Thursday, August 26, 2010

Pearson Education - You will NOT use Linux

Summer is winding down and fall semesters are starting all around the country. My girlfriend started classes this week and one of her online classes required her to purchase access to the Pearson Online Education system. After she paid out the $55.00 it costs to gain access to the website she clicked through to the login screen and was greet by this lovely page


I felt like bending over and saying "Thank you sir! May I have another?" After dealing with a similar issue on Blackboard, I'm starting to get the feeling that education companies dislike FOSS operating systems. I told her to try and login anyways - The website refused. Upon clicking on their "system and browser requirements" link I was presented with the following page

Apparently I was wrong about this issue being similar to the one I had with Blackboard. At least Blackboard supported FOS browsers on Windows and OSX. That's right, not only does this Pearson Education system require Windows or OSX it required you to use Internet Explorer or Safari. In case you missed it, towards the bottom of the above screen shot

The kicker? The "MyLab" courses are rendered using Javascript and Flash. Those are both cross-platform technologies last I checked (that both ran perfectly fine in Firefox).

Now I understand that it can take a lot of time and resources to support another operating system/browser. Even if Pearson isn't willing to "support" Linux/Firefox users on their website they could at least let us login using the operating system/browser of our choice after seeing their warning message.

Finally, here is where you can contact the Pearson Education system:

http://247pearsoned.custhelp.com/app/ask

If you have a moment, please shoot them an email like I am going to, stressing the importance of cross-platform for technology - especially in an educational setting. Also for those all mentioning the user agent switcher, this is just a band-aid to a greater issue. It contributes to the idea these companies have that people only use Internet Explorer (or Safari on OSX). It is as bad as buying a system that has Windows on it and then not returning the Windows license when you intend the system to run Linux.

~Jeff Hoogland

48 comments:

  1. What surprises me the most is that Pearson is a major provider of the CompTIA exams, many of which are specifically about Linux.

    http://wsvprd1a.pearsonvue.com/Dispatcher?webApp=ExamList&webContext=CandidateSite&cid=119

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  3. Not much of a surprise, really. I've often ended up on college sites which are unorganized, at best, and abysmal, at worst.

    One such site is http://www.morainevalley.edu. Their computer classes are pretty decent; the instructors who teach web development, in particular, are fantastic. I find it odd, and frustrating, that while colleges teach students about the in's and out's of good web development and design, they often do NOT practice what they preach.

    Pretty similar to the publishers of those quite expensive techy text books.

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  4. https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/59/
    User Agent Switch plugin, defeating idiotware since 2002.

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  5. Firefox (on Windows and Linux) supports extensions. One of these extensions is to mimic the User Agent of other browsers on various operating systems. Despite the fact that you're using Firefox (on Linux no less), it can still fake the UA signature. The web site won't know the difference, and you can continue to use F/OSS software.

    Cheers!

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  6. user agent switcher as a band-aid. the real issue here is the snubbing of our community. we need to make them aware that there are people, and customers, that do not use the mainstream software. we have a voice. we need to be heard. viva la revolucion!

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  7. I used MyMathLab under firefox perfectly fine for 2 semesters last year, not sure if it's changed now, but last I saw it works fine.

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  8. I told my healthy lifestyles and you teacher about this. She wants information on how IE is secure, and why people should stick to HTML standards, to send to the site. Shes considering not using them in future semesters because of this.

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  9. They have required JavaScript Versions. I wonder if you have to download the newest HTML as well? :)

    I think they mean Java version.

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  10. if I am not mistaken, there are addons for Firefox that emulte IE/Safari and thus could be used here.
    Or you can use IE 6, 7 or 8 in WINE.

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  11. Hang on... JavaScript version? They can't tell the difference between Java and JavaScript, yet expect to be taken seriously?

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  12. But have you TRIED the user agent switcher? You'll have a lot more leverage if your letter to the company says "Your website ALREADY supports Firefox... if I tell Firefox to report that it is IE (by swapping the user agent string) it works fine. Your website just refuses to load on any browser that says it's Firefox.

    Since you ALREADY support it, how about you flip the switch that says it works on Firefox. Linux users around the world would appreciate it."

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  13. For all those people screaming "User Agent switcher": It doesn't actually fix the problem.

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  14. I sent them a quick message Jeff.
    Happy to help support the cause.

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  15. ARRGH! Pearson Ed / Prentice Hall always supports us here at the LinuxLink TechShow as well. Groan....

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  16. Here's the comment I sent them:
    As an IT professional and support provider to many users, I will be sure to recommend AGAINST using your operating-system-specific service to everyone I know. Additionally, I will work to discredit the methods you are using to lock people into a specific platform via every medium of web communication that I use.

    Locking people into the windows platform is supporting monopoly and is not in the spirit of education in the first place. Why would you do such a thing?

    I am using a web standards compliant browser (Firefox), and a completely FREE open source operating system - there's no reason this should not work with your service!

