ONE OF THE CITY COUNCILLORS behind the alleged "Bring Back Windows" letter to Munich City officials has told The INQUIRER that she has no desire to see the city migrate back to Microsoft.
Munich spurned Windows for its own version of Linux, known as Limux, and recent reports suggested it is once again getting high-level calls to trash the experiment and get back to the old days.
The story, which has been circulating for the past week or so, is based on a memo sent by two councillors from the city which appeared to request consideration of a return to Windows.
But in an email to The INQUIRER, one of the authors, councillor Sabine Pfeiler explained, "Our letter 'Notebooks und Tablets für den alltäglichen Gebrauch tauglich machen!' was not aimed to criticize the use of Linux in Munich.
"There are several points of criticism concerning the notebooks of the councillors with very different reasons (not Linux in general). There are 80 councillors in the city. Their work and needs can't be compared with the whole administration."
Pfeiler denied that there was any kind of consensus towards a complete reverse migration, but rather suggests a retroactive fitting of Windows for certain specific purposes, adding that there was nothing to suggest that the Limux system was working anything other than well.
"We didn't propose that Munich should switch back to Windows and there are no indications that the city is likely to do so. I would say that the IT of Munich is working very well in general."
If you have a long memory, you may recall that back in 2003 we reported that the city had turned down a 90 percent discount from then Microsoft CEO Steve 'I've had the time of my life' Ballmer to keep Windows, voting instead for a Kubuntu-based system for its 15,000 machines.
Munich had claimed that switching to Linux instead of Windows, and thus avoiding the end of Windows XP and the non-starting Windows Vista, would save the city around €11m.
But this time last year, advisors were said to have started to look for practical and affordable ways to reintroduce access to Windows, after claims that city workers were "suffering".
Other concerns suggested that, despite being provided with LibreOffice, compatibility with Microsoft Office remains limited - not so much from opening external .doc and .docx files, but for people outside the Munich open source bubble reading the supposedly universal .odf file format.
However, it appears that the story has had a touch of the Chinese Whispers about it, coupled with some subjective translation from German to English.
The INQUIRER spoke to Italo Vignoli, co-founder of the Document Foundation, for his views on the situation, and his response was highly critical of proprietary software vendors pointing out that a return to Microsoft is not the solution - it represents the entire problem: "In fact, every version of Microsoft Office, since forever, has supported a different file format - although the extension has always been the same - which has forced users to reformat documents even when switching from a DOC to another DOC file."
"With the arrival of OOXML [the current standard for MS Office], the situation has even worsened, because the file format is not only different for each version of Microsoft Office, but is also strongly connected to proprietary fonts such as Calibri and Cambria, which are licensed to be used only with a licensed copy of Microsoft Office.
"In addition, Microsoft Office 2013 is capable of writing two different flavours of OOXML: transitional (pseudo-standard) and strict (standard), while relating the proper writing of the latter to a very specific (and, of course, non standard) behaviour of the user.
"So, the issue is not the way LibreOffice handles the pseudo-standard OOXML format (which, by the way, is extremely good, in comparison with the way Microsoft Office handles the ODF true open standard file format), but the fact that users have been educated to use a non standard format while believing it is a standard one (and asking everyone to use a non standard file format, with all the added costs and interoperability issues of a non standard file format)."
His comments have been repeated in studies around Europe and has lead to a move towards an ODF standard supported by several governments, including the UK.
As for Munich, the story of one city's attempts to go open source seem to come up for review by media once per year, and from the response we've had, it looks like it was another storm in a teacup.
The INQUIRER wishes to apologise to Ms Pfeiler for our appalling attempt at writing in German with the help of Google Translate, and thank her for replying in English.µ
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