Migrating to desktop Linux? Take a look at Norway

Migrating to desktop Linux? Take a look at Norway

Summary: Microsoft chief Steve Ballmer has demanded evidence that desktop Linux is gaining ground: Norway's second city Bergen has the answer


Ole-Bjørn Tuftedal, the city's chief technology officer, claims that it will, at the earliest, start migrating to Linux on school PCs in the second half of next year. This rollout will eventually lead to 32,000 pupils and 4,000 teachers using Linux at 100 schools across Bergen.

Before deciding to migrate to the open source OS, Bergen carried out tests at three schools comparing Linux with Windows. The computers were set up with Windows 2000 and MS Office 2000, or with SuSE Linux 8.2, open source desktop KDE 3.1 and OpenOffice.org 1.0.

From these tests Bergen found that both operating systems could be used in the schools, but that there were various advantages to using Linux including lower cost, improved security and usability, according to Tuftedal. He says the software and hardware costs of using Linux on the desktop are "significantly lower" and that it is more secure against vandalism, user errors and virus attacks.

As part of the test comparing Linux and Windows, pupils were challenged to break the set-up of the PCs running either of the two operating systems. A consultancy firm was brought in to harden the Windows desktop by modifying the registry settings, while Linux was used in a standard set-up, says Tuftedal. Despite the more resistant Windows set-up the pupils managed to crack into it while the Linux system proved impervious.

Usability is an area where Linux has traditionally trailed behind Windows, but Tuftedal says that without training the pupils were able to use both desktops, and actually preferred the open source set-up.

"The pupils didn't get any kind of instructions before the tests, we simply said 'These are Windows, these are Linux -- just try them'," says Tuftedal. "They preferred the Linux desktop -- they liked the look of KDE and said it was more fun to use than Windows."

The fact that Linux is open source and uses non-proprietary data formats makes it extremely useful for teaching pupils about exactly how computers operate, says Tuftedal.

"Linux has open data formats and open source code - this helps in a pedagogical environment as you can let the students learn about the formats and the tools by letting them experiment with them," says Tuftedal. "It is the same in engineering classes - if you are not allowed to open the hood and see how and why the motor isn't working you can't do much experimentation or make improvements."

Since last year, when the tests were carried out, there have been numerous improvements to the Linux operating system and the open source software that it runs, says Tuftedal.

"Since doing the initial tests, there has been an incredible speed of development on the Linux desktop," he adds. "The current version of OpenOffice, and the KDE desktop, is very much improved from what we tested -- with extra features, increased ergonomics, more tools for the users and for administration, and better internationalisation."

Topics: Apps, Software Development

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  • A healthy dose of competition will do Microsoft some good. But evidence? Munich has been cited in the past as evidence, but their project is on hold. (BTW, how did they manage to spend US$35.7m on "free" software??? - http://www.wired.com/news/infostructure/0,1377,62236,00.html).
    Bergen is in the planning stages - it can only be "evidence" once the migration is successfully completed. I look forward to CRN's update on this project 12 months from now.
  • Linux is now maintream
    It is now proven in the real world and in the enterprise. Even on the desktop Linux is now the better choice. No more worries about viruses of spyware. All professional reports show and most importantly, Try it yourself.
  • The real problem in Windows to Linux migration is not the Linux OS or alternatives for MS Office. The real problem are the applications.
    Most likely, public sector's employees have to use some custom document and workflow management systems, some applications for managing taxes, accounting and so on.For many of them, a web based UI is not efficient. Huge investments were made in training people how to use these applications. The overwhelming majority of them do not have a direct Linux counterpart.
    So Microsoft's monopoly does not have its sources in the fine quality of the Windows OS or the enormous usability of Microsoft Office. The real power behind Microsoft is the fact that software houses do not consider Linux. The good thing is software houses greatly considers .NET, so if mono's WinForms gets completed next year, Microsoft might have some unexpected surprises...
  • Wish all the best to an individual - seems to be
    proud to be a "Norge" Lady. OK:Scandinavians
    nowadays are neither with blue eyes nor with
    blond hair. Therefore ... . I am - for my part -
    more and more open-worded. Bergen should plan to introduce
    or migrate to Linux, the Lady announced. So far
    so good. Her article is full of uggly business
    pictures, with other words yuppies, who never
    will produce anything than redundant LinuxCode.
    My recent experience is that Scandinavian States
    finance in large amounts Southern people and
    astonishing enough invite them to Scandinavia
    and pay their hollidays. As an old SS who knows
    that we burned down Bergen and founded Suomi
    - all Finns wear even today SS-Uniforms - I
    find it lucky that we remain what we always were:
    My Linux has the SS-Label.
  • I use a number of flavours of Linux and would like to migrate fully from M$ but can't because a anumber of activities, accomplished easily in the Windows environment, are not easily accomplished in the Linux environment. Some flavours will accomplish one activity, while another flavour will accomplish another activity, but few, if any, accomplish all of these activities painlessly or at all.

    This is the problem that Linux must overcome to be accepted in the mainstream, together with easier installation of addition programmes.

    Too many mutually imcompatible flavours doesn't help. One flavour with the best of all flavours incorporated is what is required. This is one area where competition is working against the adoption of GNU/Linux

    UserLinux is a long way from fulfilling this and currently, I cannot even re-install it, because of broken dependencies, after an update which killed my previous installation.