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Birmingham Drops Open Source Initiative 275

eldavojohn writes "Birmingham, England put a stop to a half million pound project to put Linux and open source applications on library access PCs across the city. From the article, 'The council planned to roll out Linux software and applications on 1,500 desktops in libraries across the city, but in the end went no further than a 200-desktop project. Several industry watchers have voiced their concerns about the project, particularly around the number of PCs rolled out. Birmingham's expenditure averaged over 2,500 pounds per PC.' Why did they stop after 200 PCs? Because they claimed with Windows, the project would have been 100,000 pounds cheaper. One may wonder if they paid for initial training of their workforce making the first 200 more expensive than the rest but the article does not say whether or not this occurred."
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Birmingham Drops Open Source Initiative

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  • by Pharmboy ( 216950 ) on Monday November 20, 2006 @12:52PM (#16917420) Journal
    This article brought to you by..

    "Microsoft: Where do you want to go today?"
  • Incompetence (Score:5, Interesting)

    by chill ( 34294 ) on Monday November 20, 2006 @12:55PM (#16917460) Journal
    A quick read thru the article reveals not a problem with Linux, but with the idiots trying to manage the deployment without knowing what they were doing.

    I feel sorry for Birmingham. Not so much for having to use Windows, but for having to live with an IT staff like that one.
    • by Harmonious Botch ( 921977 ) * on Monday November 20, 2006 @12:58PM (#16917540) Homepage Journal
      ...the Birmingham city council is using gas lighting because of the cost of teaching their employees how to flip a switch to turn on electrical lights.
    • Re:Incompetence (Score:4, Insightful)

      by PFI_Optix ( 936301 ) on Monday November 20, 2006 @01:01PM (#16917586) Journal
      Agreed. It's probably a bad idea to switch to Linux without knowing how to:

      Install it
      Customize it
      Deploy it
      Support it

      In the past I've said many times that Linux has problems making inroads on the desktop because it's hard for endusers to use. In this particular case, though, it's a matter of IT staff expecting it to be easy and not bothering to familiarize themselves with Linux enough to competently deploy it.

      Linux should "just work" for Joe Six-pack, but IT staff need to know it as well as they know Windows if they're going to use it. Where I work we don't use Linux because we don't have sufficient knowledge of the OS and don't have the time or money to get good training. If and when we can learn it well enough, we might start using it.
      • Re:Incompetence (Score:5, Informative)

        by novus ordo ( 843883 ) on Monday November 20, 2006 @01:39PM (#16918240) Journal
        According to this [zdnet.co.uk] commentary in a previous [zdnet.co.uk] article, you are right:
        Some facts have been omitted from this article which shed further light on the appalling waste of taxpayers money that was the Birmingham City Council's Linux trial:

        1) A trial of 4 differently configured Linux desktops (Ubuntu-based) and one Sun Java Desktop machine was held at Birmingham's central library in the summer 2005. A local research company was employed to measure the outcomes of the double-blind trial, specifcally which configuration was viewed as the best by participants. The Linux desktops took the top four spots with Sun's Java Desktop coming in last. Unsurprisingly the report was never published. BCC are a major Sun client.

        2) The Open Source community, especially the Open Source Consortium (others included the Gnome Foundation), was entirely excluded from the project after the initial trial. BCC IT's department thought they could undertake the deployment themselves. The failure of this project proves this was not the case.

        3) BCC selected an obsolete version of Suse Linux rather than the Ubuntu desktops that won the Library trial. They were unable to replicate the winning desktop configuration because the IT department accidentially erased it.

        4) Open Forum Europe managed the Open Source Academy and were responsible for the dissemination programme.
      • by Alef ( 605149 )

        In this particular case, though, it's a matter of IT staff expecting it to be easy and not bothering to familiarize themselves with Linux enough to competently deploy it.

        It could also be that with Linux, suddenly most of their expertise and know-how is totally useless. I'm not flaming Linux here, the same is true for all major technology switches. People have invested a huge amount of effort and "intellectual capital" in the existing technology over the years, and it hurts to throw that away. That can m

        • Local government in the UK is not famous for big salaries or sexy projects.
          Although they do have really good pension schemes.
          So they are gonna be full of livewire employees who are seriously into the latest software?

          • by Alef ( 605149 )

            Local government in the UK is not famous for big salaries or sexy projects.
            Although they do have really good pension schemes.
            So they are gonna be full of livewire employees who are seriously into the latest software?

