Marysville School District and OpenOffice

This is the situation at my school district and how I’m trying to change things.

Two years ago I tried to get my school district to let us install or install OpenOffice (OOo) on our school computers for a variety of reasons (they will be in here), and I kinda gave up for a while when the school received Office 2007. I have since started this vision again, but this time I’m going at it in a different manner.

To get this all going again what I did was contacted the director of Information Systems and Applied Technology, Ken Ainsworth, and asked what the problems were with doing what I wanted to do. His response to everything showed me how dumb the SD is with technology and how things need to change.

What Ken told me was that installing OpenOffice would create serious challenges to the standard district image and it would cause increased bandwidth demand. My first thought was what is this “standard district image” because I had absolutely no idea and just thought it was something he made up. Next was the bandwidth issue; I really had no idea what he meant by this so I assumed that he thought I was talking about “pushing” an OOo install from the central server to the school’s computers so I replied to his email asking the questions I had and for clarification.

In his reply back he sent me a lot more information. Heres his email (I cut two unimportant lines):

Hi Eli,

To maintain a support structure that minimizes our TCO (Total Cost of Ownership), we need to ensure that each of the 6000+ workstations have the same standard software suite. So when computers go sideways, often because of incompatibilities with third party software, instead of installing each application separately, we burn a new software image on the computer that includes our district standard suite of software. That includes the Microsoft productivity suite, but also a host of standard drivers that helps everything work together. The bandwidth issue with Open Office is not that we would need to push it over the network, it is that Open Office is designed in such a way that it hits the web more often does the Microsoft product. (Actually, by default Microsoft does the similar stuff, but we can do things down here to control the problems it creates.)

Open Office has some great attributes, and the initial price is certainly right. However, independent research by the Gartner Group has demonstrated that there are significant hidden costs when it comes to training and support. In an enterprise environment, it is more cost effective to stick to a single standard, and at this time, our standard is Microsoft Office.

-Ken

I did my research and it really pisses me off how far my district is corrupted by Microsoft. Lets start with this total cost of ownership thing and the reference to the Gartner Group. Im guessing these stats of his came from “research” from the Gartner Group. The thing is, Microsoft has corrupted Gartner Group with a source saying that [it] successfully lobbied and changed the Gartner Group TCO model to show Windows as providing the lowest overall TCO (Source). This makes me disregard his TCO statement and his entire closing paragraph as Gartner Group has been paid almost half a million dollars, according to the article, to not be on my side and to pressure companies from moving to anything but Microsoft products.

Ken also says he basically wants all the computers in the district to have all the same software installed. This is completely understandable from his point of view because a lot of people are really stupid when it comes to computers; and if those people start installing god know what on all these computers then there are going to be some serious issues with them. And what the SD is trying to do is restrict almost all access to adding new software on these computers for that exact reason. But (in my case) if someone who knows what he is doing and knows the right things to do then this shouldn’t be an issue but all it does is make it very hard to do so.

Another thing in this is that everything he is saying is sounding like he thinks that by installing OOo, Microsoft Office just goes away. Not the case. One of the main reasons I want OOo on these computers is because all the computer labs (except one) have Office 2003 or even Office XP. That means students are forced to use an office suite that is about 8 years old/outdated. In Kens first email to me he told me to instead install the Office Compatibility Pack on computers with earlier versions of Office.. That does not solve to problem, its just prolonging it! So basically to make everyone happy have the updated OpenOffice installed and have MS Office on there as an alternative. So his statement about “drivers” is now invalid.

Last but not least, the bandwidth issue! I still had no idea what he was talking about after the second reply and I also had no idea that OOo contacted anything through the internet during use; so I was VERY suspicious about this. To figure out what he was talking about I posted in the OOo support forums asking if they knew. The thread is here: http://user.services.openoffice.org/en/forum/viewtopic.php?f=6&p=82665. Basically all I got as an answer was that he could be talking about the updater? If he is then that is so insignificant as that can easily be disabled.

In all, I dont know the people who work at the district but with the way everything is run I assume that these ‘head guys’ are around 50 years old or something like that. A lot of those people only know about Microsoft and think that that’s the main or only solution for everything. They have no experience with Linux so they just use what they know. Tell me why anyone would want to pay such huge license fees and buy $xxxxxxx (I dont know the numbers) worth of software and operating systems when the exact same thing can be done with free software. I’ll tell you why; its because all the people working for the district only have experience with a windows infrastructure and things have not really change much in the time they worked there. So if they start changing stuff around and using software they don’t know about or start switching to Linux then those peoples usefulness go out the window and their jobs are replaced.

The software we are forced to use on our computers at school is pitiful. Most of them only have IE installed so we are forced to use what we got. It sucks. I was able though to get Firefox installed on all the computers in the lab that I tough my Web Design class.

To finish this off I want to add that the lies Microsoft tells you are not true. Recently French police switched from Windows to Linux and they said:

Moving from Microsoft XP to Vista would not have brought us many advantages and Microsoft said it would require training of users. Moving from XP to Ubuntu, however, proved very easy. The two biggest differences are the icons and the games. Games are not our priority

This is a great article about a fantastic success story of and cost saving benefits of making the switch to an open source alternative. And to think this happened after they switched from MS Office to OpenOffice.
Read http://www.linuxreaders.com/2009/04/27/french-police-switch-from-windows-to-linux/ for more info on this. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT.

The only way I can see anything changing is if we all speak out about this and we come up with and alternative plan to present to the district or if someone is hired that has the same position I do and with the same motivation for change.

386 thoughts on “Marysville School District and OpenOffice”

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