Dave's points about who drives these decisions are well made. Some of these
decision drivers want to cut costs so they consider open source solutions to
contain licensing costs. That's especially important for office suite and
There are reasons other than cost-of-licensing to adapt open source
solutions. Case in point: course management systems. Most commercial CMS
provide basic access and communication tools, but few of these services are
pedagogically advanced. Our faculty tells me they find these CMS
constraining. They can envision much better teaching systems. Since
teaching is a core competency for our institutions, it makes sense that we
create a CMS (or two or three) under open source licensing models (see more
about the Open Knowledge Initiative at http://web.mit.edu/oki/).
We're piloting Stanford's CourseWork CMS this semester (runs on Apache and
Tomcat; we're using phpBB for discussions within CourseWork). One goal may
be to cut the price we pay to license a CMS, but the longer term goal is to
have access to an advanced CMS developed by higher education for higher
education. We're looking at Linux, StarOffice and OpenOffice but IMHO,
these aren't the low-hanging fruit of the open source market for us, at
Scott E. Siddall, Ph.D.
Assistant Provost, Director of Instructional Technology
Denison University | Granville, Ohio 43023
740.587.5799 | http://siddall.info
From: The EDUCAUSE CIO Constituent Group Listserv
[mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Dave Koontz
Sent: Wednesday, March 05, 2003 6:40 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [CIO] open source
All, I have a slightly more 'fundamental' question regarding this
issue. Who in your organization drives, determines and finally decides
upon 'software' required and supported by your institution? Is it the
IT / IS Department, Faculty teaching CS curriculum, the Dean,
Departmental VP's, the Board, the President or some other collective
Seems to me that each of these elements have their own agendas they are
looking out for, and even lobbying for.. Due to our limited resources,
we attempt to minimize variations of 'campus wide' OS and Software loads
as best we can.... perhaps other institutions have staffing levels to be
Newer Linux Distros like Xandros are great, as are Open/Star Office as
alternatives to MS solutions. Code Weaver's "CrossOver" product has
some real potential, but are not quite ready for Prime Time. VMWare is
simply too expensive and hardware hungry to be an answer, particularly
on older equipment.
While as most folks here, we would LOVE to move away from MS, here are
the problems we face with such solutions:
- Most Faculty Teach Using Software ONLY available on MS Platforms
- Most CS Course books are Microsoft Concentric
- IIS, FrontPage and WebDav are used to create Faculty/Class WebSites
(faculty controlled access rights)
- Our Legacy AS400 TN5250 application can not run in Linux (with no
- Most of our offices have setup Access Databases, or Advanced Word
Merges that simply don't work in other products
- No Answer to most any 'Legacy' applications requiring MDAC / SQL
- General Software 'availability' is still sorely lacking in Linux
- User Training: Many of our users get confused if an Icon moves, I
can't imagine changing their OS and Office App at the same time.
Certainly, if we had momentum by all the various campus constituents to
change, it would be a fairly easy task. But, fundamentally people do
not like change, particularly when it involves countless hours or
redoing processes they've built over the course of years. I tend to
agree with another's post recently, MS will have to be 'phased' out,
much like it was 'phased' in. There needs to be user training at each
step of the conversion over a protracted period of time. And IT / IS
will have to invest heavily in the retraining of it's support staff.
I'd love to hear how others are dealing with these other 'side' issues,
and who is driving the technology at your school. Clearly it is about
far more than simple Software costs.
Jeff Giacobbe wrote:
> Kevin Shalla wrote:
>> I'm thinking that the two main challenges are
>> Interoperability with Microsoft users - there will always be a need
>> to work
>> this way
> StarOffice (SO) integrates quite well into an MS Office environment.
> File import is very good. Not perfect, but very good. And remember, SO
> and OpenOffice (OO) does not equal "Linux". SO/OO is just as happy
> running under Windows 98/NT/2K/XP as Linux (or Solaris.) There is even
> a MacOS X port of OpenOffice in late beta.
> Note that SO/OO does not support VisualBasic scripts or VB macros. In
> my opinion, this is actually a Good Thing - full immunity to all those
> macro viruses!! Of course, if you rely heavily on VB macros conversion
> will be harder as you will need to convert to SO/OO's BASIC scripting
> and macro language.
>> Selling a clear end-user benefit to the change - end users don't care
>> costs or security, and will try to make a conversion fail if there's no
>> benefit to them.
> True, but it's hard to argue with the $0.00 price tag of SO and OO.
> Perhaps if users understood that the tens of thousands of dollars spent
> on MS site licensing each year could be put to much better use for other
> academic initiatives they would start to care about the costs. And any
> user that doesn't care about security should have a real close look at
> your institution's Acceptable Use policy....
> Perhaps I'm just living in a fantasy world, but an Office suite is an
> Office suite. It's just a word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation
> package. For 99% of our users, SO/OO is just as functional as MS
> Office, for free, with no danger from the hundreds of VB macro viruses
> out in the wild.
> Why not reserve MS Office for the small percentage of users who must use
> VB scripting or some other MS proprietary feature.....and make them pay
> for the license to run it. You'll be surprised how fast the free
> alternative becomes "good enough" for their needs. :-)
>> Does the above open source solution require any retraining on the user
>> interface, or is it the same as Windows / Macintosh?
> Admittedly I am not an MS Office "power user", but I found the move to
> StarOffice to be quite painless. The StarOffice 6.0 interface and menus
> are very close to MS Office, and the things that aren't in exactly the
> same place can be found and utilized with about 10 minutes of
> That said, opening MS Office file in StarOffice is not 100%. It's close
> - very close - but there are times when complex Word Documents do not
> format exactly the same as in "real" MS Office. Often times it is
> simply a difference in the display font, but other times (nested Word
> tables for example) the document just doesn't format correctly.
> Of course, the root of the problem is that MS has a closed, proprietary
> file format that they change any time they see fit. In fact, formatting
> is often broken even between different versions of MS Office ;-).
> Unfortunately alternative office suites like Star/OpenOffice,
> WordPerfect, etc. are fighting an uphill battle against MS's secret file
> format. Interestingly, StarOffice files saved in MS Word format load
> perfectly into MS Office, so the compatibility works great in that
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