IsThisTheYearOfThePenguin: Get the Facts? Yeh, right.

The European Commission has added its voice to the debate about the use of open source software.
A report funded by the Commission concludes that the software could offer considerable savings to organisations with little effect on their business.
The report found that in “almost all” cases long-term costs could be reduced by switching from proprietary software produced by firms such as Microsoft.

(source: BBC News)

Every year since God was a lad, someone has proclaimed that “this” is Linux’s year, that the slumbering Open Source giant will finally waken and crush Microsoft under the heel of freedom.

And every year, it doesn’t seem to happen – or does it?

Linux is revolutionary without a doubt. It’s free, reliable, rock-solid stable, efficient and highly customizable. Anyone can use it, and anyone can benefit from it. The only cost is in the learning curve involved with becoming familiar with and setting up a new system. Linux brings with it a slightly different way of working, but at the cusp of Microsoft releasing a new (slower, much more power-hunger) version of their own Operating System, there’s no better time to make the change anyhow.

Just because it’s revolutionary doesn’t mean there’s going to be a revolution though. We’re not going to see hordes of rabid sysadmins marching the streets burning effigies of Bill Gates, demanding “Let them use Linux”, oh no.

In businesses, Linux has historically been that box in the corner quietly handling the company webpages and email. It tended to be forgotten, gathering dust, happily and reliably carrying out it’s appointed duties while the admins fussed, poked and prodded that NT Server into operation. I used to work in a college which had just that scenario; they have an Exchange server which never worked well, so they seconded an old desktop box, set that up to process the email and gave up on Exchange completely. I suspect that’s still the way it is now. On paper, they’re an all Microsoft college, fully licensed and running Exchange. Somewhere in a corner though is a little beige box that knows the truth.

That’s why I find Microsoft’s own Get the Facts site so humourous. It shows case studies of companies that have successfully installed NT/XP and benefited from it’s “proven” reliability and security. Yeh, right.

I’m sure some of them are telling the truth and somehow they’ve managed – with a lot of help from Microsoft themselves, no doubt – to get the Perfect XP Network. I’ll lay good odds though that if you bypassed the CEOs you’ll find a sysadmin who’ll admit with shuffling feet that…… “um…. well, actually…. we’re serving the website from that box in the corner. We’ve altered Apache’s conf file to say it’s IIS. Don’t tell anyone, ok?”

Meanwhile in Desktopland, XP is undisputed king. Like many kings of old though, it is seen by it’s subjects as tyrannical, arbitrary, power-grabbing and uncaring. Being king doesn’t necessarily mean you’re good. More people are switching to Linux as their primary desktop OS, and even the non-geeks can install Ubuntu Linux without much difficulty. It certainly beats watching XP’s hourglass for 15 minutes without having a clue what’s going on, or installing anti-virus and anti-adware software to protect yourself from weaknesses in XP itself!

More and more people are moving to Linux every day.

I’m not sure I’d call it a revolution, but it’s something. Something exciting, and maybe, just maybe, 2007 is Linux’s year.

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