Our dependence upon proprietary software

Open OfficeEver since I started experimenting with Ubuntu (a Linux operating system distribution complete with a suite of productivity tools), I began to think of the possibilities for this and other open-source software. For most K-12 schools, a suite of open-source software tools would be not only work just fine . . . it would work very well. The cost savings of not having to pay licensing fees should be a huge incentive for school districts to think seriously about switching to open-source. Yes, we still need to have IT people taking care of the school computers and network, but the productivity tools and operating systems should save a bundle of money.

I’ve been thinking along these lines for a couple of years now. Then, I recently received a comment from a European blog reader who told me about a region in France (Ile de France) which has distributed a large number of flash drives preloaded with 19 software tools that they can use in their secondary schools. With this “mini-computer” in hand, students can do all of their work from the programs installed on the flash drive and of course save their files to the flash drive, not taking up valuable space on the computer’s hard drive. One of the end results of this is that schools don’t have to pay extra for computers with large hard drives or even have the programs on the computers, since the students are accessing what they need from their flash drives. The logical questions is . . . “Why can’t U.S. schools do the same?”

A comment from Sun President and CEO Joseph Schwartz provides an interesting insight in the differences between the U.S. and Europe in terms of how they view open-source software:

Technically, we see much more vibrant communities–especially in the open-source world–outside the U.S. than inside the U.S. because there is still a great deal of dependence upon proprietary software in the U.S. eWeek, April 21, 2008

To find out more about applications that can reside on these flash drives, go to PortableApps.com. And tell me your thoughts and ideas . . .

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