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Software Choice Group Tells DOD Not to Use Open Source 415

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the we-fear-change dept.
ducomputergeek writes "A group calling themselves the Initiative for Software Choice, backed by Microsoft and others, is recommending that the DOD drop plans for further adoption of Open Source software. This comes after MITRE, a defense contractor, published a report stating that not only does the Department of Defense use opensource, but is recommend on using it more. The article is at News.com and you can read it here."
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Software Choice Group Tells DOD Not to Use Open Source

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  • Microsoft at al? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DigitalDad (307095) on Thursday November 28, 2002 @02:01PM (#4775913)
    Seriously, how can a group called "Initiative for Software Choice" that's backed by major players against open source (see Microsoft) be open and objective in this?
    • How can open source groups give a nonbiased pitch of their products/ideals/whatever? The door swings both ways.
      • Re:Microsoft at al? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by bstadil (7110) on Thursday November 28, 2002 @02:18PM (#4776028) Homepage
        The door swings both ways.

        Indeed it does. The beauty of this is that every time a piece of FUD like this arrives, it adds mindshare of OpenSource to the equation.

        It's like the old Monty Python sketch when in the cockpit of a plane John Cleese takes the microphone and informs the passenger that "There is no cause for alarm". When asked why he did that claiming the passengers now have to ponder "What is there no cause for alarm For!

        This junk by MS almost ensures an invite for OpenSource to the party.

        • Re:Microsoft at al? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Winterblink (575267) on Thursday November 28, 2002 @02:36PM (#4776121) Homepage
          Oh I totally agree. I'm all for OSS getting an equal share of the limelight with others, even Microsoft. Personally I think on an even playing field, OSS has way more pros than cons as opposed to more proprietary solutions. However the OSS community also has to realize that all they can do is showcase themselves as best they can. If an individual/company/organization/whatever decides they want Microsoft products (as an example) then that's their decision. Hopefully they've made an informed one, but if they have then they've chosen what's best for them. OSS shouldn't take that as a slap to the face, they don't have to win EVERY battle.
          • win EVERY battle? (Score:2, Insightful)

            by bstadil (7110)
            they don't have to win EVERY battle.

            Agree totally. Interestingly you do not really need to win any battles, only make sure you will be around for the next skirmish.

            MS lost every battle aganist DOJ but still won the war, the Vietcong hardly fought any battles let alone won one.

            OpenSource will not go away, it can't as long as individual programmers are "scratching itches".

      • by Bruce Perens (3872) <bruce@perens.com> on Thursday November 28, 2002 @04:45PM (#4776704) Homepage Journal
        Oh, I definitely think Open Source is the best, if that's what you mean by bias. What you need is an unbiased third party to evaluate both sides. Like Terry Bollinger at MITRE. His conclusion is really interesting reading.

        Bruce

      • Well, there are differences. Most importantly, open source advocates usually are users or developers of open source, not sellers. For example, MITRE makes no more money by advocating open source than by advocating Microsoft. But Microsoft makes enormous amounts of money by selling software. Therefore, Microsoft has big financial incentives to mislead and lie about the security and cost of their software. With open source, however, if another open source user saves money using open source software and tells me about it, they may tell me about it because my participation in open source further lowers their cost, but their gain is my gain: I'm in the same boat.

        For a simple analogy, ask yourself: all things being equal, who do you trust more: the used car salesman making a pitch (Microsoft) or the common views of a dozen of his ex-customers (other open source users)?

        Also, this isn't like the Coke-vs.-Pepsi debate--two more-or-less equivalent products, where one can debate endlessly which one is better. Open source and closed source software are profoundly different development models. I think open source really is better for most users, in a clearcut economic sense. I have concluded that, in contrast to many economic arguments for open source, Microsoft's arguments are mostly logically and economically unsound. You may reach different conclusions, but the point is that this is something one can think about and determine the truth of logically. Therefore, it is not a question of advocacy and bias but putting forward logical arguments and empirical proof.

