UK Government Open Standards Survey

The Government Chief Technology Officers’ Council has recently begun an online survey of open standards.

This covers views on the meaning of “open standard” as well as relevance of specific standards.

Obviously, CETIS people will be responding but I’d like to encourage everyone with an interest in open standards to do so. I will be keeping an eye out for what might have been missed from the survey. Be warned, however, it might take some time if you have interests spanning several standardisation areas.

ÜberStudent, Edubuntu – A sign of what is to come?

ÜberStudent is a new-comer (launched 2010) to the world of Linux distributions, being aimed at higher education and advanced secondary level students. Edubuntu has been around a few years longer. Both are based on the Ubuntu Linux distribution, which has a strong user-base among people who are not hard-core techies and who have migrated from Microsoft. A “distribution” is effectively a packaged-up combination of generic Linux code, drivers, applications etc.

As someone switched over to Ubuntu in October 2010, and with no regrets (I kept Windows 7 in reserve on the same machine but have never used it), I can imagine that ÜberStudent, or maybe a successor, maybe onto a winner. Consider some “what ifs”:

  • ubuntu makes headway with its offering for MIDs and netbooks and erodes the Android and iPhone territory
  • students look to save more money
  • students react against “the man” (after blithely paying for years) as part of a general reaction to the banking crisis and government policy
  • facebook, Apple or Google get too greedy or conceited.

I speculate that it is just a matter of time before “we” (staff in universities and colleges and their IT suppliers etc) need to grapple with a new wave of issues around user-owned technologies. How well would we cope if everyone accessed the VLE and portal (Sharepoint?) with Firefox and accessed powerpoint presentations or submitted documents/spreadsheets using LibreOffice? How much worse does this look when they are paying £6000-£9000 per annum?

Before ending, I should say that ubuntu is not all bliss – getting modern operating systems to work across diverse hardware and configurations is seriously difficult – but overall, it has been a good move for me. I just want a computer I can use for work, mostly email, calendar, documents, web…

So, what do I like about the change? NB these are a mix of features of the technical aspects of Linux/Ubuntu and consequences of the Open Source model. In brief:

  • Less friction – there are fewer times when I have to sit, waiting for something to happen.
  • Less conceitedness – I really dislike the way MS Windows tries to control the way you do things. This has got worse over the years. It seems you have to brainwash yourself to the Windows Way to avoid temptation to profanity.
  • More freedom – no-one is trying to “monetise” things. No I don’t want to change my search engine, use a particular cloud-based application, get my games from XXX. This is one of the things that stops me going Android.
  • Less memory use – less than 1Gb is more than adequate whereas my XP used to just swallow it up
  • More disciplined software management – if you stick to using the Package Manager

And what don’t I like? Only that the video driver often crashes if I change to using a monitor rather than the laptop screen. In general, hardware is a source of niggles and battery consumption is not so well optimised as for Windows or MacOS (Apple is especially good at this as they control the hardware and operating system).

In conclusion:

  • I recommend you try ubuntu; it can be tried by running off CD or a USB stick without “nuking” your current system or try installing on a PC that has just been retired (NB if you try a machine much older than 5 years the hardware driver support may cause problems)
  • Watch out for the future!