French government groks desktop Linux (and spammer hell)

Zut alors! C'est le IT Blogwatch, in which la belle France cozies up avec les pingouins. Not to mention a special place in hell for spammers...

David Garrett a dit bonjour:

The French parliament has said au revoir to Microsoft. Starting in June of next year, French deputies will use desktops and servers running Linux, Mozilla's Firefox Web browser, and, a free open-source alternative to Microsoft's Office software. For day-to-day documents, French members of parliament and their staff will use, currently in version 2.0.4 and designed to compete directly with Microsoft's Office System.


Why the change? The French parliament, composed of an upper chamber (le Senat, or Senate) and a lower chamber (l'Assemblee Nationale, or National Assembly), believes it can save money using open-source software, despite the near-term costs of switching from Microsoft systems and retraining all employees ... Currently, a number of French ministries and government bureaus run Linux, but only on servers. The Senate and National Assembly will be the first to use Linux on workstations.


Resistance to Microsoft is growing in small but devoted groups of open-source activists. Among the best-known is Peter Quinn, former CTO of Massachusetts, who resigned his position after his vocal support for the OpenDocument Format (ODF) drew massive resistance and at times vocal critique. Another notable is CPTech, The Consumer Project on Technology, an organization founded by consumer-rights activist Ralph Nader.

Ted Samson est agréable:

Come next June, some 1,150 parliamentary PCs will be running on a to-be-determined flavor of Linux (Mandriva, perhaps?), along with, Firefox, and an open source e-mail client ... Convincing the French National Assembly to make the move was conclusions from an IT company called Atos Origin [citing] cost savings.


I'm not sure I'm convinced that's the real reason. Allow me to present my top five reasons why the French are dumping Windows for Linux.

5. They're upset that Microsoft's Xbox 360 won't play DVDs that star Jerry Lewis.

4. Tired of being the butt of military jokes, the French are working toward developing a Linux-powered army of robots. (Note to White House: This is not true. Please do not invade France.)

3. They're angry that Microsoft continually refuses to release a French version of its OS called Fenêtres.

2. The Blue Screen of Death clashes with the curtains in the offices of the French parliament.

1. The French can't figure out a culinary use for a penguin, so they're settling for a technological one.

Bring me the head of Jeremy Garcia:

The information is non-specific enough and far enough out that you have to wonder if they're just trying to get a better deal on Microsoft products. That being said, it's becoming clear that in the Government sector it's going to be the EU that leads the charge in Open Source adoption. The arguments for Open Source in Government are extremely compelling ... When you are controlling the data for an entire nation it's critical that you use Open Standards to ensure you have access to your own records in perpetuity. Controlling your own destiny in this context is critical. It's not a luxury, it's a requirement and it should be fairly obvious why being beholden to a single corporation is undesirable. If they do decide to move ahead on this, you have to assume that Mandriva (a French company) will make a very strong push. National Governments typically like to spend in their own country if it's at all possible.

There is one argument against leaving Windows and Office that I think is a bit over hyped these days. That's the issue of training. Yes, if you switch to and Linux you will have to retrain some users, especially the non-technical ones (which in almost any business are the majority). But looking at the upcoming versions of Office and Windows, they are sufficiently different from the older versions (especially in the case of Office) that you'll need to retrain those same users anyway! The incremental difference in training costs in this case is likely negligible and possibly nil.

Meanwhile, in Massachusetts, Andy Updegrove notes a worrying development:

In a case of strange political timing, governor-elect Deval Patrick announced 15 transition team working groups the day before Thanksgiving, while most people were leaving their offices and homes early for the holiday. In that announcement, Patrick named 200 people to a wide variety of advisory groups covering topics as diverse as healthcare and civic engagement. One of these committees is intended to advise the governor on the technology needs of the state government [including] one person from a major, out of state software company. Say what?

That person is Brian Burke, the Microsoft Regional Director for Public Affairs, and if that surprises you, it surprises me as well, given the degree of acrimonious debate and disinformation witnessed in Massachusetts over the last 15 months involving the Information Technology Division's transition to ODF. What does that bode for the future of ODF in Massachusetts?

ravenII sighs:

After all the work went in to Massachusetts standardization in common document format, ODF, now the Governor elect has appointed ... Brian Burke, to the technology Advisory group. What do you think he will advise on?

Slashdotter "l2718" comments:

You have to understand the difference between a lobbyist advocating a solution (he was paid to do so regardless of the merits) and a civil servant advocating a solution (he was paid to dispassionately figure out what the best solution is). Appointing a lobbyist for a policy-making committee is silly not because we may disagree with his former employer, but because lobbying and making policy decisions require completely orthogonal skills. For example, I would expect a former lobbyist called upon to make decisions to give undue credence to other lobbists, and to care about political agenda more than technical issues.

Buffer overflow:

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And finally... A special place in hell for spammers [Clean, but some other images on that site might not be]

Richi Jennings is an independent technology and marketing consultant, specializing in email, blogging, Linux, and computer security. A 20-year, cross-functional IT veteran, he is also an analyst at Ferris Research. Contact Richi at Ceci n'est pas un porky prime cut.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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