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Microsoft Alternative in Extremadura, Spain 305

Posted by timothy
from the penguins-come-in-all-sizes dept.
grylnsmn writes "The Washington Post today has a front page article talking about how the Extremadura region in Spain is converting all government offices, businesses, and home from Windows to Linux. The article talks of their problems last spring and how the community banded together to solve them. "But the glitches are more an annoyance, [Ana Acevedo, who heads one of the government's document-processing units] said, than a hassle. 'It's mostly very tiny things,' she said." Overall, this is an important testbed for localities all over the world who are looking at making the switch. Overall, a very good and balanced article." Update: 11/03 20:37 GMT by T : Headline misspelled "Extremadura" as "Extramadura" -- fixed now.
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Microsoft Alternative in Extremadura, Spain

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  • The heading is wrong (Score:4, Informative)

    by RinzeWind (413873) <chema.rinzewind@org> on Sunday November 03, 2002 @03:05PM (#4589700) Homepage
    It's "Extremadura", not "Extramadura".
  • by js995 (608590)
    'To get word processing, for example, users click on "Borcense," a picture of 16th century writer Francisco Sanchez de las Brozas; for the Internet, click on "Galeon," a crane that lives in the oak meadows and cereal plains of the region'
    trying to spread the localized changes thin then..
  • by CatWrangler (622292) on Sunday November 03, 2002 @03:07PM (#4589710) Journal
    From the article....

    Like many Linux advocates, he speaks about the software in emotional terms. "Connectivity and literacy" equals "equality and liberty," he said.

    Microsoft regards such talk as too dramatic and distracting. It is software, after all, not war, company officials said. It is far more productive in their view to talk about the technical aspects of Windows vs. Linux.

    I wonder if Steve Ballmer ever got that memo. Microsoft is a fun loving peaceful company. They only assimilate on accident, because they are trying to build a world of equality, fluffy clouds, and little bunnies.

    editors note... Fluffy clouds-tm and little bunnies-tm is copywrited by Microsoft-TM. Do not use, or we will hunt you down and kill you.

    • by soloport (312487) on Sunday November 03, 2002 @04:03PM (#4590065) Homepage
      "Somebody might give you a free puppy this afternoon," Smith said, "but you're going to have to go buy dog food in the morning."

      Uh, really weak! If someone sells me a puppy, I'm still going to have to buy dog food in the morning.

      But I'll have less money, in the end ;-)
    • by Anonymous Coward

      It is far more productive in their view to talk about the technical aspects of Windows vs. Linux.

      Yes, just look at the technical aspects. Pay no attention to the 6-page license agreement. There is absolutely no difference between the GPL and the Microsoft EULA. Microsoft's EULA is just as free as the GPL. Please focus on the moving spot. As you listen to my voice, your eyelids will become heavy... heavy... heavier.. and you will fall into a deep sleep. Do you hear me know? Good. Now listen carefully. Whenever you hear the word "Developers" you will immediately stand up and scream "I LOVE MICROSOFT". Do you understand? Good. When I snap my fingers, you will awaken and have no memory of our conversation. *snap*

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 03, 2002 @05:11PM (#4590430)
      I wonder if Steve Ballmer ever got that memo. Microsoft is a fun loving peaceful company. They only assimilate on accident

      Seriously, your honor! I was just walking, the pavement was slippery... the next thing I knew, I'd inserted anticompetitive code into all my software!

      Could happen to anyone!
  • It can work (Score:5, Insightful)

    by haxor.dk (463614) on Sunday November 03, 2002 @03:08PM (#4589721) Homepage
    OK, i'll not put my head on the block and make bold claims like "the revolution is beginning" or somesuch, but the constant small trickle of stories like these of insututions and corporations swithing from WIndows to Linux shows that Linux is a true alternative to Windows.

    IT GETS THE JOB *DONE*.
  • by call -151 (230520) on Sunday November 03, 2002 @03:10PM (#4589738) Homepage
    With 10,000 machines converted already, and 100,000 scheduled for next year in a region with 1.1 million people, that is very impressive- and they only started in April. How did they do it? It sounds like they took a page from AOL and carpet-bombed the region with CDs:

    So far, the government has produced 150,000 discs with the software, and it is distributing them in schools, electronics stores, community centers and as inserts in newspapers. It has even taken out TV commercials about the benefits of free software.

