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School District To Parents — Buy Office 2007

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the no-more-parents'-dirty-looks dept.

Upgrades 632

WS Nick writes "Batavia school district in Illinois is recommending that parents of high school students upgrade their home computers to Microsoft Office 2007. Why not use one of the free alternatives and relieve parents of some of the financial burden they face to buy all the stuff for their children the school requires?" A comment from a reader points out how easy it is to interoperate with Office 2007 from earlier versions.

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Screw them! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20027861)

Parents to school district: DIAF


Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20027875)

If you want a clunky copycat with about half the functionality, sure, go ahead and install OO.o. But the SD is smart to recommend that the students use something that will actually get the job done (assuming "the job" is anything above and beyond a plain text letter), not to mention actually prepare you for a workplace that demands Office in almost every case since OO.o doesn't cut it.


Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20027885)

You must be an Office dev.


aichpvee (631243) | more than 7 years ago | (#20027907)

What's the free alternative to Excel? Not that Excel doesn't have tons of flaws, but all the open source spreadsheets are a fucking nightmare to use. It's possible gnumeric isn't, but it's gnome so it's a nightmare to install and run, but OOo Calc is horrible and KSpread is even worse.


DaSH Alpha (979904) | more than 7 years ago | (#20027951)

Yeah, because there are just a million things you need to use spreadsheets for in high school (or college for that matter). I can't recall using very many (if any) during my school years... I certainly didn't have to do anything that would have required MS Excel that any other spreadsheet program couldn't have done just as easily.


d_jedi (773213) | more than 7 years ago | (#20028231)

I recall using it quite a bit in Physics classes for lab results.


forsetti (158019) | more than 7 years ago | (#20027977)

I use OOo Calc everyday, with excellent success. Would you mind expanding on your opinion that "OOo Calc is horrible" ?


Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20028029)

I use OOo all the time, and haven't bothered to install MS office in ages because of it. Most of Calc is great, but the graphing is just horrible. Thankfully, I don't need the graphing functionality in most of what I do.


Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20028089)

Well first of all you didn't pay the microsoft tax. Second of all its missing some critical financial calculation flaws. If people starting suing something different (read correct) it could wreak havoc on companies financed when differences start cropping up. Thirdly you didn't pay the microsoft tax.

I will say that I have heard that some of the more esoteric and advanced functionality possible in excel is non-trivial to reproduce in open office, but as long as you're not trying to link dozens of workbooks into a full accounting platform full with hundreds in interrelated fields with obscure multi workbook validations and functions then you're fine. Even then its possible, just not fun.

I've been running openoffice for years in my business and my biggest complaint is that documents opened in linux and windows (both openoffice) look different. I believe its because of font incompatibilities. That matters little as anything sent to a client or vendor is in pdf format anyway.


Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20028395)

Self parody is an immense joy to observe and possibly even a gift from the Almighty.


Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20028191)

My memory may be rusty, but I tried using Calc in grad school and had problems due to the lack of stats addins/functions, poor graphing/table support.

Also, for basic research work it was more difficult to work with calc when cleaning/massaging raw data. Perhaps due to lack of documentation, perhaps a few missing functions, not sure. Overall, I found excel easier to use for non-financial and research work. Though calc's support for regex is actually very nice...excel sucks without it.


Nasarius (593729) | more than 7 years ago | (#20028229)

Try creating a graph with two lines in Calc. 'Nuff said.


forsetti (158019) | more than 7 years ago | (#20028273)

I do XY plots with multiple sets of Y values all the time, and I get the expected results. What do you get?


sssssss27 (1117705) | more than 7 years ago | (#20028091)

My friend uses OOo Calc for her assignments and I believe she is attending FSU. So if it's good enough for them then I imagine it's fine for whatever high school assignment you need.


Robonaut (1134343) | more than 7 years ago | (#20028317)

I have personally survived 3 years of engineering at U of Maryland using only Calc for spreadsheets. And yes, I survived high school too.


Maul (83993) | more than 7 years ago | (#20027901)

What functionality is OO.o lacking that would prevent junior from writing an essay and printing it out to turn in?


Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20028011)

High School has changed a bit in the past few years. From what I can understand, they are starting to teach kids how to use computers more and more these days - and that includes learning how to use spreadsheets and database stuff (excel).


JonLatane (750195) | more than 7 years ago | (#20028059)

Repeat after me: Excel is not a database. Excel is not a database. Excel is not a database.

And spreadsheets work fine in OOo.


Datasage (214357) | more than 7 years ago | (#20028085)

If it's plain, but if it includes any complex formulas or scripting. Then its hit and miss.


ratboy666 (104074) | more than 7 years ago | (#20028245)

Even the SC spreadsheet does "complex formulas and scripts" just fine. TeX works for "complex formulas" much better than anything else.

Even troff is usable for most word processing. It is (arguably) superior to Word in several ways.

I will argue that since Word is not capable of SIMPLE formatting in a sane way, it is not a tool that should be used.

If you need a heading (for example) that has parts that are both flush left and flush right, a tab must be set on right margin. The tab cannot be set relative to the margin, and thus, when the right margin is adjusted, the tabs must be manually adjusted. Word fails at this simple task. Neither TeX or TROFF has this problem.


Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20028109)

Did gp say that excel is a database? "(excel)" came after a phrase where multiple things were mentioned.


Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20028155)

You think perhaps that might imply Excel covers those multiple things being mentioned? Or at least... the commenter thought they did.


