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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Enough is Enough. Higher Education...? Wake Up

It has been gratifying to see the number of businesses and personal computers moving to Open Source software and the Linux Operating System. In our organization alone, the numbers, while small on a grand scale, are quite significant from where we stand. We've installed hundreds of Linux systems in the past two years and the retention rate of those systems are what we get excited about.

However...

I have received a spate of emails in the past 60 days, complaining about various universities and corporations that are disallowing most anything but Windows to access their systems. A good focal point for this can be found on a recent article here. Further evidence of public ignorance about Open Source Software was uncovered in the "Karen" donnybrook. In the most recent article reflecting the same subject, Carla Schroeder nailed it dead between the eyes.

I'm not writing this to bemoan the facts...I am going to write this in hope that we can get the attention of some people that can change this trend. We can only hope.

Many of you are not deserving of a tirade...you are simply conducting business the way business has been conducted since computer networking became a part of your operations. Hopefully we can work together. Some of you however are digging in your heels and refusing to smell 21st century air.

You are the people that I want to talk to.

First off, let's dispel a couple of things. I have sat in meetings with principals and school administrators and listened slack-jawed as system administrators (mostly MSCE's) told their employers that it was illegal to remove Windows from their current computers. They didn't say it violated their contracts or licenses...they said it was illegal.

That's either so uninformed that it raises the question "Why are you doing this job?" or it undeniably stands as a bold-faced lie.

Look. You are not only barring thousands of students and customers from your systems, you are forcing them to use an operating system that is inherently weak. In addition, you cry about your operating costs then when the tears dry, you write the check to Microsoft for the latest licenses.

We're dealing with "Higher Eduction" here, right?

Not so far as I can tell.

I have recently seen the depths of ignorance when it comes to Open Source Software and on a personal level I can understand it, but you get no such pass. Do you realize that by demanding that your students or customers use Windows, you are subjecting them to this? I want you to justify that to me. As the people making decisions as to how and by whom your systems can be accessed, I want you to justify it. I must subject myself to attacks like this for the privilege of accessing your site?

It's just one of a never-ending line of viruses and spyware tools that your system administrators have to battle. I know you are "invested" in Microsoft products...I realize that. I also know that your system administrators are deathly afraid of losing their jobs because they don't know the first thing about Linux. Many of them anyway...there are a number of them that are running Linux Servers behind your back because it makes their jobs easier...and that's a good thing. But for the ones that hold Microsoft to their breast and swear their undying loyalty?

Learn or leave....you are holding the world back from what is inevitable. Open Source will have a place in our technology...on a large scale.

Open Office documents send and receive .doc and exel spread sheets just fine. As in the story noted above, the uh...young lady lamented that she couldn't use anything but Microsoft Office because the formats on her Ubuntu computer were incompatible...?

Absolute nonsense. I am suspecting one of her professors told her just that. I have specific reasons to believe it.

I would expect a first year college student to be this ignorant, but as administrators of entire universities and server systems, I would expect a bit more breadth of knowledge.

Silly me.

I don't usually do edits once an article is posted but in this case it is important enough to make an exception. One astute and knowledgeable reader left us a link to an extremely successful migration of an entire school. No one is asking you to go to this extreme but it is posted just so you know that no one is asking you donate a kidney here...just some common courtesy in letting a popular alternative system gain access to what they need. You can see the success story here.

I had a conversation with an English Professor at the University of Texas today. He stated that his insistence his students purchase the "student discounted" copy of Microsoft Office to be more out of his laziness than for his real need for that particular program. Turns out that he just doesn't want to change his syllabus to inform his students they have a choice.

News flash Prof. Some folks just don't have a spare 150.00 laying around to sustain the Redmond Giant. You won't be able to tell a Linux-based .doc from a Windows-based one.

Now, we won't get specific here....for obvious reasons. Your "secure" system can be owned by about 17 people I know right off the top of my head...you just haven't merited their attention. Let's hope you stay below their radar. Your argument that Linux is only secure because it is obscure is also urban legend rubbish.

Take a look at this...

Now, we're going to be following up on this. Seems a certain University in Indiana is forcing some of it's students to purchase Microsoft Office or they are not being allowed to enroll. That's the report we are getting.

We'll be having a discussion with them this week. Hopefully we will report back that this was just a silly misunderstanding.

One of the questions we will be asking is this? Why do you capitulate to using or buying additional software so that the software you've already purchased will work as designed? Oh you don't do that?

Got anti-virus?

We'll also be asking a major medical center in New York why they insist that a growing number of Linux users cannot access their logins. We know why...it's a piece of proprietary software that they demand be used prior to login. Windows-based proprietary software.

We'll be talking to them as well and we'll publish the names of the organizations and the people we talk with. we'll also publish the conversation verbatim if possible.

Enough is enough.

This isn't an argument or discussion on which operating system is best. It's a statement that thousands and thousands of people are making the conscious decision to take control of their computers. I notice with a bit of humor that some of you boast of supporting Mac machines? That's nice. Some numbers indicate that Linux has surpassed Mac in user numbers a while back. Different entities will dispute this statistic and with good reason.

Linux is free so there are no real sales numbers to go by and internet polling is all over the place. Some show it as number two, others as a distant third. While that may be the case, there is sufficient evidence to show that Linux is growing in popularity by the day, and I mean substantial growth. One focused advertising effort by Linux and those numbers will change without any dispute.

Even Microsoft, in it's annual report to the SEC, cited Linux and Open Source software as the number one threat to their profit margin. I didn't see any mention of Mac in there at all. So you will support the number 3 system but number two gets the cold shoulder? We are talking millions of users in the US alone.

That leaves us with a couple of questions.

Who appointed your entity as the gatekeepers of our technology? You may not perceive yourself as such, but actions are leading some to think you are just that... the gatekeepers barring us from your sites. Linux users are growing in huge numbers and those numbers get bigger daily. I am hearing from Linux users about you at a disturbing rate.

Look, no one is asking you to embrace this thing fully, just tweak a couple of things to allow Linux users equal access to your portals and sites. Heck, pay my travel and one night's lodging, buy me a meal and I will come do it myself. I'm serious, I will be happy to do it and I am fully qualified to do so.

Why are you denying computer users simply because they choose to use a more secure operating system? In a short period of time, I will not be the only one asking you this question.

We'll be speaking shortly.

All-righty then...

142 comments:

Gedece said...

Of course, it's all about the lock-in. The problem isn't that people are just forced by it to remain using windows, they are encouraged to do so by people already in the lock-in that doens't want or doens't care to go out.

Anonymous said...

This has been a long time coming Helios. Now we just need the right eyes to see it.

Fred said...

Good article. The one teeny remark I have is this: you are obviously referring to past conversations with Windows zealots, especially that Prof, but we don't have the context. We can infer that Prof made pretty daring (and stupid) statements about Linux vs. Windows security, but it's not really clear.

I suggest you mention a bit more of the conversation you had with these induhviduals.

Keep it up.

kozmcrae said...

I think we may have misjudged the true impact of the digital revolution on our lives.

I see now that the Victorians were smarter than us in regards to a major change in their culture. Towards the end of the 1800's horse powered "vehicles" were the primary means of inner city travel. How quaint. New York City was getting buried in horse manure. That wasn't the only health hazard. Often times when overworked animals died they were left there to rot. Fortunately the automobile made its appearance and not a decade too soon.

The people in that era new a good thing when they saw it. The car was embraced as a better way to travel and they/we never looked back.

How then could they recognize the stinking piles of horse manure as something that wasn't needed any more? How is it that our society, for the most part, can nonchalantly accept stinking piles of malware on their computers as not just acceptable, but normal?

I believe that people were not ready for this new way of interacting with our World. Like getting in a car and saying giddy-up far too many people do not understand the simple concept of hardware and software. And far too many other people who do understand also understand the concept of proprietary lock-in which they use to keep their jobs and perpetuate outlandish concepts. Like adding extra software to your computer to keep it safe.

I hope I live long enough to see the World break out of its proprietary stupor. To see them read comments from the Web Archive in disbelief. To struggle with the reality of just how aggressively ignorant people were.

technoshaun said...

Ultimately I think people will be more educated about Linux and what it is, and what iy can do. Forward thinking is hard for many people but we have one major example that Ken forgot to mention.

The State of Oregon nearly uses FOSS exclusively in all its public schools. They even have a State sponsored distribution, which is available for download.

Why Oregon has moved this way isn't hard to figure, Linus Torvalds does live in Beaverton afterall, which is a suburb of Portland. The OSDL is headquartered in Beaverton as well.

Oregon has become a model for other states to follow and a few are looking at the results since Oregon has been able to reduce costs and improve student scores overall. The latter is mostly because they can now better target their budgets towards the students needs instead of paying MS $$$.

We do have real life examples and as far as countering the "Its illegal to remove Windows" lie well maybe we all need to find lawyers to volunteer their services to dispell this myth.

2009 isn't going to be the year of the Linux Desktop but Windows days are numbered as they keep loosing user share to Linux and MACs

JohnMc said...

I concur with both your observation and your method of assault. However I wish to caution you with a simple observation that you will need to be prepared for.

Tenure. As a concept not necessarily a fact of life. But the HE establishment is fully embed in the concept. Its there form of 'lockin' so seeing Microsoft do this to them would seem normal. So you have to be able to blunt the tenure argument without scaring away the patient.

As to the MSCE admins. I don't have a MCSE. I've been in the IT business back when an IBM 1401 Mainframe was considered a 'hot box'. Most MCSE's can't think WAN. Nor can most troubleshoot worth a hoot. Worse yet most are so inefficient because only a few ever take the time to learn WSH. Many's the time I fire off my Linux Python adduser script and head for the watering hole while as I pass by the MCSE is still coaxing the mouse to do the samething 500 times. Sigh...

Alecs Jonson said...

LEt me just try to keep it simple. I'm an administrator (one of these with mcse) but i'm the one who tries to throw a look now and then over the side of a plate, to look whats out there.

And i see many of my colleagues, who think of themselves in elitist way (thinking "windows is an enterprise operating system, linux is a joke") and these people just ban other systems out of their networks.

I even saw one admin who forbid one of our colleagues to put a mac onto network, because he could not operate that notebook...

Also don't forget it... Gandhi said "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." Linux is on third stage of that call. And we should try to learn from that guy. He knew how to win against one superpower of that time, but he did not fight back, he did not spit at them, he did not called them names, he just fought for himself and his country. All these kiddies who call names to people who are just discovering their way around one really complex system, and linux is complex one, screaming "RTFM!" and "Look here on this post, you just have to goolge it! YOU NOOB!", these people should look at their attitude towards newbies who are trying to win the war for them.

Linux may succede but linux has a loooong way to go, especially it's community.

Alecs

Anonymous said...

I'm in an IT program at ivcc in Illinois and one of my classes even puts its announcements in docx. Now this is a Windows oriented class and I can understand the homework needing to be in docx. Announcements are something a user needs to access at home requiring office 2007 or a docx reader for mere announcements is insanity.

James said...

What your saying maybe true, however I know for a fact that the Engineering department at WVU is trying to spread open source utilities to it's students and throughout both campuses. All you have to do is ask and they will provide you with a copy of Ubuntu and information sheets that contain commands. If you are in a computer science class your teachers will even recommend Linux because it is easier to submit your assignments to the schools network, than Windows.

Mike Shanahan said...

"Linux may succede but linux has a loooong way to go, especially it's community."

I'll agree to a point but more on the side of your second part, not so much on the first. I am the system admin for a large school district in Georgia. My bosses, the people that run this district, all but ordered me to run nothing but Windows, IIS and different server setups as the mission dictated. You know yourself the problems I face, especialy with IIS. The lamp systems I have built do the heavy lifting and if they should ever find out, there's no doubt I'd be in dutch with them.

