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German state planning to switch 25,000 PCs to LibreOffice (documentfoundation.org)
442 points by jrepinc 60 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 349 comments



Now switch to Linux too.

The more we invest together, the easier it becomes. German states can help Spanish states, and Finnish schools, Danish universities, and French businesses, etc. - collaboratively investing so that everyone benefits and Europe can build its own Tech industry and have some independence from the US.

This is absolutely critical to move away from the dominance of "Big Tech" to FOSS solutions that independent, small co-operatives can maintain together.


Munich did that a few years ago, which got rolled back after they elected the dude mayor who got Microsoft to move their German headquarters to Munich. Completely unrelated events, of course.

There were of course some technical problems as well, e.g. because a number of administrative tasks can only be performed using Excel 2003 with VBS macros enabled and stuff like that, as well as "technical problems", like "users can't install software themselves" (i.e. users don't have root on the clients).


I'm from Munich. As much as I would've liked that project to succeed (I really did), I can tell you that Limux - that was the project's name - was a brutal usability disaster. As in, almost meme-level bad. It's like the Berlin airport in software.

Sure, Microsoft has a huge office in Munich, and they definitely applied political pressure, too (it'd be naive to assume they didn't). The project's stated goal was to be a showcase of how Linux can work in the public sector. But because of that goal, there was also massive political pressure the other way around.

The simple truth is that Microsoft's products were/are just far superior than what the Limux initiative shipped. The Linux transition caused massive productivity losses in the municipality's administration. It's easy to say that VBS macros are evil, but if you migrate away from them, you need to provide an alternative.

Simple things like a good calendar, working printing functionality, LOTS of basic stuff - it just felt like the IT was a decade behind. Here on HN, Windows continually gets roasted by how bad its UX is compared to Mac OS. With Limux vs Windows, the difference was practically 10x as large as that.

I REALLY hope the LibreOffice transition goes well. Hopefully, this is a much wiser approach than trying to migrate everything off Windows at once.


Was a post-mortem of the Munich project published anywhere?

Some people may remember the hype over the One Laptop Per Child Project, which had a noble mission that many people could get behind. In 2011 I heard from someone at MIT who criticized aspects of the program such as no real planning for support when the devices broke down in the field. Other issues came out years later, including unrealistic cost estimates and the crank:

If you remember the OLPC at all, you probably remember the hand crank. It was OLPC’s most striking technological innovation — and it was pure vaporware. Designers dropped the feature almost immediately after Negroponte’s announcement, because the winding process put stress on the laptop’s body and demanded energy that kids in very poor areas couldn’t spare. Every OLPC computer shipped with a standard power adapter.

https://www.theverge.com/2018/4/16/17233946/olpcs-100-laptop...


It's a shame it failed and there are no real cheap netbooks anymore (aside from Chromebooks).

I used an Acer Aspire One when travelling through Germany as a student (to research jobs and conferences) - and it was amazing being able to program and write papers on such a small device.

Reading about the hardware issues reminds me a lot of the ZX Spectrum reviews (especially the keyboard!) - keeping a low price means a lot of compromises unfortunately.


The GPD laptops fill that space for me now. My GPD Pocket literally fits in some of my pockets, is a regular x86 machine. Came with Windows 10, but I'm running Mint on it.


The modern equivalent is a tablet with its corresponding type cover.


AFAIK I can't really run Jupyter notebooks, R, LaTeX and Rust on a tablet though. Perhaps the JingPad.


You can on any Android tablet that allows root. You can run an X server via Termux and get a full graphical Linux environment. That will be necessary for Rust.

R, JupyterNotebooks and LaTeX can be done without root.


You can on any tablet that supports webassembly:

https://jupyterlite.readthedocs.io/en/latest/_static/lab/ind...


The problem is that a lot of organizations see foss as purely a free thing and not an investment. If they put half the money they spent on licensing into paying people to improve the foss packages they use, the ecosystem would transform and everyone would benefit. Massive cost savings overall, and it would push paid software to work harder to compete (who knows, it might even force Microsoft to offer decent privacy policies and remove ads from their manipulative desktop)


Organizations like school systems don't have a great track record managing custom software projects. They don't know what to look for and who to hire, and how much things should cost. It's very likely that these problems would translate into funding FOSS development as well. Also, it's a big headache to manage custom development compared to buying or downloading an off the shelf package.


This is the opposite of custom development for the most part, with the exception of some integration work.


It’s hard to predict whether you could make MS products in foss with global cooperation at lower cost to taxpayers (since it can be expensive to get politicians to agree with goals across international borders).


> If they put half the money they spent on licensing into paying people to improve the foss packages...

Like in a legally-binding contract way or some hippie way hoping for the best?


great to see the "H-word" used as a slur, again (great for my own sense of antagonistic prejuidice being alive and well that is).

for a more constructive reinforcement of what a "hippy way" might be, in business and government:

anti-rascist, that is actively inviting and communicating with others socially; inclusive generally; valuing cooperation; building and valuing talent for its own sake; bringing in arts to shared spaces; generally vegetarian; health proactive; tolerance of personal drug use including tobacco; deeply environmentalist; generally opposed to military-style administration; generally opposed to authoritarian governments; use of non-monetary trade goods; valuing education and definitely advanced education.

are these things "fail" in City Administration as the parent comment implies ? not necessarily


"node_js_rulez_1" decries hippy open source support model.

... ummmmmmm ... look in your username.

Seriously, your stack is running on hippies, top to bottom.

TOP TO BOTTOM.


Hiring developers to work on specific package improvements is what is normally done. Could be legally binding, probably would be a standard employment agreement but you could do it through a hippie way (coding circle?).


Actually, the Limux project is well alive: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LiMux#Timeline

May 2020 - Newly elected politicians in Munich take a U-turn and implement a plan to go back to the original plan of migrating to LiMux.


Fascinating!


Wasn't that only initially, and was drastically improved later on? Even Accenture (the biggest Microsoft partner)'s audit didn't conclusively say that switching back to Windows will be better than what Limux was at that point.

Furthermore, the French Gendermerie is using Linux at a similar scale, and there are no usability problems. If they can make it work, i don't think it's impossible for anyone else.


> "Accenture (the biggest Microsoft partner)"

actually accenture's biggest partner is not microsoft, it's money. really, they would sell their employees souls for money.


I think the truth between what you say and the other person accusing you of being biased is somewhere in the middle. They basically went too mach ahead of the time. Mind you, the project started 18 years ago! The computing landscape was very different back then. I know what you mean as I was forced by my employer to use Linux on the desktop at that time and it was mediocre - but many things changed in the meantime. Probably the most important: the web revolution has happened. Nobody is using abominations like the ActiveX/Silverlight/whatever anymore. VBS is no longer omnipresent (partly because of security reasons). Hardware support in Linux is incomparable to what was in 2004. SO yes, I can imagine it was terrible back then, but I still think it's very important not to give up and I'm happy they basically restarted the project recently.


the hardware thing was not a problem for us as we could dictate which computers were bought. so computers were bought which would be compatible.

our problem was: none of the tools we needed were available in the quality and richness as they exist today.

automatic deployment to hundred of PCs at the same time with extensive automatic configuration? session and configuration management per user?

departments want to use different backgrounds per house or subdepartment. all that stuff had to be built in a scalable way.

the solutions today were not available back then.


I'm sorry, but I disagree about the two last points. Around 2001/2002 I was doing this kind of work of purchasing new desktops and deployments on hundreds of machines using a combination of PXE and Kickstart (I believe Kickstart appeared in 1998). It was not ideal, but it worked, and each department had their own settings. The only complaint I heard from my colleagues was that they cannot install "little sheep" (one of these gimmicks that would sit on your desktop and distract you). Actually some of them were upset they cannot install games, but they preferred not to voice this concern aloud.

As to your first problem, the lack of software, yes, it was a huge problem then. What we had to use at that time was substandard. I personally suffered (even though I love Linux on the server). Also KDE was unstable and a memory hog, Gnome wasn't much better, and you couldn't just buy more RAM. I'm very happy these days are over.


I always wondered why they had to create their own fork. I had the feeling that this is unecessary maintenance work that they took on and a "not invented here" philosophy.

Why not just use one of the avaible distros or why not even make a deal with SUSE (a bavarian company) to have a subscription model with support directly from experienced distro makers? Surely they could've made sure that all important features and workflows can be implemented.

Of course this would've needed to be a public bidding but if Red Hat gets it or SUSE does not really matter and surely is much cheaper than Microsoft licenses.


They went with an Debian/Ubuntu based fork due to popularity.

>if Red Hat gets it

If your goal is to run a proprietary OS you might as well stay with Windows. No reason to endorse outdated IBM enterprise crapware after they killed the only compatible distro that didn't require paying the IBM tax to test and develop software for it.


because back in the day, no distribution was good enough for our needs. today is a completely other situation.

redhat might, but they borked it somehow as they said we would not be allowed to change anything or loose all support. at least that was what i heard.

and then there was supposedly the decision "we do not want any external company due to the bad experience with microsoft".


> I always wondered why they had to create their own fork. I had the feeling that this is unecessary maintenance work that they took on and a "not invented here" philosophy.

For the same reason there are hundreds of forks and counting: it is difficult to get the environment you want without rebuilding everything from scratch, and once you do that you have to maintain it.


