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Re: Birmingham City Council Publish Report on Open Source and Linux

  • Subject: Re: Birmingham City Council Publish Report on Open Source and Linux
  • From: "Doug Mentohl" <doug_mentohl@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: 11 Dec 2006 03:11:22 -0800
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  • Newsgroups: comp.os.linux.advocacy
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  • References: <3172285.aQWgoJtoo9@schestowitz.com>
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  • Xref: ellandroad.demon.co.uk comp.os.linux.advocacy:467861
on Dec 11 2006 2:46 am Roy Schestowitz wrote:

"The library service found that some of its core software was not
interoperable with Linux"

What functionality does your core software provide. Perhaps there is an
Open Source suite out there that provides the same functionality.

"Some of the key learning points in this report are about the process
of a firsttime implementation of open source rather than outcomes. In
particular, the project showed that there are considerable costs
incurred in decision-making, because of the huge range of open source
options available"

As you've shown the main cause of the costs and overrun was a
first-time attempt to install an Open Source solution without any prior
experience. What you should have done was hire in a small Open Source
firm with a proven track record in IT

As for choice equating to costs this is noncense. You decide on a
vendor, you decide on a desktop, you decide on the applications -
decision made. You should have got in an experienced Open Source
provider and let them get on with the job.

"PCs in the central and community libraries. Some Windows capacity will
be retained for the libraries to run some specific applications that
are incompatible with Linux, such as the Learndirect website"

Learndirect used to be known as CBT training and produced training CDs
for Microsoft. Their business stalled for some time until they
reinvented themselves as an Internet training company. A sample lession
from the material usually consists of screen shots of MS applications
and multi choice questions eg tick one, two, three. The 'exams' are
also done online. You then are allocated a certificate of achievment
from this. You can ditch LearnDirect without much loss, have you
considered giving your lenders books instead. I've always wondered why
you needed to watch an animation of Windows to figure out how to work
the ease of use desktop. How much is the library paying LernDirect.

"Some of the public PCs in the community libraries earmarked for
replacement with PCs running Linux desktops are used for learning
software. In order to continue to make use of this software, the
library service asked that those PCs instead run Windows XP"

Just give them a manual and access to the KDE desktop and applications
and they can learn for themselves. The computing landscape doesn't
begin and end on XP. It strikes me that it's you yourselves are having
the difficulty making the transition and not the end users.

"As soon as testing began it became clear that the cloning process used
had produced a very poor replica of the original desktop; the machines
kept freezing"

Unless you have identical hardware, cloning doesn't work. You have to
have different images for each desktop and configure the NIC cards so
the server can identify and allocate the correct image. Else have the
boot sequence correctly identify the hardware and configure correctly.
Making a boot image is not something to be tackled lightly, especially
for the first time.

"Most Libraries staff will only use Writer, Calc and Impress. An area
in which OpenOffice does not provide a strong equivalent is in its Base
software, an alternative to Microsoft Access, which is widely
acknowledged as a less mature development. There are outstanding
interoperability issues in Base when trying to import databases from

I don't understand this bit.

"An early problem identified was that when users double-clicked on an
icon to open an application, there was no symbol to indicate that the
application was opening"

On SuSE KDE desktop fire up control panel, desktop and there is an
option for turning on feedback - a clock with rotating hands. It is
switched on by default. How could you have missed this. Secondly you
can configure the apps to only allow a single instance. Admittedly it
isn't obvious but then again you are the IT department after all.

"media are located somewhere different in the file structure to where
users would be used to looking with Windows"

In the KDE address bar type '\media', or set this to default. Given the
difficulty you had in finding the busy icon I can see why this would be

"During the pilot, it was discovered that Linux created a profile which
lists the files saved on any mounted portable media device. To ensure
user privacy it was requested that the technical team find a way to
delete this profile once the user had logged off. However the script
devised also deleted the actual files off the media device"

It strikes me that this is a solution in search of a problem. Have you
any idea how much information is left on an XP box, especially in the
swap file.

"Deepfreeze is an application that reboots PCs after each user has
finished, restoring the default settings after every session"

The standard user cannot alter system files therefore there is no need
for a restore after each session. Apart from the /tmp and the users
home directory there's nowhere else he can write. If you put /tmp in a
ram drive it can be flushed at logout.

"As Deepfreeze is not available for Linux, a script replicating its
functionality was developed by the technical team. While library staff
were able to control Deepfreeze themselves, they are not able to do so
with the new script; this has reduced flexibility"

Why would you need to replicate it's functionality. Since the users
cannot write to the system no restore is necesssary. If you want to
reboot at logout put this line in .bash_logout 'shutdown -r 0 now'.
You see in nix you don't need a special application to do the trivial
things, it comes as standard. I think we come to the core of the
problem, the man still thinks he's in Windows land

"Although BCC was unable to identify any ongoing savings in moving to

Open Source: Spend once on hardware and software then use your own
inhouse people for maintenence.

Closed Source: Spend the same amount anually on hardware and software
as you're forced to upgrade your software that has become incompatible
with the new version. Buy bigger hardware as the new OS runs twice as
slow. Repeat next year. Also pay licenses to access the Internet as you
are using 'propriety' protocols.

"Free downloads of open source software are typically not covered by
warranty and should be considered carefully under due diligence and
risk assessment. Alternatively open source products can be procured
through external providers who may offer their own warranty"

Windows, 90 days or your money back and no warrenty when the Russian
mafia steal all your customers credit cards.

So all that money was spent on in house training. It would have been
better spent on sending you all on a course. Or getting in a handful of
undergraduates from the local tech college. This report tells more
about how they do things in local government than how to install an
Open Source project.

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