Operating systems

Ditching Linux for Windows? The truth isn't that simple, says Munich

Munich city council says a review of its IT has not been triggered by staff dissatisfaction after moving from Windows to Linux on the desktop, in spite of reports to the contrary.

Munich city council demonstrated to the world that an organisation employing thousands could ditch Windows and move to Linux and free software.

When the project finished late last year about 15,000 staff at the German authority had been migrated to using Limux, a custom-version of Ubuntu, and OpenOffice.

But is the council's move to open source about to be scrapped in favour or returning to Microsoft?

No says the council, in spite of numerous reports to the contrary. Suggestions the council has decided to back away from Linux are wrong, according to council spokesman Stefan Hauf.

He said the council's recently elected mayor Dieter Reiter has instead simply commissioned a report into the future IT system for the council.

"The new mayor has asked the administration to gather the facts so we can decide and make a proposal for the city council how to proceed in future," he said.

"Not only for Limux but for all of IT. It's about the organisation, the costs, performance and the useability and satisfaction of the users."

The study, being conducted by internal IT staff at the council, will consider which operating systems and software packages - both proprietary and open source - would best satisfy this criteria. The study is not, as has been reported, solely focused around the question of whether to drop Limux and move back to Windows, he said.

LiMux-screenshot-11-2013-620px.jpg
The Limux operating system is based on a customised version of Ubuntu
 GPL

No decision has been taken with regards to the future of Limux and free software at the council, he said, or will be taken, until the review is complete.

"Nothing is decided because first we have to see the report and then we can decide," he said, adding the review has not been triggered by any dissatisfaction with Limux but is rather part of a review of how to proceed now the Limux migration project is complete.

The level of complaints about Limux and free software from council staff are nothing unusual, said Hauf, with the primary gripe being a lack of compatibility between the odt document format used in OpenOffice and software used by external organisations. Munich had been hoping to ease some of these problems by moving all its OpenOffice users to LibreOffice and by funding updates to LibreOffice that improve interoperability with Microsoft's Office suite.

No date has been set for the completion of the review of the council's IT, which Hauf said has "just started". If the findings are unclear he said a second review may be carried out by an external group of experts.

The move to Limux from was triggered by a similar review in the early 2000s, which considered the merits of switching from Windows NT to XP and a newer version of Microsoft Office, versus a GNU/Linux OS, OpenOffice and other free software.

Free software was ruled the better choice by Munich's ruling body, principally because it would free the council from dependence on major proprietary software suppliers and put in place open protocols, interfaces and data formats.

This demand for greater freedom from lock-in was a driving force for the project, Peter Hofmann, the man who led the Limux project during its implementation told TechRepublic last year.

"That was never the main goal within the City of Munich. Our main goal was to become independent," he said.

The final decision on the future of Munich's IT will be made by its elected members. While the majority of the city council are reported as being behind the Limux project, mayor Reiter was recently cited as saying open source software is 'running behind the proprietary IT vendor's solutions'. The council's deputy mayor Josef Schmid has also complained about the time it took to get council emails and calendar appointments accessible on his smartphone.

The council had previously said that the move to Limux had saved it more than €10m, avoiding Microsoft licensing costs and extending the lifespan of its PCs. In August 2013 Munich said it had cost €23m to shift to LiMux and OpenOffice. Munich says this is far less than the estimated €34m it said it would have cost to upgrade to Windows 7 and newer versions of Microsoft Office.

Microsoft claimed that, by its estimation, the LiMux project would have cost considerably more than Munich had stated. A Microsoft-commissioned report put the project's price at €60.6m, far more than the €17m Microsoft claimed it would have cost to shift to Windows XP and a newer version of Microsoft Office. However Munich said Microsoft's figures were based on a number of bogus assumptions, such as massively overestimating the number of people who implemented Limux.

About

Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic UK. He writes about the technology that IT-decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

102 comments
333239
333239

So they have the same problem that stops many organisations moving away from Windows in the first place - MS Office compatibility. Nice that somebody took the time to show that that argument is still valid, as most play it safe and just stick to MS. Once the majority of business is using Libre Office, or Office apps just become irrelevant, then I would consider changing, but that time is not yet.


The TCO of Linux is most definitely not free, you have training costs, configuration costs, compatibility costs, and in some cases limited software choices. It is great for web servers, and some other applications and if it does what you need then great, but for me it is not a professional MS Office replacement yet.

