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back to article Hard-up Iceland plumps for cheaper open source

Iceland’s government is accelerating its move to open source at the expense of proprietary software from the likes of Microsoft and Oracle. The government has launched a one-year migration project moving public institutions to open-source software and is working on a call for a tender to buy services based on free and open- …

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JDX
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Cost? Don't make me laugh

The cost of all those committees and quangos alone will dwarf license costs, let alone actually writing the plans, and that's before we even get onto implementing the plans.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Cost? Don't make me laugh

Retraining and document conversion/loss of efficiency is going to eat into those savings as well. It would be a lot more sensible and cheaper to to stay with current policies and just extend service contracts. This is going to bite them in the arse pretty hard.

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Re: Cost? Don't make me laugh

Actually, this is probably the best time to make those changes, because of the significant changes being introduced in Windows 8. Likewise if you havent switched to the latest version of office yet, Swtching to Openoffice will probably involve less Retraining.

Besides, i've worked at a number of large companies over the years and have yet to see any evidence of company sponsored "Retraining" due to changes in OS and Office.

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Re: Cost? Don't make me laugh

There will indeed be significant costs relating with retraining, assessment, writing plans, support, implementation of change etc. But these are mostly one offs. As they are saying in the article - once the foundations are laid, and if they stick with it - significant savings will be there in time - once the initial cost is amortized and they have to pay no more regular license fees.

Interesting move from Iceland. I guess, like with any other IT project - it will all be down to how well and smooth it is implemented.

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Trollface

Re: Cost? Don't make me laugh

FUD

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Anonymous Coward

Wow

Lesson #1 for evaluating the cost of an IT activity... One time costs and recurring costs are not the same thing.

Rocket science, I know...

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FAIL

Re: Cost? Don't make me laugh

That's just FUD spread around by resellers of Microsoft software.

Really how hard is it for 90% of people to use a different office suite, it's not....

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Re: Cost? Don't make me laugh

"just extend service contracts" - That's the reason to switch.

Hello Mr goverment, microsoft here. we've just decided you are upgrading all your machines to Windows8 and Office 2012-turbo-ninja-cloud edition.

You don't want to?

Well in that case the service contract for next year is $1000/seat, then $10,000/seat, then .... stop me when you've had enough

We switched a huge project from VMS to Linux in the mid-90s when Dec informed us that the we were switching to Ultrix or the licence on our Vaxen was going up to around 10x the purchase price.

We figured they would later do exactly the same to us again so we bit the bullet , bought a bunch of cheap NT alphas, installed RedHat and rewrote everything. Anyone remember what happened to DEC?

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g e
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Joke

Crikey!

"A group of unnamed specialists has been formed to monitor the project to prevent failures."

Can they send some of these guys to our government in the UK, too, please!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Crikey!

They could - if they knew who they were. Sadly, the emails to unnamed@iceland.gov keep bouncing.

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Trollface

Re: Crikey!

Try unnamed@government.is or Ónefndur@stjornarrad.is . .gov is for the US federal government.

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Happy

Open source

So no iPads etc. for the Icelandic government eh?

Wonder how well that will go down. I expect the government might just get a few calls from MS, Apple and friends.

Seriously, its about time that cash strapped organisations started to examine the feasibility of using Gnu/Linux and its associated ecosystem to provide IT services.

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Re: Open source

Open source is a laudable aim but I believe it is true open standards that are the better one first up. The ability to be compatible with others and switch out your provider upon them turning out to be useless tw@ts is far more important than someone having a huge pile of code they don't understand. Take the UK Government as a prime example.

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Anonymous Coward

Free stuff

Open source stuff is only free if your time is free, especially where nix stuff is concerned.

I have nothing against open source software, however a good percentage of the time it's not great for anything other than hobbiests or home users.

Like I say before the down votes roll in - I have nothing against it, but it has it's place and that's not always in business.

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Re: Free stuff

"I have nothing against it" & "not great for anything other than hobbiests or home users"

I think you might have something against it if you ignore the vast numbers of commercial Linux webservers and the large number of scientist and technologists who use Linux etc.

