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Birmingham To Buy More, Not Less Open Source

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the on-second-look dept.

Software 232

K-boy writes, "Last week, the press (and Slashdot) reported that Birmingham City Council had decided to ditch its open source project because a report said its trial had cost £100,000 more than it would have cost to buy Windows. However, Techworld has discovered that the opposite is true, and the Council is actually planning to use more open source software as well as to roll out Linux in the next few years. The head of IT was interviewed and he gives a fascinating rundown of the problems he had getting open source working with his systems. More interestingly, he points out that now the trial is over and he and his staff have the technical skills, they expect to save lots of money in future by going open source. Oh, and the report's figures were based on the special rates that Microsoft gives Councils just to make sure the short-term budget look worse — £58 for a Windows license as opposed to the normal £100."

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232 comments

*BUY* more? (-1, Flamebait)

IflyRC (956454) | more than 7 years ago | (#17050434)

Isn't the point of OSS that its FREE?

Re:*BUY* more? (1)

lastchance_000 (847415) | more than 7 years ago | (#17050480)

Free as in freedom, not free as in beer. Where have I heard that before?

Re:*BUY* more? (1)

jimstapleton (999106) | more than 7 years ago | (#17050560)

that's the phrase, but most open source users/advocates seem to think "free as in beer" is something other than "not paying money", and "free as in freedom" contains "not paying money", as well as some obscure subset of the standard definition of "freedom"

Re:*BUY* more? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17051026)

The obscure subset part is the ability to keep other people from making money as well.

Re:*BUY* more? (1)

jimstapleton (999106) | more than 7 years ago | (#17051304)

quite true, but I'd prefer a way of saying "you can make money if you contribute back." It allows them to make money on it, but fairly. One more freedom to add to the mix.

Re:*BUY* more? (1)

Andrewkov (140579) | more than 7 years ago | (#17050486)

Cost of the software is a tiny portion of the "Total Cost of Ownership", or TOC. Support contracts and making this stuff all work together is where the costs are.

Re:*BUY* more? (5, Informative)

'nother poster (700681) | more than 7 years ago | (#17050552)

You need support. You need techs and installers and troubleshooters on staff. You need a support contract so that if anything bites it big time you can call up Novell, or Redhat, and have them find the solution for you rather than tying up your staff that already have other duties. Besides, if it becomes unresolvable you can point to the purchased support as the cause thus covering your very tender and precious butt. Same thing goes on with any software in a commercial/governmental setting.

Re:*BUY* more? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17050628)

I've always considered OSS to be free as in no-cost if you're bad-ass enough that you don't need any support.

Re:*BUY* more? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17050718)

Bad-ass or stupid-ass? In this case, they are one in the same. If you are brave/stupid enough to use FOSS software in a business environment, you shouldn't be a complete moron and choose to not buy support for said software. And, now that you have proven that you need this advice: NEVER TELL YOUR CUSTOMERS THAT THE SOFTWARE WITH WHICH YOU ARE SUPPORTING THEM IS FOSS THAT YOU DECIDED WAS GOOD ENOUGH TO NOT WARRANT SUPPORT. Good luck...you're definitely gonna need it!

Re:*BUY* more? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17050920)

"If you are brave/stupid enough to use FOSS software in a business environment..."

Not true. The very large company I work at leverages Python as their glue language with great success and Apache is used successfully as well to name a few.

Re:*BUY* more? (1)

'nother poster (700681) | more than 7 years ago | (#17050772)

It is, but the Birmingham council and the civil servants working there aren't that bad ass when it comes to computers. But I bet they are more bad ass than you about things governmental.

Re:*BUY* more? (1)

russ1337 (938915) | more than 7 years ago | (#17050714)

>>> "You need support. You need techs and installers and troubleshooters on staff. "

You need some level of support agreement with either solution - Windows or Linux. Comparing the costs of a MSFT support agent or a Red-hat/Novell/Ubuntu support agent is another choice (and cost driver) altogether. As is training and converting users.

My guess is it is a similar cost of support with either solution. I also expect the USER training required to migrate to Vista is similar cost to migrating to Linux. This then falls back to the cost of acquisition. Is it cheaper to pay $100,000 to train your sys admins in Linux so you have an 'organic' capability for OS upgrade and acquisition, or intall XP, then have to buy Vista in a year, then MSoffice 2008, Outlook server 2009, Explorer 2010 etc...

Re:*BUY* more? (2, Interesting)

MrAnnoyanceToYou (654053) | more than 7 years ago | (#17051190)

Part of the reason for the difference is also that Microsoft has a virtual monopoly on support contracts for their own software. Sure, there's lots of help out there, but generally if politicians buy M$ software they assume they're going to get some M$ support. This is directly opposite in standing from Linux; there's so much in common between the various distros that basic support can be cross trained. Resultingly, there is a much more competitive market, and the support acquired per dollar is probably much higher quality.

I remember times when people I worked with have been paying hundreds of dollars for sets calls to M$ on the same topic where they didn't get the answer they needed. In a truly competitive market that just wouldn't fly.

Re:*BUY* more? (3, Informative)

ajs318 (655362) | more than 7 years ago | (#17051314)

Windows is prone to going Tango Uniform for no good reason, and nine times out of ten Windows cab ne fixed simply by rebooting. And you can train a monkey to reboot a Windows machine -- in fact, it wouldn't surprise me one bit if somebody somewhere has actually done this. This means Windows "techies" are cheap, because nine times out of ten they'll just reboot the errant machine (which the user could have done for themself, were they not scared absolutely shitless by the complexity of anything that plugs in and has more than three buttons on it) and it will work -- and the tenth time they'll reboot it a few times, mutter a few sotto voce expletives, realise it's not having it, give up and buy a new one. This means you end up scrapping repairable machines -- but of course, they ultimately come out of departments' own budgets, not IT's budget.

Unix-like systems don't usually fail without good reason. So anybody working on them really needs to know their arse from a hole in the ground. This means Unix techies are expensive -- because they're good. They have no choice but to be. And there's more transferrability of skills between software: much of what you might learn about Linux can be applied to Solaris and the BSDs, some of what you might learn about MySQL can be applied to PostgreSQL or Firebird, Perl is a bit like PHP, ProFTPD and Apache have similar configuration file syntaxes, and so forth.

Basically, if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.

Re:*BUY* more? (1)

Dare nMc (468959) | more than 7 years ago | (#17051650)

My guess is it is a similar cost of support with either solution.

Of course what everyone else is doing in your area plays big into how much admins cost. If you traing/hire linux guys, and the next big hire in your town/industry/country is for a big windows install, then your employee's don't have the experience to be as desireable to be sucked away (=lower admin cost.) But if the next big job is that 5 other companys decide to transition to linux also, then you got a bidding war to keep an admin.

