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Swiss Canton Abandons Linux Migration 442

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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  • Umm.. yea (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 18, 2010 @05:18AM (#33618494)

    Reading through the issues, it seems they didn't actually stage and test this before deploying it. Typically, in real IT shops, that's what you do. Development, Staging, Beta, rinse, repeat, certify it, freeze it, and then production.

    It sounds like that just slapped that shit app in there and didn't look at the how it was slamming the database. You can't change the database. You have to change the application. Which is quit a big deal without programmer's.

    Methinks none of those monkey's have ever done this before.

  • Hmm... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Zixaphir ( 845917 ) <> on Saturday September 18, 2010 @05:30AM (#33618538) Homepage
    As much as I love Linux, it is nice to see a government who will do what the majority wants than what a niche minority lobbies for. Or perhaps it's nice to see a society that fights for what it wants, rather than a government where anyone who is against the corporate overmind is unimportant.

    Of course, this is Windows 7 (and therefore Microsoft) that we're talking about. I'm certain ConsumerWatchdog doesn't honestly count as a public critic, so who is to say the same thing hasn't happened here. Dammit, I hate watching the fruits of the powers that be without getting a real glimpse of what's going on under the hood of the beast.

    Ah, I hate being a conspiracy theorist, and I could probably throw out how corporations have rotted this world for their protection, and how the majority means nothing as the Dollar is king. Bow down to the almighty dollar who's at the top, and where are you?

    But who is to say that happened here. I am just a rambler.
  • by jimicus ( 737525 ) on Saturday September 18, 2010 @05:50AM (#33618590)

    Let's not automatically assume that's because Linux really isn't ready for desktop use - or that there's corruption going on.

    A major transition like this is hard. Linux doesn't have anything like Active Directory for the desktop (Anyone who suggests you use something like Puppet is living in another world. AD comes with policies ready to go, all you need to do is tick the necessary boxes and you can be reasonably sure that when you tick the box, it'll actually do what it says. Writing and debugging equivalent configuration for even a tenth of that in Puppet would cost a lot more in man-hours than all the Windows licenses you can shake a stick at). There's no realistic replacement for the combination of Outlook/Exchange. (BTW, I can't remember the username but every time I post something like this one of the authors of Citadel comes out of the woodwork and suggests I check that. Terribly sorry, but I have. No offence, but I don't believe you've used a properly administered Exchange installation if you honestly think Citadel's a viable replacement.)

    I haven't even considered the possibility of custom-written software which was intended for Windows and will require re-writing. Wine doesn't cut it when your suppliers' response to any query is going to be "You're running under what?!"

    Add to that the fact that a lot of people don't really know how to use their computer - they just know to click on the "button on the left" or "third one from the right". Even very subtle change will cause such people no end of trouble, and even if you're in a part of the world with at-will employment you can't sack them because otherwise you'd be sacking 20% of your workforce. I'm not even remotely surprised to learn that someone's tried a migration and messed it up.

    The thing that does surprise me is that the same desktop users who will call the helpdesk every 15 minutes with a Linux desktop will almost certainly not object anywhere near so vocally when they're put onto Windows 7 and an upgraded Office suite. Part of me wonders if you'd see different results if you took Ubuntu, changed the boot and login screen to say "Microsoft Windows 8", re-branded OpenOffice as "Microsoft Office 2009" but left everything else as a normal Ubuntu install.

  • by Svippy ( 876087 ) on Saturday September 18, 2010 @05:55AM (#33618620) Homepage

    I thought it meant 'unpaid' or 'paid less than required'. At least, that's its meaning in Danish ('afspiste').

  • Re:Quick Summary (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 18, 2010 @06:19AM (#33618698)

    In nine years, you can take a junior high student, have him finish high school, and college, all the time learning some linux on the side, and you can finish the transition easily. Don't blame the OS for human stupidity.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 18, 2010 @06:20AM (#33618700)

    Just reading AD and Windows2000 book on the internet.

