Bristol restarts open source pilot

Who can have stepped in to rescue the pioneering open source pilot at Bristol City Council after it collapsed amid alarming allegations that Boo-Hissstems Integrator Computacenter had skewed the scheme’s outcome to favour its chum Microsoft?

You may remember what a stink was caused when Sirius, the firm that helped Bristol mastermind the open source project, cried foul on Computacenter and was promptly hustled out the door.

Can it be that LinuxIT, the firm that within days of Sirius’ departure came forward to speak in defence of Boo-Hisstems Integrators, was subsequently rewarded with the Bristol job at Computacenter?

Strangely, Jeremy Comley, the LinuxIT marketing director who was so keen to talk when the business was up for grabs, is now refusing to comment about it at all.

Bristol IT officer Gavin Beckett, who’s so big on free software he’s a member of the Open Forum Europe Public Sector Group, the panel that has since being patronised by the Cabinet Office become the Milk Marketing Board of open source.

Computer Weekly has been keen to know what steps Bristol and LinuxIT were taking to keep Computacenter in line. If it was skewing the pilot to favour its chum Microsoft, it would make a mockery of the pioneering steps the City Council was taking to stop tax payers being ripped off by greedy software companies.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that if you can get a perfectly decent suite of office software for free, then buying a Microsoft Office suite that retails for £200 is a waste of tax payer’s money; or when you can get a perfectly decent operating system for nothing, then buying an operating system that retails for upwards of £200 is a waste of tax payers money.

But its not as simple as that. Users rear up in techno-xenophobic revulsion when they are given something other than Microsoft.

So years since the first round of public sector open source pilots at councils like Bristol, and we are still doing open source pilots at councils like Bristol to determine whether its worth using an alternative to Microsoft.

And people say, yeah but we have the cost of training people to administer something other than Microsoft, because Microsoft’s all they know. And then someone in the corner of the office has the impudence to think maybe there’s something in these stories about Microsoft’s software monopoly being a blight on commerce and culture, so they go home and look at the operating system section on PC World’s website and see that Microsoft is all there is, and in a horrifying moment, their spouse comes in with a glass of wine and an uncharacteristically eerie laugh: ha ha ha – you silly darling – what are you doing? You know there’s nothing other than Microsoft! Come on back to your Xbox now.

Neither Bristol City Council nor LinuxIT will say what steps they have taken to ensure Computacenter doesn’t fix the open source pilot to favour Microsoft. They must be very silly to think there’s an alternative.