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UK Government Mandates 'Preference' For Open Source

Soulskill posted about a year and a half ago | from the better-late-than-never dept.

Government 123

An anonymous reader writes "ComputerWeekly reports that the U.K. government 'has, for the first time, mandated a preference for using open source software for future developments.' This comes from the newly released version of the Government Service Design Manual, which has a section about when government agencies should use open source. It says: 'Use open source software in preference to proprietary or closed source alternatives, in particular for operating systems, networking software, web servers, databases and programming languages.' The document also warns against vendor lock-in. This policy shift comes under the direction of government CTO Liam Maxwell, who said, 'In digital public services, open source software is clearly the way forward.' He added, 'We're not dogmatic about this – we'll always use the best tool for the job – but open source has major advantages for the public sector.'"

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Yet another government mandate! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43192085)

Picking winners and losers, while exercising totalitarian control over others.

This tyranny will never last, it is the enemy of the people, and will soon be destroyed by the more efficient free-market.

(Sarcasm mode disengage)

Re:Yet another government mandate! (2)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year and a half ago | (#43192221)

Amen Brother! Tell it like it is!

Good thing we have Microsoft to fight against such totalitarian overreach. Freedom from choice! Freedom from excess money! Freedom!

Re:Yet another government mandate! (1)

kelemvor4 (1980226) | about a year and a half ago | (#43192651)

Amen Brother! Tell it like it is!

Good thing we have Microsoft to fight against such totalitarian overreach. Freedom from choice! Freedom from excess money! Freedom!

Actually, MS is not excluded here. Nothing's stopping them from releasing their products as open source. Well, nothing other than greed.

Re:Yet another government mandate! (1)

BasilBrush (643681) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193009)

Making a product by supplying a product is "greed" now is it, comrade?

Re:Yet another government mandate! (1)

BasilBrush (643681) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193027)

Marking a *profit*...

Re:Yet another government mandate! (1)

fido_dogstoyevsky (905893) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193813)

Marking a *profit*...[by supplying a product is "greed" now is it, comrade?]

If the product is designed to maintain and abuse a monopoly, yes it is.

Mandating someone pays for what they get free (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43193307)

Mandating someone pays for what they get free is communism, comrade.

Re:Yet another government mandate! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43194257)

Making a product by supplying a product...
Making a fish by supplying a fish...
Making a bicycle by supplying a bicycle...
Making a fool by supplying a fool...
Making a statement by supplying a statement...

Re:Yet another government mandate! (1)

Zemran (3101) | about a year and a half ago | (#43194393)

I am sure that you can understand the word 'greed' and already know its definition so you are obviously trolling as it is quite appropriate in this context whereas your definition is inaccurate.

Re: Yet another government mandate! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43194001)

In some places its being taken serious. I have just started a new dev job working for the gov on health systems and the teams are taking open source serious. My next project will most likly be using ruby on rails, the last used php, mysql and closed source tech.

what did we fight for? (0)

tapi0 (2805569) | about a year and a half ago | (#43192111)

Who's this Liam Maxwell? Sounds like a commie.

Is this real? (3, Interesting)

rsilvergun (571051) | about a year and a half ago | (#43192145)

anyone on the other side of the pond know if this is a real attempt to push OSS software or if it's just another attempt to get discounted Microsoft software?

Re:Is this real? (4, Funny)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year and a half ago | (#43192253)

it's just another attempt to get discounted Microsoft software?

Of course it is! What else did you think?

-- Sir Humphrey Appleby

Re:Is this real? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43192329)

More likely some MP's son / capita (delete as applicable) has just rolled a new linux distro and want to sell some 25 year service contracts.

Re:Is this real? (1)

Kjella (173770) | about a year and a half ago | (#43192337)

My guess is that it's mostly political rah-rah but in reality bureaucrats will find requirements so they get the proprietary platform of their choice anyway. Sometimes I've suspected vendor involvement, but in reality it seems to be mostly people on the inside who pick the system they already know and have competence with.

Re:Is this real? (1)

Nerdfest (867930) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193941)

... or they pick the product whose sales-weasels give them vacations and golf outings.

Re:Is this real? (1)

Skapare (16644) | about a year and a half ago | (#43195077)

Are you talking about West Virginia?

Re:Is this real? (3, Informative)

rtb61 (674572) | about a year and a half ago | (#43195527)

You have to consider that for other countries M$ is a dead loss, tons of money going out with no return. Pushing FOSS means that if an offshot of a major campaign contributing company sets up in that market you can readily funnel money to them and look really good in the polls when doing so. Basically FOSS in also going to be a double plus win for pollies.

Re:Is this real? (5, Informative)

Jake Benilov (2867501) | about a year and a half ago | (#43192367)

You betcha. The Government Service Design Manual comes from GDS [cabinetoffice.gov.uk] , a part of the Cabinet Office. GDS also created GOV.UK [gov.uk] - the new single domain for the UK government. The GOV.UK stack is almost entirely open-source software, which can be found on Github [github.com] under the Open Government License [nationalarchives.gov.uk] .

Re:Is this real? (2)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193159)

I like this trend, but I think Open Government License is counterproductive Not-Invented-Hereism. It's basically a BSD-style license, but also contains an exhortation not to break British law.

Well, British law is already an exhortation not to break British law. You don't need an extra one. They should just use Apache 2 if they want a BSD-style license ; everyone's IP legal department already knows it.

