back to article German Foreign Office kills desktop Linux, hugs Windows XP

Openistas beware! Politicos at the German Foreign Office are reportedly ditching Linux in favour of returning their desktop PCs to Windows XP-based systems. According to a report on netzpolitik.org, which was diligently spotted by The H, the German Foreign Office recently decided to dump their Linux-based machines. That move …

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Quite

Yes, we do need to see the full picture to judge what really transpired.

No-one has commented on the fact that if OpenOffice was the problem (and I do prefer [the older versions of] Ms Office to OpenOffice), why don't they just run it under Wine?

Various version work perfectly under Wine and have done for a very long time. They were practically he first major packages to be supported. Job done. Break the Windows dependency and use the Office package you prefer.

Than again, Office may not have been the problem that they perceived.

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Gates Horns

"why don't they just run [office] under Wine"

Because that would be "illegal".

The MS Office* EULA explicitly states that you cannot install it on non MS operating systems.

* Windows version obviously

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why dont they ?

@Goat jam. Because the Bundstag (whatever) and other national governments have not hauled M$ into court for restraint of trade over their insistence on Windows OS use only for Office. Aside from that, IMHO, Office has gone downhill since Office 97. Harder to use, more resources to run and it insists on correcting, altering and fiddling with my text despite resetting autocorrect to do nothing. I have reverted to cygwin and vi to get some inital versions of documentation done quickly.

I note that MS were nearly giving away copies of Office 10. That alone indicates something.

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FAIL

MS Office EULA

>"The MS Office* EULA explicitly states that you cannot install it on non MS operating systems"

You should try to remember where you heard that, so that you know not to believe them next time.

You can check actual MS Office End User Licence Agreements at

"http://office.microsoft.com/en-gb/products/microsoft-software-license-terms-mslt-for-the-2007-microsoft-office-system-HA010210317.aspx"

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A Better Option

Or how about communicating the usability issues they are having with the OpenOffice (and/or LibraOffice/Document Foundation now) and working with the community. How about talking to the kernel/distro developers about the issues they are having.

If they are not reporting the issues, they cannot be fixed.

It's like buying a commercial program that comes with support and not making use of that support then saying the software is useless and going back to the old program.

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Gates Halo

That would be illegal?

No installing Office under WINE would not be "illegal". It would be against the T&Cs but that does not make it illegal. Unless there is a law enacted in Germany to prohibit installing Office under WINE it is not illegal. M$ could not report you to the police for it and have a criminal case prosecuted. I'm not even sure what they could do in a civil prosecution. Agreeing to an EULA and then breaking does NOT mean you are breaking the law.

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EULA

How much legal weight does the EULA carry in Europe? And could microsoft enforce this? Does anyone know if such a thing ever happend?

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FAIL

@david 12 re MS Office EULA

Interesting. I went there, and was prompted to download a .EXE file that contained a PDF and and XPS file.

WTF? An EXE file!!! What's wrong with a straight-forward download of the PDF? This is MS obfuscation at it's worst.

Indeed, on the page for reading the license terms there is the following

"Supported Operating Systems:Windows 2000;Windows Server 2003;Windows Vista;Windows XP"

JUST TO READ THE TERMS AND CONDITIONS.

As I am using a Linux system at an enlightened organization at the moment, a .EXE file is of little use without some form of MS tie in. Sort of undermines your comment a bit.

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Linux

New machines too?

Will their existing desktops have enough RAM / CPU to meet the minimum requirements of Win7 / Office 2011 .

I assume they'll be more than up to running Linux or XP - if they aren't then maybe that's an explanation of why the users are unhappy...

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Joke

Linux is perfect for work environments.

How could an end user, at the job, possibly have a gripe with Linux?

I don't see any differences between my Windows, Mac or Linux systems while on Facebook.

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Anonymous Coward

The trouble is

That we find it hard to believe that Microsoft would take a market like this by sheer superiority of its product.

On second thoughts... not hard... impossible.

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Happy

Buggriit

I guess that makes me a 'lunatic' then (whatever one of those is). I DO prefer OO above MS office - LibreOffice is even nicer.

