[Gllug] It is not Microsoft

Lesley Binks lesleyb at pgcroft.net
Thu Jan 8 10:59:56 UTC 2009

On Thu, Jan 08, 2009 at 10:12:40AM +0000, Chris Bell wrote:
> Hello,
>    I have been trying to persuade my local Ealing Council to provide help
> for new users of Unix compatible Free Open Source Software, and the only
> real response has been that it is not Microsoft, so no. There is no help
> provided for any other system.
>    I am looking for any previous relevant cases where an organisation such
> as Trading Standards may have become involved.

Not sure what model you are looking for but Access Space in Sheffield
recycles old computers and uses some for its community space.

I taught a Level 1 (very basic) introduction to computers there which
included the chance to build a computer - mainly the whole team saw one
built and we did a Mandriva install - so the participants saw what a
computer consisted of and how to install a Linux distro.  They could
then continue on and build a computer at the lab if they so chose.  For
legal reasons they couldn't take the computer away.

Access Space is a media/arts based lab with a great deal of creative work running
through it funded by the Lottery and Arts Council.  I also think
Sheffield Council may have been supportive in some way to the activity
though not sure how they were supportive of it.  Am sure rent had to be
paid on the premises and I don't think they got the site's broadband 
connection for free.

As a direct comparison I get the impression there is little interest or
support for this sort of thing 'down south'.  The value of such a place 
is huge for a variety of age ranges - from young - playing online games 
and creating their own games - to old - learning to write websites for 
themselves or friends - and the in betweenies - for email, websites  
and general IT work they need to do but may need some help in.

I am not entirely sure what you are trying to achieve with Ealing
Council itself.  Are you trying to advertise an existing service?  Is
there a place people can go and see what is available under a Linux
distro?  Is there anywhere offering any form of training in Linux that
the council could advertise or that could advertise itself via the
council's website. ?  Or are you saying you'd like to set something up
and are looking for funding sources and cheap accomodation? 

My experience of training grounds out there in Sheffield, apart from
Access Space, is that they buy in the computers e.g. as a job lot of
Acer PC's which all come with the M$ software installed.  There is
little or no interest in providing Linux on top of that.  One reason
being most non-technical to borderline technophobe people will buy
similar - a windows based PC with M$ software installed.  Another reason
is that a large proportion of companies run solely Windows and Windows
software for basically the same reason the training enterprises do -
they buy in a job lot with the standard M$ install on it.

For either the training enterprise or the commercial enterprise - shifting to
Linux is therefore a deliberate act that costs money for little apparent immediate 
benefit - replacing like with like - and which may perturb current business operations 
and relationships.

Perhaps when people start taking into account the cost of licensing and
updating hardware as the result of dropped operating systems and
increasing bloatware the tune, in the current economic climate, might
change a little.

There is a FUD factor with changing business operations - from the PC
supplier right the way through to the end user.  Someone wanting 
training in IT wants to learn on the software they are most likely to
use.  There isn't much difference between Excel and Calc at some basic
levels but once you get to advanced usage like pivot tables in Excel
then they are called DataPilot in Calc.  The average two GCSE's and a
dog type person trying to come to grips with the concepts of macros and 
other advanced spreadsheet usage just dosn't need the differences to get 
in the way.  

I am aware that Munich's local government went FOSS some years ago now
but that is the only example of a large organisation moving wholesale
onto Linux of which I am aware and I don't know of any interim reports
saying how successful it was or what problems were encountered and how
they were resolved.


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