Anthony Baby (1015379) | more than 7 years ago | (#20028233)

It lacks nothing a junior would need, but it's still a tough call. I feel schools have a duty to give children the skills they will need in order to make it. In this era, I think that means having rudimentary word processing skills. Maybe I'm off-base. MS Office is a de facto standard for business communications, and so forcing students to learn it and develop skills in it is a good thing. We're not talking about merely teaching kids to type documents on a computer. Were that the case, DOS and PFS First Choice would suffice... Man, I hated that program. Still, this decision has an unfortunate effect of steering potentionally new and uninformed computer users straight to Microsoft, and it forces parents to spend a lot of money on a product their kids really don't need.

I would have standardized on an output format, and then provide a list of applications capable of producing output to that standard. If you're capable of writing a term paper to spec using an old edition of Adobe PageMaker, all power to you. But what do I know, I'm only a scientist who things about shit like this all the time. The decision makers at the school district don't think about these things, and probably only considered Word Perfect as an alternative. We're dealing with an audience that likely buys all of their software shrink-wrapped, so it makes sense that OO.o wasn't chosen.

Mod Parent Up (2, Insightful)

JamesRose (1062530) | more than 7 years ago | (#20028205)

As much as I want to sing the praises of Open Office, Microsoft's version wipes the floor with it, I mean, the new graphics and stuff in it make all the presentations and A3 posters which I am made to do at my school. Fact is: Teachers like perfect presentation. MS Office works, it looks good and makes things easy- Open Office is a struggle all the way and doesn't look any good in the end.

Re:Mod Parent Up (3, Insightful)

sykopomp (1133507) | more than 7 years ago | (#20028291)

I kind of agree with what you're saying, even thought it sounds a bit trollish. OpenOffice doesn't have the sheer number of included templates, clipart, special fonts, etc, that people love using so much. People don't want to mess around with things to do something that Word lets you do by just clicking on the initial stuff. And as much as I dislike 2007, I gotta hand it to them for reworking the interface so much. I guess there's still a bit of innovation left in 'em. On the other hand, Microsoft Office is the only suite that can afford innovation. Anything else that wants to pick up market share ends up (with good reason) copying everything Office can do. Sometimes, you can't afford to innovate until you have a market share that actually has integers left of the decimal point.

Re:Mod Parent Up (1)

Oligonicella (659917) | more than 7 years ago | (#20028381)

So does Lotus and Corel, both of which are used by business. People here think it's open or M$.


GuyverDH (232921) | more than 7 years ago | (#20028313)

Oh - you meant MS Word right? When you spoke of clunky copycat? That would be MS Word. A clunky copycat of Wordperfect - they even tried to borrow the name.

This was before Windows mmkay.. Before it got even clunkier by adding a GUI to try and make things harder^H^H^H^H^H^Heasier.

Today's openoffice, based in part off of Sun's Star Office works very well, even for advanced documents.


erroneus (253617) | more than 7 years ago | (#20028325)

Here I go feeding the trolls again.

Let me ask this:

What is "wrong" with Office 2003? Forget about opposition to OO.o. Why upgrade to 2007? If there is something wrong with 2003, what is it?

I'm really stuck for a business case for the upgrade... what might it be?

Upgrading is a viral problem the way I see it. And without using Microsoft as an example, I'll turn to Adobe instead. There's this supposed standard we call "PDF." Once upon a time, I was looking over some job opportunities. The forms needed for the application process were in "PDF" format. The problem was that my PDF viewers kept prompting me for a password to view them. When I contacted the potential employer about the password issue, they told me there was no password.

As it turned out, the "password" or key in this case was to use Adobe Acrobat Reader 8. There is something about 8's new format that stopped me from being able to open it with anything else. So much for it being a "standard" and "portable" format. While I'm sure that this problem will be addressed in subsequent OSS PDF readers, it would seem that Adobe has introduced some changes that keeps the target for "compatibility" and "portability" moving.

In the end, business and other non-entertainment computing is largely about data acquisition, processing, storage and presentation. For acquisition and storage to keep going into the future, "standards" must be maintained. As "standards" keep changing, problems are introduced. If these standards are owned and kept as secret, this limits potential for data acquisition and storage to that which the owners of the secrets are willing to support. They keep the secrets and ultimately our data.

When computing was a young and developing thing, the value of new technologies and progressiveness trumped compatibility. We are either in a plateau or at a level of maturity in technology such that truly new and novel technologies are rare and the value of these new technologies does not trump compatibility or interoperability with our ever-growing pool of archival data. (I'll remind all readers that there is clear example and precedent where new technologies are often suppressed in order to perpetuate an existing business models which may explain the plateau or apparent maturity of information technology as we know it.)

The irony of the maturity of information technology is that there's a great deal less true motivation for "upgrading." It is my view that people have just grown accustomed to "upgrading" without thinking about it. Costs involved are often just written into the budget and on and on... fortunately, people ARE, in fact, asking that crucial question: "WHY?"

Why not? (0)

masdog (794316) | more than 7 years ago | (#20027877)

If the school plans on upgrading, why not tell the parents they should get the latest? Yeah, it sucks that they are going to a non-free option where the cheapest version is about $150 USD, but guess what - that is what the kids will see in the corporate world by the time they graduate from college.

By the way, Batavia, IL isn't exactly a poor area. I bet most of the families in that Chicago suburb could afford the $150 expense.

Re:Why not? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20027923)

Here [] is a link to the distribution of income in Batavia town. Your suggestion that it's a hoity-toity area is probably spot on.

Re:Why not? (5, Insightful)

Wordsmith (183749) | more than 7 years ago | (#20027979)

First of all, school isn't (strictly) about job preparation; it's about education. And they'll encounter any variety of things in the corporate world, not just Office. If their skills are good, they'll adjust to whatever they've got put in front of them. School is most importantly about learning to learn.

