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Blame FUD for Microsoft’s Dominance in Schools

What a difference a split-second decision can make.

Two possible scenarios:

  1. You cross the street to make your bus connection, stand at the bus stop, get on the bus and go about your business.
  2. You cross the street to make your bus connection but notice an ad in the window of a corner market, advertising that the lottery is up to ten million dollars. You buy a ticket. You win.

We are faced with life-changing decisions every day, never knowing that different, seemingly inconsequential actions will take us down amazingly different paths.

Time for LinuxIn 2006, I made one such decision and it culminated in an outcome I could never have imagined. And while it didn’t entail winning ten million dollars, it did set me on a path so astoundingly complex it’s hard to imagine my life being any other way.

In 2006 my 13 year old daughter jumped into the passenger seat of my pickup truck, excited to be out of school on a Friday afternoon. She bubbled with the days happenings and experiences and then stopped briefly. “Oh, here…I’m supposed to give you or mom this.”

I glanced at the sheet of paper, beginning with Dear Parent or Guardian. I stuck it in my shirt pocket and let my daughter continue her monologue about her day.

After dinner, I reached for a pen in my pocket and my fingers brushed the folded note Amanda had given me earlier. Unfolding it, I scanned the few lines of typed print and abscently tossed it down on the coffee table in front of me. It wasn’t anything I wasn’t used to. Just a note telling me we needed to purchase some additional software for our daughter’s school work.

“Dear Parent or Guardian,

“Your student will need Microsoft Office on her home computer this semester in order to complete her studies. If you already have Microsoft Office on a computer your child uses, there is no need to purchase another license. If Microsoft Office is not available to your child, please check mark one of the choices below. You may be eligible for assistance. Should you be unable to afford a license, we will evaluate each request for a reduced-cost license on a case by case basis.”

At that time, the last thing we worried about was spending a couple of hundred dollars on software. I probably had $200 in the spare change jar in the library. We lived in a big house, with a comfortable six figure income. Life was good. A purchase like this wasn’t anything to worry about. It wasn’t the cash outlay that bothered me. It was the fact that a public school was requesting we purchase a specific brand of software.

Having been a Linux user for a number of years, I knew there were other options and I made it a point to talk with someone at the school. How many people with minimal incomes were being asked to shell out this kind of money when other options were available? How many of our tax dollars were being spent on software that was completely unnecessary?

I am no stranger to the Austin Independent School District. Unfortunately, my claim to fame and the events that led to said infamy are well known. It’s a shame that it had to happen the way it did but again…split second decisions and all that…

I finally got a meeting with the assistant principal at my daughter’s middle school. She was extremely friendly and willing to talk about my ideas and suggestions. When I mentioned that her school could save tens of thousands of dollars by using open source software, she scribbled as I ran down the list of advantages to using open source programs such as Open Office, a program she readily admitted to never hearing of. She shook my hand and told me she would call me directly and let me know after she conferred with her IT staff and the principal. I was extremely excited about the outcome.

As it would turn out, I was also terribly naive.

The returned call she promised was as icy and distant as our initial meeting had been warm and cordial. She informed me that her director of IT strongly recommended against such a change. What it all boiled down to was his statement that:

“It might even be illegal for us to remove Microsoft Office or Windows from previously purchased computers, due to the vendor agreement the school district signed with Microsoft.”

Che LinuxIllegal…really? All that did was prime me for a fight.

I asked her if there was a good time when I could meet with both of them and prove that any such agreement in itself might be illegal and that they were being bullied into using a product they really didn’t need.

No. There would be no such meeting. The subject was closed.

That, in turn, led me to a three year campaign to discover just what was in the agreement between the Austin Independent School District and Microsoft. From 2006 until the middle of 2009 I beat on doors and desks and wrote over two dozen letters to people who might be able to let me get a glimpse at that document. I attended PTSA meetings and talked about this.

What did I hope to gain from said glimpse? I wanted to know how much money AISD was spending on Microsoft software. Nothing more.

It seems they finally got tired of dealing with me.

After a three year battle I got a message on my cell phone informing me I could indeed get the information. I excitedly returned the call only to find that the person was out for lunch. I said I would call back. Before I had the chance to do so though, one of the administrators at AISD headquarters beat me to it.

