French students to get open-source software on USB key

French authorities will give out 175,000 USB memory sticks loaded with open-source software to Parisian 15 and 16 year-old high school students at the start of the next school year. The open source software (web browser, e-mail client, office productivity suite, an audio/video player and instant messaging software) will be defined by the company that wins the contract to supply the sticks, said spokesman Jean-Baptiste Roger. The spokesman also believes that the idea is a solid way to fight software piracy as it is the programs can legally be duplicated. Roger believes that if the project goes well, there's no reason why the current $3.4 million funding shouldn't be renewed next year.

News source: ComputerWorld

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This sounds like a good idea.

I'd like to know if there are any current USB key distributions similar to this but in English?

I am also wondering what open source softwares can run on a USB key without an installation and without elevated user level in Windows. I would like to put a USB key together that had all of this.

At the rate USB sticks fall in price the scheme will be half price next year.

Though, being France, half the money will be spent on the bureaucracy so maybe not.

Ok, maybe not pose a as an official (as they would be distributed by the school heads..). Did you read about the 'security researcher' who spread infected usb sticks (or CDs) in inconspicuous locations all around a bank, and reported that most of them 'reported home' (run by someone who took them).

With this new scheme, people would be less guarded about free usbs. I'd simply put a box full of sticks saying "Leftovers from Free USB Program", or whatever the french name is. And because people know there IS a program with that name, they'd be less hesitant in picking one up.

So, is this idea still too far-fetched?

More options, and there are a lot of freeware apps that are better than their OS counterparts.

And this shows the students that they can only get public recognition by goign OS, wich is wrong, personally if I wrote a program I probably wouldn't realease the source, certainly not under any of the OS lincenes available wich prettymuch removes my right to the code. Then I'd ratehr release it with a license where I can say "yeah you can use it for commercial projects, but only with permission and/or a fee".

HawkMan said,
More options, and there are a lot of freeware apps that are better than their OS counterparts.

And this shows the students that they can only get public recognition by goign OS, wich is wrong, personally if I wrote a program I probably wouldn't realease the source, certainly not under any of the OS lincenes available wich prettymuch removes my right to the code. Then I'd ratehr release it with a license where I can say "yeah you can use it for commercial projects, but only with permission and/or a fee".

If you don't release your code, what assurance have they that it is spyware free ? How can they customize it to use their webservices like autoupdating for instance ? What support will you give to it in two years from now ? Will it run on anything else but windows ? The whole French administration is progressively switching to Open Source, which also means Linux. As stated in their press release, this action is not only for kids but also a commitment to Open Source software by the regional government. It doesn't mean that "free" software is bad, it just means that closed source software is not what French (and many European) public services are going to use in the future.

From the list of software they include, I honestly doubt you can as a single freeware creator write software as complete and complex as Firefox, Thunderbird or openOffice which are created by hundreds of developpers with well-established organizations behind and lots of local companies able to customize these applications to the customer needs precisely because they have access to the source code and APIs.

This purpose is not to say to kids that they should develop Open Source software (yes, kids, not students, the Neowin summary is overly simplified...), the purpose is to improve public services and allow all pupils to have access to their own private digital environment, even the poorest.

This may be a good idea, but in realistic terms these keys will be ran from aging systems - pre-2000 era PCs, to be precise. Most have USB 1.1 ports and are barely capable to open up IE 6 and Office XP within 10 seconds, which open in an instant on modern computers. Most likely the browser, productivity suite, and mail client in question are Firefox, Thunderbird, and OpenOffice.org, which while they stand well as being good portable applications (at least Firefox and Thunderbird, I have no personal preference for OOo), they will take YEARS to start from keys.

Of course, more power to them if this takes off. Personally, it'll be better to preload such software on individual workstations than to distribute these keys. With these open source apps, though, they don't have as much flexibility over software restrictions and settings when deploying it to a large domain of workstations, which could account for the reason most school administrators don't even bother with OSS. But for a small classroom of computers, they'll be fine.

rm20010 said,
This may be a good idea, but in realistic terms these keys will be ran from aging systems - pre-2000 era PCs, to be precise. Most have USB 1.1 ports and are barely capable to open up IE 6 and Office XP within 10 seconds, which open in an instant on modern computers.
Huh?

