back to article Oh dear, Microsoft: UK.gov signs deal with LibreOffice

The government has signed a deal for open source Libre Office to be made available across the public sector, in what looks like an attempt to "nudge" mandarins off Microsoft Office. The open source software deal, which is being provided by one of the open sourcer's partners, Collabora GovOffice, is apparently intended to " …

Anonymous Coward

Re: Cue all the usual stuff about incompatibility etc

As to Outlook/Exchange, the question is probably how comfortable are you with projects/products such as Zimbra.

Ugh, used that. No thanks. I'm not even sure that really is still Open Source - wasn't that both by Yahoo or something? I also saw something fly past lately about OpenXchange ("OX"), but I have used that too for a couple of years and I was never very impressed with either the product or the support.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Cue all the usual stuff about incompatibility etc

"Funny how so many people on-line seem to rely on obscure macros, plugins and fonts."

I have worked in a number of medium / large companies and I have never worked anywhere where most users didn't rely on macros and / or addins. Maybe you work in a one man band with little use of technology, but I can assure you most corporate Office users wouldn't be able to do without Addins and / or Macros.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Cue all the usual stuff about incompatibility etc

"There have been better solutions than VBA + MS Office for over a decade!"

Like what? It's pretty damn good as an Office scripting language and there is nothing close to it in terms of features I have ever seen.

"There are big companies out there, really big companies, where the business logic is wrapped up in MS Access forms."

Presumably because its relatively cheap and effective, and when you connect to an SQL server backend, it can scale to thousands of users.

"Tens of thousands of employees trying to do their month-end rollups using MS Excel front-ends to Access "databases". "

Because it works well, it's powerful and flexible, and if they outgrow it, porting it to SQL server is relatively easy.

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Re: Cue all the usual stuff about incompatibility etc

'spammed by Microsoft staff who allege that MS Office is better at writing out OpenDoc format files, but that is patently BS'

The numerous ODF and file format / saving bug reports in the Open Office forums beg to differ. MS Office is in my experience far more reliable - even Office 365 supports ODF better than OO / LO do.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Cue all the usual stuff about incompatibility etc

I have worked in a number of medium / large companies and I have never worked anywhere where most users some IT staff didn't rely on macros and / or addins to create job security.

FIFY. I have worked in many setups as well, and in some cases the use of some corporate macros for document creation was even mandatory, and in the end I created some cleaned up doc templates instead because the crud injected by those macros got in the way of productivity. Templates, yes, macros .. if you need them, LO has its own language built in (which apparently works cross platform) but I never really found the need. Once you have a decent template and style format set up you can just get on with things.

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Flame

Re: Cue all the usual stuff about incompatibility etc

LO isn't anywhere near as strong as Excel.

I sometimes use Excel for working on very large spreadsheets. Libre Office Calc is useless for this because it lacks the vitally important navigation feature of using [End]+[arrow key] to quickly move to the start or end of a large range. But when I pointed out this lack to the LO team, they just replied "that's a Microsoft feature" as if this were somehow a valid reason for not including it in LO. (And in any case they're wrong; it dates back at least to Lotus 1-2-3, which is probably why it ended up in Excel in the first place).

Microsoft Works; LO doesn't, for me at least.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Cue all the usual stuff about incompatibility etc

"This is the fault of management mostly" - what an odd, generic and foolish comment! What "management".

Try working in a government environment that constantly cuts "admin" costs (including IT of course) while encouraging and funding "innovation" projects.

Now work out why most business users are left to use MS Office - warts and all.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Cue all the usual stuff about incompatibility etc

> ...lacks the vitally...

pish

[Ctrl-Home] and [Ctrl-End]

Tools-->Customize-->Keyboard to rebind

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Re: Cue all the usual stuff about incompatibility etc

in LibreOffice (Version: 4.4.0.3), Control + Arrow Keys does the same thing as Control + End. Control+End in LO takes you to bottom right corner of spreadsheet.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Cue all the usual stuff about incompatibility etc

"where some IT staff didn't rely on macros and / or addins to create job security."

I have never been anywhere that had IT staff provide or write macros and / or addins. These are nearly always a business creation / decision.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Cue all the usual stuff about incompatibility etc

Any chance you could share the report anonymously?

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FAIL

Re: Cue all the usual stuff about incompatibility etc

"pish

[Ctrl-Home] and [Ctrl-End]"

Once more, I get an idiot response from someone replying to what they believed I said, rather than what I actually said. The keys above move to the beginning or end of the document; what I was referring to was moving to the beginning or end of a range (a contiguous block of non-empty cells, running in any of the four principal directions).

