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How Do I Start a University Transition To Open Source?

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the baby-steps-version-control dept.

Education 497

exmoron writes "I work at a small university (5,500 students) and am in a position to potentially influence future software purchasing decisions. I use a number of FOSS solutions at home (, Zotero, GIMP, VirtualBox). My university, on the other hand, is a Microsoft and proprietary software groupie (Vista boxes running MS Office 2007, Exchange email server, Endnote, Photoshop, Blackboard, etc.). I'd like to make an argument that going open source would save the university money and think through a gradual transition process to open source software (starting small, with something like replacing Endnote with Zotero, then MS Office with, and so on). Unfortunately, I can't find very good information online on site licenses for proprietary software. How much does a site-license for Endnote cost? What about a site license for MS Office for 2,000 computers? In short, what's the skinny on moving to open source? How much money could a university like mine save? Additionally, what other benefits are there to moving to open source that I could try to sell the university on? And what are the drawbacks (other than people whining about change)?"

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Declaration of independence (2, Interesting)

messner_007 (1042060) | more than 5 years ago | (#26773321)

Re:Declaration of independence (5, Funny)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 5 years ago | (#26773809)

Nah, too political and the political process takes too long.

No, what you have to do is the following:

1. Shoot all Windows admins. I know, it sounds brutal but trust me, it'll be better for everyone on the long run. It's no more than what they deserve after all. I mean, they freely chose to support the Evil Empire.

2. Send all the brainwashed Windows users to the appropriate re-education camp to have them deprogrammed. Now, some might say that this is no better than what Microsoft has done all these years, and I'd agree, but sometimes you have to fight fire with fire.

3. Send in the LPTs (Linux Proselytization Teams) to spread the Word amongst all those who didn't get the message the first time around. After all, there are always some for whom the deprogramming process doesn't work perfectly, or who managed to escape the initial roundup. It's necessary to root them out so they can be given proper guidance. Really, it's for their own good.

This may be hard for some of you stomach, I understand, but just think how free we'll all feel when Microsoft is gone forever.

money is not the way (5, Insightful)

the_B0fh (208483) | more than 5 years ago | (#26773337)

You won't be able to win this with the money argument. Microsoft will swarm all over you, giving free stuff away. They have a fund just to give away free licenses to anyone who's even thinking about trying open source.

No, since you're a university, the way to approach this is to let the undergrads explore. Sell it as a learning experience. Why is OSS so popular nowadays? Maybe the University itself, as a place of learning, should offer this? Don't limit it to just OSS, bring up OSX as well, to be fair. Let the students explore.

Now, how to get everything work well together? Why, we depend on open standards of course! The entire Internet is built on open standards, RFCs and so on. All the software must be open interfaces (exchange has imap, for example, and AD has ldap). Keep doing this. Get in touch with the contracting office, and ask them to consider putting language in for their RFPs and RFIs to include "must work with appropriate open standards".

Slowly, but surely, things will get better.

Re:money is not the way (5, Insightful)

the_B0fh (208483) | more than 5 years ago | (#26773369)

One more thing - recognize the shortcomings of OSS too. Not everything that's OSS is perfect. There are shitty OSS things too. For example, openoffice sucks, compared to MS Office. Be open about things.

Also look at external offerings. Why run your own mail server, when you can do google apps - I think it's free for non-profits and .edus. Gmail, and instantly, you just saved a bunch of money, and a bunch of work. Now those people can be put to working on other higher priority stuff.

Re:money is not the way (4, Insightful)

cgenman (325138) | more than 5 years ago | (#26773459)

Always remember that a bit of job training is in there too. Your artists *need* extensive Photoshop experience. Same with Maya, 3ds max, protools, etc. And asking non-techies to switch from MS office is like convincing 70-year-olds to drive on the other side of the street.

E-mail is a perfect place to start the transition, especially if nobody uses meeting requests. But go one piece at a time, and realize that people in academia are frequently motivated by things other than money.

Re:money is not the way (5, Insightful)

Gorobei (127755) | more than 5 years ago | (#26773993)

Exactly. Trying a global migration to OSS, or anything else, is doomed to failure. I saw a similar thing in a crazy "lets get rid of Linux" effort at a big bank: doomed to failure because a few groups really wanted Linux as the compute farm OS. One size does not fit all.

The best thing to do is find bottlenecks that are tying the users to a specific OS - IE only webpages, mail servers, print services, weird apps, etc. Spend your effort prying these loose. Fight pointless mandates (you must use XYZ software to do random task ABC.) Get support in place for other OSes: if your helpdesk thinks in terms of MS software only, you are screwed - get them used to MacOS, Linux, etc. Then let the users do what they want: they'll be happier, and you'll see a lot more software diversity, which will in turn encourage more infrastructure openness.

Re:money is not the way (1)

yakatz (1176317) | more than 5 years ago | (#26773725)

Why run your own mail server, when you can do google apps - I think it's free for non-profits and .edus. Gmail, and instantly, you just saved a bunch of money, and a bunch of work. Now those people can be put to working on other higher priority stuff.

One of the great things about Exchange over many other solutions including gmail is the SSO capability. While gmail does provide an API for SSO, that is for other applications, not windows logons.

Re:money is not the way (3, Interesting)

MoonBuggy (611105) | more than 5 years ago | (#26773865)

I absolutely agree that the problems with OSS solutions need to be considered, but to say that OpenOffice 'sucks, compared to MS Office' is far too narrow a statement. All products have relative merits and problems, and there is a time and a place for most of them.

Commercial software is often (but not always) not completely matched in terms of features when compared to the closest open source competitor. The key is to find out whether anyone was actually using those particular features and thus whether they'll be missed when they're gone. Office software is a good example because a huge percentage of users really do only use the basic features - one can't argue that OpenOffice does everything that MS Office does, but that's a moot point if OpenOffice does everything that the users need.

Backend software is also a good place to start, but for the opposite reason. While it's likely that many of the features are being used, it's the IT department rather than the end user that is running the software - this makes it far easier to draw up a list of what can and can't be replicated with open source, rely on your 'user' to be able to adjust to a different way of doing things, and so on.

The summary mentions Gimp vs. Photoshop, however, and this is perhaps not such a good place to transition. It's the kind of software that is far more likely to have users who actually do need many of the features. The advice I would give is to make sure you know exactly what your students need from their software - Photoshop licenses are expensive, so when an engineering student needs to make some pretty buttons for their website it seems completely fair to direct them towards Gimp. If, on the other hand, the graphic design department were deprived of Photoshop, I think they would have a very legitimate right to complain - not only because they may well need features that are simply unmatched in the OSS alternative, but also because it is only fair to give students experience of the software that is standard in their industry. Same goes for a lot of CAD software, mathematical programs, and other specialist applications.

Office software, however, isn't used as a specialist tool by many people; it's a general utility for fairly mundane tasks. Everyone's experience will differ, but just as an example this is what I've found using OpenOffice:

Personally I prefer Writer to MS Word. My needs when it comes to word processing are fairly basic, and Writer fulfils them. It also has a few less annoyances than Word in my general day-to-day use - diagrams stay where I put them rather than being randomly scattered around the document when I go back to change a line or two, to take the first example that springs to mind. Obviously there must be some logic to the way that Word handles inline images, but it was never apparent to me. OpenOffice wins for me on word processing.

I have no real need for PowerPoint at the moment, other than to open the occasional .ppt file sent to me by someone else, and for that purpose Impress seems perfectly functional. The fact it's free tips the balance in favour of OpenOffice for my current purposes, but to be honest I'd probably use Keynote if I actually had to produce PowerPoint-style presentations on any regular basis.

Calc is where OpenOffice falls down a bit for me. It's not bad, but it's lacking some of the useful features that Excel has. This ranges from taking three steps to do something I could do in Excel in one, to actually having to export to .xls and use MS Excel on one of the shared machines. I still use Calc on my own machines because it's free, but it's a definite weak spot and Excel is the only component of the MS Office suite that I actually find to be the best on the market.

Re:money is not the way (2, Informative)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 5 years ago | (#26773917)

"Also look at external offerings. Why run your own mail server, when you can do google apps - I think it's free for non-profits and .edus. Gmail, and instantly, you just saved a bunch of money, and a bunch of work. Now those people can be put to working on other higher priority stuff."

But it is not free-libre. You cannot study or modify the gmail codebase, with the exception of the web front end. Google can pull the plug at any minute, and suddenly an entire university is without email. Google could also suddenly decide (perhaps following investor pressure) that universities will no longer receive free service.

. A competent sysadmin can set up a mail server without too much effort. Unless your university is tiny and not technically oriented, I do not think asking for competent sysadmins is terribly unfair.

