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City of Vancouver Adopts Open Standards

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the asleep-at-the-switch-in-redmond dept.

Government 132

rbrander writes "Vancouver, Canada's third-largest city, has adopted a policy of 'open standards, interfaces and formats' for all public data. They will also consider open-source software on an even footing with proprietary for all new software purchases. Fifteen of the fifteen people who signed up to speak to city council on the topic spoke in favor. Their only criticism was, 'can't you do more?' with one advocating that free and open source software be given preference, not equal footing."

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who gives a fuck? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28077567)

open sources fails. it's the turds that a fag will suck of the ass of another fag.

Re:who gives a fuck? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28077601)

Easy there, Steve. Why don't you throw a chair? That always makes you feel better.

Re:who gives a fuck? (1)

Suiggy (1544213) | more than 5 years ago | (#28077653)

I had a hearty lol

Re:who gives a fuck? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28078059)

Yeah, a hearty laugh at your expense.

It's "laugh." Laugh, you moron. Not "lol." Lol isn't even a word. At least they're doing something with their ideas, as opposed to you.

Re:who gives a fuck? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28077833)

Your mother should have swallowed.

Re:who gives a fuck? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28077939)

Huh? I dont think you're familiar with how conception works.

Re:who gives a fuck? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28078503)

this is whoosh; i don't really care.
let's rephrase that one a bit. put it in the hole where it won't cause kids. as opposed to that other hole down there. you know the one.
the one the GP probably hasn't seen since birth.

Cunt Waffles (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28077927)

Cunt Waffles [cuntwaffles.com] are good.

One good point about the Economical Crisis. (4, Interesting)

vawarayer (1035638) | more than 5 years ago | (#28077599)

It's good that in tough times, our elected people stop and think outside the box a bit.

Re:One good point about the Economical Crisis. (5, Insightful)

BikeHelmet (1437881) | more than 5 years ago | (#28077655)

It's not so much thinking outside the box, as not forgetting what you put in it.

When you can't open documents from a decade and a half ago, because they were stored in some incompatible proprietary format, you can't help but get a bad taste in your mouth for the company that caused it.

Now if you can complete your required task by using free software instead, and you have a guarantee that format will always be supported... well, make the logical jump.

Even if it isn't always supported, you can save the sourcecode, and decades from now you just get some enterprising novice coder to create a plugin to load it, for some money and experience. ;)

Re:One good point about the Economical Crisis. (0)

Magic5Ball (188725) | more than 5 years ago | (#28078103)

When you can't open documents from a decade and a half ago, because they were stored in some incompatible proprietary format, you just get some enterprising novice coder to create a plugin to load it. This is a solution for accessing any legacy soft and hard format, given sufficient resources.

(Contemplate what happens when current source code formats become incompatible...)

Also, neither having the source code, nor saving files in an open or documented format is a guarantee that they will remain accessible. There's a good chance today that if you open a postscript (or derivatives) or TIFF created a decade ago with three different renderers based on different sourcecode than which created them, you'll get five different renderings.

There's a good chance today that if you open a rich DHTML file using three different renderers based on different sourcecode than which created them, you'll get five different renderings...

(No, I'm not scarred by having to convert .GEM files into a modern format.)

Re:One good point about the Economical Crisis. (4, Insightful)

BikeHelmet (1437881) | more than 5 years ago | (#28078199)

This is a solution for accessing any legacy soft and hard format, given sufficient resources.

Reverse engineering a binary format from a decade and a half ago is harder than converting old source code into new source code.

One requires a skilled individual, or maybe even team. The other requires a less skilled individual. Converting between programming languages isn't exactly rocket science. (it isn't assembly, either)

The enterprising novice only has to understand the source, and then re-implement it as a plugin in his favourite language.

(Contemplate what happens when current source code formats become incompatible...)

Do you really think C will be gone in a couple decades? ;)

Those of us that love it do not. Those of us that do not love it, also do not. C is very resilient.

Re:One good point about the Economical Crisis. (1)

Anonymous Conrad (600139) | more than 5 years ago | (#28078345)

It's not just the source itself. OpenOffice has a really nasty slew of dependencies. Do you see all of those, and all of their interfaces, still hanging around in 15 years? As it stands now you'll struggle to build recent OpenOffice on RHEL4, say, which is still widely in use - e.g. it needs a dbus API version you can't supply without upgrading half the OS packages beyond EL4.

And I don't think having the source is necessarily any help - you can't get a contributor-standard understanding of any large codebase overnight, and OOo is huge. Certainly not a job for a novice. Our hypothetical coder in 2025 would do better reading the format documents.

Re:One good point about the Economical Crisis. (4, Insightful)

penix1 (722987) | more than 5 years ago | (#28078439)

ummm...no. They can get a version of the distro it was built on and install it on that computer in the museum. That's the strength of open source. Every version back to the beginning is, and will be, available somewhere. Given the DRM contained in most closed source programs, good luck finding an activation server around that will allow the program to run.

