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MA Dept. of Revenue consider Linux 407

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the don't-fear-the-penguin dept.
hansroy writes "Massachusetts Department of Revenue is still using Windows 95 on the desktop. Faced with upgrade costs of $500-600 per user, they're considering Linux at about one-third the cost. This comes at a very good time, as the new governor of MA is making significant budget cuts this year."
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MA Dept. of Revenue consider Linux

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  • I dunno (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Erwos (553607) on Monday March 10, 2003 @05:59PM (#5480587)
    I gotta say, what's cheaper?
    1. $600 for WinXP
    2. Putting Linux on all the machines, configuring them to work interoperably with the Windows machines, and retraining everyone?

    No idea which really is cheaper, but I wouldn't automatically say "Linux is cheaper". Training costs money. Interoperability work costs money.

    -Erwos
    • Re:I dunno (Score:5, Funny)

      by B3ryllium (571199) on Monday March 10, 2003 @06:02PM (#5480615) Homepage
      "Linux is only free if your time has no value", the old saying goes. In this case, though, I think it would more suitably be "Linux is only free if your co-workers aren't completely fucking retarded". Sounds about right, right?
      • Re:I dunno (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Still, retraining is a one-time cost, whereas MS licensing is now an ongoing cost. Over two or three years, Linux becomes more and more cost effective, I'd guess.
      • Re:I dunno (Score:5, Interesting)

        by jedidiah (1196) on Monday March 10, 2003 @06:12PM (#5480723) Homepage
        The old aphorism is more accurately stated as:

        "Linux is only free if you have more surplus time than money."

        This is more often the case than not.

        • My only question is, since when does it cost $600 / station for WinXP upgrades?
          • Re:I dunno (Score:3, Informative)

            by xenocyst (618913)
            the article appears slashdotted, however....
            simple: $250 for Windows XP Pro, because you can't run the "Home" version in an office; and another $350 for MS Office XP Pro, because you can't run Office 9x on Windows XP Pro; this figure may also include the horrendus amount of time it takes to move machines from * to XP due to the shitty system deployment tools available

            I am a linux bigot, deal with it.
            • Re:I dunno (Score:3, Insightful)

              by pjt48108 (321212)
              Additionally, remember the licensing fees you need to pay for each client that accesses your MS server. In the end, it is easier to wake up and small the penguin. ;)
            • Re:I dunno (Score:3, Informative)

              by Radical Rad (138892)
              You forgot to include the retraining costs for migrating to XP and office XP. Alhough to be fair, it is probably no harder for a user to learn how to use the Microsoft products than to just use KDE and Star Office. Plus MS Office has a dancing paperclip which is fun to play with... for about 5 minutes... unless you're retarded.
        • Re:I dunno (Score:3, Interesting)

          by AppyPappy (64817)
          I work for the government. We have more time than money. Trust me on this one.
      • Re:I dunno (Score:5, Insightful)

        by 4of12 (97621) on Monday March 10, 2003 @06:46PM (#5480967) Homepage Journal

        Linux is only free if your time has no value

        Don't forget that in the public sector, there is a profound dislike of actually firing people (whether they deserve it or not).

        In an era of budget cutting, expenditures on non-people items are the first to go; then the raises, and only then, the employees themselves.

        That being the case, it is quite possible to chop IT spending down to Linux levels and to steathily reabsorb the retraining costs because you have the employee sitting around anyway. Once the retraining costs have been absorbed, you will have accomplished the upgrade and be unshackled from MS expensive licenses in the future.

        [This is kind of like how charging for computer time has a lower threshhold defined by the cost of electric power.]

      • Re:I dunno (Score:3, Funny)

        by Sax Maniac (88550)
        In this case, though, I think it would more suitably be "Linux is only free if your co-workers aren't completely fucking retarded".

        Uh, this is a gub'mint job we're talking about.

      • Re:I dunno (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Xtifr (1323) on Monday March 10, 2003 @10:32PM (#5482206) Homepage
        "Linux is only free if your time has no value"

        And conversely, Windows is only <whatever the sticker price happens to be> if your time has no value. Both systems have costs above and beyond the purchase price, not just Linux. And going from Win95 to XP would involve retraining as well. Things change -- I've still got a copy of MSWord 1.0 (for DOS and OS/2), and it bears little or no resemblance to the MSWord of today.
        • Re:I dunno (Score:3, Insightful)

          by B3ryllium (571199)
          The UI and file storage concepts have not changed very much at all between Windows 95 and Windows XP. Line, Box, X. Start. C:\. The graphics are weird and the log in screen is meaningful now, but that's about it. Linux is quite a bit different than that - "where's the C: drive?", etc - so it would be slightly more of a change. I'd definately not want to have to teach these DOR employees how to use a "real" computer.
    • Re:I dunno (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Rude Turnip (49495) <valuation@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Monday March 10, 2003 @06:05PM (#5480648)
      They would have to be retrained no matter what. You cannot go from Windows 95 to any NT-based Windows without a learning curve. Might as well save money in that regard.