Re:money is not the way (1)

Bieeanda (961632) | more than 5 years ago | (#26773397)

I think he's asking about changing official office and infrastructure software, not mandating what the students are to use on their own boxes.

Re:money is not the way (4, Interesting)

v1 (525388) | more than 5 years ago | (#26773431)

Microsoft will swarm all over you, giving free stuff away. They have a fund just to give away free licenses to anyone who's even thinking about trying open source.

If one of his major goals is to save money (and not be an OS zealot for example, changing to OS just because etc) then doing something that causes MS to open the charity chest be an alternate, possibly acceptable alternative?

Call up MS's volume / edu license group and ask for quotes, saying you're comparing TCO with MS and looking at switching. Not only will you get your quotes, but the Free Gifts Fairy at MS will call you and offer all sorts of nice things to drop the idea of FOSS. Even if you're not seriously considering FOSS, that's a nice way to say, cut the bill for next year's software upgrades in half or better isn't it?

I mean, if MS is going to try to bribe you, may as well take advantage of it if you can, as a serious option.

Re:money is not the way (3, Interesting)

bfizzle (836992) | more than 5 years ago | (#26773563)

I've seen this happen as well too.

I seriously doubt the OP will be able to justify the move the OSS. Your Microsoft rep will drop the cost of all your software purchases with a Campus Agreement to below what it would cost your university to use OSS.

OSS isn't free. There is the costs of training and implementation... and finding well qualified employees to run your systems will not be easy on a education budget. Don't forget support costs!!!

I'd highly recommend calling your Microsoft rep and start negotiating. I doubt you'll be able to justify OSS to management. What you will be able to do is get a campus agreement and provide software to your whole campus community and pick up premier support for your sysads for close to what you are already paying.

I will warn you that you are moving into Microsoft's subscription model doing this, but you will win concessions by doing this.

Re:money is not the way (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26774007)

I know that if the university I work for were to switch to OSS I along with the rest of the IT staff would either need more help in the department, or a serious pay increase. In the entire IT Department of a university with about 1,000 students, seven people work there. We barely have enough time to deal with the staff who have problems with Windows XP.

The entire department would love to stop using Windows, but the headache of teaching the faculty how to use it would drive us insane.

Re:money is not the way (4, Interesting)

Foofoobar (318279) | more than 5 years ago | (#26773541)

well this is true and not true. Money saved is most definitely not the only talking point. Talk about security. Talk about cross platform functionality and open standards (after all alot of students use Mac and some use Linux too). They want a system that is secure, costs less but also works with all computers being brought into the network. Open source supports open standards, is more often cross platform and easier to secure. Not to mention it is often free.

Re:money is not the way (2, Interesting)

rob1980 (941751) | more than 5 years ago | (#26773561)

No, since you're a university, the way to approach this is to let the undergrads explore. Sell it as a learning experience. Why is OSS so popular nowadays? Maybe the University itself, as a place of learning, should offer this? Don't limit it to just OSS, bring up OSX as well, to be fair. Let the students explore.

I suspect that'd be about as effective as convincing a Pepsi campus that selling Coke would be a valuable "learning" experience for the undergrads. Personally I'd start by selling copies of Open Office, GIMP, Ubuntu, etc. (for $1 or however much it cost to put them on a CD) at the bookstore alongside Office, Photoshop, and Windows and then when it comes time to update all your office software again, use whatever sales figures (in terms of copies sold, obviously) were generated from that against how many support calls went to the school helpdesk to determine if you can even make a case to the school or not.

Re:money is not the way (3, Insightful)

Vario (120611) | more than 5 years ago | (#26773565)

Parent is right: money is not the argument, that is worth the switch. Software companies, Microsoft included want students to learn MS Office, Adobe, Matlab, Autodesk Inventor, etc. Some companies even give their student versions of really expensive software packages away for free, just have a look at Autodesk [] .

For the students it is of great value, if they are able to work efficiently with open source software. Just a few days ago I helped someone to switch from Endnote to Zotero+Jabref. It was quite a pain to convert from the Endnote format to something more open like the Bibtex format and there are several websites which show you 10 different hacks how to do it somehow.

With open source the file format is always documented, at least in the code itself. So if you want to work with your reference in 5 years without upgrading Endnote to Windows 8 this is the only sane choice.

For science in general it is necessary to check your results carefully and be able to reproduce other people's work somehow. How are you going to judge a paper claiming: "We simulated bla with this $$$ software package and it looks marvelous"?

Besides file formats and reproducibility in my opinion it is in most cases better to teach something that can be useful for the next 5-20 years, instead of some fast moving target. Software vendors often change their products and break backwards compatibility (Labview is great, but going back 2 versions is a no go) not because they invented this new must have feature but to sell the next version. If your students can do statistical analysis in Gnumeric and R they are well equipped for advanced work and do not have to worry about all the errors in Excel (statistics in Excel [] ).

Re:money is not the way (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26773889)

With open source the file format is always documented, at least in the code itself.

As great as that is, I believe it's a bad idea to use this as a selling point for OSS. I mean, the theory is great - everything is open, all the information you could ever want is documented in some way and if you happen to find a bug or whatever, you can go in and fix it yourself.
But what if you're not a programmer? What if you're just an average Joe who knows an average amount about computers? (I.e. not a lot short of turning it off and on and maybe running the odd Virus scan).
A car is open, if you're a Mechanic and something goes wrong with it, you can just open it up and replace or fix whatever is broken - but of the millions of car drivers out there, how many know how to do more than change the odd flat tire?
I think if you presented OSS in this way, the average person is more than likely going to get scared off by the prospect of having to be a programmer just to write a letter or whatever.

There is one case ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26773875)

The only thing Blackboard sells is Blackboard (or WebCT if you like). They can't afford to give their stuff away for free.

The FOSS equivalent to Blackboard is Moodle. It's very good and many many schools use it. The on-line help forums are very good. If your school insists, you can buy a support contract.

ps. Our school used to spend tens of thousands of dollars on WebCT.

Remind me not to send my kid there. (-1, Troll)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#26773341)

A university is supposed to educate a child as to the world of software, not just that which you are ideologically in favor of. Do you think you are good for humanity just sheltering children from MS-Word? I doubt it.

Re:Remind me not to send my kid there. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26773417)

Right.. because we all know that kids that play with OSS become murderers..?

The guy is not mentioning doing this for the kids, he just wants to let his university make a conscious choice on what software to use (which can be either proprietory or open), rather than to blindly fall for the microsoft package because the latter are more agressively marketed at universities.

Re:Remind me not to send my kid there. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26773433)

sheltering from ms-word may be wrong.
fostering them to use ms-word definitively is.

Re:Remind me not to send my kid there. (1)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 5 years ago | (#26773525)

A university is supposed to educate a child

By the time someone gets to university, you're usually no longer a child but an adult.

as to the world of software, not just that which you are ideologically in favor of.

Where do you get this "supposed to"? Universities are many things to many people. For some, they are to teach ideology. For others, training in a job. Seeing that a chef, during an apprenticeship, may not use the same sets of pots, pans, knives or even stove as in the commercial kitchen he end up is no failure of the place that trained him. A competent chef will get used and adapt to this new, different but similiar situation.

An incompetent one would have been tripped up by something else along the way anyway.

Are you really arguing that different office package the average person uses are that dramatically different? And the harder core stuff with real differences, such as compilers or the like, are usually taught to people who can grasp different software once exposed rather quickly.

Re:Remind me not to send my kid there. (5, Interesting)

Toe, The (545098) | more than 5 years ago | (#26773533)

A university is supposed to educate a child as to the world of software

Really? Maybe you are thinking of trade schools. A university is supposed to provide a well-rounded education. Indoctrinating into the world of Microsoft might be helpful in getting a white-collar-grunt job, but it is not in any way vital to a liberal arts education.

And anyway, a large percentage of universities use *nix and/or Macs. Are they all failing in their educational mission as well?

Re:Remind me not to send my kid there. (4, Insightful)

aztektum (170569) | more than 5 years ago | (#26773591)

Yes! Exactly! Your argument is so wonderfully persuasive. You've totally discouraged me from open source software! I will only send my children to universities that support convicted monopolists and their patent/copyright law abusing corporate pals. Also, I 100% agree that free as in speech OR beer software shouldn't exist to insure the enrichment of these companies.

It is of UTMOST importance that I spend two years of wages on an education designed to give my kids painstakingly detailed, precise instruction on where to point-click in MS-Word to make pretty charts! And to help cover the licensing costs, I will GLADLY support and requests to raise tuition. After all, it would be down right un-American to not work my ass off to help cloth and feed a bunch of rich assholes!

