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Small-Town Open Source Adoption 134

An anonymous reader writes "ZDNet has a piece on the adoption of open source software by Steamboat Springs, CO. The small resort town has integrated OSS into all aspects of productivity and e-governance. Kent Morrison, the IS Manager for the town, discusses what made them switch and how it has gone." From the article: "What about Linux on the desktop--is this an option for your organization? Morrison: We've discussed it. With Linux's ability to emulate Windows improving every year, we see that as a possibility. We would build a Linux image for the majority of users, but for the 20 percent of users that run Windows-only applications we would keep them on the same platform. We would try to make a Linux desktop look like our Windows environment (the organization currently runs Windows 2000 but will start rolling out XP this year) as we don't want to retrain our users. We don't have a time frame for installing Linux yet, though."
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Small-Town Open Source Adoption

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 25, 2006 @05:29PM (#14801500)
    if it hadn't been for a major power outage, it would have been running for three years without a reboot
    What is the deal with people and uptime. Reboot the damn machine every once and a while and let the kernel patches take effect. You're going to have a much greater down time if someone exploits your 3 year old kernel. There is nothing wrong with a short, planned downtime, especially if you have a redundant server to maintain basic functionality.
    • because those 2.4 kernels get those remote exploits all the time.
    • That's true, as I've said before here. However, people are fixated on the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" concept - as well as not wanting to do any work they don't have to, of course.

      On the other hand, if the server isn't connected to anything but local workstations and isn't doing anything but one thing, it's probably okay to let it stand for as long as it can. Where I would question that policy is, if it's only doing one thing, do you really want to never improve its ability to do that one thing - or w
    • What is the deal with people and uptime.

      I agree somewhat. I don't not reboot my FreeBSD systems just to see how long I can go without doing a reboot. I reboot when appropriate and needed (such as patches). However, I think a lot of the "it's been x months since I rebooted" is due a lot to the fact that you have to reboot a Windows box so much. I routinely reboot my work PC once each day when I arrive. Why? Well, for no particular or specific reason, however I did notice that the hangs and crashes

      • I've no idea what you're running on your machine, but I rarely have to reboot mine (XP Pro) at work. I leave it running until some Windows Update tells me to reboot it, and it works just fine (for weeks).

        I don't develop any Windows applications (so maybe I'm not using the leaky DLLs everybody else is), but it works just fine. If anything, our linux servers have a tendency to reboot themselves every once in a while (no one knows why, and we don't have a system admininstrator to check - they're too expensive
        • "our linux servers have a tendency to reboot themselves every once in a while "

          Sorry thats me.
          had to reboot to put the network into promiscusis mode.
          Shouldnt be rebooting now that all the sniffers are in place.
        • Well, I'm running Win2000 SP4, and something is not well... Every so often (this'll happen in less than a week) the screen will go completely gaga and flash in all the colors of the rainbow. Tends to crash a ton of programs because they get "out of memory errors". Once I get a few windows closed it returns to normal (and still with tons of memory free). This has survived replacement of all major components (CPU, memory, GFX card, windows installation) so my guess is that some application is eating screen re
      • Reboot in the morning? Sounds stupid. Why not turn it off in the evening?
      • I totally agree with you. I leave it up until I have to reboot, and then I do it. I care more about how my machine runs that what value /usr/bin/uptime gives you.
    • We actually do irregular (they should be regular, but we've never found a schedule that works) reboots on work systems, just to make sure they come back up okay. Problems are rare, but do sometimes happen, and I'd much rather find out a system has reboot issues during scheduled downtime, rather than just after a power failure.
    • I would personally like to see a script that keeps track of uptime across normal reboots. Or, better yet, a sort of "uptime log" -- the system was on for this many days before a reboot, and it was rebooted for a kernel patch. System was on for this many days after that, before a power failure. And so on.

      redundant server to maintain basic functionality.

      It's not redundant if it doesn't handle more than just basic functionality. What you want is duplicate everything, so that if the servers have to go down,
    • You're right. And wrong.