Oh yeah, she said, it had finally been decided that I could look at that vendor agreement…for a $2,000 administrative fee.

This was obviously a ploy to stop my inquiries. Unfortunately, it worked. My good friend Don Davis tried to raise the money to get these documents exposed, but since I could not make copies or photographs of the documents to publish them, I still would not be able to prove anything. It would have been a classic case of he-said-she-said. No one wanted to invest in something that wouldn’t provide definitive proof.

Don thought my quest was important enough that he made a ten minute documentary about the impact of this requirement for Microsoft Office and other proprietary software. Two of our Reglue directors speak out, as do students and school administrators. The way the administrators tip-toed around the amount of money spent on MS software is telling. The former Director of Engineering for our project, Skip Guenter, offers some unique insight at 5:34 seconds into the clip.

Article Continues After Video

Over the years I have had opportunities to speak with IT directors, teachers and administrators in other school districts. While they are all extremely guarded about what they say, it all comes down to a handful of things, basically inertia and fear.

Paying MicrosoftSchool administrators don’t care what is purchased or used. When it comes to budget money, often it’s a case of “use it or lose it.” If they don’t spend their allocation of funding, then they might get a reduced amount the next year.

What they care about is smooth, uneventful tenures and recommendations for the next job. IT directors for school districts know that their positions are either sealed or forfeited by how well things run under their care. In my interviews, I’ve found that the majority of IT directors in most school districts are MSCEs.

Oh, like that doesn’t play into it at all.

They know Microsoft; they use Microsoft and are loath to learn anything else. While some of them use Linux in their server rooms, few others know it. It’s like the homely girlfriend or boyfriend that helps you cheat your way through biology class. You might use them for their talents and knowledge but you wouldn’t dare be seen with them in public.

An article in the Austin Chronicle that was written in 2008, talking about my flap with AISD, yielded a response from the then IT Director for that district:

“When asked about the possibility of dumping Windows in favor of Linux, AISD technol­o­gy director Gray Salada said that in terms of a cost-benefit analysis, it simply isn’t worth it. Windows comes preinstalled on most computers, he said, so there is little savings to be realized from removing it and incurring the costs of retraining teachers and the district’s 12 engineers, who are already proficient in Windows, to support Linux.

“Always the loyalist, Starks counters that in the long run, Linux still saves money: ‘What happens when they have to update their computers? They’re going to have to upgrade sooner or later, and they’re going to pay through the neck.’ Also, he added that the price of Microsoft, which ranges from $50 to $100, is bundled in with the cost of PCs, which he refers to as the ‘Microsoft tax.’ One of the advantages of Linux, according to Starks’ website, is that upgrades are free, and they’re available as soon as they’re ready.”

In other words, you could get twice the mileage out of the same computer by deploying Linux.

“Salada said that the district is keeping close watch for developments in open-source software and ways it can be used to cut costs, but for the immediate future, district computers will continue to run Windows and Mac OS. ‘Maybe when things move to more browser-based applications where a student or teacher can just open up the program without knowing the operating system [we can start using Linux]. But we’re just not there yet.'”

Flash forward to 2014. Is the excuse still “but we’re just not there yet?”

Fortunately no. Even my small town of freakin’ Mayberry Taylor, Texas has seen the light. They have begun migrating over to a full Google solution, firmly kicking Outlook and Exchange out the door for a more friendly Google email and calendaring system.

It’s about money. It’s about job security. More importantly, it’s about time.

It’s about time we hold our administrators accountable for the money spent within education. Mr. Salada, we are there now. Let’s put the right software into play. It looks like that ugly boyfriend or girlfriend has been given a makeover…


  1. W. Anderson W. Anderson January 16, 2014

    It is unfortunate that Ken Starks has had to learn ” the hard way” about the crass politics and the dubious connection between Microsoft and their influence/control over many school districts in USA.

    Even though I was/am attuned to the situation more clearly and realistically (by experience) than most organizations, businesses or individuals attempting to advance Free/Open Source Software (FOSS) in the American schools, the reactions to my professional and large corporate/National Organizations backed initiatives have been just as clueless and resistant as Stark’s initial approach.