But aside from all that, if schools start using, say, OpenOffice, you might start to see corporations do the same. And since it's taxpayers funding the software acquisition, I'd rather the district stick to the free option so long as it works well enough for the students' purposes.

Re:Why not? (2, Insightful)

LoadWB (592248) | more than 7 years ago | (#20028249)

True, but if Office 2007 is what the kids will be learning at school, then Office 2007 is what they need to be using.

In college all of our high-level math courses were geared around the TI calculators. They are great machines, and I finally got my hands on a couple of them, including the TI-92. However, at the time I borrowed a friend's Casio, because I was dirt friggen poor. Guess what? I spent a LOT more time translating operations between the calculators than I spent on the course work.

I use Microsoft Office and StarOffice (Sun's commercial OO.o) and interact with customers in the two formats frequently. There are pluses for each one, but I lose a good bit of formating between the two, especially conditional formating and certain complex formulas. I work with it because I am familiar and comfortable, but in a learning environment one should spend more time learning the curriculum than how to work differently. If you want to use FOSS alternatives in school, pick a different school, or try to convince your school (or instructors) to use them.

The idea of corporations switching to software like OO.o instead of Office (or The Gimp instead of PhotoShop, etc.) is not highly likely. What is taught in school, especially at the college or vocational technology level, does not frequently drive what happens in the corporate world. A massive shift from corporate standards at the learning level would be a disservice to students: you enter college with the expectation that you will leave with universally marketable skills.

A better approach might be to offer alternative software courses which would count as elective courses towards a degree. Or even make such a class a requirement in programs like CS, IS, or MIS, so that students come out with a more rounded approach and understanding. I believe that would be more likely to induce a shift at the corporate level than a sudden change by attrition.

Re:Why not? (1, Insightful)

jcgf (688310) | more than 7 years ago | (#20028329)

school isn't (strictly) about job preparation; it's about education.

Where on earth did you get that idea? School is setup to make you learn to follow orders and be a good little worker bee so that you can take your place in society. They don't care about educating you.

And we all know that kids can only learn one thing (5, Insightful)

khasim (1285) | more than 7 years ago | (#20028003)

Yeah, it sucks that they are going to a non-free option where the cheapest version is about $150 USD, but guess what - that is what the kids will see in the corporate world by the time they graduate from college.

And we all know that kids are incapable of learning more than one piece of computer software in any genre.

Which is why video game sales failed. Once the kids learned to play Tetris, they couldn't learn to play Counter-Strike.

Everyone knows that you cannot teach the kids HOW to write. And then leave it to them or their employer to teach them the keystrokes/mouse moves for the word processor that they will be using. You have to teach them on the only software package they'll ever be able to use for the rest of their lives.

Re:Why not? (1)

sssssss27 (1117705) | more than 7 years ago | (#20028007)

And one of the main reasons they will see this in the corporate world is everyone is already used to it. I'll be the first one to admit that Microsoft Office is a much more robust tool than Open Office but 90% of the things people are using it for can be done equally well in Open Office. So if we can get kids to learn Open Office why not? It's free and it helps build inertia for Open Office in the work place.

Re:Why not? (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 7 years ago | (#20028299)

Office works pretty well, but I have spent large amounts of time trying to get it to not change the formatting on its own. As I recall, I did eventually manage to do so, but I had to check about a dozen different settings menus before I finally found the one which would do it for me.

The main reason why people complain about the alternatives is that yokels insist on emailing only native word docs. Stupid to do and dangerous from a security perspective, but people expect to do it anyway. The majority of people don't need all of it, rtfs work just fine in most cases.

As for me, I pretty much use abiword or Open Office. I have access to MS Office, on my mother's computer, but I have yet to find a reason why I need to use it. The basic functions, the ones that most people use are reliable, even going between office suites. The argument that it just does basic letters is quite misleading, as people really shouldn't be doing a whole lot more than that anyway.

The more advanced the features, the more likely that a bug is going to pop up or that it is a feature that works differently in a legacy version of MS Office. And considering how often the word format changes, it will happen. Expecting that that many families will buy new software is ridiculous. Even if most/all of the families have the money, expecting to effectively spend $150 of each families budget is ridiculous.

That isn't necessarily to say that Office is crap and nobody should buy it, I am sure that there are some people that have a legitimate need, but expecting for that many people to buy it for features that are best not used anyway seems a bit backwards.

Re:Why not? (1)

reddburn (1109121) | more than 7 years ago | (#20028355)

Open options or preferences, turn off "Auto-Correct." Took me about 30 seconds after switching over from Corel.

Re:Why not? (1)

tftp (111690) | more than 7 years ago | (#20028337)

90% of the things people are using it for can be done equally well in Open Office

That's not the real problem. The real problem is that 10% of the simple, everyday and compatible things people are using it for are different enough, or buggy, or hidden. For example, if you open a MS Word document with tracked changes the Word brings up the Revision toolbar where you can immediately work with changes. OO 2.2.0 does not even have the toolbar, and the only access to the revisions is through the menu "Edit" | "Changes" - which I had to search for in the help, so well it is hidden from view. Death by a thousand cuts (or a hundred of little problems) is not any less deadly than a death from one major defect. Besides, it's easier to fix one deadly bug than to change hundreds of stupidities that are entrenched in the controls and spread everywhere.

Re:Why not? (1)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 7 years ago | (#20028017)

but guess what - that is what the kids will see in the corporate world by the time they graduate from college.

I really don't understand this argument in the least. We should be teaching kids (well, anyone in fact) how to learn new software packages, because they'll spend a lifetime doing it. If these kids are all bone stupid and can't learn something as simple as a word processor or spreadsheet after having used a different word processor or spreadsheet, I'd agree with you.

