Note to publishers: Make your CDs platform-independent!

I just finished a post about the problems I'd had getting a Windows XP virtual machine to run on OpenSUSE. The only reason I even gave this much thought, though, is because I had new load of textbooks delivered this week with some great supplemental materials on CD.

I just finished a post about the problems I'd had getting a Windows XP virtual machine to run on OpenSUSE. The only reason I even gave this much thought, though, is because I had new load of textbooks delivered this week with some great supplemental materials on CD. Of course, the supplemental materials weren't just HTML and PDF. Nope, the CD-ROMs contained full-blown Windows-only applications that are just too handy to pass up, simply because I've turned into a Linux geek. So I'll be sorting out my virtual machine problems sooner than later.

However, it really begs the question, why not just include a rich Internet application on the disk? Or files to install on a web server? Or straight HTML, Javascript, etc., that can be run on any CD-ROM, whether it's installed on a Mac, Linux box, or a brand new Vista desktop? Interactive testing applications, for example, don't require a Visual Basic application to administer. Quite frankly, I'd prefer something less interactive and pretty and something more functional on a variety of platforms.

Believe it or not, I'm not the only one who's thinking about using something other than Windows in secondary education. I might not say nice things about Macs all the time, but my affinity for Linux aside, there are other platforms out there. Open source operating systems, being free (at least in terms of initial cost) and not tied to any specific vendor, are also remarkably attractive in Ed Tech and becoming more so as they mature.

Lenovo will be offering SLED pre-installed later this year on one of it's enterprise Thinkpad lines and it's only a matter of time before Dell rolls out enterprise sales of its Ubuntu machines. Other first-tier vendors will follow suit. Even the OLPC, whatever its flaws, runs an open source OS, as do its emerging competitors. Any chance these might need to run software published with a textbook? Ed tech is no longer a Windows world, any more than it is any longer a Mac world. Publishers need to wake up and create supplementary materials accordingly.