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Yesterday I wrote about a report from ACT that brought up the issue of TCO for free software. As I pointed out there, it's old news that free software has costs; but what is more interesting is the fact that fans of the proprietary world...

Yesterday I wrote about a report from ACT that brought up the issue of TCO for free software.

As I pointed out there, it's old news that free software has costs; but what is more interesting is the fact that fans of the proprietary world always fail to point out the huge hidden costs of using poorly-written closed-source software. Here's a great demonstration of my point:

The `Conficker worm' caused chaos when it hit Manchester town hall in February. Now we can reveal the bug cost the council more than £43,000 in `lost' bus lane fines.

The computer problems meant 1,609 tickets could not be issued within the 28-day legal limit - rendering them useless.

In total, the Conficker worm cost taxpayers in Manchester nearly £1.5m, the M.E.N has learned.

A £1.2m bill in the IT department, including £600,000 getting ‘consultancy support’ to fix the problems, which including drafting in experts from Microsoft;

£178,000 in extra staffing costs across the town hall – including £169,000 going to clear up a backlog of benefits claims and council tax bills;

Compensation payments due to delays in processing benefit claims.

A few things to note here.

The first is that once more the word “Windows” isn't mentioned anywhere in this story: it's as if Conficker were some medieval plague that affected everyone when, of course, it is only visited upon those foolish enough to put their trust in Microsoft. This is a reflection of poor reporting throughout the industry, and the effectiveness of Microsoft's brainwashing that such infections are just an inevitable part of life like death and taxes.

Talking of Microsoft, note too how Microsoft was actually paid for helping to fix the problem it caused. This is truly extraordinary: there can't be another industry where you get rewarded for making mistakes and causing pain and chaos to your customers.

Finally, the sum involved, £1.5 million would easily have paid for Windows to be ripped out and replaced with something safer, like open source software. As Mark Taylor – who knows a thing or two about the subject from practical experience - points out in a tweet:

We could *migrate* Manchester for less than £600k! What a heinous waste of taxpayers money proprietary software is...

So all the supposedly devastating arguments about the “secret” TCO of GNU/Linux are totally nullified by failing to recognise this far more massive but rarely-mentioned cost of using Windows and other Microsoft software, which remains one of the greatest scandals in computing today.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca.