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Linux Business Operating Systems Linux

German Company To Install Linux On 10,000 PCs 328

Posted by Soulskill
from the jahr-des-linux-auf-dem-desktop dept.
jfruhlinger writes "Linux proponents used to proclaim that the era of Linux on the desktop was just around the corner. That may never come to pass, but there are still occasional wins. For instance, a German insurance giant will be moving 10,000 employees to Linux-based desktop and laptop machines."
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German Company To Install Linux On 10,000 PCs

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  • Re:Adaption... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 24, 2011 @02:39AM (#35919378)
    We'll let you know the cost of learning the first one once they've finished... which is never.

    Have you met users?
  • Re:Adaption... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rolfwind (528248) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @02:54AM (#35919430)

    WTF is this "learning a new OS all over again" stuff? You talk as if most of the staff have to fire up the CLI and get shocked when their beloved dos commands don't work.

    Many people spend much of their time either in a browser or some productivity suite. Since Firefox has made huge inroads the past decade, it's not so much a worry. Most mainstream browser have negligible GUI differences. That leave the productivity suite -- which, since I don't really muck with, I can't gauge and someone will have to answer.

    What worries me is the 5% cases where it's either hardware like a network scanner that worked with proprietary software or some unique app.

  • Re:Adaption... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MacTO (1161105) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @03:02AM (#35919450)

    Based on the article, it is not an issue at all. They are dealing with a core Java application, OpenOffice, and Adobe Reader. The former presumably has been tested and operates properly under Linux. The latter applications are also available for Linux. It was also noted that they are using an older version of Windows, which means that some/all of the employees would have to learn how to use a "different OS" (presumably Windows 7) all over again. Yes, some would have been using that different OS on their personal machines, but those skills don't necessarily carry over very well to work environments.

    It is worth considering that many corporate machines have highly customized configurations to start with, most of which are intended to improve security or the manageability of their systems. This ties into what I said about skills used on personal machines don't necessarily carry over to corporate machines. Many corporate machines lock out all but a subset of applications that the employees are permitted to use. This includes standard components of the operating system (e.g. the desktop shell).

    Now I cannot comment fully on this company's situation, but it is highly probable that this decision was highly thought out from both a technical and employee level.

  • Re:Adaption... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mini me (132455) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @03:04AM (#35919456)

    I remember working with a travel agency early in my career. Their employees could type the craziest commands into the SABRE system that made me feel stupid. Yet, something as simple as, say, cancelling a print job in Windows left them stumped and getting in touch with the IT department.

    So I agree with you. Users don't care about the operating system. They just want to get their work done. As long as the applications themselves do not differ in any significant way, nobody will notice.

  • Re:Adaption... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Runaway1956 (1322357) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @03:08AM (#35919468) Homepage Journal

    There really isn't much to learn. Seriously. Browsers work the same, word processors work very much the same, Java and Flash work the same. The desktop can even look the same as Windows, if the people who are spending the money decide it's important that users "feel at home".

    The average data inputting person will have to spend a week or two, learning how to access the database and other routine chores. Anyone competent to use an applicaton in Windows can become competent with similar apps on Linux within months, if not weeks. Obviously, the company thinks the "investment" worthwhile. Funny thing is, the only "failures" I've read about when companies/governments switch to Linux involved campaigns launched by proprietary concerns.

    Linux fails on one front, only. Linux fails when it comes to offering kickbacks and bribes to decision makers.

  • by DesScorp (410532) <DesScorp.Gmail@com> on Sunday April 24, 2011 @03:13AM (#35919474) Homepage Journal

    The Foreign Ministry left Linux back to windows just a little while back:
    http://cuduwudu.com/2011/02/germany-bids-farewell-to-linux/ [cuduwudu.com]

    I think the Munich government is still on it but may be wrong.

    In a couple of years, you're going to see the same thing with LVM. There'll be an article with a title along the lines of "LVM ends their experiment with Linux" in 2013 or 2014 or so.

    What will kill this is the same thing that's killed Linux on the business desktop everywhere else... lack of commercial business apps and app support. Because even with idealogical issues aside, there is no "Linux OS". There are dozens of Linux OS's, and even "related" distros... such as Debian and Ubuntu... frequently have software that's incompatible.

  • Re:Adoption... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by symbolset (646467) * on Sunday April 24, 2011 @03:46AM (#35919552) Journal

    I just helped a lot of people (>3K) adapt to W7 from XP. I know some stuff about enterprise stuff.

    It's all about the apps. There are hundreds of enterprise line-of-business apps that are custom crafted to work with IE6 and its plugins. Getting them to work with a different version of IE is a nightmare. We put it over, mostly, but we had to brute force a lot of it. Some of it just would not go and was writ off as a cost of staying current. That story's not over yet, as some critical apps conflict with each other in W7.

    If they had cared to craft their line-of-business apps with a server backend and a standards-compliant browser front end, we'd have saved a few hundred thousand dollars. But they didn't, they still don't, and they won't.

    Go ahead - standardize on the next version of this crud. The unit cost goes up every year. Making it work is a grind, but if you didn't take it up, we'd have little work. That Linux and iOS stuff just works and there's no service money in that for me.

