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Germany, IBM Sign Major Linux Deal 382

Skip Franklin writes: "IBM and the German government are getting together to implement Linux as the government's computing platform of choice. The deal is being touted as a big blow to Microsoft, although personally I prefer the glass-half-full perspective of a big win for Open Source. The BBC has the story."
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Germany, IBM Sign Major Linux Deal

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  • backwards? (Score:4, Funny)

    by swordgeek ( 112599 ) on Monday June 03, 2002 @11:02AM (#3630975) Journal
    I thought seeing this as a large hit against Microsoft WAS looking at the glass as half full!
    • Not so sure (Score:4, Insightful)

      by einhverfr ( 238914 ) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `srevart.sirhc'> on Monday June 03, 2002 @11:25AM (#3631172) Homepage Journal
      I am not sure I agree with the Open Source vs Microsoft paradigm that everyone seems so caught up in. I think that people pick on Microsoft because they are big and visible, but no one picks on Adobe, or any of a number of large closed source companies when they lose contracts.

      I think that there will always be some areas where closed source software is the best option (OrCAD being a good example), but many other areas are ones where open source simply is a better model of development-- operating systems, office productifity apps, some games, dev environments, etc. (there will always be closed source games, I think, though).

      This is significant because it indicates that the Germans are making the very logical choices with regard to security (not trusting a foreign company), etc. and shows that open source IS the best solution in many cases.
      • I pick on Adobe every chance I get. Those guys are assholes. They actually put out high quality products, though, so there just aren't the opportunities for ridicule that there are with MS.

        I agree that Closed Source has it's place, especially in CAD and games.

        CAD because there really isn't enough interest in building good CAD tools for it to be viable as a Open Source project. I've heard good things about qcad, but I haven't used it yet. People like me who have used 3d CAD tools like SolidWorks find 2d tools quite painful to use. I might try qcad for simple circuit design, or maybe floor plans, but that's about it.

        Games because it's expensive and difficult to develope cutting edge stuff like we are all used to playing. If it weren't for the money involved, we'd all be playing Doom2 right now instead of RtCW.

        OS, office apps, dev environments; these are things that get used by a lot of people, and so Open Source make sense. There is enough interest that the small percentage of people who are willing and able to contribute have enough numbers to make a project viable.

      • I am not sure I agree with the Open Source vs Microsoft paradigm that everyone seems so caught up in.

        One of the parties caught up in that pardigm is Microsoft. We would ignore that at our peril.

        I think that people pick on Microsoft because they are big and visible, but no one picks on Adobe,

        People pick on Microsoft because they are slimy, lying scumbags and their products suck. Just in case you hadn't noticed, lots of folks think that Adobe is in the same class since they (ab)used DMCA to imprison Dmitry Skylarov for breaking their eBook "encryption"
      • The big difference between Microsoft and the other closed-source software companies is that Microsoft actively tries to destroy the healthy software ecosystem that open-source creates. Oracle has not released press statements saying that the GPL is "viral" and "dangerous". Adobe has never tried to cut off the gimp's air supply. Even historical control freaks like AOL, Apple, and even IBM have embraced open-souce for parts of their flagship products. Microsoft is the only company I can think of that's actively trying to destroy open-source software through bullying OEMs, illegal bundling, and generally spreading FUD.

        Adobe's also on my shitlist for the Sklyarov arrest, but nobody is fighting open-source the way that Microsoft is. That's why they get so much attention and garner so much hostility here on Slashdot.

    • There's another glass which is half full:
      • Microsoft's near-ubiquitous Windows operating system
      The BBC is now calling Windows near ubiquitous, whereas not so long ago I'm sure they'd have called it ubiquitous.
  • by tps12 ( 105590 ) on Monday June 03, 2002 @11:02AM (#3630979) Homepage Journal
    Wow, I'm pretty psyched about this news. Combine IBM [ibm.com], the company with the best track record for Linux products with Germany [germany.eu], the European nation with a similar reputation, and only good can result.

    I've used Linux solutions by both of these companies (IBM's Linux superclusters and Germany's excellent SuSe distro) both at home and in high-impact low-failure-rate enterprise contexts. I have not once been let down, ever. Contrast this with the closed source free-as-in-shit Winbloze ME95NT, which nearly brought my life to its knees.

