Becta advises you switch to open-source: three alternatives to Microsoft

It’s been widely leaked that BECTa’s latest report, iced until after the election, will finally spell out the blindingly obvious fact that free, open source, software is better value for schools than the equivalent bought from Microsoft. So the first step is to move to Open Office when your MS Office license comes up for renewal.

But what if you decide to go the whole hog and dump Bill’s troublesome and expensive operating system along with the software suite he sells to run on it. Where could you go? Here are three alternatives that have caught my eye recently. All three support Open Office and a huge range of, frequently free, software.


Umbuntu is a Linux distribution that’s catching a lot of buzz at the moment, mainly because it is said to be particularly easy to install. Here’s a very accessible writeup from Russell Beattie.


Until recently Solaris was the sort of operating system you only got to see if you designed jumbo jets. Now Sun Corporation who own(ed) the copyright have seen the light of Open Source and released the whole thing free, gratis and for nothing as openSolaris. Believe me, more technical members of the PTA will be blown away if the school suddenly moves over to this granddaddy of heavyweight operating systems.

Alex’s solution

You’ll probably find this the least plausible, but in fact it would work beautifully. It comes out of a discussion about a particular school’s technical problem with Yacapaca that seemed to be due to an internal problem in the school. I wanted my colleague Alex (who’s based in Ukraine) to fix it remotely; he pointed out that the school had installed firewalls explicitly to prevent people interfering with their computers from the outside. Alex’s solution was nothing if not bold;

We can provide U.K. schools with our own software based on Linux and FreeBSD which we control from here. This will definitely solve their
sofware related problems. And of course, being able to control
their server we will be able to diagnose every network/traffic problem
manually or automatically via tools like Nagios.

OK, it’s not going to happen. You’ll never get the governors to accept an operating system supplied and supported from the Ukraine. But just for the hell of it, pause for a moment and ask yourself, really, why not? After all, that’s exactly how this blog is served to you.

Update: The report’s now out; download it from here. Very interesting reading.


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