    There has been some progress – i.e. adoption of Google services as mentioned in the article, however progress has been very slow, and I fear that the ignorance and illogical positions of many schools in this country put the USA at a distinct disadvantage compared to school systems in Caribbean and Central/South America that are fast adopting many FOSS solutions and training/usage methodologies. Europe and Asia are already years ahead of US.

  2. Uncle Geek Uncle Geek January 16, 2014

    Ken, you and I keep having fortuitous coincidences. I’m in the heavy thinking stages of writing a proposal to a school nearby and needed some ammunition. They’re out the wazoo deep in XP computers they’ll have do do some deciding about shortly. Through some unfortunate circumstances, they’re also almost out of money. Their IT staff is the director, in her “spare time.”

    Seeing this reminded me all I need to do is look in your blogs from the last million or so years. Between the first person info and the links, I can do a better job of anticipating the objections.


  3. jsusanka jsusanka January 16, 2014

    the so called good people who administer systems for the school and just go with microsoft are not good people and only care about themselves and not the children.

    The only care meeting with their local IT vendor having lunch and implementing what crapware they bought and then put it on their resumes. All the while the children get dumbed down so we can have some more powerpoint producing corporate executives and lawyers.

    It kills me the government is pushing for out kids to get math and science smart but then shoves windows down our throats because the former board member of the gates foundation is the head of the department of education. Hell he may not even be former. How moronic is that and when are the amoral so called administrators going to realize they killing our country. Hey but make sure you kid can score perfect on the act. We need more test takers to follow orders.

  4. Bob Robertson Bob Robertson January 16, 2014

    Those who rise in a bureaucracy are those who put the good of the _bureaucracy_ itself first.

    Not the purpose for which the bureaucracy was established, not the good of the people who pay for that bureaucracy. The bureaucracy itself.

    Public school is a perfect example of this. The bureaucracy has grown beyond the control of anyone, and its goal is no longer education (if it ever was, see Horace Mann and John Taylor Gatto).

    As Ken discovered first hand, the purpose of the bureaucracy is the growth of the bureaucracy.

    The first and best thing you can do for your children is get them OUT of the public schools. Any private school, home school, or unschool, provides a better education.

  5. mark s mark s January 16, 2014

    I’m not so sure about switching to Google services Ken. Better than MS, but still the lesser of 2 evils

  6. Eddie G. Eddie G. January 16, 2014

    It’s just incredible that Microsoft has placed so much fear and trepidation into the education system in America that they actually think it’s ILLEGAL to replace the Windows OS? Isn’t that somehow illegal?…..some kind of monopolistic approach to business and education that they should be penalized for?…I thought that was what the E.U. had done?…to prevent them from stuff like this? But then again I could be mistaken….but I too was thinking about something like this. The scenario is this: my son, who goes to a private school in NY is getting ready to move on to 8th grade, and the Computer Lab is his favorite place to be when he’s not in class, they’re have about 100 PC’s running either Windows XP…(soon to be “put down” if it hasn’t already!) and (WTH!!??) WINDOWS 2000!? I want to approach the principal and administrator of the school and show ’em the wonderful world of Linux, I’m torn between showing them something “familiar”..or close to their standard…(Zorin…or Mint with MATE?) or something else…but I don’t know how to go about broaching the subject…without sounding like some kind of cyber-criminal!..LOL! I will peruse your site some more and see what I can find….thank you for the interesting article!…I might use bits & pieces of it myself for my presentation…(properly citing you of course where need be!)


  7. Can't say my name because of job Can't say my name because of job January 16, 2014

    I was wondering if I might be able to have a word of influence with my employer, as I’m a midlevel administrator (not in IT) at an ISD bigger than Austin, but considering our CTO is now Mr. Salada, maybe not.

    However, I will note that you should be able to make a freedom of information request to any ISD, and they can only change based on hours spent on obtaining the info. Your local newspaper investigative journalists should know how, and probably already make them regularly.

    Another issue is finding out if grants have been accepted from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and see what conditions are placed on those grants.

  8. Brendan Perrine Brendan Perrine January 16, 2014

    Why is making those agreements tying school PCS to windows legal?

    Also this reminds me of reading about political machines in history class instead now it is being run by a corporation.

  9. Bob Mesibov Bob Mesibov January 16, 2014


    Same in far-away Australia:

    In a follow-up letter from the State’s Minister for Education I was told: ‘The Tasmanian Government selected Microsoft Office in the mid-1990s and it has been used by all departments since that time.’ Vendor lock-in-and-throw-away-the-key.

