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IT News Thread, Open source can save schools billions in Other News; ...
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    russdev's Avatar
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    Open source can save schools billions

    Mike over at Computer World UK sent me this link what do people think he is on the mark or talking gibberish..


    Sometimes I think the BBC's on-line news front page is written just to wind me up.

    This weekend it carried a Gov report from the DCSF (Department for the most recent Government Edu Acronym) who commissioned ex WHSmith Chairman, Richard Handover, to conduct a "value for money review" in education.

    In it he claims civil servants and head teachers appear to have no idea what value for money means, and calls for 40,000 teaching assistant jobs to go and cites as an example of incompetence a case where £35,000 was spent on a £1,000 photocopier.

    His report follows last week's statement from Education Secretary Ed Balls that schools could save £2bn by sacking Senior Teachers.
    Read More At

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    There's no doubt that using FOSS can save an absolute packet, and I agree with the gist of the article, but unfortunately he undermines his own arguments with some flawed examples. Specifically:
    • In question 2 he lists some operating system and asks which are susceptible to viruses, implying that at least one of them is not. They all are. Some more than others, no question, but to imply some are insusceptible is an exaggeration at best and a total fallacy at worst.
    • In question 3 he asks which of the following AV products one should use to get value for money: Sophos, ClamAV, AVG, Norton or McCaffee [sic]. His tip is that 'one is free'. Clearly he is advocating the use of ClamAV, but ClamAV has no built-in real-time scanner, the third-party solutions to provide it are ropey at best, and the detection rate is, in my experience, terrible. I assert that it is therefore poor value, even for a free product, since it could actually end up costing the school in additional support man-hours having to clear up the virus infections it missed.
    • In question 4 he grossly overstates the yearly cost of ten Windows Server licences as "many thousands". On an annual Schools Agreement it would cost less than £200 per year. He then mixes up annual and perpetual licensing two sentences later by talking about buying new Server 2008 licences - if you're paying annually the upgrade is free!
    • In question 5 he presents five possible energy saving options, one of which is the obviously-loaded option "upgrade to Windows 7 and buy more powerful computers to run it", implying this would be a bad choice. Clearly he knows bugger all about Windows 7 since it does not require more powerful computers, and the power-saving features can actually reduce power consumption.

    Overall he has some good points, but his contrived and incorrect examples betray a certain amount of hyperbole. A bit less arrogance and a bit more fact-checking, and he'll go far.
    Last edited by AngryTechnician; 28th September 2009 at 08:21 PM.

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    Some of it's on the mark (schools could save some money by using more open source) but some of it's just way off and the attacking tone puts me off.

    Some of it's just not believable - to save billions of pounds on software you'd have to scrap all non open source. I don't think that's a realistic aim and even if you could do it, would you really save billions? (I think there used to be about 6,000 secondary schools and about 20,000 primaries in the UK. To save even £2 billion would mean you'd need savings of more than £100,000 per secondary and £30,000 per primary - seems a bit improbable!)

    He also talks about replacing 400W desktop machines with 20W units. I'm guessing he's intending to put in thin clients which is often a good idea but, again, the numbers don't add up. How many people are actually running machines drawing 400W? Yes, you might get a thin client at 20W but don't forget the servers needed to run it - they're not free and they also use power.

    A bit more honesty would make the whole thing believable. As it is, he comes across like a politician telling a bunch of half truths and it just means I mistrust the whole thing.

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    Trash Journalism again I'm afraid. Any good points that are raised are thrown out the window because of stupid errors in the arguement.

    It also fails to mention that it is not just about the money, but giving a range of software for the kids to use. Personally I want all schools to have 2 platforms, 2 office suites ... in fact 2 of most things ... to allow kids to learn skills and concepts ... and then show that they can be transferred from one system to another. That is not going to save money, but it will produce kids that know their stuff and can adapt to pretty much anything you throw at them.

    But it is cost savings that is in the news at the moment, not raising the skills level of kids.

    As always, best value does not always equal cheapest solution or one size fits all.

    Seriously looking forward to the LA OSS day coming up.

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    If he can find the drivers for all the hardware we have to support and write the ones that are missing then fine.

    Joking aside it's all well and good writing these blog articles (this one isn't even that good, it's littered with inaccuracies and half-truths) but in the real world it just isn't that simple. What about the catalogue of Windows curriculum software we've collected over the years? What about flaky wifi drivers for teachers laptops? For every reason to totally move to open source software I could probably think of two not to.

    I don't wish to sound defeatist and I'm not saying it's right to be locked into Microsoft software, but you've just got to play the hand you're dealt. I've absolutely no issue with using Linux to run a file server for example. We also use open source software (VLC, TuxPaint, Audacity, Moodle etc.) where appropriate. Deploying Linux throughout, in my opinion, is not appropriate for my school.

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    FOSS in schools

    Sorry if my article on FOSS savings in schools should have struck a nerve.