    I can't wait to see what comes out of this groundbreaking deal! Linux may finally be able to compete against the lesser operating systems.
  • All they need to do now is integrate open source with Oktoberfest and they can have free software AND beer. What would be some good (funny) names for a German Gov't Linux distro?

  • Flawed argument (Score:2, Interesting)

    by oever ( 233119 )
    From the article:

    "We are raising computer security by avoiding a monoculture, and we are lowering dependence on a single supplier," he said in a statement.

    This is not really a valid argument, since all systems need to be secure. More systems, more potentially open doors.

    Nevertheless, great step up for free software!

    • Monocultures are prone to being wiped out by a single disease. If you have diversity, that won't happen. It's the reason that there are different sexes.

      • If you think that is the reason we have two sexes, you need to step away from your computer and... oops, I better stop before the "not all Slashdotters are men, not all Slashdotters are heterosexual" people come out to rant.


        Not all species have two sexes. Species which are currently successful and feasible that have hermaphrodidic reproduction. Anyways, this is all off-topic.

        To fend off those with Mod points that are having a case of the Mondays, I'll add some Linux relevant stuff:

        IBM's dedicate to Linux is impressive. Sun, HP, other vendors pay what appears to be lip-service in comparison. IBM's culture does not suggest that one distribution will be their stance. Unless the whole central philosophy behind Global Services is redefined, I can see IBM supporting multiple distributions, with the solution matching the project. This could mean a mix of SuSE, Red Hat, Mandrake, Slackware (because its not dead, I don't need any more drooling Slackware-fanatics to flame me), etc.

        • I think we need to remember two things about IBM:

          1. They sell hardware
          2. They sell services

          Everything else they do relates to those two things. Every time they support Linux, it is because it helps them do those two things.

          IBM would not support Linux if they did not have a business model that allows them to make money in spite of Linux's free-ness.

          Not that that's a bad thing, per se. I just see people talking up IBM like they are benevolent; but, they are greedy and profit-driven, just like Microsoft, Apple, Sony, RIAA, MPAA, <insert evil corporation here>, etc.

          I'm all for IBM supporting Linux, but let's not forget those same people (management) would be fighting tooth and nail against it if they had the business model Microsoft has.
          • And why is profit evil?

            If you equate profit with evil, than you must logically equate much success as evil, such as the lion eating the wildebeast, a sports team defeating all others, and even the strokes of luck we all wish we could have like winning the lottery.

            Thats a pretty lame definition of evil.

    • 2 June 2002: There are currently 16 unpatched vulnerabilities [jscript.dk] in Microsoft's Internet Explorer

      To Quote Richard Purcell, Microsoft's director of corporate privacy [businessweek.com]

      You can't issue a memo on Jan. 18 and, within two weeks or even two months, have introduced your entire product line that's consistent with that. Trustworthy computing, as I try to emphasize, is about process change, so that products can then be delivered as a result. And it's a very long-term vision -- 5, 10 years, maybe

      Is it really going to be another 5 to 10 years before Microsoft's products security becomes "Trustworthy"?

    • Seriously, a monoculture system is MUCH more likely to have serious security problems. By serious, I mean totally disasterous.

      For example, simply look at the nature of all life. There are many different types of life, even among the same species there are variations. Within a single species, there is usually enough variation that if a nasty disease spreads throught that species, there are likely to be many (of the same species) that are varied enough that they will not be destroyed by that disease.

      Another example, MS Outlook. While it's arguable whether or not MS Outlook is responsible for the security breaches related to it, you simply cannot argue that these problems would have been less disasterous had organizations not used one single email program.

      While a monoculture isn't necessarily more prone to have security breaches, they are definately more prone to disaster.

    • Well there is an element of herd immunity. If more of the machines exposed to a virus, trojan or worm are invulnerable to it, the less chance of it spreading to the machines it can infect.

      Even if you have a hundred different kinds of systems with weak but different security, the population as a whole is more robust than a monoculture of one kind. Not that I'm advocating that as a security strategy, mind.
    • Re:Flawed argument (Score:5, Insightful)

      by shaper ( 88544 ) on Monday June 03, 2002 @11:38AM (#3631285) Homepage
      From the article:

      "We are raising computer security by avoiding a monoculture, and we are lowering dependence on a single supplier," he said in a statement."

      and the poster commented:

      This is not really a valid argument, since all systems need to be secure. More systems, more potentially open doors.

