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The Open Source Dilemma for Governments 163

Posted by simoniker
from the choices-for-rulers dept.
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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The Open Source Dilemma for Governments

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  • by tcopeland (32225) * <tom.thomasleecopeland@com> on Monday January 05, 2004 @03:37PM (#7883390) Homepage
    ...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.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 05, 2004 @03:39PM (#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.
    • by Lord Kholdan (670731) on Monday January 05, 2004 @03:59PM (#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.
      • 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.

        • Quoting from http://www.nntp.perl.org/group/perl.perl5.porters / 85676 You may not be counting, but there are about a dozen active perl 5 developers on p5p, about half with commit rights. Similarly parrot has about 5 active committers. This is the number of competent volunteers that a well established 16-year old programming language used by many individuals and many organisations can muster. From the entire world. Now tell me, when was the last time *you* actually downloaded some open source software,
          • ...when was the last time....

            I do so regularly.

            These are the tools of my trade, so I like to keep'em sharp and clean.

            ...streets almost never think to pick up a piece of litter.

            I always pick up the litter in front of my house. So do all my neighbours. I don't know where you live / work, but it sounds like a bit of a dump. Perhaps you should gently lead the way around there to a better existence.

          • Reading through the source isn't the only way in which people improve free software. Another way is by encountering bugs when they use it and fixing them, or by discovering that a feature would be useful and adding it.

            This happens even with software that has been around for decades. To take a small example from my personal experience, some years ago I added a feature (the figname keyword) to GNU pic, the figure-drawing preprocessor for troff/groff and TeX. I found this feature very useful and eventually

          • Now tell me, when was the last time *you* actually downloaded some open source software, and instead of using it ... you went through the code line per line looking for bugs.

            there has been 3 projects, where I have downloaded and examined the code, and not found any bugs by looking, intsalled the software and played with it long enough to find bugs, track the bugs back to the source code and repaired and submitted the patch results:

            a. project maintainer univesaly rejected submited patches, project forked
    • 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

  • by i.r.id10t (595143) on Monday January 05, 2004 @03:39PM (#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.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 05, 2004 @03:42PM (#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 entitie
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 05, 2004 @03:44PM (#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?
    • by Anonymous Coward
      "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?

    • by worm eater (697149) on Monday January 05, 2004 @03:59PM (#7883603) Homepage
      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.
    • 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...
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • by Black Parrot (19622) on Monday January 05, 2004 @04:23PM (#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.

      • 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.
      • 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.

        This is assuming that their changes are accepted into the root source tree (which is a false assumption). If the changes/features are too specialized/customized (they apply to only that particular college) and if they interfere with other features, they most likely
      • I would lay good odds that once upon a time I worked for the company that made the software your friend maintains. (There aren't that many companies who do this sort of software, and I worked for one who now has more than 500 colleges as customers.) With that in mind, I think I can offer some explanation for your friend's complaints, and why open source wouldn't work to solve her problem. Let's start with a good rule of thumb:

        Trader's Open Source Feasibility Factor: The likelyhood that a piece of soft

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

      1. Apache wasn't written by teenagers.

      2. If you've ever worked for a large software company, you might have been shocked at how many wet-behind-the-ears uneducated (or "self taught") programmers are writing the major infrastructure software you depend upon. I find it frightening.

  • by relrelrel (737051) on Monday January 05, 2004 @03:44PM (#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.
    • by Teux (737929) on Monday January 05, 2004 @03:51PM (#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)
    • It seems that European commission is really thinking about switching to free softwares http://europa.eu.int/(...) [eu.int]
    • 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.

      • 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.

        The profit on selling Microsoft Office must be much greater than the profit on selling a bundled OEM preinstll of Windows.

        Furthermore, OpenOffice.org represents one less reason to be locked in to Windows. The more cross-over applications you run, the sooner you will realize one of these years that "Hey, we could just switch over to <Ins
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 05, 2004 @03:44PM (#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.
    • True enough but (Score:5, Insightful)

      by crovira (10242) on Monday January 05, 2004 @04:38PM (#7883994) Homepage
      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.
      • "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."

        Unfortunately, they don't know where to stop..if one little thing is good...they think more regulation is better. Due to all the govt. restrictions, and the insurance companies...we no longer have the fun cars to drive these days. They killed the muscle cars for people who wanted them. Bumper restrictions kept cool cars like the Pantera from t

    • 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.
  • by pauly_thumbs (416028) on Monday January 05, 2004 @03:53PM (#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.
    • 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/educati
    • 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 gi
      • "This is why a giant surplus was effectively erased by Bush as a result of a substantial wealthy-heavy tax cut..."

        I'm not sure what you consider wealthy....I know myself and most of my friends, who are all broadly in the same area as far as age/salary range ALL benefited from the tax cuts. Some with families, and some single. And we're all FAR from what I'd consider 'wealthy'. Making over $30K-$50K a year does not make one a wealthy person, especially if you have a family.

        I think the gov. takes way too

  • AMBER ALERT! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by drdreff (715277) on Monday January 05, 2004 @03:54PM (#7883556) Homepage Journal
    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.
    • by NanoGator (522640) on Monday January 05, 2004 @04:00PM (#7883614) Homepage Journal
      "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! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by IthnkImParanoid (410494) on Monday January 05, 2004 @04:05PM (#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?
    • All that means is you have idiot developers/managers. Which can and does happen with open source tools.
    • You can't be serious. What the hell does MS Office have to do with a missing child report?
    • " 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.
  • by GeckoFood (585211) <geckofood.gmail@com> on Monday January 05, 2004 @04:03PM (#7883631) Journal

    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?