    • by 0x0d0a (568518) on Thursday November 28, 2002 @02:39PM (#4776141) Journal
      group called "Initiative for Software Choice"

      (a) I don't see what their name has to do with this

      (b) The name is pretty par for the choice for a lobbying group

      (c) In this case, the name is actually deserved, as what they're fighting for is not to ban Open Source software from government contracts, but only to ensure that the US government not *require* Open Source, which would eliminate as an option most current closed software.
      • Re:Microsoft at al? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Bruce Perens (3872) <bruce@perens.com> on Thursday November 28, 2002 @04:16PM (#4776597) Homepage Journal
        Don't buy their line. The U.S. government has not proposed to require Open Source, only to promote it so that it will be used effectively. If Software Choice was really fighting for equality, it would be nice. But when you read the fine print, you'll find that they aren't. They stand for patents in standards, which would lock out Open Source. They want software purchasers to blind themselves to the merits of intellectual property policy. Consider two functionaly equivalent programs - one Open Source and one proprietary - to be the same. The Open Source program has a lot of economic and business advantages over the proprietary one, and the purchaser should prefer Open Source if all else is equivalent. Software Choice opposes this, they call it a "categorical preference".

        Bruce

        • Re:Microsoft at al? (Score:3, Interesting)

          by steve_l (109732)
          Also they dont want the govt to fund or participate in any OSS projects, particularly GPL stuff, as it prevents their 'right' to profit from the developments. Heh. NSA Linux is one case in point...the TIA program will probably have to build the US police state on freebsd instead.

          I actually think their argument about OSS code not necessarily being more secure is valid, an OSS project can have security bugs introduced as features, and often they get found by external black box attacks rather than source code walk throughs. But OSS projects can roll out fixes faster, which meant if had a widespread and secure update mechanism we could get those fixes out the door faster too. Compare that to win2K which is still available in the shops in 'Code Red Ready' form.
      • by rseuhs (322520)
        (c) In this case, the name is actually deserved, as what they're fighting for is not to ban Open Source software from government contracts, but only to ensure that the US government not *require* Open Source, which would eliminate as an option most current closed software.

        Well, there are currently zero OSS-only policies in the US among governmental organizations, but numerous MS-only policies at the operating system and office-suite level.

        And now this "Initiative for Software Choice" starts fighting against policies that don't even exist (yet).

        If they are serious about software choice, why don't they attack the numerous MS-only policies out there?

    • by Bruce Perens (3872) <bruce@perens.com> on Thursday November 28, 2002 @04:19PM (#4776608) Homepage Journal
      Especially these guys. They are lobbying against your right to choose Open Source. They dress their campaign up as if they seek equality and no preferences, but read the fine print. They want to lock us out of industry standards by using patents - it's right there in their "principles".

      See SincereChoice.org [sincerechoice.org] for a platform that really would give you choice.

      Bruce

  • by Dachannien (617929) on Thursday November 28, 2002 @02:02PM (#4775917)
    In other news, Microsoft reports that it has purchased the rights to the next edition of Webster's Unabridged Dictionary. Among the changes expected to appear in this edition, the word "choice" will henceforth be defined as "the act of giving Microsoft more money, esp. against one's better judgment."

  • Choices (Score:3, Insightful)

    by aufecht (163961) on Thursday November 28, 2002 @02:03PM (#4775924) Homepage Journal
    Initiative for Software Choice, just make sure you chose between Windows XP,2000 or 98.
    • Re:Choices (Score:3, Funny)

      by frankie (91710)
      just make sure you chose between Windows XP,2000 or 98.

      Hey, be fair now. The Institute for Software Choice offers a much broader selection than just three versions of Windows (two of which are out of fashion [microsoft.com]):

      1. XP Home
      2. XP Pro
      3. XP Embedded
      4. XP Media Center
      5. XP Tablet PC
      6. .Net Server
      7. PocketPC
      See? Isn't that enough choice for anybody?
  • by andymac (82298) on Thursday November 28, 2002 @02:03PM (#4775926) Homepage
    My company does quite a bit of work for the big defense contractors, we're involved in many big programs. These contractors are constantly asking us for Linux based software (SDKs APIs etc.) and especially for their embedded devices. These guys want to stop laying huge license fees to WindRiver for their vxWorks software... and want to spend the $$ elsewhere. Good on them I say. However I will insert the obligatory M$ comment: I'm shocked (not!) that MS would push their own agenda blah blah blah... ;-)
  • Comptia (Score:2, Interesting)

    by tetrode (32267)
    Strange, this is one of the companies behind it, and they do linux... [comptia.org]

    Mark
  • Choice (Score:5, Interesting)

    by John Sullivan (234934) on Thursday November 28, 2002 @02:04PM (#4775933)
    A group calling themselves the Initiative for Software Choice, backed by Microsoft

    This would be the Henry Ford definition of choice then? "You can choose any supplier you like, so long as it's us."

