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VIEWS: 3 PAGES: 13

									                                  LINUX News

Let's Use Stimulus to Boost Open Source in Schools

February 18, 2009 - By Matt Hartley

          Not too long back, I shared my thoughts with you on how there
          seems to be a real disconnect with US schools and desktop Linux.
          Differences of opinion were exchanged in the comments area of the
          article and I gained some new insight along the way.

          The point that was driven home to me the most, however, is the
          apparent lack of resources to make the switch to (or even merely
          recognize the value of) desktop Linux. Clearly there are legitimate
          barriers that are in place that make educating teachers, IT personnel
          and to a degree, even students, difficult at best.

          But something has taken place recently that might help schools
          overcome this barrier. It's called the American Recovery and
          Reinvestment Act of 2009.

                            Duplicable and sustainable technology for education?

          We now have a new stimulus package that is set to change much of
          the face of our national. Like it or hate it, this "bundle of funds" is
          headed into a number of critical sectors of the US economy with the
          idea of jumpstarting our economy – including schools.

          What's interesting is the fact that the previously mentioned
          challenges of resources for re-tooling our educational infrastructure
          to work with Linux suddenly seems a lot less like a viable excuse.

          Indeed, it’s not only foolish to take these funds and invest them into
          resources that clearly are not performing a belt tightening function, it
          borders the same mentality that thought throwing money into the
          financial sector's black hole was a good investment of tax payer
          funds. In This.

          Convinced that I am off my rocker? Allow me to present my case
          before passing judgment.
Sticking to what we have always done is clearly not something that
works among all school income levels. Yes, schools with better
access to immediate local funds are able to continuously revamp with
new computers every few years, while schools from the inner city
might be lucky to keep older PCs running at all.

Then there is the issue of sustainability. If I hypothetically donated
100 brand new computers to a school, powered by proprietary closed
source software, what are the odds that those PCs will be running
the latest secure operating system with the latest security patches
five years later? Not all that good, I’d speculate.

As we have seen with Windows Vista, proprietary OS vendors such
as Microsoft have a nasty habit of requiring more resources with
each new OS release. And while this appears to be changing based
on what I have seen with my own testing of Windows 7 beta builds,
there remains the issue of licensing costs. Even if Microsoft decides
to never charge US schools for access to Windows 7, I hardly think
the same will hold true for MS Office or other non-Microsoft related
proprietary software.

Need further clarification? Let me put it this way: if the economy
keeps going the way it has been, this stimulus bill may be the only
shot of fresh federal funds education is going to get for a very long
time. This means whatever approach US education opts for
regarding technology, it had better be something that can be
sustained when the stimulus funds run out. This is where I see open
source software and Linux stepping up to the challenge in a way
that’s not practical for Windows.

         Obama wants stimulus to transform schools. Linux, anyone?

Without squabbling over the politics of what the new US president
wants for our educational system, the fact of the matter is he now
has access to enormous spending power to potentially improve what
schools’ financial resources.
And as we explored previously, using the same methods once
believed to be successful as to "get our kids ready for the real world"
is proving to be a lot less possible with our current set of economic
circumstances. This translates into thinking "mean and lean." Put
bluntly, this means training existing IT personnel how to integrate
Linux resources alongside Windows solutions and hiring individuals
who can make this happen with their existing skill set.

I know there is software, both proprietary and open source, that can
make this transition work. Best of all, there is a two-fold benefit I
haven’t touched on yet. Incorporating Linux into the mix also
translates into new jobs today in addition to creating mentors for
students to emulate tomorrow. Job retention, job creation, and the
new infrastructure will last a lot longer than anything exclusively
Windows based alone.

Now before everyone reading this opts to immediately point out a
variety of reasons why this could "never work," consider the following
first.

It's already been done. As much as I hate to break it to people, back
in 2006, the Indiana Department of Education added Linux
workstations for 22,000 students through a program called
"ACCESS." The same goes for Ohio.

Linux does Windows. As I pointed out in this article from 2008,
blending in needed legacy Windows software is not all that difficult.
As a matter of fact, you could keep needed Windows desktops
running for Windows-dependent tasks, while reducing costs on
unneeded Windows licenses for desktops better suited to run
desktop Linux instead.

Reviving PCs from the scrap heap. With distributions such as Puppy
Linux, schools can suddenly wipe old hard drives containing
Windows 95 and replace them with an actively used OS that is more
secure and better supported.
          Familiarity is 99% hot air. One of the biggest issues teachers and
          many IT personnel tend to point out is that students are used to using
          Windows and the software designed for it. Some believe that asking
          these folks to switch is a productivity hit during the "retraining"
          process.