    • What I would really want is a manual cocking handle and iron sights. Low tech redundancy for when the duracells go flat.
    • 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 q
    • 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 t
      • There's nothing that says that ALL of the elements of a critical system have to be open source (GPL flamewars aside). On the other hand, most of the infrastructure of a modern system (military or otherwise) is the same as any other IT system, except for having stricter reliability requirements (ie: no single-point-of-failure allowed / short recovery times). In fact, these are the same infrastructure requirements that most commercial entities would love to have, but generally can't justify on a cost basis.

      • 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?

        Why would you show those items to anyone especially your adversaries.

        Oh, that's right. If I use Open Source software to develop my application I have to let everyone in the world have a copy of the entire program if they ask for it. Even the DSP algorithms and frequency tables I developed myself.

    • by miniver (1839) on Monday January 05, 2004 @04:21PM (#7883777) Homepage
      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.

      • 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.

      • That's why you test software in a realistic situation before you deploy it operationally.

        Amazingly enough the Military has a lot of experience at that. In fact they spend almost their entire career training in realistic scenarios. Lots of military personnel never actually use their skills in combat related activity.

        So I don't think a missing hourglass is going to fool them in the heat of battle.

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

      Mission critical military applications are not written the same way as bloated consumer based applications. Your argument may be valid, but your example is a little too much.

  • by poopie (35416) on Monday January 05, 2004 @04:04PM (#7883640) Journal
    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.
    • by kiwimate (458274) on Monday January 05, 2004 @04:27PM (#7883853) Journal
      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.

      • But how does one do that across an entity as large as a government?

        Publish a namespace reference as a RFC, dictate that all governmental entities that are having custom apps developed adhere to those guidelines, and that they submit addendum to the maintainer of those guidelines when they are adding named feilds to the list.

        The programmers have access to the spec before they bid on the job, and the spec is included with the customers criteria.

    • 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 cu

  • Huh? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Call Me Black Cloud (616282) on Monday January 05, 2004 @04:24PM (#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!
    • Re:Huh? (Score:3, Informative)

      by nathanh (1214)

      So the Internet works because it "follows standards", and we know MSIE (price: free) has the largest share of the browser market.

      They achieved that marketshare through illegal use of their x86 operating system monopoly. That's a fact as determined by the US courts.

      So MS hasn't broken the Internet. Can someone give an example of what he's talking about?

      He didn't say Microsoft had "broken" the Internet. Let's read it again:

      Why must the public have to pay for those technologies once again beca

    • 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.

      Yeah but I hate it when I get empowered. It usually means I gotta do something.

      If I wanted to do something about homeland security I wouldn'ta bothered voting for someone who said they'd do it for me. Well I woulda if I hadda voted at all.

  • by crovira (10242) on Monday January 05, 2004 @04:44PM (#7884097) Homepage
    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.
    • We should be encouraging commercial and non-commercial sofware providers to do exactally this if we're going to get maximum return on invested dollars.

      The "open source" for government movement is as responsible as the commercial providers for constructing an us or them scenario.

      Any application, developed on any platform, in any government agency should be indexed and available to the wider government community.

      This is all about reuse, it has little or nothing to do with open standards or any of the many
  • by geekee (591277) on Monday January 05, 2004 @05:06PM (#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,
  • Overseas, one of Australia's six states has passed legislation mandating the use of open-source code

    1. The Australian Capital Territory is not at State

    2. The legislation does not mandate open source software, but mandates only that it be considered.

  • by beforewisdom (729725) on Monday January 05, 2004 @11:05PM (#7887447)
    One of the best ways to promote free(dom) software, would be for the government to mandate standard goverment document formats under a GPL.

    If someone wants the government to use their software then their software must be capable of saving to the government standard GPL format.

    Government documents will always be accessible.

    Goverments will be free to switch software and not worry about format incompatibility.

    They can choose to use the best software for their formats...free(dom) software or proprietary.

    The playing field will be leveled. No document lock. A software package will compete on its pricing and merits.

    Chances are all of these benefits will transfer to the private sector as the sheer volume of government documentation will force the inclusion of government standard gpl formats into software made for the private sector.

    As a bonus the GPL will get a shot in the arm as far as legitimacy go.

    The government formats will also spread and be improved being GPL as anyone will be free to use or change it.

    If the government sees a nice modification they can make it the standard.

    Steve

    • Unfortunately /. would then erupt in a cacophany of how the federal government was invading the privacy of every Citizen, violating the constitution (actually that might technically be a violation of the constitution), raping everyone's daughters and spying on everyone whilst giving tax money to the [RI|MP]AA. Personally I think it's a good idea, in theory we're trying to do something similar with XML schemas used by local and central in the UK. The problem there is that it has no teeth so people are goin

  • This sounds like a security nightmare to me. Not because of the 'Open Source' nature of the project, but because the same code will be used in too many places..

    Whatever happened to the argument that diverse heterogeneous systems are better from a security standpoint? I guess it only applies when bashing Microsoft?

    If you base all of these government systems off of a single Open Source core, a hacker only needs to find a single bug in the core software and he or she has keys to the entire kingdom of fed

  • What dilemma? The choice is obvious. If the so-called developed world does not wake up, we will continue to be held to ransom by the Convicted Monopolist who produces the leading brand of trash with all the security holes, while lots of less-well developed nations get ahead. It is as simple as that.

    With OSS the customer can see what he is getting, which should be a basic requirement for government use. Safety is slightly different from security, but there too, if you can see the code, you can check that pr

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