German Open Source Experiment: Things Not Going To Plan
Recently, the Foreign Office of Germany made the announcement (translated news report) that it is migrating away from Linux back to Windows as its desktop solution. We've covered the concept of national adoption of Linux at a government level a couple of times before, but this is one of the first cases of a government moving back the other way. The most important action that community can take at this point is ask, “why?”
The German Foreign Office first moved over to Linux as a server platform in 2001. It then began using Linux and open source software in general on the desktop in 2005, and all laptops were moved to a Debian system. Making the regression even more frustrating, reports released in 2007 and 2009 (both documents German) indicated that the adoption of FOSS, despite a few small problems, has been a success.
Making matters worse, the transition back to Windows XP, to be followed by Windows 7, includes dropping OpenOffice, Firefox and Thunderbird in favor of MS Office and Outlook. Yuk.
This might a time to start asking some difficult questions. It was a prestige victory for FOSS and Linux on the desktop when the German Foreign Office first migrated, and getting a straight answer about what went wrong is now vitally important.
Actually getting to the answers isn't easy because the decisions weren't arrived at in a technical forum, but rather, in the murky world of politics. For English speakers such as myself, the fact that the available documentation is in German presents a further barrier. From what I've been able to glean, thanks to Google's translation facility, the problems that have been stated fall into three categories: hardware support, interoperability and training and user adoption.
The hardware support problem is an old chestnut, and I think the only reasonable analysis of the situation must be a pragmatic one. Within an office, a certain percentage of hardware won't work as soon as it is plugged in. A smaller percentage of the total will never work at all. The report lists scanners and printers as an example.
Some Linux advocates will be quick to place the blame squarely on the doorstep of the vendors. However, matters are made worse by the fact that vendors face hostility on the subject of binary drivers. Let's reduce the problem to its essence: expert intervention, discarding unsupported hardware, delays while the problem is solved and making do with curtailed functionality all add the cost of running Linux. That's a fact, regardless of who is to blame for it. These problems need to be identified, addressed and alleviated.
Interoperability touches on a problem that I've mentioned before: it's hard to migrate away from proprietary software in isolation. The best solution is to begin to migrate those other departments. In addition, the 2009 report that the problem had been exacerbated by running of older versions of OpenOffice.
Retraining staff to use unfamiliar software is always going to be a problem. It's difficult to avoid completely, but sometimes you have to spend money to save money. Apparently, the staff themselves were sometimes reluctant to make the switch to open source. Perhaps more could have been done, at the beginning, to evangelize the benefits of open source software to them.
Unfortunately, all of the reports that I have been able to find and translate lacked the precise details or hard figures that proved that Linux had failed. The forums and discussion threads on various sites are bubbling with comments hinting that Microsoft may have stepped in with huge financial incentives to switch. However, there have been no reports of a backlash from the workers themselves now that they are being to being moved back to Windows and other proprietary software, and we need to ask some tough questions about why.
UK based freelance writer Michael Reed writes about technology, retro computing, geek culture and gender politics.
Practical Task Scheduling Deployment
One of the best things about the UNIX environment (aside from being stable and efficient) is the vast array of software tools available to help you do your job. Traditionally, a UNIX tool does only one thing, but does that one thing very well. For example, grep is very easy to use and can search vast amounts of data quickly. The find tool can find a particular file or files based on all kinds of criteria. It's pretty easy to string these tools together to build even more powerful tools, such as a tool that finds all of the .log files in the /home directory and searches each one for a particular entry. This erector-set mentality allows UNIX system administrators to seem to always have the right tool for the job.
Cron traditionally has been considered another such a tool for job scheduling, but is it enough? This webinar considers that very question. The first part builds on a previous Geek Guide, Beyond Cron, and briefly describes how to know when it might be time to consider upgrading your job scheduling infrastructure. The second part presents an actual planning and implementation framework.
Join Linux Journal's Mike Diehl and Pat Cameron of Help Systems.
Free to Linux Journal readers.View Now!
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- The Firebird Project's Firebird Relational Database
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- SUSE LLC's SUSE Manager
- Managing Linux Using Puppet
- My +1 Sword of Productivity
- Non-Linux FOSS: Caffeine!
- Google's SwiftShader Released
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- Doing for User Space What We Did for Kernel Space
With all the industry talk about the benefits of Linux on Power and all the performance advantages offered by its open architecture, you may be considering a move in that direction. If you are thinking about analytics, big data and cloud computing, you would be right to evaluate Power. The idea of using commodity x86 hardware and replacing it every three years is an outdated cost model. It doesn’t consider the total cost of ownership, and it doesn’t consider the advantage of real processing power, high-availability and multithreading like a demon.
This ebook takes a look at some of the practical applications of the Linux on Power platform and ways you might bring all the performance power of this open architecture to bear for your organization. There are no smoke and mirrors here—just hard, cold, empirical evidence provided by independent sources. I also consider some innovative ways Linux on Power will be used in the future.Get the Guide