          This is complete nonsense. First, desktop Linux can be made to look
          almost exactly like Windows if it’s needed. And this process can be
          cloned very easily for duplication, district wide. Secondly, the only
          killer app that comes to mind that students will be taking with them as
          they grow is their familiarity with MS Office.

          But thanks to the new idiot ribbon layout of Office 2007, this software
          already looks nothing like it did in previous revisions. So it stands to
          reason that Open Office or even Google Docs is something that
          students could wrap their minds around.



Business is booming for open source adopters

19 February 2009 - By Lee Curtis, business development manager ICE
Systems

          For IT teams, it's not a case of having no budget. It is simply that they
          must get better value for money. They must invest to grow the
          business or save significant dollars.

          To help us out, US-led IT vendors have raised their prices by 20 to
          30 percent. They might keep their profits high, but where does that
          leave us?

          As a result, many IT managers are struggling to deliver on their goals
          and their promises while making their dollars go much, much further.

          They are looking for ways to reduce the vice-like grip that IT vendors
          have over their business agility and costs of ownership.

          Many are working around the lock-ins that form the sales strategies
          of the mega-vendors. IT teams fear that vendors put shareholders
before clients, locking away valuable data with proprietary software
licenses and file formats.

What's needed is a more agile, cost-effective way to build, deploy
and manage "must-have" IT projects. Step up, open source.

In many respects, the college years are over - it's time to get
professional. The free loving, laissez faire community of open
sourcers have been joined by sharp suits, savvy business cases and
proven enterprise credentials.

Moreover, it used to be Linux and Apache that led the field in open
source deployments - now it seems there is an open source option
for just about everything.

In fact, looking under the hood of the big players, you'll often find
open source. Today, many (or is that most?) of the big-ticket security
and networking appliances are underpinned by Linux or BSD Unix.

Anyone heard of Apple? The ground-breaking, Vista-mocking OS X
is powered by many open source components.

That's the same OS that runs on their servers, desktops and
something they call the iPhone. That said, the iPhone itself is not
open source, but built upon it.

Google has released the acclaimed Android mobile, while Symbian
and Nokia have open sourced their mobile operating systems, too.

Meanwhile, open source vendor Red Hat is no longer alone; Novell
has joined in, Oracle, too.

All three offer enterprise Linux support and software. The enterprise
titans: Oracle, HP and IBM are developing, supporting, deploying and
profiting from open source. It's a great business to be in.

And the software is free. How does that work? It's all about the value
of a solution and the services that deliver it.

Even Microsoft's uber-partners Citrix have redesigned their strategy
and marketing around "Xen" - the free VMware competitor.
In the field of SOA, business intelligence and workflow automation
are disruptive forces bringing competitive advantages, rock-solid
reliability, unrivalled flexibility and support assurances at a fraction of
the cost.

These enterprise-class solutions are affordable for smaller firms that
can now manage their IT with more sophistication than their giant
competitors - after all, commercial alternatives run into millions of
dollars in licensing, installation and maintenance fees.

How     about    VoIP?     Or   Unified    Communications?        Content
management systems? Intranets? Enterprise search? All new, hot
technologies, all available as mature open source.

Open source is attracting talent, investors, and perhaps, more
importantly, it is winning over integrators and resellers who see it as
a cheap way to solve client problems while keeping down their bill of
materials.

In other words, it's very profitable to be a value-added integrator.

SugarCRM is free if you want to forgo professional support and a few
funky features. Compiere and OpenBravo are maturing fast, and are
aimed at the SMB/SME market.

What about Microsoft's Exchange? It is deeply embedded, but check
out Yahoo's Zimbra if you want to see what Exchange could be.

You can see why the market leaders are prone to overreact with
FUD: Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt about their own future.



Open source firms can go bust, but the software can be changed and
supported by any willing party. Compare that with a proprietary firm
who takes software, support and maybe critical data if they go under.

The nimble, creative and ambitious are harnessing technology to
slash costs, break into new markets and magnify profits using
software that they can change, support and adapt. There's nothing
new there.
          The wisest proponents of open source is that the enterprise ignores
          how the software was developed and instead focuses passionately
          on the business benefits.

          After all, the open model is a compelling business case with a jaw-
          dropping ROI. For integrators then combining two or more
          components with a little customisation shows the business that you
          can deliver enormous value.

          So what about your business? Are you already investing in open
          solutions and giving your business a fighting chance of thriving
          during the downturn?



