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Australian State May Give Students Linux Laptops

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the keep-it-cheap dept.

Education 302

Whiteox writes "The Australian Prime Minister's plan to equip high schools with 'one laptop per child' may go open source. Kevin Rudd's $56 million digital revolution will include 'laptops [that will] run on an open source operating system with a suite of open source applications like those packaged under Edubuntu. This would include Open Office for productivity software, Gimp for picture editing and the Firefox internet browser.' So far this has been considered for New South Wales and I think other states may follow."

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Times are different now. (4, Insightful)

plover (150551) | more than 5 years ago | (#25375969)

That strategy worked great for Apple back in the late 1970s / early 1980s. Get Apples in front of schoolchildren and by the time the IBM PC came along it was too late. Kids were already in love with the Apples, and many "stuck with what they knew." It was the most effective long term marketing move Apple ever could have made, and I doubt they even realized it at the time.

Times have changed, though, and the ability to monopolize the hearts and minds of kids with the only computer they're exposed to is long gone. Many of the kids will already have PCs at home, many will have (or at least have played) X-Boxes, PS3s, Wiis and a host of other devices, including smart phones. I don't think this can have the same social effect that Apple had on us 30 years ago, because the environment is now so different. The novelty won't be there.

Re:Times are different now. (4, Interesting)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#25376041)

My nephew is a grade one student at a primary school in Victoria. The school uses macs so he has his heart set on a macbook for christmas. His mother definitely can't afford an expensive laptop and I can't see what a 7 year old will get out of a mac. I have been trying to steering them towards an eeepc. You can pick one up for $300 aud now, about one fifth the price of the mac.

Re:Times are different now. (2, Funny)

ushering05401 (1086795) | more than 5 years ago | (#25376607)

Getting him a Vista laptop will ensure his parents will never have trouble getting him out of bed on school days.

Re:Times are different now. (4, Interesting)

nawcom (941663) | more than 5 years ago | (#25376691)

You could always go both ways [maceee.com] and install OS X on the ASUS Eee. Ignore the random blog posts on the net; they're outdated - Eee is well supported as of now. Everything is pretty much taken care of driver-wise. And of course this assumes you purchased a licensed copy of Leopard.

Re:Times are different now. (1)

IANAAC (692242) | more than 5 years ago | (#25376903)

And of course this assumes you purchased a licensed copy of Leopard.

Your licensed copy of Leopard is surely licensed only for the machine with which it was sold, not some other random piece of hardware.

Re:Times are different now. (5, Insightful)

grizdog (1224414) | more than 5 years ago | (#25376127)

That strategy worked great for Apple back in the late 1970s / early 1980s. Get Apples in front of schoolchildren and by the time the IBM PC came along it was too late. Kids were already in love with the Apples, and many "stuck with what they knew." It was the most effective long term marketing move Apple ever could have made, and I doubt they even realized it at the time.

Times have changed, though, and the ability to monopolize the hearts and minds of kids with the only computer they're exposed to is long gone. Many of the kids will already have PCs at home, many will have (or at least have played) X-Boxes, PS3s, Wiis and a host of other devices, including smart phones. I don't think this can have the same social effect that Apple had on us 30 years ago, because the environment is now so different. The novelty won't be there.

I agree, but there is still something very positive for Linux going on here, and that is that now Microsoft has to run around trying to put out fires like this one, and has less time to spend doing... other things. I know that people here think Microsoft has more money than God, but eventually the moles start popping up faster than you can whack them down, and you have to start losing some.

Australian students may not choose Linux when they leave school, but they will be more likely to have a choice when the time comes.

Re:Times are different now. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25376495)

Australian students may not choose Linux when they leave school, but they will be more likely to have a choice when the time comes.

This is definitely where the hammer meets the nail-head as the biggest thing these types of initiatives will do is create awareness that there IS a choice to begin with. Most people i speak with who are not tech savvy assume that "Windows" is simply a property of any computer still.

Re:Times are different now. (4, Insightful)

Fluffeh (1273756) | more than 5 years ago | (#25376537)

Australian students may not choose Linux when they leave school, but they will be more likely to have a choice when the time comes.

I would argue that you are close to right, but not quite on the head of the nail. When the time comes to choose, students will be able to make the choice based on two FAMILIAR products. The windows PC that mum and dad have at home, and the OSS system that they have now become used to at school.

What held me back for such a long time to have one open source install at home? I didn't want to go through the learning process of getting used to it. That won't be an issue for these kids.

Re:Times are different now. (5, Interesting)

cheater512 (783349) | more than 5 years ago | (#25376827)

They will not only learn how to use the open source apps, they will also then get on a Windows computer and realize how much it crashes and does quirky things.

One problem with Windows users is they dont consciously realize when something has gone wrong.
They just think 'Oh its crashed' and re-open the app.
They think its just how computers are.

Re:Times are different now. (1)

BhaKi (1316335) | more than 5 years ago | (#25376141)

Regardless of whether it works, it is much better to ship *buntu than to introduce future-citizens to the locked-up M$ world.

Re:Times are different now. (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#25376523)

If you RTFA you'd see the option being considered is RedHat.. I bet it's not even Fedora.

Re:Times are different now. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25376647)

if *you* RTFA, you'll see that the option being considered is actually Edubuntu. TFA mentions that Red Hat is already 'deeply entrenched in the NSW government system'

Re:Times are different now. (1)

theeddie55 (982783) | more than 5 years ago | (#25376787)

and if **you** RTFA, you'll see that the option being considered isn't disclosed, it says "The laptops can run on an open source operating system with a suite of open source applications like those packaged under Edubuntu." it seems to me that they want to compile their own version of linux along these lines.