I think it's seen as quite good for supercomputers as well

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Free stuff

« it's not great for anything other than hobbiests or home users. »

Wow AC, it's always impressive to see someone as clueless as you. Actually, the usages you mention is precisely where Open Source is the least used because most home users won't bother changing the pre-installed operating system, contrary to professionals who happen to know what a reliable system is.

Bravo, you just made my day.

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Boffin

Re: Free stuff

We use Linux (and OS-X and Windows) at our research institute. My own work is mainly on Linux systems (but I am at writing code that is cross-platform portable). I do not consider my work a hobby.

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FAIL

Re: Free stuff

Apparently XETRA, Google, Facebook and countless other mega-operations are just a hobby. Because they all run on Linux only or they are in the process of transitioning.

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Re: Free stuff

Oddly enough, there is a lot of time, money, and effort in keeping closed/commercial software installed and updated. Ever get involved in an Excel upgrade at a 2000+ company? Ain't pretty. Even us Perl/bioinformatics guys got roped into that one.

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FAIL

Re: Free stuff

The last support ticket I opened with MS, they charged me 300 USD for, spent two weeks dicking around on the phone over, and the conclusion was "you have to disrupt your entire userbase inorder to fix our bug"

Yeah, windows uses SOO much less of my time.

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Thumb Down

Re: Free stuff

Mmmm, and Windows Server just configures and maintains itself. You don't even need a network administrator...

Ohh wait!

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Re: Free stuff

It's quite a different use case to use Linux as a development workstation deploying to Linux servers than a office desktop for purely running software.

There are still quite a lot of Windows only tools in the office arena.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Free stuff

"I have nothing against open source software, however a good percentage of the time it's not great for anything other than hobbiests or home users".

Yea it sure looks clunky .. :)

UbuntuTV

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7jYj1gio7qE

Ubuntu 12.04 LTS - Unity 5.0/HUD http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q49P6czyPs0

Ubuntu 12.04 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hzfvUKgjJtg

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Re: Free stuff

While I agree that open source is only free if time is free, the story is about open source being _cheaper_, not being free. I can easily see how it would be cheaper.

Firstly, there's an open market for supporting software like Linux because it doesn't come from a single source. You can shop around to find the best support deal for your organisation.

Secondly, most system support in most organisations is provided internally by a department hired and trained for whatever software stack happens to be in use. It's relatively rare that you kick a problem back to the supplier and very unlikely if they're going to restrict what they use to the big name projects that have seen wide deployment, like the Apaches, OpenOffices, etc of the world. So in-houe support costs probably remain the same.

That all being considered, you hopefully end up spending slightly less on support in total and nothing whatsoever on licences.

On the assumption that someone reasonably intelligent has set up the computers and locked them down in the same way that most corporate machines are locked down (so, e.g. for a desk staffer it'd boot up to a GUI desktop with a browser, a Word-like word processor, etc, and all customisation and package management would be disabled) I also don't imagine you're looking at any real extra training costs and in any case training costs are a one off. You'd budget for maybe a month of slowed productivity as a switchover cost, which probably would pay for itself within a year.

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Re: Free stuff

"There are still quite a lot of Windows only tools in the office arena."

And you know the names of some that are relevant to Iceland? Perhaps you could tell us so that we could either tell you how to get around the problem or indeed let us learn of a real reason the stick with Windows.

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Bronze badge

Re: Free stuff

The Gendarmerie in France changed over to linux a few years ago without apparent trouble.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Free stuff

@Ivan 4 - I'd be really interested to know how that went for the Gendarmerie, I consider myself pretty much agnostic when it comes to Lin/Win arguments, each is better for some things, each is poorer at other things. I have had a good old hunt round with Google and can't find any articles about how it went, it's all just that they were going to do it. This is odd, because when Munich changed over there was lots of fanfare and then with the exception of a few fanboy web sites (on both the MS and Linux sides, so discount both for fairness) the only thing that I can find out is that they haven't finished yet and the project was initially conceived in 2003.

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Re: Free stuff

Hmm, that somehow contradicts with the many hours I see my Windows loving co-workers dealing with some bizarre Windows only problem. Or some Windows admin, who couldn't even find the file permissions dialogue on Windows XP. Or the fact that said dialogue doesn't exist on _some_ versions of Windows.

