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Yes, we really do want to use Free Software.

Nov 12, 1998, 11:38 (49 Talkback[s])

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By Stephen Birch.

Well it finally happened.

We are building a large distributed system (about 200 processors over a 20 mile region) using Linux and Interbase only. Recently, a consultant hired by our client popped up with the questions I have heard soooo much about:

  1. Do you really want to base your system on "freeware?"
  2. There is no technical support, how will you get questions answered?
  3. Who are you going to blame?

Fortunately, my (Government) customer has had such a bad time with NT over the past couple of years, the questions were not even forwarded to us for review. The customer was happy to provide the following answers directly to the consultant:

  1. You bet, the quality of code is too high to ignore. By the way it isn't freeware, it's open source.
  2. We have given up calling Microsoft for support. Their support people seem to be incapable of answering technical questions that are deeper than simple "how do I boot my computer" questions. As far as we are concerned Microsoft does not support its product. The support we have received for Linux has been the best we have ever experienced from any vendor. (Except us, I hope, Steve)
  3. Since Linux is very reliable, our trial systems were 100% operational from day one, the issue of blame doesn't surface. However, our experience with NT (SP4) gave us some insight into the "who to blame" mentality.

The customer has really begun to despise Microsoft with their lack of support and buggy operating systems. The customer's primary server is operational and has a zero item bug list, except in the operating system (NT). Since our overall strategy is to build the entire "second phase" system from Linux, we have the task of porting the existing server code to Linux, a task that ordinarily would take a low priority since a working server already exists.

The customer has overridden our own prioritization and requested that the Linux port be completed ASAP. Two reasons:

  1. At least twice a week the NT machine crashes or starts to behave strangely and a reboot is required.
  2. Remote system administration cannot be performed on the NT box so we have to talk the customer through troubleshooting instead of simply logging into their boxes directly from our site.

Since this customer now has about 30 Linux machines working in remote, hostile environments and those machines NEVER go down, one can understand their desire to get the NT -> Linux upgrade completed soon.

One final point - if the Linux operating system cost $1,000 a seat, it would still be the OS of choice. The decision was simply not driven by dollars, reliability is the primary selection criteria. Sorry, Microsoft.

Just thought you guys may be interested.

Steve