      Up-front costs for interoperability will likely pay for themselves in the long run because the infrastructure will open itself up to a cross-platform environment, allowing for best-of-breed solutions regardless of the platform.
      • Re:I dunno (Score:3, Insightful)

        by cperciva (102828)
        They would have to be retrained no matter what. You cannot go from Windows 95 to any NT-based Windows without a learning curve.

        True... except that many employees (certainly not all, but enough to have an impact on costs) would already have been using Windows XP elsewhere (eg, at home).
      • Re:I dunno (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Help me out here. Please point out the big learning curve itmes for transitioning between any of the WinXX platforms.

        And I'm not talking about the admin / servicing aspect. Basic Joe-Desktop stuff. Come on, start listing them.

        I'm sure the WinXX to Linux list would be considerable longer. And more frustrating.

        Thats quite a buzz-word collection you have going in the second paragraph by the way. I wrote it down for tommorrow.

    • Re:I dunno (Score:3, Informative)

      by Tailhook (98486)
      The difference between win95 and XP is cause for a retrain all by itself. Remember, these are municipal governement employees. Mostly clerks. Most of them don't know what version of Microsoft's bootloader their running and won't care they've been switched to something else.
    • Re:I dunno (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Mnemic (33264) <mnemic@@@wickedawesome...net> on Monday March 10, 2003 @06:07PM (#5480672) Homepage
      I agree training costs money but MANY goverment agencies are using very old usualy custom software, many times running on *nix Backends to do their work.

      The OS is just a mouse for them to double click icons. It would not be very hard to create a new interface to run in linux, and slap an icon on their desktop to run that interface, which looks very familiar to Windows, and still allows them to work comfertably in the custom software they have been using for some time.

      It really all depends on what apps they have been using to determine if they need to retrain MANY things or not.
    • You make an excellent point. In the short term Linux might not be cheaper. In the long term however, what is going to be cheaper for continuing upgrades, given that the retraining (which might be minimal) only needs to be done once, but you have to pay Microsoft every few years.
    • Re:I dunno (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Ami Ganguli (921) on Monday March 10, 2003 @06:08PM (#5480684) Homepage

      Put WinXP, Gnome, KDE, and Win95 next to each other and click around a little. (Make sure you don't set up some wierdo theme - just use the defaults.)

      WinXP is less like Win95 than either Gnome or KDE. You could just as easily argue that the retraining costs for XP would be greater than for Linux because MS gratuitously messed with the user interface.

      As for interoperability - it's pretty straightforward and you only have to do it once. After that you duplicate the configuration on the rest of the machines.

    • Re:I dunno (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Hiro Antagonist (310179) on Monday March 10, 2003 @06:12PM (#5480716) Journal
      It's more than just the "$600 for WinXP". They've got to purchase licenses for Win2K (XP is a half-assed upgrade, W2K is at least a half-decent OS), plus hardware upgrades for every system, new servers, etc. And they'll have to train everyone on the new applications, and they'll have to port existing applications to the newer Windows architecture (backwards-compatible my ass).

      So, they've got to buy more hardware, and do the almost the same amount of work as they would if they migrated to Linux. Sounds more expensive to me.

      Not to mention that they could chuck some of the cash they save at IBM or Sun for some nice back-end application servers, so that the next time they "upgrade", it's a transparent process to the users.
      • Re:I dunno (Score:3, Funny)

        by GMFTatsujin (239569)
        XP is a half-assed upgrade, W2K is at least a half-decent OS

        So this is a question of "is the glass half-assed or half-decent" then?

      • Re:I dunno (Score:3, Insightful)

        by molarmass192 (608071)
        ... and don't forget Licensing v6. There's nothing like perpetual licensing costs and having an upgrade forced down your throat every 3 years when you've been using the same OS for 8 years without the need to upgrade.
        • Re:I dunno (Score:3, Informative)

          by Erore (8382)
          You're right, you dunno.

          Licensing v6.0 has a few different elements that you are not distinguishing between. You can purchase the upgrade license, such as going from Windows 2000 to Windows XP, or you can purchase Software Assurance, or you can purchase a full license. You are speaking of Software Assurance which entitles the licensee to upgrades for the term of the contract (2 or 3 years depending upon license program).

          See, it entitles you to upgrade. You are not forced to upgrade, the big hand of almighty Bill G does not reach down and strike your computer with the blight that is Windows Longhorn. However, if at the end of your term Longhorn was the latest version available, but you were still running Windows 98 you are entitled to make the switch to Longhorn whenever you want. Meaning, if 5 years pass since your Software Assurance expired you can still upgrade to Longhorn, because it was the latest version available when your Software Assurance contract expired. However, if you want to upgrade to the version past Longhorn, you will have to pay full price, there are no upgrades because you didn't continue your enrollment in Software Assurance.

          The reason people go with Software Assurance is because it is the cheapest alternative if you do upgrade with each OS release. However, if you are like DOR in MA you haven't upgraded since Win 95. Therefore, you probably don't want Software Assurance. You just want a regular upgrade.

