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Upgrades Microsoft The Almighty Buck

School District To Parents — Buy Office 2007 632

Posted by kdawson
from the no-more-parents'-dirty-looks dept.
WS Nick writes "Batavia school district in Illinois is recommending that parents of high school students upgrade their home computers to Microsoft Office 2007. Why not use one of the free alternatives and relieve parents of some of the financial burden they face to buy all the stuff for their children the school requires?" A comment from a reader points out how easy it is to interoperate with Office 2007 from earlier versions.
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School District To Parents — Buy Office 2007

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  • by R3mix (1085509) on Saturday July 28, 2007 @08:12PM (#20027883)
    Why is it that so many school districts are so quick to buy expensive Micro$soft software when free (and sometimes better) alternatives exist, then turn around and complain about not having enough money?
    • by tomstdenis (446163) <tomstdenis@@@gmail...com> on Saturday July 28, 2007 @08:17PM (#20027913) Homepage
      Probably a combination of incompetence and payoffs. Just because you have "IT staff" doesn't mean they really know shit all about software or how to build a workstation/server/etc. Way more people look at an MCSE as "advanced education" than simply using google to find OSS alternatives that work.

      And in the end, where are the parents not pushing back?

      Of course when I went to high school, teachers only accepted work in plain old "dead tree" format. And were not talking about the 60s or 70s, but the 90s. Sure at home I might have had Wordpad [god bless...] at my disposal, but the teacher wouldn't except work in that format, so I'd have to print it off at home or school.

      Why can't kids just render their work in PDF format [and same for the prof], then let the creator worry about what tool they'll use. For science type classes, all you really need is to make sure the student includes all the calculations/observations to prove that they did the work.

      Tom
      • by Osty (16825) on Saturday July 28, 2007 @08:26PM (#20027989)

        Of course when I went to high school, teachers only accepted work in plain old "dead tree" format. And were not talking about the 60s or 70s, but the 90s. Sure at home I might have had Wordpad [god bless...] at my disposal, but the teacher wouldn't except work in that format, so I'd have to print it off at home or school.

        Your English teacher didn't do a very good job.

        • "Were" is the past plural of "to be". "We're" is the contraction of "we are", which is what you were looking for.
        • Parenthetical comments are set off by parentheses (thus "parenthetical"), not brackets.
        • "Except", when used as a verb, means "to exclude". "To accept" means "to take or receive". Unless you meant that your teachers wouldn't exclude work in that format, you meant to uses "accept". Using except here actually negates your argument by saying that the teachers would accept work in Wordpad (RTF) format.
        • yeah I failed there. Teach me to not proof my damn /. posts. Oh woe is me, for I have failed humanity. Oh wait, shut up. I've spent a good deal of today writing f'ing major scales [yeah music], and naming degrees ... English is not active...

          oh as for "god" fuck that idea, I'll capitalize that "proper" noun when the dude impresses me properly.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by gaelfx (1111115)
          You see, if he had been using MSOffice 2007, all of those hopeless little errors would not have occurred. Further proof that it really does bolster education.
        • by cbiltcliffe (186293) on Saturday July 28, 2007 @10:02PM (#20028711) Homepage Journal

          "Were" is the past plural of "to be". "We're" is the contraction of "we are", which is what you were looking for.
          His apostrophe key is broken. Give him a break.

          "Except", when used as a verb, means "to exclude". "To accept" means "to take or receive". Unless you meant that your teachers wouldn't exclude work in that format, you meant to uses "accept".
          His 'a' key is also broken, and he didn't think /.ers would notice.

          And one more thing: 'you meant to uses "accept".'
          Meant to uses? WTF? Even the fscking /. grammar nazis can't get this shit right. I'm all for correct spelling and grammar, but man, hypocrisy pisses me off more than anything....
      • by dosius (230542)
        And my teachers in the mid-90s not only required dead-tree, they required handwritten, in cursive.

        Yes, I said mid-90s.

        -uso.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by arkhan_jg (618674)
        Yes, it must be IT imcompetance and bribery. It couldn't possibly be that microsoft office is the current industry standard, that all the school systems run microsoft office, that all the staff are trained on microsoft office, all their teaching resources are in microsoft office, all the staff laptops run microsoft office, all the students are taught microsoft office in classes using microsoft office specific lesson plans and ECDL training software.

