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Swiss Canton Abandons Linux Migration 442

Posted by timothy
from the eaten-employees-eh? dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The Swiss canton Solothurn has put a stop to their ongoing migration to Linux. [Original, in German.] The project started in 2001, and has been under harsh public criticism ever since. The responsible CIO resigned this summer. Solothurn plans to convert all desktop computers to Windows 7 in 2011."
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Swiss Canton Abandons Linux Migration

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  • by sxpert (139117) on Saturday September 18, 2010 @05:13AM (#33618482)

    but it seems like this migration was rather ill prepared...

  • by tenco (773732) on Saturday September 18, 2010 @05:50AM (#33618588)
    Hehe. "angefressen" is colloquial and could be translated as "pissed". Obviously lost in translation, because "fressen" = (roughly) "to gorge".
  • Quick Summary (Score:5, Informative)

    by RAMMS+EIN (578166) on Saturday September 18, 2010 @06:05AM (#33618658) Homepage Journal

    For those who prefer a quick human translation over a state-of-the-art Google Translate result, here is what I gleaned from the article. German is not my first language; corrections and other improvements welcome.

    Short summary:

      - The project wasn't going well from the beginning

      - The project definitely failed, but you can't entirely blame that on Linux

      - Lack of organizational talent definitely played a role in the failure

      - In a survey, about 80% of employees stated they were satisfied with the new environment, 10% complained about issues they thought would be resolved over time, and only 10% were really dissatisfied

      - The media played a large role in the perception of the project by eagerly latching on to every bit of bad news about the project

    Partial translation, paragraph by paragraph:

    Nine years after the decision to migrate the computers of the Solothurn kanton to Linux, a radical reversal has come today: all desktops will be converted to Windows 7. Did Linux fail?

    The project wasn't a great success from the beginning; those who followed the media must have gotten the impression that it was a sequence of failures and bad luck.

    Problems during the migration, software than wasn't ready yet, angry employees who set up a homepage to vent their frustrations and who couldn't get any work done because of Linux - all of this suggests that tax money was being spent on a project doomed to fail. And it has failed now. But to blame it all on Linux would be short-sighted. When you look further, you will see that many factors were responsible for the failure.

    The decision to convert to Linux came in 2001. The goal was to have completed the conversion by 2007. However, that goal was unattainable, because some invitations to bid were only sent out in 2006. The choice for the Scalix web interface wasn't a good one: even in June, the webmail interface lacked a task list and some of the comforts of native e-mail clients.

    Many special applications could not easily be replaced by Linux solutions. This was compounded by problems with the Konsul database employed by the kanton of Solothurn for editing council decisions: the data file of this Windows software was not so easy to migrate. Project Ambassador was meant to allow interoperability with OpenOffice.org et al, but was postponed until end 2010 because of performance problems. As a result, none of the council members worked with Linux systems.

    An internal inquiry among employees showed that about 80% of them were satisfied with the new environment. Ten percent complained about "childhood diseases" of the software, and only 10% were really unsatisfied. But that is still 100 employees, and they were a very vocal minority.

    The Swiss media seized every opportunity to bring news of even the most insignificant frustrations in the kanton: a temporary printer problem that was solved quickly became "lasting printing problems". Quotes from employees who claimed to work more productively at home than at the office were gladly printed.

    If there wasn't any bad news, the media simply manufactured some. When the state attorney's office held a conference for attorneys in 2009, they neglected to prepare a Windows system for displaying the PowerPoint presentations. The kanton police, who, according to the Berner Zeitung had "successfully defended itself against Linux" helped out and saved the attorney's office from embarrassment. Of course, there are many things you can blame on Linux, but lack of organizational talent of the conference organizer isn't one of those.

  • Re:Umm.. yea (Score:4, Informative)

    by maxwell demon (590494) on Saturday September 18, 2010 @06:09AM (#33618666) Journal

    The windows data base they were speaking about was a product named "Konsul" (a proprietary data base developed by a swiss company). No, I didn't hear about that data base before either (I had to google it to find out it was a swiss product, although I suspected it due to the name), and of course it got lost in the Google translation.

  • by maxwell demon (590494) on Saturday September 18, 2010 @07:20AM (#33618870) Journal

    Because the press has blamed Linux for everything (including things which clearly are not Linux's fault), and they couldn't withstand the public pressure any more. Note that 80% of the users were satisfied with the new desktop, and a further 10% just complained about transient problems.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 18, 2010 @07:23AM (#33618882)

    Use gpupdate; no reboot required. job done.

