|FROM ||Jonathan Bober
|SUBJECT ||Re: [hangout] education committee
|From owner-hangout-desteny-at-mrbrklyn.com Thu May 2 02:40:03 2002
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Date: Thu, 2 May 2002 01:31:00 -0500
From: Jonathan Bober
To: Jonathan Bober
Subject: Re: [hangout] education committee
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Reply-To: Jonathan Bober
List: New Yorkers Linux Scene
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Free Software means the empowerment of the user. Proprietary software
means the empowerment of the vendor. Free Software means freedom to
innovate. Proprietary software means the obligation to buy into what
someone else considers innovation, and the stifling of your own. Free
Software means the freedom to truly learn. Proprietary software means
the ability to learn how to use a small piece of specific software.
Free Software gives the freedom to teach anything. Proprietary software
gives the ability to teach whatever the vendor allows to be taught, and
whatever can be afforded. Free Software means the ability to share.
Proprietary software means living fear that someone might one day catch
you accidentally sharing.
Free Software has myriad advantages for the educational system.
The ability to share. The world of proprietary software teaches that
sharing is stealing and is morally wrong. The world of Free Software
encourages sharing. For schools this means sharing with students,
teachers, and the public. A school running completely on Free Software
is able to hand out any piece of software that it is running to anyone
it wants. Sure, a donation of some Apple hardware and software is good
for a school, but when students leave school, what are they to do? The
hardware and software costs large amounts of money for individuals to
When we are allowed to freely share, this problem is overcome in large
part. Whatever software a school is running, it can give out to
students and teachers (and everyone.) This means that if a student is
interested in learning to set up his own server, the school can supply
him with all of the software that he needs to do so, for free. In
comparison, in order to give a student proprietary server software, the
school would need to pay hundreds, if not thousands of dollars.
Additionally, the school can give out whatever word processor and office
suite they are using, whatever math analysis software they are using,
whatever programming software they are using, whatever graphics software
they are using. All of these types of software are available and they
are distributed with the philosophy that sharing is good.
The ability to teach and learn. A school running on proprietary
software is limited by what it can afford and what the software that it
owns can accomplish. Many schools are likely under the impression that
in order to teach X, I need Y piece of software, and that simply costs
too much money. This is not the case. Free Software is the solution.
There is hardly a technology that could be taught that is not available
in Free Software. Programming language software, graphics software,
audio software, math software, web development software, office
software, etc, can all be taught uses Free Software. Running a Free
Software shop, a high school can easily have a lab that is nearly
equivalent in software offered to a high-end University. Teaching is
limited by the teachers and students, not by the software.
The Freedom to Innovate. With Free Software, the only limiting factor
is one's imagination. Every day, Free Software is used in new and
exciting ways. It powers audio in some games on the latest game
systems. It is used in digital VCR hardware. It can turn a Sony
Playstation II into a full computer. It can turn an Atari 800 into a
web server. It powers the web sites that allow you to find what you are
looking for on the Internet, and it powers the Internet itself. Source
code is always available for Free Software, which means that many
programs are developed into something that the original author never
intended or imagined.
Empowerment. Innovation, learning, teaching, sharing, Freedom - all of
this is about empowerment. Empowerment is the ability to innovate.
Empowerment in the digital realm is about true ownership of one's
software, and the ability do decide what to do with it. As the digital
realm begins to affect the educational realm, empowerment is about not
being locked in a box, not being dependent on others for solutions, not
being stuck with a particular solution because of license agreements or
because of economic reasons. Free Software is empowerment.
The cost of proprietary software is astronomical. This in itself should
be a reason for educational institutions to move away from proprietary
software and toward Free Software.
The cost of the Microsoft software for a relatively small computer lab,
around 25 PCs, can easily approach $15,000, for the operating system,
office software, and programming software. Add to that quality graphics
software, which costs a minimum of a few hundred dollars a seat, and the
number approaches $20,000. Add an email solution for the school, and
the number approached $25,000. Already, the numbers are looking
daunting, and no hardware has even been considered.