The big distros are quite customizable in order to suit a large audience. A large organization typically has defaults and customizations that need to be added. A common strategy is to _distribute_ their customizations by creating a distribution based on some more widely used distribution. Google had Goobuntu based on Ubuntu.


thanks for mentioning the Berlin airport fiasco - I had never heard the story - hilarious and very troubling for those in Berlin!


Oh, if you find the story of BER hilarious and troubling you should read up on the 2021 vote for federal and local parliaments. Or the civil administration there in general where you have to make an appointment to get your passport renewed months in advance.


> 2021 vote for federal and local parliaments

tldr?


Some people are unhappy with the results.

One candidate was generally hated by the public and got fucked by the press with "creative photo editing", badly.

One candidate was poised to become the first green chancellor, but then managed to have not one, not two, but three case of academic fraud and lying about her past tacked to her ticket. Her party came in second.

One candidate was all about some nebulous idea of "freedom", which made him relevant enough that his party now is king maker, when the first-time voters, who traditionally would go to the Green Party, decided enough Covid Lockdowns is enough.

And one candidate did ... nothing. Absolutely nothing. Which means he also couldn't embarrass himself (even though historically, he's a ... problematic ... figure). This guy came in first, so he's going to be the next chancellor.

And that's just the candidates. Then you got the State of Berlin obviously unable to hold democratic elections, given

- there was a lack of ballots in many voting offices

- in some voting offices, there were ballots for other districts, which rendered those votes invalid

- they accidentally allowed 16-year-olds to vote in the federal elections (where you have to be 18 to vote)

- they accidentally gave a mandate to the wrong guy, who shared the same name, but not the same party affiliation with the actual winner

- some votes were cast after 18:00, which is the official cutoff date

- in some districts, there was a 150% participation rate

- some offices sent people waiting in line home because "it's unlikely you'll be in in time"

- ... I am sure I am missing a few catastrophes - a LOT went wrong in Berlin ...

It was hilarious to watch this mess unfold.


>...I REALLY hope the LibreOffice transition goes well.

If anything that rings alert on my mind is the LO's Calc, which at times decides to become slow and consume the CPU for no apparent reason. Or equally annoying flacky interoprability betwen LO Writer and MS Office Word (works in general, but loses some alignment, magles styles etc.)

As much as I'm for LO and want them to succeed, I feel for the clerks dealing with these counter-productive issues.


You say you want them to succeed, but I don't believe you are sincere. This negativity with anecdotal evidence is so annoying. Like the whole world will come to a halt because some document formatting got fucked up.

I see this same shit with Excel all the time. It's fucking FULL of bugs that have just been around for so long, people just get used to it and work around it.

I mean, if you selected a group of 30 rows in Excel, then use CTRL to deselect one row in the middle... it doesn't deselect it, it "selects" the row again, so now it's just darker than all the other rows. Is this fixed yet? It was a bug in fucking Office 2016 and goes back years. Nobody said it wasn't ready for use!

It's such a fucking basic feature. To de-select a single row out of a group that is selected. It's the single most counter-productive thing ever. When I found this bug, I was blown away that nobody ever complained about it! I worked with thousands upon thousands of people with Excel and it was never a problem?!

Word doesn't even play nice with it's own files... ever moved a file from Office 2013 to Office 2016? I've seen it garble files a million times. Move a Word doc from Mac to Windows and shit gets hosed sometimes.

The clerks will get used to the issues. Just the same way that they got used to the hot fucking garbage that Microsoft charges enterprises and governments substantial amounts of money for, and provides precisely dick for support in return.

EDIT: I mean look at this shit! Apparently deselecting is a new concept to Microsoft!

https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/office/deselect-a-select...

Note: This feature is only available in Excel for Window if you have Office 2019, or if you have a Microsoft 365 subscription. If you are a Microsoft 365 subscriber, make sure you have the latest version of Office.


> This negativity with anecdotal evidence is so annoying.

Isn’t it.

> “It's such a fucking basic feature. To de-select a single row out of a group that is selected. It's the single most counter-productive thing ever.

Probably not as counter-productive as throwing away thousands of person-years of learned skill and experience because of some Linux fanaticism.

How is “it’s not as good but we can patch it until it’s equivalently buggy, people will get used to it” any compelling reason to change over?

How is “but but I hate microsoft” any compelling reason to change over?

And the techcommunity.microsoft thread from 2018 announcing deselect has people who used that “multi-click makes a cell darker” feature and are bothered that it’s gone.

> “Microsoft charges enterprises and governments substantial amounts of money for, and provides precisely dick for support in return.

You mean like that feature you were crying out for and then found that they built? That kind of nothing?

Or like how Office 365 has collaborative editing and LibreOffice has a page saying it’s been in development since 2006 and isn’t ready and linking to an old mailing list post from 2020 talking about deprecating he API they had built for it, as the latest update?


>... You say you want them to succeed, but I don't believe you are sincere.

Not sure what drives your experience, but I've been using LO (Linux based) continuously for the past 10 yrs. Still do. More so, tried to convert other users. I don't believe I'm the only one to stumble on some usability issues with LO.

Did I get used to dealing with the issues? Nope. This still annoys me every time, it's also a drag to interoperate with MS Office (no, it's not going away soon in this world). Other users? Well, most of my attempted converts now either pay the subscription or use the GSuite or ... stick to the older version of MS Office.

So I myself do want the LO to get better, but for the most of the failed "converts" it's a lost cause for now.


I suspect the reason for that is nobody ever tried a Linux deployment as big as that, so the tooling to manage it simply didn't exist.


Uhh "users can't install software themselves" is how things are supposed to be. If you're still giving everyone admin rights you're going to have a fun time every time one of them falls for phishing.


Welcome to bigtime shadow IT then in a white collar / high performing workforce. People will be using personal laptops, spinning up AWS instances etc to get work done especially if they collaborate with others.

I worked at a place, folks had to go to the neighboring copy/print place to FAX themselves documents, because IT in its wisdom had locked down their machines and prohibited scanning docs (ie, they faxed to a virtual fax, then took those PDFs and sent them on).

I am convinced that part of the AWS appeal for many folks is to escape this "best practice" IT control that just results in no progress / ability to get work done. This was 10x during pandemic.

When IT hasn't yet gotten Zoom into default image, and you need Zoom or whatever to talk with others practically, so annoying.


AWS for us is even more locked down. Nobody gets access to that. Unless they sign up with their own account and pay for it themselves perhaps?

But the idea is of course that the applications needed for work are all available in the company software catalog. When we locked this down we did extensive pilots.

As an EU company we have to certify each tool for privacy anyway and we can't allow unvalidated tools (and even worse: cloud services) for this reason. The fines are huge and we have a responsibility to our customers.

Personal machines are explicitly forbidden and not allowed on the network using 802.1x.

The admin rights prevent people from bypassing security controls. Such as disabling the proxy which checks for forbidden services for which we don't have a data processing agreement, like Dropbox.

I know it's not easy. But letting people do what they please is causing the kinds of data leaks we're seeing in the media almost every day.

I agree some things are a step too far and inevitably drive people into shadow IT but admin rights are pretty low hanging fruit these days.

And really, since we did this the company is still running :)


In my experience I would say that limiting users in this way, unless they have a very standardized workflow and will never be expected to deviate from it, is a terrible idea. Most of the risks you're actually afraid of don't need local admin to do significant damage. Locking people out of their local OS just protects the local OS (which is trivially reimaged), not their documents, and not the resources they have access to on the network; you know, the stuff you actually care about. Sure, there are a (very) small number of new attack vectors opened into your network by programs which can get local admin, most of which you should be mitigating against anyway, but compared to the added friction you cause the users by taking it away those are just not worth it. And that's before you consider privilege escalation attacks that make it irrelevant if the user even has local admin.


This is also why I always complained that no-root-by-default is not particularly advantageous for Linux way-back-when: basically, stuff I care about is in my $HOME.

Main driver to want a Free Software system for public institutions is that it's a Free Software system, allowing for local companies to participate in development and fairly compete to only add on to the software, avoiding the entire provider lock-in.


The risk for us is more one of uncertified tools. People using stuff like Dropbox which we don't have a data processing agreement with. Or stuff like TeamViewer.

Locking down admin rights is not just to lock down the OS but to ensure security restrictions aren't easily circumvented.

For the files we use AIP which protects against copying. You can't open those in a personal machine for example.


I work in IT in a German company. Every user has admin rights on the local machine. Why? Because the IT-Boss couldn't figure out how to allow installing updates (software and OS) on Win 7 without having admin. And then there is the semi-official "shadow IT".


I just heard that our new hire got his company issued laptop and can’t do work because he can’t install the software he needs. He has to organise with it to get it installed. To do software qa.

If i was in that situation I would just reformat the computer. Luckily I don’t have a company issued laptop. I gave it back because it was a Dell XPS aeroplane. I use my own laptop for work.


Is this also true for developers? I’ve only seen “install anything you want” types of setups yet, are there companies that don’t allow that on your work laptop?


Yes, developers are a major threat vector in any non-IT company. Which is why large companies can't innovate.


To be fair, you're probably downlplaying it. How much enterprise software runs on Linux? Probably not a lot. LibreOffice is nice, but it can't compete with MS office. let alone Exchange, outlook...


What "enterprise software" is needed at a public administration? Almost all of it is custom ordered, so Linux compatibility can be a part of the requirements.