    But really, given the unrealistic education discount bribes handed out to technicians to do nothing to change from their comfort zone status quo, do you think balanced pros and cons 'one the one hand ..on the other' rhetoric would have the slightest effect at all...it hasn't so far so what is different now?

    Of course FOSS would save schools money the clue is it's free. The real savings though come from FOSS philosphy, do new things, embrace new technologies rather than slavishly upgrade to the latest vendor's new offer. How do you quantify this?

    BTW I thought the article was funny, it was meant to be, got a few laughs.

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    Quote Originally Posted by spannerman2 View Post
    Sorry if my article on FOSS savings in schools should have struck a nerve.

    But really, given the unrealistic education discount bribes handed out to technicians to do nothing to change from their comfort zone status quo, do you think balanced pros and cons 'one the one hand ..on the other' rhetoric would have the slightest effect at all...it hasn't so far so what is different now?

    Of course FOSS would save schools money the clue is it's free. The real savings though come from FOSS philosphy, do new things, embrace new technologies rather than slavishly upgrade to the latest vendor's new offer. How do you quantify this?

    BTW I thought the article was funny, it was meant to be, got a few laughs.
    Did you write the article? Sorry im not 100% sure on what you are saying here.

    But;
    1. The vast majority of your points are misleading/not the whole truth or just plain wrong.
    2. i think you will find that it is teachers who resist change, not IT techs (obviouslt here are exceptions to every rule, but tyhe number of times ive heard "why should i have to learn a new version? WinApp95 is fine for me"). If we resisted change then how do you explain why most schools are on server2003 and looking to move to 2008? Whay arnt they on NT still? And if you bother to look into these things you will find that justifying the use of FOSS is an uphill battle against the various educational bodies.
    3. Most schools are using FOSS; Openoffice, GIMP, Paint.net
    4. where are these techs who take bribes? Id love to become one of them to top up my wage to somewhere near the private sector equivilent.
    5. You wont have to worry about us bribe taking lazy techs soon enough, managed services is around the corner. And guess which products these companies use? Ill give you a clue, its not FOSS.
    Last edited by j17sparky; 29th September 2009 at 01:21 PM.

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    AngryTechnician's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by spannerman2 View Post
    do you think balanced pros and cons 'one the one hand ..on the other' rhetoric would have the slightest effect at all...
    Resorting to flagrant exaggerations won't have the desired effect either. When you write an article like this while having a stated vested interest in the solution you are espousing, you have to be bang on with your facts if you want to be taken seriously; anything less undermines not only the article but also the credibility of the company you represent. What's more, your inflammatory reference above to "education discount bribes" is exactly the sort of rhetoric that is the problem with policy leadership right now. I'd love to hear the rationale behind that, because right now it just sounds ridiculous.

    I also put it to you that if presenting a balanced argument to intelligent professionals does not sway them, you should consider the fact that perhaps your argument is not that strong.
    Last edited by AngryTechnician; 29th September 2009 at 02:59 PM. Reason: Typo

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    Quote Originally Posted by spannerman2 View Post
    But really, given the unrealistic education discount bribes handed out to technicians to do nothing to change from their comfort zone status quo, do you think balanced pros and cons 'one the one hand ..on the other' rhetoric would have the slightest effect at all...it hasn't so far so what is different now?
    One second, education discount bribes? I must've been in the wrong job, I never got any sort of bribe while working in a school as a technician or a network manager. What exactly are you referring to here?

    The closest thing I got to an incentive was being given a set budget, and realising that any money I could save on one area would let me spend in another which needed it more.

    Of course FOSS would save schools money the clue is it's free. The real savings though come from FOSS philosphy, do new things, embrace new technologies rather than slavishly upgrade to the latest vendor's new offer. How do you quantify this?
    It is perfectly possible to do new things with commercial vendors, open source doesn't have a monopoly on innovation. If commercial software refused to innovate and improve don't you think people would have stopped using it by now?

    The right tool for the right task. Some things commercial software simply does better, or is better suited for, or (often) is easier to set up without much more training and expertise in the area. As one example, I've yet to meet a domain management tool that I prefer to Active Directory.

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    This is the UK Government policy on Open Source and Open Standards

    Policy

    Policy

    6. The Government’s policy is as follows:

    1. Open Source Software The Government will actively and fairly consider open source solutions alongside proprietary ones in making procurement decisions,
    2. Procurement decisions will be made on the basis on the best value for money solution to the business requirement, taking account of total lifetime cost of ownership of the solution, including exit and transition costs, after ensuring that solutions fulfil minimum and essential capability, security, scalability, transferability, support and manageability requirements.
    3. The Government will expect those putting forward IT solutions to develop where necessary a suitable mix of open source and proprietary products to ensure that the best possible overall solution can be considered.
    4. Where there is no significant overall cost difference between open and non-open source products, open source will be selected on the basis of its additional inherent flexibility.

