Linux

And the French choose...


Remember back in November the French Parliament announced they were switching their desktop PCs over to Linux? That was a big announcement but, at the time, they had no idea which flavor of Linux they were going to choose. Well, they chose and they chose Ubuntu. Smart choice? I'd have to say a big yes. Why? Ubuntu is one of those distributions that came out of no where, with the old Linux feel-good moral, and wound up on the top of most distribution show downs across the  globe. 

But why is Ubuntu so good? It's simple: they care about the end user. The developers at Ubuntu set out to create a flavor of Linux that anyone could use. They started out creating an option for Debian users that concentrates on usability, regular releases, ease of installation, and freedom from legal restrictions. They have succeeded on all fronts.

And the French Parliament making this choice proves to the world that Ubuntu is one of the best.

I remember, for so many years, the anti-Linux battle cry was that the world needed more OSs that it's collective grandmother could use. Well grandmother has given Microsoft and OS X their chances and, when compared to Ubuntu, fall soundly on their faces.

Serioiusly.

If you have an opportunity, take the latest releases of each of those three operating systems and compare them side by side for user-friendliness. We're not talking install-friendliness (which I still firmly believe Ubuntu would win), we're talking about usability.

Compare configurations. Compare simplicity. Compare snappines. Compare their computing-koom-by-ya. Which do you think would win?

I'm pretty certain that Ubuntu would win. And the French Parliament seems to agree with me. So does:

  • Ian Murdock (the "Ian" of Debian)
  • Eric S. Raymond (Uber geek and author of "Cathedral and the Bazaar")
  • Linspire has switched to using Ubuntu
  • The editors of ResExcellence.com

Okay that's a short list right now - but it grows every day. Remember, Ubuntu came out of nowhere and is now on the tip of every geeks tongue. And with the French Parliament making the switch, it's only a matter of time before other governing bodies see the benefits of using open source software. And soon you'll see Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Edubuntu, Xubuntu installations popping up all over the place. It's my hope that next will come the entirety of the EU making the switch.

Of course I can see it now - the entire EU switches to Linux. Soon to follow all Asian countries, Russia, South America, and Canada.

But America will continue feeding Microsoft. But hey, that's the capitalist way (and I'm not here to rag on my country.) 

My point is that much of the world will soon be reaping the benefits of using open source software. And why  not? It's free, it's reliable, and it's of, from, and for the people.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

40 comments
Why Me Worry?
Why Me Worry?

