The Case for Linux in Universities

[Note: the latest copy of this document, and further reading, can be found at]


Businesses and universities are hiring people with Linux skills, deploying Linux on servers to save money, and even evaluating Linux on the desktop. Microsoft's pricing and security policies have made Linux an attractive alternative. Linux's open source nature makes it an excellent tool for teaching. Linux now comes with free alternatives to Internet Explorer and Microsoft Office which work well enough for the average user. University IT departments should start planning to support Linux on the desktop in recognition of its increased importance.



I work at a company which designs and manufactures networking test equipment based on Linux. Every term, I hire a Los Angeles college student or grad for a programming internship, and am often dismayed to find they lack adequate exposure to Linux. This causes me to spend precious weeks bringing them up to speed. Recently, out of frustration, I wrote the CS department of one large Los Angeles university, asking why their graduates generally knew so little about Linux. The response was roughly
The overwhelming demand both by industry and students (as related to me by faculty) at the undergrad level is for the use of PCs with Windows. We know Linux is coming, but our CS department does not (yet) plan to base a lab on it. If you can make a case for Linux, please do so, we'd like to hear it.
Fair enough; here goes...

Linux in the Real World

Because universities must to some extent prepare their students for the real world, let's start by looking at Linux in the job market and in four segments of the world operating system market -- clusters, servers, embedded systems, and desktops.

Los Angeles job ads mention Linux surprisingly often

One way to estimate demand for Linux skills in Los Angeles is by searching the popular online job databases and As many ads don't mention Windows by name, the keywords "mcse .net visual microsoft windows win32 win2k winxp" were used to identify Windows-related jobs. Likewise, the keywords "linux unix bsd" were used to identify Linux-related jobs. (Unix is of interest because Linux complies with the Unix standard, and is interchangable with Unix in most respects). For comparison, the keywords "java j2ee jdk" were used to identify Java-related jobs.

The search was restricted to the Los Angeles area, and was carried out on 29 Sept 2002. Results:
linux or java or windows jobslinux jobsjava jobswindows jobs
monster153 (100%) 54 (35%) 54 (35%) 101 (65%)
dice 328 (100%) 121 (37%)102 (31%)145 (44%)
Interest in Linux-related technologies was surprisingly high, about half as high as interest in Windows-related technologies.

Linux Runs 50% of High Performance Clusters

Linux's strong suits - low cost, reliability, ease of remote management, open source, customizability, high performance, and POSIX conformance - make it easy to put together supercomputers from clusters of cheap PC's. The first such cluster, named Beowulf, was built in 1994, and these clusters are now often called Beowulf clusters in its honor. They are also more stuffily known as "High Performance Computing clusters". Of 100 clusters listed at the supercomputer database, 87 are based on Linux, 8 on Solaris, 4 on Tru64 Unix, and 3 on Windows. According to the director of the 2000-computer cluster at SUNY Buffalo, Linux makes its 2000-computer cluster more affordable, reliable, and easy to manage. That cluster and others like it were built by Dell and designed to run Linux. And according to market research firm IDC, Unix and Linux each represented half of the total year 2000 revenue in the high performance computing market, and "... there is still room for Linux to grow".

A google search for "linux cluster" at US universities yields 27000 matches. Here are a few examples:

See also for more information.

It appears that Linux is the most popular choice when building high performance clusters these days, and its popularity is increasing, thanks to the efforts of companies like Dell and LinuxNetworx.

Linux Runs 25% of New Servers

According to a recent Morgan Stanley survey of CIOs, 29 percent of companies are now using Linux servers. All four top computer manufacturers -- IBM, Sun, HP, and Dell -- are now working hard to sell Linux servers despite their previous devotion to more expensive proprietary operating systems. And Oracle, Dell, Red Hat, and HP are working together to sell and support Oracle/Linux systems.

This is quite a change from just a few years ago. Quotes from the press in August/October 2002 illustrate Linux's extraordinary strength:

Robin Bloor of Bloor Research said:

It looks as though the battle for the server market is being won by Linux. It was reported recently that most Wall Street trading operations are converting to the open source operating system. This may not sound important but, for those like me who keep an eye on the markets, it is relevant. Some IT market sectors are strong technology validators and lead the way in adoption. Wall Street traders make up such a sector.
Reuters reported:
One in five servers, computers that handle Internet traffic and corporate networks, ran on Linux among those sold last year, and the software is expected to gain market share. The economic downturn has been brutal ... But Linux ... is more than just surviving. It's becoming a player, gaining favour with budget-conscious, old-line companies drawn by its performance improvements and lack of licensing costs.
Fortune Magazine reported
Today Linux has become the hottest thing in corporate America since e-mail and maybe even Windows itself. ... companies like Boeing,, E*Trade Financial, DreamWorks, Google, and virtually every major Wall Street firm have either finished reconfiguring big chunks of their servers to run Linux or are in the process of doing so. General Motors says it is likely to do the same in a year or so. Even the Chinese and German governments, along with about two dozen other countries, are taking a look at how they can save money by using Linux in their infrastructures.

