West Yorkshire Police has taken delivery of its first Linux desktop computers, as part of a trial of the operating system for English and Welsh police forces.
The force is working with Netproject, which is looking at issues associated with migration to desktop Linux PCs for the UK Police IT Organisation (Pito).
Part of the trial involves migrating existing police applications to Linux and making use of open source software.
West Yorkshire Police has 3,500 desktops and estimates a possible saving of £1m per annum on full rollout.
Paul Friday, head of IS for the force, explained that the installation had been smooth, and that the only problems it had encountered were with some legacy systems, which had been anticipated.
"The benefit is not just in cutting licence costs," he said. "The real win is increased security. No writeable drive means no security vulnerability.
"So we can put the desktops into one-stop shops, prisons and other places. It only works with an ID card. At £299 who cares if it gets stolen?"
The operating system is Red Hat Linux version 8 to which Netproject has added a smart card-based log-in. The hardware comes from GCI, a Taiwanese company, while the smart card technology is from Gemplus.
Eddie Bleasdale, head of Netproject, stated that the aim had been to get trials underway quickly to provide feedback on improving the systems.
"It is the open systems approach: release early and release often," he said. "West Yorks Police is an early adopter of the system. It wouldn't have happened without Pito."
But the real prize in prospect is the deployment of secure open source desktops across police forces in England and Wales, representing about 60,000 PCs.
Bleasdale said that he is confident of a successful roll-out at West Yorkshire and that other trials, details of which he could not reveal, were under way.
Friday added: "I'd like to persuade other forces to use it. I am working on presenting back the general business case to Pito."
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