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@anon

What about this statement "proprietary software is not extremely expensive if your time is free"?

>>it's not great for anything other than hobbiests or home users.

The hobby is just NOT to be proudly lazy and ignorant. Hence the down-vote.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @anon

@Eulampios - Supported software is expensive, be it FOSS or COTS, if you need support you have to pay and most companies need support. You can pay for that by purchasing some off the shelf software or you can subscribe on a per install basis for FOSS, it sill costs.

(Although I do agree that the "hobby" comment is transparent fanboy bollocks.)

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@the same anon or relative of that

It doesn't contradict with what I meant. Although, say a Lenovo lappy with XP has an hdd owee. It refuses to boot. no backups could be retrieved from the machine (with lenovo 7 installation/rescue cds!!) ubuntu could not fix the ntfs, but could successfully save the data onto an external media.

In this case Windie tools were overly complicated hence expensive and ... did I mention ? -- useless. Booting a live Linux distro is so elementary and cheap. So you can take it from there to extrapolate.

Who's bollocks did you mean?

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Pint

Re: Free stuff

Re the Gendarmerie,

The Gendarmerie seem to be very happy with Linux, They can't play games but as the Big Boss said they are not there to play games.

Munich decision to change to Linux invoked a panic in Microsoft with visits from top execs, and bribery to prevent this mutiny.

Nice to know it is still proceeding though.

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Linux

Re: Free stuff

Same here. It was the straw that broke the camel's back and pushed me to migrate to FOSS. In truth I'm not sure whether I should be grateful to MS for helping me to make one of the best decisions I've ever made, or pissed off at them for taking so long.

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Linux

>a few calls from MS, Apple and friends.

Probably not Apple or Oracle, but MS requires mindshare which insists that no option is perceived as credible.

With nothing to lose, cue freebie lunches, windows and office (360?) licenses.

Also, Iceland is so small, the complexity and hw requirements are probably not too great.

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Silver badge

Re: >a few calls from MS, Apple and friends.

MS requires mindshare which insists that no option is perceived as credible.

Trevor Pott's recent review of Windows 8 Server Beta indicates that you are wrong.

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Re: >a few calls from MS, Apple and friends.

"Trevor Pott's recent review of Windows 8 Server Beta indicates that he holds a different opinion."

There. All fixed up now.

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Facepalm

@ac 13:11

Time freed from fighting viruses maybe?

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Also a language issue

A lot of commercial software doesn't support Icelandic characters or dictionaries, so open source is one alternative for a country where words like 'haestaréttardómari' should come with a health warning.

There's also a bit of an urban myth about Icelandic Windows. The traditional word for a window is 'skjár'. Icelandic windows traditionally weren't made from expensive imported glass, but were usually stretched sheep's stomachs or placentas. Those of us who had a Vista machine, can fully understand the experience. Usually though, most people say 'Windows' and everyone else just nods.

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Re: Also a language issue

Dictionaries, I'll grant you, but Icelandic is fully coded by ISO 8859-1 or Windows-1252 (The Icelandic-unique characters Þ,þ,Ð and ð are at 0xD0, 0xDE, 0xF0 and 0xFE respectively in 8859-1 and thus Unicode too). Basically, if you can't write Icelandic in your character set, you can't write other "minority" languages like Spanish, French or German either.

The only living Western European language that cannot be coded in 8859-1 is Welsh. The reason for this omission that I heard will really, really annoy Welsh speakers, so I won't repeat it, but you can probably guess what happened...

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Re: Also a language issue

What characters are used in Welsh that aren't in the Roman alphabet? I just Googled "Welsh Alphabet" and didn't find such, just different pronunciations for things like w and dd. (Also scripts in which d g t and some other letters are written rather differently, but isn't that a font not an encoding issue? )

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Welsh diacritics

Welsh (can) use a caret (circumflex) to denote a 'long' vowel (e.g. Siân) - there are other, less common, diacritics as well. This is no problem for a,e,i,o,u - but Welsh also has w and y as vowels and there are no appropriate accents for these characters. See Welsh orthography.