            I would expect the local UK governments not to be full of live wire employees. As with basically every other organisation where the average age of the employees is greater than 25 years. That is where the problem arises. Humans generally dislike too much change after our brain has settled

      • by s20451 ( 410424 ) on Monday November 20, 2006 @02:09PM (#16918750) Journal
        Let's not forget that most governments have unionized employees, which (if true) is material to any massive IT redeployment. In true Slashdot fashion, the following post is pure conjecture and generalization. But I think it's plausible.

        Ideally you would want to hire expert sysadmins on contract to conduct a pilot project such as this one. However, there is likely to be language in the union contract forbidding a contract employee from taking a job that might be done by a unionized employee. Unless a sufficiently far-sighted employer included specific language covering a Linux deployment, the deployment would necessarily default to the in-house IT people.

        And you had better believe that the union folks would be vocal about it. Especially if they -- as Windows experts -- could be replaced by Linux sysadmins in a wholesale system turnover. In fact say they believed that Linux might require fewer sysadmins, thus threatening their jobs. Maybe they wanted it to fail for that reason? Again, pure speculation, but plausible given my previous interactions with unions.

        This is not to say that unions are useless or evil. Or even that any of this happened or was a factor in Birmingham. But unions do form part of the institutional culture, and if not taken into account, they can cause projects like this one to fail.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Inda ( 580031 )
        Training. Do people even get Windows training?

        Back in the 3.1 days, my Windows (and MS Office) training involved watching half a dozen VHS videos. Does that still happen? I think not.

        Today I had to ZIP some files onto a USB drive because my 40 year old boss didn't know how. He's a lead engineer in charge of a 650 million pound project but things like Zipping a few files together aren't interesting to him. Why should they be?

        I work with others in their forties who cannot map network drives, don't understand
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by IflyRC ( 956454 )
      But isn't that the problem with most Linux deployments? When you have the majority of the IT workforce out there not trained in Linux it makes for a tough hiring process to find someone qualified for a rollout like this. Then, when you do find someone qualified (I'm talking qualified here, not someone who has been running Linux at home as a hobby...but a true Linux Professional) the rates are through the roof.

      As Linux matures in the marketplace you will have more people competent in undertaking a process
      • by IflyRC ( 956454 )
        *sigh*
        Why didn't I use preview. I'd like to correct that I do know the difference between "hear" and "here". It was some subconcious demon that took over and typed it for me.
      • by khasim ( 1285 ) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Monday November 20, 2006 @01:21PM (#16917942)
        But isn't that the problem with most Linux deployments? When you have the majority of the IT workforce out there not trained in Linux it makes for a tough hiring process to find someone qualified for a rollout like this. Then, when you do find someone qualified (I'm talking qualified here, not someone who has been running Linux at home as a hobby...but a true Linux Professional) the rates are through the roof.

        Not really. Anyone who knows *nix can adapt to Linux in a couple of days. And there are lots and lots of people who know *nix out there.

        True, they might be more expensive than someone with an MCSE. But the MCSE you'd hire/contract for a migration of this size would be more expensive than the MCSE you'd hire to maintain a site that has already migrated.

        Migration specialists cost the same whether they're Microsoft, Linux, Sun or whatever.

        However, in the hear and now its difficult to get something like this to go off without a hitch due to just the sheer lack of experience in the world.

        Again, not really. The problem is when people do not look at it as a real migration. If you've ever done an Oracle/Sun migration, you'd know the costs involved and the amount of planning. And those are the kind of experts you'd be calling in for a project such as this.

        The strange part is how they could spend so much money, so quickly, on so few PC's.

        Realistically, they should not have spent 1/20th of that before finding that Microsoft would cut their sales price to come under the Linux figures.

        And most of that money would have been spent on identifying all the apps used and which could be ported and for how much.

        Linux desktops are cheaper to run than Windows. Particularly if you're using them in a diskless environment.

        The HUGE costs are porting the apps or migrating the data to Linux-based apps. This is because most vendors have spent time locking your data up in their proprietary formats in order to make it as expensive as possible for you to dump them.

        Which is why migrations such as this are STUPID to rush into.

        It makes far more sense to plan them over 5 years. That way, the cost of migrating/porting those apps can be compared to the cost of upgrading them (or migrating anyway when the ISV goes out of business) and the real savings can be seen.

