OverviewWelcome to our site!
Most simply, the term "open source" means the availability of a piece of software's source code. However, there is much more to open source than handing out code - it is a set of principles and practices on how software is written. Software developed with these ideas in mind benefit from many positive aspects of the process, and, properly utilized, can improve the efficiency and impact of many institutions in society. How, you ask? An excellent question - let's explore....
The first and most apparent benefit for most about open source software is the price - or rather, the absence thereof. This makes open source products easy to obtain, risk-free to try for an infinite duration, and eliminates the need for complicated, often frustratingly arbitrary registration procedures that accompany software licensing. While there are a number of open source licenses - the most prevalent of which is the GPL - they are alike in their preservation of freedom for the user, and their insurance of the freedom of any "derivative works" which may (and often do) come from an open source development model. The user - be it an individual, a non-profit organization, a corporation - is permitted to use the software in whatever manner desired, to install it on as many different devices as desired, and to modify it however may be desired.
How does this end-user freedom benefit, say, an educational institution or a city government? This means that open source software, for these groups, is not only virtually free to obtain, to use, and to keep using - it is also free from any interests other than those of the organization, and customizable to whatever specific needs may arise. This is a powerful idea - with commercial, proprietary software, organizations are hindered in so many ways; bound by the profit-driven software company. The software itself may be excellent, and suit the organization's needs wonderfully, but overhead passed down to the purchase price from advertising, public relations, and legal counsel help these social institutions none. Open source software is free from all of this corporate interest - focus is placed on developing software for the end user, not the financial need of any one entity.
The open source development model itself promotes the creation of an overall better product in many ways, which is of immediate benefit to any user. The availability of the source code means any volunteer can propose improvements - there are innumerable developers working (and reviewing others' work) on an open source project. There is much more communication between developers and users of open source software - most of the developers are users, themselves. Usability is of utmost concern, while things like marketability and corporate identity are virtually absent from the development process.
EducationJump to: Introduction | Edubuntu | Milan High School
Technology - including computer workstations and operational infrastructure - is approaching ubiquity in modern education. However, not every school is capable of providing acceptable tools for utilizing many of today's educational advancements. Instead of struggling to purchase expensive software licenses and maintain proprietary operating systems, more and more educational institutions are embracing open source technology as an inexpensive and more than adequate alternative to commercial systems.
Microsoft Office has become the de facto standard for office productivity - word processing, data spreadsheets, visual presentations, and the like - and is in use in innumerable schools around the world. The complete Microsoft Office Suite costs around $149 USD per license after educational discount. Given a school with hundreds of workstations - each one requiring a license - and the cost adds up rather quickly to a level many schools cannot afford, especially those in developing countries. Various alternatives to Microsoft Office exist... alternatives which don't cost a dime. OpenOffice.org is one of these alternatives. Schools using applications like OpenOffice.org benefit not only from the drastically lower overhead associated with licensing, but also from the open source nature of the software itself. Interoperability is nurtured with open file formats - while maintaining compatibility with several popular proprietary formats - and absolutely no restrictions on use and installation.
Open source alternatives exist for educational software of all kinds. GIMP, for example, is a piece of software comparable to Adobe Photoshop in most respects. Adobe's professional application can cost up to $609 per copy, whereas GIMP is free and open source, reaping all the benefits of its development cycle. Graphic design students can use a complete image manipulation program while the educational institution saves money and can tailor the software to any and all of its own specific needs. In an era in which education - more important for the future of modern society - faces an ever-increasing financial need, stretching the dollar has never been more important. Nor has this ever been more possible, thanks to the increasing prevalence of open source technology.| Back to top ⇑
"Ubuntu" is an African term that means "humanity for others." This is exactly what the developers of the Linux distribution Edubuntu strive to bring to students, with a free operating system taliored to educational use. Currently, the package is aimed specifically at classroom use for younger students, but future versions will be available for use in other educational areas such as universities, providing a free and comprehensive alternative to conventional proprietary operating sytems, which are geared for more general home or office productivity instead of an educational environment. The Edubuntu philosophy is based on the idea "that software should be available free of charge, that software tools should be usable by people in their local language and despite any disabilities, and that people should have the freedom to customize and alter their software in whatever way they see fit." These ideals reflect accurately the goals of educational instututions across the globe, and Edubuntu succeeds in being the globally accessible educational suite its creators intended. It is available for all free of charge and anyone has the right to modify the software until it meets any necessary requirements for the organization using it. The OS, bearing fairly low hardware requirements, is also a great way to utilize older equipment in a resource-poor environment.