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FAIL

It could be

I have a feeling that it is because they can't get the "free game" they found on the Internet to work on the Linux machines. Quite often when they complain about a desktop system, it's because they can't do stuff they do at home. Also I have a feeling that they are annoyed they cannot put gigabytes of dodgy stuff on the C drive under Linux.

I had to endure Word 2007 while at university and I HATED it. Went to use LaTeX as it was the only other alternative that I could use there.

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Grenade

Progress

Our Foreign Office uses computers now? Oh, the humanity!

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Smells a bit funny!

I can kind of see why users might complain about OpenOffice over MS Office, but the former should still be workable. But everything else really shouldn't be an issue. According to the slashdot coverage of this story, printer and scanner drivers were cited as a problem.... apparently they were having to write their own? That sounds to me like either they've got a bunch of unusual legacy hardware -- in which case that'll likely not work in Windows 7 either, or they've bought new kit that doesn't play nicely with Linux -- in which case that's a procurement problem surely?!

If they'd already made the switch to Linux, I really can't see how they'll save switching back to Windows, *except* if they're being given sweeteners, which will obviously mean that long term it'll cost more.

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I agree

there's a bit of kit that I do have some issues with with Linux, and a 'few' minor issues that get quite quickly ironed out.. but hey I keep my release rolling and only have a few desktops to iron out... if I could employee a few staff to do it for me, I'd have the whole world running Linux by now.

If Germany is anything like the UK it's a procurement problem, in that they employed idiots to do the consultancy and implementation of the Linux migration.

It's the classic, well if we give them something without bugs in it, they won't come back and buy more sales strategy.

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User Critisism

...means they could not download their torrents or iTunes, nor chat with friends on IM.

Weenies.

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Jobs Horns

re: "standardised software products"

That's a good one.

Open Source fan here, I'll readily admit that OO / Libre Office are not the greatest. but they do not impede interoperability by design, so they are IMO superior.

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Coat

Wonder how much they're paying ...

for just over 3 years of support

http://support.microsoft.com/lifecycle/?C2=1173

Mine's the one with the copy of Suse in it.

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FAIL

This is a good thing, really

It will be so much easier for US and UK intel agencies to hack into German Foreign Office systems now -- not to mention open a plethora of attack vectors by bad guys deploying the latest worms, trojans, and bots for Windows. Of course German government officials will seek to suppress, deny or minimize future evidence of increased compromises of their systems, just as the the US DOD did when their inherently insecure MS Exchange mail system got hacked by Chinese script kiddies.

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FAIL

XP?

Windows 7 I could understand. XP's definitely a bit dated; SP3 is a memory and resource hog, the thing's prone to viruses -- unless you really, really have to use some specialized software that only runs on XP then you are better off using Linux.

>Only a lunatic would prefer OpenOffice to Microsoft Office

I don't really notice the difference except that MSOffice had problems with larger spreadsheets -- I don't know about the latest versions ($$$$) but it used to only have 16 bit cell addressing which made it useless for analyzing large data sets.

(As for interoperability, the only thing Microsoft interoperates with is itself. Even then its not particularly consistent.)

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Gold badge

Re: XP?

"Windows 7 I could understand. XP's definitely a bit dated; SP3 is a memory and resource hog"

Seriously? Have you ever tried comparing them on the same hardware?

If you can give 7 the couple of gigs of RAM and the SSD that it needs, you'll be fine. If you are a government department that doesn't have the budget to buy a brand new machine for every user, you'll find that XP is about half the disc and memory footprint and twice as fast for most tasks.

Now, it is unfair to criticise OS designers for taking advantage of Moore's Law and recent mainstream Linux distros are no better, but please don't lose sight of the fact that the best OS for your existing hardware is usually one that was written when your hardware was built.

Perhaps that's the problem. They put a 2010 "kitchen sink" distro on a 2005 machine and it sucked. It is quite believable that XP would be better than that. (Of course, you wouldn't *then* want to migrate from XP to Win7, but that's another insanity altogether.)

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Happy

For all we know....

they'll probably ditch the planned Win7 upgrade until they can't get anyone to support it anymore.

I think alot of people here who post here championing Linux has the best thing since sliced bread and that everyone should move from Windows to Linux don't live in the real world where people have no clue on how the computer works and just want the computer to work. I'd say the best analogy would be sitting down to drive Car Y and finding it completely different to operate after having drove Car X for years.