'sed s/linux/windows' is also true. Of course, you can buy with cash the experienced admin, instead of buying experience with time/mistakes if your not blazing the new trail.

being the admin, of course I want lots of transistions to LinuxApacheMysqlPhp because I got that experience, not windows/.net/...

Re:*BUY* more? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17050572)

You're sig answers your question, plus you forgot to say "First Post!"

NO! (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 7 years ago | (#17050596)

it is that you are Free to make changes to the code. For a single person, it may be cheaper to go with Windows. But for any company with an IT dept. it will nearly always be cheaper and better to go with OSS. The one place where Windows wins out is for specialized apps that run only on windows, which only encourages competition in an OSS version that will run on Linux and apple.

Re:NO! (1)

johansalk (818687) | more than 7 years ago | (#17050674)

Making changes to the code is all nice and dandy, but realistically, how many people actually have that expertise that'd enable them to make such changes?

Re:NO! (3, Insightful)

Mateo_LeFou (859634) | more than 7 years ago | (#17050834)

Doesn't matter how many have the expertise. With proprietary software the possibility outright *does *not *exist and with FOSS it does.

Other possibilities are:
-acquire the expertise
-hire someone who has it

Are you trying to paint possibilities as a drawback?

Re:NO! (1)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | more than 7 years ago | (#17051302)

Only when the number of possibilities is significantly large compared to an existing working solution by another vendor.

Re:NO! (1)

Mateo_LeFou (859634) | more than 7 years ago | (#17051474)

Yes a "working solution" is one that meets your needs and this is a great strategy when you know for a fact your needs will never change.

Re:NO! (2, Insightful)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | more than 7 years ago | (#17052014)

If "word" for $39 as part of home office meets 99% of my needs and openoffice meets my needs but could in theory be enhanced to meet 100% of my needs- I'll probably go with word despite disliking paying $39 and microsoft in general.

I groan everytime i see a pro-linux person complain "all you have to do is recompile the device drivers!"

They just don't get it.

Re:NO! (2, Interesting)

howlingmadhowie (943150) | more than 7 years ago | (#17051076)

we're not talking about individuals here, we're talking about a city council. they should be able to offer bounties/find someone to carry out the required changes. after all, they managed it to get specialist software developed for windows.
one of the problems with adoption of foss is in my opinion that people don't know how the whole mentality works. i sometimes wonder if the average worker goes into his local computer shop, doesn't find any software on shelves for linux and therefore concludes that there isn't any. it wouldn't occur to him/her, that you can download software which would for windows cost tens of thousands of dollars free of charge from the net for linux, because he/she just wouldn't look there for software.

Re:NO! (2, Insightful)

teh_chrizzle (963897) | more than 7 years ago | (#17052130)

make changes today? hell no, why would they? make chages in 5 years after the vendor has gone out of business/got bought by a competitor/stopped making or supporting your product? hell yes

Re:NO! (1)

Timesprout (579035) | more than 7 years ago | (#17050830)

it is that you are Free to make changes to the code
A fact which is completely irrelvant to about 98% of the population.
For a single person, it may be cheaper to go with Windows. But for any company with an IT dept. it will nearly always be cheaper and better to go with OSS. The one place where Windows wins out is for specialized apps that run only on windows
You have this totally backwards. Who exactly do you think it is that has specialized apps? Companies do. If they have to be rewritten, thats greater risk and cost for them, so while it will generally cost the home user little except their time there is often a substantial cost for companies to go with OSS.

Re:NO! (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 7 years ago | (#17051576)

For an in-house operation, it is actually cheaper to move their code to OSS. They can take advantage of better security, lower admin costs, as well as a great deal more of debugged and tested code (as opposed to code that is tested by the customer such as was witnessed in many of the recent elections and I am sure in the newest release of Windows). In contrast, the general individual does not have a clue about all the security issues and many of them will bury their heads anyways. They just want things to install easily and work the way that they are use to. In many cases, they continue to rip it off, so they view the security and low cost of OSS as a none issue.

The apps that I was talking about are the small apps that small (and sometimes large) companies buy. Typically, they are speciallized apps that deal only with that particular industry (or facet of it). In that case, the customer has little to no choice but to go with that company says. Interestingly, those companies that are on Windows would do well to try wine and open up their markets BEFORE somebody in the OSS world decides that it is worthwhile doing. But it rarely happens until the closed source is dieing anyways.

Quit feeding this troll, guys (1)

Mateo_LeFou (859634) | more than 7 years ago | (#17050762)

The point of FOSS is that it works better and can be customized if it still doesn't work well enough. EOF.

Re:*BUY* more? (1)

metlin (258108) | more than 7 years ago | (#17050784)

> Isn't the point of OSS that its FREE?

Sure, if you are living in a cave.

In truth (and in reality), no piece of software is ever truly *free* -- you invest it in other forms. The things that you invest in with may not be very valuable to you, but they are investments neverthless (e.g. time).

Now, this is true for everything, and softwware, free or otherwise, is no exception.

TCO, maintenance, support and other things are not free, even if a piece of software is free. In some ways, *paying* for something would mean that the other party has made a contractual agreement towards providing you a product or a service, which is missing in free as in FREE kind of scenarios. Who is to be held responsible if something goes wrong? Who can I cast the blame upon?

Why do you think companies like RedHat and others make so much money?

Re:*BUY* more? (1)

jd (1658) | more than 7 years ago | (#17051206)

Depends on your definition of "free". Here are some that I made up earlier:


  • Free as in beer: Technically, Linux and a good 90% of everything a user may need for data center operations or enterprise activities can be downloaded for no cost beyond the cost of the bandwidth to obtain it, the cost of the physical storage used to hold it and the cost of the time to install and configure it. So if you define "net cost" as the cost to install after you subtract all the things you'd need to spend money on whatever you used, assuming you install yourself, then Open Source has a zero net cost and is therefore "free".
  • Free as in freedom: Local councils do not, as a rule, have needs that are 100% identical to everyone else. No, I don't just mean a bribes column in the accounting books, but they have to be able to interrelate all kinds of extremely different and often illogical information, and in an emergency have to be able to access any of that information with amazing speed. They are also dealing with information not for public consumption (except when deliberately leaked), so have security needs that differ a lot from the norm. This means they need to be able to tinker with the code in a way that, oh, certain vendors aren't keen on. This means they're free to obey their legal requirements.
  • Free as in TCO: The total cost of ownership is not merely the cost of installing something and maintaining it, but also considers the return on that investment. If it didn't, then it would not be the true cost of ownership, as it excludes any consideration of the penalty for NOT owning it. To be free, Linux merely needs to have a ROI that is equal to or greater than the cost of doing things manually plus the total investment made in having a Linux solution. If a computerized solution works at all, then the cost of doing things manually swamps all other concerns, and you're guaranteed a true total cost of ownership that is either extremely small or below zero. That's true for almost any solution, so for this definition, ALL systems are free in the long term.