The Linux Desktop is fine for most everyone, short of those who absolutely need a professional-grade app that just won't run under emulation. It doesn't have far to go at all, in fact it is ready for the masses. I visited a San Fransisco private school not too long ago as part of a conference and their high school runs nothing but Fedora. The two dozen or so students I talked to won't even consider using Windows under any other circumstance but emulation, and that's usually only for their gaming. One showed me his hacked Wii with an Ubuntu system. I was impressed.

The masses are simply too lazy (most of them anyway) to learn something new. I read with interest that this author directs a charity that builds computers and gives them to hundreds of kids and they all run Linux.

I think it's something we all need to look at. Those of us who "...don't hold Microsoft to our breasts and swear our allegiance."

Mike Shanahan
somewhere around Atlanta

Rudolfo Garcia said...

Hey Ken. This is Rudy Garcia. You and I worked together on the Community Center in San Antonio last November. Just wanted you to know that the lab you put together for us is a huge hit with the staff as well as the students.

Even you would be surprised at how many people are switching their computers over to Linux as a result of using this lab. I burn about 25 disks every Sunday night and by Thursday, I am having to burn about 5-10 more just to get through Saturday.

I may have another project on the horizon coming up in June or July. I hope we can count on The HeliOS Project to get us through it.

Thanks for all you do Ken. It's a privilege to work with a pro.

Rudy

Anonymous said...

@ technoshaun

Do you have a link to that Oregon distro?

Anonymous said...

Hi:

Kamloops (BC Canada) school district has been running Linux since 2001.

Huge savings on software costs and maintenance. Kids have no problems with it at all (my daughter ran Linux at home as well, so she was pleasantly surprised to see it in use at her high school.

Taxpayers and their children are now getting the most out of their tax dollars. All-in-all, a complete success, and there will be no turning back to the previous world of Microsoft lock-in.


http://www.sd73.bc.ca/district-operations.php/page/linux-in-education/

http://www.linux.com/articles/62285

Anonymous said...

Helios > The numbers indicate that Linux has surpassed Mac in user numbers a while back.

That article is from 2004 and it says Linux is on its way to surpass Macs. If it had happened, we would know it by now. Mac sales have picked up quite a bit since then and the market share of Linux on the desktop has grown, but not very fast.

Here's a large-scale survey of web users over the first 19 months of Vista availability.

http://www.xitimonitor.com/en-us/internet-users-equipment/operating-systems-august-2008/index-1-2-7-143.html

It puts Linux at 1.2 % and Macintosh at 4.1 % of the web users. The study may be biased towards European users; the share of Mac users might be higher in the US. Regardless, I don't think there is basis for claiming that Linux is number 2 ahead of Apple Mac on the desktop.

For the record, I'm a research scientist at a structural biology/bioinformatics lab of an European university. We pretty much run everything on Fedora and CentOS (more than two dozen desktops and servers), save for a few Mac and Windows laptops. The default platform for our kind of work used to be SGI Irix, from which we, and pretty much the entire field, has migrated to Linux and now also Macs.

We do teach classes using Fedora and some of the more enthusiastic and technically inclined students do install Linux on their own machines.

Fortunately the web course system of the university was changed from Blackboard (a total disaster) to Moodle a couple of years ago. Moodle has its warts, but compatibility with free browsers obviously is not one of them.

Ken Holmes said...

Ken, as always you address the good, the bad and the ugly in word and deed.
I want to take a minute to offer some praise to WKOW TV in Wisconsin. They came through for the young woman who purchased the Dell laptop with Ubuntu on it. Their effort to assist have shown her that she need not be trapped or left helpless. And apparently Dell is also responding to assist. I believe this is in the spirit of Helios. The more this happens the better.

Harold Fowler said...

LOL, Americas schools have been so "dumbed down" for the sake of Federal dollars that its truly scary, then lets not forget the "no child left behind" act which will allow a complete retard to pass to the next grade even with straight F's, is anyone surprised?

RT
www.anonweb.pro.tc

Anonymous said...

News flash Prof. Some folks just don't have a spare 150.00 laying around to sustain the Redmond Giant. You won't be able to tell a Linux-based .doc from a Windows-based one."

I'm a UT student. While I have nothing against linux (I triple boot ubuntu/vista/osx), your facts are wrong. Our "student discounted" office costs $20.00, and Windows itself costs $35.00.

Hilary said...

Oh Wow, the USA is finally catching up too the rest of the world, Ubuntu is after all an AFRIcan product, and the South African Schools (if not the govt depts and telcos) have over 2000 SuSe linux systems installed nationwide. South Africa has saved 2000 X 600 on M$ license fees = simple math will tell you (oh yes here the license is also exorbitant) what a saving that is. This means the children are benefiting not some behemoth company. Canonical gives the cd's away for free, all schools have to do is email them and they will get a pack of ten cd's anywhere in the world mailed to them. They have even got the school version with educational stuff on called EduBuntu. Also free with all the educational stuff schools need. License cost = $0.00 user interface time to learn = 2 hours.
total cost of ownership of the OS= $0 , return on the investment in time = intelligent techno-savvy kids that make the economy recover quicker.

George Gardei said...

Even though we mostly use Windows and Microsoft Office, we do support our students who use Linux or Mac computers. We do recommend they use Microsoft Office; but we do evangelize the free alternatives such as Open Office as long as they remember to save in 2000/2002/2003 format.

We are very careful at not alienating the other users so we install the conversion filters whenever possible on the staff computers so that they can open their students documents.

Anonymous said...

student copies of office/windows at my university are discounted some, but not very much (80 or so for business, 120 or so for office). fortunately since I'm at a tech school, open source support exists in the student body, and there are some fedora powered computer labs. But the amount of Microsoft propaganda i see day to day is astounding.

Anonymous said...

There is an obvious lag in getting the right numbers when it comes to counting Linux users and the businesses/schools that use Linux. When the dust settles, I think there are going to be a great number of statisticians scratching their heads.

I am a Principal for a large Jr. High School in Chicago. We have five computer labs running in my school alone and 4 of them are Linux machines. The other is Windows There are between 20 and 60 computers in each Linux Lab. There are 14 in the MS shop. We are not using Linux because it is cheaper, cost has nothing to do with it. Most of our students already know how to use a Windows machine. We teach Linux because it is going to be a significant force in the near future. We want our students to be prepared.

A year teaching in Europe showed me the impact that Linux has on an entire continent. The US is far, far behind Europe in getting their students trained in the use of Linux and I am afraid we will suffer greatly at the expense of some stockholders.

Profits are fine. Getting our young ones ready to compete in the world is more important. Many will be in for a rude awakening should they ever find themselves employed somewhere in Europe and discover they are not qualified as even an entry-level clerk because they can't operate their computer. It is a shame more educators don't see the sea change coming. We at this institution fortunately do.

Anonymous said...

No his numbers are not wrong. I graduated From Boise State last year and the school book store tried to soak me for 150.00 for my copy of Microsoft Office STANDARD, not pro. Windows Vista home was 95.00 and we were not given an option to purchase XP once Vista became available.

Fortunately, I got through all 4 years using Fedora and Mint Linux with Open Office never ever being questioned. All my .doc and spreadsheets were accepted, thanks to the Open Office people working so hard to make it work. Especially concerning spreadsheets.

Anonymous said...

The people has gotten used to Windows, that´s the problem. I can see it in my university, where all the computers use this OS and the moment they see a different one they just don´t know what to do and ask for help. I guess Windows is more user friendly, but the flaws in it are just way much, not to mention the great amount of cash you have to pay for it´s services.

I´m not defending windows, in fact I work with Ubuntu, I´m just trying to address why do people always tend to use this OS(windows).

For me it´s just a matter of showing everyone what Linux can do, and eventually they will change to this OS.

teachj said...

The problem is just as you see it 1) IT people who locked in to Windows/MS Office 2) bureaucrats who refuse to allow any other operating system than MS 3) legalistic fears of unlicensed open source software bringing down the copyright Nazis.

But you missed the real issues, lack of knowledge about Linux and the fact that Linux is more complicated. Most users NEVER install and operating system - NEVER! They don't want to. And Linux is more difficult than either MS or Mac.

Until Linux can find distribution pre-installed on machines, it is destined to remain behind and only for geeky techs. My new netbook came with a flavor of Linux on it. It works pretty good, but the WiFi is really clunky compared to my Mac or even my Windows box I must use at school (K-12 educator).

I see Netbooks as the way to get more people into Linux and off MS.

Nick said...

Reminds me of when I was in University. The IT head *hated* the Software Engineering Lab because not only was it student run, but it ran Linux. If it wasn't Windows, this guy hated it (it was rumored he owned MS stock). Anyway, the CS dept. wanted a Linux lab, and he fought tooth & nail against it, saying at a meeting with the administration that it was "impossible" to make the Linux lab interoperate with the existing MS network for posted course files etc. "Really?" said the future Linux lab admin, "The students in the Software Engineering Lab have been doing it for 6 months."

We got our Linux lab. :D

Dimitri said...

This I am finding a funny discussion. In Eastern Europe we look down on the Microsoft users as the uneducated ones. The wielding of American Dollars has brought Microsoft the advantage, not their product. They fear Linux and their history of breaking formats to impede it's use is proof enough of their desperation.

I am sorry for your financial woes but maybe the thieves on Wall Street have opened your eyes now. I am a happy capitalist but I am also a wary consumer. Americans should do so as well. Better software be made for and by the people and not profit incentive. Too many rely upon it for their existence.

Dimitri

Anonymous said...

Additional problem (at user side) is that the staff and (probably) most students are/would hinder a move to open-source. I had a research propasal assignment, in that I suggested writing about the problem students faces when collaberating with closed-source formats. I got it back with a lot of question marks what open-source is and why it is important.

Anonymous said...

Ok...so let me get this straight. Everyone should move from a fully supported operating system and office package to what?
Which flavor of Linux should we run today? Who do I call for support? Oh wait! That's right I can just search through the millions of forums on the internet to try to solve my problems! That should really increase my productivity!
Get over it people! Linux is here for the geeks and until there are standards and support systems in place then that's how it will stay!

Blog of helios said...

@ zesty

Did you read the very first block on my blog?

Many of the kids we build computers for visit this blog. Please post anything you want but do it with the thought of an 11 year old child sitting next to you. Our kids get exposed to enough garbage in the world, let's not add to it here. We can't "clean up" the internet, but we can do our part not to add to the garbage pile. - Thanks for being part of what we do. - h

Thank you for your IP address and your physical location. I have submitted it to a friend at Time Warner so I can get your identity. Your post has been deleted and you have been banned from this site. You come onto a site where it is posted that children visit and you use language like this?

Tell you what pal. If you live within 500 miles of me, I will be more than happy to come visit you face to face and discuss the filthy language you post on my site. I could care less how much I offended your Mac sensibilities. You can dispute my stats all you want. In fact, I disputed them myself if you bothered to read.

You are a number one canidate for some very close and personal attention from me if you ever foul the space my kids read again.

And no pal, that isn't a threat, it's a gold-lined promise.

Ken Starks

Blog of helios said...

I don't mean to be rude but your statement that follows has to be the most inaccurate and uninformed statement on this blog.

And Linux is more difficult than either MS or Mac.

I have installed hundreds of linux systems on computers in the past 2 years for disadvantaged kids. See heliosinitiative.org I have held Linux labs in various schools for two years and we have 11 and 12 year old kids who install Mint, Fedora 9 and 10, Ubuntu and Mepis without any problems at all. The only time there is any question is when it comes to partitioning.