You state opinion and not fact, and if you ask me, who gives a flying f**k about what the French do? Anything that is anti-American and reeks of socialism is OK with those cowardly fools.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Someone had a great comment recently though I can't remember where; "Linux is more than just the FSF and it's zealot fanboys." You really need to do some reading. You don't have to subscribe and jump on the party bandwagon but you really need to at least take the time to do some reading and understand technically what your arguing against. There are a few links at the end to get you started. It's always a lack of knowledge about FOSS that leads to the "Open Source is a socialist/communist conspiracy" load of FUD. Every half a year or so the same discussion seems to come around again. If Microsoft is your thing then great. If Apple is what you love then good for you. Don't come around spouting; "FOSS is comi socialist crap because *I* don't like it!" It starts with this; FOSS developers are self choosen to work on a problem they find interesting against a deadline of when they get it solved adiquately for peer review and further development if needed. Proprietary developers are assigned a problem they may or may not have any interest in solving motivated by a paycheck alone working against a deadline of "get something thrown together asap so you can move on to the next critical software flaw in line." The fact is that FOSS development models lead to more stable software, faster bug fixes and more frequent release of newer versions (at the same $0.00 price point as the previous version). FOSS also competes on technical strength of software and services instead of marketing budget and FUD. It's darwinism; the weaker projects die off, the stronger evolve while the companies continue to provide service to those who choose not to support themselves through the overwelming wealth of knowledge available online. Contrast that two a proprietary application who's source is closed and hidden away so that only a very few developers can ever adress software bugs as there time permits while also working on the next product release. Also, since FOSS software is focused on continued development and profit through support/services there is a continued incentive for software to continue evolving. New versions tend to improve and build on older versions (unlike the Windows onion we all love so much) This is in contrast to a proprietary program with *is* the product and who's initial sale price must cover all development expenses plus all further support from that paying customer's initial purchase. When supporting the old product becomes to expensive in six months, the developers are pushed to get a "new" product out the door to intice a new purchase and the cycle continues. Now, if you want to talk current socialist and communist practices in the software industry, you need look no further than evil empire number one: - all ideas belong to the state, you may be permited to pay a tax to use them but the state holds absalute control and may decide at any time to update it's ideas forcing you to pay a new tax. If you want support, you may only get it from the state; all developers the state works with must sign NDA short of having there eyes gouged and toungs cut out. Hmmmm... Now what's that sound like: "You have winNT4? We don't support it, you'll need to buy Win2k now." "You have win2k? We don't support it, you'll need to buy winXP now." - nothing is beyond the states grasp. The state owns everything or is in the process of gaining autonomous ownership. The state will not allow it's people to use anything but there sanctioned solution. If part of your network happens to have an ADS domain and part has a non-Microsoft domain, the only acceptable solution in Microsoft's eyes is to convert the whole network after paying them the license fees. Again, our favourite "Me Too, Me Too" company recently jumped on that crazy little mp3 player fad; how is the Zune doing these days? "There's this thing called the Internet? How do we take control of it?.. Hyjack the protocals with our own web browser; brilliant! Make it happen!" - the state has all the money, the people have only what the state gives you. Microsoft wants how much for Vista licenses? How long have they provided an "all fits one shoe" (It's more restrictive even than a "one show fits all" approach). - while on that note, the state decrees that "all fits one shoe". One solution for everyeone. Everyone wears the same coat, uses the same tools and takes the same guoose step (that last bit might be a bit of a trolling lewer). - let's not forget the favourite. All information belongs to the state, not just Ideas. What you create with the states provided hammer is belonging to the state by extension and it may only ever be further modified or reviewed through that same tool. Your email, calendars, tasks, and address books belong to the state locked-in through Outlook/Exchanges file type and may not be redily moved away from Outlook/Exchange (which forces windows server, microsoft sql and a slew of other logically unrelated lock-in solutions) Yeah, your absalutely right; Socialist and Communist old FOSS should be ashamed of itself for beliving that everyone should have complete transparency for the programs running on there network, should be able to select from competing solutions, choose between self support, community common support or paid service support. What a crock it is that FOSS dares to believe that the end user should have ultimate control of the end user's systems and that solutions and contracts should be in the end users best interest not in defense of poor craftsmanship. I promised reading material though so I digress and leave the argument to people far more qualified and capable than I and presenting through historical evidence, technical merits and business cases rather than RaRa Fanboy emotional opinions. They should be considered required reading if only to provide more knowledge of options: If you actually want to have an understanding of Open Source. (also the catalyst for Netscape opening it's source code) http://www.catb.org/~esr/writings/cathedral-bazaar/cathedral-bazaar/ This paper analyzes the economics of open-source software. http://www.catb.org/~esr/writings/cathedral-bazaar/magic-cauldron/ A recent paper on the current 64bit hardware platform turnover and resulting software platform shufle currently in progress. http://www.catb.org/~esr/writings/world-domination/world-domination-201.html Additional readings of interest specifically "Hackers Revenge" http://www.catb.org/~esr/writings/cathedral-bazaar/homesteading/ http://www.catb.org/~esr/writings/cathedral-bazaar/hacker-history/ http://www.catb.org/~esr/writings/cathedral-bazaar/hacker-revenge/ The complete works are available on Mr Raymond's website ( http://www.catb.org/~esr/writings/ ) but if you read only a few, at least read the documents linked above. There are also translations should you prefer a nother language.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

American opinions of the French aside, what did you think of the article itself?

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

"We can argue forever about whether the best choice was made" No argument, the best choice was made. they choose something with a Linux kernel at it's core.. BSD would have been as good technology wise but Ubuntu's distributor is prepared to dump alot of resources into the services business. Regardless, it's a Debian fork so they can tweak it too there specific needs.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

all it has to do is let some professionals run it instead on the paper shufflers they use now. Us UK types can cite numerous examples of why good IT decision and government is an oxymoron. The training hit windows to Ubuntu or to Mandriva for an appliance user is negligible in terms of the distro. Desktop choice has more of an impact, KDE is generally accepted as an easier transfer then Gnome. Ubuntu's apparent extra usability comes at a cost though. That's going to hit IT. For a start you need an other distro or your servers. So I question whether the extra desktop benefits, like media player et al are worth the cost of the reduced configurability and security to the support, admin, development and power users.