  • Re:Adaption... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ixokai (443555) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @05:01AM (#35919718)

    My day job involves software targeted towards small to medium sized businesses... and let me tell you, the most TINY and seemingly trivial change in appearance (including color), behavior, or operation is noticed, felt, and a source of huge training issues, complaints, and drama, on a day to day basis.

    Recent versions of windows are only OK because the hardware the businesses run on generally can't do Aero -- but even then, the Start Menu changes in Windows Vista and such were a huge source of drama. Fortunately, desktop shortcuts are there and haven't changed, so people just don't click on Start anymore.

    That "ribbon" UI thing MIcrosoft is doing with its latest batch of Office, though? That's so totally unworkably different that we've had quite a few customers suddenly looking towards OpenOffice /just because/ the differences were less stark... whereas a few years ago, those differences (the /little/ bits) were things they couldn't get the time or resources to deal with.

    I'm talking about people who don't understand that there's a difference between minimizing and closing an application: (let alone the difference between a document and an application). And this isn't some obscure, rare group we've run into: and neither is it a new phenomenon.

    There's a frankly HUGE chunk of people out there who use a computer as a series of rote actions, with no real understanding of what's going on, and no -attempt- to understand the metaphors or flow of the process or programs. They know the entire operation as a firm, strict and unyielding series of precise steps and the slightest deviation throws them completely out of the loop. (And, half of these people are quite capable of doing their jobs very fast and efficiently this way).

    Seriously. This is reality in a LOT of areas and a LOT of businesses and its not going to go away for a decade or three when they all retire and are replaced by a younger generation that grew up more computer-literate. (Its not even KINDA there now, in '11. Not even kinda.)

  • Re:Adaption... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by seeker_1us (1203072) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @05:25AM (#35919778)
    Windows users are the same kind of people that cling to imperial measurement instead of the metric system.
  • Re:Adaption... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ixokai (443555) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @06:05AM (#35919898)

    I make no such assumption.

    These people are often able to automate what they know to a degree that I couldn't without a lot of Googling and trial and error: and others I've encountered have been just the same on MacOS (7, 8, 9, etc). Its not about "experience" (how are you grading that? time? in-depth knowledge of the inner workings of the system?), its about how some people approach the computer. It doesn't matter what OS they use. None are better then any other. I've had to deal with some of the most god-awful custom little programs with the most horrid user interfaces -- and in the end, there is this significant class of user to whom that's not different then the well-designed, elegant interfaces. Sure, one may take longer then the other to develop the rotes -- but one class of user will use the computer as a computer, and another will use it via a series of rote actions they perform to achieve an end.

    Some will always approach it as a specific tool to set towards a specific use: these people have no vested interest or desire (for any number of reasons) in learning to master it or understand it. It is, to them, simply an "application appliance".

    Details like "minimize" and "close" are meaningless. The task at hand is there in front of them, or it is not.

    The appliance does precisely what they expect, exactly, without any even slight deviation -- including wording, where items are and precisely how they are represented in the interface, and nuances of behavior. They are able to use this tool through pure muscle-memory. Its not because the interface is "bad": its because of how they learned it and use it. Its not even that they're stupid, or even old, or illiterate, or.. anything.

    It's just how real people end up using things they don't care about, aren't interested in, and just... use.

    The computer (its OS, and the applications) is a means to an end: its metaphors are an attempt to engage and express on a level that a lot of people just don't give a shit about.

    And no matter how great you make it, how wonderful the interface, how programmable and automatable (? such a strange claim for you to put forth-- that programmability and automation have something to do with these users not really understanding their system -- I wonder if you've ever been tech support, be it for family, or commercially) it is, how simple it all seems to be. There'll be the people who won't invest. And use it as a series of rote actions.

  • Re:Adaption... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gbjbaanb (229885) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @06:21AM (#35919930)

    Many people were caught out by the change in Office - I'm not a n00b but I remember searching high and low to print my Word documents, never thinking for a second that the 'orb' was in fact the new version of the 'file' menu.

    I notice that I wasn't the only one as Office 2010 has replace the orb with a big orange menu called 'File'. Crazy huh.

    But there's a lot more like this in modern Windows - a lack of consistency that used to be there and demonstrated that it was actually designed, now you feel its just kludged together by different groups who want to do things differently. eg. I used to change the back window colour from white to a ever so slightly pale cream, almost so you wouldn't notice but that would take the edge off the glare. Go to display properties, click the window back colour, edit it and every window suddenly was easier to look at. Today, you'll find many windows don't respect that colour - even explorer doesn't let you change the font! You have a choice of.. no choice. This is the new order of Windows - a lack of internal consistency that makes Linux's distributed development look like perfection.

    Windows used to be held up as a system that you could learn once and forever understand - every app had the menu bar, every app had a file menu. This is no longer true, and it only makes sense that companies are starting to realise this as they see the bill from MS for licences for new OSs that cost even more in training (not just for users, think of how the control panel has changed - your tech support needs to understand how to set an IP address in the new Network and Sharing Center, not the ancient-but-worked network properties)

    I see this in the phone software - no-one cares about Microsoft as a brand, when they have the chance they go with alternatives. I hope this will continue to break up that desktop monopoly.

You know that feeling when you're leaning back on a stool and it starts to tip over? Well, that's how I feel all the time. -- Steven Wright

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