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Software The Almighty Buck

Embarrassing Governments Into Adopting Open Source 459

Posted by timothy
from the don't-worry-they'll-print-more-money dept.
caitsith01 writes "An effort is currently underway to embarrass the Australian Federal Government into adopting open source software. As this story explains, the Australian Democrats have put questions on notice in Parliament that will require all government ministers to disclose how much money their departments spend on Microsoft products each year. The idea is to force open source issues to the fore by showing just how much money Microsoft receives from the government. It could be a smart approach - the average taxpayer knows little or nothing about OSS, but will rapidly form and express vocal opinions about the government wasting money. The article also mentions that a bill may be introduced to Federal Parliament to mandate the consideration of open source solutions (you may remember this story about an Australian state trying to introduce similar legislation). Some quotes from the article: "What the country doesn't need is to be tied into a profit-maximising licensing system, and the way to combat that is to get government to break out of the paradigm." On the other hand, the (right wing) Liberal Party criticises suggestions that use of open source should be compulsory as "hi-tech affirmative action.""
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Embarrassing Governments Into Adopting Open Source

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  • Re:why right wing? (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 22, 2003 @02:05AM (#6497024)
    Usually in the United States, the term "liberal" is reserved left-wing politics (whether these politics are actually liberal is a completely different question). In pretty much all of the rest of the world, however, the term "liberal" refers to anti-government free market type philosophies, where as left-winged politics falls under labels like "labour" or "social"-whatever-ism.

    So yes, a European or Austrailian "Liberal" party actually does match more closely the policies of U.S. Libertarians/conservatives.
  • by Evil Pete (73279) on Tuesday July 22, 2003 @02:08AM (#6497030) Homepage

    The Liberal Party in Australia has morphed over the decades into something like your Republican Party only more right wing.

    The Labour Party is usually considered by the Libs as a bunch a commies ... and yet they also have right wing tendencies (sometimes very).

    The Democrats are made of left wing refugees from the Liberal Party and right wing refugees from the Labour Party. Sort of. Though I cried when they got rid of their leader Natasha Stott-Despoja ... a hot chick.

  • by caitsith01 (606117) on Tuesday July 22, 2003 @02:24AM (#6497102) Journal
    The Liberal Party in Australia is basically an analogue of the US Republicans or the British Conservatives, but without the religious zeal of the US Party (or at least without as *much* religious zeal).

    Their ideology in brief:
    - pro business, especially bigger business
    - anti welfare
    - anti affirmative action
    - pro US, pro US foreign policy
    - pro invasions of civil liberties in the name of defence against 'terror'
    - terrible on the environment
    - like to be divisive (known as 'wedge politics')
    - HATE labour movements, unions, (left) student movements etc.
    - anti immigration
    - anti government regulation/intervention, preferring the 'free' market to run itself

    They are very firmly on the right of politics. Despite the idiotic rantings of other posters, their name is extremely misleading, even to some Australians. In the last few years they have lurched sharply right, especially in the wake of September 11.

    Despite what you may be told, they are *nothing* like the Libertarians. They want a strong, omniscient federal government and are constantly clashing with the judiciary, civil rights groups and minorities over their (ab)use of power. Their Attorney General also makes Joseph Goebbels look soft on terrorism.
  • by fatboyslack (634391) on Tuesday July 22, 2003 @02:40AM (#6497150) Journal
    This is not really a true reflection of the Australian political system (Westminister system). The place where the Democrats have real power is in the Federal Senate, where they have enough power to start investigations, instigate inquiries etc. Although after the GST fiasco, "Keep the Bastards Honest" took a bit of a shellacking. They are a nice little check in the Westminister system, especially with how Labor (the party in opposition, like the Democrats in the US and Conservatives in UK) are laying down like beaten dogs at the moment. Also, in conjuncton with the Labor party, they can veto government policies.

    (Amusingly, your nick' is Sad Loser and your .sig says you go for the magpies)
  • Re:Not quite ready (Score:3, Informative)

    by darnok (650458) on Tuesday July 22, 2003 @02:52AM (#6497185)
    When you say OSS software isn't quite ready, and from the context I'm assuming you're talking about MS Office replacements and similar end-user-facing stuff, you have to remember that governments aren't full of people creating complex spreadsheets and Word documents.