Windows takes hours to install, Linux takes minutes. Proliferating untrue statements like you just made isn't making things easier. Two of my machines have went to Downs Syndorome children. Collin picked it up in less than 20 minutes. I am sure if you run into trouble with Linux, I could arrange an email support session with him and he'd be glad to help.

h

Andrew Magnus said...

To anonymous

"Which flavor of Linux should we run today?"

Were you dropped repeatedly as an infant? The author stated that he isn't particularly interested in them changing systems, just allowing Linux users access. Any second year networking student can do this in about 30 minutes.

You are picking a fight where there is none needed. Sheesh, and they say the Linux community is combative. Let me guess. You use antivirus to assure the system you bought from Gates will work, Right? You go right ahead quisling. The new Windows is due out any time. Good luck with that.

Shreepad said...

I think one of the reasons why most people still prefer windows is the limited user friendliness offered by most versions of linux.
Hopefully with the growing popularity of ubuntu, things will change

Smoken said...

You have many valid points but your tone and generalization make it seem you are going off the deep end. They are broadcast because they are inflammatory but I believe they work against the desired result.

The simple facts are enough without much embellishment. If the facts are not enough well you just dont have much chance of winning anyway.

Two things many peoples only claim to fame and the very center of their self worth revolves areound putting someones CD in the tray and following the instructions. They cant program they cant even really problem solve. Taking that away is a scary and humiliating experience. Yes some are simply a waste of skin but a few are willing to learn or at minimum accept some other ecology of software.

In other words you get more Bees with honey than vinegar.

Progman3K said...

Hi!

I switched my desktop to Linux in 2003 and have never gone back, never needed to reinstall, never had a virus, only rebooted or crashed 4 or 5 times in ensuing time.

Yes, Linux is best, we all know it but

Shhhh! Can we please keep it a secret?

I used to do tech support for my family and friends. It was hell.

These days I simply say "Windows? Sorry, I run Linux, I can't remember Windows." and golden peace has arrived.

Do you want to ruin that for me?

I know it sounds selfish, but when we finally get over the hump and EVERYBODY will be running Linux, they'll come crawling out of the woodwork again and I'll have to switch to Plan9.

All the same, keep fighting the good fight, your common sense is welcome. Try not to hit anyone over the head in exasperation, it's useless.

People come to the realization that Gnu is right all by themselves, eventually, after being burned enough.

It's like offering your opinion, it's useless to do so until the person ASKS you for it because no matter how much grief you can save them, they just aren't ready to hear you yet.

Yes, I realize I'm contradicting myself here by offering advice. *sigh* Good luck, then.

Anonymous said...

I have used Windows, Linux (Redhat, Ubuntu, FreeBSD, etc), and Apple products in both my student, work, and personal life. I would think it very odd that Macs and Linux machines would not be allowed access on campus but as far as the business world you will need Windows knowledge. Just like there are myths about Linux and Macs, there are some about Windows and as far as a secure system, if you keep you windows (Vista or Win 7) machine patched with a good firewall it is as secure as either Macs or Linux. I have 5000 Windows systems that I manage (most running XP) and very rare do we get virus or malware issues.

But I agree, if you are doing higher education (even high school) you should learn Linux. Macs? They are eye candy and can run some Linux apps but are over priced. A Mac is what you wear to be trendy and fit in with the "in" crowd.

Coughlin said...

I know that your general aim is to preach the wonders of Linux, and the evils of OS/Windows, but your articles/rants need continuity. I totally agree with you; I'm just throwing it out there that people might be more receptive to your witty sarcasm if you try a more traditional way of writing.

ps Loved the one about the teacher who wrote you saying that Linux was illegal. I laughed uncontrollably.

Ryan Sommers said...

@teachj

LOL...might be a good idea to find out who the blogger is and what he does before posting. Some of that stuff you could get away with elsewhere but helios is renowned for teaching even the most technically dim how to use Linux in about 30 minutes. He really is a wonder to behold in a classroom of kids. I've seen him turn an unruly mob into an attentive class in two minutes.

He's not kidding about the boy Collin, the one with Downs Syndrome. I have the pleasure of knowing him and his Mom. Don't take what he said personally...he was simply making a point.

Ryan

Blog of helios said...

@ Progman3K

So NOW you give me the wisdom of The Sage. I had hair when I started this journey...and man, it wasn't that long ago.

LOI

Ken

ater said...

A school called "ridgeview classical schools" a K through 12 charter school switched to linux back in 2004 because they decided windows was "too expensive".

There were a lot of growing pains, but I think much of the mumbling about things not working quite right has gone away. I wish I could remember which distro, but I can't.

Blog of helios said...

@ coughlin

you try a more traditional way of writing.


Tried it.

Totally ignored.

But thanks...you are a friend and I appreciate it.

Ken

Anonymous said...

"...so uninformed that it begs the question "Why are you doing this..."

You do not know what "begs the question" means. Look it up on Wikipedia. You mean "...it raises the question..."

I stopped reading because you are obviously an ignorant poseur.

Anonymous said...

Reading these comments is interesting, and I think it's a reflection of the Linux community and its argument for the os. What I see is a group of technology savvy people assuming linux is the best choice for is supposed usability. These are the same people who have spelunked through forums, experimented with distros, and could handle themselves through most any troubleshooting scenario.

Put yourself in this situation. A small town school district with no IT on staff. The staff uses myriad web apps, software, hardware according to its own discipline within the school, and they must all work in order for the school to function. Plus, most of the staff need training on simply how to use their gradebook app, let alone troubleshoot problems on their desktop.

This administrator has some options.

They could force the faculty to undergo training to learn how to use linux and open office, then use it in their day to day on school computers (keep in mind that there is no IT on staff. This is assuming they could actually do everything they normally did in mac or windows. A variant of this is that they abandon those practices and undergo training for new ones supported by the linux distro.

They could install it on a couple of systems (student labs, willing teachers), but must be guaranteed that any district-wide technology requirements must be met (curriculum mapping software, student info web apps, gradebooks, etc) - teachers must be able to do everything on their linux desktop.

Or, they could hold with mac or windows, trusting that there are people who's jobs it is to support their efforts in technology, making tasks like setting up a network, enabling plug-and-play usability for special education hardware, and others easy.

The people who work at Apple or Microsoft or any other software companies are needed. Schools would rather pay for quality than spend their time (used to teach kids) relying on a "community" to solve their problems in their spare time.

Anonymous said...

Alright, I feel the need to be a voice of reason here for the IT admins in higher education. I myself am a Tech Director for a college within out university and I think you're all missing a major point. Its not about whats better or more enlightened or even what's cheaper, its all about efficiency.

You see the problem is that we have the following challenges:

1) Low funding
2) Little in the way of training budgets
3) Next to no free-time for experimentation
4) High tech to support client and high tech to machine ratios
5) The security nightmare of an open environment people bring machines into at will

What all these create are a need for minimal standards. Since the average kid will have a windows or mac pc when he or she shows up that's the standard. Since faculty already have added 100% to their job description in the past 25 years I don't ask them to also add a new operating system that is not the standard of business or their respective fields. There are exceptions, I use ubuntu in a VM for some things, and others use it for diagnostics and such, but for the person I have to support its Windows, because thats what they bring to us, thats the skill set they have, and in reality if you want us to teach as opposed to troubleshoot thats the way it will be.

It isn't fair, its not enlightened, its rationale and realistic to the variables we're given. If you all want different things from us at the University tech wise give to our endowments so we can hire more faculty and staff and have more time to address the open source solutions out there, we'll take it.

Finally, I think that nobody has considered here how much software is windows only. Sorry, its just true. I work with nursing students...we can't get their software ported to mac let-alone a flavor of Linux. Why? The medical industry is windows, through and through. The publishers of educational medical software have no interest in Linux or mac because its less than 5% of their audience. Its like Ford creating a new gas guzzling huge version of the F250 with leather interior, satellite gps, satellite radio, video screens for the kids with HDMI for their game console, standard because they know some 5% of their market CAN use it.

Linux and open source are important to the software ecosytem, but you have to acknowledge that efficient they are not (at least not yet).

Luis Ribeiro - Portugal said...

As a linux user (and I do mean user.), I just have one thing to say.

Thank you !!

J said...

"Schools would rather pay for quality than spend their time (used to teach kids) relying on a 'community' to solve their problems in their spare time."

Of course, you are right: schools should never have anything to do with community efforts. They really should encourage corporations instead.

Also, you write as if using Windows and Macs will suddenly cause unicorns and rainbows to appear. That there won't be any problems.

This is NOT the case. Interoperability, even among all-the-same-version of Microsoft's software is a joke at best and a nightmare in truth.

So if they are using Windows and butt up against problems then what shall they do?

Often they must format and reinstall. Other than that, their options are to click some dialog boxes or possibly tweak some registry settings. Are these the priceless skills which you hesitate to part with?

What if that isn't enough to solve their problem(s)?

They can read the MS support knowledgebase forums? OK, same goes for Linux.

Let's say it's a deep problem­, a true bug in the way the program was written.

They have NO source, so it is obvious they cannot fix it by themselves nor by hiring someone. They must wait for Microsoft to fix the problem. The track-record shows MS might get around to it in a few years.

Using Linux and Gnu on the other hand, they at least have the possibility of fixing the problem themselves or hiring someone to fix it because they DO have the source.

There is an interesting side-effect to this, as time goes on, people know MORE about how things work (not less) and are more and more able to help themselves. The contrary approach leaves them at the mercy of a certain number of 'priests' who keep all the knowledge to themselves and whose motivations are mostly greed.

You never stated if the mythical school you are discussing has any support budget.

If they do, then they can pay a hefty price to MS for support (what is it now, $100/hour?) or they can pay a Linux person for support/coding.

In the long run, one of the two approaches will cost more money and leave you just as vulnerable after every new operating system upgrade. Guess which.

Fred said...

Progman3k writes:


These days I simply say "Windows? Sorry, I run Linux, I can't remember Windows." and golden peace has arrived.

Do you want to ruin that for me?

I know it sounds selfish, but when we finally get over the hump and EVERYBODY will be running Linux, they'll come crawling out of the woodwork again and I'll have to switch to Plan9.


Actually, I was in this situation. My weekends were spent deworming Windows machines, removing spyware, etc. I had enough.

I made an offer to the family and friends PC users I supported: Either they switched to Linux, or they have to find another source of support.

So I installed Linux (Mandriva first, then Ubuntu) on these machines, and spend some time holding hands so that the users were able to do basic tasks.

I got my weekends back. Now my only interventions are for "biggies" such as a dead hard drive or a flaky power supply. Oh, and lately, I halped an in-law migrate from an old Mandriva distro to the latest Ubuntu LTS and realized that I hadn't done much work on his machine in the few years since that Mandriva had been installed.

Get your weekends back, install Linux.

Anonymous said...

To the anonymous 'medical' poster:

http://linuxmednews.com/

You really do need to get out more...;-)

And as for software in education, etc.
Well, what do you want? I'm a high school teacher who has been using linux exclusively in all of my classes since 2000. No problems. Heck, my students WRITE any software we want/desire! :-)

So drop off some suggestions, and we'll see what we can do! :-)

*** MS free since 2000, and we're luvin' it! :-) ***

http://cdneducation.blogspot.com/

Hugo said...

From what I can see you live In Austin Tx

If so I am a student at Concordia on 620 and 2222 under the computer science program I am more than willing to help you in your quest to put more linux computers out there.

If you need any help making a case against the superintendent or maybe making a public speech at a conference or to show a real live example of how college students could benefit from Linux and Open Source I would be willing to help your cause

Hugo
Hugo@BneAdvertising.com
512 317 8452

Anonymous said...

