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Government Linux

Munich Reverses Course, May Ditch Linux For Microsoft 579

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the campaign-funding-brought-to-you-by-windows dept.
alphadogg (971356) writes with news that the transition from Windows to GNU/Linux in Munich may be in danger The German city of Munich, long one of the open-source community's poster children for the institutional adoption of Linux, is close to performing a major about-face and returning to Microsoft products. Munich's deputy mayor, Josef Schmid, told the Süddeutsche Zeitung that user complaints had prompted a reconsideration (Google translation to English) of the city's end-user software, which has been progressively converted from Microsoft to a custom Linux distribution — "LiMux" — in a process that dates back to 2003.
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Munich Reverses Course, May Ditch Linux For Microsoft

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  • Re:Surprise? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by BasilBrush (643681) on Monday August 18, 2014 @06:55PM (#47699135)

    Is there anyone who really thought it would go any other way?

    Yes. Linux fans have been absolutely sure the Munich transition would complete successfully. You can't pretend it was always stacked against it now, just because it didn't work out.

  • Re:Surprise? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by E-Rock (84950) on Monday August 18, 2014 @07:00PM (#47699163) Homepage

    Yea, MS money made the users hate the experience. Just be honest, Linux kills it in certain situations, and the desktop for a regular office worker isn't it.

  • All that money... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lisias (447563) on Monday August 18, 2014 @07:05PM (#47699203) Homepage Journal

    Yep. And then all that money that would be used to pay salaries that would be used on expenses locally, making the local economy work, will be redirected to Bill Gate's pockets.

    I remember when Munchen waived Windows, in 2004. This was noticed a lot on Open Source news, as Quilombo Digital and BR-Linux in Brazil.

    I did my share of criticize - Star Office was not ready at that time for the task, and a lot of documents were locked down in a proprietary format that would be a nightmare to convert from and back to be shared. As it's nowadays, by the way.

    And things are gonna be worse.

    When in a few years, when all our documents will be locked in a proprietary cloud (that anyone with the right influence will have access) or stored locally in a format that you must pay to read, remember 2004.

  • by Animats (122034) on Monday August 18, 2014 @07:08PM (#47699241) Homepage

    The basic office-type products for Linux still kind of suck. I've been using them since the StarOffice/SunOffice days, and now use LibreOffice. They've improved a lot, but they're still flakier than they should be, a decade after initial release. Nobody wants to fix the hard-to-fix, boring bugs which damage usability.

    Oracle buying the remnants of Sun didn't help.

  • by mad-seumas (59267) on Monday August 18, 2014 @07:12PM (#47699261)

    As far as I can tell from that horrible translation the only real complaints from users are about document interoperability problems and a unified messaging platform. Document format problems were going to be a given as MS will NEVER allow their software to default to an open standard (gotta sell dem Office seats); the best you can do is tell everyone who is going to be dealing with your city to send your documents in universal standard. As far a unified messaging platform goes, somebody screwed up if they couldn't get a fleet of smartphones to talk to a standard email server. Integrating with an open caldav/cardav server is tougher, but not impossible. They've already dropped a lot of cash on this transition and if those are the only two real complaints it seems more likely that the politicos are banking on a pile of $$ concessions from MS.

  • Re:Surprise? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cbhacking (979169) <been_out_cruising-slashdot@yahoo. c o m> on Monday August 18, 2014 @07:17PM (#47699301) Homepage Journal

    In fairness, there are at least two ways that could happen:
    1) MS bribes people to complain. Unlikely, but not impossible.
    2) MS bribes the relevant officials to *say* there have been overwhelming complaints. I mean, there are inevitably going to be complaints; that happens any time *anything* changes. The question is at what point they become important enough to sway the overall decision.

    With that said, I suspect you're right.