As a complete operating system, Edubuntu includes applications such as an office suite, web browser, language tools, typing programs, and a multitude of open source programs made for . The Linux-based system is unique in that teachers and network administrators can quickly and easily set up a classroom learning environment. Even educators with limited technology skills are capable of using the Edubuntu system to set up an online learning environment or computer lab. The system incorporates the LTSP thin client architecture and is aimed for students between the ages of 6 and 18.| Back to top ⇑
Milan High School
Like many other schools, our high school - Milan High School (MHS) - struggles with a low technology budget. The solution: a Linux server and open source programs. (thin client stuff.....)
To avoid spending a large budget on proprietary software, MHS has opted to install open source programs instead of purchasing proprietary software licenses. For word processing, data entry, presentations, and drawing, the school uses OpenOffice.org; the graphics department uses GIMP for image manipulation and InkScape for vector drawing. Nvu is installed on the computers as a web design tool, while Dev-C++ is used for entry-level computer programming courses. In addition to these applications available to the student body, Milan High School faculty have access to Mozilla on their computers for Internet and e-mail. All of these open source applications have made it possible for MHS to save money on technology and still maintain an up-to-date, effective education system with relatively little maintenance needed.| Back to top ⇑
- Open Source in Education
- Edubuntu - Ubuntu Wiki
- Edubuntu - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- One Laptop per Child (OLPC), a low-cost, connected laptop for the world's children's education
- OLPC - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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GovernmentJump to: United States | Munich, Germany | Extremadura, Spain
Proprietary software creates several problems for governments across the globe, decreasing productivity and cost-effectiveness for the many of the world's most important social institutions. Not only does commercial software cost government agencies vital tax-generated funds to purchase the software, it also often necessitates expensive, time-consuming infrastructure updates to keep up with information technology (IT) requirements. Using freely available open source technologies instead of proprietary software can prevent many of these all-too-common pitfalls.
Many US Government agencies are looking into shifting from using proprietary software to open source alternatives in the interests of saving money - a valid concern for any institution. In fiscal year 2003, the US Government budgeted over $58 billion to cover the costs of IT products and services. Almost every computer in the federal government uses either an operating system or application that runs on proprietary software, generating costs exceeding $100 million each year in licensing fees - just to use the software! Transitioning to open source operating systems and software would eliminate all licensing fees, freeing a large portion of the IT budget for other, more important technical or social concerns.
The US Government stands to benefit from a shift to open source in other ways, as well. Each individual agency will be able to tailor software to its exact purpose - without expensive licensing or proprietary engineering - achieving the functionality desired without much of the expense. Open source programs can be readily adapted to work with the existing IT infrastructure as well - updates that may inhibit productivity are not needed nearly as often as with demanding proprietary software. Additionally, the cross-platform nature of open source software allows it to work with many different operating systems, and the absence of licensing and other user-restrictive functions reduce hardware requirements to levels more manageable to governmental organizations with tight budgetary constraints. Switching all US government agencies to open source systems would produce a highly efficient, relatively low-cost infrastructure, in which open formats could be best utilized for optimal inter-operability between departments. The large number of different proprietary applications currently in use throughout the US government - and thus, the large number of different proprietary data formats and transfer protocols - means an unacceptably large hassle when communicating information, limiting the efficiency with which government organizations can cooperate successfully. And when sensitive information needs to be delivered, this efficiency is key - as is security. Open source technologies have proven reliable in ensuring transactions of many kinds are secure. Prominent corporations like Merrill Lynch and Credit Suisse First Boston - whose reputations hinge on the reliability of their business - trust "open" Linux servers to handle vitally important financial transactions.
A handful of US government agencies are already starting to utilize open source technologies, with inspiring results. In programming and operating the two most recent Mars rovers, NASA made heavy use of open source solutions - developed internally or by a third part - often from within Linux. The Department of Defense uses open source for various security applications, and the Chief Information Officer of the department placed open source on an equal level with proprietary products. The National Weather Service uses Linux on nearly 2,400 workstations and servers, cutting operating costs by almost 75%, largely due to the minimal maintenance the system requires. Recently, open source has been approved to run on the nation's most critical computer systems: command, control, communications, and intelligence.
Changing American government computing systems from proprietary software to open source software will benefit not only the individual agencies but the taxpayers as well. The budget required for technological requirements will be reduced tremendously, and systems will benefit from increased functionality, efficiency, and security with the use of open source operating systems and software.
