Minggu, 20 Maret 2011

No FAFSA for FOSS Users

I'm a student in my last semester of undergraduate school currently. I've written twice now about various pieces of online software that restrict your freedom to use the operating system of your choice to access them. My girlfriend is also a student and as many of you may know - college is expensive. This weekend she went to fill out her FAFSA application online, for those of you unfamiliar "FAFSA" stands for "free application for federal student aide", and was annoyed when she found out she couldn't!

You might share in my shock when I found out that this free application cannot be filled out from a free operating system. When clicking the "start here" button on the FAFSA main page from a Linux based operating system you are kindly redirected to the incompatible browsers page. Just like with blackboard "supported browsers" really means "supported browsers and operating systems". The FAFSA website supports:
  • Internet Explorer 6, 7, and 8
  • Firefox 3.5 and 3.6
  • Google Chrome 6 and 7
  • Opera 10.x
Now even though three of these browsers are cross platform, the only operating systems you are able to use with these browsers are Windows and OSX. The kicker at the end of all this? At the very bottom of the page there is a citing of standards compliance as the reason for certain browsers being redirected:

"For the past few years, every major Web browser released has been built around a set of open standards designated by the World Wide Web Consortium, a non-profit organization charged with overseeing the continuing development of the Web. What this means is that one piece of code now looks the same on every modern browser, whether it be Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, Opera, or others. The majority of our users are using these modern browsers, so we can present content which is optimized for them. "

While that is all fine and dandy, last I checked browsers on Linux where not any less standards compliant than those on Windows or OSX. At the end of the day I guess this is just another example of a large organization ignoring the FOSS ecosystem. I wonder how much longer it is going to be that Linux users are going to have to deal with this sort of ignorance.

~Jeff Hoogland

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