    "Let's take a simple example from Leicester University. We administrators wanted workstation access to the Systems Administrator toolset, which normally is installed only on a server. While we could install these tools on our own PCs, we actually wanted the tools to follow us around the network and be available from any PC that we chose to log on from....With Windows 2000, we were able to use group policies to specify that the toolset was to be automatically installed on any client that I logged on to before the desktop appeared."

    OK, why are you installing this on any machine you log in to? Why not, oh, I dunno, use group policies to defined who can execute the toolset and have it reside on a server? You can also set your "start menu" to what you need access to for the point-and-drool crowd. Seems like this problem is one from the Windows "It's MY computer" mindset.

    "Let's take another example. At the university we use a central logon script for every user." .kshrc and .startx?

    "This is no different than Windows NT. However, we also apply extra logon scripts for some sets of users based on which Organizational Unit they are in."

    The default .kshrc scripts can be built once on account creation.

    "We also can specify logoff scripts that run when a user logs off the system."

    Gosh. So can startx.

    "Similarly, we can have a central logoff script that applies to all users and a series" /usr/X11/etc/startx

    " of other logoff scripts tailored to users in certain parts of the tree."

    To do what?

    "Workstations also can have scripts, but instead of executing at logon and logoff, these scripts run at startup and shutdown." /etc/init.d

    " Want to install a new Dynamic Link Library (DLL) on all clients? How about using a startup script to do it?"

    How about central installs? RPM. Cron job? /etc/init/rc.local?

    "Have a desire to start the (normally disabled) web service on a series of workstations for a conference that runs for a week? Why not create a startup script in Active Directory that starts those services?"

    Yah, this happens SOOO often. In any bureaucracy of any size, working out what and where to do that takes a fortnight.


    "Let's take a final example. You are required to change a set of registry key values for every client in your organization so that the clients can all receive an organization-wide company video broadcast from the chairman and CEO."

    No registry in Linux.

    "You apply these changes one evening, and the next morning, 20 thousand workstations across your network are rebooted so that they receive this policy on startup."

    OK, I'd prefer to be able to do this without rebooting.

    xinetd can bounce and reread its configuration without needing a reboot.

    But, as I said before, most of these seem to be "we can do these cool things" not, whether they're warranted or needed.

  • by RAMMS+EIN ( 578166 ) on Saturday September 18, 2010 @06:28AM (#33618726) Homepage Journal

    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.

    Migrations from some Unix to Linux are a bit easier because you usually get similar and often better software than what you had.

    Migrating from the Microsoft stack of Windows, Exchange Server, Active Directory, Office, and, ceiling cat forbid, SharePoint or BizTalk is a different story: I would go as far as to say that exactly none of these have equivalents on the Linux side that are compatible but better, 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. Think of all the stories on Slashdot, where supposedly computer literate people who aren't afraid of a little tinkering complain about Linux not doing this or that as well as Windows, or not in the same way. Now imagine what happens if you _force_ a few thousand users who have no affinity with computers, don't want to tinker with computers, and actually rather wouldn't work with computers at all to make the switch. That's what you're up against.

    Now, for a different scenario, consider an organization that is just getting started. There are only a few people there, and the whole IT infrastructure still has to be set up. This, I think, is a scenario where free software can be very successful. It's also an interesting scenario to think about. Suppose you wanted to set up the IT infrastructure for at least a few hundred users, most of whom would have jobs where they have to use computers, without necessarily having any affinity for computers themselves. Assume you would need some common infrastructure: e-mail for everyone, calendaring would be very useful, and at least some desks will have computers that any among a group of people will have to be able to log into and get to work with (i.e. they won't have their own desk and their own computer). How would you do it?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 18, 2010 @06:31AM (#33618734)

    I'm sad to say that I, as a die-hard AIX/Linux/Mac fanboi have had to recommend migrating healthcare applications to Windows servers, and testing with Windows clients. This is because the healthcare organisations who will look after the applications in three years time at the end of the project, will not have the skills, enthusiasm or experience to run anything that isn't Windows.
      I accept that for most people, the desktop is and will be Windows. For some, who don't need encouragement Windows will always be anathema, and all flavors of unix, be they GNU/Linux, AIX or Mac (other versions are available) will be preferable and worth any effort required to use instead. I bet I could have fixed any and all problems that these guys came up with, but when you are faced with users who are baying for a particular solution, rather than establishing what their requirements are, it is a lost cause.

