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Libre Office musings:  Is this what we've been waiting for?

I was thinking back to the computer history I've witnessed.  Yes, I only act infantile; I am, in fact, an older guy.  One with many memories.

I remember Visicalc, this unique software package that made the oddball Apple II worth owning.  With it, accountants could create spreadsheets that made paper calculations go so much faster.

I remember sidekick, an app that allowed you to maximize 286 computers by loading SEVERAL apps into memory and then seemlessly call them into the foreground.

I remember the Mac and the Pagemaker application that made an already expensive Macintosh more worthwhile by making Desktop Publishing cheap.

In all of these cases, it was the Mighty Application, not the OS, that sold the computing platform.  This lesson was reinforced with the lack of native apps for OS/2 and for the GEOS operating systems.  Call me a troll; OS/2 sucked, and it only sucked that much more because it lacked apps.

So why am I reciting all of this?  I think the Linux desktop is beginning to take hold, making in-roads into the market as a free way to keep old hardware in play.  Of course, Operating Systems are ok, but it's apps that sell the computer. 

Libre Office is a stunning and free alternative to the other office suites.  It seems stable, offers nice features, and seems adequate for many users.  Is it as extensible as Microsoft Office?  No way.  Does it offer a sweet macro and interoperability language as nice as VB?  Nah, sorry.  Is it free?

Sure is.  Imagine my surprise when downloading and installing 3.6 Libre Office, at the request of my Secunia software.  It didn't install without problems.  After trying multiple times, I retreated to the latest version in the 3.5 series.

If you're looking for a low-cost platform for your students' learning, consider Mint linux on some old laptop you know won't run Win 7 or 8 well.  Get a copy of Libre Office installed and see if the elementary students can learn well enough with this tools.  If they note limitations yet still try to use the platform, you've now got enough justification to buy them The Real Deal.

We've talked a lot about the $100 laptop, never realizing that old hardware can be repurposed, reprovisioned, and recycled with Linux bits.  This can narrow the Digital Divide, the lack of computer skills caused by the Poor's inability to provide computers to their children.  The children have no bread to eat?  Let them eat Linux...  Why are Microsoft products The Real Deal?

The widespread use of Microsoft products and languages is something I consider a good investment for any student who shows interest in Computer Science.  I ?think? desktop Linux will take off this year (or next).  Until the Killer, Must-Have app is found though, the one that draws users to Linux like honey draws flies, we're in a bit of a loop.

jt

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