  10. Aldo Reign Aldo Reign January 16, 2014

    Kickbacks. Kickbacks. Kickbacks.

  11. Brent Brent January 16, 2014

    I’ve ran into the same problem with the Nampa, ID public school system. My girlfriend’s daughter was a ESL student (English as a 2nd language). The school wanted her doing extra work at home to get caught up. The software was published by Pearsons
    Its a Microsoft based product and they have software blocks set up to stop it from even attempting to run on non approved systems. Not only that but it requires at least Windows 7. My question was how many ESL families out there can run out and buy the latest Microsoft product just so their kid can do homework? This was pre-Win8.
    Luckily I had VMware and an extra copy of Win7.
    Now my son is going through Nampa’s school district and he is an advance placement student and they have special homework they want him doing. His homework is produced by Edmentum
    and its the same thing all over. There is a software block in place stopping it from running on anything other than the approved list of software providers.
    Instead of these software blocks I wish they’d just kick out an error that says that my system is not on the approved list of software and might be a bit unstable and then let us use at our own risk. I know it will run, their videos are in Adobe Flash and that is handled just fine on Mint and Kubuntu.

  12. Can't say name because of job Can't say name because of job January 16, 2014

    I don’t think it is kickbacks at this level of local government (higher up, sure). However, in Texas, bureacracy is controlled by standards and best practices that, if you want to keep your job as an administrator, you have to avoid audit findings. The best way to do that is follow recommendations from TASBO (Texas Association of School Business Officials).

    I can’t say anything about TASBO classes, instructions, or instructors for IT, as that isn’t my area. But you should find some contacts within TASBO for insight there. If you influence TASBO, you influence 1000+ school districts. I can’t say how IT vendors get influence there, as again, I don’t know the IT side.

  13. Sarah Sarah January 17, 2014

    >I’ve found that the majority of IT directors in most school districts are MSCEs.
    >Oh, like that doesn’t play into it at all.
    >They know Microsoft; they use Microsoft and are loath to learn anything else.

    I actually take objection to this. I have an MCSE. I must be a Microsoftie then. So how does that stack up against my AIX certification then? Perhaps I’m an IBM shill and here to tell you about the wonders of AIX on POWER? But I’m using a Mac… and I have a Linux machine in the corner as a headless server.

    Both mine and the majority of other people who hold industry specific certification do so not because we’re amazing fans of that companies offerings but because it is more often than not a requirement of the job we do and quite often our employer is footing the bill!

    Yet if RedHat were offering me a substantial kickback to make use of their systems then I would give them considerable amounts of time, despite holding an MCSE.

  14. Peter, disciple of St-Ignucius & Linus Peter, disciple of St-Ignucius & Linus January 17, 2014

    I think folks are going about this wrong. When these questions are asked, the people in favour of OSS which will virtually certainly be cheaper in the long run are accused of being “religious.” My feeling was always one of being called black by a pot, however, now I think there is a way to make this reaction useful.

    In Canada, it is in the news a lot recently, that if one asks for religious accommodation, the law is that the organization must accommodate you if it is reasonable to do so. It puts the onus on the organization to explain why they cannot use free software, or let students use it. If a religion is founded whose adherents must only use free and open source software, the people responding are no longer IT, but the school administration, and the interests at stake change completely.

  15. Wade Hampton Wade Hampton January 17, 2014

    I have had similar chats with both school district IT and the school board. Our district (Stafford, VA) has moved most of the back-end stuff to Linux and has finally acknowledged that OpenOffice and the like can be used for work. However, it’s taken years.

    A few years ago the “required” acceptable use agreement said you could not alter computer data, download software or programs, or remove computer programs or data from school systems. It was so bad technically a kid could be suspended for saving THEIR OWN FILE or in programming class downloading open source. Each kid was in violation by SIMPLY turning the computer on. I pointed this out and the head of the school board flamed me saying this had been approved by lawyers and was what other school districts also used….

    Now for college… Last year my son was a freshman engineering student. He had to have a Windows 7 touchscreen computer ($1400-1800) and a $200 M$ software bundle. This year, Win8 surface tablets are acceptable (and one of the reasons they sell at all at Best Buy). For the 2K we paid, he could have had a new laptop EACH YEAR….