Tinman57
Tinman57

The smartest (and best) thing I did when MS stopped support for XP was to head on over to the Linux side of the fence.  It's by far the best OS (Ubuntu) I've used in a long time.  So far every program & app that I needed were easily downloaded and installed and were all free.  And the best part is, if I didn't like Ubuntu, I have a choice of over 500 distributions for download/install, and all for free, with the exception of a few.

  Since I came over to Ubuntu I have NEVER experienced anything like "The Blue Screen of Death".  I don't even know if Ubuntu has such a screen or what color it might be, I just haven't had a major crash in Ubuntu......NEVER!

  And so far any little bugs that I have found in my programs/apps were automatically reported (optional) and had a fix within a few days.  And about the only time I have to reboot is if the Kernel itself was updated.  What's not to love about that?

  If MS ever releases an OS that's better than a Linux distribution, I will go back to Windows, but I just don't see that happening with the way MS does business and intrudes into your computer in the name of anti-piracy, or any other name.  Not to mention the price of their OS/software, if you want a license that's not married to the motherboard, you WILL pay dearly.  Even their "Upgrade" prices are pricey.

  If there's a specific Windows program that I want or have to use, never fear, there are several Windows emulators available for Linux that will do the trick, for free.....


  I just read the other day that Libre Office is being ported over to Windows.  If it's also going to be free then MS is in for a big surprise.  People will install it instead of paying for Office.....

wjcoyne
wjcoyne

Well, the bit that I would like to hear more about is all the specialized applications that a city council has to use.
Not the office stuff, which is really just stuff you can get anywhere, and is just a bunch of toys.
I'm talking about CAD, GIS, Road traffic, applications running PLC's in the sewerage and water treatment plants, and stuff like that.  These are the real guts of what runs the council and provides the services every day to the citizens of Munich.
I think that sort of information would make for a compelling argument for other organisations and companies to make a switch in the future.

gathagan
gathagan

It seems odd to me that so many comments revolve around issues that have nothing to do with what the city of Munich did and is doing.

"I found a workaround for Netflix"
"If there was a Linux version of iTunes, I'd switch"
"More support for popular PC Games on the Linux platform."

This is a municipality providing computer/OS/applications for its employees.
I can be certain that those types of issues were not considered in Munich's decision.

I can also be pretty certain that the vast majority of Munich's employees don't handle network maintenance or other infrastructure tasks that may require specific applications that are not available on the Linux platform.

Then there are the myriad comments with regard to compatibility with MS Office and the age of the Linux kernel.

This was a move that began 10 years ago.
A move that involved switch from Windows *NT* to another OS.
A move that predates Oracle's purchase of Sun, the existence of MS Office 2007-2013 and the existence of LibreOffice.

Any large organization, particularly government organizations, are going to be behind the curve in both their OS and their application versions.

Want to guess how many people are still running Windows XP/Office 2003 in all of the federal/state/county/municipal agencies across the world?

As stated in this and other articles on the subject, Munich already has a move to LibreOffice underway, as well as an updated OS.

Just like you'd expect from any organization.


There are also comments with regard to the version of Linux and the "customized" Limux.
The "customization" consists of bundling Ubuntu, LibreOffice and Wollmux.
This is no different than any large organization that rolls out employee installations based on a pre-built image of the OS and whatever software packages that organization uses.
That's hardly unique.
Yes, Wollmux was created by Munich, but true to normal open source practices, the templating tool is available to all and is used by other organizations.

In short, what Munich is going through and has gone through is no different than what any organization goes through when they perform a large scale update their employee computers.

They would have gone through the same problems if they'd stuck with MS and moved to newer versions of Windows and MS Office.


Whether it was moving off of DOS, OS/2, NT or any other OS, the same situations have occurred over and over again throughout the history of computing.