        Lets tell everyone to switch to an entirely different offi
  • by originalhack (142366) on Saturday July 28, 2007 @08:14PM (#20027893)
    The district suggests they buy a discounted version restricted to educational use. Tough luck if the home PC is for the whole family.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by TubeSteak (669689)

      The district suggests they buy a discounted version restricted to educational use. Tough luck if the home PC is for the whole family.
      1. TFA says no such thing
      "The letter promoted the fact that parents can buy the software at a group discount"

      2. Even if it did, who is going to go from house to house for the purpose of auditing software usage?
      • by No-op (19111)
        our local school district has some sort of deal worked out, where local parents can buy OEM software through a distributor and get really fantastic deals. Office 2003 was about $40; Acrobat was less, etc.

        When my friends first asked me about it (I have no kids) I thought they had come across some sort of spam site selling pirated software- but it's fully legit, they just have an arrangement to channel all the sales to a particular vendor who gives a big discount on top of the educational pricing.

        So any schoo
  • by epistemiclife (1101021) on Saturday July 28, 2007 @08:17PM (#20027917)
    It doesn't seem to be altogether unreasonable to recommend that students upgrade. It isn't as though the upgrade is being mandated. The school district is likely just trying to minimize problems.

    It is a bit strange to propound that managing interoperability between the two versions is a tedious process. I think that a sheet of paper with instructions would be sufficient, even for the most computer illiterate students, few though they may be.

    Concerning free alternatives, I don't think that we should expect widespread adoption of things such as OpenOffice, at least in public schools, for quite some time. Not all teachers are geeks, and they want to use that which they are accustomed to using. Even the slightest change can throw some people off.

    This is quite a contrast to, say, university computer science departments, which are often filled with Linux computers, while the rest of the campus uses a plethora of Microsoft suites. It's just a different culture, with different expectations of what their computers and their computer software should do. When I tried to get my parents, who are not computer illiterate, to use OpenOffice, they became irritated, because they didn't want to have to learn something new. They just want it to work as expected, so that they can do what they need to do, in the way that they know how to do it. That's not unreasonable.

    When moving to a new system, one must always weigh the cost, in time (and, consequently, money), of educating the people in the new software. Most of the world uses Microsoft Office. Unless someone releases something so similar to Office that it is nearly indistinguishable, this will likely remain unchanged, no matter how equal or superior the alternatives, free or not, are.

    • by drmerope (771119)

      I think that a sheet of paper with instructions would be sufficient, even for the most computer illiterate students, few though they may be.
      I'd be more concerned about computer illiteracy among the teaching staff. e.g., the teacher who emails assignments and supplementary material in a format readable only by the school's software.
    • by hazee (728152) on Sunday July 29, 2007 @03:37AM (#20030323)

      Even the slightest change can throw some people off

      But surely Office 2007 is far more different to previous versions of Office than Open Office is?
  • So the parents will all band together and get Office 2007 for $100. Some will download that compatibility pack. Finally, some will try OpenOffice and will probably suffer no hiccups at all. Someone should do a study on this situation and report back. We'll be waiting...
  • by falcon5768 (629591) <[Falcon5768] [at] [comcast.net]> on Saturday July 28, 2007 @08:21PM (#20027943) Journal
    I have been for years trying to get people in my district to use Open Office, or cheaper alternatives. But Microsoft has people so convinced that word documents wont open with anything BUT Office that Im about to just give up already.

    For what they do in most grades, notepad would be all they needed.

  • by aldheorte (162967) on Saturday July 28, 2007 @08:22PM (#20027953)
    Given the high cost of education now, with education costs often comprising the vast majority of the municipal budget, especially for small towns, it is highly irresponsible for schools *not* to be considering and using as much free software as possible. If they are further going to drag parents into it, then it is doubly true as it becomes just another tax, unless companies are willing to provide free software to both schools and parents. Commercial software companies such as Microsoft have every right to a profit motive, but school districts also have a responsibility to use the least expensive recourse and there is no sustainable argument that commercial software is better than free software for education purposes at this point.
    • by kimvette (919543)
      You are presuming that town selectmen and appointed officials are not swayed all by kickbacks and swag.
  • good idea (Score:2, Funny)

    by visdog (1132101)
    As a paid shill for Microsoft and Transcend, I think parents should also buy Vista Home Premium, which can be easily installed on Transcend compact flash drives.
  • by hazem (472289) on Saturday July 28, 2007 @08:22PM (#20027959) Journal
    "If students use an older version of Microsoft Office at home, it is usually possible to translate their projects back and forth between different versions of Microsoft Office,"the letter said. "However, this can be a tedious process, and information may not be always be translated properly."