  • by Mysticalfruit ( 533341 ) on Saturday September 18, 2010 @07:15AM (#33618850) Homepage Journal
    I can't read a lick of German, but I work with people who can... So I got a rather quick verbal translation of the article...

    These guys basically steamrolled the users onto Linux without doing an adequate evaluation of their environment and without following through with a solid beta program. I'm sensing this *could* have been successful if they'd been more organized about it.

    I speak from experience as a guy whose been responsible for a somewhat medium sized (several departments in a large corporation) migration from windows to Linux.

    The first thing you do is you go talk to your users and figure out what they're doing for a job and see if Linux actually will work in their environment! If they spend all day writing VB applications that interact with a SQLserver database... Linux probably won't be a good fit.

    The next thing you do is go and recruit some beta users who are willing to be guinea pigs. Then setup a system that'll work for them. Be prepared to sit in plenty of offices and debug issues. After the kinks have been worked out and they've been happily working for a week or two... convert a few more users... rinse, latter, repeat. It might be that you'll get all the kinks worked out and you can do 20 people at a time.

    A few things you need to consider even before doing this...
    * Authentication... is each machine going to be an island? Most corporations really frown on this... are you going to tie them into Active Directory? Setup a NIS bridge? Things to think about..
    * Home Directories... Where's their home dir going to reside? In my case, peoples home directories hang off a unix machine running NIS / Samba, so that wasn't such an issue...
    * Printers, etc.

    Also remember that your users will never give you the full truth... invariably you'll get a call because [insert obscure scan/printer/web cam] doesn't work.

    Another thing you need to be able to do is concede defeat in some cases. In each department I've got probably ~20 people who didn't want to switch. Either they didn't want to switch or there was some compelling reason that they couldn't switch, be okay with it and move on.

    So this migration had nothing do with Linux not being suitable for the desktop, this was a IT failure.
  • Re:RTFA, then (Score:2, Interesting)

    by maxwell demon ( 590494 ) on Saturday September 18, 2010 @07:46AM (#33618966) Journal

    The number of people who have to work with the system are clearly in the minority. Most people never have any contact with the system, and believe whatever the press tells them about it.

  • Not so easy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sideh ( 978022 ) on Saturday September 18, 2010 @07:50AM (#33618978)
    Replacing windows with Linux using centralised authentication isn't that easy. We tried it recently where I work where we run both Linux and WIndows 7. This meant it had to be AD.

    Using ldap for web services was easy enough as was getting win 7 desktops joined up. The hard part was getting Ubuntu machines on the domain...

    The first thing I tried was likewise-open which I had a number of problems with. We eventually settled on winbind which worked incredibly well for a samba file server joined to the domain, but for desktops it wasn't ideal. If the domain controller became inaccessible for whatever reason, the whole machine would freeze up even with cached credentials turned on. The other caveat was user's inability to change their domain passwords from Linux. Well.. it was possible but whenever they changed their password, both the new and old passwords would still work. (see []) It was also impossible to force a user to change their password, it would fail constantly.

    If I weren't so determined I would have likely just gone with Windows 7 for ease of use despite the extra cost. There is one more commercial product I need to try and that's centrify. Fingers crossed.
  • Re:FOSS (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ciggieposeur ( 715798 ) on Saturday September 18, 2010 @08:01AM (#33619016)

    I find it easier to purchase the Windows license (which is usually in built in the cost of the computer anyway) and the 5000 Euro worth of licenses I need

    I did my MS in chemical engineering focused on quantum chemistry / molecular simulation / molecular modeling / "nanotechnology". In my field the mainstays all run on clustered supercomputers running some form of Unix: Gaussian (which has a Windows version too), DL_POLY, VASP, MOPAC, Cerius2, ... Even the visualization tools often were Unix-only requiring an X11 server. Though some of the grad students wished for more Windows packages, it was pretty much a given that doing real work in quantum chemistry means learning to love Unix.

