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Quebec Govt Sued For Ignoring Free Software

samzenpus posted more than 6 years ago | from the what-about-the-cheap-stuff dept.

Government 388

Mathieu Lutfy writes "The CBC is reporting that 'Quebec's open-source software association is suing the provincial government, saying it is giving preferential treatment to Microsoft Corp. by buying the company's products rather than using free alternatives. ... Government buyers are using an exception in provincial law that allows them to buy directly from a proprietary vendor when there are no options available, but Facil said that loophole is being abused and goes against other legal requirements to buy locally.' The group also has a press release in English."

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Interestingly enough, (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24775855)

8=====D

Don't waste my money! (5, Insightful)

rossz (67331) | more than 6 years ago | (#24775873)

Ok, I'm not Canadian, but this applies to everyone when their local government is pissing away money for no good reason.

It's one thing for a business to choose the more expensive option, the people making the choices must eventually answer to their stockholders. Well, as a voter, I'm a stockholder in my country. Wasting truckloads of money for no good reason means I'm going to vote your ass off the board of directors.

Most of the time, alternatives such as Openoffice.org are more than adequate for the job (and usually a better choice). Sometimes there are special needs which will allow for an exception, e.g. a large investment in Excel macros that are essential and very expensive to convert.

Local schools seem to be the worse offenders. They constantly bitch and moan about lack of funds, then piss away a pile of cash on a site license for Microsoft Office so they can teach their word processing course. Openoffice.org (and a few others) are perfect for the job. They are free and the cover everything necessary to learn word processing - which should be covering typing skills and how to lay out a well designed document - not how to use a specific product.

Re:Don't waste my money! (-1, Flamebait)

Iamthecheese (1264298) | more than 6 years ago | (#24775915)

That's right! they're pissing away money!

I have another example too! I made this free database program and they wouldn't buy it either! Of course the only guy who knows how to set up my program wanted a seven digit income, none of their people are trained, and there is some assembly required but damnit, my program had a
much lower retail price! They're ripping themselves off by not using it!

Re:Don't waste my money! (5, Insightful)

rohan972 (880586) | more than 6 years ago | (#24775963)

From TFA: "A strategic Free Software utilization in public administration could create thousands of jobs as well as a significant decrease in software licensing costs. However, Quebec's public administration refuses to even consider and evaluate these options."

If it is true they haven't even evaluated the other options the complaint is valid.

Re:Don't waste my money! (5, Interesting)

willyhill (965620) | more than 6 years ago | (#24776247)

could create thousands of jobs

I'm a little fuzzy on the details from TFA but... what exactly would these jobs entail? I mean, if some govt. office is running MS Office now and have 100 employees, switching to OpenOffice would create 100 openings more? Or what?

Sounds to me like an emotional argument rather than something based on fact.

Re:Don't waste my money! (5, Insightful)

minsk (805035) | more than 6 years ago | (#24776319)

In my reading, the complaint talks about opening up bidding so that local companies can offer solutions. Maybe those would be F/OSS, maybe they would be Microsoft, more likely they would be a mixture. Really doubt anyone thought opening bidding would create openings at the _government_ office... at the local VARs seems a more likely possibility.

Re:Don't waste my money! (5, Interesting)

wrook (134116) | more than 6 years ago | (#24776371)

Right now money is being spent on licenses. This money goes out of the province (indeed out of the country) to a company that sells the software. The money is then either reinvested into building the next upgrade, a new products, used for corporate overhead or designated as "profit".

The TFA notes that the amount of money spent on software in the 6 months from February to June was 25 million dollars.

If free software could be used to replace the proprietary software, then the money could be:

1) used for other government programs
2) used for training
3) used for local support
4) used for enhancing the software for new features
5) used for lining the wallets of local entrepreneurs.

But in these cases the money stays local. Since the government almost always spends all the money that it has, in all cases except for #5 the result is that the money ends up as salaries for other employees. And since this is money over and above money that they are already spending on salaries, it means new jobs.

If we work out the numbers, let's say we give the greedy entrepreneurs a million dollars. Then let's say that the other uses result in something close to 20% for equipment and capital costs.
This leaves about 20 million dollars. At a loaded
labour rate of 100,000 dollars a years (which is generous given that we've already taken out 4 million for equipment and capital costs), this gives us 200 new jobs.

So you are right, "thousands" of new jobs is probably not realistic. But if they can really reduce the outgo of software licensing money to foreign companies, it is not an exaggeration to say that hundreds of jobs would be the result.

Re:Don't waste my money! (4, Insightful)

supernova_hq (1014429) | more than 6 years ago | (#24776793)

1) used for other government programs
2) used for training
3) used for local support
4) used for enhancing the software for new features
5) used for lining the wallets of local
entrepreneurs.
6) used to buy textbooks, etc.

How the hell did you miss that one?!?

Re:Don't waste my money! (1)

abigsmurf (919188) | more than 6 years ago | (#24776547)

"A strategic Free Software utilization in public administration could create thousands of jobs as well as a significant decrease in software licensing costs. However, Quebec's public administration refuses to even consider and evaluate these options."

If a government body wants to save costs, saying "it will create thousands of jobs" isn't exactly a good thing. Amazingly enough when people get jobs, they expect to be paid.

