IT management

Schools are a proving ground for students. Children develop habits of all sorts while they expand their understanding of the world. Schools need to provide tools for students which give them flexibility and increasing self direction.

That makes school a perfect place to install tools that students can use both within the classroom and at home.

Migrating from proprietary office suites to LibreOffice has some issues, of course. So it is great to read information which makes it easier.

LibreOffice is a community-developed tool, steadily driving forward in capabilities. It costs only the effort to install on every computer in your school district. Make it a part of the hard drive image for your school.

What keeps FOSS from being well-accepted in schools?

I think John Spencer may have the big reason pegged.

Read his whole blog post at ComputerWorld.

…teachers generally do not love their IT.

Their attitude (speaking from long experience) is split into two. The first thread is that they see computers and associated equipment merely as tools to get a task done. In this context familiarity and reliability trump all other requirements.

The second thread is best described as ‘careerist’ or approval-status related.

A display of ICT skills is rated according to its approval index. Thus a slick MS PowerPoint presentation projected from an svelte i-Pad in front of Ofsted or parents accrues credit whereas a quick RAM upgrade or mastery of Blender would not.

His conclusion: “Start selling to women.”

Are “It’s cool.” and “You can hack the code.” the wrong recommendations?

What do you think?

I am no fan of software patents. It seems to me, as it has to many people vastly smarter than I am, program algorythms are not suited to patent protection.
Such patents are common these days, and a judge has just handed down an injunction against Microsoft which will prevent MS from selling Word, that well-known word processor in MSOffice.

Versions 2003 and 2007 contain the ability to import custom XML files, and that violates a U.S. patent held by a Canadian company i4i.

For years, the Linux community has been watching the progress of court battles surrounding the Unix company SCO. SCO may be in its last stages of bankruptcy proceedings. Now we’ll be able to switch our attention to this new litigation.

Word definitely isn’t open source software, but if sales of Word cannot be made (presumably also the Office suite with Word in it) maybe more people will take a shot and try when they cannot upgrade to the latest Word.

If you have been looking for a “talking point” with the school administrators, why not bring this issue up?

I think the issue of Digital Rights Management will eventually resolve itself. For now, though, DRM is the main reason I am waiting, and not buying a new dedicated ebook reader, Kindle or otherwise.

The Corante “Copyfight” blog post added good perspective for me.

A traditional book is “mine” from the moment I leave the store from which I purchased it. I think that the sense of property ownership is comfortable. It is more satisfying to have “ownership” than a “non-exclusive license to use” the contents of the book. If the pages of my book could suddenly go blank, I wouldn’t think I owned much since the traditional book, as property, isn’t really its paper and cover.

I actually think that the contents of a book can lead to profit for me. The concepts of a book, even if fiction, improve my scope of thought. It isn’t my ability to resell the content as-is. It is my ability to merge the new ideas into my Vast Fund of General Information (VFOGI). Thanks to my high school teacher, Hugh Semple for the term. Being able to review or completely re-read a book is sometimes important to the process. Yes, I can go to a library or pay for a second copy, but for the most significant of my resources, I don’t want to need to do either. The information needs to be within arm’s reach.

I don’t think that content held in the “cloud” space of the Internet is truly mine, as events in the Kindle fiasco show. Even if I must keep more than one backup copy of a document to avoid technological data failures, I do want to “hold” my electronic copies of resources: ebooks, digital photos, etc.

The blog’s author, Alan Wexelblat, even addresses the issue from an educational perspective. All of us who have taught know it is wise to have a “plan B” for the times a computer presentation doesn’t go well. If we were to depend on textbooks that could disappear like the books in the Kindle fiasco, whole school departments would suddenly need to do a plan B shift. That’s not a pretty thought.

The move to digital textbooks is under way.

Two of the biggest textbook buying states have initiated funding plans that encourage schools to use digital editions of textbooks instead of paper.



I personally wish Massachusetts had been in the forefront of this move, but Massachusetts doesn’t buy enough textbooks to dent the market.

What technology will work best with this trend?

      How open will this move be?