This conversion is already causing reverberations throughout the high-tech world. For the year ended June 30, the number of servers sold with Linux as the operating system grew 18%, while those sold with Windows grew only 3% ..., according to research group IDC. IBM says that contracts for its Linux integration and support services now number around 800, compared with 95 only 15 months ago. And Dell and HP say they will sell 15% to 18% of their servers this year with Linux preinstalled, up from less than 10% last year.

It's still early in the conversion cycle. IDC says servers running Linux represent only 5% of the servers in operation, compared with 27% for Windows and 43% for Unix... IDC predicts that by 2006, ... 26% of servers in operation will be running Linux...

US News and World Reports says
Chafing under what they call the "Microsoft tax" -- license fees collected each time they upgrade personal computers and server networks -- customers from the government of China to Europe's Ford Motor Co. division are switching to free software systems. Linux's penguin logo is cropping up all over. "Developing countries, software developers, [and] schools are embracing Linux more," says Phil Mogavero, president of Data Systems Worldwide, technology consultants. "Linux has the capability of creating a paradigm shift."
Forrester Research says
Long thought of as a fledgling operating system, Linux is now ready for prime time. CIOs have many new reasons to be confident that they'll get quality Linux support from their largest application vendors and systems integrators.
eWEEK says
Oracle is taking everything, and I mean everything, it has from the core servers to the desktop to Linux. ... runs its shopping carts off Oracle on Linux. You want to talk mission-critical? What could be more business mission-critical? ... For the first time I can say that Linux, just as much as Solaris, Windows 2000, HP/UX OS/400 or AIX, is a mainstream enterprise operating system. The day was long in coming, but it's here. This isn't just my opinion; this is a business fact.
Computerworld says
Momentum to migrate from Microsoft Corp. products to open-source software is rapidly gaining in Germany, where numerous companies are reacting to the U.S. software giant's licensing policy. Small and medium-size businesses, in particular, have begun to replace as much Microsoft software as possible with open-source options such as Linux in an effort to slash IT costs, according to IT managers at the LinuxWorld conference and exhibition in Frankfurt.
IDC reports that Linux's share of the server OS market went from 0.5% in 1995 to 25% in 2001, making Linux the #2 server operating system worldwide -- and the only credible threat to the market leader, Microsoft.

Linux Holds 2.5% of the Embedded Tools Market

Venture Development Corp. recently reviewed the market for software development tools and services to embedded systems developers, and concluded that Linux's market share of 2.5% in 2000 would likely grow by 60% yearly through 2005. Competitors include in-house custom solutions, with 40% of the market; Wind River, with 31% of the market, and Microsoft. For an overview of the market, see IEEE Spectrum's article of Dec 2001, which said
Notable wins [for Linux] over the last 18 months include TiVo personal video recorders, Sharp's Zaurus personal digital assistant (PDA), [and] Motorola's DCT-5000 set-top box...

Linux Runs 1.7% of New Desktops

IDC says Linux's market share on the desktop has increased every year since 1995, and currently stands at about 1.7% or 3.8% (depending on which quote you believe). This makes hardly a dent in Microsoft's effective monopoly on the PC market. Yet according to a recent survey by ZDNet, 58% of companies would switch to Linux on the desktop immediately -- if applications were available. This is what economists call "the application barrier to entry" for new operating systems: users won't use a new operating system without applications, and software companies won't write applications for a new operating system without users.

New Market Forces Propelling Linux Growth

Looking only at the market share numbers, one might conclude that Linux had won in clusters, was seriously challenging Windows on servers and embedded systems, and had lost miserably on the desktop. But there's more to the story than last year's market share numbers. Four major events have conspired to prepare Linux for another leap forward: desktop software for Linux is now available, Microsoft is raising prices, computers are becoming inexpensive, and dozens of governments around the world are considering switching to open systems.

Desktop Software Now Available for Linux

The seeds for Linux's current wide popularity on the server side were sown by the release of server applications like Apache, Oracle, DB2, Lotus Notes, and SAP for Linux in the late 1990s.

