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The Open Source Dilemma for Governments

simoniker posted more than 10 years ago | from the choices-for-rulers dept.

Software 163

Sam Hiser writes "Tom Adelstein, open source consultant and Member of the Open Government Interoperability Project ("OGIP") working group, offers another incisive article in which he discusses the costs in the terms of lives and dollars when local governments do not deploy open standards-based software for data sharing. Asks Adelstein, 'Can local governments afford to create redundant applications to meet new Federal standards for first responder alerts, emergency services, law enforcement, broadcasters?' He posits that Open Source collaborative initiatives may provide the only solution for the US if the people want to create a safer environment."

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163 comments

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$56 billion... (0, Troll)

Taboo (263223) | more than 10 years ago | (#7883381)

for retrofitting of local governments to standards based applications

Big deal. That only amounts to a couple dozen B-2 bombers.

10,000... [troll] (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7883428)

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5256375678

DITTO! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7883481)

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YUO == TEH FAIL IT! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7883570)

It's pi, the "3." is implied.

nancies.

Re:YUO == TEH FAIL IT! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7883602)

Pi. What is it all about... is it good, or is it whack?

Re:$56 billion... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7883507)

Government. What is it all about... is it good, or is it whack?

Sad news, Stephen King dead at 54 (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7883382)

I just heard some sad news on talk radio - horror/fiction writer Stephen King was found dead in his Maine home this morning. There weren't any more details yet. I'm sure we'll all miss him, even if you weren't a fan of his work there's no denying his contribution to popular culture. Truly an American icon.

Re:Sad news, Stephen King dead at 54 (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7883432)

Been awhile since I've seen one of those. So I almost took it seriously. :)

Heh, when he dies it's going to be one troll fest...

Re:Sad news, Stephen King dead at 54 (-1, Offtopic)

siskbc (598067) | more than 10 years ago | (#7883599)

Heh, when he dies it's going to be one troll fest...

Thes question is, will anyone get a "+1, Informative" for posting it?

Re:Sad news, Stephen King dead at 54 (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7883657)

They will get a -1 Redundant.

first (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7883385)

first post is back and waaaay K001!!!!!

The Open Source Software Institute... (5, Informative)

tcopeland (32225) | more than 10 years ago | (#7883390)

...is a big supporter of this sort of thing. Check them out here [oss-institute.org] . The OSSI is chaired by John Weathersby, who seems to have a good handle on how to communicate effectively via standards, reports, certifications, and so on with folks in the U.S. government.

Re:The Open Source Software Institute... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7883462)

So as more people use open source, the bigger target it becomes to hackers.

Its a catch 22.

--

Standards aren't exclusive to open source. The government shouldn't intermingle the two.

I wonder what would happen if the government had to approve all data formats, no matter how small. That would be interesting for security.

PS, I dont know how, but Im not seeing the safe URl

Re:The Open Source Software Institute... (5, Insightful)

ReTay (164994) | more than 10 years ago | (#7883639)

"So as more people use open source, the bigger target it becomes to hackers."

Care to tell me why that Apache is so much more secure then IIS?
Apache is the most popular web server in the world. But IIS has the most flaws....

Re: The Open Source Software Institute... (2, Insightful)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 10 years ago | (#7883727)


> > So as more people use open source, the bigger target it becomes to hackers.

> Care to tell me why that Apache is so much more secure then IIS? Apache is the most popular web server in the world. But IIS has the most flaws....

Because Apache was written to serve Web pages and IIS was written to make somebody rich(er).

Re:The Open Source Software Institute... (4, Informative)

dasmegabyte (267018) | more than 10 years ago | (#7884094)

Apache is more secure than IIS because:
  • Apache generally runs as an unprivliged user -- IIS by default runs as the local system and on some systems I've seen has been set up to run as a privlidged network user (to get around problems with content on networked drives).
  • Apache is designed to do less than IIS. Comparing the two isn't even fair...IIS is a web server, an email server, an ftp server, etc etc. It's designed to do EVERYTHING. So it's not apples to apples...more like apples to an appleseed.
  • By default, Apache only installs a few basic modules. Almost everything is optional. IIS, designed to be an end-to-end solution for internet servers, installs everything. If you lock it down, remove the crap you don't use, it's much better off.
  • Apache has more people working on it and more frequent bug releases. MS has to worry about massive overhead and support costs with every release...so they space them apart further. My company does the same thing.


Anyhow, this article is a lot of FUD. I write software for local governments, and at least in this state (which is one of the richest in the US), OSS wouldn't save any money nor eliminate any problems. "Code Security" is not a big problem in local government -- as local governments generally only use their digital systems to warehouse and process publically available information. These guys keep paper records going back to the 18th century, and if anything seems out of the ordinary they check the paper. Heck, if tax rolls come out twenty cents unbalanced from the invoice, we have to audit the programs line by line. And if asked, we readily turn over our code to local auditors. Very rarely do we do this. Nobody cares about anything except getting the software to cut down on their workload.

And that's the biggest problem in this market: accountability. Small companys come in, install software, and then disappear. So when laws and regulations change, there's nobody to update the old software. Most of these people don't have IT departments (some don't even have computers in some departments, or use their own personal machines...the assessor in my home town runs a computer shop and that's how he got the job!). There is so little money, that only by relying on companys to help with everything from installing printers to writing custom tax logic for way less than the standard consulting rate (hoping to get a chance to use it somewhere else) can these towns get their software written.

Can you imagine the accountability headaches associated with asking a "community" to write custom tax logic? With not having a responsible party you can call when stuff breaks? You'd still have to pay somebody out of your budget (which is sometimes set five or more YEARS in advance) to support the program, only they wouldn't have any real interest invested in fixing the program quickly. There's incentive with private software to deliver the best, easiest to use stuff you can for whatever price you can get.

Don't get me wrong...I like the idea of getting more eyes on my code...but I can't imagine injecting community code into a hectic development schedule like we maintain. It seems like it'd be inviting too much uncertainty in an arena that only thrives with a stable support structure. My boss would surely never go for it. Of course, I don't expect many of the OSS acolytes to agree with me...some people don't seem to understand that the minimum wage people working without possibility of overtime at the county clerk's office don't want to visit the newsgroups for help when they have bugs preventing their license software from printing.