Re:Is this real? (2)

jonbryce (703250) | about a year and a half ago | (#43195893)

"British Law", whatever that might be [1] only applies to people living in Britain. Having it in the licence means you aren't allowed to break it even if you are outside the country.

[1] There's English/Welsh law, Scottish Law and Northern Irish Law. They are similar in many ways, but three different legal systems.

Re:Is this real? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43195727)

So if they are serious about this, why does their shitty new jobsearch website require CVs to be uploaded in .doc or docx formats?

To be fair Cameron was pro open-source before he became prime minister, so it may well be something he believes is the right thing, but I don't think he is competent to ensure this policy is effective.

Re:Is this real? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43192389)

Posting AC.

There are certain public services in the UK that have real issues at the moment, IT-wise, due to the general austerity measures in place to reduce the deficit.

There are large sections of the UK police force stuck using IE6 due to dependancies on ActiveX.
XP is being EOL'ed next year.
The money isn't there to deal with the situation.

There's a lot of people campaigning for a move to open-source so nothing like this happens again.

Re:Is this real? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43193163)

Also posting AC, for the same reason as the parent I expect.

Being stuck with IE6 is finally starting to hurt, but all is not lost as Firefox has been introduced in several government departments. Personally I find it gratifying that they didn't just upgrade to a newer version of IE.

Re:Is this real? (4, Interesting)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193199)

Yeah, my lot have to manage the transition to Windows 7 for a whole bunch of bespoke applications. We got shot of IE6 and heavens, we were glad, because our stupid timesheet software used ActiveX so we had to ditch that too.

The only thing really holding us back from moving to Linux is MS Office. The NHS had an enterprise-wide license, which a back-of-napkin estimate says must have cost on the order of £100M per year. That got dropped a while ago, I'm guessing because it was a big fat line item in the budget and made a ripe target for people saying "hey, what if we spent some small fraction of that on LibreOffice development?".

A lot of our bespoke apps are Java and thus don't really need Windows to work. Web apps are web apps.

But we, like everywhere, I suspect, have a large number of things cobbled together from VBA and spit, not to mention the things people do with Access. Any coherent plan to move to Linux, or even LibreOffice, needs a department dedicated to migrating VBA and Access applications.

Re:Is this real? (2)

gmuslera (3436) | about a year and a half ago | (#43192657)

Maybe this [ariasprado.name] had something to do with it.

Re:Is this real? (1)

BasilBrush (643681) | about a year and a half ago | (#43192947)

He's new in the job. It's possible he's naive enough to be serious about it.

Re:Is this real? (2)

ais523 (1172701) | about a year and a half ago | (#43192999)

I think it's a response to most of their existing proprietary attempts to do things having been trainwrecks. I guess the reasoning is that at least this way, the trainwrecks will be less expensive on average.

Re:Is this real? (-1, Offtopic)

fipifuro (2867541) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193261)

http://www.cloud65.com/ [cloud65.com] just before I looked at the check ov $8284, I be certain that my friend actualey earning money part time at there labtop.. there friends cousin haz done this for less than 10 months and a short time ago cleared the morgage on there mini mansion and bought a brand new Ford Focus. this is where I went,

Re:Is this real? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43193293)

I'd believe it's real. I work for Lloyds (40% owned by government) and we've been steadily replacing Windows with RHEL for some time. Maybe they saw it working for us and decided it was time they could do better.

Re:Is this real? (2)

julian67 (1022593) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193319)

Yes it's real. If you can get past the partisan political bloggers and established media who don't usually notice anything in IT related tech beyond Apple, Google, MS and Samsung press releases then you can discover that the Conservative party (the larger partner in the coalition administration) has some well informed and rational policies in these areas. We've had several decades of IT school level education being no more than training people to use proprietary software for clerical tasks, while the government paid vast sums to middlemen for huge projects which failed to deliver while costs rose. Vast sums of money have been siphoned off to giant corporations like Microsoft, Serco and Fujitsu, for minimal benefit. Governments of all complexions have been guilty of terrible negligence and possibly corruption, but finally a few people who understand the severity of these problems and wish to fix them find themselves in government, and good luck to them. I'm not (so far) a Conservative voter, nor a member of any political party.

Not dogmatic? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43192205)

>"We're not dogmatic about this – we'll always use the best tool for the job"

You just mandated open source. You are clearly not basing this on what is the best tool (even if the open source happens to be the best tool). I am a fan of open source, but we shouldn't be mandating EITHER way. The best tool is the best tool, the type of source code is irrelevant.

A good analogy is if the UK government mandated that fleet vehicles have their design and manufacturing processes laid bare, or they wouldn't buy the vehicles. I really don't care about the processes documentation - buy the best car at the best price.

Re:Not dogmatic? (1)

Jorgensen (313325) | about a year and a half ago | (#43192345)

Ahem... Good analogy, bad conclusion...

A good analogy is if the UK government mandated that fleet vehicles have their design and manufacturing processes laid bare, or they wouldn't buy the vehicles. I really don't care about the processes documentation - buy the best car at the best price.

If the government did this, it would be in trouble as soon as the vehicle needs maintenance. Or if you wanted to modify the vehicle later. If you MUST go back to the vendor for this, you have just accepted the fate of a captive customer - good luck in the negotiations.

Openness is the customer requirement (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43192387)

You are clearly not basing this on what is the best tool (even if the open source happens to be the best tool).

You're contradicting yourself.

