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Educational Software Thread, Network Manager refuses to install OpenOffice - comments please. in Technical; Hi All I'm Head of Physics in a large Independant School and am a big user of Open Source software. ...
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    t20racerman's Avatar
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    Network Manager refuses to install OpenOffice - comments please.

    Hi All

    I'm Head of Physics in a large Independant School and am a big user of Open Source software. (Linux on personal machines)

    For nearly three years I've been trying to get OpenOffice installed on the three Windows XP Networked computers in my department (alongside MS Office) as it is my preferred choice, and also as many of our European students only use this themselves - it is encouraged in schools in France and Germany
    I wish to use OOo on the network to print out my work, and to let my departmental staff access it too. I also want to allow students who only have OOo on their laptops to have access to printing in the school (via USB Flash drive) and to give coursework Impress presentations to their classmates - something they can't do at present if they don't have MS powerpoint.

    This proposal has been to the Network Manager many times, has gone through the IT project board twice (almost all of whom are technically illiterate) and has been raised by me with the Headmaster, a Governor (supposedly IT literate) and the Deputies too.

    It has been refused every single time, but I have never been given a written answer why. I have been told though that:
    "Open Source opens the Network to abuse"
    "Open Source is unsafe"
    "Open Source is editable by anyone so the kids could change it and cause problems"
    "It would confuse the pupils"
    "It would cause problems working alongside Microsoft Office"
    "It could ruin the network"
    and even - "We are a Microsoft School"!

    To counter this FUD I downloaded a 275 page copy of a large study and report by the EU on the use of Open Source software:
    "Economic impact of Open Source Software on innovation and competitiveness of the EU ICT sector"

    http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/ict/p...lossimpact.pdf

    .. and made a Precis of the this which I presented to the decision makers. Amongst its key recommendations are:

    Policy strategies focus mainly on correcting current policies and practices that implicitly or explicitly favour proprietary software:

    o Avoid penalising FLOSS in innovation and R&D incentives, public R&D funding
    and public software procurement that is currently often anti-competitive

    o Support FLOSS in pre-competitive research and standardisation

    o Avoid lifelong vendor lock-in in educational systems by teaching students skills, not specific applications; encourage participation in FLOSS-like communities
    This was greeted with; "ah yes, but the Network security is paramount and we can't risking messing it all up with Open Source software"

    Glad they read the report then!

    So why write all this here?
    This is NOT a "I hate M$" rant.
    It is NOT to start a debate on which is best OOo or M$ Office
    It is not a Linux is great/sucks debate.


    What it is, is a plea for your help/comments.


    I am meeting with the Headmaster again next week, and am actually at the point of resigning from my job as Head of Physics due to the many frustrations I feel working here.

    So, please help me convince the Senior management of my School that I am not requesting the Installation of Virus Writer 4.2, that OOo isn't a trojan/virus/network hole, that OOo can work alongside M$ office, and that it is perfectly feasible (even desirable!) to have OpenOffice.org installed on 3 computers in my department. OR convince me that I'm wrong - maybe it is just me?

    Your comments/experiences would be so helpful. I will print out this thread in iits entirety to show the Headmaster when I meet him next week.

    Over to you!

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    mortstar's Avatar
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    Sorry to not write a constructive argument for you here...

    Quote Originally Posted by t20racerman View Post
    ...
    "Open Source is editable by anyone so the kids could change it and cause problems"
    ...

    I love the idea of a pupil somehow writing in a security hole into a release version of OpenOffice, so that if/when that particular release of OpenOffice is installed in the school they can bypass the network security.

    That would be some dedication to the cause!

    You're obviously being stonewalled. If you were to convince the Head that this needs allowing and the installation of OpenOffice was 'forced' upon these 3 machines - what would the consequences be? The NM and other members of the 'ICT project team' would certainly feel undermined.

    As always workplace-politics is something we can all live without - but would winning this 'battle' not make it harder to maybe implement something in the future. Is it worth the possible future hassle for 3 machines?
    Last edited by mortstar; 27th February 2008 at 08:09 PM.

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    powdarrmonkey's Avatar
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    LMAO, your decision makers really are technically illiterate.