  • Hi MR AC! While FOSSies like to brag about the "free as in beer" part, in actually the cost of windows desktop licenses is so tiny as to not show up in most budgets in even the top twenty. so no selling point there. Two, MSCEs are a dime a dozen, competent ones not much more expensive, whereas good Linux gurus are damned high, if you can even find one. Third, say what you want, but AD makes administering windows desktops so easy i could teach my 16 year old to do it via AD in less than a couple of weeks. I have yet to see anything on Linux that makes multiple desktop policy management that damned easy. Oh and nearly all mobile devices have Exchange support, which is one less headache.

    I honestly think the problem with FOSS and Linux is they are going about things ass backwards. They keep talking about how its a "drop in replacement for Windows" when in reality Linux is MUCH more like a Mac than it'll ever be like Windows. here is why, just as you can't grab any old piece of hardware and make a Hackentosh, so too can you not just grab any old parts off a shelf and make a Linux box that is reasonably decent. There is just too much common hardware that is seriously iffy in Linux. So you end up needing to buy specific hardware designed for Linux, which in the desktop, again like a Mac, will cost you more for less power than a windows machine. So in the end if you are gonna buy new hardware anyway, why not just buy a Mac and have better vendor support and less headaches?

    In the end after trying Linux on more pieces of hardware than I care to count I've found that Linux really works best in certain niches, like say education where you've got old hardware that won't run any newer windows and which has long been reverse engineered by Linux developers and is thus quite stable even across upgrades. But on new hardware, which this being a government I assume they are on the standard corporate 3 year upgrade cycle, there is simply too many pieces of common hardware where support is dicey if you can get it to work at all. And of course none of the big OEMs are gonna offer you Linux except on their more expensive workstations, again adding to the cost.

    Certain places Linux works well, like servers where vendors actually provide decent drivers for all the hardware, or embedded where you simply build only for that hardware and are done with it. But trying to deal with it as a corporate desktop with the whole 3 year upgrade cycle? Unless you are willing to shell out for workstation class hardware for the entire place every 3 years the headaches probably wouldn't be worth it, and it is certainly cheaper just to buy the dell El Cheapo desktops with windows included, than to go through all that. That is why if a SMB asks me about Linux I recommend a "try before you buy" period, where they migrate to the Windows version of FOSS apps like Open Office and Thunderbird, to see what kind of headaches they'll be looking at first. It sounds like they went for it without a plan and got seriously bit in the butt.

  • by tomhudson (43916) <.moc.nosduh-arab ... .nosduh.arabrab.> on Saturday September 18, 2010 @08:14AM (#33619058) Journal
    It was Microsoft throwing in a free KIN for each user that clinched the deal.

    Seriously, the Swiss screwed up. It happens. Get over it, learn the lessons there are to be learned, and move on.

    Lesson 1: Don't announce you're going to move everyone, and it's going to happen by X date. Not everyone is going to switch, and X is a variable, not a const.

    Lesson 2: Some things take longer to "work with" than scrapping. The town council database app is obviously one of those.

    Lesson 3: Stop with the stupidity of using a web interface for almost everything. It doesn't work. It p*sses people off (or as the article says, get them half-eaten). Get devs who can also code with qt or wxwidgets or java or tcl/tk or whatever.

    Lesson 4: Sell to your users. Make it a privilege to be part of the transition. You want people b*tching and moaning about not being "upgraded" to the new linux desktop, not the other way around. Marketing 101.

    Lesson 5: Provide effective feedback channels, so that people don't feel they need to set up a web site just to complain because you aren't listening.

  • Re:FOSS (Score:4, Informative)

    by maxwell demon (590494) on Saturday September 18, 2010 @08:21AM (#33619074) Journal

    But unfortunately, that is precisely the rhetoric that the OSS community is accused of brandishing all the time. The bottom-line is people do not care about the principles of freedom of code and other Stallmanisms when they are at work (which may come as a surprise on Slashdot). There are certain applications for Windows that just don't have a replacement on Linux yet, period. I'm sorry you can't argue with that fact.

