[sf-lug] Fwd: help moving a public middle school in San Francisco to FOSS

John Jefferson Lowry IV johnlowry at gmail.com
Sat Sep 1 12:10:00 PDT 2007

I know that this may not be the time do it, but migrating that
spreadsheet to a solution like Moodle (http://www.moodle.org) might be
a good idea. That way all you need a web browser tht works, versus
having to use proprietary file formats or moving away form them. You
can write a perl script that access .xls file with the
Spreadsheet::WriteExcel module, pulls the data you need, and puts it
in moodle.
As to fixing the having OOo opening the file.... You might SOL. I have
had the most compatibility issues with big Excel files.

On 9/1/07, jim stockford <jim at well.com> wrote:
>     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
> confidence.
> 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
> >
> > hi,
> >
> > 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
> > box.
> >
> > 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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John Lowry

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