Re:Don't waste my money! (5, Interesting)

amdpox (1308283) | more than 6 years ago | (#24775923)

I completely agree - our school has a phenomenal amount of money spent on Microsoft and other proprietary licenses (300+ Windows machines with office and photoshop elements, 5-10 windows servers (eugh), and the monstrosity that is SharePoint to "manage" everything... I haven't seen the bill, but it must cost a fortune. Sure, I can understand needing Windows for now - there are _some_ classes that use software other than web and word processing. But spending money on Office when OO.o does absolutely everything we use it for? Inexcusable.

Re:Don't waste my money! (4, Insightful)

Rakishi (759894) | more than 6 years ago | (#24776079)

School's get absurd discounts on software I believe and MS software does connect well together. For example open office updates would need to be controlled separately from MS updates (which are possibly centrally managed).

In my personal opinion it's also a lot harder to fuck up a windows network setup and windows networking is a lot more intuitive (ie: you need less knowledge to passably manage it). I've had to recently deal with a school's linux network and I feel like gouging out both my eyes with a spoon. The rats nest of possible programs, setting, distros, incompatible utilities (ie: this works with X, Y and Z but not your version of Z) and so that is possible of linux alone makes me want to gouge out one eye.

Re:Don't waste my money! (5, Insightful)

erikdalen (99500) | more than 6 years ago | (#24776217)

Well, IMO amateurs shouldn't be sysadmins.

Re:Don't waste my money! (5, Insightful)

minsk (805035) | more than 6 years ago | (#24776263)

Unfortunately, many professionals shouldn't be sysadmins either.

One side of the coin is that folks with honest training and experience can sift through a wide range of possible technologies, then find and properly maintain the best one for the situation. The other is that the amateurs have a motivation for easy, so seem less likely to dig themselves incredible, embarrassing, money-sucking pits...

And this is government. If you're not cynical about the kind of professionals they hire, you're not paying attention :)

Re:Don't waste my money! (5, Insightful)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 6 years ago | (#24776221)

Any third party app installed on windows needs to be updated seperately... A linux distro on the other hand will typically supply all the apps you're going to require and update them al centrally.

As for all the myriad of possible distros, you just standardise on a single distro across the board and use the apps supported by the distributor.
The problem of incompatible versions happens on windows too, and is often worse, even microsoft apps can have incompatibilities with each other and as soon as you throw third party apps into the mix the problem gets much worse, but the apps supported as part of a linux distro will typically be tested fairly well together. Also since the linux apps are far more likely to use documented formats, the chance of third party apps working with them is higher too.

Re:Don't waste my money! (5, Interesting)

Daengbo (523424) | more than 6 years ago | (#24776225)

But you can have a single copy of OO.o installed on a file server from which all the clients run the software (ro). In that case, you only need to update the software in one place.

Naturally, preferences and documents are saved on the client.

Easy Linux upgrades (2, Informative)

supernova_hq (1014429) | more than 6 years ago | (#24776757)

I have also seen ssh clients that allow you to run the same command simultaneously on a LIST of ssh servers. All you need is a good 4096bit SSL cert and "sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get upgrade -y" and all is well.

Re:Don't waste my money! (3, Interesting)

buttle2000 (1041826) | more than 6 years ago | (#24776737)

I'd disagree with you. My experience is that a Linux network once set up correctly will just keep going and going. There are many good options to centralize a schools desktops, from nfs exports to thin clients.

Unfortunately, at the school where my kids go, the physical network is a complete mess (network cables running under doors and such) because the IT admin is a job that rotates between all teachers every year, none of whom have any real idea.

Re:Don't waste my money! (1)

hdparm (575302) | more than 6 years ago | (#24776801)

School's get absurd discounts on software I believe and MS software does connect well together. For example open office updates would need to be controlled separately from MS updates (which are possibly centrally managed).

Not quite, at least not everywhere. In NZ, govt signs a deal with MS to supply primary and secondary schools with set number of windows and office licenses. Few years ago the figure was NZ$50 mil. This is lot of misappropriated taxpayer's dough.

special needs and government (2, Interesting)

ILongForDarkness (1134931) | more than 6 years ago | (#24775983)

I'm not going to comment on that one it would be too easy :)

As an expat canadian I wasn't aware of any such law but I was from Ontario perhaps they have a different law in Quebec. Anyways, fair competition only seems to make sense to me. Seems rather odd for a open source software organization to fight this fight though. Unless they represent for profit service companies I don't think they'll be able to prove any loss in court so the case could get thrown out on that grounds. They probably would have been better off getting a bunch of citizens to do a class action as they are ones that have a calculatable loss.

That said even if they loss the case, if it seems plausible to the court it might put the fear of God into the government (in the incarnation of a penguin no doubt) to at least consider open source and be prepared to justify their choosing MS anyways if that is what they do.

P.S. Just a general question why does /. put a space between the second and third paragraph for me not the first and second? I'm using the same flags everywhere else, double "bracketted p". Used to work fine before the new interface came out.

Re:special needs and government (3, Insightful)

Daengbo (523424) | more than 6 years ago | (#24776161)

I think as taxpayers they can sue for damages in the form of increased taxes.

Competitive bidding should be the norm, and exceptions to this rule should be rare. Once a spec is given and bids are in, there'll be an obvious choice.

When time or special circumstance doesn't allow bids, there certainly needs to be a detailed report on the reasons one vendor was chosen over another. Someone needs to put his ass on the line and say "Symphony, StarOffice, Openoffice.org, and Gnome Office don't meet our needs" for reasons a, b, and c. When an accountant comes back to audit the department, he'll back those up or pay the price.

And I just use double-<br>s instead of paragraph tags.