I've lost count on how many people I've downgraded from Vista (and some Windows 7) to XP because they didn't like how it worked or found too many features different from what they know. The bad part is that really at this point in time, there's no benefit for the average Joe to learn something new as what they are used to using is still supported and software is still being designed to work with it. Office 2007 to 2003 downgrades is even more common but then again, I just work for a little computer company in a town with less than 60,000 people in it.

On a personal note, I'm loving all the Linux fanbois getting butthurt over this article. (See icon)

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Linux

The 80s is calling.

> I think alot of people here who post here

> championing Linux has the best thing since

> sliced bread and that everyone should move

> from Windows to Linux don't live in the real

> world where people

...where people mostly interact with their web browser anymore.

This is not exactly rocket science or sci-fi matte paintings we're talking about here.

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FAIL

Oh well, will keep admin busy......

Dealing with zillion malware hits a day, bet the Chinese are rubbing their hands as they will be able to read the German FO's memos even before the ambassadors do.

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Big Brother

Maybe

... the "warlike situation" in Afghanistan looks better in XP.

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Paris Hilton

what about crossover linux?

sorry, and what was wrong with crossover linux? surely cheaper buy office licence and buy crossover licence for only the computers that need it than have everybody change?

or virtual machines?

I agree that format issues between openoffice and office. I agree outlook seems to be an excellent tool. But surely not everybody uses it at such a high level? And not everybody needs to ensure proper format?

As said above, they had to go back to xp I guess the computers where old and w7 wouldn't even fit? what then buy new PCs for everyone when support for xp stops(2014?)

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J 3

Hm...

Yeah, "user complaints" indeed... So, I guess the best way to get this sorted would be to (say) get a system where the user can go and formally complain. Describe exactly what they tried to do, why, and what happened. Which program? Did it crash? Couldn't find the way to do it? Functionality absent? What? And a training person could come over to see the problem themselves. How many of these "user complaints" would simply disappear, then? Because, you know, a complain like "I don't know where to find minesweeper in this computer" or "iTunes does not want to install" would not really be something the users would want aired out, would it? Or maybe the complains ARE legitimate for whatever many reasons. And anywhere in between.

But of course no one is really interested in getting that data, so silly me for suggesting something like that...

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I work with 40 Linux users

They all hate it.

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Good

Keep changing their desktop from KDE to Gnome & back at least once a week. And try to swap out any productivity software at least as often. Keep 'em on their toes, the fuckers.

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Headmaster

To be fair

exactly the same thing could be said for Windows users.

FACT: Most people hate computers. Period.

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@They all hate it

I'd be interested to know WHY they hate it - sounds like you are in a position to know.

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Gates Horns

Not surprised

That some of the user felt frustrated because it was different from Windows.

Surprised. however, that those who take the decisions suddenly care about that in stead of looking at facts and the economics.

No doubt money has changed pockets here.

The German "Inland Revenue" should have a look at this.

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FAIL

Sensible decision

As a user of Linux and Windows at home and as an admin of a 100+ user worlwide OS-X user base, I think they have made the right choice. Keep the Penguin in the lab where it belongs.

I am wary of Linux in the workplace, so many times I have been fed excuses about how great a linux system will be 'once it is perfected'. Some of my freetard admins seem to think it is worth six weeks plumbing around on a good salary to achieve what a newbie could produce on a normal machine in half a day!

I love Linux but 'a man's gotta know his limitations'

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Sensible decision

As a user of Linux and Windows at home and as an admin of a 100+ user worldwide OS-X user base, I think they have made the right choice. Keep Windows in the lab where it belongs.

I am wary of Windows in the workplace, so many times I have been fed excuses about how great a windows system will be 'once it is perfected'. Some of my MSCE admins seem to think it is worth six weeks plumbing around on a good salary to achieve what a newbie could produce on a normal machine in half a day!

I love Windows but 'a man's gotta know his limitations'

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FAIL

If it takes you six weeks

You might not be qualified to look after such a large network.

By the way: google supercomputer and linux. You might find that it has long since escaped from that lab of yours.

About google... You know what a "browser," is, right?

One has to ask.

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Happy

This issue is real.

That is, if you, as the person with the power to decide, and if bye any chance, you know what and why you are doing it, the do it.

