MLS != Windows

Discussions around using and interfacing with the Church MLS program.
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MLS != Windows

Postby dmoss90660-p40 » Fri Jan 19, 2007 10:14 am

Let's look at some reasons for removing Windows from the Windows/MLS equation that gets sent to units worldwide.

1. Cost. Clearly the Church wants to reduce its cost on the machines it sends out to new units (or to replace existing machines). I was recently called to be the ward clerk of a brand new unit, and received a new "state of the art" desktop machine for the clerk's office. Even this "state of the art" machine has speed issues running MLS (Celeron doesn't help). If cost is really a factor, why is the Church paying the extra $50 - $100 per machine so Windows can be installed? Move to linux, and suddenly you're saving $$.

2. Performance - Java apps run better on linux or os x than they do on Windows. This is certainly true for MLS. I had it working on my Macbook beautifully--of course with the exception of the blasted Afaria client. However, for all the aging machines throughout the world, you get better performance on older hardware using linux than you do Windows. Thus, save yourself some $$ by prolonging the machine update cycle.

3. Security. Here's the real kicker. The computers in clerk's offices are essentially isolated islands, with no chance of OS updates being regularly sent via dialup. I know in our stake there was a significant issue trying to get rid of viruses running rampant on the machines. While the impact of a virus on the particular machine in the clerk's office MAY be minimal (not much traffic could be sent over the dialup connection!), it certainly wreaks havoc on the member's home machines that inadvertently get infected.

But wait, you say--why not just include an anti-virus program on the machines? See items #1 and #2 and #3. Why further increase the cost? Why slow the machines down EVEN MORE with on-access file checking? And how would you get the anti-virus updates out to the machines? It takes long enough to do weekly transmissions using MLS, let alone pushing out (at least monthly) anti-virus updates. If the anti-virus definitions aren't updated regularly, then really what's the point of the anti-virus solution?

Sure, there are some great open source anti-virus packages out there, but the virus definition update is still an issue. It's not reasonable to assume that every clerk will be downloading it at home and regularly updating the ward computer. Come on--you have a hard enough time getting them to complete the Quarterly Reports on time ;P

Why not just use an OS that is immune to Windows viruses (where the majority of the trouble comes)?

4. Updates - Updating the OS via dialup isn't really an option if we're talking about Windows (pushing out XP SP2 via dialup? The millennium might be closer than we think...) However, if you really were interested in regularly updating the machines (i.e. pushing out patches), take a look at the patch sizes for distinct packages on linux as compared to Windows. Dialup might not be THAT bad if you're only updating critical linux patches; that's not even an option on dialup using Windows.

5. "User training" - It's long past time to put to rest the myth of training for end users in switching to linux on the ward desktops. What do people REALLY use the ward machine for? They're not using it to watch DVDs, balance their checkbook or to play games. They use it for MLS, and possibly a word processor and spreadsheet. Maybe even family history.

Since MLS is in Java, once they're in the program it will look identical regardless of the underlying OS. So there's no training issue there. As far as the word processor goes, since the ward PCs don't come with MS Office (and many put OpenOffice on them), the same holds true. Openoffice works the same on linux as it does for windows, so there's no training issue there either. And with the forthcoming release of the open source client that supports the new familysearch2 experience, even the genealogy piece isn't an issue.

It would be very easy to configure the linux machine to autologin and have a nice icon on the desktop that says "MLS." It would be no different for users to move the mouse to the icon and click it on linux than it would be on Windows. The "end user training" issue is truly a myth.

So, when can we get started on the project to move MLS to linux? It's not much more complicated than replacing the Afaria client and using a real modem in the computers (not these Winmodems, allthough we could get those to work too). I'm sure there's plenty of us out there who would be happy to help.

By the way, I'm not advocating replacing all desktops with linux, just the new ones being sent out... I just think it's time to take what matters (cost, prolonging hardware life, performance, security) and choose an OS to match. Just because 'everyone's doing it" doesn't mean it's right...

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Wine (not the beverage, the Window API on Linux) and MLS

Postby stuartmoffatt » Fri Jan 19, 2007 3:32 pm

Has anyone out there (or in there) tested MLS running under wine on a linux box?

If the "MLS on Linux" project fits into the 20 side of an 80/20 do-we-or-don't-we equation, then make it a zero effort project by having a community member test it under the win-linux combo. Despite the unfortunate reference to the beverage (and all that implies), this test could identify the potential problems (like the obvious data transfer issue to HQ) and help scope out how much work it would actually be to have the dev team provide a pure linux cut of MLS.

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Os X

Postby bh5k-p40 » Fri Jan 19, 2007 9:58 pm

You have my vote for OS X. :p

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Postby russellhltn » Sat Jan 20, 2007 3:16 pm

dmoss90660 wrote:Let's look at some reasons for removing Windows from the Windows/MLS equation that gets sent to units worldwide.

But I noticed you missed one area: Local support.

If one were to poll all the people out there, I think you'd find an overwhelmingly greater number of people know how to use, fix and maintain Windows then any of the *nix OS. I've seen too many posts by clerks and FHC types who are unable to find any computer help. To suddenly switch to a less popular OS is going to exacerbate the problem. To switch to *nix now would be to place a greater burden on the church's technical support department. And frankly, I think they're challenged enough in keeping up with the current demands. In terms of costs, to run Windows is only $50-100/5 years. Added staff at CHQ would seriously eat into that savings if not negate it.

I'm not saying it won't happen, but I think it's in the church's best interests to follow the national IT trend and not lead it. Also, I think the Church will need to find a way to harness volunteer tech support though forums. I'm seeing signs that that may come to pass as official forums rise in a area where only member-created forums existed before.

The other issue is in being able to run programs of the local units' choosing. While MLS and OpenOffice does cover most needs, some units may find it more effective to employ some other programs as well. There's nothing prohibiting that as long as everything is licensed. But it's a fact of life that there are far fewer programs for *nix then for Windows.

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Postby WelchTC » Sat Jan 20, 2007 3:26 pm

While I think that it is nice to find the advantages and disadvantages of different solutions, let's leave this topic for our IT department to handle. Different operating systems tend to be polarizing and debating the merits of the different OS's is outside the scope of this website.

Thanks for your support. We appreciate your comments.


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