Can LO do this? If so, why doesn't it do this using the standard [End] followed by the relevant arrow key functionality offered by all previous spreadsheets? Why should the end-user have to flap about with key bindings, just to get the thing working properly?

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@Robert Baker

opens LO spreadsheet

picks random range

ctrl + arrow down -> goes to end of contiguous block (some 50 rows down to a blank cell - step over & repeat)

ctrl + arrow right -> goes to end of contiguous columns (in this case the end of the table NOT the end of the spread sheet)

LibreOffice 4.2.8.2 & as far as I remember LO has ALWAYS done this - since before it forked; so $deity only knows what antiquated version of what Office you are using - perhaps a pre- steal everything from Lotus 123 MS spreadsheet ?

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Re: Cue all the usual stuff about incompatibility etc

I have 300 users I don't think any of them have ever made a Macro.

Microsoft Macros in Outlook introduced the world the computer virus well done for that.

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Re: Cue all the usual stuff about incompatibility etc

That's the point of the gov adopting ODF as the standard it pushed suppliers to consider ODF rather than DOC. Anyone vying for gov contracts will have to make OCT stuff that works with ODF.

MS is so dominant it will take a government to break that monopoly and a move such as this will hurt Microsoft.

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Re: Cue all the usual stuff about incompatibility etc

Try Crl Left, Right, Up or down.

Same thing and more standard.

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Linux

hopefully...

this will get sufficient extra hands on deck, the quality of libreoffice can surpass Microsoft's offering...

I hope that what's the cash is for...!

P.

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Re: hopefully...

The cynic in me is wondering if it's time for our lords and masters to renegotiate their contract with Microsoft, and someone's pressed the button for "I'm thinking of leaving" in an attempt to get the price down.

Ah yes, a quick search reminded me this isn't the first time they've talked about open source or ODF:

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/07/25/the_odf_revolution_will_not_be_digitised

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Anonymous Coward

Re: hopefully...

the quality of libreoffice can surpass Microsoft's offering

As far as Writer is concerned it already does, we use it for papers, press releases, even brochure design. Calc is enough for what we need, but I do hear of heavy users preferring Excel.

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Pirate

Re: hopefully...

"I hope that what's the cash is for..."

While I admire and share your sentiment...

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Re: hopefully...

An important limitation of Calc is its max number of columns: 1024 I think, vs the 16k+ of Excel; there are surely other limited features which I don't use, so I can't tell. IMO, though, spreadsheet software (Excel, Calc or any other) is useful for 'business' stuff but not for 'real', heavy work (read scientific, engineering,...) :)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: hopefully...

An important limitation of Calc is its max number of columns: 1024 I think, vs the 16k+ of Excel; there are surely other limited features which I don't use, so I can't tell. IMO, though, spreadsheet software (Excel, Calc or any other) is useful for 'business' stuff but not for 'real', heavy work (read scientific, engineering,...) :)

Ah, old debate here. Although I would agree it would be cool to have full feature compatibility, there are 2 questions here:

1 - is that really essential for the majority of users? For probably 90% of the Office users out there, Calc is really all they need and the rest is just padding that only marketing people use to show it's "better". For the remaining 10% ..

2 - is a spreadsheet really the best tool for this? Work that is so complex tends to be costly when mistakes are made, and if there is one thing a big spreadsheet makes impossible, it's auditing. If you work with that sort of data volume there surely are better, more focused solutions out there.

On the other hand - fine - let them but Excel. That doesn't mean other people have to buy excessive baggage..

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Silver badge

Re: hopefully...

An important limitation of Calc is its max number of columns: 1024 I think, vs the 16k+ of Excel

Depends on which version of Excel you are using. The increase from 256 columns in Excel 2003 to 16k in 2007 was one of the features that made me upgrade. I suspect that Calc's limit, whilst insufficient for heavy users is probably good enough for many.

I suspect one of the problems with MS Office is that MS have stretched the boundaries to overlap with more capable third-party products. So for example, Word does 'large' documents sufficiently well for many businesses not to invest in document tools, such as those that Xerox were selling in the early to mid 1990's and which the world has largely forgotten about...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: hopefully...

prediction - by this time next year localc will handle 16k cols

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Anonymous Coward

Hotel California

Microsoft and Office is like the Hotel California: you can check out, but you can never leave.