      A single-minded attempt to achieve maximum uptime without regard to other factors, such as security patches, energy use, etc. is wrong. You're right there.

      But what is also wrong is like what happens to me when automatic server rebooting policies, which are much more common in the Windows world, cause my open session on a terminal server to disappear over the weekend. IMHO, heavy-handed weekly reboots can erode productivity and should not have to happen. To be fair, I think my Windo

  • by reldruH ( 956292 ) on Saturday February 25, 2006 @05:35PM (#14801522) Journal
    Steamboat Springs, CO may be having a great time moving to Linux, but it helps a lot that it's such a small community. The logistic problems are nowhere near the level they would be if a major metropolis tried to move all their systems to Linux. I think it's a great move, but there's a reason it's happening in a small town in Colorado rather than one of the cities with a high concentration of technology companies.
    • Interesting point. I was thinking that it was happening in a smaller town due to political reasons. Although I'm sure those are just two of the many reasons it's happening in a smaller town. Financial reasons would be my guess for the third reason.
      • Financial reasons would be my first guess as to why it's happening in a small town. I was just pointing out that it has more of a chance of being successful because it's a small town. What political reasons were you thinking of?
        • I just meant that politically there would be a lot less beaurocrats to convince that using Linux actually made sense. And we are hearing about it after the fact, not before the fact like we would if NYC was contiplating the same massive changes.
          • I think that's the same point. The size of the town means that there are far fewer people who need to be convinced and that it's much easier to get all those people together. All of those people are probably much more accessible than they are here in Reseda. Politicians here must field hundreds of calls per day; Anybody regular person trying to reach them with a good idea would have to go through so much red tape that they might get smothered in it before actually getting to anyone with any authority. All
    • Steamboat Springs, CO may be having a great time moving to Linux, but it helps a lot that it's such a small community. The logistic problems are nowhere near the level they would be if a major metropolis tried to move all their systems to Linux. I think it's a great move, but there's a reason it's happening in a small town in Colorado rather than one of the cities with a high concentration of technology companies.

      Actually, being a "low" tech town should they not have more problems than the "high tech" cit

      • Retraining may be a problem, but there are a lot of people that have aquired a good deal of knowledge about Linux and OSS from the internet. And a government putting its weight behind training a community to use Linux would be a powerful thing. We've seen a lot of cases on Slashdot where the biggest hurdle to any new technology being adopted was political rather than technical. I think it's much easier to solve a technical problem than a political problem.
      • Actually, being a "low" tech town should they not have more problems than the "high tech" cities? It isn't like there are experts all ovr the place.

        If it's like most places I've seen, they have plenty of linux/unix "experts" available. Chances are that many of the techies supporting their MS operations run linux and/or OSX on their home machines.

        Also, it's likely that those techies have quietly encouraged running MS Windows, because that means permanently paying lots of support people to keep the computer
    • Well, given that some larger cities are doing it, albeit slowly, sort of makes the point moot.

      Obviously, having to convert fewer users and go through fewer political meetings to even start the project is an advantage. No surprise there.

      I work part time for City College of San Francisco - you wouldn't believe the political process that has to be gone through to just get a new application onto the system here. Endless meetings at which nothing is done, everything is postponed, and pointless objections are rai
    • True, but it speaks volumes about Linux adoption. As small cities adopt is successfully, mid and large cities will begin evaluating the case study and will eventually plan deploying it.

      Kudos to Kent Morrison!

    • The logistic problems are nowhere near the level they would be if a major metropolis tried to move all their systems to Linux.

      Ok, I'm confused. What wouldn't scale, other than the political decision?

      Larger city == larger budget. More users to retrain + more money to retrain them = exactly the same problem as less users to retrain + less money to retrain them.