Honestly, is Office 2007 that much different from Open Office than Office 20007 is from Office XP? The "I can't use Microsoft Office because I used Open Office", or vice-versa argument just doesn't hold water. A word processor is a word processor, and if you can't translate your skills from one to another, you're useless as software interfaces (especially GUI ones) change all the time.

Re:Why not? (1)

masdog (794316) | more than 7 years ago | (#20028331)

Honestly, is Office 2007 that much different from Open Office than Office 20007 is from Office XP?

Having used all three, I would say yes. The differences between Open Office and Office XP aren't that great, but the difference between Office 2007, previous versions of Office, and Open Office are wide. It still does the same things, but the interface is so different that it will require retraining for many users.

Re:Why not? (5, Insightful)

SRA8 (859587) | more than 7 years ago | (#20028145)

>>By the way, Batavia, IL isn't exactly a poor area. I bet most of the families in that Chicago suburb could afford the $150 expense.

The other arguments have be handled so I'll tackle this one. When you say "most" of the families can afford $150, what about the rest? Frankly, schools should NEVER allow a rich student to get disadvantages over poorer ones. There are enough ways to do so already (private turoring, cliff notes, etc.) Why mandate a new one?

Re:Why not? (1)

PieSquared (867490) | more than 7 years ago | (#20028171)

"guess what - that is what the kids will see in the corporate world by the time they graduate from college."

And why is that? Why, it is because all the bosses and 90% of all the (non-IT) people never used anything but Word in High School and College! So yea, as long as you tell everyone in highschool to use Word, that's what they'll see in the workplace. Of course, if you used a variety of things, there would be much more variety in the "real world" and businesses might even be able to make an informed decision! Can't have that! Point is, there is no real reason to upgrade to office 2007 unless you just like giving microsoft money, to be perfectly honest.

And as others have pointed out, all high school students are computer illiterate and can only use one piece of software.

Re:Why not? (1)

Moflamby-2042 (919990) | more than 7 years ago | (#20028247)

Requiring its use is unnecessary and wasteful. There are already free alternatives that do absolutely everything and beyond what is required in a highschool setting. It's straightforward to use them generally, there's no reason to "train" to know how to use a Microsoft product specifically in preparation for college and beyond. Pushing for a totally unnecessary product to be bought by parents will win over only an ill-informed populace.

"recommending", not "requiring" (1)

Tetsujin (103070) | more than 7 years ago | (#20028387)

"Batavia school district in Illinois is recommending that parents of high school students upgrade their home computers to Microsoft Office 2007."

The students aren't required to use Office 2007 at home, it's merely recommended.

All this means is that, if people buy Office 2007 and they have problems with it, they can talk to Microsoft. If they didn't buy Office 2007, as the school recommends, it's their problem.

If the school recommended, say, Openoffice, then they would be expected to stand behind that recommendation - and to provide an explanation, if it ultimately turned out that OpenOffice is a complete lemon. As recommendations go, it's not an especially safe one. But people still have the option of using it if they like, regardless of what the school recommends.

Re:Why not? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20028255)

Does anyone even bother to read the article before trying to get frost pist?

According to CampusTech's Web page, the price for the software after the discount is $84.85.
I spend $85 on dinner for an evening for Christ's sake. If you can't afford $85 to buy your kid some quality software they need for school then you need to get a fucking better job.

Re:Why not? (1)

reddburn (1109121) | more than 7 years ago | (#20028379)

If it's anything like the $60 version available to students on my campus, it means that they cannot upgrade it and receive no warranty. They have to pay another $60 for a "full" academic version.

Re:Why not? (2, Insightful)

Trelane (16124) | more than 7 years ago | (#20028323)

guess what - that is what the kids will see in the corporate world by the time they graduate from college.
I'm highly curious--where will the parents buy MS Office 2015?

Some people have made this argument more equolent (2, Insightful)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 7 years ago | (#20028391)

than I will and using more polite words, but:

What type of retard would not be able to use MS Office after having used Open Office?

And are they the same retards that will have trouble handling a transition from MS Office 2003 to 2007?

Just a quick question? (5, Insightful)

R3mix (1085509) | more than 7 years ago | (#20027883)

Why is it that so many school districts are so quick to buy expensive Micro$soft software when free (and sometimes better) alternatives exist, then turn around and complain about not having enough money?

Re:Just a quick question? (4, Insightful)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 7 years ago | (#20027913)

Probably a combination of incompetence and payoffs. Just because you have "IT staff" doesn't mean they really know shit all about software or how to build a workstation/server/etc. Way more people look at an MCSE as "advanced education" than simply using google to find OSS alternatives that work.

And in the end, where are the parents not pushing back?

Of course when I went to high school, teachers only accepted work in plain old "dead tree" format. And were not talking about the 60s or 70s, but the 90s. Sure at home I might have had Wordpad [god bless...] at my disposal, but the teacher wouldn't except work in that format, so I'd have to print it off at home or school.

Why can't kids just render their work in PDF format [and same for the prof], then let the creator worry about what tool they'll use. For science type classes, all you really need is to make sure the student includes all the calculations/observations to prove that they did the work.


Re:Just a quick question? (4, Funny)

Osty (16825) | more than 7 years ago | (#20027989)

Of course when I went to high school, teachers only accepted work in plain old "dead tree" format. And were not talking about the 60s or 70s, but the 90s. Sure at home I might have had Wordpad [god bless...] at my disposal, but the teacher wouldn't except work in that format, so I'd have to print it off at home or school.

Your English teacher didn't do a very good job.