      No. Diversity in computing paltforms (in a very general sense) increases total, overall security, especially to automated attacks, e.g. worms and viruses.

      For example, in a network of 50% Windows and 50% Linux, a windows virus can directly infect only 50% of the systems. In a network of equal numbers of Windows, Linux and BSD, one of these new hybrid Win/Linux viruses will be unable to directly infect one third of the systems. And the rule goes both ways. Windows boxes will be untouched by Linux worms that use Unix-style features like sendmail and portmap remote exploits.

      Even for non-automated attacks, some level of diversity is more secure. The potentially successful cracker has to know not one, but at least two or more attack methods to be able to get at all boxes in an overall system that contains a mix of Windows, Linux, BSD, Irix, VMS or whatever.
    • "We are raising computer security by avoiding a monoculture."

      This is not really a valid argument, since all systems need to be secure. More systems, more potentially open doors.

      It is a valid argument because if all your systems are identical then they all have the same exploits. Once one of them has been cracked, cracking the rest is trivial.

      This is the same reason that it's a bad idea to have all your crops based on the same genetic lineage. One disease can wipe out everything.
    • Re:Flawed argument (Score:2, Insightful)

      by T-Punkt ( 90023 )
      Actually the flaw in the argument is that exchanging one monoculture (MS) against another (IBM/Suse's Linux) doesn't change the situation. - I haven't seen an article about Germany's government talking about other [OS or not OS] OSes so far.
  • The huge amounts of anti-Linux trolling speak volumes about MS' fear of becoming another Novell.
  • by delphi125 ( 544730 ) on Monday June 03, 2002 @11:06AM (#3631005)
    "the most reliable core for computer systems for whom crashing is not an option"

    HAL 9000 may have been a who(m) as opposed to a what/which, but crashing was certainly an option for HAL!

  • by bruceg ( 14365 ) on Monday June 03, 2002 @11:07AM (#3631012) Homepage
    Maybe the German Governement knows something our government doesn't. Check out this Link [com.com] which states that a US governement "Think Tank" says that Open Source may be a national security threat. I guess the M$ special interests are oiling up the folks in DC.
  • Hmmm (Score:2, Funny)

    by mmarlett ( 520340 )
    Ich bin ein Penguin.
  • Incredible! (Score:4, Informative)

    by Asikaa ( 207070 ) on Monday June 03, 2002 @11:09AM (#3631034) Homepage
    "Any policy that favours one thing over another isn't helpful," a Microsoft Europe spokeswoman told the Journal.

    "It limits choice rather than increasing choice."

    Yet another jaw-droppingly hypocritical statement from a Microsoft spokesperson.

    • "Any policy that favours one thing over another isn't helpful," a Microsoft Europe spokeswoman told the Journal.

      I noticed this too. Is this spokeswoman even aware of what policy means. Here's the dictionary definition.

      a : a definite course or method of action selected from among alternatives and in light of given conditions to guide and determine present and future decisions
      b : a high-level overall plan embracing the general goals and acceptable procedures especially of a governmental body
      In laymens terms "policy" is when you favour one thing over another.
  • Linux is a variant on the 30-year-old open source Unix operating system, which is generally held to be almost indestructible and by far the most reliable core for computer systems for whom crashing is not an option.

    Unix? Open source? I don't think so.

    While the software itself is free to download from the internet, companies - such as SuSE, the German distributor whose version of Linux IBM is using - can still charge for technical support and other services.

    They can, of course, charge any amount for any part they want. They just can't restrict your rights to sell it again (at least on the GPL'd portions)

    In proprietary software such as Microsoft's Windows, on the other hand, a single company controls the code, setting licensing terms for users but blocking outsiders from accessing the code.

    They'll let some select few view the source code... but it's a look, don't touch sort of relationship. "Shared Source" and all that crap.

    I really wish people that wrote about this stuff had more of a clue about what they were writing.. :(

    • Unix? Open source? I don't think so

      Actually, if I remember my Unix history correctly, the BBC is not far off the mark. Remember that Unix started as a research project, and that AT&T was legally forbidden to sell it.

