Open source policy
Wikimedia UK uses open source software wherever possible and practical, but will use proprietary software where there are significant practical benefits to doing so when compared to the open source alternatives. We will consider the experience of other open source organisations, including the Wikimedia Foundation and other chapters, when making decisions to use closed source software rather than open source software. In situations were closed source software is used in preference to open source software, the rationale behind that decision will be explained on this page.
Wikimedia UK's Chief Exec, Jon Davies, has talked to Wikimedia Deutschland, Wikimedia France and the Wikimedia Foundation about how they have dealt with similar situations.
The Wikimedia Foundation encourages the use of open-source but respect the fact that sometimes a closed-source programme will work better. They report that Open Office though generally OK is not up to the needs of some more demanding users for instance. At the Wikimedia Foundation there is closed-source for accounting software and HR (for security but probably not as much an issue for us but something to think about). Erik Moeller (Deputy Director, WMF), a strong advocate of open-source, called running an office using it 'challenging'.
Wikimedia UK has previously attempted to use GnuCash to maintain its accounts (in the 2008-2009 financial year), but ran into a number of problems when doing so. The principle issue was that accounts exported from GNUcash were not compatible with the industry-standard software used by our accountants, which caused significant delays in our auditing process.
As a result, we now use closed-source software provided by Sage Group to maintain our accounts in an industry-compatible format.
Despite original reservations about it being closed-source from some Foundation staff, Roger and I found near universal support (indeed enthusiasm) for using Google Apps.
Wikimedia UK email addresses are pointed to it and new users and groups can be created by the administrator. The Foundation get it free as a Not for Profit. Not sure about the UK.
Staff and trustees can then:
a. Share a common calendar b. See each others' calendars (less any personal entries) c. Create documents on-line and share editing them
Downside are that when out of internet contact, although you can write and edit, the changes are not saved centrally until after you have signed in again and that they do not contain some of the features of software like Microsoft Office.
Also sensitive documents need to be backed-up or created off-Google.
We (Richard and I) have confirmed that Documents do not expire unless someone erases them.
WMDE's Pavel called it ' the best thing we have done IT wise'
I propose that we adopt Google Apps for emails, calendars and shared documents.
Thanks to Chip and George for the time they lavished on me. The foundation has experimented long and hard to get open source platform-friendly hardware. “This is a hard call”. They have not been very successful. They have twice tried to run office-wide Linux based platforms and in each case had to send the PC's back. Ubuntu was not stable enough. (This is the same problem WMFR reported).“We love open-source when it works but a lot of applications are not ready.”
Of closed-source platforms “Macs are the lesser of the two evils' They are stable, long lasting and offer good productivity. 'We needed to get over the anti-mac thing”. They are good at running Linux and Ubuntu.
They have also found that Linux boxes vary from country to country so cannot recommend one for us. They use Lenovo and Thinkpads.
When staff arrive the unofficial default position is a macbook with a big monitor link for most people but desktops where data needs to remain secure on site.
If someone wants a Windows PC they have to make the case that it is really necessary – not just that 'they are used to them'.
If people want a Linux machine this is welcomed them but need to be able to self-support. They have had 'frequent problems with Linux'. To run them successfully you have to have a 'very strong IT department'. These are 'the sort of problems you do not want to learn the hard way'. Their view is that if people want a Linux machine they need to be savvy enough to look after any problems. If not , they believe, they would need an extra member of staff.
So in essence: Macbooks are the default with big screens to work on in the office but... Linux machines are certainly available (Thinkpads) for anyone who wants it and can support it themselves. Windows are only available in special circumstances such as for accountants and the HR department.
My impression is that the split at the Foundation is 80% mac 15% Linux Machines and 5% Windows, lurking somewhere.
Our issues are quite limited but I propose we follow this policy and ask Richard which he would choose for his machine. Sage runs on a standard PC or Linux with a Windows emulator but would require extra RAM. An alternative that we are looking at is running the accounts software through the web.
We have Kensington locks to reduce our insurance premiums. 'Evidence of a theft' i.e. a broken cable, helps enormously with a claim.
We need to use cloud storage which we can do with Google apps for much of our work, as in the Foundation and WMDE, and USB back ups for other work that is not cloudable.
Good keyboards and good screens with laptop lifters for ease of use. Cabling to allow visitors to link in to our systems and a spare screen would make sense. A back up hard disk could be a useful failsafe in case of hard disk failure etc.
I think these proposals would offer stable platforms and a minimum of maintenance issues. Jon Davies 01:37, 1 December 2011 (UTC)
Note from a WMF developer:
To run Windows inside of linux I use KVM (Kernel Based Virtual Machine) - http://www.linux-kvm.org/page/Main_Page and Qemu - http://wiki.qemu.org/Main_Page. In order to run these programs the modules must be compiled into the kernel of your flavor of Linux. If you want could send you the kernel .config flags that I use. The one down sides are that you need a copy of windows and you can not have accelerated graphics such as expensive video cards. Any windows problem can be made to work in this way, except for the mentioned graphics issue.
Another way if you don't have a copy of windows is to use the Wine emulator - http://www.winehq.org/. It works very well with most windows software. The advantages for this way is that accelerated graphics would work in most applications and you don't have to buy windows. Not all software will work with this method.
- Roger and I had hoped that their emulation software that would offer a way forward but my hopes were dashed this morning by Chip Deubner and Rayne MacGeorge who run the Foundation's IT. They are very sceptical about KVM and say it needs a lot of love.