Openness has clear and undoubted benefits for the public sector, and so not surprisingly this customer made openness a default requirement. He's not mandating against proprietary software, but if a software company can't give him the desired openness then it's not fulfilling his requirement. Given his requirement, open source tools are the best tools by default, but not the only ones.

The customer decides the requirements, not the provider. Live with it.

Re:Not dogmatic? (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | about a year and a half ago | (#43192809)

You just mandated open source. You are clearly not basing this on what is the best tool (even if the open source happens to be the best tool). I am a fan of open source, but we shouldn't be mandating EITHER way. The best tool is the best tool, the type of source code is irrelevant.

As I understand it, it means "if two products are equally suitable for the given purpose, but one is open source and the other isn't, then choose the open source one." Not too different to the rules for employing women or people with disabilities, where you also are not disallowed to employ men or people without disabilities.

www (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43192219)

[url=http://www.goatse.info/]I think this story explains it (click on link)[/url]

Cost for software vs skill set (2)

DigiShaman (671371) | about a year and a half ago | (#43192247)

As I know, programmers and Linux admins cost twice to three times as much as their Windows admin counterpart. However, OSS is free.

Can anyone that's an IT director please clarify the gap, skillset, and possible configuring a network so complicated as to solidify job security for said admins? Which costs more and can deliver the most value? On that front, which set of admins is likely to engage in such dishonest practices? Or is it a out the same for both sets of admins?

And yes, there are many Windows/Linux admins that can do both with an indepth skillset and experience, but they command a premium salary as I know.

Re:Cost for software vs skill set (5, Informative)

DamonHD (794830) | about a year and a half ago | (#43192313)

Things have changed for the better for Windows I am quite sure, but back in the days when I was a UNIX sysadmin for a living you needed 10x as many Windows admins as UNIX admins for the same number of machines / user seats, so a simple salary ratio would be misleading!

Rgds

Damon

Re:Cost for software vs skill set (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43194553)

It's a factor of 3, these days. The Active Directory admins hate it when they see me coming, because I wind up educating them in the newb errors they've made in DNS, DHCP configurations, and password management. The Exchange managers also hate it when they see me coming because I *warn* them about the spam problems coming down the pike and how they can avoid it, and have consistently reversed that web of spit and duct tape they call a network map and pointed out the single points of failure.

They hate it worse when I walk them back around to the solutions I proposed 3 years ago, in the midst of their "incident" meetings after yet another system failure. This has happened repeatedly in my career: I've learned to show up with the printouts of my emails and the trouble tickets they've closed as "completed" but which were not, or which are still outstanding for the last 3 years.

And yes, I did this in London for a few years. The settled in middle managers who drew Gant charts for their projects *hated* me, but the people who actually wanted the email to work and to keep working loved me to pieces and tried to get me to emigrate.

Re:Cost for software vs skill set (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43192323)

Don't forget the real cost on the usability side. Don't forget the "throw away all our critical business apps and either buy a Linux version or re-write them ourselves" either (as that is the elephant in the room for large enterprises). On the usability side take this example: Smart card logon required, no passwords. What happens when users on a Linux machine go to internal, authenticated websites? They get challenged for a password that they don't have because "integrated authentication" (that passes through their credentials) isn't available. The cost of a couple of admins is peanuts. The cost of re-writing all of your apps is enormous. The cost of reduced usability is medium-high.

Re:Cost for software vs skill set (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43192373)

"integrated authentication" (that passes through their credentials) isn't available

Why wouldn't it be?

Re:Cost for software vs skill set (1)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193247)

Because GPP is living in an imaginary world where there are no Linux drivers for smartcards.

Or in a real world where the integrated authentication is some kind of horrible proprietary thing that doesn't follow standards, which would rather prove the point about lock-in...

Re:Cost for software vs skill set (1)

Bert64 (520050) | about a year and a half ago | (#43195889)

You have to plan your migration to take place over time.. You don't throw everything out over night, you just ensure that any new deployments are platform agnostic (and most apps get refreshed periodically anyway). That usually means apps being web based and standards compliant whenever possible, authentication systems being based on standards etc. After a while you no longer need the old proprietary junk and can easily get rid of it.

And this is already happening, applications are moving towards being browser based and the vast majority these days work in most browsers.

Re:Cost for software vs skill set (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43192391)

FUD

Why would you assume the HR hiring department works any different than the rest of the company? Companies trying to avoid the costs of proprietary software are not jumping all over themselves to pay twice to three times as much for Linux admins. They're hiring their way to the lowest salaried admins the marketplace will support.

Every Linux admin I know makes less than their Windows counterpart, yet are required to do twice to three times the work. Linux admins actually 'know' what they do and why they do it. As a result of knowing more, they end up having to do more, with no equivalent increase in salary.

Compare the cost of the skill set vs the value of skill set and you'll find that the Windows admins are costing much more than just twice to three times as much as their Linux admin counterparts..

Re:Cost for software vs skill set (1)

mjwalshe (1680392) | about a year and a half ago | (#43192397)

Unfortunately HMG tends to employ loads of pogramme managers and far to few people in house who actualy get stuff done

citation needed (1)

walterbyrd (182728) | about a year and a half ago | (#43192605)

> Linux admins cost twice to three times as much as their Windows admin counterpart

Where did you get this information? Please make sure you do an apples-to-apples comparison.

For example: don't compare somebody who does admin for 5 servers to somebody who does admin for 2000 servers.

