31-Mar-02
Microsoft Threatens University?

Leasing office space to a Linux publisher is said to have brought "the wrath of Bill" down on North Carolina State University.

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Linux publisher Red Hat leased office space in an industrial park run by North Carolina State University. "Informed sources" in North Carolina have told us that after Red Hat moved in, Microsoft told the University that if they didn't force Red Hat out, Microsoft would cancel its donations of free software.

The University is reported to have told Microsoft that was OK with them, that it didn't use much of the "free" software anyway, just gave it away to students.

[ UPDATE: 5-Apr-02: It appears the University of North Carolina's involvement with Linux is a little deeper than just renting space to Red Hat. They are converting the College of Engineering's computing environment from Unix to Linux, and have some other Linux initiatives going (see links). Microsoft apparently applied threats in hopes of halting these and other projects. ]

Analysis

Microsoft makes a big deal of its "huge donations" to universities and libraries. In actuality, they give the recipients a few CD-ROMs that cost Microsoft about 40 cents each, then value the licenses at full retail price on their taxes and in their press releases. Good PR and a huge tax write-off - scams like this is why hugely profitable Microsoft pays little or no taxes.

Obviously, these "donations" are not free of strings, either, and it's refreshing to see a university decline Microsoft's "gifts" rather than give up academic freedom.

In many universites, "computer sicence" courses have become vocational education classes in the use of Microsoft software. Texas, where the entire education system has been pretty much sold to Microsoft, is a good example. Given Texas politics, though, this isn't one bit surprising - selling the public trust to major corporations is seen as normal there (see Enron and Big Oil).

Some years ago, Microsoft attempted to buy the California university system with cheap software. The politicos were willing to go along, but strong public outcry killed the deal.

Recommendations

Schools and universities are much better off with Linux or Free BSD. Both are available free and offer a huge selection of very capable no-cost software with no political or corporate strings attached. They are much more appropriate for computer science courses because the source code is freely available and may be examined to see how it works, and tinkered with.

The only place where Microsoft software is really approprate in schools is for vocational training classes. School administratios are often committed to management software available only for Windows, but should start pushing their vendors for Linux based or Web enabled ports to control costs.

- Andrew Grygus

  • Red Hat - Press Release
  • UCNC - Office of the Provost.

©:Andrew Grygus - Automation Access - www.aaxnet.com - aax@aaxnet.com
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