VMs (5, Interesting)

Mathinker (909784) | more than 5 years ago | (#28078459)

A lot of your complaints would be solved by saving the rendering software in binary form which runs under an open-source virtual machine like VirtualBox. Then no matter how many formats you want to preserve, you only need to deal with constantly porting the VM to current technological standards.

This idea also helps if, for some reason, you prefer to use a proprietary OS and proprietary formats --- however, in that case you are still more likely to run into some bug (a la Y2K38) which you will be much less able to fix compared to the open-source renderer/format case.

I suppose for something like Y2K38 you could just patch the VM to lie about the date, but that isn't going to help if your use scenario requires current date support.

Re:VMs (5, Insightful)

LaskoVortex (1153471) | more than 5 years ago | (#28078987)

A lot of your complaints would be solved by saving the rendering software in binary form which runs under an open-source virtual machine like VirtualBox.

This doesn't solve the problem of an activation server for the OS. You boot into your VM and it can't activate because the server is non-existent. Any problem you have with open source software is magnified 10X with closed source.

Re:VMs (1)

Anonymous Conrad (600139) | more than 5 years ago | (#28080395)

This doesn't solve the problem of an activation server for the OS. You boot into your VM and it can't activate because the server is non-existent. Any problem you have with open source software is magnified 10X with closed source.

So activate it before you archive it?

I still don't think re-using a 15-year old VM is non-trivial though. Why is porting the VM software easier than other software?

Re:One good point about the Economical Crisis. (1)

Daengbo (523424) | more than 5 years ago | (#28079913)

ODF is a standard and more office suites read it [wikipedia.org] than just OO.o. (Just stay away from MS Office SP2!)

Re:One good point about the Economical Crisis. (1)

Anonymous Conrad (600139) | more than 5 years ago | (#28080411)

DF is a standard and more office suites read it [wikipedia.org] than just OO.o.

Sure, but that doesn't mean any of them will still read or write it in 15 years time, which is the problem we're discussing here. And if you're arguing safety in numbers you're better of with .doc.

Re:One good point about the Economical Crisis. (1)

Daengbo (523424) | more than 5 years ago | (#28080475)

You argued that getting OO.o to compile is a bitch so you can't count on ODF. I said that there are other options. Don't re-frame the argument.

Re:One good point about the Economical Crisis. (3, Interesting)

Magic5Ball (188725) | more than 5 years ago | (#28078489)

Reverse engineering a binary format from a decade and a half ago is harder than converting old source code into new source code.

That's often a safe assumption, given certain constraints on code quality. But see Quark and Adobe and the choices they made about using legacy code vs. starting over from scratch on apps to read/write their own file formats after periods of cycling entire developer teams every 12-24 months for a couple of years. See my previous point about TIFF/PS/HTML (globally, those are among the most common file formats in current use [faxes, PDFs/printers, internets] and yet we have not achieved consistency in interpreting/writing those formats, despite the fact that they are open in both format and software tools).

Do you really think C will be gone in a couple decades? ;)

C as a language won't go away (nor would most programming languages ever become extinct), but don't count on the dozens of libraries, headers, templates and such that a typical program uses to be maintained into the future. Even now, configure on any moderately sophisticated program or framework (take OpenOffice) can require dozens of minutes to run, and potentially several hours to compile, because of all the version/architecture/configuration/etc interdependencies that need to be resolved, and we have access today to the sourcecodes for every relevant version of the subsystems. Are you confident that you could compile the relevant parts of OpenOffice 1.1.3 to recover some of the swriter table layout details that versions 2 and above handle differently now? From a pair of .ODx files, will a historian 100 years from now be able to figure out which two of the 3800 envelopes were not printed from the congresscritter's mail merge from an early and slightly buggy OpenOffice 2? (These problems are not exclusive to open source, nor are they solved by it.)

From an end-user perspective, I know that there are hundreds of millions of non-PCs out there (cell phones/PDAs, multi-function copiers/printers, digital projectors, etc.) that will successfully open (if not exactly) my Word 95 document, along with dozens (hundreds?) of computer programs on a variety of platforms that do not share a single point of control or failure. I don't know that any one (nor which one) of the current other open or proprietary formats will necessarily gain that much resiliency through massive redundancy that my document will open in 50 years.

Re:One good point about the Economical Crisis. (1)

colinrichardday (768814) | more than 5 years ago | (#28080251)

Even now, configure on any moderately sophisticated program or framework (take OpenOffice) can require dozens of minutes to run, and potentially several hours to compile, because of all the version/architecture/configuration/etc interdependencies that need to be resolved, and we have access today to the sourcecodes for every relevant version of the subsystems. Are you confident that you could compile the relevant parts of OpenOffice 1.1.3 to recover some of the swriter table layout details that versions 2 and above handle differently now?

No, but I'm confident that I could find an entire distro from that era. Anyway, I prefer LaTeX.