          But, DOR missed out on the chance for a regular upgrade price, that deadline ended last July 31st. Now they are in the time period where they must pay full price (minus volume discounts) for a switch from Win 95 to XP.
    • Re:I dunno (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Sloppy (14984)
      1. $600 for WinXP

      2. Putting Linux on all the machines, configuring them to work interoperably with the Windows machines, and retraining everyone?
      In #1, you left out out the part about "putting XP on all the machines, configuring them to work interoperabily with the old Windows machines, and retraining everyone about XP." If you're going to throw that into the cost of Linux, include it in the cost of XP too.
    • Re:I dunno (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Publicus (415536) on Monday March 10, 2003 @06:46PM (#5480968) Homepage

      You can't just assume that WinXP would take no "interoperability time" and that it would take no retraining.

      Windows XP is radically different from Windows 95. It's going to take people time to learn how to get around.

      You're assuming they have Windows Servers, maybe they have Novell servers, maybe they telnet to a mainframe application. In the latter case configuration of Linux would be a snap.

      If they think ahead well enough they'll mount /home and /usr from a file server. All of the machines will have the same software and the users will have their home folder, no matter what machine they get.

      I've worked as a tech in a Windows environment, migrating users (including a finance department) from Windows NT 4/Windows 95 on Novell to Windows 2000 on Active Directory. It certainly didn't get done by itself, and I would have a hard time proving that Linux would take longer if done right.

      It's all about planning.

      • Re:I dunno (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Politburo (640618) on Monday March 10, 2003 @07:33PM (#5481269)
        Windows XP is radically different from Windows 95.

        "Radically" is going a little far. From a system administration point of view, XP could be called radically different. To the end user, XP is very much the same. When changing from 98SE and Word 97 to XP and Office XP, my mom had no problems doing the exact same tasks in Word. Same with Freecell. Sure, she doesn't know the new way to change the IP of the computer, but she didn't need to know in the first place.

        Recently at work, we moved from NT5 to XP. Almost all people had no issues whatsoever with the new OS. Some little things behaved differently, but the general feel of the system was the same.

        My point is, for everyday tasks, and to a "normal" computer user, Windows* is the same as Windows*.
    • by PetiePooo (606423) on Monday March 10, 2003 @06:59PM (#5481058)
      The city of Largo, FL, has been running Linux for a while now, and everyone seems to love it. Their IT budget is 1.3% of the total municipal budget, as compared to the normal 3 to 4%. The tides seem to be turning this way, and will continue to as more an more municipalities see the potential savings.

      Newsforge article [newsforge.com]
      First /. article [slashdot.org]
      Latest /. article [slashdot.org]
    • why bother installing Linux in so many machines if you can just pop in 1 server, remove hard drives and boot all the client machines through the network.

      The best incentinve is administration, fine tune 1 server, and all clients are fine tunned as well, no sinchronisation or anything, install a new version of software, they will all be able to use it instantly!

      So instead of repeating tasks all over the building, you will have more time to spend at slashdot! 8)
    • Re:I dunno (Score:3, Insightful)

      by FreekyGeek (19819)
      This "retraining everyone" bogon is a long-standing myth that needs to be destroyed permanently.

      Yeah, OK - five years ago when you HAD to know UNIX to use linux, that may have been true. But today it's not only possible but easy to give a Windows-trained user a Linux desktop that looks and functions almostidentically to a Windows desktop.

      Wnat to open an application? Double-click the icon or select it from a menu. Want to boldface that text? Press the "bold" button in the toolbar, or the keyboard command.

      I mean, really, exactly what needs to be retrained? For the end user, the interface is almost exactly the same. Linux is finally at the point where I COULD sit my mother down at a linux desktop and have her creating documents, surfing the web, and sending email within a few minutes. It's not as if Linux applications work significantly differently from the most common Windows applications. All the same things are there - icons, radio buttons, drop-downs, spinners, toolbars, and so on.

      Granted, the system administrators often definitely require retraining. But the end users? With an intelligently set up Linux box, the learning curves for common tasks for end users is rapidly approaching nil.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 10, 2003 @06:01PM (#5480604)
    ...is *very cheap* Windows licenses.

    Which in itself is not bad. It is just M$ feeling the weight of competition.

    Hang in tight, Bill. It will get worse ;-)
  • One third? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Kurin (629086)
    So it'll cost $200 for Linux?

    I take it they mean training, right?

    I wonder how long it would take to train all of those people on Linux. It's not like they're using Linux for a server, it's just average joe using a computer. Chances are they haven't even heard of Linux (the people using those desktops).

    • Re:One third? (Score:3, Informative)

      by deego (587575)
      > I wonder how long it would take to train all of those people on Linux. It's not like they're using Linux for a server, it's just average joe using a computer. Chances are they haven't even heard of Linux (the people using those desktops).

      Only the sysads need to know the nitty gritty and the indepth stuff.. one good sysadmin can configure the default desktop for scores of users, who would find the desktop very point-and-clicky.. and require minimal training..
    • So it'll cost $200 for Linux?
      I take it they mean training, right?

      I think that that would also include licensing (read: support) costs as well.

      Linux itself may be free, but -- as good as you may think it is -- it's going to require some support. Might as well pay for that up front and know that you're going to get good support.

      This is the attitude that RedHat expected, and they do seem to be making a profit off of the business model. I'm betting that they'd be happy to give a $100/machine bulk support license to the MA government.

