Subject: Re: support for a small US college going GNU?
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <stephen@xemacs.org>
Date: Tue, 19 Jul 2005 10:48:36 +0900

>>>>> "Joe" == Joe Corneli <jcorneli@math.utexas.edu> writes:

    Joe> Are there people out there who can get in a bid that would
    Joe> blow MS/Apple out of the water?

That depends on what your goals are.  There are several kinds of uses
involved:

    1.  Corporate communications (marketing, etc) -- they should be
        using OSS on Unix anyway, everybody with a competent :-) staff
        does.

    2.  Internal network services (intranet, email, mailing lists,
        etc) -- ditto.

    3.  Student office apps (including unusual stuff like Mathematica,
        the point is that the "protocol" for communicating with profs
        is hardcopy).

    4.  Finance/registrar -- colleges have weird budgeting and
        reporting requirements.  Odds are high that these departments
        are running idiosyncratic software, and the odds that they own
        no rights to it are worrisomely high.

    5.  Educational systems (ie, class- or department-specific
        software for tutoring, doing & collecting homework, testing).
        A lot of this stuff is written in Visual Basic.  Again,
        property rights are a problem (== if you don't own it,
        reproducing functionality is expensive).

    6.  Faculty office apps (ie, research and teaching materials
        development, including presentation software).

1 and 2 are easy.  You're likely to get strong resistance to 3 from
students and parents who equate education with training in clerical
speed and accuracy.  If professors are already accepting homework and
reports in electronic form, they are very likely to resist any change
in 3.  4 and 5 are probably expensive, and you'll need vendors that
the president and provost trust a lot.  6, well, this is a matter of
academic freedom (at least, it will be presented that way by the
AAUP), and professors are the most intellectually lazy mammals there
are (I know from introspection ;-).  Good luck.

If I were you, I'd push the reliability, security, and low cost of
maintenance of the open source solutions for 1 and 2.  Lobby the
staff.  Point out that it gets ever easier (and more reliable and
cost-effective) to outsource maintenance of homogeneous Microsoft
installations, while Unix admin provides a lot more growth opportunity
for the "general handyman" types who populate small organization IT
staffs.  Be careful about that; if it's a good liberal arts college,
they may very well be writing a lot of the VB apps mentioned in 5
above, in which case the good ones already pretty secure, and moving
to wxPython or the like is a non-negligible overhead cost for them.

-- 
School of Systems and Information Engineering http://turnbull.sk.tsukuba.ac.jp
University of Tsukuba                    Tennodai 1-1-1 Tsukuba 305-8573 JAPAN
               Ask not how you can "do" free software business;
              ask what your business can "do for" free software.