Re:Don't waste my money! (5, Informative)

jambox (1015589) | more than 6 years ago | (#24776081)

Local schools seem to be the worse offenders. They constantly bitch and moan about lack of funds, then piss away a pile of cash on a site license for Microsoft Office

I agree most secondary school IT teachers seem to think IT education == Microsoft training. But it's worse than that - in the UK, most schools actually buy all their MS stuff from a reseller such as RM Computers. Which is a giant rip because, for example with servers, they just take Windows 2003 and bolt a load of "admin tools" onto the side. They deliberately make it non-standard and harder to use so they can then charge the schools giant support contracts. It also doesn't help that most school IT techs are completely hopeless.

I speak from bitter experience, BTW.

Re:Don't waste my money! (3, Insightful)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 6 years ago | (#24776189)

RM machines is a complete scandal in the UK. Originally they developed machines from scratch like 380Z and Nimbus. Then as those lagged behind PCs they switched to making PCs. But schools still buy their Wintel PCs from RM, despite the fact that there is no reason for single sourcing, apart from tradition.

And I suspect that RM's founders are well connected in educational circles.

Re:Don't waste my money! (3, Informative)

joelstobart (1238490) | more than 6 years ago | (#24776743)

RM might be bad, but MS are far worse. They (in the UK will charge schools for installing linux[1]. They, on anti-competitive grounds wont let people know how much MS in schools costs [2]

"This relates to circumstances where schools using Microsoftâ(TM)s School Agreement licensing model, are required to pay Microsoft licensing fees for computers based on Linux, or using OpenOffice.org. Finding ourselves in a position whereby a school pays (say) £169 for a device only to be faced with for example a £30 per year after year payment to Microsoft, for a system that is not running any of their software would just not be acceptable to Becta. Indeed I donâ(TM)t think many people would consider that fair. "

[1] http://www.siriusit.co.uk/myblog/microsoft-tax-on-linux-in-schools-must-end-says-becta.html [siriusit.co.uk]

[2] http://www.theinquirer.net/gb/inquirer/news/2008/07/08/microsoft-gags-uk-schools [theinquirer.net]

Re:Don't waste my money! (3, Informative)

dontmakemethink (1186169) | more than 6 years ago | (#24776383)

Ok, I'm not Canadian, but this applies to everyone when their local government is pissing away money for no good reason.

It's one thing for a business to choose the more expensive option, the people making the choices must eventually answer to their stockholders. Well, as a voter, I'm a stockholder in my country. Wasting truckloads of money for no good reason means I'm going to vote your ass off the board of directors.

Most of the time, alternatives such as Openoffice.org are more than adequate for the job (and usually a better choice). Sometimes there are special needs which will allow for an exception, e.g. a large investment in Excel macros that are essential and very expensive to convert.

Local schools seem to be the worse offenders. They constantly bitch and moan about lack of funds, then piss away a pile of cash on a site license for Microsoft Office so they can teach their word processing course. Openoffice.org (and a few others) are perfect for the job. They are free and the cover everything necessary to learn word processing - which should be covering typing skills and how to lay out a well designed document - not how to use a specific product.

I love Quebec, but when it comes to politics, I hang my head. For example, you cannot even put up a poster in english. The stop signs say "arret", french for stop. In France, they say "stop".

I can only imagine what the politics would be like in a school board...

Re:Don't waste my money! (4, Interesting)

ThePhilips (752041) | more than 6 years ago | (#24776583)

Ok, I'm not Canadian, but this applies to everyone when their local government is pissing away money for no good reason.

WTF?! Do you even following politics?

Business is greatest influence force in politics.

This is classical form of corruption: business makes a undertable deal with local politicians so that they buy their products. The statue that all procurement deals have to be public and open to competition - is the most often ignored statue. (Also popular (in 3rd world) are preferential investments, but they are quite hard to hide and rarely happen in developed countries.)

This is essentially how politicians make money. Or you thought that they simply do their thing out of pure altruism and patriotism? [Sarcasm intended.]

Re:Don't waste my money! (1, Insightful)

Lachlan Hunt (1021263) | more than 6 years ago | (#24776595)

One of the major problems is that open source software like OpenOffice.org and most Linux distributions are seriously lacking good UI design and usability [mpt.net.nz] . I know there are geeks who will argue that they're easy to use, but the problem is that a lot of open source software has been designed by geeks, for geeks. (Although, I will admit that Vista has also become largely unusable in many ways)

I don't blame them for opting for more usable alternatives, despite the cost and security problems with Windows. But I think taking legal action to force them to use free software is the wrong approch. I think the right approach is for the open source communities to improve their development methods and spend more time designing usable and attractive software.

Re:Don't waste my money! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24776685)

Let me get this straight...
You guys are angry at people who know absolutely nothing about computers because they decided to use the same software that is used EVERYWHERE, and is probably the only software that they are familiar with using. Not only that, but chances are that they have never even heard of linux or open office.

Face it, the guy who chooses how to spend all the money has no knowledge and no interest in your pet open source projects. Quit bitching

Re:Don't waste my money! (1)

mk2mark (1144731) | more than 6 years ago | (#24776799)

I'd go further to say school is the perfect environment to enlighten people that there actually is an alternative. If you can show future generations that linux/OO.o actually exists (let alone can be easy to use), my opinion is that this is an advantage that outweighs pretty much any amount of money saved.

En franÃais (5, Informative)

millette (56354) | more than 6 years ago | (#24775883)

Plus d'info en francais [waglo.com] et sur le site de l'association FACIL, pour l'appropriation collective de l'informatique libre [facil.qc.ca] .

