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GNU is Not Unix Software The Almighty Buck

Malaysian Government Prefers Open Code 210

Posted by timothy
from the show-me-the-monkey dept.
Suresh Gnasegarah writes "All Malaysian government technology procurement will now have a preference for open source software (OSS), under the Malaysian Public Sector Open Source Software Masterplan. The masterplan's near-term targets includes: 60% of all new servers able to run OSS operating systems, 30% of office infrastructure -- like e-mail, DNS, proxy servers -- on OSS, and 20% of school computer labs to have OSS applications such as productivity suites installed. Looks like old Bill's scare tactic that OSS software kills jobs didn't quite work. Another victory for the open source software movement!"
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Malaysian Government Prefers Open Code

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  • funding? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by aixou (756713) on Sunday July 18, 2004 @02:15AM (#9729324)
    With all these governments considering OpenSource software, is there any talk of them donating money to some of the more important projects -- e.g. KDE and other Desktop and Office oriented software that will be critical for corporate adoption. Do any of the major distros (besides this one [linspire.com]) help fund many OSS projects? Just curious.
  • Re:math? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 18, 2004 @02:17AM (#9729337)
    You are stupid AC. Why should 60% of all new servers have any relation to 30% of office infrastructure ? x% of A and y% of B. Get it ? why MUST x+y be equal to 100 ?
  • Re:20%? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mr_pins (694549) on Sunday July 18, 2004 @02:19AM (#9729350)
    He said it was *a* victory, i.e., a step in the right direction.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 18, 2004 @02:53AM (#9729481)
    It is a sad truth that countries which suspect/fear that the US will cut off their access to technology by issuing a Department of Commerce export notification are increasingly turning to Open Source as a viable option that circumvents real or prophesized export controls.

    The fact that countries suspect or fear the US may be sad. Their ability to do something to reduce their exposure isn't.

    Does that make Open Source unpatriotic?

    If countries are preferring open source software as a way of securing themselves from manipulation from other countries they see as potentially hostile then that would make open source either patriotic or (more accurately) neutral but able to be used in a patriotic way. How could that possibly be "unpatriotic"?
  • by pHDNgell (410691) on Sunday July 18, 2004 @03:00AM (#9729500)
    I don't see how governments "wasting" money on paying people to write software or do any other job is a bad thing. The government should be more than happy to spend money on commercial software if it suits their needs. Or pay people to write it for them.

    It's nice that they're using OSS but pretending it's not going to result in less jobs is silly.


    I pay my government to pay you for the software you write. Since the government works for me[0], why in the hell should they be allowed to pay people to write something I can't have access to?

    This is a rather short-sighted argument. There's still a need for specialty software, but there is *NO NEED* to continuously reproduce the same stuff in order to preserve your job or to keep it from the people who paid for it.

    Write something that doesn't already exist, let the rest of us (and other departments) benefit from it, and move on. Don't pretend like you can't work unless you're reproducing perfectly good software every day.

    I mean, honestly, I can't believe you're justifying having the government *not* use OSS because it means you don't get to produce a clone of some OSS project and make money off of it. It's this mentality that keeps our government slow and expensive.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 18, 2004 @03:02AM (#9729512)
    You say it's all about choice, and that the best product will win, and then celebrate when that choice is taken away, and it's in your favor.

    No. The Malaysian Government is a purchaser of software, and it's their choice what they buy. Choice hasn't been taken away, as evidenced by the rather obvious fact that they're are making a choice.

    Not because one is open source, vs. closed source, that shouldn't matter, if the people of the government are paying taxes, it should go to the best product that does the job, for the lowest TCO.

    Crap. I don't know how democratic or otherwise Malyasia is, but as a generalisation (which is how you presented it) your claim is clearly wrong. Governments do not exist solely to save money. If they did then the solution would be to use no software and to do nothing. They spend money to achieve purposes.

    If the Malaysian government sees its objectives as being furthered through greater use of open source software then saying "but the cheapest way must be best because well becuase it just has to be, okay?" is stupid.
  • Re:I wonder.... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by KingJoshi (615691) <slashdot@joshi.tk> on Sunday July 18, 2004 @03:11AM (#9729540) Homepage
    You're right. There is always potential for problems. However, it's possible it could create a more of a meritocracy. Various people volunteer and when an opening occurs in the project, the best programmer gets a job. And you'd still have programmers who have other jobs volunteering on side projects that interest them. I think it'll be interesting and I'm optimistic about how things will turn out. Can't let fear prevent you from taking a step toward progress.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 18, 2004 @03:14AM (#9729548)
    There will be a segment of the population who will pirate software no matter what the prices may be. But let's look at the other segment of the population who are reasonable people and will buy original software if it doesn't cost them a leg and a foot.