Re:Remind me not to send my kid there. (0, Troll)

the_B0fh (208483) | more than 5 years ago | (#26773743)

Note to Mods.

Sarcasm is NOT trolling. TYVM.

Re:Remind me not to send my kid there. (1)

the_B0fh (208483) | more than 5 years ago | (#26773671)

Umm... is learning "MS-Word" that much of a skill? I wonder what all those word processing software did before MS came out with Word.

What you want to do is teach word processing techniques. Which, for someone who came out of any high school - competently, is a couple of hours of work, at most.

So, while the answer to your question is "no", the bigger question is - is it good for humanity to train the "children" to think in a more advanced way "word processing" than a more specific "MS-Word processing"? I say yes to that.

Re:Remind me not to send my kid there. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26773807)

Just because the world choices (by&large) to use Microsoft doesn't mean you shouldn't learn about the other intellectual giants in World of software. I wouldn't be able to code if it wasn't for open source software, to be able to look inside the program's code and see how people smarter than me have put it together is what its all about! Especially at uni!!!!

Re:Remind me not to send my kid there. (1)

Samschnooks (1415697) | more than 5 years ago | (#26773833)

You reminded me of a professor several years ago for one of my grad classes. Part of the class was that we had to design and implement a web site. He chose ASP.NET because that's where most of the jobs are and he wanted to make sure that he added to our marketable skills.

Universities are no longer about getting an education. It's mostly about vocational training. Getting a degree in something for career purposes - unless you're a trust fund baby.

Show them this picture (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26773343)

Happy open-source users [] .

Here is at good way to start (5, Interesting)

jmorris42 (1458) | more than 5 years ago | (#26773351)

Go for the two easy wins first.

Cut your costs on licensing. Get ALL of the decison makers together and get them to put out a 100% unified front. Announce a total conversion to open source for the 2011-2012 year so as to be plausible. Then wait for your Microsoft rep to show up and offer the incentives. Take them.

Now you are a hero to everyone in the university who is in on the con you just pulled. This will be useful to you as you slowly do the real conversion.

The other easy win is to cut the costs to your students. Office and Blackboard.Mandate ODF for any document that crosses the barrier between the school and the students. This relieves them of the requirement to obtain Office and YOU the cost of buying that big site license out of the student fees that is the real reason the students get those low low prices in the bookstore.

You of course continue to offer Office Student at the regular student rates for those who want it because your Microsoft rep is sniffing around. You also be sure to have 3.1 DVDs hanging at the register for $5. Be fuzzy about just where those came from, but heck in this economy it sure does save the students money. It's just too popular to pull off the counter.

Blackboard is a never ending cause of cross platform pain (at least it was a couple of years ago) so ditch it. It not being a Microsoft product you can probably get away with it while running the con above. You tell them that will be your token (picked because it IS no visible) conversion to be able to 'claim victory' on your previous grandious project.

After this step students should be able to use whatever the heck they want. Many will probably be using netbooks in this down economy, thus they can buy the really cheap Linux ones. The college bookstore can be encouraged to stock with this in mind. Linux and open source would then be in a position to bubble up.

Re:Here is at good way to start (1)

the_B0fh (208483) | more than 5 years ago | (#26773387)

good and sneaky. I have to wonder though - is Microsoft ever going to catch on, and if they do, is there anything they can do about it, short of calling the bluff?

Re:Here is at good way to start (3, Insightful)

h4rm0ny (722443) | more than 5 years ago | (#26773471)

If they're smart, they'll call bluffs selectively. Assess those likely to fail in a highly public manner if they all shift across to MS's competitors and use them for publicity. Academia is pretty word of mouth and the odd disastrous migration is worth more to Microsoft than the odd lack of licence fees. It's a risk, but it's probably what I would do on select cases. A good salesman should be able to suss out likely disasters. And lets face it, even if the software you are moving to is better (however you define that), you're going to see big problems in demand for support, data migration, etc. just by virtue of the move.

Re:Here is at good way to start (1)

Dolohov (114209) | more than 5 years ago | (#26773797)

Remember that Microsoft does not really have any costs -- once the initial development is paid for, any licenses are pure profit. They have tremendous flexibility (though usually subject to non-disclosure agreements to hinder others in following suit) for the simple reason that any money coming in, minus the sales force time, is pure profit. In other words, they already have caught on, and they have no real reason to call the bluff if the customer has a real chance of succeeding with the transition.

If, on the other hand, they suspect that the transition is likely to fail and the customer will come crawling back, then they may choose to bide their time. I suppose it ultimately depends on whether the campus rep is a gambler.

Re:Here is at good way to start (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26774059)

"calling the bluff" meaning to say, use free software? That will happen.

However, I agree with the post that students should be able to get exposure to all sorts of software, even if they are from the dark side.

And when talking with school staff about this, have handy a list of how much Linux system administrators make vs Windows systems administrators, and make a point that students need to be well prepared for the workforce, which, increasingly, is a combination of both. (I don't mention OS/X as it's capable unix varient, and figure that goes without saying also.)

OpenSource should win because it deserves to, not because it is just cheaper.

Re:Here is at good way to start (1)

h4rm0ny (722443) | more than 5 years ago | (#26773557)

Being selective is good advice. An interesting alternative to Blackboard is Moodle which our institution uses (and we migrated from Blackboard to do so). Any migration can be painful, so pick the likeliest show-case ones first where you can demonstrate both an improvement and a cost-saving. Slow and steady wins the race. ;)

Re:Here is at good way to start (1)

FishWithAHammer (957772) | more than 5 years ago | (#26773821)

Moodle isn't an alternative to Blackboard except in the same way that a bicycle replaces a pickup truck. A lot of universities use Blackboard for far more than just classes. My university, for example, uses Blackboard for anything related to student access--if you swipe your card to enter a building, it authenticates against the Blackboard database.

The open source alternatives do not do this, and you aren't going to replace Blackboard just by having a class replacement. (And Moodle isn't very good, unfortunately. Has potential, but isn't living up to it.)

Re:Here is at good way to start (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26773799)

You've never worked for a uni, have you? Everyone has their own budget. Many profs generate their own revenue from grant money. They have tenure. They buy whatever they want to buy. Getting them all to agreee to do what you want will never, ever happen. Not in a million years.

Heh, good luck getting rid of Blackboard (2, Interesting)

Giant Electronic Bra (1229876) | more than 5 years ago | (#26773871)

There are basically 2 choices out there, Blackboard and WebCT. Both of them rot, and there are certainly other FOSS applications that are better, but which one is used is NOT anything IT has the slightest bit of influence over.

The factors involved are mostly related to the faculty and administration of the school. Instructors have LARGE amounts of time and energy invested in learning whichever platform they're on now. Most of them are not amazingly competent in the computer field, and they have high demands on their time already.

Even a HINT of a suggestion that the faculty would have to say switch over all their classes to a new system would provoke instant rebellion, and in a struggle between IT and a faculty department head or dean, there is a 0.0000000% probability of IT winning.

Not to say change is impossible, but it has to come out of admin/faculty. IT is pretty powerless in a University environment.

Surely (5, Insightful)

Jamamala (983884) | more than 5 years ago | (#26773355)

if you don't know how much your site licenses cost, then you aren't in a position to influence future software purchasing decisions.

Don't (1)

hj43us (728114) | more than 5 years ago | (#26773389)

Solving a problem that has not been stated is not appreciated. I'd wait till I'm told to lead the change. OTOH, you may want to keep a diverse environment too.

You say you are in a postion of influence... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26773395)

Yet, you don't know how much you are spending on site licenses? I have a feeling you don't have as much influence as you think...

it's called a cost analysis (3, Informative)

alen (225700) | more than 5 years ago | (#26773401)

i did one recently to justify the purchase of a new backup system. i got the purchase orders and added how much it all cost over the last 3 years for support, maintenance, offsite tape storage, etc. then compared to a new LTO-4 and estimated a few years out. put everything in a nice easy to read PPT to show how buying a new tape library will save a lot of money going forward.

Same here. get all the costs associated with whatever you run. You might need to ask your boss of finance department. estimate the costs of transition and running the new solution and compare the two.

MS licensing is a nightmare and there are a bunch of programs depending on how much users you have and which program you buy into. ask your finance people to pull copies of the purchase orders.

I work in a 95% MS shop. Reason MS rules is 90% of all MS software is stupid little scripts to make things easier. like the box to create a new user in AD. With Open Source you need to customize a lot of it and it may cost money for the consultants, extra support, etc. I help manage 30 or so SQL servers and in the last 2 years our support costs were around $1000 for a few support cases. In all cases MS released a hotfix after we opened a case. No need for custom coding.

we do have a lot of internally depeloved apps and it's like Quake point releases with them. constant updates and fixes.