The compiler problem (4, Insightful)

symbolset (646467) | more than 5 years ago | (#28078545)

This is why the C compiler is required to be able to compile itself to a new target platform. If you're especially paranoid, you store a reference platform with the OS, compiler and compiler source as well as your escrow source. Then no matter how alien computers become, your code and hence your data can survive.

This problem was solved in the 1960's.

It's also why if it doesn't include a compiler and source that can compile both itself and the OS it's not an operating system - it's an operating environment.

Re:One good point about the Economical Crisis. (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 5 years ago | (#28079053)

Do you really think C will be gone in a couple decades? ;)

How many languages do you know that have lasted, not significantly changed, since early 60s?

Re:One good point about the Economical Crisis. (2, Funny)

ThePromenader (878501) | more than 5 years ago | (#28080279)

Cobol? Fortran? ; )

Re:One good point about the Economical Crisis. (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 5 years ago | (#28080727)

Cobol? Fortran? ; )

Given that both have got OO extensions in the 90s, not to mention the rest of it... I'd say neither moderl COBOL nor modern Fortran resemble the original languages out of which they have evolved much. Especially Fortran (Wikipedia has a few code samples of Fortran 95 vs Fortran 77 to compare, and F77 was itself a major change).

Re:One good point about the Economical Crisis. (2, Interesting)

Beardo the Bearded (321478) | more than 5 years ago | (#28079887)

C let me buy a house and a car.

I've saved thousands of lives with C.

I love C... and come to think of it, I've spent more time with it than I have with my wife.

Re:One good point about the Economical Crisis. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28078371)

"three different renderers based on different sourcecode than which created them, you'll get five different renderings."

Damn! That's a pretty impressive feat!

Re:One good point about the Economical Crisis. (1)

Magic5Ball (188725) | more than 5 years ago | (#28078519)

Five is a conservative number, as the issues with PS are well known.

If you're into it, try printing a moderately complex CSSed page in Firefox on Windows, any modern Linux and OS X. You'll experience up to three different printing engines and three different hardcopies. Bonus points if you use a font (or a part of a unicode font) that the browser supports, but the printing engine doesn't.

Also see what different programs (open source or not) do with/to multi-page TIFFs. Are the extra images layers, channels, appended, or nothing at all?

Re:One good point about the Economical Crisis. (1)

quanticle (843097) | more than 5 years ago | (#28078897)

(Contemplate what happens when current source code formats become incompatible...)

As I understand it, source code is either ASCII or Unicode plain text. Are you really saying that, even a hundred years from now, our computers won't be able to understand plain text?

Re:One good point about the Economical Crisis. (1)

KibibyteBrain (1455987) | more than 5 years ago | (#28079223)

Converting text encoding from a closed set to another is trivial.

Re:One good point about the Economical Crisis. (1)

Magic5Ball (188725) | more than 5 years ago | (#28079491)

We can pull fields off magnetic tapes from the 60s with fairly generic kit, but can we interpret them? http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/11/11/vintage_ibm_tape_drive_moon_dust_data/ [theregister.co.uk]

Heck, paper punchcards are compatible with current computers to the extent that we can OCR and assign discreet known values to the holes and represent their information in a binary format. Do you have a programmable loom from the 1800s I could borrow?

There's more to compatibility than being able to read raw data. Otherwise, we could say that vi is compatible with JPEGs to the extent that you could manipulate the images' wavelets by altering single bytes at a time.

Re:One good point about the Economical Crisis. (1)

quanticle (843097) | more than 5 years ago | (#28080169)

The examples you're relating aren't germane. In all of the cases, the data isn't plain text. It's binary data that's been encoded to fit on the media. Moreover, the range of values represented by the data is large - moon dust readings, images, etc. Finally, for all the above data the sample size is small - there are only a few sets of moon dust data, the only Jacquard looms available are all museum pieces, etc, and the encodings are proprietary.

On the other hand, plain text is a fairly small alphabet, encoded in an open-source format. Even in the (extremely unlikely) case that the format description for ASCII or Unicode is lost, one can do lexical analysis on the data to reconstruct the format.

Re:One good point about the Economical Crisis. (3, Interesting)

falckon (1015637) | more than 5 years ago | (#28080053)

In the future, programming will all be in XML, as this is will prove more adaptable to change. Open source software will of course embrace this open extensible language.

for (i=0;i<10;i++)
printf("%d\n", i);

Will be replaced with the following code which is not only much easier to read, and type, but is also adaptable to whatever extra options may be added to for loops over the years.

<for>
<initialization><assignmentvariable="i"><int>0</int></assignment></initialization>
<condition><expression>i<10</expression></condition>
<increment><assignmentvariable="i"><expression>i+1</expression></assignment></increment>
<body>
<output><expression>i</expression></output>
</body>
</for>

Re:One good point about the Economical Crisis. (4, Interesting)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | more than 5 years ago | (#28079103)

The problem with word docs goes beyond business philosophy. Technically the file format is a bit of a mess, and OLAP was it's name oh. It's complex, format piled upon format and probably not well understood (they haven't really improved their office suite materially since Joel Spolsky left, imho).

