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OSSDI to Distribute OpenOffice.org in Schools

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 7 years ago | from the nothing-says-helpful-like-free dept.

Education 133

Xampper writes to tell us that the OSSDI (Open Source Software Distribution Initiative) is a new organization that has cropped up to help not only spread the word about Open Source Software, but to help distribute the OpenOffice.org office suite starting with less fortunate school districts. The OSSDI describes their current status as still being in its "infancy as an organization. Because of this, all of our current resources are focused on gaining supporters, raising funds, and recruiting volunteers. Plans are under-way for our first software distribution, but we must first cover our operating costs. We are also interested in becoming a registered not for profit corporation so that donors will receive tax breaks for their gifts, but the registration process can also be very costly and time-consuming."

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Anyone else (0)

jdcool88 (954991) | more than 7 years ago | (#17802880)

seeing the planets slowly aligning in Linux' favor?

Yes... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17802968)

What did you think the Novell deal was about?

Re:Anyone else (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17803372)

Guess what I saw last week? A StarOffice tutorial book...in my county's agricultural extension office.

I would never have expected that, but there it was.

Re:Anyone else (1)

Jonnty (910561) | more than 7 years ago | (#17805460)

I saw StarOffice being sold at my local Staples recently. Looks like it's going that way.

Re:Anyone else (1)

CommunistHamster (949406) | more than 7 years ago | (#17804230)

Well, my old school is considering dumping MS Office and moving to OO.o to save the thousands of pounds licensing fees every year, freeing the funds up for new PCs, or new desks (beautiful solid wood writing desks they had, but unsuitable for computing), or staff room upgrades.

Oy. (5, Informative)

Xampper (806386) | more than 7 years ago | (#17802884)

The timing of this post hit me just as I was migrating our email services to Google Hosted Services. If you email OSSDI and get a bounce, try again in an hour. Sorry about the trouble!

OLPC Software (2, Interesting)

caitriona81 (1032126) | more than 7 years ago | (#17802888)

I wonder if the same can be done for distributing OLPC's software platform easily. If a large part of the cost of computers in schools is the software and the continual upgrades that come with it, wonder what can be done for schools that already have computers, just not the latest and greatest...

Training costs, or, "why change is always bad." (2, Insightful)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 7 years ago | (#17803662)

I suspect that an even larger part of school's budgets than software, are the salaries of the people who are responsible for maintaining everything; IT-types but also teachers, librarians, etc.

Those are the people who need to be "sold" on Linux or even other OSS projects like OO.org; in my experience it's a lot easier to get management on board with a solid presentation highlighting the cost savings and feature parity, but it can be quickly scuttled by the rank-and-file if they're resistant to change.

A few days ago I read another post that I think highlighted the problem. The major impediment to any sort of even slightly radical IT change, is the huge number of users who do not understand computers, or the technology they use on a daily basis. At best, they've been trained to complete certain tasks, but there's no more understanding of what's going on there, than a rat understands what goes on outside its cage when it presses on the food pedal. Do this, this happens; there's no conceptual grasp of the process, just of the procedure. This is a huge stumbling block, because it turns what someone who understands the system perceives as a trivial change, into a major one, with massive retraining costs. Something as simple as changing some menus or the "look and feel" of a dialog box can send 'trained' users back to management, demanding retraining on the new software.

I've worked on some big software projects for government users, and there have been times when entire systems have been gutted and rebuilt, but the one thing that absolutely, positively, could not change, no matter what were the user interfaces. Ripping out all the infrastructure behind the scenes was a drop in the bucket compared to the cost of sending all the users to retraining courses, which is what they would demand if they noticed anything different. (In reality, this was mostly an excuse to demand a paid psuedo-vacation; travel on an expense account to someplace where they could sit around in a classroom and space out for a few days. But that's the way it works.)

Concentrating on the 'top down' and costs savings will only get you so far. Unfortunately, people at the bottom are going to resist any change at all, unless you can figure out a way to paint it so that it's to their personal advantage.

Re:Training costs, or, "why change is always bad." (3, Informative)

Monsuco (998964) | more than 7 years ago | (#17804112)

but it can be quickly scuttled by the rank-and-file if they're resistant to change.
My dad works for school districts. He said back in the early 1990's teachers were furious that they were told they had to use this new fangled e-mail instead of network mail. All of the teachers were complaining about how complicated this new e-mail would be. They wanted their network mail. Finally, after some heavy pushing from the district, they submitted to this horribly complex e-mail. Now they obviously could never go back. Change can happen even when people don't want it to.

OPM = BIG EVIL (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17804096)

I wonder if the same can be done for distributing OLPC's software platform easily. If a large part of the cost of computers in schools is the software and the continual upgrades that come with it, wonder what can be done for schools that already have computers, just not the latest and greatest...
as a naive child, i thought i'd buy the same vehicle the city police used b/c they obviously invested lots of time evaluating vehicles based upon MERIT and surely bought the best vehicles available.

isn't that funny naive?

look, schools are budgeted OPM (Other Peoples' Money) and the spend other OPM.

what INCENTIVE do they have to REDUCE THEIR BUDGET?

NONE, NADA, ZIP, ZILCH.

my friend went on a last minute trip to new orleans and stayed at the ritz... why? training budget had to be spent or it would be lost. did he need the training? no, but he caught a free vacation, stayed at one of the best hotel chains in the world and got to kick back, new orleans style... all on OPM.

oh, and the budget for the following year wasn't cut so the managers had more dough (bigger feifdom) to play with the following year. everybody wins but the OPM guy and gal.

this *is* how the government operates and NOBODY has the ability to get elected AND the character to change the broken system.

iow, don't expect budget cuts for schools (pay raises for OPM contributors - tax payers) anytime soon. in order to do something like that, the consequences of "playing the system" will have to be grave - like losing one's head.