  • Re: Surprise? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ZenDragon (1205104) on Monday August 18, 2014 @07:19PM (#47699313)
    Maybe its a queue for Linux developers to pull their heads out of their asses and start collaborating a little better for a easier user experience. Don't get me wrong, I use both OSs for different things, each on its own merits. But despite what the FOSS crowd seems to want to believe, most users aren't as smart (and masochistic), they don't want to use the command line, or have to wade through clunky confusing dialogs to do simple things. They don't care about customizing their window manager, or their boot process, they just want to get their work done and gtfo. Despite its aging and buggy code base Windows is just simply easier to use for the non tech savvy crowd, and until Linux devs stop trying to over engineer everything and give it funky names that make no sense, then linux will never be successful on at scale on the desktop. Its really not that complicated, and nerd raging on slashdot doesn't help the case (not speaking to you, but the guy a few threads up).
  • Re:Surprise? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gothzilla (676407) on Monday August 18, 2014 @07:23PM (#47699341)
    This is a city that loves open source. Do you really, honestly believe hundreds if not thousands of people got bribed and not a single one turned it down and reported the attempt to the press? That's a pretty serious and frightening case of paranoia you've got there.
  • Munich Schmunich (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tailhook (98486) on Monday August 18, 2014 @07:46PM (#47699521)

    Please, stop posting blather about Munich adopting Linux. This drama has been going on for years and years and I'm tired of it. There are stories going back past 2004; "City of Munich Freezes Its Linux Migration", "Munich to Go Ahead with Linux After All", blah blah blah.

    Munich uses Linux to pressure Microsoft for better deals, which is just fine, but not interesting to me or most of the rest of us I imagine. Linux is not some struggling underdog begging for attention. So much computing today is Linux, from super computers to $90 smartphones, set tops, huge cloud infrastructures, corporate data centers, weapons systems, etc. — what Munich's government clerks happen to use to print emails or whatever just doesn't matter anymore, if it ever did, and I don't care either way.

  • by evilviper (135110) on Monday August 18, 2014 @07:49PM (#47699555) Journal

    The Microsoft party-line has always been that retraining employees to use Linux is far more expensive than paying those license fees... It was always a ridiculous argument, since Microsoft products make major UI changes between versions that require just as much training.

    But here, the employees are trained and working on Linux. So how is it that the fees for all that Microsoft software, PLUS the retraining fees, PLUS the undeniable reports of money savings, are still going to make a switch to Windows somehow worthwhile?

  • Re:Surprise? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cbhacking (979169) <been_out_cruising-slashdot@yahoo. c o m> on Monday August 18, 2014 @07:50PM (#47699581) Homepage Journal

    Reading comprehension fail?
    First, I said there were ways it *could* happen, not that I thought either had occurred. So no, I don't "really, honestly" believe that...
    Second, bribes don't need to be anything explicit - in fact, they rarely are, simply because it's so likely that people will report it - there just needs to be some kind of incentive. It doesn't need to be anything traceable to Microsoft; the people taking the hypothetical incentive never need have known from whence it came.
    Third, there are always tons of people upset about any given change; with the years this project has run, MS has had plenty of time to find them and encourage them to complain. No need to bribe people to file false reports; just convince those who wouldn't otherwise have complained to do so (and maybe those who would have sent praise not to do so).
    Fourth, I'm a security consultant. It is literally my job to be paranoid about potential attack vectors. That doesn't mean I think they'll happen - in fact, another part of my job is rating the risk of each threat coming to pass - but it's there.
    Fifth, anybody who *doesn't* see that as the obvious answer to how MS having a bunch of money at stake could lead to this is (IMO) dangerously naïve. It's not complicated; it just requires asking yourself how you could generate complaints if you had lots of money and no morals.

  • by Alain Williams (2972) <addw@phcomp.co.uk> on Monday August 18, 2014 @07:52PM (#47699589) Homepage

    Reading TFA I suspect that the sorts of problems are:

    • * Interoperability with third parties. Eg document exchange. In a world where most others use MS software then there will be issues, moving to ODF will help, but not eliminate all issues -- incompatabilities between the way that MS and Open/Libre Office interpret the spec will remain. People will still use other formats where Open equivalents may not exist - eg CAD
    • * Munich have gone out on their own, few are following their lead. They thus have to pay the first implementor's penalty. Those who follow will find things easier and cheaper.
    • * Hardware devices (eg mobile phones). Although many of these might have Linux as the base, the vendor will make sure that it works with MS products and not worry about Linux equivalents
    • * Users are using something that is new and will blame problems on it. This time they have a name ''Linux'' - this becomes perceived as the root of all evil.
    • * Similar problems would have happened with a roll out of a new MS system and these problems would just be accepted as teething problems of a new system. But because Munich is doing something different by having software running on Linux systems this will be seen as the cause of it and thus blamed, with a belief that return to MS will fix all the problems. It will fix some but cause others, but until then Linux systems will get all the blame.