Re:Times are different now. (3, Informative)

FlyingBishop (1293238) | more than 5 years ago | (#25376651)

If you would RTFA again you'd read that the mention of RedHat refers to other Australian government systems. The Linux distro under consideration here is Edubuntu.

And I'm quite glad of that.

Re:Times are different now. (1)

flibbajobber (949499) | more than 5 years ago | (#25376695)

If YOU read the article instead of merely skimming it, you'd notice the Redhat content was added merely to flesh out the article - due to Redhat's existing relationship with the state government.

Re:Times are different now. (1)

BhaKi (1316335) | more than 5 years ago | (#25376753)

How does it matter? Neither RedHat nor Fedora introduce Lock-Ins like OOXML or IEHTML(lacking a better word). That was the only point I was making. And regarding your RedHat vs Fedora thing: IMHO, shipping RH would be better than shipping Fedora because we don't want users to feel like the entire Linux world is as alpha-quality as Fedora.

Re:Times are different now. (1)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 5 years ago | (#25377007)

IMHO, shipping RH would be better than shipping Fedora because we don't want users to feel like the entire Linux world is as alpha-quality as Fedora.

I use Fedora, and I wouldn't recommend it for this. Although I wouldn't call it "alpha-quality," it's certainly an endless beta, considering that it started out as a test-bed for RHEL. No, I'd give them something that didn't need constant updates, and was easy for them to maintain on their own. From all I've seen about the various flavors of Ubuntu, they'd be a good choice.

Re:Times are different now. (3, Interesting)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | more than 5 years ago | (#25376205)

It was the most effective long term marketing move Apple ever could have made, and I doubt they even realized it at the time.

Heck yes we knew it, that was the whole and entire point.

Disclaimer:I wasn't in the Apple educational group at the time, but our early MIS development group shared the same (tiny) building with them on Bandley Drive, and there was a little bit of crosstalk.

Re:Times are different now. (1)

AmberBlackCat (829689) | more than 5 years ago | (#25376995)

The Kansas City, Kansas school district has provided MacBooks for all of the students. Ours all love them. I think, given a choice, they'd go with a Mac. Of course they're comparing a shiny new Mac to my 8-year-old Inspiron with half a GB or RAM. My sis also went with a MacBook and I think her decision may have stemmed from them offering a free iPod Touch with the computer. I'll bet that could sell more of them than the school program if enough people could afford the things.

The real reason behind this... (5, Interesting)

MavEtJu (241979) | more than 5 years ago | (#25376027)

NSW secondary school students could be issued with $56 million worth of Linux-based laptops as part of Kevin Rudd's digital education revolution.

The real reason behind this is that the federal government would supply the *hardware*, but that the schools would have to pay for the *software licenses* and the *support*. At least the price for software licenses would be greatly reduced now.

(Despite being a FreeBSD user,) I consider this is a good step forward: Give the children wooden blocks to play with, and they will build bridges with them.

Re:The real reason behind this... (3, Insightful)

Brain Damaged Bogan (1006835) | more than 5 years ago | (#25376159)

" Give the children wooden blocks to play with, and they will build bridges with them"

Give the children technology that they, and their teachers don't understand and the laptops will end up gathering dust.
I'm all for using OSS, but somebody needs to take responsibility and ensure that teachers and students are properly educated in their use.
on the one side the govt says "hey, we've paid enough, you get free laptops!"
on the other side the schools are saying "this will eat into our already slim budget, more money please!"
net effect: the kids lose out, better off investing the money in better teaching programs than laptops that the students don't even need.

Re:The real reason behind this... (2, Insightful)

pembo13 (770295) | more than 5 years ago | (#25376211)

Maybe the teachers can take some (albeit added) responsibility and take the relatively few steps to teach themselves.

Re:The real reason behind this... (1)

Brain Damaged Bogan (1006835) | more than 5 years ago | (#25376285)

not all teachers are tech-savvy, and who picks up the tab for hardware failures? again, back to my previous point of govt budget vs school budgets

Re:The real reason behind this... (1)

BhaKi (1316335) | more than 5 years ago | (#25376619)

Do you think they'll ship "built-for-windows" kind of hardware with Linux? I don't think so.

Re:The real reason behind this... (2, Insightful)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#25376223)

They're giving these laptops to High School students.. the project has already failed.

Totally agree (1)

spoco2 (322835) | more than 5 years ago | (#25376513)

All for computer education in schools (of course, I make my living programming)... BUT.

A laptop per child? For what really? It's just not needed. Have excellent rooms of computers where the kids can do work etc. in a supervised environment in and out of classes (heck, have one room that has no scheduled classes in it, just for kids to do extra curricular stuff).

But give all kids a laptop? A real waste I think, a real waste.

Re:The real reason behind this... (1)

BhaKi (1316335) | more than 5 years ago | (#25376571)

Hey, there's nothing in the definition of 'OSS' that would imply "difficult to use software". People who have used M$ software for a decade but Linux for only a couple of years will probably find Windows easier to use than *buntu. But I don't think children, whose minds have lesser prejudices than grown-ups, will find *buntu harder than Windows.

Re:The real reason behind this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25376687)

Technology they don't understand? Really? How hard is clicking on a start menu and launching an application? As for installing applications, coming from someone who does tech consulting for schools, trust me, they don't do it.

You are REALLY underestimating them. (5, Insightful)

seeker_1us (1203072) | more than 5 years ago | (#25376693)

" Give the children technology that they, and their teachers don't understand and the laptops will end up gathering dust. I'm all for using OSS, but somebody needs to take responsibility and ensure that teachers and students are properly educated in their use.