Re:OLPC Software (1)

Otter (3800) | more than 7 years ago | (#17804178)

If a large part of the cost of computers in schools is the software and the continual upgrades that come with it, wonder what can be done for schools that already have computers...

Schools get extremely steep discounts, and aren't exactly Gentoo-ish in their upgrades. I doubt if there's a huge amount of money to be saved.

As for OLPC, their distribution scheme (selling hardware only to people with no money, relying on children who have never seen a computer before as software developers) is so bizarre, it's hard to suggest sensible ways to supplement it.

hi (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17802890)

hi. i like to squash poo between my fingers. squish! squish! squish!

This Might Be More Cart Before The Horse (1)

Real World Stuff (561780) | more than 7 years ago | (#17802908)

Might want to ensure they are organized and have status prior to engaging. This will ensure that they are more effective and focused on their mission, and not distracted by the worries of setting up and operating as an entity. Wonderful idea, they just need to keep on when faced with adversity.

Yay first post... :) (1)

Umbrel (1040414) | more than 7 years ago | (#17802910)

So, they are not really doning nothing yet... but the mision sounds good, with a good organization pushingig OO to become the standar suite, although I guess that means to give customer / technical support, which is why schools and enterprises don't use more OSS. BTW non profit corporation... isn't that an oxymoron or just a fancy name for fundation (or am I just not used to legal terminology?)

Re:Yay first post... :) (2, Funny)

lcsjk (143581) | more than 7 years ago | (#17803042)

I hate to have to tell you this, but based on your grammar and spelling, getting used to legal terminology should not be your first priority.

Re:Yay first post... :) (1)

Umbrel (1040414) | more than 7 years ago | (#17804048)

Yep, I noticed but I wanted the first post, so I let my fingers act wihout brain supervision :P

less fortunate school districts? (3, Funny)

usv (829497) | more than 7 years ago | (#17802912)

As in those currently having only MS software?

Re:less fortunate school districts? (1)

d3m0nCr4t (869332) | more than 7 years ago | (#17802944)

No, as in those with not enough money to keep pace with MS.

Re:less fortunate school districts? (1)

dextromulous (627459) | more than 7 years ago | (#17802966)

My thoughts exactly (aka. "me too!")

Another case of euphemisms gone wrong.

and when no district can turn down a FREE offer, (1)

oldwarrior (463580) | more than 7 years ago | (#17804028)

MSFT will go out of business and the OSSFS movement will have an effective monopoly on office software. Not a real monopoly just an effectivly undeniable one. Others will exist but have no chance to overtake. Just like when MS gave IE away and killed netscape. Took years to get a decent replacement (firefox). Giving UNIX away (licensing source for a song) gave AT&T the same leverage over universities. Took years to recover from that with zero innovation for decades until someone finally questioned command line scripts with esoteric options.

Come back when you've grown up (3, Insightful)

Harmonious Botch (921977) | more than 7 years ago | (#17802958)

Ok, your heart is in the right place, but you seem a bit unprepared. I mean, if you can't cope with the bureaucracy of registering as a non-profit, how are you going to cope with the bureaucracy of school management?

Re:Come back when you've grown up (3, Insightful)

garcia (6573) | more than 7 years ago | (#17803136)

I mean, if you can't cope with the bureaucracy of registering as a non-profit, how are you going to cope with the bureaucracy of school management?

What's the difference if they do that or not? I'd rather have them be an unregistered social club that gets the job done than worry about being registered as a non-profit.

Unless they are looking to avoid paying taxes and sales taxes, there shouldn't be a real need for that anyway.

Re:Come back when you've grown up (1)

Xampper (806386) | more than 7 years ago | (#17803264)

Mostly, we want to register as a non-profit to protect the board members. Obviously, no issues are foreseen, but if your not registered as a non-profit and you have issues with the gov't/IRS, board members can be held liable and their stuff can be seized. As remote a possibility as this is, we don't even want it to be possible to happen. Tax-exemption, and tax-breaks for donors are other advantages.

Re:Come back when you've grown up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17803446)

I think his point is that you might want to get the organizational issues straightened out, distribute a few CD's, upgrade your email system and then come and ask us for money...

Re:Come back when you've grown up (3, Informative)

ortholattice (175065) | more than 7 years ago | (#17804234)

I mean, if you can't cope with the bureaucracy of registering as a non-profit, how are you going to cope with the bureaucracy of school management?

I briefly looked into (and gave up) applying for non-profit status for an open-source project - the main reason being so that people could deduct donations on their tax forms - and found out that it can be a real pain that distracts from your goals. After all, it dips into Uncle Sam's (in the U.S.) revenue, so they aren't motivated to make the approval and appeal process simple. And it isn't free, either, although the fees (was it $135/yr?) aren't too unreasonable. Most organizations have their lawyers set the thing up, although it can be done without a lawyer if you're willing to do the requirements research and paperwork.

An alternative that I started to investigate, that is apparently much easier, was to seek what's called "fiscal sponsorship" from another organization that already has an approved U.S. 501(c)(3) nonprofit status. There are very strict rules about the nature of financial transactions that can take place between the two entities, but the basic idea is that donations are made to the sponsoring entity, which then decides to fund the subsidiary according to what they perceive it needs. The main advantages are that donations are tax-deductible and donors supposedly have some assurance that their funds aren't personally enriching the donee instead of being used for the project. (I didn't complete the process of setting this up for other reasons, though, so that's all I know about it.) Anyway, that's what I would recommend that the story submitter look into.

Re:Come back when you've grown up (1)

garcia (6573) | more than 7 years ago | (#17804910)

After all, it dips into Uncle Sam's (in the U.S.) revenue, so they aren't motivated to make the approval and appeal process simple.

