The city of Munich (where I live) wanted to move 14,000 computers to Linux. Vienna, which is just a stone’s throw away from Munich, has 30,000 PCs. They never planned to move all their computers to Linux though. Their departments are free to choose which OS they want. There was a lot of stir in the media when these cities announced the move to Linux some years ago. Now Vienna has just decided to install Vista on 750 machines. As far as I understand from the news (German) I have read about it, these machines were already running Linux. The reason for the change is that the city needs a language test program for kindergartens which isn’t available for Linux.
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Vienna just moved 1,000 PCs to Linux. Munich was a bit more ambitious, but they also have only managed to roll out 1,000 Linux machines so far. Considering that they made this decision five years ago, this is kind of disappointing in my view. If you only count the working days, then this corresponds to about 1 Linux installation per day. If they continue at this pace, they will be able to finish the project in 65 years. Okay, maybe they won’t, but their grandchildren might have a fair chance of finishing it.
Yeah, I know, such a large project needs a lot of advance planning. However, in Munich there are 12 independent departments which are supposed to manage this transition. This means that each department has only approximately 1,000 PCs, which makes the task much easier.
I suppose, how you perceive the progress they made in Munich depends on your personal attitude about Linux. Glyn Moody from Computerworld UK seems to think that this project is a success. Perhaps, I see this a bit differently because this transition is financed with my taxes.
The reason why I think that both projects will fail is very simple. If you want to manage such a large number of Linux boxes, you also need a large number of Linux geeks. The problem is that those guys are needed in large computer centers and their number is growing faster than ever. This means that you only can get Linux experts if you are willing to pay a high salary. Since I work for the government, I know very well how much they can pay them. And since I also live in Munich, I know how difficult it is to get Linux professionals here. I think, the situation in Vienna is more or less the same.
Both cities wanted to move to Linux to be independent from Microsoft. They just exchanged this dependency for another one, one that is far more expensive. But who knows, maybe in two generations it will be easier to find Linux geeks. It is just a pity that chances are low that I will live long enough to see these projects finished.
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Just for the record, I like Linux. We have a couple of Linux servers in my department and they are doing their job just fine. But Linux on the desktop is just too expensive. If I had an emotional problem with Microsoft (which I can understand), I would prefer to move to OS X. At least, it is cheaper than Linux.