    It would be great to see something like that spread more widely, but hey, it's a great start!

  • Nostradumus foretold this

    C4Q94
    Two great brothers will be chased out of Spain,
    The elder conquered under the Pyrenees mountains:
    The sea to redden, Rhône, bloody Lake Geneva from Germany,
    Narbonne, Béziers contaminated by Agde

    The great brothers are obviously Microsoft and Intel.

    After, the future doesn't look too bright. Perhaps we ought to consider?
  • Heh Heh (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 03, 2002 @03:10PM (#4589745)
    But a major bug was discovered within days: If users tried to print or view a video or do anything that involved peripherals or multimedia, strange error messages popped up.

    It took a team of developers three months to fix the problem, during which anyone who converted to Linux had to download their documents on a disk and run over to a Windows machine to print them.


    The Power of Open Source: Security bugs are fixed with in 1 hour, but it takes 3 months before printing starts to work.
    • Re:Heh Heh (Score:2, Insightful)

      by befletch (42204)

      The bugs I'm worried about are security bugs. What happens when remotely exploitable holes start showing up in this distribution?

      The one feature I like about Windows (& Mac OS) that I haven't seen in any Linux distribution yet is no cost, easy to install security patches. Windows Update, Critical Update Notification, and the like. Non-geeks aren't going to cope too well with, "download this patch, apply it, recompile, and restart the affected service (or reboot)."

      Does Extremadura have something in place to handle this?

      • Re:Heh Heh (Score:3, Interesting)

        by styrotech (136124)
        The one feature I like about Windows (& Mac OS) that I haven't seen in any Linux distribution yet is no cost, easy to install security patches. Windows Update, Critical Update Notification, and the like. Non-geeks aren't going to cope too well with, "download this patch, apply it, recompile, and restart the affected service (or reboot)."

        You haven't heard of Debian have you?
        • it's not like windows, in windows it keeps telling you to reboot, REBOOT, REBOOT.
        • You haven't heard of Debian have you?

          I installed it once, badly. It had a hard time with my hardware, and I guess I didn't spend enough time figuring out how to administer it. It seemed easier just to flip back to Red Hat.

          But if you are suggesting it has the equivalent of Windows Update, in which a browser or other GUI app tells the user what security updates are required, and allows the user to download and install them in a point-and-click manner, then (a) I'll definitely be giving it another go, and (b) I am much more hopeful for Linux on the desktop. If you are referring to some command-line capability, than (a) may apply, but (b) won't.

          And yes, I am familiar with Red Hat's GUI-bassed RHN service, but US$60/year for updates is a little steep. Nice, but steep.

          My original point still stands, however; if Exremadura is going to have a large number of non-technical home users without sysadmins to support them on Linux, I'm nervous about what happens when security problems are found.

          • But if you are suggesting it has the equivalent of Windows Update, in which a browser or other GUI app tells the user what security updates are required, and allows the user to download and install them in a point-and-click manner, then (a) I'll definitely be giving it another go, and (b) I am much more hopeful for Linux on the desktop. If you are referring to some command-line capability, than (a) may apply, but (b) won't.

            Well you didn't mention a GUI just that it was free, easy to use and didn't need any manual choosing of downloads, compiling or manual restarting of services.

            apt-get can tell you which packages need to be updated without upgrading them if you wish.

            And although I haven't used them, there are graphical front ends to apt, so they might already be as easy as Windows Update. And if they aren't it wouldn't take much development because all the infrastructure is there and well tested.

            And yes, I am familiar with Red Hat's GUI-bassed RHN service, but US$60/year for updates is a little steep. Nice, but steep.

            I don't like the RHN. Even if it was free, you'd still have the hassles of registering and keeping your list of machines up to date. It also seemed slower than apt-get, and there was no local mirror in NZ (if I remember correctly) and we pay for nonlocal traffic here.
      • Re:Heh Heh (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Dog and Pony (521538)
        What happens when remotely exploitable holes start showing up in this distribution?