      The only exception I see is when you have an organization so small that no one's found anything tying them to Windows, in which case you still have t
  • I can understand this sentiment for now, but I would like to see Linux surpass Windows. Maybe if that happens, we'll see Windows emulate Linux. It already emulates Mac OS9. And with Vista, it will emulate OSX. :-)
  • Scam (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lucm ( 889690 ) on Saturday February 25, 2006 @05:59PM (#14801605)
    Microsoft Fishing for dummies:

    1) Install a few Linux file servers (without disturbing your Windows 2000 domain)
    2) Talk to the press about plans of moving from Exchange to "open source" software. Mention possible plans of using Linux on desktops.
    3) Let the Linux community talk about "another Munich"
    4) Wait for the Microsoft call and cut a good deal for the already planned XP rollout

    Being a textbook Red Hat customer could also come in handy, in case Microsoft does not bite.

    • True Story.

      A few years ago I was working for a "windows shop" company. Everything ran on windows server. The CIO was complaining to me about the fact that the time was coming for a meeting with MS about licensing. I told him to put another computer in his office, install linux on it, put up a penguin desktop and screen saver. I said if (when!) ms asks about it to say "one of my guys likes linux so I thought I would install it and see what the fuss was about". I guaranteed him that he would get a massive dis
  • Sadly, there are too many homeless orphans and any Open Source method of adoption is welcome.
  • "Kent Morrison, the IS Manager for the town,"

    What? How does that work? The IS Manager for the town council, maybe.

    • Steamboat is a resort town. It's rather large, and the majority of the people that come to Colorado go there to Ski. Not to mentions the Hot Springs, and the freakin' year round buttholes that cruise through my fair mountain roads at 90+ to get there!
  • We get trained not to build in platform dependencies; Java is pretty much sufficient for anything user-interface-ish or back-endish that we need to do. So what is Steamboat Springs doing, that needs Windows ? And can we help them achieve neutrality soon ?
  • info sharing (Score:4, Insightful)

    by YrWrstNtmr ( 564987 ) on Saturday February 25, 2006 @06:17PM (#14801651)
    Let us hope that Steamboat Springs will share some of their experiences and applications with other cities, as the CIO for Newport News, VA [] suggested 2 years ago [].

    A SourceForge repository for municipal applications would be great.

  • by mgh02114 ( 655185 ) on Saturday February 25, 2006 @06:18PM (#14801654)
    the organization currently runs Windows 2000 but will start rolling out XP this year

    Hmmmm. We're about to start rolling out Windows XP? That means we need to start price negotiations with Microsoft. Hey! Lets call a reporter and tell them that we are THINKING about switching to Linux. That will undoubtedly get us a better price for our Windows licenses, since Microsoft would love to have the follow up story be "Steamboat Springs chooses Windows after all."

    You are almost neglegent as the CIO of a prominent organization/government entity if you don't do the obligitory "I'm thinking of Linux" story before you negotiate for Windows licenses.
  • This doesn't look so good for Microsoft. If towns (or businesses) are still using Windows 2000, and only migrating to XP this year, how in the world are they going to find people who are going to adopt Vista? The world is still catching up to XP--we don't need yet another version of Windows to create even more distance between where Microsoft is and where many companies are.
  • Question: What does this have to do with Mozilla?

    I'm going to be fairly annoyed if TFA turns out to be a lengthy discussion of how they installed Firefox.
  • by bill_mcgonigle ( 4333 ) * on Saturday February 25, 2006 @10:14PM (#14802331) Homepage Journal
    the organization currently runs Windows 2000 but will start rolling out XP this year) as we don't want to retrain our users

    Uh-wha? Even with the classic skin, unless these workstations are completely managed with server policies, the users are going to have to be re-trained on how to do things that are different in XP than in 2000. Never mind where Vista and Office 12 will take them.

    They're sure lucky that they started using computers with Windows 2000 because the migration from DOS to Win 3.1 to Win 95 to Win 2K would have been too much for their users - their minds would have exploded!

    Or.... maybe their users really are smart and this is just a fallacious excuse.
    • Like what?
      I can arrange pretty much anything on an XP machine to be identical to a 2K machine if given enough effort save the itty bitty things (like the picture on the start button). Doesn't take much effort either.
      • Like what?

