No, Munich is not considering ditching Linux and going back to Windows

This “story” surfaces every several months and, for some reason I always fail to fathom, everybody starts parroting it. It goes thus: Munich is sick and tired of how inadequate Linux is for everyday use and is ready to ditch years of work and millions of euros to return to Windows.

As usual, the facts say something different: all that has happened this time around is that two (count ’em: 2) councillors have sent a letter to the mayor requesting that some new devices that have had LiMux (Munich’s tailored Linux flavour) installed on them, be equipped with Windows because the Linux distro comes with “no programs (text editing programs, Skype, Office, etc.)” that the councilors can use.

This is strange, granted, especially since Skype works fine on Linux (that is, if you overlook the fact that Microsoft can still record and overhear all your personal conversations) and LiMux comes with LibreOffice pre-installed along with the desktop environment. As we have noted elsewhere, LibreOffice is a pretty good substitute for Microsoft Office on all counts, and, yes, it comes with a quite marvelous text editor called Writer.

So, I agree, the letter is strange, but getting from that to the conclusion that Munich will get rid of LiMux on literally tens of thousands of workstations and servers throughout the municipality takes a frigging ginormous leap.

Dear colleagues, tech journalists everywhere: I get that August is a slow month when it comes to news but, come on guys!


UPDATE 25/08/2015: As a lot of readers were not familiar with LiMux or had lost of track of the project’s current status, here’s a video with the latest news presented at DebConf 2015:


Cover Image: Rathaus and Marienplatz from Peterskirche – August 2006 by Diliff. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

  • OleTange

    Still – it is nice now and then to get a reminder, that Munich is still using LiMux.

  • Brand Sick Governors

    Good to hear, quick note though, LibreOffice Writer isn’t a text editor, it’s a word processor. There are loads of great text editors on linux to choose from though.

    • Paul Brown

      You’re right on both counts. Thanks.

    • William Watson

      This is translated from German, so take it with a grain of salt…

      • Paul Brown

        “Textbearbeitungsprogramme”, if I am not wrong (my German is not very good) translates to

        text = text
        bearbeitungs = editing
        programme = program

        Now, if that is an umbrella word you can use for “text editor” and “word processor” I do not know. Maybe a German-speaking reader could help us out?

        • Foxtrot

          A german using the term “Textbearbeitungsprogramm” (=Text editing program) or “Textverarbeitungprogramm” (=Text processing program) generally refers to Microsoft Word and similar software.

          Most germans would call editors (like vi, emacs, notepad etc.) “text editor”, “code editor” or just “notepad”

          These 2 councilors are redundant with their wish for “Office und Textbearbeitungsprogramm”.

          Also i think most of the english speaking media didnt get the point about that letter. They asked specifically to install this software BY THEMSELEVES. So what they really want are admin rights on those laptops to install any software they want. This is simply against the security policy of the munich it department.

          For whatever reason these councilors think that they would get admin rights if there was windows on these laptops.

          • Paul Brown

            Thank you!

            As the article notes, the letter is not about going back to Windows at all. I am ashamed of my colleagues in the tech journalism sector who are turning this into a FUD-fest.

        • purplelibraryguy

          Looks to me like it has something to do with bear-baiting. Munich city councillors want bear-baiting? Hasn’t that been illegal for a couple hundred years? 😉

  • John Kerr

    It is all the right wing wack jobs that are grabbing at any straw. Or writers looking for click bait.

    • Paul Brown

      Don’t forget the FUD component! Microsoft’s war on Free Software is still being fought, despite what they say at their conferences.

  • YY

    This is just prove that people who are used to work with MS are generally DUMB!
    This is just prove that MS is in the end game and needs these petty lies to keep alive for one more breathe.
    This is just prove that MS is a sad company, mostly of old age and obsolete.
    This is just prove that the free world will rule, the good people will win and the bad people will lose.
    This is just prove that it is actually going very good 😀

    • mrclaret

      I really do have to laugh at this comment, for a company which people have been saying is dying since what seems like forever their doing ok, recording record profits on all software they produce.

      I work with loads of Microsoft products and they’re all good, same as the open source products I use. The only people who are really obsessed with Microsoft are the 1% in the world who use Linux for desktop software, I’ve been there and its like trying to use a windows phone….good but just not supported by anyone baring the community around it.

      Take the Linux glasses off and take a look around they’re is good bad and ugly in all software o/s and eco-systems why limit yourself to the one, I certainly don’t and never will.