Re:The Open Source Software Institute... (2, Informative)

dasmegabyte (267018) | more than 10 years ago | (#7884262)

Oh. I almost left out the key to interoperability concerns: Governments have had them for years. Speculation over open standards aside, the way they've been best met so far is when the government agency requesting the data creates the spec and a reference implementation itself. I do not think there is any benefit to relying on an Open group to do this...as the current method works really well. I'm thinking specifically of the tax assessment software we use in this state...I wrote an application which integrates with it and produces data update requests, and this was possibly one of the easiest things I've ever done despite the fact that the database structure was a little dumb. There is no problem, so there's no need for an Open solution to one! Besides...the last thing these poor goverment people need is a fancy programmer's solution to the human problem of data integration.

Besides, all it takes is a single government agency in the pocket of some software company (*cough* California *cough*) to trump any attempts at creating a single universal solution. So we may as well accept that there's going to be some conversion necessary, and not waste our time trying to hold back the deluge of incompatible formats. Far better to be the flexible party who can bring them altogether...

Al Gore Invented Open Source Government Dilemmas (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7883399)

And Break Dancing Too!

Re:Al Gore Invented Open Source Government Dilemma (-1, Offtopic)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 10 years ago | (#7883646)

I thought Michael Jackson invented break dancing. OR maybe I'm thinking of Child Molesting.


True story - as VP, Al Gore met Michael Jordan, and told him "I really loved Thriller"

Re:Al Gore Invented Open Source Government Dilemma (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7883685)

No, that was the Catholic Church.

Well i would have thought this is obvious (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7883409)

If we want secure software, it has to be open source.. Granted, at the start the code quality of open source stuff is around equal to closed source stuff but the resources available to check code that is public are far larger than any closed source firm can muster.

Simon.

Re:Well i would have thought this is obvious (4, Insightful)

Lord Kholdan (670731) | more than 10 years ago | (#7883601)

If we want secure software, it has to be open source.. Granted, at the start the code quality of open source stuff is around equal to closed source stuff but the resources available to check code that is public are far larger than any closed source firm can muster.

Potential resources mean nothing. Open source code that no-one bothers to read isn't going to get better on it's own.

Re:Well i would have thought this is obvious (2, Insightful)

bit01 (644603) | more than 10 years ago | (#7884311)

I wonder why all this commercial propaganda on slashdot recently?

There are 6,000,000,000 people in the world. It is a statistical certainty that a significant fraction of these will have both the means and the motivation to work on any commonly used piece of software, if it is accessible. ie. open source. Please remove your paid commercial blinkers.

---

User friendly M$Windows/XP.
User unfriendly M$Windows/XP license.

Lame arguments work against Open Source (1)

Saeed al-Sahaf (665390) | more than 10 years ago | (#7883933)

If we want secure software, it has to be Open Source..

I'm not sure how you can say this authoritatively just because Microsoft is a poster child for buggy software. There is nothing in particular that keeps Closed Source from being secure. The idea that "more eyes" looking at the code is the solution just does not fly when you consider the number of "eyes" that Microsoft employs (ever been to Redmond? Zillions of code ants work there...) still does not keep them from producing buggy software. Further more, there are plenty of first-class Closed Source products out there.

Granted, at the start the code quality of Open Source stuff is around equal to Closed Source stuff...

God, I just don't know how to approach this statement since it is just plain not true. Certainly, much of the most used Open Source such as Apache, Linux / *BSD, Perl, PHP, and such, is superior to most Closed Source, but really there are large heaps and piles of Open Source crap out there.

It's bad to generalize the argument into saying most Closed Source is unsecure crap, and all Open Source is Godly, when it just isn't so. When screeching frothing people blather this crud at the people in business and government that have the decision making power, it just invalidates the entire Open Source movement. The drum we really should be beating is the Total Cost argument: "It's better, and cheaper to use!"

Open Data formats more important (5, Insightful)

i.r.id10t (595143) | more than 10 years ago | (#7883410)

I don't care if the US Senate or House chooses to use MS Office or vi or whatever - as long as the documents they produce are of an open format (text, rtf, XML, whatever), and can be read by us Citizens (and others, why not?) wihtout needing to have a particular piece of software. Same can be said of exchanging data between various levels, types, and branches of government.

Re:Open Data formats more important (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7883489)

I'd rather my government spend my tax dollars on something other than Microsoft software.

Re:Open Data formats more important (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7883604)

I'd rather my government spend my tax dollars on Microsoft software. It's the best of what's out there, and more importantly, the best tool for this particular job.

Re:Open Data formats more important (5, Insightful)

liquidpele (663430) | more than 10 years ago | (#7883618)

documents given to citizens is a sub-priority.
All that stuff can just be posted on the web via html.

If there is a terrorist attack, and director X sends a word document to director Y with instructions on what to do, but Y can't open it because he has office 97, and X has office XP, that is a big problem.

That's an unlikely example, but it's the idea we would like to avoid in the future ;)

Re:Open Data formats more important (4, Funny)

happyfrogcow (708359) | more than 10 years ago | (#7884012)

Score: -1, Use of the word "Terrorist" to strengthen argument

;) just kidding... mostly.. a little bit anyway.

Yo wassup (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7883419)

I work in a US government department as a sysadmin. We have a motto. We save Linux for when we're out of money. Until then, we spend spend spend on nice Sun boxes with Solaris, and Dell Poweredge servers with Windows 2003.

So thank you, fellow Slashdotters! Your tax dollars make sure I have plenty of toys to play with at work! Kthnxbye

Re:Yo wassup (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7883458)

you consider that toys? try an ipod or an ipaq or a killer video card... or a mame controller....

or just go on getting all hard over your poweredge server.. wooooooooo... with Windows 2003.... woooooo

fool.

Re:Yo wassup (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7883504)

No thanks, I'll sit here and play with my enterprise-grade "big boys" toys while you have little dolly teatime with Lunix and your iPod.

(P.S You know that $400 you paid the IRS last year? Thanks to that, I was able to add on a second PERC RAID SCSI controller to my Active Directory server, even though it's totally redundant and unnecessary! Wheee!)

Re:Yo wassup (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7883846)

really , wow , now you can jack off to porn redundantly, WHILE being a bad citizen!

Re:Yo wassup (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7883961)

Yup! Don't you know it! I'm a terrible human being who makes more money and has a better job than you! Have fun on Open Sores software!

Re:Yo wassup (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7883998)

entirely true. i am a sysadmin for a state agency (about 300 computers) that is funded with federal money. We have a 100% win@k network and the only *nix box we run is a BSD box that we use as a firewall.

For usability go with windows.
For security go with BSD

If your time is worth nothing go with whatever flavor of Linux is popular this month.

Who cares? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7883424)

None of this will change the fact that My government can kick Your government's ass!
USA == AWESOME! EU == SUCK!
George W. Bush should win the Nobel Prize for being Awesome! WOOHOO! GO CAPITALISM!
Also, they should rename it to the CapitalOne Nobel Prize. Corporate America is the best!

