Open Source vs Microsoft in schools
The battle to control what kind of software is the â€˜industry standard' in schools continues unabated. In one corner stands the giant that is Microsoft -
all-conquering, all-encompassing and the most widely used software packages in the world. Considering that Microsoft is so ubiquitous it has
practically become an adjective, how can any other contenders be considered anything but flyweights going in against the heavyweight champion of
the software world?
In the other corner stands the quirky, quick-footed contender determined to get a foot into the educational market - Open Source. What does it have
that Microsoft doesn't?
The main thing that puts Open Source ahead on points is its adaptability. Open Source software is published under licences that allow everyone
access to the source code, letting them change, download additional â€˜add-ons' and explore the real nuts and bolts of the software. Anyone with the
right skills can access the source code and improve it to suit their own particular needs.
Microsoft isn't quite so flexible. It may be powerful, but its source code is unreachable, set in stone and packaged to perform particular functions
without that ability to manipulate the coding if it doesn't quite do what you want it to do.
So how does this translate to an educational environment? At first glance, Microsoft would seem to have all the advantages. As a set program, lesson
plans can be formulated within selected parameters, everyone knows their way around Microsoft and is familiar with the layout and operation and it's a
tried and (to a large extent) trusted package. But Microsoft is notorious for its bug-riddled programming, requiring patches and fixes on a regular basis.
And if it doesn't do exactly what you want it to do, well sorry folks, but that's the way it is.
Open Source scores over Microsoft on this one particular aspect. Because the source code is accessible to anyone with the right training, if the
software doesn't do exactly what you want it to then you