        Exactly the same thing as happens when it does on Windows. Unless you have a very alert sysadmin (and very few have), the hole will go unpatched for a long time, then some CEO or marketing dude executes an attachement, and boom.

        Then, some support guy will install the updates/patches that are needed.

        No matter how much easier it may be on Windows, users doesn't upgrade anyways - for those that actually do, the Linux way is probably easy enough.
        • Re:Heh Heh (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Shelled (81123)
          Except that, so far, 'boom' in Windows means the OS and possibly the system goes down, in Linux the marketing dude's home directory takes the damage unless the entire deprtment is running root. So no, not exactly the same thing.
          • Yeah, you'd like to think so, don't you?

            What if the security hole allows root access? That is not an unknown expliot to happen now and then.

            And I'll give you another scenario: Market dude is going to run a GUI, like Gnome or KDE or something. In those, you often have a lot of apps that can only be run as root, so they prompt you for the password. They will usually have this password, even though you will say they shouldn't. They will. They will also have come across this question now and then, when being lost in the menus.

            Evil code pops up it's own password box, asking for the root password. Boom.
      • Re:Heh Heh (Score:4, Informative)

        by sconeu (64226) on Sunday November 03, 2002 @06:39PM (#4590966) Homepage Journal
        I haven't seen in any Linux distribution yet is no cost, easy to install security patches.

        Two words: Mandrake Update
  • Some stuff (Score:5, Insightful)

    by IamTheRealMike (537420) <mike@plan99.net> on Sunday November 03, 2002 @03:11PM (#4589749) Homepage
    Good article. I hope they succeed, though I expect they'll have to put some elbow grease in to fix problems. I wonder if they'd be willing to help with my project? Easy software installation is a big deal on Linux at the moment..... anyway Microsoft regards such talk as too dramatic and distracting. It is software, after all, not war, company officials said. It is far more productive in their view to talk about the technical aspects of Windows vs. Linux.

    LOL! Good one. Unfortunately Microsoft you made it war a long, long time ago, by killing anything that stood in your way. The computer industry has been in their grip for years, we've seen some of the largest abuses of the free market in history, we've seen the law bought, then bought again and now they tell people not to be emotional?

    "There's been too much theology and not enough economic analysis in the debate so far," said Bradford L. Smith, Microsoft's general counsel, who oversees the company's global lobbying tea

    This is rich coming from the company that described the GPL as "unamerican". I guess they're scared people might realise there's more to computers than the opcodes they run?

    "Consider that there's a lot more to the total cost and value of a product than the initial offering somebody might give you," Smith said. For instance, it is often expensive to find support services for free software, whereas such help comes bundled with the purchase of Windows. And companies like Microsoft have a vested interest in updating their products; that's not necessarily so with free software.

    You can pay as much as you like Linux tech support. I paid nothing for mine, and #linuxhelp came through every single time. You can buy it if you like, and it'll be of much higher quality than Microsofts - have you ever actually tried to get through to them on the phone when it matters?

    "Somebody might give you a free puppy this afternoon," Smith said, "but you're going to have to go buy dog food in the morning."

    When you use analogies, you should be careful that they can't be turned around on you. In Microsofts case, they'll sell you a puppy, then kill it when it gets old and force you to buy a new one. And you still have to buy dog food.

    The software has become so popular that it has been downloaded more than 55,000 times from www.linex.org by people outside Extremadura.

    Good for them. I hope they succeed, and let the community know if they need anything.

    • Microsoft doesn't have to kill the puppy after a few years, it explodes every other day and you have to pick up the pieces and glue them back together.

    • "There's been too much theology and not enough economic analysis in the debate so far," said Bradford L. Smith, Microsoft's general counsel, who oversees the company's global lobbying tea


      I always thought you Americans took that Boston thing far too seriously :-)

      Simon
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 03, 2002 @03:37PM (#4589909)
      "Somebody might give you a free puppy this afternoon," Smith said, "but you're going to have to go buy dog food in the morning."