Re:Who cares? (-1, Troll)

relrelrel (737051) | more than 10 years ago | (#7883478)

an EU goverment is in existance is it...?

Not quite.

Re:Who cares? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7883564)

Interesting nit to pick. Oh yeah... YHBT. Loser. HAND!

THIS MAN SI ON TEH SPOKE - EU SUX0RS!!!`1~ (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7883565)

Re:Who cares? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7883633)

existence
government

but (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7883430)

is this open source dilemma capable of running linux?

Text for the soon to be slashdotted.. (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7883431)

The Open Source Dilemma for Governments

by Tom Adelstein
January 04, 2004

If someone told you a hole existed in the competitive landscape for a large and highly addressable US market segment you would call them a niche miner. If I told you the cream of that niche totaled $56 billion and could be addressed in a three to five year time frame you might wonder how you missed it. Don't feel bad, it seems that the major computer companies have missed it too.

In a nutshell, the local government software market has not drawn large software firms. Also, independent software vendors (ISV's) have failed to adequately satisfy this market's needs as they lack the resources to serve the large geographical base. People have viewed this market as fragmented, requiring too much one-off customization with long sales cycles. Since the tragedy of September 11, 2001 those barriers and the poor economics of serving this sector have changed. You might call this a new opportunity.
What's At-Stake

Local governments must upgrade their computer infrastructures. That means additional taxes, levies and bond issues lie ahead. They could ignore their ailing systems and that means putting people's lives at risk. If the American public understood this problem one might see some intense interest at town hall meetings. If mayors and city councils really understood this problem they might panic. Perhaps some of us also wonder how much frustration US agency and department personnel feel as they hurry to make a bigger impact in a faster time frame and run into muck of local government.

An example of the problem local governments face exists on the website of the US Department of Justice - Office of Justice Programs, under the Global Justice Data Model http://it.ojp.gov/topic.jsp?topic_id=43. On that page, the authors write:

Approximately 16,000 justice and public safety-related data elements were collected from various local and state government sources. These were analyzed and reduced to around 2,000 unique data elements that were then incorporated into about 300 data objects or reusable components. These components have inherent qualities enabling access from multiple sources and reuse in multiple applications. In addition, the standardization of the core components resulted in significant potential for increased interoperability among and between justice and public safety information systems.

Many of those 16,000 fields contain the same type of information with a different naming scheme. For example, some databases use the field " name_first" and others use "first_name". Then you might find "firstname" or "givenname" or "given_name".

As you go through the local government databases, you find a myriad of schemes for everything from last_name to zip_code. Obvious, the nation's information stores contain massive redundancies. These redundancies make it difficult to share data and provide alerts.

So, add all the separate naming schemes of local government databases together and you get 16,000 variations. Create a standard and it goes down to 2,000. Put those into categories of reusable components and you wind up with 300 database elements. That's why they call it a standard. It allows disparate systems to work together. It starts to open the window of a manageable task when the interoperable elements number 300 instead of 16,000.
Non-Compliance Problems and Their Costs to You and Me

Recently, I received two requests to assist a local government and a university in the same area of deploying justice databases. The requests involved implementing a new, comprehensive application to provide services and a tracking system using a web-enabled database-driven application. The requirements of the applications seemed simple and with the use of the Global Justice Data Model, I estimated delivery within 90 days. In both instances, the people controlling those projects dismissed implementation of the standards-based model.

What should one do when government entities miss their opportunities and disregard new standards? The general public realizes the time pressure to meet new homeland security objectives and want fast progress. Those who make information technology decisions today can effect the public safety in the near future.

No enforcement agency exists as yet. Here's even more of a rub: The local government unit will spend $125,000 on an existing software system which will face deprecation within two years. The university may fail to deliver on the second phase of its implementation.

The cost could have come in at $45,000 using Open Source Software (OSS) such as Linux or FreeBSD, the Apache Web Server, the MySQL relational database and a combination of the Java program language, Perl, PHP and/or Python. Such systems exists in Rhode Island and at the US Census Bureau, if one needs a precedent. Additionally, the same $45,000 would have paid for both systems and if others wished to deploy it, no further costs would exist for them. Finally, the money to build the system would have come from existing public funding.
Open Source Software - Not a Panacea

To operate a local government requires approximately 200 separate software applications. These include programs running under the following functional areas:

* City Management Systems
* Selective Public Information
* Technical Databases
* Emergency Systems
* Criminal Justice and Courts
* School Administration
* Law Enforcement
* Public Works
* Social and Public Services
* Capital Assets and Associated
* Selective Public Information
* Miscellaneous Applications.

In areas such as finance, accounting and human resources Open Source Software can at present only provide a stable, low cost infrastructure on which ERP programs can run. Local governments in the suite spot of the market require ERP software like Oracle Financials, SAP, PeopleSoft, JD Edwards, Lawson and other proprietary systems. Those programs account for approximately half of a local government's budget. No open source equivalents exist.

Additionally, of the approximately 200 applications needed by local governments, only 25 or so exist in the market. Of the remainder, local governments must write their own or hire a contract programming firm to create them. Every time a local government unit pays for a separate "build-to-suit" application, they waste the public's money.
Where Open Source Software Provides Answers

Open Source Software can meet a local government's needs for web browsers, developer tools, desktop systems, terminals, office productivity, email and scheduling applications, eGovernment, web services and relational database systems. These kind of programs evolved from the Internet using collaborative development practices long before someone gave them the name Open Source.

Using the Internet as a model many other community projects have evolved. For example, cities can find software to provide for the geospatial mapping requirements using open source applications under OpenGIS. OpenGIS, a non-profit international trade association leads the development of geoprocessing interoperability computing standards. Many of the applications required by cities depend on geoprocessing software.

Open Source Software does not provide a total answer to all solutions needed in any enterprise. Open Source Software does not provide a cure-all and simply put it's not a panacea. However, OSS provides an excellent model for collaborative development. In that case, university research departments and local government units can join together to obtain public financing and build the software needed using existing standards created by the multi-state working groups.
An Emerging Standard for a Critical Need

For example, let' look at the AMBER Alert Message Schema.

The AMBER Plan was created in 1996 as a legacy to 9-year-old Amber Hagerman, a bright little girl kidnapped and brutally murdered while riding her bicycle. The tragedy shocked and outraged the entire community. Residents contacted radio stations in the local area and suggested they broadcast special "alerts" over the airwaves so that they could help prevent such incidents in the future.