Outlook is a dumpster fire, and there are perfectly fine alternatives. Very few people actually need the full might of Excel, and you can always RemoteApp it to them, and have the rest use Libre Office. Or heck, provide them with actual tooling better fit for their requirements than Excel.

And in any case, IMHO, "public money, public code". Nothing should be paid for with public money without it being publicly accessible afterwards ( excluding weaponry of course).


> Very few people actually need the full might of Excel

How's the groupware situation on Linux? Mail, calendars, adding shared meeting rooms, etc.


On Linux you can use a number of thick or web clients for any sort of groupware - Exchange, Office 365, OnlyOffice, Nextcloud, Collabora, Zoho something?


I used Evolution for years, and it worked really well.

Anymore I just keep Outlook web open in a web browser though. Not because Evolution is lacking, I just didn't really see the point in setting it up anymore.


KMail, Kalendar, Thunderbird, Nextcloud Groupware are all open source groupware solution what works on Linux.

KMail was actually financed for some time by the german gouvernment.


you have web portals for outlook at least (doesn't make it usable though, my daily struggles!)

Then there's MS teams. I'd rather it just not run anywhere (die) instead of being a "good enough" solution bundled in to the suite. At least if it weren't there we could use something usable like slack instead.


I haven't used OS X in awhile, but IM clients should just copy Adium. It is (was?) so simple and light and easy to use, it integrated perfectly with OS X's Contacts app, and it was also being easily themed and styled by users. Also its dock icon showed the last few people who had messaged you in the background, rather than just the count of how many messages you had missed.


Strange that so much of it moved to the web then, isn’t it?


funny, the users didn't mind.


> "users can't install software themselves"

This is one example of a real problem.

Linux desktops are great for professional Linux people and hard core enthusiasts. Once you try to take them out to non-technical people trying to do everyday tasks it's much harder.

I've driven numerous distros and keep running into UX problems masses will run into.

How do we get distros that can be good daily drivers for the masses? How do we get people interested in crafting those?


> How do we get distros that can be good daily drivers for the masses? How do we get people interested in crafting those?

Heh, you might not like the answer.

There might be a ton of alternatives somewhere out there, but there's only 1 real thing that seems to work with the information we have so far.

So, what's the answer to these questions:

> Q: How do we get distros that can be good daily drivers for the masses? How do we get people interested in crafting those?

<<A. You pay them.>>

Desktop environment polishing work is technically boring work and a thankless job. It's grunge work. Only a minority of experienced devs will do it willingly for a long time.


this is misrepresentation. you cannot install systemwide software on any enterprise-installed system

THAT was their problem. before limux there was no permission management and everybody was admin.


Windows and macOS allow you to install software (most of the time) without being an admin on the system. You only need to be an admin if the software to be installed needs certain capabilities.

On Linux this isn't typical. You usually need to be an admin to install deb or rpm. Things are changing but it's not fast.


Wait, what?

You mean, the Unix way of "you run your software from wherever you want" needs admin for installing software, while Windows doesn't?

You can lock Linux down so that normal users can't replace almost the entire system on their sessions. This is possible. It is also usually a lot of work.


Never forget, Gates actually went to Munich in a luxurious mobile office disguised as a delivery truck to cajole that mayor.[0]

[0]: https://www.golem.de/news/von-microsoft-zu-linux-und-zurueck...


Aside from the obvious strategic/people power side of it, honestly, I think being a user of closed-source is just the wrong model for a big organization. Ultimately, closed-source software is like running a factory with a machine you aren't allowed to repair.

Having your core means of production and security essentially at the mercy of somebody else's support team seems kind of insane to me. I get the point in the 90s, when software was a smaller part of all institutions, but these days, it's just such a massive strategic disadvantage that even if the software is way better, it's still worse.


> Ultimately, closed-source software is like running a factory with a machine you aren't allowed to repair.

But that's exactly how big organizations handle most internal needs! They don't have mechanics on the payroll to repair company cars - they take out a lease with someone who handles all that for them. They don't employ cleaners, they contract it out to a service company.


> Ultimately, closed-source software is like running a factory with a machine you aren't allowed to repair.

That... that is exactly how factories operate. When something breaks, they call the manufacturer to bring someone in to fix it.


I actually thought this when I was writing the comment. The difference is, you call the manufacturer when you actually need their specific expertise, and when they're your best option. You're not obligated to. They haven't generally purposefully hidden the internals of the machine from you - and most machines are designed to be serviced by end-users.

If every software supplier was like hilti when it came to support, I don't think there would be a problem - except, they aren't. An engineer from microsoft isn't going to turn up at your office if your computer won't switch on.


> you call the manufacturer when you actually need their specific expertise, and when they're your best option. You're not obligated to.

That depends entirely on the terms of your lease and service agreements. For high end equipment, like the CNC systems at my work, you may not even be given the option to purchase them, and they're so specialized you probably won't have someone that can competently work on them even if your service contact permitted it. Electronics manufacturers are also notorious for sanding off component info or burying components in epoxy blobs to hide information from competitors and customers alike.


I guess specialized equipment isn't really the analogue for most software. Most software is a bit like a hammer - a generic tool with worldwide application.

I can see the closed-source approach working for really complicated subdomains (like a geometrical constraint solver) where you really can't fix it unless you're immersed in the relevant maths - but that's just not what most software is, or where most bugs lie.

Another thing is, how many of the machines in any given factory are that specialized? My dad works in a factory with a bunch of different machines, and only in a couple of cases would it make sense to call an engineer if they broke down, because most of the machines are pretty straightforward. Is that just warping my expectations?


>I can see the closed-source approach working for really complicated subdomains (like a geometrical constraint solver)

Ha! Funny you should bring that up. CAD is one of the reasons why I don't run Linux as my daily driver and I just don't see the current projects ever catching up with companies like Dassault or Autodesk thanks to the size of their teams. Overall I think I agree with your assessment, there's nothing that special in most software that most people or companies need, but wow does it suck when you're not most people.

As for specialized equipment...if you're making boutique soap, the equipment is specialized but not terribly special, so you can and probably will work on it yourself or contract with a local service company rather than getting a factory tech for every little thing, but if you're cranking out high precision parts it's pretty standard for a tech to hop on a plane at a moment's notice to get your equipment running again because it's usually cheaper to do that with an expert than to suffer extended downtime. I couldn't say what the exact breakdown is of total machines in the US that falls into the two categories, but the more precise and automated it is the less likely you are to own or work on it.


CAD is really emblematic of the tragedy of closed-source. The few times I've used it, it's been obvious that the solidworks constraint solver is amazing, but the interface you use to work with it is a kind of horrible design-by-committee abomination. In the open-source world, solvespace has a way less good (fast/robust) constraint solver, but the interface is obviously made with care and love.

It feels like a lot of closed-source software is like that. They have a few core components that are simply gorgeous, then over them, they just tack an inordinate amount of trash.

Stuff like geometry libraries, math libraries, etc are just so universally applicable that it makes sense to treat them like infrastructure. Treating them like secret sauce is such a waste.


> Another thing is, how many of the machines in any given factory are that specialized?

As always: it depends. An automotive factory may have highly computerized systems in the hundreds for a dozen or so employees.

Or you may have mostly simple machines entirely serviceable by the factory personnel.

And anything in between.


Too little too late. Most “office collab” is going cloud. Neither Google nor MS are threatened by free/open thick client alternatives. Users will still need their onedrive googledrive for collab.

Admittedly some work is non collab but more and more of that gets pushed to SaaS.


That's less of an issue though as it's a bit easier to migrate. If everything were already on Linux, then switching cloud providers is much simpler than switching the desktop systems themselves.

Also from my own enterprise experience, Office 365 cloud has still got a long way to go.


That's the thing though - if cloud office has 80-90% of functionality of common desktop office then it's completely covers open source office value proposition. And for the rest several percent of power users open office is still lacking and not an option to switch.


It depends. If you have regulations that influence retention and audit trail etc it’s less easy to migrate.


I think this is Schleswig-Holstein's nextcloud instance: https://infonext.schleswig-holstein.de/nextcloud/index.php/l...



Even more, on 365 you can have the full desktop app, with fully integrated cloud collaboration and storage


You have to start somewhere and if you can switch just one software, which you can later also use on linux, it seems like the perfect way to go.

Switching is always painful and will result in some troubles. So keeping it at a minimum is a good idea.


Didn't Munich do this like 20 years ago and it was a complete failure?

Linux and OpenOffice. I think one of the major concerns at the time was that OpenOffice didn't work well with all the Excel and Word documents they needed to open, so people opted out and installed Windows instead. To the regular office worker, it didn't matter much if the computer ran Linux or Windows, as long as it worked.

To the IT admin, it might have been more work to administer thousands of Linux machines, due to the slightly less mature environment.


> Didn't Munich do this like 20 years ago and it was a complete failure?

No, it was reversed for political reasons. The majority of users were happy. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LiMux


My favorite part about that whole story is how Steve Ballmer, back then VP of MS, and even Bill Gates personally visited Munich to have a talk with the people involved, to convince them how much of a mistake it would be [0]

[0] https://www.golem.de/news/von-microsoft-zu-linux-und-zurueck...


Yups. From another thread:

> It got rolled back after they elected [a] mayor who got Microsoft to move their German headquarters to Munich.


I keep reading that all the time in tech forums, and it's just so far off the truth.

