Police to investigate Linux desktops

A project to define the UK police's IT strategy will look into the merits of Linux on the desktop

A large project to build an information systems strategy for the UK's police forces is to examine the option of Linux desktops. However, the project is very wide-ranging, and Linux is only a small aspect of it. Project Valiant, launched by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) last June, will create a systems strategy for UK police forces. Valiant will produce guidance to migrate from "legacy" technology to a more unified set of systems. It should ensure that data can be shared between police forces, that the best value systems are built, and that data is kept secure. The work is being done by an advisory body -- the Police IT Organisation (PITO). "Valiant is a very high-level strategy and the study is just starting," said a PITO spokesman. As well as technology issues such as data models and delivery methods, Valiant will address business processes, training and human resources matters brought up by IT policies.


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However, IT strategies from any large user are an opportunity for lobby groups to promote their views more widely. Valiant's work includes looking into desktop software, and has commissioned a report into Linux desktops from netproject, a consulting body run by open source lobbyist Eddie Bleasdale, which will argue that Linux desktops are a necessity owing to security flaws in Microsoft products, and will examine the costs of porting existing police desktop applications to Linux and supporting them on that system. "Valiant is looking at all the options to produce a strategy that will stand the test of time," said the PITO spokesman. "The project also includes a Microsoft working group looking at future developments." Although Bleasdale is clearly making the most of the publicity opportunity, it seems that PITO is taking desktop Linux seriously. "The police need very secure, virus resistant and stable desktop computing," said Marco Dawson, PITO, quoted in Bleasdale's release. "We believe that Linux can provide this. There is a potential total requirement for 60,000 Linux desktop systems within the UK Police Forces so we need a very good understanding of the deployment and migration issues to Linux on the desktop." It is not known how large netproject's contract is with Valiant, or when it will report. Bleasdale will present evidence that Linux is practical: "Our experience with Linux is that it provides very high levels of security, is very reliable, virus resistant and stable. With the development of Open Source Office Automation Software and the software tools that enable Microsoft Windows applications to be ported - Linux is now ready for deployment on the desktop." The netproject report will look at Linux PCs configured with smart cards and biometrics for security, with software updated over the network, and Linux configured so that users cannot modify or add software to the PC.
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