Overcoming the “Required” Use of Microsoft in College
In this interview Daniel Bray (Lupine) of the Ubuntu Florida LoCo Team explains how he was able to use Ubuntu instead of Microsoft to complete his college degree. In an era when almost all schools in the United States require that its students use either Microsoft or Mac based technical solutions, Bray finds a way to exercise his freedom of choice and use Free and Open Source software to complete his degree.
Question: Can you please tell me a little about yourself?
Daniel Bray: My name is Daniel Bray, I’m 35, I live in Rockeldge, Florida with my wife Kristyn. Currently, I’m working full time for Harris as a Systems Engineer. I’m the team lead for a great group of guys, and our primary responsibilities are taking care of Health First, Inc. (a health care provider for Brevard County).
Question: What school did you attend? What is your major?
Daniel Bray: UCF. B.S. in Information Systems Technology (December 2008) M.S. in Digital Forensics (in progress)
Question: Did you attend classes online or in a classroom setting? If both what was the ratio? Was having the option to do both important and why?
Daniel Bray: The entire B.S. degree was online, as is the M.S. degree. With my work schedule, a 24/7/365 hospital environment, attending classes online is the only option that fits into my schedule.
Question: How many of your classes “required” that you use Microsoft applications to complete your assignments? What were the challenges you faced being told you had to use something other than Open Source Software to complete your classes?
Daniel Bray: It’s hard to put an exact number the classes. Probably about 90% of them stated they “required” MS Office. However, after questioning the professor, they all accepted PDF format for my papers, so I just used LibreOffice to export out. Other requirements were the ability to view proprietary PowerPoint files, which again, LibreOffice took care of for me. Probably the biggest thing that jumped out at me, is that the web portal that UCF uses, to this date, still states that I’m running an unsupported OS.
Question: Since you chose to use Ubuntu in school what were the biggest obstacles you faced as a user and how did you over come them?
Daniel Bray: Obstacles? What are those? Ubuntu removes obstacles, it doesn’t create them. Seriously, other than some annoyances of disheartening “Supported OS” documentation (see link above), I can not recall any thing that I could label as an obstacle. True, every now and then I needed to use Wine to check out a Win only based forensic tool, but that was never too difficult to setup and get running. Other tools like VirtualBox was a must have when doing network related examinations (studying Wireshark captures). There was never really an obstacle, just a different way of doing things. I felt like it was just all part of the learning process.
Question: Since you graduated what field are you currently employed in? Can you tell readers the technologies you use at work? Does this differ from what you use at home if so how? Why?
Daniel Bray: I am employed in the same field I graduated in, which is Information Technology. At work we use a vast variety of technologies. I primarily stick to my Ubuntu laptop to get my day to day work done. I bring it back and forth to home, so that I can keep a familiar and efficient environment with me at all times. A lot of the development work I do, web apps, etc. all follow me wherever I go.
Question: Since you currently work as a Systems Engineer and developer, what applications have you developed? Are they Web based? What languages the applications written in and what tools are needed. What are some of the security challenges you faced during development?
Daniel Bray: For my work based applications, I pretty much stick to the LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) stack. However, I’ve had to tackle various tasks with scripts written in Perl, Bash, and Python. I have a pretty firm hold on what security requirements are required for the organization, so I was easily able to accommodate those needs into my web apps. For example, all web-based authentication is accomplished using a TLS secured LDAP connection. This is all seamless, and occurs in the background.
Another work related tool I use on a daily basis, pyconnmgr, is written completely in Python, and with a Glade frontend. This is a huge time saver for me, as I constantly have to SSH, SFTP, SMB, FTP into various servers throughout the day.
Question: What do you want other students faced with similar difficulties to understand about this process and your continued success with using Free and Open Source Software via Ubuntu as a solution.
Daniel Bray: Don’t believe anything, until you try it for yourself. Make smart, educated choices, and you will usually be happy with the results. You can always have a safety net like VirtualBox standing by, which I had to use a few times for various “network intrusion assignments”, so there really is nothing to fear. Most things are going web based, and FireFox is FireFox, so if the web app says that it supports that, then just ignore the incorrectly labeled “Required OS”.
Question: Is there anything else that I haven’t asked you about your success story that you would like to mention now?
Daniel Bray: A success story, me? I wouldn’t go that far. Honestly, I don’t even look at using Ubuntu as being different anymore. To me, it’s just a way of life. I mean, at this point, I think it would be more difficult to start using proprietary OSes and software. And why would I want to create problems for myself. Some people tell me they “just use Windows because it’s easier”. Well, after using Ubuntu for a few years now, I have the exact same argument. I just use Ubuntu because it’s easier.
For more info on how you can participate in and contribute to Ubuntu, visit: http://www.ubuntu.com/community/participate.