In response to the community's concern for the safety of local children, the Dallas/Fort Worth Association of Radio Managers teamed up with local law-enforcement agencies in northern Texas and developed an early warning system to help find abducted children. Statistics show that, when abducted, a child's greatest enemy is time. The faster one can find the child the more likely he or she will survive.

On April 30, 2003, the President signed the Prosecutorial Remedies and Other Tools to End the Exploitation of Children Today (PROTECT) Act of 2003. Building on the steps already taken by Administration to support AMBER Alert programs, this Act codified the national coordination of state and local AMBER Alert programs, including the development of guidance for issuance and dissemination of AMBER Alerts and the appointment of a national AMBER Alert Coordinator.

In anticipation of the passage of this national legislation, Deborah J. Daniels took the position of the national AMBER Alert coordinator.

The proposed AMBER Alert standard will promote a set of information to be broadcast and exchanged nationwide to support the safe recovery of America's missing and abducted children. Currently, no nationwide standard exists for an AMBER Alert message. This inhibits the seamless sharing of AMBER Alerts in a timely fashion.

Communities impacted by this Standard include:

*

Emergency Management Services

*

Law Enforcement

*

Public Works

*

Technical Practitioners

*

Transportation

*

Broadcasters

The current draft and information for this standard exists at http://it.ojp.gov/jsr/public/viewDetail.jsp?sub_id =194

Once this standard becomes active, who will comply with the program? Who will build the applications needed for each and every community, large or small, to participate in this effort?

If each community must provide human resources, developers, hardware, bandwidth, etc. for this project, then the costs will run approximately $17 billion just to build the applications. If the effected communities work together, the cost could shrink to less than $1 million for an Internet application. The deployment costs would shrink since Open Source Software runs on commodity hardware and has its own security encryption for connectivity over the Internet.
Is Your Experience Colored by Media Bias?

In an article entitled "Open-source battle is heating up" by Hiawatha Bray, December 22, 2003 in the Boston Globe, we can see how the media establishment misunderstands and misrepresents important news and information about government technology. In what appears as a reporter's desire to dramatize a relatively uneventful situation, Bray writes:

The future of the computer software industry was being fought out last week in the Massachusetts Senate. It was just a skirmish, but dozens more just like it are happening in legislatures around the world. And the outcome will go a long way toward determining the shape of the industry in years to come.

Mr. Bray has determined that Open Source Software appears as a bad idea as he further writes:

(So what's wrong?) Plenty, if you're Microsoft or Oracle, or any of the thousands of smaller companies that make closed-source software for government agencies. According to the research firm IDC Corp., federal, state and local governments spend $34 billion a year on software. If Kriss's (Open Source in Government) ideas were to catch on across the land, a lot of that revenue disappears, and much of what remains won't go to firms like Microsoft, which refuses to offer open-source products.

This is no idle threat. Texas, Oregon, and Delaware are talking about going open source. Overseas, one of Australia's six states has passed legislation mandating the use of open-source code and similar plans are popping up from Peru to China.

Mr. Bray represents one of many voices who do not understand the economics of government information systems. First, Open Source Software will increase revenue and create jobs in the computer industry, especially in an under served market segment. Open Source Software allows small business hurt by Microsoft's dominance to enter the market for government contracts because they can provide quality software without having to pay dealer fees to proprietary software companies.

Also, if Mr. Bray believes Oracle will suffer from the emergence of Open Source Software, he should check his facts. Oracle represents itself as a Linux company. Like IBM, revenues have increased for proprietary firms working with Linux and Open Source Software.
Let's Clear the Myths

The world's largest computer companies support the Open Source Software community. Firms like IBM, SGI, HP, Sun, Dell, Novell and Computer Associates to mention a few, contribute money and code to Linux and other projects such as Apache. If these firms felt threatened, why would they commit so many resources to OSS? Also, Apple Computer's current operating system runs on Open Source Software.

The concept of "eBusiness" comes from Open Source/Open Standards originating through the Internet and regulated by the Internet Engineering Task Force. If the Internet failed to follow accepted standards, it simply would not work. Neither would the telecom industry. The Internet has created many business opportunities and increased the Gross Domestic Product.

The original Internet and Open Source standards came out of public monies mostly granted to university research departments by the Department of Defense. Who paid for those efforts? Why must the public have to pay for those technologies once again because companies like Microsoft adopt them and then resell them as proprietary software? If Open Source Software reduces the cost to taxpayers, that should put more money into the economy. Economics 101 will tell you that consumers buying goods and services create more jobs than governments taking money from taxpayers and shoving those dollars through the bureaucracy.

Seventy-five percent of the municipalities and schools in the United States cannot afford proprietary software. That means those entities cannot participate in the interoperability projects so vital to the defense of our country. If we can pay for software one time and share it with all government entities, we empower Americans to participate in the security of the homeland.

Open Source Software does not make the playing field uneven. In fact, it balances the playing field and makes university curriculum relevant. It creates opportunities and innovation. It provides for new human capital and people who can do more than use a spreadsheet. Monopolies make the playing field uneven not projects originating at the university level.
What's Next?

Self regulation has worked in many professions. The time has arrived for local governments to work together to see Open Standards deployed nationally in first responder systems, immigration, justice programs and law enforcement. States like Massachusetts have taken first steps and we should commend them not disparage them.

We need to educate local government officials, and the states should require the use of Open Standards and Open Source Software when applicable. When savings to taxpayers exists governments should exercise their fiduciary responsibilities and not spend, tax and levy. Governments should economize.

When smaller municipalities and schools cannot afford technology, no one benefits from the cries of special interest groups disguised as protectors of proprietary software. If Sun Microsystems offers free, Open Source Software to schools everyone benefits from the gift. Accept the gift.

CIO's and managers of local governments must get behind the concept of collaborative development. If you hold such a position, please remember who pays your salary. The "city" may write the check, but the constituents provide the funds.
Final Notes

In the Boston Globe article mentioned above, Mr. Bray quotes research firm IDC Corp. as saying US governments spend $34 billion a year on software. In addition to the the annual procurement stream, our estimates include an additional $56 billion for retrofitting of local governments to standards based applications. Upgrading one of the more than 19,200 major municipalities can cost approximately $30 million.

During the early stages of an economic recovery, creating jobs becomes an essential part of sustained growth. No doubt exists that the technology sector of the US economy suffered more than any other since spring of 2000. With the efficiencies in manufacturing, the technology sector has become a service oriented industry. Open Source Software has the potential to create much needed job growth.