How difficult is it to use firefox, Openoffice, and Gimp? Seriously? It's not like we are asking them to use LaTeX.

Neither students nor teachers are idiots, despite being treated by idiots for years by Windows software.

Re:The real reason behind this... (2, Interesting)

gregbot9000 (1293772) | more than 5 years ago | (#25376797)

Give the children technology that they, and their teachers don't understand and the laptops will end up gathering dust.

My M&P got there comp when I was like 7 and no one knew how to use it. I figured out every aspect of windows 95 in about a year and a half, and it only took two dozen reinstalls of the OS. The problem isn't the teachers not showing the kids how to use them but worrying that the kids will breack them and looking them up.

This actually happened at my high school. My school spent a ton of money to buy laptops for students to use and checkout, and ended up locking them away in a back room and lent one out about 3 times a year until they were so outdated they weren't worth even selling on e-bay. I agree with you mostly, but Schools are failing because of bad management, giving kids laptops they don't need won't help, and throwing money at the problem will only make that get worse.

Re:The real reason behind this... (5, Insightful)

grcumb (781340) | more than 5 years ago | (#25376819)

Give the children technology that they, and their teachers don't understand and the laptops will end up gathering dust.

That's not what experience teaches us.

I'm of an age (born in '64) to remember when the pupils were the only ones who really knew how the computer systems worked. It was a time when 'hacking' was a positive term, and those happy few who had access to their systems became the people who have driven this whole technological revolution.

I'm a perfect example. I have exactly zero formal computer training, and am in the process of negotiating a director's position for an online company.

In my experience - and I have applied this method countless times - all you need to do is identify the bright, curious ones and give them time in front of the keyboard. The rest takes care of itself. A cultural effect sets in, in which bragging rights go to the most innovative, and the whole process takes on its own momentum.

I've spent the last 5 years working in a part of the world where academic opportunities are very limited, and even here every single one of my apprentices (only one of whom had any post-secondary experience) has gainful employment in IT.

Courses are all well and good. They serve a definite purpose. Teacher training serves an important role as well. But your premise that any shortfall in this regard will result in systematic failure is demonstrably false.

Re:The real reason behind this... (1)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 5 years ago | (#25376195)

I consider this is a good step forward: Give the children wooden blocks to play with, and they will build bridges with them.

This is the sort of metaphor that reminds me of Star Trek: TNG. Data would probably say something cute like, "But captain, there are no examples in Federation records of children building bridges from wooden blocks."

Support costs are what schools are worried about.. (2, Informative)

Freaky Spook (811861) | more than 5 years ago | (#25376663)

Support doesn't come cheap, in Victoria schools share one government provided technician amongst a local cluster of schools and the hours assigned per week are assessed on how many students are in the school. This can be about 10 hours per peek per school amongst 3 to 4 schools per technician. Some area's especially country area's one tech might only have 3 hours per school shared amongst 6 or 7 schools.

Any extra hours they have to pay for another technician out of their own budget.
A few years ago I was hired as a junior tech in a school working under the government provided tech, I was looking after a network of 150 PC's 5 servers and 28 staff notebooks for a school of some 550 students.

Schools are simply worried about the added support costs to this system because there will be no extra resources provided to schools to support this extra hardware.

The cost of a basic tech to look after this stuff could prevent many schools from providing special education teachers and reduce the overall quality of the education provided by the school.

I have no problems with Linux being adopted onto notebooks for students, I do have a problem with the affordability of the support available for Linux.
At the moment Linux technicians don't come as cheap as a Windows tech and trying to find a tech who can manage an extra 100 or so Linux notebooks while supporting an existing Windows curriculum network with bare minimum pay and resources, doesn't sound like a very appealing job.

If this program isn't properly funded for support it will be an absolute disaster because after 3 years the system will be run completley into the ground, and this is what many schools are worried about, they consider it throwing money away.

Gimp? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25376029)

What's that for, punishment? Poor guys.

Re:Gimp? (1)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 5 years ago | (#25376219)

Are you afraid that using software this complex and with such a bad interface will cripple them?

Re:Gimp? (1)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | more than 5 years ago | (#25376257)

Won't somebody think of the children! The quality of australian teenagers' myspace pages takes turn for even more bizarre as they switch from pirated Photoshop to government issued official image editor: Gimp

Seriously, though I know people will defend it here but last time I tried it it did have the worst user interface I have ever seen in a serious application

Re:Gimp? (1)

Erikderzweite (1146485) | more than 5 years ago | (#25376751)

Try it in a decent window manager and we'll speak again.

Re:Gimp? (1)

salmonmoose (1147735) | more than 5 years ago | (#25376501)

Actually as a GIMP hater, I have to say, GIMP 2.6 is excellent and I renounce my former position.

As a Linux-Savvy Education Student... (4, Interesting)

Biogenesis (670772) | more than 5 years ago | (#25376033)

...This is going to make me even more employable :).

The biggest opposition to Rudd's "computers in schools" plan has been that he's funding the hardware/software but no the support or training. No doubt this will give more weight to their argument.

Re:As a Linux-Savvy Education Student... (4, Interesting)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | more than 5 years ago | (#25376373)

The biggest opposition to Rudd's "computers in schools" plan has been that he's funding the hardware/software but no the support or training. No doubt this will give more weight to their argument.

This Australian is not opposed to that. I would love to see Linux laptops in Victorian schools, and I would love to see the kids and teachers in those schools learn and develop their own methods for support and training -- it would be a hugely educational and involving experience, and would help break down the idea that true innovation in computing only comes from above, from the commercial package houses.