Stop right there... (1)

h4rm0ny (722443) | more than 5 years ago | (#26773409)

I part-manage some of a University's software installations (amongst other things) and our institution uses a mix of free and proprietary software. We choose according to what is the best solution in each case and sometimes support overlapping programs - for example multiple email clients and operating systems. Your University may save money by going open source and all other things being equal, this is what you should go for. I'm a strong Open Source proponent myself. However, the real costs are not usually in the licencing, but in the staff costs to maintain and support an application or platform. Do NOT blindly charge in, trying to substitute OS for proprietary based purely on cost. You risk creating an unfairly bad impression of OS software. You don't say what your position actually is. If you are going to be tasked with supporting all this change, then consider carefully the strain any migration puts on your resource.

What is your actual position at the University and what substituted software do you have in mind. I (and others) may be able to offer useful advice if you give us specifics. Otherwise we're stuck with generalities. For example, I could provide very convincing support material for moving from Blackboard to the Open Source Moodle. I would charge for actual consultation work on it though.

Some regulated equipment is windows only... (1, Interesting)

DrRobert (179090) | more than 5 years ago | (#26773411)

You are going to need to assess the things that simply cannot be switched to open source and find out how they will be implemented in the new "mostly" open source strategy. For instance, almost all scientific instruments come from vendors that only have a version for windows. Since most government regulations for research, particularly for clinical, medical, and drug research, require a life-cycle validated software, there will be no open source software for these groups. Since your school is very small you probably don't have much technical research equipment.

whining about change? (1)

FalseModesty (166253) | more than 5 years ago | (#26773415)

It's not "whining" to resist change. All changes have a cost, measurable or not. Pretending they don't makes you look foolish.

Apple? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26773419)

yro, askslashdot, and education story I understand but why the mention of suppliers of overpriced underhardwared junk?

Re:Apple? (1)

FishWithAHammer (957772) | more than 5 years ago | (#26773837)

Because Apple computers are preposterously popular in education and the choices of the students should damn well be respected? (And that choice is made for good reason, they're easier to use and more secure than Windows, even if I personally dislike the UI.)

Site licenses (4, Informative)

proxima (165692) | more than 5 years ago | (#26773427)

Unfortunately, I can't find very good information online on site licenses for proprietary software. How much does a site-license for Endnote cost? What about a site license for MS Office for 2,000 computers?

It doesn't surprise me that you can't find good information about this. Even if you found valid pricing for a medium-sized business, I doubt that universities have the same pricing. Universities themselves also negotiate directly with Microsoft (at least the larger ones do), leading to differences in pricing and terms. Unis also often negotiate to obtain student pricing on products like Office. For example:

University of Wisconsin Office 2007 Enterprise [] : $72
University of Michigan Office 2007 Enterprise [] : $47

The real question is, if you're "in a position to potentially influence future software purchasing decisions", how do you not have access to the current expenditures on software licensing? What you really need are current expenditures and knowledge about when the current contract expires.

Re:Site licenses (1)

T-Bone-T (1048702) | more than 5 years ago | (#26773783)

I got Office 2007 Enterprise and Vista Ultimate at Baylor University for only $15 each.

Re:Site licenses (1)

proxima (165692) | more than 5 years ago | (#26774035)

I got Office 2007 Enterprise and Vista Ultimate at Baylor University for only $15 each.

At some point I would imagine the university subsidizes the purchase, which in turn comes out of tuition.

First, get some basic computer proficiency (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26773451)

You can't replace MS Office, a desktop app, with, a fucking website.

Re:First, get some basic computer proficiency (1)

jmorris42 (1458) | more than 5 years ago | (#26773601)

> You can't replace MS Office, a desktop app, with, a f***ing website.

Yes you can. Due to trademark issues the formal name of the product IS or OO.o for short. The .org is really part of the name. Yes it is a bit silly, but that's lawyers for you.

Maybe you should start slow (1)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 5 years ago | (#26773453)

where you can anticipate few bumps in the road.

My old school has cluster of 4-8 computers around campus, used for nothing but websurfing. Even locked down completely, IE would be loaded down with strange toolbars and what not every few weeks. I always thought it would been a great solution to have linux on them, perhaps 1 real computer and the others in that closely clustered group as dumb terminals.

Some type of way to introduce them and their cost savings to the administration at large without having it blow up in your face because of incompatibilities or someone's pet program won't run.

Start small (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26773479)

Sounds like a big job, don't start on that scale.

Start small, if you don't have people with skills in-house it would be good by starting with basics to introduce them to such skills. Pick a small department with willing staff/students to pilot a Linux/FOSS project and then give them the computers and resources. Once they get the hang of it and start developing then use their young enthusiasm to see what you could do with it. You get both the educational value, and the experience without sacrificing productivity en masse.

I hear many anecdotes about engineering departments doing Linux early on... or just look for case studies and see what would work for a starter project... maybe a library revise? I hear there is some good progress on library apps and LTSP is a good deployment model for such.

just send an anonymous tip to the BSA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26773481)

You mean all those folks don't know what their budget for all those licenses cost, and they haven't kept track of all the licenses and entitlement? Why just sic the BSA on them :-) Maybe the BSA will offer to NOT sue them if they continue to use Microsoft software of questionable provenance instead of Open Source software that is free for academic and personal use.

Universities are for learning (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26773493)

Do not use OSS for the sake of using OSS. In the real world everyone uses Windows and Office, if you take that away from computer labs, you are going to piss off a lot of people and take away valuable experience from students. I'm all for OSS, using Linux myself, but I know that forcing OSS doesn't always help, especially somewhere that is meant to prepare you for the real world.

Re:Universities are for learning (1)

jmorris42 (1458) | more than 5 years ago | (#26773667)

> In the real world everyone uses Windows and Office, if you take that away from computer labs, you are going
> to piss off a lot of people and take away valuable experience from students.

Unis aren't votech schools. And Office won't look like the version of Office you carefully trained em on by the time they hit the 'real world.' Teach work processing, not Word (or ooWriter) and they will be able to cope. Bottom line, schools and universities should not be seen as training centers for a single vendor's products. It was dumb when all the schools taught Word Perfect (how useful is knowing what all twelve F keys did in WP now?) and it is just as dumb when they obsess over Word. Adn considering the cost difference, and whether the students directly fork over for Office vs OO.o doesn't matter, anybody forcing the general student population to buy Office should be brought up on criminal charges. Yes some course work is designed around Excel and VBA so there are exceptions.

Re:Universities are for learning (1)

FishWithAHammer (957772) | more than 5 years ago | (#26773843)

Unis aren't votech schools.

These days? Like hell they're not.

Quick overview of how these things work. (1)

zemeron (1472279) | more than 5 years ago | (#26773535)

The cost of Microsoft software depends largely on the state where you work. For example in Texas there is the Texas Department of Informational Resources that negotiates pricing for 99% of Gov/Ed. They form contracts and have authorized distributors that sell at that price. Also I would become more familiar with how your university is structured. Some are divided into multiple schools (CS School, Business Management School) and each has its own rules and purchasing. Your best bet is to start with a small student facing project like a lab that uses 100% open source and possibly take your time to give occasional tutorials on how to use stuff there. Or possibly start a NEW project using open source teaching products like Moodle, dont try and replace an existing one. Once you have that small win you can use it as leverage to prove that going 100% open source is possible. Also dont expect to change the school overnight. Also be sure to be realistic with your expectations. You will almost never ever be able to get a company to drop Microsoft Exchange/Outlook or Windows Server if they use it currently. Find another area to leverage open source and leave those alone.

Re:Quick overview of how these things work. (1)

aaron.axvig (1238422) | more than 5 years ago | (#26773975)

You will almost never ever be able to get a company to drop Microsoft Exchange/Outlook or Windows Server if they use it currently.

And this is because there isn't an equivalent protocol that is as slick as Outlook connected to an Exchange server. Sure, you have your IMAP, but every mail client is a little different; some mark things as deleted, some move messages to a local deleted messages folder, some move them to a server deleted messages folder, etc.

And then you have Outlook. Everything is kept in server folders, which are synced all of the time (barring settings for the otherwise). E-mail is pushed to you within a second of the server getting it. Send a message and you are instantly done--no waiting for the client to connect to the server--it then sends in the background.

Synced calendars, room scheduling, task lists, delegated mailbox permissions, RSS feeds, damn I love Outlook/Exchange. Even Outlook Web Access 2007 is blows the doors off of ANY webmail client I've ever seen, and a good number of client applications too. Guess what, I don't even have to bitch about it not working in full featured mode with Firefox because I use IE7 all the time.