Why would 15 and 16 year old kids in Paris, France have computers so vastly underpowered compared to 15 and 16 year old kids elsewhere in the world? Just look through the forums here, man! The gamers threads are filled with kids that age who consider anything under 3 GHz to be "junk".

I'd like to see some facts to back up your statement that kids in Paris are stuck with such old equipment.

I imagine he's talking about the PCs at the schools not at their homes. In many areas here in the US, it's the same problem. The governments aren't spending nearly enough $$ in our government schools to keep updating pcs to current levels. Sure, at home it's a much different story.

fergiej said,
I imagine he's talking about the PCs at the schools not at their homes. In many areas here in the US, it's the same problem. The governments aren't spending nearly enough $$ in our government schools to keep updating pcs to current levels. Sure, at home it's a much different story.

Then you have schools like mine. We got a bunch of Pentium IV 2.8GHz, 512MB DDR, 40GB etc last year. This year we got a bunch of Athlon 3200+, 1GB DDR, 40GB to replace it... make sense? no...

osirisX said,
I think the keys just include the installers, not portable versions of the apps.

No, they will include portable apps.

Brandon said,

Then you have schools like mine. We got a bunch of Pentium IV 2.8GHz, 512MB DDR, 40GB etc last year. This year we got a bunch of Athlon 3200+, 1GB DDR, 40GB to replace it... make sense? no...


Preston High for example has like 4 or 5 iMacs (guess 20" pretty much latest gen i think) and several P4's I think (about 8) for the students in the tech room alone... not to mention every teacher has his own pc in his class room and those one are not low-end either :P
then again I wish our school had iMac's or at leadt mac mini's...
i'd use the public computing room way more often then :D

-fm

markjensen said,
Huh?

Why would 15 and 16 year old kids in Paris, France have computers so vastly underpowered compared to 15 and 16 year old kids elsewhere in the world? Just look through the forums here, man! The gamers threads are filled with kids that age who consider anything under 3 GHz to be "junk".

I'd like to see some facts to back up your statement that kids in Paris are stuck with such old equipment.

Sorry, but I was basing my observations off the equipment typical in our school board in Toronto. Yes, their home computers can be all fast and fancy, but school computers are sometimes the result of recycling programs. But yeah, in certain labs dedicated to computer studies, the new equipment schools occasionally get are placed for those uses.

One should also think, if their home computers are that powerful and these keys were meant as take-home devices, shouldn't their home PCs be powerful and capable enough for them to get these OSS apps themselves?

Slightly on that topic, but the OOo distribution from PortableApps.com did take a long time to load off the USB on this PC with a USB 2.0 port. Guess it could be just a result of it being on a USB key with all the bandwidth bottlenecks and whatnot.

rm20010 said,
Sorry, but I was basing my observations off the equipment typical in our school board in Toronto. Yes, their home computers can be all fast and fancy, but school computers are sometimes the result of recycling programs. But yeah, in certain labs dedicated to computer studies, the new equipment schools occasionally get are placed for those uses.
Hmmm... You could very well be right, when it comes to schools. I don't think that they would have hugely outdated equipment barely able to handle using these keys, judging from what I see at elementary and middle-school levels here in Tennessee, but I don't have any evidence or documentation that shows what is currently in-use in Paris, either. I am extrapolating from personal experience as well.

Their not going to care about the free software. They already have IE7 or FF, webmail, pirated office, WMP11 and MSN.

osirisX said,
Their not going to care about the free software. They already have IE7 or FF, webmail, pirated office, WMP11 and MSN.

Why would they have MSN? They most likely have Yahoo.

dude,

nice troll... open source is all about innovation...

how is it that the renaissance, the most creative period in human history flourished without intellectual property laws? The creation of innovation does not come from safeguarding expensive technologies against pirating and theft, it relies on sharing of these ideas with others....

ghostwind said,
dude,

nice troll... open source is all about innovation...

how is it that the renaissance, the most creative period in human history flourished without intellectual property laws? The creation of innovation does not come from safeguarding expensive technologies against pirating and theft, it relies on sharing of these ideas with others....