I'm willing to volunteer 3rd level support for such myself, but only if they spend some time scurrying about themselves and learning what they can do. Access to a help desk won't really help them learn the basic skills necessary to operate in a society that increasingly depends on densely-packed transistors written on melted sand. Learning the rote behaviour of running common commercial packages may help them in basic knowledge management, but doesn't grant the curious among them visibility under the bonnet.

Example: How would you set up a Wiki under Windows -- build a Sharepoint server and call it a knowledge base (Urk!) or have them set up a Mediawiki LAMP stack? Which one would they learn more from? Which one could they do with the smallest infrastructure spend? (Yes, I know about virtual appliances, it was just an example.)

You've got to give kids clocks to take apart.

Re:As a Linux-Savvy Education Student... (4, Insightful)

jc42 (318812) | more than 5 years ago | (#25376905)

You've got to give kids clocks to take apart.

No, you don't. ;-)

I remember back when I was in maybe the 4th or 5th grade, and I found an old mechanical clock in the house that wasn't being used. I took it apart, studied the pieces, and put it back together so it still worked. I did this several times, to figure out more about how the pieces worked. Then one day, my mother found me with the clock disassembled. She blew up, gave me a lecture about ruining the clock, took it away from me, and disposed of it.

If she had been around when I found the clock, I'd have never been permitted to take it apart, even though it wasn't being used. She didn't believe that kids like me were smart enough to handle something that she couldn't understand, not even when the teachers kept telling her how smart I was.

People don't have to give kids anything that's educational. Many people would prefer not to. The kids might get the idea that they can learn about such things on their own. We wouldn't want kids to get such ideas, would we?

Re:As a Linux-Savvy Education Student... (1)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | more than 5 years ago | (#25377127)

+1 "Irony"

Re:As a Linux-Savvy Education Student... (1)

Neoprofin (871029) | more than 5 years ago | (#25377015)

Slashdot posters may disagree, but most people will never have the desire nor the necessity to set up up Wiki or a server for that matter. If you're going to argue which route is the best to take with this laptop rollout I can't argue against Linux, nothing wrong with free and the learning curve difference simply isn't there for the average user.

I would however argue that giving laptops to every child, regardless of support, is a high tech solution to a problem that doesn't exist, and the comments to this story in favor of it don't do much to change my mind.

To bad... (0, Offtopic)

Drakin020 (980931) | more than 5 years ago | (#25376039)

To bad they won't be able to surf websites such as Slashdot, Fark, or whatever else might be considered offensive to the government.

http://www.infoworld.com/news/feeds/08/10/13/No-opt-out-of-filtered-Internet.html?source=gs [infoworld.com]

Sorry for going off-topic.

Re:To bad... (4, Insightful)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#25376091)

The word is too.

Fear spreading is as popular a past time here in Australia as it is in the rest of the world. Widespread filtering would not only be easily detectable [downforeve...justme.com] and ineffectual but it would also be defeated by public outcry. It won't happen.

 

Re:To bad... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25376263)

What about just a little censorship on small sites not many people would miss? Would that be defeated by public outcry?

Re:To bad... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25376321)

The word is pastime.

Re:To bad... (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#25376361)

touché

Re:To bad... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25376801)

The word is THE BIRD!

Even the Linux kernel (-1, Troll)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 5 years ago | (#25376207)

The Australians wanted to ban access to obscenety over the internet. That would have included the Linux kernel which has "fuck" in it in many places. That would have made GPL compliance hard: "Sorry we can send you the binary, but the source is banned."

Luckily someone saw sense...

Re:Even the Linux kernel (4, Insightful)

bug1 (96678) | more than 5 years ago | (#25376805)

"The Australians wanted to ban..."

Australia has a population of 20 million, we have a diverse background, we are not all the same.

Perhaps you could have been more specific and stated that a minority of Australian federal politicians wanted to ban such a thing.

Re:To bad... (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 5 years ago | (#25376393)

"To bad they won't be able to surf websites such as Slashdot, Fark, or whatever else might be considered offensive to the government."

A fine incentive to learn about alternate boot media, QEMU, etc. Give a kid a computer and curiosity will do the rest.

Re:To bad... (4, Funny)

Cassius Corodes (1084513) | more than 5 years ago | (#25376427)

Given how Rudd behaves, the fist time a child is caught using the computer to access porn the whole program will be axed.

Re:To bad... (1)

MentlFlos (7345) | more than 5 years ago | (#25376921)

Given how Rudd behaves, the fist time a child is caught using the computer to access porn the whole program will be axed.

I don't get it. What else do you use a computer for?

Don't worry (5, Insightful)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#25376047)

Microsoft will be forthcoming with massive discounts 5 minutes before the deal with RedHat is signed and our government will renege on any promises they made.

It's the traditional "what do you mean we don't get a discount? Well, ya know, Open Source is getting more and more acceptable..."

Unfortunately, the moral imperative for schools to use exclusively Free Software [linux.com] is not even a consideration here.

Re:Don't worry (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25376929)

The horrid acting and overall cheesiness in Babylon 5 becomes slightly less noticeable the more you watch.

Wow, that actually randomly answered a question I remember pondering in the past. Good to know!

Re:Don't worry (2, Interesting)

deniable (76198) | more than 5 years ago | (#25377113)

They already do. I've done support for W.A. schools that were having problems with their internal Exchange server. They were shocked when we discussed the 'real' price for Exchange. They paid less than $1000 for it including CALs and hardware. MS has some serious sweetheart deals for schools and I bet if it came down to providing even cheaper Windows and Office for schools they will do it.