        Just off the top of my head:

        Re-arranged control panels.
        Remote Desktop
        Windows Firewall
        Product Activation
        CD Writing
        Security Center
        Network Bridge

        I don't use Windows much, better let somebody else finish the list.
        • Just after I hit Submit I realized I forgot about restore points and sub-pixel rendering for RGB laptops.
          • No IT Manager in their right mind would allow users to access the components of windows u mentioned. To the end user there is a minute difference between xp and 2k with the classic skin enabled. What do they need to be retrained in? Click on the icon that says word? Office XP and 2k maybe but end users don't know the difference with windows. This is coming from a n admin that rolled out xp on a 2k client network and 95% of the enduser even noticed.
            • No IT Manager in their right mind would allow users to access the components of windows u mentioned.

              Small towns don't have IT Managers. As I said, in a non-server managed environment.
              • Small towns don't have IT Managers.
                Like hell they don't.

                Hell, most home users never touch the control panel, why would you think they would in a business?
                Not to mention that a lot of the things you mentioned were extra features, not required use. Who says they have to use them?
                • >Small towns don't have IT Managers.
                  Like hell they don't.

                  Our town, aside from the road crew and police, has two employees. I can assure you none of them is an IT manager. And neither are the policemen or road guys. They contract out the occasional help.

                  The small cities around here contract out for IT management, but don't have a full-time IT staff. The large cities do have an IT staff. We don't have any metro areas.

                  If your small town has three administrative employees and one of them is an IT mana
                  • If your small town has two employees beyond police/fire, why do you need this swapover?
                    We're talking about small towns roughly the size of this small city. Even the small town I live in has enough employees to need some form of IT manager (although I doubt that is the position name). Then again, we're a county seat.
                    • If your small town has two employees beyond police/fire, why do you need this swapover?

                      I'm afraid this tanget has lead completely away from the salient argument. The contention was that switching from Windows 2000 to Linux was no harder than switching from DOS to Windows 2000. At no point did I advocate my town's switch to linux - go ahead and re-read it. This thread has obviously outlived its usefulness.
  • why bother? (Score:3, Funny)

    by Hosiah ( 849792 ) on Saturday February 25, 2006 @11:12PM (#14802466)
    "HERE at last is my new, improved Linux! It looks like Windows! It sounds like Windows! It feels like Windows! It tastes like Windows! It gets rid of the confusing command line and compiler just like Windows! It does without all that tiresome security nonsense just like Windows! We're releasing it through a commercial company so it'll cost as much as Windows! It even crashes and gets infected with malware just like Windows! Look, I even made the failure screen blue with white text!!!"

    "Great! So tell me about all the benefits of switching from Windows to Linux again?"


    What a bunch of hypocrites. Microsoft is rotten through and through, UNTIL you start releasing your own operating system, and then Windows allofasudden becomes the shining perfect pinacle of excellence to be exactly cloned byte for byte. So, in effect, your ONLY real problem with Microsoft was simply that it wasn't YOUR COMPANY. Well, people who think that are just as damned as Bill Gates, with the extra measure of being even WORSE, since Bill never envied anybody else.

    • On the contrary, Bill gates did envy someone else: Steve Jobs! It's pretty well documented that MS was bent on cloning the look-and-feel of Apple computers back in the early days of Windows. Apple was the best and flashiest home system at the time, so it's no real surprise that they wanted to recreate the elements that made it such a success. In the same way, I think it's not all that surprising (or necessarily wrong) that many Linux distros are emulating some of the better features of Windows. That doesn'
      • Take the good, replace the bad.

        And therein the nut of the matter. This reminds me too much of the child of alcoholic parents, who grows up to drink himself, but rationalizes: "But *I'll* never get addicted, because I have the bad example of my parents to teach me when to stop."

