z0ku (752509) on Thursday January 11, 2007 @11:58AM (#17558146)
    I've spoken to people from the UK, and it seems that their universities are actually much more Windows-centric than US schools. Could this be because they networked later - the US has a strong Unix base dating from the days of ARPANet when Unix was the only game in town and Windows hadn't been invented yet? (And networking the first versions of Windows was a screaming bitch.)

    -b.

    • by backwardMechanic (959818) on Thursday January 11, 2007 @12:14PM (#17558430) Homepage
      We used to be much more unix-centric, but there is now a very heavy windows bias. The admin staff (as in beancounters, not root) have too much control over computer policy. They assume that all we need to run is MS office and a access a couple of university databases of student IDs and cost codes. They don't understand why some of us want to run strange packages they've never heard of. It's getting harder to run Linux/Solaris/whatever. There is currently no official access to university email without Windows (although there are hacks to make it work). Remote administration of Windows machines is being introduced. It's sad. Unix admins cost more. Universities don't have much cash/don't pay well. Cheap admins don't understand/want unix. We get more Windows.
      • by b0s0z0ku (752509)
        There is currently no official access to university email without Windows

        What are you running?! Even Exchange can do SIMAP/SPOP. Not to mention that there are native Exchange clients (Entourage) for OS X - not sure about other Unices. Groupwise is the same way.

        -b.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          From that perspective, I would imagine it's not what they are running, but what their administration is allowing them to do with it.
      • by ettlz (639203)
        There used to be lots of UNIX workstations around my university. Nice, solid machines. Then one day they vanished, replaced by a bunch of temperamental Windows machines. Thankfully I'm now a postgrad and don't have to put up with that crap anymore since I have a workstation on my desk, and have access to the Linux compute servers.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by JebJoya (997050)
        I'm a student at Warwick University in the UK studying Maths, and I have to say that the IT systems around the uni are certainly more Windows-centric than Linux (no Macs at all to my knowledge). As a 3rd year, I'm having to use LaTeX and MATLAB/Octave a lot (essays and modelling respectively), and the dept has 2 computer rooms - one Windows one (always full), and one Linux one with about the same number of computers (normally has 2 or 3 people on the 25 PCs). Now, this may sound like the Windows machines
        • by jrumney (197329)
          It isn't really accurate to call MATLAB a Windows tool. I remember using it on Sun pizza boxes in 1992.
        • Hey Jeb,

          I studied physics at Warwick, 92-95. We used to have one small lab of Windows machines, 1 small lab of vt220 terminals, one large lab of X-terminals and two large labs of Suns. Virtually everything was Unix back then. How things change.

          Have you tried running Matlab on the Linux boxes? You probably already have it licensed. I ran Octave for a while, but it's just different enough from Matlab to be really awkward, especially when sharing scripts. I run Matlab from my Gentoo box with no problems (if it
    • by rs232 (849320)
      "it seems that their universities are actually much more Windows-centric than US schools. Could this be because they networked later - the US has a strong Unix base dating from the days of ARPANet"

      Actually it was all Unix/VaxVMS/Novell until the PHBs decided over the heads of their own IT dept to 'upgrade' to NT. The UK universities have a long history of involvement with the developement of the Internet.

      1973 Peter Kirstein at University College London (UCL) established the first transatlantic packet

    • by itsdapead (734413)
      Apart from the "nobody got fired for buying IBM" syndrome mentioned by others, Apple and other US-made stuff was stupidly expensive over here in the 80s and 90s when universities were switching from mainframes to PCs. In the 8-bit era Apple 2s were like hens teeth - its ecological niche was filled by the Acorn/BBC micro which (along with one other proprietary platform) pwn3d the education market - they didn't crack the higher education market (but probably divided the opposition to PC).

      Also, the HE networ

    • by asuffield (111848)
      I've talked to the admin staff at three different UK universities who all had major Linux/UNIX deployments, at various times over the past 5 years.

      All three had been approached by Microsoft, offering them special deals and what amounted to hard cash.

      I fully expect that Microsoft has approached every single university in the UK who wasn't already all-Windows, with the same offers.

      UK universities are having a hard time making their budgets balance these days, with reduced government funding and instructions t
    • by Builder (103701)
      I _HAVE_ to buy a machine capable of running Windows for my univesity course. I am studying through the Open University (distance learning) and many of their courses are Windows only :(

      This means that I am forced to give money to a company that I do not wish to support (can't vote with my wallet) as well as incur all of the risk that comes from using their products, and if I want a degree I have no choice.
  • by UPZ (947916)
    Had the Sputnik landed on Microsoft in 1975.
  • A good start (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ledow (319597) on Thursday January 11, 2007 @12:11PM (#17558380) Homepage
    Hooray!

