[sf-lug] Fwd: help moving a public middle school in San Francisco to FOSS
jim at well.com
Sat Sep 1 12:00:17 PDT 2007
the following is a request for expertise in getting
Open Office spreadsheet program to load a .xls
file quickly and to allow working with it with complete
Begin forwarded message:
> From: "Christian Einfeldt" <einfeldt at gmail.com>
> Date: September 1, 2007 11:46:00 AM PDT
> Subject: help moving a public middle school in San Francisco to FOSS
> I need some help figuring out how to make OOo handle a massive 6 MB
> .xls file better.
> Here is the background: As some of you might remember, I have been
> volunteering as a level one (meaning low level) tech support for a
> public middle school in San Francisco. I have been trying to move the
> whole school to FOSS, and I have been filming the process for the
> Digital Tipping Point documentary film.
> I now have a vexing problem that is posing a rather serious obstacle
> to that migration. The problem is a massive .xls spreadsheet that the
> school uses to track the students' behavioral development, meaning do
> they do their homework, do they arrive to school on time, do they
> participate in classes, are they misbehaving, and so forth. This
> document, called the "paychecks" Excel spreadsheet, is reported every
> two weeks. This spreadsheet is a mission-critical tool for the
> school. We will not be able to move the school to FOSS unless we are
> able to convince the principal that OOo can handle this
> mission-critical document.
> The document is 6 MB large. I has the name of every student in the
> school, and their performance over stretched over a period of time. We
> will not easily be able to persuade the school to move their teachers
> to FOSS boxes unless OOo can open this file as seamlessly as Microsoft
> Office. We are currently running this as a pilot project, and so I am
> not really all that hopeful about convincing them to save the file as
> an OpenDocument format, because we are currently considering letting
> only one teacher try to use the document, and only on one box.
> Unfortunately, the document will need to be printed from a Windows
> Currently, the school does allow me to place FOSS boxes in a few
> classrooms for simple word processing and simple email and simple
> Internet browsing. Plus, the school has dedicated an entire classroom
> to a GNU Linux lab running edubuntu. For the school to dedicate an
> entire classroom here, in San Francisco, where space is ALWAYS an
> issue, is a major miracle. So we are making some progress.
> But the teachers remain entirely on non-Free Software computers, and
> the principal is extremely skeptical about FOSS. She is the biggest
> technophobe I have ever seen. I typically have to train her multiple
> times on the same tasks whenever we introduce a new technology. She
> is highly resistant to any change in any teacher-facing device. Her
> resistance is somewhat understandable: she is forced to fundraise 40%
> of her budget every year!!! California schools provide less than half
> of what Delaware and New Jersey, for example, provides to their
> students, in terms of annual budgets. Her budget means that she is
> understaffed by about 10%, which means that the teachers who are
> willing to work here, must pick up the slack. So she is stressed out.
> I am currently writing this email on a system that the school bought
> from Zareason, Inc., with funds from the Microsoft Anti-Trust
> Settlement, and this box is a dual-core 2 ghz chips with 2 GB of RAM,
> and it actually takes 110 seconds to load the "paychecks" .xls file on
> this box. I am thinking that the teachers will consider OOo to be
> broken if we give them FOSS boxes to load that file. I had no other
> apps open at all when I loaded that file. I was running it on an
> openSUSE 10.2 box, and I am about to test the file on a Ubuntu Studio
> box with similar hardware.
> We have received a donation of some decent computers with 256 MB of
> RAM and with 1.2 ghz chips running PClinuxOS 2007, and it takes those
> boxes a full 12 minutes to load the file, even if there is no other
> application open at all.
> I am actually really rather vexed about this problem. One of the few
> remaining defenses for Microsoft at this school is this spreadsheet.
> This spreadsheet is, as I mentioned, a mission-critical tool that the
> school uses to assess kids' behavior. The big pay-off for us as FOSS
> advocates is that if we can get this spreadsheet running on FOSS
> boxes, then that is just one less obstacle to us moving the whole
> school to FOSS. Lots of the teachers boxes are getting old and buggy,
> and the principal is going to have to do something about it in the not
> so distant future. I believe that if we can solve this problem, we
> might be able to make them an all-FOSS shop eventually.
> But the teachers will probably not accept a box that takes even 110
> seconds to load this spreadsheet, and they will get a negative
> impression of FOSS, which might actually set us back, rather than move
> us forward.
> Thanks tons,
> Christian Einfeldt
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