lastchip
lastchip

The Ubuntu family of Linux operating systems are VERY user friendly. The French are looking at a major migration and clearly any project manager would want to limit the fear and objections that will be inevitable from the users. Let's be clear, the introduction of Linux to a large workforce is a massive undertaking, not only in terms of application compatibility (or substitution), but also in terms of training and support - at ALL levels. What we don't know is, what (if any) level of support Ubuntu will offer. It is inconceivable some agreement has not been reached and I would hazard a guess that substantial support is part of the deal. Perhaps that is why Ubuntu won the contract, as I find it very strange the French based Mandriva did not. Maybe they could not offer the level of required support - just a guess. We can argue forever about whether the best choice was made, but surely the important part of this news is the French are prepared to try. If they see it through to a successful conclusion, I applaud them and hope that other cash strapped governments (UK?) will follow their lead.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Ideally, I'd look at servers on BSD and workstations with a custom install of some high fork distrobution. Red Hat or Suse provides enterprise service contracts if the organization thinks they gotta have someone's head when something goes wrong. These days my machines are running Mandriva 2007; rpm treats me well and I've been using the mandrakes since Red Hat dropped support for mp3 and anything that made Linux a contender at the time. I think it's the first time I've seen Ubuntu reported as the choice for a large organization but among it's goals Ubuntu wants to be usable by the average person and provide complete support through service contracts so I can see why they may have chosen it. Also, with codec issues hitting the news again more recently, they are in a good possition with the multimedia licenses and binary blob drivers included (when nothing but a binary blob is available, you gotta use what you gotta use). Ubuntu is great for new users and Shuttleworth seems to have an honest motivation to publicise alternative options to big two (the profit motivation also being important for any business). I believe part of his licensing multimedia codecs was to try and include a clause allowing them to be distributed freely. We have to get some kind of codec support before we can get enough users to demand complete codec vendor support. The one program for each function approach to a complete distrobution makes it much less overwhelming for one who hasn't had more than three email clients to choose between let along hundres of different Linux or BSD kernelled OS. I found it a bit restrictive for my taste but I didn't take the time to add all the repositories and really muck around with the package selection. I'm looing at Edubuntu for a new family machine in a few years but a government could have easily assembled a few custom install templates of Debian or Mandrake; Gentoo in the more secure areas where source auditing is worth doing and system efficiency and hardware integration become strategic advantages.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

is something I welcome on several fronts. The standard closed source proprietry model can never compete with FOSS on a cost basis in terms of price. As FOSS solutions have got more popular the support / risk and the re-training / available skills issues have tailed off dramatically. So they are left with four options. 1) Better quality 2) Better customer service 3) Better functionality 4) Lose even more profit We like 1,2,3 they don't like 4 we win. The article itself I thought was total garbage, personally I don't think ubuntu is the best choice for a desktop and I wouldn't go near it for a server. Seems to me, they are trying to out windows windows, that's a losing proposition in my book. Is Ubuntu the best open source choice? Given it was chosen by one of the most hamstrung, myopic, intellectually challenged, rabid bureaucracies ever seen on the planet..... Nothing to do with nationality, or political orientation, I wouldn't trust them to come up with a good choice for a shade of toilet roll, never mind something important.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I've been watching the news for Ubuntu and these types of articles discussing why a company or organization would change to a FOSS solution. Part of it being learning about new programs that may also be of use for me. It was a good followup to an article I read on newsforge. In this case, they chose a Linux distrobution. If I remember correctly, the last eurpean country looking at a Linux distrobution was very interested up until Microsoft found it in there heart to offer deep discounts.

support
support

Although I am not a big fan of Microsoft because of their corporate strategy, I am still thankful that they made computing user friendly. But now the wheels are turning and France is following in the steps of Germany who has already implemented LINUX in their government services. Furthermore, that move tells the rest of the world that LINUX is a viable alternative, and that may cause Microsoft to lower their prices!

eljorgisimo
eljorgisimo

I mean, When was the last time the French mattered?

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

"I'm not french. I'm American so therfore the French don't matter. Nothing outside America Matters." That's the gist of your argument? You and Edward E Newman there above base a technical argument purely on political bigotry? Read my reply to the previous comment then do some reading and come back when you actually have a factual understanding of the debate.

just_chilin
just_chilin

just perfect. You couldn't have put it any better.

just_chilin
just_chilin

Dude, stop beating around the bush. You are trying to turn this into a political argument.

apotheon
apotheon

As far as I'm concerned, the jury's still out on whether or not Jorcam is intelligent -- but I'm definitely willing to grant the benefit of the doubt in this case. I just haven't seen enough material from that person to have a solid opinion yet. I've run into that type in various classes, coffee shops, and other venues, as well.