      Or, like windows licensing, you have to buy a new kennel and dog washing machine every year, and submit to regular flea inspections from the DSA, a private dog police force.



      Ok, maybe that metaphor went a bit far :)

    • yeah the part:

      ** "There's been too much theology and not enough economic analysis in the debate so far," said Bradford L. Smith, Microsoft's general counsel, who oversees the company's global lobbying team.

      "Consider that there's a lot more to the total cost and value of a product than the initial offering somebody might give you," Smith said. For instance, it is often expensive to find support services for free software, whereas such help comes bundled with the purchase of Windows. And companies like Microsoft have a vested interest in updating their products; that's not necessarily so with free software.

      "Somebody might give you a free puppy this afternoon," Smith said, "but you're going to have to go buy dog food in the morning." *****

      is just absolutely hilarious... with ms you are out of even buyable support in few years.

      haha, and ms consulting (support) is free? who believes that??
      ms doesnt have vested intrest in updating their products, they have vested intrest in selling them again to you after a year.

    • by judd (3212) on Sunday November 03, 2002 @04:49PM (#4590332) Homepage
      The MS puppy is neutered, and can't breed. The free puppy still has its nuts, and will happily sire a litter of vigorous bastards for you.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Said one joyful hippie, "We was all heading to Europe anyways, what with the recent court decision and the fact that the EU's looking at coverting to open source."

    "Now at least we have a destination. So what if its actually a little bizzare that the goverment is mandating / forcing / coercing the change. Heck, I'm more than willing to give up choice, cause open source is free and freedoms what its all about, baby. Its not like the pots calling the kettle black or anything."

  • by domeng24ph (466505) <mark.domingo@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Sunday November 03, 2002 @03:21PM (#4589812) Homepage
    "Microsoft regards such talk as too dramatic and distracting. It is software, after all, not war, company officials said. It is far more productive in their view to talk about the technical aspects of Windows vs. Linux."

    but consider a microsoft philippines job ad [jobstreet.com.ph]

    one of the responsibilities of the job microsoft is offering is...

    "Demolish competition by knowing everything they do and thwarting their every move in the relevant spaces"

    that's a microsoft developer evangelist for you...
    • "Demolish competition by knowing everything they do and thwarting their every move in the relevant spaces"


      That's called business. Every other decent business does the same thing, or at least try to. There's nothing unusual about Microsoft except for the fact that they're very successful.
  • by naasking (94116) <naasking&gmail,com> on Sunday November 03, 2002 @03:27PM (#4589843) Homepage
    Though not in the way they anticipated.

    "Connectivity and literacy" equals "equality and liberty," [Miguel] said. Microsoft regards such talk as too dramatic and distracting. [...] "There's been too much theology and not enough economic analysis in the debate so far," said Bradford L. Smith, Microsoft's general counsel, [...] "Consider that there's a lot more to the total cost and value of a product than the initial offering somebody might give you".

    Exactly right! The cost of Microsoft is freedom (as we have all seen in recent years), far too high a price. Funny how MS leaves that out of their analyses.
  • Actually... (Score:2, Funny)

    by bcwalrus (514670)
    ... the linux community has been planning this for a long long time. See:

    for the Internet, click on "Galeon," a crane that lives in the oak meadows and cereal plains of the region

    Go Galeon!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    they have their own distro. Based in Debian 3.0 + Gnome2:

    http://www.linex.org
    • Unfortunately the article never mentions Debian by name. They mention a few others, "Linux distributions these days go by a variety of names, including Red Hat, Suse and Mandrake." But when time comes to give credit to the developers of the base distribution they refer to it only as, "one of the free versions of Linux".

      It would have been nice to see Debian [debian.org] get some press, IMO.

  • by nuckin futs (574289) on Sunday November 03, 2002 @03:37PM (#4589908)
    is this:
    For now, many denizens of Extremadura find themselves having to use both operating systems, if for no other reason than to deal with an outside world that still relies heavily on Microsoft.
    That sums up the biggest roadblock every person/company/country will have to go through just to be MS-free.
    • by MtViewGuy (197597) on Sunday November 03, 2002 @04:00PM (#4590047)
      There's also the fact that third-party peripheral support is still not as good as what you get with Windows, despite the gains of recent years.

