Shortly after I posted about a /. article on getting open source software to replace Microsoft software I got a few responses on Twitter, as well as a response from a fellow blogger here on the IT Knowledge Exchange John Little.
John posed a few questions in his post, which I wanted to address, as well as clarify my own statements a little bit.
John points out that Open Source software is less expensive than buying proprietary software. While this is true for companies and the general public, schools and universities don’t pay anything close to what companies or home users pay for software. While I don’t have access to the exact academic prices, Students at California State University Long Beach can by Office Pro or Windows Vista Business for $89. If they are selling it for this price to the students they can probably buy it themselves for less. While there is still a price to pay, this is the desktop and office software that most of these students will be expected to use when they leave school.
I agree that my “In the article he’s talking about replacing Office 2007 with Open Office. Which is a fine idea for home, or for a business; however an educational institution should be more concerned with making sure that the students have access to what they will be using in the real world when they get into the job market.” statement was a little confusing. If a home user wants to replace Office with an open source product more power to them (same goes for an open source user wanting to switch to Microsoft Office). If a company wants to switch as well, go for it. However the role of an educational instituation is to teach students as much as possible to get them ready for the workplace. This includes the usage of both open source and propitery software.
John points out that his learning curve moving from Office to Open Office was minimal. I’d agree, the curve isn’t much, but we are IT professionals. Give Open Office to a 19 year old who hasn’t ever seen it before and has only used MySpace.com and the Microsoft Office suite that came with the PC they have had at home for years, and it might be a bit harder to get them using all the features. In fact it may turn them off of open source software all together.
When I said that most companies didn’t use open source software, I should have been more clear. In the data center and in IT in general there are going to be lots of open source software in use. I was referring to the business users desktop which is where the bulk of college graduates will end up, and these users don’t have the option of selecting the software packages which they can use. They use what the IT/MIS help desk will support. Assuming that they have admin rights to there own workstations installing unauthorized software will at most companies get you written up (at least).
As for my use of open source software, yes I use open source software regularly. I’ve been using gAIM/Pidgin since 2001 or so as my only IM client. I’ve tried Open Office, but I’ve found that I like Microsoft Office better. Back in the early 2000s I admin’ed plenty of MySQL servers (I have one now to support my companies wordpress blog). We use a variety of open source software in our automated build process.
Oh, and I’m developing an open source project for SQL Server Express users. (Granted at the moment I’m the only developer on the project, but I’m a control freak; what do you expect from a DBA.)
No I don’t use *nix as my OS. I tried it but couldn’t ever get the hang of it. And now that I’m a full time Microsoft SQL Server DBA and Architect running a *nix OS isn’t all that helpful for my job.
You’re right on. I flirted with open source replacements for MS Office briefly quite a while back, and business management killed it with a simple question: “Right now we send users to New Horizons to get more training on MS Office. Where do we send them for OpenOffice training?” Uh, right. MS Office it is.
And I know somebody’s going to respond saying, “Open your own training department,” but in business, that doesn’t cut it. It’s more overhead, more people to manage, more space you need, and that negates the cost savings. If it’s not your core competency, go buy it off the shelf and be done with it.