    I'm curious: which Windows-only packages are hot in your field?

  • It's not easy (Score:4, Interesting)

    by fmaresca ( 739871 ) on Saturday September 18, 2010 @08:14AM (#33619056)

    I did some small and medium business migrations towards FOSS software and I can attest that it's not easy.

    Key factors I've encountered are: users have a bad predisposition, they always prefer windows because they (think they) know it, they have it in their home computer, notebook and phone, and they don't want to make the effort to learn another system; there are custom developed apps that not always are easy or at least economically feasible to migrate; there are software that are probably easy to migrate but you lost support if your server is not windows, and you are setting yourself in a position where you will be blamed by any problem a computer could ever have, related or not to FOSS.

    In my experience trying to perform a 100% migration is not very easy not desirable: except in very restricted environments, every non trivial system will always be made up of heterogeneous OSes and apps. Because of smartphones, laptops and embedded systems, that mixture is pretty much guaranteed these days. So it's better to move early the back systems: replace mail servers, file servers, databases, printservers, backup systems, http and ftp servers, LDAP, routers, firewalls... and make sure they work and are appropriately configured.

    Then deploy OOorg to _windows_ WS, perhaps with Firefox and Thunderbird (I always though that the Thunderbird developers would be looking at Pegasus Mail, sadly they weren't). That way your users will be familiar with the apps and then changing the "desktop" will be more easy. Change the users WS OS progressively, change first the WS of the more "advanced" users and try your best to show the deployment of the "new" system as a privilege; if you can, change the OS and put a new WS for it, or at least a new or bigger monitor.

    Important factors in success and collaborative users is to provide them with compatibility: you're migrating, the rest of the world no. So you have to make sure your users can communicate with the external world: not only OOorg has to open xls and doc files; they _need_ to chat in the msn network, watch videos on youtube, and so on. Those are as much as important as to be able to do the work if you want your users supporting you.

    Be careful choosing a X environment: the popularity of Ubuntu these days hides the fact that it can be obnoxious and overcomplicated for end users. A smaller, lighter and more orthogonal desktop environment (like XFCE) could be better.
    Don't try for the new environment to mimic "look and feel" of windows: it's far more irritating to encounter subtle and minimal differences in behavior that to face a complete different approach. Most users spend 90% of they time in two or three apps (mail, office suite, some custom or enterprise app) and they simply don't care about anything else.

    Your ultimate goal is to be asked to install "linux" on their home boxes or laptops. That will happen when they feel comfortable and familiar with the new system.

  • by khasim ( 1285 ) <> on Saturday September 18, 2010 @08:48AM (#33619218)

    To see if in the next 3 years they report a massive increase in the number of malware infections.

  • OS X Flamebait! (Score:1, Interesting)

    by oldmac31310 ( 1845668 ) on Saturday September 18, 2010 @09:00AM (#33619274) Homepage
    Seriously, I have tried what is supposed to be the really easy Linux distro - Ubuntu - and it was just like a crap version of Windows - or more accurately in my experience Mac OS 9. When faced with an unfamiliar OS that is imposed upon them, people who are accustomed to Windows will want the same crappy experience that they are accustomed to even with all of the waiting around while patch updates and anti-virus updates download and install etc. My, perhaps limited, understanding is that Linux in all of its forms is just not familiar enough for the average user. I would not consider myself average (as would even the most retarded!). And when inflicted by the state it WILL be resented very much. State adopted FOSS is a great boost for MS because it falsely affirms the notion of personal freedom in the form of MS slavery. Makes OS X ever more attractive despite all of its criticism. Still a nicer OS to use daily.

    Never forget that for many people in Europe things that are done for the greater good are viewed with suspicion and often disdain.