  • "Were" is the past plural of "to be". "We're" is the contraction of "we are", which is what you were looking for.
  • Parenthetical comments are set off by parentheses (thus "parenthetical"), not brackets.
  • "Except", when used as a verb, means "to exclude". "To accept" means "to take or receive". Unless you meant that your teachers wouldn't exclude work in that format, you meant to uses "accept". Using except here actually negates your argument by saying that the teachers would accept work in Wordpad (RTF) format.

Re:Just a quick question? (1)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 7 years ago | (#20028019)

yeah I failed there. Teach me to not proof my damn /. posts. Oh woe is me, for I have failed humanity. Oh wait, shut up. I've spent a good deal of today writing f'ing major scales [yeah music], and naming degrees ... English is not active...

oh as for "god" fuck that idea, I'll capitalize that "proper" noun when the dude impresses me properly.

Re:Just a quick question? (1)

Osty (16825) | more than 7 years ago | (#20028087)

oh as for "god" fuck that idea, I'll capitalize that "proper" noun when the dude impresses me properly.

Wow. I didn't say anything about that, as I don't care. I highlighted that section for your improper use of brackets for a parenthetical comment. The content of the comment held no interest to me in terms of pointing out grammatical errors. "God" vs. "god" doesn't really matter, as for all I knew you could've been referencing one of the Greek gods rather than the Christian God.

Re:Just a quick question? (2, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 7 years ago | (#20028217)

"God" vs. "god" doesn't really matter, as for all I knew you could've been referencing one of the Greek gods rather than the Christian God
I don't think this could have been grammatically correct without capitalisation. If he had been referring to 'a god' or 'gods' then it could have been taken to mean the general term for a deity but when used as the subject with no indefinite article I can't see a way in which it could not be a proper noun, and thus require an initial capital.

Re:Just a quick question? (1)

sssssss27 (1117705) | more than 7 years ago | (#20028051)

This gave me a pretty significant advantage over my peers when I was in school. When everyone else was handwriting their assignments my were printed out. Sure a teacher isn't suppose grade based upon presentation but everyone does. I even had those clear binders to put my papers in. All my classmates were pretty jealous.

I suppose the grammar and spell check might have played a part as well...

Re:Just a quick question? (1)

reddburn (1109121) | more than 7 years ago | (#20028411)

Grammar check is completely useless. The University of Washington faculty have an interesting page [] linking files that pass grammar check. Some of these are absolutely hilarious.

Re:Just a quick question? (1)

dosius (230542) | more than 7 years ago | (#20028135)

And my teachers in the mid-90s not only required dead-tree, they required handwritten, in cursive.

Yes, I said mid-90s.


Re:Just a quick question? (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 7 years ago | (#20028219)

My senior year English instructor in high school (in 1978) required handwritten papers in fountain pen. Ballpoint or pencil was an instant "F".

Re:Just a quick question? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20028347)

I can agree with that. I went to a catholic school in the 90's and they didn't expect parents to be able to afford a computer after shelling out 2500 a year for 9 years(k-8) per student. Computers were expensive back then and my parents couldn't even afford to get cable with the 5k a year for tuition between me and my brother. Thankfully my parents couldn't afford the 8k a year per student for a catholic highschool: plus textbooks since the one I would've gone to made parents buyt the books to keep them up to date.

Cursive isn't that bad if you had to write in it for 7 years: they taught us in 2nd grade. Just a note, the education we got wasn't any better than the one we could have gotten in a public school.

Re:Just a quick question? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20028165)

>Probably a combination of incompetence and payoffs.

As I remarked to Homer the other day, I didn't get rich writing checks.

Bill Gates

PS: I love people like you. You loonies do more to discredit FOSS than anything I could pay for (and you even do it for free)!

Re:Just a quick question? (1)

_Sprocket_ (42527) | more than 7 years ago | (#20028215)

And in the end, where are the parents not pushing back?
Because these are the same sort of people who think they're getting a good deal by receiving a free "performance tuneup" by Geek Squad when they purchase their kids computer from BestBuy?

Re:Just a quick question? (1)

JamesRose (1062530) | more than 7 years ago | (#20027961)

If I were microsoft I would be doing cheap deals with schools, I mean, they are going to determine what the kids get used to, plus if the kids see it at school they might buy it for home, as seen here.
Not to mention the fact they already do "Student" versions cheaper for students who can't afford the expensive version but whom they would like to have as users for the future.

Students can't share a PC with their parents (4, Interesting)

originalhack (142366) | more than 7 years ago | (#20027893)

The district suggests they buy a discounted version restricted to educational use. Tough luck if the home PC is for the whole family.

Re:Students can't share a PC with their parents (2, Informative)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 7 years ago | (#20028397)

The district suggests they buy a discounted version restricted to educational use. Tough luck if the home PC is for the whole family.
1. TFA says no such thing
"The letter promoted the fact that parents can buy the software at a group discount"

2. Even if it did, who is going to go from house to house for the purpose of auditing software usage?

Expected from Establishment (3, Insightful)

epistemiclife (1101021) | more than 7 years ago | (#20027917)

It doesn't seem to be altogether unreasonable to recommend that students upgrade. It isn't as though the upgrade is being mandated. The school district is likely just trying to minimize problems.

It is a bit strange to propound that managing interoperability between the two versions is a tedious process. I think that a sheet of paper with instructions would be sufficient, even for the most computer illiterate students, few though they may be.

Concerning free alternatives, I don't think that we should expect widespread adoption of things such as OpenOffice, at least in public schools, for quite some time. Not all teachers are geeks, and they want to use that which they are accustomed to using. Even the slightest change can throw some people off.

