SOMEBODY is going to have to set it up for you. Somebody is going to have to load the drivers, FIND the drivers for your particular set up, find the
programs, choose the fancy GUI, and make it all work, and that somebody, sooner or later, is going to want to be paid. But Linux and open source
products are “free,” kind of, so this is a conundrum. How do you create a market for free stuff? With Linux the answer is that it needs an
There are plenty of Linux advocates, people who love Linux so much that they would go to bed with it if they could, but these people, by and large,
have no idea how to market Linux to the world. The ONLY time Linux gets distributed in large numbers is when it is forced down employees’ throats by
advocates in IT who have managed to convince management in the wisdom of their choice. This is often based on simplistic cost model. Not surprisingly,
most of this is in government, which is not under quite the same constraints as private industry.
A good example of this is Munich, Germany, which has successfully migrated 9,000 workstation to “LiMux,” their variant. Why did this happen?
Because the Mayor of Munich took a political stand. His compatriots in the German Foreign Office did the same thing, then came crawling back to
Windows a short time after. This effort in Muich took almost ten years to implement. Here was the situation:
"No common directory, no common user, system or hardware management. Different tools for software distribution and system management. More than
300 apps, many of them redundant, e.g. using Dreamweaver, Frontpage, Fusion etc. for HTML-editing. 21 different Windows clients, different patch
levels, different security concepts. This was Munich’s IT situation when LiMux started."
In other words, Munich’s IT department was totally out of control. That’s not the fault of Windows. It’s not the fault of Dreamweaver. It’s
the fault of a fragmented management structure that apparently didn’t even try to maintain a sense of order throughout the city. I applaud them for
what they did: They centralized control, brought out a standard-issue machine with standard programs. They didn’t have a Windows issue; they had a
management issue. And it took an advocate, the Mayor in power, to enforce the switch. It would never have happened without the Mayor telling the
employees what they would use. In other words, in a switch like this, we’re not talking the marketplace.
In a similar fashion Apple has done the same thing. OSX is a ‘nix,’ and Apple follows the philosophy of “We will tell you what you need because
you don’t know.” Apple doesn’t use focus groups designed to get user input on design elements. It TELLS the consumer what he wants and what he
will be allowed to buy. Of course, you’ve got hardware in the mix here, plus excellent marketing. You’ll also never see an rm or a cp because
Apple has “tightly integrated” the system so you never have that choice.
I faced some of the same challenges and at times, particularly in the early years, my shop looked like Munich. People would buy and install programs
with no centralization. If I bought dBase, someone else would by R:Base just to be different. If I bought Visicalc, they’d buy Supercalc. I finally
“won” by swapping out machines with a standard issue Dell with standard programs with a configuration that more or less forced users to save to
the network drives. I also forced them to use Pine as an email client (running on a Linux server). We never had more than two types of OS, Windows
2000 and Windows XP, for example, and upgraded the OS with the machine. In large organizations you need someone who has the power to enforce
standardization. When Linux is seen system-wide, rare as that may be, that what has happened. Users would never have chosen that route themselves.
The real point of all this is that whatever is chosen as an enterprise solution MUST HAVE SUPPORT. Munich is working because the IT Department
supports its users. The IT Department researches the issues and pre-installs the solutions, furnishing the end user with a completely functioning
black box that works. The user need not know about DHCP, Ipv6, or how he is connected to a laser printer. It just works and if something doesn’t, a
quick call to the IT Department will send someone running to provide good customer service. Otherwise he will complain and the IT Department gets into
trouble. Believe me, it often feels like IT is a slave to its users, who are very demanding.