I've been drinking the Kool-Aid, and MAN IT SURE IS GOOD. Just stop being jealous and enjoy it yourself.

Try to get good figures for Blackboard licensing.. (1)

I_want_information (1413105) | more than 5 years ago | (#26773551)

Maybe M$ can afford to flood your market with crap, but Blackboard likes getting lots of money and is notoriously secretive about their licensing fee structure near as I can tell.

Go to and search for posts about licensing fees. Might be a real eye-opener.

At the not small state university where I teach (more than 40,000 students), I'm probably the only person using Moodle and when students complain that it sucks as much as Blackboard, I remind that that, (a) sure, (b) but it sucks for free, and (c) how do they like those tuition increases?!

Re:Try to get good figures for Blackboard licensin (1)

jas79 (196511) | more than 5 years ago | (#26773607)


Re:Try to get good figures for Blackboard licensin (1)

jas79 (196511) | more than 5 years ago | (#26773619)

How are you saving money when you are the only one using money and the rest uses blackboard?

Re:Try to get good figures for Blackboard licensin (1)

I_want_information (1413105) | more than 5 years ago | (#26773803)

How are you saving money when you are the only one using money and the rest uses blackboard?

Well, I'm not claiming that I am saving money, but neither will I contribute to wasting it simply because all the other bobble-heads make the conscious decision to do so.

I rent my own server space and am learning to admin Moodle myself.

One fewer person looting the public kitty may not profoundly affect the fact that looting goes on, but one need not be a looter just because everybody else is.

Re:Try to get good figures for Blackboard licensin (1)

FishWithAHammer (957772) | more than 5 years ago | (#26773867)

Moodle does not do the same think as Blackboard. Course management is a very small part of what Blackboard does. For example, Blackboard provides distributed student authentication and the ability to interface with devices that aren't computers.

My university uses the system to authenticate student identification cards when they're swiped through doors and other resources around campus.

Moodle can't do anything similar to that.

GIMP (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26773553)

Personally as someone who works in the visual arts industry, switching to GIMP would be a major disservice to the art/ graphics students, mainly because GIMP doesn't (or is not allowed) to support Pantone colors and 16-bit channels, which is integral for color manipulation and matching for print publishing.

Don't get me wrong, GIMP is great for "basic" photoshopping if the intent is for web publishing, but for print purposes I'm still not sure if GIMP is there yet, nor do I have the time and budget to test GIMP unless it matched all the features of photoshop, and it gave me additional beneftis (other than free price tag) to switch from photoshop.

To me, GIMP is designed for an inkjet printer whereas Photoshop is designed for a 4-color process printing shop.

Firefox (3, Informative)

Rinisari (521266) | more than 5 years ago | (#26773569)

Getting Firefox on all university-owned machines is a great first step. Install the IETab extension on Windows machines as a transition measure for those pesky sites which work better in IE (Blackboard, for example).

Next, get OpenOffice installed in the same manner.

Then, do the con suggested in this comment [] . Get MS to shower you in free licenses for things just so you can see how much you'd save if things were free.

Next up is policy. Move towards a policy which favors open, published standards, not just open source. For instance, that comment says to make ODF the official format of college-student communications because it is the most accessible format (since it doesn't virtually require an expensive program to read). If any university staff so much as utters something like, "We should use whatever format we like. Students should expect to make purchases in order to advance their education," you need to combat that mentality promptly with something like, "We're in a position to lower the cost of education in both visible and transparent ways by offering better choices to our students, we need to do that."

The last step I'll talk about is to work on the professorial end. Get professors to send documentation in ODF and PDF and require submissions in those formats. Get graphics teachers to do a week or two on open source graphics tools. Get a professor to teach a class or hold lunch-time discussions on the use of TeX for research documents and proposals and such. There are very few science majors who would not benefit from instruction in TeX.

Re:Firefox (1)

FishWithAHammer (957772) | more than 5 years ago | (#26773887)

Agreed on policy (and on TeX, that should be virtually required for science students), but if you think wasting graphics classes' time on open source is worth it given all the other stuff that has to be covered, you're a little bit nuts. The open-source graphics world can't step to the proprietary, and until it can it should not be in the discussion.

Re:Firefox (2, Insightful)

Rinisari (521266) | more than 5 years ago | (#26774063)

You are pretty much correct, and primarily because I was not sufficiently specific.

Graphics design and media art majors should waste little time on GIMP, Krita, Inkscape, and the like. You are correct--these packages are not as robust as Photoshop and Illustrator and probably won't be.

However, 100 level classes which out-of-major students might take to fill credits or get some kind of liberal arts visual performance credit could talk a little about these options. It's unlikely that an English major is going to drop hundreds of dollars on Photoshop to crop pictures and remove red eye when they could do it for free with GIMP.

What's more important, though, is teaching the theory behind the methods instead of teaching the software.

Have you ever tried to re-seed a lawn? (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 5 years ago | (#26773575)

Of course not, the proper way it to strip out what you have and start from scratch. Otherwise, the entrenched installation will continually pop back to the forefront. Converting from one system to another is a painful, wrenching process - much like getting to cold water. It's best to jump in, do that whole-body shiver, and then get on with your swim. Getting in slowly is a good way to decide you don't want to do it at all.

You'll need a serious migration plan for everything - from common, office apps which have an installed base of thousands (if not more) non-compatible templates, to win-dependent commercial programs, to custom apps written for the old platform which are mission critical but the developer is no longer around. You'll need to organize training for everyone. Twice. And you'll need a kick-ass help desk for everything from copying files to equivalents of obscure Excel formulas.

You have two real possibilities here: A decade of superman-like endurance and patience coupled with a slick-MBA marketing scheme, or utter and complete failure resulting in poor reviews, lousy job satisfaction, and likely counseling (make sure the uni has a good mental health rider with their insurance).

I don't necessarily mean to dissuade you but it's going to take a lot of spit and polish and going piecemeal is a near guarantee of failure. You're going to have to hide the retraining costs, or your plan will fail. This might be too large an organization to try and switch unless you have serious zealots at the top on your side.

Re:Have you ever tried to re-seed a lawn? (3, Insightful)

FishWithAHammer (957772) | more than 5 years ago | (#26773907)

You'll need to organize training for everyone. Twice. And you'll need a kick-ass help desk for everything from copying files to equivalents of obscure Excel formulas.

He's never prying Excel out of the hands of his accounting professors and to try to do so is fucking retarded. They simply won't do it and will continue to mandate Excel, which shoots holes in this entire game that the submitter wants to play.

He's not going to be doing this. I get the feeling that he's a helpdesk monkey with delusions of competence, though, seeing as how he doesn't even know the cost of his Microsoft licenses...

you don't (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26773585)

Don't be braindead.

Unless your entire student body are computer science students (and even then), students comming in are going to be looking for Vista and Windows 7, or maybe macs.

I'd like to make an argument that going open source would save the university money

You'll have no end of support issues because linux just doesn't work the way they expect. It doesn't matter if linux is supposedly better or worse, it doesn't work the way they expect, and they aren't going want to learn all new software to go to some school with only 5500 people unless you're harvard.

Do you have a science department? Have they tried this suggestion of switching from MS office to OpenOffice? Yes, most of the papers etc. are still done in LaTeX but students you definately do not want to inflict openoffice on them. I tried that last year where I was with a physics department, it wasn't pretty. OpenOffice didn't print special characters properly, probably once you're used to it the equation editor is better than office, but the students know office, they know the documentation for office they are there to learn science not waste time learning your software package which doesn't work very well.

I'm at a University now where the computer science network for students (2nd year and above actual comp sci students) is basically all linux (except the game development stuff). You know what happens? They all develop in visual studio at home and port it over for submission and are sick of putting up with a system which is out of touch with their understanding of computing. There's always the hardcore nerd holdout in the class who uses vi for everything and thinks it's wonderful, but he is distinctly the minority.

How about some of the other classes? The last two places I've been have had a 'multimedia communications' sort of course. It's kind of bullshit, but that doesn't matter, it attracts a lot of students. It relies on Photoshop, in part because that's what people in the real world that pay real money want. Know a free alternative? Good for you. Students want to know Photoshop because that's what they need to get jobs that pay real money, trying to convince them to use GIMP will add a layer of frustration.

There are elements of a university that can be switched, but if you're seriously considering moving an entire university to 'free' software someone else should have your job.

Those 'people whining about change' are either your paying customers, who will simply go somewhere else if you piss them off enough, or the people who control the money supply, who will fire you if you piss them off enough. Yes, part of university is a business transaction, hopefully not the actual education part, but they expect buildings, lights, computers they know how to use etc. and unless you have some awesome brand recognition, they're going to go somewhere lese.