Site getting slow; article text (4, Interesting)

cerberusss (660701) | more than 7 years ago | (#17050534)

Birmingham City Council has defended its year-long trial of desktop Linux, claiming it to be a success, despite an independent report showing it would have been cheaper to install Windows XP.

In an exclusive interview with Techworld, head of IT for the council, Glyn Evans, argued that the higher cost resulted from the council having to experiment with the new technology and build up a depth of technical understanding, as well as fit it with the complex system already in place.

The 105,000 saving that the report says would have resulted from going with Windows XP has also come under question as it was calculated using the special discounted licence rate that Microsoft offers councils - something critics argue is a calculated effort to prevent public bodies from building up technical knowledge of open source offerings.

With Birmingham's trial period over and with lessons learnt and understanding gained, the Council now expects to make cost savings over time, and contrary to press reports which claimed Birmingham had scrapped the Linux initiative, it will in fact "significantly increase" its use of open-source software, Evans said. The trial also had other positive results, he claimed, such as demonstrating the ease with which Firefox and OpenOffice.org can be substituted for Internet Explorer and Microsoft Office.

The trial was carried out with the government-backed Open Source Academy (OSA), and planned to install Linux on 330 desktops in the council's libraries service, split between staff PCs and public access terminals, in an effort to build up practical experience that could be drawn on by other public-sector bodies.

It ran from April 2005 to March 2006, but is still ongoing, with the council refining its Linux desktop image and planning further rollouts next year, according to Evans. "The project did not end when the element of original funding ended, because it is part of the Library Service strategy," he told Techworld. "This project is still very much ongoing, and now that a stable image... has been developed, we would expect significant movement forward."

Over-ambitious

He admitted the council's original plans were over-ambitious, with rollouts of Linux-based staff and public PCs originally scheduled during the one-year trial period. In reality, ongoing testing of the desktop configuration means no Linux desktops have yet been installed. Instead, 96 public desktops and 134 staff desktops are running open source applications such as the OpenOffice.org office suite and the Firefox browser.

The council does plan to begin migrating those desktops to its Suse Professional 9.3-based desktop OS, however, a plan that should go into action in the near future, according to Evans. He said that far from scrapping the Linux initiative, as has occurred in some other high-profile cases such as the London borough of Newham, Birmingham is planning to "significantly increase" the number of desktops involved with the project.

Evans' description of the project is a sharp contrast to the findings described in a case study authored by iMpower Consulting at the formal conclusion of the trial in March, which is available from the OSA's website [pdf [opensourceacademy.org.uk] ]. The case study found that the council had failed to make a business case for its Linux desktops, largely because the half-a-million-pound cost of designing and implementing the system cost more than the estimated cost for a Windows XP installation.

The difference is largely down to high "team costs", including setting up the project, technical definition and design, development and testing and training, all of which amounted to roughly 100,000 more than the estimated team costs for a Windows installation. The total cost of the trial was 534,710, compared to an estimated 429,960 for Windows XP.

"The project showed that there are considerable costs incurred in decision-making, because of the huge range of open source options available," said iMpower in the case study. "The extra resources involved in decision making and project management mean that the cost of this first-time open source implementation for BCC was significantly higher than for a comparable proprietary upgrade, despite the minimal licence costs for open source software."

Frustrations

The case study also detailed the many frustrations involved in approaching an unfamiliar desktop technology, including the discovery that key applications wouldn't run on Linux and usability problems with the original Gnome interface. At one point, realising that most of the usability issues were attributable to Gnome, which had taken three months to configure, staff ripped out Gnome and replaced it with KDE. The new interface was up and running within a week.

But evaluating the project solely on what occurred during the original trial period is absurd, according to Evans. "There is no doubt that start-up costs for this project would be high due to the level of requirement, the level of Linux expertise within BCC and the complex requirements of the library service for the public desktop," he said. "The positives centre on future costs."

Birmingham's requirements involve "much more than purely tweaking a standard desktop image", according to Evans, including the need for particular security features, authenticated processes and the supply of specialised management information for performance monitoring requirements.

For instance, existing Windows 3.1 public terminals used a program called Deepfreeze that rebooted the system at the end of each session, something that had to be re-engineered for Linux. Another problem arose with the handling of removable media, which often wasn't recognised or caused errors on the desktop.

Staff also found that the OS was storing information about the contents of public users' removable media, and for privacy purposes had to develop a script to delete this information, which caused further delays in developing the final image.

Porting problems

Linux simply wasn't able to meet certain requirements, such as the ability to run Galaxy, the library management system. The council couldn't afford to pay Galaxy's developers to port it to Linux, and running it in emulation would have added yet another layer of complexity, so many staff PCs were simply migrated to Windows XP with OpenOffice and Firefox.

All this planning and configuration added to Birmingham's start-up costs, and meanwhile, the fact that Birmingham qualifies for Windows discounts further lowered the comparative cost of a Windows installation.

The council gets a steep discount on Windows licences through a broader Education SELECT licence arrangement, paying 58 for a Windows XP licence compared to roughly 100 for OEMs. "Accounting for corporate instead of Education SELECT licences would have added nearly 50,000 to a Windows upgrade project," iMpower found.

Despite this, however, the council feels that further down the line the investment in open source will pay off - for instance, Linux-based systems can be upgraded incrementally, avoiding large one-off license payments as would be the case with a Windows upgrade. Any number of further desktops can be added to the project without adding extra licence costs.

Vendor lock-in

Graham Taylor of Open Forum Europe (OFE) said one of the key concerns emerging out of the trial is the effect of vendor lock-in, with particular key applications dictating the choice of operating system. "For me this was the major issue emerging," Taylor said. "Our estimate is that up to 90 percent of UK public-sector organisations have this as their current position, and can no longer freely choose next steps in procurement."

OFE and OSA have developed a certification scheme called Certified Open, designed to encourage applications to certify on open source platforms, which will launch in the new year. While attempting to design and implement a Linux desktop system that could be used by staff and the general public with limited technical knowledge turned out to be an onerous and frustrating chore, by contrast, many of the open source applications themselves ran smoothly and went over well with users.

OpenOffice, for one, met little or no resistance with most users, many of whom said they didn't notice they'd been using a different application. (Power users did face some problems.) The public had no trouble using Firefox on public terminals and some said they preferred the open-source desktop to Windows. "It appears that OpenOffice provides a satisfactory equivalent to Microsoft products for those using basic or intermediate functionality," iMpower found.

Future impact

The trial's findings will be used by the OSA to give other public-sector bodies background when they consider using open source. The OSA has backed other, more unambiguously successful open source projects, such as Bristol's implementation of StarOffice, which saved it hundreds of thousands of pounds in one-off licence costs.

The UK has less than average usage of open source compared with other EU countries, according to a report by the University of Maastricht, with 32.1 percent of all UK local government users on open source compared to the 78.7 percent European average.