> you are forcing them to use an operating system that is inherently weak.

Please refrain from the unsubstantiated pot-shots and stick to the core point of the matter. Windows Vista SP1 is every bit as stable and secure as, say, Fedora 9. Your average student (and by "average student," I do not mean "average third-year CS major") is more productive on Windows Vista SP1 than on Fedora or Ubuntu. Plenty of Dell and Asus customers getting Ubuntu boxen have much to say about Linux, and "weak" would be on the soft side.

That said, I attribute much of the ignorance regarding the law and computer software in part to the RIAA and BSA campaigns. These organizations of (perhaps inadvertently) bred a perspective that unless some commercial company explicitly authorizes an action you take with your computer, it must be somehow against the law. Responsible commercial software companies will suggest to their customers to only take actions that are legal, and some will go so far as to indemnify their clients against copyright and patent claims, so just using their suggested solutions is somewhat less risky than going it on your own.

Of course, replacing Windows with Linux is not in and of itself an illegal act. However, using unlicensed patented technology in Linux does expose you to some potential legal risk; risk that you do not incur when you use software by a commercial company that indemnifies you. I am not addressing whether these patents themselves are good or bad right now; I am just making an observation that they are present and that there is real legal risk. You can choose to ignore that risk or even flaunt it, but it is nonetheless still there, and you should not leave potential adopters of Linux uninformed about those issues in your campaign to get Open Source Software more widely adopted. Let them know that they should not be installing OSS unless they are also willing to get politically involved in patent reform -- or legally involved in patent litigation.

(I am not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice. I speak only for myself.)

kozmcrae said...

@Anonymous

"I have 5000 Windows systems that I manage (most running XP) and very rare do we get virus or malware issues."

Someone I know who works at Disney saw your comment. They want to make a movie about it!

Randy Messerman - University of Arizona said...

I stopped reading because you are obviously an ignorant poseur.

And I immediately assumed you are a white wine, cheese-eating snob. Tell me, do you wear your trendy sweater tied by the sleeves around your neck when there is a chill?

Poseur?

"Begs the question" is actually an acceptable term. While not technically and grammatically correct, it's been accepted due to it's over-use...such as the term "irregardless", which made it into Websters two years ago. I find it rather funny that you site wikipedia as your source. I can round up 20 completely inaccurate articles there in less than ten minutes. Of course you would look there to meet your needs.

Besides, I believe the gentleman acts as a Linux Advocate, not a Professor of the English Language.

I for one am glad you stopped reading. We might of had to suffer even more of your pretentious corrections and brow beatings as you looked down your nose at an honest effort and a well stated mission.

I live and work with a large number of pretentious snobs. You would fit nicely into their ranks.

Dr. Randolph Messerman
University of Arizona - Tucson

Andrew Magnus said...

Please refrain from the unsubstantiated pot-shots and stick to the core point of the matter. Windows Vista SP1 is every bit as stable and secure as, say, Fedora 9.

Oh Brother...Do you follow links when authors offer them?

http://www.scmagazineus.com/No-end-in-sight-for-massive-Windows-worm-outbreak/article/126057/

And yup...your precious Windows Vista SP1 is the prime target...just as soon as the user discovers how to bypass the administrative rights thing, and most do after the first week, they are SCREWED.

Read, read, read...

Anonymous posters post anonymously for a reason. Hard to put a name to a blushing face.

Andrew Magnus
Austin Texas

Ryan said...

In the long run, one of the two approaches will cost more money

And in my district, it would be switching to Linux. We'd have to hire a new tech trained in the system, at about $40,000 a year. Factor in all the computer down time, training 130+ teachers, 20 administrators, ~50 paraprofessionals, and on, and on.

It's not practical on scale for my needs. As near as I can tell, it won't be for some time.

Anonymous said...

"I had a conversation with an English Professor at the University of Texas today. He stated that his insistence his students purchase the "student discounted" copy of Microsoft Office to be more out of his laziness than for his real need for that particular program. Turns out that he just doesn't want to change his syllabus to inform his students they have a choice.

News flash Prof. Some folks just don't have a spare 150.00 laying around to sustain the Redmond Giant. You won't be able to tell a Linux-based .doc from a Windows-based one."

I graduated from UT a couple years ago. The student discounted copies of MS-Office were like $5, and Windows was like $10. Every student was eligible for them. Where are you getting $150 from? Oh, I see, it's simply an exaggeration and this is a blog so good journalism (you know, not just making stuff up) is frowned upon.

Also, there are like 3-5 libraries on campus with student accessible computers that all have Office, you didn't have to buy anything. Next you'll be making a case that students should be allowed to turn in hand written papers, because how could professors require students to spend $3000 (I can do the whole exaggeration thing too) on a computer to write their papers.

Anonymous said...

An issue that I would like to see addressed in this and other forums on IT in the schools is the fact that Linux can deploy on the student's desktop, not just a collection of useful application clients, but a complete computing environment on which the student can learn, almost entirely by self instruction, every aspect of IT. Want to learn to program? The compilers,libraries, and debuggers are included in the distro. NOT SO with M$.

With Linux, the same machine which acts as your web browser, e-mail client, graphing calculator, pdf reader, slide-show display, spreadsheet- & word- processor can be set up as a web server, print server, mail server, database server, network router, dhcp server, firewall, multimedia jukebox, streaming media server, diskless-workstation server, etc., etc. NOT SO with M$.

All of this can be accomplished on the typical student's near poverty-level budget. For ~$150-$200 & some smart shopping at PC repair/recycling shops or Goodwill/Salvation Army outlets, a serious student can outfit an entire IT/CS lab-in-a-box & spend his/her time actually LEARNING "Computing:A-Z." Try doing THAT with M$.

Although M$ and a disturbingly large number of school/university administrations treat students & tax- & tuition-paying parents as if they have no brains, IMO this this issue truly is a NO-BRAINER!

Matt Ettinger said...

Oh, I see, it's simply an exaggeration and this is a blog so good journalism (you know, not just making stuff up) is frowned upon.

Hmmmmm. Thought the same thing. Called 11 college book stores Saturday morning to get Office and Windows prices. Cheapest for either was 70.00. UT must be on the fringe of the poverty belt to get prices like that. I won't be like you and accuse someone of lying.

Maybe you just remembered the pricing incorrectly. Why don't you do what I did and call around yourself? I was ready to jump all over this guy for the same thing. Postings from others above are reporting the same price range for their schools. Some cheaper some not.

At least I didn't pull the trigger on this blogger without knowing what I was talking about.

Oh and your name was...what again?

Oh yeah. Anonymous. It's easy to call people liars when there's no threat of getting your nose broken.

Matt Ettinger
Flint, MI

Ken Holmes said...

"Of course, replacing Windows with Linux is not in and of itself an illegal act. However, using unlicensed patented technology in Linux does expose you to some potential legal risk...."

It is to your credit that you say you are no lawyer. You are not well informed either.

Anonymous said...

And at the university where I work, *every* administrative memo that gets emailed is now a .docx file with 99% of them being straight text.

J said...

Oh, about Linux infringing on I.P.

It doesn't.

I can state that because ALL of its source-code is available for verification, and NO infringement has been found to date!

Microsoft on the other hand has been shown to infringe on others I.P. MANY times and have been in court over it countless times.

Also as far as your being 'protected' by MS in the case of infringement, no one has ever tested that, and if they ever do, the fine print in the MS EULA clearly states that they cannot be held accountable (beyond $5) for any problems you may incur.

Anonymous said...

I attend Devy University which uses the eCollege back-end. Fortunately that isn't really an issue, because I can still do *all* my school work using a Citrix Client to log into their iLab. I also have a Windows Virtual Machine. Sadly, I was basically *forced* to use the Virtual Machine because my school is switching to a program called MyScribe which is Windows-only crap. However, they *did* have an HTML version of the books so I could use those instead but they're phasing them out! I would be left high and dry with no access to books because the school insisted on using MyScribe only! So, to remedy this I was forced to make a 3GB Virtual Drive to install Windows XP on a Virtual Machine just to use MyScribe. I wish I didn't have to do this! I talked to the school about it, but they *insist* that MyScribe is better.

Anonymous said...

"Open Office documents send and receive .doc and exel spread sheets just fine"

What about opening and editing them? And more importantly, what about opening and editing docx? I've noticed a trend with Linux bloggers who seem to deliberately avoid mentioning the docx thing.

If I send you a docx file, are you able to edit it, save, and send it back to me in the same format?

technoshaun said...

Went looking for it the Oregon State Distro and surprisingly found nothing. Seems they still use Linux but no longer develop their own K-12 based distro and instead use various distros now.

Anonymous said...

If you need to get into websites that block Linux users based on a browser version check, just install Wine and run the Windows version of Firefox through it.

Anonymous said...

Ah, linux fanboys amuse me so.

technoshaun said...

"What about opening and editing them? And more importantly, what about opening and editing docx? I've noticed a trend with Linux bloggers who seem to deliberately avoid mentioning the docx thing."

There is an Ooo extension for docx files. You can open and edit the, and save them but not in the docx format. Concerning the controversy behind OXML and that ODS is far more an accepted and truly open standard, why would I want to use OXML? Especially when there are some proven security risks.



Add to that OXML is a major controversy and is being both challenged by ISO members and its ISO standardization is also under legal challenge in several countries.

OXML is a huge joke and MS itself is not fully implementing it due to some serious flaws.

Since OXML has been introduced I have come across only one docx file I needed to open. Did that in 30 seconds.

JM said...

My entire town; Hermon, Maine is open source, to the extent of free dial up for any town resident and a free computer that can access the network. Each citzen or student is entitled to a unique ID that allows you to instantly work on your own system, with your own 20gb of space and system settings (Fedora core), it also includes Citrix access to all users for Windows XP if they need it.

It allows me to connect to my schools workstation from a special NXClient (on my personal laptop), Broswer, or from any computer in the school (all 4 at different locations), town office, and lets me see my own files, installed applications, and personalized settings. It also tunnels my connection through theirs. The entire high school of 650 has over 100 computers due to the fact they are dummy machines that boot through the LAN system, and were all donated. This allows the IT here to buy nice LCD screens, and peripherals. It also means that by going open source the school's only costs are for each additional 100 or so users (to get a new server and set of HDs). They hope to expand this into neighboring towns, as the high shcool serves 3 towns. Already nearly the entire town has an account and email, which allows the town to post City Council Minutes, and other important notices on the Firstclass system.

So for nearly all the residents, including businesses in Hermon and students and families in surrounding towns can access things like email fc.hermon.net , or their personalized Linux/Citrix desktops at nxclient.hermon.net , from anywhere.

quetwo said...

Two comments:

(a) the "university in Indiana" that you mentioned decided to purchase a copy of MS Office for each of their enrolled students, not require them to use it. Many classes will require it, as the students get the software for free.

(b) I work for a major university (not the one in Indiana you mentioned). Our department makes great use of Linux and Unix based server -- approximately 3/4 of our servers are on some *nix OS. However, our budgets are under constant assault from every angle -- including our vendors, our government, and our students. The Linux adoption rate for the people who use my applications are less than 1%. Should I spend extra money and development effort to make sure my applications work for the absolute minority of my community? Web-driven applications (HTML, etc) are easy to make sure they work with 3rd rank OSs, but other applications, ones that require frameworks and compiler are much harder. Because of the tools available to me, I can create a Windows application, and spend an extra 20% of my time to make sure it works on the Mac (which holds about a 35% market share in our community). I would have to spend an additional 20% to make it work with a single variant of Linux. In my case, it just isn't worth it, and I can't justify not adding a new feature to both the Windows and Mac version to support the few people that could use my app.

