Vienna, Linux, and Pragmatism

by Ostatic Staff - Jun. 06, 2008

A few years ago, open source advocates were pleased that the city of Vienna was planning a migration from Windows to Linux for municapally-owned computers. But a recent report from Austrian news service (Google translation here) shows that the migration hasn't been without problems: 720 computers in kindergartens are to be converted back from Linux to Windows Vista at the cost of 105,000 euros. While someone in Microsoft sales is probably happy about this, it may not be the Linux black eye that it at first appears to be.

The problem with the kindergarten computers is apparently a particular application - a languate skills program that requires Internet Explorer. Given this requirement, the IT people are switching those computers over to Windows, in a show of sense over ideology: "The best educational software runs on Windows, and therefore we will use Windows in our kindergartens," according to an administrator quoted in the article.

Beyond that, the city is ponying up 8 million Euros to move other computers from Windows 2000 and Office 2000 to Windows Vista and Office 2007. It's not clear how many desktops this encompasses, but it seems unlikely that it would cover the entire 16,000 machines that the city had at the time the original Linux migration started.

Those who are feeling betrayed that Vienna is still spending money on Windows have apparently forgotten how this program started: as a planned "soft migration" where individual users and departments could decide whether to move from Windows to Linux. The city's IT people say they'll still continue to offer and install Linux where desired - so nothing has changed in that regard.

It would have been nice if Linux and OpenOffice were so superior that they pushed Windows out of Vienna's computers entirely. But did anyone really expect such an outcome? Given the mix of software used by different people in the typical government, it would have been astounding if every department discovered they could migrate without running up their costs or losing access to essential software. It's still a win that Linux is an officially-supported alternative. To further the migration to open source, advocates need to identify the pain points that have surfaced in places like Vienna, and demonstrate - or build! - viable, functional alternatives that don't require proprietary operating systems. Not everyone is willing to put the open source ideology before the pragmatic need to get some work done.