This is news from last week, but it’s something worth thinking about. The Ile-de-France district in Paris is giving away 175,000 USB memory sticks load with open-source software to students. CNet reports:
The portable office will include the office software suite, an Internet browser, an e-mail client, an instant-messaging client, and audio and video player software, according to the Ile-de-France regional council. The open-source software will work in the Windows environment.
With the rising cost of education the question become, when will America embrace open-source? OpenOffice has become over the past few years a very capable MS Office alternative, in fact some people make a good argument that it is better. The cost of education, especially for families sending kids to college, is expensive. Open-source software can help a little by giving students mature feature-rich applications that they can use to get their work done. The real problem is that people perceive it as different and different means bad. Nonsense.
OpenOffice isn’t for everyone, but it is for the majority of people and it is free. I offer this challenge, try OpenOffice for a month and see how you like it. Sadly Mac users will probably find that OpenOffice isn’t quite as nice just yet because it requires something called x11, but that is set to change very soon. So, if you are a Mac user, just wait a little to take up that challenge. Once an aqua version is out there will be no compelling reason for vast majority of MS Office users to continue paying for buggy overpriced software.
Lots of businesses are starting to make the switch to OpenOffice, why should educators lag behind? After all graduating college with less debt (or if you are lucky, with more money) means a better footing getting out into the post-college world.