      Small wonder why we may see Advanced Configuration and Power Interface (ACPI) support in the next Linux kernel, if only to make it easier to hot dock external devices through USB 1.1/2.0 and IEEE-1394 ports.
      • by pe1rxq (141710)
        You can hot plug/unplug usb devices with any recent kernel that supports usb..... I'm pretty sure the same can be done with firewire.
        ACPI has nothing to do with this.

        Jeroen
      • Hang on - Hot dock? As in plug it in when the power's on and watch it go? Or am I getting your meaning wrong and you're implying laptop-type expansion unit docking?

        Anyway to respond to your implied meaning (Can't hot-dock devices via USB or 1394) -

        USB for linux does that (and pretty much always has). Eg my compactflash reader - plug it into my usb port and - oh look! there it is on /dev/sda! Plug in my usb camera - it appears as /dev/video0.

        I can't tell you about the firewire side of things but I'm pretty sure they're the same.
  • Good Article, But... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by dbCooper0 (398528)
    Extremadura is being closely watched by Linux enthusiasts and Microsoft for how it manages the transition. Such efforts are likely to become the next front in the battle to steal market share from Microsoft, now that a federal judge has approved a settlement in its antitrust case in the United States. (emphasis added)

    Who is "stealing" market share? That editorial blurb seemed wrong to me from the gitgo.

    IMHO, if anyone chooses to use an alternative OS or hardware, they have the right to do so. There is no theft involved, just freedom of choice.

  • by DalTech (575476) on Sunday November 03, 2002 @03:44PM (#4589946)
    I really would like to see more government agencies and large corporations in the US try using a Linux based OS if for no other reason than the savings in licensing cost.

    I recently went with a friend to buy a new computer and found 2 pre-built systems with identical hardware but different operating systems. One had Windows XP and the other Redhat. There was a $200 price difference between the systems and it was due to the software license cost.

    The savings alone would have been enough for me to decide on the Linux box but my friend has no experience on any OS other that Microsoft so he went with the XP. The first time I had to work on a Sun Solaris box, it took a few days for me to figure out how the damn thing worked but I learned. Same for Linux, but with time and use I am pretty comfortable with the OS.

    Until people either begin their computer learning or receive training with non-Microsoft operating systems, I don't see any major shift from MS/OS to open source in the US any time soon, even though the cost savings could be in the billions.

    • by ninthwave (150430)
      I think that is the point of intiatives like this.
      By dropping the machines into schools they are educated their children. This means their children are going to be using open systems and will have experience with it. This means that if they need to move out of an Microsoft framework they can and if they need to move into a Microsoft framework. Well I guess that learning curve is only slightly less easy than moving to the MacOS.

      If Microsoft would give its software away to schools and not worry about future liscensing within the educational system it would be a difficult fight for linux. But as the Nambia article pointed out Microsoft is worried about revenue from education so it is openning up doors for Linux in education. When the end users are use to an os it will end up in business and government. Windows entered the office from people talking about the ease of use of their home machines and cemented itself in the office with students learning nothing but Office. If Microsoft gives up this market. In 12 years it will be seeing waves of students entering the job forcing learning Open Office as an Office ap and unfamiliar with the undocumented features (read bugs) of Windows, they will begin a push for the OS they are comfortable with in the business world. For in business efficiency is measured with getting work done. Windows is efficient because it is easier to deploy without having to worry about the computer literacy of your employees above a cetain level. But that is my rant. I would prefer to see Sun, Apple, IBM, Microsoft, Linux, FreeBSD and all companies tripping over each other to give free software to schools. The more exposure the youth have to a variety of Operating Systems the better future generations will be able to innovate. But my rant stops. Spelling is out the door and so is sanity but wait that is normal hence I am at slashdot.
  • Reading the Linex site, it seems like this is a Debian-based system with a GNOME desktop and Open Office. Does anyone know if it's based on one of the Debian derivatives or have these guys actually solved the "make Debian easy to install" problem by themselves?

    By the way,have the trolls noted the "Hemerotica" section on the Linex site? That should be another entry for the Linux Gay Conspiracy post....