      Sometimes it's nice to know that you can escalate a problem to the people who helped write the software. Even if you don't use that capability verfy often, when you need it: you tend to really need it. That by itself can sometimes be worth the price of the rest of the support licenses.

  • by caffeine_monkey (576033) on Monday March 10, 2003 @06:02PM (#5480616)
    with the way the mob run everything in this state, i wouldn't be surprised that if this was implemented, you'd soon find the director of the mass department of revenue at the bottom of boston harbor, with a hundred pounds of linux distros tied to his ankles and a copy of windows xp jammed into his mouth.
  • MS Discount (Score:5, Funny)

    by djchristensen (472087) on Monday March 10, 2003 @06:03PM (#5480633)
    First prize to whoever posts the first "MS reps offer substantial discounts" story.
  • IMO (Score:4, Interesting)

    by intermodal (534361) on Monday March 10, 2003 @06:03PM (#5480636) Homepage Journal
    Running on 95 at this point is a good example of actually getting use out of your hardware and software. If you don't have an absolute need for the newest, snazziest, fastest machine in the world with the latest and "greatest" (YMMV) operating system and software, then don't bother. Having them consider linux is the best thing they can do, since even if a vendor drops support, updating one's system is free if you do it right. Imagine being an administrator of an all-Gentoo government department...you could easily update everyone from your own desk via terminal emulation, simultaneously from your office, while maintaining that humming little pentium II (if that high) buzzing in the corner as a portage download mirror for speed...

    ah, a man has gotta have a right to dream, eh?
    • Imagine being an administrator of an all-Gentoo government department...you could easily update everyone from your own desk via terminal emulation, simultaneously from your office, while maintaining that humming little pentium II (if that high) buzzing in the corner as a portage download mirror for speed...

      Although, consider that these systems running Win95 probably aren't the fastest systems around. Therefore, do you really want to do an emerge some-big-program on a gutless computer and wait 3 days while it builds?

      I could see setting up a beefy server and building packages on that, then distributing the packages to the users. But, if you're going to do that, why not just use Debian as a base, run your own package repository, and have apt-get update cron jobs on the desktops?

      • both options are good. I merely used Gentoo as an example because it is what I personally use. Compiling on a central system is all dependent of course upon how homogenized each system is. If Jimmy Manager has a pentium 233 MMX and Jane Secretary has a pentium 133 without MMX, I cannot use the same optimizing codes in my /etc/make.conf as Jane lacks MMX. So you would have to do it in batches, which is also doable. While it would be good to gradually upgrade a bit (Pentium II systems for example are very inexpensive to get parts for, or even full systems at this point), running an emerge at night wouldn't cause problems, nor would having everyone leave their machine on for a weekend while an emerge runs on a larger program.
    • This "getting use out of your hardware and software" is pretty common in municipal systems. I saw genuine Sperry terminals in use by clerks processing election returns in Fort Collins, CO three years back. That would be Sperry equipment manufactured prior to the Sperry + Burroughs = Unisys merger, circa 1986. No telling when it was purchased originally, but figuring in a couple years prior to the merger and the possibility that they're still in use, you're going on two decades!
    • Actually, I think debian would be better suited for this. Any working system of automatic dependency resolving is a must, but building from source isn't necessary.

      While you *can* use gentoo with binaries, it isn't very useful, and debian is much more tried and tested. Packages have to be well tested to get into stable.

      • i was merely using an example because I personally use Gentoo. Debian is also well suited to it. I just suggest optimization of everything possible on older machines, and especially RAM upgrades if the person using them needs to use large files or multitask.
  • by green pizza (159161) on Monday March 10, 2003 @06:04PM (#5480645) Homepage
    What's the reason for their upgrade? Windows 95 + Office 95 is still a decent combination and probably does more than what 99% of their users will ever need. Security isn't too great out of the box, but it's not that hard to configure the clients and/or a firewire in a sane manner.

    I don't understand this "we must upgrade" mindset. If the wiz-bang product worked wonders when it was new, isn't is still working just as good today? My office recently replaced hundreds of P3/933 machines (running Win2K + Office2K) with P4/2.5G machines running WinXP + OfficeXP. Aside from the different default color and button theme, nobody really noticed a difference.... other than having to migrate files to the new boxes. The new machine rollout wasn't needed and was expensive... but the IT department said it "NEEDED TO BE DONE".

    I don't get it.
    • HEy, everythings working fine, why dont we cut the IT departments budget......
    • by HaeMaker (221642) on Monday March 10, 2003 @06:10PM (#5480696) Homepage
      The hardware is probably failing, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to find drivers for '95 for new hardware. Instead of running systems with different OSes, which becomes a support nightmare. Mass upgrade.
    • by BWJones (18351) on Monday March 10, 2003 @06:15PM (#5480745) Homepage Journal
      I don't understand this "we must upgrade" mindset.