  • by joel8x (324102) on Thursday November 28, 2002 @02:05PM (#4775935) Homepage
    A group backed by corporations with their own interests says their biggest threat is not a good choice.

    In other news, a group called "The Darkened Lung Group" (backed by R.J. Reynolds and Phillip Morris) are saying that smoking isn't that bad for you and it's not really addictive.
  • Microsoft digs its own grave by getting more and more huffy with its customers. High-def video at 11.

    Meanwhile, Linux gets more and more free press.

  • Improve software choice by limiting the choice of options.

  • Here's [theregister.co.uk] an article from The Register talking about the same subjecf. News.com will probably get slashdotted now anyways =)
    • Thanks for the link, there's an interesting quote there: "...if it is GPL based, then proprietary companies cannot directly benefit from it."

      I will leave the various conclusions to the slashdot readership... this out to be interesting ;)

  • by ryants (310088) on Thursday November 28, 2002 @02:08PM (#4775955)
    arguing that proprietary products are not inherently less secure.
    Now, that isn't a direct quote from report itself, but rather a paraphrase from the reporter, but still...

    "Not inherently less secure" is a strange way of advocating your position. Double-negatives like this usually betray a defensive mind set. Why didn't they have the conviction to say "we're *more* secure"?

    • That's not a double negative. If they had said they are more secure then they would be saying Proprietary > OSS. They said they are not less secure so in fact they are saying Proprietary >= OSS.
    • "Not inherently less secure" is a strange way of advocating your position. Double-negatives like this usually betray a defensive mind set. Why didn't they have the conviction to say "we're *more* secure"?
      Could that be because Microsoft is finally on the defense? The latest halloween document suggests that Microsoft has gotten to the point where they're behind reality, even on the field of marketing...
    • by ZeLonewolf (197271) on Thursday November 28, 2002 @02:39PM (#4776134) Homepage
      I work for the DoD, in a technology policy branch.

      Not only is proprietary softare inherently insecure, it's inherently more expensive, inherently doesn't work as well, and inherently causes the government to be screwed if the company goes out of business or decides to stop supporting the software. In fact, the government got screwed by using HP-UX when HP decided not to make new versions of the OS backwards-compatible with the older HP processors being used in most of our submarines...now, wisely, half of the computers in the NEXT generation of subs are running Linux (the rest are running Solaris...)
    • "Not inherently less secure" is a strange way of advocating your position. Double-negatives like this usually betray a defensive mind set. Why didn't they have the conviction to say "we're *more* secure"?

      My guess would be that he wasn't saying they were more secure, just that they weren't necessarily less secure. The second later argument is true though misleading. Closed source can be at least as secure as open source even though it tends not to be in practice. Claiming that closed source in general is more secure however would be a very easy argument to shoot down because the results rather strongly show the opposite.

      Anyway I don't read this as a double negative, just a very carefully chosen argument. I do think you are right though in that it probably reflects a defensive mindset.
    • Palladium (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jbolden (176878)
      What they say is that closed source is not inherently less secure than open source. They are kind of arguing that its a tie. In reality this undersells the commercial world.
      For example every security class A operating system for example is commercial (and presumably closed source). No open source has even gone for a high security certification though the NSA was going to build a high security version of Linux before they got stopped (nowhere near class A though). The issue though is that while there are excellent closed source secure systems Microsoft doesn't make any of them; vendors like IBM (with Z-OS) do.

      However Palladium will move MSFT towards a capability system and these are substantially more secure (in practice) than systems based on file permissions (like Unixes). I wouldn't be so sure this is a permanent win for Linux rather than a short term victory based on:

      a) Microsoft's poor execution on security
      b) Services running with excessively high permissions
      c) Security not being a focus of the company until recently.

