What's the Linux capital of the world this week? Portland?
Pish-posh. San Francisco? See you later. Nope, it's none of
The answer? It's gotta be Indiana.
See, out here among the corn and soybeans, we Hoosiers are
quietly starting our own little open source revolution. It's small,
to be sure, but it has started to grab more than a little
First off, there is the obvious: yesterday's announcement of a
pilot program in three Indiana school districts of
Linspire-platform, Wintergreen PCs. The program, which is part of a
broader push to lower IT costs in the Indiana schools, will be
officially launched with the students go back to school in
This has, as you would imagine, caused quite a stir in the Linux
community, and it has been mostly seen as a positive move. I am
personally estatic about the program, and I hope it will do well.
Actually, it needs to do very well, because it will need
to in order to combat big Microsoft inertia.
Here's why: in Indiana, the IT decisions are not made by one
central department. There is an IT Department in the
state's Department of Education, but they can only make
recommendations on equipment, software, and procedures. They do not
dictate these decisions. As long as the IT equipment (hard and
soft) works with the established curriculum standards that are set
up by the Department of Education, each individual school
corporation decides what to buy and use.
So, although it is excellent news that three school corporations
are starting the Linspire/Wintergreen pilot, it is important to
note that a small success may not be enough to impact the decisions
of some of the other IT departments and school boards in the rest
of the state. This pilot program will have to be stunningly
(It does not help that Hoosiers are notoriously tenacious and
resistant to change. We flouted Daylight Savings Time not so much
because it didn't make sense, but because just the word of the
government saying it was needed was nowhere near good enough.)
Also, too, there is a concerted effort from Microsoft to stem
the tide of this investigation into Linux by the school systems. I
know of one county system in Indiana with about 9,500 students with
an IT staff that is very interested in deploying Linux--and an
outside team of consultants working very hard to convince them to
stick with Microsoft. And that's a small rural county. I can only
imagine the bargaining and pressuring going on in the larger cities
like Ft. Wayne, Gary, and Indianapolis.
The other big Indiana news that is not so obvious is next week's
official formation of the Debian Common Core Alliance, spearheaded
by Indianapolis-based Progeny. I am watching this with much
interest, and not just because it's a local story.
The DCCA has the potential to be what UnitedLinux and the Linux
Core Consortium could never seem to achieve: an open
unified standard that independent software vendors can start to
build upon. Sure, ISVs can build on Red Hat and SUSE, but Red Hat
is notoriously stingy with sharing any of its development partners
(and the APIs developed to run partner software) and Novell seems
to be heading down the same path. Debian GNU/Linux is about as open
as open can get and I think an enterprise distro that can maintain
a stricter adherence to the guidelines of free software will be a
very welcome change on the market.
Will the DCCA succeed? The technology is certainly in place; I
just hope the businesses involved will keep their heads in the
game. They should; as has been mentioned before, none of the
anticiapted members of the DCCA (Progeny, Linspire, Sun Wah Linux,
Xandros, UserLinux, MEPIS, credativ, LinEX, and Knoppix) really
compete with each other.
UserLinux's participation is a welcome sight, since not much has
been heard from this enterprise oriented distro in quite a while
and DCCA should save it from languishing to death.
Notably absent is Ubuntu, which in the past has been urged to
participate more fully in the Debian Project as it has struck out
on its own in the Southern Hemisphere. I am not too worried, yet.
Mark Shuttleworth is known to have, shall we say, very strong
beliefs in himself and his companies. He may be waiting to see how
the new team does before he decides to buy in. Plus, Ubuntu's
aggressive commercial approach in South Africa and Australia seems
to be working well for them thus far.
But all the speculation is over. Now it's time to see what will
happen, and I wish the DCCA the best of luck.
So, while Portland has OSCON this week, and San Francisco has
LinuxWorld Expo next week, just remember little ol' Indiana's small
part in the advancement of Linux. Because, in all seriousness,
Linux is not tied to any one single place: it is a global
technology that reaches from the highest skyscraper to the smallest
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