This column has always advocated a broad and sceptical view of computers and computer systems. All right, not always the Mac. But it is interesting to see how the corporate-government world is cautiously toe-in-watering alternatives to the Evil Empire, aka Microsoft, such as beginning to install the relatively safe Firefox in place of virus-not-unfriendly Internet Explorer, and Linux in place of Windows.
Regular readers will remember my toying with Mandrake Linux and the free alternative to MS Office, Open Office. I condemned the latter only on the trivial (to non-journalists) grounds of its difficult-to-find word count. I installed Mandrake, but got bogged down with the internet connection.
Firefox take-up around the globe has reduced Explorer's share to less than 90 per cent: still a massive percentage but the analysts are getting anxious.
The UK has remained loyal to Microsoft. Until now. Last week the government set up the Open Source Academy. It seems to follow a report (read it at www. ogc. gov. uk/ embedded_object. asp? docid=1002367) that says: 'Open Source software is a viable and credible alternative to proprietary software for infrastructure implementations, and for meeting the requirements of the majority of desktop users.' The italics are mine because although Linux is already used widely in the server world, it has hitherto been deemed a tad novel for desktop users.
So now the Open Source Academy, according to eGov Monitor, 'will develop new operating system (OS) business applications designed for local government, targeting areas where alternatives to proprietary software are lacking. Among its other plans are to carry out large-scale case studies of OS use, including a study of the relative security of an OS solution compared with a Microsoft desktop infrastructure.' This is a government-backed initiative. Microsoft must be breathing a sigh of relief.
sutherland. lyall@btinternet. com