    I'm all for a nice user friendly (are we allowed to say that anymore) version of Linux for the proles, but when will it be better than Windows - or when will it replicate Windows (without the several hours of waiting around)? I would love this to happen. But MS still has the edge of, oh let's use a car analogy: Windows is like a budget family car (in the 1960s!). Gets you where you want to go but if you want it to work well and last a long time without problems you need to be able to get under the hood and do some tinkering. If not expect to bring it in to the shop and have some experts fuck it up for you. Ubuntu is the same - except - if you don't know what you are doing - you are bringing that second hand heap over the border to get fixed by people who speak a different language and are really hard to find.

    OS X just works. It does. Really. For the average user it is like a breath of fresh air. Linux is still like a wonky version of Windows. I'm no fanboy. It is just a fact.

  • by Taagehornet ( 984739 ) on Saturday September 18, 2010 @09:19AM (#33619376)

    No, Google Translate get's it wrong. The article actually only says that certain *parts* of the project were delayed till 2006:

    Ein Ziel, das nicht zu schaffen war, unter anderem, weil *einige* Ausschreibungen für das Projekt erst 2006 anliefen.

    Which roughly translates to:

    A target that could never be met, partly because *some* contracts only went out to tender as late as 2006.

  • Re:FOSS (Score:0, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 18, 2010 @09:55AM (#33619560)

    (If you want to help, please vote my comment up. Thank you.)

    Mr Kurt Bader, who led this project, certainly would have done some things differently in retrospect. He is actually a good and competent guy though with the courage to promote (F)OSS in Switzerland.

    The problem with Linux and (F)OSS in Switzerland is manifold:

    - Microsoft has a strong lobbying group in Switzerland that figuratively "bought" several members of the parliament (even members of the socialist party, e.g. Mrs Pascale Bruderer, who worked for Microsoft Switzerland for a couple of years)
    - Microsoft's tentacles even reach out to the Federal Council (Microsoft has strong ties to the current President of the Swiss Confederation, Mrs Doris Leuthard)
    - Mr Stefan Meierhans, Swiss "Preisüberwacher" ("Mr Price", chief of one of the Swiss antitrust authorities), is a former PR expert and lobbyist of Microsoft Switzerland. He was appointed by Mrs Doris Leuthard (surprise, surprise).
    - A couple of days ago, Mrs Leuthard announced the establishment of a new eEconomy Board [] organization that is supposed to offer IT advice to the Swiss government and its related organizations. The appointed chief of this organization is the current CEO of Microsoft Switzerland, Mr Peter Waser. Other representatives of big US closed source software vendors are part of the board, but not a single representative of a local open source software company. Original story [].

    So, is anybody surprised that (F)OSS is having a difficult time in Switzerland?

    Further points to think about:

    - In Switzerland, the cost of labor is high compared to other costs (hardware, licensing fees) that typically occur in software projects
    - From a costs point of view, Linux has mostly advantages when labor costs are relatively low and hardware and licensing costs relatively high
    - The Swiss government hasn't fully understood yet the importance of
    -- open document formats (trust, reliability, sustainability, openness)
    -- open source software (security, trust, sustainability, creates local jobs instead of sending most of the added-value overseas)

    Call to action:

    It's a shame how the US closed source software industry is lobbying in Switzerland and even more how easily many of the Swiss politicians and members of parliament fall prey.

    Please help promoting (F)OSS in Switzerland by complaining here:

    President of the Swiss Confederation, Mrs Doris Leuthard []
    former President of the Swiss parliament, now member of the parliament, Mrs Pascale Bruderer []
    Preisüberwacher Mr Stefan Meierhans []
    eEconomy Board, led by the CEO of Microsoft Switzerland, Mr Peter Waser []

    or here (list of the most important Swiss parties):

    CVP, a major conservative-catholic party (party of Mrs Doris Leuthard and Mr Stefan Meierhans) []
    FDP, a major liberal party, in about what the "republicans" are in the US []
    SP, a major socialist party, in about what the "democrats" are in the US (party of Mrs Pascale Bruderer) []
    SVP, a major conservative party []
    GP, the greens []
    GLP, a small green-liberal party []
    PDA, a small socialist-communist party []
    EVP, a small conservative-protestant party []
    SD, a small conservative party []

    Thank you for your support.

