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French students to get open source software on USB key

info world

A recent InfoWorld story has caught my attention: open source software to be distributed to students.

French authorities will give out 175,000 USB memory sticks loaded with open-source software to Parisian high-school students at the start of the next school year.

What student doesn’t like free stuff? Though the concept of “free software” might be slightly lost on the Web 2.0 generation kids. BitTorrent makes things “free”. The project’s spokesperson says the aim is to “reduce the digital divide”. Though a fight on software piracy is a more viable theme. Not so much a “fight” as a push of free, open source alternatives, into mainstream use. Excellent!

The sticks will probably contain the Firefox 2 Web browser, Thunderbird e-mail client, an office productivity suite such as OpenOffice.org 2, an audio and video player, and software for instant messaging.

The exact software list will be determined by the company winning the contract to supply the USB keys. At $20 per student (the project’s cost), expect some heavy marketing thrown in. Otherwise it looks like at least the entire Portable Apps Suite – not bad.

It’s a fascinating idea, really. Students get their own, customizable, applications (I need my Firefox extensions), personal data (bookmarks, email), and storage (for assignments and such) – all without being tied in to a specific computer or even a network. Thinking back to my highschool, I would have certanly preferred this over waiting to download my giant roaming profile, and constantly bothering sys-admin for permissions to install software.

Well if all else fails, it is still a free flash drive, with someone’s logo on top.

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  1. Posted by ericfourfour | February 5, 2007, 11:15 pm

    This is a great idea! I wish this could happen in Ontario so I wouldn’t have to deal with this (cursèd) proprietary software every school day.

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  2. Posted by Tony | February 5, 2007, 11:56 pm

    School boards across Ontario (anywhere really) could save a fortune by not upgrading to Vista (besides, the “upgrade” version lacks a lot of features over the full~er editions). I’d welcome the said budget savings in favour of hardware upgrades and open source software. With an added benifit of students being able to run all the same programs at home, for no additional cost or piracy.

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