That lack of experience adds to the difficulty of public sector bodies getting involved with open source, iMpower found. One high-profile open source failure was the London borough of Newham's decision to scrap an open source trial in favour of upgrading to Windows XP [techworld.com] in 2004. That came following Microsoft's offer to provide free consultancy to the council and a subsequent deal struck with Newham Council that remains undisclosed but which is widely assumed to offer a huge discount on Windows licences. Newham Council will be appearing alongside Microsoft today at the launch of Windows Vista and Microsoft Office 2007.

In October 2003, the Office of Government Commerce (OGC) and the Office of the e-Envoy (OeE) announced they would fund IBM to run nine proof-of-concept open source trials designed to mesure the cost-benefits of open source over proprietary software such as Windows. Participants were to include the OeE, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, Powys CC, Newham and Ofwat, with Newham dropping out. None of the trials have led to further rollouts.

Re:Site getting slow; article text (1, Insightful)

shmlco (594907) | more than 7 years ago | (#17051290)

"Glyn Evans, argued that the higher cost resulted from the council having to experiment with the new technology and build up a depth of technical understanding, as well as fit it with the complex system already in place."

As would anyone contemplating a move to new systems and new technologies.

From my perspective it appears that both sides have a point. Free software has costs associated with it, just like "paid" commercial software. Those costs can be purchase price, future upgrade costs, support fees, training, planning and implementation time, helpdesk time, lost end-user productivity, and so on.

Anyone considering either needs to review the TCO and impact on the organization at large.

Re:Site getting slow; article text (1)

tijnbraun (226978) | more than 7 years ago | (#17052194)

For instance, existing Windows 3.1 public terminals used a program called Deepfreeze that rebooted the system at the end of each session, something that had to be re-engineered for Linux
Could someone enlighten me why this program "Deepfreeze" was needed in the first place. And why this behaviour should be replicated in linux?

Teach a man to fish... (4, Insightful)

russ1337 (938915) | more than 7 years ago | (#17050574)

This reminds me of the "You can teach a man to fish" saying...

In this case the fishing classes cost some money, sure. And the report basically said the would have saved money by purchasing some fish... well duh. - but how long would that fish have lasted?

They now know how to get unlimited fish themselves and are free from the stinking fish market.

Re:Teach a man to fish... (1)

ajs318 (655362) | more than 7 years ago | (#17050634)

Give a man a fish and he'll come back the next day for more fish -- and you can charge him money.
Teach a man to fish and you can sell him expensive, proprietary bait for the rest of his life.

Re:Teach a man to fish... (5, Funny)

FireFury03 (653718) | more than 7 years ago | (#17050682)

Give a man a fire and he'll be warm for a day.
Set a man on fire and he'll be warm for the rest of his life.

Mod parent stupid (1)

thepotoo (829391) | more than 7 years ago | (#17051612)

That one never gets old.

What is this, the next generation of Solviet Russia jokes? Come on.

Re:Teach a man to fish... (0, Redundant)

'nother poster (700681) | more than 7 years ago | (#17050710)

Yes, but sometimes I can make more money by using the time I would have been fishing to do other things that make more income than the difference in the cost of the fish at the market. For some enviroments Microsoft products really do make sense. For others OSS solutions do. For still others maybe Sun Java Desktop, or whatever it's called now, would be the best fit. Use what works for you.

Re:Teach a man to fish... (3, Interesting)

pavera (320634) | more than 7 years ago | (#17050910)

True, but in the public sector, and in IT in general you aren't in a "production" environment. There isn't something else you are doing that is bringing in revenue. IT is budgeted all over the world in all kinds of companies as OVERHEAD. So, spending a little more overhead up front to reduce overhead over the long haul and get off the upgrade treadmill is almost always the right thing to do.

Now if you are a programmer, and your desktop linux is somehow reducing your ability to write code (IE you spend an hour each day dealing with software updates or something) then windows is a better fit... Although I'm much more productive coding under linux than windows....

Re:Teach a man to fish... (1)

'nother poster (700681) | more than 7 years ago | (#17051224)

Just because I'm in a "cost center" and not a "profit center" doesn't mean that I don't have defined roles and such. My management would much rather pay someone else to support the occasional broken driver or disk mirroring bug freeing me up to troubleshoot aplication and architecture problems that are specific to our company. They can buy a bunch of SUSE support seat licenses for what they pay for my salary each year. Much cheaper and efficient that way. Besides SUSE/Novell are more likely to find the problem and bug fix it for something like a driver than local staff would.

Show a man the ocean (2, Interesting)

Mateo_LeFou (859634) | more than 7 years ago | (#17050972)

I don't think the fish analogy maps very well. Migrating to FOSS isn't necessarily like teaching someone to fish (teaching himher how to program). It's more like taking someone who has only ever seen fish in the supermarket, and showing them a harbor. Explain where fish come from, the fact that they reproduce on their own, etc. At this point the person doesn't have to learn to fish. She could just buy from one of the many beachfront markets. She could hire one of the many fishing companies or individuals in the harbor there. Or buy/rent a pole and ride with one of them. And so on.

Re:Show a man the ocean (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17051352)

"I don't think the fish analogy maps very well."

Then why did you procede to extend it for a paragraph?

Wait. I think Linux is the fish and FireFox is like caviar! Or maybe, Windows is the fish and IIS is the stinking pile of fish heads and guts. That makes Solaris the giant squid that wraps it's tentacles around your boat and drags you to a watery grave. And BSD is like El Niño. and ... and

Re:Teach a man to fish... (4, Insightful)

dasunt (249686) | more than 7 years ago | (#17050932)

I think we need a new saying:

"Threaten to learn how to fish, and get a discount from the fishmonger!"

Since MS seems to give discounts to anyone who looks at OSS, if I was the head of a large city's IT department, I'd put a cheap student intern on the job of writing up a migration plan and publicize the plan loudly. It may be impossible to get everyone to move to OSS (especially with local politics and entrenched technologies), but Microsoft seems to be willing to give discounts on the next round of pricing. ;)

Re:Teach a man to fish... (1)

binner1 (516856) | more than 7 years ago | (#17051762)

My brother recently did a co-op placement for a Canadian Federal Goverment ministry as part of his degree program. He was tasked with drafting a report about switching from Oracle to MySql and/or PostgreSQL database platforms. He was told flat out from the beginning of the project that no real switch was planned...

I wonder if this ministry was pandering for some Oracle discounts?

-Ben

Re:Teach a man to fish... (1)

rvw14 (733613) | more than 7 years ago | (#17051220)

This reminds me of the "You can teach a man to fish" saying...

"Give a man a fish, and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish and lose your monopoly on fisheries.

Wisdom vs Intelligence (2, Interesting)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 7 years ago | (#17050586)

City Councils are making pioneering tech policy decisions these days on open source, WiFi, broadband, and other tech procurement. But they're totally outclassed by marketing strategies that distort the facts on which decisions are made.