Re:Cost for software vs skill set (1)

icebraining (1313345) | about a year and a half ago | (#43192607)

OSS is free

Not necessarily; I write OSS for a living, but only a fraction is free.

Re:Cost for software vs skill set (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193179)

By definition, if it's OSS your first customer can give it away for free and nobody need ever pay for it again. Therefore if your customers are paying for it it means one of three things:
1) They're idiots, or locked in to an acquisition model that doesn't account for non-purchased assets.
2) They believe in paying a fair price for a fair product, regardless of the legal necessity and effect on their bottom line. (don't we all wish)
3) You actually provide worthwhile additional value for the price: Support, customization, responsive adaptation to feedback, etc.

Re:Cost for software vs skill set (1)

icebraining (1313345) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193611)

You forgot one thing: it's not possible to get the software for free if it doesn't exist yet ;) A big part of our business is development of new software.

Besides, most of our costumers are not technologists, so the idea of going around setting up public source repositories is kind of foreign to them. We're significantly cheaper than the alternatives (mainly SAP), so they're happy to pay.

That said, we do offer additional value: hosting, support, custom development and training.

Re:Cost for software vs skill set (2)

Nerdfest (867930) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193979)

That's not the definition of open source software. Isn't that 'libre' software? Open source just means that you have the source. Personally, I'd prefer it if they mandated FOSS. Question though ... if MS made their products open source, could you maintain it yourself ... or would that be something that could be restricted by licence? The way I see it you could do anything you wanted with it within your own business. Anything else would be against copyright laws.

Re:Cost for software vs skill set (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43192997)

The difference between a Linux admin and a Windows admin:

If you ask something for which there is no solution provided by a well known vendor:
Windows admin: "Sorry it can not be done."
Linux admin: "I'll make a script for that."

Re:Cost for software vs skill set (0)

DigiShaman (671371) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193553)

Scripting involves simplifying or automating a process using pre-existing functions in whatever software you're scripting against. Programming involves creating new functions where previously such a module or action did not exist in the first place. In other words: One involves creating limited functionality with the elements given to you. The other is creating whole new elements from the ground up.

At the end of the day, both the Windows and Linux admin may have to contact the vendor if said functionality is missing. If you hit a brick wall, either you change how you conduct business with said software, or find another vendor. A third option may include building a whole new program in-house with software devs.

Re:Cost for software vs skill set (2)

marcosdumay (620877) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193891)

Scripting involves simplifying or automating a process using pre-existing functions in whatever software you're scripting against. Programming involves creating new functions where previously such a module or action did not exist in the first place.

Hum, I take from this that the computers that run your programs don't have an instruction set, and you don't program in a language... As those are pre-existing functions that most people use to automate stuff.

One involves creating limited functionality with the elements given to you. The other is creating whole new elements from the ground up.

Yeah, limited to the turing complete shells available.

Ok, you can't write device drivers in Bash. But it seems that you have no idea what you are talking about.

Re:Cost for software vs skill set (0)

DigiShaman (671371) | about a year and a half ago | (#43194371)

Powershell and Bash scripting is no where near the same league as C++ and ASM. Just what in the hell was your point above and beyond the one I made previously. Your response wasn't even worth the electrons it took to publish on Slashdot. Seriously, why did you even bother? Troll much?!

Re:Cost for software vs skill set (1)

Local ID10T (790134) | about a year and a half ago | (#43194811)

Scripting involves simplifying or automating a process using pre-existing functions in whatever software you're scripting against. Programming involves creating new functions where previously such a module or action did not exist in the first place. In other words: One involves creating limited functionality with the elements given to you. The other is creating whole new elements from the ground up.

Thank you for that summary explanation. I will be appropriating it for explaining why I do not program, but do script.

Re:Cost for software vs skill set (1)

Bert64 (520050) | about a year and a half ago | (#43195913)

So a program written in C which uses functions present in libc is actually a script?
You're generally not creating anything from the ground up these days, you are using functions provided to you by the OS and its core libraries...

But anyway, his point was that the average linux admin has some programming skill while the average windows admin does not, so the linux admin will generally automate common functions to make his life easier and more productive.

Re:Cost for software vs skill set (1)

lennier (44736) | about a year and a half ago | (#43194277)

>Can anyone that's an IT director please clarify the gap, skillset, and possible configuring a network so complicated as to solidify job security for said admins? Which costs more and can deliver the most value?

I'm not an IT director but as a Windows sysadmin who uses Linux for preference at home, there's still a huge gap in manageability for Linux. Linux has taken out some very small, specific niches, mostly in the server and mobile device space. But there's simply no Linux equivalent of Active Directory and Group Policy (there's Open Directory, which OSX uses, but there's a whole missing layer of policy control on top of that which isn't there).

I wish Windows had an equivalent of deb/rpm package management. MSI and SCCM are atrocities. But, like Apple but even more so, Linux desktops aren't even trying to play in the enterprise desktop space. If no other contestants bother to turn up, Microsoft wins the game by default.

Re:Cost for software vs skill set (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43194567)

Samba 4.0.3 is available as a working RPM for Fedora 18. I'm actually writing the backport to RHEL 6, And it works rather well to replace Active Directory, I'm reluctantly using it because the AD managers won't allow me the licenses and resources for my test environment, so I'm using Fedora 18 right now for just my test environment AD servers.