Over the next ten to fifteen years, the US will likely face continued threats to our security. If we want to grow the talent that will keep us safe, we need to develop the programs to teach and innovate within our borders. So far, this effort has come from the grass roots efforts of the Open Source Software community. Anyone wanting to prevent that from continuing needs to take a hard look at their priorities and ask if what they're doing works for the common good.

Respectfully submitted

Re:Text for the soon to be slashdotted.. (2, Interesting)

LittleKing (688048) | more than 10 years ago | (#7883708)

Some might consider this off-topic, but I would be willing to bet the site doesn't get /.ed. Why? this page is mostly text.

Time will tell.
LK

Re:Text for the soon to be slashdotted.. TROLL!!! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7884047)

"Those who make information technology decisions (not taco or his butt banging linux buddies)today can effect the public safety in the near future.

what's the dilemma? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7883439)

opensource(sores) software is second rate trash that shouldn't be used by any gov or corp unless they have a death wish...

toying around with it at home is fine but i wouldn't trust it with anything you expect to make money with unless it plays a very trivial/minor role....

Re:what's the dilemma? (3, Interesting)

Jim_Maryland (718224) | more than 10 years ago | (#7883582)

Open source software plays a big role in many projects where I work, and our clients tend to be gov/mil related. While not all open source software is "good", you can't lump it all together and say it's "trash".

The reverse would seem to be true (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7883447)

For pure niche apps (patrol car suspect lookups, etc), I would posit that small commercial companies are in the best possible position to provide support and apps, not the FOSS world - after all, where does your teenage A-Patchy Webserver hacker get his hands on the specialty hardware used in patrol cars?

Re:The reverse would seem to be true (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7883502)

"where does your teenage A-Patchy Webserver hacker get his hands on the specialty hardware used in patrol cars?"

What would that be other than a laptop and a GPS?

Maybe a webcam to do automatic license plate lookups?

Re:The reverse would seem to be true (3, Insightful)

worm eater (697149) | more than 10 years ago | (#7883603)

I would posit that small commercial companies are in the best possible position to provide support and apps, not the FOSS world

Why wouldn't a small commercial company writing open source software be in this exact same 'best possible' position? Nothing about open source precludes it from being commercial, especially when we are talking about niche hardware. Making it open source would just allow citizens to know what is going on, and allow another commercial company to take over when the first one goes out of business.

Re:The reverse would seem to be true (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7883605)

i heard that any zinfandel goes well with some cured horse manure. how about you?

Re:The reverse would seem to be true (2, Interesting)

z-kungfu (255628) | more than 10 years ago | (#7883676)

I don't know what police force your looking at, but around here the equipment is hardly specialized. It is commodity hardware, with some specialized software. And way overpriced, and slow to boot...

Re:The reverse would seem to be true (2, Interesting)

markov_chain (202465) | more than 10 years ago | (#7883734)

1. Small commercial company A develops app and provides support for the town police. They GPL the source. Town pays full price.

2. Small commercial company B reuses A's source, provides service to their own town's police. The cost is minimal. Rinse, repeat.

3. The small commercial companies collaborate to improve the software. The cost is absorbed by service contracts and is split among all involved towns.

Much better than reinventing the wheel N times.

Re:The reverse would seem to be true (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7883776)

How "pure" is that niche app really?

Is it written for some kind of specialized ASIC processor because the hardware requirements are too radical to be met with commodity components? Maybe for an aerospace application, but surely not for something designed to be installed in any standard automobile!

Does it use specialized protocols because somehow none of the standard protocols meet the communication requirements of the application?

Does it represent data in some form so unique that it defeats all efforts at creating a common specification for interoperability between public organizations? Adelstein provides numbers which illustrate the converse.

It's fair to assume that if failure to interoperate is a specified requirement of a government application, then there is something wrong with the specifications!

Re:The reverse would seem to be true (1)

transient (232842) | more than 10 years ago | (#7883779)

That "specialty hardware" is an x86 laptop on a mounting bracket, connected via IP to the same servers at HQ that the rest of the force uses.

Re: The reverse would seem to be true (4, Insightful)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 10 years ago | (#7883798)


> For pure niche apps (patrol car suspect lookups, etc), I would posit that small commercial companies are in the best possible position to provide support and apps, not the FOSS world

I have a friend who works in IT at a small college, and her group's primary responsibility is maintaining a big commercial app that manages schoolish stuff like registration, etc. Schools all over the state use the same app, so they have a sort of loose association of maintainers across the state, several per college, adding up to several score programmers in total.

She gripes a lot because every time a new release comes out the association has to hack back in all the customizations they've made over the years. I keep telling her that for the number of people and amount of effort involved, they could write their own FOSS application to do the same thing, and spend their time making improvements rather than restoring last year's hacks year after year.

> after all, where does your teenage A-Patchy Webserver hacker get his hands on the specialty hardware used in patrol cars?

Who says it has to be teenage hackers? If a dozen of the biggest cities' IT departments dedicated one programmer each, the job could be done easily at a dispersed cost, trivial in comparison to the total spent when thousands of cities buy the software at commercial prices.

Re: The reverse would seem to be true (1)

CaptKilljoy (687808) | more than 10 years ago | (#7884041)

If a dozen of the biggest cities' IT departments dedicated one programmer each, the job could be done easily at a dispersed cost, trivial in comparison to the total spent when thousands of cities buy the software at commercial prices.

Not gonna work. That designated programmer is going to be the first to get the axe when a budget crunch hits on the assumption that the other dept's programmers will pick up the slack. Soon, *poof*, all of the programmers are gone.

Re: The reverse would seem to be true (2, Informative)

dzelenka (630044) | more than 10 years ago | (#7884432)

No way. The one programmer is going to look like a productive dynamo. And without the programmer, there will be nobody to compile and implement the product, to say nothing of the maintenance phase.

Re:The reverse would seem to be true (2, Interesting)

Yokaze (70883) | more than 10 years ago | (#7883801)

Who says that FOSS and commercial companies are different world?

On the contrary. Niche apps are custom programmed, either in house or contracted and cannot usually be sold again. This would be the perfect place for FOSS -and- companies working on FOSS.

This is a big world. Other communities usually have the need similar niche programs. Modifications are necessary, but most companies aren't so pervasive, that they know who requires this niche product, or known to provide it, and/or cannot provide the modifications.

But, when those niche products are FOSS, those communities can hire a local company to provide the modifications for themselves (and others).

it's already been admitted (5, Insightful)

relrelrel (737051) | more than 10 years ago | (#7883451)

by the UK goverment that they might "look-in" to open source software themselves simply because they know it scares Microsoft, like Germany, who got massive discounts.

