The city of Munich is a major contributor to free and open source projects, sending bugfixes to upstream developers, making available software solutions and sharing best practices and technical information. In August, Munich IT staff members shared the city’s accomplishments with the community of Debian developers, one of the main free software distributions.
A number of the city’s IT staff members participated in this year’s Debconf, the Debian Project's developer conference, which took place in Heidelberg. Here they shared best practices, talking about their approach to managing 17,018 Linux workstations.
The city is combining Gosa² - a web-based solution to administer accounts, groups, servers and workstations, with LDAP distributed directory information services, and FAI (Fully Automatic Installation) to make available software updates and new solutions to all workstations. These are spread over 50 offices across the city.
Munich is using the fifth version of Limux, which is based on Kubuntu, and comes with web browser Firefox, email client Thunderbird and Libreoffice version 4.1. Also available on all workstations is Wollmux, the city’s document template and form management solution.
The development cycle is long, says Jan-Marek Glogowski, one of the members of the city’s Linux Client development team. One reason is the wide range of computer hardware that is supported. “Whatever computer hardware was built in the last twenty years, Munich is running it and the central IT department has to support it.” And the city keeps purchasing new PC hardware. “We have 18,000 PCs, so you can imagine how much hardware breaks per day”, says Glogowski. “That is why we always stock half a year’s worth of hardware.”
He and his colleagues are using DAK, a collection of tools to manage a repository of software packages. The city is hoping to contribute a bunch of new features to the upstream source project at Debian at the end of this year. An computer science student intern is working to add Munich’s changes.
Similarly, Munich has contributed hundreds of bugfixes to open source projects, most through its external service providers. Glogowski contributed 96 patches to LibreOffice, all of which are included in the most recent version (5). Munich itself is backporting some 300 patches to the earlier LibreOffice version used in the city (4.1).