      • http://pling.it Paul Brown

        It is not only a question of technology. It is also a question of ethics. Microsoft, like many big corporations, is always pushing questionable when not downright abusive policies they implement in their software. As the alternative exists (and is much better than you make out — you should apply your own advice about having an open mind to yourself), at least I prefer to go with the more morally sound.

      • William Watson

        “In a world without walls, there is no need for Gates or Windows.”

  • Richard Thornton

    A bunch of eunuchs there in Munich!

  • gitarrenheld

    Well, I guess most of you have never had to work with LiMux. The city of Munich had to hire a whole armada of expensive Linux specialists to develop LiMux and to migrate or develop administrative software from windows platforms to LiMux. We talk about car registration, kindergarden administration, hospital administration and so on. As you can’t find stuff like that in Ubuntu’s respository, you have to invest millions of Euros, first, for the migration process and, second, for further development of every piece of software. Then, believe it or not, LiMux is way behind standard Linux distros in terms of usability and compatibility because of the fact that all new software has to be tested for security issues for some time and has to be compliant to German data-processing-laws.
    The result of that is that many PDFs don’t open or require another piece of software (they have THREE different programs to open PDFs), PowerPoints or Windows applications of external partners don’t play. Then there is no suitable German OCR or “paperless-government” software available and so on. Many programs have to be designed from scratch. Standard software crashes, because it was never meant to be used for teamwork of thousands of people, standard mime-types don’t work out of the box, because they are blocked for security reasons.
    The city would have paid less if they had sticked with Windows and cost-effectiveness is an argument when it comes to tax money.
    Just ask system administrators at the city of Munich and they will tell you the same story or even worse.

    • Paul Brown

      I stand by my story. There is no evidence in this letter that Munich is considering reverting the migration.

      Besides, I have seen reports that report millions in savings thanks to LiMux, for example the ones linked to from here:

      http://web.archive.org/web/20131207064653/http://www.h-online.com/open/news/item/Linux-brings-over-EUR10-million-savings-for-Munich-1755802.html

      So unless everybody is lying and you’re the only one telling the truth (which, of course, is perfectly possible), I’m going to have to go with the official story until I see some evidence to the contrary.

      • gitarrenheld

        The city of Munich well knowingly excludes personnel costs from the equation. So all the Linux specialists and external partners that they hire(d) are hidden in their general costs for personnel and are not taken into account for the LiMux project.
        Don’t forget: LiMux is a prestige project and the leading party as well as the mayor don’t want to lose their face.
        So all the costs that are published to the public are mere hardware and software acquisitions, personnel and worktime have been excluded.
        How do I know? One of my closest friends is a system administrator for the City of Munich, so he should know :-)

        • Paul Brown

          The stories you heard from a disgruntled employee are still not evidence enough to recant my story or proof that the LiMux migration is not working. Sorry.

          • gitarrenheld

            I live in Munich and I guess I know enough people who work for the City of Munich – politicians, office people and IT – so I tend to believe them more than press releases from the mayor’s office. Well, you can believe what you want, but in fact you have no knowledge about the whole topic except for official press releases.
            The new mayor has even initiated a survey on LiMux, because of his disgruntled staff – however the survey hasn’t been completed yet.

            Most Linux distros are great, but LiMux is not – it’s buggy and inconvenient and therefore inefficient. In the beginning they used Suse, but then split with the company (mainly because of the costfactor) to develop their own distro with their internal and some external people. This fact takes away the whole community aspect of a Linux distro. Therefore LiMux is developed by a small group of people.

          • Paul Brown

            You’re wrong on that count too. I personally know many of the people within the project who are working on the migration.

            Remember this?:

            http://arstechnica.com/business/2014/08/linux-on-the-desktop-pioneer-munich-now-considering-a-switch-back-to-windows/

            Apart from being proof of what I claim above, that these stories pop up every couple of months or so, it reports on the enquiry you mention. What sparked
            it was that the new Mayor, and declared Microsoft lover, Dieter Reiter, was unable to log into his email using Outlook using his Nokia Lumia.

            Turns out theproblem didn’t have anything to do LiMux, because the town hall’s
            internal mail system was an ancient system running on even more ancient Sun Spark machines cobbled together by technicians long gone and that predated the LiMux migration by more than a decade. My contacts are working on implementing Kolab, which will give Mayor Reiter what he needs.

            And that’s why that enquiry of which you speak has amounted to nothing, even though it was theoretically started more than a year ago.