        And you can realize the easy savings sooner to off-set the more expensive projects later.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by SnowZero ( 92219 )
        From the studies I've seen, Linux admins cost more, but less per machine. A Linux admin costs around 50% more, but could manage 2x or more in terms of machines. Governments regularly screw up IT projects, and there are numerous ways they could fail in this one, such as:
        (1) Retraining existing Windows admins, not hiring Linux ones (Common for a gov't job, admin has no motivation for success)
        (2) Hiring lots of cheap admins for Linux (Works badly for Windows, but functional. Doesn't work for Linux)
        (3) Too m
        • Re:Incompetence (Score:4, Interesting)

          by toadlife ( 301863 ) on Monday November 20, 2006 @04:00PM (#16920622) Journal
          "From the studies I've seen, Linux admins cost more, but less per machine. A Linux admin costs around 50% more, but could manage 2x or more in terms of machines."

          I see this as a problem with linux (and *nix OSs in general), not an asset. I don't have a study to point to, but IME, a competent Windows admin can manage 2x or more in terms of machines than a normal Windows admin. As your point #2 points out, throwing more monkeys at the problem can work (albeit poorly) with windows, it can't with linux. This reflects a strength of Windows. This is a major problem for many when it comes to the adoption of linux, because in many areas the talent pool is simple too thin, and finding quality people is not easy. Add in the government factor, and you can all but forget finding anyone competent enough to handle the migration.

          If I had a buck for every time someone said "The problem is your stupid Windows admins. Just hire some competent people and migrating to linux will be easy.", I could probably buy an extra gig of memory for my wife's computer.

          To the issue of "competence" - For linux, I would define a basic level of competence as having an understanding of basic UNIX concepts, an understanding of the UNIX security model, a decent grasp of TCP/IP, and the ability to make #!/bin/sh carry out repetitive tasks. For Windows I would define a basic level of competence as having as having an understanding of basic Windows concepts, an understanding of the NT security model, a decent grasp of TCP/IP, and the ability to make cscript.exe and cmd.exe carry out repetitive tasks.

          Every employed *nix admin I've ever met in person meets my definition of "competent", but I've yet to meet an employed Windows admin in person that meets the definition.

          That doesn't mean I don't think linux can be adopted successfully. I think the government factor, not linux, is the biggest problem here.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Carrot007 ( 37198 )
      And there in lies the problem.

      In business the contract generally goes to someone who can talk the talk.

      Unfortunatly where as any moron can knock up a windows environment (they should chaneg the cert to mcm=microsoft certified moron) it takes more than a gas bag mouth to deploy linux succesfully.

      The project was likely a falire due to this.

      Initially:
      Gas Bag Moron: Hey I can save you money with linux?
      Birmingham: Ok

      After getting this contract
      Gab Bag Moron (internal dialogue): So what's this linux thing, can't b
    • Re:Incompetence (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Osrin ( 599427 ) * on Monday November 20, 2006 @01:22PM (#16917964) Homepage
      While it is fun to lay the blame outside of Linux, the community should really be looking at the product provided and working out how to make it deployable for every one of the 6.2bn folks on the planet if it is going to get the pervasive desktop deployment that some seem to be looking for.

      It will only take a small number of stories like this before IT managers around the world take the decision not to look at Linux at all. Adding the threat of the pointless wrath of the community to that (as per your post) and the decision not to even look at Linux is a really clear one.
      • It will only take a small number of stories like this before IT managers around the world take the decision not to look at Linux at all.

        That's only on the desktop ... believe me ... on the server side, Linux is on every IT manager's mind, at least in the isp/telecom market.
      • Give us a break (Score:4, Insightful)

        by turgid ( 580780 ) on Monday November 20, 2006 @04:00PM (#16920614) Journal

        While it is fun to lay the blame outside of Linux, the community should really be looking at the product provided and working out how to make it deployable for every one of the 6.2bn folks on the planet if it is going to get the pervasive desktop deployment that some seem to be looking for.

        I've been using Linux as my primary (and only at home) OS since 1996, and I code on it for a living now.

        I know this argument sounds reasonable, that "the community" should put in "more effort" to make Linux pervasive on the desktop, but it hasn't worked this way, and will not.

        "The Community," in the guise of various volunteers and companies, (e.g. Ubuntu) have done a lot already, and this pervasive adoption hasn't happened, and it won't.

        People will not just use Linux because they don't want to. They don't care. They are not interested. They like Windows because it comes on their computers by default, "everyone else uses it," they didn't see how much it cost, and it looks pretty, even though underneath it's pretty ropey.

        "We" (whoever that is) should stop wasting our valuable time casting pearls before swine. OK, that's maybe a bit harsh, but the work has been done now (shiny user-friendly distros and Microsoft-compatible apps), it is up to them to take it if they want it.

        What is far more important to me, and I suspect most of "us", is a healthy and diverse hardware and software ecosystem where everyone can play and compete, through open standards so that no one is left out if they don't want to be, and healthy progress can proceed.