And even if I did make it work, people would still complain. Just look at how much the Linux community threw Adobe under the bus when the ported the Flash Player for Linux. "It doesn't support my variant of Linux!" "It's not open source!" "it doesn't support 64-bit!". Wha, Wha, Wha. It really doesn't make me even WANT to support Linux.

Anonymous said...

Very Very well said.

max'z said...

please anybody!!! Help. I am a student going to the Saint Petersburg junior college Florida. For the course of keyboarding, I had to buy the Microsoft Office pack as it was needed for the Keyboarding Pro Deluxe software to run and check errors. I couldn't use Open office or any other software as the Keyboarding software wont recognize it. I implore you to contact my college and make them adopt into an open source environment in their labs and in their teaching methods as the cost of the books itself is a big burden to shoulder. I had to shell out money for the windows operating system and office for that particular class.Please Help. The teacher who promotes this keboarding software:

Barzen,William A.
E-mail: Barzen.Bill@spcollege.edu
Web Page: http://it.spcollege.edu/course_info/inquiry.cfm?number=791

Blog of helios said...

Anonymous responding to Matt Ettinger is banned via IP address for foul language. As per the very top of this blog

Only one hard and fast rule here
Many of the kids we build computers for visit this blog. Please post anything you want but do it with the thought of an 11 year old child sitting next to you. Our kids get exposed to enough garbage in the world, let's not add to it here. We can't "clean up" the internet, but we can do our part not to add to the garbage pile. - Thanks for being part of what we do. - h


That's twice someone on this blog today suggested you need your nose broken. Keep your foul language off my blog.

h

Blog of helios said...

I had to shell out money for the windows operating system and office for that particular class.Please Help. The teacher who promotes this keboarding

We're on it Monday morning for you. Email me at helios at fixedbylinux dot com Tuesday.

h

JC Vesters said...

"It really doesn't make me even WANT to support Linux."

That's fine...there are people who care about those who cannot afford MS software that will. You just go on along your way and pretend that your righteous indignation is enough to justify your attitude. Someone among us will take up your slack.

in fact, Give me the specifics and I will do it for you. I have the money and the time. I will even lie and tell people you did it. You can take the credit and be the hero...I could care less who is named, as long as it gets done. email me at jvester99@gmail.com and I will see what I can do.

No wait...I bet it's proprietary isn't it? Never mind.

Sleep well.

John Vesters
Taos NM

Ryan Sommers said...

if you keep you windows (Vista or Win 7) machine patched with a good firewall

I've ran the same linux distro 24/7 356 for 25 months and I've never patched it nor do I have a firewall except my router. It's been probed and prodded until it's bruised but no one has ever got inside it or affected its performance

Let's make a wager, you and me. The loser has to buy the winner any one standard computer of his choice. We exchange nothing but true public IP numbers to be verified by a third party. The first one to gain control of the other computer wins. Cap on machine cost is 2000.00

You can contact me at sommersetvilla at gmial dott kom.

Now....let's see about that patched and firewalled computer. We have...uh, about 70 witnesses so far. I am in Afghanistan and I can own your box inside 48 hours if it's XP, 56 if it's vista...I don't care what firewall you run.

Come on man...people are waiting.

Ryan Sommers

Anonymous said...

> > Please refrain from the unsubstantiated pot-shots and stick to the core point of the matter. Windows Vista SP1 is every bit as stable and secure as, say, Fedora 9.
>
> Oh Brother...Do you follow links when authors offer them?
>
> http://www.scmagazineus.com/No-end-in-sight-for-massive-Windows-worm-outbreak/article/126057/
>
> And yup...your precious Windows Vista SP1 is the prime target...just as soon as the user discovers how to bypass the administrative rights thing, and most do after the first week, they are SCREWED.

Is this really the best counter-example to my argument about Vista vs. Linux security that you can come up with? Let's see... the IT department needs to allow the user to obtain admin rights in the domain group policy, the user needs to actually put himself into the admin group, the IT department needs to allow passphrases to be weak, and then the user needs to supply a bad passphrase (one that can be brute-forced) as his authentication credential. There are no inherent weaknesses in the software that are exploited by this worm (e.g., via a buffer overflow or a bypass of the authentication or authorization mechanisms of the operating system). This worm exploits poor widespread IT practices, not Vista SP1. If any flavor of Linux ever manages to achieve the same level of market penetration as Vista already has, you can bet there would be a passphrase-guessing worm floating around compromising millions of Linux boxen. It would actually just be easier to exploit Apache, MySQL, or one of the many other privileged OSS applications that have been riddled with vulnerabilities since kingdom come.

Anonymous said...

Hey I got an idea. Why don't you take the challenge stated above by the guy in Afghanistan. You aren't the one he was talking to but maybe he'll go with you.

I'm game to watch and see. This way you can prove just how right you are.

So you gonna do it?

Anonymous said...

Want 100% document compatibility?

Simple give every student a free copy of OpenOffice 3 on CD at the start of term, and insist on every student submits documents in ODF format or PDF (both formats are produced by OpenOffice)

OpenOffice 3 is free ($0) to the student and the University, is dead easy to install, will install on Windows, Mac, and Linux, and there are no piracy issues relating to use restrictions and multiple installation.

By comparison MS Office costs a lot of money, has usage restrictions, every version is mutually incompatible, and has lots of user licencing restrictions.

Why the hell the administrators haven't built up a sufficient IQ to figure this out as the perfect solution beats me.

Anonymous said...

To those who are claiming that they can get Windows and MS Office for under $10 at the local book store: this is solely the media cost. There are additional costs that are rolled in to your tuition each semester to maintain the program. At the University of Iowa, this is somewhere between $15-$30 per semester. I recall hearing of places where the software can run up to $75 per year. This program is the Microsoft Campus Agreement (in contrast to the Microsoft Select Agreement; the prices are higher for the Select Agreement, but they don't have nearly the restrictions that the Campus Agreement does iirc).

In addition to the "media cost", the Campus Agreement (Campus Software Assurance?) program requires that if the university discontinues the program, your licenses evaporate and you must discontinue using the software (I don't know if must return your software; pretty sure you have to destroy all copies of it). If you leave the university for any reason other than graduation, your licenses evaporate and you must discontinue using the software. Your license will also evaporate when you graduate, but only at graduation do you have a window (a few weeks, iirc) to petition the university to give you a permanent license.

The most important thing to note about the Windows licenses at universities is that they are upgrade licenses only. I know for a fact that it's true of Software Assurance licenses, and that it's true for all Microsoft volume licenses. I don't know if the software you get from the Select Agreement is upgrade only or not; Iowa has the Campus Agreement that I discussed above. This boils down to the fact that you must purchase Windows twice. Once either OEM (cannot be transfered between computers) or retail (much more expensive but can be transfered between computers) and then again from the Campus Agreement.

The most annoying thing to me personally (besides being a Linux user and unable/not needing to use the software I was paying $15-30 per semester for!) was the fact that not only was Microsoft "taxing" all of my computer purchases (thank God for the EEE with Linux pre-installed!) but they've now moved into taxing my education!

Anyway, I hope this helps explain the price disparities people were reporting.

Anonymous said...

"tuition" should read "tuition and fees"

Anonymous said...

(quote)
Anonymous JC Vesters said...

"It really doesn't make me even WANT to support Linux."
(quote)

I am sure there are lots of lazy and incompetent administrators with exactly the same attitude. The evidence of this is of course what this article is all about.

It is about doing your job properly and competently and providing an IT solution that can be used by to all students, rather than making them spend and run around in circles in order to accommodate your ignorance and lazyness. It is not difficult to do in reality if you couldn't care less attitude is restrained.

Anonymous said...

"And even if I did make it work, people would still complain. Just look at how much the Linux community threw Adobe under the bus when the ported the Flash Player for Linux. "It doesn't support my variant of Linux!" "It's not open source!" "it doesn't support 64-bit!". Wha, Wha, Wha. It really doesn't make me even WANT to support Linux."

Yes they complain about everything which is computer related? And so do everybody else too.

But don't blame the Linux people for being a bit ahead with the 64-bits thingy. There have been 64-bits support in Linux since the first 64-bits processor came. They are a restless crowd waiting too whating too see that other also can experience a secure, advanced and safe computer OS. It's basically a good itension do you ask me.

Problem as I see it in schools is the the Active Directory lockout. This is "holy grail" of every Windows admin and a good system for administrating computers on a network too. It would help the Linux OS if it would easy integrate with AD.

My advice is too use Windows for gaming and fun and Linux for serious business work. If you must run Windows apps then run it in a virtual OS which makes is easy to backup and restore when it breaks down (like it sometimes do).

D. Cooper said...

Hi,

I would like to follow up with the post about Oregon schools above.

Microsoft threatened Oregon and Washington school districts with a software audit if the school district did not purchase a site wide license.

Oregonian article here:

http://cooper.stevenson.name/info_tech/legislation/tosi/i_svi.htm

Partly because of this we introduced legislation in the Oregon House and Senate to require state agencies to also consider Open Source Software when making software procurement decisions.

The online copy I created and gave to the Legislators linked here:

http://cooper.stevenson.name/info_tech/legislation/index.htm


-Cooper

Anonymous said...

I agree with Starks. The world needs to respect the fact that (for many reasons) not all of us wish to run Windows. The situation has improved over the past few years and IE's declining market share will certainly result in more vendor-neutral web sites.

As a Linux user, I try to educate people about incidents like this: http://www.afterdawn.com/news/archive/13980.cfm

I will not rely on software designed to disobey me.

Sarpaedon said...

I attended ITT Technical Institute. And even though they offer classes in Linux, any online class they offer has to be taken in Windows.

Anonymous said...

Gee, once that Sommers fellow threw down the gauntlet and challenged a hack-off it sure got quiet in here...

Maybe folks won't put their money where their operating system is. I think it's a riot...the system that is free can hack the system that costs the user an additional 100 to 300 dollars in computer costs.

yep...sure got quiet in here...

GrueMaster said...

I am one class from finishing my BS IT degree from the university of Phoenix, and not once have I had to stoop to running Windows, although I did have one instructor that docked me 1 point on my final project management presentation as the last slide conspicuously said "No Microsoft products were used in the making of this presentation". He was adamant about using Windows and especially MS Project. Funny thing, two years later I had the same instructor for one of my last IT classes. He had switched to a MAC.

The University of Phoenix has recently implemented the most god aweful system ever conceived. It is called the Online Learning System, or OLS. This piece of rubbish has been down more than a cheap prostitute. Everyone is required to post their individual and team assignments to forums on this system, yet they only support the use of their web interface (which is also severely broken). A few months ago, the server went down hard during the last week of class. All of the teams in my class (except mine) relied on their team forums for communication. Since I connect my Linux system to the forums through their nntp interface, and pull new messages every 10 minutes, I had the only copy of everyones works, and spent 3 hours helping the other teams piece their assignments back together (all of the forums were on my home system and their network was slow). Without Linux on both my laptop and my desktop, I would never have been able to do that.

The server admins managed to get the server back online and recover all lost data 2 weeks after class ended. And they still insist I use Windows.

HA!

desente said...

This has been a long time coming Helios. Now we just need the right eyes to see it.

Anonymous said...

most good university's are normally a strong ground for gnu/Linux and oss and non windows. My university use Linux a lot and have an head of open source and very funnily his second name is shuttleworth.(no relation). Even though windows is still the majority os nearly everyone is aware of it and has used it a few times and firefox and other OSS is used lots WE alsa have quite a few macs sprinkled around

Just to show that its not all doom and gloom

Coventry University UK
Ethical Hacking and Network Security

WE ARE *NIXED! said...