      Source availability was what created BSD out of the original AT&T sources. It was the major selling point in the prehistory of Unix, the fact that source was available, and even better, the fact that this source was in a (relatively) high-level language, so the same single OS could easily be ported to multiple architectures.

      Wasn't it the CSRG at UC Berkeley distributing source that led to the infamous AT&T vs. BSD lawsuit?

      Sure, it wasn't Open Source in the modern buzzword sense of the term, but that's beside the point.


    • Unix? Open source? I don't think so.

      You don't have a good IT background have you ?

      The history of UNIX has been told elsewhere (e.g., Salus, 1994). Part of that story will be given in Chap. 10. For now, suffice it to say, that because the source code was widely available, various organizations developed their own (incompatible) versions, which led to chaos. Two major versions developed, System V, from AT&T, and BSD, (Berkeley Software Distribution) from the University of California at Berkeley. These had minor variants as well. To make it possible to write programs that could run on any UNIX system, IEEE developed a standard for UNIX, called POSIX, that most versions of UNIX now support. POSIX defines a minimal system call interface that conformant UNIX systems must support. In fact, some other operating systems now also support the POSIX interface.

      (This is copied from elsewhere, look it up on google for a history lesson.)

  • Apparently neither IBM, nor the German government think so... from the article:
    While the software itself is free to download from the internet, companies - such as SuSE, the German distributor whose version of Linux IBM is using - can still charge for technical support and other services.
    Of course, SuSE is German, and they don't yet distribute United Linux, but....
    • From Linux Today - New UnitedLinux Emphasizes Enterprise, Cooperation [linuxtoday.com]
      In fact, SuSE representatives confirmed that both the SuSE Personal and SuSE Professional releases would remain intact and would not fall under the UnitedLinux umbrella.

      Speaking with Holger Dyroff, SuSE's U.S. Director of Sales, after the conference call, it was learned that while SuSE Personal and Professional would remain sepeate from UnitedLinux, because of SuSE's role as systems integrator of UnitedLinux's codebase, much of the same functionality in UnitedLinux would find its way back to SuSE's retail line-up. Dyroff speculated that the same would be true for Conectiva's retail offerings as well.

  • by seldolivaw ( 179178 ) <me@NoSpAM.seldo.com> on Monday June 03, 2002 @11:17AM (#3631112) Homepage
    Not alone

    Mexico, for instance, has mandated open source in its education system - although it is widely believed to have botched the implementation. And Peru is considering a law mandating open source software.

    Microsoft wrote protesting about the law and warning of collapsing software markets and portraying a nightmare scenario of incompatibility. But the answer - from a Peruvian congressman - refuted the letter point by point.

    Hee hee! Viva la revolution! :-) There does seem to be an encouraging trend towards the use of Linux by big institutions and governments. And since people tend to "buy what they know" perhaps we will see a top-down pattern to Linux usage -- companies first, and then their employees at home -- rather than the bottom-up approach everyone seems to be expecting.
    • Actually, the use of linux has received its start from the bottom up. But, the numbers are hard to come by.

      Many professionals in IT have started using linux on their home and personal systems for many reasons. And, when they find (found) that open source systems work just fine and can contribute, those technologies have worked their way into corporate systems.

      But, the major bump will first come when the top companies in the industry openly support a linux/unix solution across all systems including the desktop.

      It is stupid to sell Microsoft desktops and linux/unix servers when Microsoft designs its technology to harm those customers who try to benefit from non-Microsoft technology.

      IBM, Hpaq, DELL, SUN, Gateway and others have to wise up and avoid the companies that design its products to interfere with the effective use of the technologies out there. And, that is precisely what Microsoft is doing. So, Microsoft is the company to avoid.

    • Not so fast.

      The lone Peruvian congressman and his remarkable letter are impressive, sure... from the moment you started to read it you couldn't help but think that you were witness to an important contribution to the ongoing debates: a politician who actually got it.

      But that's just the one guy. I'm not aware of any Peruvian laws or officially adopted policies in the open source direction. (Not proprosals, but actual official laws or policies.) I'm still hopeful, but I haven't seen any yet.