    The best way to fix Munich's problems is for others to grab the LiMux distribution and use it. This will:

    * Reduce compatability problems. A tipping point will eventually be reached, look how MS IE was king and then it went to less than 80% and suddenly slid as web sites had to take web standards seriously.

    * Hardware vendors will have to test against more than just MS Windows and its ecosystems

    * Others will contribute software and patches, the cost to Munich will drop.

    * Munich IT department will not be seen as maverick since others are also doing it. Eventually they will, hopefully, be lauded as pioneers and visionaries.

  • Re:Surprise? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Charliemopps (1157495) on Monday August 18, 2014 @08:01PM (#47699639)

    Well, yes, of course. When Microsoft throws that much software license cuts and maybe a few junkets for the mucky-mucks in exotic places for âoeconferencesâ, well, this is the way it goes.

    Is there anyone who really thought it would go any other way?

    I love linux as much as anyone on here. But I'm not about to pretend the sky ain't blue just to support my argument. Linux, plain and simple, is not user friendly. The only notable exception is Android. If they tried to just push their own Nix flavor at government types, I'm not surprised that they got complaints. I've never seen a Linux GUI environment that wasn't a tacked on joke. You're still required to go to the command line to do anything meaningful. Control panels that fail at even the most basic tasks, and on and on. If Linux is to ever take off as a desktop environment, someone will need to do a complete overhaul like Google did with Android.

    Now queue all the people ranting about how the public is just dumb and don't know how to use Linux. To you I say, you're right... the public is dumb and don't know how to use linux. Yet those same people can use Windows. See the problem? You can have an IQ of a slice of Bacon and still get your mail open in Windows... that's how easy it has to be. Make Linux that easy and you'll have something.

  • Re:Surprise? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BitZtream (692029) on Monday August 18, 2014 @09:14PM (#47700071)

    but figured that the city would prefer to save money

    If you spend more than 2 days total over the course of an employees time at a company to convert them from MS Windows and Office to Linux you've lost money, even on the lowest paid employee you have.

    Contrary to what you think, the cost of Windows and Office licenses are nothing as far as cost of doing business.

  • Re:Surprise? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by murdocj (543661) on Monday August 18, 2014 @10:02PM (#47700295)

    It was a political decision that was reversed by politicians. The original decision wasn't some shining beacon of light and the reversal wasn't the triumph of the Dark Lord. The original decision was made to cater to the audience of the party in power, and no doubt the reversal was the same.

  • Re:Surprise? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Darinbob (1142669) on Monday August 18, 2014 @10:04PM (#47700299)

    And to be honest, there's the typical "user" experience. They think Microsoft is big, they must know what they're doing, they can find a "Learn Word in 21 Hours" book, they can find thousands of people with Microsoft certificates they can hire, so why not use Microsoft? Issues like have open standards means nothing to the person typing up memos or creating a database; Microsoft *is* the standard and all those other standards bodies are annoying buzzing sounds. If twenty years from now all the records are lost because no one can decode .docx files properly then it's not their problem but the problem of the lazy IT guys.

    Bucking the trend is hard, when the herd of gazelles turns and runs one way then all the gazelles follow, unless you're a wildebeest.

    There's no need for bribery or incentives to switch back to Microsoft, all that is needed is for the bureaucracy to forget the original reasons for open standards and transparency. Those were thought to be important back when Microsoft was under the spotlight in Europe for monopoly issues, but that spotlight has been off for a long time.

  • by WebCowboy (196209) on Tuesday August 19, 2014 @01:17AM (#47701051)

    Likely some MSFT graft in the picture. MSFT is relocating regional headquarters and Munich is a front runner. Lots of potential tax revenue, both directly from MSFT and indirectly from the employees and spin off economic activity.

    Selection of Munich would undoubtedly be contingent on the city migrating back. I dont believe any outright bribing was involved or required. All Microsoft had to do was have a bean counting meeting with the high ups...if you go back to MSFT the extra money spent on migration, licensing, hardware and administative burden of the windows platform is more than offset over time by the economic benefits of a new major employer in the city.

    And, well, how could you expect MSFT to do such a favour if you continued to spurn them at city hall?