Dumphrey
Dumphrey

OMG I think i just wet myself! This is really kinda funny. every Freshman Philosophy class has a Jorcam; definately intelligent, but confuse personal attacks for valid, intelligent/logical argument.

Dumphrey
Dumphrey

written. Dang, I'm impressed. That rant gets a 9 out of 10.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Old habbit. I saw too many civil conversations turn into flame wars on the old BBs news forums simply because one person read something into another person's text. It's the one thing that sucks about this medium, regarless of the intonation of the writter, text will be read with the emotions of the reader imposed on it. It's best to be blatantly clear sometimes.

apotheon
apotheon

Should I take you to task for every misused apostrophe, misplaced comma, and sentence started with the wrong word (such as "and")? I could spend several paragraphs pointing out the deficiencies in your use of the English language in that other post of yours. Perhaps you should stick to the discussion at hand rather than attacking him on that one spelling error. I might be more forgiving if you A) had some worthwhile arguments to offer opposing arguments made by jabbots, and B) didn't litter your own posts with errors as well. One more thing: please separate your paragraphs more clearly.

apotheon
apotheon

That was an excellent reply, with depth and clarity.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I won?t pretend I have perfect grammar or spelling but that doesn?t void the validity of the content within the comment. Oh there's plenty to poke fun at in all our countries; no shortage of material for jokes there. My long ranting comment was more in reply to this in initial post and your blind support for the way it read: "You state opinion and not fact, and if you ask me, who gives a flying f**k about what the French do? Anything that is anti-American and reeks of socialism is OK with those cowardly fools." "who gives a flying fk about what the French do" - fair enough, stated as more of an assault rather than an opinion but everybody has an opinion. "Anything that is anti-American and reeks of socialism is OK with those cowardly fools" - this implies that Linux and FOSS reek of socialism and are anti-American Now if you compare the practices of the provider of Windows with the practices of the multiple providers of Linux as a whole (as the brief comment appeared to do), Linux development and distribution practices are very much in support of freedom and American ideals while Windows development and distribution practices are actually very much against freedom, the individual and American ideals. As I said, anyone referring to FOSS with an argument that it's communist or socialist garbage doesn't actually know the topic there arguing and should do some reading. Hence, the initial comment on a political organization choosing a non-Microsoft solution basically boiled down to "I don't care what the stupid French do because they are not the same as me. Linux is anti-American and reeks of socialism and it's strange and different from what I choose to use so those stupid French would obviously choose it." That would be an opinion founded in bigotry; it?s different from him or not instantly understood by him so it must therefore be wrong. My rant was also fuelled somewhat by watching What Me Worry tear off on a tangent the other day over an article on a technological advancement in robotics (somehow the comments tore off in a political and retail debate). Part of my intent being to give What Me Worry information the lack on the subject and in part to head off As for Microsoft specifically, I take issue with the business practices, legal practices and quality of product. I've always said Bill Gates is a business genius that had some technical skill, not a computer genius that had some business sense. In terms of business, Microsoft made some brilliant strategic movies early on and continues to thrive off that momentum. They have consistently muscled themselves into number one OS in the 8bit, 16bit and 32bit steps of hardware evolution and business people salivate over the dream of being the natural monopoly in a market like software. In terms of technology, they continue to employ predatory business practices attacking competition through marketing and law rather than product quality. They're practices have driven superior technology out of the market repeatedly through there own superior marketing, anti-competitive license clauses and deeply integrated bundling (IE isn't just included, it's dug in for a fight). Microsoft also seeks to take over the world in a sense because no market is beyond its greed and need to control. Any software application that creates a new market becomes a bundled feature in the next major version of Windows with a healthy does of FUD and blatant marketing lies to make sure that only the Microsoft way isn't feared. Professionally, I'll tune any OS you put in front of me so it runs like an F1 Racer. If the Microsoft solution is the better choice compared to the other RFI responses then go with the better technology solution. I'm going to look at non-Microsoft solutions also though and more than likely, find a better technology outside of Redmond's license taxes. Personally, I have very few functions supported only by a Windows boot so I keep an install for those needs. What windows functions don't need direct hardware access, I run purely under a VM (benefits to windows licenses being forces with each machine purchase). My primary OS boot is a Linux distro which provides all the functions I need or could want except that few that justify that ongoing Windows partition. You may have an interesting discussion with your "could Google come out with an OS and is the OS even relevant anymore" comment. That's a whole long thing on it's own. Briefly, I like the idea of one's local OS becoming irrelevant. It's like the old modem days when a BBS running on Apple didn't care that a terminal prog running in win3.11 or dos was connecting. The computer and OS ended at the phone or network cable unlike today where OS try to reach out through the network and force there brand on both sides of the wire (if you buy this product then you have to run it on this server, oh, and it'll have to work with this client software but it only runs on this desktop). I gotta admit the general loss of differentiation between my computer offline and me as a node on the internet can be disconcerting. Remember when the modem was hung up or connected and the network was something you reached out too not lived within. There are always programs your going to want to install locally but I can see the draw for software developers to provide an application server and a very real push that distribution model in the future. After all, you get a central point to maintain for patches and versions, licenses can be maintained within your own network and the customer is coming to you every time they connect so that's daily news updates and advertising right there. We're seeing this in enterprise networks where more applications are browser delivered. Last is my perceived biase against America so I'll clarify; I take issue with the individual behavior not the individual or nation they belong too. Nations are too vast a collection of people to consider the national actions as the fault of the individual. Individuals can't change who they are but can change how they behavior. If the behavior is motivated out of a lack of knowledge then knowledge can be gained and is offered. As an example: people opposed to FOSS with non-technical arguments often don't understand FOSS or only heard about it through Microsoft's "Get the FUD" marketing. Those that have a technical reason to oppose FOSS won't call you an idiot for choosing it because they realize that different solutions work better for different people. Now, I am thankful that your government does not speak for me after watching it's actions throughout the Bush administration but as a non-American, that won't ever be more than detached observation and bar-talk opinions. My bias against Microsoft is against the companies behavior; I'd support MS happily of they returned to a leader in innovation and technology instead of patent collection and legal strategy. My issue with WMW in both cases has been with the behavior at the time not an ongoing issue with WMW the individual (Sam from Kentucky or whom-ever may be behind the alias). In this specific article; the behavior being expression of the decision that Linux is crap purely because a different nation would choose it over the home team. I have no bias against America as a nation; I'd take issue and try to present relative examples against the same comment regardless of which nation its poster came from. In the other article, I chose American politics and social structure as relevant examples to that discussion. Here, I choose Microsoft as the relevant example not because they are American but because they are the textbook example and self appointed opponent of FOSS. I do make one good point though; I?m starting to sound like a just quit non-smoker with the long rants. I could probably do well to rant less.