With all of the rigged numbers originating in incumbent market dominators showing up in city council policy and budget analyses, it's obvious the councils need guidance. I know that the NYC City Council doesn't have any resources with "BS logs" of ongoing vendor distortions, except for consultants like me. State/federal or even international organizations that serve the people administered by these city councils should produce research to weed out the lies. Sort of like a "City Council Consumer Reports". In the US, the GAO (now "Government Accountability Office"), or the Office of Management and Budget, or some team at Treasury at the federal level, could produce them. Or the state Comptroller. Or maybe a "City Councils Association", that could reach internationally.

Government is really big. In the US it's about 25% of our economy, though that includes the military (about 30% of total). So maybe these guidelines are already being produced, perhaps redundantly. The government response would be to produce similarly obscure guidelines on finding the guidelines. That's how government gets so big (especially the military). Is there a better way for City Councils to share wisdom, not just knowledge, about the information used to make these decisions?

Re:Wisdom vs Intelligence (1)

abigor (540274) | more than 7 years ago | (#17051084)

Or, it becomes a whole new line of revenue for municipal councils: IT consulting to larger branches of government.

So, are they, like, not losers anymore? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17050622)

One sample comment from the previous /. story:

I love my city but everyone knows that Birmingham council are a bunch of absolute losers, so this does not comes as any big surpise.

I hope the Gnome folks read this bit ... (3, Interesting)

njdj (458173) | more than 7 years ago | (#17050728)

At one point, realising that most of the usability issues were attributable to Gnome, which had taken three months to configure, staff ripped out Gnome and replaced it with KDE.

I use Gnome, but it sure has usability issues. I hope the Gnome developers will take the trouble to understand why Birmingham dumped Gnome - sfter selecting it initially.

GNOME usability has several elements (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17050912)

1) It is quite different from Windows.
2) It is a newer idea than the desktop metaphor as used by windows (so the wrinkles haven't been ironed out)
3) Hiding configurations. Again *what* needs to be hidden hasn't been 100% worked out

It could be that the system will be fine when bedded down. For those not used to windows' way it may be fine NOW.

Re:GNOME usability has several elements (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17051298)

No, it's because Gnome lacks the depth of integration necessary for a proper desktop environment. It's a big mish-mash with probably the creakiest underpinnings in all of open source (which is saying something). KDE is the only open source desktop worth a damn, and it's still only at the beta stage. KDE 4 will hopefully fix that, and become the first real Linux desktop contender.

I wish that you would not do this (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17051898)

As one who has contributed to KDE and will be again shortly, I hate it when others put down GNOME (or the others). They each have some interesting ideas and have contributed to our success as well.

what usability issues... (1)

rs232 (849320) | more than 7 years ago | (#17051332)

"I use Gnome, but it sure has usability issues"

What specific usability issues would the average user have in Browsing, Emailing and Wordprocessing ? was Re:I hope the Gnome folks read this bit ...

Gnome: Logical but not Practical (1)

soloport (312487) | more than 7 years ago | (#17051408)

"Would you like some coffee? No? Yes?" isn't natural (unless you're a Gnome, I guess). But -- and this is just one example -- you can't pry the "logical way" out of the hands of Gnome developers. Can't convince a highly-technical (nerd) person that "practical" isn't always "logical".

Yeah. Yeah. Let the flames about "Microsoft's way; Not 'natural' way!" begin. But who do you think has spent the most on usability studies? Who's studied how people like things presented, the most? Nerds should deal with the UI / machine layers and UI practitioners should tell us nerds where to place the buttons and window trimmings.

How much damage has Linux gotten from Gnome-pushers? "I hated Linux" is so unfair if you haven't tried any other DE... /end of rant

Re:Gnome: Logical but not Practical (1)

dylan_- (1661) | more than 7 years ago | (#17051990)

OSX does it exactly the same way...I think Apple probably did some usability studies at some point...

Re:I hope the Gnome folks read this bit ... (2, Informative)

Intron (870560) | more than 7 years ago | (#17051434)

They are smart, I think I spent 6 months before abandoning Gnome for KDE. The last straw was when they broke the menu system.

This can't be good (2, Interesting)

smooth wombat (796938) | more than 7 years ago | (#17050730)

At one point, realising that most of the usability issues were attributable to Gnome, which had taken three months to configure, staff ripped out Gnome and replaced it with KDE. The new interface was up and running within a week.


I don't (yet) run Linux but have fiddled with a Slack 10 and Debian installation but the above comment can't be good for the folks developing Gnome.

Can someone with a bit more insight explain why one would work better in the above scenario since, presumbably, both do the same thing?

Re:This can't be good (1, Interesting)

0racle (667029) | more than 7 years ago | (#17050880)

They do the same thing (provide a GUI desktop interface) but in very different ways. Apparently the way KDE does things worked better for them then the GNOME way. It's the same reason why people will prefer one over the other.

Re:This can't be good (5, Informative)

BigBuckHunter (722855) | more than 7 years ago | (#17051492)

Can someone with a bit more insight explain why one would work better in the above scenario since, presumably, both do the same thing?

To Grossly over simplify, Gnome sacrifices customizability for usability and simplicity. KDE sacrifices simplicity for customizability In environments that demand a certain configuration which doesn't match Gnome's ideal usage case, KDE is often a better fit.

They're both great desktop managers, and each has strengths in certain areas. And yes, I know "customizability" isn't a real word.

BBH

Re:This can't be good (1)

soloport (312487) | more than 7 years ago | (#17051642)

Gnome==Different/Rebel/Grunge/"Logical" in a techno-nerd kind of logic
KDE==Practical/"Don't make me think"/Get-stuff-done

/totally *my* opinion

Re:This can't be good (1)

thepotoo (829391) | more than 7 years ago | (#17052020)

KDE has the start menu at the bottom left by default, with the clock at the bottom right.

Gnome has the start menu (well, Applications) at the top left, with the clock also at the top right, but open windows are at the bottom.

This makes things wildly confusing for clueless Windows users, who franticly search for their precious clock and start button (laugh all you want, I've given more people KDE than Gnome because of this).

So far behind? (2, Interesting)

fitten (521191) | more than 7 years ago | (#17050738)

The council does plan to begin migrating those desktops to its Suse Professional 9.3-based desktop OS,


What's the logic of going with a version that is so far behind? I know that you don't go bleeding edge with such a project but 9.3 is ancient. I guess it is still supported but it seems like being *that* far behind would be leaving yourself open to a number of security/compatibility issues.

Re:So far behind? (1)

NineNine (235196) | more than 7 years ago | (#17050934)

Stability, and fewer bugs. In my business, I don't buy any software that is newer than a year or two old. 9.3 is only a year and a half old. That's certainly not ancient. If patches aren't being released for a product that's only a year and a half old, then I'd say that's a very serious problem (and I wouldn't buy it). You gotta remember, that they're not in the business of installing software. Like most businesses and other organizations, the software is supposed to be installed, and forgotten. If it requires attention that often, then it's bad software, or bad management.