In the public sector, MS sell product though framework contracts and call offs such as Microsoft Select and Microsoft Campus (for education as an example). The issue with these is if you licence a product like Office through MS Campus, based on your staff FTE numbers, you also get it included for upto 5 copies office for each of your students on any device plus Office 365 as well. Its pretty hard to consider alternatives because of all the added value that MS include.

On top of that, you will always need some MS licences, whether it is for Windows Desktop, Windows Server, SQLServer or Exchange or whatever. In order to get those you sign up to MS Campus because the Desktop or ECALs that are needed are only affordable on Campus where enormous discounts (of upto 100%) are available. The net result is MS becomes so embedded that it is the only practical and, ironically, affordable choice. This then increases brand penetration so that users believe MS Office is the only right choice.

You could say you would abandon MS altogether. In reality this will never fly. You need to use Windows, so you need MS. Don't need windows or SQLServer you say? Sure, but I do need the third party apps like the HR/Finance/student/research/teaching/business System that has been built with .NET, only work with SQLServer, and is only supported on Windows. So, you are back to dealing with MS again. Any thought of abandoning it all and utilising just open source software is nulled by the sheer cost of doing it.

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Boffin

Re: Hotel California

Sounds like the perfect tar pit to me; tell me: are you well and truly content with that scenario? Willing to persevere, endure, and ... sink even deeper?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Hotel California

You're kinka missing the bigger point. Organisations want to get off lock-in, not Microsoft products per se.

The real evil here are not Microsoft products but a lack any kind of compatibility between competing products.

If Microsoft really do offer the superior alternative and the price makes sense then I have no particular objection to its use

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Re: Hotel California

In 2004, I started working in a Kent based Grammar school and the state of the IT was not good. There was a single server for the network, an RM box running the admin side, another box running exchange on NT4 and a CD server that was on its last legs and would cost £1800 to replace for some reason. Our total budget for all IT, desktops, servers, printing, software and anything else computer linked was £30,000 a year. Since then, it's been £30,000 a year bar two years when we got 40,000 and 50,000. We run 500 machines for 1000 users.

Within a year of joining, the CD server had been replaced with a Mandriva Linux box, the old NT DC had been migrated to Samba 3 and Exchange was booted and replaced with Postfix and Squirrelmail as no-one was using the additional features of Exchange anyway. Printing was through Samba with Pykota for management. All web based activities were pulled into the school and rather than pay external providers, we put everything on Apache/PHP with Wordpress/Joomla and Moodle for the VLE. As you say, you still need Windows for some things and for us it was SIMS and the FMS financial management package so we had server 2003 on one box for that.

When the new licencing came in the cost of deploying Windows and Office dropped for £25,000 a year to £3,000 and we switched to domain control Server 2008R2 but with Linux fileservers and Synology NAS boxes and all of our web servers run Ubuntu/LAMP. For a short period of time, we tried LibreOffice but whining teachers killed that off. For a group of people who are supposed to be teaching people the joy of learning, that joy doesn't seem to stretch to some of them.

To defend against future price rises, we are keeping out of the cloud bar running Owncloud and our our own mail/groupware from our server room. Microsoft have tried talking us into taking up the crippleware free version of Office 365 and we have decided against because there's no guarantee that it's going to stay free beyond the end of the annual licence. You never own licenced proprietary software so we won't switch fully to Google either as whatever they say, we have no way of knowing whether the free services may disappear in the future leaving us the hassle of migration or coughing up.

A further guarantee is that all of our DCs have been set up at a level that means we can switch to Samba 4 if Microsoft decide to up the licence in future and Kolab or Egroupware provide enough to provide for calendaring and note sharing so exchange is still off the cards. If MS Office goes up to the old pricing again. LibreOffice will get another look in and if any department insists on MS Office, they can pay for it out of their budget. As for desktop licences, we use refurbs that all have Win 7 licences so were fine until that becomes obsolete.

The mistake made during the new labour years was that people used threats of dropping Microsoft as a crowbar to drop licencing costs and in the end, that was all it became and MS knew it.

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Anonymous Coward

Hidden costs

Well if anyone can prove that the costs of Open Source (plus Support) is more expensive than Microsoft - it would be a government procurement project. Unfortunately.

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Silver badge

Re: Hidden costs

But don't government procurement projects just prove that government procurement projects are more expensive and wasteful than anything else ?

"Hey, that didn't work, let's try again !"