    Many/most government employees are "process workers"; people who use a very small number of programs (e.g. a Web browser) to perform largely repetitive tasks. There's very little knowledge or IT training these people need to do their jobs; what they need to know is (a) how to login, (b) how to start their application, (c) how to navigate through the screens and enter in data. They *don't* need training on KDE, Gnome, Unix file system layout etc.

    For these people, I'd say OSS is well and truly ready, and has been for some time.
  • TCO (Score:3, Informative)

    by feder (307335) on Tuesday July 22, 2003 @03:04AM (#6497216)
    Something similar was tried in Denmark not too long ago. As it turned out, the problem was not to determine how much was spent on Microsoft products but rather how much could be saved using Open Source.

    In late 2002 the Danish Board of Technology, an independent government body advising the parliament on matters of technology, published a report [tekno.dk] examining the applicability of Open Source in government. The report estimated that the public sector could save several billion Danish kroner (one Danish krone is approximately 0.15 dollars) per year by switching to Open Source software - which is a lot in a small country like Denmark. The figure caught a lot of average goverment IT managers by surprise and consequently generated a lot of discussion as to the accuracy of the numbers and methodology used in the report but I think the general consensus now is that the only way to find out for sure is to give it a try.

  • by lazybeam (162300) on Tuesday July 22, 2003 @04:25AM (#6497413) Homepage
    I know for a fact that UTas (University of Tasmania) offers a standard of CompSci and sylabus similar to most other Australian universities - and its all MS based, plus a little Java for programming. I think there's a short section on *nix but it's all microsoft.

    My uni's (USQ in Toowoomba Qld) IT department wants everyone to be using windows, but the Maths and Computing [usq.edu.au] department is pretty much fully Linux. They have two undergraduate labs with only Linux, as well as many courses require the use of at least cygwin. This is a Good Thing. We do programming in GCC, G++ and Java. We had to write HTML using a text editor and networking software using Unix sockets...

    A lot of the lecturers even don't use the new system they spent millions on (PeopleSoft) - I can't blame them, it is a lot slower than the old in-house system, even with the new hardware.

    It would be good to see other companies get their products used; my mother works in a government department and they moved from Win 3.1 and Lotus Notes to a pretty much MS-only environment... (well of course they do have some specialised software)

  • Re:Not quite ready (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 22, 2003 @04:55AM (#6497479)
    ...or you could right click and select sort by file name, then highlight them, drag and drop into your band folder. it works fine for me and i manage a few thousand mp3s. your biggest band (as in # of songs) would only have 100 or so songs anyway. i dont need a word processor for my home use, and the recycle bin has a nice disable feature, if i click to delete, i DONT want it back. well there goes those arguments...
    konqueror would be better if it integrated with a SINGLE widget set that is OS wide. but unfortuneately, QT/GTK/etc dont seem to have interoperability with drag and drop, etc. try dragging 3 files from konq onto xmms and have it play them in a playlist, explorer does it fine with winamp.
    and the open file layout sucks on linux, always has. really, if you need to improve one thing, make it that. PLEASE.
  • Re:Not quite ready (Score:4, Informative)

    by nadaou (535365) on Tuesday July 22, 2003 @05:11AM (#6497528) Homepage
    You know, if MS doesn't do it, there is probably one reason: It does not make big bucks. And remember all the distros out there are made by companies that care about big bucks also.


    Ahem.
    http://www.debian.org/social_contract [debian.org]
  • by Zoolander (590897) on Tuesday July 22, 2003 @05:13AM (#6497539)
    Actually, he's 'finlandssvensk', which roughly means 'finnish-swedish' (I'm sure there's a more correct translation, but I can't be bothered...). He is from Finland, but talks swedish with a finnish accent (I'm sure there are more differences, but I don't know them). Don't know if he talks finnish too, but I think 'finlandssvenska' (finnish-swedish) is his native language. Finland is in many parts a two-language country.

    So, I'm sad to say, he isn't swedish (which I am), but he talks swedish.

  • Re:Not quite ready (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 22, 2003 @06:26AM (#6497707)
    How the hell do you think bugs get fixed in non-OSS? Bugs get reported by users all the time, you idiot. Get back to packing for college.
  • Re:Not quite ready (Score:3, Informative)

    by nadaou (535365) on Tuesday July 22, 2003 @06:29AM (#6497715) Homepage
    Reality check no organisation is going to use Debian or any of the other distro's like it, the thing they really care about is the technical support.