In 2002, a number of important desktop applications were released for Linux:

These releases should make Linux much more palatable to the average consumer.

In addition, the certification of Red Hat, Mandrake, Suse, and Caldera Linux as Linux Standard Base 1.2 compliant mitigated fears that Linux would fragment into incompatible versions (as Unix did in the 90s). Applications that comply with the LSB will install and run properly on all LSB-compliant versions of Linux.

Microsoft is Raising Prices

Microsoft Office, Microsoft Windows, and desktop computers reached a turning point around the year 2000: they were good enough that customers no longer felt the need to upgrade the moment new versions became available. From Microsoft's point of view, this was a problem because it decreased revenues. Microsoft responded in three ways: Microsoft's hardball tactics caused an uproar. MIS Magazine concluded "All things considered, it's a recipe for revolt". And a month after the July 31st deadline, ZDNet UK said
[Gartner analyst Tom] Bittman sees other repercussions of the Licensing 6 plan, one that is likely to hurt sales. "There are more questions about Linux now -- as in, 'Should I be considering it?' -- than there were before," he said. He credited this shift to customers seeking lower-cost alternatives to Licensing 6.
Analysts estimate that as many as 60 percent or more of eligible customers chose not to sign up for the controversial licensing programme before the 31 July deadline.
"Linux is not really driving Linux, it's Microsoft licensing that's really driving Linux," Bittman said. "What's really turning Linux into reality is backlash on Microsoft licensing."
Further evidence of a backlash comes from the Australian Government, which is organizing a set of briefings for government CIOs about Linux.

See also AAX's "2003 And Beyond" for a good summary of the state of affairs.

Finally, even commercial analysts like Gartner now recognize the backlash, and offer research reports on the subject.

Computers are Becoming Inexpensive

In spite of the fact that the price of a given amount of computing power falls 27% annually, the price of the average entry-level personal computer remained over $1000 for many years. However, recently consumers' appetite for speed appears to be diminishing, and less expensive computers are becoming much more popular; many retail chains offer very good computers for less than $600.

Between 1981 and today, the price for Microsoft's entry-level operating system has risen from $5 per computer to roughly $90 per computer. Thus as a percentage of the price of an entry-level computer, Microsoft's entry-level operating system price has risen during the period 1981 - 2002 from below 1% to about 15%.

Profit margins in the personal computer market are notoriously thin, and the possibility of 15% higher profit margins may prove irresistible. Indeed, Wal-Mart and Fry's have already begun to offer Linux-equipped computers.

Governments Want Open Systems

A New York Times article said
"More than two dozen countries in Asia, Europe and Latin America, including China and Germany, are now encouraging their government agencies to use 'open source' software - developed by communities of programmers who distribute the code without charge and donate their labor to cooperatively debug, modify and otherwise improve the software. The best known of these projects is Linux..."
In June 2002, Germany signed with IBM to provide Linux computers for German government offices:
Germany's Interior Minister, Otto Schilly, said the move would help cut costs and improve security in the nation's computer networks. "We are raising computer security by avoiding a monoculture, and we are lowering dependence on a single supplier," he said in a statement. "And so we are a leader in creating more diversity in the computer field."
Also in June 2002, Taiwan has announced a "National Open Source Plan". The announcement said (summary by this author):
The plan aims to establish a software development infrastructure based on free and open source and lay a solid foundation for Taiwan's software industry. It includes the creation of a "Chinese Open Source Software Environment", international cooperation on free application software development, and work with community colleges and non-government organizations to establish six training centers to train 9,600 teachers and 120,000 users the basics of free software. Also, the national education system will switch to Open Source in order to provide a diverse IT education environment and ensure the people's rights to the freedom of information.
Also, China is turning to Linux to combat software piracy, reduce software costs, and increase national security, and Pakistan has created a Linux Task Force as a cornerstone of its anti-piracy initiative.

(See Ralph Nader's Consumer Project on Technology and the Cyberspace Policy Research Institute page on Linux for more links on the subject.)

The move toward open source by these foreign governments should noticeably increase the number of developers working on Linux, and accelerate its progress in the market.

The Case for Linux in Universities

As shown above, Linux is becoming extremely popular in the real world. It naturally follows that there's a growing need in industry for Linux-savvy graduates.

An obvious conclusion might be "Universities should create Linux-based programming courses for some CS students". That's true, but there's a lot more universities should consider doing with Linux. Since the best way to learn an environment is to use it for day-to-day work, universities that want CS students to be well-prepared for Linux in the workplace should consider supporting Linux in general, for any student that wants to use it. For instance, if students want to use Linux to write English term papers or connect to their dorm network, that should be okay, because setting up and running one's own home Linux system can teach a lot more than just occasional exposure to Linux in a lab.