@desente: And why would you link to a warez site man? That makes no sense at all.

Anonymous said...

Great article - keep up the pressure - chase down every lie with solid facts and zero emotion.

btw: s/sited/cited

shtirletz said...

I attended ITT Technical Institute. And even though they offer classes in Linux, any online class they offer has to be taken in Windows.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Stop posting about the Windows worm, that thing was patched months ago. It's mostly just people with pirated copies of Windows with auto-updates turned off that have been affected.

Anonymous said...

My wife who is a special education teacher in the south side of Chicago has to keep her records on and internet site either purchased or created by her school system. I originally set her up with a laptop running ubuntu using Firefox. I had some initial problems with the web site due to IE specifics and tried to then use Opera. This got me a little further but still no go. Subsequently I had to reinstall Windows and IE 7 on this laptop. This envolved and entire day of my time, about 2 hours to install XP and another 6 hours of hasseling with MS tecknical support over the validity of my MS XP license which I purchased legally with the laptop and getting all of the service packs installed for MS XP and IE 7. This worked but I'm not happy about it.

Andrew Magnus said...

Stop posting about the Windows worm, that thing was patched months ago. It's mostly just people with pirated copies of Windows with auto-updates turned off that have been affected.

Which is millions and millions of computers just in the US. Problem is, once they are on pirated machines they THEN find themselves on supposedly patched computers causing the havoc they were designed to do.

You might get away with statements like that on myspacedout but don't publish such stuff here. I can see why you posted as anonymous...people hate it when stupid has a name.

Andrew Magnus

J said...

@the person who had to reinstall Windows to have IE in order to use a web site:

ie4linux!
http://www.tatanka.com.br/ies4linux/page/Main_Page

I've tried to install IE using plain Wine many times and it is very difficult but with ie4linux it was very easy and it works.

Anonymous said...

I love Linux. I have converted eleven people to 100% Linux solutions in the past year. I have had trouble with AT&T recently with one of those converts. My friend decided to use AT&T as his ISP and it turns out that they require you to set up your own account using their stupid install disk (windows and mac only). I had to run a virtual XP machine on my laptop just to initialize the modem and set up their account. The tech support on the phone absolutely refused to set up the login and pass on the phone (as they did for me a year earlier). What this means is that it is a pain in the rear for us Linux users to get new accounts with AT&T. Casual folks will probably give up and blame Linux...as AT&T says that it is Linux's fault and not theirs. Has anyone else ran into this recently?

Anonymous said...

64 bit Flash support FUD:

Please note that 64bit Linux does support Flash - either directly or through running 32bit Flash using nsplugin. Also just about every popular version of Linux is available in an Intel 32bit version, which can install on any 64bit Intel machine, so this is a non-problem.

What is more, the administrator does not need to support it on the server side - server side Flash is Flash - if the end users wants to use 64bit Linux it is up to the user to install the Flash client and get it working, and this does not impose any extra work on the administrator.

The whole Flash issue is bogus. Nobody is asking the administrator to install the student's desktop OS or client software - getting those to work is the student's responsibility for whatever OS and client software he/she chooses.

What is being asked is that the administrator provides services, protocols, and file formats that DO NOT PREVENT CLIENT OSes OR CLIENT SOFTWARE FROM OPERATING FOR NO BETTER REASON THAN TO PROMOTE MICROSOFT's MONOPOLY.

JM said...

In response to Flash on Linux64.

There are a few so-so plugins now that will play flash smoothly on a 64bit system.

I can't vouch for other OS's but in Ubuntu 8.10 x64 there a few available in the packages area.

Omega said...

Wait - people are still running Windows?!

(obviously I'm being a bit facetious here)

The point being, I think we're reaching a surge stage for Linux and the communities need to prepare.

Great blog posting, by the way. I'll be using it as source material during my regular conversions. Many so far, and many more to come.

Reece Dunn said...

@J

Wine can now run IE7 (http://www.winehq.org/pipermail/wine-devel/2009-January/072120.html) :).

Anonymous said...

Re: ATT setup with Linux
ATT's ISP connection can be setup with Firefox by setting the URL to a designated adminsitrative website which will download the appropriate firmaware to your modem. The process is web-browser baased & is OS agnostic. The call center support tech SHOULD be able to talk you through the processs. If not, ask to speak to one who can. I learned this when an ATT installer who was dispatched to my home to condition my line for DSL informed me that that it didn't matter which OS I was running as long as he could bring up a Firefox browser window. If you're paying for the service, don't take "NO" for an answer.

Anonymous said...

(quote) JM said...

In response to Flash on Linux64.

There are a few so-so plugins now that will play flash smoothly on a 64bit system.

I can't vouch for other OS's but in Ubuntu 8.10 x64 there a few available in the packages area.
(unquote)

This is complete nonsense. nsplugin works perfectly. You have to install it yourself of course on many distros, but it works perfectly. There is also a 64bit flash player available for Linux, which is alpha at the moment. I am using it and it also works perfectly. http://labs.adobe.com/technologies/flashplayer10/

The really serious problems with Flash are with 64bit Windows which hasn't got a 64 bit Flash player, and requires troublesome plugins which allow 32 bit flash player for Windows to be used. Here are some links:
http://www.dslreports.com/forum/r19326254-Compatibility-Flash-player-plugin-required-Vista-64bit

Of course as I said, this whole issue is one big piece of FUD, because newbies can simply avoid any possible problems by installing 32bit Linux which will run on every IA64 CPU - and since Linux is completely free, this is never a problem. The problems only really arise if you were stupid enough to buy a 64bit version of Windows, but how many people use that?

gibi said...

I had to shell out money for the windows operating system and office for that particular class.Please Help. The teacher who promotes this keboarding.

Anonymous said...

Re: Linux/AT&T
I just set up my brother's AT&T DSL connection with Linux/Firefox.
http://www.dslreports.com/faq/8346 should be quite helpful but you should know that the sbcreg.sbcglobal.net page does not work on Firefox, you will need to use the att.net link.
Getting on AT&T DSL with Linux is easy, if you've done it before!

Anonymous said...

Re: The 64 bit Linux Flash FUD - the FUD is even more nonsensical than that.

Actually you don't even have to install nsplayer on a 64 bit Linux OS to use the 32 bit Flash player. All you need to do is install the 32 bit Firefox browser on the 64bit Linux OS, and the 32 bit Flash plug-in works with no problems.

You only need nsplayer or the 64 bit Linux Flash player on 64bit Linux if you want to use the 64bit version of Firefox.

Anonymous said...

I'm a computer admin in higher ed. (As full disclaimer, I use windows, macos, debian, mandrake, and ubuntu depending on which hat I'm wearing at the time - but my favorite is windows.)

It's easy to demonize people you disagree with, but my sense is that most of your article is a straw man (in the formal logic sense). The real reason higher ed is stuck on windows and mac is scalability: help desk staff can't know everything, and there are software packages used in higher ed that don't run on linux: chemdraw, endnote, kaleidagraph, vectorworks, etc. Combine the inertia of higher ed (where faculty call the shots and are disinsentivized to invest themselves in technology), with the inertia of industry (until there's a critical mass of linux users, they won't write linux software, and until there's linux software people won't use linx), and you have slow adoption.

You're right, it's coming. And more and more software companies are bringing out linux ports (mathematica, maple, stata, gauss, etc), but there's no point flaming higher ed admins, and ascribing evil motivations to them: Once it makes economic sense to move, they'll move. Many are itching to do it. There's also no point conflating faculty and IT administrators as they're different beasts.

So, if you want to move higher ed to linux:

- find out from faculty what discipline specific software they can't live with out,
- then work on the software vendors to a) port it to linux and b) as a group, choose a version of linux that everyone will write for (because colleges will never be able to support multiple flavors of linux),
- and only then go to the higher ed IT and business admins with numbers that show linux is cheaper over the full support lifecycle of a computer.

WE ARE *NIXED! said...

"It's easy to demonize people you disagree with, but my sense is that most of your article is a straw man"

And I'm afraid it's you who happens to be missing the point. Students aren't allowed to access systems for their classes using anything other than Windows. It's not about those specialty apps, because not everyone uses them (and besides which, there are solutions out there that can more than likely get those apps working anyway). I pay for my classes, so I better be allowed to access the online systems for certain classes using whatever OS I choose. As for your argument for "different flavors of Linux" I can dispel that myth right now. Out of curiousity, I decided to try and install Nero Burning ROM on one of my systems. Their only options came as a Debian or Red Hat Package. I chose the RPM and used Slackware's utility to convert the file to a Slackware package. Guess what? It worked. The menu entry in KDE even showed up.

Anonymous said...

(quote)
- find out from faculty what discipline specific software they can't live with out,
- then work on the software vendors to a) port it to linux and b) as a group, choose a version of linux that everyone will write for (because colleges will never be able to support multiple flavors of linux),
- and only then go to the higher ed IT and business admins with numbers that show linux is cheaper over the full support lifecycle of a computer.
(unquote)

Your argument is that of a straw man. The issue is not about supporting students on the client side or about TCO (which the students and not admins pay). It is about supporting open standards and formats or imposing artificial restrictions that block the student's choice in software.

As to why this happens, no it isn't the independent administrator that is the problem. The Comes vs Microsoft case shows some glimpses into the motivation behind the lockout of competition in the education market and how it is achieved. http://boycottnovell.com/2009/01/19/gartner-corrupted-by-microsoft/
Read it, and all becomes clear.



the Comes vs Mi

Anonymous said...

This discussion over at The Chronicle of Higher Education is interesting:

"The problem of Mac and Linux users being unable to use online applications created by Windows shops is the fault of the operating system. MS purposely makes all their products incompatible with the rest of the world. That’s why the company is a convicted criminal monopolist.

"Any public university that uses such technology and then requires students to purchase “compatible” proprietary IT systems is complicit in those crimes. An effective argument might even be made that this represents a violation of the affected students’ civil rights under federal law."

http://chronicle.com/wiredcampus/article/3560/online-students-struggles-with-linux-make-her-an-online-celebrity

Swajak said...

I'd just like to say that I can directly relate the angst this article has against the IT policies of our current education system. It's very sad I wasn't introduced to linux until my 2nd year in college. I get that the education system is scared of things not working, of people complaining about learning it, etc... but teaching ONLY microsoft? NO linux mixed in anywhere there?

again, this might just be the podunk, suburban GA town I grew up in.

Anonymous said...

“I'm sorry but why the hell would I want my kids learning how to use an operating system that is not even used by 1% of the market. I'd be pissed off at the school if they did that. They should learn Windows by default and if they want to have a Linux class it can be an elective.

Sorry Linux fan boys. I want my kids actually learning things they can use. And unless they are for sure going to be working in the computer field what good would knowledge of Linux do them? In the real world people use Windows by a massive percentage and I would much rather my kids learn about Windows file management so they can function in the real world.”

“Are the Linux Fan boys going to pay for the reconfiguring of the desktops and network servers? Are they going to pay for the retraining of the IT support staff? Are they going to pay for the training of the teachers?

Thought not. Outside of personal use, Linux is not free, no matter how you want to put it.”

“Yes let’s make everything free give away food and teach people paying for quality things and supporting jobs is wrong. Microsoft had to lay off 1200 people why would they need to cut costs if you paid for a legal windows license and office and windows server?”

Microsoft donates a lot and gives away a lot but it creates jobs and jobs are good you communist

Better yet lets listen to you and say to the school lets cut costs (lunch) (sports)(teachers) (electricity)(computers)(books)(software)(classes)

Tell the teachers and it staff to buy Linux books and training videos change the Office, AutoCAD and even Photoshop classes On their own time and at there own cost.

You don’t get a better education with less money time or resources.

