Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Linux FUD in College Education

My fiance started a new class this week - an MIS (Management Information Systems) class. While we were having dinner tonight she brought up the fact there are some - lets say - colorful definitions of Linux in her wonderful "Experiencing MIS" text book.

Under a section titled "What Does a Manager Need to Know About Software?" there are a number of things presented to the reader as "facts" that I just have to disagree with. It starts with a nice table describing that describes typical users for Windows, OSX, Unix and Linux desktop users. What is the description of a typical Linux user you ask?

"rare - used where budget is very limited"

That is right - the only reason to use Linux on the desktop is when you are strapped for cash. I guess Google never got that memo. The extra kick in the pants? Apparently the only commonly used application Linux has is:

"Open Office (Microsoft Office look-alike)"

Never mind that Open Office contains a sane menu interface instead of "ribbons".

In case the avid reader is curious about who created Linux - that information is here as well. Linux is developed by the "open-source community" which is described as:

"a loosely coupled group of programmers who mostly volunteer their time"

I guess they never got the memo that nearly 75% of kernel work is done by paid developers.

This is what is holding Linux back on the desktop folks. Not a lack of hardware support. Not a lack of user friendliness. Just good old fashion Linux FUD. The best thing you can do to fight things like this is to speak up and let the people spreading the FUD know it is not OK to spread misinformation. Although I must say it really irks me seeing information like this appearing in a higher education setting.

What is this wonderful text book you ask? As mentioned above it is titled "Experiencing MIS", written by a man named "David Kroenke", and published by none other than Pearson Education.

~Jeff Hoogland

21 comments:

  1. Well, there's still a lot to overcome :)

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  2. Institutional Inertia.

    Think Linux has a bad rep, try advocating anarchy!

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  3. You should send a letter of complaint to them.

    You could even get the Linux Foundation to threaten to sue them, as they are in control of the Linux registered (®) trademark. I haven't read the terms of use they defined for their trademark, but I'm pretty sure they don't like FUD.

    Also, although I am disgusted by this, I must say that after being trained at my job to use Microsoft Office 2007, I am much more productive than I have ever been. The interface is grouped much more nicely. It also makes keyboard shortcuts much more accessible, just hold down Control. There was actually a mockup of a possible Ribbon UI for LibreOffice but it was shouted down--a step back in my opinion. MS Office remains a killer app for Windows IMO, and it is just more efficent (especially regarding how it cleverly adjusts fonts and formatting depending on context, if you've used it you know what I mean). There's also games, but they have no place in the workplace.

    Linux is getting there and it's better in all aspects except the ecosystem. I firmly believe you should send a letter to Pearson Education, or maybe the Linux Foundation and make them aware of this. You could kick up quite the storm.

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  4. Are we too nice when we hold ourselves back suggesting it is work done by interest groups?
    Hm. Anyway.
    The places here in Denmark where LibreOffice has been taken into consideration, part of the rationale has almost always been that it looked familiar compared to the Ribbon interface, and I think that is a big deal.
    On the other hand, I had a documentation project for work, a procedure manual. I have always made the page headers show the chapter name to make it easier to navigate. I simply could not do that in Office 2010. While I toyed temporarily with the thought of doing it in LibreOffice, I know someone less likely to use PortableApps at the office will be maintaining the documents after me. Long story short(er), there are always niche features in software that makes one feel differently, and that makes people reject new offerings. I often think that my university thesis on Soviet history could have been written in Word, Libreoffice, Abiword, LyX or even bloody Wordpad if need be (it was written in OpenOffice; it is quite a while ago). People create all sorts of weird specialised criteria for their software selections. As I wrote in my review of Abiword a long time ago (http://writtenandread.net/abiword/): I have recommended Abiword to people I would expect to find the office suites overwhelming. The no-more-no-less feature set is clearly a strength to me.

    I do like that the book said "What Does a Manager Need to Know About Software?" I think that round-up sounds about what they usually know.

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  5. Oh, and by the way, speaking of research institutions who may or may not take open source seriously: We are preparing the migration of the Danish National Hospital to Libreoffice:
    http://www.h-online.com/open/news/item/25-000-Danish-hospital-staff-to-move-to-LibreOffice-1326231.html

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  6. Business school is full of FUD. Always has been. The purpose of business school is to justify and promote elitism. Things like running a business are just not important.

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    1. ... while the creative types shake their heads at those business school sheep - and go home to blog about it on their Macs...