  • GPL FUD again? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by debest (471937) on Thursday November 28, 2002 @02:08PM (#4775958)
    FUD: You have to open up all your code if you use GPL code in your software.

    Fact: You have to open up all your code if you use GPL code in your software and then distribute it!

    I don't think the DoD distributes very much of the software it writes, so why should it care if it uses GPL code? It shouldn't care! But let the FUD fly!
    • Re:GPL FUD again? (Score:2, Informative)

      by silas_moeckel (234313)
      Even more importantly the DOD can clasify something after the fact so while it might have to release source code but only if you have need to know as defined by the DOD.
    • Re:GPL FUD again? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by LostCluster (625375)
      Furthermore, you only have to open up your code to those who you distribute your software to...

      Which means Army can give software to the Navy, and they'd only have to give the code to the Navy, not to the general public.
    • Re:GPL FUD again? (Score:5, Informative)

      by deander2 (26173) <`public' `at' `kered.org'> on Thursday November 28, 2002 @02:38PM (#4776132) Homepage

      It's important to make clear the difference between:
      1) using OSS code in your software
      2) using OSS code to write your software, or to deploy your software, or to distribute your software, or to hang your software out to dry on your clothesline, etc...

      Only #1 requires you to make your software open source.

      (btw, I work as a contractor for the DOD. we do #2 constantly, and I can promise you it's the much more common activity)
  • I know at least one thing. I feel much better about the "defence" of my own computer from viruses and hackers with a stripped down linux that runs few services. I know exactly what programs/services are running. The stripped kernel code is small enough that I probably could audit it over say a year. The "Defense" Department could certainly allocate some resources to audit a stripped distribution.
  • Boo on Moft... (Score:3, Informative)

    by pVoid (607584) on Thursday November 28, 2002 @02:10PM (#4775971)
    I actually went and check out their list [softwarechoice.org] of partners, and this thing is just Microsoft plus a list of roughly a hundred small shops (probably moft shops)... No other big names (like Sun, which I was expecting to find mind you).

    Anyways, a funny highlight, one of their members is: "Open Solutions" =)

  • Companies say that Customers should pay for their products rather than using cheaper or even free alternatives.

    In related new DoD announce "War is good".
  • by Cap'n Canuck (622106) on Thursday November 28, 2002 @02:10PM (#4775977)
    Proprietary software companies such as Microsoft have labeled open-source software as a serious threat and have begun to oppose its use by governments. At the same time, however, nations such as France and Germany have begun to encourage open-source software to limit their dependence on proprietary vendors and to stimulate local software development.

    As a community of Open Source users, there is often a "ram-it-down-your-throat" style of preaching your brand of OS religion. Sure, a free OS is great, but it's not for everyone. Ultimately, a group of knowledgable professionals within the DoD will make a choice. You can agree or disagree with that choice, but they are entitled to it. Besides, their criteria are different from yours, which are different from France's and Germany's.

    Having said that, Microsoft, along with Cisco & Intel, have taken what I feel is the low road. It is one thing to advocate your product, but what they are essentially doing here is mudslinging. While this seems to be a fine tradition in American politics, I'm not sure that it's an ethical business practice, even for Microsoft (OK, I may have said that tongue-in-cheek).

    Karma: Basking in the warm afterglow of post-coital whoring.
  • by Diabolical (2110) on Thursday November 28, 2002 @02:11PM (#4775981) Homepage
    It's a pitty to see Intel's name as one of the companies opposing OSS. Strangely they reach out at one side and then at the other side they slap you in the face. It is not that Intel should choose sides.

    I can understand fully that it is in Intels best interest to have support from both camps but this is really something they should watch out for. It may well be that more OSS developers and users will buy the products of their competitors if these kind of things become normal practice for them.

    • It's a pitty to see Intel's name as one of the companies opposing OSS. Strangely they reach out at one side and then at the other side they slap you in the face. It is not that Intel should choose sides.