In the middle of an economic crisis (-1, Troll)

Brain Damaged Bogan (1006835) | more than 5 years ago | (#25376057)

KRudd is wasting money on laptops that students don't NEED. The Aus economy would be in better hands if we threw the treasury at a 13yo girl in the mall. It's going to take a 3 term liberal govt to fix the mistakes of a 1 term labor govt, it did last time, but by the end of it everyone had forgotten why labor only lasted one term. They've already spent half of the nations surplus on a moronic homebuyers grant (which will just artificially inflate property prices in the short term) and in giving a $1000 christmas bonus to families on welfare (I actually don't have much of a problem with this, but it just goes to show that our govt is currently more socialist than capitalist).

Re:In the middle of an economic crisis (0, Flamebait)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#25376119)

That's a good thing. The reign of Scrooge McHoward left us economically poor and the treasury bulging with cash. We are not the British Empire.

Re:In the middle of an economic crisis (-1, Offtopic)

Brain Damaged Bogan (1006835) | more than 5 years ago | (#25376239)

economically poor? check how our economy was doing BEFORE Howard got into power. Keating dug a whole and the Liberal govt solved the problem, as soon as they did Labor got into power again because of peoples short memories. Using up all the surplus and spending like a madman is going to just leave the next govt to pick up the tab. Howard may have been a prick on some policies, but he know how to keep the economy going rather than appealing to peoples selfish nature and squandering our resources like KRudd is doing. The handouts from the labor govt are nothing more than bribes to buy votes. By then end of this term we are going to be in a far worse position than we are now because of foolish spending and poor management of the national budget.

Re:In the middle of an economic crisis (0, Flamebait)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#25376305)

Umm.. no. See, you're a sucker and you believe that a national debt is a bad thing. It's not. A developing nation (and that's what we are) should be in debt. We should be growing and credit is how you do that at a viable pace. We're falling behind because the Liberals think we're just fine the way we are now. It's the same with the aussie dollar. The Liberals want it high so the surplus has buying power on the international market.. Labor wants it low because exports and foreign investment are the only way a developing nation can grow its economy.

The collective delusion of Australians that we're a first world country is the problem here.

Re:In the middle of an economic crisis (1)

Brain Damaged Bogan (1006835) | more than 5 years ago | (#25376375)

the mentality that everyone should be in debt is exactly what has caused the current credit crunch and world economic crisis. and what happens when your debt is higher than your GDP? this is happening to Iceland and they are now f***ed because they will never pay it off.

Re:In the middle of an economic crisis (1, Troll)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#25376405)

There's responsible lending and there's irresponsible lending.. That is not the issue. The Liberal government doesn't see a need for lending. They don't see a need for development. As far as they're concerned, we're already developed.

Re:In the middle of an economic crisis (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25376447)

Err, I think you mean "borrowing".

Re:In the middle of an economic crisis (4, Interesting)

Xiroth (917768) | more than 5 years ago | (#25376689)

The collective delusion of Australians that we're a first world country is the problem here.

OK, now that's an interesting position. Could you back it up, please? By most traditional measures (GDP per capita, GNI per capita, etc.), Australia is one of the most well-off in the world. By which measure do you assert that it's not a first world country?

Re:In the middle of an economic crisis (-1, Troll)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#25376761)

By most traditional measures (GDP per capita, GNI per capita, etc.)

Look for the bias.

Re:In the middle of an economic crisis (1)

Xiroth (917768) | more than 5 years ago | (#25377027)

Given that the traditional definition of a first world country [wikipedia.org] is based on quality of life, per capita measurements really seem to be the appropriate measure. Raw measurements are more for measuring a country's economic power when compared to other countries, which is a quite different measurement. In this field, I'll freely agree that Australia is, at best, a middle power [wikipedia.org] .

Re:In the middle of an economic crisis (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25376715)

It depends how the debt was incurred.

If the debt is incurred to fuel capital spending, then yes, the debt helps the nation to grow by increasing our productive capacity.

If the debt is incurred to fuel consumer spending, then it's bad debt.

Debt comes with interest payments. Paying interest on the debt only makes sense if the benefit received by the debt is greater than the interest paid. So it really depends how the debt is used as to whether or not the debt is bad.

As for Australia being a "developing" nation: what crap. Australia is not a "developing nation", according to all international benchmarks. We have one of the highest standards of living, next to the US and Japan.

Australia:

Infant mortality: 4 / 1000
Adult literacy (men): ~99%
Adult literacy (females): ~99%.
Life expectancy (males): 78.9 years
Life expectancy (females): 83.4 years
Per-capita GDP: 37,300 $US.

For truly developing nations, these statistics are much much worse. Take India, for example.

Infant mortality: 33 / 1000
Adult literacy (men): 76%
Adult literacy (females): 65%.
Life expectancy (males): 63.1 years
Life expectancy (females): 66 years
Per-capita GDP: 2,600 $US.

(Yes, I know that Qatar has the highest per-capita GDP, that's largely due to its reserves of oil. An outlier doesn't disqualify the general trend.)

Developing nation? Please. You either don't understand the term or are unqualified to speak about it.

Re:In the middle of an economic crisis (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25376743)

At the root of it all, a national debt means that government wants to expand its business faster than the people have agreed to fund it, and likewise faster than the people are even capable of supporting it. Especially a continously-expanding, never-ending national debt like in the US.

What else could it possibly mean? Surely you don't believe that the people actually wanted the national debt to increase and approved of it for every year since 1938 [cedarcomm.com] , much less for it to become nearly exponential in growth over the past 20 or 30 years?

Let's call upon our good friend Common Sense to draw a conclusion here: the reason for the national debt is government greed, not rational economic decision, let alone the will of the people.

Re:In the middle of an economic crisis (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25376839)

The collective delusion of Australians that we're a first world country is the problem here.