eljorgisimo
eljorgisimo

I don't know how the French spell it but the word is spelled b-i-g-o-t-r-y

eljorgisimo
eljorgisimo

Get a life buddy. Granted, the "communist/socialist" angle is a bit of a stretch but it sure is fun! And really, how can one resist poking fun at a country where Jerry Lewis is a cultural icon? BTW, I thought France was a country not a political party and in any case what IS political bigotry? (If I don't like Republican Party Politics does that mean I am bigoted against Republicans or that I simply disagree with them?) I don't particularly care for Microsoft but early on they made some brilliant moves which continue to pay off for them. (Licensing their OS instead of selling it, getting HP, DELL, Gateway, Toshiba, Sony, and a thousand other companies to sell their product for them) For the average non-techie user they are the most convenient option. Another BTW, only goverments can be communist/socialist. Companies can not because you don't have to use their products. The bottom line is MS is where they are because in todays world because they do what they do better than anybody else. (Apple excepted but they need to get off their high horse and stop being arrogant)Linux has yet to show that it is ready for ?Everyday Joe?s? desktop. However to look at things as they are today and think that they will always remain the same is silly. Once IBM was king and look at them now. Consider the following: Apple could very well be on its way to giving M$ a run for its money (And they do not have win the market share game to inflict serious pain on M$) GOOGLE has their own version of Linux and may be preparing a version to offer to Enterprises (How would they monetize this?, because money does matter.) Could GOOGLE come out with a desktop OS? And does the desktop OS even matter anymore? What couldn't I do with a stripped down version of FreeBSB an internet connection and the Konqueror browser? Yes, you are right, every competitor I've mentioned is based on open source and open source has been a good thing to promote innovation, but this article is as biased and silly as anything I have heard come out of Steve Ballmer's mouth. Do you really think if Microsoft were a German or Japanese or Russian or Iranian company this would be happening? Do the French or for that matter the writer of the original article, think that there are no costs associated with open source? Finally, I looked at my original post and could not find: "I'm not french. I'm American so therfore the French don't matter. Nothing outside America Matters." (This statement, BY YOU, does more to reveal your bigotry against Americans than anything else.) BTW, The fact France (Arrogant and with an exagerated sense of its own importance) doesn't matter has nothing to do with my nationality.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

