[nSLUG] Re: Any nsluggers in Valley?

George White aa056 at chebucto.ns.ca
Sat Aug 27 12:20:51 ADT 2005

Quoting Bob Ashley <ashley at chebucto.ns.ca>:
> Any ideas, caveats, suggestions, criticisms most welcome!

The problem with the current focus on OSS is that many companies are now
their sources.  Some of the products are good, but many more are not.  You need
to focus on the actual requirements first, and let people come to their own
realizations that they end up using OSS because they get the job done and have
lower entry costs.
The real benefits of well-engineered OS's are the richer environment, e.g.,
the display doesn't have to be on the machine where the main program is
running,so you have much more flexibility in matching workloads to hardware
resources. Trying to introduce OSS via a single user workstation is trying to
mimic a fundamentally flawed approach to workflows.

Governments generate lots of documents that  need to be available years from
(e.g. what was the reasoning behind a particular decision, and precisely what
was the decision?).  PDF (although tied to Adobe, the specifications are public
and there are now many 3rd party tools so Adobe can't make incompatible
is good for that, proprietary formats such as MS Office .doc have a history of
incompatiblity.  In the Canadian Gov't, many documents end up as PDF's.  It
turns out that OpenOffice.org does a better job of converting the majority of
MS .doc files to PDF's than MS Office+Adobe Acrobat.  Sure it can't handle some
PostScript effects, but these are very rare in gov't workflows.  People come to
me when they have problems with the official "MS Office+Adobe Acrobat" workflow
and I show them that OOo gets the job done more easily.  They install OOo and
pretty soon they are using it regularly.  The only obstacle to switching to 
linux is the attitude that "I have MS Office+Adobe Acrobat and I might need it
for some document in the future, so I can't switch". 

Similar considerations apply to data.  

Watch for the places where the current workflow is broken and show people how a
well-designed OS can do the job more smoothly.

Make sure that ViSTA issues are documented.  In many small organizations, ViSTA
is out of control.  The costs of good security in a Win32 environment are
enormous, and part of that cost is lost time and breakdowns.  In small
organizations, these costs tend to be borne by users who end up working on
sluggish systems and coming in after hours or on weekends to redo the work that
was lost.  Make sure that these efforts are recognized and that management
recognizes that the problem is not "user error" but systematic flaws in certain
widely used products.

George N. White III
Head of St. Margarets Bay, Nova Scotia


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