Practical Technology

for practical people.

Obama vs. Microsoft


Obama, the first true 21st century President, and his staff have arrived at the White House to find themselves stuck with 20th century Microsoft software… and they’re not happy.

According to a report in The Washington Post, Obama’s staffers found themselves blocked from social networks, like Facebook, instant-messaging, and even plain old E-Mail.

Worse still, they found themselves forced to change from their up-to-date Macs to what sounds like PCs running Windows 2000 or XP and Microsoft Office 2003. Ow!

It seems part of the problem is that the Presidential Records Act requires all official work and e-mail be preserved. Mind you, that never seemed to be a real concern for Bush’s White House staff, which seems to have deliberately destroyed or never recorded more than 5-million White House e-mails..

Of course, that could have just been Microsoft Exchange doing its usual superb job as a mail system. Before George W. Bush’s administration, the White House used IBM Lotus Notes, but during his first year in office, the White House switched over to Exchange 5.5. Somehow, I suspect, that it wasn’t just Microsoft software living down to its usual low reputation.

U.S. District Court Judge Hugh Kennedy ordered Bush’s Feds on January 14th (PDF Link)“to search the workstations . . . and to collect and preserve all e-mails sent or received between March 2003 and October 2005 and (2) issue a preservation notice to its employees directing them to surrender any media in their possession . . . that may contain e-mails sent or received between March 2003 and October 2005, and for EOP to collect and preserve all such media.”

With that being the case, perhaps what Obama’s IT staff should really do is just do a mass replacement of the existing archaic Windows PCs and Microsoft systems with Macs and Linux-powered e-mail servers. For that matter, they could switch back to Lotus Notes on Linux. Lotus Notes Traveler, the mobile Lotus Notes client, already supports Obama’s favorite e-mail device, the Blackberry. Last, but not least considering what happened with Bush’s e-mail, it’s worth noting that Lotus Notes has several excellent archiving programs from companies like AXSone, Open Text and Sherpa.


  1. If the Obama Administration used/installed Linux in the white house, it would be a great leap forward for both parties. The white house saves a few , in these times, valuable tax payer dollars, and the Linux community get HUGE bragging rights and the media will go wild.

    I would fully support the idea!

    (And maybe some emails might stop going ‘missing’)

  2. What do they expect? I’ve been working on a military installation that doesn’t house near as sensitive information as I would expect to come across the White House LAN and they block more than you could imagine. We’ve been told that part of it is because bandwidth costs and the rest is misuse of government resources etc. If I can’t waste my tax money then neither can you sir!

    Please let me know how Obama spending half the day on Facebook helps anyone.

    Not to say I’d be against a switch to Linux, but overpriced Mac equipment doesn’t help anything but the “Hip” factor.

    I support a plan to switch government and DoD infrastructures over to Linux at whatever pace current Microsoft support agreements run out, any sooner is a waste of money. I guess we’ll just see what happens….

  3. Pingback: Boycott Novell » Microsoft and Politics (Against Google)

  4. @Mammlouk:
    You obviously don’t understand the value in Social Networking – it’s not just for schookids anymore. It’s a great way to distribute information quickly and to allow people to add their opinions as the information moves.
    As for Macs and the “hip” factor – they are well known as being less prone to viral attacks than the Wintel platforms, and their pricing is actually pretty even with comparable PC hardware/software combinations.
    Waiting for MS agreements to expire is a waste of money – move now, and don’t spend ANY more money on Redmond product.

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