Pay attention to what your users need (5, Insightful)

John Whitley (6067) | more than 5 years ago | (#26773595)

You can do it by paying attention to what your users need, not just what you want. may be an acceptable substitute for MS Office apps in your organization. Or, you may hobble the faculty because they're required to submit Word documents for various publications, using Word templates. It's bad enough having to suffer through this in Word, but having to manage this with another layer of indirection sounds utterly intolerable. That situation sucks, but you aren't going to change it by unilateral decree.

Likewise, using the GIMP vs. Photoshop may be great for some of your users. But if they're using features daily in Photoshop that aren't supported in GIMP, soon they'll be GIMP'ing up dartboards with your face on it.

Simply put, users care about applications that meet their needs and organizations should too. If you are truly in a position to influence these decisions, then your responsibility is to understand and meet those needs, not serve your own ideology. Working contrary to users' needs is a terrible way to promote the OSS software cause; you'll make more enemies for OSS than friends.

Other than? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26773605)

"And what are the drawbacks (other than people whining about change)?"

I'm sorry, but resistance to change is probably the major drawback. No matter what the financial, security, or maintenance benefits, you'll run into a sizable fraction of the university population (if not the majority) that will resist any attempt at displacing the entrenched products. Some of the reasons will be whining, some of them will be legitimate.

I know what I'm talking about because I am one of those "resistors" to change. Not because I'm unwilling to learn, or because I'm decades old and stuck in my antiquated ways. I do learn new programming languages, code, run half a dozen systems with OS X, Windows, and Linux on them -- whatever it takes to get the job done. I'm not generally afraid of change or learning new things.

But when my IT people came around and said they wanted to install Vista and Office 2007 on the Windows machines in my lab I said "Why? No way. Take a hike." They forced us to upgrade our student lab from Office 2003 to 2007. It lasted about 2 weeks before we begged them to re-install Office 2003.

Why the resistance? Because what I've got works fine and it's a fricking waste of my and my student's time to learn it all over again, find all the inevitable compatibility quirks with the software we and others have written, and work around the problems -- and for what benefit, exactly? Nothing. There's no significant benefit to these supposed "upgrades". Is Office 2007 spectacularly better than 2003? Gosh, no.

Maybe IT wants to waste their time deploying new OS and applications that are supposedly "new and improved", but I take an "if it isn't broken, don't fix it" attitude. And when I want to use OpenOffice, I'll deploy it on my own time, just as I have done already for several of the machines at home and work. It isn't perfect either, but it is better than Office 2007.

If you want to make it easy for people to switch if they so choose (e.g., by having a disk image with things customized for your particular university setup, or a series of FOSS programs that will be supported), that makes sense. I would treat it as an experiment initially. Start with support of that option and voluntary changes in small departments. Make it easy for people to try it out. If you want to be bold and if it works, offer some kind of financial or other carrot if they do switch from expensive proprietary options to cheaper ones (i.e. why should they spend *their* time switching in order to save the university's budget, when they don't get any of the financial benefit directly?).

Am I a whiner? Maybe. But I have my reasons. So will everyone else. If you start with the attitude you are displaying now you will not be successful with your goal.

Microsoft Licensing (4, Informative)

ScytheBlade1 (772156) | more than 5 years ago | (#26773623)

With Vista (and "above" - 2k8, win7), Microsoft changed the way they do site licensing. Instead of having one key for every computer, every client does a DNS lookup for a Key Management Software Server (KMS server), which then simply activates the client computer. It does not keep a record of how many activations you have used, only the last 50.

Likewise, you just call them up, tell them how many computers you have, and they give you a price. A few minutes and many thousands of dollars later, you have a key to plug in to KMS. Magically, every Vista+ box that you have on site is licensed and activated. This can include student computers if you wish. The activations 6 months, after which time they *must* talk to the KMS server again. []

Now look. I run centos/debian/openbsd/gentoo/xp/vista/server 2008. I really hate (operating system) licensing. I hate the simple concept. But KMS is really the way to go. It takes right next to no system resources. In the KMS docs, they say that most 100k+ client customers are perfectly content with 2 KMS servers (with the same key). Next to zero system load.

Second, Office. []

There is also their Software Assurance program. []

Software Assurance has one big downside, and one big upside. The downside is that it is a yearly fee. It is more or less a subscription. The upside is that you are entitled to free upgrades of "the product" as long as you keep paying. This means that if you purchased SA on Office 2003 a year before 2007 was released, your 2003 license can be automatically upconverted to 2007 free of charge. The same applies to... all of their products. XP --> Vista --> Win7, SQL 2000 --> 2003 --> 2008, Visual Studio, the works. It is not a required upconversion either - you choose if and when you upgrade.

As a result, buying your weight in gold worth of Software Assurance also gives you 24/7 software support. It more or less gives you everything. Tech support, upgrades, technical resources... it is essentially the equal to a Red Hat Enterprise Linux subscription in terms of the support you get, the products that you get, and the upgrades.

Really, your best bet to understanding MS licensing is to contact one of their reps. Gather everything that you can find before hand, and give them a call. Grill them endlessly. Ask questions, and don't let them leave until you know everything you needed.

What is the benefit of open source/free software? EVERYTHING ABOVE IS ENTIRELY IRRELEVANT.

Re:Microsoft Licensing (1)

ScytheBlade1 (772156) | more than 5 years ago | (#26773651)

Whoops. The activations *last 6 months.


It's simple: you won't. (1)

malevolentjelly (1057140) | more than 5 years ago | (#26773629)

You aren't going to save any money moving everything in the university to a whole new platform-- especially not if they're using all new products like Vista and Exchange 2007. What a tremendous waste. Re-installing everything and retraining all the employees and rewriting documentation for students will be outrageously expensive. If your University were looking to change/upgrade from some old outdated system or start a whole new system somewhere (like a new building?), that would be a different story.

It sounds like your university is already outfitted with a working infrastructure. They'd have to be either insane or spend-happy to go along with a plan like that.

If you want to shift to a new system, you will need to slowly introduce it into the ecoysystem, like a few boxes in a computer lab at a time. A new server for a new department, etc.

Easy! (0, Flamebait)

alukin (184606) | more than 5 years ago | (#26773657)

Get all your responsible staff and ask them publicly how much money they get as payback from M$.

Rebranding (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26773691)

Every university is engaged in branding and advertising to some degree. One option with OSS is rebranding*. Customize the splash screen to include the university logo, change the color scheme to the university colors, and so on. Relatively minor stuff, but now you can claim it is customized for your university. That can make many egos very happy. As a side note, you can offer "free University of ? branded software" to alumni or potential students (or maybe even sell it at low cost for a source of income). Strengthen those ties and maybe even improve donations and student applications.

* Within reason and the confines of the license

Bad Move (1)

dabbaking (843108) | more than 5 years ago | (#26773703)

I don't think it's the greatest idea to move to open source for software like MS Office. The reason being that most large corporations still use MS Office and that probably isn't going to change for a while. Writing on your resume that you have experience with Open Office at a company, like, say, Travelers, they aren't going to care since the company runs on Microsoft. While the university wants to save money and get more profit, most people are used to Microsoft products. I have a massively customized version of Blackboard that is used at my university and since they spend a lot of money on it, they won't switch to something else anytime soon. Plus it's already integrated with all the other systems.

Give up now. Pick your spots intelligently. (4, Insightful)

rAiNsT0rm (877553) | more than 5 years ago | (#26773727)

I am being 100% honest here. I too work at a univeristy, a bit larger but same deal. You are shooting yourself in the foot big time, but well intentioned.

There are far too many individual needs in this setting to do what you propose. Instead identify and choose a few specific spots where open source actually makes sense and offers a huge advantage (there are a couple) and make it happen. Start small and be smart about it. If it goes smoothly and shows real savings and improvements you may have earned the chance to do the same in another area.

Openoffice sucks. Period. Large-scale monitoring and maintenance can also suck. Sometimes Mac OSX is even the best choice. You have to take off the rose-colored glasses and think critically about everyone's real needs not just your pie-in-the-sky dream.

Encourage the use of both (1)

g0es (614709) | more than 5 years ago | (#26773745)

OSS and Proprietary software both have their place and an University should encourage the use of both. Locking a user in either way is not a good idea. Yes techies can figure it out but what about another student that isn't as comfortable with computers. A graduate should be able to use the basic software right when they get out and because there is a mix of packages in the corp world it makes sense to not lock them in.

FOSS is NOT cheaper for schools than Microsoft (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26773753)

Educational institutions do not pay money for Microsoft products, at least in my experience. Microsoft actually pays most universities to use their shit. It looks like a charitable donation, and it helps propagate the idea to the future workforce that Microsoft is all that exists. If you want to save the school money, see if they actually give a cent to Microsoft, and if they do, make it known to Microsoft that the university is considering a switch to FOSS, and then, never pay for MS products again. Really.. businesses pay for Microsoft products. Schools do not, and if they do, they can easily get out of it.

