Paris students get open source key

French authorities will give out 175,000 USB memory sticks loaded with open-source software to Parisian high-school students at the start of the next school year.

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French authorities will give out 175,000 USB memory sticks loaded with open-source software to Parisian high-school students at the start of the next school year.

The sticks will give 15 and 16-year-old students the freedom to access their email, browser bookmarks and other documents on computers at school, home, a friend's house or in an Internet café – but at a much lower cost than providing notebook computers for all, a spokesman for the Greater Paris Regional Council said.

It's a way to reduce the digital divide, said spokesman Jean-Baptiste Roger.

The sticks will probably contain the Firefox 2 Web browser, Thunderbird email client, an office productivity suite such as OpenOffice.org 2, an audio and video player,and software for instant messaging, he said.

The exact mix of software will be defined by the company that wins the contract to supply the sticks, but will be open source, he said.

At the European arm of the foundation behind the Firefox browser, Mozilla Europe president Tristan Nitot hailed the news as "an excellent surprise".

It could even be a way to fight software piracy, he said, since the open-source software that the sticks will contain may be freely and legally copied.

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