Re:So far behind? (1)

paskie (539112) | more than 7 years ago | (#17051460)

AFAIK Suse 9.3 has only security patches released. For a comparable product with other bugfixes released as well, you want to look at the "enterprise" version of the distribution, in this case SLES9 (or SLED10).

Re:So far behind? (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 7 years ago | (#17051828)

What's the logic of going with a version that is so far behind?


Suse Professional 9.3 was released, what, a year and a half ago? That's not precisely ancient, especially given that the council apparently took time to take an existing base and then do their own customization.

Rumors for neds (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17050758)

Slashdot, Rumors for nerds, inaccurate speculation that matters.

Do you guys ever bother to check the vlaidity of a source before you publish a fucking story.

ASSHATS!

Under question? (4, Interesting)

aardvarkjoe (156801) | more than 7 years ago | (#17050786)

The £105,000 saving that the report says would have resulted from going with Windows XP has also come under question as it was calculated using the special discounted licence rate that Microsoft offers councils - something critics argue is a calculated effort to prevent public bodies from building up technical knowledge of open source offerings.

How could the savings be "under question" because of the discounted rate? What, do you expect them to calculate the savings while pretending that they would have had to pay full price? If so, Microsoft would have rightly stated that they were massaging the numbers just to make open source look good.

What's more interesting is whether their numbers for open source included the costs of Windows XP, as they didn't actually install any Linux systems. (Not exactly a big win for Linux there, either.) How do you spend £534,710 on installing OpenOffice and Firefox on 230 Windows computers, and playing around with Suse for a year, anyway?

Re:Under question? (1)

Otter (3800) | more than 7 years ago | (#17051178)

How do you spend £534,710 on installing OpenOffice and Firefox on 230 Windows computers, and playing around with Suse for a year, anyway?

My impression is that they've been messing around with trials of different replacement technologies, agree that Firefox and Open Office are clear wins and are still trying to decide on spots where Linux would make sense. The money is probably mostly salaries of people putting in full- or part-time work on it.

But, yeah -- that "based on the special rates" bit is brain-dead, even by the usual standards of statistical illiteracy around here.

Re:Under question? (1)

ronanbear (924575) | more than 7 years ago | (#17051418)

The importance of the discount rate it important for extrapolating the study to corporate entities. It is also important because of vendor lock-in. There's no guarantee that the discount will be available (or as good) in 5 years time. They spent 3 months trying to tinker with Gnome before switching to KDE. It's easy to see how costs could add up quickly doing that.

Re:Under question? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17051428)

The savings are under question because the "independent" analysis of the savings was done using a "discounted" rate that is given to cities and schools, not corporations. The real cost of any product should be what will actually be paid, not what someone else paid. Therefore, as a business owner, I can't expect to have the same kinds of "savings" as are reported in last weeks report. The "under question" is only referring to what can be inferred from the study, not the study itself.

Re:Under question? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17051438)

The same way I would have spent it,

Hookers and Heroin

Sorry, Open Source hookers and Free Trade grown Heroin.

Re:Under question? (1)

dedalus2000 (704571) | more than 7 years ago | (#17051616)

is the discount guaranteed in perpetuity through all windows incarnations? unless Birmingham is just a fad and will eventually fade back into the English country side the cost of windows will continue to rise the licensing costs will compound over decades and increase over generations. while on the other hand the costs associated with initial Linux deployment (mostly educational costs) will not need to be repeated and only ongoing operating expenses rather than massive licensing fees will need to be payed.

Re:Under question? (1)

_Sprocket_ (42527) | more than 7 years ago | (#17052008)

How could the savings be "under question" because of the discounted rate?


Well... this is a case study. As such, one question that comes to my mind is "how does this apply to my environment?" If I happen to be the Burmingham City Council, or another such Council it seems, then there's no question. But what if I'm representing another entity that doesn't get the special discounts? Obviously that's a part of the case study that needs to be highlighted as highly situational.

There's also a whole slew of indirect questions one could start considering. Such as - how long does this special rate last? And sure - we're talking about desktops now... how about other licensing such as CALs?

oh dear.... (2, Funny)

advocate_one (662832) | more than 7 years ago | (#17050814)

usability problems with the original Gnome interface. At one point, realising that most of the usability issues were attributable to Gnome, which had taken three months to configure, staff ripped out Gnome and replaced it with KDE. The new interface was up and running within a week.

start the Gnome vs. KDE bun fight... 3, 2, 1...

Pricing is way off (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17050922)

Sign a licensing deal with MS and it will be way less than $58 for budget purposes.

Great news (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17050994)

Somewhere near where the M6 joins the M5 .....
Thees is bostin' nyohs! Oi main, an' all, oos Brummies 've bin pronaincing it as Leenux, and not Loinux, seence forever, loike. Way don' naid no steenkin' Moicrosoft!

Anywy, are yo mashin?

I feel vindicated with this piece... (3, Interesting)

bogaboga (793279) | more than 7 years ago | (#17051030)

From the article...

"At one point, realising that most of the usability issues were attributable to Gnome, which had taken three months to configure, staff ripped out Gnome and replaced it with KDE. The new interface was up and running within a week....

I have long said that Gnome had a problem for most users in a typical business environment, and was met with comments referring to me as a troll and as one who was just a KDE fanboy.

This article articulates just one of the problems with Gnome.

For this particular problem, there are folks who say that I should use "ctrl + L". Though this keyboard shortcut is not even documented anywhere near where one would want to use it. Imagine that.

  • I want to be able to type in Gnome's file selector dialog. Gnome will not permit me!

  • Why should Gnome assume that every file I want to open *is* on the local system? KDE on the other hand, does not assume that. And you can type/paste whatever URL you want and it will do the needful.
  • Why can't I be able to do some basic file operations (renaming, deleting, moving) in the selector dialog itself? Why do I have to go back and open Nautilus?

These are just *some* of the issues that make Gnome a non-starter for me and I am glad the Britons found out as well. This will make the developers think about what users want. How can a desktop environment take three months to configure? This is insane! These are not my words but quotes from the article.

Re:I feel vindicated with this piece... (2, Interesting)

WWWWolf (2428) | more than 7 years ago | (#17051934)

I want to be able to type in Gnome's file selector dialog. Gnome will not permit me!

Uh... what file selector dialog and where? And what are you trying to type in it anyway? File names? Love letters?

Why should Gnome assume that every file I want to open *is* on the local system? KDE on the other hand, does not assume that. And you can type/paste whatever URL you want and it will do the needful.

Because GNOME-VFS is basically inadequate and no one has got around to writing a system that actually works.