      It's called hedging your bets. Intel really has no interest in what operating system you buy, as long as it runs on their hardware. Since both Microsoft and Linux run on Intel hardware (a fact which is not going to change), why shouldn't Intel support both sides? As long as one of them wins, Intel wins.
      • I mostly agree, except I can't help but think Intel would rather Linux win out in the long run. After all, MS has applied lots of pressure in the past to suppress technology Intel was developing that could've hurt MS. Getting out from under that would be in Intel's best interest.
      • not if but when (Score:3, Interesting)

        by zogger (617870)
        --note: I have zero way to tell and zero insider knowledge of what intel might or might not do.

        With that said, I would bet that if push came to shove, intel would fall on the side of millions of cpu chips to desktops (trusted and see-cure microsoft yada yada) instead of thousands to servers (terrible open source linux that any al queda teenager can hack open in 2 minutes yada yada). Public perception and marketing and outright lying and word twisting and propogandaizing will prevail in the short term. Not long term but the short term. The pushing and shoving being mandated "by law" with snoopervision hard coded into the chip itself, probably to "fight software and music and movie piracy and to help stop terrorism and them e-vile hackerz ,please, think of the childrenz" or some such new law probably coming to a nation near you soon.

        Really, just guessing though. Microsoft's alleged "punishment" was too wussy, I am guessing there's a sub tosa deal in place now between the government and microsoft, there will be a slew of trojans hidden in their software and only a matter of time before they are inside the chips. The government has stated quite clearly that their goal is TOTAL surveillance, I mean, how many more clues are needed now? Intel will play ball with this if they are forced to choose. So will AMD probably as well, and it never has to be made public, at least past the plausable deniability level.
      • by gorilla (36491) on Thursday November 28, 2002 @02:53PM (#4776209)
        OSS should threaten Intels position. If you have the source, you can recompile it for a different architecture, if you've got the binary, then you're stuck with whatever it's compiled from.
      • It's called hedging your bets. Intel really has no interest in what operating system you buy, as long as it runs on their hardware.

        To get Linux running on a new processor, all that's needed is a new gcc, maybe a few modifications to the kernel, and within a week or two you have an operating system for your new processor. It may take longer, but with the full source code available you have a good chance.

        To get a Microsoft OS running on a new processor would be much more difficult, nearly impossible. You can't do a direct source port, as Microsoft guards this like the Crown Jewels. You have emulation difficulty as well because Microsoft OSes have "undocumented" API calls. And of course emulation runs like a snail on Mogadon.

        So it's no surprise to me that Intel would back Microsoft. If Linux wins, Intel loses a cosy monopoly as well.
      • Not true, intel has a stake in microsoft that is alot greater than their stake in open source. They have a heavy market dominance, and alot of other ties so it's not a buisness killer for them if microsoft bit the dust tomorrow... but this is just a lead. If linux took over the desktop then for the most part there would be very little binding users to intel architecture in general. New architectures would be developed and adopted quickly by linux where the hardware manufacturers who make them could do the porting themselves if need be. This would be a substantial blow to the x86 architecture which intel is married to, and would also send a statement to the world that intel's design wasn't god and as soon as people had a choice, they chose something else.
  • by Noryungi (70322) on Thursday November 28, 2002 @02:11PM (#4775982) Homepage Journal
    ... And I am grateful for the Microsoft marketdroids, for spewing such ridiculous, transparent FUD.

    The more they do this, the more exposure Open Source gains, and the more people are going to stop buying Microsoft products.

    Seriously, though, imagine a PHB in those difficult times: you have to do more with less $$$. And right there and then, comes this PR FUD from Microsoft, saying: "Stop using this cheap Open Source! It's BAD for your health and for the environment!!".

    PHB brain, of course, only registers the word cheap. He immediately goes to his techies and says: "Linux is cheap!! Start using it NOW to save money!".

    *Collective sighs of relief from said techies*

    Let us all give thanks for Microsoft Marketing, and for the FUD for which it stands. With upgrade paths and expensive licenses for all.

    Amen.