Adopting open source is beneficial because it works, and it works well. Open source developers in general generate much more professionally optimal software than many would expect, leading to increasing adoption by governments the world over - and the result is phenomenal. The multitude of commercial and government agencies that are already using open source are testament to the open source philosophy's success. With the federal government of the United States of America - perhaps the wealthiest, most prominent and most targeted nation on Earth - adopting open source, federal and local government entities in countries around the globe may soon realize the benefits and adopt open source as well.| Back to top ⇑
In 2003, Munich, Germany decided to make the switch from Microsoft Windows to Linux and equip all 14,000 public administration computers with Linux and other open source office applications - one of the largest public sector migrations in Europe. The local government is changing 16,000 users, 14,000 desktops, and 300 pieces of software from Windows to Linux - the migration is happening both server- and desktop-side. Today, the migration is nearly halfway complete, with 5,000 workstations running open source software on top of Windows, 660 have taken the next step to Linux, and almost a third of all users are now trained to use open source software and operating systems. The migration is expected to be finished in 2009.| Back to top ⇑
Munich is using a long-term, careful, and detailed form of changing operating systems, but in 2005, Extremadura, a region in Southwest Spain, made the change in just one short weekend. One of the poorest regions in Europe is proving that the switch can be done without specific software. All the government officials in charge in Extremadura had done was install Linux over a weekend - the civil servants came in to work Monday morning to see Linux instead of Windows on their computers... work continued as usual.
The goals of Extremadura in making this change are to ensure the accessibility of every citizen to the Information Society and promote the digital literacy for everyone, both in urban and rural areas. To do this, they created what they call a "Regional Intranet" which consists of a large, central regional network with more than 1,400 points with a bandwith of 2 Megabytes per second. This made it possible for every school, health center, hospital, employment office, and many others to have access to a broadband internet connection. To complete this goal, the government also needed to create user end terminals - which they accomplished using open source technologies. Extremadura created its own localized version of Linux - called LinEx (a combination of the words "Linux" and "Extremadura"), tailoring it to the region's specific needs and altering some of the open source programs to better fit the target demographic.
Extremadura now has over 80,000 desktop computers running Linux; 66,000 of the computers are in schools and learning centers, and the other 14,000 are in public administration buildings. Not every desktop computer has been converted to Linux, but the region is certainly on the right path to reaching its goal.| Back to top ⇑
- Industry Viewpoint: The Future of Open Source in Government
- Open source infiltrates government IT worldwide - LinuxWorld
- Forget Munich's Linux Migration, It's Already Done by Extremadura
- PC World - Munich Makes the Move to Linux
InternetJump to: A History | The Software
Open source technology has been instrumental in the explosive growth of the Internet as we know it today. Reliable and inexpensive web servers built upon Linux and other open source software made it possible for individuals and organizations everywhere to have a place on the world wide web - and this trend is far from declining. Even today, a vast majority of web sites are served by Linux-based and other open source systems - sites frequented by millions of visitors. More recently, a technique called AJAX - perfected by many open source implementations - has revolutionized the way we experience the web.
Thanks to open source software and operating systems, everyone from large media conglomerates to the average Joe can host his own, fully-functional web server at very little cost. According to Internet services company Netcraft, in February of 2008, 7 out of the 10 most reliable web servers were built on a free, open source operating system - five on Linux, two on FreeBSD. In stark contrast to the total freedom of these open source systems, Microsoft's Standard Windows Sever 2003 - another popular, proprietary web server OS - costs $1,029.00 per license.| Back to top ⇑
Most open source web servers are referred to with the acronym LAMP, which includes the basic components of the system - Linux, Apache, MySQL, and a scripting language, commonly PHP. All of these parts are open source, and this freely obtainable alone or as a package, but distributing them together makes it easier for anyone to set up a server.
Apache is an open source web server - the most popular in existence, since 1996 - that is available for many different operating systems, open source and proprietary alike, and is used to host all kinds of content on the web. This astounding versatility, combined with its free availability, makes Apache the most widely used web server for good reason. Different "partitions" can be made for separate sites on an Apache server, which eliminates the cost of maintaining a separate system for every website - this no doubt has contributed to the popularity of the software and the abundance of information on the internet.