  • Has anyone translated the distro to English or some other language than Spanish?

    Has anyone here tried it for that matter?
  • by Baki (72515) on Sunday November 03, 2002 @04:04PM (#4590073)
    By being so lax on MSFT.

    Often it is said that it is only logical, in these times of economic troubles, that the US government does not act too harsh on 'its own' software powerhouse MSFT.

    But (apart from the damage it does to other domestic software companies): as can be read in the article, many foreign institutions/governments are very uneasy at the thought of being at the mercy of a single, foreign company (and rightly so). Therefore they abandon (or try to, gradually they shall succeed) MSFT and turn to the only alternative: Linux or other open source solutions.

    Not that I oppose this, not at all. But from the perspective of US economic interest, it is clear that this diminishes software export turnover, which is bad. A more effective war against MSFT's illegal behaviour and monopoly would give alternative companies a chance, many of them would also be US companies. They could fill the hole, partly instead of Linux; this would create more choice for everyone, and would make many foreign governments feel more comfortable at the thought of importing and being dependant on foreign software. The net effect for the US trade balance of a harsh attitude against MSFT therefore would surely be positive, instead of negative as is often thought.
    • I think it's not about economics. Couldn't it be about national "security"?

      See things this way:

      US govt --(controls or is in bed with)-->Microsoft
      Microsoft --(controls)--->Every desktop in the world.

      So you could say that US govt somehow controls every desktop system in the world.

      (ok, call me paranoid)
      • US govt --(controls or is in bed with)-->Microsoft Microsoft --(controls)--->Every desktop in the world

        Especially with TCPA and Palladium!

        I am pretty sure this thought as occured to the Chinese,Indians, European Union and a lot of other people. Why do you think that the Chinese are so keen on developing their own processors and OSes?

        (ok, call me paranoid)

        Yes and no. It is very unlikely to be an organised consipracy, but as the end result will be to make the US more powerful, I suspect other countries will regard it as irrelevant whether is planned or not.

      • You may have a point, but even from this perspective the lax attitude against MSFT is damaging. If other countries dump MSFT because of distrust against one very powerful foreign entity, also the US govt control via MSFT over the worlds desktops shall diminish. If they allow competitors to flourish (I think more than 50% of those, if not more, would also be american) they can try to control many of those and effectively hold on to influence more desktops in the world.

    • > The net effect for the US trade balance of a harsh attitude against MSFT therefore would surely be positive, instead of negative as is often thought.

      The problem is that the US government is less interested in the nation's economic health than it is in tomorrow's stock averages. With the government, most businesses, and many citizens feeling the same way, the only possible long-term result is the destruction of the economy.

  • by ToasterTester (95180) on Sunday November 03, 2002 @04:07PM (#4590097)
    I was talking about this with people at the SCALE Linux expo yesterday. Linux will have a tough time gaining market share in the U.S. for assorted reasons. But countries outside the U.S. software and hardware costs make running cutting edge system cost prohibitive. With Linux using Linux they can save enough money on software and reinvest in hardware, but also invest in developers to support their business and contribute back to world community. This will help improve Linux and OSS an draw the attention of more U.S. users. Increased use of Linux by business outside the U.S. will give Linux the track record U.S. enterprises want to see.
  • by Dunark (621237) on Sunday November 03, 2002 @04:14PM (#4590152)
    Wouldn't it be something if the United States ended up being a technological ghetto because it continued to use Microsoft products while the rest of the world moved on to Linux?
    • Actually, if you're talking servers and increasingly supercomputers, Linux has made great inroads in the US market--thanks to a company whose initials are I-B-M. :-)

      Why do you think IBM's Blue Gene supercomputer now in development runs Linux?
  • In Extremadura, the regional government paid a local company $180,000 to cobble together a set of freely available software. The resulting disk contains a suite of programs that includes an operating system, word processor, spreadsheet and other applications.

    My emphasis.

    This CANNOT be accurate; no one gets $180,000 to make "a cobble(d) together... disc" of free software.

    I almost fell off my chair when I read that!