    But if you had read the article, it didn't mention a single such application which was a problem. The main problems were:
    * An extremely bad choice of the free email system (it explicitly said that other systems existed which would have provided the missing functionality).
    * A proprietary data base (and unfortunately they didn't even choose one of the major ones). There are definitely good free databases; moreover there are also closed source databases running on Linux.
    * Mistakes which were completely unrelated to the migration being blamed on the migration.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 18, 2010 @08:24AM (#33619094)

    The correct translation for "angefressen" is "annoyed". It doesn't have anything to do with eating, the same way a "pissed coworker" doesn't have anything to do with urine. ;-)

  • by Lennie (16154) on Saturday September 18, 2010 @08:25AM (#33619096) Homepage

    The article said they actually started the project in 2006, the decisicion to do so way have been made in 2001, but that isn't all that relevant.

  • Re:FOSS (Score:3, Informative)

    by nashv (1479253) on Saturday September 18, 2010 @08:29AM (#33619116) Homepage
    Some examples :

    1. Vector NTI (DNA manipulation)

    2. All confocal microscope drivers and analysis software

    3. Origin Pro (statistics and graphic with interfacing for Matlab and Labview

    4. Bitplane Imaris (3D analysis on biological samples with a patented,proprietary and the only non-heuristic deconvolution algorithm)

    That said , yes , our cluster runs Linux too. We just run whatever works best for a particular application (isn't that what it should be like, rather than insisting on one kind or the other?)

  • by magamiako1 (1026318) on Saturday September 18, 2010 @08:51AM (#33619228)
    Yeah, it's unfortunate that these guys don't understand the concept that you can do this across thousands (tens of thousands) of desktops in Windows rather easily, and that it's a highly scalable solution, and as long as you've got a couple of domain controllers in the backend, quite a bit fault tolerant to boot.

    Just to add on to what joelleo is talking about:

    -Group Policy applies to OUs, Sites, Domains, and (after 2003/GPMC) allows you to do security group filtering.
    -User John is in the Call Center department. He needs certain rights locked down on the machine. You create John's AD user, throw them in the call center OU, and they'll get all the policies applied.
    -Later on, John is moved to the Sales department. Sales has a different set of policies, say, his machine is more open and lets him customize it a bit more, he needs certain software, he needs a different company homepage, requires different browser security zones. You simply drag his user to the new OU, reboot his machine, and he's good to go.

    This sort of flexibility where you worry more about the business than the actual technical hurdles of trying to do this is something that Linux cannot provide.
  • by fr4nko (1787462) on Saturday September 18, 2010 @09:18AM (#33619366)

    Honestly, I don't really believe in large scale migrations of existing Windows infrastructure to Linux. Large migrations are hard to do at the best of times, always cause a lot of resistance and frustration, and take a long time before they start paying off, if that even happens at all.

    I agree 100% with you, large scale migration from Window to Linux are almost impossible. I'm a Linux users since a long time and I'm really happy with it but I'm working in a big international firm and a migration to Linux would be simply impossible. The main reason is that we depends on hundreds of different applications that only works on Windows and was developed with Windows in mind. Some of this application are also of critical importance so you cannot think to replace them without incurring in a huge disaster, the office applications are much more critical in this respect.

    Another good reason is that the IT staff only know about windows so to switch to Linux would require to retrain all of them. I'm also sure that many of them will hate Linux for emotional reasons and it will be very difficult to make the transition.

    ... so your users will simply not be able to do things the way they were used to doing them. This is where you hit your biggest resistance: they will have to re-learn things, which will take time, effort and money. People will get upset, they will hate the new system, and they will complain about it, loudly, and to anyone who will listen. And for good reason: they had a work flow that worked, and then management came and pulled the rug from under them and they had to re-learn things for no good reason.

    Again, 100% agree. I've seen that at university, I've tried to convince people to use emacs and I was very surprised of the resistance: they have learnt a basic workflow with windows program and to learn something slightly different was considered highly annoying.

    For the other side I would like to add a remarks about Windows. They have been successful to tie almost all enterprise to their specific software stack and they have made the transition to anything else virtually impossible. They have never promoted or adopted standard protocols but they have always created their own specific protocol which is not interoperable with other operating systems. So they have Winsockets that are similar but not quite the same of POSIX sockets, WinThreads that are similar but not quite the same of posix threads and so on.

    I Invite you also to note that if we have internet that is based on universal standard protocols like TCP/IP, HTTP and we can use it with any OS, all of this was against what Microsoft was willing to do. They was trying to create their own Window Network with specific protocols and compatible only with windows.

    Because of all these reasons all the people that like computer science should avoid MS products. But there is also an economic reason to avoid MS products, they force the enterprise to adopt their non-standard software stack and they are forced to pay all a MS tax, they have no choice.