Furthermore, the university as a whole can benefit from Linux. Consider:

Let's look at these benefits in more detail.

Linux can cost less to acquire and run than proprietary software

The TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) of Linux on Intel is much lower than that of Unix on RISC -- and may even be lower than that of Windows. summarizes a study by the Robert Frances Group as saying

"The cost of running Linux is roughly 40% that of Microsoft Windows, and only 14% that of Sun Microsystem's Solaris... Most of the savings with Linux come from software licensing fees. ... The larger the deployment, the greater the savings: One of the companies in the study had deployed [a single copy of Linux on] more than 10,000 Linux nodes. Linux, along with Solaris, also came out ahead of Windows in terms of administration costs, despite the fact that it's less expensive to hire Windows system administrators. ..."
IDC agrees that Linux on Intel has a TCO one fifth that of Unix on RISC.

According to a survey of corporate IT departments by CMP's, 81% believe that Open Source software such as Linux has lower TCO than proprietary software. Articles by Intel of Canada and Russel Pawlecek of Infoworld list stability, security, ease of management, and lower fees as some of the reasons for Linux's lower TCO.

Microsoft recently claimed that Windows has a lower TCO than Linux, but as Joe Barr points out, that study was done before the Licensing 6.0 price increases, and was already out of date before it was published.

Linux can ease the burden of software license management

Some universities expend considerable effort making sure all computers have the proper licenses. Each computer must have a license for Windows itself, for any upgrades to Windows, for each Microsoft program such as Microsoft Office or Visual C++, and for each Windows server the computer connects to. Without careful tracking, universities have no way of proving that they are not running pirated copies of Microsoft software. This is more than just a theoretical problem, because the Microsoft-funded Business Software Alliance routinely audits schools and universities for compliance, and collects fines from organizations which are out of compliance. For instance, the BSA fined Temple University $100,000 and the Los Angeles Unified School District $300,000 for noncompliance. According to UCLA's Information Technology Planning Board, "noncompliance is a potentially huge vulnerability".

So how can universities avoid risking penalties for noncompliance on Microsoft licensing? Microsoft's Campus Agreement offers some relief. Under the Campus Agreement, Microsoft charges a fee for each student, faculty, and staff member in exchange for the right to use most Microsoft products. Unfortunately, the Campus Agreement has three drawbacks: first, it requires the university to pay a fee every year, which represents an ongoing drain on scarce financial resources. Second, the fee is calculated on total campus head count, which means even people who don't use any Microsoft products have to pay. Third, neither the Campus Agreement nor any other Microsoft volume licensing option, nor even Retail Academic Edition Full-Packaged Product, covers the basic right to use Windows, which means each computer's original Windows license still must be carefully accounted for -- which is the kind of licensing hassle the university was trying to avoid in the first place. (See Joe Barr's December 2002 column, which includes a copy of Enterprise Agreement 5.0, for more details.)

The alternative presented by Linux and Open Source in general is refreshingly simple by comparison: universities may use and distribute Linux as much as they like, free of charge, forever.

Linux can be robust and secure

Linux has a reputation for reliability. Linux systems commonly go months or years between reboots (see e.g. the uptime graph for

It also has a reputation for security. TechWeb says:

IT pros navigating a minefield of insecure software and systems are finding safe ground in Linux. That's because the open-source operating system -- in part due to its very openness -- has become a model of security.

In 2002, IBM turned to Linux to power its Point Of Sale terminals in retail chains such as Regal Entertainment Group (the largest movie theater operator in the United States), which uses Linux running on IBM hardware at its movie theaters. According to IBM, "the retail sector is interested in Linux because of its stability and security, rather than the fact that it is free."

And according to SAP,

Publication of the source code is also one of the main reasons why Linux can offer greater protection against unauthorized attack from outside than is possible with proprietary software - however paradoxical this may at first seem. While customers with proprietary operating systems are supplied with a kind of 'black box' and have to trust that there are no security loopholes or errors in the coding, "Linux enables every user to inspect the code and thoroughly examine the quality of its functions. This means that any security errors that may exist in the coding can be discovered and eliminated", explains Andreas Hahn, Product Manager at SAP's Linux Lab. This is one factor which, in the light of repeated virus attacks on e-mail systems, for example, is growing in importance among companies and public institutions for both security and cost considerations.