    Mind you, they (the regional government) saves money even paying this much to one company...then there is the support contract...

    (4) Profit!
    • Re:Speechless (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Thoguth (203384) on Sunday November 03, 2002 @06:40PM (#4590974) Homepage
      That does seem pretty steep, but consider how much licenses for WinXP and Office at about $600 per computer. (that's not even getting into annual license fees for XP)

      It says they've already installed it on 10,000 systems and are planning to put it on a total of 100,000. So even at that seemingly ridiculous price, they've spent $180,000 instead of $6,000,000 on the first 10K systems, and in the long run will spend $180,000 instead of $60,000,000.

      In addition to saving $59,820,000 (!!!) in software costs, I imagine that, like many of us in the U.S., they're able to extend the life of their older hardware for additional savings.
    • Re:Speechless (Score:3, Insightful)

      by wkitchen (581276)
      This CANNOT be accurate; no one gets $180,000 to make "a cobble(d) together... disc" of free software.
      That was my first reaction as well. But I suspect the inaccuracy is in the description of what was paid for, rather than the amount paid. The article says they distributed 150,000 CD's. It doesn't say whether this was part of the $180K cost, but if so, I'd expect that 150K labelled CD's could account for about 1/4 of the cost all by itself. And "cobble together" might just be a poor description of having one or more programmers and other professionals doing all the needed localization of their distro, and possibly real world implementation/testing for their intended governmental uses. A few salaries can add up to $180K real fast.

      So, the number really doesn't sound unreasonable. And when that cost is spread over the 110,000 machines the article mentions (10K already converted to Linux, 100K planned in near future), that's only about $1.64 per computer. Sounds like a bargain to me. I'm sure they'll have additional costs by the time it's all done. But I suspect the development cost of customizing their Linux distro will be a fraction of the licensing cost of Windows on a similar number of installations. Plus, they won't be under Microsoft's thumb. And with more efforts like this, maybe the rest of us can eventually squirm out from under it too. Kudos to them.
  • How about Extreme Linux, or Durable Linux? Guess they must not speak english over there, or something. ;-)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 03, 2002 @04:42PM (#4590301)

    Aide: Sr. presidente, necesitamos más dinero para nuestras escuelas. Necesitamos comprar computadoras para nuestros niños.

    (Mr. President, we need more money for our schools. We need to buy computers for our kids.

    Presidente: Bien, podemos aumentar impuestos?

    (Should we raise taxes?)

    Aide: Ningún Sr.

    (No sir.)

    Presidente: Tengo una idea. Vamos anunciar que estamos cambiando a Linux. Debemos recibir una donación grande de Microsoft muy pronto. Después que podemos cambiar detrás.

    (I have an idea. Let's announce that we're switching to Linux. We should receive a large donation from Microsoft very shortly. After that we can switch back.)

    Aide: Idea excelente! Usted es un genio!

    Excellent idea! You are a genius!

  • "Microsoft regards such talk as too dramatic and distracting. It is software, after all, not war, company officials said. It is far more productive in their view to talk about the technical aspects of Windows vs. Linux."

    You want productive and dramatic? Here's the breakdown:

    Windows = $150+ (depending on where you get it)
    Linux = Free, Nominal fee if you buy a packaged distro

    Wow. Rocket Science. Those are the numbers that Joe and Jane Public understand. And once they find out that Linux does alot of what they want to do with computers, Linux is gonna look a whole lot better when they get to Wal-Mart.

    Now, let's look at it from a government perspective:

    Windows = Closed Source, any software is going to be both proprietary and costly.
    Linux = GNU GPL allows for total customization of the OS and applications without having to spend a fortune.

    Unless MS is in bed with a government (like it is with ours here in the US), that Government is going to like the idea that, instead of spending millions on licenses and proprietary software, they can spend under a million on a few programmers who can tailor everything to their exact specifications. And the big issue, Security, can be resolved during the process of customization. Any Geek worth his salt can recognize a potential security flaw in the code. With Windows, you're sitting on your laurels waiting for an announcement and patch (MS has been known to wait quite a while to release them), and also those ever sneaky EULA changes.