What he actually means is that it kills off profit form greedy corporations....

Proprietary software companies have to work harder to release software worth paying for, hence open source actually *increases* innovation from them.

Just look how much MS have improved IE and Office since Firefox and OpenOffice.org have become popular.

hornett said,
Proprietary software companies have to work harder to release software worth paying for, hence open source actually *increases* innovation from them.

Just look how much MS have improved IE and Office since Firefox and OpenOffice.org have become popular.


"Improved" how so?

mrmckeb said,
I hate open source... it kills off innovation.

Without open source you wouldn't have been able to post this message.

ghostwind said,
dude,

nice troll... open source is all about innovation...

how is it that the renaissance, the most creative period in human history flourished without intellectual property laws? The creation of innovation does not come from safeguarding expensive technologies against pirating and theft, it relies on sharing of these ideas with others....

because whatever else is true in the renaissance everything was funded by wealthy patrons and the church to promote themselves. thats why you have a lot of religious paintings and portraits of merchants.

dont simplify history.

i dont think intellectual property laws are everything people say they are, but that doesnt mean they dont have a role.

and no i think innovation in open source can be in some ways harder because of a lack of competition, lack of clear goals, lack of big money, because of fragmentation and lack of a coherent platform.

what innovation has open source done so far btw? for example, what did firefox actually accomplish being open source besides copying a lot of things from a lot of different other programs, to make something that was close enough to IE and standards compliant enough, that it could be attractive for political reasons.

brianshapiro said,
what innovation has open source done so far btw? for example, what did firefox actually accomplish being open source besides copying a lot of things from a lot of different other programs, to make something that was close enough to IE and standards compliant enough, that it could be attractive for political reasons.
At this point, programmers everywhere (whether open source, or closed source) are standing on the shoulders of giants. They have platforms and frameworks all laid out for them, and they build upon this existing code base, expanding it with smaller new ideas and implementations.

Where is "innovation"? All around us.
Who is "innovating"? Most all talented programmers, regardless of whether the code they are working on is public or kept secret and hidden away from public view.

Aq3e said,


"Improved" how so?

You'd have to be seriously blind to believe Office 2007 wasn't that much of an improvement over its predecessor, or even Internet Explorer 7.

I just meant that in our current society, greed/money is the motivation that gets things done. Very few people work for "the greater good" without a thought on profits.

mrmckeb said,
I just meant that in our current society, greed/money is the motivation that gets things done. Very few people work for "the greater good" without a thought on profits.
So, a programmer that makes a large salary writes better code than one who does it because he/she really loves it and wants to?

And a doctor who makes a lot of money is likewise doing a much better job at taking care of his patients than one who has a passion for his/her job?

I don't agree with that.

mrmckeb said,
I just meant that in our current society, greed/money is the motivation that gets things done. Very few people work for "the greater good" without a thought on profits.

You can't be that blind. There are thousands of companies/individuals who make a living in the open source industry. You are confusing profits with intellectual property. The OS community *relies* on innovation to get by (sharing information is a necessity). Most closed source companies rely on patenting and hording away IP/software as a corporate asset to make money.... how does this help innovation? It doesn't, it stifles creativity and causes monopolistic markets.... and remember, one of the bigger innovation catalysts we have in our industry is competition.

Sounds like a good idea to me, although I'd probably find the flash drives to be more useful than the software.

i agree to, although open-source software is nice... the USB memory sticks would be the best part since it would be free hardware

I'm thinking along the same lines.... A lot of money and effort spent to do this, and most students are likely to erase the drive and put music or other files on them.

Having a "take one" stack of CDs would better get the applications out, and to people who want the apps, not just looking for a free USB stick.

The point is to give ALL kids a portable desktop they can use everywhere with all the apps they need at school or the town library as well as regional school information useful for their studies. These portable apps will be updated via a web service.

In the real world, even in richer countries not all kids have computers, a stack of CDs makes no sense for them and would be quickly outdated anyway.

We also have a different definition of "a lot of money", 2.6 million euros for an operation that will reach 175.000 pupils is very cheap, less than 15€ per pupil, especially since the education budget for the region is in the 1 billion range.