[rant] Re: debate about Free software for the ACT Government

Alex Satrapa grail at goldweb.com.au
Wed Apr 24 22:45:43 EST 2002

The following is a bunch of random thoughts that I just *had* to release 
into the wild for the enlightenment of other subscribers ;)  None of my 
rant is supportable by hard facts yet, I'm pretty much just airing my 
opinion and looking for people to shoot holes in it.

At 09:32  24/04/02 +1000, Anthony Wesley wrote:
>What _is_ important are issues about tech support costs, flexibility to 
>adapt to changing situations , ease of recovery of data or systems after a 
>disaster etc etc
>This is where the real cost of ownership comes from. From personal 
>experience, Linux is way ahead of MS in these areas.

IMHO, the fastest and simplest way of reducing the TCO of a Microsoft 
desktop is simply to stop using Microsoft Outlook (or Outlook Express) - I 
have no idea of how virus-friendly Entourage is yet.  You instantly reduce 
the probability of trojans and virii proliferating through your network - 
resulting in much less time lost to cleaning up after virii, and 
significantly reducing the risk of SirCam style document leakage.

When it comes to mass rollouts of new desktops, a Unix-like system has to 
be the way to go.  ABS is currently having major problems rolling out 
desktops, since simplistic tools like Norton Ghost can't cope with the fact 
that some users need development tools, and others don't.  With a package 
management system like dpkg and the apt utilities (not to mention specific 
policies about what gets installed where), different classes of desktop 
installation could be defined by package lists, rather than disk 
images.  Much easier to maintain, since the tech support and systems 
administration staff not longer have to deal with DLL Hell, and software 
packages are clearly defined.  Even better - remote administration of a 
Unix machine won't waste bandwidth.  Your 100Mbps network will last into 
the next decade, since you won't be wasting it with Windows Terminal Server 
or PC Anywhere traffic.

Sticking with an Open Unix-like O/S also means that the ACT Government 
won't be forced to upgrade their software every two years - which is 
Microsoft's new licencing policy.  Since it takes as long as two years get 
all the software working and staff trained on a new version of the O/S, 
Microsoft's licencing is damaging to any organisation, in terms of extra 
costs and lost productivity.

 From the political point of view, switching to an Open Unix-like O/S (is 
there some easier way of saying 'Linux, *BSD, Hurd or Darwin'?) would at 
least indicate that the ACT Government is serious about its tech-friendly 
statements.  Continuing to use Microsoft Word to produce press releases 
about technology parks in Canberra is hypocritical.  One has to wonder 
whether Australians are still in charge of the country, or if it is in fact 
run by Billy G and Stevie B.

Thanks for bearing with me :)

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