A goverment just has to say it's thinking about it to get Microsoft scared and giving out vouchers left right and centre.

Expect to see alot more /. stories on goverments considering OSS and then stories a few months later about them receiving massive discounts.

Re:it's already been admitted (4, Interesting)

Teux (737929) | more than 10 years ago | (#7883518)

The interesting upshoot of this has been that when governments actually commission a study on the total cost of ownership for a Linux/Open Source solution, they find switching is to their benefit

Microsoft's is doing it's best to keep the bleeding to a minimum, but more companies and governments are realizing that moving away from their dependency on MS is a Good Thing(tm)

Re:it's already been admitted (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7883697)

huh?

Re:it's already been admitted (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7883586)

If we want to grow the talent that will keep us safe, we need to develop the programs to teach and innovate within our borders. So far, this effort has come from the grass roots efforts of the Open Source Software community. Anyone wanting to prevent that from continuing needs to take a hard look at their priorities and ask if what they're doing works for the common good.

Re:it's already been admitted (1)

gph (738111) | more than 10 years ago | (#7883598)

It seems that European commission is really thinking about switching to free softwares http://europa.eu.int/(...) [eu.int]

Re:it's already been admitted (2, Insightful)

JoeBuck (7947) | more than 10 years ago | (#7883649)

If Microsoft thinks it's a bluff, they will call the bluff. The reason that they hand out discounts instead is because they know that it's not. OpenOffice/StarOffice might be an even bigger threat to their revenue stream than Linux is; it's already good enough for most office workers and is vastly cheaper. If a few people in the organization still need a function that they can only buy from Microsoft, no matter: the organization just buys a very small number of MS Office licenses.

Re:it's already been admitted (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7883720)

huh?

Government not supposed to work that way (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7883456)

Can local governments afford to create redundant applications to meet new Federal standards for first responder alerts, emergency services, law enforcement, broadcasters

No! With or without open source, we can't afford such nonsense.

This is another clear example of the overgrowth of the role of the federal government. They're going to run our local governments deeper into debt with these ridiculous unfunded mandates that may be wildly inappropriate for a given locality. The constitution clearly states the roles of the federal government and leaves the rest to the states and localities. This along with over-regulation of personal lifestyles that's going to come with public healthcare, are the biggest disasters on the horizon.

Re:Government not supposed to work that way (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7883493)

i prefer a complex merlot, how about you?

True enough but (4, Insightful)

crovira (10242) | more than 10 years ago | (#7883994)

the problem lies not government "per se" but with the management thereof.

The same government that you are railing about is the reason nobody's dying in low speed head-on crashes from getting a steering column rammed through their chest.

The car companies were quoting "market forces" and "nobody will want to pay for collapsible steering columns," and people were pinned to their seats like butterflies to cardboard. Sound familiar? Its the justification of every elite to anything that's going to cut into sl/easy profit.

Management of government by objectives without citizen input into what the objectives are is disastrous.

Remember Clinton's medical plan fiasco that was thrown out, not by elected representatives like the congress, but by HMO lobby groups posing as experts, as being unmanagable.

You didn't get to register so much as a peep for or against or make a suggestion. It was managed right out of your hands.

People are dying because their only sin is being temporarily broke from the last scrape with the health care system.

Re:Government not supposed to work that way (1)

happyfrogcow (708359) | more than 10 years ago | (#7884100)

I agree with you about a federal government with too much power. as an aside, federal government as it exists seems, to my little limited view of life, as only federal politics. I don't see much governing at all. these federal politics are going to do as you say, run our local governments into the ground.

You are 100% dead on.

Free software (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7883499)

Warning!

FREE SOFTWARE is "FREE" as in "FREE LABOUR"!

Thus, FOSS promotes SLAVERY!

Act today! Partner with SCO and stop this crime against humanity!

SLG does not respond well to Open Source because (5, Insightful)

pauly_thumbs (416028) | more than 10 years ago | (#7883541)

1)"Free" is not a good motivator - coming in under budget is not a motivator if they want budget they need to spend budget

2) it's too complex for SLG admins, it's not as easy to pass an open source torch on to your new team mate or underling.

what will motivate Open Sopurce Adoption?

those 400k novell seats and their admins that still run win9x and office 97 need an upgrade very badly. If Novell/SUSe and Ximian can pull off a compelling solution then you will see huga adoptions -- not these onsie twosie deals.

Mod me down if you like but this is a strong emerging market.

Re:SLG does not respond well to Open Source becaus (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7883756)

huh?

Re:SLG does not respond well to Open Source becaus (1)

peitao (600916) | more than 10 years ago | (#7883903)

1)"Free" is not a good motivator - coming in under budget is not a motivator if they want budget they need to spend budget

Unfortunately this is so true... I built a web calendar for a research group at a major university, using linux/apache and an opensource calendar. They went ahead and bought a Mac X Serve and had me port the thing over, doubling the billable hours for me (not that I minded), even though I had already demo'd it on one of their spare outdated PCs.

The basic law of government/educational budgets is "Use it or lose it."

The squeaky wheel gets the oil (2, Insightful)

Dukael_Mikakis (686324) | more than 10 years ago | (#7883979)

I agree with the parent.

In many cases, the way that government works is that the budget-busters will wnd up getting more funding (despite being called to make cuts and everything). This is especially true if you're facing "essential" government expenditures such as the military (notorious for paying $100 for toilet seats and such). It would simply be too difficult for any politician to justify slashing funds to a military at its budgetary "capacity", especially these days, and this is why the Army is giving Microsoft huge [slashdot.org] and (in my opinion) bloated contracts, so that when they need fighter jets or nukes they can say, "See we're operating at capacity, and you can't seriously *not* give us funding, right?"

It's the first trick in the bureaucratic hnadbook: spending money makes you look busy so that you can get more money and look even busier. Government agencies are like parasites that just consume as much as they can and continue to consume more (not that we don't need these agencies, per se).

This is why a giant surplus was effectively erased by Bush as a result of a substantial wealthy-heavy tax cut and exorbitant funding on this corporate-sponsored war effort.

Call it my paranoia. But in a word, open source would be great for our (and any government), but open source isn't precisely what governments want. I think they are looking more for the happy median where they can still break the bank a bit, without becoming too bloated. It's like walking the fine line between losing funding for not spending enough (and having unused cash in your account) and getting cut for spending too much (and looking bad and calling into question how "necessary" certain things are).

Which is why it is ideal (and why we see very often "looking into" open source but contracting a discounted Microsoft deal.