I do not equate complexity with sophistication, myself, but then I'm just a very old geek and I could be wrong.

-1, Awful Truth supported by evidence (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28079307)

If we don't care enough to get .doc and .html to work reliably today and they're used by everyone worldwide and supported by dozens of open source and proprietary developers, what makes you think that we'll need to get document formats to work reliably 10 years from now?

Re:One good point about the Economical Crisis. (1)

Presto Vivace (882157) | more than 5 years ago | (#28079545)

I agree, the aggravation factor is the biggest motivation for adopting open source.

Re:One good point about the Economical Crisis. (1)

Jurily (900488) | more than 5 years ago | (#28078375)

It's good that in tough times, our elected people stop and think outside the box a bit.

Not really. It's just a slightly bigger box.

Re:One good point about the Economical Crisis. (1)

Kulfaangaren! (1294552) | more than 5 years ago | (#28080809)

That MS Office 2007 upgrade that the budget just could not handle just became a must have since it supports "open standards" and MS Office 2003/XP does not :) Woohoo! One win for "open standards" in the books.

Welcome (5, Funny)

Nemyst (1383049) | more than 5 years ago | (#28077607)

I, for one, welcome our new open source Canuck overlords.

And that's, kids, how you .. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28077879)

.. whore for karma using dumb cliche jokes.

Re:And that's, kids, how you .. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28077931)

I'm a male prostitute, you insensitive clod!

It is a cliche joke (1)

apankrat (314147) | more than 5 years ago | (#28078057)

And it was pretty dumb, so gotta wonder why someone would post it ..

And that's, kids, how you .. (-1, Offtopic)

sortius_nod (1080919) | more than 5 years ago | (#28078155)

... get marked -1.

Re:And that's, kids, how you .. (1)

spazdor (902907) | more than 5 years ago | (#28078245)

There's really no point telling you, but Funny isn't worth karma anymore.

Re:Welcome (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28077965)

yeah, it's better than redmond or silicon valley... hehe

Vancouver is Awesome (4, Informative)

Phrogman (80473) | more than 5 years ago | (#28077657)

I am glad to see the city where I was born is leading the rest of Canada in adopting support for open standards. Hopefully this is a foot in the door that prompts the rest of Canada to follow suit.

Vancouver, and British Columbia in general has always had a very strong Linux community. Victoria (the provincial Capital) has always had a fairly strong LUG going for as long as I can remember.

Re:Vancouver is Awesome (4, Insightful)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 5 years ago | (#28078079)

The UK did the "equal consideration" thing years ago (I think around 2002/3). A few years later, I was still seeing government contracts being awarded based on statements like (actual quote) "Your tender was perfect, except for one word we wanted to hear: Microsoft".

Equal consideration isn't enough; it's a weasel word to appease people who care, while continuing with the status quo. Government buyers take risks only when forced to do so be legal requirements.

Re:Vancouver is Awesome (3, Interesting)

sortius_nod (1080919) | more than 5 years ago | (#28078203)

Unfortunately, as we can see now, the UK have some serious issues with their politicians flagrantly abusing the system. It really doesn't surprise me that they'd be stupid enough to openly admit they are biased toward Microsoft even though the policy states otherwise.

This really isn't a good example given the current situation in the UK.

Re:Vancouver is Awesome (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28078247)

Microsoft has been giving it's software away for free to government organisations just to stop them moving to FOSS.

Re:Vancouver is Awesome (1)

intx13 (808988) | more than 5 years ago | (#28078725)

Equal consideration is all that is needed. Unequal consideration means that an open source solution is considered a better choice than a closed source solution, before the individual merits of each solution are examined.

When you put open source and closed source solutions side-by-side on equal footing, you can make comparisons such as TCO, vendor lock-in, support options, timeliness of updates/upgrades, and so on. If you simply assume that open source should be preferential you're making as big a mistake as assuming that closed source should be preferential and you'll end up picking some forked project with a fading community and no documentation simply because "nobody ever got fired for choosing open source".

An equal footing is necessary - no preference either way until all the cards are laid out.

Re:Vancouver is Awesome (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28079619)

Unequal consideration means that an open source solution is considered a better choice than a closed source solution, before the individual merits of each solution are examined.

No, unequal consideration means that an open source solution is considered a better choice than a closed source solution, after the individual merits of each solution are examined, and only if they are otherwise equal.

You can make the bias heavier than that, but in a first-round assessment, if the propriety solution is better it wins, if the open source solution is better or equal it wins. THAT's unequal consideration.

Your original case is also unequal consideration but it's not the lowest case of unequal consideration. What you describe is a more heavily biased consideration.

It would be nice... (4, Insightful)

viyh (620825) | more than 5 years ago | (#28077659)

...if all government agencies adopted this policy. After all, what good is using standards if they aren't used across the board? Plus, there are so many "open standards" in many cases that it kind of defeats it's own purpose.