    5. Non–Open Source Software The Government will, wherever possible, avoid becoming locked in to proprietary software. In particular it will take exit, rebid and rebuild costs into account in procurement decisions and will require those proposing proprietary software to specify how exit would be achieved.
    6. Where non open source products need to be purchased, Government will expect licences to be available for all public sector use and for licences already purchased to be transferable within the public sector without further cost or limitation. The Government will where appropriate seek pan-government agreements with software suppliers which ensure that government is treated as a single entity for the purposes of volume discounts and transferability of licences.

    7. Open Standards The Government will use open standards in its procurement specifications and require solutions to comply with open standards. The Government will support the development of open standards and specifications.

    8. Re–Use The Government will look to secure full rights to bespoke software code or customisations of commercial off the shelf products it procures, so as to enable straightforward re-use elsewhere in the public sector. Where appropriate, general purpose software developed for government will be released on an open source basis.
    9. Where the public sector already owns a system, design or architecture the Government will expect it to be reused and that commercial arrangements will recognise this. Where new development is proposed, suppliers will be required to warrant that they have not developed or produced something comparable, in whole or in part, for the public sector in the past, or where they have, to show how this is reflected in reduced costs, risks and timescale.
    10. When suppliers are proposing a third party product there should be full price transparency. If there is a pan–Government agreement there should be the option to source through this where doing so would maximise overall public sector value. The Government will expect to be charged only the cost the supplier incurs unless the supplier can clearly and transparently provide evidence of the additional value created.

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    end of the road

    Forgive me if this seems a little provocative but I must ask:

    Does anyone on this thread or indeed others, actually believe that they will be in post to oversee the introduction of Windows 7 into schools?

    Check out the stuff from the Digital Britain project and the schools open standards literature.

    -The private G-Cloud run from the Cabinet Office will happen (whatever Gov).
    -The Gov App-Store to go with it will be a reality too..
    -As Steven Crowe ( top boy at Becta) says 'all workstations in schools will login instantly..no more waiting' oh yes and how will you do that? Yep I know.


    Wake up folks..saving in ICT is the order of the day..we all agree on that..did anyone mention that means no more IT technicians or Network Managers?

    The Windows edu-discounts inadvertently produced an unsustainable HR overhead (you) to look after those systems..no more if the Gov has its way

    .It'll save over £40 million in wages BTW

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    @spannerman2

    Forgive me for asking, but have you come across a Government program called 'Building Schools for the Future' ?

    Running since 2004, this is where Local Authorities across the whole of England pay serious sums of money over the next 10 years to consultants and private companies (many, including companies such as RM, Capita & others have a vested interest in the Microsoft world) to 'transform' Education ICT by outsourcing. So far, relatively few of the bidders (as far as I am aware) have proposed Open Source environments for schools, so what makes you think they will change their mind?

    It is true to say that the role of school based technicians & network managers will change, and there will almost certainly be a reduction in headcount, but I cannot see how Open Source will deal with missing cables, broken hardware.....
    Last edited by broc; 29th September 2009 at 08:02 PM.

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    -The private G-Cloud run from the Cabinet Office will happen (whatever Gov).
    -The Gov App-Store to go with it will be a reality too..
    -As Steven Crowe ( top boy at Becta) says 'all workstations in schools will login instantly..no more waiting' oh yes and how will you do that? Yep I know.
    The ideal operating system for schools is just web browser.

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    like with everything its the right tool for the right job. Take open office for instance 90% of the time users wouldnt even notice the difference if you called the shortcuts office 2003 and changed icons and for most people it does all they want (granted no outlook but not the end of the world with owa). Same with other free apps paint.net is pretty good for most users (dont like gimp it pinches all the file associations and wont give em back) italc seems to work better than netop for teh few things most teachers do

    as others have said its hard to beat active directory for management i can thing of ways to improve it but ive not seen a system on linux thats as good ) ok granted my experience of linux is small and was mainly looking into integration with server03).

    For all its faults windows is probably the least worst solution esp as everyone is used to it and i would hate to think of the cost of retraining users (not to mention being besieged with complaints).

    What about propriety software schools are all but forced to use like sims.net i cant see capita wanting to develop different versions for every flavour of linux (and true open source would mean schools may be running any of them stipulating say ubunto would be creating another ms like monopoly)

    i can see the attraction of thin clients but it seems a backwards step to me like going back to mainframe and dumb terminals throwing away flexibility for control and im not sure its a call id make except in certain circumstances

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    Quote Originally Posted by spannerman2 View Post

    The Windows edu-discounts inadvertently produced an unsustainable HR overhead (you) to look after those systems..no more if the Gov has its way

    .It'll save over £40 million in wages BTW
    If your suggesting are we are only in jobs because MS software is commonplace then you are very very wrong, we are in jobs because teaching staff often lack the skills needed to use technology and dont have the time or knowledge to maintain a computer system.

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