Don't shortchange the whiners... (5, Insightful)

HerculesMO (693085) | more than 5 years ago | (#26773759)

In most organizations, it takes only a small group of whiners to transition the whole of an IT focus to something else. Trust me, I've been through this battle.

Make changes where it *makes sense*. Microsoft Office currently is best of breed, no offense meant to OpenOffice but seriously... it's not even in the same realm. Windows on the desktop obviously goes side by side with this.

Where you can make arguments are on the backend where users don't really have a say. Say you want to launch some web servers -- go *Nix and Apache instead of MS and IIS. Want a database cluster? Go *nix and MySQL. These are changes that *can* happen.

I have seen far too often that 'techies' get involved and just because the technology is more superior (in some way) they totally discount the business benefit from having it set up that way. What is your roadmap for the future of IT? What paths are you looking to cross? Say the CIO wants to invest some money into Sharepoint, or wants to use WIM (standard image format) for deployments, or wants to lock down users better (AD Policies). These things are *windows specific*. You can make the argument, but if you can't look at it from a business perspective, then you are already on the path to failing at your argument.

Usually the cost of changing everything, retraining users, and getting them to be AS PRODUCTIVE as they were before is far more expensive than to keep technology the same and use branches into other things to accomplish business tasks.

And don't say you're an educational facility... you're a business first, and any good business is in the *business* of making money or showing results. That's what you call an organizational unit :)

Good luck to you, but make sure you have your ducks in a row before you go making arguments of vast change, because if you don't know what the future holds or what the goals are, you will just look like an idiot.

Start with new deployments... (1)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 5 years ago | (#26773801)

If you want to transition to OSS, start with new deployments where there is no legacy cruft to support... Try Moodle instead of blackboard for new deployments, it will save a fair bit of money and make it more accessible to students many of whom will have macs, linux or mobile devices like iphones.

Simultaneously, work on promoting open standards, have open standards used as the official protocols for communication with the university... And provide software to students/staff, in the form of full applications and plugins for proprietary applications to enable use of these formats.
Open formats are easier to sell than fully replacing existing software, you are making your education more accessible and future proofing.

Also consider repurposing old hardware that the university considers too slow to run the current microsoft wares, make a few more computer labs and put light weight linux distributions on them... Be sure to set them up well, so that they're faster and more reliable than the current microsoft offerings and you will get students using them in preference. Also offer a free or very cheap CD containing the same software.
Load a lot of OSS software on them, make sure the machines have a more complete stack than the windows based ones... At our university, only a small number of the windows and mac systems had photoshop due to cost, but all the linux boxes had gimp which was more than adequate for pretty much everyone outside of specialized graphic design classes.

Once you have some acceptance, are using open formats consider converting some of the newer workstations to dual boot configurations and let students choose what they want to use... If the proprietary format stumbling blocks have been overcome and the machines are configured properly, the linux option will be considerably quicker and more reliable making students choose it.

Above all, don't force the issue, give users a choice and prove why the OSS one is the better choice. Once you remove the proprietary format stumbling blocks, it's very hard to argue against OSS.

If money was the weak spot this would be history (1)

Aphoxema (1088507) | more than 5 years ago | (#26773825)

Many people seem to underestimate Microsoft's true power. You can't fight them with money, you have to fight them with ideology.

Normally something rare and highly demanded is valuable. Microsoft, and many other software companies, create an artificial value with high costs and licensing.

Microsoft can then exert this power by 'reducing' the cost of something unnecessarily expensive because it doesn't cost jack shit for them to make another copy.

Schools are the best angle of attack for Microsoft. Everyone is already in the belief that you must know how to use MICROSOFT Word to make it in the business world, AbiWord and OpenOffice just "can't possibly cut it", should anyone even hear of them.

If Microsoft can make students feel comfortable in their software, it's an easy, virtually mandatory sell later.

But what Microsoft can't fight and what makes this fight even more difficult is these practices of theirs are immoral. They eliminate selection and competition. Most importantly, they take away the freedom of the user with their proprietary licenses.

It's a slow uptake, but it's not impossible to convince anyone that software freedom is an important thing to support. It's also not impossible to pray on peoples' emotions to make them switch.. or make them stay.

Logic is so, so important but few seem to accept that there's such a thing as rules to what makes things make sense. Fortunately, someone doesn't need logic to see the benefits in not getting fucked over and over again, they just need it made clear that they're getting fucked.

Easy enough (1)

Groo Wanderer (180806) | more than 5 years ago | (#26773841)

This one is easy. Find out how much your university paid for the MS licenses over the last few contracts. Divide that by the number of students/users/relevant people to get a 'cost'. Then point out to the students, publicly and loudly, that because the University management felt compelled to enrich the billionaires at MS, they paid $xxxx more each year.

Then say there are just as good alternatives that will not only allow them to save money, but be more secure and take copies home to use on their home machines. Play up the lack of handcuffs and cost.

Make a list of application and total cost spent, then do it for application vs cost spent per student.

If that doesn't do it, people are dumb sheep that will never wake up. Shit, we have lost already.


Prepare to discuss TCO (1)

harmonica (29841) | more than 5 years ago | (#26773851)

Total cost of ownership is Microsoft's standard argument against FOSS competition. You save on license fees, but what does educating people (administrators, tech support, end users) about the differences between MS and FOSS products cost you?

There's a big possibility to spread FUD this way, but there's also a certain truth to it. Research this topic, it will invariably come up in one form or another.

About cost... (1)

dysfunct (940221) | more than 5 years ago | (#26773909)

I can't really say anything about the cost of proprietary software, so I thought you might appreciate some information about what Open Source can be used for: My university has many thousands of students in all kinds of maths, engineering and technology-related fields. There's a custom zope installation for managing your schedule and course registration that's also used for other things like a secure central authentication gateway for professors who want to roll their own systems yet still need to interface with the main system. Every student has an account on an HP-UX Server, although this could also be done with cheap Linux servers. There's a public_html directory for your student website and a maildir for your mail in your home directory. There's also many cheap SUN/Intel terminals strewn across the entire campus (hallways, computer rooms, learning rooms, etc.) which can pxe boot into either kiosk mode (a browser that can only access the university's website) or pxe boot into a login screen. Once logged in, it will PXE boot yet again into an environment suitable for your profile or the location you're at (e.g. certain labs might have different kinds of environments). Your default environment is a basic KDE desktop system with your home directory mounted, kmail set up to read your .maildir, and many other productivity features. Now that I have described it to some degree, I hope the advantages are becoming apparent. By utilizing the nature of Open Source software and the fact that you can freely combine them into something that suits your specific needs you can provide your students and staff with a high degree of flexibility. I can simply log in from any computer on campus or anywhere in the world and check my mails with any mail client I prefer, work from anywhere on my stuff, can forward X sessions so I can access restricted resources with Firefox running on the internal network but displayed on my computer at home, etc etc. The administrative costs are also pretty low since all you'll have to do is go and replace or install a cheap PXE booting terminal and it's ready to boot. Since there's only few PXE environments in use your ongoing maintenance cost is pretty much approaching zero. All you need to implement this kind of setup is some resource planning and a few experienced UNIX admins to implement it and keep it running. No more expensive maintenance contracts with 20 different companies, no more fighting with vendors who are completely unable to have their proprietary stuff talk to each other and no more proprietary interfaces and protocols that prevent you from running a well-integrated infrastructure.

Re:About cost... (1)

dysfunct (940221) | more than 5 years ago | (#26773939)

I forgot to mention that although Open Source software has greatly advanced over the years, it apparently still won't protect you from forgetting to select the "Plain Old Text" formatting option.

Might not be the choice (1)

binaryseraph (955557) | more than 5 years ago | (#26773921)

Frankly, open source might not be the right choice. While I am a BIG proponent of open source- the problem is there is no accountability by anyone (use at your own risk) and you have to hope that developers are still interested in the software you choose to use. In 3 years something bigger and better may come along and you are stuck trying to move everything over. As much as I hate Microsoft and their licensing, it is safe to say that they are going no where for a while. After all there is nothing more frustrating than initiating a overhaul of a system only to find out that the Open source software you want to use is acting funny on half the machines- and there is no vendor you can call except and hope they get back in time.

No, your university's not a groupie, it's normal. (1)

ambrosen (176977) | more than 5 years ago | (#26773971)

What I would suggest you could roll out, though, seeing as you didn't mention Adobe, are open source things for graphics and design. The Gimp, Inkscape, and Scribus all do things you can't do with MS Office, and I think are a great place to start.