      Microsoft sells a lot of software. Some of it is dominant in its area of impact. Microsoft Office is a perfect example. Open Document Format (ODF) is a challenge to that supremacy. If a person can successfully use an MSOffice alternative and move the produced data around effectively, Microsoft Office will lose its market dominance.

      ODF is a file format. It is significant beyond that simple fact.

      Through the years, every program which could produce a written document has had some file format. Even the venerable ASCII text file has/is a format, even though it lacks many abilities business, school and casual users expect today.

      What ODF is attempting is really significant, though. When there are a bunch of competing file formats, the big deal is found in being able to “import” the file of a competitor’s program. And, if you cannot actually “export” quite so well, then it is easy to put the fault at the feet of the competitor whose format is inferior or otherwise inadequate. ODF seeks to make the file format a non-issue

      Let’s use word processing as a basic example. With ODF, you choose your favorite WP program; you open a file from Joe in written in another program; Joe isn’t from your school; you add your information and then save it again; and finally you ship it to Susan at the Department of Education (whatever its official name) who can immediately open it in her favorite program. None of these “favorites” needs to be from Microsoft.

      Clearly, that doesn’t play well in the world of Microsoft’s dreams. They don’t benefit from interoperability. They do, however, benefit even when they change the file format from time to time as it helps to ensure that people must buy the newest version of Word. That newest version isn’t often inexpensive, even if a business has gradually moved gradually over the years from Word 1.0, step by step, up to today’s shiny version.

      Do you remember WordPerfect, MultiMate, XYWrite, WordStar, AppleWriter, Clarisworks, even Microsoft Works? They were once competitors for Word. Some were very successful  Have you used their most recent version lately? (Corel still sells WordPerfect in 2009 and MSWorks v9 is listed on Microsoft’s online store. I’m not sure about all the others, but some are gone.)

      Today’s “favorite” word processing program is Microsoft Word. It dominates the word processing “industry”. But what if ODF succeeds? Microsoft probably doesn’t gain anything. Word will continue to be “favorite” for many, but increasingly there will be competition from the other guys. Users, some tired of the upgrade cycle, some not needing the new features of Word 20XX, some actually prefering another WP program. Those users will tell and teach others about their satisfaction over time, and Word will possibly become “just another word processing program”.

      If you were in charge of Microsoft, would you encourage ODF?

      If you are just a user, say a school user, maybe a teacher or a student and you need to pay for the program you use at home or the dorm, should you encourage ODF?


      I would also recommend the following blog/article from ComputerWorld by Glyn Moody on the same topic.

      (The reality of today is that the “favorite” program almost everywhere is Word because Microsoft has an amazing dominance in the

      Linux and the x86 CPU are a success, but only for a relatively few brave souls (including you and me, right?).

      Windows and the x86 CPU are a more well-known success, with 90-some% of the computer market.

      Update: There are versions of Microsoft OS software called “Windows CE” and “Microsoft Embedded” that run on other platforms than the x86. Read more at:

      Apple OSX and the x86 CPU are the rage for some, Apple having abandoned the PowerPC chip.

      What is the situation when you think about other CPU architectures?

      Windows and Apple’s OSX don’t run on anything but x86 (Intel and AMD mainly).

      Linux is reported to run on 19 processors, meaning little to most of us, but perhaps that will turn out to be a big deal for Linux and FOSS. Mini notebooks, Netbooks, Smartbooks, whatever you decide their name should be, are a breed of computer that is gaining attention, and in an effort to make them less power hungry, to make them run longer on their battery charge, to make them run cooler, manufacturers are trying new processors like the ARM processor.

      If you or your school buys a netbook in the next year or so, what processor will it have? If it isn’t an x86, will your only operating system choice be Linux?

      Have you heard about Android and Moblin, Linux flavors specifically designed for light weight and mobile “appliance” use like mobile phones (those tiny computers in disguise)?

      The MIPS processor, known for embedded processors like set-top TV boxes is poised to release an Android implementation for its products, another win for Linux.

      Read this interesting post for more information.

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