      The problem is that Microsoft is no longer supporting older releases thus "forcing" many users to upgrade regardless of their satisfaction with the current OS. This is what happens when your business model relys on folks constantly upgrading and is a problem with the PC market. Apple appears to buck the trend in many ways in that while they do not officially support really old versions of their MacOS Classic OS, you can still download it from Apple's servers for computers that cannot support more modern versions of the OS. This is one of the many reasons why I purchase Macs. They simply are functional machines for a lot longer than Wintel stuff, they hold their value longer, and they run lots of commonly used software making my return on investment much higher with Macintosh than with Wintel.

    • When you buy a new computer, it will not have Win95. Unless they bought full versions of Win95, they aren't allowed to move Win95 to the new computers.

      Even if they have many, legal boxes of Win95 in a warehouse, it may not run well on new hardware. Suppose they buy a system with a VIA chipset. Will the VIA 4-in-1 drivers support Win95? And I sure hope they have the OEM version with FAT32 support; FAT16 really sucks on huge disks. (Max partition size is 2GB, and to get that you need an incredibly huge cluster size.)

      They may actually want to be able to use USB devices. Even if they have that really rare OEM build of 95 that supports some USB stuff, no one ships drivers for that. Win98 is the oldest MS system that anyone provides drivers for.

      And of course they may actually want a system that crashes less.

      Your example, of replacing PIII/933 boxes running Win2K, makes much less sense. Especially since WinXP probably runs decently on a PIII (just add lots of RAM).

      steveha
  • Their server appears in dire need of upgrade, it's slashdotted already.

    ...wait... I just got the first couple characters, all is not lost...

    What I'm curious about is what software they plan to run on their desktop. If it's the standard office package then cool. If they run, like some public agencies do, canned software they they may have issues with getting that ported or finding alternatives, which isn't so cool (unless the alternatives are equal or better in useability and performance.)

    Still have the brown screen. Looks grim.

  • hopefully it works. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by capoccia (312092) on Monday March 10, 2003 @06:09PM (#5480685) Journal
    hopefully it works for them. most companies are so tied to windows and x86 they couldn't get out for anything near $200 a seat. they would need custom software to interact with their old data in proprietary format. many would need custom software just to allow them to continue working because no open-source software or even linux software is available to do the things they need for their business.

    for example, i use a 3d cadd package (solid edge) to model parts and make drawings. as far as i know, the closest thing for linux is the army's brl-cad. which isn't very close at all.

    in addition, our parts database has pdf's, doc's, xls's and such as part of the oracle database. there is a web frontend, but what good is it if you can't open the microsoft attachments.

    there are many other layers of shackles in place, and there is no way anyone would easily be able to change platforms.

    linux may work in this situation where the switch is from windows 95. any place the dor switches to will require new file formats, new programs and more training for everyone. so there is no net loss directly associated with switching to linux in particular.
    • in addition, our parts database has pdf's, doc's, xls's and such as part of the oracle database. there is a web frontend, but what good is it if you can't open the microsoft attachments.

      Never used Linux, have you?? Those are all openable under Linux -- especially the Win-95 versions which are the best reverse-engineered (if only due to the time that they've been out).

      there are many other layers of shackles in place, and there is no way anyone would easily be able to change platforms.

      Most such changes are structural in nature... Build once, deploy to the entire enterprise. Those sorts of things amortize very nicely with OS, but not so much so with MS per-seat licenses.

      Since you'd have to teach a bunch of '95 users how to use XP anyways, training costs would probably be no different than with Linux. When I forced my roommate to deal with my Linux box, he had few months of "how do you do this" -- maybee once per week. After that he was an absolute Linux booster. Even though the machine could dual boot to Windows, he almost never did that after the first month -- no need to. Linux worked so much better for him.

  • Familiarity, ha! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sloppy (14984) on Monday March 10, 2003 @06:11PM (#5480702) Homepage Journal
    Rebecca LaBrunerie, product manager for Microsoft's worldwide licensing, said the software giant is working with DOR and other state agencies to convince them of the benefits of Microsoft. Those benefits, she said, include familiarity, ease, application and productivity.
    Heh, familiarity. My boss talked to a user this morning who "upgraded" to XP. User needed to add a printer. Anyone here seen XP? It's about as "familiar" to a Win95/98/ME/NT4/2k user as CP/M is. There's a "classic mode" but to make it act like MS' old products, but it's still pretty bizarre.

    That isn't to say UI can't ever be changed (I'm not arguing against progress, nor making any comments on whether XP's approach is progress), but the "familiarity" argument for staying with MS is total bullshit.

    The "ease" argument is bullshit too. You have to turn off the firewall that comes with XP to use Win98's SMB printer. Yeah, that's really intuitive and easy. Today, somebody paid a couple hundred dollars for that "ease."

    Applications: this one is true; you might be locked into MS. Tell your vendor you want the next wave of custom apps to be platform independent. It is inexcusable for most business software to not be super-portable these days: PYTHON ROCKS and there's almost nothing it can't do (well, not counting realtime stuff, like monitoring the neutron rods in your reactor ;-). And I'm sure the Java and perl guys have something to say as well. If your vendors are still creating unportable apps, either find other vendors, or at least tell them that their decisions are costing YOU money.

    BTW, I mean that about portability. Don't trust Linux either. Just be able to use anything and then whatever platform comes out on top .. will come out on top. I don't see Tux's flippers shaking with fear over that prospect.