Re:It would be nice... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28077733)

The great thing about standards is that there are so many to choose from!

Re:It would be nice... (5, Interesting)

jpedlow (1154099) | more than 5 years ago | (#28077791)

Sorry Friend, it's laughable at best. :( The problem is that the provincial government of British Columbia has a branch, called WTS: http://www.sharedservicesbc.gov.bc.ca/Workplace_Technology_Services/supplier.htm [gov.bc.ca] these people handle all of the computers on the provincial level. Basically, you've got a lot of hardcore geeks bound by red tape and managers who know nothing about computers in general. (Same old story, right?) Anyway... In the old days, every ministry, say Transport, for example, would have their own admins, their own domain software packages etc. Now it's all under one roof, the problem is that they like old school technology. Ie we have to BEG AND PLEAD to use PHP, ruby etc for interfaces for our databases...prettymuch the problem is, the geeks on hand love open source, but the managers for the whole system have their heads firmly planted up their butts. Thats even the reason why they *just* ramped up to vista instead of waiting for win7 because it'd have "unproven performance". Good game, bureaucracy.

No prefered treatment! (5, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#28077745)

Giving OSS preferred treatment means that it doesn't win because it's better but just because it got an "unfair" advantage. You'll end up with the same prejudice that many "affirmative action" projects face, claiming that they only got this or that position because of that "unfair" advantage, not on their own merit.

I'm convinced that OSS can "win" on its own. And nobody will be able to claim that the sole reason was preference.

Re:No prefered treatment! (5, Informative)

Stormwatch (703920) | more than 5 years ago | (#28077955)

It's not about the best app for a given job, it's about avoiding vendor lock-in. When it comes to government documents, total format openness should be obligatory.

Prejudice for freedom is entirely appropriate. (4, Insightful)

jbn-o (555068) | more than 5 years ago | (#28077969)

A citizen's desire to ensure their freedom is entirely appropriate. With software the only way to do that is to exclusively use free software and open standards. Proprietors aren't stupid; sometimes they write powerful software. But no matter what that software does it is always non-free. Powerful proprietary software has a master, an individual or organization that controls its destiny and thus what the user can do and how the user can do that job. People accustomed to the idea that programs should be decided on certain vaguely-stated values ("their own merit") and not a user's freedom—the freedoms of free software—need to reevaluate their views in light of what public service means. Governments should not be under the thumb of proprietors, no matter how powerful their software. We are better off improving free software to make up for any technical limitations it has so that it can do what citizens need it to do; thus less powerful free software is preferable to more powerful proprietary software.

Re:No prefered treatment! (1)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 5 years ago | (#28078071)

Giving OSS preferred treatment means that it doesn't win because it's better but just because it got an "unfair" advantage. You'll end up with the same prejudice that many "affirmative action" projects face, claiming that they only got this or that position because of that "unfair" advantage, not on their own merit.

I'm convinced that OSS can "win" on its own. And nobody will be able to claim that the sole reason was preference.

But Vancouver is doing the right thing by enforcing open standards. It just means anybody can play and lack of vendor lock-in and hence more competition. I wish the US Government went to Open Standards - as it is, a lot of departments there force you to use Microsoft Windows for various things, which is almost as ridiculous as forcing someone to drive a Ford in order to use a public parking spot.

Re:No prefered treatment! (1)

Lennie (16154) | more than 5 years ago | (#28078195)

I'm always suprised about how people are able to come up with new car analogies each time. :-)

Re:No prefered treatment! (1)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 5 years ago | (#28078097)

As far as I'm concerned, proprietary software is, by definition, not fit for purpose in public projects**. So yes, OSS and open formats can win on their merits, but yes, they should also be mandated.

** See Peter Quinn's "Sovereignty" arguments for why

Re:No prefered treatment! (1)

afabbro (33948) | more than 5 years ago | (#28080007)

As far as I'm concerned, proprietary software is, by definition, not fit for purpose in public projects**.

My generalization meter just went from SWEEPING to OVERFLOW.

Yes, open software is better for government projects, all things being equal. But when they're not - which is often the case - you have to make a judgement each time. For example, I can think of several transportation management apps and several engineering apps which have no open source equivalent and likely never will (mainly because the "itch" you'd have to scratch is, for example, a large, multi-modal transportation network). Saying that proprietary software is "by definition, not fit for purpose" would be ridiculous in such cases, which are far from uncommon.

Re:No prefered treatment! (1)

n3r0.m4dski11z (447312) | more than 5 years ago | (#28078477)

Its not a war to be won. Its the case of the most intelligent solution being written into law. IT policies are a few decades old at best. Affirmative action has nothing to do with anything, open formats only unfair advantage is that they are better in EVERY way than propietary formats. ESPECIALLY when dealing with yours and my governments data, which i assume i own and have used taxes to pay for.