It always baffles me how we tech people lose sight of a product's quality and usability the moment it's a FOSS product. We feature new products here on HN everyday, which is "like X but better", and it gets lots of upvotes in the style of "OMG finally someone builds something better".

But then you have a FOSS initiative, and because of FOSS, we turn two blind eyes?

People in an administration don't care about FOSS or not FOSS. And they shouldn't. Their job is to solve other problems. IT and software is there to serve the administration. If, as a user, I can't get my actual job done, or only with much more hassle than before, then that's all that matters.

If we want FOSS to succeed in administrations, we have to put the same product hat on that we wear when we look at all the other software showcased here on HN. And Limux (that was the project's name) just brutally failed here.


> Didn't Munich do this like 20 years ago and it was a complete failure?

Yes, but the failure was basically manufactured. You cannot keep every process as it was before and just install Linux/libre office, yet that is what they did.

Their current processes are optimized for windows to a degree that usage of the Microsoft office suite is part of the training they undergo.

Switching at this point would be a multi-year process that cannot be rushed. Each task needs to be evaluated separately and a new solution has to be tested and likely engineered from the ground up.


The problem with Munich was lobbyism, they were almost done with porting all their systems.


> Their current processes are optimized for windows to a degree that usage of the Microsoft office suite is part of the training they undergo.

Isn't it just regular office software? What processes do you have for dealing with spreadsheets and text documents?



It wasn't a complete failure, more the opposite, a great success. Until Microsoft moved their HQ to Munich and some old conservatives started complaining about some miniscule problems. Of course, there were issues, every software has issues. And Bavaria's IT is very problematic in general, having many issues overall. But those were all solvable, at a cheaper price than the rollback to Windows had cost at the end.

And fun fact: now 4 Years later, after the reigning political party has changed, they are switching back to Open Source and probably Linux.


I'd say success, period. Not in migrating to one software or the other (who cares), but in migrating a large company's national headquarters to your city.


> To the IT admin, it might have been more work to administer thousands of Linux machines, due to the slightly less mature environment.

Perhaps they weren't used to non-GUI automation.


> Now switch to Linux too

Yes, that seems to be the plan. Literally the first paragraph says

> and the Windows operating system is to be replaced by GNU/Linux


This could be a major ease on state budgets, also communal ones and allow to allocate resources where they are more urgently needed. Might require high initial costs for setup & staff education which would amortize over a few years for sure.


If you could save money by switching to Linux from Windows, I’d expect to see much more Linux machines in corporations.


I only saw linux machines in SE companies so far (at least remote ones). Maybe, just maybe, it is because non-tech people 1) cant handle it as cli is needed from time to time 2) because personal preferences & habits make it almost impossible to "force" using linux on staff..?


> because personal preferences & habits make it almost impossible to "force" using linux on staff..?

I’m willing to speculate office workers won’t care. More and more people will have smartphone as the only personal computer. So it won’t be about them not wanting to use Linux at work because they run Windows at home.


3) Excel macros and VBscript


*aka cancer / high burden to switch systems to [insert any turing-complete language]


4) distribution madness

5) lack of userland backwards compatibility

6) poor commercial application support...


I remember in mid-late 2000s, I was surprised to see Linux and Libre tools everywhere in Govt. offices in India e.g.In Public transport systems.

Which might explain why India supposedly had the largest Linux user base[1] then(Might still hold true[2]).

Then Bill Gates made a deal with the Govt, Everything became Windows. Nadella made a even bigger deal, Everything became Azure.

P.S. Certain states in India e.g. Kerala could still be using FOSS in Govt. officers, but I'm not certain.

[1] https://www.pingdom.com/blog/linux-popularity-across-the-glo...

[2] https://gs.statcounter.com/os-market-share/all/india


> By the end of 2026, Microsoft Office is to be replaced by LibreOffice on all 25,000 computers used by civil servants and employees (including teachers), and the Windows operating system is to be replaced by GNU/Linux

It literally says they are going to switch to Linux in the first paragraph.


In Spain some steps have already been taken. At least on Madrid, all schools use MAX, which is developed by public workers and includes useful open-source apps that integrate with the existing EducaMadrid platform, entirely run on open-source software. With that said, people have a hard time using it compared to Windows, which they are most likely already used to use. It also becomes a problem when you need to use it at home. Most people dont know how to install an OS.


I agree with your arguments but the Linux desktop sucks, I would never want to use it full time let alone support it (note that I used to be a full time Linux desktop user, I left after KDE 4 came about). Linus Tech Tips is running a series on desktop Linux and they are hitting the hammer on the nail where exactly all the pain points are.


I would agree that the Linux Desktop sucks in absolute terms when we think what a sane Desktop experience could look like but compared to Windows, this does not hold true.

Linux has quite improved from the early KDE 4 days. These days, you install Linux Mint with Cinnamon and you are good to go. Super easy to use and just works. It is based on Ubuntu, so you can use all the packages but with the bad stuff and experiments removed.

Modern Windows is absolutely dystopian in comparison. Not being happy with getting money from licenses, they try to gather all the data about you that they can and try to shove their other services into your face. And then the whole update story. Not only do you need to restart the computer, you can't even do anything else while it is updating and it is taking its time.

Plus every damn Windows Computer in every school, university or whatever has always been maddening slow. (Yeah, I know it all depends on the specs and how it is configured and if you are running some silly antivirus and so on but still. Install Linux and you get a fast and responsive experience and it stays that way.)

Honestly I don't see any reason to run Windows instead of Linux in 2021 except maybe running very specific software that does not run well on Wine.


This has been said ad infinitum. My experience is that Windows works, but very poorly. It is slow, hangs, steals my data and treats me like an abusive parent treats a toddler.

But for me, Linux doesn't work. Or maybe it works 90%. Something's always broken, and a different thing is broken with each update. It requires constant tinkering.

One flawless and amazing experience I had was working on Linux at a medium-sized tech firm, which had a dedicated sysadmin team who knew what they were doing. As a decent Linux user I could never maintain anything like that level of service on personal machines.

I think it's quite telling that so few vendors sell you hardware+Linux+promise of it all working well. There are quite a few who will sell you hardware and pinky promise you can install Linux on it yourself, but that's not the same.


You're all talking past each other!

It depends on the machines.

I'm biased towards Linux. I also really like Macs.

I've had Linux machines that just works. Buuuuut, before getting my hands on those machines I researched online and ensured that Linux works well on those. In my personal experience, Dell (Inspiron/Vostro/Latitude/XPS) and some ThinkPads usually work fine.

On such machines, everything works out of the box. I've had to do nothing special on those machines to make anything work. Things worked right from the first install.

Now, there are definitely plenty of machines out there where Linux DOES NOT work well out of the box.

So, I guess Windows gets a brownie point for that — you don't have to investigate upfront if Windows is going you work on a given consumer machine; it probably works on more consumer computers than Linux. (However, there's more to it than this if you think about how this situation came about; I don't want to open that can of worms here).

My hope is that, if enough people choose to run Linux, then manufacturers might be incentivised to support Linux better so that even more people would choose Linux, and so on.

I refuse to run Windows because:

• I honestly just really like Linux, BSD, and unixy environments.

• Windows had a clunky developer experience the last time I tried it (a decade ago); I hear it has improved, but frankly I don't care.

• Statements like "Linux is cancer" from you-know-who never sat well with me. I suspect they're still evil.

I also refrain from running Cinnamon because that reminds me of Windows from long long ago, and I'd rather not be reminded of Windows.

Having said all that, I think LibreOffice is inferior to MS Office. It was the one Microsoft product that I actually liked.


What exactly does not work? What Distro were you using?

Serious question because my experience is that I install Linux Mint and everything just works. Updates never break anything. Why should they?

The only arguable pain point is maybe graphics drivers but honestly installing proprietary ones is just a few clicks these days. Plus you don't need them for office work anyway. (Maybe also some power saving features on certain lesser known laptops? As a ThinkPad user I always enjoyed great support.)


This is the standard reaction I’ve heard so often from experienced Linux users, but you tend to forget all the trouble you’re able to solve because you know what you’re doing. Consider proprietary graphics drivers - ordinary people won’t even know why that is an issue, where to look if the display flickers, or what even drivers are. And that’s just the start of it… I’ve never had a Linux box that didn’t require me to open a terminal to fix something after a while. Updates definitely break something sometimes, because the people publishing them are humans that make mistakes. Why shouldn’t they?

If you’re using a Thinkpad, you’re well of. Try a cheaper machine, and be surprised by exciting tinkering opportunities like fast battery drainage, issues connecting external displays, external printers not being recognised, or Bluetooth speakers not playing audio. We can fix it, my mom cannot.


> Consider proprietary graphics drivers - ordinary people won’t even know why that is an issue, where to look if the display flickers, or what even drivers are.

Why would an employee that wasn't part of IT procurement ever be thinking about that? If you're telling me that it's impossible to hire a single person for procurement who can figure out whether your machines will run on the OS your organization has chosen, I'm going to insist that's not true.

> I’ve never had a Linux box that didn’t require me to open a terminal to fix something after a while.

I'm going to make the guess that you never run a stable distribution for your own personal desktop, like Debian stable, for example. For some reason, most individuals pretend to need a bleeding edge desktop. Organizations don't. Debian Stable is as fragile as a mountain.


Because there are only two ways to get up to date software on Linux: 1) run a bleeding edge distro, 2) compile from source.

Neither of these are good options.


