Munich Makes Good

Remember Munich, and its city council's 2003 decision to rip out Microsoft Windows and Office, and to replace them with free software? It was a seminal moment for open source, when Microsoft brought its heaviest guns to bear – in the shape of Steve Ballmer, no less, who made the city an offer it couldn't refuse – and failed:

The local government in Munich, Germany, has voted to move 14,000 computers from Microsoft's Windows to the rival Linux operating system, despite efforts by the software giant to hang onto the multimillion-dollar contract.

The council of Germany's third-largest city said Wednesday that it will spend about 30 million euros, or $35 million, on the transition. In addition to switching operating systems, the city plans to move from Microsoft's Office productivity software to the open-source OpenOffice.

Microsoft had fought hard to retain the business, offering deals and discounts, with CEO Steve Ballmer interrupting a ski vacation in Switzerland to pay a personal visit to Munich's mayor about the issue, the city said.

Munich's move stands alongside Massachusetts' decision to opt for ODF rather than Microsoft's Office formats (although that decision was irremediably muddied by later Microsoft shenanigans), as a pivotal event that changed people's thinking about open source - when those outside the free software world began to sit up and take notice.

So where exactly has the Munich project got to, five years later? Well, according to the home page of the project, called LiMux, it's proceeding steadily:

Status quo of the LiMux project:

1000 work stations migrated to LiMux
6000 work stations using
90% work stations using Firefox and Thunderbird

Moreover, in the best free software style, the project is not only adopting other people's code, it's writing its own, and releasing it as open source:

The WollMux is an plugin developed by the Municipality of the City of Munich, Bavaria. It's main features are

Cross-platform operation (Linux and Windows)
A toolbar for accessing document templates, PDF files, web pages,...
On the fly template generation from separate files (e.g. letterhead, footer, form)
Pre-filling templates with personal and organizational data from a variety of databases (e.g. LDAP)
Advanced form support with auto-computed fields and input validity checking
Hiding and showing parts of the document based on form input
Advanced autotext support with identifier pattern matching and a shortcut syntax for filling in placeholders
Chainable printing plugins to provide custom dialogs and transformations when printing
Automatic printing of document variants according to Sachleitende Verfügungen.
Enhanced serial letter functionality that ties in with the form functionality (e.g. auto-computed fields) and the custom print plugins.

This are classic open source dynamics: the more people that use free software, the more code is generated, and the more everyone benefits.


Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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