        "We" do not need Linux (as only one flabour of *nix) to be pervasive, to replace one monoculture with another. It would be better if everyone ran a better OS (i.e. not Windows) but that isn't going to happen.

        "We" should be quietly confident and work to improve "our" software, and when any of the Heathens feel ready to convert, we should offer them our patient and friendly support.

        If they don't want to convert, respect their decision, whether is is due to ignorance, laziness, fear, legitimate need or personal taste.

        There ends my rant for today.

    • Re:Incompetence (Score:5, Interesting)

      by sheldon ( 2322 ) on Monday November 20, 2006 @01:30PM (#16918078)
      I've been involved in numerous Windows roll outs, from Win95 on... As well as OS/2 and variations of Unix.

      Claiming that it's the fault of incompetent staff isn't really an excuse. In every deployment I've seen, the staff has known nothing about the product when the deployment starts. You learn as you go. What you rely on is good whitepapers and documentation provided by the company on how they expect a rollout to occur. Along with some experience on proper communication, testing strategies, rollout scheduling, etc.

      Furthermore in every deployment you encounter obstacles... problems interfacing with some piece of hardware or software. This could be a case of them encountering more obstacles than they assumed initially, and/or having no good reliable source for help to solve them quickly.

      I realize this is /. and everybody here thinks they are smarter than everybody else in the world, but the real world doesn't work like that.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Claiming that it's the fault of incompetent staff isn't really an excuse. In every deployment I've seen, the staff has known nothing about the product when the deployment starts.

        What!?! You've never hired people familiar with the platform you're deploying to deploy it? You just hire random minimum wage people or what?

        What you rely on is good whitepapers and documentation provided by the company on how they expect a rollout to occur.

        They parted ways with two consulting firms that were both experience

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by sheldon ( 2322 )
          What!?! You've never hired people familiar with the platform you're deploying to deploy it?

          How often do you see an ad like "Wanted: Systems installer for large Windows deployment. Must have five years experience deploying Windows Vista"? ...Because they decided to stop paying both the experienced planners and the support company.

          Perhaps they believed that Linux was free, and they didn't need pay for it?

      • by Lumpy ( 12016 )
        You mean like Fedora Core 6? upon boot you get a "unsupported video mode" on all computers with a LCD and a nvidia 7600 video card... solution, boot into init3 install some obscure rpms, change the xorg.conf by and and reboot. Added 3 hours to the first install and 15 minutes to each one thereafter. Enough for me to go back to the Director and say, "Fedora is crap, let's use Ubuntu or something else that can actually boot into a usable mode after install."

        Their problem is 3 fold. 1 management made the deci
    • A quick read thru the article reveals not a problem with Linux, but with the idiots trying to manage the deployment without knowing what they were doing.

      That is also a significant and important cost. People who know what they are doing with a computer cost serious money. Why do people find it so hard to beleive that it is cheaper to pay #100 more per PC for a product that costs less to maintain than a product that is 'free'?

      Most people don't even realize the amount of effort that goes into running a com

  • Good (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 20, 2006 @12:57PM (#16917506)
    I used a couple of the Linux machines in their main library, and they were rubbish compared to the Windows ones. I think whoever set it up hadn't bothered using the machines themselves! They even had US keyboard layout set, did they just plough through the setup wizards clicking Yes to everything??
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      did they just plough through the setup wizards clicking Yes to everything??

      [YES] NO CANCEL

      *click*
    • by rs232 ( 849320 )
      "I used a couple of the Linux machines in their main library, and they were rubbish compared to the Windows ones. I think whoever set it up hadn't bothered using the machines themselves! They even had US keyboard layout set, did they just plough through the setup wizards clicking Yes to everything??"

      What version Of Linux, what did Windows offer that wasn't available on the nix ones. What applicatins were on offer on both. How did you get access to both desktops. Did you have to login or use a ticket all
  • by RedHat Rocky ( 94208 ) on Monday November 20, 2006 @12:57PM (#16917520)
    The actual article is titled: "Criticism mounts over Birmingham's Linux project"

    This is a followup on the project being discarded, mainly focusing on critical comments of how the project was managed.

    Notable quote: 'Mark Taylor, whose Open Source Consortium also exited the project in the early stages, said: "I have no idea how anyone could spend half a million pounds on 200 desktops, running free software".'
  • by Anonymous Coward
    ...when Microsoft is paying you to use Windows.
  • would have been (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SkunkPussy ( 85271 ) on Monday November 20, 2006 @12:59PM (#16917550) Journal
    £333/desktop if they had rolled out the full number of desktops.