Care to elaborate on your definition of 'first world' vs. 'developing' country?

Re:In the middle of an economic crisis (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25377139)

Debt is bad. Debt is wealth taken from the future to the present. It reduces the standard of living of the future "you" because "he" has to support the debt payments so you can enjoy your 46" tv now.

Isn't it better for surplus cash to work for you rather than you to work off the debt?

Re:In the middle of an economic crisis (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25376779)

Please explain the economic policies put into place by the Liberals to "solve the problem"?
Most economists would say that it was resulting from a boom in the mining sector and a general global economic boom during the years the Liberals were in office... in fact the recovery had already started during Keating's term..

Now we are in a global downturn our economy is not going to do as well as it used to..

Blaming/rewarding either party for the economic situations in the recent past/present is just partisan politics and bears no relation to reality.

Re:In the middle of an economic crisis (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25376907)

Spending all the previous surplus is a good idea at the moment, to increase consumer spending and stave off the worst effects of the economic downturn..

You seem to be irrationally opposed to Labor for some reason.. Taking a step back and thinking about why they are doing it might be a good idea.

Re:In the middle of an economic crisis (1)

mR.bRiGhTsId3 (1196765) | more than 5 years ago | (#25376947)

Welcome to the way governments work, all the way back to Rome. Bread & Circuses...

Re:In the middle of an economic crisis (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25376155)

better than 10 years of Mr Sheen, I mean Johnny Howard. (It was his wife pulling his puppet strings anyway).

Re:In the middle of an economic crisis (1)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 5 years ago | (#25376273)

The Aus economy would be in better hands if we threw the treasury at a 13yo girl in the mall

At least it would help Hot Topic through these rough times. At the very least the economy would look trendy.

Re:In the middle of an economic crisis (1)

deniable (76198) | more than 5 years ago | (#25377167)

Well, you would know. It always seems to be the Brain Damaged Bogans that decide our elections. Which specific one term Labor government were you talking about? Whitlam?

Don't believe it (3, Informative)

nighty5 (615965) | more than 5 years ago | (#25376085)

The NSW State Govt can't organise a chook raffle let alone something such as equiping kids with open source laptops. It has bigger fish to fry.

Besides, the topic is slightly wrong. Rudd isn't part of an Australian State, his part of the Federal Government. Two different beasts. The State won't 'give', it will 'receive'.

Rudd wants to give lumps of cash to a number of States based on need, spending not just on technology, but more importantly on infrastructure, health and education.

Re:Don't believe it (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#25376171)

Wither the state.

Re:Don't believe it (2, Funny)

lysdexia (897) | more than 5 years ago | (#25377163)

The NSW State Govt can't organise a chook raffle let alone something such as equiping kids with open source laptops. It has bigger fish to fry.

/me digs through boxes of books in the basement, finds collection of "Footrot Flats" cartoons given to him by Aussie roomate in the 80's.

Aha! It says right here that a *chook* is a chicken... and yet, the reference to *other* fish. Have you dastardly antipodean meddlers in GAWD's sacred genome finally perfected the chickenfish?

(Man, I'd forgotten how good Footrot Flats was. I like some barnyard humour, me.)

Re:Don't believe it (1)

deniable (76198) | more than 5 years ago | (#25377189)

You do realise that Footrot Flats is from New Zealand, right? Actually, I'm not sure how many Australians now it.

Gives, huh? (2, Interesting)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | more than 5 years ago | (#25376163)

It's easy to give something that isn't yours. Now wouldn't it be better if students buy their own laptops and choose which particular model or OS they like. I am not opposed to schools requiring students to have a laptop, in the same way they are required to have certain books, and perhaps offering assistance to those who can't afford it. But giving each child, even those who already have it, and those who are not interested in it and will simply sell it on ebay, a government approved computer seems like an idea that sounds good as a soundbite but terrible waste of taxpayer money in practice.

Re:Gives, huh? (2, Insightful)

1u3hr (530656) | more than 5 years ago | (#25376963)

Now wouldn't it be better if students buy their own laptops and choose which particular model or OS they like

Yes, that would make it so much easier for the schools to support. Everyone with different hardware, operating systems, installed software. And everyone would pay full retail instead of getting the massive discount that a purchase of thousands of laptops gets.

I wonder if Rudd read my email... (2, Interesting)

NoobixCube (1133473) | more than 5 years ago | (#25376189)

During his campaign to be elected, he announced this plan, but never really elaborated on it. I took it with a barge-load of salt, as you should anything a politician said, but I still sent him (or rather his office) an email asking him if he was considering open source, and gave rough figures per student of the licensing associated with giving every student a copy of Windows, MS Office, Photoshop; for music students, something like Reason. My figures were retail price ones, as I said in the email, since I'm not aware of the bulk licensing prices companies offer for education, but even a 90% discount doesn't beat free. If he'd spent just $100 on software licensing on each student, it would quickly become a ridiculously large figure to throw around. The Labor government is a little wary of overspending, I would think, since the previous Labor Prime Minister, Paul Keating, plunged the country into recession. In his words "a recession we had to have".

Anyway, I doubt he read my email, or any of the other emails Australian open source fans could have sent. It's pretty much common sense, and if he has a brain, he's probably asked his IT department (not his IT minister :P).