Hey, here's a question (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24775921)

What the hell is the big deal? Why can't you be satisfied with the whole country learning both French and English, such that all of your children are bilingual (and thus have a leg up on monolingual countries like the US)? No one is out to "attack you." No one is out to deny you the right to speak French. Why the hell do you fucking Quebecois have to be such a bunch of fucking whiners? OHHHH, POOR US, WE ARE "FORCED" TO BE PART OF A COUNTRY WITH ONE OF THE HIGHEST STANDARDS OF LIVING IN THE WESTERN WORLD, OOH LA LA, EH?

Jackasses.

Re:Hey, here's a question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24775985)

The same goes for France, maybe it's language's fault?

Re:Hey, here's a question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24776069)

Zut alors! Petis pois, petis pois! Jean-Claude Van Damme!

Re:Hey, here's a question (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24776111)

Baguette.

Re:Hey, here's a question (1)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 6 years ago | (#24776227)

merde!

Re:Hey, here's a question (1)

RuBLed (995686) | more than 6 years ago | (#24776403)

I declare war on French comments.

Re:Hey, here's a question (1)

JustOK (667959) | more than 6 years ago | (#24776455)

poutine

Re:Hey, here's a question (1)

registrar (1220876) | more than 6 years ago | (#24776581)

I fart in your general direction.

Re:Hey, here's a question (1)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 6 years ago | (#24776739)

I declare war on French comments.

Nous capitulons!

(We surrender)

Pardon moi? (1)

StarKruzr (74642) | more than 6 years ago | (#24776311)

Don't the French Canadians learn English anyway?

Re:Pardon moi? (1)

Another, completely (812244) | more than 6 years ago | (#24776475)

Sure. I imagine they could have tried to share this publicly-useful information in a second language. I also suspect enough people in New York have learned Spanish that the "Campaign for New York's Future" site could have been written in in that language. This would let people show off how much they learned in high school, but might not be the most effective tool for the campaign to use.

If you want to convince people about something, don't start by forcing them to read a foreign language, even if you think most of them are capable. People who are not comfortable reading French are a minority of voters in Quebec.

Re:En franÃais (0)

BluBrick (1924) | more than 6 years ago | (#24776335)

Plus d'info en francais [waglo.com] et sur le site de l'association FACIL, pour l'appropriation collective de l'informatique libre [facil.qc.ca] .

Yes, there may be more detail available in French, but the summary mentions a press release in English. A group of Quebecois put out a press release in English! Do ya think there's something wrong with this picture? I'm suspicious let me tell ya!

Re:En francais (2, Interesting)

millette (56354) | more than 6 years ago | (#24776367)

There's also a press release in french, which was translated for you guys. Aren't we nice? I'm sure you can discover it for yourself as I don't want to impose any more french on you. I though someone might appreciate having the info in their first language.

Encoding please??? (1, Offtopic)

spectrokid (660550) | more than 6 years ago | (#24776641)

Why can't Slashdot get encoding right? I know that for Americans, 26 should be enough for everyone, but for christsake, this is 2008!!
Let's do some testing here:
à -This is a large Scandinavian O with slash
Ã- -This is a Captial O umlaut
ã -A spanish a-tilde
à -A french e-circonflex
On my PC, the same one I wrote it on, they all render like A-tilde. Come on coders!!!

Tech support. (1, Flamebait)

Korey Kaczor (1345661) | more than 6 years ago | (#24775909)

Each license bought allows for tech support from Microsoft. Is there any such tech support from open source developers? Usually not.

When you have tax dollars freely available, cutting costs matter little when expedience for bureaucrats is much more important.

Re:Tech support. (1)

amdpox (1308283) | more than 6 years ago | (#24775941)

Do you think organisations like schools and government units use Microsoft tech support? I know for sure that all the schools I've ever been to have their own IT staff who manage any problem that comes up... and it's not hard to find a tech with *nix administration experience.

Re:Tech support. (1)

Korey Kaczor (1345661) | more than 6 years ago | (#24776011)

I don't really know. I do know public education contains some of the most laughable IT staffs in existence, though.

I would take a guess that it's all about the feeling of security. Managers (or whatever government equivalent) are going to feel safer with business solutions rather than open-source alternatives because of support for bugs or other problems. If MS Word screws up, you call Microsoft. If Open Office (using it as an example) screws up, what then? There's no business guarantee that OO will respond in a timely manner to the problem.

Re:Tech support. (1)

amdpox (1308283) | more than 6 years ago | (#24776127)

Then pay for supported FOSS - you can get support from Novell/RedHat/Canonical and from Sun for StarOffice for significantly cheaper than you pay for Microsoft licenses with their "support", and you have the added benefit of running open source, and therefore being awesome.

Re:Tech support. (1, Insightful)

Korey Kaczor (1345661) | more than 6 years ago | (#24776141)

Exactly. Which is why Red Hat fills a niche: they have a corporation behind their software.

Seriously, though, it's government. You're not going to have competent people running things.

Re:Tech support. (2, Funny)

bursch-X (458146) | more than 6 years ago | (#24776259)

And that's why they chose Microsoft. To match levels of competency.

Re:Tech support. (2, Informative)

Daengbo (523424) | more than 6 years ago | (#24776309)

Or, if they don't like OSS, they could at least get lower-cost solutions like Sun's StarOffice [sun.com] (USD35 per person, allowing up to five installs for that person's use at the organization or elsewhere) or IBM's Symphony [lotus.com] . Those are some pretty big names.