What does "up to date" even mean in this context? It's not like there is a new version of Kmail every day. Why do you care if your version is a bit older?

That said, the exception is a browser, where I would prefer to use the upstream version for security reasons.


> What does "up to date" even mean in this context? It's not like there is a new version of Kmail every day. Why do you care if your version is a bit older?

Honestly, anything that a developer has pushed. Sometimes I want an SVN build of DOSBox or need a bleeding edge feature of some tool I use all the time. On Windows, this is simply a matter of downloading a binary, but by and large Linux software doesn't work that way. Distros expect that you will use whatever version of a package they have seen fit to grace you with, or you compile from source like it is 1975.

It is not unreasonable or unrealistic to ask for a stable platform upon which one can run bleeding edge applications, yet this remains painful on Linux Desktop.


For this we now have the AppImage format! (or snap/flatpack depending on your preference)

For the few cases were you need bleeding edge you can just download and run it just like on Windows. For most applications bleeding edge is really not necessary and you can just normally install via package manager.


If only that were true, but there isn't an AppImage (my preference, but same applies to flat and sanp too) for every program. Or even most programs in my experience.


Yeah, honestly I don't understand understand why it is not more popular. Probably still needs a bit of time to really catch on.

Though I don't think the situation is that bleak. Any popular application where user have a reasonable interest in having the latest version should have some way to ship it on Linux?

Thinking about what I personally use, blender just has a tarball, no trouble, VS Codium, Godot, Unity, Love2d all have AppImages, the IntelliJ IDEs can be installed via snap. Browsers are handled by package manager. Most of my dev stuff is running on docker anyway.

Yes, it is a bit of a mess with all the different ways to ship binaries but I can't think of something I am painfully missing. I don't care about having the newest version for most apps though so maybe I am more easily pleased.


None of that matters in this case, since the users don't purchase or administer their computers.

The IT department selects appropriate configurations that support the software they need. My university has no problem supporting a Linux laptop and desktop, and Germany's administration would be doing something similar.


I'm not arguing that, but I was specifically responding to parent which referred to their own, personal Linux setup.


I recently installed Ubuntu on an old laptop. Everything worked for a week. Then the touchpad stopped working.

There are many pages telling you how to debug a touchpad. I tried various incantations of installing, reinstalling, uninstalling drivers, one set or another. I ran some special commands to capture messages coming out of the touchpad - showing it actually, at some level, worked. Just didn't move the mouse. Nothing helped.

That it's even a thing to debug a touchpad is precisely what's "wrong" with Linux. Windows, crapware that it is, for me had never this kind of 1->0 failures. It's just all meh.


I believe the hardware stores state internally somehow.

I dual booted a laptop Ubuntu/Windows for a while. And if a closed down Windows with the power cable connected then the NVidia card would not work in Ubuntu.

The touch pad probably need some magic numbers to reset some state.


Ubuntu, The system will only display 4 letters per line.

https://askubuntu.com/questions/1330100/only-the-first-four-...

As one recent example. For me MS works much better than Ubuntu on a day to day basis. I would much prefer a Linux, but I want one that gets out of the way and allows me to do work instead of hand hold it.


I'm not the parent but I'll answer as a 9 years Linux user and advocate.

Things just break with updates, or sometimes do not work. I'm on Ubuntu 20 right now and Firefox can't detect the microphone on some websites like FB or instagram, but works just fine on Chrome. On my home computer running Arch and similar setup Firefox detects the mic just fine.

It's brittle, it feels like it's duct tapes all the way down and the breakage is mostly because not many foss projects really care about backwards compatibility.

However, on topic, the awful mess that is the Linux desktop experience does not matter since we're talking about public servants and not home use.


Your example sounds more like typical Firefox to me. While I use it as my daily driver, video calls should always be done in Chrome in my experience. (Yeah, I know that is not exactly a point in favor of free software but it is what it is.)

Honestly at least relative to the general mood of the software industry I wouldn't say that foss projects don't care about backwards compatibility. The kernel is famous for caring a lot about it. The Debian project is quite known for being relatively conservative. Unfortunately Ubuntu is known for experimenting on its users but thank god nobody is forced to use that.


Why are you doing video calls in a browser in the first place ?


Because that is how it is done now days?

Browsers have supported video calls for years now. Heck there are plenty of Show HN posts about the latest in browser virtual chat rooms with full video and audio.


Did I use the wrong preposition or are you telling me to always use proper apps for it?

I don't see the issue, yes Teams is crap in Browser but most WebRTC based solutions work fine, at least in Chrome. Plus if I can avoid installing proprietary Software that is always a plus.


Fingerprint reader does not work in Manjaro.


If you have "supported" hardware, the Arch wiki probably have a solution to that problem: https://wiki.archlinux.org/title/Fprint


Yep, I've looked at that and my hardware isn't supported.


Interesting how our experience with Linux is exactly the opposite. I love the fact that once I set it up, it simply works (Ubuntu). Flawless updates. No changes, no endless forced updates + restarts, no ads, no tracking, and most of all, capable terminals (no, git bash and wsl on Windows can't compete). I am saying that from a position of someone who is on Linux for 15 years now and works on Windows at $JOB when requested. Windows XP weren't even that bad, but Win10... awful.


> These days, you install Linux Mint with Cinnamon and you are good to go.

This story is told since early days of Ubuntu. Reality still is not like that. As always, it strongly depends on what you do and what not. I'm using Linux as my main driver for 25 years, but still have a windows-install for certain tasks like gaming and certain hardware&software. And overall I consider the user-friendliness of windows still higher than linux. From my experience, casual task are working far better with windows out of the box than they do with linux. Though, this is of course not so much true for cases of heavy modification, as we have them in companies. In that case Linux seems to be overall better.


Funny you mentioned Mint with Cinnamon because Luke distrohopped from Mint because he couldn't solve an issue with window dragging and it's been a known bug for over 7 years now.

https://youtu.be/mN3QFw2BEcw?t=3845 https://github.com/linuxmint/cinnamon/issues/2465

> Linux has quite improved from X. These days, you install Y and you are good to go. Super easy to use and just works. It is based on Z, so you can use all the packages but with the bad stuff and experiments removed.

People have been saying this since literally forever. Just replace X, Y and Z with whatever's in vogue right now. I've been through enough forum threads and chats all the way back to when forums were still a thing and IRC dominated the chat space. It's always the same "it's different this time around". No it's not, the Linux desktop has structural issues that will never be solved because of its decentralized and throw away nature.

I'm not saying this is a reason to pick Windows though, your gripes with Windows are valid too, but a Linux desktop to solve Window's problems doesn't seem like a solution to me.


KDE 5 is also really good IMO. I like it much more than Mate or Cinnamon.


Honestly, all desktops suck these days. I find GNOME quite usable if you don't approach it as "fake Windows" or "fake macOS", while Windows 11 feels more like an incomplete KDE fork that tries to be Windows 10.

The problems the LTT videos are pointing out are problems that office workers don't need to deal with. They don't need to deal with package management, drivers or games. They need a browser, a home directory and an office suite. The LTT videos struggle with the obvious problems, most of which come down to very specific use cases (say, video streaming) and compatibility stuff (getting things developed for Windows, mostly games, to work). Also note that while Linus has been having tons of issues, his counterpart Luke has mostly been encountering minor annoyances.

I think the Linux desktop is great for a) advanced users and b) beginners that only do basic home and office work. The pain comes when you need to do moderately advanced stuff like automations, system configurations and obscure tools that few other people are using, or that aren't designed to run on that platform. In those circumstances, the community will direct you to the command line more often than not, and those users don't have the experience (or even the need, normally) to use it.

In a recent podcast the LTT folks said they were considering doing an episode approaching Windows from the same standpoint as Linux. Getting some basic stuff working on Windows (or macOS, for that matter) can be as much of a pain as getting it done on Linux, but we've been teaching kids how to use those systems for decades now.


I've used Linux full-time at home for 10 years, and now at work (in an enterprise). For the most part, it works well and doesn't require a whole lot more support.

The LTT video hit one specific packaging bug in PopOS that was present for only an hour, and was unfortunate. But to judge so much on that is unreasonable, shit happens in software engineering, it'd be like trying to use Facebook in the window where it was down and concluding that Facebook is completely unreliable.

I'm not a PopOS user myself, but I have a lot of respect for everything they've achieved. It's not fair to constantly attack them for this one incident.


> The LTT video hit one specific packaging bug in PopOS that was present for only an hour, and was unfortunate.

It's not just that. There are a whole lot more issues that were explained in the WAN show episodes, for example not being able to drag and drop between a GTK and QT app. As a technical user I understand why this happens but am frustrated that this issue exists in the first place as there is also no technical reason why it can't be fixed. As a new user or someone not technically inclined it must be completely mind boggling to have to find out the hard way that certain things don't work between certain apps.


> The LTT video hit one specific packaging bug in PopOS that was present for only an hour

The PopOS install ISO was made during when the packaging bug was occurring. and remained up for months. They finally replaced it after the Linus Tech Tips video came out. Anyone who installed Steam without first updating the system broke their install.


As someone who used to be an avid linux desktop user, but has subsequently moved away from it and is interested in the current ecosystem with a view to maybe coming back, what would you say is a good entry point?

I used to run Ubuntu back in the day if that helps.

I'm curious to get a sense of how much has changed.


I'd recommend Arch Linux for developers.