    Basically what they're saying is, "We standardized on crappy software that probably isn't even compatible with its own previous version, so you better buy the newest one too so your kids won't be stupid."

    Having worked in a school district IT department was a real eye-opener. There were tight budgets with no money for building critical infrastructure. But we'd all be damned if we didn't have the latest versions of Office and new computers to run them on.

    I pushed open source wherever possible, even in the back-end, but it was a real uphill battle. We'd buy the $299 Adobe Acrobat when all they needed to do was make PDF files, and for that, something like PDF Creator http://sourceforge.net/projects/pdfcreator/ [sourceforge.net] is great - and free. And even after I demonstrated how easy it was to use and how good the results were, there was still resistance.

    I wonder what kind of break the school district gets for pushing parents to upgrade?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by moosesocks (264553)
      The compatibility issue is something I've genuinely never experienced.

      A few years ago, I had Office XP at home, 2000 at school, and 2003 at work. Taking files between the three was never a problem unless I had done something highly unusual to one of the files (ie. embedding something weird or non-standard into a PowerPoint). Even then, only that one bit would show up as a question mark, and the rest of the file would be fine.

      Taking files from 2003 to 2000 and back to 2003 would usually even preserve any 2
  • not surprised (Score:4, Interesting)

    by chantron (1013105) on Saturday July 28, 2007 @08:31PM (#20028035) Homepage
    As an IT employee for a public school system, I am not surprised at all. These people live and breath Microsoft products. Outside of the IT department, OSS is practically taboo in my district.

    Its ridiculous to the point of sheer ignorance.
  • The big picture is that the kids need great teachers who challenge them and parents encourage their kids to work hard in school. The rest is mouse nuts. If you pick this battle, then the more important one will suffer.
  • by wamerocity (1106155) on Saturday July 28, 2007 @08:35PM (#20028077) Journal

    I've always found it funny that every time you install a new version of Windows, during the blue install screen it keeps popping up features that are new about this version of the operating system. I specifically recall going from 98SE to ME (which was a nightmare, I might add) and laughing audibly at the "We have made keeping your photos and music organized easier than ever!" and "Now ME makes it simpler to use your computer to do..." Basically, these were all vaporware statements.

    With that said, aside from it being "easier than ever to do..." can someone give me a REAL example of how office has changed from 2000 to 2007? I'm serious, I want to know what features have been added (and I don't mean changed to the GUI that make it prettier) that actually ADD FUNCTIONALITY. This is the real reason that this story makes me mad. I don't believe that it has really changed at all, let alone enough to charge me a $100+ to upgrade.

    All I know is that 2007 is looking to be the first step for Microsoft to begin its DRM document implementation where it can lock down it's DOC format that will require people to stay with a certain level of Office or higher if they don't want to lose their documents.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      I'm serious, I want to know what features have been added (and I don't mean changed to the GUI that make it prettier) that actually ADD FUNCTIONALITY.

      The new speech recognition engine (bundled with Office 2003 and/or Vista Something) is way better.

      The Office 2003 change tracking system is superior to Office 2000 as well.

      And I have heard that the Office 2007 GUI is easier to use (I've already learned to use the Office 2003 GUI, so even an upgrade there is meaningless to me). People who don't think that G

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by suv4x4 (956391)
      With that said, aside from it being "easier than ever to do..." can someone give me a REAL example of how office has changed from 2000 to 2007? I'm serious, I want to know what features have been added (and I don't mean changed to the GUI that make it prettier) that actually ADD FUNCTIONALITY.

      Pad example to nib on since Office 2007 is indeed an excellent software suite (now I can't agree with the force-the-parents-to-buy-it however).

      It's full of productivity features and brand new features that make your wo
  • Computer labs (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Bragador (1036480)
    I think it is alright that a school recommends a product. The kids' marks depend on it in a way. If you go to a painting class and the teacher recommends you to buy a certain paint and a certain brush then don't be surprised if it takes more effort to achieve the same thing as the other students with different tools. You will need a different approach and method.

    What would be wrong though is if the school recommends a specific product without having it freely available in their computer labs. If the child

  • Vote them out (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nurb432 (527695) on Saturday July 28, 2007 @08:45PM (#20028159) Homepage Journal
    Complain to the school board they are pushing a single vendor and not teaching. Contact your state representatives as well.

    If they refuse to do anything, vote them out, and run yourself. And refuse to play this game in the first place.