People who are paid less money are less satisfied and think more about money than there work and sometimes cut back in effort. And people with less money may be inclined to commit thefts.

If you read all of the posts you will notice we have ligament concerns about Linux and if you want us to switch you must address them instead of insulting us, our intelligence and our understanding.

You may call Microsoft a simple “fisher price” operating system but check out the internet even when it’s stupidly simple people do not know how to use it and many people find Linux harder to use.

If you think a Microsoft certification is easy to earn try the exam that’s not cheap.

Linux may be free but you need to pay people to install and configure it people do not work for free …. You need to teach users and teachers and technicians how to use it ,make scripts, debug and troubleshoot. The books and videos are defiantly not free and you are not going to walk to every machine install it configure it make sure all programs, drivers and devices are working or answer hundreds of questions each semester.

If you are willing to do all that for free I question your sanity how do you pay your bills?
If your programmings for free, working for free training for free you have to much free time.

Swajak said...

@ the above retarded comment:

Linux isn't free for corporations/organisations due to the need of support. But Windows-using companies share that 'support' cost as well. What they don't share is a zero-cost license. And Linux has that. Assuming the availability of support (which exists, don't fool yourself), Linux is cheaper, by a huge margin.

And your idea of happiness certainly doesn't apply to everyone. I feel bad for you, if you were raised with the idea that money == happiness. I know more than a few people making lots of money, who have no free time with friends or family, and hate it.

Anonymous said...

Linux may be free but you need to pay people to install and configure it people do not work for free …. You need to teach users and teachers and technicians how to use it ,make scripts, debug and troubleshoot. The books and videos are defiantly not free and you are not going to walk to every machine install it configure it make sure all programs, drivers and devices are working or answer hundreds of questions each semester.

Dude, what Linux are you talking about...1999?

We have just converted an entire high school to Linux. You know the only people that had problems? The people we paid to administrate them. We have students picking it up in 20 minutes. What's so hard man...see icon, click icon. Boom, stuff happens.

Your arguments are really 1990's. I believe the author of this blog builds and gives computers to poor kids. One of them has Downs Syndrome and he does just fine with it. True, it's in it's mildest form but still. If a kid with Downs can do it...

Maybe if you ask him nice enough he would help you.

LOLOLOLOL

jhansonxi said...

Keyboarding Pro 4 was reported to work with wine but that was a while ago and there are no reports about the newer versions. I love item #10 their faq (pdf):
10. I am not able to install the application in “Program Files” folder on Windows Vista.

Some features of Vista prevent the application from writing to the “Program Files” folder. It is suggested that the program be installed on your default Windows drive.

kozmcrae said...

@ The one with no name, no integrity and no conscience.

"I would much rather my kids learn about Windows file management so they can function in the real world."

What file management were you talking about, Windows 98, Windows XP or Vista? They changed it in each one.

Your "arguments" are a catalog of Microsoft FUD. They are empty and without merit. They have been disproved and negated so many times they have become a caricature of Microsoft's failure to stem the growth of Linux and Open Source.

By the way, what is a "ligament concern"? Is it part of the corporate body?

Robert said...

Well, I'm one of the guys this article is aimed at and I'll give you MY reasons why Windows on the desktop is dominating in the environments I've seen and use.

In a nutshell, fine-grained user control.

In a Windows environment I can trivially easily restrict the behavior of users through GPO. In MacOS and Linux this is a near-impossible task. In practice, in Linux and MacOS everyone is an admin all the time.

And it's not about "security". The fact that Windows has more viruses is not relavent to the fact that there are easy tools to detect viruses and malicious users in Windows. There are few similar tools for Linux. I can tell if a Windows box is "rooted" pretty easily. Linux, not so much.

In practice, one has to restrict behavior outside of the confines of the operating system. If people are using P2P you have to kill the ports or sniff the traffic and kill it.

Feel free to disagree with this and show me a Linux security model that WORKS. Basically NO applications support Linux ACLs and SELinux is totally broken.

Prove me wrong by showing how I can restrict access to an arbitrary Gnome or KDE app to an arbitary group of users in less that 3 mouse clicks. That, or show me a heavily-commented text config file that tells me EXACTLY (every single character) what I have to do to restrict that application. And I have to be able to do this all remotely ONCE and have it pushed down to all the clients as opposed to doing it on each system.

Imaging doesn't count.

kozmcrae said...

@ Robert

Your argument for a Microsoft environment boils down to this: I understand Windows better than Linux, therefore Windows is better.

I'm not even an IT worker and I can see right through your nonsense. No, everyone does NOT run with administrative rights in Linux. That is unless you gave it to them.

Did you fail miserably at Linux? Is that what this is all about? Does it bother you that kids can run their own Linux computers and not have the problems you did?

I guess I'll have to start seeing another blog. This one just doesn't pull in the caliber of Microsoft zealots it used to.

Drew Magnus said...

Robert, it's statements like you make that causes my friggin ass to hurt.

First off, you've been distracted from the main subject of the article. The author isn't asking anyone to switch to Windows...it's his wish but not his stated intent. He simply is telling people that there is a huge migration in progress and the entities he cites need to make their web portals and websites accessible to Linux Users.

"In MacOS and Linux this is a near-impossible task. In practice, in Linux and MacOS everyone is an admin all the time."

WHAT? is that why millions and millions of poorly secured Windows machines are just decimated every week by pick-your-virus-malware-spyware here? Dude, you are smarter than that...I think...

Now the fact that YOU know how to protect your box is one thing. Aunt Tillie doesn't have a clue and the Aunt Tillie's of the world get creamed for it. You mention that you know what antivirus or protection software to use. Riddle me this Robert.

Why are you using/purchasing a product so that the product you already use/purchased will work properly?

And don't do it...it will be embarassing...how does this guy say it? It isn't secure because it's obscure, it's secure because the architecture makes it so. Executed script on a Windows box, proliferation via address book ensues. Executed script on Linux box...? Stupid user gets what he deserves.

Oh...tell me when the "normal" user is going to want to do the things you ask about. I can do what you ask with a two line command, maybe less depending upon the user group structure.

Aunt Tillie isn't going to want to arbitrarily change permissions on an arbitrary application. She wants to read her email, see pictures of the grand kids and check her beaten and bloodied stock portfolio. For those simple tasks she should have to pay the 100-300 dollar Microsoft Tax on her new machine?

It was about access Robert, not about which OS is best...you might check the last couple of paragraphs. I believe Starks said just that.

Andrew Magnus
Austin TX

FelixTheCat said...

Take a look at freeIPA, especially the Release 2 roadmap:
http://freeipa.org/page/About

I say that with some reservation since Release 2 is vaporware at this point, but work is already in progress to answer exactly what you are asking, kozmcrae, plus there are other tools already in the market that DO offer centralized, policy-based control. Just remember that a policy in SELinux is NOT the same as a policy in AD. You are thinking of two different things and muddying the waters just to make a point.

Robert said...

To Drew:

I'm responding to this part of his article:

"I have received a spate of emails in the past 60 days, complaining about various universities and corporations that are disallowing most anything but Windows to access their systems. ... I am going to write this in hope that we can get the attention of some people that can change this trend. ... Some of you however are digging in your heels and refusing to smell 21st century air.

You are the people that I want to talk to."

As I said, I'm one of those people and I gave MY reasons why I'm (and most of my customers, Fortune 1000 companies, universities, and government) resistant to Linux desktops. He did not address my concerns in his article. What I was trying to point out is that many Linux advocates completely miss the point when it comes to corporate Linux adoption. It's partly about legacy apps, and partly about training, but it's mostly the relative strengths of Exchange as a groupware server and Active Directory as a directory server and increasingly-important user control features that keeps Windows in the enterprise.

For example, a lot of fine-grained user controls were added to Vista and more to Windows 7 and a whole API for security controls (Network Access Protection) was added in Server 2008. There doesn't seem to be much out there comparable for Linux, even enterprise distros like RHEL and Novell.

And while I said it's "partly" about training, training is a HUGE factor. Because of staff turnover heavily-customized, poorly documented solutions are frowned on in enterprise environments. The Linux guru who built the system might know how to run it, but after he leaves in 6 months will the new guys coming in COMPLETELY COLD with no help from the previous IT staff be able to run it from day 1? That's a big reason people use Microsoft. Enterprise customers want products to be as "out of the box" as possible (and at the same time heavily customizable) for this reason.

Even if there was a Linux solution that provided all the features of Active Directory it isn't well-known enough to be able to easily find IT staff to run it. It's also worth noting that essentially NOBODY provides Linux desktop support. Note the use of the word "desktop", you can get server support fairly easily. If it were as easy as Helios seems to think it is we should be seeing hundreds of outsourced IT shops offering Linux desktops, in the same way we see hundreds of outsourced IT shops providing Windows desktops.

"Aunt Tillie doesn't have a clue and the Aunt Tillie's of the world get creamed for it."

We're specifically NOT talking about Aunt Tillie or Joe Sixpack. We're talking about heavily-managed enterprise networks with dedicated IT staff here.

"Executed script on Linux box...? Stupid user gets what he deserves."

This EXACTLY sums up the problem. With Windows, a dedicated IT staff can keep users from hurting themselves with automated policies. With Linux it's a lot harder to do this. You can build kiosk-type Linux desktops pretty easily (that's what Helios is doing) but they're a pain to modify and maintain security and they're not centrally managed to updating usually means reimaging.

Robert said...

To FelixTheCat:

Special thanks to FelixTheCat for actually understanding my post.

"freeIPA, especially the Release 2 roadmap"

This does part of what Windows Server does, but nowhere near all of it, even in Release 2. And Redhat's LDAP server is frankly, crappy. I worked on it as Netscape Directory Server.

But you're wrong about SELinux. From the team:

"NSA Security-enhanced Linux is a set of patches to the Linux kernel and some utilities to incorporate a strong, flexible mandatory access control (MAC) architecture into the major subsystems of the kernel. It provides a mechanism to enforce the separation of information based on confidentiality and integrity requirements, which allows threats of tampering and bypassing of application security mechanisms to be addressed and enables the confinement of damage that can be caused by malicious or flawed applications. It includes a set of sample security policy configuration files designed to meet common, general-purpose security goals."

This is pretty much exactly how ACLs in Windows works. Policies and ACLs are very slick in Windows, which is where the confusion comes from.

WE ARE *NIXED! said...

@Robert:

*sigh*I'm afraid you're still missing the point. If you don't want to use *nix-based environments for the IT department at an educational institution, at least allow the students to hook up with their choice of OS. That's the whole point of this blog post in the first place.

Robert said...

*Nixed:

Same reasons, a desire to restrict user behavior. Universities don't want people surfing porn or downloading warez or (most importantly) hacking other networks with their systems, they want to restrict it, and it's a lot easier for their IT departments to do this with Windows. Allowing unrestricted laptops on their WiFi networks is the exact opposite of this model.

I work mostly with large private universities and prep schools. Think "ivy league" and fancypants. Most of the prep schools give their students their computers and the private universities often have an "approved list" that students can buy (and they always do, because they get a discount). Of course, students at these schools (especially CS students) will have their own personal computers as well.

And there's another harsh reality. I talk to these guys a lot. They SPECIFICALLY want to block Linux because they know from experience that Linux users are the most likely to abuse their networks. That guy running a portscanner? Probably on Linux. So I've found that schools want to block Linux because of the pattern of user behavior, not anything to do with Linux itself.

I don't hear anything similar about OSX, so it's not a "Windows bias". It's a PR problem because Linux is associated with "hackers".

Anonymous said...

Robert,

Not to pick an argument, you seem rational and your tone has quieted to honest dialog so I feel confident that this won't degrade into one.