This is quite a contrast to, say, university computer science departments, which are often filled with Linux computers, while the rest of the campus uses a plethora of Microsoft suites. It's just a different culture, with different expectations of what their computers and their computer software should do. When I tried to get my parents, who are not computer illiterate, to use OpenOffice, they became irritated, because they didn't want to have to learn something new. They just want it to work as expected, so that they can do what they need to do, in the way that they know how to do it. That's not unreasonable.

When moving to a new system, one must always weigh the cost, in time (and, consequently, money), of educating the people in the new software. Most of the world uses Microsoft Office. Unless someone releases something so similar to Office that it is nearly indistinguishable, this will likely remain unchanged, no matter how equal or superior the alternatives, free or not, are.

Re:Expected from Establishment (1)

drmerope (771119) | more than 7 years ago | (#20027965)

I think that a sheet of paper with instructions would be sufficient, even for the most computer illiterate students, few though they may be.
I'd be more concerned about computer illiteracy among the teaching staff. e.g., the teacher who emails assignments and supplementary material in a format readable only by the school's software.

Quick, someone start a survey! (1)

Statecraftsman (718862) | more than 7 years ago | (#20027927)

So the parents will all band together and get Office 2007 for $100. Some will download that compatibility pack. Finally, some will try OpenOffice and will probably suffer no hiccups at all. Someone should do a study on this situation and report back. We'll be waiting...

When I was a Kid... (1)

HitekHobo (1132869) | more than 7 years ago | (#20027935)

My teachers were just glad they didn't have to try and decipher what I call 'handwriting' and the rest of the world calls 'gibberish'. They didn't give a damn that it was written with wordstar on a 4" amber lcd. Oh, and daisy wheels were the bomb!

Re:When I was a Kid... (1)

epistemiclife (1101021) | more than 7 years ago | (#20028047)

Yeah, I remember when I turned in my assignments in grade school, typed in PFS First Choice for DOS. It looked very professional (even more professional than what I type in modern word processors). I typed it on an 8088 Epson Apex, with 640K of RAM and a 20MB HDD. I suppose that it's true the the schools shouldn't care with what software the students are writing their papers, as long as it's turned in on time. When I was in school, we didn't typically bring disks to school to work on what we did at home. We did our assignments at home and turned them in in class.

Re:When I was a Kid... (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 7 years ago | (#20028289)

When I started at school, I used WordStar. I then moved to MS Word, then ClarisWorks and then StarOffice (ClarisWorks is still my favourite from a UI perspective, but somewhat lacking in features). At university I migrated from StarOffice to OpenOffice, and then abandoned word processors altogether and went to the far superior combination of Vim and LaTeX. At some point in the middle I used a Psion Series 3 for a lot of work; I couldn't touch type, and so the small keyboard wasn't a huge disadvantage for me.

During this time, the word processor used by my school went from some BBC Micro program whose name slips my mind, through PenDown (RiscOS), WordPerfect and MS Works. When I got to university, the lab machines had MS Office installed, but the faculty all used LaTeX and several of them refused to accept electronic submissions of anything other than PDFs.

My somewhat rambling point is that there was only a brief period where I was using the same software as my school. If I needed to work on something at both school and home then I would move it between the two as RTF (or CSV for spreadsheets) and only worry about the final formatting when I was almost ready to submit. If I wanted to print something from home at school then I printed it to a file using the drivers for the school printer and took it in split between a couple of floppies.

I have the opposing problem (3, Interesting)

falcon5768 (629591) | more than 7 years ago | (#20027943)

I have been for years trying to get people in my district to use Open Office, or cheaper alternatives. But Microsoft has people so convinced that word documents wont open with anything BUT Office that Im about to just give up already.

For what they do in most grades, notepad would be all they needed.

Irresponsible Tax Expenditures (4, Insightful)

aldheorte (162967) | more than 7 years ago | (#20027953)

Given the high cost of education now, with education costs often comprising the vast majority of the municipal budget, especially for small towns, it is highly irresponsible for schools *not* to be considering and using as much free software as possible. If they are further going to drag parents into it, then it is doubly true as it becomes just another tax, unless companies are willing to provide free software to both schools and parents. Commercial software companies such as Microsoft have every right to a profit motive, but school districts also have a responsibility to use the least expensive recourse and there is no sustainable argument that commercial software is better than free software for education purposes at this point.

Re:Irresponsible Tax Expenditures (1)

kimvette (919543) | more than 7 years ago | (#20028073)

You are presuming that town selectmen and appointed officials are not swayed all by kickbacks and swag.

good idea (2, Funny)

visdog (1132101) | more than 7 years ago | (#20027957)

As a paid shill for Microsoft and Transcend, I think parents should also buy Vista Home Premium, which can be easily installed on Transcend compact flash drives.

Re:good idea (1)

paganizer (566360) | more than 7 years ago | (#20027991)

Your honesty is refreshing.
Still Evil, but refreshing.

Re:good idea (2, Funny)

visdog (1132101) | more than 7 years ago | (#20028131)

No problem. I enjoy astroturfing.

"We standardized on crappy software..." (4, Informative)

hazem (472289) | more than 7 years ago | (#20027959)

"If students use an older version of Microsoft Office at home, it is usually possible to translate their projects back and forth between different versions of Microsoft Office,"the letter said. "However, this can be a tedious process, and information may not be always be translated properly."

Basically what they're saying is, "We standardized on crappy software that probably isn't even compatible with its own previous version, so you better buy the newest one too so your kids won't be stupid."

Having worked in a school district IT department was a real eye-opener. There were tight budgets with no money for building critical infrastructure. But we'd all be damned if we didn't have the latest versions of Office and new computers to run them on.

I pushed open source wherever possible, even in the back-end, but it was a real uphill battle. We'd buy the $299 Adobe Acrobat when all they needed to do was make PDF files, and for that, something like PDF Creator [] is great - and free. And even after I demonstrated how easy it was to use and how good the results were, there was still resistance.