    Quote Originally Posted by t20racerman View Post
    It has been refused every single time, but I have never been given a written answer why. I have been told though that:
    "Open Source opens the Network to abuse"
    "Open Source is unsafe"
    The opposite is true. OS software is subject to peer review by interested parties from all backgrounds, so is in fact safer that closed source software. Malicious code doesn't survive in the code base, and bugs etc are generally weeded out very quickly indeed. In the event that you do find a problem, it's usual (if you can't fix it yourself) to get help within the same day, as oppose to waiting six months for a corporation to get its backside into gear and send you a fix.

    "Open Source is editable by anyone so the kids could change it and cause problems"
    Sounds like an admission that kids can install anything they like on your workstations. Yes, OS code can be altered by anyone, but it's still compiled, installed and executed in exactly the same way as any other software and your administrator should have appropriate permissions in place for this anyway.

    "It would cause problems working alongside Microsoft Office"
    "It could ruin the network"
    Not if it's installed and managed properly. You need to ensure that the default file format is something Office-compatible, and that OOo doesn't associate itself with file extensions unless you want it to. People who just open a document will get it in MS Office, and people who know better can open it in OOo. That's really about all the measures that need to be taken.

    (I can demonstrate 'ruining the network' far more effectively for you with a pair of scissors. Let me know if you'd like a visit )

    "It would confuse the pupils"
    and even - "We are a Microsoft School"!
    I'm not even going to start on how pathetic this view is. In my humble experience, it's the staff who will be confused, not the pupils. They adapt quicker than anyone to new software.

    And being a Microsoft school isn't an excuse, it's an embarrassment.

    There seem to be a minority of decision-makers out there who associate 'open-source' with 'immature'. They are quite rightly suspicious of software that's still in its beta stage, or of 0.9 releases. But whilst there is a lot of software out there that is immature, that doesn't make it all. If the French government can roll out GNU/Linux and OpenOffice across the board, so can a school, where the discipline and environment are probably tighter anyway.

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    localzuk's Avatar
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    You could inform them that the Defense department of the UK, France and Germany (at least), and the USA use Linux in some form or other. Or that every University in the UK makes use of some form of open source software...

    An example, Lancaster University has Mozilla Firefox installed on all client machines. A university is far more vulnerable to attack than a school and they get on fine with it.

    You could point out that the majority of websites on the internet run on Apache on Linux.

    The other thing to do would be to look at other parts of your school and see if any open source software is used, even in a hidden way. For example, did your school ever use Windows 98? Part of its network stack was ripped from BSD, an open source project.

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    FN-GM's Avatar
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    You can run it from a Pen Drive. Just don't tell him

    http://portableapps.com/apps/office/openoffice_portable

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    SYSMAN_MK's Avatar
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    At the end of the day it is just another piece of software and you are only asking for it to be installed on a select number of computers in your department. I don't see what the issue is.

    If you were demanding that the school remove MS Office and goto Open Office that would be a different matter, but you are not.

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    gaz350's Avatar
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    After 3 years.......

    why stop at 3 machines?

    i would go all the way and get the Head to get the Network Manager to deploy it across the entire site(s)

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    Ric_'s Avatar
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    TBH I don't understand people who are agains FOSS... I personally love it and will always seek out an open source software title before looking into buying anything.

    The network I manage is predominantly used for accessing Office 2003. In recent months I have been pushing OpenOffice more and more. This has been spurred on by Creative Design (D & T to you and I) department who have found Draw to be ideal for the majority of the KS3 project work. The reason for my pushing OOo though is that my projected costs for upgrading to Office 2007 will be approx. £14000 - my budget will simply not be able to handle that cost. Anyway, enough about me!

    If you would like to belay the fears of your colleagues, you could always go for StarOffice instead. You will lose some of the 'bleeding edge' features but you will have a reliable product that Sun sells to millions of customers and from the childrens' point of view is the same as OOo. It just so happens that educational establishments are entitled to free licenses too.

    Of course you could also point your IT support staff to EduGeek if they would like further advice on safely deploying OOo.

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    GrumbleDook's Avatar
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    Being honest ... if you are being stonewalled this badly then you need to do one of two things.

    Either you accept that this is going to be a lost cause and instead settle on a compromise with the Head by getting the school to agree to something else instead or ...

    Get the Head out to another school that *is* using OOo, getting the Head of ICT and Network Manager of that school to talk about transferable skills (being able to swap between different applications is a useful skill on its own!) and how the students are taught skills and concepts in ICT, not application!.

    If it is a case of your NM is not sure about what to do and is blocking it to protect himself and /or the team, then point them over here and there are plenty of people who can give advice and help on deploying OOo securely and with the minimum of effort (we like to be efficient and save time ... and remember ... we are being efficient. Not lazy!)