What a well worded survey qestion here's a follow up Who was the nicer leader? Nelson Mandela Joseph Stalin Adolf Hitler This is garbage, what are you? Gartner in diguise?

theoldman59
theoldman59

I'm not a linux on the desktop fan, so lets get that out of the way. I am very interested to see how far the French and Germans can really take Linux. The real issue isn't the OS. It's just a tool that allows other software to run. The real issue is the software that's available. Lots of holes in the Open Source catalog. Can a government really work on Linux? The basics are covered with Open Office, but past that can Open Source really cover all the bases? Will they need some kind of Windows emulator for specialized software? Will it be easy to support, or a nightmare? This will take a couple of years to gather the data and see how it really works. The real challange starts today. Can the french really make it work 100% or will they require a bit of WIndows just to make it all work. Lets revisit this discussion in two years and see how it worked.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

are more ones of familiarity. It doesn't run OutLook ???? The big problem iat the desktop level is passing documents about. If they were just formatted text and to a managed standard, there's little difficulty. A word document with macros and ole to a worksheet though.... What can a third party sensibly to with that? You are bound to get a cut in 'user experience', if people have relied on it....

apotheon
apotheon

That, of course, is Microsoft's plan -- as I'm sure you're well aware. MS just wants us all to buy more of its software, and is willing to write software that is intentionally broken to make that happen.

Dumphrey
Dumphrey

many Microsoft only shops are now looking at possible upgrade cycles as Office 2007 slowly leaks out and becomes the MS standard. I'm sure there will be "compatibility filter/plug-ins" so that Office 2007 will speak Office 2000 and vice versa, I just do not place any faith in MS to continue to be compatible with MS. I think the problem most people have with the .doc format is not the backward compatibility, but the forward compatibility. Why should we have to go buy 45 copies of Office just because MS decided to slightly change their .doc format?

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

The Comp Sci students talk about Microsoft as the anti-christ because they see and stumble over the flaws in the product. The Business students talk about Microsoft as the second comming because of it's financial success under it's chief strategyist Bill. The argument rages on as two seporate disagreements over the same topic. The software engineers work bottom up asking for *nix and better tools. The management works top down infatuated with the business success and flashy marketing. The CIO get's stuck in between understanding the engineers pain but only getting budget approval for the brand name recognized by it's marketing.

theoldman59
theoldman59

I stand corrected. You did not post the pricing information. that was in the post above from Tony Hopkinson. While the response combines the two posts, (one from you and the other from Hopkinson,) the response is what it is. The French have an adventure coming. Replacing an entire infrastructure isn't easy when considering all those macro's, programs, and other items that must be certified on the new platform. In a year we should be seeing the initial cost estimates and progress. In two years we should see a pattern of success or failure in the project and in three years, we should know if it's going to work. Now is when the unknowns of a system conversion come to haunt those French that made the recommendations. The seriousness of the hauntings are will give an indication of the viability of an ODF conversion for other sectors.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

One of my favourites was when Office2000 came out and I had to rewrite all the OLE automation code because they changed the interface. All that did was hook some data out of a windows app, popup excel, autosize the columns and and mave the row 1 headings bold! I remeber thinking thank you MS at the time. I had office 95 on my home pc with 95 and then 98, couldn't read 75% of the documents sent to me. If they had been XML I could, RTF I could, HTML I could, PDF I could, not doc though. Seeing as I didn't at the time have the cash to purchase new software, that meant anyone who had an obligation to communicate with me, had to put extra measures in place to do so in a format I could understand. This makes sense how? Doc format is ubiquitous certainly, it is not in any way shape or form a standard though.

apotheon
apotheon

I didn't bring up prices at all. Are you sure you're replying to the right person? It's too late at night for me to read the whole post after that just to see if you did eventually respond to anything I said. Maybe I'll get back to it tomorrow.

