Education ministry in Austria is no longer funds proprietary office licenses


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15-05-2009 OSOR : Schools in Austria are no longer compensated for software licence costs they make for office applications, as of the coming school year, starting this fall. Instead, the ministry of Education is promoting the use of the open source alternative OpenOffice, by paying 10 euro for each PC switched over.

A similar regulation regarding licences for proprietary operating systems could possibly come into effect in 2012.

According to a news report by the national broadcaster ORF, schools in Austria will be trying out LinuxAdvance, a new GNU/Linux distribution, especially developed for this purpose and accessible from a USB key. The open source applications will help save the schools around 20 euro per PC.

The 1.4 Gigabyte LinuxAdvance distribution was developed in the past two years at the Kremser Bundesgymnasium Rechte Kremszeile, a state grammar school in lower Austria. The system is based on Debian GNU/Linux. LinuxAdvance version 9.0 is now used on all PCs in the school’s three computer class rooms, having replaced Microsoft.

According to the ORF news report, starting this fall the school PCs will no longer have an operating systems installed on the computer hard drives. The live operating system will be loaded directly from the pen drive.

“Using the operating system on a pen drive vastly simplifies PC maintenance and support”, explained Rene Schwarzinger, one of the LinuxAdvanced developers at Kremser. It alsos decreases the amount of client data to be maintained and backed up, and it cuts down on network problems. Using GNU/Linux has made the school PCs much safer to use, says Schwarzinger. “Our systems purely run on Linux, so we are have a pretty relaxed attitude towards viruses.”

The USB key with the tailor-made GNU/Linux distribution is divided into three partitions. One is for the system itself, a second is reserved for the student’s files and the third partition is meant for exchanging data. The applications provided include OpenOffice and Mozilla Firefox.

Schwarzinger said great care was taken to keep the system platform-neutral, enabling, for example, the transfer of data with computers running Mac Os X or Microsoft operating systems.

Students are allowed to take the USB key home, enabling them to continue to work on files saved during lessons and also to use the open source applications in their free time. Which, according to the ORF news report, more than half the students already do.

More information:

ORF News item (in German)

Linux Advanced (in German)