Your email a tiny part of the call for open source (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25376917)

> I still sent him (or rather his office) an email asking him if he was considering open source

You weren't alone.

http://www.fsdaily.com/Government/An_Open_Letter_to_the_New_Australian_Prime_Minister_Kevin_Rudd/related_links [fsdaily.com]

http://www.itnews.com.au/News/79966,community-to-gillard-consider-open-source.aspx [itnews.com.au]

http://www.itnews.com.au/News/73376,open-source-the-biggest-potential-game-changer-for-government-senator-lundy.aspx [itnews.com.au]

http://www.itnews.com.au/News/76453,cebit-08-senator-lundy-lobbies-for-open-source-change.aspx [itnews.com.au]

There were many calls from the Australian wider community for Rudd to consider open source.

Now, with the new (and relatively inexpensive) "netbooks" coming on to the market, many of them with Linux pre-installed, this seems more and more like the sensible way for the government to go.

The government could even be very smart here, and source the "Linux netbooks for education" from an Australian supplier:

http://www.pioneercomputers.com.au/products/products.asp?c1=3&c2=12 [pioneercomputers.com.au]

All of the Pioneer DreamBook Light computers can be purchased with Ubuntu pre-installed as an option. No Windows tax with Australian taxpayers money being paid un-necessarily to an American company. Local product, from a local company.

This won't happen (2, Interesting)

GFree678 (1363845) | more than 5 years ago | (#25376295)

Why? Because Microsoft will step in and provide a "really good deal" in exchange for the Government dropping Linux and using MS software instead.

My theory is that the Government probably would prefer Windows and relevant MS software on these laptops, however they first start by suggesting they MAY put Linux and OSS, in the hopes that Microsoft gives them a deal. Of course, if what MS offers isn't good enough, Linux is the fallback alternative, but I'm still sure that Linux is not the first choice, but rather a fail-safe and bargaining chip. I say this as an Aussie too.

I bet I know why... (2, Interesting)

thetoadwarrior (1268702) | more than 5 years ago | (#25376399)

Purely because:

A. It's cheaper
B. They think nothing runs on Linux thus they can easily stop kids from playing games, chatting etc.

It's nice they're using linux but if my assumptions are correct then that sort of mentality doesn't help in the long run.

Re:I bet I know why... (1)

boxxertrumps (1124859) | more than 5 years ago | (#25377053)

B. is never going to be realized for them, a bit of false hope now isn't too much trouble, is it?

If they start using it, they'll most likely enjoy it over windows. No matter what the reasons they start with, in the long run they get a nice, tinker friendly(it's the learning that matters in most schools), secure piece of software.

That, and having a different OS at home and school promote thinking in different boxes, realizing yours isn't the only box, suddenly you have a more innovative generation.

Good for them! (2, Interesting)

gillbates (106458) | more than 5 years ago | (#25376443)

You know, this is slightly OT, but I think it applies to the bigger picture. My Mom has been hyping prevention.com lately as a nice way to learn about health-related stuff. I just received an email from her today regarding what happened...

In short, prevention.com got hacked somehow, and she got a "nasty rogue-spyware". She spent quite a bit of time cleaning it up. She even warned me not to go there in her email. I wrote a nice reply, stating in effect, thanks for the warning, but we've switched to Linux.

Now I can just imagine how this would play out in a school running a bunch of Windows machines. One teacher hears from another than prevention.com is a good place for health information; teacher recommends it in class, and next thing you know the whole school is owned.

So who is going to clean up the mess? Will it be:

  • The already overworked teachers who have only the most tenuous grasp of technology?
  • The volunteer, part time administrator who has to work another job to put food on the table?
  • The kids themselves? Even assuming there's a few bright bulbs in the lot, is it really fair to take time away from their education to deal with a situation like this?

Windows: who is going to clean up the mess?

Headline wrong (4, Funny)

daBass (56811) | more than 5 years ago | (#25376565)

"Australian State Threatens To Give Students Linux Laptops to Force Microsoft to Lower Prices"

There, fixed that for you.

Re:Headline wrong (1)

David Gerard (12369) | more than 5 years ago | (#25376625)

With Windows %NEXT_VERSION% [today.com] ! I'm sure they won't mind doubling the memory in them.

Fools! (4, Insightful)

Un pobre guey (593801) | more than 5 years ago | (#25376613)

No no no! Can't you see? Spending more on the OS and applications promotes freedom! You know, Free to Choose! Open Source software poisons the marketplace and inhibits innovation! We need to make sure that when students become employees, they are ready to use market-leading best-of-breed commercial software to increase ROI and reduce training and maintenance costs. This way companies and organizations can streamline their purchasing and maintenance processes, and take advantage of industry-standard solutions.

When everything is free to obtain and upgrade, students learn it all in school, and interfaces don't arbitrarily change every 4 or 5 years, the whole system collapses. There won't even be any big companies to bail out, either.

500 000 notebooks in Primary schools in Portugal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25376621)

Thought it would be relevant to the thread: in Portugal (Western EU,population 10 million), the government is distributing 500 000 computers to primary school students.

The nice thing is that Venezuela and Brazil, it seems, across the Atlantic, are ordering 1 million of these, so it's becoming a really good deal.

The notebook has an Intel processor and runs both Windows XP and a Portuguese distribution of Linux. It will cost 50 euros, although I believe it will be free to students from lower income families.

Most of it will be assembled at JP Sa Couto [jpsacouto.pt] .
More details, in English here [planotecnologico.pt] and in Portuguese with video here [iniciativa-magalhaes.com] .

Great Firewall of Australia (0, Offtopic)

H3g3m0n (642800) | more than 5 years ago | (#25376643)

Too bad the same government is also giving us a Chinese style censored Internet connection to 'protect the children'.

It has also been recently revealed that the connection can no longer be opted out from, you can only switch from one that blocks all 'child unfriendly' sites to one that only blocks 'illegal material'. No clear definition on what is considered 'illegal' (does the piratebay count?).