    (Yes, I am being sarcastic, people. Go back to your turkeys instead of pointing these flamethrowers at me now...) ;)
  • Microsoft screw ups (Score:5, Interesting)

    by infractor (152926) on Thursday November 28, 2002 @02:12PM (#4775988)
    Well I'm sure the DoD remember their dead microsoft NT sub. The radar which doesn't work etc. The missing nukes because of SQL server? Microsofts admission and then retraction.. it is all documented out there..

    A quick search of slashdot digs up this:

    navy unhappy with microsoft [slashdot.org]

    Even the average man in the street thinks of windows as less secure. I can't believe something like this would really fool people...
  • "This week, the Initiative for Software Choice counterattacked, telling the Defense Information Systems Agency that the Pentagon should not "openly promote the use" of open-source software, arguing that proprietary products are not inherently less secure."

    That emphasis is mine. Nothing in the article indicates that Microsoft said their products were better than open source. In this particular case... Microsoft is arguing that their software is as good as open source software.

    I think its funny that Microsoft didn't say that their stuff is better. They can only argue that their stuff isn't worse.

    --

    • > I think its funny that Microsoft didn't say that their stuff is better. They can only argue that their stuff isn't worse.

      Yes, it is amusing to reflect on how far that goalpost has moved in the past five years.

      On c.o.l.a. I've also seen "Linux is too hard to install" shift to "Windows is just as easy to install as Linux is".

  • A year or so ago we would have been thrilled that the discussion was even happening. There will be debate one way and the other - the more the better.

    The point is that the longer and more high profile the debate, the more people become aware of OSS and come to realise that it is not a flash in the pan. ``Gee, they are still talking about Linux, my M$/... salesman told me it would be forgotten by the Autumn. Hmmmm, maybe I ought to find out some more.''

    To an extent, any publicity is good publicity.

    The closed source vendors have a problem: they either shut up about Linux/OSS and have it gradually move into their territory; or they generate loud FUD and bring it to decision makers' attention.

    Things will get really interesting when widespread adoption of OSS grows from operating systems, systems utilities and universal applications to business sector specific applications.
  • Aside from the semi-interesting doublespeak ("Initiative for Software Choice", while being against open source), we've been working with NSA for quite a while now on the SeLinux Project. One of the big players in the commercial software (I forget the name now) tried to muck up the works by insisting they had some right to a portion of the code, but their complaints have fallen by the wayside.
  • Well gee... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kjella (173770) on Thursday November 28, 2002 @02:17PM (#4776020) Homepage
    Of course they're worried. If their corporate customers start saying "Hey, if the DoD is using it, it must be good and secure enough for us too!"

    Oh and the GPL doesn't really stop the DoD at all, as you only have to release source code to those you provide with a binary. Unless DoD starts handing out binaries to others, they can keep every change to themselves (but I imagine they'd rather stay with the main branch than running their own solo run, but they are one of the few who could).

    OSS is no magic cure against bugs though, and QA is important. In my experience bugs show up faster & get fixed faster in OSS, so in the short run you have more *known* bugs than commercial software, even if there aren't really any more bugs in it. In the long run though, if enough people use it and find bugs, it is more stable and bugfree.

    Kjella
  • You can never be sure what kind of spyware proprietary software contains. How does the DOD know that some terrorist didn't slip some spy code into Windows or other proprietary product? The only way they can be sure of this is to use only open source software and analyze/compile the code themselves.
  • I was at a talk once where a guy from Lockheed was saying how they were using more and more commercial off-the-shelf systems to reduce costs. They were moving away from specialized systems custom developed for each plane, to a more general system that didn't need as much work.

    He started out with an animation of someone punching bill gates, so that eased my fears. But he said that even though Linux would be great, they could not have a foreign national have control over their system. Sure, they could see exactly what they have, but any changes to the kernel would have to be checked out completely (expensive), so they would be right back at having a specialized system. Politics maybe, but they ended up with a proprietary OS.

    I gotta say though, the redundancy systems they have on those things, amazing.

  • The lead-in is misleading.

    They do not recommend that "the DOD drop plans for further adoption of Open Source software". They are saying that all software, regardless of the developement model, should have equal consideration if it meets the criteria for a specific purpose.

    "Public entities should procure the software that best meets their needs and should avoid any categorical preferences for open source software, commercial software, free software, or other software development models."