Re:Tech support. (4, Insightful)

jimicus (737525) | more than 6 years ago | (#24776147)

I don't really know. I do know public education contains some of the most laughable IT staffs in existence, though.

I would take a guess that it's all about the feeling of security. Managers (or whatever government equivalent) are going to feel safer with business solutions rather than open-source alternatives because of support for bugs or other problems. If MS Word screws up, you call Microsoft. If Open Office (using it as an example) screws up, what then? There's no business guarantee that OO will respond in a timely manner to the problem.

I've worked in a school so I've got a bit of experience here.

Laughable IT staff or not (and there is a glimmer of truth in that), managers (or whoever has the role of managing IT - often a teacher) does indeed get the warm fuzzies from buying as much as possible from big companies like Microsoft.

Furthermore, there's another angle. It's fairly common to find that the companies that supply schools (and here I'm talking about primary/secondary level education in the UK) don't tend to supply many businesses and vice versa. The companies that do supply schools will tell you that this is because they specialise in education and can offer better support more appropriate for schools. Many of these companies have been supplying schools for many years and are more-or-less 100% Microsoft shops. Guess what they put in?

Anyone who's any good at IT and has worked in a school will know that this is complete bullshit and that there are dozens of small consulting companies would love to have a few school contracts and could do a perfectly good job for a lot less. However, in the valley of the blind and all that.... there are plenty of schools that believe they're getting a good deal because they don't have anyone on staff who knows enough to tell them otherwise.

Re:Tech support. (2, Interesting)

Korey Kaczor (1345661) | more than 6 years ago | (#24776183)

Time to relive the glory days of high school...

Well, you know your public school's IT is bad when a kid gets in trouble for sending a message to every school computer through netsend.

The school's solution? Forbid the kid from using computers for the rest of the year, instead of disabling the netsend service.

Ah, school administrators, how we love thee...

Re:Tech support. (1)

amdpox (1308283) | more than 6 years ago | (#24776241)

Do I know you? That sounds awfully familiar.

Re:Tech support. (1)

Korey Kaczor (1345661) | more than 6 years ago | (#24776285)

No, because you spelled "organisations" and not the American "organizations," so unless you somehow talked to me elsewhere on the internet, you don't know me. I'm sure the same thing has happened before, anyways.

Re:Tech support. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24776343)

OhSh-, that happened at my school as well. Small world or a lot of blind administrators? *blink* *blink*

Re:Tech support. (1)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 6 years ago | (#24776621)

I'm fairly sure this is a story repeated at more schools than you can imagine.

Back in the day my school got a big shiny computer network(which caught fire a lot, I'm not talking figuratively.) with a computer in every classroom etc.
It was all micrsoft, all "locked down" in the most restrictive but pointless ways (no right click, no typing a directory into the address bar, pretty much the only programs you could open were word and excel) yet the whole thing was just a veneer. The private company in charge (the same crowd who were in charge at potters bar) had one very lackluster tech who was shared between 4 schools, we got him 1 week out of each month so if a printer broke they had to wait 3 weeks for him to fix it.
The one competent tech in our school wasn't (officially) given admin access on the basis that that it was against policy.
The actual security was a joke, even with my paultry abilities in those days I'd bypassed most all the restrictions and had a nice dos prompt from which I could do what I liked.
Spent quite a bit of my free time investigating the network in a completely amature manner(looking through the IP range, finding file servers which had been set up or were part of the default package but never used etc)

I was friendly with the earlier mentioned only competent tech and he knew I wasn't inclined to break things so he didn't seem to mind if I messed around a little. I wasn't a destructive kid.

Re:Tech support. (1)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 6 years ago | (#24776291)

MS makes it mandatory to pay for the software and the lowest level of support wether you need it or not, and charges you extra for better support. I don't think you get any guarantees with their low level support either.

OpenOffice provides choices, everything is optional, you can buy a supported package with a similar level of support and it's still cheaper than MS (eg staroffice, or bundled as part of a supported linux distro), or you can get an unsupported package that's free.

Not everyone wants support, as a slashdot story a few weeks ago pointed out, larger organizations who have their own competent staff are moving more towards free linux distributions instead of paid ones as it's cheaper. If those organizations were using MS they would be paying for low level support they will never use.

Re:Tech support. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24776449)

I would just like to remind you folks That buying licences to use MS software DOES NOT entitle you to bug tracking and feature request support.
Such extended & personalised support contracts are purchased seperately.

Basically the true cost equation to education is:
*Subsidised Office Licence + Paid MS support Contract

*Free OpenOffice + Paid Support Contract with Open Source Provider.

Re:Tech support. (5, Insightful)

Max Littlemore (1001285) | more than 6 years ago | (#24775969)

Most large organisations including government provide 90% of their own tech support. Microsoft, in practice, provides none. At least it's like that where I am. The only "support" they provide is helping to ensure all of the machines are licensed properly.

So if a local government can't figure out that they can take save the $25 million they have spent on licenses by training their IT staff or supporting local business, they really aren't intelligent enough to be working for the government.

That whole support argument is bullshit, as is the TCO argument that gets bandied about.

Re:Tech support. (1)

wellingj (1030460) | more than 6 years ago | (#24776175)

Bureaucratic policy maker in the government and intelligence? Isn't that a bit mutually exclusive? Maybe a person could be intelligent and willfully ignorant so they could feel okay about collecting a pay check...

Re:Tech support. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24776623)

That's categorically false.

