Software Fit for Purpose

I came across a story of a municipal government that sued IBM for providing software not fit for the purpose. The judge decided in IBM’s favour because the government had not specified what it needed clearly and IBM had relied on the government to approve the choice. Now the government has to pay IBM’s costs as well as it’s own – good money after bad…
“This case refers to the acquisition of software back in 2006 which, in our view, was not fit for purpose. We’re disappointed with the judgement but we took this action because we believed we had been mis sold a product. Our duty is to have IT systems that work and that save the council and the council tax payer money.”

I switched to GNU/Linux in the PCs in my classroom years ago because that other OS would not keep running. It just would not. It was not fit for purpose. Since then that other OS has grown so bloated it will not run on the old PCs that many schools own, so it’s still not fit for purpose. In that same time GNU/Linux has increased so much in flexibility and performance that there is no doubt it is fit for the purpose of educating students and helping students and teachers create, find, modify and present information.

Here are several “killer” reasons why GNU/Linux is fit for the purposes of education:

  1. students and teachers can take the software home under the licence shipped with the software at no cost,
  2. a school can install the software on as many PCs as it wants without accounting licences,maintaining stickers, or typing “authentication codes”,
  3. software does not need to “phone home” to work,
  4. it’s fast, and
  5. the repository and package manager permits instant access to thousands of packages for client or server.

Besides those conveniences, the software available to GNU/Linux is amazingly diverse. Anyone who has an itch to scratch can produce software and distribute it along with GNU/Linux. The result is bunches of software suitable for any age of student, any physical handicap, any course in the curriculum and any special-purpose labs or workstations. I particularly love the fact that the X window system used to connect display, keyboard and mouse to the PC is transparent to the network so the most suitable machine can run the software while the user can be anywhere on the network. That allows upgrading servers more regularly while keeping clients going until they die, a huge economy.

I hope Southwark gets its act together and does its duty, due diligence in acquiring IT.

In his ruling, the judge said, “The team was an intelligent one well versed in IT matters and they gave every impression that they fully understood what it was that Arcindex could and would provide,” the judge said. “I am led inexorably to the factual conclusion that the Southwark team in 2006 and at all times up to the arrival of [a consultant data integrity specialist who was instrumental in the decision to abandon the project] was wholly satisfied that Arcindex met its requirements and reflected exactly what it wanted.”

So, there is a bit more to this than “fit for purpose”. There was the addition of a consultant and perhaps a change of purpose as the system evolved. I know what that is like. I once installed a library management system when along came a consultant who persuaded my employer that if they wanted the consultant’s “free” services they would need to buy $thousands of stuff from a certain company…

In this case the council certainly had a clear idea of what it wanted. Something went wrong along the way.

Others have found Orchard Arcindex quite satisfactory for merging diverse databases.

About Robert Pogson

I am a retired teacher in Canada. I taught in the subject areas where I have worked for almost forty years: maths, physics, chemistry and computers. I love hunting, fishing, picking berries and mushrooms, too.
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One Response to Software Fit for Purpose

  1. Ray says:

    But here’s the problem:
    Many people doesn’t want to hire their own IT for their system, as it tends to be cheaper to outsource it to some company.

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