It takes a little bit of set-up / learning at the start. But you can easily try it out with a tool like ALMA - https://github.com/r-darwish/alma

See my preset files here - https://github.com/jamesmcm/arch-i3-usb

But PopOS is probably the closest to the previous beginner Ubuntu experience now.


As a counter-recommendation, I'd recommend openSUSE Tumbleweed for developers. It is also rolling-release, but packages are more heavily tested. It's easier to set up. And by default, it uses btrfs and provides a useful snapshot tool called snapper.

While breaking has become relatively rare on Arch, it's simply easier to set up a stable environment without having to keep a close eye on updates with Tumbleweed.


Also, if you don’t want the hardcore(!!!) installation experience of Arch Linux, try Manjaro Linux instead. It has one of the most sane defaults and the best GPU driver management system, and you can customize a lot of it since it’s just Arch under the hood.


> I'd recommend Arch for Linux developers.

fixed it for you ;)


Thanks for the presets, I'll have a glance through it.


Ubuntu is very stable and easy to get started with. I know there's some frustration with Canonical's direction, but it's still very much the distro I'd recommend to anyone who's just getting started. Everything more or less works out of the box for me (as much as it ever did with Windows), and Ubuntu still has the advantage of being the primary focus of most online documentation.


I use Ubuntu and Linux Mint as my Linux Desktop. While I write enterprise backend server software for Linux ( C++ usually) I am far from being anywhere near "the Linux Expert". Most of my Linux development / debugging is done using Visual Studio (the real one) and Visual Studio Code right from the Windows Desktop.

Still I do some work on Linux Desktop. For example I am using Linux Desktop and Lazarus / Freepascal Combo to develop Linux Desktop GUI applications.

From my experience go with majors - Ubuntu and Mint. My reason for it is that those have most answers on Internet when doing search. Easiest to find packages for as well. Every time I tried something more exotic I was stopped by having to deal with the different package management and way more hassles to find up to date software packages I need or trying to build from sources. I am sure the "experts" could solve it but I have better things to do with my life and am not willing to learn some not really exciting stuff just for the kick of it.


You have so much choice! That's where Linux scores.

In my way of seeing it, there are 2 main classes of distribution at the moment:

1) Rolling update distros like Arch. 2) Distributions which offer "releases" some of which are long-term ones that don't change much except for security fixes e.g. Ubuntu.

I love the rolling distributions like ARCH and its derivatives because I hate having to do the once-every-2-years "big upgrade" that you get if you want to have a modern linux.

You pay for that with the potential for slightly more breakage from time to time (that is usually quickly fixed).

This suits my personality perfectly but you might just want a safe drive and you'd choose one of the Ubuntu-derivates and download the Long Term Support release. You could be experimental within containers or virtual machines and benefit from having a more robust host.

NB. I wouldn't waste time on Fedora - it's not too stable AND releases age quickly so I found it a pain to deal with.


I've been using Arch Linux on Lenovo hardware (desktops and laptops) and have had no problems in years. I imagine the "easy" distros are even better with even more features. I wouldn't sweat it too much.


Go with a mainstream distro to experiment and get a hang of it like Ubuntu, Fedora, PopOS, Mint etc.

Main reason is that searching for sulutions in the web is much better for distros with a big user-base. Additionally understanding the trade-offs of different distros is very hard if you are not already in the ecosystem, hence just go with something to get your foot in the door and don't sweat it.

Once you experience the papercuts and you get comfortable with them you can go into more advanced distros like Arch (derivatives e.g. Manjaro), Fedora Silverblue (what I currently use), etc.

If you can get a friend to help you go with the installation process, that 'll be very useful.

P.S. my TLDR suggestion would be to go with vanilla Fedora and use flatpaks for proprietary apps like steam/zoom/etc.


I didn't get on much with fedora when I last used it, it sounds like it's gotten better though.


For what it's worth I have about 200 Linux Laptops and VDI (about 3:1 ratio) and the support burden is much less than Windows.

Need to perform an update on the fleet? Click a couple buttons to version a repo to dev, old dev to test, test to prod, schedule a remote execution of `yum update -y`, wait. None of this will it won't it work song and dance of Windows updates.

Need to perform a config change? Branch the ansible playbook repo, test your changes, merge to master, pull down repo on foreman, and schedule playbook execution.

No bullshit, all text files, all standard protocols. It just works as I would hope Windows would.


I really don't get the hate that Linux Desktop gets. When comparing Mac OS to Gnome the difference feels marginal (at least for normal users) these days - everything feels snappy, consistent and looks nice. What exactly are the pain points?


Hmm, I use Ubuntu for casual non-work stuff on a couple of old laptops, and it's totally fine for that, but the few times I have tried to do work things start to get a little less fine. Even with a clipboard manager, copy and paste is less reliable than on macOS, keyboard shortcuts (and ability to tweak them per-program or OS-wide) are clunkier or just not possible. Of course, I feel the same way when I have to use Windows for anything other than games...


Linux came a long way since then. For projects like this, Zorin would be a great way to start. But even a standard desktop like Mint would already be a very good starting point.

Don't forget that LTT is has two things that are not relevant for administration work: they try to game (which heavily influences their OS choice) and they need to figure out everything themselves. These cities can offer curated packages, the user does not have to figure out which package to use for what, the IT team provides them.

With those two things in mind, the LTT story shows exactly that this can actually work, provided there is support for the rough edges. Windows also has rough edges by the way.


I can imagine Linux desktop being made to work pretty well for a constrained work environment like an office.


>Linus Tech Tips is running a series on desktop Linux and they are hitting the hammer on the nail where exactly all the pain points are.

I watched it, they failed to install Steam (the game platform) on Pop!_OS via the package manager, then tried to remove it. A bug also caused apt to remove the entire desktop shell (with 3 separate warnings to NOT DO THIS), and Linus happily typed "Yes, do as I say!" and broke the desktop env.


My favourite desktop is the Unity desktop by Canonical, which used to be the old Ubuntu desktop.

I felt like I could tell they were building it for actual users. There were things like the corner pixels activating logout, so you could just drag your mouse straight to the corner of the screen.

It also ran well on old hardware.

Ubuntu moving to the Gnome interface again was a step back in my opinion, but it shows what can be done if there is a business with a clear vision.


Ditto. Unity still works but is increasingly broken and will never work on wayland. However, kde plasma can be made to work like like unity. I recently went through this exercise a couple of days ago, and I think I'll be able to manage with plasma once unity dies.


I quite liked Unity, myself, but I recall that the Linux community was very upset and vocal at Canonical for having ditched Gnome. It's really hard to please everyone.


I like KDE 5 very much, personally, and am a user of the KDE Neon distro. If you've looked again at KDE recently, what are your primary paint points?


I can understand why you left after kde 4 came out. That release gave me more trouble with desktop Linux than anything else in the last 10 years.


I agree with you but they did in Munich and then they undid it.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LiMux


They undididing the undid


I wonder whether the person or company who paid for the first undiding got the payment undided.


> collaboratively investing so that everyone benefits and Europe can build its own Tech industry and have some independence from the US.

So you'll end-up having devs on the payroll instead of license fees.

Also, you'll need to compete with the US for the best devs to work on your platform now that you are effectively building a competitor.


I'd like to see a better GUI before forcing that switch.

Is there something more simple than the Gnome GUI that ships by default with Ubuntu? I've been playing with Gnome/KDE since the late 90's and they still are behind IMHO. Is there something more like iOS-simplicity for Linux distros? That would be key.


I have been using linux for decades without any need to revert to Microsoft windows ... No excuses hold water on any org to continue to cowtow to "requiring Microsoft windows"


It says they are going to do that as well - in the first paragraph.

Did you even read the article?


As italian I can't agree more


Yes and about time, and yes USA and rest of world should catch on also.


I think they tried that and it was an expensive disaster.


That sounds so wonderful! Hopefully the US can also come together by divesting from European goods and services and also participate in this independence movement!


Trade might be a good thing in general, but this comment is a bit reductionist with respect to the role of US Big Tech in suppressing and controlling EU tech


The EU seems to have no problem legislating against and penalizing US Big Tech in return. IMO the European attitude towards entrepreneurship and startups does more harm to EU tech than "US Big Tech" ever would or could


I was recently talking to a friend in Spain about a startup idea and he said no way could he join a startup (in a senior role) because if it failed his career would never recover.

AFAICT it really is the attitude pushing so much innovation out of the EU and not the legal environment much less the competition. The newer members like Hungary and Romania seem to have a lot less of this problem (but more of other problems like stable business environment and predictable rule of law).


What kind of harm, i.e. which stats to look at to compare the different approaches?


That's an entirely empty threat. Our trade deficit is larger than the GDP of half the countries on earth combined. What are we going to do with what we purchase in Europe - switch to buying it from China?


The US started this already by imposing tariffs on European goods like steel.


Plenty of US people like and make open source software. You don't need to be worried.


I think the main "drawback" of LibreOffice is that it is not widely used. If you receive a docx document and it formats funny, or vice versa (common on LibreOffice and not entirely their fault), it's on you for using weird software, or penny-pinching on a MS Office license.

If it becomes common, people just accept the minor incompatibility and move on. It will also get better as funds and attention flow to these projects.

As far as I'm concerned, LibreOffice lacks no features I would remotely consider using.