You dont have to like the government to demand they share with you the information they have gathered on your behalf. THats common investment sense.

Re:No prefered treatment! (4, Insightful)

jonaskoelker (922170) | more than 5 years ago | (#28078559)

In some situations, being Open Source is a merit in itself.

Giving preference to Open Source is one way to let that merit influence your decision.

Exactly how much preference Open Source will have (and should have) is open to debate. Is it "all else equals", or is it "unless there's a strong compelling reason not to", or somewhere between?

Re:No prefered treatment! (4, Insightful)

erroneus (253617) | more than 5 years ago | (#28078963)

Merit is irrelevant. Microsoft has never won on merit alone. They bought their position wilfully and skilfully. That is hardly the issue. It would still be a problem if WordPerfect still ruled the word processor world and Lotus 123 the spreadsheet world. The issue is vendor lock-in.

If file formats are all the same AND COMPATIBLE, then the competing apps vendors will inherently have to compete on merit. You will get your wish. But until such a time that Microsoft stops playing games with their intentional monkey-wrench implementation of ODF, it would be best if everyone moved over to an implementation that DOES use an acceptable and compatible implementation of ODF. Once that happen, then if Microsoft were to try to play in that arena, they would have a harder time playing their old games. Not that they wouldn't try, but the very first time a government document was made available to the public and the applications that people use (something other than Microsoft Office) coughs and says it can't read it, then Microsoft will have to answer to the problem they created. If there is law that says "this government body will use only open and compatible formats" and Microsoft fails, then Microsoft either needs to provide a fix or a refund at that point.

But BEFORE that level and fair playing field can be established, a "standard" needs to be in place first... an open standard. Microsoft has already demonstrated bad faith with their first implementation that will READ all ODF documents just fine... but won't save them in a way that other software can read them. (That is exactly how their lock-in game works.)

Re:No prefered treatment! (1)

Daengbo (523424) | more than 5 years ago | (#28080055)

Merit is irrelevant. Microsoft has never won on merit alone. They bought their position wilfully [sic] and skilfully [sic].

That is true from the moment that Bill got the IBM contract for a product he didn't even have yet. Thanks, Mom!

Re:No prefered treatment! (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 5 years ago | (#28080063)

Sorry, that makes little sense. OSS isn't a genetically challenged underclass, held down by a bunch of bigot of another race. No affirmative action here.

OSS is a competitive alternative that saves big bucks in the long run. Open source standards documents are sufficient for transmitting and storing any type of data that government needs to transmit or store. There is no NEED to pay the monopoly hundreds of thousands each and every year for the privilege of using - what, exactly? A bunch of macros that are designed NOT to run on any other office suite?

We have a vicious cycle here, really. Microsoft designs such things, and hard sells them to business, business grows to rely on them, OSS begins to offer similar features, so Microsoft alters the features sufficiently to prevent compatibility, at the same time promising business that failure to upgrade will break compatibility with future MS offerings.

It just doesn't end.

If government and business decide to adopt open source standards, eventually MS will be forced to adopt those same standards, or find themselves out of the market entirely.

And, if EVERYONE is using open standards, MS can STILL SELL their product! Probably not at the inflated prices they charge today, but hey, they can still sell. All they have to do is become compatible. No one needs preferred treatment, just the same standards applied to everyone.

Re:No prefered treatment! (1)

mspohr (589790) | more than 5 years ago | (#28080367)

I think that open source should be given preferred status since the source code is freely available and can be modified to meet the exact needs of the organization. This is a real advantage and should be given recognition. Most software meets 90+% of business needs. The other 10% are usually idiosyncratic requirements unique to the organization. Open source can meet that last 10% in situations where proprietary vendors are not willing or capable of modifying their software.

Rational behavior (5, Insightful)

FilterMapReduce (1296509) | more than 5 years ago | (#28077763)

They will also consider open-source software on an even footing with proprietary for all new software purchases. [...] Their only criticism was, 'can't you do more?' with one advocating that free and open source software be given preference, not equal footing."

Indeed, it seems irrational that open source software isn't always considered on an even footing, not just in Vancouver but everywhere. Do governments assume that there is some inherent advantage to the source code being kept secret and copyrighted—security through obscurity, perhaps?

And it seems at least as irrational that open source isn't already given preferential treatment on account of its price, which is generally zero. You always hear about governments automatically going with the lowest bidder, even to their own detriment. Yet, when it comes to software, it almost goes without saying that they shell out money for Windows and Office.

Re:Rational behavior (4, Insightful)

calmofthestorm (1344385) | more than 5 years ago | (#28078039)

It's more that governments are slow to react to changes, and it is only in the last 5-10 years that open source software has entered the public consciousness /at all/.

There are a lot of interest groups that want to make it sound like nothing of value is ever free.

Re:Rational behavior (1)

Narpak (961733) | more than 5 years ago | (#28078469)

It's more that governments are slow to react to changes, and it is only in the last 5-10 years that open source software has entered the public consciousness /at all/.