    For one thing, I put it to you that it is actually more expensive for a Malaysian to live in Malaysia, than an American to live in the U.S.

    (well, okay, not universally true, but let's take the midwest as an example)

    The average starting salary for an *US-trained* Malaysian engineer in Malaysia is about RM18,000 before deductions (US$4,736). In the U.S., an engineer starts at around US$35,000.

    Basic necessities cost about the same, ringgit-to-dollar.
    Cost of a Pontiac Sunfire is $10,000 (28% of U.S. Salary)
    Cost of the cheapest brand-new car in Malaysia is RM32,000 (170% of Malaysian salary).

    Cost of average U.S. house (this is really variable though) is US$200,000 (570% of U.S. Salary)
    Cost of Malaysian house is RM180,000 (1000% of Malaysian Salary)

    With all this in mind, the price of Microsoft Office Standard is US$348 (1% of U.S. Salary).
    In Malaysia, it is RM1300 (7% of Malaysian Salary).

    As you can see, it is understandable that a large portion of the Malaysian population cannot afford to buy original software. They're too busy paying their loans etc.

    Selling software in Malaysia is mostly a corporate affair -- businesses and government are huge clients. (They have to buy original, otherwise the BSA swoops down on them). Going open-source will definitely make an impact.... the government is one of the biggest buyers of software.

    End-users don't buy that much original software to start with. So they don't really figure in the equation.
  • by NightHawkSky (797862) on Sunday July 18, 2004 @03:14AM (#9729549)
    But I suggest they donate whatever small amounts of money they can to OS. Far less than MS's charge, but a little can go a long way (especially when you are talking government).

    It is good for OS users because, as even smaller governments start catching on, citizens *may* see that their country is using such products for such a low...."free"....cost, cafes and whatnot will switch.

    Basically a chain-reaction.

  • It's nice that they're using OSS but pretending it's not going to result in less jobs is silly.

    You're wrong. We're talking basic economics wrong.

    Let's assume that your job isn't make-work (like, oh, re-coding an old VMS system to use Visual Basic just because.)

    If you're writing software that can be done with OSS software--which isn't by any means everything--then you might be out of a job if the government uses the OSS instead. But you would be in the same boat if some off-the-shelf software was used instead.

    (My mother works writing custom software for the gov't--and even if they went all-OSS instsead of just partly-OSS, the job that they do wouldn't go away because it's so specific.)

    Let's say that your job CAN be replaced. What this means is that the money that was going to pay your salary & support expenses will go to do something else. Either the government will take on a new project, or they'll cut taxes. Let's assume a tax break, for argument's sake.

    When the government cuts taxes, a good portion of the business sector finds that they have more money in their budget. They might use this money to lower their prices, but odds are that among the million-odd businesses in this country, a couple dozen will use the money to start new projects. Which means hiring new people.

    The bottom line? Use of OSS might cut YOUR job, or it might cut MS's profits, or it might cut someone else's job--but the total net number and dollar value of jobs likely won't go down.

    Arguing "my job will get taken away" makes as little sense now as when it was robots doing assembly work.
  • by killjoe (766577) on Sunday July 18, 2004 @03:18AM (#9729563)
    Maybe they realize that there is no such thing as a free lunch.
    Maybe locking yourself into MS products is bad in the longer term.
    Maybe they think that the local IT industry will be better off if the govt used open source.
    Maybe the amount of money that MS gives is not that huge compared to what it would cost to upgrade once longhorn comes out.
    Maybe, just maybe, they think it's weird that a business has to give money to governments in order to convince them to use their software. Don't you think that's kind of weird?
  • by killjoe (766577) on Sunday July 18, 2004 @03:29AM (#9729595)
    "How many people who worked on those OSS projects the government is using are getting paid by the government or at all for their involvement with the project?"

    The govt is just another user of the OSS project. Did you pay to use mozilla? Chances are the govt will probably contribute some money towards continued development for the software they use which is better then 99% of the other users who don't pay anything at all.

    "How many people would the government have hired to build the projects if OSS alternatives didn't exist?"

    None. They would have bought something.

    "The US government pays businesses a ton of money to write software. I currently work with such a company. If the US government decided to use all Open Source a lot of people would be out of work."

    Are you writing a web browser? An office suite? A general purpose operating system? An email client?. Probably not. The software the govt pays to write is very specific to their needs.

    BTW. Last I checked nobody was entitled to a job. If your customer can get a product thats equal to or better then yours for less money they owe it to taxpayers to do so.

    "The Malaysian government choosing to use Open Source has just reduced the amount of money that will go to businesses and therefore employees. Which means lost jobs and/or fewer people being hired on"

    Nah. It just means more money will stay malasia rather then go to redmond. Every cent spent on MS software is one less cent circulating in your own country helping your own economy.