It's like when Windows was the sole mainstream OS, it wasn't an excuse "oh but I'm on Mac and can't run this". Now Macs are mainstream, and Linux is not, it's still in a "weird nerdy" corner. But not so if it just gets more widely used (it's happening, just slowly).


> If it becomes common, people just accept the minor incompatibility and move on

If LibreOffice becomes more popular people will receive an odt document, MS Office will format it funny and it will be their fault for using weird software.


I think the situation parent writes about is more likely (and more informative). Namely that there are places with two major-enough platforms such that everyone has to accommodate both (e.g. browsers).


>>LibreOffice lacks no features I would remotely consider using.

Yup. I use it all the time just fine, and set the default format to .XLS and .DOC (not the X versions which are bogus MS bastardizations of XML anyway) and I've had no interchange problems.

Over the last decade or so, I occasionally see some Excel feature that might be switch-over-worthy, but then the whole MS setup is so much of a hassle I don't bother — NO I'm not interested in a monthly subscription, NO I'm not interested in online-only or Online-First, HELL NO I'm not interested in a Microsoft Account — I just want a package I can install locally and run when needed.

Then, the next version, LibreOffice has that feature.

So, great move by Schleswig-Holstein and also very strategic - right to repair, right to not be held over a barrel by a monopoly, etc..

Let's hope it catches on.

(And now that I'm writing about this, I realize I haven't sent LibreOffice a donation in too long, so I'm off to do that now...)


> set the default format to .XLS and .DOC (not the X versions which are bogus MS bastardizations of XML anyway)

I don't like the proprietary nature of OOXML formats either, but why are the older formats like .xls and .doc better than them? At least I can unzip a .docx file to extract the media and get the text and formatting in a machine-readable structure, all without the help of an office suite at all.


I mostly find the XLS/DOC formats more compact and they seem a bit more compatible with transferring to Excel vs the X version, but that is just a rough impression, not the result of any explicit testing. I'll give it another look - thx for the tip!


> If you receive a docx document and it formats funny, or vice versa (common on LibreOffice and not entirely their fault), it's on you for using weird software, or penny-pinching on a MS Office license.

But the funny thing is that Libreoffice has better compatibility with documents composed with older versions of Word than newer versions of Office do. When MS Office loads up an old MS Office document badly, people gripe about Microsoft. When Libreoffice loads an old MS Office document badly, people gripe about whoever made the decision to install Libreoffice.


> LibreOffice lacks no features I would remotely consider using

That right there is EXACTLY the problem with LibreOffice. You see no problem with it. Other programmers see no problem with it. Programmers convert their grandmother to using it and their grandmother doesn't even notice. Success! Right? Wrong.

It's missing a lot. Just not the things a programmer would notice.

Here's a simple example:

I have a document with multiple languages in it. Sometimes multiple languages in the same sentence (it's a guidebook for translating between two languages). When I open it in Word, it detects where one language starts and another ends. It provides spell-checking for both languages automatically.

LibreOffice? I had to dig through the config panels to enable this feature, and even then, it was on a global basis. Not per-document. If I type a word in language B into some random document now, but it's really a word in language A with a typo, now LibreOffice will silently accept it. Maddening.


In France I've always seen OpenOffice and then LibreOffice being used in schools & administrations, and it never was an issue


You are right that Microsoft Office, Google Apps, and Libre Office are all fine for 98% of all users' needs.

Microsoft office does more. If I were to produce a book with proper front matter and index, glued together from multiple chapter documents, I would choose Word. But Microsoft Office does not work collaboratively as well as Google Apps, which were born cloud-based. Microsoft Office is laggy and fails completely with large numbers of collaborators (i.e. 20+ simultaneous editors). But these use cases are for 2% of users.


This is the kind of story that would have been cheered on on Slashdot twenty years ago. But here we are in 2021 and a major organization having the temerity to not pay the Microsoft tax is newsworthy. This is not what a free market looks like.


It's the kind of story that was cheered on on Slashdot. Multiple times. I can't count the number of times I've seen "Some German [agency|municipality|state] [is planning to adopt|has adopted|cancels adoption|reverses adoption] of [StarOffice|OpenOffice|Libreoffice|Linux]". I think it's some kind of meme, the product of peculiar German administrative politics, or a result of vigorous Free Software activism in Germany because I don't see such headlines nearly as often for any other locality.


Also there a _lot_ of different cities and municipalities in Europe. And when it succeeds you don't usually hear about it.

Like when I worked at an MPI in Germany, all the machines used Ubuntu. In Catalonia, most of the universities also use Ubuntu. The Ayuntamiento uses LibreOffice (and maybe also Ubuntu in some parts) - and for the most part, it all just works. It was the same in Zaragoza too.

You only notice it when they accidentally send a .odt file to someone who is only using Windows for example.


This is mostly because the "Munich case" was a star example for a long time. Also, star division, the company that started star office, is from Germany.


That's why Germany is a great place that would adopt open source more, because they have prominent "own" projects like Suse Linux or that office suite. Now, nothing much has come of that in that way (but the German university I briefly studied at, did use Suse, of course).


It’s not true that there is a MS tax on office software - you can now run Google Suite, so there is at least one major competitor.


One major competitor who's also a massive corporation and has an even more questionable approach to handling user data.

So while it might not be a pure "MS tax" anymore, in a way there still is a corporate monopoly tax.


Why is it that nobody can compete? I've tried various versions of excel/word clones and none seem to operate as well despite it seeming relatively straightforward


These days it's more and more the lack of online collaborative tools that is a problem.


How many different implementations of basic office software do we need? There's no point having hundreds of companies independently building the same thing.


Putting all your eggs into one basket is a bad approach for pretty much anything, particularly when that basket is one that has its own monetary interests as its main motivator.

You want valid alternatives to keep the products offered competitive, and the competitors honest, as entrenched monopolies are rarely conductive to innovation and often extremely opposed to consumer interests.


>This is not what a free market looks like

What do you mean by this? Companies choosing the best option rather than the cheapest option is perfectly compatible with a free market. MS Office has been designed for decades to be easy to manage and support and has plenty of training resources available. LibreOffice still has plenty of rough edges in those areas. As an individual user, maybe those are worth overlooking for you. At the scale of a company where time is money, it's much more important to get something reliable.

Also, an unregulated free market always turns into a monopoly (or at best an oligopoly) eventually. It's been shown time and time again.


> an unregulated free market always turns into a monopoly (or at best an oligopoly) eventually

Free doesn't mean unregulated.


There are several commercial alternatives to MS Office I prefer WPS Office or Softmaker Office to OpenOffice.

In my personal opinion OpenOffice is not a suitable alternative.

I still let MS suck money with Office365 due to great grammar and spell checking (in multiple languages),

A set of features I use a lot that are not available in the competition,

A couple of useful add ins/integratioF

Full compatibility with other Office365 victims.

Plus, a huge set of templates are available for free or for purchase.

Corel Word Perfect Suite https://www.wordperfect.com/en/product/office-suite/

WPS Office Suite https://www.wps.com/ Quite a few people I know switched to WPS Office Suite when Microsoft demanded subscription fees. It seems ok for most things. Much easier for people to adopt coming from Office than Open Office.

The Apple Office Apps

Softwaker Free Office (German) https://www.softmaker.com/en/ https://www.freeoffice.com/en/


I think it's misguided.

1) Some orgs are stuck with older LO versions 2) veresions that aren't good enough, MS marketing team probably doesn't have to make a lot of efforts to entice organizations to pay for their stuff. For instance Writer custom fields UI is way too hard to use (to the point i'm not sure it's not a bug). You can't make people work with that no matter how trained they are.


I'm all for using free / open source where it makes sense and is cost effective. And frankly, Office is probably overkill for most of the actual needs of users. Having said that, I tried making a three page brochure a year ago, using the most recent LibreOffice release at the time. Just a mix of some screenshots and paragraphs of text. It was just too slow to be useable. On the same computer, Google Docs running in the browser was able to handle the same brochure without any noticeable slowdowns of any kind. That's a strong indication that LibreOffice is just ... not up to the task.


As much as I want to support libreOffice, my experience has been the same as yours.

The whole office suite just feels so janky/stutter-y/not-smooth. Its like there are fps drops or slight pauses before many actions. It is quite irritating. Also on a hidpi/4k display, many things still do not scale properly.


I wonder if there some specific bug you’re both hitting? I have a modest workstation and have not experienced this (fwiw 99% Writer/Calc, with the occasional slideshow)


Same experience yesterday running latest stable from the website on a brand new M1M MBP with Monterey. Laggy, with a garish UI straight out of 1998.


This whole thread seems to love the principle of LibreOffice, but ignores the fact that actually using it is a slog and a half.


Huh? Even on my PowerPC Macs it’s usually been pretty smooth?


Seems to be a running trend in Germany to move toward open software. Tangentially related to this: The city of Munich has flip-flopped between their own version of linux and windows [0].

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LiMux


>Seems to be a running trend in Germany to move toward open software.

Yeah, until the Ms sales guys wine and dine some German politicians and promise to build a new campus in $BIG_CITY that creates ## jobs, then they suddenly decide to renew their windows and office licenses instead. Rinse and repeat.


Sure, it has nothing to do with overall better UX that the actual users of these computers require, it's all corruption.


Better UI ? Ten years ago, yes. Now the UI in Office 365 is a disaster. And yes, some german politicians are very sensitive when money starts to flow.