In September 2001, the Gartner Group recommended that companies using Microsoft's web server consider switching to more secure web servers such as Apache:

"Gartner recommends that enterprises hit by both Code Red and Nimda immediately investigate alternatives to IIS, including moving Web applications to Web server software from other vendors, such as iPlanet and Apache...
In October 2002, Gartner followed up with a harsh assessment of Microsoft's progress on security issues:
"... due to legacy code and resistance to cultural change, Microsoft will not deliver necessary security improvements before 2004".
Since Linux includes Apache, enterprises can follow Gartner's advice by using Linux instead of Windows.

Linux can help discourage Software Piracy

Software piracy by students is a real problem. According to a survey conducted in 2000, 40% of students surveyed at two public universities admitted to having pirated computer software. The author of the survey concluded that part of the problem was that schools required the use of certain software without providing copies for students to use on their home machines.

Universities could avoid this problem by encouraging the use of free Open Source programs such as OpenOffice or The GIMP instead of the proprietary programs Microsoft Office or Photoshop; then students would be free to install as many copies as they liked, and would be less tempted to violate copyright laws.

Linux as a Teaching Tool

Linux has distinct advantages over closed source software as a teaching tool. For example, according to John Howland of Trinity University, Open Source software such as Linux can be used to great advantage in computer science courses because it lets students read and understand the source code for great software. A few good examples: Additionally, Western Carolina University's annual Computer Science Contest for high school students uses a Linux server to provide a uniform programming environment for an unlimited number of remote students competing from home -- without worrying about client access licenses.

According to Jeff Williams of Concordia University Wisconsin, even an "Intro to Computer Applications" course can benefit from Linux, because exposing students to alternate office software packages helps teach concepts rather than just applications, and thus prepare students to learn and use any office software rather than just one particular package.

Last but not least, being familiar with Open Source software development techniques and communities is becoming a vital skill for software engineers who are using Linux and other Open Source software. I have written a separate essay, The Undergrad CS Program, Linux, and Open Source, about the adjustments that need to be made in university computer science curricula to adapt to a world in which Linux and Open Source are important parts of the software engineering profession.

Old Objections to Linux

In the past, the following objections to the adoption of Linux were often heard. Some of them were even true at one time, but now they are all more or less just myths.

How are universities using Linux?

Given the above, one would expect universities to start embracing free alternatives to Microsoft software, for instance, Linux and OpenOffice. But are universities in fact starting to use Linux? The answer appears to be "yes". A study at MIT concluded it was time to fully support Linux on the desktop. A fair number of universities provide some level of support for desktop Linux, offer Linux training, and use Linux in their computer labs. A few universities, like University of Western Australia, have made the use and advancement of Open Source official policy. And according to a story dated 17 Dec 2002,
"LINUX is making inroads into the nation's universities, pushing Windows, Unix and Apple operating systems off the desktops of first-year IT students."
Furthermore, surveys of Linux use on campus, university job ads, and university web sites confirm that Linux has a solid foothold in universities.


One university, MIT, has done a full-blown study of whether Linux should be supported university-wide. The recently completed study, "IS Support of Linux at the Desktop", surveyed users and peer institutions, and concluded:
Based on the survey data, we believe the MIT community is ready to embrace Linux as a third desktop operating system. Users and system administrators alike appreciate its low cost, flexibility and many applications. Linux is already being used by a wide variety of customers whose support needs are not being adequately met through current channels. We therefore recommended supporting Linux as a third desktop operating system.
As a result, they are ramping up their free support of Linux, starting with student laptops, and are offering two levels of fee-based Linux training.

The discovery process MIT went through during this study might be a good model for other universities considering whether to support Linux on the desktop.


A few universities have conducted surveys on student or staff use of Linux. The methods and results vary widely:

Job Ads

Another way to gauge university interest in Linux is to search popular university-specific job boards for Linux-related jobs.
Linux skills appear to be mentioned about half as often as Windows skills on these boards, which is surprisingly high.

Here are results for a search carried out on 2 October 2002:
Job Boardlinux or windows jobslinux jobswindows jobs
Chronicle of Higher Education 43 (100%)12 (28%) 37 (86%)
Educause 18 (100%)12 (66%)14 (77%)
(When searching the Chronicle's job board, the keywords "mcse .net microsoft windows win32 win2k winxp" were used for Windows-related jobs, and "linux unix bsd" were used for Linux-related jobs. When searching Educause, only 'windows mcse' and 'linux unix' were used.)

Web Pages

The search engine Google is also a tantalizing source of raw data. I used it to rank fifty large US universities on four aspects of Linux: curriculum, office software, support, and training. The top five schools in each category, plus a link for more information, are shown below: It looks like Duke, Yale, and MIT are ahead of the pack in use of Linux.