Fun and games with the GPL

Feb 19, 2009 - by Leigh Dyer

          Nokia announced last week that as of version 4.5, the Qt GUI toolkit,
          most famously used as the basis of the KDE desktop, would change
          licences from the GPL to the LGPL.

          Believe it or not, that one little letter could boost Qt's popularity
          significantly, potentially at the expense of the GNOME desktop and
          its GTK toolkit.

                                                               Licencing fine print

          The GPL has been described as a "viral" licence because while GPL
          code is free for all to use, if you use it as part of your own project, it
          must too fall under the GPL's terms. This restriction ensures that
          GPL code can't be ripped off wholesale by commercial closed-source
          apps, and creates an environment that encourages people to re-use
          existing open-source code in new open-source projects.

          Where the GPL falls down is at the boundary between open-source
          and closed-source software. Even the simplest programs rely on
          system libraries to run, and if those libraries were under the GPL, any
          software using them would have to be as well. Put simply, if the core
Linux libraries were under the GPL, it would be illegal to run any
closed-source software on a Linux system.

This problem lead to the LGPL (originally the "Library" GPL, but now
called the "Lesser" GPL), which removes the "viral" clauses. If you
make changes to LGPL code, then you have to release those
changes, just like with the GPL, but if you just use the code with your
project as-is, then your project remains free of any licencing issues.
The LGPL is used on most Linux libraries, including the Linux core
libraries and the GTK GUI toolkit.

                                                             Quirky Qt

Why, then, did Qt use the standard GPL? The answer lies in the fact
that Qt is, somewhat paradoxically, a very commercial project. Qt
was originally aimed at developers working on expensive niche apps
for proprietary UNIX systems, and it came with a hefty price tag to
match. There was also a free version, which KDE 1 used, but its use
was heavily restricted.

As KDE rose in prominence, Qt and its developers, Trolltech,
became more open-source friendly, releasing new Linux versions
first under a custom open-source licence called the Q Public Licence
(QPL), and later under the GPL. Far from giving the code away,
though, Trolltech continued to sell Qt under its own proprietary
licence. Using the GPL for the free version ensured that commercial
customer working on closed-source apps had to pay for the
commercial licence.

While KDE has been a great success in its own right, Trolltech's
commercial licencing arrangements drove many Linux system
vendors to back GTK and GNOME, to ensure that commercial
developers can target Linux without cost.

                                            Nokia changes the balance

Times have changed for Qt, though, since Trolltech was bought out
by Nokia. The Finnish giant has been selling its Linux-based Internet
Tablet devices for some time now, and while those currently use a
GTK-based interface called Maemo, Qt has excellent embedded
device support and may be a better option for future device.

Under Nokia, moving Qt to the LGPL makes perfect sense. Nokia
makes its money selling devices, not software licences, and if it
releases a Qt-based device, it would want to make as cheap and
easy to develop for as possible, to encourage the kind of third-part
innovation that can drive device sales.

                                                       Where to now?

It's hard to say exactly what effect an LGPL Qt will have, but two
things seem inevitable: more closed-source apps choosing Qt
instead of GTK, and more Linux-based devices opting for Qt-based
user interfaces.

In fact, there's already talk of Ubuntu Mobile, a distribution designed
for low-end netbooks and MIDs (like the Nokia Internet Tablets)
looking at Qt.

I don't see KDE seeing any immediate benefit, though. The big Linux
players, like Red Hat, Novell, and Ubuntu have invested too much
time and money in GTK and the GNOME desktop to do a backflip
now.

There's really no call for one anyway -- GNOME is an excellent
desktop that's constantly improving, while KDE 4 is still undergoing
rapid development to smooth out its many rough edges.

If future KDE releases can combine improved developer friendliness
with something a bit special on the desktop, though, a lot of users
may start to rethink their choice of desktop.
An open source to a brighter future?

February 19, 2009 - Mark Frary, Times Online

          If you went to your bank manager and said you had a great idea for a
          business in which you gave away your core product to your
          competitors, it is likely you would be instantly shown the door and not
          just because of the credit crunch. Yet this is exactly what some of the
          most successful companies in the world are doing.

          Red Hat, the company which spearheads the development of the
          Linux operating system, generated revenues of half a billion dollars in
          the 2008 financial year, the vast proportion of which was profit, while
          IT company, Sun Microsystems, spent $1 billion in February 2008 to
          acquire database provider, MySQL.

          The common thread is that both Linux and MySQL are open source
          systems. So what is open source?

          The core concept is that software developed in this way can be freely
          redistributed by others. Open source also guarantees open access to
          the software’s source code, the lines of programming that make up
          the application, to enable others to develop and improve it.