Oh, wait, that should be written instead as:

Because implementing network awareness at "open this file for reading" level is not the responsibility of the high reaches of the app layer. That's the operating system's job.

Unix assumes you're on a local system. Go install Plan 9 or something, or wait until someone comes up with a really awesome FUSE hack.

Both GNOME and KDE are doing this the hacky stop-gap way, and the only difference is that KDE folks have a solution that works, kind of. The elegant way would be to allow this stuff to work on any application. I'm not calling the present situation elegant until I can do "cat http://slashdot.org/ [slashdot.org] ".

(Oh wow, someone's actually working on the age-old mount -t webdav problem... We may actually have a great working filesystem one day!)

That said, as a GNOME user, I'm not terrified by the apparent lack of net transparency. If I want to open something from the web, it's Firefox's job to save it to /tmp and open up the appropriate document viewer. If I want to work on the file further, I'll save a local copy anyway.

Why can't I be able to do some basic file operations (renaming, deleting, moving) in the selector dialog itself? Why do I have to go back and open Nautilus?

Because people said "I want a file selector, not a file selector + submarine control dialog?" The fact that you can do something on a dialog that's not really none of the dialog's business is usually a symptom of excessive featuritis.

(Agreed, I think it'd be nice if the dialog had a button that says "open in Nautilus" for the rare cases where file management is needed.)

Their calculations ignore Opportunity Cost (1)

sheldon (2322) | more than 7 years ago | (#17051140)

Calculating ROI is difficult in technology projects, because there's a factor which is difficult to measure. I'd call it Opportunity Cost, but perhaps there is another name.

That is, several questions come to mind:

- What's the cost for not being able to do something? That is, if there end solution doesn't support a given task, what's the cost? Perhaps they don't even know they could perform this task right now.
- Imagine instead of spending time on this project, you did something else with your resources. What's the lost cost of not doing something else more meaningful?
- Productivity of endusers? Many people look at the cost of upgrading an old desktop, but don't measure the cost of not upgrading.

There are plenty of questions like this that don't seem to be answered by any of these articles.

not a single Linux desktop .. (2, Insightful)

rs232 (849320) | more than 7 years ago | (#17051184)

"no Linux desktops have yet been installed"

It strikes me that thay attempted a roll out of a Linux desktop solution with no previous experience. They would have been occupied in bringing in an experienced company to do the job.

"half-a-million-pound cost of designing and implementing the system cost more than the estimated cost for a Windows XP installation"

What were they implimenting on the Suse desktop that required spending half a million pounds.

"usability problems with the original Gnome interface .. staff ripped out Gnome and replaced it with KDE"

Like what, Gnome is specifically designed to provide a rich user interface. Either of them can be replaced by a Windows look alike.

"For instance, existing Windows 3.1 public terminals used a program called Deepfreeze that rebooted the system at the end of each session, something that had to be re-engineered for Linux"

He's kidding, put a line in .bash_logout [nrc-cnrc.gc.ca] 'shutdown -r 0 now' and that's it. And besides which, why do you need to reboot at logout.

"Staff also found that the OS was storing information about the contents of public users' removable media, and for privacy purposes had to develop a script to delete this information"

Like where and how, Linux mostly uses /tmp to store temp files all you have to do is add another line to .bash_logout 'find /tmp/ -user $user -exec rm -r {} \;'. Or else put /tmp in a ramdisk and flush it to logout.

Re:not a single Linux desktop .. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17051342)

"For instance, existing Windows 3.1 public terminals used a program called Deepfreeze that rebooted the system at the end of each session, something that had to be re-engineered for Linux"

He's kidding, put a line in .bash_logout 'shutdown -r 0 now' and that's it. And besides which, why do you need to reboot at logout.
Deep Freeze isn't actually a simple boot utility. It prevents changes to the computer by periodically (usually daily), rolling it back to a previous configuration. The idea is that any crapware, malware, or viruses that someone manages to install is eliminated. I'm not sure if it uses drive images or how, as I've only experienced it peripherally.

Wait...they're still using Windows 3.1? Wow...that's interesting.

Re:not a single Linux desktop .. (2, Insightful)

ajs318 (655362) | more than 7 years ago | (#17051490)

"For instance, existing Windows 3.1 public terminals used a program called Deepfreeze that rebooted the system at the end of each session, something that had to be re-engineered for Linux"
"Staff also found that the OS was storing information about the contents of public users' removable media, and for privacy purposes had to develop a script to delete this information"
Or just don't fit public terminals with HDDs -- boot them from CD, or read-only Flash drive, with all writable directories in RAMdisk.

You really do have to think about some things in a different way with Linux. Part of the problem is years of preconditioning to the way Windows has (arbitrarily) chosen to do everything blinding you to the alternatives.

Re:not a single Linux desktop .. (2, Insightful)

gsslay (807818) | more than 7 years ago | (#17051876)

Or just don't fit public terminals with HDDs -- boot them from CD, or read-only Flash drive, with all writable directories in RAMdisk.

You're overlooking the fact that they were using Windows 3.1 systems. Why do you think they were doing that? Because they thought it just couldn't be beat?

What's more likely is they're using Windows 3.1 because the terminals are ancient and they don't have the cash to upgrade or replace them. So its rather unlikely that they have CDROMS drives, or flash drives, or gobs of memory for RAMDisks, or the money to equip them any of the above.

Re:not a single Linux desktop .. (1)

dylan_- (1661) | more than 7 years ago | (#17051532)

What were they implimenting on the Suse desktop that required spending half a million pounds.
You answered that with your first observation I think: they were bringing their own staff up to speed with Linux administration.

[re deepfreeze]: And besides which, why do you need to reboot at logout.
This shows their inexperience. Deepfreeze returns the machine to the exact state in which it was previously. It's designed so that people can screw up the machine and it'll be fine for the next person. You need something like it when running Windows 3.1 or 9x. They could have done this in Linux, however, simply by deleting and recreating the /home/whatever dir on logout rather than implementing some kind of imaging (or whatever) thing....normal users can't affect the system files anyway so there's no need to keep restoring it.

I've no idea what the removable media thing refers to...

Re:not a single Linux desktop .. (1)

curmudgeous (710771) | more than 7 years ago | (#17051912)

I've no idea what the removable media thing refers to...


I've been running different flavors of Suse for a couple years now and have noticed that they've chosen to keep track of removable media under /media. It's annoying, but as far as I can tell they're only tracking the volume label, so it hasn't been worth chasing down to disable.

