Two councillors from the city of Munich want to return to a proprietary PC operating system and office productivity suite on their laptops, replacing the city’s defaults, Ubuntu Linux and LibreOffice. They complain of incompatibilities and heckle the use of role based access control, which prevents them from installing applications themselves.
In late July, city councillors Otto Seidl and Sabine Pfeiler (both members of the CSU) complain in a letter to the mayor about Incompatibilities and a lack of user rights. “Among other things, no programs (text processing programs, Skype, Office, etc.) can be installed by the users, which prevents normal use”, they write. According to them, many council members continue to use their own computing devices, instead of the city’s laptops.
The request to return to a proprietary solution is widely reported on by the IT press, in Germany and elsewhere.
The German IT news site Heise quotes a city spokesperson, explaining that Munich's IT security guidelines do not permit councillors to install software solutions themselves. Heise adds that the current coalition has been criticising the city’s use of free and open source, with both the mayor and the deputy mayor raising issues. The city is also conducting a staff survey on the IT infrastructure.
The two councillors have not yet responded to emails seeking their position on interoperability, IT vendor lock-in and how to reconcile their request for a specific product with public procurement rules and fostering competition. “We are aware that this letter is causing some commotion”, a staff member at the CSU office in Munich confirmed by phone on Tuesday. He said that the two council members are on holidays until mid-September.
In an email on Wednesday, Munich city councillor Pfeiler says the letter is not aimed to criticize the use of Linux in Munich. "There are several points of criticism concerning the notebooks in specific with very different reasons - not Linux”, she writes.
Request by councilmembers (PDF, in German)
Heise news item (in German)
CIO.de news item (in German)
Golem news item (in German)
Channelpartner news item (in German)
Techrepublic news item
OCSMAG news item
Automatisering Gids news item (in Dutch)
Muy Linux news item (in Spanish)
First complaint is about compatibility of Office suite: even if not 100%, it is usually good; considering that all pcs are using the same OS and software in the city of Munich, the only compatibility issue should then be related to exhanging with the "outside" world and tus of limited impact.
Second complaint is about the lack of rights on the computer: this is typically not linked to the OS but to the policy: you could get more rights on a Linux OS computer if the policy allows it (and the same limitations on proprietary OS if the policy is unchanged). So the question should be "can we change the policy" (or re define what is "normal use")... (*)
We have thus here a great example of confusing several things with probably two problems:
1) change management, or more specifically the limitation of the users to change their habits.
2) lack of knowledge about this specific field (and thus how to best use public money): having a whole infrastructure running proprietary software costs more than the OS and Office suite licences (please have a look at "CAL licenses"...)...
Should I mention the recent concerns about privacy and personal data management by new version of proprietary OS?
(*)Also important to know: some IT infrastructure managing software (I would not cite brand here) allows to build software libraries: software authorised by the IT department (following the policy) may be selected by the user for automatic installation; so text processing / office suite, but also Skype and many others could be provided without changing nor the policy nor the OS...