IANAL (I think this is the first time I've ever used that):

You're confusing two different things here. You can be a non-profit 501(c)(3) but not be tax-exempt. Does it serve any purpose to become a 501(c)(3) and not be tax-exempt? Well, for most groups probably not...

The process to become tax-exempt via the IRS is a bit of a pain in the ass and it involves some paperwork and *a lot* of waiting. Once you are a valid 501(c)(3) you submit a bunch of paperwork to the IRS (including your bylaws, income, etc) and then they do a quick scan of your paperwork and determine if you need to fix anything that you submitted. This took our organization about 6 weeks to hear back on. We had to clarify some things on the paperwork and mail it back in. Once we did that they held it for about 90 days and finally after some more work (following the 90 days) we were exempted.

Now, once you are federally you may be state exempt. You'll have to check your local laws for that but it worked out for the best in our case.

Distribution on CD? (1)

popo (107611) | more than 7 years ago | (#17802978)


I'm not sure I understand the reasons for CD based distribution. Don't most schools (even inner city schools)
have a connection that could download OO? The complete distro is 93 megs. Am I so naive to think that most
schools don't have at least some access to broadband and a CD burner somewhere in the building, or among the
staff/community?

Most Americans of course, are still on dial-up, or without computers/access altogether... but most schools/communities?
That puts our current state of connectivity in a pretty dim light.

Re:Distribution on CD? (3, Informative)

Xampper (806386) | more than 7 years ago | (#17803028)

Just because a school has resources to download the software doesn't mean they will. They're much more likely to try it out if they have the CD sitting in front of them. Also, we're targeting the students more than the schools themselves, the schools are just a vehicle for distribution.

Re:Distribution on CD? (1)

popo (107611) | more than 7 years ago | (#17803100)


Hmmm... but that shifts the focus of the project from one of 'granting access to software' and 'enabling students to overcome prohibitive costs' to one of evangelizing a specific platform.

Which isn't what it says on your site:

"OSSDI believes that commercial software costs can be prohibitive for students in impoverished regions. We also believe that no child should be prevented from fully utilizing technology to further their education."

Re:Distribution on CD? (3, Funny)

nharmon (97591) | more than 7 years ago | (#17803138)

Also, we're targeting the students more than the schools themselves, the schools are just a vehicle for distribution.

For a minute there I forgot we were talking about OO.org CDs, and not drugs.

Re:Distribution on CD? (4, Funny)

Lord_Slepnir (585350) | more than 7 years ago | (#17803472)

"Psssst.... want some Open Office?"
"I don't know. My dad says to stay with Microsoft Office"
"Come on! It's free!"
"But at school, they said that OpenOffice is a gateway program, and that I'll soon be hitting the heavy stuff like Linux"
"This ain't linux! What's wrong with just trying just a little bit of OpenOffice"
"But my friend Jimmy started on just a little bit of OpenOffice, now he spends all of his time trolling forums and posting in Vi vs. Emacs threads. I wanted to play some Quake with him last night, and he said that he was too busy rebuilding his Gentoo system from Stage 1 with some really cool flags some guy gave him on the internet." *Starts Crying* "I don't want strange guys on the internet giving me flags!"
"what are you, some kind of wimp?"
"I'm going to walk away now. Friends don't let friends use Open Source"

This message brought to you by Open Source Abuse Resistance Education. Just say no to Open Source

Re:Distribution on CD? (1)

waveclaw (43274) | more than 7 years ago | (#17805734)

This message brought to you by Open Source Abuse Resistance Education. Just say no to Open Source
Slashdot quotes of old:

"Re: Hooked on Crack ($200 M$ Windows for $50 offered to users of Lindows Linux)
  [It's] Like the friendly neighborhood drug dealer, Bill says, "Here, have this first taste on me..."
                                                -- Anonymous, Tuesday June 10, 2003 @08:11AM

And the Reply:

"Why do people always insist on insulting drug dealers by comparing them to Microsoft?
  Drug dealers offer real products with real choice."
                                                -- eniu!uine (317250), Tuesday June 10, 2003 @09:19AM

On a more serious note, I nearly got into a flame war on a private email list about OpenOffice.org vs. Microsoft Office. One of the 'old guys' (e.g. someone with a paying job) complained that the students on the list were sending attachments in .odt format. It was hard to convince him that some people might object to violating Microsoft's copyright on their products when a almost-equivalent free program exists. But at least he knew that Word != Windows.

Re:Distribution on CD? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17806010)

Clinton: "I tried the LiveCD, but I didn't install!"

Re:Distribution on CD? (1)

saskboy (600063) | more than 7 years ago | (#17804358)

Plus a teacher or student could borrow or burn a CD, where they might not have a USB key or CD burner in the school to get a downloaded file onto their dialup computer at home.

Re:Distribution on CD? (1)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 7 years ago | (#17803122)

"Am I so naive to think that most
schools don't have at least some access to broadband and a CD burner somewhere in the building, or among the
staff/community?"

Yeah, I'm afraid so. While I can't truly speak for 'most schools', the ones where I grew up are quite unlikely to have even dialup in the school, let alone broadband internet. The library at the school MIGHT have some form of internet for research purposes only.

That doesn't mean they couldn't just go home and burn it on their home computer, of course. But this is more than just distributing it to them. This is making it EASY for them, and showing how it can help the school.

Re:Distribution on CD? (4, Insightful)

lcsjk (143581) | more than 7 years ago | (#17803184)

Give a person a CD and they will probably give it a try. Tell them that there is a nifty program on a website somewhere that they can download, burn to a CD and they will walk away and do it when they have time, which is never.

Have you ever wondered why AOL sent so many CDs instead of telling people that the program is on the internet?

Re:Distribution on CD? (1)

eldepeche (854916) | more than 7 years ago | (#17803242)

Have you ever wondered why AOL sent so many CDs instead of telling people that the program is on the internet?

No, I can say honestly that I have never wondered that.