    When I visit http://pegasus2.pearsoned.com/Pegasus/frmLogin.aspx?s=3 I receive the error "This product does not support the web browser you are using. To log in you must use one of the supported browsers. For a list of supported browsers, click the system and browser requirements link below. "

    FYI - I'm responding to you based upon information I read in an article entitled "Pearson Education - You will NOT use Linux" at http://jeffhoogland.blogspot.com/2010/08/pearson-education-you-will-not-use.html

    Companies that restrict technology, open standards, and interoperable technology should be punished with the dollar vote. Platform-specific technology is for software that is installed from CDROM disc - not the World Wide Web.

    Please consult w3c.org for more information on how to provide services for the Internet. The Internet is not supposed to require windows operating system!

    Thank you for your understanding.

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  17. If you're really desperate, install wine, then grab winetricks: http://wiki.winehq.org/winetricks

    Run: winetricks ie6 (or ie7 or ie8, choose your poison)

    I have to use it on my Ubuntu desktop for occasional testing of web-apps.

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  18. Pearson? Now I remember looking this up. Prentice Hall. They produced a DVD (sort of) which was to instruct you in Python. But it would only run in Windows. (And it had other dismal "features" as well.) I did a scathing review of it for our local Python group, BayPiggies.

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  19. If they have a policy like that, perhaps you might conclude that what they are teaching is not necessarily something you want to learn, like conformance. I don't know about you, but I would look elsewhere for my education for institutions that support learning and creativity, not my way or the highway.

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  20. Suck it up and deal with it, just like Windows doesn't fit all scenarios neither does Linux and we don't have any right to try to force them to support us. If all they support is Windows and OSX, then it is on us to make sure that we use what they support.

    Trying to force this work in Linux is a terrible idea, what would happen if you were in the middle of a test and your hack suddenly stopped working for whatever reason.

    Like I said a few days ago, put Windows in a VM. This is just another example of why it would be valuable.

    :D

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  21. Shit no! We have to fight for our rights!

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  22. Windows in VM ware? Unlike most Windows users, we users of Linux are more than often not into piracy, and I would not want to shell out some money to microsoft just to run programmes occasionally.

    Guess it is just back to the classroom for pearson then

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  23. @Anonymous - I didn't ask anyone to become a pirate. Read the rest of the blog, this wasn't a computer purchased with Linux so it already has a Windows license associated with it.

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  24. If the original web developers designed the site with only IE in mind, it would be a lot of work to add support for other browsers. Look at this link for some idea of the differences: http://www.impressivewebs.com/7-javascript-differences-between-firefox-ie/
    On top of that I can think of AJAX being different too. Perhaps a letter to Pearson might be better phrased as: "If you invest a little more initially in web developers that build support for all browsers from the ground up as a good web developer should, you open your product to a much wider potential user base. It would pay off in the long run to support both IE and 'the rest' (since most are similar)."

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  25. @Mikazo The website also works on Safari on OSX, which uses Webkit.

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  26. Today this is inacceptable... there is no excuse for blocking browsers: pearson education folks are simply incompetent.

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  27. For a teaching company, they have a lot to learn

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  28. "Suck it up and deal with it, just like Windows doesn't fit all scenarios neither does Linux and we don't have any right to try to force them to support us. If all they support is Windows and OSX, then it is on us to make sure that we use what they support.

    Trying to force this work in Linux is a terrible idea, what would happen if you were in the middle of a test and your hack suddenly stopped working for whatever reason.

    Like I said a few days ago, put Windows in a VM. This is just another example of why it would be valuable.

    :D"


    you can't be serious.
    you are destroying the whole idea of web browsing and the internet.
    the os should not matter if you are on the web period end of story. any developer who develops for a specific os needs to seriously consider a career change.

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  29. Sent them a mail for us too!

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  30. That's funny! After filling out and submitting the form on the contact page you gave us, the next window offers suggestions on getting their online program working with IE8. Which goes to show they must be basing their online work on an older (non-web-standard friendly) version of IE. Which is exactly the point I made with my comments, see below:
    I am responding to a friend's request to ask you to support all Internet users in your educational program. By requiring Internet Explorer to access your program, you are giving credence to a company (Microsoft) which willfully avoided Internet web standards in some of its browser versions. Now that they are returning to meet these standards, in versions 8 and above, you too, should join them in that effort. This can only mean a better educational experience for all!
    For your information, I am accessing your web site on my Asus netbook running Linux and using Firefox.

    revdjenk

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  31. The Pearson people might, conceivably, have had an excuse for their assinine behaviour 10 or more years ago, but today it is simply unacceptable. Insisting on 'supporting' just one browser is literally the 1990s, as it were. How about adhering to W3C standards? Have that thought even crossed their minds? Oh well. Good luck!

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  32. Just sent the following email to Pearson, others please take similar action:

    I am currently responsible for the development of a computer lab here in the US at a school in the state of GA. I plan to implement FOSS in the lab, in case you do not know what FOSS is that stands for Free Open Source Software.