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Re: Welsh diacritics

Yep, the circumflexed letters ŵ,Ŵ,ŷ and Ŷ were relegated to ISO 8859-14 ("Celtic") along with other "obscure" letters like the dotted consonants that were used to write Irish before the orthographic reform of that language way back in 1958 (modern Irish is encodable in 8859-1, of course)

The lack of these codes in 8859-1 (and thus Windows CP1252) is the reason you sometimes don't see them in online text, but they're part of the language. Similarly, Germans used to write "AE", "OE" and "UE" on some computer systems, but that doesn't mean that Ä, Ö and Ü were not part of that language's orthography.

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Headmaster

Re: Welsh diacritics

All these other coding systems are being relegated to the dustheap of history, hopefully sooner than later, by the increasing popularity of Unicode and the coding system UTF-8. Unicode defins a certin "code point", or number, for each and every character of each and every language used by humankind, plus ones for many symbols, too. I'm not sure if they've gotten around to making codepoints for the most obscure languages, but you can be sure all characters of all the living European and Asian languages are included.

UTF-8 codes Unicode characters. Each Unicode character (or "code point") is converted to one or more bytes, the number of bytes depending on how obscure the character set that the character belongs to is. An ASCII text file is already the correct UTF-8 encoding of the text.

More here: http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/Unicode.html

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Thumb Up

License fee vs transfer costs

While it is true that going open source won't save the entire cost of the licenses. It is also true that the transfer costs reduce over time and use+input improves the breed. Licensing cost just keep going up.

Also some companies like change for change's sake to keep the product looking 'fresh'. New versions proprietary products are not free from 're learning' costs and can come bundled with 'features' that the buyer doesn't want. Would anyone here bet against idea that if MS Office were open source there would be a Non-Ribbon fork of the latest release by now?

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Thumb Up

Re: License fee vs transfer costs

Ah but to put the counter-point:Open Source stuff tends to fragment. How many versions of Linux are there now? How many UIs? Has the KDE v. Gnome battle ended yet?

There's more than one version of Windows but aside from the changes wrought by UAC most developers don't have to concern themselves too much with that. Even the UAC changes aren't seriously breaking since the OS does it's best to accommodate you. The result is an ugly kludge under the bonnet but it works. Code for the Windows version on your dev box and chances are good to excellent that it'll work on any other Windows box in the world. Same with the UI. You code for 'Windows' and that's that. There might be a wide choice of frameworks (which is good) but you don't have to worry that customers are going to start bleating that your application doesn't run on their particular Windows UI.

It's a complex equation all round but all I'd advise anyone thinking about this is that they think about it hard and impartially.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: License fee vs transfer costs

I'm in the unfortunate situation of having that horrible ribbon on my work PC. However, I've found you can get a free add-on from Ubit that gives you a new "Menu" item on the ribbon that brings back a 2003-style menu wheere you can find everything!

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Re: License fee vs transfer costs

"You code for 'Windows' and that's that."

I'm not so sure that that is really a problem.

Apart from the obvious security issues, most office type workers would be just as happy and productive with WfW 3.11 and MSWorks, in terms of MS use.

If a Govt chooses to go the open source Linux route, then there's almost certainly no need to fragmentise their own internal market with multiple desktops or underlying OS versions or to keep updating it every year.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: License fee vs transfer costs

So what if there are different interfaces available? There will be a standar configuraton for all PCs. You can run KDE programs on Gnome UI very easily despite what you would like to imply, most package managers will pull dependencies automatically, never mind that actual it professionals should have no problem with that. But yeah nice beating that strawman.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: License fee vs transfer costs

The trouble with forking is that you get two versions the system ceases to be one as a whole. Some people will chose to follow one fork, some the other. The practical upshot of this is that you can end up choosing the wrong fork and ending up in a dead end, possibly even with abandonware, which you have to extricate yourself from. Commercial software doesn't suffer from this as, while sometimes unpopular decisions are made, it carries on in the same direction and your company doesn't end up risking making the wrong choice.

(This is not to value FOSS or COTS more than the other, just a comment on forking.)

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