The way Forward: Freedom of Choice

Given the current dominance of Microsoft Windows and the groundswell of support for Linux, it seems prudent for universities to plan for a mixed environment of Linux and Windows, with an increasing number of Linux desktop users. This is essentially the course MIT is taking; the central principle is peaceful coexistence of multiple operating systems, with faculty, staff, and students having the freedom to to choose between Linux or Windows for their laptops and PCs. Achieving this may require adjustments in how the university provides hardware and software to students, in the formats and protocols used to exchange data, and in support.

See also the following whitepapers written by European governments considering migrating to Linux and Open Source:

Computer Purchasing

Freedom of choice would ideally begin with the computers offered for sale to faculty and students by the university. Many universities have arrangements with one or two personal computer vendors to provide PCs and laptops to students at an academic discount. Universities should check to see if Linux is one of the operating systems offered with these computers. If it isn't, the university should make other arrangements to ensure freedom of choice; for instance, it could try to arrange academic discounts with one of the following vendors which do offer PCs and laptops equipped with Linux:

Formats and Protocols

If users are to be free to choose between Windows and Linux, it is vital that universities avoid using data formats or network protocols that lock out one or the other operating system. Sticking to open, royalty-free standard data formats and protocols is the best way to do this. Here are a few suggestions to consider when setting university guidelines:


Perhaps the biggest obstacle to adoption of Linux at most universities is the issue of providing support to end users. Initially, the university computer help desk might simply refer users to local sources of community support for Linux (e.g. nearby Linux User Groups). As the number of Linux users increases, it will become important to have one or more help desk staff members who can handle Linux support questions. See MIT's report on how they ramped up their Linux support offerings.

Providing Linux training will also become important. Just as some people now need classes in Microsoft Office or Windows XP, so will they need classes in OpenOffice or Linux. Initially, the local Linux Users Group may be able to set up introductory classes, but eventually the university should consider setting up more structured training offerings for students, staff, and faculty.

At a minimum, the university should have a prominent Linux Resources web page with the following kinds of information:

Application Software

Another way to give users freedom of choice in operating systems is for the university to avoid requiring the use of software that runs on Windows but not Linux. For instance, if the university requires students to use Internet Explorer to access class info, for instance, students won't be able to use Linux, because Internet Explorer doesn't run on Linux. There are two ways around this problem. First, for several popular programs that don't run on Linux, there exist free alternatives that run both on Linux and on Windows. Second, free emulators can sometimes let Windows software run on Linux, or vice versa.

Free Linux-Friendly Applications

Free substitutes for Internet Explorer include Mozilla and Netscape 7.0.

The closest free substitutes for Microsoft Office are OpenOffice and its commercially supported twin, StarOffice. Both are free for educational use and offer good compatibility with Microsoft Office. Sun provides some free online training for StarOffice, and a few books are available on the two suites:

A number of reviews of StarOffice 6.0 are online: An update is now available for StarOffice 6.0 that may solve some of the problems identified in the above reviews. Also, OpenOffice 1.1 / StarOffice 6.1 will soon be available, and their release candidates appear to come a lot closer to full Microsoft Office compatibility.

Free Linux Emulators for Windows

To the delight of many Linux users, the Cygwin Project has ported the crucial Linux APIs and compilers to Windows. As a result, nearly all Linux software can be recompiled to run properly under Windows with little or no change. In effect, installing Cygwin turns a Windows system into a Linux system (albeit a somewhat strange one). This technique works quite well for commandline Linux tools and network services, and less well for GUI tools, although not all of them have yet been ported to compile under Cygwin. This option will chiefly appeal to software developers until the full range of Linux GUI programs have been ported to run properly under Cygwin.

Free Windows Emulators for Linux

Wine is a free Windows emulator for Linux -- well, more accurately, it is an independent re-implementation of the Windows APIs, hence its official name, "Wine Is Not an Emulator". It is being developed by a large team of volunteers loosely called the Wine Project. Wine can run some Windows programs, and is included with most distributions of Linux, but is not yet quite polished enough for general use.

Two companies provide commercial support for Wine in the form of polished packaged product. Codeweavers sells two versions of Wine: one that runs ActiveX plugins, and one that runs Microsoft Office and Quicken. (And they do offer educational discounts.) TransGaming sells a version that supports 150 popular Windows games. Both of these companies are generous and frequent contributers of source code to the Wine project.


In summary, Given the above, universities should consider the following course of action: Universities which do these things will better prepare their students for the real world, find themselves in a stronger bargaining position when it's time to renew their contracts with Microsoft, and spend less money on software and computer security problems.


