Microsoft and JNTU Hyderabad have entered into an agreement to provide Microsoft developer tools 'free of cost' to students in colleges affiliated to JNTU Hyderabad. According to this article which appeared in “The Hindu” on October 27, the Microsoft Corporation will provide these tools under the DreamSpark programme of launched in November last year.
Though it might appear like a great deal, its actually not. Let us look at some aspects of this programme and 'understand' what lies beneath this misUnderstanding.
- Single Use Activation Keys
- Operating System
- Lack of Office Suite
- Science Students
- CSE Students ~ frogs in well
- The Source?
- No Video Streaming
- No Updates
- Colleges should now wonder
- License issues
Single Use Activation Keys: The software has to be activated with a unique key and can be used only once by the student. A student in the age of learning should be left free to experiment and fail, if necessary, to learn. Restrictions like these only hampers a student's freedom to work with the software.
Operating System: The operating system offered is Windows Server 2003/2008 which is known to have the most unpopular Web server IIS and has trouble running applications on widely used technologies PHP.
Lack of Office Suite: The offer doesn't provide essential software like an Office suite which is much needed for students. The students have to resort to the conventional sources like illegal copies or alternatives which totally defeats the purpose of helping the students.
Science Students: The programme claims to cater to the needs of all the students but doesn't seem to take into account the non-CS stream of students. There are no tools which can help a student of Mechanical, Civil, Electrical, Electronic, Chemical Engineering to enhance their learning and skills.
CSE Students ~ frogs in well:Though on the outside it looks like its a boon for Computer Science/IT students, it keeps them completely away from technologies which stand out of Microsoft's development platforms.
The Source?: The most important aspect of being a student is to learn how technology works. In the case of software, it boils down to the need to know the source code of the software to really 'enhance the learning'. How can software with closed source enable or at least encourage this?
No Video Streaming: The lack of support for codecs like H.264 makes it difficult to view videos from online streaming sites. At a time when premiere institutes like IITs are offering e-learning courses streamed online, the lack of such codecs owning to licensing/patent issues is a setback for learners.
No Updates: There will be no updates (not even notifications, it seems) provided to the students in this programme which makes them as insecure from vulnerabilities like viruses as the software itself.
Colleges should now wonder: If students should be really made to work on the 'free' platforms, they should also be made available by the colleges to its students. But are our colleges ready to even think of buying so many licenses for so many software packages for its students? Or is that THE Understanding?
- License issues: The licenses under which these software packages are being given away should be carefully understood. Our student community, which is largely unaware of the legal aspect of using software should not be tricked into restricting their academic pursuits in the name of licenses and patents.