back to article Bristol Council mulls mixed FOSS, Microsoft upgrade

A Bristol City councillor is trying to convince the council’s cabinet to adopt open source software alongside Microsoft’s Office and Windows 7. The council has been seen as something of a poster child for open source public sector contracts in the past. In November 2004 it declared plans to shift 5,000 workers off proprietary …


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  1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

    So, will the savings here

    translate into a reduction in my council tax?

    Didn't think so.

  2. Juillen 1
    Thumb Up

    Living in Bristol..

    I see a huge amount of screwups that they make.. This definitely isn't one..

    It sounds like somebody in their IT segment actually understands that the best tool for the job is the one you find when you try as many tools as possible, with an understanding of what you want to do, and pick the one that does the job best (rather than the usual one of pick the one from the glossiest brochure with the best vendor jollies assigned).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      it *could* still be a screwup

      just because it's FOSS it doesn't automatically mean that it's the best tool for the job, it's just FOSS. It's an option, yes, but I would hope that someone really is assessing it's suitability to the required task against the ones with the glossy brochures. And that it's not just an advocate who automatically thinks FOSS=Better

    2. The Other Steve

      Lunatics in charge of the asylum.

      "It sounds like somebody in their IT segment actually understands that the best tool for the job is ..."

      Yeah I thought that at first, then I read it again, and this bit jumped out at me :

      "He said the council, whose IT service director Paul Arrigoni recommended the mixed open source and proprietary software setting, would try to convince its partners to push the open agenda without cutting the council off from the outside world."

      Two words in particular : "open agenda".

      So perhaps what happened is the linux jihad in Bristol have been running around declaring non open software to be evil and trying to replace it with 'open' software. And they failed.

      But they will continue to push their agenda, so that's nice.

  3. vegister

    a step in the right direction

    well done.

  4. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Cant ditch Microsoft yet...

    That's the beauty of a lock in! You don't own your own data!!

  5. Anonymous Coward

    Actually, that's not quite true

    The Council's roll-out of StarOffice wasn't really a success, given that at the end of the project, there were more MS Office liceneses purchased and in use than when they started. This was mainly because there was a decision made by one person to keep the default file format as OpenDocument rather than Microsoft as this was the "European Standard" - which, combined with poor communication to staff, resulted in people thinking they wouldn't be able to open all their Word documents and thus had to have an "exception" to StarOffice and keep MS Office. Thus StarOffice was rolled out but given the number of exceptions people required, I strongly supect that the council *did not*, under any circumstances, save £1.4m due to the StarOffice roll-out.

    Take any press releases on BCC and FOSS with a pinch of salt.

    --- An ex-BCC employee

  6. Anonymous Coward

    Cue convoy of MS hit squad cars

    heading down the M4 from Reading to kill this off in a flash.

    In the current Economic climate and with the huge cuts in funding faced by Local government in the UK, I forsee many more statements like this.

    1) Make a statement adopting FOSS over MS

    2) Wait for MS Hit Squad to arrive.

    3) Listen while MS virtually give them everything they want for £0.00 or close to it.

    4) Declare they are satisfied. Council Tax payers won't see a penny buy maybe a few less non productive staff mighe be kept on salary. I suppose that could be called ... Profit?


    5) in the background get the FOSS alternative working properly so that when MS try to hit you for the licening costs in years to come, you can faithfully switch

    6) Certain profit here.

    Anon, as I live in that fair city.

  7. Anonymous Coward

    Reality check

    (Anonymous 'cause I work there.. for the moment)

    StarOffice is a perfectly acceptable product if used in isolation. In many ways it is a "better" product than MS Office, especially StarCalc which is much more rigorous than Excel. (Sadly the charting and analysis tools aren't as good, which is a huge problem for those who love exotic Excel charts and pivot tables) But nobody else in the entire universe uses it, so Microsoft file formats are essential for communication with the outside world. (Councils do a lot of that). As for partners not keeping up with open source, the reality is that partners look at the market share of FOSS in the local government field and just don't bother.