    Common sense arrives at last. It's only taken more than a decade! Now, could we possibly do something about the actual REAL problem, being the Research Machines monopoly over just about every government contract to do with schools and the majority of the school market in the UK despite their poor support, substandard hardware, astronomical pricing and hard-sales tactics and MS-only policies that thus reinforce the MS monopoly?

    (If you didn't already guess, I work in schools within the UK).
    • by Bertie (87778)
      Jeez, is that still going on? I remember when I was at school, in the early to mid Nineties, and they were always dropping absolute fortunes on RM desktops and servers. We were doing A-level computer science, so we were pretty pally with the head of the computing department, and asked him why the hell they did this, pointing to adverts in Computer Shopper where you'd find more or less equivalent machines for far less money, and the answer was "because we have to". Ten years on, during which computers hav
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by ledow (319597)
        Worse than that...

        RM are now buying up companies that do "related" software that's better than the RM equivalent and absorbing their products - e.g. the Ranger suite, including their Remote Control program. Also, they are either behind or somehow involved in EVERY large initiatives like Tesco Computers For Schools, the London Grid For Learning etc.

        Speaking for Essex and a London Borough, most schools are RM-exclusive and those that are not have to use them for things like webmail, internet filtering etc. s
    • by Xest (935314) *
      Woohoo, I'm not the only one who despises this.

      Research Machines has an absolutely monopoly on UK schools hardware and software supplies. They charge schools over £1000 for PCs still in an era where you can buy them for £300. The amount of backhander deals that occur in so many authorities relating to RM equipment and software is disgusting, I've seen the most appalling deals go through and what really irks me about it the most is the fact that we're talking about tax payers money going to waste
      • by ledow (319597)
        CC 2.4 - agreed heap of rubbish
        CC 3 - I have managed several CC£ networks (and still am) - nightmare.

        Lots of silly problems:

        Poor software compatibility - the simplest software can bork the entire CC3 network - you can't apply MS hotfixes (without risking serious crashes) and RM takes about 6 months to bring out the "RM version" of the MS hotfixes that actually work (and in the meantime you catch every virus known to man).

        Buggy horrible programming - for a while, certain characters in package names cou
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by NineNine (235196)
      Well, who else is there to go with? You can spend twice as much (at least) and get hardware AND software lock-in by going with Apple. You can spend $0 on the software, and hire twice as many admins/trainers and go with Linux. What else is there? MS is still the cheapest, and the most open.
    • by jimicus (737525)
      You missed out "refusal to support you as soon as you buy anything which isn't RM".

      And it's not just RM, so don't for one minute think they're the only culprits. There are two ways to run an IT business in the UK - the first is to provide good products & support at a fair price.

      The second is to hire a bunch of chimpanzees and produce flyers which say "We're specialists in education!" then send these flyers to every school you can think of. I have so many horror stories coming out of my ears from worki
      • by ledow (319597)
        "You missed out "refusal to support you as soon as you buy anything which isn't RM"."

        So I did! Without pointing fingers, I could tell you lots of worse things though. Sabotage of new non-RM servers? "Bribing" heads/boroughs? Complete technical imcompetence? Outright subterfuge and "plotting" to score against non-RM technicians? The list just grows and grows.

        I have dealt with many non-RM education companies (Viglen etc.) and they don't seem to have the same knack of getting heads on their side (even th
        • by jimicus (737525)
          Tell me, do RM still operate a policy whereby they reserve the right to take "refusal to support" as far as "refusal to support you ever again for ANYTHING as soon as you admit to plugging in something which isn't RM".

          By which I mean "We can't replace the power supply that's just exploded in your server in building B because you installed a non-approved printer in building A on an unrelated desktop PC and that might have affected it"?
        • by jimicus (737525)
          Funny, all the equipment I have with 4-hour contracts with Dell, 4 hours means 4 hours. Not "when we feel like it". And my previous employer used IBM servers and again, 4 hours was 4 hours.

          Granted, that doesn't extend to desktop PCs, but desktop PCs are cheap enough that it's not too hard to keep a spare or two. (Though of course, schools don't tend to keep lots of spare kit hanging around...)

          I've worked in a school myself. The school had been burned by RM in the past - though only for a handful of PCs
    • Whats your role in schools mate, tech/teach/support/other?

      I'm a Network Manager myself, based in a school/college in Essex. Couldn't agree more with what you say about RM. We're currently in the process of ditching our RM servers, and the disgrace that is CC3! However, we're not moving to OSS or anything. In fact, we're pushing through a pure MS Terminal Services / thin client setup.