Re:Distribution on CD? (2, Interesting)

popo (107611) | more than 7 years ago | (#17803254)

So the goal of the non-profit is *not* to provide access to a cost-saving alternative, but to overcome the inherent laziness and stupidity of American educators and school systems. Ok. I just wanted to make sure I had that straight.

Re:Distribution on CD? (1)

lcsjk (143581) | more than 7 years ago | (#17804310)

You need a course in marketing instead of name-calling.

Re:Distribution on CD? (1)

Clazzy (958719) | more than 7 years ago | (#17803412)

Perhaps because most of their new customers have never had an internet connection before?

Re:Distribution on CD? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17803604)

...stats to back that up?

Re:Distribution on CD? (1)

asabjorn (903413) | more than 7 years ago | (#17803632)

"Have you ever wondered why AOL sent so many CDs instead of telling people that the program is on the internet?" The likely reason for that is that they are selling internet connectivity through dialup. Since they already have a high market penetration they probably want to target the market of people without internet connectivity and for those an online link would not be very constructive.

Re:Distribution on CD? (1)

gregorio (520049) | more than 7 years ago | (#17803730)

Have you ever wondered why AOL sent so many CDs instead of telling people that the program is on the internet?
Actually yes. And the conclusion was obvious: they are selling internet access. Asking customers to download the software AFTER connecting to the internet, when what they want, after all, is internet access, would be pretty dumb.

Imagine that you wanted to go from NY to LA, and the air company told you that they will only issue tickets at the final destination, in your case, LA. That means you would need to go to LA to have a ticket for a flight to... LA. Sure, you can ask a friend to help you and send the ticket thru USPS, like you can ask a friend to download the app to you, but that would still be a dumb business decision.

Re:Distribution on CD? (1)

kabocox (199019) | more than 7 years ago | (#17804268)

Tell them that there is a nifty program on a website somewhere that they can download, burn to a CD and they will walk away and do it when they have time, which is never.
Have you ever wondered why AOL sent so many CDs instead of telling people that the program is on the internet?


Because AOL is an ISP and without their software their targeted users wouldn't be on the internet to download anything?

Re:Distribution on CD? (2, Funny)

dkf (304284) | more than 7 years ago | (#17804374)

Have you ever wondered why AOL sent so many CDs instead of telling people that the program is on the internet?
I always assumed it was because they thought I didn't have enough mats for standing hot drinks on.

Handing out CDs is not enough (1)

feranick (858651) | more than 7 years ago | (#17804906)

So many times I tried to give away CDs to try (Ubuntu, the OpenCD, custom made). They all appreciate the gesture, but the CD goes in the dust, because they got the "real" version of whatever program (Office for example), not necessarily legally. What I am trying to say is that handing out the CD is simply not enough. Lots of people would rather have pirated software they know than experiment with new one, unless you install those programs for them. They will not probably see the difference. So full installation is the trick. Other wise it's a lost battle.

at my school OO.org won't load!!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17804960)

you underestimate the control grid. i gave a presentation at university about open
source software. i can not give the same presentation in the local school system because the software won't load on the desktop. meanwhile, OTHER software loads just fine. every yahoo gack game loads,
nero type software loads. but guess what? firefox or open office? oh no no no. will not activate.
so they have control where they want it. it is a huge issue, K-12 public education and the Microsoft
sleeze-o-rama combined with the bureaucratic flattery game. It is a HUGE issue. I conclude any official action must be sanctioned from the top of government, either state or county. Those are the people who make policy and then policy makes the material occurrence, the action. But all the good hearted intellectuals on the bottom get absolutely nowhere. That is why the general public and technocrati need to be kickin' some ass and stop being so passive and sweet. The Microsoft jumble will not be easily countered. Their game is working with authority, working with the authorities. Microsoft is a well paid gestapo, oh yes. Naturally they socially network well with other well paid gestapos, like fee and tax-based governments.

Re:Distribution on CD? (1)

rHBa (976986) | more than 7 years ago | (#17806006)

IT Teacher - Good morning class, today we are going to learn how to install software on our computers. Firstly I want you all to open your web browser and go to http://www.openoffice.org/ [openoffice.org]

OO.org has got to be one of the easiest bits of software I have ever installed, what better place to start teaching kids the basics?

Scam (0, Offtopic)

kevin_conaway (585204) | more than 7 years ago | (#17803006)

Ehh, this actually sounds like a scam to me.

Re:Scam (1)

Xampper (806386) | more than 7 years ago | (#17803200)

There's not really much I could say to prove it, but it's not a scam. Right now, until we build our reputation, you'll just have to take my word for it. ;)

Re:Scam (1)

BecomingLumberg (949374) | more than 7 years ago | (#17803256)

Do you have any reason for which to qualify that statement? It seems pretty hard to make giving something away for free a scam, unless they decide to bundle something terrible with it.

Less Fortunate Kids (1)

funked (719114) | more than 7 years ago | (#17803024)

IMO, The less fortunate should learn something more mainstream that they can get a job with. Like Microsoft Office.

Re:Less Fortunate Kids (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17803178)

Very true. This entire operation seems like evangelism and not best-interests.

Want to help kids overcome prohibitive costs? Get them free copies of Windows and Office.

Worried they won't be able to afford copies at home? Please. The entire nation of China
seems to get around that problem why can't we?

I'll bite (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17803274)

Well, in my not so humble opinion, there is a difference between memorizing and comprehension. If one teaches a child how to use a word processing or spreadsheet application, they can pretty much use anything out there. That goes the same for most software on the planet (i.e. if you know how to use one web browser, you know how to use most others thanks to interface conventions). That being said, if you can teach a child about the fundamentals of office applications in a free piece of software, why not avoid vendor lock in / licensing fees? Assuming that they actually _learn_ the conventions and _learn_ how to use the help feature, they will be quite AHEAD in the "get a job" world.

