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Is Linux About to Hit the Big Time
By Graham Parks

There has been a lot written about Linux the last few years, plus a lot of guesswork, speculation and just plain silliness. We all know that Apache is the predominant platform for web servers, but Linux is finally beginning to show itself outside the server rooms of ISPs. Are things about to change?
I'm not really sure, but certain happenings make me wonder and keep me scanning the tech news sites keeping an eye out. Here is what I have found recently.

Before starting I should just point out that much of this needs to be viewed with a thought to the current business climate. Companies continue to cut costs wherever they can. Governments want to cut costs as well. Overall, I.T. spending is down and although organizations like Gartner keep predicting an upturn, it has yet to show.

One of the UK's Police forces is to start using Linux on the desktop. This is a pilot scheme and if successful could see the whole of the UK Police using it, some 60,000 desktops. See http://www.theregister.co.uk/content/4/27692 html for more detail.

Banco do Brazil, the largest bank in South America, is replacing Windows servers with Linux and plans to replace ALL desktops with Linux at a later date. See http://www.vnunet.com/News/1137229

British charity the Samaritans has chosen Linux,  http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/2543173.stm

A state in India has opted for Linux over Microsoft for its intranet connecting rural cyber cafés programme. The state's Chief Minister personally conveyed this to Bill Gates. He said 'For us it is not a question of Microsoft versus Linux. It is just a matter of choosing between free software and a monopoly. We feel that when we are putting public information out in the open, then it should not be through proprietary software.' Governments in Germany, China, Japan, U.S. and U.K. are also reported to be looking into open source in general. 

I recently read a very interesting article that stated that open source was very important for a number of organizations because any output from it could be independently audited as the source code is freely available. Try asking Microsoft for a copy of their source code and see how far you get. 

Linux can reduce hardware costs as well. As I mentioned earlier companies are trying to avoid spending money more than ever. If they consider upgrading to Windows XP then they need to buy new PCs, because XP does not work properly, if at all, on old equipment. If they change to Linux, they probably don't need to buy any new PCs as Linux works happily on older equipment. A PII 350 with 128Mb RAM is fine. Plus they no longer need to keep track of software licensing.

Finally Microsoft might just have shot itself in the foot with the very unpopular changes in its licensing agreement. I will not go into detail here as there has been plenty of writing about this on many sites, but the end result is that costs have gone up for many organizations. There is a short piece in UK magazine PCPro which says that MS has admitted that customers were unhappy with the new licensing scheme. No surprise to me.

In the past one of Linux weaknesses was desktop apps. But now Open Office, Star Office and Ximian Evolution, among others, are staring to change things. I have started using Open Office at home. I don't think I will stick with it because I write macros in Excel, but most users don't. For the average user Open Office is enough and it is similar enough to MS Office that training requirements will be reasonable. This is important, it is no use for business if the software is free but extensive retraining is needed. Added to that the fact that Open Office will read Word and Excel files (providing they are not too complex) and things look good.

I think that we are starting to see some real momentum in the uptake of Linux. How far this will spread and how fast is open to debate, there are many questions to consider, but this can only be a good thing. Even staunch Microsoft users would benefit from the success of Linux, as Microsoft will surely have to look at producing better, more secure, software at a more competitive price once Linux starts eating into their profits. Join the revolution and we will all benefit.

GrahamParks@Thenetworkadministrator.com





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