MySQL is an open source database management system that many large organizations use to manage the plethora of data contained on their servers. MySQL's ability to dynamically list information has made it easier for businesses to keep track of inventories, for governments to find specific records, and for the everyday computer user to find information she or he is looking for. Without the open source nature of MySQL, the amount of information on the internet would be dramatically reduced. If a commercial tool were more prominent, more institutions would need to pay for propriety software, its licensing, maintenance, and so forth - and more would opt not to.| Back to top ⇑
- Ajax: Definition and Much More from Answers.com
- Netcraft: Tiscali Italia is the Most Reliable Hosting Company in February 2008
- Microsoft Product Information Center
- Apache HTTP Server - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- Shared web hosting service - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
ResourcesJump to: osalt | SourceForge | One Laptop per Child
osalt (short for "open source alternative) is a website that provides visitors with information about open source alternative programs for proprietary software. The site gives a detailed listing of many of the pros and cons of both open source and proprietary programs so individuals and organizations can find sufficient alternatives, if they are desired. osalt is only one of the many sites that people can use to find free and open source software for any operating system - but it is a good one. Using the site may even assist a person in discovering a program he or she did not even know existed.
"If you want success, open source is the way to go." —osalt.com
Sourceforge is one of the worlds largest host of open source projects. The site currently is host to more than 100,000 projects and has well over 1,000,000 registered users. These projects are available to anyone who signs up for the website; binary files and code can be downloaded freely from the website. Sourceforge.net is part of a much larger company called SourceForge, Inc. The company's main website is SourceForge.com and the website contains many different areas. This includes a place for news that reports on SourceForge.com updates as well as new open source breakthroughs. They also provide free community help forums to anyone registered to the site, which can be used to post problems or ideas. The company provides space on the site where people can purchase help from experts in certain areas of their Open Source projects. SourceForge.com has also created an area where companies in the computer related field can list their job openings for free.
One Laptop per Child (OLPC)
In an attempt to bring technology to third world countries, the MIT Media Lab created this ICT4D non-profit organization. One Laptop per Child was set up to oversee the Children's Machine Project and the construction of the XO-1 "$100 laptop." The organization's main goal is to provide children around the world with new opportunities to explore, experiment and express themselves. The core principles the organization follows are that the laptop must be for made child ownership, appropriate for low ages, saturation (giving the laptop to as many children as possible), connection to the world, and the laptop must run using free and open source software. According to Nicholas Negroponte, "It's an education project, not a laptop project." For the project to be possible, organizations such as AMD, Brightstar Corporation, eBay, Google, Marvell, News Corporation, SES, Nortel Networks, and Red Hat sponsor the cause.
The design goals for the "$100 laptop" include a minimal power consumption level, minimal production cost, a stylish look that children will appreciate, e-book functionality, and of course, free and open source software are provided. The laptop is furnished with a video camera, microphone, long-range WiFi, and hybrid/stylus touch pad. A source for human power is included so the laptop can be used away from sources of commercial power since some of the countries where they are distributed may not have a source of regular electricity. The current model is capable of morphing between laptop, e-book, and router modes.| Back to top ⇑
GlossaryJump to: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
An open source word processor that rivals Microsoft Word and Macintosh Pages with its simple, intuitive layout.
Popular open source web server application credited with facilitating the initial growth of the world wide web. Although its market share is steadily declining, Apache still serves more than half of all websites on the internet.
A now defunct open source C++ programming IDE.
For an operating system to be categorized as a variation of Linux, it needs only use the Linux kernel. This broad definition lends itself to a staggering number of radically diverse Linux operating systems - called distributions.
A free and open source operating system, similar in many ways to Linux, but significantly less well-known.
The GNU Image Manipulation Program; a wildly popular open source raster graphics application - often compared to Adobe Photoshop in terms of functionality.
GPL / GNU GPL
The GNU General Public License; a widely used free software license used by a multitude of open source developers - the GPL preserves the user's right to use the software freely and make any modifications without fear of reproach.
A very popular open source vector graphics program, comparable to Adobe Illustrator in terms of functionality.
The global, publicly accessible network of computers, by which multitudes of information - including that found on this very page - are transmitted around the world.
An open source computer operating system - possibly the most visible piece of free and open source software in existence. Used very heavily in web server environments; very popular with open source enthusiasts.
One of the largest computer technology corporations in the world; developers of countless proprietary applications that have become staples of consumer computer use, such as Microsoft Office and the Windows family of operating systems.
An open source browser based on the Mozilla browser. It is currently used by 36.4% of internet users, and growing steadily.
Open source database management system in wide use on the world wide web as part of server installations. See also: LAMP
OpenDocument File Format (.odt)
A very well-known open source office application suite, intended as an alternative to Microsoft Office. Supports the OpenDocument format by default, as well as Microsoft's own proprietary format.
Operating System (OS)
Software or other technologies whose development, distribution, and use are rigidly controlled by a central entity, often to preserve profitability and ownership at the expense of efficiency and usability.
Collectively, computer programs, procedures and documentation which together perform a specific task on a computer system.