Which version of Office precisely? (1)

Flying pig (925874) | more than 7 years ago | (#17803906)

You forget (or just work for Microsoft.) How old are these kids? Let's assume the average is about 13. That means by the time they emerge into the world of work Office - assuming it still exists in that form, which is not a given - will be on Office 2012. If they were using Office in school, they would presumably not be on the latest release, so let's say they might be using Office 2008 or 2009 (and many schools will doubtless be still on 2007). So, they will have a learning curve.

Now, how much steeper is the learning curve from, say, Office 2009 to Office 2012 compared to OOo 4 (or whatever) to Office 2012? Probably not much. They will have learnt to do the same things - write badly formatted over-decorated documents that disobey the rules of typography (check), produce badly designed spreadsheets on which inputs and outputs are confused, with pointless background colors (check), produce content-free presentations that send people to sleep (check) and possibly learn to use a database front end that makes it hard to use the power of SQL while making it quite difficult to do clever queries (check). They are just going to heave to learn a new menuing interface. And that, compared to the general steepness of the school to work transition, is peanuts.

Re:Which version of Office precisely? (1)

Chandon Seldon (43083) | more than 7 years ago | (#17805458)

This is really important!

Training school kids in the specific software applications of today is a dumb idea to begin with. Trying to argue that they need to be trained specifically in the current version of the exact software that you personally are using at work is even more absurd.

This new version of Microsoft Office doesn't look much like the old version, and that's just one revision. I'd be willing to bet that GUI environments will look pretty familiar in 5 years. I'd say that we'd still have "buttons and menus", but Microsoft even ditched menus in the new Microsoft Office. I'm sure that exposing kids to OpenOffice will give them skills that are just as applicable to the apps of 5 years from now as what they'd get from Microsoft Office.

Re:Less Fortunate Kids (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17804200)

Perhaps they could teach the kids how to use a
computer and not just train them to use your
employer's products, shill.

Re:Less Fortunate Kids (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17804282)

IMO, The less fortunate should learn something more mainstream that they can get a job with. Like Microsoft Office.

Thats what we said back in the 80's about AppleWorks when Microsoft released Word 1.0

Re:Less Fortunate Kids (1)

nbritton (823086) | more than 7 years ago | (#17804412)

So what are they going to do when there employer uses OpenOffice? Your argument is retarded at best, we need to teach them general concepts like what a word processor or spreadsheet program is and what you can typically do with such a program. Systematically teaching them specific features, such as rote learning of menu layouts, of a vendors product is leading them down a path to failure, a perfect example of this is the new version of Microsoft office with the changed UI.

Ideally you would teach them the basics without using a computer or by using a stripped down program (Ajax apps i.e. Google Docs and Spreadsheets), leaving the specifics of a vendors product for another course.

For example:
INFT 101: Document Preparation Systems using computers.
INFT 102: Numerical Tabulation & Analysis using computers.
INFT 103: Intro to Microsoft Word and OpenOffice Writer (prereq: INFT 101)
INFT 104: Intro to Microsoft Excel and OpenOffice Calc. (prereq: INFT 102)
INFT 105: Advanced Microsoft Word (prereq: INFT 103)
INFT 106: Advanced OpenOffice Writer (prereq: INFT 103)
etc. etc.

Re:Less Fortunate Kids (1)

Chandon Seldon (43083) | more than 7 years ago | (#17805626)

If it were up to me, I'd take this even further and teach a course in "Using Modern GUI Applications". I know how to use a GUI, and as a result I'm perfectly capable of sitting down and using (at a basic level) any application that's followed the style guidelines from any OS vendor for almost 20 years.

I'm pretty sure that this is a skill that can be taught. I'd probably try to cover topics like the following:

  • Widgets: What is a button? An icon? A menu? What is a form? How do you recognize which controls belong to which form? How is a button labeled "Apply" likely to be similar to a button labeled "Submit"?
  • The SDI Model: What is a file? An application? What's the connection between a file and an open window? What happens when you say "File -> Open" when you already have a file open in that window?
  • What are the options in the "Edit" menu? How are "Save" and "Save As..." different?
  • What is a pane? How do you recognize a resizable pane versus a fixed pane?
  • Discoverability: Usually experimentation is safe. What are the warning signs for a destructive operation? How do you get your defaults back when you break something? What is undo? What operations does undo apply to?

These are all things that competent computer users know intuitively. They're important, and I think they're worth teaching explicitly to people who won't just pick them up.

Re:Less Fortunate Kids (1)

Chandon Seldon (43083) | more than 7 years ago | (#17805680)

One more really important one: Prediction. "What will happen if I do this?"
Another: Recognizing basic feedback. "Why did the mouse pointer just change into a diagonal double-headed arrow?" "Under what circumstances would that arrow instead be horizontal?"

Re:Less Fortunate Kids (1)

Maul (83993) | more than 7 years ago | (#17804666)

Most of the intermediate and advanced features in Word probably go unused by 90% or more of users. Both Word and Open Office are easy enough to pick up the basic features of, if you've used any word processor before.

There's a saying for this... (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 7 years ago | (#17805074)

"The world needs ditch diggers, too."

There's some validity to teaching MS office, since the $8/hr secretary jobs all require it. They don't care that you know OO, they want you to be able to sit down and type a memo without having to send you to a class. That costs money, which is probably not budgeted.

OO should be in all the high-tech schools where the graduates will eventually go on to be mangers looking for $8/hr secretaries.

(mod me down, but those of you that work in the real world know it's true - 80% of the jobs out there are just need a seat that needs to be filled with a skill.)

No names (1)

Gruuk (18480) | more than 7 years ago | (#17803044)

Does anyone else find it odd that the site is remarkably anonymous? Usually, in an "About" or "Contact Us" page, you'll find at least the name of one contact (or the name(s) of the founders, board members, etc), which is not the case here.