Re:Cost for software vs skill set (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43195905)

If you consider the web space a small, specific niche, then, yes, you are right ;-)

AD for linux: called freeipa (http://freeipa.org); that is a identity management solution that takes care of ldap/dns/kerberos for you. No policy (yet), but we were already doing that with cfengine. In fact we integrate both (we define hostgroups in IPA that automatically become netgroups and those can be used by cfengine).

So wrong on both counts I am afraid.

Re:Cost for software vs skill set (1)

Bert64 (520050) | about a year and a half ago | (#43195955)

Active directory is an absolute nightmare from a security perspective... Most of the supposed security related policies just amount to arbitrary restrictions on workstations which are implemented client side anyway (and thus trivial to bypass), and then you have design flaws like hash passing and storing the plaintext password in memory (google for mimikatz) which combined with typical setup practices make it laughably easy to compromise the average active directory setup from only a single insecure host.
If you want to prevent that happening you have to go to extreme lengths, manually updating and hardening every single member system and ensuring there are no shared local passwords among other things.

By contrast on a unix environment you wouldn't bother with such trivialities as "command prompt restriction" and "folder view restrictions" because they provide no benefit anyway. You ensure that your network is a sensible hierarchy, such that compromise of one unimportant host cannot lead to compromise of others. You use ssh keys so that compromise of a system someone is logging in to doesn't compromise their credentials, and you use file system permissions and mount options implemented at the kernel level to prevent users running any programs you didn't provide them (either intentionally or otherwise).

And finally with unix you have a system that was actually designed to be multiuser, unlike windows where most of the gui layer and applications came from the 9x series which had no concept of security whatsoever, which is why you have such delightful "features" as the ability of msoffice to embed and execute arbitrary binaries in documents (with the added benefit that such files pass through most http/mail filters)

Re:Cost for software vs skill set (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43194311)

No worries if the Linux admins cost twice to three times as much. I worked administering half a dozen windows boxes, and it was busy. Before that I administered over 200 unix boxes, and had lots of spare time in the day. Reliable software doesn't need to be futzed with all the time. You just stated that the admin costs will be *at least* 11 times cheaper after they make the switch, *and* the software is free, and they don't get locked in. Its winning all around.

Re:Cost for software vs skill set (1)

thetoadwarrior (1268702) | about a year and a half ago | (#43194533)

That might have been true due to the rarity but I expect that is actually Microsoft FUD. Job listings in the UK show that Linux sys admins aren't getting £60k over some Windows guy getting £30k. They're getting £30k too.

Re:Cost for software vs skill set (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43194611)

Pay peanuts, get monkeys.

Re:Cost for software vs skill set (1)

Bert64 (520050) | about a year and a half ago | (#43195877)

People who are competent at their job cost three times as much as people with very little skill or experience...

Many people *claim* to have windows knowledge, but in reality they are terrible and often their "experience" is limited to using msoffice in school and reinstalling windows for friends who got malware infections.

Much fewer people claim to have unix knowledge, largely because the class of people mentioned above aren't even aware that it exists. So most people claiming to have unix knowledge do actually have a decent level of skill.

Now here's the thing... Modern systems, and this includes most linux distros, are superficially simple enough that someone of low competence can generally muddle through. However do you really want someone who's just muddling through running your business? The results will be extremely sub optimal, stability and security will both be poor, they will do less in more time and thus require more staff, they will require more hardware because they haven't configured it so well, they will be unable to troubleshoot properly and will resort to time consuming reinstalls or costly replacements. The costs of the individual staff members might be low, but you need more of them, and more hardware.

Unfortunately, a lot of places do just that, so they have a crudely hacked together windows network that cost a fortune to build and is a constant source of problems, being managed by a large number of barely competent people who are always complaining they are understaffed and under budget.

For the same cost, you could hire a smaller number of highly competent staff, who would get much better results with cheaper software running on much less hardware.

And here you have another problem... The people hiring generally don't know anything about the subject, so they are unable to recognise someone highly competent.

FOSS Healthcare Tools - Mirth Connect (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43192267)

Mirth Connect [mirthcorp.com] , an open source (MPL) healthcare integration engine, has been out now for 7 years. It's amazing to me that healthcare entities around the world strapped for cash still pay for closed source alternatives to Connect. I hope that this change will at the least get folks in the UK to take a look at the tool and try it out.

Re:FOSS Healthcare Tools - Mirth Connect (1)

Kalriath (849904) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193041)

Sadly, I doubt it will. Healthcare providers are still too stuck on solutions based on Oracle Fusion, BizTalk, or Rhapsody. Getting them to try something new - especially one without a commercial support contract on it - is nigh impossible.

Oh, wait, just noticed that Mirth also has an insanely expensive support contract. I guess all they need to do now is get out there with some fancy stationery, good looking sales girls, and start inviting some execs to sporting events and they'll be right in there!

It's only a suggestion, not a mandate (3, Insightful)

menot (2583945) | about a year and a half ago | (#43192285)

"We're not dogmatic about this – we'll always use the best tool for the job".
That's one of the most interesting points in the article. More people should think like that. In the end, software is just a tool.

Re:It's only a suggestion, not a mandate (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43194191)

In the end, software is just a tool.

This is both a tautology and besides the point. Sweaters are just clothes, but maybe you would still not buy them from the really cheap manufacturer that employs children. Detergent is just a tool, but maybe you should choose one that won't destroy the environment. Software is just a tool, but maybe you should pick those that won't lock you (and everyone that relies on you) in inside someone's private ecosystem for a long time.