    Ahem.
    http://www.debian.org/users [debian.org]

    or how about getting outsourced Debian support from Ian Murdock, the IAN in DebIAN?
    http://www.progeny.com [progeny.com]

    And many organizations ARE using debian, whether the PR dept/CEO/you know it or not. Ask the backroom guys or netcraft. For a non-Fortune-500 non-BSD server, can you really name a superior solution?

  • Re:i'd rather... (Score:3, Informative)

    by sholden (12227) on Tuesday July 22, 2003 @06:38AM (#6497742) Homepage
    Obviously that is already provided here:

    http://www.budget.gov.au/ [budget.gov.au]

    and here:

    http://www.aph.gov.au/Senate/estimates/index.htm [aph.gov.au]

    I mean, honestly, who doesn't know that governments produce "Budgets" ?!?!?
  • by leonbrooks (8043) <SentByMSBlast-No ... .brooks.fdns.net> on Tuesday July 22, 2003 @06:51AM (#6497777) Homepage
    One WestOz minister had to stand up and explain that the Muja power station burned 4Mt of coal a year, at 3ppm Uranium (for the maths impared, equals 12t a year of Uranium up the stack, to say nothing of the radium and stuff). They went ahead a built a second coal power station, instead of one running off out abundant natural gas supplies (piped over from Canberra? :-) or a cleaner, cheaper nuke.
  • Re:Not quite ready (Score:3, Informative)

    by drsmithy (35869) <drsmithyNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday July 22, 2003 @12:01PM (#6500062)
    I am unable to use Windows without Cygwin installed, cimply because there is no way to GUIify many tasks ( like "mv *My Band*.mp3 My\ band/" ) because, face it, it would end up being a dialog box that would require a crude regexp, and would be really bulky at the end of the day.

    Firstly, this is trivial to "GUIfy" and Windows has done since at least Windows 95 (MacOS even earlier). The simple "find file" dialog will suffice and even without full regular expressions is capable of handling 99.9% of searches - and has the added advantage of not requiring users to learn the complexity of regexps to be able to perform basic, common searches.

    Secondly, you certainly don't need cygwin installed to do it. The XP command prompt (hell, a plain old *DOS prompt*) is quite capable of performing this action (sans long filenames).

    I find that people are moving back to the command-line because they know that it is not going to have weird errors or freeze up on them.

    I find people move away from the commandline precisely *because* its behaviour is inconsistent, unpredictable (without complex knowledge) and generally has no undo capability.

  • When's the last time you saw a BSOD during routine operation on WinXP

    Three hours ago. I was browsing the web with malice aforethought and had three PuTTY sessions open as well. 256MB of RAM, XP Professional.

    How much do you charge for installing Mandrake Linux 9.1?

    For most things, exactly what I would charge for setting up the equivalent MS-Windows (XP|200[03]) box. Anything fancy goes to an hourly rate and MS-Windows rapidly racks up the dollars on those terms.

    How much do you charge for supporting it for users that panic when they can't find the Any Key?

    Exactly the same hourly rate (i.e., I wind up charging the MS-Windows users about three to five times as much). I don't change the keyboard when I install Linux, both systems lack an `Any' key, although I'm frequently tempted to paint one of the useless extra buttons bright red and label it `Any'.

    Can you keep the sneer out of your voice? Can you bring yourself to talk down at their level without aggravating them? I'm betting not.

    You lose. My users "love my ass" [name the movie]. I do stuff like installing Jump'n'Bump for them. (-:

    I agree with them that for a typical desktop user, TCO is lower with Windows right now and likely to stay that way for some time.

    It's kind of like switching from incandescent lighting to flourescent. The fitting soaks up a little more while it's starting, but that's quickly over and the rest is gravy. I've had MS-Windows users not notice that the machine was different, and that's with KDE - imagine what they'd be like under XPDE or with decent theming.

    Speaking of which, I blew some users' minds by XP-theming the MS-Windows-98 running in Win4Lin windows on an XP-themed KDE session and lining up the w4l window so that the `Bliss' horizon crossed the window uninterrupted. I don't know whether I got a screenshot, but if I did I'll reply to this with a link. New users would sit down, glance at the screen, start to look away, kerb themselves and look back, stare at it for 20-30 seconds and then say something along the lines of `That's evil!'.

    Sure, the patches come out fast, but who are you going to get to apply them?

    URPMI, either completely automatically or via my own mirror (so I can release fixes for all of my users at once after checking them out). No worries, Mandrake rocks! (You could do the same easily with apt-get and probably also manage it with Red Carpet).

    N E X T ! (-:

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