shtlcdr
shtlcdr

I have hacked on PCs from DOS 2.1 and Win 3.1 - My thanks to MS for the business revolution standards now worlds away from the Typewriter! Lots of growing pains through the myriad of 80's upstarts: (Amiga;Osborne;Wordstar;Lotus etc. to reminisce a few) and a vehemence of differing visions to get where we are today. All eventually and collectively now contained into basic clone PC's, and the "Office" suites of software, which have formed into society's new view of how 'business' is to be processed electronically, and *expected* to run- efficiently. Hello Android. (IE. can we use what we have?) Anyone still use opaque projectors or 35mm slideshows for presentations? Unlikely. So now that we've been subjected to the 'Pavlov dog syndrome' of appropriately engineered products, we hold the expectation that ALL subsequent products will be the same or better, for free? I applaud any and all of Linux based product development (thank you all), to include supporting software, but MS had loads of MONEY to do their part in this. Open Source is basically an 'upstart' just like the previous named attempts to catch up to the 'big dogs' for FREE. Well, I think the Munich move is a phenomenal 'in your face' achievement toward the open source movement, since they support it by providing funding, and a proving ground for development! I enjoy giving community service occasionally, but I also like getting paid for continued premium quality work too! Is that inspirational enough to get off a wallet for improvements? Absolutely. Now a Linux fan, I use and contribute to LibreOffice, but also have similar attitude toward ditching MS.

ejespino1127
ejespino1127

After using Linux for more than a year in my home (average 3 hours per day) I never will be back to Windows. Just for the records:

1. I continue using Windows 7 at the office

2. Because  I have an old Macbook I cannot install versions newer than Lion therefore I installed Ubuntu in it

3. In home I have another computer in home running Fedora 19. I used it twice a month

4. In both Linux boxes I installed MATE, LXDE, GNOME, XFCE. Only Unity is installed on the Ubuntu. Most of the time I use LXDE.

5. My office suite is LibreOffice

6. My biggest crisis (that make me think twice going back to Windows 7 and Mac OS X Lion) was not having a native package of Netflix but searching the Internet I found a nice workaround that works flawlessly.


Cheers.

luvwknd
luvwknd

I don't know, I wouldn't want to run an OS where the source code is available via download on the Internet to anybody who wants it. Call me paranoid, but that just doesn't seem to be the best security model to follow.

Poli Tecs
Poli Tecs

If you want to bottle neck a company or org then this is how to do it. You just cannot get the specialized services and software needed to run most businesses on Linux. Period. Same reason no one moves all to Apple besides their stupid costs. This is just a dumb anti MS initiative by some truly skilled used IT salesmen that just hate MS.


Linux is a great integrator platform used for those minimalist niches like DB management, software driven appliances vs. hardware like firewalls, routers, etc. Or having those handful of geeks that just want to swim against the tide (love those people, they make work life fun), but NOT reality. 

GrizzledGeezer
GrizzledGeezer

It seems to me that most of these questions/issues could have been resolved before the move was made. Customizing Linux is a tipoff that you probably shouldn't have made the move.

Nitramd
Nitramd

People generally do not like any change, however much it may ultimately improve there lot, if it requires them to make any additional learning & effort!

I believe this cities move to Linux & associated Open Office and also the UK governments move to odt will benifit both Linux & Microsoft. Both will have to improve to reflect all customers needs now!

krusadr
krusadr

I think that the Munich IT department should employ or ask its programmer employees to fix problems in whatever open source Projects they are facing trouble with, and enforce a rule to commit those changes back into those Projects so that everyone else also gets those updates. Isn't that what open source and free software really mean?

Rob C
Rob C

Can the public (me) get a copy of Limux (in English)

lgbarn1966
lgbarn1966

I'm an experienced Unix/Linux Admin and I would be very frustrated to do everything in Linux. I hate Windows but I do believe using the right tools for the intended job. Windows has tools that you just can't work effectively with the real world without.

badi335
badi335

I've found OpenOffice and LibreOffice unsatisfactory at times. However, Kingsoft Writer (Office Suite) has been the closest replacement that I've found to replace Microsoft Word.

Adam_12345
Adam_12345

"security star"....There is a big contradiction in it. How is it possible to be a security star when security requires confidentiality and no repudiation....?

mcs
mcs

Way to go for everyone. They have saved millions of Euros of citizens. Someone well said it in comments. Money spent for linux migration is one time, and is paid to people for services which is generating local employment. Money paid as licences is to an organisation for profit and do not benefit local citizens. Also, those payments are recurring due to need for frequent upgrades (Often Forced) and also, do not forget the additional costs of need of security / anti Virus / threats of attacks and then, money spent to buy and maintain such additional softwares and hardware. Overall, when we consider total cost of ownership, Linux WINS hands down. 