Re:It's only a suggestion, not a mandate (1)

Bert64 (520050) | about a year and a half ago | (#43195963)

Sweaters are just clothes, but maybe you would still not buy them from the really cheap manufacturer that employs children.

Or you'd buy them from a really expensive manufacturer who still employs children but works very hard to disguise the fact. Their production costs are likely the same or lower than the cheap manufacturer, they just make considerably more profit per sale.

So which is worse?

Software is just a tool, but maybe you should pick those that won't lock you (and everyone that relies on you) in inside someone's private ecosystem for a long time.

And you'd have thought this would be the most basic thing, one of the first rules of running is a business is not to get yourself in a position where the actions of any single supplier can exert any form of control over you. You should always have a second source, a backup plan.

Re:It's only a suggestion, not a mandate (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43194267)

software is just a tool

If that's really your opinion, you seemed to have missed one of the more important, if subtler, issues here. Yes, software is a tool, but whose tool is it? Who is using it and to what end? You seem to think that software is simply a tool that a user uses freely for his or her own purposes. Anyone who has ever experienced DRM or vendor lock-in, or paid for an Oracle license can tell you that proprietary code does not exist for the benefit of its users. It may well benefit them, but it benefits someone else, too, and often in disproportionate and unfair ways.

It's not enough (5, Insightful)

Stormwatch (703920) | about a year and a half ago | (#43192333)

Governments should be forbidden from using non-Free software. Go ahead and get your company into whatever vendor lock-in you want, but public data should never be subjected to it.

Re:It's not enough (2)

cobbaut (232092) | about a year and a half ago | (#43192365)

Governments should be forbidden from using non-Free software. Go ahead and get your company into whatever vendor lock-in you want, but public data should never be subjected to it.

Mod parent insightful.

Re:It's not enough (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43192591)

NO mod points necessary...

In the absence of some meaningful data, specific situation or cost/benefit analysis, an opinion is only an opinion. No matter rational it seems, there's no detriment until there's a credible example of a better way, a loss of public data or poblic opportunity, or it can shown that the public interest has been compromised.

And in the interest of disclosure. I don't like Microsoft or its business tactics and strategies.

Re:It's not enough (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43192427)

Forcing a government to use inferior open source software simply because it's open source is a terrible idea. And really, that is what you're suggesting.

Terrible message to send to the rest of the world too - Open Source cannot compete on function with proprietary software, so it plays politics for special treatment.

Re:It's not enough (3, Insightful)

Stormwatch (703920) | about a year and a half ago | (#43192599)

Open Source cannot compete on bribes with proprietary software

Fix'd.

SAME patterns with other monopoly contractors (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43195103)

Monopoly contracts to governments always ask for trouble. Bribes are far more likely but so are a long list of democracy undermining financial incentives. Such as propaganda ("think" tanks) and corrupting all aspects of the process including institutions which have input to the decisions (ISO on MS office) to name just two.

Software is a different kind of monopoly contract but it is still no different than real-world services such as power, water, sewer, garbage, recycling, bridges, phone, internet, construction, maintenance, and even tax preparation.

Did you know having the IRS do your taxes for you use CHEAPER and easier? CA did it but accounting lobbyists killed it. It is not like all accountants were jobless; complex situations still require pros. It is the tax software industry that was hurt... who ALSO sell the IRS auditing software so that you get an extra automated audit by specialized software built for what you used to prepare your taxes. If there is a bug, good luck! I know somebody who's quickbooks audit said they were doing something illegal and the IRS agent who manually review everything couldn't OK things because the software kept saying something crooked was going on. The agent too a long time with many checks (higher ups) to finally bypass the software. They determined that Inuit had a bug in the IRS software.

Also, closed source and backdoors (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43192609)

Governments should be forbidden from using non-Free software.

Here's another reason which underlines your point:

- A government has no mandate to entrust the country's data to a corporation nor to allow it to leak. It is therefore simply not permissible to allow that data to be processed by closed source software which by definition cannot be trusted.

The above should be self-evident, but in case it's not, objectors would do well to ponder the acknowledged backdoors in Skype and in a variety of Chinese routers. With open source, this cannot easily happen.

Re:It's not enough (4, Insightful)

whoever57 (658626) | about a year and a half ago | (#43192615)

Governments should be forbidden from using non-Free software. Go ahead and get your company into whatever vendor lock-in you want, but public data should never be subjected to it.

No. This is wrong. Governments should be required to use open standards. Thus allowing open and closed source offerings to compete.

Furthermore, if it turns out that a supplier claimed compliance with an open standard but did not deliver this, there should be serious penalties levied against the supplier (and not just a slap on the wrist that the supplier will see as merely "cost of doing business"). The penalties could include requiring the supplier to make their version of the standard open to all.

Re:It's not enough (3, Insightful)

maxwell demon (590494) | about a year and a half ago | (#43192847)

Another requirement should be that the supplier allows the government to inspect the source code in order to make sure there are no backdoors in the code. With Open Source, this is automatic; for Closed Source solutions, it would be an additional requirement in the contract.

Re:It's not enough (1)

bigmadwolf (1411635) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193991)

I'm not sure even this is enough. Surely the only way you can be sure the source code you are inspecting belongs to the binary is to compile it yourself.

Not good enough (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43192875)

No. This is wrong. Governments should be required to use open standards. Thus allowing open and closed source offerings to compete.