    Francesco

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 18, 2010 @09:55AM (#33619554)

    Example: Impress doesn't have a macro for "total amount of pages" when you design a slide. You can have the current slide number though. So try having automatic slide indicator like "Slide 4/25" on your Impress presentations. You can't.

    Now go away until you know what you're talking about.

    Have you every tried:
              nNumPages = oDocument.getDrawPages.getCount()

  • Re:Not so easy (Score:3, Informative)

    by Americano (920576) on Saturday September 18, 2010 @10:00AM (#33619598)

    Fwiw, my company uses centrifydc, and has been pretty happy with the results. Largish (~35k users) enterprise, aix, solaris, Linux, and lots of winxp & server. As someone who primarily works on the Linux/unix side of things, I was skeptical about the whole "AD integration!" aspect, but it's been a pretty solid tool. Only noticeable hassle is I no longer have a sudo to unlock a user's account if they fat finger their password. :). We did have to upgrade a couple of our samba servers to a centrify-compatible one, but that was pretty straightforward and the rollout team provided us with the centrify-specific bits of smb.conf.

  • by jimicus (737525) on Saturday September 18, 2010 @10:20AM (#33619740)

    Right.... but the fact is that the people who demand Outlook and Exchange aren't using it as a plain MTA and MUA. They're using the calendar, they're using the shared features of the calendar, they're using the ability to delegate checking email to someone else (how else did you think the CEO's PA checks his email without knowing his password? Magic?), they're using the global address list (something which Thunderbird still doesn't do properly, even with an LDAP server appropriately configured), they're using the task list, they're using the contacts list and they're using the ability to send emails with a "yes/no" button for a quick straw-poll around the office.

    And they expect to find all of these features in one product.

  • Ya it's a pain (Score:5, Informative)

    by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Saturday September 18, 2010 @10:22AM (#33619752)

    We are a Windows/Solaris/Linux shop and central authentication and management is a big problem. Using an AD as the backend would probably have been easier, but our UNIX guy would not accept any situation where Windows was the core of the system. So we use LDAP. However OpenLDAP was not at all suitable for the purposes, Sun Directory Server, which is free but the servers it runs on are pricey. It is also no longer available from Oracle so we are going to have to consider what to do. That then required the use of IDsync, which wasn't free, as well as a good deal of custom programming. The current solutions works, and has an LDAP server and AD that are sync'd to each other, but are running separate and one can continue if the other fails.

    It also means that management of the two kinds of systems is totally separate. Other than logins, which are of course global (the whole point of the system) and automounting storage, nothing else is shared management wise. Windows is managed through the AD, Linux through Puppet, at least when Puppet works (it is rather problematic). Solaris is more or less all central, no apps on individual systems, only central apps because of management problems. Windows is per system, of course. We have different support people who deal with different domains of the system.

    At any rate it works, but it was not easy to make work. Also none of this deals with migration, this is side-by-side support. I wouldn't even want to think what it would take to try and support some of the things done on Windows on Linux instead. It would NOT just be "Oh use OpenOffice instead of MS Office," never mind that even that would be problematic (OO doesn't do everything MS Office does).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 18, 2010 @10:41AM (#33619844)

    "gets" is a verb, not a plural noun, so no need for the apostrophe.

  • by IICV (652597) on Saturday September 18, 2010 @11:33AM (#33620150)

    ...so your users will simply not be able to do things the way they were used to doing them. This is where you hit your biggest resistance: they will have to re-learn things, which will take time, effort and money. People will get upset, they will hate the new system, and they will complain about it, loudly, and to anyone who will listen. And for good reason: they had a work flow that worked, and then management came and pulled the rug from under them and they had to re-learn things for no good reason.

    Did you read the part about how now they're going to upgrade everyone to Windows 7? That almost certainly means either Office 2007 or Office 2010. Which means everything you said right there is going to be true anyway.

  • by BrokenHalo (565198) on Saturday September 18, 2010 @11:44AM (#33620232)
    Not to mention, OpenOffice's Presentation sucks, don't know Impress, never used (will look into).

    In two sentences you have succinctly informed us that you are a complete and utter fool. OpenOffice's presentation utility is Impress. And anyone who has used Powerpoint will have no trouble using the other. Sure, the buttons may not be in the same places, but if you are so inflexible as to be unable to cope with that, then you're unemployable.

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