    The article itself is also misleading.

    "Proprietary software companies such as Microsoft have labeled open-source software as a serious threat and have begun to oppose its use by governments."

    Whilst we know this to be true re: Microsoft, the Initiative for Software Choice (whom the article discusses) expresses no such opposition.
  • by ZeLonewolf (197271) on Thursday November 28, 2002 @02:31PM (#4776085) Homepage
    I work for the DoD, in a branch that plans technology policy for various projects. Over the last 5-10 years, the push for "Open Standards Architecture" (OSA) has been at the forefront. It's the stated policy of the DoD, which comes from the mouth of a former Secretary of Defense, to push for open standards, open interfaces, and in general to be as far from proprietary as possible. Proprietary software means more expense for the government due to non-competition, and it also puts the government in the hands of a private corporation.

    Open Source, while not specifically targeted by the DoD, is the next logical step. Although the previous generation of nuclear submarines ran HP-UX, the next generation (due to be delivered starting 2006) will run about half Solaris, half Linux. So yes, open source is on the way in in the government. Slightly off-topic, but if you want a good example of why proprietary software is no good for mission-critical work, look up on Google the problems the USS Yorktown had with Windows NT about 5 years ago...
    • for those to lazy to look it up here [gcn.com]

      <quote> "Because of politics, some things are being forced on us that without political pressure we might not do, like Windows NT," Redman said. "If it were up to me I probably would not have used Windows NT in this particular application. If we used Unix, we would have a system that has less of a tendency to go down." </quote>

    • by IamTheRealMike (537420) <mike@plan99.net> on Thursday November 28, 2002 @03:25PM (#4776354) Homepage
      As a possibly interesting aside, I work for QinetiQ, the newly privatized DERA which was UK Military of Defense research. They do a lot of consulting for the MoD and the government. About a year or two ago they produced a report which was the definitive report for the UK government on open source.

      It was very positive. I don't know if it was ever made public (I don't see why it wouldn't be) but I have a copy at home, and it made for pleasant reading. And here at work, Linux and open source is everywhere. When I was doing a demo of my project about a week ago, as I demoed it my boss was talking and he said "Oh yes, this is all done using only open source and free software" which got lots of approval from the customers and other project managers etc (in fact my brief was, do it with open source if possible). My boss uses windows but with cygwin and the Gimp. There are several Linux workstations in my small dept alone. They are big into open source here. This reflects into the next generation of technologies for the military

      I think it must just be a government/civil service thing, but they seem to have a soft side for it. One thing I do think is dumb is that if the US DoD has made up its mind on open source that Microsoft amongst others should be telling them they are wrong, and denying choice. Uh, what? So people can no longer choose products based on what they think, in case it's "discrimination" or something? Hmmm.

  • the heavy metal rock band Metallica recently realized that their battle against MP3's wasn't over and that Microsoft's attempt to squash MP3 with the changes in the Windows Media Player, proved that they were a good ally. The two groups have joined forces and will now fight against free music and free software. To seal the alliance, the next version of Windows, codenamed Longhorn, will be renamed to 'Sandman' and the familiar Start button will be replaced with an 'Enter' button. When asked to comment on this recent alliance, drummer James Hetfield had this to say. "Linux bad! Windows good!"
  • DrinkOrDie? (Score:4, Funny)

    by jhol (301546) on Thursday November 28, 2002 @02:34PM (#4776109) Homepage
    Strange,

    I thought the warez group Drink Or Die already used Open Source software to distribute their stuff... ;-)
  • by MORTAR_COMBAT! (589963) on Thursday November 28, 2002 @02:38PM (#4776131)
    A group comprised completely of proprietary software vendors is recommending the use of proprietary software.

    In the end, it is up to those who want their government to "choose" other software to let their voices be heard. This will work as long as politicians listen to the populace they supposedly represent, instead of listening with their wallets to companies from other states.

    Of course, it may be that both the People and the "Software Choice" group of mega-corps both favor the use of proprietary software in government. My vote happens to be that our tax money which buys the software that runs our infrastructure should not be used to place our infrastructure under the control of a proprietary software vendor.
  • I on the other hand recommended that they do use open source software.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Fine, closed systems... Then just switch to using MacOS... Think of how bitchin' and intimidating our tanks, subs and planes would be in indiglo, lime green or dalmation...
  • American Security and Justice Departments are world wide know for their secret investigations among themselves.