While in high school, I worked as a network admin putting together a computer network. After a few years, the board got IBM and MSFT involved to add new computers and administrate the network as those of us managing it were graduating. Betwen them, they manage it top to bottom, from user accounts to machine installs and cleanups. Granted it's not at the support and response level of students that do nothing but write scripts and play starcraft, but it's there.

Re:Tech support. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24775989)

Tech support from Microsoft? Let me tell you how it goes here: Geek kids are not allowed to explore the internals of the system even to fix them, but they do it anyway after being frustrated that there are only 5 out of 20 PCs at school that actually *work*

Of course last year the schools here installed some kind of backup thingy which restores the HD to it's previous state upon restart. Sucks big time IMO, but better than PCs not working at all...

Where does microsoft support come into the picture here? exactly nowhere!

Oh and did I mention that the worst thing that could happen on a linux machine is that a user's account can get fried?

Re:Tech support. (1)

minsk (805035) | more than 6 years ago | (#24776419)

Hmm, interesting. What was sucking in the restore-on-boot stuff?

We started using a tool which does instant restore on boot, so that we could leave the systems open for everyone to explore. Student files wind up on a network drive. Having administrator access seems, IMO, a better deal for learning internals than being able to keep local files across a reboot.

Have not needed to think about it yet, but I would seriously consider designing a school Linux machine in a similar way. The users can ignore the details. The hackers can fiddle to their heart's content. And the crackers get repaired as soon as they hit logout.

Re:Tech support. (1)

digitig (1056110) | more than 6 years ago | (#24776551)

Except if the students have root access, what's to stop them removing the tool that restores the disk on boot?

Re:Tech support. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24776675)

It could be set to netboot, and there could be a password on the BIOS. Then have the netboot OS simply replace any changed files. It may take some time to boot up (especially if someone's been changing everything), but most computers in schools/universities are turned on first thing in the morning and off again last thing in the evening.

Re:Tech support. (4, Insightful)

Firehed (942385) | more than 6 years ago | (#24775997)

Bull. Paid tech support for custom/specialized apps is one thing (the company I just left made a very significant percent of their revenue from support and maintenance), but that's just not the case for MS Office. And having paid for MS software in the past, I'll let you know that the only "support" I ever got was from someone named "John" in $randomOutsourcedCountry when I needed to re-activate the damn thing because apparently a system upgrade is a novel thing that nobody had tried before.

Ironically, those 'support' issues went away when I stopped paying for MS software, and obviously also haven't been an issue since I stopped using their stuff entirely.

Don't get me wrong - support is a legitimate concern for some software, even some from MS. But when it comes to Office software, that support is coming from the IT guy, not Microsoft.

Re:Tech support. (2, Insightful)

Korey Kaczor (1345661) | more than 6 years ago | (#24776059)

That's true. But the people who call the shots think differently. To them, business solutions are more reliable than open-source ones. What is better doesn't matter -- it's what management thinks is best.

Re:Tech support. (4, Interesting)

Firehed (942385) | more than 6 years ago | (#24776177)

Depends on the IT guy's skills in explaining things - or, indeed, 'selling' the open-source solutions. Obviously I'm generalizing here, but most IT people aren't overly business-savvy, so they're often of little help when it comes to explaining why X solution is better than Y. Management doesn't care that CrapSoftwareY is talking to a set of cobbled-together Access tables where DecentSoftwareX functions off of a proper relational database unless the IT guy evaluating the software can explain the BUSINESS benefits of one over the other (and "users won't end up going batshit insane over file locking when trying to hit stupidfile.mdb over a samba share" won't cut it).

Open source guys can evangelize all they want, but if they really want to see adoption, they'll need to sell it. Not via cold calls, but at least throw some copy online that the IT staff can use when they're pitching it against whatever half-assed proprietary product that's backed by a sales department. And let me tell you, MS has a damn good sales department. /used to work in software sales, and outselling open-source is trivially easy for those reasons

Re:Tech support. (2, Insightful)

Korey Kaczor (1345661) | more than 6 years ago | (#24776261)

Agreed. And I would imagine many managers don't have highly refined IT skills, either, which is why IIS is still used instead of Apache. Or why Windows is still used for servers in the first place.

Re:Tech support. (1)

wellingj (1030460) | more than 6 years ago | (#24776315)

That's true. But the people who call the shots think stupid.

I couldn't let that one go. Had to fix it.

Re:Tech support. (4, Insightful)

clang_jangle (975789) | more than 6 years ago | (#24776027)

Each license bought allows for tech support from Microsoft.

Typically very little tech support from MS is included with the license. That's the "beauty" (for MS) of their pricing schemes; it's basically a money pit. First you get hooked on the software, then the support, then the proprietary formats help keep you locked in. It's like quicksand.

Is there any such tech support from open source developers? Usually not.

Again, incorrect. There are a several good open source vendors who offer excellent support. But quite often OSS shops find they need very little outside support. I would expect most schools to fall in that category, though I have no personal experience working in that sector.

Re:Tech support. (5, Interesting)

Firehed (942385) | more than 6 years ago | (#24776083)

That's the "beauty" (for MS) of their pricing schemes; it's basically a money pit.

Actually, it's really just a way for them to legally cook their books. While they never provide support* on any of their consumer products, they're still allowed to have a ton of unearned revenue since they only recognize 1/12th of the purchase price each month, or however long you're supported for. Assuming it's one year and a copy of Windows is $300 (I was at Staples today, and apparently it is at least for some version of XP), that means that after a month, they've got $25 of earned revenue and $275 of unearned revenue on the books. Basically, it fucks with the numbers and makes them look richer than they really are.