The problem is that you do not exist, because making decisions about something new puts you in a position where you do not know if you are supported or not.

Thus, you do not exist, and that is much more comfortable for everybody.

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Boffin

IT department fail

Surely it has to be on a case by case basis.

The fact is that OO is not as good as Office 2007 or later, but how many people does that affect in the organisation?. In a lot of organisations I have looked at, there is a big percentage of employees that have very light office suite requirements; they use Outlook as a simple mail client only, occasionally Word for knocking together a memo or letter.. and Excel and Powerpoint are mainly just viewers (with PP used to open the odd email of funny pictures in my experience). These people could be and should be (given the tax payers in Germany are paying) running cheap secure Linux boxen + OpenOffice and accessing Windows apps via RDP/Citrix on a case by case basis.

People who really have a need to Windows based apps like Office 2007/2010, should have notebooks running Win 7. Allow them to have RDP sessions to the standard linux config if need be.

I assume like a lot of modern offices, the IT department also support special cases like Mac users, tablet users etc who need access to corporate data, so rather than forcing everybody to use Linux (which will always cause some unhappiness for people who need special Windows only software) or forcing uniform XP/Office, then perhaps they just need a better CIO and IT department who can cope with a providing the right tools for the right people?

To get more freedom and bargining power for the future, the organisation also needs to move to platform agnostic Web apps/cloud based apps over time; in theory MS are all for this now as well. If your standard business processes can be carried out via a standards based Web UI, then these political debates go away, and the IT department can buy whatever is stable/cheap.

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Anonymous Coward

WinWHAT ?

Time you geeks started looking at this from the end user point of view, and the industry point of view, not from your own narrow little point of view.

"Interoperability" issues most likely start centered on Outlook+Exchange combination versus the messaging/collaboration client of choice in the Linux deployment with Exchange. Every user would touch that element of desktop. Calendar delegation, shared folders - mundane to techies, but the sorts of things every stressed EA needs to work NOW, based on even unreasonable time pressure from their execs. Those execs are paid to do a job, their workflow habits are in part based on what Outlook+Exchange *combination* is capable of. Asking people to do different is like driving a RHD car on the RHS of the road: you can do it, but it is more difficult especially under pressure. Ultimately that RHD car isn't actually cheaper to own. It's a hobbyist's dream ... and a workplace's limitation.

Before any of you say "why not replace Exchange with <insert messaging server de jour here>" have a think about what *could* be involved with that for a government *department*. Shared cross departmental services, multiple non-overlapping outsourcing deals, unique departmental security considerations. Major major business issues not just about ripping out one piece of technology for another. This is business reengineering. It isn't going to happen on the same cycle as a desktop refresh.

Next on the list in terms of how many would bump into how much... yeah probably Sharepoint, the first time they need to collaborate with someone outside their department (say another agency which has not contemplated going down the different path). Then the %^&* proliferating Access Databases. Then Visio. Then complex Excel Macros. This is simply not in their control. When one agency shares with another methods, data & analysis for chasing some crook or an active potential security threat, no one can depend on an IT guy to mess with macros to make it all hang together. Collaboration happens on a time line, it isn't a tech problem to be solved FFS get that through your heads. It's a capability that has to be *operational*.

It's not about the technology. The technology is fine, as far as it can go, OO is good for me and I am luck I don't need Visio, my workplace doesn't use Exchange. I wish it could go further, but amazinge we still have critical apps that depend on IE/Windows and no schedule to fix, because they work as is and licenses are in place :(

A whole-of-government commitment for both desktop AND server is the only one that is going to generate shareable patterns for deployment and the business-requirements-driven level of interoperability with legacy systems: what capability, for how long, and with what risk mitigation ? Which (probably smaller) national government is going to take the risk to develop such IP for the greater good of Europe (true independence from MSFT tax) ? To be the guinea pig. Which consulting and/or IT services companies have this goal in their interests ? Probably none. Why do they care whose tech they implement or manage ? The mercenaries of IT industry don't need another weapon to master. So why would they kick in in kind when the IP will be available to all competitors ? Early access to the new IP ? Doesn't mean they will have resources to do the job everywhere at the same time, it just makes for a wages explosion while competitors skill up (poach from the same pool of people for a while).