Free Software, thus, already saves up to $25,000 on technology
purchases. It gets better, though. While high quality Microsoft and
Apple products are tailored toward high-end machines, Free Software can
run and be extremely usable on much lower-end machines. Microsoft and
Apple make more money when their products are slow, by encouraging new
hardware and software purchases, so they have little incentive to
produce fast products. On the other hand, Free Software is often used
by people who have great interest in saving money, and thus it is
designed to be scalable. It can take advantage of both the fastest
computers that can be made and the slowest computers that are still
Moreover, Linux is an ideal solution for an even cheaper than normal
computer lab running thin clients. In this situation, all software is
run off of a high-end server, and terminals that students use connect to
this server transparently, and a high quality computer lab can be put
together for as little as $6,000 in hardware costs, and $0 in software
costs. Using old donated machines, or machines left lying around and
useless for modern Windows software can bring that number down to
$2,000. A similar thin client solution using proprietary software, for
a small lab, hardly reduces the cost, as prices for software licenses
typically grow when remote access is involved. Moreover, a GNU/Linux
solution is easier and cheaper to install and maintain, because the
nature of GNU/Linux is one of helping and sharing, and there are
countless people willing, ready, and able to volunteer their aid to help
schools deploy a Free Software solution. In the proprietary software
world, there are countless companies and individuals willing and able to
profit off of a school which does not fully understand technology.
Specific Free Software Solutions
OpenOffice.org is a full-featured office suite, featuring a word
processor, a spreadsheet application, a document drawing application,
and a presentation manager. It has been community developed, with the
aid of Sun MicroSystems, currently runs on Windows, Linux and Solaris
platforms, and will be ported to others.*for more information see
The GIMP is the GNU Image Manipulation Program. It is a full featured
graphics application similar to Adobe Photoshop.*for more information
The K-12 Linux Terminal Server Project is a project that aims to ease
and encourage the adoption of Linux by educational institutions. It
makes easy the install of Linux on a server and many thin-client
terminals which run software off of this server. It was and is
developed by people in the educational system, who use it
daily.*definitely take a look as http://www.k12lstp.org
About Free Software
What is Free Software? The term Free Software does not refer to money,
per se, but instead refers to Freedom. Exactly what freedoms?
Free software is a matter of the users' freedom to run, copy,
distribute, study, change and improve the software. More precisely, it
refers to four kinds of freedom, for the users of the software:
* The freedom to run the program, for any purpose (freedom 0).
* The freedom to study how the program works, and adapt it to your
needs (freedom 1). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
* The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor
(freedom 2).* The freedom to improve the program, and release your
improvements to the public, so that the whole community benefits.
(freedom 3). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
The common way to think of Free Software is as "Free Speech," not as
"Free beer." The ability to obtain Free Software for low or zero cost
is a result of these Freedoms.*for more information, see
What is Open Source Software? "Open Source" is a term that was coined
to attempt to attack the ambiguity of the term Free Software. The term
itself, however, does not truly solve problems, however, and, in fact,
creates some. A program that merely distributes source code may call
itself open source, but if it disallows distribution, it is not truly
However, the terms Free Software and Open Source are similar meaning.
(In this document, most uses of the term Free Software could be replaced
with Open Source Software, but the philosophy of Free Software better
represents what the New York Linux Scene believes in.) They have
different connotations and different philosophies behind them, but are
quite compatible, and the Open Source movement and the Free Software
movement are merely two branches of the same thing.*for more
information, see http://www.opensource.org/docs/definition.html and
What is Linux? Linux is an operating system kernel, and it is a piece
of Free Software. It handles many low level functions that allow a
computer to operate. Other software runs on top of Linux and allows a
user to interact with the computer.*for more information see
What is GNU/Linux? GNU/Linux is a set of Free Software tools combined
with the Linux kernel. Linux is just the core of the Operating System
while the GNU system contains the software that allows a user to
interact with the computer, and makes the computer fully functional.