*facepalm*

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Hidden costs

"Well if anyone can prove that the costs of Open Source (plus Support) is more expensive than Microsoft "

Don't forget the additional deployment, migration, co-existence and productivity costs!

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Re: Hidden costs

You can't afford to bail yourself out of jail, so just stay there.

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FAIL

As if

Perm.Secs. and DGs won't put any trust in some shareware spreadsheet when making a return to Treasury

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Childcatcher

Then again...

I assume the Cabinet Office is quickly reviewing the use of Google Docs after the ECJ ruling that Safe Harbor isn't?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Then again...

I assume the Cabinet Office is quickly reviewing the use of Google Docs after the ECJ ruling that Safe Harbor isn't?

.. and Gmail ..

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Then again...

"the Cabinet Office is quickly reviewing the use of Google Docs after the ECJ ruling that Safe Harbor isn't?"

Surely they don't use that inferior Google spyware crap in government? I thought they had gone Office 365?

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Happy

Excellent!

Glad to see that we are contributing to community software rather than just SatNad/BallSacks bonus.

Lets hope this continues.

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continued Open Source Adoption

In my comment to an article about 1 month ago, confirming the continued and rapid adoption of Free/Open Source Software (FOSS, particularly Liux, even on Desktops amoung most of European Union, India, China, Russia, South America and other jurisdictions, many Microsoft defenders derided my comment with one stating quite belligerently that Munich Germany was reverting back to Windows Desktops with Office from failed Linux and LobreOffice, which the Munich City administrator clarified as totally false.

While the UK government is adopting LibreOffice over Microsoft Office, including Office365 subscription services, such adoption along with millions of other countries ODF/LibreOffice official document standards leaves Microsoft only with US dominance to satisfy their American fan club.

The sad aspect of such slavish thinking on part of Microsofties, is that their heroine has not only adopted Linux and FreeBSD networking infrastructure, the company is also deploying Hadoop Big Data Analytics "ON" Linux in it's Azure Cloud Services. How demeaning is that.

ref: http://www.networkworld.com/article/2994969/linux/who-cares-about-hadoop-on-linux-microsoft-yes-really.html

With this revelation, and fact that Microsoft is supporting Free/Open Source Software (FOSS) OpenSSH in PowerShell/Windows Server 2012, and in many other areas of their technology operations, against which the company was unable to develop competitive products, it becomes clear that FOSS represents the present and future of Networking, Data Center infrastructure, Social Media, Cloud Computing and even Mobile technologies, and Linux (with Desktops) in rest of the world, leaving little space for reason or Microsoft suporters to smile about.

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Re: continued Open Source Adoption

"Munich Germany was reverting back to Windows Desktops with Office"

This zombie keeps coming up. It must be wishful thinking.

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Re: continued Open Source Adoption

Yep it is complete rubbish - there is no way that they are reverting back to the headaches of crashing and increased cost implications of being locked in!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: continued Open Source Adoption

This is interesting and some will ask, so where's the cost saving? So, if a city or company is paying MS X amount per year for all it's licenses how much of that money stays in the area and helps the local economy? I expect this example is especially true for any city, then the city pays X amount or even 2X amount. They get taxes, in whatever form they take in your city, and one could guess they 80 to 90% of the salaries get spent in said city thus boosting the economy.

http://www.ocsmag.com/2015/08/24/no-munich-is-not-considering-ditching-linux-and-going-back-to-windows/

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Re: continued Open Source Adoption

This is something I hadn't actually considered. Since most of the costs of open source office stacks (OS, Libre Office, etc) are the support contracts, how much of that is going to companies within the country rather than foreign entities? Even if it were a little more expensive, if you're keeping it in the local economy it might still be a better option

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Anonymous Coward

Re: continued Open Source Adoption

This is something I hadn't actually considered. Since most of the costs of open source office stacks (OS, Libre Office, etc) are the support contracts, how much of that is going to companies within the country rather than foreign entities? Even if it were a little more expensive, if you're keeping it in the local economy it might still be a better option

There's also the simple fact of efficiency gains here. For a start, with a stable (and documented) file format your overheads in terms of file maintenance and fighting incompatibility problems nose dive (costs that benefit absolutely nobody, but which normally help to keep the proprietary vendor in place), you have an interface that doesn't change much so no delays on learning yet-another-way to do what you just got used to doing the "old way", and you obviously save yourself the costs associated with all the complex licensing shenanigans that MS has engaged in over the years. In my opinion, anything that makes FAST redundant (remember them?) is good and ought to be encouraged, so seeing this drive from the very government itself is cool.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: continued Open Source Adoption

""Munich Germany was reverting back to Windows Desktops with Office""

They certainly looked at the options as the users were not happy with the hybrid pos they are forced to now use, but they balked at the cost of doing it all in reverse, see:

http://www.zdnet.com/article/munich-sheds-light-on-the-cost-of-dropping-linux-and-returning-to-windows/

It took them over ten years, cost tens of millions more than upgrading to a current version of Windows would have (including the migration costs and the costs incurred by IBM, etc) and they have ended up with a hybrid mess - still widely needing Windows via VDI to get any real work done.

