[ubuntu-uk] Who writes this stuff [long post]

Paul Tansom paul at aptanet.com
Wed May 23 14:41:41 BST 2007

** Mark Harrison <Mark at ascentium.co.uk> [2007-05-23 12:54]:
> Matthew Macdonald-Wallace wrote:
> [Long post snipped]
> Matthew,
> Good message.
> I've just come off the phone from Mr. Scargill, who is an incredibly 
> reasonable chap with some very positive things to say about Ubuntu.

It must be the quality of his writing then, he totally fails to get that
across unless you re-read it with that in mind. I read the positive
comments as an 8/10 for effort, but still not good enough to even
consider as more than a curiosity.

> The point on which I absolutely agree with him is that 
> integration/interoperability - for many businesses, this is the most 
> important factor, since the costs of sorting out interfacing issues can 
> (and in my experience frequently do) cost rather more than the software 
> licences.

It always will be until alternatives to MS reach critical mass. At the
moment the simple fact that it isn't MS is the biggest black mark
against any alternative. It's a case of asking whether something is a
good alternative and having the simple fact that it is an alternative
defining the answer to be 'no'.

> office-based staff, he would use Ubuntu on the desktop. He also said 
> that he had not yet come across good Linux tools that supported the 
> mobile user base as well as the Exchange Mobile solution, so if he had 
> mainly a field-based operation, he'd probably still go with Microsoft SBS.
> He said that he would like to know of any good tools to provide Exchange 
> Mobile - equivalent solution for messaging (not email, but the more 
> generic messaging problems.) I'm with him on that - I have a good email 
> client (ThunderBird), but it's not a replacement for Outlook (as opposed 
> to Outlook Express.)

I really should dig into this Exchange issue more, I know it does
collaboration, but I've never found a situation where this has been of
any use, or not enough to justify the costs involved. Back when I was
last involved with a consideration of this sort it was not cost
effective to use Exchange instead of the Netscape product, largely due
to the client access licensing costs, but also because the single aging
RS6000 that was capable of running the Netscape solution would have to
be replaced by 4x Pentium Pro (that ages it!) systems with requisit NT
Server and Exchange Server licenses. SBS was always dismissed due to the
fact that whilst MS required the licenses to be run on a single machine,
they also recommended not running everything on a single machine!

> His biggest criticism of Linux is that what we see as "choice" is very 
> close to "confusion". And that one man's "modular solution" is another's 
> "set of different packages that need to be bolted together".

A tricky one this, end users don't want choice, nor to IT managers
because it opens up the possibility of making the wrong one, but IT
staff do (well, those that are in it because they like the job as
opposed to those I've come across that are in it because it pays well
and care not a jot for IT).

> What I think that we, as a group, often miss is that most people want a 
> balance between "choice" and "certainty." In some areas - the car I 
> drive - I want to absolutely be able to pick something quirky and 
> unusual (which is why I drive a Morgan.)
> In other areas, like say laser printers, I just want the certainty of 
> dealing with something I'm familiar with and that I know will work 
> (which is why I have an old HP Laserjet 4M Plus and an HP Colour 
> Laserjet 2600n) - because I knew that I would be able to take them out 
> of the box, and get them working in five minutes.

True, but you had the initial choice between vendors and now have chosen
to stick with one. Not exactly agreeing or disagreeing there!

> While, on my personal PC, I want to be able to fiddle and install 
> whatever software I want, when I was running helpdesks I had a duty to 
> keep the overall cost of IT (not the licence cost - but the overall 
> cost) down, because that was the mandate from the Board. The easiest way 
> to keep costs down is to have complete standardisation across the 
> organisation (I was supporting about 2,000 people across 6 locations) - 
> that meant that I needed to have my desktop support staff trained in one 
> set of applications - as a result of that, we could concentrate on 
> building value-added services that would work across that set. Our 
> problems came when one unit wanted, say, to use Excel instead of 123... 
> or Word instead of WordPerfect (this was about 7 years ago - now the MS 
> solutions are the incumbents...)

I remember that one well. Being an ex-IBM location meant using Lotus
Smartsuite, but everyone wanted MS Office because it came on their home
PC and their customer/supplier used it too having bought the latest Dell
machine off the shelf (remember when you couldn't easily buy a machine
without MS Office installed?). No manager would sign off on MS Office
across the site because Lotus concurrently licensed, where MS insisted
on one license per machine with access to the software even if not used
(we ran a network install). The site policy was Lotus, but most
departments sneaked a few copies of Office in under another budget, or
escalated so IT had to cave in (as they did to ensure support). Hence we
supported Windows 3.1, 95, 98, NT, OS/2 and MS Office, Lotus Smartsuite
and Wordperfect and any other odd package anyone wanted.

> The biggest thing we could do as a community to expand the installed 
> reach of Linux would be to persuade Dell and PC World to offer Linux 
> with a range of "cheapest" PCs... so that it became the value option. 
> The reason that I'm on the Ubuntu list rather than that of any other 
> distro is that I see the Ubuntu foundation / Canonical as the group with 
> the most clear vision of how they are going to achieve that.

It has to be done right though. I had a home user customer a few years
back who had bought a machine from PC World that had 'office' on it. It
turned out to be StarOffice which was more than adequate for his
purposes, but he didn't understand that this wasn't MS Office. As far as
he was concerned he had been miss sold his system, even though they had
been reasonably clear about things (impressive for PC World) when they
sold it to him.

In a similar manner, somebody buying a pre installed Ubuntu (or any
other distro) system would have to be clear that they couldn't just pop
in and purchase a budget garden landscape program or whatever to run on
their system, otherwise they will feel they have been 'conned',
particularly when they find out the cost of buying a non-OEM license to
install on their machine to rectify the 'problem'. Sadly I usually find
people back off to the safety of a bundled Windows license when this
issue comes up. Perhaps we need to address this area of 'leisure
software' before Linux will take of in this way, although don't ask me
how - anybody want to assess the market in popular titles of this sort
and fill the software gap?!
<<yay, snipped a bit!>>

I note that last sentence in the above paragraph of yours, I may yet
rebuild my machine with Ubuntu - the distro I want to like more :)
** end quote [Mark Harrison]

Paul Tansom | Aptanet Ltd. | http://www.aptanet.com/
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