      We did trial a linux (SuSE I think) solution, but backwards-compatability and integration with our existing network was
      • by ledow (319597)
        Self-employed ICT Technician / Consultant / Support (e.g. out-of-hours, phone etc.) depending on client needs + how much money the school can afford :-) I actually change my job title to how "poncy" the school want me to be - consultant to some, lowly tech to others! Basically, I end up doing just about everything technical - specifying networks, moving them between suppliers, interim cover support, supporting the stuff that's middle-ground or that nobody will support, staff training, "everyday" support (
      • by ledow (319597)
        Oh yeah, and I work in Essex and a nearby London Borough but I couldn't name names or places on a public forum.
  • The report also states that most establishments surveyed do not believe that Microsoft's licensing agreements provide value for money.
    M$ will provide anything for money. Most people simply don't like what they provide.
  • by Omicron32 (646469) on Thursday January 11, 2007 @12:33PM (#17558742)
    ...And I fail to see how this hasn't already happened.

    Props to Becta for doing such a study. They're a good thing and I like what they do for educational IT. However, we're already locked into Microsoft on the client side.

    All applications that our kids use will only work on Windows. Office is the "standard" that they all get taught (yes, I've put OpenOffice on - without teachers wanting to use it, Office is the only thing used). The educational applications that they use every day will only run on Windows (and some maybe on OSX, but we're not rich enough to afford Macs, I'm afraid.)

    The licensing agreements are alright - we're looking at about £28/workstation/year for ~450 machines, which is just over £12k/year for licensing. While that is a nasty chunk of money, it means we're entitled to the latest and greatest on release - as such, I've got Office 2007 and Vista on my work laptop giving them a whirl.

    Wine! I hear you say Wine! Sorry, no go. We cannot risk apps not working because Wine doesn't support them fully. The teachers would eat my testicles for dinner - it's bad enough dealing with the poorly written educational software as it is, nevermind dealing with Wine on top of that.

    There isn't enough scope in the Curriculum to let kids even learn about alternative operating systems. I use Linux at home exclusively for desktop use, yet at work we're using 450ish XP clients, 5 Windows-based servers and 1 Linux server (for internet caching/filtering). It annoys me that there isn't much I can do personally to let them know there are alternatives out there without running my own after school class or something, which I can't see many people wanting to attend (and I'm not the teaching type).

    As for the upgrade thing - don't we know it. Office 2007 rollout isn't going to happen before September, if not 2008 (getting the teachers to put time in learning the new interface so they can teach the kids is the hard part!). Vista probably 2009 at the earliest - depending on what incompatibilites we'll come across during testing.

    All in all, unless you get the application developers to start making things cross platform, we can't move to Linux/[other alternative], and until people start moving to Linux application developers won't develop applications for it! Chicken and egg problem.*

    (* - I know this was solved! :p)
    • All applications that our kids use will only work on Windows

      It's an odd school that allows the pupils decide what applications to use.

      "The licensing agreements are alright - we're looking at about £28/workstation/year for ~450 machines, "

      I thought you said earlier that that it was about 350 machines [slashdot.org] total the last time.

      "There isn't enough scope in the Curriculum to let kids even learn about alternative operating systems. I use Linux at home exclusively for desktop use, yet at work we're
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Derwen (219179)

      All applications that our kids use will only work on Windows. Office is the "standard" that they all get taught (yes, I've put OpenOffice on - without teachers wanting to use it, Office is the only thing used). The educational applications that they use every day will only run on Windows (and some maybe on OSX, but we're not rich enough to afford Macs, I'm afraid.)

      Ahem. This UK school [schoolforge.org.uk] seems to be very satisfied with its all GNU/Linux set-up, which saved them enough money to take on a new ICT teacher.

    • by asuffield (111848)

      As for the upgrade thing - don't we know it. Office 2007 rollout isn't going to happen before September, if not 2008 (getting the teachers to put time in learning the new interface so they can teach the kids is the hard part!).

      Stop.

      Let's examine this more closely.

      Teachers have to put in time to learn the new interface, or they can't teach the pupils how to use it. Therefore, their knowledge of how previous versions of Office work is not adequate for them to do their jobs, and teaching the kids how to use th

  • I can confirm this (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Drasil (580067) on Thursday January 11, 2007 @12:37PM (#17558824)

    As the parent of 3 children in the Scottish school system (which is substantially different from the system in England and Wales) I can confirm that M$ has a strangle hold on education in my country. A couple of years ago I sent a detailed letter expressing my concerns to the local director of education. After some time I received a considered response saying that M$ is the only game in town and that alternatives are irrelevant at best. Some of the phrasing in this letter I recognised from previous /. stories concerning M$ FUD, I suspect that the director of education contacted her IT dept. who in turn contacted their software vendor (M$) seeking reasons to justify the status quo.