There may be an excellent reason for this, but it just seems strange to me. Oh well, maybe I've become overly paranoid in my old age when people are asking me for my money ;)

Re:No names (2, Informative)

Xampper (806386) | more than 7 years ago | (#17803174)

I am the founder. My full name is George Johnson. Right now, the board members have not been finalized. They will be withing the next few days.

Re:No names (1)

Gruuk (18480) | more than 7 years ago | (#17803266)

Thanks for the reply. Adding your name in the "About us" would probably help quite a bit, as it humanizes your organization and probably would put people a bit more at ease with donating to OSSDI.

The goal certainly is worthy, so every little detail that may encourage people to send money will certainly help you reach your objectives and help those schools even more.

Re:No names (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17804104)

Some suggestions from someone who has done this a lot. You want wiki space, and you want an easy way for people to join and get edit rights. You want an irc channel. You want mailing lists. You need to organise in workgroups, each workgroup headed by one volunteer, covering one specific area. You need to organise events - conferences - and get sponsors for those events, get businesses to sign up, use this to collect funds for other work. You want to run competitions to get schools involved and you definitely want to target students as your activist resource base. You want to make alliances with schools and universities. You want to lobby local school boards, and you want to lobby parent groups. OOo is better for their kids. You want to get famous people to endorse you. And you want to make friends with journalists and make sure to give them nice material.

And then you want to sacrifice your waking hours for the next couple of years.

Good luck!

Will this be OpenOffice for Windows? (3, Interesting)

popo (107611) | more than 7 years ago | (#17803058)


Because there's something very strange about providing a free office suite that runs on an expensive OS.

Why not distribute a Linux distro bundled with OOo?

Otherwise the overall mission seems compromised by the platform.

Re:Will this be OpenOffice for Windows? (2, Insightful)

BecomingLumberg (949374) | more than 7 years ago | (#17803326)

Because currently, you can distribute a Linux distro to the small percentage of people interested in running linux. You can give away OO.o to almost anyone with a computer, and they can use it. Plus, there are many students in college that must use windows for one reason or another, or are scared to switch. This will be an introduction for the time being with maybe a conversion down the line.

Re:Will this be OpenOffice for Windows? (1)

Xampper (806386) | more than 7 years ago | (#17803382)

Baby steps. Most people, even if you hand them the disc, will not install a new OS just because you say "it's better" and "open source". The user doesn't care. A free office suite that runs on the OS they already use, however, is a great introduction to the open source movement.

Re:Will this be OpenOffice for Windows? (1)

joshetc (955226) | more than 7 years ago | (#17803798)

Couldn't they just do both? OOo installer for Windows as well as some Linux live CD that includes OOo? Seems like the best of both worlds and fairly easily done...

Re:Will this be OpenOffice for Windows? (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 7 years ago | (#17804542)

Forget expensive OS, try expensive hardware. OOo is the slowest Office Suite that I've used anyway. Not slow enough to justify MS Office but still.

Supporting Windows makes sense as it lowers the barriers to migrating the OS too.

Re:Will this be OpenOffice for Windows? (1)

Chandon Seldon (43083) | more than 7 years ago | (#17805156)

What do you have a for hardware? A Pentium II and 64 megs of RAM?

Any decent computer sold this century (except perhaps some 2001 era Dells with 128 megs of RAM) should run OpenOffice fine. If your computer doesn't, I'd consider a hardware upgrade or a move to a complete resource-optimized OS / Software stack like Xubuntu + Abiword.

Re:Will this be OpenOffice for Windows? (1)

Darundal (891860) | more than 7 years ago | (#17805940)

Uhh, even on my system (p4 3.2 ghz, 2gigs ram, etc...) OpenOffice, in windows, runs slower than Office.

Why just Open Office? (3, Insightful)

planetmn (724378) | more than 7 years ago | (#17803106)

I like the idea. Though it certainly is not going to be easy to find districts willing to install and support the software on their own if they don't have experience with it.

But why just Open Office? Why not do something with (or like) Edubuntu, and distribute an entire platform that has the administration and management tools built in? People are definately hesitent to change, but if they are going to learn something new (in this case Open Office), it might be a good time for them to jump right in (especially if you, or a group of local volunteers can spend time training them).

-dave

Re:Why just Open Office? (1)

realmolo (574068) | more than 7 years ago | (#17803668)

Using OpenOffice is pretty much the same as using Microsoft Office. It's an easy switch, and mostly painless.

Using Ubuntu, especially *managing* Ubuntu on a large network, is VASTLY different (and harder) from doing the same thing with Windows. It would be a major undertaking for a school/district to switch to Ubuntu.

Edubuntu/theOpenCD (1)

g2devi (898503) | more than 7 years ago | (#17803944)

I don't know if Edubuntu follows Ubuntu lead, but Ubuntu includes a subset of "The Open CD" set of utilities that's visible when you load the CD from Windows. (try it)

This gives you the best of both worlds -- Windows versions of open source programs plus a good education-oriented Linux distro if one decides to experiment with Linux.

If they don't want to promote Linux, they should likely stick to theOpenCD (http://www.theopencd.org/) since it's already done the hard work of picking a good set of Windows compatible open source that's actually useful.

Hosef (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17804646)

Here in Hawaii there is a group doing this using Linux and everything. They take old donated computers and set up Linux labs in schools.

http://www.hosef.org/ [hosef.org]

It will take the full class period just to load... (0, Troll)

xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) | more than 7 years ago | (#17803140)

help distribute the OpenOffice.org office suite starting with less fortunate school districts
It will take the full class period just to load. Just imagine the latest cut of OpenOffice on five-year-old surplus hardware.

How about some old copies of Office 97 instead? That still runs snappy on my mid-1990's Toshiba laptop...