    Integrating StarOffice with almost any outside system is like pulling teeth, I've done it but I heave a sigh of relief when I can switch back to Microsoft products. Check on Amazon for the number of MS Office books and the number of Open/StarOffice books. Training courses? Try and find some consultants who have a real in depth knowledge of StarOffice.

    The low license cost of StarOffice does appeal at first sight, but the hidden costs of transitioning from MS to StarOffice can be enormous. And for a varietty of entirely plausible reasons, most users end up with both anyway. Hardball negociation with Microsoft can lead to significant reductions in licensing costs, especially as part of a larger infrastructure revamp.

    (mines the coat with the Word ODF patch in the pocket)

  8. Anonymous Coward

    Partners ?

    Quote: The trouble has been that external partners have not kept pace with open source solutions

    Time to give these partners a cut - off date, 6 months should be more than enough time for them to catch up with open source if they wish to remain partners.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      re: Partners ?

      Given that many of those 'partners' will be a) central government or b) stautory in nature, they'll be hard pushed to give them the heave-ho.

      Short of ceding from the UK, of course. Whether or not that is a sensible option I'll leave as an exercise for the reader!

    2. The Other Steve

      Can you perhaps

      break down for us what those partners will need to do in those six months ? Shouldn't be hard as you were very specific with the number, you obviously know all about it.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up


      That is an excellent idea. Why deal with partners - many of which are your own customers - if they won't capitulate to your own brand of mindless zealotry?

  9. Anonymous Coward


    From management speak to common sense language :

    We would still like to spend huge amounts of money buying Microsoft products, but because of the tight budgets we'll have to pretend like we're acting to protect the public interest.

    In my opinion, if they don't have the balls to go with FOSS they should better stay with Microsoft products. It will not be any cheaper but they will at least avoid troubles down the road.

  10. zooooooom

    Partners ??!!!?

    Massively lame excuse. Just tell them what formats you work in and send them some helpful links, and an offer of help. If they are really uncooperative ditch them. Of course having conversion tools, at you end helps too - oh, wait a minute....

    Which bits of a councils operations can't be done in plain text anyway?

    1. The Other Steve


      "If they are really uncooperative ditch them."

      Yeah fuck the NHS Trust and the LEA if they can't be bothered to stop healing the sick and educating the children for long enough to switch to FOSS.

      Linux uber alles!

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Waste of tax money

    Pff... how much money could this project possibly save? Based on their old figures they would have saved £56 per user per year, presumably not taking into account all the Office installs alongside Star Office (or else why is it still there?) and all the buggering about involved in using a non-standard - as in real-world standard - Office system. It just doesn't add up.

    As for this project - they're still putting Office on every machine, but now they are also going to install OpenOffice. So now they have two Office systems to support - how much more is that going to cost? It's a total waste of money.

    I' also can't see why this article didn't ask them how much they actually saved on their Star Office deployment instead of just reporting that it was originally projected to save £1.4 million in the five years since 2004.

    Cue article in 2013:

    "Bristol City Council today announced a program to introduce Google Office alongside Microsoft Office for their 5000 staff in...."

  12. Anonymous Coward


    The migration to StarOffice was pretty much a complete failure. Several bad decisions were made, chief of which was the refusal to set the default file type to Microsoft Office, instead preferring to stick with OpenDocument Format, because apparently this was the "European standard". This, combined with poor communication and training to staff, resulted in people fearing that migration to StarOffice would mean that they couldn't open/save existing MS Office format files, and all applying for exceptions to the migration. This meant that there were more individual MS Office licenses purchased and in use after the migration than before, which actually resulted in a loss, and certainly not the £1.4m savings promised.

    Quelle surprise.

    An ex-BCC employee

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    StarOffice switch

    We also made the switch at my former organisation a few years ago. The staff were completely against it, coming up with the lamest of excuses - even down to ones like "the buttons in the toolbar look different".

    Yet they'll use Office 2007 and 2010, which took far longer to train them to use.

    Brand snobbery, nothing more.

    Gates Horns

    G docs

    google docs won't do the trick? Nothing to install, nothing to e-mail...

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