    Personally I blame the IT staff who tend to be very M$ centric and in the business for the perceived financial rewards rather than the love of IT itself. They will never recommend the use of something they don't understand as they will have to retrain and/or find themselves looking for another job. Windows as we know it is on the way out, in a decade or so it will no longer have a monopoly on the desktop or anywhere else.

    It is my belief that teaching 'The Windows way' is harmful to my children's education, they would be much better served by learning software that conforms to true standards and that fosters a real understanding of the principles involved in IT rather than simple button clicking. I run Linux exclusively at home (I've been Windows free since ME), my daughters both understand IT well and rarely have to come to me for help with their web pages or anything else. They have both avoided studying IT subjects at school as they view the IT syllabus as 'A joke', their words, not mine.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by aedan (196243)
      I work in Scottish schools. The whole authority went over to Windows as part of the PPP deal about 5 years ago. All the hardware is HP. The system is managed. If you want to have something added to it like a scanner, printer or software it will cost an arm and leg and you can only choose from their catalogue of hardware.

      Some of us bring in our own machines with other OS on them but most staff are not interested.

      I teach biology, not computing, but I use Apple and Linux machines to do it.
    • by FireFury03 (653718) <slashdot@CHEETAHnexusuk.org minus cat> on Thursday January 11, 2007 @02:59PM (#17561742) Homepage
      They will never recommend the use of something they don't understand as they will have to retrain and/or find themselves looking for another job.

      There's a lot of the "better the devil you know" element to it - if they opt to throw away Windows in favor of a new system that none of the staff know and it goes tits-up they will be for the high jump. Everyone knows Windows is a heap of crap and accepts it. If you put in a new system which turns out "worse", then you're in trouble from everyone who has to use it. (Where "worse" may simply be "doesn't run application X").

      It is my belief that teaching 'The Windows way' is harmful to my children's education, they would be much better served by learning software that conforms to true standards and that fosters a real understanding of the principles involved in IT rather than simple button clicking.

      I'd agree with that. I've seen too many people take one look at a machine running Gnome and walk away without even trying to use it, even if they only wanted to browse the web or something, and even if there are plenty of people around to show them how to use it. These days, everyone is learning Windows by rote and as a result is never gaining the simple problem solving abilities needed to transfer their skills to another system, no matter how similar the systems are. And of course, these skill transferrance abilities are fairly important, not least because even the interfaces on Windows and common applications change drastically between versions.

      Back when I was at school we used Acorns - originally BBC's and then RiscOS machines. At the time I really didn't see the point in learning a system that I would never need in the real world. However, many years on my view point has changed significantly and I can see that learning one system and then having to adapt to another helps you learn how to transfer skills to a different platform.

      IMHO, the national curriculum should dictate that schools teach IT across several platforms - e.g. Windows, OS X, Linux, so that pupils learn how to deal with things that don't work _exactly_ as they had previously learnt, and broadens their awareness of more than one OS. Unfortunately, without an injection of cash there's no way the schools could afford the equipment, sysadmins and training for the teachers.

      The really sad thing is that people look at the special educational pricing that MS provide and see it as nothing but a good thing because after all, it's helping the education of the kids. Very few people see the danger of letting a single company dictate what children are taught.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Wizard Drongo (712526)
      Aye. As a Yr3 student in a Scottish 'University' (I use the term under advisement, being it University of Paisley, er.. I mean University of Western Scotland, or University of West Scotland...) I can shamefully say that in a Uni that prides itself on technology, that gloats it's one of the best tech uni's in the UK, that virtually every single one of it's 20,000+ machines runs windowsxp. Utter utter shit.
      It gets worse though. Tech support have no conception of anything other than Windows. I kid you not,
  • by Ant P. (974313) on Thursday January 11, 2007 @12:46PM (#17558934) Homepage
    In my last years of my old school they'd just finished throwing out around 300 perfectly functional 512K Macs and 2 rooms of Acorn computers, for a few hundred Pentium 2s running Win2k.
    On a good day the Windows machines "only" took 10 minutes to thrash their way to a login screen, 5 to get past the login screen and another 5 to go quiet. Until you tried to move the mouse. And the right mouse button was permanently disabled in explorer.exe, apparently for "security".
    When I'd left they were already halfway through replacing all the hardware because of constant complaints that apps like MS Office took 10 minutes (not kidding) to open. And close. Most people didn't bother logging out because of that, and you can imagine the fun that resulted.