AMBER ALERT! (4, Insightful)

drdreff (715277) | more than 10 years ago | (#7883556)

Sorry you need to update your version of Microsoft Office to 2003sp3 in order to report a child missing.

When timing is critical a commercial solution can fall flat on it's face.

Re:AMBER ALERT! (3, Funny)

NanoGator (522640) | more than 10 years ago | (#7883614)

"Sorry you need to update your version of Microsoft Office to 2003sp3 in order to report a child missing."

Careful about firing shots like that. Open Source has it's downsides too. You don't want anybody scoring a +3 funny on ya.

Re:AMBER ALERT! (3, Insightful)

IthnkImParanoid (410494) | more than 10 years ago | (#7883651)

Sorry, but if someone takes down a critical part of an Amber Alert type system to update software without any sort of redundancy to keep the system going, the fault is with them, bot the software or OS. I dislike Microsoft software in general as much as the next /.er, but in what situation would this happen?

Re:AMBER ALERT! (1)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 10 years ago | (#7883701)

All that means is you have idiot developers/managers. Which can and does happen with open source tools.

Re:AMBER ALERT! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7883785)

drdreff writes:

Sorry you need to update your version of Microsoft Office to 2003sp3 in order to report a child missing.

When timing is
critical a commercial solution can fall flat on it's face.

To summarize both drdreff's post and the article:

If you don't use Open Source, you are helping the terrorists and child molestors!!!

Re:AMBER ALERT! (1)

transient (232842) | more than 10 years ago | (#7883824)

You can't be serious. What the hell does MS Office have to do with a missing child report?

Re:AMBER ALERT! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7884287)

Well, the same people also think that government officials actually type up instructions in MS Word and e-mail it rather than having one of their 100+ aides send the message using say...a secured fax machine.

Missing child reports probably get done in a custom app with all kinds of nifty fields which probably ends up being put in a database and sent out.

Re:AMBER ALERT! (1)

geekee (591277) | more than 10 years ago | (#7884371)

" Sorry you need to update your version of Microsoft Office to 2003sp3 in order to report a child missing. When timing is critical a commercial solution can fall flat on it's face."

Nice straw man arguement. insightful my ass.

Tactical considerations (2, Interesting)

GeckoFood (585211) | more than 10 years ago | (#7883631)

Open Source collaborative initiatives may provide the only solution for the US if the people want to create a safer environment."

Here's another related thought. (And, this is not intended as a slam on Microsoft)

Open Source systems (bazaar) are often much more stable than commercial systems (cathedral) just because of the number of bug hunters, and when it comes to military apps, stability is absolutely crucial. Would you really want your military systems to blue screen or dump core right in the middle of a firefight?

Re:Tactical considerations (1)

Araneas (175181) | more than 10 years ago | (#7883736)

What I would really want is a manual cocking handle and iron sights. Low tech redundancy for when the duracells go flat.

Re:Tactical considerations (1)

TheSunborn (68004) | more than 10 years ago | (#7883747)

Well, having used both gnome, kde and mozilla(Nice browser but still a bit buggy) all I can say is no. Both gnome and kde are far more buggy when any interface microsoft have ever put on windows, and mozilla does crash more then explorer 6.

Besides for most applications, the bugs are found by the users who then fill out a bug-rapport. Whatever the product is opensource or not, does not effect the abilities of people to find bug.

And yes there exists opensource products with almost no bugs, and really high qualiy software(Apache, gcc and so on).

And I still use mozilla as a browser even in windows. Not because it is less buggy, but because it got some really nice features.

Re:Tactical considerations (2, Insightful)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 10 years ago | (#7883768)

Open Source systems (bazaar) are often much more stable than commercial systems (cathedral) just because of the number of bug hunters, and when it comes to military apps, stability is absolutely crucial. Would you really want your military systems to blue screen or dump core right in the middle of a firefight?

Conversely, would you want all your image recognition algorithms (for TV guided missiles), your IR decoy rejection routines, your frequency hopping timings to be known to all and sundry, including the adversary?

"Look, {insert your favorite rebel army leader here]...here's the code for how the missile rejects the decoy flares. Now we can work around that." "ooohhh, and here's the Predator communications frequencies. We can start on spoofing those."

Re:Tactical considerations (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7883956)

It's a good point in some respects. If an enemy is completely ignorant of your technology, you have an advantage over them.

However, that advantage, if it exists at all, is temporary. Other people can think just as well as you can, and they usually find it's easier for them to defeat a system than it was for you to engineer it.

Nobody in their right mind depends on obscuring a mechanism in order to assure its security. That's why we have the practice of using a combination of cryptographic keys and open algorithms. You don't want to replace an entire security infrastructure just because you suspect that someone has figured out how it works.

Re:Tactical considerations (1)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 10 years ago | (#7884177)

Temporary works quite well in many military situations. And the length of temporary differs. Having a 36 hour advantage for a particular system may be all that's needed. Other systems may rely on years of advantage.

There are many systems and weapons kept secret, but still in use. The knowledge of exactly how it works would negate any advantage.

For instance...there is a class of A/A missile that does X. Somewhat revolutionary in operation. Been in the field for several years. If its internal operation were public, well, then, it wouldn't be secret anymore. And defeating it would be trivial. As it is, the general aspects are probably known. But until you can glean the exact parameters...defeating it is very hard.

Re:Tactical considerations (4, Insightful)

miniver (1839) | more than 10 years ago | (#7883777)

Would you really want your military systems to blue screen or dump core right in the middle of a firefight?

There are much worse ways that software can fail. One of the worst is software that looks like it's working, but in fact is not displaying new / updated items -- this leaves the warfighter with the false impression of situational awareness. Another popular failure is software that has time-consuming processing steps that don't have adequate progress indicators -- this leaves the warfighter wondering 'Is it done yet?' when it hangs or fails.

At least with a blue screen or core dump, you know you've got a problem, and you can restart / reboot to resume, with a well known startup time.

Re:Tactical considerations (1)

GeckoFood (585211) | more than 10 years ago | (#7883880)

There are much worse ways that software can fail. One of the worst is software that looks like it's working...

I have to agree with you there, wholeheartedly.

Re:Tactical considerations (1)

CaptKilljoy (687808) | more than 10 years ago | (#7884206)

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Military systems are more stable than either open source or commercial systems because the military spends metric buttloads of cash to develop excruciatingly detailed specifications and do extensive QA. With those two things (and all other things being equal), it doesn't matter in the slightest whether it's open or closed source.

(And even after all that, the results are still not perfect [slashdot.org] .)