    I also instruct the high school math class of Algebra II. We currently use a Pearson textbook "Algebra and Trigonometry" by Foerster. I was extremely disappointed to find out that the "MyLabs" section of your website does not allow access with the Firefox or other FOSS browsers. Even if you do not wish to budget support for students using those browsers you should still allow them access. The "MyLab" courses are rendered using Javascript and Flash. Those are both cross-platform technologies and to dissallow cross-platform access is quite hypocritical considering you make money with your involvement with the CompTIA testing and certification on the Linux operating system.

    Rest assured that later this year when we review math texts to replace the current one, unless there is a commitment from Pearson to open up the "MyLabs" site to be browser neutral, I will not even consider speaking with a Pearson textbook representative about a replacement text.

    Thanks and have a good day!

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  33. Check it out! Same thing happened to one of our faculty with Pearson! I decided pay tribute to the fact that I only use Open Source Software! http://designbybeck.com/oss/Pearson.png

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  34. pearson sucks dont use them for anything

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  35. What a nightmare. Why do the rules just not seem to apply for the big boys? I'm the project manager for a small education tech company and a linux user at home. Despite being a fraction of a percent of the size of Pearson, all our software is supported on Linux, Apple, Windows, and soon Android (http://languagelabblog.com). If we can do it, why can't Pearson?

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  36. Pearson absolutely sucks. I bought an etext from them and they recently discovered that they are having "developmental" issues. I've been on tech support for the past three weeks and now have an exam on thursday, still with no textbook.

    I would say that I would never buy pearson products again, but I can't because they are a textbook monopoly that is price gouging me while THEY control what I learn.

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    1. You know, I honestly doubt that the reason is because of 'technical diffuculties' like they claim it to be. I honestly think that these idiots are trying to have control. By controlling what the students are allowed to learn and how to learn it, they could easily manipulate them to be completely submissive to the rest of the government. It reminds me of the book "Little Brother". First they take over the schools and the students, then they take over the rest of the government. Then, people lose all of their rights.

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  37. I used to contract there building software. They bought up an LMS system that is .net - and badly implemented at that. Blows my mind. They had other systems that ran on Linux and any browser was fine. Must be the dude's brother's wife works for Pegasus, or some connection like that, so they bought into something that doesn't really work - kludge as hell. When I hit the test site with FF on windows, I got the non-supported browser message and felt like I had bounced back in time to circa 1998. Sad.

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  38. They also do not even support IE9. So Windows Vista/7 users that have upgraded to the IE9 beta are also out of luck.

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  39. Pearson uses IE so you can't use certain tools in Google toolbar that are available in Firefox. They also disable cut and paste features, presumably to discourage cheating. And some of those Spanish speakers in the lessons suck!

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  40. I'm an ex-writing tutor for ST/Pearson. I left because of their proprietary bullshit. I know enough code to see no reason why students don't just upload their drafts to a portal that extracts and reformats to RTF for instructors to use. As a tutor, I HAD to be able to upload reviewed papers in the same format, txt, rtf, doc, docx. I was responsible for preventing student documents from contaminating my system. I agree with this blogger that all these proprietary limitations are against the true spirit of education. Thank you!

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  41. I'm forced to use Pearson's NovaNET system.
    What drives me nuts is that it requires out-of-date Flash/Java, and requires ActiveX to be enabled. I tried disabling ActiveX, and I couldn't move around any menus; I was stuck in the middle of nowhere until I re-enabled it.
    No matter what browser I faked the agent in, it kicked me out because they don't support ActiveX.
    Because the lessons are powered by Flash, they crash constantly, destroying days of work in mere seconds.
    My school also transitioned to PowerSchool a few years back for grading. The school didn't pay to sign their "HTTPS Certificates," so Firefox/Chrome tried to steer me away. When I told the school to either get them signed or get another way to show me my grades, they said, "Oh, well!"

    It disappoints me that our schools are crippled by these kinds of things.
    To top this off, my school claims to be a "STEM" school. Their technology (the T) is horribly sub-par. They refuse to do anything about it.

    I'm finishing my Senior year with an education based on multiple choice questions.
    This isn't right. I feel afraid because I'm not prepared for college.

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  42. Thank you for this. I added my two cents. It's 2012 Fall and still no improvement, eh.

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  43. Even if you can access Pearson's e-texts, which I am forced to use in the degree program I am enrolled in, they are worthless. You can't search, can't copy/paste... The pages turn slow and you can't skim the text without constantly clicking forward due to the fact that all of your screen real-estate is taken up by the e-reader program so that only about one paragraph fits on a page. Oh yea, and you cant maximize and resize it to fit a big screen to view more content. The most painful online reading experience in existence. An absolute joke. I finally pirated the PDF from a torrent site because the Pearson online book version that comes with the program is completely unusable. These guys get technology and the Internets like the recording industry does.

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  44. Pearson is full of a bunch of liars. They say that "Firefox does not work for the Ebooks", so now the stupid school system deleted Firefox off our computers. Not only that, but Firefox runs the ebooks MUCH better than Internet Explorer does.

    You know the real reason that they want us to use Internet Explorer? Because it gets them money. However, it puts the students to a massive disadvantage. Those selfish little lying imbeciles would harm the students to benefit themselves.

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