            As for the two disgruntled councillors mentioned above, they complained they could not install programs such as Skype and their favorite office suite on some new hardware. Guess what? Still not a LiMux problem. As with all Town Hall hardware, installation of software is restricted by stringent the administration policies and it would be the same story whatever operating system the laptops run.

            So I still stand by my story.

          • gitarrenheld

            O.K. so why do standard mime-types not open in LiMux? Why do people need three applications to open different types of PDF? Isn’t that standard nowadays? And that IS a LiMux problem. You talk about two disgruntled people, I talk about hundreds. So why have some of the departments switched back to Windows then? Public Relations and City Marketing have never used LiMux.
            Cool, you know people who are working on the migration. Still??? The project started in 2003! LiMux migration was supposed to be completed in 2009.
            Then you also know the rates Linux developers and programmers charge. As stated earlier, if you take development and migration costs into account, the LiMux balance doesn’t look bright.
            I stand by my story, too, the City of Munich has made many mistakes with LiMux which have cost the tax payer a fair amount of additional Euros and we’re talking about millions of Euros which could have been invested in schools, child care or hospitals.

          • Paul Brown

            And, it seems, in licenses for proprietary software.

            But, seriously, I would not like to leave this discussion on a sour note. You are likely right in that many things were bungled in the migration. How couldn’t they? The project is huge! However, I think that you will find in that in the long run, it will pay off. Yes, I know, 10 years already sounds like long term, but it really isn’t.

            Think of it like this. You have local elections in Munich, what? Every 4 or 5 years? In Spain we always accuse our politicians that their vision for the future only goes as far as the next elections. I am sure that in Germany you use the same criticism against your own elected officials. Let’s not be like politicians, shall we?

            Would it be reasonable to say that the development of the LiMux project should’ve taken, say, 5 years? That would be in ideal circumstances, but then take into account all the attempts to sabotage the project from within and without and you have to add a couple of years due to delays caused by organisations actively opposing LiMux. I mean, I remember clearly that in early days the migrators had to allow civil servants access Windows desktops from virtual machines on LiMux to avoid negative blowback from workers who would otherwise have been deprived of the vital task of playing Minesweep.

            We’re up to 7 years.

            Then, as it is a public sector thing, it’s going to be late anyway, by say, 50% of the originally planned time.

            We’re up to nearly 10 years.

            By the way, for the same reason as above, it is also going to be overbudget and need serious refactoring (add another year or 2). That’s just how projects in the public sector work.

            So it’s off by a year? I know that Germans hold themselves to crazily high standards… well… most of the time (*cough* Volkswagen *cough*), but, honestly, nearly anywhere else, this would be considered a success, at least in public sector terms.

            On a side note, community distros that live beyond a couple of versions, are developed in a much more efficient way because the have to be. Otherwise they would disappear without a trace, as many do. If you were expecting the Free Software culture, efficiency and work ethics to somehow become translated to a public sector institution, I am not surprised you are disappointed.

            But, getting back onto the topic of the timeline, being really strict, as in “German strict”, I would say a reasonable year zero for LiMux would have been about 3 years ago. It is from then when you have to start counting whether LiMux is going to pull its weight or not. That is not even near a full legislature!

            And then, moving forward, you have to look beyond the next elections, whenever they may be. Give it two legislatures. If by 2023, LiMux still sucks and hasn’t saved the city any money, then I’ll agree with you.

          • gitarrenheld

            Sounds fair :-)

          • gitarrenheld

            By the way, people don’t care what OS is working in the background or if LiMux is a success story They simply need certain applications to fulfill their daily work within the administration. Then it’s ITs job to deliver those applications in the most cost-effective way – that’s the challenge. The user doesn’t care about admin rights or security problems, the user cares about usability and simplicity which then contributes to long term (cost) effectiveness.

    • http://pling.it Paul Brown

      Interesting and valuable insight.

      However, I stand by my story: despite what most tech sites have reported, there is no evidence that Munich is considering reverting the migration.

      I will also say I have read reports that inform of millions in savings over the first 10-year period. This one, for example:

      http://web.archive.org/web/20131207064653/http://www.h-online.com/open/news/item/Linux-brings-over-EUR10-million-savings-for-Munich-1755802.html

    • William Watson

      ” all new software has to be tested for security issues for some time and has to be compliant to German data-processing-laws”
      What guarantee do you have that M$ Office is compliant with these laws?
      Can you even test it?
      What was that? Proprietary code? There is your answer.