      As for Mexico, I wish people would stop mentioning it at all as an open source success story. Fiasco more like. The article included the caveat that the installations may have been botched, but, it's worse than that. Not only did they supposedly botch those installations, but Microsoft stepped in with megabucks and bought out the threat. (I resisted the temptation to say 'bought out the officials'.) Mexico's vaunted i.t. initiative is going to be a Microsoft shop, set up with Microsoft money, on Microsoft's terms.

      (lost the link, but if you want more information, ask Miguel. _He's_ the one who purportedly spoke to Vicente Fox about it all.)
  • Office? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by fogof ( 168191 )
    I wonder what is going to happen to the .doc format.
    I hope that ppl will start using open formats to comunicate important documents.
    If more govs do the switch. I wonder what will happen to closed file formats.... ( or will M$ port office to *nix )
  • But... (Score:4, Funny)

    by sopuli ( 459663 ) on Monday June 03, 2002 @11:40AM (#3631304)
    ...using open-source is UnAmerican!

    Oh wait...

    • ain't that the reason why Germany is using it?

      "Government have been embracing open-source software as a way to cut costs and sometimes also to break free of a U.S.-dominated software market" - ZDNet
  • by Anonymous Coward
    They're migrating the servers only to, i think, suse. The commission that had to decide which way to go came to the conclusion that, in a nutshell, linux is not ready for the desktop and that trainig expense would be way to high...
  • The US is going to have to play catch-up on this one. In about five years the US government will be wishing it had been as smart as the germans.
  • Suggestion (Score:3, Insightful)

    by justsomebody ( 525308 ) on Monday June 03, 2002 @11:48AM (#3631374) Journal
    "Any policy that favours one thing over another isn't helpful," a Microsoft Europe spokeswoman told the Journal.

    "It limits choice rather than increasing choice."

    I think it's time to proclaim this Microsoft representative a troll. Two way reality is "their monopoly is greatest tendency to achieve what he says it isn't good in this case".

    By the way, I don't recall they would say anything good about any other platform or software. They are always favouring their side and limiting choices with their "Security by obscurity" and closed formats.

    Well, things you say must really depend on one fact "Who got it and who hasn't"
    • Any policy that favours one thing over another isn't helpful,

      I don't care what Microsoft says. I still favor attractive females over any man as a prospective date. I also have a policy of favoring foods I like over foods I don't.

      What some would say "limits choice" I would call "making a choice".
  • by cburley ( 105664 ) on Monday June 03, 2002 @11:52AM (#3631392) Homepage Journal
    IBM and the German government are getting together

    Man, 30 years ago I would not have believed a statement beginning this way would imply victory for the little guy!!

  • by Anonymous Coward
    As far as I know, the idea is to migrate the servers to Linux and keep Windows XP on the desktops. Sound more like Tux has one foot in the door and the glass is about 1/8 full.
    Check out http://www.bundestag.de/aktuell/presse/2002/pz_020 2285.html
    [sorry, German]
  • by gosand ( 234100 ) on Monday June 03, 2002 @12:31PM (#3631697)
    Once again, something got lost in the translation. "Free as in beer" got translated to "free beer", and the Germans couldn't sign the contract fast enough.
    • There was something like that that REALLY happend some 50 Years ago.
      The War was over, germans where way past their reserves and the Marshal plan was due and germany (west) was to be brought to strength again to serve as a good buffer to the commies. The american headquaters gave word across the atlantic to ask what the germans would need (food of course).
      The germans back then ordered some x-hundred thousand tons of corn. (Korn) And got x-hundred thousand tons of what AMERICANS call corn. For more than a year then the germans ate corn-bread, corn-cereal, corn-soup, canned corn ... corn everything, you name it. The british and the german (and a lot of other peolple) call it mais. The german word "Korn" is a word used to describe any type of grain.
      I guess they should have ordered grain or something like "x of wheat and y of barley".

      Anyhow, most certainly one of the funniest missunderstandings in recent history. :-)
  • A lot of folks believe IBM provided Nazi Germany with electronic cataloging support which allowed for the Unpopular to be shipped-off to death camps:

    Since its publication in February, Edwin Black's book "IBM and the Holocaust: The Strategic Alliance Between Nazi Germany and America's Most Powerful Corporation" has stirred unprecedented controversy among students of the Holocaust, American enterprise and information technology.