    Unless the class is "how to use office 2007" and an elective, they have NO right to dictate this, remember they work for you, not the other way around.. ( even if you can get educational versions for 25 bucks )
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by AusIV (950840)

      Unless the class is "how to use office 2007" and an elective, they have NO right to dictate this, [...]( even if you can get educational versions for 25 bucks )

      Bullshit. I'm certainly no fan of Microsoft - I won't touch their products whenever I can avoid it - but I think its ridiculous when people talk about their right to choose an operating system (or office suite) like it's protected by the first amendment.

      When I was in high school, I was told what text books I needed (most were available to rent fro

    • Re:Vote them out (Score:5, Interesting)

      by GPSguy (62002) on Saturday July 28, 2007 @11:55PM (#20029365) Homepage
      > Unless the class is "how to use office 2007" and an elective, they have NO right to dictate this, remember they work for you, not the other way around.. ( even if you can get educational versions for 25 bucks )

      Interestingly, two of my three kids have had to take State-mandated "computer literacy" classes, where they had to demonstrate proficiency in Excel and Word, and my daughter also took a"graphics" class where they learned to tweak images with Paint and Photoshop. Needless to say, we no longer treat as accurate any pictures she forwards our way...

      I have OpenOffice installed on the computer at home, and after getting past some set-up hiccups, no one has ever had homework ("Must be written in Microsoft Word") refused, nor have they lost points. In one case where they were told to turn their work in as a PDF, my son was able to export directly... and without us buying Acrobat as he'd been told he had to do.

      That said, my wife just bought Office 2007 because she got it for a steal -- and legally. She is afraid I'll ruin the middle kid's chances for good grades in his senior year because of my intransigience. Go figure.

      I'm building up a new system for the 4th grader. It'll have to have a Windoze partition for some of his games, but he's gonna grow up with open source solutions as his norm, not the exception.
  • by Aqua OS X (458522) on Saturday July 28, 2007 @08:48PM (#20028185)
    As unfortunate as it is, Office dominates the corporate landscape, and Office 07 or greater will eventually be the status quo. It's to a student's advantage to spend considerable time with that application suite. They will need to become familiar with its interface, idiosyncrasies, and annoyances. Running Open Office is not the same learning experience, especially for those who are not as as technosexual as we are.

    I've instructed digital media the university level, and I try to recommend free or affordable software as often as possible, yet their are some poison pills you need to swallow. Office is a god awful suite of applications and most kids will need to learn how to interact with it.

    That said, hopefully they will setup good computer labs for kids who can't afford the software or don't wish to buy the software.

    If anyone else needs me, I'll be the guy in the corner being pummeled by the guys with the Open Office t-shirts.
    • by domatic (1128127) on Saturday July 28, 2007 @09:45PM (#20028595)
      When I was an HS, WordPerfect was the "unalterable-never-ever-change-"Business Standard". I feel soooo fortunate that I'm well schooled in the "Business Standard".
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by stewbacca (1033764)

      They will need to become familiar with its interface, idiosyncrasies, and annoyances.

      I totally disagree. As a matter of fact, I can't think of anything in the past month I've disagreed more with. How can you make this statement, when it is impossible to become familiar with MS iterfaces and idiosyncrasies when they change with every version and on both platforms (Mac and PC)? At least they are consistent with their annoyances, in that you can count on them being in EVERY version they make.

  • Ugh, it's everywhere (Score:4, Interesting)

    by sykopomp (1133507) on Saturday July 28, 2007 @08:49PM (#20028193)
    I recently became the sysadmin for a nonprofit. First thing they had me do was install 7 copies of XP on 7 P3 900mhz 256mb RAM IBMs that were donated. We also had 7 licenses for Office 2007, but I opted to install OpenOffice first and see if they were happy with that. Then the first person I upgraded for threw a tantrum because Writer didn't have a "diploma-style border" available and "it doesn't have the fonts I need! (neither did Word)". Needless to say, I gave them Office 2007, which runs amazingly slow on those computers. Everyone except this one woman uses word processors for very basic writing tasks, but now they all want 2007... and they were so incredibly happy when it got installed. Microsoft's influence is just that strong. People want what Microsoft peddles. It doesn't matter if it works better. That's what they're used to, that's what they know, that's what they've learned to use through rote tasks, that's what they'll continue to try and use. Hell, they looked at 'ribbon' and thought it was the best thing that was ever created for an office suite, and one of them started giggling with glee. Help me T_T
  • by Proudrooster (580120) on Saturday July 28, 2007 @09:39PM (#20028559) Homepage
    Apparently, the school board has realized that Office 2007 is not compatible with other versions of Office since MS-Word makes the new scary ".docx" files. However, instead of making everyone in the city upgrade, why not just go under options and change MS-Word to save as the standard ".doc" files. This way, the school board will only waste tax payer money once. Silly school board.
  • Microsoft Tax Revolt (Score:4, Interesting)

    by florescent_beige (608235) on Saturday July 28, 2007 @09:41PM (#20028573) Journal

    It would be very interesting if someone got caught using cracked copies of Vista and Office 07 to comply with this.