  16. Sum Yung Gai Sum Yung Gai January 17, 2014

    I used to work for a public school system, too, and I was an MCSE. Unfortunately, Ken’s views regarding the majority of MCSE’s, especially in the public sector, are true. Heck, they’re true in the private sector as well. Why? Because most MCSE’s are scared to death of losing their jobs. There are a few of ’em like me who were willing to take on “that Linux thing”, but those folks are few and far between. Rule #1 is job preservation, and for the typical MCSE, that means sticking only with what you know.

    This definitely happens in school districts. I remember installing a K12LTSP deployment in a school’s computer lab, with the principal’s blessing (I was one of the IT engineers at this district at the time). The kids loved it. The IT staff there loved it. Even the teachers gradually came around. When the MSBlaster/Nachi tag-team came a-callin’, this K12LTSP lab was the only computer deployment that kept going with no problems.

    And life was good.


    The lead Windows sysadmin for the school district (yep, a typical MCSE, and in a different group from mine) got wind of it. Shortly thereafter, he and his staff came in and ripped out this functioning K12LTSP deployment, threatening to pull IT support for the school if they didn’t back down. He could issue such a threat because he was politically connected and had gotten Directors involved.

    The kids were not pleased. The local tech staff at this school were not pleased. The principal was livid but felt she had little choice in the matter. Even several of the teachers wondered, “how come, since it’s working?”

    This unfortunate situation shows the typical MCSE mentality. I know, because I used to have it way back when, too. Microsoft was it. Fortunately, many years ago, (unlike nearly every other MCSE I’ve ever met), I woke up and discovered a tech world beyond Microsoft. But then I’m the inquisitive, curious type, not just a drone.

    Today, I’m a hiring manager. When I see Microsoft certs on a resume, unless there’s a bunch of experience and other stuff to offset it, years of experience has taught me to roll my eyes. You Microsoft-only types, if you want to work in my shop, you’d better get a clue about UNIX-type systems.

    Ken is right. And I wish that he weren’t.


  17. Wade Hampton Wade Hampton January 17, 2014

    Note, accelerating STEM education is the primary reason the Raspberry Pi was created. They have sold over 2M so far and setup open computer labs around the world. Here in the US, we have budgets so we buy our Microsoft systems instead of using free, flexible, much cheaper, more reliable open source solutions.

    Raspberry Pi:

    Also in my blog, I discussed some of these small solutions that are useful for education:

  18. Rob Rob January 17, 2014

    I personally believe kids would benefit more from using Linux. With Linux, you are able to learn the operating system, truly learn that computing isn’t just about Microsoft. Kids need to learn this. Computing is 0’s and 1’s that are almost miraculously made into useful software that humans can utilize. Microsoft is just on method of producing that. Several other ideas have been made throughout computer history, and kids need to know that. We all do.

  19. PBass83 PBass83 January 17, 2014

    I know there are school districts that are wasteful, but I know my school district and many others around me that are trying to save every nickel they can. Remember, we are the guys who have resurrected more 7,8, and 9 year old pentium 4 machines than just about anyobody. Why? To keep our kids and teachers working with shoestring budgets. Your negative description of IT guys in schools was not fair. So what if they have an MCSE? Over 90% of desktops and laptops over the last 20 years ran windows. They trained on what was being used. That would be like condemning a network engineer for having a Cisco cert.
    I know it is popular to call Microsoft the evil empire and I have certainly had my frustrations with them over the years, but Microsoft over the last couple of years has done some good things for our school district too. Our institution received an Office 365 tenancy for free. This gives us free cloud Exchange,Sharepoint, and Lync servers, as well as free personal skydrive pro storage for every user. They are now offering students Office 365 as a free download to their computer as long as they are a student at our school. They get 50 Gigs of storage, and can use the web apps of Office if they want(don’t even have to have Office installed). We also use Google Apps for Education which is also free. Some of our servers run linux. The bottom line is many of us are trying to save money any way we can. Open Source plays a part, but some of the free offerings of the Mega corporations can also help. I also don’t think the FUD argument is applicable anymore . Maybe 10 years ago, but not today. Microsoft’s dominance isn’t there anymore. There are too many viable options out there. Linux Mint (Cinnamon) edition is one of them. It is a beautiful, slick OS that I have in my home office and would recommend to anyone and have installed it on some of my friends laptops. My friends have been very happy with it.