Re:It will take the full class period just to load (1)

mws1066 (1057218) | more than 7 years ago | (#17804078)

help distribute the OpenOffice.org office suite starting with less fortunate school districts It will take the full class period just to load. Just imagine the latest cut of OpenOffice on five-year-old surplus hardware. How about some old copies of Office 97 instead? That still runs snappy on my mid-1990's Toshiba laptop...
Or how about Abiword [abisource.com] [abisource.com], and still avoid M$ while you're at it? OO.o is admittedly rather sluggish on its first open, and for this reason I like a more responsive word processor like Abiword. Taking into account OO.o's bloated nature, Abiword comes preinstalled on "lighter" distros of Linux like Xubuntu.

Awareness (1)

adambha (1048538) | more than 7 years ago | (#17803198)

This is exciting to hear, as it's amazing how many people have never heard of 'open source' or even specifically Open Office.

It's a concept that is generally segregated to those already in 'the know' and not so much Joe User. As awareness grows, use will grow, and the entire open source community will grow.

That's my theory, at least.

If Only... (1)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 7 years ago | (#17803214)

If only many of these efforts to promote open source software weren't focused on these bloated imitations of Windows apps that I so dislike.

I think the true strength of open source is not in the apps that mimic some Windows app, but in the many little, lean and mean apps that are totally _different_.

This is not to knock the good efforts that seek to promote open source. I think they are commendable. I just wish people would see that open source provides so much _more_ than just the same apps that people already have on Windows.

Re:If Only... (1)

yukk (638002) | more than 7 years ago | (#17804194)

Uhh, the reason those apps are on Windows and that Windows does so well is that people need the functionality they provide in the workplace. How are we helping schoolkids by providing them with ... tuxracer ? If you have an essay due tomorrow, you can write it out, like Chuck Norris or use some kind of word processor.

Re:If Only... (2, Insightful)

Chandon Seldon (43083) | more than 7 years ago | (#17805368)

The very simple fact is that you don't need Word, Access, Outlook, Powerpoint, Excel or any clones of them to accomplish any legitimate work. Heavyweight word processors are seriously overkill for most tasks they're used for, and not well equipped for more complex tasks like document processing and desktop publishing. I'm still not sure what the niche for Access is supposed to be; either you're a programmer and need a scripting language and SQLite or you're not and need to hire one. Outlook is sort of bloated for an email client, and I'd probably lean towards webapp for a calendaring / scheduling tool. Powerpoint is neat, but I see it abused far more than it's legitimately used. Excel is the most legitimate app of the bunch - the ability to do light number-crunching as a non-programmer is useful; on the other hand, like Word, Excel trys to stretch beyond that niche and people end up using it with data sets that deserve something a little bit more robust.

In conclusion, most people would be better served by lighter weight or domain specific applications, and it's only the massive marketing push towards "Office Suites" on the 90's that's stuck us with Microsoft Office and Open Office. It'd be nice if people realized that, and it would be even nicer if people stopped getting automatically trained on this crap.

Re:If Only... (1)

Eternauta3k (680157) | more than 7 years ago | (#17804468)

While I somewhat like the idea, PLEASE give them abiword and the other spreadsheet app. Maybe your experience is different but openoffice has always been kinda slow for me.

Re:If Only... (1)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 7 years ago | (#17806058)

``Maybe your experience is different but openoffice has always been kinda slow for me.''

Exactly. Not to mention unstable. And some computers don't even have enough RAM to run it at all.

Hardware requirements? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17803216)

"... but to help distribute the OpenOffice.org office suite starting with less fortunate school districts"

Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't "less fortunate school districts" usually having some really old hardware? Is OO.o going to help, given that it supposedly takes ages for any of the bundled apps to start even on fast machines due to high hardware requirements? I mean, if you're installing OO.o on a machine with 128 or 256 MB RAM, this probably isn't going to go well. Again, correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't individual OO.o apps actively using 50-100 MB of memory with just simple documents loaded? I haven't actually tried them as Abiword is enough for me and I have no need for spreadsheet apps, so all I heard would qualify as hearsay. I don't even have a clue on how much memory MS Office apps need. Can someone provide some numbers, please? KOffice too, if possible...

I'm sure schools will love this (0, Flamebait)

malevolentjelly (1057140) | more than 7 years ago | (#17803250)

This reminds me of that initiative American Online used to do where they sent their software to everyone, for free!

Will the package come with the features listed, as well?

"Resembles Office 97, but is much slower and requires a lot more system resources!"

"Teach children effective office skills that will immediately become invalid if they ever get real jobs."

"Confuse aging librarians and unofficial "IT professionals" at elementary schools!"

New Interface, New Standards, New Format! Difference: It's now "standardized"

That doesn't mean anything to people.

Considering most of these schools are running older hardware, I think it would be a better idea for them to just use MS Works or the old Office likely already installed on their computers. If you're going to send something schools, send them something useful. Send them hardware... text books (not patchwork wiki crap) - or maybe sports equipment.

It looks like this initiative has now raised $120! Why is this news?

Sounds Bogus or Naive (1)

hduff (570443) | more than 7 years ago | (#17803262)

The first step for a small non-profit wannabe is to recruit a like-minded lawyer to handle the legalities at little or no charge. Then you solicit funds. This effort sounds bogus or the organizers are naive, either of which can spell disaster to such a good idea. However, is this project even needed? The software is already available for download and anybody may copy and distribute it, so the distribution channel is already in place (unless the community is so remote or impoverished that no one has Internet access or a CD burner or doesn't know of someone who does), so I would speculate this effort would primarily focus on promotion, or "getting the word out" and perhaps mailing the occasional CD. Aren't there already groups doing this? Why not ally with them? Folks: Get you organisation established by using your local resources and only then reach out for broader support; any decent person or any Nigerian scammer can create a website and tout their altruistic intent. First obtain some legitimacy, then look for the most economic way of achieving your goal. Your efforts and our money will work better and go farther.