    Its not surprising that they spent a lot of money to achieve seemingly nothing - Birmingham City Council BOASTS all over the place that they are "the biggest employer in the West Midlands". Probably cos it takes 10 muppets to do the same job that 1 competent employee should be expected to do.
    • Now, why do you have to bring the muppets into this?
    • by ettlz ( 639203 )
      Birmingham City Council BOASTS all over the place that they are "the biggest employer in the West Midlands". Probably cos it takes 10 muppets to do the same job that 1 competent employee should be expected to do.

      Yeah, so what? This is Brum we're talking about here.

    • Dude, you are underestimating the competence and worth ethic of Doozers [wikipedia.org] when you trash Muppets like that. They working harder than illegals and their work tastes like candy.
    • I live in Birmingham and worked for a company once which had taken on a contract from Birmingham City Council to digitise their land records. I think the Council had been working on it for a few years without getting anywhere before they handed it over to the company I was working for. The whole thing was a total disaster, by the time I left it was already over 6 years late which was partly the company I was working fors fault for not anticipating the uselessness of the council in organising their end of th
      • half the workforce there is on long-term sick leave! I never saw anybody working hard in any department I temped in either

  • It's possible to save even more money, Birmingham. Here's how: First do what ever it was that apparently would make the project cheaper with winblows, next replace windows with linux. It's free, so ALL the money spent on windows would be gotten back.
    Let's reiterate: 1. Save £100,000 2. Save £++ by using free software 3. ??? 4......you know the joke by now.
    • So what you're saying is, they wouldn't have had to train their employees because everyone knows Windows already, while not many people know Linux... ok... so then they replace Windows with Linux... whoops!

      Still, if designed and created properly, ANY system can theoretically be used with minimal if any training.

      • by styryx ( 952942 )
        "everyone knows Windows already"

        But seriously though, that's the point, people don't. EVERYONE has used windows, somewhere, somehow. But when it comes to fixing it, most people don't know a thing. The only way you learn is by tinkering, it'd take just as much effort to use Linux. That was the joke.

        I did have one interesting thought though:
        £500,000 ~ $947 350
        /$100 ~ 9473 laptops in the $100 laptop scheme. How much training do you need to use one of those?
  • by Sneakernets ( 1026296 ) on Monday November 20, 2006 @01:07PM (#16917684) Journal
    In other news, Birmingham, Alabama is doing the exact opposite. Open source has fluorished here, as low funds make one go to low-cost alternatives.
  • by Timesprout ( 579035 ) on Monday November 20, 2006 @01:09PM (#16917708)
    The Munich migration is more expensive than the windows upgrade would have been. They just made a deliberate decision not to use Microsoft.
    • Because your data is usually locked into the original ISV's proprietary format ... and that ISV knows approximately the cost of a migration ...

      So that ISV will price their "upgrade" at a low enough point that the pain and cost of the migration is difficult to justify to upper management.

      Remember, software isn't like a car. Once the time/money has been invested in writing the software, distribution is practically free. You make more money the more times you can sell the same code. Even if you have to "discou
    • But
      1. I doubt that you have proof of that.
      2. I also doubt that the long-term costs of Windows would be cheaper than Linux.
      Any time you make an initial jump on a platform, it costs more. But it is the long haul where you make your costs/money.
  • by at_slashdot ( 674436 ) on Monday November 20, 2006 @01:11PM (#16917728)
    To me it seems that the biggest cost with Windows is not the upfront cost per seat, it's probably the cost of maintanance and data lost due to viruses and spyware, but hey, what do I know....
    • Not much; on a locked down PC, with proper precautions, that's really not much more of an issue in Windows than Linux.
  • by Nom du Keyboard ( 633989 ) on Monday November 20, 2006 @01:12PM (#16917764)
    I think Microsoft is in the same position as the RIAA. They have to win every time.

    The RIAA has to win every every court case because, by the legal principal of non-mutual estoppal, if they lose once they cannot use the same legal arguments in any future case they might wish to bring (i.e. if P2P music sharing occurs through an IP address you pay for, you're automatically responsible, guilty, and owe them lots of money regardless of what you actually did, or didn't, do).

    Microsoft has to win every desktop every time because, if a large-scale commercial Linux deployment succeeds as a viable alternative to Windows, it will be considered seriously as a candidate in every future large-scale deployment of PC's. Microsoft will have to fight for every future desktop contract, instead of being the de facto only option for 99% of them.

    And both groups are willing to do whatever it takes to win at all costs!