  20. Daniel von Asmuth Daniel von Asmuth January 17, 2014

    In our country Microsoft has wooed the education sector with huge discounts for its products, so Open Source does not necessarily save schools money. What is worse is that some official government education programs consist in large measure of Microsoft and Cisco certifications.

    But I worked for one school that simply moved to Linux and had a good system administrator to make it work.

  21. Rob Rob January 18, 2014

    The New Zealand Ministry of Education (MoE) couldn’t say how much they were paying Microsoft as it was in a closed tender, they were asked to do the next tender as an open tender, which they did as it is public money after all, it turned out to be $30,000,000. Warrington school didn’t use any Microsoft software yet the MoE wouldn’t give the school the money it was saving the taxpayer. The school was/is using Ubuntu.

  22. Peter Peter January 18, 2014

    The school is not saving the government any money because the deal is likely organization-wide. Folks say using FOSS is not practical, and can reject small defections because they “do not have a business case” precisely because the licensing is done organization-wide. The grouping of licensing across large organizations is a tactic used to “save”, but it is also a way of preventing grass-roots defections. That is a sound reason for MS to provide additional discounts for this type of licensing.

  23. Mike Mike January 18, 2014


    I think you are wrong. The FUD argument is still accurate today. If Microsoft offers anything for ‘free’ it is simply as a gateway to lock-in. They’ve never once varied on this behavior and have proven they will bully, lie, cheat, and steal to prevent adoption of competing technologies.

    The depiction of ‘typical’ MCSE’s is very accurate. I’ve known too many of them. I WAS one of them. I’ve seen (and been party to) the ripping out non-Microsoft technologies in the name of ‘standardizing’, when it’s really about control.

    I first got my MCSE for NT4, then later versions as well. I’ve held MCT and MCSD certifications. I’ve taken and passed dozens of Microsoft certification tests over the years. I even worked as a freelance technical editor on an MCSE study guide. Over many years in the industry I saw things move from Novell dominated LANs to Windows. In the early days, there were genuine concerns that Windows wasn’t even viable for the enterprise because of the lack of trained and certified professionals. That changed as more and more people became certified and the resulting glut drove mass adoption of Windows in large companies. Later those same people drove the adoption of ever more Microsoft technologies because of two vicious cycles. First, people in the position to make business tehcnical decisions chose technologies they already knew, meaning Microsoft. Second, the Microsoft technologies and licensing themselves are interwoven to drive adoption of ever larger numbers of Microsoft products, e.g. Exchange, SQL, System Center, etc. (The list is near endless).
    I was always a curious type and dabbled with Slackware Linux as early as 1996, but never did much with it. I too pursued all things Microsoft for years as did my co-workers. Linux people were seen as oddball novelties.
    In later years, as primarily a Microsoft software developer, I saw the random switching of API’s and technologies (can you say: the many incompatible flavors of XAML?) and shook my head. With each new release, disappearing and reappearing features across the board of Microsoft’s products frustrated me.
    It finally took Windows 8 in all of its horrifying glory to open my eyes. I really tried to like Windows 8, but the deeper I looked the less I liked. People complain about the UI, but I can name dozens of deep technical issues with Windows 8 that I believe exist because Microsoft has lost the ability to do anything about it. Too many years, and layers upon layers of crud built not for technical, but rather marketing purposes. The attempt to move to a complete walled garden ala Apple was the final straw. Microsoft has forgotten that my computer is just that…MINE. I can run anything I want on it, whenever I want, for whatever purpose I want and I’ll be damned if someone else is going to stop me (cue Sunshine by Jonathan Edwards). Windows’ semi-open nature allowed me to be lazy about that fact for many years. No more.

    It was an extraordinarily tough decision to give up an entire world I was so familiar with, and pretty damn good at if I do say so myself. I tried modifying Windows 8, but saw Microsoft is increasingly hostile to that path, and I’m tired of that fight. I considered staying with Windows 7, but there’s no future in that…and as a technophile, it’s unbearably boring. Moving to Apple wasn’t an option as Apple is even worse (welll these days, it’s probably more a toss-up). That left Linux. I spent some time studying distros and licenses and finally settled on Debian because of their respect for freedom, huge community, and technical quality.