Indeed. The people in government aren't the ones with the best oversight and understanding of technological issues. When computers started gaining wide adaptation those deciding upon what systems to use for state and government work tried to make the best choice from the options they had, or thought they had, available. Going with a system like Windows seemed to have been the safe choice, Microsoft making every effort on all fronts to make the deciders feel like that to I am sure. But for non-techsavy bureaucrats and politicians whatever "Open Source" interests groups might have existed at the time might as well have been speaking another language entirely.

These days some of those non-techsavy bureaucrats and politicians might still be there, but the amount and eloquence of those preaching for open standards is increasing. With the developments being made the alternative for a Government to find a system were they can oversee, change, adapt and maintain, the code themselves must be becoming lucrative. If this could be done for costs that are below what have to be paid for licences and service at the present time; then it seems almost inevitable.

Open source isn't free... (1)

msimm (580077) | more than 5 years ago | (#28079147)

It's just distributing the cost more intelligently among those who need it. So you see, we still get what we pay for. :-)

Lowest Bidder? (2, Funny)

hax0r_this (1073148) | more than 5 years ago | (#28078049)

You always hear about governments automatically going with the lowest bidder

Really? Where are you from?

Re:Rational behavior (3, Insightful)

Magic5Ball (188725) | more than 5 years ago | (#28078227)

TCO includes not having to retrain noobs from the street or the IT/HR department on the newfangled interface which has slightly different looking UI elements. Remember that employees and intended users may have knowledge ranging from wanting to load paper into the LCD through to what we know here. At present, part of IT's costs are hidden by the practice of power users (anyone under 30) in local offices performing (passable) first tier helpdesk functions for most of their common end-user applications (Windows, Office, web browser, printing). With any new system (MS upgrade or Linux), there's a relearning cost, which shows up as $ on someone's budget. In a typical bureaucracy or large organisation, IT (as with all other departments) would naturally prefer for someone else to bear that cost.

Learning a slightly different interface should be the same level of difficulty, given comparable new interfaces, regardless of the brand of the new interface but it isn't. There is a psychological factor, which some programmers are too quick to discount, arising from the reputation of the previous product. MS whatever may crash/break all the time, but at least the user already knows the ways in which it breaks and how to avoid those situations. There's less reliability about known faults for a new product from the same vendor, than for a new product from a new vendor which may contain a whole new set of faults to learn.

Re:Rational behavior (1)

rxan (1424721) | more than 5 years ago | (#28079327)

Do governments assume that there is some inherent advantage to the source code being kept secret and copyrightedâ"security through obscurity, perhaps?

People usually go with the familiar. When your entire workforce knows how to use Microsoft software already, you aren't going to dump FOSS on them. Any money you saved would be lost to person hours learning the new software.

Does it seem irrational that your state continues to contract the same company to produce police cruisers? No, they just go with what already works.

Now if only the rest of Canada... (1)

Jesterace (914041) | more than 5 years ago | (#28077773)

It would be nice to see that happen on the East Coast. I'm currently in Halifax. there's a small Linux base here. I know of a Debian group that meets downtown every so often. Even my job I could see a migration to Linux work. Everything we use has an open source alternative, everything right down the the Cisco softphones (not sure if there's an *nix version). I would embrace the change, if I didn't casually game on Windows I'd likely migrate myself.

Only Criticism... (4, Insightful)

SwashbucklingCowboy (727629) | more than 5 years ago | (#28077825)

Their only criticism was, 'can't you do more?' with one advocating that free and open source software be given preference, not equal footing."

FOSS shouldn't be given preference. It should be considered using the same criteria as proprietary software: functionality, cost, security, sourcing, etc. Considering that FOSS is generally less expensive than proprietary software, it's already got an advantage that proprietary software will have difficulty overcoming.

Re:Only Criticism... (1)

Jesterace (914041) | more than 5 years ago | (#28077841)

I would give it preference if it did the job just as well or better as it would justify the costs of having to purchase liscense's for software.

Re:Only Criticism... (4, Insightful)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | more than 5 years ago | (#28077873)

Well yes and no. One item on a checklist of pros and cons should be "Is it FOSS", since it is a known fact that given the exact same source code it is preferential and beneficial that said source code be open rather than proprietary. So in that one respect, yes, FOSS should be given preference.

Re:Only Criticism... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28078233)

Why?

FOSS is only a strength if you have the time/money/inclination to change the source. For the most part, a "Just works" solution is what government and others are looking for. If they run into an issue they need the source for, they are just as likely to begin searching for a new provider.

Re:Only Criticism... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28078351)

You're completely ignoring the issue of long-term support, and governments and their documents are usually of a long-term nature. Hell, I have ten year old files in proprietary formats that are now unreadable; just think of how rare it'll be to have backwards compatibility with today's files in fifty years. Similarly, if you need to go back to an old piece of software, with FOSS you have the chance of adding a feature you need whereas with proprietary software you'd have to hope the vendor still exists and that they've kept a person on who can support the old apps. Proprietary software and file formats are not archival.

