debate about Free software for the ACT Government

Ben Elliston bje at
Thu Apr 25 05:32:08 EST 2002

>>>>> "Simon" == Simon Fowler <simon at> writes:

  >> I was actually thinking more on the application side. For an 
  >> archaeologist, say, having "familiar with Microsoft Office" in a set of 
  >> selection criteria doesn't sound too unreasonable. But "familiar with 
  >> OpenOffice" seems like a bit of hurdle. Being able to do this cuts down on 
  >> the amount of time and resources needed to get someone up and working.

  Simon> It'd be /really/ nice if it was possible to say "familiar with
  Simon> general word processing techniques", rather than "familiar with
  Simon> $wordprocessor" . . . And I think that's probably what we should be
  Simon> aiming for: not a wholesale migration towards Free Software, but
  Simon> opening up the possibility of using something other than MS
  Simon> software. 

You have just pushed my button on this topic. ;-)

It drives me up the wall to see schools, struggling with the funding
that they get, having to shell out megabucks for "enterprise class

I don't understand why these schools think that it is so crucial to
survival that 7 year olds learn Microsoft Word.  When I did woodwork
in Year 7, we were allowed to cut wood with small saws because they
were cheap and much harder to hurt yourself with.  Of course, if I had
become a professional carpenter, I would use a large power saw on a
daily basis and it wouldn't take me long to learn how to use it given
that I know how to measure up and cut timber.

My point is that it is sad that schools (and I can't blame them
entirely for their lack of clue) believe that it is essential to teach
a 7 year old to use a tool that professionals use to churn out
hundreds of pages of documentation per week.  KWord would do just fine
for typing up text, bolding, underlining and printing something off at
the end.

If I had a son or daughter, I would be heavily lobbying the school
they attended to stop burning their money and spending it on something
useful (like a pay rise for the teachers).  BTW, there was a really
interesting discussion on this topic recently by Cliff Stoll, one hell
of an animated character!

If the Canberra Linux community can do one public service, it is to
save the schools from wasting money like they are.  Yes, it will
require a few trained individuals to help maintain machines, but the
schools seem to have these anyway now (kindergarten teachers with
MCSEs; I know of one!) and on the whole, they would require less
maintenance.  Anyone wish to call Simon Corbell?  :-)


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