That's not nearly good enough, not by a mile.

Open standards are not sufficient to allow a government's experts to check software for backdoors and data leaks. This puts closed-source software in direct conflict with the needs of national security and sovereignty, even when it uses open standards.

A company has the luxury to risk its data to closed-source software if it wants to, and to fail if its trust is misplaced. A government does not have this luxury.

You confused different activities of government (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43194017)

> Governments should be required to use open standards. Thus allowing open and closed source offerings to compete.

You've made a common and rather elementary mistake in the above. You confused two different activities of government:

1) A government may decide to promote competition in the software arena, if this is one of its goals and if it has an appropriate programme. This is a matter of optional policy, and it will vary from government to government.

2) A government also has a security requirement to safeguard its own data and sovereignty. This is NOT a matter of optional policy, it is an inherent part of a government's duty to its citizens and cannot be negotiated away. In particular, it cannot be negotiated away in order to assist with item 1).

You have conflated these two things together, and so you mistake the execution of a government's own internal requirements with optional external programmes to promote trade. They are completely distinct activities and cannot be mixed without impacting on government security, so your point is invalid.

Re:It's not enough (2)

tlhIngan (30335) | about a year and a half ago | (#43195363)

Furthermore, if it turns out that a supplier claimed compliance with an open standard but did not deliver this, there should be serious penalties levied against the supplier (and not just a slap on the wrist that the supplier will see as merely "cost of doing business"). The penalties could include requiring the supplier to make their version of the standard open to all.

No, that's insufficient.

Make the penalty forced open-source, under a modified BSD license that includes patent licensing. Because you cannot be sure there's some oddball part of the spec they've overlooked (and EVERY standard that's complex has corner cases and little known side effects) or other thing. It's forcing the standard to be open by releasing reference code, effectively.

Why not GPL? Because the threat of BSD means that competitors are free to use that code in their closed-source implementation, and have patent licenses for that.

The loss of the crown jewels, forced patent licenses, AND breaking of 3rd party licensing agreements should put enough fear into closed source companies competing to be on the straight and narrow with respect to the standards.

Re:It's not enough (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43195825)

That's not enough, a closed source software can behave according to a standard while doing more under the hood, like data-mining and calling home.

Re:It's not enough (1)

BasilBrush (643681) | about a year and a half ago | (#43192979)

Governments should be forbidden from using non-Free software. Go ahead and get your company into whatever vendor lock-in you want, but public data should never be subjected to it.

If it's the data in question, then it's irrelevant whether the software is free or not. It only requires that the data be in some open standard format.

No government security with closed source (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43193347)

If it's the data in question, then it's irrelevant whether the software is free or not. It only requires that the data be in some open standard format.

Just the opposite. If the data is important and must be protected then it should never be exposed to closed-source software, since this is always untrustworthy by definition.

This is particularly so for governments, who go to great lengths to ensure security and secrecy of their data. To let closed-source software have access to it would be the height of negligence. Indeed, it would be quite comical security theater , and a good reason for putting department heads on the chopping block.

Re:It's not enough (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43193529)

Yeah, sure, let's spend lots of citizens money on wasted time trying to make crappy softwares work... great ideia. I'm forced to use Linux at my job (I work for the Brazilian government) and I can't even imagine how much money we waste everyday cuz things simple don't work how they should. And sometimes, very very basic things like for instance (just a recent example): Linux audio simple sucks. It can be very very powerful (I know that), but it's default makes no sense at all. We pluged out headsets and in zero machines it worked in the first attempt. In my machine it just worked after some tweak on alsamix (a console based app) and my audio only worked fine on Firefox, for some random reason chromes's flash plugin gets my voice very very low. And for another random reason, flash on firefox f*s my video card and when I minimize ff, my screen gets weird stuff and I can't see s*. Now I have to waste my time (and brazilian citizens money) trying to fix it.
The same s* happened to me at home with ubuntu + skype. Why can't it just works? At OSX I *never* had this can't of problem.

OS OR FS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43192601)

Is it open source or free software? stop calling free software "open source". Open is not free.

Re:OS OR FS (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | about a year and a half ago | (#43192907)

Open Source and Free Software differ in the philosophy, but not in the licenses. The government should not decide on the philosophy of the developer, because that's none of the government's business and would be contrary to the freedom of opinion (it would not be much different to e.g. a Democratic US president deciding that only software produced by Democrats should be used by the government). Therefore "Open Source" would in this case the more appropriate term.

Good move, but not perfect (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43192603)

I think this is a good move, but not exactly the right one. There's nothing inherently wrong with closed source, it's vendor lock-in they should be worried about.

Instead of mandating a PREFERENCE for OPEN SOURCE software, they should mandate a REQUIREMENT for software that abides by OPEN STANDARDS. To avoid vendor lock-in, they should forbid any kind of functionality that is vendor-specific.

Open file formats should be mandatory (2)

walterbyrd (182728) | about a year and a half ago | (#43192621)

And by that I mean actually open, not OOXML.

Re:Open file formats should be mandatory (1, Interesting)

BasilBrush (643681) | about a year and a half ago | (#43192993)

In fact it's probably a good idea if open formats are designed in the public sector. Either by quangos or by universities. Commercially standards by industry bodies are too easily bought.

Re:Open file formats should be mandatory (3, Interesting)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193477)

I have to disagree. Most of the formats I see developed this way end up horrible messes because they hire a whole bunch of consultants to do the work.