I wonder what kind of break the school district gets for pushing parents to upgrade?

Re:"We standardized on crappy software..." (1)

JamesRose (1062530) | more than 7 years ago | (#20028285)

Actually, I blame the children - well, kinda.

Office is compatible with previous versions, EXCEPT for the shadows on lines, and the new shiny graphics that no adult would really use in a normal document. These small graphics bits are the only bits that dont translate well. Unfortunately, kids willl love to make their documents better looking and fill up space with that junk, especially if their teachers prize presentation. So I think its reasonable to say the main reason there will be compatibility issues is because of the almost unique use of the program by kids. I don't think this is a good thing, but I do think it is less bad...

not surprised (4, Interesting)

chantron (1013105) | more than 7 years ago | (#20028035)

As an IT employee for a public school system, I am not surprised at all. These people live and breath Microsoft products. Outside of the IT department, OSS is practically taboo in my district.

Its ridiculous to the point of sheer ignorance.

Pick your battles, this isn't one (1)

cryfreedomlove (929828) | more than 7 years ago | (#20028043)

The big picture is that the kids need great teachers who challenge them and parents encourage their kids to work hard in school. The rest is mouse nuts. If you pick this battle, then the more important one will suffer.

Ah, not true (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 7 years ago | (#20028175)

It teaches your kids to think for themselves and take action when they are being screwed.

This is just hilarious (5, Insightful)

wamerocity (1106155) | more than 7 years ago | (#20028077)

I've always found it funny that every time you install a new version of Windows, during the blue install screen it keeps popping up features that are new about this version of the operating system. I specifically recall going from 98SE to ME (which was a nightmare, I might add) and laughing audibly at the "We have made keeping your photos and music organized easier than ever!" and "Now ME makes it simpler to use your computer to do..." Basically, these were all vaporware statements.

With that said, aside from it being "easier than ever to do..." can someone give me a REAL example of how office has changed from 2000 to 2007? I'm serious, I want to know what features have been added (and I don't mean changed to the GUI that make it prettier) that actually ADD FUNCTIONALITY. This is the real reason that this story makes me mad. I don't believe that it has really changed at all, let alone enough to charge me a $100+ to upgrade.

All I know is that 2007 is looking to be the first step for Microsoft to begin its DRM document implementation where it can lock down it's DOC format that will require people to stay with a certain level of Office or higher if they don't want to lose their documents.

Re:This is just hilarious (1)

bcmm (768152) | more than 7 years ago | (#20028235)

They modified the file format, in order that one couldn't continue using old versions.

They broke things so that positioning an image is now even more painful than it was.

They added a feature which uses some website to translate text. Try the it sometime. It will open your browser at a page which tries to persuade you to pay for professional translation.

That's about all I can think of.

Re:This is just hilarious (1)

wamerocity (1106155) | more than 7 years ago | (#20028277)

Well then, I stand corrected. These features are definitely worth paying money for. The real shame is that I have put off updating this long! :)

Re:This is just hilarious (1)

Duhavid (677874) | more than 7 years ago | (#20028399)

Outlook 2007 now puts any emails you flag for follow-up in a neat
list in your "todo" bar. So you don't have to go look for them.
Sorted by any date you might have put on them when you flagged them.

Now, for that, I lost the ability to

1: use the file dialog in .net 2003 application I am working on.
2: print to the "Microsoft document imaging printer".

If I try to do either, my application immediately leaves the
"run" state in the debugger, and I am back to "design".
No exception thrown. No event log message. Just dead.

why not teach open formats? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20028099)

RTF is compatible with thousands of programs. PDF is a great output format but not so good for a work-in-progress.

I use Macs and so the Office 2007 recommendation is useless to me. Somebody should buy the school district a clue that the world isn't just one little pigeonhole.

while we're at it... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20028101)

let's just train our boys in the airforce how to fly their planes by flying in cessnas.
what you fucktards just don't seem to understand that the students are using the same software that they will probably be using in an office environment. it's fantastic that you run oo at home and it works fine for you but someone loading up oo on one of my office pcs and using it instead of ms office would be unacceptable since we have a standard. the same bitches on here screaming for oo are the same ones bitching about ms not following standards. ms office is the standard in today's office. get over it.

Computer labs (2, Interesting)

Bragador (1036480) | more than 7 years ago | (#20028121)

I think it is alright that a school recommends a product. The kids' marks depend on it in a way. If you go to a painting class and the teacher recommends you to buy a certain paint and a certain brush then don't be surprised if it takes more effort to achieve the same thing as the other students with different tools. You will need a different approach and method.

What would be wrong though is if the school recommends a specific product without having it freely available in their computer labs. If the children can't have access to Microsoft's products at school after the teaching hours then there is a problem. Before recommending parents to buy a product I would make sure the kids can have access to a good computer lab.

I am wondering (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20028151)

Just how many MS trolls there are these days?

Vote them out (4, Interesting)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 7 years ago | (#20028159)

Complain to the school board they are pushing a single vendor and not teaching. Contact your state representatives as well.

If they refuse to do anything, vote them out, and run yourself. And refuse to play this game in the first place.

Unless the class is "how to use office 2007" and an elective, they have NO right to dictate this, remember they work for you, not the other way around.. ( even if you can get educational versions for 25 bucks )

Municipal ignorance (-1, Troll)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 7 years ago | (#20028177)

1) Midwestern US state, check.
2) a blind eye towards actual costs of anything, check.
3) recommending a shitty product, check.

sounds like a perfect match - undoubtedly some mid-level administrator in charge of little else, got a new PC with 2007 on it. Judging from this, they decided that everyone should have it, since the Fisher Price theme is so pretty.

