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Re: [vox] LTSP, a School District, and Windows...
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Re: [vox] LTSP, a School District, and Windows...

on Tue, Sep 28, 2004 at 01:43:46PM -0700, Steve Hargadon (steve.hargadon@gmail.com) wrote:
> On Tue, 28 Sep 2004 12:25:27 -0800, Edward Elliott <ed_elliott@email.com> wrote:
> > Steve, let me drop a note and contribute a bit of background research in case that's helpful.
> Great feedback.  I don't think it's the licensing fees, necessarily,
> or the alternative programs available (which I looked at as well)--I
> think it was more like this:
> "We support 4,000 computers with two technicians, and we aren't sure
> we even want to talk to you.  We have several Windows programs which
> we depend on for state reporting on student progress.  You say you can
> run Windows program using Linux thin client, but I don't want to have
> to switch the licensing the I currently have.  I have zero time to
> talk, but if you'll show me you can run Mavis Beacon and Accelerated
> Reader, then I'm willing to make the time to talk to you."

Having dealt with a small handful of school districts over the past few
years, some observations:

  - They've got very little staff for the support task on hand.
    Probably one tech per several hundred seats.

  - They've got a large user base.  Thousands of these are compelled to
    be present, may or may not be particularly well trained in
    technology, and may have abusive proclivities to equipment
    (intentionally or otherwise).

  - Many districts were offline for weeks or months last year during the
    SoBig and Swen outbreaks.  If they _do_ have a handle on current
    virus, security, adware, and spyware issues, it's by hammering the
    entire desktop down in every last way possible.

  - Centralized administration is the byword.

  - Budgets are stretched to the breaking point.

  - Most of the staff have little or no idea of what GNU/Linux is or
    what it can provide.  Many misconceptions abound.

  - Microsoft offers significant discount pricing, at the order of
    ~$45/seat OS, $45/seat Office.  Server pricing is also discounted
    from retail norms.  While GNU/Linux can compete on raw aquisition
    cost, support and conversion make this a difficults sell. though you
    might want to mention

  - State and national regulatory requirements, AKA "No Child Left
    Behind", simply dominate any consideration.  There are massive
    financial rewards/penalties for (non)compliance.

  - If you do find the opportunity to make a pitch, you're dealing
    with:  possibly hostile, stretched individuals with little existing
    exposure, a very marginal interest, and very little time to make an

My recommendation would be to go through the district to the extent you
can (if you've got kids in school, so much the better) looking for a
sympathetic ear.  Many districts are nailing IT down from a central
perspective, but remain somewhat responsive to teachers.  Tech spending
has been a large outlay, and there's now an increased call for
accountability.  The benefits of tech do need to be clearly expressed,
and the case hasn't always been well made.  Even where classroom
proponents exist, often the arguments are pretty weak "the kids are
making Powerpoint[tm] presentations with animations and colors....".

You might want to read a review of _The Flickering Mind_ (or the book
itself) for a well-spoken critic:


Mind:  I think that, appropriately used, computers *do* have a place in
education.  Though not necessarially in every classroom.
> Now, I'm not sure I'm willing to jump through these hoops, but I want
> at least to figure out what I'm up against.  This district has
> multiple campuses, lots of students and pcs, and it would be a
> significant opportunity to showcase the technology.

I'd say:  get their cooperation in aquiring the software for testing
purposes.  Get it set up under WINE, CodeWeavers, or whatever.
Triple-check your demo.  When you've got it nailed, show them (or if it
doesn't work, be candid).  If you get partial functionality but you can
find out what they absolutely need to work, do that as well.

For a lot of compliance apps, there are other technical options,
particularly if you only need a few workstations.  VNC or other remote
access, VMWare, or event the odd legacy MS Windows box (and they're all
*very* odd once they've been connected to the Net).  Licensing is
another ball of wax, but many districts site-license, and may be able to
negotiate with their vendor.  Leave that out of the picture for now,
focus on demonstrating technical capability.

I'd also encourage you to bring a handful of Knoppix disks to
demonstrate the raw capabilities of GNU/Linux.  Wether or not you
demonstrate it (and I'd advise not if time's tight), you can pass these
out for individual experimentation.  If you're lucky, one in ten might
use it.


Karsten M. Self <kmself@ix.netcom.com>        http://kmself.home.netcom.com/
 What Part of "Gestalt" don't you understand?
    Kerry / Edwards '04                              http://www.johnkerry.com/

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