    "I don't see how governments "wasting" money on paying people to write software or do any other job is a bad thing. "

    That's because you are suckling on the momma sows teat. All that taxpayer money pouring into your company and your pocket is wonderful for you but it sucks for me and every other tax payer.

    "The government should be more than happy to spend money on commercial software if it suits their needs."

    Not if there is a lower cost or free alternative.

    "It's nice that they're using OSS but pretending it's not going to result in less jobs is silly."

    Your analytic skills need some fine tuning. Unless the govt was actually paying for development of office software and web browsers nobody is going to lose their jobs.

  • by bersl2 (689221) on Sunday July 18, 2004 @03:31AM (#9729598) Journal
    The US government pays businesses a ton of money to write software. I currently work with such a company. If the US government decided to use all Open Source a lot of people would be out of work.

    And therefore would be free to work on other, non-governmental things. It would allow more intelligent people to do more intelligent things.

    If the only thing you're capable of is porting the bureaucratic red tape to computer, then you have no future. Why waste society's resources on creating useless jobs, when these people could actually be doing beneficial things, and yet still make a living?

    I perscribe the following to clear this up:
    Review (or learn) basic macroeconomics; and read the works of both John Maynard Keynes and Milton Friedman, or of those inspiring other schools of economics, as you see fit.

    Oh, and by the way, get your syntax right: "fewer jobs," not "less jobs." "Fewer" takes a countable noun, and "less" takes an uncountable noun.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 18, 2004 @03:40AM (#9729614)
    The US government pays businesses a ton of money to write software. I currently work with such a company. If the US government decided to use all Open Source a lot of people would be out of work.

    If you seriously think this is a valid argument then a solution would be for the US govenrment to pay half those people to dig holes in the ground and the other half to fill them in again. This would be neither more nor less productive than your current plan that they hire people to write software that they could otherwise have got for free.

    (Before soemeone buts in with the real world that the government would need to pay people to write, amend, support open source software, please note that this would in itself contradict the premises of the post to which I was replying).
  • Able to run? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Zorilla (791636) on Sunday July 18, 2004 @03:40AM (#9729615)
    The masterplan's near-term targets includes: 60% of all new servers able to run OSS operating systems...

    What does this mean exactly? Haven't seen many servers that aren't capable of running OSS operating systems. Hope they're going for something more applicable to the job than a Sony Vaio laptop.
  • by mark99 (459508) on Sunday July 18, 2004 @03:55AM (#9729658) Journal
    Obviously free software benefits those economies more that import software, and harms more those that export it. At least at first.

    However this might later lead to them chosing the "wrong" tool, when a more appropriate non-OSS tool exists.

    In the long run restrictions tend to hurt more than they help, and often achieve the opposite (like rent control or job protection).

    Simple economics really.
  • Re:20%? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by lavaface (685630) on Sunday July 18, 2004 @04:07AM (#9729687) Homepage
    I think it's guaranteed that open source will ultimately overtake closed, proprietary systems. This trend will begin with countries like Malaysia and individual, local governments in the US. Sooner or later, a critical mass of people will wonder why it is that we pay billions to foster monopoly when we could spend a fraction of the price and pay programmers to develop open source solutions solve issues like tax collection and payroll, among many other common problems. My original comment was not meant to disparage the fact that open source has gained a foothold, but rather to illustrate how much further we have to go to achieve "victory."
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 18, 2004 @04:09AM (#9729692)
    Part of the free market is the ability to choose, but it is also the ability to show preference. When I go to buy a bag of licorice, I'm going to travel ten miles to Custom Candies and buy a bag of Panda [panda.fi]. Nothingelse will do. For whatever personal reason, that's what I choose and will choose: again and again. No amount of advertising or reformulation or patriotism will change my choice: Panda or nothing.

    Software is no different in a market-based economy. And a government is merely a large customer expressing a preference. Bully for Malaysia for expressing their choice and codifying it for all to see. If one wishes to sell software to Malaysia, one had best be superior and open source.

    Just as if one wishes to sell licorice to me, one had best be Panda.
  • by NanoGator (522640) on Sunday July 18, 2004 @04:21AM (#9729717) Homepage Journal
    "Not because one is open source, vs. closed source, that shouldn't matter, if the people of the government are paying taxes, it should go to the best product that does the job, for the lowest TCO."

    In the case of the gov't, I think there's a stronger factor at play: Don't be a slave to a company. The biggest danger I see with using Word (for example...) at gov't facilities is that MS is a broken file format away from forced upgrades. Granted, this hasn't happened in years. If you use Office 97 today, you're not in a world of hurt with 2000 users. (Note: That's as high as I went, I don't know if O2k3 broke 97 compatibility or not.) But I do remember back in the Office 95 days the transition to 97 was horrible. Everybody had to upgrade at once or the stragglers were instantly left out. The advantage of going Open Source here is that they're not totally tied to one vendor. I'm over dramatizing the situation a bit, but it's not a risk I'd want a gov't to take.

