A Decade of Linux & Increasingly Stronger
compiled by Mario Miyojim, for the Reallylinux.com Opinion Section
The GNU Manifesto, the internet, and the Open Source movement represent a landmark, joining the end of the 20th and the beginning of the 21st century. Linux, produced by patient hard work, has made remarkable progress during the past decade, and is well positioned for substantial growth.
In 1998, I was working for a simulator company, Digitran. Two engineers were
given the task to find Windows 95 tools to produce graphs of the progress of a simulation on screen and on
printer. They tried for 2 weeks and only came up with expensive solutions. I then made a proof-of-concept
demo to the boss using only open source software: lout
and ghostscript, which I had on my dual-boot little Gateway PC
and he was awed that I could do it free of software licenses or a special printer.
The first corporation to adopt Linux was most likely the Burlington Coat Factory. And the first city in the U.S. that adopted Linux was Largo, in Florida. More recently, a German metropolis decided to take the step forward to Linux.
It began to replace Windows and MS Office by OpenOffice on Linux on 14,000 desktops of the city in September 2006. The city LiMux team designed its own tool, WollMux, to produce mastheads, forms and other specific docs. They expect to complete the project below the budget of US$44 million, and to have 80% installed in 2008. All this, despite Microsoft's offer of an upgrade cheaper than the Linux project. The offer was rejected likely because they wanted stability, reliability and security that many viewed Windows still lacked.
The Republic of Macedonia is a country in Southern Europe, one of the parts into which former Yugoslavia was split. Population: 2 million. Internet penetration: 5%. Software piracy: rampant. In 2003, Microsoft made a deal with the government about licenses, and irritated Macedonian open-source proponents. Then a group of volunteers, Free Software Macedonia, translated all major FOSS projects into Macedonian. In 2004, they deployed Macedonian Gnome on 5000 PC's and installed high speed WiFi Internet in 468 schools and 182 computer labs. Students and teachers are now encouraged to learn by experimentation. Preparation included training of 10,000 teachers from primary and secondary schools on GNU/Linux and Gnome. Localization of software is a strength of Linux, because volunteers of each region can do it themselves. In this case, it was the prerequisite for success of the migration.
Extremadura is the poorest region of Spain. Its government burned 80,000 CDs with Debian Linux and applications ranging from text editors to an Internet browser, called Linex, and sent them to 670 schools and to the public, through newspaper inserts. It gave priority to the training of 15,000 teachers on how to use Linex and to integrate the computers in the classroom. In so doing, the government has saved US$7 million a year, in comparison with the MS alternative. This project became a model for other regions of Europe to erradicate dependence on Windows.
Linux desktop avalanche?
The major reason the Windows users give not to migrate to Linux is its lack of professional applications.
The Portland Project was initiated by the OSDL, and puts together Linux desktop developers. It is producing a common foundation that ISVs (independent software vendors) can use to write applications running well on Linux and Windows. It should be functional by 2008.
Ubuntu and Linspire are partners on the use of CNR (Click'N Run). CNR makes installing any software a one-click operation and allows users to pick out software by generic name, such as word processor, audio recorder, graphics editor, etc., easier on beginners.
These two tools are bound to cause on desktop Linux an avalanche effect.
CCA, New York
Capital Cardiology Associates (CCA) is a large medical facility. It has over 40 physicians, surgeons and providers, 7 offices and 7 hospitals in New York and Mass., and about 200 employees. In 2003, CCA recorded 128,000 patient visits, 92,000 diagnostic tests, 6,000 catheterizations and interventions, 800 open heart surgeries, over 380,000 billed services, and a revenue of $22 million.
The CCA network had been installed in 1997, as a mixed Windows (95, 98, 2000) environment, and required an expansion after 7 years. The options were: upgrade to Windows 2000 or migrate to Linux. Due to the scattered locations, they needed fast and simple access to all points. Their study reveals that Linux thin clients hardware plus installation cost half that of the Windows thick clients and that the maintenance plus depreciation costs of Linux thin clients cost 28% of those for Windows thick clients. Thin clients are diskless, lighter and last longer than normal workstations, which is desirable for overall reliability. Moreover, Dr. Echt, the CEO, holds resentment against Microsoft, for monopolistic behavior and price-gouging. The switch over was done on a single weekend without incidents, and all billing, appointment and clerical software worked flawlessly. Windows-only applications continued on Windows, and were later run under Linux via "emulator." OpenOffice on Linux server accessed from thin clients works better, since it is multiuser, while MS Office is not. There was no downtime and not a single desktop breakdown in 8 months! The CCA story is potentially viable proof that open-source software can solve mission-critical problems, contrary to the fears of those business people who may believe the MS marketing.
Windsor School, California
The Windsor Unified School District in Northern California decided that, by this summer, its 5,000 students and 250 teachers will be working off a Linux thin client running OpenOffice, and servers running Linux. It was apparently impossible to upgrade its MS Windows environment (70 HP and Dell servers) because it would cost $100,000 -- deemed too much for Windsor. It was decided to move to a Linux thin client network. Wyse thin-client desktops run OpenOffice, and Ericom software (similar to Citrix) runs Windows-only educational applications: Type to Learn, Reading Counts and Kid Pix. It allows remote management, while with Windows, technicians had to drive around to reach the terminals periodically. The migration cost is affordable: $2,500 per school! A new computer lab cost $16,000, instead of the estimated $35,000. Therefore, Linux is a viable, cost-effective solution for any school.
The City Council of Zaragoza, Spain, decided to migrate from Windows to Linux and save the Aragon capital city nearly €1M/year. The migration, to be completed in 2008, arises from the need to modernize applications and comply with national and European recommendations.
The stories above took place because the responsible parties are people who have recognized the risks of staying with Microsoft, or could not afford the costs of upgrading. These stories tend to spread rapidly. Microsoft has made perhaps some unexpected mistakes and controls the damages, but is unlikely to see a need to apologize. Linux has grown strong thanks to the attacks by SCO and MS -- perhaps the maxim is true: what does not kill you makes you stronger. But it certainly seems to have become a refuge for those who don't want MS.
Reflecting back on ten years of Linux growth, it is very likely that the year 2008 is going to be particularly eventful. Migration to Linux in Munich and Zaragoza will encourage other cities in the world to do the same. Schools will massively adopt Linux. The Portland Project will bring professional applications to Linux. Corporations will thrive by progressively shedding Microsoft, which will struggle futilely to maintain its market share in all fronts (OS, Office, web services, games, etc.) and will be facing numerous lawsuits.
Based on the historical evidence, by the year 2010 the Linux installed base will surpass 20% worldwide. OEMs will preinstall Linux distributions widely, so Microsoft will have to work for quality to stay alive, perhaps in a manner similar to IBM and HP. Open-source software will be taught in computer science colleges and technical training centers by default. Overall, not at all a bad position for a grassroots movement developed for the fun of writing software!
For further reading and to get the details from this overview compilation, please read the excellent articles:
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Linux is a registered trademark of Linus Torvalds. Microsoft, Windows Vista, Vista are trademarks or registered trademarks of Microsoft Corporation in the United Statest and Internationally. All other trademarks or registered trademarks in this opinion piece belong to their respective owners.