Re:Sounds Bogus or Naive (1)

Xampper (806386) | more than 7 years ago | (#17803346)

We have a lawyer already who has agreed to do our legal-work for free, besides the government fees required for registration, of course.

Re:Sounds Bogus or Naive (1)

hduff (570443) | more than 7 years ago | (#17804492)

Excellent. If you filter through the other posts on this topic, you'll find some useful advice. In general, you'll be able to determine what kind of impression you actually make vice what you intend and can adjust your message accordingly. Good luck. Have fun.

Re:Sounds Bogus or Naive (1)

Prophet of Nixon (842081) | more than 7 years ago | (#17805348)

You should approach one of the training/reorganization organizations like the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB [sreb.org] ). They do a lot of work with poor and/or underperforming school systems and, while software is not an area they presently address, you may find common cause with them.

Schools Should use Open Source (1)

fireslack (1039158) | more than 7 years ago | (#17803410)

It seems to me that if the various companies that distibute open source software want to start making a dent in the world of the average home user, schools would be the place to start. When I was in high school I had the oppurtunity to participate in an intership with the District's IT department. It was at a time when they were switching their servers to Linux (I can't recall wich distro). That was my first experience with FOSS and it left a lasting impression. I tried a few differnet Linux distro's at the time, incl. Red Hat, Mandrake, and Turbo Linux. I eventually gave up on it because of compatibility with the Windoze regime. I use Mac now, (and OOo) but would go back to Linux before WIndoze.

Anyway, the point is that if we expose young people to Linux, Open Office and other open source software before they fall into the Microsoft flock. Even if they don't all decide to use it at home, how many more would use it that would otherwise never know it even existed?

Also, in school districts like mine that have a limited tax base because they are in a dry county and gambling/lotteries are illegal, OSS can be a great way to bring technology into schools without having to choose between teachers/books/classrooms and computers/ servers/administrators.

Open Office? (1)

FunWithKnives (775464) | more than 7 years ago | (#17803424)

I don't necessarily think that Open Office is a good choice for this sort of application. As someone else pointed out, most "less fortunate" schools and districts are probably running on older hardware. Open Office is going to be somewhat of a lumbering sloth on computers that are five years old or more. I know from experience. I installed Edubuntu PPC on my son's Apple clamshell G3, and it runs Open Office, but -barely-. In contrast, Abiword is quite snappy.

I think that the OSSDI is definitely on the right track, but I think they should really try to tailor the solutions specifically to the computing environments that the schools currently have, lest they end up, while meaning well, creating more problems along with that "solution".

Re:Open Office? (1)

oldwarrior (463580) | more than 7 years ago | (#17804126)

and when you hook up your new HP-nanotastic-laserzap2008 and it says "driver not found - using Generic HP Painjet1998" you will know why you should have ponied up the 50 bucks for professional software.

Re:Open Office? (1)

DaMattster (977781) | more than 7 years ago | (#17804902)

I think that the OSSDI is definitely on the right track, but I think they should really try to tailor the solutions specifically to the computing environments that the schools currently have, lest they end up, while meaning well, creating more problems along with that "solution".

The purpose of targeting one application, in this case Open Office, is strategic in nature. I think the OSSDI wants to bring to market a drop-in replacement for M$ Office. The best way to encourage this is so get as many people as possible trained and comfortable with, Open Office. Why not target the large audience that is unable to afford M$ Office and build a strong following. If OSSDI was to tailor a solution to various platforms, the ultimate goal of a good, single, open-source replacement for M$ is undermined. And, multiple solutions mean people would need to cross train, creating a nightmare. From a corporate stand-point, M$ Office is a defacto standard because HR departments do not have to worry that an employment candidate has never heard of it and just about all college graduates can use Word, Excel, and Powerpoint with a modicum of competency. Conversely, many people have not heard of or know of Open Office.

misunderstanding (1)

nrkey420 (1057260) | more than 7 years ago | (#17805296)

Perhaps I misunderstood the the purpose of the program. I thought it was to provide this software, documentation, and some clip art to the students in a depressed area. This way they have an office program they can use at home that is compatible with the MS Office applications they probably use at school. This would be a great idea, however if the purpose was to try to save the school some money then, I don't think there will be huge savings to the district. I have been a systems analyst at a school district in Florida for about 10 years now and we get MS office, and most other software, at super steep discounts. It would cost more to produce the cd's for open office with documentation and a clipart license than it would for a school district to purchase MS Office through a qualified software reseller.

Nothing New (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17805690)

This is not a new idea. There is a smaller site called http://softwarefor.org/ [softwarefor.org] that has been trying do the same thing for a few years now except at the student level. They not only include OpenOffice, but other freeware applications aimed specifically at starving students. It will be a tough sell to school districts. Once the students go to a school that can afford MS Office, the students will be at a disadvantage. The acceptance away from MS Office needs to start in the business world first, and then to the schools. Schools teach what is in demand and until MS Office is no longer in demand, the schools should be teaching how to use it.

Grammar Check (1)

Odin The Ravager (980765) | more than 7 years ago | (#17806104)

Migrating from a word processor with grammar check to one without will undoubtedly have an adverse effect on many students and teachers, but in the end, it will hopefully teach them better proofreading skills. I know this to be the case from when I switched.
And yes, I know grammar check for OpenOffice is in development, but there's no indication of how long it will take.

Now if they could finally fix freetype 2.2 support (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17806396)

OpenOffice.org 2.1 just plain sucks on Linux if you have freetype 2.2 or higher. The fonts suck so hard that it's hardly usable. Heck, this is a damn 20-line-patch, what's so hard in integrating it into stock OpenOffice.org?
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