A worldwide charity is considering moving all its desktops to PCs running Linux, because its Microsoft Windows computers are "plagued with viruses".
Action Aid, a poverty relief charity with offices in 30 countries, is on the brink of committing to Linux after its Windows PCs have been hit by a string of viruses such as the Naked Wife, Emmanuel and the Love Bug over recent months.
Kerry Scott, IT director for Action Aid, told vnunet.com that "the inconvenience and the disruption is incalculable. There has been a rash of viruses targeted at Microsoft products. We were hit by the Naked Wife virus, and Emmanuel was the worst."
He added: "We are scattered over 30 countries. Some of our offices have been knocked out for two or three days. If you can't operate email and you're making expensive telephone calls, it's a large cost, especially for a charity like us. We don't want money being unnecessarily spent on IT problems like this."
Scott said the problem is exacerbated by the charity's reach: "In some countries, getting hold of the latest antivirus files on the internet isn'teasy."
Action Aid is now experimenting with Linux technology provided by Red Hat and Mandrake. "A year ago we were a long way from thinking about having a Linux strategy for our desktops. Today, we are much closer to it. We believe the virus-free computing offered by Linux will provide us with the reliable, secure desktop computing we need."
Another incentive to move away from Windows is "the increasing availability of good products on the desktop", said Scott. "Also, Microsoft is increasingthe cost of products, and as a charity we are keen to reduce costs."
Eddie Bleasdale, director of UK open-source organisation, netproject, said: "Eighty per cent of IT directors say that viruses are the biggest problem for their organisation. How many times do they have to be hit before they realise that antivirus software doesn't work?"
"There are going to be more and more viruses, and they will become increasingly vicious and spread faster," he said. "In the last 30 years there hasnever been a virus for Unix. A virus could only get through to a badly configured Unix system." Bleasdale added: "The problem with NT is that you can't configure it properly. Viruses are endemic with Windows and NT. There is no need for antivirus software for Unix."
Wayne Sowery, technical director of UK-based security consultancy MIS, said: "Virus writers do not target Linux on the desktop because, broadly speaking, it is Microsoft dominated. The whole point of writing a virus aimed at Microsoft is that it will propagate, but Unix viruses do exist."
Bleasdale said: "It is their business to say viruses [for Unix] exist. What they fail to make clear is that antivirus software on top of a Linux email server is checking for viruses in Windows."
On 11 April, founder and lead developer of the GNOME project, Miguel de Icaza, will be running a netproject workshop, 'The Seamless Desktop', to be held at the Commonwealth Institute, London. GNOME provides applications and a framework for the widespread use of Linux on the desktop.
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