theoldman59
theoldman59

apotheon: This is where most ODF / Open Source conversations fall apart, when the responses from Open Source devotes proves rabid and unrealistic. Your costing is very interesting. The over 500 Euro package must be Office Ultimate. It's the most expensive I could find at $579 on Amazon. Most offices don't buy the whole thing, so the cost is more like $279 when purchased with a machine (Office Standard Small Business on Dell.com). Expensive, yes. Material to the business - No. Having run several TCO studies for major companies (Fortune 500's), the $500 for hardware and $279 for software is a pittance when TCO is calculated. Yes, many bean counters went over the numbers to confirm that the expensive up front solution was cheapest in the long run. Responses to your other points: I've never run into a Word doc that a current version of Word can't read. So far as I know, Word is backword compatible with itself. Word is the defacto standard simply because it owns 98% of the market. ODF is incredibly small market niche and declared a standard by a very small portion of the market. In business ODF is not the accepted standard, Word is. Standards can change. Word changed and ODF will evolve over time as well. To think that ODF is now cast in concrete and will never evolve to meet new needs is foolish. Open yes, cast in concrete, no. Yes, Outside entities can read RTF. They don't want to. Since this is a business relationship, we work together in a common format to save money. In this case the format is Word. In the past 15 years, I've never seen a business ask for a document in anything other than Word if a binary is needed. You refer to Word as a poor business choice yet offer no backing for your comment, meaning the comment is emotional. Please don't tell the business person that they are idiots for using Word. It has served them well for nearly two decades. If you wish to be the pioneer in a new format, it's your choice. Everyone has choices. Don't attempt to force your choice as it may backfire. The French are using their power of choice. I hope it works for them and they can provide the rest of us with a map for installing something other than MS. If they can't do it, MS wins by default. The point is not that ODF is Open, the business point is that continual document conversions are a real pain and expensive. Products like Open Office even show Word documents differently than Word does. Yes, I've seen it as I use Open Office at home and Word at work. Nice package, but shows formatting differently. Yes, I am also a dinosour in the business with over 20 years behind me. I lived through MS DOS versions 1 - 5, DR DOS, IBM DOS, Compaq DOS, Rainbow's, Windows 3.X, 95, 98, Millenium, XP and unfortunately now, Vista. Point being that in the early days when Word, WordPerfect, and a dozen other word processors were competing for our attentions, document exchange was a nightmare. different department couldn't even exchange documents coming from a Wang to WordPerfect and back. As much as we hate MS for their business practices, they did provide stability that many in business are not willing to leave. Computers are only tools that support the business. Computers are not the business, therefore, must be simple, even if simple costs more up front. Been there, done that. To pioneer a new format, even if some think it is the best standard since sliced bread, is expensive and painful. Again, where's the payback? The $800 we pay for computers and software is a writeoff that we don't even track. Day to day business stability is much more important and instability of any kind, including migrating to a new file format costs lots more than the $800 in a heartbeat. To put it another way, our Auditors bill at rates between $60 and $500 per hour. For the cheap guys, the $800 for the computer is about 13 hours of work. The $279 for the software is less than five hours. Fart around time learning a new software package costs more than the package. The expensive auditors can kill the price of the package in less than 35 minutes. The cost of Office is immaterial in the grand scheme of things. I personally believe that the French decision will be incredibly expensive. Not just becuase it's a government doing it, but because it's just an incredibly expensive conversion to make. Only time will tell. The jury should be back in two or three years with a verdict.