Of course this isn't at all specific to Microsoft - most companies that provide some sort of support contract do the same (Best Buy extended warranties? Oh yeah). I'd suggest they abuse it a bit more than most, but what do you expect?

*you know what I mean here - I'm sure there's the odd instance of it happening, but by and large the only time you get them on the phone is for an activation problem.

Re:Tech support. (1)

Korey Kaczor (1345661) | more than 6 years ago | (#24776097)

My apologies for not being clear. But what I mean is that what truly matters is what management believes. You can have the best open-source product in the world, but you'll still have businesses/agencies opting for corporate solutions instead simply because there is an illusion of safety and reliablity backing up their products.

Re:Tech support. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24776073)

Each license bought allows for tech support from Microsoft. Is there any such tech support from open source developers? Usually not.

When you have tax dollars freely available, cutting costs matter little when expedience for bureaucrats is much more important.

You should research the market a bit better.
I know no huge (as in paid full-time developers are doing it) Open Source project which does not have a company behind it which offers support. And those few where the OSS produced by the project is not a product for the companies behind it, third parties offer support-contracts.

$25 million (4, Insightful)

globaljustin (574257) | more than 6 years ago | (#24776077)

Each license bought allows for tech support from Microsoft. Is there any such tech support from open source developers? Usually not

If they went to FOSS, they could take the 25 million they spent on M$ licenses (in 08 alone!) and pay local Quebecois to provide support. In fact, that's their whole grounds for bringing the case to court.

From TFA: "Quebec's public administration refuses to even consider and evaluate these options...the regulation implies that public markets have to enhance the local economic development as well as the Quebec technologies....From February to June 2008...sales of proprietary software for more than 25 million dollars"

Sounds like good case to me. My parents actually worked in the kind of local government that would be using this software, and I'm here to tell you, the transition would go fine. The fact is, most of them barely bumble their way through no matter WHAT software they use (on their outdated machines). All they use is a word processor, email, and maybe a spreadsheet and simple database. Just the basics.

This from TFA actually kinda scared me...scared because I'm worried about how far the US is falling behind other countries when it comes to tech: "In the Netherlands, the public administration, one of the most modern in the world, has decided to forbid the use of proprietary software in the public sector."

Re:$25 million (4, Informative)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 6 years ago | (#24776219)

"In the Netherlands, the public administration, one of the most modern in the world, has decided to forbid the use of proprietary software in the public sector."

Actually, I don't think that is correct. What I know is that a motion has been passed that requires the government to consider alternatives, and give preference to open software when it is equally suitable. The government subsequently ordered a lot of software from Microsoft, without investigating alternatives. This stirred up some commotion, after which a motion was adopted that requires the government to carry out the previous motion. I don't know what has happened since then, but I don't think forbidding proprietary software actually happened.

Re:Tech support. (1)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 6 years ago | (#24776245)

And what level of support do you get with the software, and how often is it used?
Open source developers and distributors will also supply paid support, but you pay *only* for the support and not the software. Most organisations have their own internal staff and very rarely make use of vendor support for software thus paying for it is often a waste, there was even a slashdot story a few weeks ago about how free distributions are gaining popularity in corporations because of the lower cost.

Re:Tech support. (1)

millette (56354) | more than 6 years ago | (#24776375)

Would you get your plumbing done by a single vendor that only he could fix? Probably not. Why should software be any different?

Re:Tech support. (1)

1u3hr (530656) | more than 6 years ago | (#24776405)

Each license bought allows for tech support from Microsoft. Is there any such tech support from open source developers?

Of course there is.
https://www.redhat.com/apps/support/ [redhat.com]
http://www.ubuntu.com/support/paid [ubuntu.com]
http://www.novell.com/support/product/products.do [novell.com]
http://www-03.ibm.com/linux/prod_svc.html [ibm.com] ....

Re:Tech support. (1)

xouumalperxe (815707) | more than 6 years ago | (#24776723)

You might have had a point somewhere, but you lost me at joining "expedience" and "bureaucrats" in the same sentence

And, what (0, Flamebait)

MarkTraceur (1329579) | more than 6 years ago | (#24775943)

Americans, are we just going to let the government spend our money?? How can we help!?

Not sure about Canadian law but (3, Insightful)

Xuranova (160813) | more than 6 years ago | (#24775949)

Don't you have to be somehow affected by defendant's actions to sue them? Is the Quebec's open-source software association harmed by this directly? Or do they have a plan to sell tech support contracts once the free software is installed?

Re:Not sure about Canadian law but (3, Informative)

millette (56354) | more than 6 years ago | (#24776041)

The FACIL association doesn't provide technical services. It's a group to promote free and open source software as well as open standards. FACIL believes local companies can provide the needed tech support and wants to make sure they at least get a chance in this market.

Re:Not sure about Canadian law but (1)

renoX (11677) | more than 6 years ago | (#24776133)

>Don't you have to be somehow affected by defendant's actions to sue them?

Probably, but where do you think the money the government spends with Microsoft comes from?
It's an association from Quebec after all: every citizen who pay taxes are harmed when governments don't really open the bidding process.

Re:Not sure about Canadian law but (2, Informative)

MadKeithV (102058) | more than 6 years ago | (#24776223)

Through the tax system every taxpaying Canadian is harmed by this directly.

Re:Not sure about Canadian law but (0, Troll)

Nymz (905908) | more than 6 years ago | (#24776381)

If Canada has some form of democracy, then don't they elect officials, and then those officials make decisions to use Microsoft. So if they elect other officials, that will make decisions to use Linux... then doesn't that mean they should be suing themselves voter negligence?