Together, GNU and Linux form a complete operating system.*for more
information see http://www.gnu.org and
*often, GNU/Linux is simply referred to an Linux
What are KDE and GNOME? KDE and GNOME are two of the most popular
window managers for the X Windowing System. The X Windowing System is a
graphical system that provides the backbone for development of graphical
programs. X itself, however, does nothing to facilitate ease of use.
KDE and GNOME sit on top of X and manage programs, allowing the user to
forget all of the complicated work lying underneath, and use the system
much as one would use a modern system running Microsoft Windows or
Apple's OS X.*for more information, and to see just how good looking
these programs are, see http://www.kde.org and http://www.gnome.org
What are RedHat, Mandrake, SUSE, Debian, etc? These are all companies
or organizations that take all of the different parts of Linux and put
them together for you. They all automate install and setup, and have
the ability to hide all of the complicated internals of the operating
system. They do not, however, take away the ability to deal with the
internals of the operating system.
Also, they will install for you and facilitate the install of various
applications that make the computer useful. Standard applications
included and set up (if the user wishes) include office suites, web
browsers, math and scientific software, programming compilers and
development environments, email software, and more.*for more information
What is Microsoft Windows and why would I want to mess around with all
of this complicated gibberish? Microsoft Windows is a monolithic
operating system and a set of applications structured around the
operating system. It is monolithic in that the kernel, the fundamental
tools that make the operating system function, the windowing system, and
the applications are all bundled together, impossible to take apart.
Functionality is lost as the user is unable to decide what should be
installed and running on a computer and what should not be. For
example, a server does not need a graphical environment when it is not
being touched, and it does not need a web browser sitting in memory.
With Windows, however, it is impossible to detach those things, while in
a Free Software system, it is a simple task.
Moreover, all of this "complicated gibberish" is not nearly as
complicated as it sounds. Microsoft Window and Apple's OS X contain the
same various parts that are described above. What makes them convenient
is that they are often forced upon the buyer of a new computer. In
fact, when the Operating System is not attached to the computer, and is
installed fresh, a free GNU/Linux distribution is much easier to install
than a Microsoft Windows distribution, and it is just as easy to use.
The main difference in "complication" is actually that Windows hides
everything, and does not allow the user to touch the complicated
operating system internals, while a GNU/Linux distribution allows the
internals to be hidden, but also allows the user to poke around on the
inside, which is why a GNU/Linux system works so much better.
The Path From Here
We need a marketing package for schools. Part of this document is a
beginning, but we need more. We need to compile information about
schools across the country that have had success with Free Software. We
need to tell schools exactly what Free Software is and who we are. We
need a good economic analysis of the costs of software. We need to be
honest about the few things that we cannot do. We could even possibly
put together a CD of some Free Software for Windows/MAC, like
OpenOffice.org and the GIMP, which schools can immediately install and
look at, to get a taste of what Free Software can offer. This package
needs to be completed by the end of May.
Next, we have to start devising solutions for schools and contacting
schools. This can be done in part via mail and email, but we also will
need to compile phone numbers, and push to meet with people in person.
There is nothing as effective as a phone call, or a face to face
meeting. We can start by finding out what friends we already have in
the educational arena, and then pushing out to make more friends.
At the same time as this, we need to create a pool of volunteers, and an
effective way to facilitate communication between volunteers and
schools. This is, of course, something that NYLXS is already doing in a
general way. More needs to be done however. Our mission statement
mentions an "on-line tech support ticketing system." This is an
excellent idea - a system where educators can easily report problems and
volunteer techs can easily find out where they can help, and we should
have such a system available as soon as we start
New Yorker Linux Users Scene
Fair Use -
because it's either fair use or useless....