Poor and Popular

 This week I'm in Bellaire, MI at the Michigan Association for Educational Data Systems conference.  It may sound boring, but it's actually quite a great conference geared specifically toward sysadmins for school districts.  I've been coming to this annual conference for about 8 years, but this year instead of staying in the conference center, I'm commuting from home.  Unfortunately, school districts in Michigan are still financially struggling, and we can no longer afford frivolous things like "a place to sleep."  :)

I don't really mind, I think it's always great to come to regional conferences like this and present the advantages of Open Source for education.  There are a couple other FOSS advocates here at the MAEDS conference, and usually we manage to get 3 or 4 sessions that are moderately attended.

Until this year.

This year, free is all the rage.  Whether it's due to lack of cash, or some sort of mass enlightenment (I suspect the former), it seems that almost every time slot has an option for free and/or open alternatives.  In fact, I'm only doing 2 small sessions!  While it may not be the ideal circumstances in which to garner support for Open Source solutions, it seems that we often grow the most when we're suffering.  (I prove that every day on my treadmill...)

So while I may not be staying in a comfortable suite this year, I do think the topics themselves are particularly sweet.  I just need to work hard not to say, "I told you so."  :o)

How about you?  Have you noticed an increase in FOSS acceptance due to economic woes?  Is your sphere of influence looking to your Open Source wisdom to trim budgets and save jobs?  I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the sessions here at MAEDS, certainly this isn't a fluke.


Shawn is Associate Editor here at Linux Journal, and has been around Linux since the beginning. He has a passion for open source, and he loves to teach. He also drinks too much coffee, which often shows in his writing.


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Open source

fturley80x's picture

I live in Michigan as well and all I can say is its pretty common in govt organizations.

Use of open source and Linux based applications must be encouraged for good.


Linux in Schools

anonymous's picture

I work for a small private Lutheran school / church and have had the pleasure of being able to move the entire student computer lab over to Linux. The selling point was the cost at first (or lack there of), after that it was the stability.
Now that we are on our second year of everything up and running consistently, which is some thing that they did not have when they were running Windose on all the computers, they are starting to really enjoy the flexibility that comes with Open Source software in regards to choices.
They have just started to put technology into the curriculum as an actual class, granted the school is only k - 8, and the ability to teach the basics on something that every one can afford, and is relevant to the real world in such a way that the kids can go to any machine and get where they need is really starting to sink in.
The biggest problem I run into is training the instructors, and for the most part it is not training really it is getting them over the fact that there is no "Start" button, and the software does the same thing as the MS version but just has a different name.
All I know is that Linux in Education is a go, and in troubling economic times makes more sense than ever. Plus the kids really love Penguins. ;0)

i have using GNU/linux for 3 months

monkeymonk's picture

I have using GNU/linux for 3 months ,and found it works much better than MS Windows.So I give all my HardDisk to it.
GNU/linux is so excellent.But when I tried to intruduce it to my schoolmates,everybody just put it aside.They always have a crash with windows and don't want to try something new,even it's better than Windows series.

Nope, my school district still loves Microsoft

Anonymous's picture

Nope, 'fraid not. Anything "not Microsoft", and especially "open source" is dismissed as "oh, that free Linux stuff, that won't work." It's made very clear that "we need to prepare our children for the *real* world." This naturally presumes that Free Software is not used in the "real world". Uboy.

As for waste, I see so much waste of money that it's sickening. And if I identify myself, things would go badly for me. Ain't that somethin'?

Ah...but loving Adobe is worse

Anonymous's picture

In our small Christian school, the graphics design course is supposed to prepare the students for saving money by doing their own graphic design - with Adobe Photoshop. The irony of using Photoshop to save money has many layers.
Of course that doesn't get into the bugs present in Photoshop in a domain environment.