apotheon
apotheon

"[i]Consider this. If I created a Word document in 1990, (I believe Word existed then), I can still read it today, using Word or a number of freely available viewers or other software including Open Office.[/i]" Incorrect. There are Word documents from as recently as '97 that cannot be read with today's version of Word. The fact you [b]can[/b] read them with something like OpenOffice.org just proves further that staying with MS Word is a losing proposition. "[i]If I want to communicate with an outside entity, chances are I must use Word format.[/i]" Really? Why? Don't they have the ability to read RTF (which Word supports)? How about plain text? Can they view PDFs? Think about this: to them, [b]you[/b] are the outside entity. You don't always have to bend over and take it to accomodate someone else's poor business choices. "[i]Question 1 - Why should I go through the pain of the change?[/i]" Long-term savings. "[i]Question 2 - At what point does using ODF provide a financial return?[/i]" Probably right about the time that Microsoft changes its proprietary format again, and Word DOC format files become subtly incompatible across versions of MS Word. I didn't specifically say you should be using ODF, anyway. I said you shouldn't be using Word's DOC format because it's a proprietary format without an official standard. You can use Sanskrit for all I care. It's just a good idea to make sure that your software has the ability to output and read more than just Sanskrit, unless you only deal with people who can read Sanskrit. Luckily, OpenOffice.org and a number of other solutions can all help you with multiple document formats. "[i]The file conversions and confusion caused by a non-standard format (ODF in this case) are ongoing, therefore, costs are ongoing.[/i]" That's really funny, considering that the whole point of ODF is that [b]it is an open [i]standard[/i][/b], whereas Word DOC format is [b]not[/b]. There is no DOC standard at all. It's a moving target that changes from one MS Office release to the next. Document conversions already have to happen to keep documents readable, just because of "upgrades" in software, with MS Office.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

with a propriety binary format? Did anyone measure that? No they said cool look what I can do. And now to read the document you have to go out and buy word 2007 at a bargain price of ?483 + VAT (17.5%), 539 Euros in France apparently. You are not going to be happy if the document is how to fill in your tax form are you? Might make you vote someone else that. :D Open Open Office does it's best with MS Office, but it's always behind, always at MS's mercy and always will be. Breaking out of that vicious cycle is going to cost you in the short term no matter what. Open Office however will never gain a commercial advantage through enforced obsolescence by messing about with it's file formats.

theoldman59
theoldman59

Consider this. If I created a Word document in 1990, (I believe Word existed then), I can still read it today, using Word or a number of freely available viewers or other software including Open Office. If I want to communicate with an outside entity, chances are I must use Word format. If I want to communicate with the US Government in a document format, chances are that Word is the format of choice. Question 1 - Why should I go through the pain of the change? Question 2 - At what point does using ODF provide a financial return? ODF doesn't seem to have a reason to force a change, nor does it have a financial return for business. That's how the financial people think. A government, such as France, with bottomless pits of money can make much more emotional decisions without the hard payback requirements of Corporations. The file conversions and confusion caused by a non-standard format (ODF in this case) are ongoing, therefore, costs are ongoing. This is where the experiement of France moving to ODF and Linux becomes very interesting. If the French can put the project together and bring it in for some reasonable amount of Francs, then Linux will be somewhat exonerated from the myths and fud delivered by Microsoft and others. If the French cannot put the project together at all, or the costs are so high that only a Government could do it, then the myths and fud will be substantiated. Maybe two years is optimistic, but they did pick a distro fairly quickly. Maybe the rest of the experiment will move as quickly. Never thought I'd say this, but, "Good Luck to the French." A successful implementation will help Linux and ODF move forward with real, hard cost data. The other thing having someone like the French as a nation may do is spur software development in areas of the Open Source software library that are seriously lacking.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Unfortunately a shed load of the less aware have invested in them heavily. To go back out would to admit a mistake, to an oops we wasted a lot of money and by the way it doesn't do as much for you as its used to. I just love the claim that us IT types know nothing about business. This will lock us in to the most aggressive monopoly in the marketplace. Great! lets align ourselves with a success. Huh?

apotheon
apotheon

The cheapest in the long run would be to use open, well-documented standards, and/or plain text file formats. While initial costs for document format conversion may be higher, long-term costs will be reduced because of the avoidance of vendor lock-in in the future. I find arguments to the effect that using a non-Microsoft format as the primary document format is "too expensive" to be exercises in absurdity at best.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

we are talking a government project here. Two years will be enough time to pick a sexy name and set up some committees to decide how the committees should be set up.

theoldman59
theoldman59

While other software holes exist, you may have hit the main problem squarely on the head. The Open Office product can do what Excel and Word do, the macro conversion process ranges from Headache to Nightmare. Since even governments don't live in isolation, document conversion is an ongoing issue, continuing headache and continuing cost. Even if the French Government decrees that all work will be done in ODF, the contractors and businesses will pick up the expense of document conversion. That expense will be passed back to the Government via higher costs, and no one will ever know how much it really is. I believe it is important to watch this Linux implementation. If the French can make it work, it may be a model for future implementations. It is a high risk move with major consequences if it doesn't work. Lets watch and let the evidence speak for itself in about two years.

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