debate about Free software for the ACT Government

Richard Cottrill richard_c at
Tue Apr 23 22:38:34 EST 2002

I agree really. I think the case for "free licence == free" has some pretty
serious problems. I'm trying to suggest that there's more benefit for
Canberra if it becomes an early adopter (of enterprise-wide Linux) and gains
the benefit of helping to develop its own software. I'd hope that the
discussion about free vs. Microsoft (as too often the debate seems to
become - and this one has started at) gains some wider breadth than the
usual half-baked theories about TCO, ROI, and so many other TLAs. In any
case none of the people involved in the debate should forget that the
Government is not a profit making enterprise - it provides services to the


> -----Original Message-----
> From: linux-admin at [mailto:linux-admin at]On
> Behalf Of Doug Palmer
> Sent: Tuesday, April 23, 2002 12:43 PM
> To: linux at
> Subject: Re: debate about Free software for the ACT Government
> On 2002.04.23 20:44 Richard Cottrill wrote:
> > It sounds like it could be a great idea. If the government were to take
> > some
> > of the cash it spends on proprietary, closed, for-cost software, and
> > spend
> > it on development/support for free software it uses then
> Canberra wins in
> > many ways - like working towards a critical mass of
> > development/developers
> > that is necessary for the IT enterprises it keeps bleating about.
> Just to put my skeptics hat on for a moment. Has anybody tried to do a
> proper calculation of total cost of ownership to show that there actually
> would be savings from moving across to free software? (Yes, yes, I know
> that Microsoft makes this claim. But as far as I can see this is just PR
> flack work. About as convincing as the claims from free software
> advocates
> that no license fee == savings.)
> Just to sketch out the factors that might have to be considered, and I'm
> sure others can add to this:
> License fees.
> Cost of training.
> Help desk support, plus the cost of hiring semi-competent people.
> Benefit of being able to make proficiency in something part of the job
> criteria.
> Benefit of providing staff with something they percieve as
> improving their
> employment marketability.
> Cost of Outlook viruses. :-)
> Cost of installation.
> Cost of hardware.
> Cost of outages.
> Administration cost. This would include such anything from the ability to
> remotely administer a network to the cost/benefit of being able
> to isolate
> and fix a problem as opposed to just re-installing
> Programmer's wage rates for vertical application software.
> Reliability of application software (The Linux kernel may be solid as a
> rock, but most application software on both platforms crashes
> distressingly often.)
> And so on ...
> What would be interesting would be if there was a way of actually
> calculating some of this out for various scenarios. With a bit of luck, a
> reasonably disinterested party has already done this.
> --
> Doug Palmer   doug at

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