    So what exactly is my rebuttal? Well I'm not totllay against what you're saying. I completely agree that they should choose based on what their requiremenets are. I just wanted to add the 'think of the future' variable in there. In which case, some compromise is okay.

  • Re:About Arthur (Score:3, Insightful)

    by raju1kabir (251972) on Sunday July 18, 2004 @04:23AM (#9729721) Homepage
    Considering the pirates are buying their blank discs in MegaHyperHappy bulk, I'd think the profit margins on pirate CDs would be SuperHappyFunTimes. You can get a 100 pack of CD-R's off of Newegg for $20. That's $.20 a CD. A computer with a burner is a fixed cost that was most likely purchased long ago and has probably since been paid for with pirate CD revenue. Selling each one for $1.25 gives you an awesome 525% return on your investment, minus bandwidth costs.

    You're leaving out a lot of costs. They are paying as much rent as the equally-sized legit store next door, and they have as many staff. These costs spread pretty thick on a retail unit price of $1.25.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 18, 2004 @04:44AM (#9729772)
    Bill Gates tried to tell a soveriegn government what to do on their own soil. That's a faux pas everywhere.
  • by peachpuff (638856) on Sunday July 18, 2004 @05:53AM (#9729914)
    How many people would the government have hired to build the projects if OSS alternatives didn't exist?

    Probably none. The article talks about pretty standard software: office apps, DNS servers, operating systems, etc. If they didn't go Open Source, they'd have just bought it from Microsoft.

    That's not really "hiring programmers" because the people who wrote Word and Windows XP have already been paid. They don't get paid more if a government buys a copy.

    The Malaysian government choosing to use Open Source has just reduced the amount of money that will go to businesses and therefore employees. Which means lost jobs and/or fewer people being hired on.

    I'm sure they'll spend the money on something else. They're not going to just put all the money they save into a big pile and light it on fire.

    It's nice that they're using OSS but pretending it's not going to result in less jobs is silly.

    I don't think Microsoft is going to fire anyone because of this. (Maybe someone in marketing or PR will be fired for allowing this to happen, but that's different.)

  • by ChrisWong (17493) on Sunday July 18, 2004 @01:52PM (#9731818) Homepage

    Everybody's right. The issue is that costs and benefits are distributed unevenly.

    "[XYZ] will eliminate jobs."

    Answer: "[XYZ] will eliminate your jobs, but will drastically reduce our costs and benefit society as a whole."

    [XYZ] is:

    • OSS
    • offshore outsourcing
    • software sharing [boston.com]
    • automation
    • textile machinery

    That's not a multiple choice question. There are winners and losers in many technological trends. The Luddites were right, in a way: they were losing their jobs, and someone else -- not them -- benefitted. It was a simple win-lose scenario, resolved in the case of the Luddites by mass hangings and other forms of repression.

    There is no simple "solution" for the losers of any such trend. Innovation is usually the answer, except that it is a long term solution to a short term problem, meaning losers will continue to lose for a while. Career change is not easy: financial barriers exist where class barriers did earlier. Have you priced a college education lately? I guess the real answer is to grin and bear it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 18, 2004 @02:22PM (#9732013)
    ... themselves-and others, under orders, and under the influence of societal and religious and governmental brainwashing. Hmm, Seems like I have seen that before... hmm, did they speak arabic?? Lemme see if I can remember... oh ya, I do! Nope. They spoke 'merkin near as I recall.
    So after a flabby analogy you sorta flipped something I kinnda said back in my face. Ok, so you've proven to me that you have the debating skills of a bright 13 year old (if not their command of grammar). But with all the words spent in your reply you still did not address my central points, which are:
    1. the key to development in the modern world is increased integration, not independence; India is taking on the challenge and will become more vibrant and richer as a result while Pakistan stagnates and becomes more of an open sewer
    2. the Muzlim craving for "independence" is just a consequence of their desire for domination; first throw off any sort of alien influence so that later you can impose 10x as much control on those same outsiders

    I've read a lot on this topic since 9/11 and everything I've learned points to this 1 fact: Izlam turns people into orcs. Once you become a Muzlim, instead of focusing on your own life and achievements like any well-adjusted human being you instead start fantasizing about ancient Arab glory and how proud and satisfied you'd feel if Izlam ran the world. Eventually the difference between this fantasy and reality provokes immense feelings of "humiliation", and the Muzlim ends up hating and wishing to destroy anything he cannot control and enslave.

    You can attempt to blame America as much as you want for this, but even with your Michael Moore-like command of the facts you still do not explain why Indian Hindus, African animists, and Southeat Asian Buddhists all have the same problems as America with Muzlims.

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