  • by mrsam (12205) on Monday March 10, 2003 @06:11PM (#5480710) Homepage
    A) Ballmer should be booking a flight to MA right about now?

    B) So I understand that the state estimates that they will have to pay $300 per new PC, with no cost for Linux? Who wants to be that Ballmer will now offer to sell the state XP licenses for fifty bucks a pop.

    Now what's going to happen next is going to be intereting. Microsoft will argue that fifty bucks a pop would still be cheaper than the cost of retraining their orkers.

    That's absolutely true. The only realistic way I see for Linux to be a viable option here would be either if:

    A) The state intends to load Linux on their existing, aging PCs, thus eliminating the hardware costs alltogether, but were this true the story would've reflected that

    B) The state was so scrapped for cash that even the fifty bucks per XP is too much, and they do not consider retraining as a budget line item

    C) The state is smart enough to realize the monetary value of vendor lock-in. The greatest savnigs the state will realize with the Linux solution, of course, is the elimination of vendor lock-in. That's something that Microsoft will desperately try to avoid mentioning, but their popular trick is to first act as if they're going to give away copies of XP at rock-bottom price, only forgeting to emphasize that the "fire sale" is only for the first two or three years of the annual XP subscription license, and after the honeymoon is over, you bend over, grab your ankles, and start shitting out XP license fees...

    • I believe MA is was one of the dissenting states in the MS trial. On the other hand, that would have been the Attorney General's office, and the AG in Massachusetts is elected, and is a Democrat (Tom Reilly of the Nanny Murder case fame), while Mitt "Olympics" Romney is a Republican.
  • Why upgrade? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by zerocool^ (112121) on Monday March 10, 2003 @06:12PM (#5480722) Homepage Journal
    Not to ask the obvious, but why upgrade?

    I mean, if the computers were built for a specific purpose, and they're still used for that purpose, why upgrade?

    Reasons to upgrade:
    1.) Your programs require more system resources. This is fair. We were using QuickBooks from ages ago until they stopped providing tax tables for our version, forcing us to upgrade *grr* and the new version has new bells and whistles so that it bogs down the P-90 w/ 32 megs of ram.
    2.) You want support from Microsoft. But, then, if you really wanted to install all the updates for windows 95, wow. That's a lot of updates, probably adding enough to your system to bog it down alone.

    But, then, why not upgrade the hardware and install the same copies of Win95? You'd be surprised how many programs will work with win95.

    Or, how much do new copies of windows 98 cost? I don't know if they're still available, or how that works. You may have to do the MS stupid "upgrade to downgrade" thing.

    If you want to keep windows there are lots of alternatives to look at. I say this because developing new software for linux and training your average high school grad 40 year old secretary to use linux won't be cheap. Something like RedHat 8 is intuitive, but it ain't perfect. Keep in mind that intuitive doesn't mean everything - familiarity is much more important.

    I'm all for linux, but I'm also all for lowering the TCO. And i know that over time, linux is definately cheaper. But, then, how many politicians look long term? You look short term so that you get re-elected. Long term politicians get voted out of office.

    ~Will

  • A little off topic, but IMHO government is the servent of the people. When times are bad they should be the first to take a loss, and when times are good government should be the last sector to recover. CA could especially take a hint.
  • The usual question will come up ... are they really considering Linux, or are they just proclaiming it to grab the Evil Empire's attention, hoping to be offered deep discounts on the new version of Windows?
    • by Soko (17987) on Monday March 10, 2003 @06:40PM (#5480927) Homepage
      Doesn't matter.

      What you have demonstrated is that there is now real competition, something that has been absent from the Desktop OS market for far too long.

      Customers will start switching unless Microsoft does something - lowering prices, adding more value, reducing TCO - anything to try and keep them in the fold. Capitalism at work.

      We win.

      Soko
  • by Zapdos (70654) on Monday March 10, 2003 @06:17PM (#5480765)
    I really like the "if it is not broke dont fix it" group here.

    We are talking about windows 95.. Guess what? It is broke. It has a MTBF of about 180 hours,

    The product is no longer supported by the manufacturer. This means no more security updates. Windows 95 was never a very secure networked computer OS. I am sure that the Massachusetts Department of Revenue, could use some security.

    • Except that with File and Printer Sharing disabled, and a reasonably recent Mozilla, there's nothing to exploit on a 95 box. Just get people to shut their PCs down at night, and you'll avoid the MTBF monster, too.
      Next time try knowing something about what you post.
      • so that we can all admire its stony security.

        Ah, how soon they forget....

        - The IP stack can be remotely crashed.

        - Unencrypted password hashes are sent across the wire.

        - The password cache can be decrypted and read by anyone on the machine.

        And this is just off the top of my head.

        The important thing here is that weaknesses in the networking protocols are not just bugs that can be fixed, they're design flaws. Microsoft just have not backported the most recent RPC stack to W95, so there's no way you can get proper network security. (Why would they bother? It's not like they care about customers who haven't paid their upgrade tax.)
  • by cannon_trodder (264217) on Monday March 10, 2003 @06:20PM (#5480788)
    A company I used to work for had around 6 users on terminals connected to a Unix box. I was experimenting with Linux at the time and was taken aback by these users who had been running tape backups, as root, from the command line years before I ever did!