    It didn’t take long for early frustration to set in…I couldn’t do many of things that on Windows were a breeze for me. The temptation to return to Windows was strong at times, but I persevered. I learned not only new ways of doing things in Linux, but WHY they were different. It took some time, but I finally got where I feel nearly as competent on Linux as I felt on Windows (especially with networking and virtualization, two of my favorite topics).

    Anyway, enough of the rant. My final point is that despite having moved on from Microsoft in a very permanent way, I still work for a Microsoft partner. In my co-workers I see the same things that I once posessed, namely a willful blindness and resistance to anything outside the Microsoft sphere. They now see me as the oddball novelty, but I don’t care. I know better…I learned the simple secret that many of you have. Microsoft’s chains are illusory. Once you stop believing in them, you can explore the beautiful world of technology that exists beyond them.

  24. Ian Ian January 18, 2014

    I asked the chair of our National Health IT Board a couple of years ago whether they had considered a Linux- based solution. His response (in 2012, mind): “It’s still experimental technology”. That’s the power of belief, and middle age (when your broad mind and narrow waist exchange adjectives).

    100 years ago these people were busy inventing the ultimate horse carriage. They don’t deserve our anger; it’s a pitiable thing to be certain of something so wrong, and believe it so deeply.

  25. CommonSenseNotSoCommon CommonSenseNotSoCommon January 18, 2014

    I thank you kindly, for posting and sharing your experience. It is very insightful. I shall keep this short and sweet. I do believe, that as much as I strongly dislike NSA, government spying or any other type of unwarrented spying, that the NSA is unintentionally helping the cause of FOSS and open source in general.

    Wut??, you may say. When more and more people grasp the true meaning of open source software versus the meaning of propriety software. A lot more people will run to use open source software. Open source=you can see all the code. Propriety software=only the owner and/or the one writing the code can see what is in the code.Hence forth backdoors, spyware, trojans, etc, etc. can be implemented in propriety code, and only a select few will be aware of what exactly is in the code.

    One of the many beauties of Open Source is there is nothing hidden. Anyone and everyone could inspect code and is free to have improvements added to the code.

    Finally, to be perfectly crystal clear: Open Source=transparency and Propriety=covert, hidden.

    I hope this is of use to someone and that it is found to be helpful. Cheers.

  26. Amaroq Amaroq January 18, 2014

    The problem isn’t Microsoft. It’s the public schooling system. This article cites, but then throws away the root of the issue. The public school system is a government-run program where you have to use your funding or risk losing it.

    The reason for this is probably the idea that because children are graduating with very little knowledge or literacy, the schools must be underfunded. And so we keep throwing more and more ridiculous amounts of money at them and they don’t get any better. If they have money left over after we’ve thrown it at them, then they must not have needed it all that badly. So this fact creates an incentive for the public school system to blow all the money.

    Hence they actually have a perverse incentive to buy Microsoft software no matter how good the free alternative is. If they start using free (free as in free beer) software, they get their funding cut.

    If you want to fix the public schooling system, getting them to use open source software is just putting a band-aid on the issue. A band-aid that they don’t even want, because if they stop hemorrhaging money, they’ll get their transfuses cut.

    The solution to all of this is the free market. Abolish public schooling, deregulate the education industry, and let free market alternatives take over. Then you will have a schooling industry that has an incentive to save money, and you will be able to convince them to adopt open source software if they deem it good enough to compare to the proprietary variations.

  27. Søren Holm Søren Holm January 19, 2014

    I’m also trying to sell the Linux-way to the people I am in contact with. An agument often heard is that in terms of functionallity Linux is just not there yet. They may very be well be right. But I always try to argue that there is a difference between the absolute feature set of a specific application and the features you need. Most of the time way you need is completely covered by open-source alternatives.

    Great article. Unfortunately I guess we are in the same situation here in Denmark.