Also, we need not worry about compatibility. Those who want to do business will be eager to use format of your choice or else, forego your business. And I think all Governments must use open source softwares to save BILLIONS of tax payers money paid to a profit making organisation. And any body who wants to business with government will use compatible file format and there will not be any need to worry about. All can learn from china about this fact. just use Internet search and find out the benefits chinese govt. has derived from using Linux based OS and open source software use.

alejo100
alejo100

the rest are technicalities, what server or what systems should be used. Both can do the same, even though the OS systems migth need more experienced personell and will have a more steep learning curve. 

alejo100
alejo100

They should also consider that the linux costs are mainly salaries of people reducing unemployment, while microsoft costs are license fees. So the linux costs are going back to the local society while the microsoft money going to the shareholders of microsoft.

Rene Espinoza
Rene Espinoza

Why would they want to go back? If the only issue is the office suite, you can still run it on ubuntu. Besides, any business/person nowadays must have the libre office too. It's not like it costs money.

BJ Smith
BJ Smith

Linux since 2003! No regrets

Flavio Sanchez
Flavio Sanchez

Nothing. I already have 8 months ago. LinuxMint is awesome.

Troy Laquerre
Troy Laquerre

Heh,Nothing will tempt me to go over to the "dark side"

Jëff Hënrÿ
Jëff Hënrÿ

why ditch? each has their own strengths and weaknesses. I use windows for things. i use linux for things. I use mac for things.

Ramesh Narwani Jr
Ramesh Narwani Jr

People just like to bitch and its usually something stupid they are too dumb or lazy to figure out

DGPickett
DGPickett

@333239 I went to linux, Ubuntu when my hard drive crashed and the system did not come with a Windows 7 CD or adequate recovery software.  I do see minor formatting differences between LibreOffice and MS Office, but it does support using the more widely accepted MS formats.  I put my data, calendar and contacts into the Google cloud using Insync as well as trying oneDrive (not yet very LINUX compatible) and using DropBox.  This gives me great access from my Android devices.  My printer drivers worked much better on Windows, so I print from a cloud directory mapped to my laptop through PDF.  Mostly, I have been using paper less, cloud more.  I find Chrome to be the fastest browser, and while occasionally there is a page that only works right with Firefox, usually, it is Chrome that works


My wife, who is pretty computer illiterate and more so each day, sat down at my LINUX desktop and was word processing with just a few hints.  It is a pretty short leap with Ubuntu.

Dreiel
Dreiel

@333239 

All software requires some retraining of users, and does not have any decisive influence in a simplistic TOC theoretical equasion. Any claim that there is a significant difference between platforms is pure polemics and politics by the uninitiated.

Dreiel
Dreiel

@333239 

And the training costs after every new windows OS and Office? Your theory is in practice not applicable. Our company lives from the retraining of M$ users on new releases of the OS and Office Progs. Training for free and open-source software is next to null.

James Stevenson
James Stevenson

@Tinman57 I have only had 1 problem with Ubuntu where it refused to boot up but, with a little bit of research, I was able to easily rectify the problem and get it up and running again. 

I agree with you on the software. I migrated over to Ubuntu for applications like KDEnLive and Ardour3 - advanced production programs that cost nothing. I'm very impressed so far and I have been working on Linux for jsut over a year. I prefer it over M$ Windows for nearly everything. I'm definately sticking to it in the future.

Dreiel
Dreiel

@wjcoyne Such interface software is also required for Microsoft. All platforms need some programming adaptions or patches to work well. It has little effects on a simplistic TCO theoretical equasion, as all platforms need customisations.

james
james

@luvwknd That's exactly how you do security in almost any serious project. Algorithms like DES and AES - used for government secrets - are published and discussed in great detail even before they get put into use. The underpinnings of the Internet itself, the software powering some of the world's most popular websites such as Google and Yahoo, the DNS software without which you couldn't access any website by name or send a single email - all open source. (Even www.microsoft.com and Bing rely on Linux, via Microsoft's partnership with Akamai!)


It's good enough to run Whitehouse.gov, the DoD and Google, not to mention a whole lot of infrastructure behind the scenes - you really think that's not secure enough for yourself?

Greenknight_z
Greenknight_z

@Poli Tecs - If you need truly specialized software, it has to be custom built - whatever platform you're on.As for less specialized business software, there's a wide assortment available for Linux. Have you been to SourceForge lately?

docbillnet3
docbillnet3

@lgbarn1966 In over 20 years, I have not found that task.  I'll admit sometimes I do use Windows.  But never because it is the best tool for the job...  My most common use case for Windows is for playing games.  My next most common is I happen to have a client using Windows, so at minimum I need to test my software against windows. There are probably more times when the answer is Windows is just as good as anything else, so why not use it if it is available.   For example, all my video processing software I use to maintain my own movie jukebox works equally well in Windows and Linux.   Most of the time though, I'll do that work in Windows.   Not because Windows is better at it, but because otherwise the box would be sitting idle when I could be utilizing the 8 CPU's on my Windows machine for something productive.   Certainly I could install Linux on that machine and use that, but since Windows works just as well for the tasks I use that machine for and Windows 8 was pre-installed, why would I bother?