        See, Operating System sophistication and user awareness go hand in hand. Smart system=smart users. Dumb the system down, and WHERE DO YOU STOP??? When you ditch the compiler, negating the whole advantage of open source? When you e

        • An LCD TV is a fairly complex piece of technology but the end user doesn't see any of that. Why should an end user have to care about configuring the hardware and software to any great degree, they have work to do. In any case Linux is not being dumbed down like Windows has been, since there is nothing stopping savvy users from switching off all the automatic stuff or, for the really geeky, building their own distro from scratch without it. Windows is the one size fits all mentality, Linux can cater to just
          • An LCD TV is a fairly complex piece of technology

            ??? All *any* TV needs to do, be it LCD, cathode tube, projection, HD, or black'n'white is display pictures and play sounds. The only controls you'll ever need for that is a channel changer and a volume button. Some secondary tweaks for last channel, etc. The rest is peripherals.

            there is nothing stopping savvy users from switching off all the automatic stuff

            Oh, were it that easy! Have you noticed how hard it is to find a slide rule these days? Could be

            • Linux from Scratch, Rock, Gentoo, T3, Sourcemage. That's it, five projects at the rock-bottom of distrowatch's popularity ranking

              Well, so I blew that one. It's T2 not T3, and Gentoo's hardly "rock-bottom".

            • Absolutely, it has no transistors, resistors, diodes or microchips on a fairly complex circuit board, not to mention the complexity of LCD manufacture in the first place. It's not simple else I could build one right now using only household items. As for dumbing down, well Mandriva 2006, the user-friendly distro I installed recently, comes with plenty of developer tools, turning off the automatic GUI is one option in a text file and it can be configured very easily to do all sorts of things. Seriously I thi
              • I happen to run Mandriva on one of my machines. I've said it before and I'll say it again: "Try writing your programs on it." Know any programming languages? Use any? If not, you're in over your head arguing with me. We're talking CLisp and Ruby and Perl as well. We're talking the ncurses library and GTK+ devel packages also. We're wanting wxWindows module and the PyGame library to go with Python, and Tcl/Tk/Wish to run our Tcl scripts. Mandriva surprised me by coming with at least half what I needed, but I
                • Know any programming languages? You might have heard of C++ which I have been known to use. Python and Perl I dabble in and have had no problems. I've been using Linux since 1998 and it's been a long while since I've had to install a source tarball of anything mainstream, although that practice was pretty common for the first three or four years. So who's making assumptions now?
                  • install a source tarball of anything mainstream

                    If you haven't guessed it by now: "Mainstream" is the farthest you could get from describing me. Programming tools are not "mainstream" or more people would use them than not use them.

                    "Please, people, when you write in, try to have a point, OK? It just makes the show move along a whole lot faster."

                    • Mainstream as in programming mainstream, not KDE themes or Firefox. Deliberately misunderstanding me in an attempt to win the argument is kind of silly don't you think.
                    • No, I think you're silly. Your dismissal of my needs as trivial just because *you* don't happen to dirty your hands with any of the grubby tools the little, insignificant people like me happen to use strikes me as grandiose. In other news, the fact that *you* find plenty of groceries on your shelf doesn't make global hunger less real, the fact that you still have to put on a coat does not mean anybody talking about global warming is wrong, and, in fact, contrary to your perception, the center of rotation of
            • I don't know what you're talking about. Fedora has all the development stuff included. Just choose the "Everything" option - that's the easiest way to select it.

              In fact, care to name a single distro that doesn't ship with compilers?

  • The only problem i have with this article is the comment of "...With Linux's ability to emulate Windows improving every year..." Is this really where linux is going? a great generic emulater brand to Windows? Even if its not, is that the impression the decision makers are getting?
    • Like it or not when one corporation has the market pretty much sewn up the only way to challenge them is to be compatible. When Gene Amdahl decided to compete with IBM in the mainframe market he didn't build a different and incompatible machine, he built the same thing for a cheaper price because that's what customers at the time were stuck with, irrespective of the merits of the particular platform. Linux can do so much more than merely be a cheap knock off of Windows, but so many organisations have so muc
  • I'm not sure why everyone rejoices when some government organization goes OSS. The only reason they go OSS is because they don't have to pay a single dime for it. Ask them how much they are donating towards the project because it has helped them, and the answer will probarbly be $0. If you worked on an OSS project that helped your town/community, how much of a tax break do you think they are going to give you? My guess is 0. They'll probarbly have 200 different townhall meetings before they come to a conclu

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