Gee I wonder why it won't ever happen successfully ? Stick to public school student desktops (eg Spain?) they have less set-in-stone dependencies on the back end services, do home desktops which can work with any number of cloudy emerging back end services. Work really long term from there ... if you want. You must bide your time like the rodent pre-mammals of the Jurassic. Someone like Apple can afford to pick and choose where and when they fight for 'the business desktop' (and they can also afford to BUY any extra pieces for their own niche walled garden of Desktop Value). And yet they mostly choose not to, going for a 'flanking' strategy via iTunes, pod, phone and pad to be 'a permanent beachhead on' rather than 'compete head on for domination with'. Alternatively you could see Oracle buy Citrix to complete their own walled garden from Desktop to Tape :) Wouldn't that just be snowball earth pleasant to live with.

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Could that be just the desktop color?

Germany has full of people with Linux skills. I can't believe the technical problem could not be solved. One little thing I have noticed with users who say no to everything. They are hypnotized by the only thing they learnt the first time. In this case, the XP Luna blue theme.

I would be interested by the following experience. Install XP back but change the visual theme to something else other than the original XP. I wonder if the feedbacks would be the same than when they were trying the Linux desktop.

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Linux

PEBKAC

My six year old daughter has had no trouble using Ubuntu, without any instruction at all (she had previously used various versions of Windows).

Just saying.

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Silver badge

Your daughter ...

is probably: intelligent and willing to learn. Many users of computer systems know how to press buttons of certain colours in certain places. If anything changes they don't know what to do.

I have had users freak out because some of the icons on their desktop were moved - they were only happy when they were put back.

A big problem is that all of us reading this list are interested in computers and have some insight into how to make them do things. Many users just are not interested, that is a real problem. Training might help, but there is often little of that.

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Paris Hilton

Oh really?

Does she have complex spreadsheets with VBA macros to maitain and work with under time pressure?

Does she have documents with tables of contents and complex formatting to produce?

Does she have to manage a calendar and track her appointments?

Does she have cellphone she needs to sync with her office diary and messaging system?

Get real.

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Linux

Probably not, but wait till she is 16

By which time she will be way ahead of my 12 year old (brought up on Linux) who can already sit in front of any computer running any operating system using any word processor, browser, font designer etc and just use it - because she was not taught to mindlessly "press the red button when the bleeper goes three times".

That is the crux of the problem, isn't it? "Where is the blue E that gets the internet?" says my mother-in-law if I move the IE icon a couple of inches across her screen. If I replaced my daughter's Linux Mint Debian with Slackware's KDE she might make some vague comment about the colours, but it wouldn't slow her down for a minute.

All these problems will go away if children are simply taught that you access the internet with a web browser, not with a 'blue E'; and write letters with a word processor, not with 'Word'. When they grow up they will then be able to decide what program or O/S will best suit for what job.

Coping with what you describe will likely be less taxing for them than making a decent cup of tea.

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Gates Horns

Setup vs Change Over

Linux is perfectly functional for a new setup - for an existing setup changing over to Linux is a nightmare - this is entirely down to Microsoft's practice of making Office file formats hideously complex and hard to use.

This situation in Germany is exactly why Microsoft make their file formats so damed ugly and unco-operative.

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Department is under controll of the FDP

The FDP are the corruption party, so it's likely to have something to do with corruption.

Until now, the foreign office had the lowest cost per workstation, despite of having high demands like encryption.

I don't think anybody in German (except for Windows fanboys) believe it's a rational decision.

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Gates Horns

lusers

Some lusers bitch about cannot play games and install iTunes while they should do some work?

The real reason: kickback from some sales people.

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hmm... I must know some brainy people....

none-one I know has ever had any problems with Linux when I've set it up (which is pretty much straight out the box) for over 10 years if not more.

Does this mean that my minimum wage, unemployed, single mum friends are smarter than the people that run the government.....

here in lies the problem!

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Silver badge

One of the excuses

BTW, one of the excuses was that their printers won't work with Linux.....

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WTF?

the only one?

I know civil servants come in for some criticism but surely at least one of them has had to print something out since Ubuntu was installed?

And HP are fairly big in Germany, fairly big in office printers and HP write native linux drivers for their printers.

As I am sure other companies do too.

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