German government agency rolls out desktop Linux

A small German institute has become one of the Interior Ministry’s first agencies to implement Linux on the desktop, as the government pushes ahead with its ambitious plans to introduce open-source software in the public sector.

The Institute for Livestock Breeding, which already runs Linux on servers, has equipped 50 computers to run desktop applications on the free open-source operating system, Gonicus GmbH, one of the IT companies involved in the project, said Thursday in a statement.

The Linux desktop implementation was headed up by the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI), in cooperation with several small German IT companies.

“All 50 desktops, located throughout the institute, are now successfully running Linux on the desktop,” said Holger Burbach, an IT consultant with Gonicus. “The institute plans to have all 150 desktop computers converted to Linux over the next couple of months.”

One of the main reasons why the German government is pushing Linux is to lower total cost of ownership, Burbach said. The combination of free Linux software and thin-client architecture, with centralized software maintenance and administration, will substantially reduce operating costs, he said.

The desktop PCs use the KDE office application suite, Burbach said.

KDE, which stands for Kool Desktop Environment, was developed by a group of largely German participants several years ago to provide a free graphical user interface for Unix-based computers, according to its Web site at

KDE uses the Qt C++ cross platform GUI (graphical user interface) toolkit. Qt is available for free in source code form for free software development and can be freely distributed, the site said. Several hundred developers write code for KDE, which has nearly 2.6 million lines of code in its source code repository.