    Anyway - the point!!! :-

    People will use *anything* at work. If the average user is sat in front of a well controlled desktop with easy access to the software they need, they'll care "not a jot" whether it's Linux, Windows or "Whatever"-soft (bought from "Whatever" local company who can supply the goods cheap enough).

    As long as the Linux desktop crashes *less* than Win95 (ahem) then at least this may be an another outlet which exposes Linux to the average person in a positive way - as long as they can get stuff done on it.

    In businessess I have worked in, price has always been the deciding factor and this might just be where Linux has the perceived edge to the business. Maybe business is the (indirect) way to the user desktop?
    • Plus anyone going from an 7 to 8 year old OS is going to have to imagine where things will be in 7 to 8 years time. Microsoft's new license model isn't good for the infrequent upgrader, combine this with the increasing adoptance of Linux it's easy to see why they're keen to switch.

      It might be a good or bad decision (depending on how well the admin guys are), but they will be able to say they've tried to save money.
  • by MisterFancypants (615129) on Monday March 10, 2003 @06:33PM (#5480878)
    My maternal grandmother is considering the possibility of switching to Linux. Citing increased budgetary pressure from her retired lifestyle, she thinks moving to Linux might save enough money to get her dentures professionally cleaned. Truly this means Linux is well on its way to being the #1 Operating System on the PLANET!
  • Oregon is moving toward passage of a measure [theregister.co.uk] that would direct all government agencies to 'consider' open source products when making IT procurement decisions.

    While that is not an outright requirement, cash strapped states will invariably start looking deeply at their commitments to proprietary software.

    My state government is screwed. We are the home of the Beast.

  • Potluck Economics (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    With better information and ability of individuals to provide a check on mass media, this will create standards that go beyond price. It's great that people consider Linux because it's cheaper than Windows, but perhaps that's not the full story of what's going on.

    Linux wins on two fronts. Not only is it cheaper, but it's also better. Let's use an analogy of food as an example and consider Microsoft as the McDonald's of the computer industry. Just about everyone goes there every once in a while. It has cheap prices, and the food tastes good, just like Windows used to be relatively cheap, and looked good too. It served the lowest common denominator.

    Now, however, we have this new kind of food coming out, and a new consciousness about health, nutrition, the environment, first, and price in a very distant second. This food _simultaneously_ redifines the playing fieild in terms of both price and quality. Sure, it has some way to go before it's complete, but the people that are aware of the ingredients going in absolutely know that it will crush other competition once it comes out of the oven. It's composed of the most fantastic, nutritious, tasty, ecosystem-friendly ingredients. Some of us are tasting the ingredients going in, and while the end users (or customers) are saying "we don't want a meal composed of just boring x", we respond, no, this is just one ingredient in the most fantastic potluck ever conceived.

    Those that don't bring something to the table may eat anyway, but if they are allowed to bring something to the table, it should be at least as good as what's already there. Some redundancy is ok, like two different types of the same dish, but overall people try to coordinate so that there can be sufficient variety to solve the main categories.

    We can get the basic requirements out of the way, and then start allowing for more specialized dishes. Then, certain people can start skipping producing meals if they have an idea for a dish that requires much more time to prepare, but will be an incredible treat once it arrives.

    If meals can be taken care of, maybe other types of goods can come next, and people can skip producing for meals as long as people trust that they're producing other goods. We may not require perfection in terms of allocation of services, but be satisfied with evidence of effort. It all depends on the infrastructure to coordinate such a feat. Perhaps this is what we're working on now.
  • Considering wha ? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by InodoroPereyra (514794) on Monday March 10, 2003 @06:38PM (#5480917)
    Look, enough is enough. How many stories about X considering a switch from win* to *linux are going to be posted by Slashdot editors ?. This is just ridiculous. First of all, GNU/Linux is enough into the mainstream as to waste time with "potential users" stories. Second, and more importantly, many companies, governments, agencies, etc., try to fscking negotiate with MS for a discoung and this is way they announce that they are "considering" Linux. I mean, come on, this is not a secret ! Let's get real. Let's talk about real users using Linux for real. There are plenty :-)
  • They wouldn't need the upgrade if the voters had struck down the DOR during the last election.
  • If the DOR is thinking about it, then so much the citys and other public / goverment offices. As soon as one jumps the ship, the others will follow.

    Just hope they know what they're doing.
  • I work for the MA Dept. of Public Health.

    I forsee a lot of problems with this. The state WAN people, will /never/ go for this. They will have a hissy fit a the thought of having Linux on the network, as it's too 'insecure'. Next, MA Govt. has a massive Exchange system going on, I doubt Linux/SMTP will plug into this nicely, WAN people (who also do a lot with the Exchange system) will also have a major issue with this.

    Also, why oh why after pushing for years over at DPH for a Linux standard (big step for adoption), DOR is going to start doing it? Feh.

    Again, I am not speaking in any official sense, just my gut feelings. I do hope they pull it off though.
  • Why upgrade to anything? Windows 95 should work fine as a basic workstation to do whatever writing and reports you need. I can't see why you would need to upgrade to anything. I guess I can see how it would be a big deal to the nazish open source zealots who are appalled by the use of evil closed source programs. But all in all there really is no reason they should need to upgrade. Seems like a waste of the state's already feeble funds.

    - ./ disclamer for the thin-skinned: Btw, don't get me wrong. I am an open source advocate myself, but some people get a little nuts about it imho. But feel free to +1 troll if you must.
  • by urbieta (212354) on Monday March 10, 2003 @06:51PM (#5481006) Homepage Journal
    One P4 computer can serve dozes of linux X window terminals terminals, smoothly running the latest OpenOffice and Evolution replacing MS Office and Outlook, and saving productivity loss because of better uptimes, less software failures and virus inmunity.

    Even if they have 10BaseT, LTSP.org will work OK 8)
  • by Big Sean O (317186) on Monday March 10, 2003 @07:11PM (#5481138)
    I've worked for local and state governments for over 5 years now in different capacities and can honestly say two things...

    1. Typical Users don't need much: The typical office worker needs e-mail and word processing. If they're lucky, they get a browser and an IM client. If they're making more money, they probably need a PIM, a spreadsheet, and presentation software. Just show them how they need to do what they need to do and they'll (hopefully) stay out of the way...

    2. Atypical Users can adapt quickly to a new OS: If your job includes specialized software (for example, graphics packages, CAD, GIS, database) you will have more of a learning curve, but you should be able to climb it faster. Of course, this is also the group with the most problems, compliants, requirements.

      The third group, system administrators, don't really count. True, they have the highest learning curve, and they're success if often tied to a particular platform, but since they're upgrading from Windows 95, they're screwed no matter what you do...

      In short, the greater the number of power users, the more of a problem you will have. I'm guessing MA Dept of Revenue has a lot of data entry clerks, accountants, lawyers, and bureaucrats (all group 1 types). The people who maintain the databases and manage the data (group 2 types) will be greatly affected, but they'll probably be pleased to get away from Win95. And as usual, the SysOp gets the shaft.
  • by tres (151637) on Monday March 10, 2003 @07:38PM (#5481289) Homepage
    I've always thought this "retraining cost" argument was a ruse.

    I mean, what exactly are the retraining costs when the majority of users utilize maybe three applications? On the whole, office workers don't utilize "advanced" features available in the software anyway.

    For example: how many secretaries are using Word Styles to author documents? Even though Word Styles are available, and take some amount of training to understand, if they're not being used, why worry about it?

    What it boils down to is the applications. If those applications are available, and operate in a similar way, it doesn't matter what platform they are running on. The overhead involved in user training is much ado about nothing.

    Now, don't get me wrong, there's a number of reasons why continuing down the Microsoft treadmill could make more sense (for now). But retraining isn't one of them.
  • by zerofoo (262795) on Monday March 10, 2003 @08:07PM (#5481454)
    I wish I had a buck for every time I asked a secretary what operating system their computer runs and they answered "Office 2000".

    Can you imagine training these people?

    Secretary to IT person: Where are my documents?

    IT person to Secretary: They are on /mnt/winserver/docs.

    Secretary to IT person: What drive letter is that?

    IT person to Secretary: AAARGH!{jumps out a window}

    Yeah, i'm sure linux will be MUCH cheaper.

    -ted
  • by Eric Damron (553630) on Monday March 10, 2003 @09:09PM (#5481848)
    The cost of training the average user isn't that big of a deal. How hard is it to click on an icon? I understand that they do some of that in Windows also. All word processors work in a similar way. A spreadsheet is a spreadsheet. Email is email.

    All staff have to be trained at some point to use all these things. Clicking in Windows or clicking in Linux, it is about the same. Training to use a word processor under Linux is no more expensive than training to use a word processor under windows.

    The real training is not so much with the average user but with the support staff. Linux is very different under the hood than Windows. But again staff must be trained and retrained every time that Microsoft upgrades their server software. The new active directory is way different than the normal domain model.

    The question is not whether the training is expensive the question is do you want to train to use Linux or Windows.

    With Windows it seems like you get lead by the nose down the path of expensive proprietary software. That doesn't happen with Linux.

    • Largo and training (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Quila (201335)
      IIRC, the biggest training problems when Largo switched were along the lines of "How do I set my wallpaper" and "How do I take my documents home?"
  • by chiller2 (35804) on Monday March 10, 2003 @10:21PM (#5482158) Homepage
    At the company I work for, we were in a similar boat with many old Windows 95 installations, with replacement hardware only having drivers for Windows 98 or higher, and so on. Last summer we made the decision to move from Windows to Linux based primarily on the Windows upgrade cost.

    The replacement consisted of RedHat Linux (7.x until 8.x came out), Gnome, OpenOffice and Mozilla. The choice of RedHat over other distros was made more because the other techs were new to Linux too and I might not be there all the time. The servers still run Slackware >:)

    The results have been great and the staff had far fewer problems than expected and interestingly 98% of the tech calls that come in are from the on the road sales guys having problems using XP, which came preloaded on their laptops.

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