    Then I got dumped with more of the same in college... *sigh*
    • by Jerf (17166)
      The combination of "buying the minimum RAM on the side of the box" and "loading the machine with all the software to make it do something" like virus scanning, lab security/rebuilding software, and almost as an incidental afterthought, applications that chew through RAM like there is no tomorrow (like Office apps), is untenable. You can buy a cheap machine with minimal RAM, but that cheap machine with minimal hardware will have minimal capabilities. You can't really expect to buy the cheapest possible machi
    • Microsoft Academic Alliance. At least that's what it used to be called. I had terrible experience with it. Apart from the obvious lock-in that the school endures, the students suffer badly too (unless they like Microsoft, which is the entire point of the program).

      Notable memories:

      • I've seen more legit software being provided by warez sites. I signed a "license agreement" that came out of a printer in some window in a lonely hallway when nobody else was around. The ISOs I was provided were deliberately bu
  • My daughter started [primary] school just last week and this is something I have been concerned about for a while. I think that IT skills are just as important as English and Maths skills in todays world. What worries me is that children are not getting real IT skills at school. They are getting Microsoft Office skills. Simple things such as files and folders and the difference between a floppy disc and a hard disc are unknown to a lot of children I know. This is akin to a child not learning about paints an
  • Is this the same Becta who was criticised for excluding providers of Open Source software in November last year?

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/11/29/becta_proc urement_criticised/ [theregister.co.uk]

    I think we should be told.
  • Give them a choice between using OSS software and getting a raise. You need a lot of cooperation from teachers to make any OS selection work an educational system and there's no better way of getting staff on your side than financial incentive.

    Unfortunately MSFT will rig the game at every level. If the school opts for the change they'll pressure the school board. If the board balks they'll get state lawmakers to somehow tie school funding to their choice of OS or a particular piece of software that onl

  • by RexRhino (769423) on Thursday January 11, 2007 @03:06PM (#17561912)
    Lock-in is the inevitable result of a monopoly. And I am not talking about Microsoft's monopoly either, although that is part of it.

    When you have a vast, overwelming quasi-nationalized top-down educational beurocracy, with and almost total monopoly of education - the inevitable result is exploitive locked-in contracts with huge companies like Microsoft. Instead of Microsoft having to win over tens of thousands of individual schools, Microsoft only has to win over a few people at the top of the beurocracy. Bribing and misleading tens of thousands of IT people, all across the country would be prohibitivly difficult and expensive, where as bribing and misleading a few high officials costs virtually nothing when you are talking the huge potential profits.

    Big government contracts, and big government policies, are naturally prone to extreme amounts of corruption and exploitation, because the stakes are so high and because authority are so centralized. You have to fight Microsoft on the level of the federal government, which is going to be impossible for your average parent. An average parent can walk over and talk to the head IT guy at the local school, or make an appoitment with the local municipal superintendant or mayor - But the average person can't fly off to meet with the head of the Ministry of Education, or the Prime Minister.

    Don't blame Microsoft for this problem - they are simply exploiting the natural flaws in the educational leviatian. If they were gone, another company would simply find another way to exploit the system.
  • by daveewart (66895) on Thursday January 11, 2007 @03:48PM (#17562868)

    The problem with BECTA is that while they have in the past said "open source is a good thing" and today "MS lock-in is bad" etc., they are responsible for setting school's purchasing policies. And these purchasing policies are not F/OSS-friendly, since purchasing can only be made from "approved" suppliers. These suppliers need to apply for the (costly, I believe) approval process. This indirectly excludes many suppliers who would provide F/OSS options.

    At least one UK MP (Member of Parliament) has raised an Early Day Motion [parliament.uk] drawing attention to the fact that this is a bad thing - this motion has been signed by more than 100 MPs following a reasonably active campaign by technical individuals in the UK. If you're in the UK, write to your MP [writetothem.com] asking them to sign it!

    For some more background and also the letters I've written to my MP, see my blog: my opening letter [sungate.co.uk] and my followup [sungate.co.uk].

  • I've got to say that the problem isn't Windows itself, it's the lack of curriculum software that causes us headaches.

    On the plus side, OpenOffice is fine for use in schools and it's feature complete for the UK national curriculum. Even ooBase is up to the task or MySQL could fill in for database use. Linux is stable and secure enough and I can easily find scanners and printers that are compatible and have had no hardware incompatibility problems so far.

    I have 4 servers running Mandriva 2007 Powerpack+, one

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