          This may sound as though the evolution of open source software is a
          free-for-all, but the truth is far from it. The development of open
          source technology is usually overseen by some form of governing
          organisation,   which    determines    the   general    direction   the
          development takes and which improvements are included in new
          versions.

          This organisation can take the form of a broad community of
          developers and users, as is the case with the Apache web server, or
          a dominant single company taking input from other companies and
          individuals, such as MySQL.

          Martin Michlmayr, a former project leader for Debian, an open source
          operating system, argues: “Open source is not a lawless frontier at
          all. There are clear license terms that have to be followed, even
though open source generally offers more freedoms than proprietary
software. It's true, that many organisations are still struggling to
understand open source and its license terms. That's why Hewlett
Packard, together with other partners, started a open source
governance community, FOSSBazaar, to share best practices.”

While the open source concept may seem unusual in a business
sense, it is far from new, with Red Hat arguing that scientists and
mathematicians have shared their discoveries with each other for
centuries with the goal of pushing forward the entire pool of
knowledge.

It is this culture of openness and transparency that open source
supporters say enables applications to be developed far more quickly
and at a lower cost than proprietary alternatives. Also, as open
source software is freely redistributed, this can lead to a rapid uptake
among a user base. Take, for example, the speed at which open
source web browsers such as Mozilla Firefox and Google’s Chrome
have been eating into Microsoft Internet Explorer’s domination of the
sector.

However, it is not just individuals who are downloading and using
open source software, businesses are embracing open source too.
LinkedIn, the professional social networking website, started using
MySQL to handle its database of more than 30 million people around
the world last year. At the time, the company’s chief technology
officer, Jean-Luc Vaillant, said that the “open and reliable
environment” it provides saves the company both “time and money".

According to John Newton, chief technology officer and co-founder of
Alfresco, a provider of open source content management systems
used by organizations as diverse as Islington Borough Council, the
French Air Force and games maker Electronic Arts, the company’s
software has been downloaded more than 1.5 million times. “It is
probably the most widely used content management system from an
open source perspective. We built the product, people try it and they
may pay for it but they may not,” he says.
The company makes its money through providing around 1,000
enterprises with technical support, training or consulting services to
develop their own applications using Alfresco as a platform.

Newton sees the development of Japanese car brands in America as
a good analogy for open source. “People admitted Japanese cars
were cheap, but argued they would cost you more because they
would break down more. Japan, by focusing on quality and cost, was
able to demonstrate that a Toyota does actually perform, gets you
from A to B and costs you less. That is how the Japanese became
the biggest car makers in the world.”

This is a huge challenge for makers of proprietary systems, like
Microsoft. A report in April 2008 by IT consultants Standish Group
estimated that open source technology results in suppliers of
proprietary systems losing $60 billion in revenues every year. “It is
the ultimate in disruptive technology,” says Jim Johnson, the group
chairman.

Yet proprietary software still dominates, with Standish Group
reckoning that open source has about 6 per cent of the entire market.
However, the drive to lower costs in the current economic downturn
may prove to be an unexpected fillip for open source.

Danese Cooper, an open-source expert who works for chip
manufacturer Intel, says: “The last time there was a downturn, open
source did really well, adoption-wise. People were incentivized by the
economic news to investigate change and, luckily, a number of open
source applications had just about come around to general
usefulness. It was a happy coincidence as well that Microsoft’s plans
to migrate to a subscription model were not well received.

“We've had other periods of explosive growth in adoption, however,
such as when the creator of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee,
declared that the Firefox browser was much more secure than
Internet Explorer. Price isn't the only reason people switch to open
source.”
           Michael Tiemann, vice president of open source affairs at Red Hat
           and president of the not-for-profit Open Source Initiative, says that
           the information and communications technology sector wastes up to
           a trillion dollars a year on proprietary systems that either do not work
           or do not deliver on their promises.

           The reason why open source commands this small yet growing
           percentage may be down to an unwillingness on the part of
           companies to go beyond brand recognition and established
           reputation.

           “A few days ago I was visiting several banks in Canary Wharf and the
           City. On television the entire day was one apology after another from
           banks whose fundamental business was trust and reputation. We are
           now living in a moment where claims of reputation are not sufficient
           to ensure delivery. We are using source code instead of reputation
           as a means to grade who is doing what, Tiemann says.

           “The honeymoon period for proprietary software is over. It remains a
           struggle for many executives to even begin to justify their investment
           in IT… Ten years ago I believed that there were reasonable
           exceptions for when to use proprietary software. I have since come
           to believe that proprietary software has no advantage, even for the
           most specific applications.”



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