Open source / Linux = perfect solution for education

apexwm's picture

I also live in Michigan, and we've had it pretty rough for a while now due to the collapse of the automotive industry. I HIGHLY recommend the use of all open source and Linux for educational use (schools), personal use, as well as for businesses. Yes, it's cheaper, however there are many other advantages of open source and Linux. It's more stable, and much much easier to maintain than Windows. Also, many do not realize all of the hidden costs of Windows, such as having to purchase extra software because Windows doesn't come with much software to do anything. For instance, how about using OpenOffice (rather than M$ Office). OpenOffice saves hundreds PER PC. And it's great software. Linux in general is rock solid, and provides extremely reliable services on servers... so it's more than capable for desktops.

Shawn - How can I help?

Dave Largo's picture


I live South of you in Michigan.

How can I help?

I currently volunteer for my kid's schools doing whatever kind of geeky
work they want.

I'm currently converting one of their $$$ sites to a free Google Site(s).

Inside the schools I am amazed at the amount of $$$ being spent on software that things like Tux Paint does. (note: I do donate to the Tux Paint people).

Thank you.

The taxpayer and FOSS

Bubnoff's picture

To the guy at the fire dept. ~

This is pretty typical in most govt. organizations. You have older, tech clueless management who generally consider the safe bet to be anything they've heard of before. There's almost no motivation to even look at alternatives as long as their paycheck keeps rolling in. He's heard of Microsoft and Adobe, therefore it's easy to sign the checks. Also, there is a general misunderstanding regarding OSS ...eg.,

"It's free, therefore it must suck."


"I'm getting completely fleeced by Microsoft and Adobe ...
again for features I won't use or need ...at least I'm familiar with this sucky-ness".

The solution will come when these guys become accountable for their spending to someone else. Since the money is coming from "Joe Taxpayer" instead of the boss himself ( like all gov't orgs ), there just isn't enough motivation to be responsible and think.

Either someone from "on high" will demand to know why you're spending tax dollars on crap no one needs, an audit of sorts, or "Joe Taxpayer" will realize his money's being spent on crap and complain/vote 'em out.

It will take a long time to "purge" this mentality from gov't. sigh.

To the guy at the library ~

Libraries are a little more progressive as Open-Source fits in with our general
mission to put information into as many hands as possible. Remove barriers to participating in one's own culture/economy. We're cheap as well. :)

A fellow librarian ~

Poor IT personnel

metalx2000's picture

You would think we would see more opportunities. I was hoping there would be. I work for a small Fire Department down in Florida. We are very tight on money and have been dipping into our reserves a lot. Our chief told everyone we need to start turning the light off when we leave a room to save money.

I was called in to help with the computer systems earlier this year, due to an injury I was on light duty for a few months. About the same time we hired a new IT guy. He's part time and is very against Open-Source. He also got the chief to perches a bunch or hardware and software that we do not need. It hasn't been a year and we've spent thousands on software and hardware that we do not need. I noticed, just the other day, that all the computers have Adobe Acrobat 8.0 Professional installed. Just to read PDF files. I don't know what we paid for them, but I know that program is normally over $400 and is something we have no need for.

I'm pretty sure this guy knows he's part time and will be one of the first to go when we start cutting back. So, he's just having them spend money to make it appear that he is accomplishing something. When I talked to the Chief about this, the IT guy told the chief that I was going to sabotage the system and now I'm only allowed to touch department computers to do reports or check the calendar.

Anyway, long story short (to late for that), I think we are spending more on software now that things are tight thanks to this guy and the lack of knowledge on the chief's end.

Everything you ever need to know about Free Software.

That happens a lot in the

Geboortekaartjes's picture

That happens a lot in the Netherlands too. The existince of open-source software is great, but a lot of ignorant people think they know better when buying closed-source software.


Jimmy the Geek's picture

FOSS is on the rise because it's free. At least that's my take on it due to the financial struggles that public libraries are also facing. In fact, my presentation in September was about as well-attended as I figured, maybe even more so, by people looking to open-source software for the first time. Basically I gave them an overview of what Linux and FOSS can do for them as we use it in our library, using my Macbook running Ubuntu 10.04 and OpenOffice Presentation!

I also think that people are starting to see how much more secure Linux is as a platform over Windows and Mac OSX, especially on the server side. Some public libraries in KY are starting to look at and/or deploy LAMP/LAPP servers on top of which an open source Integrated Library System will run. It's an exciting time to be a FOSS advocate in my field right now!