  • by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Saturday September 18, 2010 @10:38AM (#33619822) Homepage Journal

    "The second saddest thing about the Swiss is that they think they combine the creativity of Italians with the organization of the Germans; the saddest is that in reality it's the other way round."

        -- Oscar Wilde

  • by DarkFencer ( 260473 ) on Saturday September 18, 2010 @11:28AM (#33620110)

    Beyond the straw poll thing, all this can be done with Zimbra without any problem. We did an Exchange/Outlook to Zimbra/Zimbra Web Client migration and couldn't be happier. Sync to Blackberries and other smartphones works flawlessly, shared folders/calendars, account delegation, etc - all work perfectly. All for a lot less money and headache.

    If someone wanted that straw poll thing you're talking about, it would probably be trivial to implement as a Zimlet.

  • by commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) on Saturday September 18, 2010 @11:49AM (#33620254) Journal

    >>>in the meantime they deploy web-based email software instead of Outlook, and Openoffice version which apparently wasn't able to run presentations, I don't know who's to blame here.

    Sounds like they did things bassbackwards. When migrating to Linux, it should be a two step process:

    - Switch to all open-source apps (OpenOffice, Firefox, etc) while still using the familiar Windows environment
    - Then switch to open-source a year or two later, while still keeping the same apps

    Step 1 is where the real cost savings come from (imho)

  • by commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) on Saturday September 18, 2010 @12:11PM (#33620402) Journal

    >>>5 year olds can use Linux/GNOME/OpenOffice. So what's the problem with adults?

    Their brains have calcified (i.e. they lost the ability to learn or accept new things).

  • by devent ( 1627873 ) on Saturday September 18, 2010 @02:41PM (#33621402) Homepage

    Windows fanboy here?

    NTFS still is offering features

    Like online defragmentation? Like a complete check of 64GB and more in under 3 seconds? Like the ability to delete files that are in use or otherwise blocked (like a stupid application or a virus)?

    but important things like GPU scheduling so that the OS controls the GPU and application usage and allows for non-graphical GPU processing without worry that games or the application UIs will suffer, stall, and fail to render.

    I run games and 3D effects on my laptop all the time and there are no issues what-so-ever with UIs or whatever.

    Linux had a huge chnace here and instead demonstrated what many of us find all too often, for an old kernel model, and an old OS model, and an old graphical protocol, it is not a mature OS for the mainstream. Good concepts, but dated, and too many bandaids to try to bring these to modern computing effectively.

    Right, that is why Linux is now number one in servers and embedded devices, also number one in super computers and widely used for 3D effects in moves. That's also why the NYSE switched to Linux []. Look around, Linux is now used everywhere except for the desktop and there is mostly because there are missing applications (and missing pre-installations).

    Facts are, Linux is not only a viable alternative to Windows, it's more secure (no viruses), it's use less resources (you can run it in a 256MB RAM machine, with under 1GB of HDD space), it's more suited for terminals and virtualization, there are multiple vendors which to choose for support.

    The really only thing what users are complaining is the lack of applications, like Photoshop, MS Office, etc. Just look at the other countries and communities that are using Linux very successful and are not only more secure but paying less. Nobody would use Windows for anything, if Photoshop, MS Office and Outlook/Exchange would run on Linux. Windows is just a play system to run your games on, real work is done mostly with Linux.

  • by drsmithy ( 35869 ) <drsmithy@gm a i l . c om> on Saturday September 18, 2010 @03:09PM (#33621550)

    5 year olds can use Linux/GNOME/OpenOffice. So what's the problem with adults?

    5 year olds have nothing to lose by getting it wrong.

"Remember, extremism in the nondefense of moderation is not a virtue." -- Peter Neumann, about usenet