  28. Empires Empires January 19, 2014

    I was an IT Manager for a State Government Department. I can certainly identify with this article. We wanted to go with Apple and Linux, and in fact post tender which Apple won my career was threatened by 5 Microsoft reps who were going to go to government and get the tender result overturned – “right of reply” they called it. I also had a bullying complaint taken out against me by one of my staff, with the line that read; ” I am taking out a bullying complaint concerning XXX XXX because of his dislike for Microsoft Software.” Obviously the bulling complaint didn’t go anywhere but I had to fight for three years in my position, eventually I was forced to leave by government because of my support for open source and low recurrent cost solutions and the fact that government wanted to go Microsoft front to back. When I questioned this I was told that Microsoft was an “Acceptable cost of doing business”. The pressure from senior government employees was too great! It really is a shame… my calculations show, backed up by the Munich experience that my state could save 15 million + per year by moving to open source software. In a time when its difficult to afford the wages of teachers, police, doctors and state servants (indeed a lot are loosing their jobs), why should be be bullied into paying the Microsoft Tax, when other more cost effective options are available??? We need to speak to our politicians – but with the amount that Microsoft lobby, I doubt they may listen.

  29. Mike Mike January 19, 2014


    “The solution to all of this is the free market. Abolish public schooling, deregulate the education industry, and let free market alternatives take over. ”

    Good god, that’s a horrible idea. While the current system is indeed broken (partly because it values administrators over teachers), the “free market” will result in only wealthy families getting decent educational opportunities. Companies will differentiate services into whatever the market will bear, meaning the poorest students will get shit on. Capitalism only works if your ‘customers’ actually have a real choice not just between products, but also to not buy any product at all. That’s hardly practical when it comes to education. No, the solution is to stop treating school district beuraucrats like CEOs. They add no real value to the system and should be paid accordingly, i.e. minimum wage. I see schools today that can’t provide bus service, or provide individual text books for their students, yet people working for the district drive around in Mercedes. That’s the problem.

  30. Amaroq Amaroq January 20, 2014


    “Capitalism only works if your ‘customers’ actually have a real choice not just between products, but also to not buy any product at all.”

    Why can’t people just homeschool if they can’t afford public school?

    Poor children in a free market school system will probably get a better education than the public school is currently giving them.

  31. Uncle Geek Uncle Geek January 20, 2014

    >>Why can’t people just homeschool if they can’t
    >>afford public school?

    I don’t understand what you’re saying. Do you mean homeschool if they can’t afford private schools? Who will do the teaching? A large fraction of the families in the United States have both parents working because they can just afford the necessities that way.

    >>Poor children in a free market school system
    >>will probably get a better education than
    >>the public school is currently giving them.

    I have a real problem with your using “probably.” It sounds like wishful thinking.

  32. Mike Mike January 20, 2014

    “Why can’t people just homeschool if they can’t afford public school?”

    That will work out really well for single parent families, won’t it?

    “Poor children in a free market school system will probably get a better education than the public school is currently giving them.”


  33. Joseph Joseph January 21, 2014

    While I am a great proponent of the FOSS revolution, and I have fought that battle also, but, there is a couple of huge things that stands in your way.

    1. “huevonitis” pronounced oo-ay’-vo-neye-tis. A mild infection that is very contagious and affects the things that hang low. This infection swells that area to the point that you can no longer carry them, making you unable to do anything.

    2. “Group Policy”. Not Active Directory. There are OSALT for active directory, just not group policy. And until that happens, only your main servers, the backbone, will be used with linux. Refer to reason 1.

    But there is no reason why OSS can not be used for desktop applications, OOo, LibreOffice, Bluefish, Apena, Scibd, GIMP, etc. I have not used, other than Access, any Microsoft Office product in my facility for 7 years now. And every time the boss asks why, I say that I am not going to pay $400 for each machine to have it. And then pay it again in two years to upgrade it. He then leaves it alone for about six months, and repeat.

    All we can do is maintain our ground and fight the good battle.

  34. bmullan bmullan January 22, 2014

    Microsoft also gave schools huge discounts on student licensing… sometimes only $5 or $10.

    This worked on several levels.
    1) from school’s perspective it was relatively cheap
    2) from microsoft’s perspective… students grew up isolated in a microsoft oriented applications world.
    2) parents were easier to persuade to buy for home what the kids use in school… but pay full retail
    3) there was a lot of money to be made in Windows Server and Active Directory sales & “Services” contract renewals for large school districts.

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