  • Linux is harder to set up, thus it will be more expensive for governments to switch over to linux because it takes more time to set it up. Whereas with Windows, after being in the market for so long and having a lot of people at least be exposed to it once or twice in their lifetime, will not require as much time compared to linux. Therefore it is cheaper to use Windows both in the long term and short term.

    Once linux has the same support, features, ease-of-use as Windows has then it has a chance of succeedi
    • by dsci ( 658278 )
      That's short sited; you only set up a computer once; you have to maintain it for its entire service life.

      Others may disagree, but it has been my experience and observation that Linux is FAR easier to maintain in a productive role than Windows. What are the stats? I've heard these numbers: 1 Windows admin can properly maintain about 20 systems, 1 Linux admin can maintain about 50.

      Besides, aren't a lot of systems in an environment like the deployment under discussion (library public access boxes) 'ins
    • by thebdj ( 768618 )
      Linux is harder to set up, thus it will be more expensive for governments to switch over to linux because it takes more time to set it up.
      There is common misconception #1. There are plenty of easy to install, easy to setup, and easy to maintain distributions. Almost all of these have free flavors without having to pay a ton of money. I believe Mandriva can be installed and setup without too much external help, and it is hardly a beast to figure out. It is also ahead of Windows because you do not have
      • by jimicus ( 737525 )
        Most of the problems you discuss with Windows will already have been solved by any halfway-organised shop.

        Installation: done through imaging, and only having a small number of hardware configurations. Software which goes on everyone's desktop would probably be included at the image preparation stage.
        Software updates: Active Directory can do this, or there are other means if you don't want to use AD.
        System patches: Windows Server already provides tools to manage this - and it's almost unthinkable that they
      • by dedazo ( 737510 )
        Cost of Windows XP Pro, $299 at retail, $150 typically for OEM.

        Try $43 OEM. That's the middle price range for mid-size VARs - I surmise Dell, HP, Gateway and IBM get a better price.

      • true about setup being the misconception, however I contend that it isn't the OS that is the problem, but the applications that run on it.

        Setting up Windows, if you know what you're doing, take no time (or you've never booted off a PXE floppy/CD with setup info on it and watched the OS copy itself over the network). That said, the same applies to Linux (or you've never booted off a floppy/CD and had the OS copy itself over the network) Obviously you have to know what you're doing in both cases, if you don'
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          You make some excellent points, but you have to keep the setting in perspective. Your comments are definitely valid in a corporate setting, but this is a library setting with computers open for free public access. My mother works in a public library in the US and I have volunteered my time assisting the sysadmin in support.

          The first thing to remember, is that the public user does not need any specialized applications. The staff may need a special app for their check-in/out cataloguing system, but as
    • And you came to this conclusion...how? I've seen Fedora set up in under an hour, complete with Open Office and any other software that is needed. It is also simpler to install -- no registration required, no fiddling around with serial numbers that may be invalidated later, no bullshit. The installer is more clearly worded than the Windows installer, and by default creates limited user accounts. Usability studies and personal experience have shown that KDE/GNOME are as easy for an end user to use as Exp
  • One may wonder if they paid for initial training of their workforce making the first 200 more expensive than the rest but the article does not say whether or not this occurred.

    If they were genuinely slow-witted enough to make such a calculation, how do you figure their chances of maintaining a large Unix install base. And if your figure is significantly greater than zero, what does that say about the intelligence required to be a Unix admin?

  • by camcorder ( 759720 ) on Monday November 20, 2006 @01:16PM (#16917848)
    Ignorance is a very big problem with Linux, which results in unsuccessful deployment and failure. It's not an easy job for making people to switch from one environment to another. Building similar GUI is not a resolution. Most computer users do not know what they use. And people should increase their knowledge if they want to use computer. Using windows is like learning driving on one car. Though you need to learn standards, you need to know what horn is and used for, instead of learning it like 'you push that place and it emit sound'.

    We have to put Linux awareness on computer education. Else people would behave Linux as Windows and once they fail they would blame that on Linux. Administrators of Windows think that they know everything due to their computer training and once they encounter something different, they think its broken 'even though they did everything right'. Users thing applications 'do not work', or 'does not do something' because they can't see their familiar GUI in front of them. They don't even check other places, or don't even know where to look at it.

    Technical personnel can't report bug reports, can't realize what causes the problem. They mostly get used to 'reinstall' or 'restart' to fix stuff never in need to knowing cause of previous problems.

    And even worse, since they don't know deep working of some basic stuff, they design current systems platform specific. They don't use standards but rather using platform specific tools or ways to handle things due to their 'buggy training'. And when they need to change platforms they have to reinvent lots of other fixes they had before.