      • gitarrenheld

        Well, actually MS-Office has been tested by the German Government. Most US-cloud services aren’t compliant with stricter European data-processing laws, but most enterprises usually run their own servers anyway.
        So tell me why shouldn’t one be able to control what goes out or into a machine? Funny question. Tracking and firewall control aren’t mysteries in 2015 nor the configuration of a Windows system for business use. People seem to confuse professional use of a desktop environment and private use.
        The point about LiMux is that it’s not performing well in terms of costs and handling. As I stated many times before. The workforce doesn’t care about backbones, servers and desktop environments – they need computers to make their work day as productive and efficient as possible, and that’s exactly where LiMux, which has been introduced years ago, still falls short in comparison with other solutions.

        • William Watson

          “Well, actually MS-Office has been tested by the German Government.”
          Please prove it.

          • gitarrenheld

            Is that a kids game? Then “Prove that it’s not been tested!!!”
            “Erste Behörden zeigen sich sehr erfreut über die Umsetzung europäischen Rechts in Office 365. So hat das bayerische Landesamt für Datenschutz schriftlich bestätigt, Office 365 genüge den Anforderungen des deutschen Datenschutzes.”
            “Das Bayerische Landesamt für Datenschutzrecht bescheinigt, dass Microsoft mit seiner Regelung die Anforderungen des deutschen Datenschutzrechts erfüllt. Auch aus Sicht von Rechtsanwalt Peter Bräutigam von Noerr LLP hält Microsoft die Datenschutzvorgaben ein.” – I didn’t stand next to them, so if you need THAT kind of proof, I’m the wrong man, but you probably, too.
            Whenever you use cloud services or the internet, you send your data somwhere else. Android, Firefox, they all want your written consent to suck out your data for “user bahviour analysis” which they call “product improvements” and “technical feedback”. Canonical does that, too! They have a huge market share when it comes to Linux DT Distros.
            So what’s your problem with Microsoft? You get spied on via your (3Com) router chipsets and phone/cable lines it’s your hardware, not the software that is used for spying.

          • Paul Brown

            I’m wondering when this was published and whether it will still hold up after the “safe haven” loophole was recently closed in European courts. My feeling is that it won’t. I’m guessing that, along with most other online and cloud services offered by companies from the US, 365 is now *not* in compliance with EU privacy laws and is therefore illegal.

          • gitarrenheld

            That might well be possible. So here’s what I know: The agreement, which dates back to 2011, included a passage in which Microsoft declared that they would not transfer personal data to the US, it all had to stay within the EU. So all European User Data is supposed to be stored on their servers in Ireland. Their whole policy is called “Trust Center” which is vital for them to sell their products to European Companies and administrations, otherwise they would’ve run out of business in Europe. At the same time, “Trust Center” gave them a huge lift over Google in the cloud market. European administrators can’t use Dropbox or any Google App for instance, because the EU requires providers to store and process personal data within the EU plus every cloud service, upon contract, has to provide a written guarantee that it processes data according to federal and EU laws otherwise they risk being sued. That doesn’t guarantee anything in my eyes, but Europeans are very sceptical and sensitive when it comes to privacy so there is a certain amount of awareness, which again, says nothing.

            So then Microsoft went through a certification process and that’s all I know.
            I can’t say if the situation has changed now with last weeks court ruling, because I don’t know if Safe Harbor is one of the foundations of Trust Center – I’ve mainly researched stuff for you guys here in the forum :-)

          • Paul Brown

            Whether they store in Ireland or in Germany is irrelevant to the ruling, since the US government claims jurisdiction over US companies wherever they have branches.

            As the US government does not extend even the most basic privacy protection they grant their own citizens (which are much more limited than EU protections) to EU citizens (because we are *not* US citizens and hence have zero rights), storing EU citizens information on behalf of US companies is currently illegal, no matter where their servers are located.

            This, by the way, is an EU-wide ruling, and trumps national laws. So if the German legislation says otherwise, it doesn’t matter: still illegal.

            The only way Microsoft and other US companies can be in compliance of current EU legislation is by setting up independent companies incorporated in the EU (and, no, subsidiaries and branches don’t count), and then store the data with them in the EU.

            This is kind of interesting and a fun to consider, since it is an opportunity for the EU IT market to make a comeback after all these years, and it is a welcome slap in the face of all the predatory, tax-evading, monopoly-wielding US companies that seem to think the world is their playground.

          • gitarrenheld

            That sounds like good news to me :-)
            By the way, not all EU laws top federal laws, especially not if stricter ruling has been in place.

          • http://www.ifn365.com/ Jean-Pierre Levac

            …Or you can look it up.