    It's a no-brainer, really. Linux and its OS brothers and sisters (and bastard children) are the most logical choice. Cost effective and customizable, something both Governments and Joe/Jane (in this case, Jose/Juanita) Puiblic can both understand.

    Looks like Gates' travel itinerary has grown again. First India, now Spain. If he has to keep giving out "free software" to convince people that his is the right path to take, MS will go broke.
    • Windows = $150+ (depending on where you get it)

      I think the big deal for most big companies/governments is:
      Windows = $150.
      Windows upgrade forced on you every year or two later: $100 + Sysadmin costs.
      MS Office - bundled with computer: $200 hidden price on computer.
      MS Office updates every couple years, because you need to stay current because Microsoft changes the file format: $200 every couple years or so.

      I think the Office thing is pissing people off. I think a lot of companies are realizing that its not in their best interests having their documents locked into a format that they have no control of. If the government wanted to really help folks out, make them open up the Office Document formats. It would help companies out, they'd know they could open up their documents no matter what MS changed the format to in the next version. What if you have a 10 year old document. Anybody have anything that can open that MacWrite II document that for some reason the IRS wants now?

      Add to that some amount of time chasing down licenses so the BSA jackboots don't kick down your door. As MS makes their licensing stricter, I think this will be a bigger factor in switching to Free Software/Open source. I donwload/buy one copy of OpenOffice, and I'm OK. There's no presumption of guit you get sometimes with MS and the BSA, there's nothing to pirate.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 03, 2002 @07:04PM (#4591095)
    When I read this, I thought about it for a few minutes and I realized that there's a number of interesting issues that make it worthwhile for governments in other countries to really carefully consider migrating to free software:

    1) Licensing: Software licensing is expensive and restrictive (particularly from everyone's favorite punching bag, Microsoft), and outside governments can likely save $200-$700 per machine on budgeting if they choose open-source alternatives. (Since their user base hasn't yet grown to be dependent on M$ products, they have far fewer usability issues when migrating their infrastructure-- just interoperability ones).

    2) Security: Linux/BSD Unix/etc. are open-source and since developers all over the world are reviewing them 24 hours a day (while you sleep, there's someone on the other side of the world looking at the code for the kernel, which is always kinda cool) security issues are found, publicized and fixed much sooner than from closed-source software vendors. Foreign governments in particular should find this attractive, I'd imagine.

    3) Maintainability: If a user needs a feature (say, the ability to use the new Euro currency symbol, or the inverted date-parsing of 23/01/2002) then, rather than having to wait for a proprietary company to develop a localized version of your software (several months to perhaps years of lead time if it's a big application that has a long product cycle) you can just go and change the source code as necessary to incorporate whatever you need.

    4) Economic independence: I have to believe that one of the reasons so many outside countries are considering switching to free software is in order to avoid having their information infrastructures become dependent upon systems from large American software vendors. After all, suppose economic sanctions or US trade policy towards a hostile nation shut off someone's software licenses. (Particularly for big, expensive applications that authenticate with a central server at the developer's control, this is a valid concern!) It seems like investing in owning your own IT structure (not licensing it) is a good choice to preserve national independence.

    5) Political Integrity: In an open-source system (particularly a voting system, which is the easiest example to choose) the user (voter or government) has a clear view of the inner workings and how everything goes. If I conduct an election, I want to make sure there are no bugs in the system, so I will inspect the source code and run a few tests to make sure everything works properly. If the program is closed-source, I cannot do that; I must rely on the manufacturer's assurances that everything works properly. And I don't have any way of auditing an election to make sure the votes were tabulated properly; the machine simply spits out a result, and I am bound to accept it. (This, of course, is one of the things that infuriates me about the new voting equipment in Florida! :-P)

    I just thought that, really, the confluence of all the above issues makes very compelling case for these governments to consider migrating to open-source software. I'm not surprised by the growing trend.... :)

    -d
    • Maintainability: If a user needs a feature (say, the ability to use the new Euro currency symbol, or the inverted date-parsing of 23/01/2002)

      ehm, I think you will find that it is a lot stranger to have the month first, and that requires explicit locale support. The US is the only country to have their dates backwards.

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