With the economic funk we all find ourselves in, what better time to see a fundamental shift to free and open source software. And to some extent, we are seeing schools look at other tools instead of proprietary software. Of course alternate browsers like Firefox are getting a look due to security concerns with certain other browsers. Then we see huge amounts of teachers using the audio application Audacity for creating podcasts, recording sound, and a host of other reasons. While a great resource, I wonder if people use it because of it’s free and open source status, or just because there are really no other options out there, short of Garageband for the Mac.
So, have we come that far? I think until schools begin replacing MS Office with Open Office, Photoshop with Gimp, and a strong move to some Linux operating systems, we will not be able to say schools are moving far into the open source realm.
When I see how much we pay annually for our Ghost licenses, our VNC licenses, our Windows licenses, etc, etc, I question this cost. In our schools, we hear the complaints that the computers are old (and they are–a good portion over 5 years old). Now, when I look at the costs involved with these licenses, my department alone could purchase a few hundred laptops (the Dell and Asus minis) or a good hundred desktops per year.
So in my district, we are not there yet. We are starting to dabble in Ubuntu and Xandros with the Asus eeePCs and Dell Minis. For all netbooks, we are not putting XP or MS Office on, to save costs, so that appears like we are beginning that move, albeit slowly. I would like to begin looking at the server side as well, as we are huge into the Windows Server side of things, which besides the cost, also is limiting us in terms of things we want to do.
We will continue to make progress, and if these economic times have a silver liner, I think they will force us all to look at our spendings. If we can save $50,000 or more, and we’re in a small-mid sized district, per year, some of these moves will be justified.