  • Re:Surprise? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cbhacking (979169) <been_out_cruising-slashdot@yahoo. c o m> on Tuesday August 19, 2014 @01:49AM (#47701159) Homepage Journal

    I like how you didn't actually refute a single one of my points. It gives me a warm fuzzy feeling to be subjected to insults on my intelligence from people who can't even make a counter-point. The closest you came was failing to understand what an implicit bribe is. If the crash dialog message - the one that pops up when the program segfaults, the equivalent of Windows' "do you want to send an error report to Microsoft?" box - includes a button to submit feedback about this whole project (which just ate your file and wasted your time), most people will ignore it but some fraction will take the chance to vent some spleen. That kind of thing is easy to get added to a project if you have a little money to funnel to some coder, but will inevitably produce far more complaints than accolades. There's opportunities all over something like this for money to subtly make life better for those who complain.

    But, if you want to take the concept of "bribes" more literally, remember my third point above. There are, statistically, many times as many people who are annoyed at this software as there are complaints filed; given the number of people involved in this project that's inevitable. People don't like change, they don't like needing to learn things, they don't like it when the new thing introduces even minor annoyances that the old thing lacked (and conveniently forget that the old thing had worse annoyances that the new one doesn't), and there's always the minority who honestly like even an inferior product. If Microsoft managed to identify even 10% of those people and give them the least bit of incentive to file a complaint, most of them would not turn it down. "Oh wow, sure, I'd love tickets to the football [soccer] game! ... Ha, you want to hear my thoughts on the software? Be ready for an earful! ... You know, I'd never thought about it before, but maybe if I complain somebody *would* notice..." Hell, just offer entry in a drawing for some fairly-cheap prize if people submit feedback and then only advertise the drawing amongst the disaffected...

    I will readily grant that I'm surprised that so many people thought gothzilla's post was insightful, considering that it literally contains a fundamental flaw of reading comprehension: the inability to separate the hypothetical scenario from the statement of fact. I never implied, or even "ask[ed] questions" suggesting, that this had actually happened. I pointed out that it was *possible*. In fact, I explicitly pointed out that it was implausible. Did you think I was trying some weird reverse psychology BS?

    As for the "naïve" part, it's either that or simply ignorant of history. Microsoft, and various other moneyed interests on the other side of the libre-vs.-proprietary debate (Oracle, SCO-via-Microsoft, Sony, etc.), have a well-established history of throwing money are successful open-source initiatives and sometimes successfully making them go away. In what world is "Microsoft has money, Microsoft wants people to complain about the project, therefore Microsoft finds a way to buy complaints" not a completely obvious possibility to anybody who isn't the "oh, they would never do that!" category of naivete?

  • by mpe (36238) on Tuesday August 19, 2014 @01:58AM (#47701183)
    People don't want to learn any more than the bare necessity to do their job. If LibreOffice is quite capable of doing what they want, but the menu/button layout is slightly different or some techniques are different between it and MS Office, they'll be less inclined to learn and stick with what they've always known. Which is fine, except that people aren't honest about this being the reason.

    But somehow changes between different versions of MS Office don't get this kind of response.
  • Re:Surprise? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Imsdal (930595) on Tuesday August 19, 2014 @05:03AM (#47701665)
    It's not 1% of the top users, but probably 5%-15%. And if what you offer isn't good enough for the 5%-15% top users, what you offer isn't usable in the entire organization. And if it isn't usable in the entire organization, it isn't usable at all. MS has known this all along. The FOSS movement still hasn't udnerstood it. Sad, really.
  • by JerryLove (1158461) on Tuesday August 19, 2014 @08:30AM (#47702321)

    Yep. And then all that money that would be used to pay salaries that would be used on expenses locally, making the local economy work, will be redirected to Bill Gate's pockets.

    Who in turn gave the vast bulk of his money to end disease, educate children, feed the world, etc.

    I can live with that.

    Considering Germany is a net exporter: I'm not sure "keeping the money local" is actually a need.

    When in a few years, when all our documents will be locked in a proprietary cloud (that anyone with the right influence will have access) or stored locally in a format that you must pay to read, remember 2004.

    MS uses XML to save documents. Put them wherever you like.

    Use of cloud storage is hardly unique to MS. Want me to start citing Linux distros doing it?

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