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In early 2009, Manchester Council borked their own system by introducing the Conficker virus via USBs. This appears to be the most popular Freediot link on the subject. It’s certainly one of the more demented.

In the red corner, we have a “£1.5 million” loss. In the blue corner, we have … well, it’s not quite clear what we have, exactly.

Breaking down this £1.5 million loss:

£ 43,000 “in 'lost’ bus lane fines”
£ 600,000 “in 'consultancy support’ ... which involved drafting in experts from Microsoft”
£ 169,000 “going to clear up a backlog of benefits claims … and bills”
£ 9,000 (I’ve broken it out for the lad) in unspecified other staff costs
£ 428,000 (I’ve broken it out for the lad again) in unspecified other costs “to the IT Department”
£ 257,000 — roughly — (I’ve broken it out for the lad yet again) in unspecified other costs.

This is gibberish, pure and simple. Anyone who has ever worked in a large organisation (and I assume that Manchester City Council is a large organisation) has experienced this sort of feeding frenzy, when things go wrong, amongst the PHBs and CYAs who inhabit the seedier layers of middle management. None of these figures actually mean anything, except the loss of fines for motorists travelling in bus lanes. Let’s all shed some tears for that one.

Other than that, it’s a bog standard tale of an incompetent IT department, a ludicrous set of security policies, a badly thought out backup strategy and an astonishing inability to accept automatic (or semi-automatic) patches. Yeah, all that stuff will go away when they install Ubunti all over the place…

The really good kicker comes at the end, where our hero quotes some lunatic who is apparently famous in his own TwitterLand: “We could migrate Manchester for less than £600k! What a heinous waste of taxpayers money proprietary software is…” And now we’re back in that circular argument that started the whole hissy fit. Free software is free as in speech, so we don’t need to talk about TCO. Except that other people do, so we will too. In the red corner, we’ll accept ludicrous cost figures from absolutely and entirely disinterested managers of a busted department. In the blue corner, we’ll take the word of some nitwit called Mark Taylor (he Tweets!) that he can out-Munich Munich and replace an entire city’s IT infrastructure with Linux for “less than £600K!”

Maybe even in less than ten years! Are these people for real?

So all the supposedly devastating arguments about the “secret” TCO of GNU/Linux are totally nullified by failing to recognise this far more massive but rarely-mentioned cost of using Windows and other Microsoft software, which remains one of the greatest scandals in computing today.

I hereby apologise to our cousins in the colonies for the regrettable standard of current education in England. We try to teach the silly bastards logic, but it just doesn’t take. Hitting the idiots over the back of the head is also frowned upon.

Luckily, these people are in positions that do not matter, in companies that do not matter, in a country that does not matter in the slightest.

Otherwise I’d be quite worried.

#1 Posted by DrLoser on Feb 16, 2010 1:06 PM

One small addition on the side.

I was trying to guess which particular orifice “Mark Taylor” had picked the £600,000 quote for a Linux Transubstantiation from, and it suddenly occurred to me that he’s back-hoeing it onto the entirely unsubstantiated £600,000 for “consultancy.”

Well, obviously. Because some of that consultancy fee has gone to naughty, naughty, must be whipped for other people’s stupidity, Microsoft.

My guess, on the other hand, is that Microsoft charged, essentially, postage and packaging for their consultancy. Maybe ten thou or so. The rest was almost certainly made up by people actually fixing the procedures.

I’d welcome comments and corrections on this one.

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