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About the author

Dan Kegel is a software engineer currently working at Ixia Communications. He has been programming since 1978, and mentoring intern programmers since 1994. He recently served on the JSR-51 committee which helped add nonblocking I/O and file locking to the Java platform. His web site "The C10K Problem" is well-known among a small circle of internet server programmers, and his comment on the Microsoft antitrust settlement was accepted as one of 43 major Tunney Act comments in the case. He maintains as a service to the Los Angeles Linux community.


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The "Invariant Sections" are certain Secondary Sections whose titles are designated, as being those of Invariant Sections, in the notice that says that the Document is released under this License.

The "Cover Texts" are certain short passages of text that are listed, as Front-Cover Texts or Back-Cover Texts, in the notice that says that the Document is released under this License.

A "Transparent" copy of the Document means a machine-readable copy, represented in a format whose specification is available to the general public, whose contents can be viewed and edited directly and straightforwardly with generic text editors or (for images composed of pixels) generic paint programs or (for drawings) some widely available drawing editor, and that is suitable for input to text formatters or for automatic translation to a variety of formats suitable for input to text formatters. A copy made in an otherwise Transparent file format whose markup has been designed to thwart or discourage subsequent modification by readers is not Transparent. A copy that is not "Transparent" is called "Opaque".

Examples of suitable formats for Transparent copies include plain ASCII without markup, Texinfo input format, LaTeX input format, SGML or XML using a publicly available DTD, and standard-conforming simple HTML designed for human modification. Opaque formats include PostScript, PDF, proprietary formats that can be read and edited only by proprietary word processors, SGML or XML for which the DTD and/or processing tools are not generally available, and the machine-generated HTML produced by some word processors for output purposes only.

The "Title Page" means, for a printed book, the title page itself, plus such following pages as are needed to hold, legibly, the material this License requires to appear in the title page. For works in formats which do not have any title page as such, "Title Page" means the text near the most prominent appearance of the work's title, preceding the beginning of the body of the text.


You may copy and distribute the Document in any medium, either commercially or noncommercially, provided that this License, the copyright notices, and the license notice saying this License applies to the Document are reproduced in all copies, and that you add no other conditions whatsoever to those of this License. You may not use technical measures to obstruct or control the reading or further copying of the copies you make or distribute. However, you may accept compensation in exchange for copies. If you distribute a large enough number of copies you must also follow the conditions in section 3.

You may also lend copies, under the same conditions stated above, and you may publicly display copies.


If you publish printed copies of the Document numbering more than 100, and the Document's license notice requires Cover Texts, you must enclose the copies in covers that carry, clearly and legibly, all these Cover Texts: Front-Cover Texts on the front cover, and Back-Cover Texts on the back cover. Both covers must also clearly and legibly identify you as the publisher of these copies. The front cover must present the full title with all words of the title equally prominent and visible. You may add other material on the covers in addition. Copying with changes limited to the covers, as long as they preserve the title of the Document and satisfy these conditions, can be treated as verbatim copying in other respects.

If the required texts for either cover are too voluminous to fit legibly, you should put the first ones listed (as many as fit reasonably) on the actual cover, and continue the rest onto adjacent pages.

If you publish or distribute Opaque copies of the Document numbering more than 100, you must either include a machine-readable Transparent copy along with each Opaque copy, or state in or with each Opaque copy a publicly-accessible computer-network location containing a complete Transparent copy of the Document, free of added material, which the general network-using public has access to download anonymously at no charge using public-standard network protocols. If you use the latter option, you must take reasonably prudent steps, when you begin distribution of Opaque copies in quantity, to ensure that this Transparent copy will remain thus accessible at the stated location until at least one year after the last time you distribute an Opaque copy (directly or through your agents or retailers) of that edition to the public.

It is requested, but not required, that you contact the authors of the Document well before redistributing any large number of copies, to give them a chance to provide you with an updated version of the Document.


You may copy and distribute a Modified Version of the Document under the conditions of sections 2 and 3 above, provided that you release the Modified Version under precisely this License, with the Modified Version filling the role of the Document, thus licensing distribution and modification of the Modified Version to whoever possesses a copy of it. In addition, you must do these things in the Modified Version:

If the Modified Version includes new front-matter sections or appendices that qualify as Secondary Sections and contain no material copied from the Document, you may at your option designate some or all of these sections as invariant. To do this, add their titles to the list of Invariant Sections in the Modified Version's license notice. These titles must be distinct from any other section titles.