Whether it's a disaster or not it's subjective. I think you'll find many people prefer how it is now, including the useful new features like xlookup.

Either way, it's what people are used to, and changing everyone's well established memory will be very difficult and expensive.


> Either way, it's what people are used to

The only reason people are used to it is because MS has spend decades, and plenty of money, getting their foot into pretty much every IT education of relevance.

Free student/teacher versions are just one example of that, which then leads to MS products being everywhere, and consequently MS products are what most people get taught on in most educational settings.

This doesn't just apply to Office software, it applies to whole operating systems and is what keeps the MS monopoly entrenched to this day.


> The only reason people are used to it is because MS has spend decades, and plenty of money, getting their foot into pretty much every IT education of relevance.

This is the same argument that people have used for the last 20 years of "this year is the year for Linux on the Desktop!". I don't think it was true then or now. People that use Linux consciously, or unconsciously, build/buy systems that work with Linux. I've tried many times in the past but gave up and moved to OS X after getting tired of fiddling with wifi, sleep/wake, trackpad, graphics switching, and battery life problems. If I'm going to buy a system for an OS, I might as well optimize the integration by buying an integrated system/OS. I suppose you could claim those are the fault of MS popularity, but I claim it's the result of volunteers not having financial incentive to add support for the random hardware that was in my computer.

I was used to Windows, but I'm not using Linux only because I didn't buy a system for it.


> I don't think it was true then or now.

It was true back then and remains true to this day even with smartdevices taking over and slowly pushing desktops out of the educaton sector.

Anybody who grew up since the 80s and had some kind of "IT related" education in school, most likely got said education on MS systems with MS software.

In Germany having "MS office knowledge" is considered the absolute basic for any office/admin job no matter how unqualified. People expect you to know your way around Word, Excel and Powerpoint because that's the software that's taught in schools and forced occupational trainings even at the lowest levels.

At the higher levels you often gonna need a long list MS training certifications to even be considered taken seriously.

It's particularly the entrenchment in the education sector that makes it near impossible to change anything about this. People are getting "primed" on MS in school like children are getting primed into religions by their parents; There is pretty much no choice involved for them.


I agree completely about being primed, but I'm saying it's not completely true.

I have many tech friends that gave up on Linux and moved to OS X. I would claim these moves are unrelated to Microsoft.


At least Office 365 does proper kerning.

Edit: I don't get the downvote. Last week I spent 10 minutes of a meeting waiting for the presenter to apply some fix to his LibreOffice presentation because font kerning and sizes were corrupt in the full screen view.

I would love to ditch MS completely and use LibreOffice for all my work, but it has its weak spots.


I usually export to pdf and present it like that (partly because I'm often presenting on Windows machines).


Yeah, pretty sure I was hearing about German cities switching every few months for the past ten years or so.


Ok, so it's "A German State" (Schleswig-Holstein), not "The German State" (which would be the federal government) - of course this is big news too, but the title is a little bit misleading...


Oh, wow, that's super underwhelming. The title is incredibly misleading.


This is a great move! I hope they will still have money left to train all teachers and office staff properly.

Believe it or not, many German teachers have started using digital technology for real only in 2020, when the pandemic first hit. They are now totally entrenched with the Microsoft way of doing things. They know all the MS quirks and how to navigate around them.

Free software alternatives to MS products have different quirks that will need different workarounds.


Hope this encourage them to invest in improving OOXML compatibility. I think right now this is the biggest reason people avoid LibreOffice.

Also, some action must be taken about MS behavior. They are the same company they were in the 90's. It is easy to find commit messages in LO explaining things like 'this is what MSO does but not what the specification says'. They recently change the algorithm the justifies text in MSO and it is not explained in the specification. So, even a simple text file without any especial formatting may not be viewed correctly with anything but MSO.

This is ridiculous. The use of such a format should be forbidden for governments. ISO shouldn't have ratified it.


This being the government, they have the power to flip this around. Why invest in compatibility with Microsoft Office when you can use the good old native OpenOffice formats instead? When the state is working in LibreOffice, there's no need to save files in Microsoft's format anymore.


Makes sense. That would be even better.


Does anyone know of any large-scale implementations of https://www.onlyoffice.com/ ? I wonder if that suite would be a better solution than LO simply because it is OOXML native (unlike LO which AFIK is ODF native and has a conversion layer to be compatible with OOXML). I think that OO's feature set is still limited in comparison to LO, but they are making a lot of progress (and being web-native seems like a huge advantage as well).


They have a list of costumers but I really don't know of any large-scale implementation.

I've been testing it on my notebook and its compatibility with OOXML is much better than LO. Of course, harder cases break on both. So, even combining both, something I've tried to do, is not enough to achieve good compatility with MSO.


MS Office was so much more functional and nicer to use than libreoffice when I last checked.


That is possible.

But apparently, people in Germany are looking for software based on attributes that reach beyond the elemental metrics like "nice to use" or "supports corporate integration".

They might care more about the ability to audit the software's behavior and to easily make changes where necessary. They might also like to contribute patches back to the original LibreOffice community because they know that they themselves will benefit from more people reviewing their work and making it better as a result.


Devil's advocate here. Recently my employer (large corporate) went all in on (as it is now called) Microsoft 365: Teams, SharePoint online, OneDrive etc.

While I have no illusions about Microsoft's business model and motives, the truth is that "it just works" and makes collaboration very easy.

Create a team in Teams, add a document which everyone can edit (if needed at the same time), click a button, share it with someone outside the team, have a meeting with them, click a button, save the meeting video to OneDrive, click one more button and you're collaborating on a whiteboard. And all this works fully synchronized on my phone too.

As far as I can see (from their terrible website) LibreOffice does not offer this at all. Maybe Germany, known for being "digitally outdated" by 5-10 years, will suffer no consequences from that and their basic workflow is still "type document - print it - sign it - fax it". But it will be a sad day for my productivity when I am forced to switch to LibreOffice.


> the truth is that "it just works" and makes collaboration very easy.

My org does that too for different reasons for years now. It just works is a lie. We also have a lot Apple devices for all our external employees. That doesn't 'just' work as well.

Sadly I have to deal with SharePoint integration which a lot of MS services are based on. Digitally outdated has a complete new dimensions here, even if you add half baked services like Flow on top of it. There are far more modern alternatives than what MS brings to the table, there are countless alternatives that are better to control and easier to adapt.

You could use teams on Linux and while the office integration is nice, it isn't essential at all. This "collaboration" in the MS cloud is a nightmare to archive or access and some of the APIs are in a beta phase. We killed our fax a long time ago...


Consider OnlyOffice or the version offered by Collabora with on-line features. I really don't know how good these options are but they exist.


we're using this for document management in a large European research project. It sort of works but has its quirks. The UI is not really smooth, and the whole system could be more stable. I once lost a day's work because of a bug in the writer component. That was quite discouraging.


Does a German state have the ability to audit software or contribute patches?

And what would the patches be for? What use-cases do they have that are so unique that they need custom software?


The big question is: Is the aim to have the best possible software integration? Or is it about freedom from MS and contributing to open source?

If it's software integration, MS is hard to beat. It comes at the price of total dependence.

If it's about freedom then going full open source is great. But the cost in efficiency is huge, since the OSS alternatives will never be as streamlined as MS's stuff. not having to spend money on licenses is great but a lot of extra footwork will be required to get the job done.


And Germany is unable to find and pay programmers to make Libre Office better ?


Salaries are part of the problem; there is a very rigid salary structure in Germany's civil service. The salary band in which programmers would fall is OK but not overly attractive. There is very little headroom to pay talented developers a salary that could compete with what they get elsewhere.


This. At home I use Ubuntu I tried Libreoffice few months ago, for anything non trivial it just sucks compared to Office, years behind. I don't know what kind of documents this German state creates, maybe for them Libreoffice feature are good enough. And I'm just talking about document creation feature, whole Office 365 collaboration ecosystem is huge and on Windows PCs it works just fine, at least most of the time.

I really would like them to succed, we really need a real MS Office competitor, but it's very hard, MS can be a powerful opponent[0][1]

[0] https://www.zdnet.com/article/linux-not-windows-why-munich-i... [1] https://www.neowin.net/news/munich-germany-realizes-that-dep...


What did your check consist of? I’m asking because I know people who’ve been using both Word and LibreOffice for many years to write huge amounts of technical documentation and their experience is that LibreOffice is much more reliable with longer and more complex documents. When a certain document size or complexity is reached, Word apparently starts to behave erratically and even crashes occasionally. They’d prefer LibreOffice any day but some customers require Word.


The thing that costs 7$/user/month(home version)+119$ for Windows 10 Home is better than the thing that is free, Gee, I wonder why is that? Everyone should use the thing that costs a lot of money for it to just make sense.

Over 15 years you would be paying 1260$(paid 7 per month) for the office. 119$ for windows.


If I can afford to pay for the better experience and I want it badly enough, I will. That's how markets work.


I didn't check the latest LO version but I agree. LO shines on import export but the UI lags, the functionalities are limited. Even macros are weird compared to VBA which is sad.

FOSS community needs to gather up on this.


And what's worse, lot of functionaly that appears to exist turns out to be broken when you actually try to use it. Basic things like pivot tables, conditional formatting or automatic data import at regular intervals (from a file) are ridiculously broken in LO, and have been so for many years. Feels as if no-one's actually using it beyond a simple document viewer.


10$ the most used button is export as pdf


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