The difficulty with that is that contractors are paid by the hour, so you don't get

* Re-use of other standards where appropriate

I've seen people reinvent the wheel so many times it's not true. This is true from simple little things like time values in XML (xsd:time sensibly uses ISO8601, this lot made up their own format, with ensuing hilarity when implementers think that their standard XML tool kit date / time types will produce valid documents), diagram formats (they just copied another standard verbatim into their documents rather than saying - "Hey, lets use this standard and say so"), and document formats (they didn't like the ability of XHTML to have script tags in it, so they copied THAT as well).

* Simplicity

Simple designs that work don't generate billable hours. Complex monsters that require hours of argument over the finer points of what they actually mean, do.

* Implementations

Implementations are essential for the development of standards. If you don't implement them, you don't get any kind of feel for the actual needs of the problem domain and how well your design is solving them. Alas, standards developed by publicly funded committee in my experience don't bother with this, and typically don't include any actual software engineers to tell them what problems they might be causing for implementers down the line.

Things like pretending an identifier is an integer when all the handling means you have to treat it like a string (it consists of four separate fields, one of them optional, but as a stream of digits and not bytes). Or taking a set of metadata that you have to understand to read the data, and .. embedding that data inside the data itself. Or creating an abstract data type with a contract and then insisting that people store it without thinking about it's concrete requirements.

Formats thought up by corporations at least have the benefit of their creators not wanting to spend as much time as possible debating the finer points of the thing. They want something that works, but as evidenced by MOO-XML, practicality often means they end up with a real mess as well - but at least it's a real mess, and not just a theoretical mess.

I think "Open" is more important than "Standard". "Standard" gives the appearance of authority, but "Open" means you have a chance of things being useful.

MOO-XML is a horrifying mess. Not even MS Office implements it. It's a "standard", having been ratified by ISO, but nothing about it's development was "open".

FreeMind is a small java mind-map program. FreeMind format isn't a "standard", but it is "open". And it is useful - useful enough that most of the other mind-map programs will import it. You can open the files up in a text editor, or feed them through XSLT, or consume them with a program and do interesting things with them. And if you want a feature implemented in it, you can patch the sources, and even feed the patch back upstream.

I think collaboration on trying to solve a problem benefits from some actual problem solving, rather than just talking about what the problem might be and how it might be solved if so.

Re:Open file formats should be mandatory (1)

Bert64 (520050) | about a year and a half ago | (#43195991)

Simple designs that work don't generate billable hours. Complex monsters that require hours of argument over the finer points of what they actually mean, do.

So don't hire by the hour, hire an organisation to design something for a fixed set of requirements for a fixed price. If they make it overly complex and waste their time then that's their problem. If they make it simply and save time then they make more from the deal, obviously the requirements need to be strict enough to prevent them producing something lacklustre.

Re:Open file formats should be mandatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43193957)

Standards developed by Quangos and Uni's more often then not end up as unusable garbage where they pay more attention to process and politics or theory than the technical merits of the solution. We have a whole raft of shit standards due to this sort of process already.

Color me dubious... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43192751)

Working for a company that went through the mountains of red tape, STIG's, regulations, restrictions and general hoopla involved to get the government to accept any product into their infrastructure, I can say with a fairly high certainty that most Open Source software is going to have a problem getting past those requirements. How much Open Source is FIPS certified? How much is CC certified? How much of it can claim that no part of the software was written by non-US citizens? The list goes on and on...

It takes a lot of focused effort on issues that are not at all technical in nature, not to mention a lot of money for various certifications, to get a software package past all the hurdles to be used in a government setting.

Re:Color me dubious... (1)

Bert64 (520050) | about a year and a half ago | (#43196007)

Many of those certifications were pushed through by proprietary vendors looking to create themselves a cartel. Also most of the certifications are pretty worthless to anyone who understands what they mean. When a product gets certified it's done in a specific configuration, and any change to configuration means that it's not certified anymore. Usually the certified configuration is not terribly useful, and actual use cases never match the certified config.

Also the certification processes themselves are expensive to keep small vendors and open source out, while being very shallow (eg they don't inspect any sourcecode) to make it easier for larger vendors to get their crufty junk through.

Lets see how this really pans out. (1)

prowler1 (458133) | about a year and a half ago | (#43192773)

I work at a place that has a similar policy. Doesn't stop us from using way to many proprietary solutions that are actually worse than the Open Source solution. A lot of that is down to OS religion and people not actually understanding what Open Source is. We have managers (and directors) that believe the software needs to be a shrink wrapped solution from a proprietary vendor like Microsoft to be a decent solution and to be able to get 'Enterprise' level support. Many don't realise that just because you can get an Open Source solution for free that; It is just as good as the non Open Source solution and if you really feel you need to pay for 'Enterprise' support and if this is something you need then for a large number of the solutions you would be realistically looking at, that is supplied as well. For the ones I have investigatedt, support has usually worked out to be cheaper than the closed source solution as well.

Just my $0.02.

It got my hopes up. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43192943)

This is a small step in the right direction, but nothing more. Hopefully it will start to resemble a larger trend.

It's Not The First Time (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43194541)

The last time that the UK gov mandated open-source and open-standards Bill Gates flew in for a private lunch with Tony Blair and the whole thing got quietly dropped ....

In local government the push for open-source was often a negotiating ploy with Microsoft

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