You may add a section entitled "Endorsements", provided it contains nothing but endorsements of your Modified Version by various parties--for example, statements of peer review or that the text has been approved by an organization as the authoritative definition of a standard.

You may add a passage of up to five words as a Front-Cover Text, and a passage of up to 25 words as a Back-Cover Text, to the end of the list of Cover Texts in the Modified Version. Only one passage of Front-Cover Text and one of Back-Cover Text may be added by (or through arrangements made by) any one entity. If the Document already includes a cover text for the same cover, previously added by you or by arrangement made by the same entity you are acting on behalf of, you may not add another; but you may replace the old one, on explicit permission from the previous publisher that added the old one.

The author(s) and publisher(s) of the Document do not by this License give permission to use their names for publicity for or to assert or imply endorsement of any Modified Version.


You may combine the Document with other documents released under this License, under the terms defined in section 4 above for modified versions, provided that you include in the combination all of the Invariant Sections of all of the original documents, unmodified, and list them all as Invariant Sections of your combined work in its license notice.

The combined work need only contain one copy of this License, and multiple identical Invariant Sections may be replaced with a single copy. If there are multiple Invariant Sections with the same name but different contents, make the title of each such section unique by adding at the end of it, in parentheses, the name of the original author or publisher of that section if known, or else a unique number. Make the same adjustment to the section titles in the list of Invariant Sections in the license notice of the combined work.

In the combination, you must combine any sections entitled "History" in the various original documents, forming one section entitled "History"; likewise combine any sections entitled "Acknowledgements", and any sections entitled "Dedications". You must delete all sections entitled "Endorsements."


You may make a collection consisting of the Document and other documents released under this License, and replace the individual copies of this License in the various documents with a single copy that is included in the collection, provided that you follow the rules of this License for verbatim copying of each of the documents in all other respects.

You may extract a single document from such a collection, and distribute it individually under this License, provided you insert a copy of this License into the extracted document, and follow this License in all other respects regarding verbatim copying of that document.


A compilation of the Document or its derivatives with other separate and independent documents or works, in or on a volume of a storage or distribution medium, does not as a whole count as a Modified Version of the Document, provided no compilation copyright is claimed for the compilation. Such a compilation is called an "aggregate", and this License does not apply to the other self-contained works thus compiled with the Document, on account of their being thus compiled, if they are not themselves derivative works of the Document.

If the Cover Text requirement of section 3 is applicable to these copies of the Document, then if the Document is less than one quarter of the entire aggregate, the Document's Cover Texts may be placed on covers that surround only the Document within the aggregate. Otherwise they must appear on covers around the whole aggregate.


Translation is considered a kind of modification, so you may distribute translations of the Document under the terms of section 4. Replacing Invariant Sections with translations requires special permission from their copyright holders, but you may include translations of some or all Invariant Sections in addition to the original versions of these Invariant Sections. You may include a translation of this License provided that you also include the original English version of this License. In case of a disagreement between the translation and the original English version of this License, the original English version will prevail.


You may not copy, modify, sublicense, or distribute the Document except as expressly provided for under this License. Any other attempt to copy, modify, sublicense or distribute the Document is void, and will automatically terminate your rights under this License. However, parties who have received copies, or rights, from you under this License will not have their licenses terminated so long as such parties remain in full compliance.


The Free Software Foundation may publish new, revised versions of the GNU Free Documentation License from time to time. Such new versions will be similar in spirit to the present version, but may differ in detail to address new problems or concerns. See

Each version of the License is given a distinguishing version number. If the Document specifies that a particular numbered version of this License "or any later version" applies to it, you have the option of following the terms and conditions either of that specified version or of any later version that has been published (not as a draft) by the Free Software Foundation. If the Document does not specify a version number of this License, you may choose any version ever published (not as a draft) by the Free Software Foundation.

How to use this License for your documents

To use this License in a document you have written, include a copy of the License in the document and put the following copyright and license notices just after the title page:

      Copyright (c)  YEAR  YOUR NAME.
      Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document
      under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1
      or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation;
      with the Invariant Sections being LIST THEIR TITLES, with the
      Front-Cover Texts being LIST, and with the Back-Cover Texts being LIST.
      A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU
      Free Documentation License".

If you have no Invariant Sections, write "with no Invariant Sections" instead of saying which ones are invariant. If you have no Front-Cover Texts, write "no Front-Cover Texts" instead of "Front-Cover Texts being LIST"; likewise for Back-Cover Texts.

If your document contains nontrivial examples of program code, we recommend releasing these examples in parallel under your choice of free software license, such as the GNU General Public License, to permit their use in free software.

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