    Summing all that up, they stay in the middle of vendor lock-in. if we can't educate people well on computers, and they think they are educated enough, they would not blame their knowledge but the products.
    • Even further (Score:4, Insightful)

      by NineNine ( 235196 ) on Monday November 20, 2006 @01:31PM (#16918106)
      Well, I think I'd like to extend what you said. I think that people should start making their own microprocessors. Otherwise, how do they know how they work? We should mandate microprocessor design in public schools. Otherwise, how can you debug your own kernel panics? After that, we need to make sure that people can make their own hard drives. After all, if you don't know where the 0's and 1's go, how can you fix the problems?

      I've already done the same for my car. I won't drive one, until I know how it works. Right now, I'm busy growing rubber trees so that I can make my own tires so I can change one myself. I'm pretty excited. Only another 5 years to go, and I'll have enough rubber to make a tire! After that, I have to learn how to mine iron to make steel for the steel belting in the tires. But hey, I'm not ignorant! I figure in another 200-300 years, I should have the know-how needed to drive my car.

      Does anybody know how to make a tire stem and valve? I can't put air in my tires until I know how these little bastards work.
  • Initial training? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by nacturation ( 646836 ) <nacturation AT gmail DOT com> on Monday November 20, 2006 @01:23PM (#16917972) Journal
    One may wonder if they paid for initial training of their workforce making the first 200 more expensive than the rest but the article does not say whether or not this occurred.

    It's like considering switching all traffic so that vehicles drive on the *other* side of the road. Even if it made more sense, it would be expensive as hell to do. And it's silly to take into account the learning curve of all those who had to initially learn to drive on the current side of the road. What matters is solely the cost of any changes going forward given that they have a staff already trained and familiar with Windows. If it's cheaper in the long run to stay Microsoft and everybody's already reasonably happy with it then, technical and ideological reasons aside, why switch?
     
    • What learning curve. This is for library access so I assume they mean web browsing and word processing. What training do you need to use Firefox as against Iexpolorer. I do know of at least one library that has gone the Open Office route on Windows with no complaints. To say Windows is cheaper than Open Source is to use different mathematical functions than the rest of us.

      Re:Initial training?
    • by MooUK ( 905450 )
      It probably ISN'T cheaper in the long run, that's the point. It might be cheaper in the short run, since a simple upgrade to the next version of the same system should be cheaper and easier than a migration complete with retraining to a different system. But in the long run, you save all that money that would go on extortionate license fees.
    • Check out which side of the road Sweden drives on. Perhaps the average Swede is a little smarter than the average Brit?
  • by lmpeters ( 892805 ) on Monday November 20, 2006 @01:30PM (#16918080)
    I see two simple options. First:
    1. Build each computer with 1GB of RAM and no hard drive. A fast CPU is not needed, but the ability to net-boot is required.
    2. Set up a Knoppix image on a net-boot server, which the workstations can net-boot from. (The Knoppix image might need to be customized for this purpose, but even if no modified Knoppix image already exists with this feature, it shouldn't be overwhelmingly hard to make one.)

    Thus, everything runs off a read-only NFS filesystem, and is impossible to vandalize a workstation on a software level (a reboot undoes any vandalism). Furthermore, Knoppix has proved itself to be very good at autoconfiguring itself on a wide range of hardware. And I don't know ANYONE who couldn't figure out how to use Knoppix if they tried.

    Another option:
    1. Build each computer with 512MB+ of RAM and at least a 5GB hard drive. The ability to net-boot is not needed.
    2. Install Knoppix on one computer's hard drive, and copy the disk image to all other computers. Many tools exist for this, of which Norton Ghost is merely the best-known (open-source alternatives do exist).

    Thus, you get the same advantages of the first solution, but with a local hard disk. The first solution would offer easier clean-up on workstations, while the second would result in higher performance. Of course, you could get even higher performance by configuring a net-booting Knoppix to load to RAM, but you'd need more RAM (I'd guess at least 2GB) on each workstation.

    Why is it so hard for them? Did they get brainwashed by Microsoft's P.R. trolls, or am I way smarter than than Birmingham's IT staff?
  • odd numbers .. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by rs232 ( 849320 ) on Monday November 20, 2006 @01:39PM (#16918232)
    Unit cost for a Linux desktop = £2,5000

    Unit cost for a Windows desktop = £2,433.00

    Where did the money go .. :)
  • Dog bites Man (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Bazman ( 4849 ) on Monday November 20, 2006 @01:40PM (#16918250) Journal
    Of course this is only news because its a Linux IT project failing. There are so many over-budget, behind-schedule public-sector IT projects involving non-Linux systems that they dont make the headlines any more.