270196
270196

@lgbarn1966 I can think of a few major packages that don't have Linux ports/close equivalents and don't run well under Wine (e.g. Photoshop, Visual Studio, Cubase, anything featuring hardware dongles), but out of interest, what packages do you miss? 

ben_myers
ben_myers

@lgbarn1966 OpenOffice is comatose, so Larry Ellison can buy better yachts.  LibreOffice is the fork that lives on and continues to evolve.  LibreOffice has settings that allow you to save documents in either old or new Office format.  With that, what's the big deal about interoperating with the outside world?  All that leaves are Outlook (hello, Thunderbird) and Sharepoint, the latter for anyone crazy enough to use it.  As to other tools available with Windows, I am not sure what they might be for Linux/Limux, because nobody has said what these tools are.


Microsoft is rumored to be looking at a subscription model for Windows beyond the Win 9 in the mill.  That will be the time when I abandon Windows for Linux.  I've used Mint off and on for the last few years and it is a compelling environment as a Windows replacement. 

johnmckay
johnmckay

Did you read the article at all? The one thing it hasn't costed is the wasted man hours involved when 'incompatibilities' have to be worked around. We all work around issues at home to save spending cash; but we all know the hidden costs. TIME and extra effort.

Yes.... these projects are good when they reach their goal. but it's pretty clearly a long way off. If they need to fund a program to aid compatibility then we all know it's BAD! It mentions 'free', then 'funding'... that's by no means free in my calculations.

alfred
alfred

@mcs "All Governments must use open source softwares to save BILLIONS of tax payers money" 

It would be nice but Governments are made up of politicians. In UK a Government initiated study in 2001 stated that proprietary tie in was bad. Later a Government department issued a memo agreeing with the findings. In 2012 the Office for National Statistics revised its web site with Microsoft Excel files as the preferred downloads. Earlier this year the Government said it was going to make data available in Open Source format. At my age I may not last to see it happen.

warboat
warboat

@Dreiel  training industry is largely a corporate scam. If you can't cover the difference in a software upgrade with a 15 minute powerpoint presentation which user can view in their time, then you can't get the information across anyway. Users cannot absorb the information they get from hours of live overload training anyway.

The training costs of MS upgrades is next to zero if corporates are not being scammed.

elleno
elleno

@docbillnet3  Really? You mean if they can pore through the code of the OS line by line and find exactly how it functions and find any anomalies and quirks it is safer.


Pray do tell how that works.

Nitramd
Nitramd

@270196 @lgbarn1966 Windows Office 2007 unfortunately does not work well in Wine either. (I so wish I could be wrong on this having Office 2007 Student & Linux Mint)


warboat
warboat

@elleno  if there are more white hats pouring thru open source than black hats then it is safer because flaws are more likely to be patched (white hats) than exploited (black hats). There is at least a race to the flaws in favour of white hats by numbers.

closed source means there are almost no white hats pouring thru the source while black hats crack it thru empirical methods. The black hats are largely uncontested in the race for flaws in close sourced.

mikef12
mikef12

@elleno It's not just open vs. closed. There are huge differences in the basic design of windows and linux. Some of windows vulnerabilities were designed in and they're still working to get them out, 

spawnywhippet
spawnywhippet

@elleno Because that way everyone is looking for exploits and therefore they get patched sooner.

270196
270196

@Nitramd have you tried PlayOnLinux or this?


www.webupd8.org/2011/01/how-to-install-microsoft-office-2007-in.html
I assume you have tried LibreOffice - I admit there are some issues with how it handles MS import/export, notably in Impress(Powerpoint clone) and Writer(Word clone).
Nitramd
Nitramd

@270196 @Nitramd I have tried PlayOnLinux, but not recently, Is this not a user friendly shell for Wine? I do use Libre & Open Office, but my kids do prefer 2007 (familiarity with that used at college/high school). Its this which prevents full Linux use in our house (plus the Canon printer problem which CUPs has not solved (yet!)

 

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