Re:Only Criticism... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28078361)

Why?

FOSS is only a strength if you have the time/money/inclination to change the source.

No. It also allows other parties than the original vendor to provide support for the product. With a closed source solution you can only get support from the original vendor or a "partner" of the original vendor - "partner" implying he is dependent on the original vendor.

FOSS should not get preference (3, Interesting)

symbolset (646467) | more than 5 years ago | (#28078465)

It should be required. That's the People's data they're locking up in proprietary formats. It's the People's data they're accessing using the world's only malware ecosystem. We are entitled to expect more.

Re:FOSS should not get preference (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28078877)

And the People can require specifications as part of their contract, whether it's a FOSS product or not.

Re:FOSS should not get preference (4, Insightful)

symbolset (646467) | more than 5 years ago | (#28078923)

Vendors lie.

Embrace Jashinism (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28077903)

You cocksucking Atheists!!

By Neruos (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28078075)

Open Standards on Policy, Procedures and Data is one thing..
Open Stardards on Software is another..

They ARE NOT the same nor in anyway RELATED.

somebody has been looking at maps??? (2, Insightful)

baomike (143457) | more than 5 years ago | (#28078501)

Did the author just stumble on it or did someone tell him/her to identify which Vancouver?
Vancouver Washington and Vancouver BC are close (sort of) but are not alike.
Kind of makes a difference.

Re:somebody has been looking at maps??? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28078739)

Did the author just stumble on it or did someone tell him/her to identify which Vancouver?

I think the author realized he's writing for a primarily American audience, so it's not safe to assume that the audience would ever have even heard of Vancouver (either one).

Re:somebody has been looking at maps??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28079799)

It's Vancouver, BC. Though it doesn't seem to be mentioned directly in the article, many inferences exist, including the location of "Andrea Reimer, the city councillor who proposed the motion..."

It's almost a given that any news about Vancouver presented by CBC is going to be about Vancouver BC (Canada's 8th largest city population) and not the comparably smaller American city, Vancouver, Washington. Sort of the same assumption you can make about the City of London mentioned by BBC not being London, Ohio unless explicitly written.

also first on carbon tax (1)

speed of lightx2 (1375759) | more than 5 years ago | (#28078527)

a bit off-topic, but British Columbia is so far the only place in the world with a carbon tax up-and-running.

Isnt that nice, warm and fuzzy. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28078899)

Fruitcakes!

This news is a little dated... (1, Insightful)

damn_registrars (1103043) | more than 5 years ago | (#28079021)

It was posted in a journal entry here on slashdot [slashdot.org] over a week ago. Looks like another fantastic job of the editors of not noticing newsworthy writings on this site.

Oh yes, "open standards" (2, Insightful)

hoarier (1545701) | more than 5 years ago | (#28079311)

So Vancouver is "adopting open standards for that data and considering open source software when replacing existing applications."

Open standards, and one presumes primarily for reports, spreadsheets, etc. As for example ECMA-376 Office Open XML File Formats (2nd edition) aka ISO/IEC 29500?

(If you're a bit lost, just think filename extensions with "x" on the end: "docx", "xlsx", ....)

Let's consider open source software for the purpose. Well, plenty of it supports this "Open" standard. But somehow it's not quite the same as good old familiar MS Office, which comes in such prettily and reassuringly shrinkwrapped boxes.

Plus ça change.....

Re:Oh yes, "open standards" (1)

belmolis (702863) | more than 5 years ago | (#28079769)

You're right that Microsoft is hoping to con people into thinking that OOXML is an open standard, but there are plenty of us here in BC who know the difference between OOXML and a real open standard like ODF.

Re:Oh yes, "open standards" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28080765)

Um, I think you're the one who's lost...

OOXML is not an open standard.

And, filename extensions with "x" on the end: "docx", "xlsx" are not OOXML.

One is not the same is some ... (1)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | more than 5 years ago | (#28079427)

FTA:

"She added that some felt open-source software should be favoured" - [ Emphasis Added ]

... and from the summary on /.:

"with one advocating that free and open source software be given preference, not equal footing." - [ Emphasis Added ]

It's not Open Source (3, Informative)

thethibs (882667) | more than 5 years ago | (#28079829)

Really, folks, RTFA. It's about open formats, not open source.

It seems to have been triggered by someone not being able to look at a WMV movie on the City of Vancouver site. They think you need IE to show a WMV. Gives you some idea of how intelligent the whole thing is.

Undoubtedly job#1 will be to convert all those WMVs to ...what?

Microsoft have not yet begun to fight this one. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28080161)

As a Vancouver resident (well suburb, but maybe my municipality will follow the big boys) I applaud this step.
However be advised the Microsoft has a significant development facility here, and they have yet to be heard from.
Alderman can pass motions, but we havent seen anything real yet.

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