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    torledo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SYSMAN_MK View Post
    At the end of the day it is just another piece of software and you are only asking for it to be installed on a select number of computers in your department. I don't see what the issue is.

    If you were demanding that the school remove MS Office and goto Open Office that would be a different matter, but you are not.
    actually, i think you could make a very strong case for replacing MS office with OO entirely throughout an org.

    Licensing cost savings and support for the ODF standard being the main sticks to beat Office 2007 with.

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    contink's Avatar
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    One thing springs to mind with this and please excuse my being completely frank.


    Network Managers argument
    I've got this stubborn department head refusing to accept my decision about installing some software when we have perfectly good office software already paid for and installed. I'm not going to do this just for 3 machines when I'm going to have to secure it, maintain it and keep on top of any patches, etc... What's really p*ssing me off though is this guy is calling my professionalism and experience into question by taking this to the governors, head teacher repeatedly and he still won't take no for an answer.
    Before I get my head bitten off here, that's just a guesstimated rewrite of how it would look on the other side, but if that's how I was introduced to this particular issue I have to say I'd be on their side. Sure their logic is flawed but on top of everything else it would look like you're making this into a much bigger deal that in reality it should be.

    Sure, he's a dumbass for believing his original excuse but he's been backed so far into a corner that you've given him absolutely no way out gracefully or otherwise and a cornered animal will come out fighting. I wouldn't be at all surprised if you're getting other cr*p because of how this looks externally.


    My advice, would be to take a serious break from this and take a long hard look at just how important this issue really is? As my mother says frequently "Pick your battles".

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    t20racerman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FN-Greatermanchester View Post
    You can run it from a Pen Drive. Just don't tell him

    http://portableapps.com/apps/office/openoffice_portable
    Yes I know - I did this... in fact I went one further and installed a portable version in my user space on the Hard drive. I was asked to remove this (..."until a decision has been made about its use") but refused as without it my German student's in particular had a real trouble with 'A' level coursework presentations and printing of assignments.

    In my last meeting with the Head, I was offered a compromise by the Network Manager...
    I could buy a separate USB hard drive for Each PC, then I could install OOo on that (without Network permissions??) and then run it from there. That way, I was assured, it would "not be on the Network" and would therefore be safe and not harm the Network.

    Do I need to explain my thoughts on this???? Perhaps, as this thread is going to my Headmaster, some of you IT professionals could comment on this idea, as it was offered as a genuine solution....

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    contink's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by t20racerman View Post
    In my last meeting with the Head, I was offered a compromise by the Network Manager...
    I could buy a separate USB hard drive for Each PC, then I could install OOo on that (without Network permissions??) and then run it from there. That way, I was assured, it would "not be on the Network" and would therefore be safe and not harm the Network.

    Do I need to explain my thoughts on this???? Perhaps, as this thread is going to my Headmaster, some of you IT professionals could comment on this idea, as it was offered as a genuine solution....
    I'm feeling somewhat guilty for playing devils advocate so please don't stone me but I have to admit that is just some classic rational thinking...

    Good grief Charlie Brown

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    powdarrmonkey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by t20racerman View Post
    In my last meeting with the Head, I was offered a compromise by the Network Manager...
    I could buy a separate USB hard drive for Each PC, then I could install OOo on that (without Network permissions??) and then run it from there. That way, I was assured, it would "not be on the Network" and would therefore be safe and not harm the Network.
    In such a setup, the software runs with exactly the same access to the local machine as any other software. It is simply stored in a different location, which once execution has begun is meaningless. This approach will cost an not insignificant quantity of money with no benefit whatsoever.

    (A detached view, of course. Your head probably wouldn't take kindly to my opinion of his IT staff.)
    Last edited by powdarrmonkey; 27th February 2008 at 08:42 PM.

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    t20racerman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by contink View Post
    I'm feeling somewhat guilty for playing devils advocate so please don't stone me but I have to admit that is just some classic rational thinking...

    Good grief Charlie Brown
    As I said, all comments welcome. How exactly would I install it myself though, (without network permissions) so that when a member of staff clicked onto one of the Departmental Schemes of work or question sheets, it opened in OOo? I've tried converting the OOo format documents to M$ ones, but tables and columns all mess up and the formats are lost.

    Also, how could I stop the USB hard drives from being stolen by pupils? Is this a secure or workable idea?

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