    Of course, an informed person might not believe every little thing they read. ;)

  • From the full transcript. Emphasis added:

    It says that switching to open source can damage a country's indigenous IT industry, because some varieties of open source software place restrictions on copyright and intellectual property. "Imagine if the software industry were tied in to restrictive licenses with unreasonable terms. How could anybody want to function in an environment like that?"

    It also says that it is a more reliable partner than smaller, less well-established open source distributors. "Consider IBM, this open-source dot com the German government has decided to do business with. What's their track record? How long have they been around?"

    "Any policy that favours one thing over another isn't helpful," a Microsoft Europe spokeswoman told the Journal. "That's why we support our applications on a wide variety of operating systems. We want users to have the choice of where they want to go. That's why we provide software for all version of Windows!"

  • SuSE involved too (Score:3, Informative)

    by iguild ( 553815 ) on Monday June 03, 2002 @01:05PM (#3631978)
    The BBC article does not mention the fact, that SuSE is actually involved in this deal. The German Linux Distributor will deliver its Linux software while IBM will manage the IT infrastructure.
    • The BBC article does not mention the fact, that SuSE is actually involved in this deal.

      Well, you would be right except for the fact that the article specifically mentions that.

      So you are completely wrong and several retarded moderators who also didn't read the article modded you up to informative rather than down as redundant.

  • by AIXadmin ( 10544 ) on Monday June 03, 2002 @01:24PM (#3632117) Homepage
    Does this mean RMS will now want us to call Germany, GNU/Germany?
  • And in Taiwan... (Score:2, Informative)

    by dirvish ( 574948 )
    In a somewhat related story, Taiwan is pushing free software [kuro5hin.org].
  • But also check out the links, they even have the Peruvian government one listed next to this story.

    Interesting time are ahead I think and hope.


  • by v4mpyr ( 185039 )
    So IBM is thriving overseas, yet here in the US they are laying off countless employees. Am I the only one who sees a problem in that?
  • Think about it people. No more Solitaire, no more .WMV porn, no more games.

    What impact will this have on Shockwave and Flash games? Will there popularity rise? Those questions remain unanswered, only the future will tell.
  • Lord of the OS (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Grip3n ( 470031 )
    Three Rings for the Linux-kings under the sky,
    Seven for the Kernel-lords in their halls of stone,
    Nine for .NET Developers doomed to die,
    One for the Dark Lord on his Dark Throne
    In the Land of Microsoft where the Shadows lie.
    One OS to rule them all, One OS to find them,
    One OS to bring them all and in the Darkness bind them
    In the Land of Microsoft where the Shadows lie

    I found this fitting since in the end, it is not a massive army that defeats the ring, it's the little people, the ones that were never considered by the Dark Lord himself. The Dark Lord launches his own attacks, "Microsoft wrote protesting about the law and warning of collapsing software markets and portraying a nightmare scenario of incompatibility." But in the end his armys are defeated, one by one, "But the answer - from a Peruvian congressman - refuted the letter point by point." The end is nigh, do you know who our Aragorn is?
  • by leereyno ( 32197 ) on Monday June 03, 2002 @06:18PM (#3634603) Homepage Journal
    The disk defragmenter that ships with Windows 2000 and XP was written by Executive Software, a company wholly owned and run by scientologists. The German government and people, being thoroughly familiar with totalitarian philosophies and regimes, are VERY anti-scientology. They recognize and understand that scientology is Nazi-ism taken one step farther, it is a nazi-esque philosophy dressed up as religion. I should know, I once was a scientologist. Scientology is the closest thing to an amalgamation of the mafia, fascism, big business, and a mind control cult, with a money scam thrown in for good measure. Because of the relationship between Microsoft and Executive Software the German government has refused to implement computing solutions that utilize Windows 2000 or XP. At one point the German government was demanding that Microsoft provide them with a version of Windows 2000 that was free of Executive Software's code. They didn't want to support a group overseas that they were working very hard to eliminate in their own country, with good reason I might add. On top of this add things like Echelon and the accusation that Microsoft has installed back doors into windows at the behest of the US intelligence community and Linux makes absolutely perfect sense as the platform of choice. Using it doesn't help support an evil cult and it doesn't make you vulnerable to US government spooks. I'm very glad to see this.


The rich get rich, and the poor get poorer. The haves get more, the have-nots die.