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  7. The authors of that text book just plain did NOT do their "homework", and so what is the rest of the curriculum like...??? I am a penguin in a windows world, and the only reason my clients use Microsoft products is because everyone ELSE does - that's what people know, and businesses aren't going to hire staff who they not only have to train to do the job, but also train to use the required software apps as well. Admittedly, I use MS Office when I really need to do something elaborate - otherwise? I use LibreOffice. Its less overwhelming for simple tasks, LO - like writing books. Even if a business decided that they were going total open source and free software yatta, yatta, they would have a hard time meshing with OTHER businesses with which they need to, well, do business. We just need to remember, though, that one size doesn't fit all. Pick the right apps for the right need - and in business offices, at least here in the U.S., that means Microsoft products. End of story. I recently converted a family member to Ubuntu who swore up down and sideways he'd NEVER go Linux - but a new PC he got for his birthday kept locking up constantly with Windows 7 on it (hardware driver issue). I couldn't do anything with it AT ALL, so wiped it clean, installed Ubuntu then setup W7 as a VM. The thing purrs like a kitten and guess what? He hardly ever touches the W7 VM (except for MS Word). He does everything else in Ubuntu, even uses Evolution for email, and says its EASIER to use than W7. There is a real world testament right there - and then he let me do the same for his laptop...!!! VICTORY...!!! We need to take over the world, one device, one user at a time... :)

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  8. Well... Pearson... need we say more?

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  9. I come from a corporate Windows background and so when an old windows laptop I had developed some annoying habits I toyed with replacing the xp operating system with Windows 7. On investigating further, Windows 7 was not compatible with the laptop's internals. I then looked at Linux as a possibility and not only was it easily installed, it is a revelation in how easy it is to use, how fast the machine works now and what a wide range of applications that I will use are out there. Best of all it didn't cost me a penny. So on the question of support Microsoft again or put Linux on your machine for free, I know where I'll be going in future. My son tried the machine and was so impressed that he sold the idea to a friend who was thinking of upgrading an ancient almost unusable laptop to a new Windows machine and she now has the same, very usable, laptop running Linux. Go figure.

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    1. I have an old DELL Precision workstation from 2005 with a P4 processor - it happily hums away in my office with Ubuntu 12.04 using Cinnamon or Gnome Shell DE's... works well with either... not as fast as my new workstation with the slick i7 processor, of course, but this old machine runs as fast as any of my clients who have Windows machines. Its amazing. I have an ancient laptop from 2001 I am thinking of dragging out to see what Linux flavor will run on it... :)

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  10. I appreciate that you point out the FUD.

    The FUD doesn't hold Linux back. Linux has already won. 99.99% of desktops out there are dumb fat-clients to Linux systems. Most users use Google, their Windows Vista crap-top is just a means to speak to Google (a big Linux / Unix behemoth super-computer).

    Linux will not be the popular desktop operating system we want it to be until someone who knows-what-the-fuck-they-are-doing shows up and serves the promise Apples servers "Hey, here's a computer. The default configurations are sane. The software is designed with use in mind. Yes, you will get updates. No, we won't make bad decisions." There is a lot more along the lines of "meaningful support" I have in mind but articulating that here is not efficient.

    OpenOffice sucks. Microsoft Office 2010 has a far-superior interface to OpenOffice.

    Sun had the opportunity 2003 - 2008 to become a major player in the Office Application market and they sat on their hands with it, which is a real shame.

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    1. "OpenOffice sucks. Microsoft Office 2010 has a far-superior interface to OpenOffice."

      It's the kind of an opinion like: "Spinach sucks, cabbage is much easier to prepare and has a far-superior taste"

      I am aware that MSOffice is technically more advanced, but the interface? You are not right here.

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  11. You really should stamp out the FUD quick-smart. You can't stop the book from being published, but you can write a letter to the school your fiance is going to, also cc the teacher of the class, and to the Linux foundation. Literally print a few copies out on paper. Paper has some magical quality email does not these days. Explain how these terms are not just misleading, but utterly factually wrong, and that teaching such things does not belong in any academic institution of any decent repute.

    They should provide corrections during the course, pass them on to the authors, or stop using that book.

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  12. Thanks for turning that crap, er crab-infested rock over!

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  13. In the UK schools are responsible for teaching the kids ICT. My son's school has Windows XP running Internet Explorer 6 and Microsoft Office 2000. What can they possibly teach him that is remotely relevant in 2012?

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  14. The reviews on Amazon about that book are very insightful and suggests that your other half should switch classes.

    @Gary Newell, I work in a school that has similar resources to you. Unfortunately, money is tight within the public sector at the moment and is doing a disservice to the children. However, this could be a good time to switch to open source software on older hardware. However, most teachers lack the expertise to deploy this kind of environment.

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  15. I am a college professor and face this daily, even my department is after me for encouraging my students to use Open source.

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  16. I think that open source is a great tool to use. That is the reason why it was created in the first place, so we can gather information from many places and share knowledge. However, it needs to be check to make sure it is valid and true. Just like Wikipedia.

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  17. GNU/Linux is making great work for the masses, and the increasing use of GNU/Linux is also increasing development. I have noticed that different projects are getting more commits than ever, and this is great, and it allows me the end-user to make contributions back to the development.

    FOSS projects are getting better than ever, and there are some amazing alternatives to use, and the alternatives are getting better by the day. We have to make sure that as a community, we can rub this kind of FUD off, and give factual information. I personally will try to advocate the proper use of Linux wherever I go.

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