This is what happens when non-elected officials have any sort of real power.

Well, crap is the norm in the real world (2, Insightful)

Aqua OS X (458522) | more than 7 years ago | (#20028185)

As unfortunate as it is, Office dominates the corporate landscape, and Office 07 or greater will eventually be the status quo. It's to a student's advantage to spend considerable time with that application suite. They will need to become familiar with its interface, idiosyncrasies, and annoyances. Running Open Office is not the same learning experience, especially for those who are not as as technosexual as we are.

I've instructed digital media the university level, and I try to recommend free or affordable software as often as possible, yet their are some poison pills you need to swallow. Office is a god awful suite of applications and most kids will need to learn how to interact with it.

That said, hopefully they will setup good computer labs for kids who can't afford the software or don't wish to buy the software.

If anyone else needs me, I'll be the guy in the corner being pummeled by the guys with the Open Office t-shirts.

Ugh, it's everywhere (4, Interesting)

sykopomp (1133507) | more than 7 years ago | (#20028193)

I recently became the sysadmin for a nonprofit. First thing they had me do was install 7 copies of XP on 7 P3 900mhz 256mb RAM IBMs that were donated. We also had 7 licenses for Office 2007, but I opted to install OpenOffice first and see if they were happy with that. Then the first person I upgraded for threw a tantrum because Writer didn't have a "diploma-style border" available and "it doesn't have the fonts I need! (neither did Word)". Needless to say, I gave them Office 2007, which runs amazingly slow on those computers. Everyone except this one woman uses word processors for very basic writing tasks, but now they all want 2007... and they were so incredibly happy when it got installed. Microsoft's influence is just that strong. People want what Microsoft peddles. It doesn't matter if it works better. That's what they're used to, that's what they know, that's what they've learned to use through rote tasks, that's what they'll continue to try and use. Hell, they looked at 'ribbon' and thought it was the best thing that was ever created for an office suite, and one of them started giggling with glee. Help me T_T

Re:Ugh, it's everywhere (1)

CautionaryX (1061226) | more than 7 years ago | (#20028321)

Just put folding@home on the machines, make it run as background on startup and then when they come complaining about how slow it is, explain that its Office 2007.

Sure, it may be underhanded and cruel... but it probably will work.

Re:Ugh, it's everywhere (3, Interesting)

sykopomp (1133507) | more than 7 years ago | (#20028341)

I don't need to. Office 2007 already runs like shit on these computers. First one I loaded it on took 20 seconds to get to the document, choked up every 5 letters written, and all the ribbon buttons responded 1-2 seconds after being pressed. They don't *care*. Because it's Microsoft.

It's not Microsoft (1)

JamesRose (1062530) | more than 7 years ago | (#20028335)

I think:

People just aren't comfortable with computers, they're still unsure. So as a sysadmin your main job isn't to give them the best option in an objective way, the main chunk of your time should be spent making them comfortable with their system. Give them MS office, cos they know office, they like office, office worked in the passed, office was always what they used why change now? They don't care if they call you 100 times a day to get it to work, they're comfortable. Then of course they want 2007, its new, its got more stuff, they're sure it'll do everything they need. Of course when you talk to them they'll know that Open office is a perfectly good substitute, and they don't need 2007, but they're aren't sure of it, not like they're sure they like and can use MS office 07.

Re:It's not Microsoft (1)

sykopomp (1133507) | more than 7 years ago | (#20028409)

Only reason they had 2007 in the first place is because they bought those licenses right before I started working there, and "it would be a waste" (I kinda agree). It's still amazing to me that a non-profit that barely has enough money to pay their teachers, and relies on computer donations for their hardware is willing to throw out the cash for the sake of having WinXP and Office2007. I have a bit of an insidious plan though. Besides those 7 licenses, the other 25 computers in the place run pirated copies of Windows. When they're told that not getting sued by Microsoft by paying up will cost them over $1000, they'll bend over and enjoy the sweet, sweet linux lovin' I have in store for them. What What!

Ahh this debate again. (1)

Spankophile (78098) | more than 7 years ago | (#20028303)

Where one camp say: "Listen, Office is in fact demonstrably better than any Free(tm) alternative,"
and the other says: "Nobody needs all that functionality anyway."

Ah, stop being daft!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20028371)

C'mon - while some might hate MS, you can't deny that as far as office suites go, they actually do make the best one out there.

This is virtually a non-story, concocted by some guy that thinks MS are bad to the bone. Unfortunately, they aren't some Hollywood bad-ass Clarence Boddiker-led bunch of arseholes, some of what they do actually is good, so feckin' deal with it!!!

Uh, seriously, who cares? (0, Troll)

mattgreen (701203) | more than 7 years ago | (#20028401)

Funny how OSS is always about 'choice' until someone has the gall to choose something other than it. Then we get dramatic articles about how, "the money is better spent on free software." Guess what? Other people have different needs than you! And people flock to what they know! How shocking! Now let's all post elitist comments about how no one takes the time to search out free alternatives to their office suite. Certainly people SHOULD be interested in this sort of thing, because *I* am! And don't people ever even THINK about the superior morality of free software?!

Seriously now, if you wish to persist in the same line of thinking regardless of how ridiculous it is (usually this is the case when you agree with it), then I will allow that. Allow me to say that your concern is better spent on more important matters, such as child labor, or other, *real* injustices in the world. But I get the feeling people rally behind these sorts of "us vs. them" exercises because they can feel like they're a part of something, while sitting at their computer. There are real problems out there in the world. People's choice in software ranks pretty low in terms of importance.
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