    Oh, except the new UK Health Service IT system which has just gone waaaay over budget....

    • There are so many over-budget, behind-schedule public-sector IT projects involving non-Linux systems that they dont make the headlines any more.

      Few, if any, involve rolling out Windows to the desktop.
  • Birmingham's expenditure averaged over 2,500 pounds per PC

    I know I have trouble finding a PC for less than $5,000.

  • It is truely amasing how technically incompetant some people are. That they can walk and talk is sometimes a surprise. I sometimes think the human race has already split into two streams. If so the problem is we have the worng people running the show and there is little accountability.

    If they spent $2500 pounds on average on 200 machines then imagine if only 10% of that money had been made available to technically competant people! The rest of the money could have been donated to the welfare budget.
  • The article itself does not say nothing. It is quite possible that such migration does not make any sense. If they have loads of Windows-only applications they would have to rewrite it all to web frontends or something. Also tech support and administration can be quite costly if they have no unix background.

    But on the other hand the outcome of this case does not provide any specific information where they failed? Was it lack of apps? What distro they used? What strategy? What were main problems? Etc.? Etc.?
  • From earlier articles on ZDNet:

    Timms said the council had compared the cost of the Linux desktop migration with an upgrade to Windows XP, and had found that a Microsoft upgrade would be cheaper. Most of the difference was made up of costs attributed to "decision making" and "project management", largely brought about because of a shortage of skills in open-source networking and the changes to IT processes that would result.

    WTF ! open source networking ? *costs attributed to "decision making"* ?

    The Linux pro

  • by OldHawk777 ( 19923 ) * <adelovant@@@verizon...net> on Monday November 20, 2006 @03:58PM (#16920590) Journal
    Birmingham, Alabama or Birmingham, England what's the difference they can compare fruit and vegetables as equals, and use numbers equally well. I mean, y'all ain't got no cents, if'n ya don't know Equal is as Equal does.

    Who the hell is Equal?
  • Way too much (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mschuyler ( 197441 ) on Monday November 20, 2006 @04:03PM (#16920666) Homepage Journal
    For the life of me I do not understand how each PC could have cost so much. I was the admin for a public library for 25 years. I have installed many hundreds of library public-use PCs. My most recent full-PC installs, on Windows XP, were running about $800 each for brand new fully capable machines complete with per-seat security software of various kinds (the public is REALLY hard on machines) such as Centurion Guard and Fortres. Just before I left I installed thin clients which were running about $400 per seat (including the servers).

    I realize lots of folks here see this as a Linux vs Windows issue. It's really not. The OS in this equation just isn't that much. The issue is total cost of installed base: dollars (pounds) spent divided by number of machines. These were 2500 POUNDS! That's got to be something like $4700 per machine.

    Somebody screwed up.
  • by mormop ( 415983 ) on Monday November 20, 2006 @05:22PM (#16921898)
    We deployed 120 new desktop pc's which we built ourselves from parts purchased from a trade supplier. Spec was AMD 2800 Semprom, 512MB RAM, 40 GB IDE drive with no CD-ROM as we're trying to encourage the use of USB sticks. Each PC came in at £105 and the build took place in summer 2005.

    We installed XP Pro on a volume licence (£35) and then duel booted with Ubuntu Breezy.

    Total cost £16800 + the time to build. Without XP these would have been £12600.

    Installation of XP consisted of install, update, install all applications and create disk image to be rolled out using Dolly. Install of Ubuntu consisted of popping the disk in, booting, clicking a couple of buttons, upgrading and imaging. The Ubuntu install took much less time as all the apps and drivers were installed at the same time. At the time of building a script was added to run a prompt for a machine name followed by winbinding to the domain.

    The image is easy to roll out via our Gigabit LAN using Dolly. Network wide software installs can be done on Linux using a script that checks a directory on the server and after doing an md5 check uses apt to install whatever we want it to.

    Given the ease of all this, the Birmingham thing just has to be down to incompetence. Excluding people who know what they're doing from helping is an arrogant act but ultimately one that probably caused the laughably huge bill.

    I think that writing to the National Audit Office would be a good move by those Open Source Organisations involved as someone really needs to be held accountable for such a blatant waste of public money. Then again, maybe it was an overtime fiddle by those involved with or, more likely, another public body using Linux to beat Microsoft down on price.

"No, no, I don't mind being called the smartest man in the world. I just wish it wasn't this one." -- Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias, WATCHMEN

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