Not foisting them upon graphics professionals, but having them there and available for anyone who wants them.

I am doing the same for my college. (1)

zartacla (1320359) | more than 5 years ago | (#26773985)

I admit I was lucky because this teacher was having problems setting up linux on the IBM servers, and I did it for him and got the chance to migrate the software environment for the whole college to *nix based platform.

My approach is this:
1) Provide a dual-boot environment for machines that concern the teachers, so they are not pissed off and at the same time the eager ones can check out the OSS alternative.
2) For students, provide a complete and customized OSS environment, the necessary software for lab work and if its totally inevitable, see if Wine can do the trick, and if not, then stick to Windows, so you are not hampering with the syllabi.

How I am going to persuade them (the students/other teachers):
1) Exposing their existing problems (reformatting, slow speeds, useless anti-viruses and the general disgust these things evoke).
2) Show them the stats and examples for OSS achievements and its increasing adoption rate across the world. Probably demonstrate clustering, and how these things get attention.
3) The money issue, which doesn't really concern them, as its not out of their pockets that the money is going, but the administration. But no risk in trying.
4) Fancy stickers and posters of tux etc.

1) I have observed students really don't participate much, windows at home, windows at not much curiosity or willingness to play with the software. So by introducing OSS, that might change.
2) Contributions to the OSS world. The interested guys will play around, find bugs, do testing etc.
3)You gain experience, and the happy feeling. :)
4)Eliminating the redundant issues and the security risks, obviously.

1) The learning curve, depending on how well you customize the OSS and provide for some easy-to-understand, straightforward documentation.
2) The inertia factor, obviously. Well, if people start talking about it, undergrads et al, that could take care of it.
3) Availability of software, For eg, we here, have got used to Rational Rose, Maya and such, so providing alternatives (which are as good/user-friendly) for these is definitely an issue.
4) Troubleshooting the problems. Well, you just gotta be there when they arise. Probably training a few friends, undergrads might help too...spreading the information basically.

Exchange (1)

NineNine (235196) | more than 5 years ago | (#26774029)

There's no OSS package that's even close to the functionality of Exchange. That, if nothing else, will ultimately be your show stopper, I'd bet. EVERYBODY uses Exchange/Outlook.

You Can't Win Based on Cost (1)

vinn (4370) | more than 5 years ago | (#26774037)

Other people have said it and I'll just reiterate: you can't win based on cost. That's a moot point.

So let's assume you can't get MS to step up with free licenses and you want to transition MS Office to OpenOffice. First you'll need to set up a training program for everyone on staff - you are shooting yourself in the foot if you don't. Next, you're still going to need Excel in some places because there's all kinds of nasty spreadsheets you don't know about using VB macros and COM plugins.

Finally, you're on Exchange? Good luck ripping Outlook out of anyone's hands. Do you have a BES server and Blackberry's? That'll be tough to ditch Exchange.

Take your OSS wins where you can. It's good to set ambitious goals, but you need to be realistic on what you can and can't do. A failed OSS conversion is much worse than not trying at all.

It depends on your situation (1)

grizdog (1224414) | more than 5 years ago | (#26774053)

There has been a lot of good advice posted already, but I'll add what I can from my own experience. I was a computer science professor at a larger (~15,000) university for 20 years, and we used open source for virtually everything, but it was like pulling teeth to get the university to switch, mostly because of attitudes of people in the Data Center. The first thing, back in the 80's, was to get them to connect to the Internet. They thought their IBM Bitnet connectivity was all anyone would ever need. It was a very painful process, and people actually got fired

The fact that you asked about how to find out what the licenses cost suggest that you feel you can't just ask the people in your Data Center. If that is true, be prepared for a long guerilla war, but you will be able to make progress. As far as finding out what those things cost, you can't just get a standard price. Every contract is negotiated individually, with all sorts of mini-grants and bundling going on to help close the deal. If you can't get the information from the Data Center, try the Purchasing office. They may be more helpful.

In my experience, one department going its own way isn't real effective. I think that the Data Center spread the word that we were "different" and what worked for us "wouldn't work" for anyone else. Some people were puzzled as to why we never seemed to be bothered by viruses and worms, but they kept getting new stuff and it kept them happy.

One place where we managed to get a little purchase was when money got tight, and we pointed out that dropping some licenses might be preferable to laying people off. The good thing about that is that then they had to get some people with some open-source expertise, and that's how you really make progress, when there are some open-source advoctes inside the belly of the beast.

The most important thing is not to be impatient, and not to give up. When you get an opportunity, show the deans and vice presidents your $300 netbook, or whatever else, or show how effectively you can use open office and create documents that everyone else can use. They will start asking questions, and eventually the Data Center will have to come up with some real reasons why they go with proprietary products.

Good luck

Devil's advocate (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26774067)

I don't know what your university or it's mission is, but you need to consider the students you're supporting, their needs, and their goals.

Most university students are not CS students. Most university students see technology as a tool to accomplish other things. They want to write term papers and solve problem sets.

The vast majority of your incoming students are probably already familiar with Windows and MS Office. Also, anyone going into the business world will be expected to know how to use Office. Anyone doing anything with graphics will be expected to use Photoshop. Forcing them to switch to another technology will be disruptive. Forcing them to use non-standard tools may hurt them professionally. There are considerations here other than cost.

That said, I support OSS. Moving internal systems to Linux, running OSS alternatives for LDAP, etc., will probably save money with minimal impact. Replacing MS Exchange with sendmail may well be a good idea (especially if it opens up use of mobile devices that don't operate well with MS). I'm sure there are lots of places you can save money and possibly get better tech out of the deal.

Just make sure you've given good care and concern before you swap the Windows, MS Office, and Photoshop on all the machines in the public computer lab for Ubuntu, OO.o, and GIMP.

I have been in exactly the same situation (1)

Stu101 (1031686) | more than 5 years ago | (#26774079)

I recently started a new job in local government, who is actually quite pro open source. BSD, Solaris, Linux all welcome.

However, I realised, as you may, it is about the bigger picture.

It is all very well putting forward new solutions, but you need think about it in this way:

How much would it cost to retrain all the users. Retraining several thousand users won't be cheap.
Would the users accept such a notion, or are they very anti change
What is in there at present is a known quantity. It works. Why should they change.
Do the IT people have the skillset across the board to support any new system.
Who can provide support for the application? That is huge in large companies.
Deployments have to be thought out, designed, planned, tested. You need to realise this takes resource, resource that is not always readily available. Breaking several thousand (or even several dozen) will turn people right off your solution PDQ

Thats not to say you can't do it. The way I would play it, is single out a single app to start with. One where the OSS solution is a real good one. Perhaps offer Firefox alongside IE as a start. Design, package and test it well. Then deploy it to a few guinea pigs who are willing to try it. Get feedback, incorporate feedback, re-release to more people etc etc.

Over time you may get a foothold, but bare in mind you will have a huge fight with Exchange and Office. You will find those almost impossible to replace, at least with current OSS solutions. Fancy retraining 4000 users to use thunderbird and IMAP rather than monkey click, monkey do style exchange chimps. My close friend who works, lives and breathes OSS isn't even attempting to change the Exchange setup at the Uni network he inherited.

Also bear in mind management fear change. They may get MS in to talk to you, aka give you the FUD talk.

We have enough issues migrating from Suse to Debian to make us think very carefully about what we are doing and this is only one server.

Be careful!

Good luck! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26774089)

heh, it'd be a nice idea - shame about the general MS brainwash that the IT departments tend to go through . they use MS products because they pay for them - with the belief that this then gives them to chance to report bugs and GET THEM FIXED.

I know of many Universities that HAVE Open Source software in various strategic/key places and are under constant pressure to get the stuff replaced with that 'oh so shiny' MS GUI veneer. Pity.

How and why you want to do this is the main thing - licence costs, TCO and ROI are all very much
important - but think of the undergraduates that might use this stuff - what will they see when they go into the real workplace? OpenOffice or MS Office?

Open source has its place in the University - but maybe not the user-facing part of IT

do it incrementally (1)

speedtux (1307149) | more than 5 years ago | (#26774097)

If you set yourself up as "the open source guy", you'll frighten people and have a constant struggle on your hands. Besides, wholesale conversions generally come with big problems anyway, and people will blame open source for everything.

Instead, do things gradually. Start by introducing specific FOSS applications on Windows. Start offering Linux, but don't force anybody. Collect data on how much money and effort it takes to support Windows vs Linux. Migrate some server side applications to Linux and FOSS. Etc.

Look at hosted, platform neutral apps, like Google Apps or Zoho. There's a good cost argument to be made for them.

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