Linux app 'gotcha' held up portal

A Linux system was at the centre of technical problems that have contributed to the New Zealand government portal launch delay.

However, a spokesman for the State Services Commission's e-government unit, Edwin Bruce, says the "big gotcha" wasn't inherent in Linux but was a configuration issue with one application.

Computerworld has been shown the latest revision of the portal, which was to have been launched in July. However, the technical problem affecting the site's search speed, and the general election, meant the deadline was missed.

Bruce says no firm date has been set for the launch, but he's eager to "get it out there and get feedback from the community".

The site development team has been doing that on a small scale. Computerworld's viewing, at the start of the month, was a second look at the site, whose home page has been simplified since the earlier preview. But despite the tweaking, Bruce is sure they'll come in for criticism.

"We'll be knocked for the absence of a spell checker [in the search function], on the site's depth and breadth and on [information] hierarchies," he expects.

But he thinks the biggest criticism will be for the inconsistent look and feel of the government agency sites to which the portal links. However, ensuring the seamless appearance of all agency sites "would take years to sort out".

Bruce says the search problem . now solved . was a "deep, dark technical issue" which took "a lot of energy from the techos" to overcome.

It affected content manager Autonomy, which is running under Linux on a multiprocessor machine. Bruce says although Autonomy was certified to run in a multiprocessor configuration, it took a patch from the software's creator to make it work.

Bruce says the portal has cost less than $5 million to develop. With all final code now in place, it will make its public debut before Christmas, with a likely first revision next March.

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