There was a huge shift by the Dow Jones away from Unix and Windows servers to Linux. The Pentagon is in full migration mode now after the last attack they suffered. The SEC has moved to complete Linux-based servers.

Do they have this perception? I personally don't think this is wide held. Not doubting your report, I can see where people could perceive this phenomenon but like all myths, it will eventually evaporate.

The only reason I post anonymously is because I am a mid-level contractor involved in the SEC move. I'm not telling you anything that isn't readily available by a google search. I am just telling you that our security firm moved to Linux on the desktop and server farm last summer and we actually laid off 4 System Administrators. Being one that made the cut, I can report that tensions in the server rooms has decreased to almost zero.

But that isn't the issue of this article. I see no reason for these companies and schools not to allow Linux Users such access. In fact, this blogger would be smart to initiate a class action law suit if need be.

There is already precident in other areas that point to a total win.

www.trailbrain.com said...

So I go in to my Univesity's Help Desk to ask a question about something and notice a distribution on Linux sitting on the counter. The CD's are free. So I take one. It runs live and I play around with it a bit.

A while later my windows dies. Before I can get the restore CD's from IBM I've got papers due. So what do I do? I install linux (suse) and get my homework done.

I'm working on a research paper and need to use my school account and set up the computer to do VPN so I can access the databases the library subscribes to...

So I find the help desk website and read. Nothing about linux....? So I call and ask for instructions.... "We don't support linux.... it's open source."

Somewhere along the lines people have interpreted open-source as being less secure. Sure, we all watched Matthew Broderick in "War Games" back in the day reveal the secret "Back Door" of computer programming. But honestly does that really happen? C'mon now I've had less security issues with firefox than with anything else.

I work at a government institution---no freeware allowed! It's amazing how slow our computers run because of the DoD rootkit, Antivirus, Registry changes, software patches, etc, etc, etc.... Just to edit a power-point briefing.

When will educators start teaching that open source can be secure? When will government catch on that if you can outright "own" linux you can verify the code for security purposes and tweak it to do what you want it to?

Oh yeah, it's cheaper to make microsoft do that and just send them a check right? Doesn't really matter though. We don't get paid by the hour. We can afford to wait a few minutes each time we click on an application.... just for it to load.

Alex said...

Very good article. U think you are right, many people is forced to use Windows because teachers, bosses force them out of ignorance or fear.
I like to mention that it is not exclusive to school or business, goverments play a big role on it, even in underdeveloped countries, where the investment in people suuporting Linux would be better than in MS licenses

samuel said...

"One focused advertising effort by Linux and those numbers will change without any dispute."

IBM tried it.
http://www.youtube.com/results?search_type=&search_query=ibm+linux+commercial&aq=0&oq=ibm+linux+com

I remember seeing them on tv. Maybe I was in a test market, dunno. This is the kind of thing that needs to happen once a year if it's going to make an impact. Just a thought.

bornagainpenguin said...

I often work with and assist an older gentleman who was one of those people who went back to school and got an IT degree after being laid off in their previous job. As an example of how fast things can change this gentleman was trained on Novell, apprenticed on Win98 and now manages a small private school network of WinXP clients on Win2003SE server. He is intrigued by Linux but is unable to use it in his environment.

He says his biggest hurdle is he needs a GPO like application to lock down the computers (never mind he himself admits to not using much of GPO simply due to the complexity of the app) and as far as he knows there is no such application for Linux. Secondly he needs to have some kind of active directory up and running for the above reason. Thirdly the actual application he is required to support, Switched On Schoolhouse is written in dotNet and Windows only. There are a few other issues but those are his main objections, along with the oft repeated 'lack of time' excuse. (To be fair his is a thankless task, having to be network nazi over a bunch of computer illiterate teachers and dealing with computer literate children trying to skate the school's access policies. Oh and he's expected to teach too...)

Personally I think if the Switched on Schoolhouse application would run much of his other objections would disappear. You'd think since the application is written in dotNet it wouldn't be too difficult to get Mono compatibility but every time he's attempted to ask around on the subject he's been rebuffed.

Strange really, because the Switched on Schoolhouse package is intended for private schools and homeschoolers, two groups who could greatly benefit from being able to use a more secure and free OS....

--bornagainpenguin

PS: Congrats on making it to the front page of slashdot again!

http://news.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=09/01/29/0819207

Anonymous said...

I don't think anyone's read the fine print on those Microsoft Campus Agreements. Once you leave the school, you are no longer licensed. Period.

Anonymous said...

Very good article. I have one point to add that many people (including yourself) miss when writing these kinds of articles.

I've been using Windows since version 3.0, way back in the dawn of time. I have found a virus in documents on my machine 2-3 times in 18 years. I have never had a machine "infested" by malware, never lost the use of a machine due to massive slowdowns, never had a machine taken over by a botnet, and never had passwords or other personally-identifying information stolen due to my use of Windows.

Articles of this type make some base assumptions that just aren't true for some people. If you are careful in your use of Windows, aware of the possible virus vectors, use Firefox with NoScript and AdBlock, and don't go sniffing around sites promoting illegal or highly-questionable activity, Windows is just fine.

That being said, I switched from Windows to Mac OS X for home use a couple of years ago because I found the thought of using Vista repugnant. I get to control my machines, not the other way 'round. OS X Just Works and stays out of my way, and that's the way I like my home computer to behave.

Anonymous said...

I work in University IT, and we are WAY more open and supportive of open source and alternative software than any other organizations I know. Your opinion shows a complete lack of understanding of the issues. The problem isn't how good free software is, or how expensive Microsoft software is. Free software is like a free kitten. It's going to cost you money in the long run. When you look at centralized management and compliance with policy or laws and you'll see there is a lot more to Microsoft software than an end user will ever notice. Aquisition of software or technology is only a small part of the true cost. Large scale management of open source technologies is improving, but still has weaknesses. Abandoning Microsoft software isn't a realistic thing for a University, and adding in Macs and Linux makes a lot more work for a very budget constrained and underpaid group of technology professionals. Don't get the idea that Univerisity IT people are somehow the most brilliant people on the planet. The IT people in public universities are typically the same type of state employees that work at he DMV. They have to cater to their students, their CUSTOMERS, a majority of which are smart enough to look at the market share that MS products have and demand that their education include those so that they have marketable skills along with their degree. For the most part Universities are very much open to change and are embracing open standards, but at their own glacial pace. Propritary, closed source software will continue to thrive and coexist with open source. The sooner you realize this is the way things are and the way things MUST happen and that ranting about Microsoft isn't going to help your cause then the better off you will be. Or as a coworker puts it:

"Having zelots spouting off complete nonsense about issues they have no idea about doesn't help a cause. Write some code instead of complaints. Oh, and write code for something new and innovative, not a clone of a commerically successful product. It's a lot easier to copy something than to invent it. It's also a lot easier to make something almost as good instead of better."

Okay, that's enough of that. :)

Marty D. said...

Add VCU (Virginia Commonwealth University) to your 'naughty' list. They require any computer with a wired connection to be running a windows-only 'clean access' program.

Anonymous said...

I work at a community college, and have been attempting for years to get Linux into my classroom. I started out by begging and borrowing ten old PC's and setting up my own small independent LAN. I run Apache and a set of CGI scripts I wrote for classroom administration on one, and students use the others to take their own attendance, view their gradebooks, and so on.

Some years later I read the horrow story of the Julie Amero witch hunt ( http://www.abcnews.go.com/GMA/story?id=6739393&page=1 ). I decided the other Windows installations had to go - I have no desire to go to federal prison for forty years because of Windows insecurities. With support from my immediate supervisor I wiped the drives on all the classroom PC's, and now run kbuntu 8.04.1 on them.

I do run into issues with lack of specialized applications, but anything is better than being held criminally responsible for someone else's porn pop-ups. I'm not going back to Windows on these machines if I can help it.If the school insists on Windows, I will personally disable the ethernet connection to each machine - the only way to keep Windows uninfected for any significant length of time.

Anonymous said...

A previous poster wrote:

Free software is like a free kitten.

Isn't that a Microsoft talking point? Have the PR folks spotted this blog?

Anonymous said...

One point I really must make.

I see the same arguments made in support of windows over and over here.

"It will cost money to switch to open source." - You will pay the same money, plus the license fees, to switch to windows Vista or windows 7. You will also pay more for the bloated hardware requirements. There are also such technologies as a push install, and net installer. both are far easier and far cheaper with Linux in a mixed hardware environment, which a University most definitely would be.

"That configer-downadup-virus_worm thingy is gone" - No it's not, and those making that argument are about to get a surprise. Not only is this new approach to malicious code not gone, but it hasn't even started yet. Only part of the virus is active. Almost every expert interviewed thinks that we are in for a big surprise, and we may not have any notice (zero day again).

"Security is an issue with Linux" - No it isn't, period. In fact, linux is far more secure without any extra configuration than windows is after installing a software firewall and setting up GPO control.

"Students use windows almost exclusively" - The beauty of this is that you can install open source systems throughout the university, and the students will still be able to choose windows. Much better than the restrictions you have now, and if you want to require an open document standard you can require a FREE download of open office by your students.

There are numerous reasons to switch, and just as many to stay where you are. This is understandable. The problem I see here is the completely false statements listed above. Don't make up a reason to support your bias. Either find a valid argument, or just admit that you are biased.

Also, a quick note to the Flint, MI comment. I live in the same area. the
$70 license is for the upgrade to office 2007 at student pricing. This requires that you already have a license for the older version at the average Student price of $179.00 in the Metro Detroit area.

Rob said...

Somebody said...

"What about opening and editing them? And more importantly, what about opening and editing docx? I've noticed a trend with Linux bloggers who seem to deliberately avoid mentioning the docx thing."

Since nobody has addressed this head on, I'll respond to what is one of my biggest pet peeves. The docx format is one huge reason that people should avoid Microsoft whenever possible. It is another in a long line of blatant, intentional breaks with compatibility for the purpose of locking people in to buying the new version of their software.

When I ran Windows, and somebody sent me a docx file, I told them point blank that I could not edit it because I had an older version of Office, and that I was not going to spend the money to buy the new version, and if they wanted me to edit their document, they would have to put it in a format that I could work with. Compare with the situation now that I run Linux...when people send me docx files... I say the exact same thing.

The docx thing is not a Linux shortcoming. It's Microsoft trying to take advantage of their monopoly, and if more people simply refused to go along with it, then they would not be able to go on extorting money from us.

Well I decided that I wasn't going to play their game any more, and the docx thing was the push I needed to actually make the break.... and I'm very happy that I did.

Robert said...

To the Anonymous guy working on the SEC transition:

I know all about this, and it's largely about cost. And is the SEC replacing any DESKTOPS (what we're talking about here) with Linux? Nope, that's not part of your project.

Nobody seriously doubts the utility of Linux as a replacement to Unix servers like database, web, etc. servers. Windows is not so hot for the "single function server" role.

bornagainpenguin did a good job of making the same point aobut GPO that I was trying to make.

Anonymous said...

I don't know that if it is true or not, but I swear it SEEMS like Microsoft deliberately changes the file format of Word in ways that cause OpenOffice to incorrectly display the file, knowing that OO cannot keep fully up to date, and frustrating the non and semi knowledgeable in order to keep their customer base.

arden@cubefarmhell.com said...

Hi,
Great article!
note:
text: is forcing some of it's students
error: it's
fix: its
No apostrophe needed there.

Thanks,
--arden
(not for posting, just a note)

flash said...

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tava tea said...

I have received a spate of emails in the past 60 days, complaining about various universities and corporations that are disallowing most anything but Windows to access their systems.

Anonymous said...

She's probably an Obama supporter too.