They also lied and claimed that Internet speeds would not be slowed dispute their reports claiming otherwise.

I just hope its a basic DNS block and I can switch to OpenDNS.

Anyway I voted green, mainly because both other governments sucked to much.

If I were at Microsoft's marketing... (0, Flamebait)

mi (197448) | more than 5 years ago | (#25376775)

The way Microsoft could spin this, would be to offer Windows as an upgrade: "Sure, you can use the government's free offering, but for a truly enjoyable experience, shell-out some money to get genuine Windows on your laptop."

It would not even be much of a stretch, to be perfectly honest. After going through pains of KDE and Gnome on FreeBSD, I decided to try it on the slick KUbuntu (maybe, I thought, the stuff sucks on FreeBSD, because developers mostly test on Linux) — and it is even worse...

KMail, despite ton of really cool features, crashes often, and its IMAP implementation is nefarious. Thunderbird is more stable, but hangs often upon a message with a Return-Receipt (!). Firefox is awesome, but Firefox3, mysteriously looses older version's bookmarks [yahoo.com] and the back-button changes are quite atrocious. OpenOffice is still way behind Microsoft's on a number of features too.

Reduced hardware support, although not the fault of the OS, is another drawback...

Windows is a huge downgrade (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25377181)

If you have a nice small laptop with Linux pre-installed (so that everything works ... "reduced hardware support" in Linux is a complete myth anyway), you need just one CD (and maybe a second one as a backup) to keep any number of laptops working. You install from that one CD to as many amchines as you want. No need to keep track of licenses. Huge cost savings, right there.

You can even make up your own master CD, with whatever application set you desire, and customisations such as a school backgrounnd wallpapaer, etc. (Google for Linux, LiveCD and "re-mastering").

No need to run anti-virus, or to make sure that anti-virus databases are up to date.

You can set up (a) Linux server(s) (no CALs fees either) and put software update repositories on your server, and point all of the laptops to accept updates from your server, so that all laptops were updated together. Easy maintenance.

You also have a huge software base to choose from, all available at zero cost, and all able to be installed on all machines overnight, at no cost, with no need to try to keep track of licenses.

Enormous savings.

Finally ... from an education perspective ... with open source you are actually allowed to study the source, and find out how it works. Make your own as well ... the tools are all provided.

Google for "squeak" and "sugar" in an education software context ... I'm sure there are lots of others as well.

Finally, read this:
http://edge-op.org/grouch/schools.html [edge-op.org]

It has some prfound things to say about software and eductaion.

Not in QLD they will (1)

thetr0n (818575) | more than 5 years ago | (#25376809)

Education Queensland or Department Employment And Training.

Every state primary and secondary school is having there IT systems and infrastructure upgraded. As part of MOE project and smart state initiative, the upgrade purpose is to standardised IT environment for education with the same computers, OS and Applications

This means same desktop hardware for almost every school, OS and Application. Now EQ/DETA already have big contract with microsoft. As the choice of OS and Office Applications

DETA/EQ is signed to a long term agreement contract with microsoft.

Linux wouldn't fly well in QLD and Microsoft would kick up the shits

productivity software??? (1)

jc42 (318812) | more than 5 years ago | (#25376823)

This would include Open Office for productivity software

So they want the kids to be "productive" in the business-office sense right from the early grades.

Doesn't Australia have any child labor laws?

(This seemed like an obvious and cheap shot when we were discussing putting MS Windows on the OLPC. But when free/open systems like ubuntu are being pushed and one of the reasons is the availability of "office productivity" software, it's high time we start asking some pointed questions about what they're trying to do to the children. We expect that sort of thing from Microsoft, but not from the linux crowd. Especially not ubuntu. ;-)

Re:productivity software??? (1)

Erikderzweite (1146485) | more than 5 years ago | (#25376939)

What did you expect? Emacs? :)

I'm not seeing it without rose-glasses. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25377049)

Can I mod the article summary (and everyone's pro-OSS hopes) down for a couple of reasons?

- The summary lets you read in an implication that it's being considered by the NSW Government. It's NOT, it's being suggested by the President of the NSW Secondary Schools Council, which REPORTS to the NSW government.

- Even if the NSW government WAS looking at it, that would still be irrelevant. State governments make noise about being standards compliant, but still stay fairly fierce about doing things their own way.

I say this as somebody who actually spoke to a representative of the Education Department (and other departments), in Government, in another Australian State. It was all part of one big "study" by this State Government. The single loudest speaker against adopting Open Source at this table was the Education representative.

At the same time, there was a domain name registered for www.opensource.nsw.gov.au. The site, during the time of this study, was never up. The NSW government doesn't necessarily take OSS seriously, let alone other states or Federal government.

OSS has already been examined somewhat, look in South Australia instead. Look for a 2004 paper by Hudson and Moyle, "What Place does Open Source Software have in Australian And New Zealand schools' and jurisdictions' ICT Portfolios? Open source software suitable for use in Australian and New Zealand School; A review of Technical documentation" published by the Department of Education and Children's Services South Australia. That spoke VERY glowingly re: OSS.

Note, however, that you don't hear screaming success stories of OSS all over Australian schools and governments. It's my opinion that Microsoft has the place mostly sewn up through the usual dodgy deals Slashdotters have come to expect; and that parts of the government are very firmly in bed with them.

As far as Australian PM Kevin Rudd's promise goes... well, let's just say we Australians still remember his predecessor's invention of the election term "non-core promise".

Posting anonymously, because although I'd like the karma, I'd rather not risk it. The "study" I did whilst with those government people in that particular state was shot in the face like an old man in front of Dick Cheney. There's a reason I subscribe to RMS-like principles of "anarchism" now.

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