Open source media player based on Mozilla Firefox code. It is currently still in beta but has been producing positive results that rival its popular proprietary competitors.
The human-readable language which, when translated into computer-readable form (through compilation or interpretation), allows the computer to execute the program to perform a specific task or acheive a desired result.
Microsoft's flagship product; the most popular operating system on the planet. Thus far, the most recent release - Windows Vista - hasn't enjoyed a particularly warm reception, leading many skeptical consumers to take interest in open source alternatives.| Back to top ⇑
AboutJump to: The Team | A Word from the Coach | The Site
Jamie is a senior Milan High School. He is very interested in anything that has to do with technology. He has been working with computers for as long as he can remember. He has exhausted the advanced technology classes offered at Milan High including "Internet" class and "C++ College Prep". He excels at web coding and software/hardware troubleshooting. Jamie plans on attending Washtenaw Community College for the first two years of his college experience achieving a Web Technology and Web Application Developer Advanced Certificates. Jamie then plans to transfer to the University of Michigan to major in Network and Information.
Mackenzie is a senior at Milan High School who has been studying graphic arts since she was a freshman. She plans to continue her education at Ferris State University, obtaining a bachelor's degree in graphic design. Mackenzie has been interested in graphics since she was in middle school and it has always been her dream to work in the field. Mackenzie is also active in band and Students Against Destructive Decisions at MHS. She believes that anything is possible.
Throughout my years of working with graphic arts software, I have found that the open source programs are better than the proprietary ones. My freshman year of high school, my graphic design class used Adobe software and I felt limited as to what I could do with it. The year after that we started using open source software like Gimp 2.2 and I feel as though I can do much more. I am allowed to change the program to fit my needs and I don't need to stay within the limits that a corporation has set. This year we are using Gimp 2.4 and Inkscape. The possibilities are endless as to what we create and the way we can change the programs. Proprietary software just doesn't seem necessary anymore with the availability of these open source versions that work just as well, maybe even better, but that's just my opinion.
"They say that time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself." — Andy Warhol
A Linux enthusiast and avid user of all kinds of open source software, Nick couldn't have been more excited to work this project. A senior in high school, Nick plans to pursue computer science, whether as a career or merely a personal pursuit. As relevant as they are, Nick's other interests include guitar, photography, theater, and armchair philosophy.| Back to top ⇑
A Word from the Coach
It is with great pride that I write this entry for my students' ThinkQuest web page - Open Source in Society. The purpose of the post is to relate how I use open source technology in my teaching, but I can't let this opportunity pass without talking about my students and their work.
My graphic arts students have developed the idea for this web site, designed its content, written its code and even recruited a third member for the team. As a strong believer in constructivist learning theory, I believe these efforts enbody the best of what teaching and learning is and should be about. Starting with their existing interests, knowledge and experiences; these students have pursued a project of their own making which capitalizes on their collective experiences and individual strengths. Moreover, they have expanded their existing knowledge by both researching the impact of open source technologies on society and applying their expertise as users of open source technologies in constructing this site.
Now for the intended purpose of this post. Graphic arts at our high school likely would not exist without open source technologies. All of the software we use, from desktop publishing to image editing to web page design, runs on open source platforms. In Introduction to Computer Graphics students focus on desktop publishing and creating professional presentations using OpenOffice Writer, Draw and Impress. They also are introduced to image editing with The Gimp in the introductory course. In Advanced Computer Graphics, students begin using an program called Inkscape to create illustrations and layouts for banners, posters and brochures while becoming more proficient in using The Gimp. While we don't currently offer a web design class, students in Advanced Computer Graphics use a program called NVU (pronounced n-view) to design simple web pages. To offer similar classes using market standard products offered by Microsoft and Adobe would be cost prohibitive in a district such as ours where limited budgets are the norm.
Open source technology also plays a crucial role in my personal, professional productivity. I use NVU to update my class web pages, OpenOffice to share documents and lesson plans with collegues, and The Gimp and Inkscape to create marketing products for the district (my students make many of these items). In the near future, I hope to expand my use of open source technology by integrating a program called moodle into my curriculum and instruction. Moodle is a collaborative, web based tool that offeres social networking features like discussion boards, chat rooms, and document sharing.
— H. Morelock
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This site was created entirely with open source software - the graphics, code, writing... everything was done with free, open source technology. Much of it was done on Linux, as well, staying true to our topic. The success of this site is testament to our message - that open source software can be used to produce products just as well as (or better than) proprietary software. We thank you for your visit, and encourage you wholeheartedly to use open source softwhere wherever you can!
— The Team| Back to top ⇑