Louise von Randow made brief comment about the recent NZ Herald headline of Microsoft insisting that instances of MS Office be uninstalled from hundreds of New Zealand school computers because of outstanding license fees.

The spokesperson for the schools clearly has little motivation to see the bigger picture and more carefully consider free and open source software. Instead of being defiant towards Microsoft and announcing contingency plans for the staged uptake of open source software…

Mr Le Sueur said NeoOffice was littered with problems, and its website warned that users could expect lots of bugs.

And the Herald reporter didn’t see any need to go further into such an investigation and instead focused on the Ministry’s stance:

“The ministry could not justify the extra $2.7 million being given to Microsoft for software that would not be used,” said Mr Maharey.

So, how much does New Zealand education spend on license fees for software? Are there alternatives? Yes! how much would New Zealand education save if just 1/3 of the computers used free and open source? A quick look at the Openoffice website suggests that OpenOffice is available for the Macintosh Operating System.. but how much does that operating system cost us and who much does it limit us?

I’m no open source zealot, but I recognise the need for better awareness of free and open source software in Australia and New Zealand. I recognise the obscene amounts of money shipping out of Australia and New Zealand for software alone, and I’d like to see our local IT capabilities improved through participation in open source projects. But I use what’s available to me, and that is mostly determined by:

  1. Free
  2. Easy to use
  3. Web-based
  4. Open source

and in that order.

I haven’t needed to spend money on software since… well ever! Where I used to rely on pirate software, starting my own business raised my concerns of such legal liability, so I started looking for legally free, easy to use and if possible open source – not because I wanted to be able to code (but it is great to have that option should I want to some time), but because I’m inspired by the development model and would like to support it in some small way. I’m still on that path to full independence and it is very rewarding and empowering to be free of software license concerns, and the crippling legal restraints.

Here’s my list of software I use everyday:

Actually I use a whole bunch more. Sadly, video editing and flash animation continue to evade being made free and open source. There are options – Blender possibly being one, but I continue to rely of Microsoft’s free (for Windows users) Movie Maker for video and Macintosh’ iMovie. The point I want to make is that by my estimates I have saved myself at least $1000 per computer with my software preferences and have more capability than your average and basic Microsoft, Adobe and Macintosh user.. I can sit down at ANY computer and start work on just about anything without relying on pirate software, out of date software, or pricey software.

Here are more good reasons why New Zealand should tell the likes of Microsoft to stick it.