[clug] Fw: How to prove that Linux is better?

steve jenkin sjenkin at canb.auug.org.au
Sat Mar 22 03:35:52 GMT 2008

Chris Smart wrote on 22/3/08 12:02 PM:
> Anyone got some ideas on how to address this one?

First, here's what should be a slam dunk to throw at your people:

    Unix (& Linux) was forged over 30 years in the fires of University
hackers - it had to be both *fast* and *secure*.

    Windows came from 'single user PC' culture with the primary aim of
selling product. It has *never* been fast or secure.

    Security, like Quality, Performance & Usability, comes from
intentional Good Design and permeates the entire process.
    It *cannot* be retro-fitted or added 'during testing'.

If your decision makers don't value 'fast' or 'secure' above other
things (like "we don't trust free things" or "everyone else is using
Windows") then they are not going to buy any of your arguments.

If they don't measure their current full costs of operation, then they
don't really care about them.
This has to include the cost of User time - rebooting, delousing malware
and slow machines from virus scanning etc.

Second, There's a logical flaw in this question:

    'better' is a comparator, not an absolute.

Replace 'better' with 'taller' and see if the question still makes sense.

To show "Linux is 'better' at my University", you need to tell us:
 - than what
 - for whom
 - for what purposes... and
 - who, with the power to write cheques, is actually going to decide
what's "better"?

"than What":
Remember that Solaris 10 and Apple Max OS/X are both commercial
alternatives - and run a POSIX environment on Intel.
If you want 'free', there's also *BSD - FreeBSD, netBSD, OpenBSD.
If you need 'secure' - SE-Linux and OpenBSD.
If you need 'embedded' or portable - netBSD or one of the many

Is it just a small group or everything at your University or a select
set of servers at the Uni.?

Is this just for web-servers, teaching in a Computer Science Dept. or
all the student desktops?

Who decides:
The usual problem is the "CEO/CFO/CIO" needs to make a 'safe' decision -
their job and reputation is on the line.
They don't get promoted or paid more by just saving money, but they will
get fired for failures.
You have to know intimately the "What's In It For Me" (WIIFM) reasons
for each of the decision makers...
"Nobody ever got fired for buying (insert current fad)" - because it is
always a *safe* decision.

There's another very strong self-interest group that you have to overcome:
    The Incumbent Group.

These people have a vested interest in doing what they do and protecting
their Right to Employment.
Telling them or their managers "you've got it (all) wrong" only
entrenches their opposition and position.

Thirdly, You don't have a Technical Problem, you, as a Change Agent,
have a Political Problem.

Taylor in 1911 published "Principles of Scientific Management" - one of
the first tracts on successful radical technical change.

His rules [restated by me]:
 - start small - with just one carefully selected person and task.
    Show *definitive* benefits/improvements.
    These have to be about things the 'management' values/cares about.

 - grow slowly - after your first small success, look for another
    But now you have real evidence, not just a good story, to give to

- Rinse and Repeat...
    Find another person and another task, again and again.

 - keep going slowly - it may take 3-5 years before you achieve a
'tipping point'.
    When near 50% conversion, the remainder suddenly change to the new

 - trying to go too fast, no matter how clever or right you are, *will*
    You can't dodge that bullet - the business landscape is littered
with those corpses.
    You, and your organisation, are then very much worse off.
    You get to choose your approach up front.
    You can l

- Change by management 'fiat', especially without support, engagement
and follow-up,
    is counter-productive and guaranteed to fail.
    The experienced people on the coal-face know they just have
    to wait out the storm and everything will go back to how it was...
    Personal Change is tricky, Organisational Change trickier - and they
depend on one another.

=> Even if you sold CEO/CFO/CIO on One Big Change and they issued The
Edict, it wouldn't work.
    Radical change is a process that has to be won one person at a time.

If you want current computing references, Jerry Weinberg is a great
place to start (4 book series: "Quality Software Management"). He talks
mainly about developing software - but it translates into the whole IT

Jerry became a leading light in the teaching world of Virgina Satir - a
family therapist who had deep/unique understanding of personal and group
Change. This wasn't accidental - Jerry realised early on that the
biggest obstacle to success on Technical projects is *people* and their
ability to adapt and change.  Search for "Virginia Satir" and "Change

Lastly, look for Allies and Role Models.

There's a brilliant book (originally in French) "Managing Sensitive
Projects: A Lateral Approach" by Olivier D'Herbemont, and Bruno Cesar -
they talk about being a (successful) Change Agent in the face of extreme

One of their outstanding successes as consultants was finding a storage
site in France for (high level?) Nuclear Waste.
It took time, understanding and a lot of finesse. Done the wrong way,
the project would've been a political disaster and caused the change of

Role Models: Find similar places that have succeeded in the change you
are interested in. Talk to them and understand your similarities and

A good place to start: DCS and RSISE at ANU (because people there are on
this list).
I know as well CSE at Uni of NSW also predominantly run Linux/Unix -
where mostly the rest of UNSW is 'Windows'.

Maybe that's the question you could be asking on Linux Australia and
other LUG lists:

    Where do I find examples of Linux acceptance/use in Universities?


> -------- Original Message -------- Subject:     How to prove that
> Linux is better? Date:     Wed, 19 Mar 2008 14:13:55 -0500 From:
> yersin huacasi huamán <yersin.h.h at hotmail.com> To:
> <chris at kororaa.org>
> Hello. First, I'd like to thank you for the efforts you make in
> promoting the use of free software as an alternative to proprietary
> software. Next, I'd like to point out some things related to your
> site. I'm facing a situation in which I need to prove that Linux is
> really better, not in terms of freedom, but in terms of numbers. I
> haven't been successful trying to find reliable information on the
> Internet. I hope you can help. I'm convinced that by adding links to
> reliable web sites, your web site will be much more successful in
> convincing people to use Linux. In summary, how to prove that:
> - Linux does not suffer from virus and spyware problems like Windows
> does. - Linux itself rarely fails complete - Linux is designed to be
> stable, safe and secure.
> My goal is not to bother you, but to give ideas so that your web site
> can be much more convincing. I've been asked to prove that Linux is
> better at my university, because I'm implementing an intranet in a
> computer that already has a license for windows server (2000,
> although they're about to get 2008). I'd really appreciate it if you
> can somehow provide me with links to websites that can prove that
> facts you state.
> Thank you for your time.

Steve Jenkin, Info Tech, Systems and Design Specialist.
0412 786 915 (+61 412 786 915)
PO Box 48, Kippax ACT 2615, AUSTRALIA

sjenkin at canb.auug.org.au http://members.tip.net.au/~sjenkin

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