Hence why - many years later - there are still close to zero others going down this path. There are no real benefits in migrating - you will likely get a crappier solution after a world of pain.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: continued Open Source Adoption

Hence why - many years later - there are still close to zero others going down this path. There are no real benefits in migrating - you will likely get a crappier solution after a world of pain.

Interesting attempt at commingling things. OS <> applications. In Munich they did everything at once which is bound to generate learning pain and personally, I think that's a world too far. Just replacing MS Office with LibreOffice is far easier as long as you don't have been misled by consultants to go down the route from COTS to customisation (which is where they make their money).

It saves a shedload of money, not just in license fees but also in license management costs and overheads. It's exactly because you don't have to track any installs that you can pretty much do what you want, and you can even give your staff a copy to use at home, or let them download that from public sources. The result of the latter is that they get even more used to it.

I only hope that the educational system finally sees sense. It should make it hard to justify continued use of MS Office in schools.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: continued Open Source Adoption

"still widely needing Windows via VDI to get any real work done."

I doubt that constitutes a big portion of the workload. I work for an organisation that has around a thousand users and a lot of tech. We get our real work done every day on Linux - both desktops and servers. Windows exists here but it's mainly for niche stuff like accounting software. A lot of that has a web interface anyway and the rest is done via RDP. As that's a pretty small portion of the workload it's fine. If anything I blame MS for many years of designing their platforms under the assumption that they are the only players in existence. Thankfully this attitude is starting bite them now, so we are seeing more sensible decisions like native SSH support on the horizon.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: continued Open Source Adoption

"I doubt that constitutes a big portion of the workload!"

They quoted about 20% at the point they declared the migration completed.

"so we are seeing more sensible decisions like native SSH support on the horizon."

Yes, now *NIX platforms can remotely access a more powerful OO based shell.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: continued Open Source Adoption

"They quoted about 20% at the point they declared the migration completed."

So even by your admission, not a big portion at all.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: continued Open Source Adoption

"So even by your admission, not a big portion at all."

That is a very large portion when you think that they still have to support an additional 20% more PCs than before - and all the infrastructure dependencies of that - and have the users access 2 environments, have 2 user accounts, two sets of apps, etc, etc. Hence partly why the users hate it.

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Re: continued Open Source Adoption

The cost savings to Munich have been substantial and officially announced.

Munich started the formal upgrade for all the City's approximately 18,000 desktops and 9,000 servers around November 2013. The preceeding 8 - 9 years of preparation was consumed not by the problems of the OS and Officesuite switch, but by the convoluted Windows desktop operations that existed with Windows XP home and XP Professional installations in about 273 different configurations, update programs and patch management systems, not to mention similarly chaotic situation with myriad versions and setups for Microsoft Office. The City technology team indicated that any upgrade/switch scenario - whether to Linux or Windows 7/8 would have required the same extended lead time to get the change operation viable.

In April 2014, with only about 60 percent of the desktop switches complete - without training programs, the City indicated saving approximate equivalent 14 million USdollars, and possibly 35 plus million dollars saving if current switch had no serious problems, which it dd not.

Those dollar s aving numbers are considerable, with all of it going to the City of Munich, and most likely to other programs it operates.

Even Microsoft's contrary contention report?, put forth by HP Germany of greater saving via Windows 7 upgrade - without any calculation of the more than 15,000 new computers required to run Windows 7, proved by independent audits to be phony to it's core.

The UK government are well aware of the “facts” concerning switch to FOSS – in this case LibreOffice – in more efficient and cost effect operations amoung several other European Union (EU) Countries as well as governments in other continents.

Unfortunately the Microsoft dupes here in USA and few in Europe cannot and never do provide any factual evidence to support their slavish thinking or positions on technology tissues that do not favour their heroine in Redmond, Washington State, USA.

A sad, sick minded group of people!

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