Re:not a single Linux desktop .. (1)

paskie (539112) | more than 7 years ago | (#17051588)

"For instance, existing Windows 3.1 public terminals used a program called Deepfreeze that rebooted the system at the end of each session, something that had to be re-engineered for Linux" He's kidding, put a line in .bash_logout 'shutdown -r 0 now' and that's it. And besides which, why do you need to reboot at logout.
Perhaps because the reboot was just something they needed to do to achieve something else on Windows 3.1? And with a more usable system they *gasp* needed to figure out how to do it better on Linux?
"Staff also found that the OS was storing information about the contents of public users' removable media, and for privacy purposes had to develop a script to delete this information" Like where and how, Linux mostly uses /tmp to store temp files all you have to do is add another line to .bash_logout 'find /tmp/ -user $user -exec rm -r {} \;'. Or else put /tmp in a ramdisk and flush it to logout.
And that will flush all the buffers with data from the media and pages left in the swap partition from programs crunching on the data. Yeah. What you were quoting is pretty clearly not a technical description but something simplified for general public. It's entirely likely that the most interesting technical challenges weren't mentioned at all since they wouldn't be easily sold to the public.

Re:not a single Linux desktop .. (1)

howlingmadhowie (943150) | more than 7 years ago | (#17052030)

you know, this is the sort of thing that makes me realise how hard the adoption of linux actually is. people have been accustomed through windows to having an operating system which can do almost nothing and having to spend money on development and software to complete the most simple tasks. what one needs to do is teach the windows world that there are operating systems out there which don't try to inhibit the user from doing the most basic things unless he/she starts spending money.

I wonder if the head of an IT department used to linux wants to hear solutions similar to the ones you present above. i imagine he would not accept a solution which doesn't require spending large amounts of money. the companies i've worked for have certainly expected to have to buy software to do simple things which could be accomplished with 2 lines of bash script. my boss was shocked and deeply suspicious when i fired up the linux box to write a short perl program to recursively search a directory and replace one tag in each xml-file it found with another.

B-B-B-B-B-B-Birmingham... Pow! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17051322)

Here's a link to a marvellous Birmingham infotainment-video, for those who don't know much about our City of Sunshine:

http://www2.b3ta.com/birmingham/ [b3ta.com]

Short term budget (2, Insightful)

hey! (33014) | more than 7 years ago | (#17051362)

It's unfair on several levels to imply that using short term figures is dishonest. The short term budget is the only budget you can point to with any certainty.

Some people think Microsoft produces nothing but crap, and other people think Microsoft produces the nothing but the finest. Both views miss the point of Microsoft. Microsoft is about consistently delivering mediocrity, year in, year out.

This sounds like damning with faint praise, but consistent mediocrity has its advantages. Think of all the once great products that were run into the ground; or the promising projects that ended up going nowhere. Microsoft might be mean old Mr. Potter, but too often the alternative is like the Bailey Building and Loan without George Bailey. Do you really want Uncle Billy managing your nest egg?

Birmingham chose SUSE; how much trust should you put in Novell's future stewardship of SUSE, even granting the best of intentions?

It's important to acknowledge the leap of faith that Birmingham is making here. Pretending that short term costs don't matter underestimates the guts it takes to do that. Somebody has to take a leap of faith, every now and then, but it doesn't always end happily.

Re:Short term budget (1)

ajs318 (655362) | more than 7 years ago | (#17051622)

At least if it doesn't work out with SUSE, they can jump ship to another vendor. All they need to do is <oversimplification>copy the whole of /etc over to whoever's distro they're using</oversimplification>, and it will pretty much work just the same as it did before.

Only Microsoft can sell you Windows.

That's the important difference. It's about the song, not the singer.

Webdav for one, is so broken in Gnome (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17051890)

I haven't been able to access my university's WebCT from Gnome at all for the last three years or so (tried from various flavors of Debian, Ubuntu and Fedora). It was a breeze in KDE using Konqueror. That was one of the main reasons I changed to KDE. Even developers on Nautilus's mailing list aren't sure where the problem is; its webdav access works in some sites and not in other. Maybe they can just take a look at Konqueror's code to see how it handles webdav links to get a hint.

British Pounds in Alabama? (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 7 years ago | (#17051964)

Why is the city of Birmingham, Alabama paying for software in British Pounds? Oh wait...

Interesting Comments On Usability (1)

segedunum (883035) | more than 7 years ago | (#17052038)

...and usability problems with the original Gnome interface. At one point, realising that most of the usability issues were attributable to Gnome, which had taken three months to configure, staff ripped out Gnome and replaced it with KDE. The new interface was up and running within a week.
I thought usability was Gnome's strong point? Time to re-evaluate perhaps? I've done some small trials of Gnome and KDE with some office works and they all seem to come down on the side of KDE. Whether it's because there's more Windows-like functionality in there, I don't know. Additionally, you also have to remember that system administrators need to use it, and when they are on the phone with a user they need to be able to ask the user to do things, such as with the printer interface........

Vendor lock in logic. (1)

cabazorro (601004) | more than 7 years ago | (#17052090)

Cust: ..and the 4th service pack did not got through, something to do with key management?
Vendor: Ah! let me tell you all about the suite tools an licensing for the 2007 roll out.
Cust: Well, our budget is thight. We have a team working to port part of the application to Open Source servers.
Vendor (smiling): Do you have ANY idea how much is going to cost?
Cust: Well, the actual numbers are a big point of contention.
Vendor: I'll save you the agravation, IBM? Oracle? they have R&D and D stands for deep pockets, get it? But I'm here ready to offer you big discounts for the all our upgrades, you know that if you don't upgrade right now, you'll have to pay FULL price once the contract expires, right?.
Cust: (sight).
Vendor: Now about those licenses...

Applications good, OS problematic (1)

tnk1 (899206) | more than 7 years ago | (#17052116)

The one thing I noticed, which is going to be important for any initiative like this is the fact that people in this pilot still had real trouble with the Linux distro in terms of making it easy for non-technical users to use. The actual FOSS winner here was the applications, not Linux.

Of course it shows that actually making Linux the centerpiece of your FOSS change is looking at the problem from the wrong angle. If you make applications that people don't need to install a new OS to use, and then make sure that they get used to them under XP or whatever, then the move to Linux is almost a no-brainer. Why? Because once you have apps that work well on Linux and XP, the fact that Linux distros are free (or much cheaper) means that the bottom line is on your side. Microsoft can drop its XP licenses to 58 quid and have that work while you NEED MS Office. But once you no longer use MS Office, then 0 quid beats 58 quid. MS can't compete. And wouldn't that be a nice change?

Of course, even at the price of free, badly developed OS user interfaces will stop Linux from being adopted. Everyone knows non-technical people fear Linux. And honestly, I don't blame them.

MS's committment to making a friendly OS is mediocre, but at least it exists and they have a product. Granted, being a monopoly has allowed them to force people to learn to deal with the rough edges that exist, but truly, Windows is a genuinely usable system for a newb. Not great, but its good enough. The Linux community really needs to get behind that effort, even to the exclusion of adding new features, if necessary.

It may be true that Linux needs to have a superior UI to beat out MS's mediocre monopoly UI, but what of it? Linux does nearly everything in a superior manner to Windows.

Or it can continue to be simply a server OS, and well, that's just fine too.
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