    Of course that keeping computers not as secure as they could get is very interesting if you want information "secure" enough to avoid a regular hacker to access it, but to enable a power hacker to access with the correct tools obtained with privileged information.

    Don't worry about this, you can keep using your free software and keep you own privacy. Unfortunately we can't say the same about your information stored at DoD. :oP

  • by Badanov (518690) on Thursday November 28, 2002 @02:51PM (#4776200) Homepage Journal
    Nothing stops MS from offering specialially tweaked software for each department's use. If they are offering only off the shelf solutions and no chance for government to change the software to behave the way they want, they shouldn't gripe because a departments chooses an open source solution.

    Open source software, the way it is marketed is perfect for DoD work simply because the software itself is tweakable. The IT people in govement departmenrs have a large degree of control over how software is used should they choose open source; they are not as reliant on MS's vision of how their software is used, nor should they be.

    Should open source be required? I used to say yes, but then I realize, that is not choice. So of course no, but then neither should closed source be. It all comes down to what it will do for you. On one hand you get a product that MS does not warrent for any particular purpose, nor allow themselves to be held liable for any such use, versus a software product that does the same thing but at least allows the purchaser to to alter the code to suit their own preference, but retaining the decision as to whether to distribute it, under some liberal conditions.

  • I had no idea Cisco had such a strong stance against Open Source. I guess all the Linux router projects out there are cutting into their market share.
  • by qzulla (600807)
    Shouldn't they be telling the DOD why their software is better?

    Oh, wait... strike that...

    qz
  • Now the cheapest bidders can be even cheaper, by not having to include liscensing fees in it's quotation.

    Of course MS will freak out. This is going directly for their main artery. If I was in business, I'd try to fight it. It might not be "socially" correct, but it makes good business sense to try and counter the competition.

    Now, let's just hope that the DoD will not fold to commercial power.
  • by John Hasler (414242) on Thursday November 28, 2002 @03:18PM (#4776324) Homepage
    > This comes after MITRE, a defense contractor,
    > published a report stating that not only does the
    > Department of Defense use opensource, but is
    > recommend on using it more.

    MITRE is one hell of a lot more than just another defense contractor. Look into it's history and you'll see that DoD will value its opinion far above that of some Microsoft lobbiest.
  • by xiitone (152104) <xiitone&well,com> on Thursday November 28, 2002 @04:00PM (#4776548) Homepage
    DoDD 8500.1, *the* authoritative overarching DoD document concerning Computer Security contains this paragraph:
    Public domain software products, and other software products with limited or no warranty, such as those commonly known as freeware or shareware, shall only be used in DoD information systems to meet compelling operational requirements. Such products shall be thoroughly assessed for risk and accepted for use by the responsible DAA.
    The part that I wonder about is "other software products with limited or no warranty, such as those commonly known as freeware or shareware". I wonder if this was meant to indicate Open Source Software? IANAL, but I've never seen a EULA for software that didn't indicate a limited warranty. In fact, from my layman's point of view, all the standard EULAs seem to indicate that the software has no warranty, since they seem to claim that the software doesn't have to do anything at all...
  • by jbolden (176878) on Thursday November 28, 2002 @04:05PM (#4776568) Homepage
    If you read the actual article [softwarechoice.org] recommendation the /. summary is simply incorrect. The recommendation was:

    a) The choice of open source vs. closed source be made on a project by project basis and not be a matter of policy. In particular the DoD should not adobt a preferential policy favoring open source over closed source when possible,

    b) While BSD licenses are OK using GPL licenses violate congressional norms (in particular they make commercial software impossible)

    In addition things not mentioned in the summary

    a) DoD is far and away the largest user of open source in the government

    b) Security issues are ambigious with regard open source vs. closed source

    c) A great deal of open source software violates all sorts of other government regulations and the government would end up having to bring these systems into compliance.

    Yes the comments were hostile to open source particularly GPL they certainly where nowhere near the summary though.

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