Re:Tactical considerations (0)

Call Me Black Cloud (616282) | more than 10 years ago | (#7884342)

Open Source systems (bazaar) are often much more stable than commercial systems (cathedral) just because of the number of bug hunters

How's that? You don't need to be using OSS to find bugs. People are complaining all the time about bugs in MS products. Given Microsoft's market share I submit MS has far more bug hunters than all of open sourcedom combined.

Perhaps you meant bug fixers? Who is going to run, debug, recode military applications? They would then submit the fixes through, what, anonymous CVS? Yes, that's a sound way to ensure your mission critical military applications are stable and bug free.

Now, is it a bug if all the missiles launched turn and head toward the White House if someone put that code in intentionally?

gov't lacking in expertise and money for software (4, Interesting)

poopie (35416) | more than 10 years ago | (#7883640)

The issues that this article brings up are similar regardless of whether commercial software or opensource software is used.

This article is really talking about standardization and consistency across government organizations -- a huge job.

Imaging thousands of individual offices who have operated in a certain way for a hundred years. Imagine all of the paperwork, homemade spreadsheets, interoffice memos that spawn secondary spreadsheets, etc. This unfortunately is how the US government works.

Now imagine someone coming in and promoting replacing whatever random assortment of tools is in use with opensource tools. This means retraining. This means new hardware. This means *A CHANGE*. Uh oh.

Is this the right long-term thing to do? Yes!!

Is this going to be easy? NO!

In order for this to be successful, it will have to have very important people behind it pushing it from the top down and funding the proper resources (hardware and people) where necessary to bring the government into the 21st century.

I for one, certainly hope it can be done, and it would be great for the US and the rest of the world (except Microsoft) if it can be done with opensource software.

Re:gov't lacking in expertise and money for softwa (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7883780)

huh?

Re:gov't lacking in expertise and money for softwa (3, Interesting)

kiwimate (458274) | more than 10 years ago | (#7883853)

Excellent, the first poster so far that appears to have RTFA.

The crux is standardization, or, for you DBAs out there, normalization across applications instead of databases.

One of the examples he gives talks about differing field names (last_name versus surname, for example). Well, sorry, but that has nothing to do with whether you're using SQL Server or MySQL and everything to do with standardizing architecture.

But how does one do that across an entity as large as a government? How do you tell programmers they must use only these field names? And how much will it cost to rename fields in existing applications, and ensure all the links, dependencies, etc., are rectified as well? It's not really anything to do with the platform; at the least, it doesn't have anything like the impact the author suggests.

An important issue, as the author says, is that for many applications (such as SAP and JD Edwards), no open source equivalents exist. This is a big problem for purchasers, because it makes them wonder how long open source will take to give them the applications they need (or if they'll ever come). They may have to pay big bucks for that other software, but it integrates with their existing applications and it's a known quantity. Never underestimate the power of familiarity.

And, although I hate to be a grammar nazi, the author might just find himself being taken more seriously if he learns how to use words properly.

Re:gov't lacking in expertise and money for softwa (2, Insightful)

egburr (141740) | more than 10 years ago | (#7884190)

The issues that this article brings up are similar regardless of whether commercial software or opensource software is used. This article is really talking about standardization and consistency across government organizations -- a huge job.

The article is also about paying for the software ONE time and using it everywhere, instead of paying for EACH copy of it everywhere it is or might be used.

That does not necessarily require Open Source, but Open Source is much more likely to make this possible than current proprietary commercial solutions.

Instead of paying a license to use each copy of the software, you pay someone to write the software, and you pay someone (not necessarily the same person!) to support the software.

Eventually, we'll probably end up with a federally funded department that writes and/or supports these applications. Local governments can use them for free and get support as needed (maybe with a small fee?). If a local government wants something that does not already exist they can pay to have it created (so that department isn't flooded with unnecessary requests), then others can obtain it for free. It would be a lot cheaper than everyone paying for licenses to use commercial software, and would directly affect our taxes.

morons sign up to meet won-eyed girl? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7883739)

first stuff that really matters since sometime last weak/year?

tell 'em robbIE.

Huh? (5, Interesting)

Call Me Black Cloud (616282) | more than 10 years ago | (#7883813)

The original Internet and Open Source standards came out of public monies mostly granted to university research departments by the Department of Defense. Who paid for those efforts? Why must the public have to pay for those technologies once again because companies like Microsoft adopt them and then resell them as proprietary software?

What the hell is he talking about? In the previous paragraph he writes:

If the Internet failed to follow accepted standards, it simply would not work

So the Internet works because it "follows standards", and we know MSIE (price: free) has the largest share of the browser market. So MS hasn't broken the Internet. Can someone give an example of what he's talking about? And don't tell me Kerberos because it's not the example you're looking for (MS did not co-opt it - MS extended Kerberos in accordance with the spec).

He started out reasonable and then got shrill. He throws out statements like, "Seventy-five percent of the municipalities and schools in the United States cannot afford proprietary software" So...that means 75% of the municipalities are either a) running OSS, b) using pen and paper, or c) pirating all their software. A source reference would have been nice.

Oh no...he has recommendations too:

the states should require the use of Open Standards and Open Source Software when applicable

When applicable? So, who decides when the software "applies"? Availability? Cost? (cost of development for a custom solution vs cost of COTS software) Everyone knows offshore development is cheaper - since he beats the fiscal drum so loudly does he also advocate sending any custom programming jobs overseas? He did have one good idea:

If we can pay for software one time and share it with all government entities, we empower Americans to participate in the security of the homeland.

Solution: site licenses for America!

Pool all Government software. (3, Interesting)

crovira (10242) | more than 10 years ago | (#7884097)

The costs of development would be borne once (quite likely whatever software they'd need has already been done by some community or other,) and used as is and/or modified under the GPL, and copied into the pool.

Some existing body, like the GAO, could administer the pool and send CDs to any community, state or federal department that would require the software.

Author is misrespesentative (2, Informative)

geekee (591277) | more than 10 years ago | (#7884338)

"Mr. Bray has determined that Open Source Software appears as a bad idea as he further writes: (So what's wrong?) Plenty, if you're Microsoft or Oracle, or any of the thousands of smaller companies that make closed-source software for government agencies. According to the research firm IDC Corp., federal, state and local governments spend $34 billion a year on software. If Kriss's (Open Source in Government) ideas were to catch on across the land, a lot of that revenue disappears, and much of what remains won't go to firms like Microsoft, which refuses to offer open-source products."

Bray never says open source is a bad idea. He merely says companies like MS and Oracle will lose revenue as a result of OSS. Why should I believe an author who can't even interpret a quote correctly,
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