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Salon: Microsoft to schools: Give us your lunch money!

Jul 11, 2001, 01:56 (62 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Damien Cave)

Salon asks if Microsoft's rigourous enforcement of software licenses in public schools will have an unintended consequence by forcing educators to consider the open source and Free Software alternatives available to them.

"...San Jose's Mike Beever, for example, started considering open-source alternatives after his brush with the BSA. Open-source software is software for which the underlying source code is made freely available to the general public. There are no restrictions on copying, modification or even resale. Over the last five years, free and open-source software has proliferated on the Web and teachers all over the world are paying attention.

Especially in the arena of productivity applications, today's current state-of-the-art free software programs are not yet a slam-dunk alternative to commercially available offerings. But the gap is narrowing, says Columbia's McClintock. Teachers can now find free software that will help students draw geometrically correct formulas or molecular structures, or programs capable of mapping local crime patterns and pulling out trends. They can also create free virtual classrooms, or augment traditional classes with network applications like the University of Texas' LinguaMOO.

One ambitious group of educators has even launched a Web site called OpenSourceSchools.org that aims to act as a school technology warehouse -- a place with "all the basic pieces, and the help necessary, for an open source tech program." A Web server, network tools, mail, bulletin boards, course building systems, library system and school database system will all be offered as of October, says co-founder David Bucknell."

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