Please Rate the Canadian Justice System (1)

Nymz (905908) | more than 6 years ago | (#24775995)

Would any Canadians out there rate how easy it is to conduct litigation in Canada? On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being common sense, and 10 being frivolous.

Most Slashdotters are familiar with the difficulties associated with Linux, but cannot judge the decision of FACIL representatives without being able to make a comparison against the difficulties associated with bringing a lawsuit.

Re:Please Rate the Canadian Justice System (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24776049)

Frivolous lawsuits are much less common in Canada. In the US, if you spill hot coffee on your lap you can sue for millions. In Canada, you can sue for the cost of a new cup of coffee.

Re:Please Rate the Canadian Justice System (2, Informative)

topham (32406) | more than 6 years ago | (#24776209)

Unfortunately even if Canadians can comment on your question most of us can't comment on it in regards to Quebec. They have a distinct legal system from the rest of Canada.

No, I'm not kidding.

Frvivolous suites are substantially more rare in Canada than in the U.S.; Although I think there are more common in Quebec.

Re:Please Rate the Canadian Justice System (1)

Nymz (905908) | more than 6 years ago | (#24776307)

Frvivolous suites are substantially more rare in Canada than in the U.S.; Although I think there are more common in Quebec.

If no one responds, then I'll just assume they're all too afraid, to rate the system 10-frivolous, out of fear of being sued for liable.

Re:Please Rate the Canadian Justice System (4, Informative)

I confirm I'm not a (720413) | more than 6 years ago | (#24776503)

They have a distinct legal system from the rest of Canada.
No, I'm not kidding.

I'm not sure why you'd consider this odd. I can think of at least two OECD countries with varying internal legal systems, besides Canada. In the USA, Louisiana is the only U.S. state partially based on French and Spanish codes and ultimately Roman law, as opposed to English common law [wikipedia.org] . In the UK, Scotland [wikipedia.org] has its own unique legal system - right down to three possible verdicts in a jury trial ("Not proven"). I believe, though I can't find a reference right now, that New York had a feudal-based system of property law until the late 19th century (unlike Scotland, where the feudal system gasped its last breath in 2006 or so... I got a letter from my "feudal superior" a year or so back)

You Linux nerds disgust me (-1, Flamebait)

fenetre magique (1204950) | more than 6 years ago | (#24776033)

Ah, yes, let's force everyone to use open source software with its horrible aesthetics, near-constant crashing on Windows-installed PCs, impenetrable user setup from download to configuration and non-existent technical support. Example? I can't count the number of times I had to eventually save my OpenOffice file as a Microsoft Word Document and open it in Word only to find that I had to do a whole bunch of reformatting before sending it to the library printer! People should be glad their school is encouraging kids to use professionally made software that doesn't try and bully them into the stone-age with interface design that's about 10 years behind proprietary software.

Re:You Linux nerds disgust me (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24776119)

lol, 2/10

Re:You Linux nerds disgust me (0)

thedrx (1139811) | more than 6 years ago | (#24776511)

slashdot troll as an occupation, must be fun :P

Re:You Linux nerds disgust me (3, Informative)

Daengbo (523424) | more than 6 years ago | (#24776195)

If you don't want to lose any formatting, export the PDF and send that to the library printer.

Kids!

Re:You Linux nerds disgust me (3, Insightful)

digitig (1056110) | more than 6 years ago | (#24776661)

Example? I can't count the number of times I had to eventually save my OpenOffice file as a Microsoft Word Document and opened it in Word only to find that I had to do a whole bunch of reformatting before sending it to the library printer!

On the other hand, I can't count the number of times I have saved my Microsoft Word file in Microsoft Word format and open it in Microsoft Word only to find that I had to do a whole bunch of reformatting before sending it to the printer (changing of the restarting of numbered lists is one particular thing that isn't always persistent through a save-and-load cycle, and with Office 2007 paragraph indentation isn't always persistent either).

I have to use MS Office for work, but I keep a copy of OO.o on my computer because it's far better than MS Office's recovery mode at recovering corrupted MS Office files. Sure, I usually have to sort out some formatting in that case too, but I'd sooner reformat a 20,000 word report than scour through trying to remember all the critical changes since the last backup.

You expect him to say he ain't interested cuz it's (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24776199)

You expect him to say he ain't interested cuz it's crap? Free software is invariably, without exception, to
a rule, crap software. I rest my case !!

(I do believe free software is useful, for third-world countries like Zimbabwae, Ukraine, Turkey, Egypt, Italy, and most of Russia. But those with money should not waste their time, which is more valuable than anything else.)

Blame the new Prime Minister (3, Funny)

Legion_SB (1300215) | more than 6 years ago | (#24776273)

It's his new laws that took horses from the mounties, wine from the Frenchies, and sodomy from Newfoundland. Apparently that wasn't enough, he's taking open source too.

Oh well.

There's no Canada like French Canada
It's the best Canada in the land.
And the other Canada - is a bullsh*t Canada!
If you lived here for a day, you'd understand!

(for those who don't get it, click [wikipedia.org] )

any candida sucks I tell yo why I know (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24776459)

It don't matter if your from north or south candida because both sucks. And I know becuase I am from north candida and have lived in south candida most of my lives.

linux rage (-1, Troll)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 6 years ago | (#24776467)

seriously, microsoft own the business world for one very good reason - it works and it does what you need it to do.

freesoftware all too frequently can't make that claim, hence it's ignored.

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