    Civil disobedience and subversion don't seem to be part of polite Western society any more, but still, one can dream. That society at large and a judge in particular would be sympathetic to a parent who is forced to pay the MS tax "for the sake of the children" when low-cost and no-cost alternatives exist.

    I can just imagine a tired looking soccer mom and middle management dad sitting in front of the camera with fists full of back-to-school bills for clothes, calculators, cell phones, computers, printers, sneakers, band equipment, sports equipment, more clothes, paper, cool pens, text books, binders, and yet more clothes...holding up one more bill for Vista, Office 2007, and the new computer required to RUN THEM, and saying into the camera "Why should we pay for this when there are free legal alternatives that work just as well and when nobody asked our opinion before this decision was made. If there really is no alternative to using MS products then the cost of MS is a tax, and MS should ergo be expropriated in order to hold it accountable to the taxpayers that fund it. We therefore refuse to pay tax to MS until said company becomes answerable to its tax base, or until our school district specifies at least one alternative zero-cost software environment that would impart NO SCHOLASTIC PENALTY."

    I know. But one can dream, can't one?
  • by chipperdog (169552) on Saturday July 28, 2007 @09:52PM (#20028639) Homepage
    What if a student's household only has a Mac or Linux computer
    Maybe the school district should serve applications over the internet to students using Citrix, or MS terminal server, so everyone is on the same version, wether it is on the latest Windows PC, an iPhone, Mac, Linux, BSD, MSDOS
  • Not good enough (Score:4, Interesting)

    by iminplaya (723125) <iminplaya.gmail@com> on Saturday July 28, 2007 @11:09PM (#20029113) Journal
    I think they should be forced to use a Cray, or an Eniac. That ought to weed out the riff-raff.

    Seriously this is insane. We won World War 2, built the SR-71, flew to the moon and back, built and flew the Concorde without a single loss of life for over thirty years with a slide rule and a typewriter. Now, with all our fancy computational chicanery, we have a broken down space pick-em-up truck that was twice wrecked and can't be used more than twice a year, if even that, a fixer upper space habitat, a decrepit, half blind space telescope, and we can't get back to the moon if our life depended on it. And the schools think that a secretary's office program will save the day? We are in a heap of trouble. The art of learning is going straight down the toilet.
  • Open Office (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Suicidal Gir (939232) on Sunday July 29, 2007 @12:42AM (#20029601)
    I work in the IT Department at a fairly rich public school district, and we have made the decision to go with Open Office. Obviously it makes no sense forcing kids to upgrade to Office 2007, and this way we will be saving over $100,000 in licensing fees and may be able to hire extra staff with the saved money. This also solves the problems of kids bringing in documents saved in open standards and not being able to open them up at school (quite the large problem).
  • No, no, no... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MadMacSkillz (648319) on Sunday July 29, 2007 @08:56AM (#20031687) Homepage
    This is just a bad idea all around. What has not been pointed out here is the cost difference... I can't speak for other states, but here in Florida a public school can get Microsoft Office for less than 50 bucks per machine, and the cheapest the home user can get it for is probably $!50 educational price. This whole debate brings up a huge point:

    Kids (even in high school) often do not realize that one program will not necessarily open files from another. We see this ALL THE TIME in our high schools here in Pasco County, FL. Kids buy some piece of crap PC that comes with WordPerfect and then bring their files in on floppy disks in WordPerfect format and wonder why Office won't open it. We need two things:

    1. Students need to learn that applications use proprietary formats and they're not interchangeable - you CAN save as text or rtf but you'll lose formatting, and

    2. We, as a country (and as a planet, for that matter,) are really being hurt because we don't have one universal document file format type that all word processors can read and write. We USED to - it was called "text" or ".txt" as Windows users are wont to call it.

    Telling kids they "ought" to fork out $150 for Microsoft software is irresponsible. We are a Mac based school district and as soon as OpenOffice runs native on OS X, I will be recommending it to ALL of our schools K-12, not as a replacement for Office, but as an alternative to Office. Then kids can, if they want, run the same suite at home and at school, for free.

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