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Microsoft The Almighty Buck

Library of Congress's $3M Deal With Microsoft 297

Posted by kdawson
from the just-haggling-over-the-price dept.
Cory Doctorow sounds the alarm over a Library of Congress deal with Microsoft that will have collections locked up in Silverlight. I'll double the Microsoft deal and offer them $6M in perl scripts and an infinite value of free OS software if they let me (or Google or any other honest company) publish their collections in free formats. "This deal involves the donation of 'technology, services and funding' (e.g., mostly not money) with a purported value of $3M from Microsoft to the Library of Congress. The Library, in turn, agrees to put kiosks running Vista in the library and to use Microsoft Silverlight to 'help power the library's new Web site, www.myloc.gov.'"
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Library of Congress's $3M Deal With Microsoft

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  • by ILuvRamen (1026668) on Sunday February 24, 2008 @04:05PM (#22537590)
    Okay so they traded off having to use use silverlight in order to use Vista kiosks? That seems like a bit of a lose-lose deal to me. They must have some pretty stupid negotiators. Plus, how could anyone be so stupid that they put something that important into a super proprietary format?!
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Well, we are running a deficit. I guess the government needed the $3 million dollars.
      • "Well, we are running a deficit. I guess the government needed the $3 million dollars."

        That's the kind of low energy, uncaring way of thinking that makes a mess of things. Readers of Slashdot, if they decide to work together, can be very powerful.

        Let's end the dominance of the depressed people among us, who constantly imply that nothing is worth much effort. (Notice that one of the tags given by K. Dawson to this story is "googleisevil". That doesn't even make any sense in the context.)

        Let's do something more than just complain about Microsoft's abusive behavior. Slashdot, or some other site we start, could grow up and be adult and take responsibility for something other than just our own lives.
    • by HappySmileMan (1088123) on Sunday February 24, 2008 @04:11PM (#22537650)
      Yes they are stupid about it, it IS a lose lose situation, anyone want to email the Library of Congress? Time for some registered voters to get involved instead of arguing on slashdot. http://www.loc.gov/help/contact-general.html [loc.gov] That;s the contaxct info, I'm not sure which of those categories it falls under, but someone should write out an email and have a load of people send it in. Congress don't listen to common sense, they DO listen to voters.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 24, 2008 @05:38PM (#22538532)

        To Whom It May Concern:

        In my opinion, it is a bad idea to restrict access to some of this nation's most prized possessions by requiring a non-standardized, non-open software package in order to access valuable information both in an online format and to visitors at the Library in Washington D.C.

        Microsoft's Silverlight is an unproven and immature new technology. While Microsoft believes that the software will become very valuable, it does so by restricting access to operating systems and web browsers that only Microsoft deems worthy of using this new technology. With respect to Microsoft's anti-trust history, it would behoove the Library of Congress to steer clear of this technology. Especially considering several states fear Silverlight may be a source of future anti-trust violations.

        I would strongly urge you to reconsider implementing Microsoft's Silverlight in favor of an open and freely available technology such as AJAX, SVG, and H.264. By using open and free standards and technology, you will be: 1. Allowing open access to all citizens, not just those deemed worthy by Microsoft. 2. Guaranteeing open access to all citizens for the foreseeable future, without restrictions imposed by Microsoft as upgrading becomes a necessity. 3. Guaranteeing open access to all citizens for the foreseeable future, should Microsoft demand a fee for access to its technology. 4. Allowing open access to all citizens without requiring them to bow to Microsoft's restrictive licensing agreement.

        Thank you,
        (your name here)

      • by nametaken (610866) on Sunday February 24, 2008 @05:41PM (#22538570)
        Cataloging and Acquisitions I would think...
        http://www.loc.gov/aba/contact/ [loc.gov]

        All the way at the bottom.

        I'm using this one, someone please post if there's a more appropriate place.
      • by twitter (104583) * on Sunday February 24, 2008 @05:48PM (#22538634) Homepage Journal

        Web Site Comments [loc.gov] looks like the appropriate place to tell them what you think of non free information and non free formats.

        The LOC should not host works that can't be exactly reproduced for non commercial purposes. Rights holders who disagree with that can host content on their own dime and pay for their own advertising. At the very least, the copyright status of works on the LOC site should be unambiguous. Serving them that content with restrictions is a waste of everyone's time and money. Sooner or later, all of the work will have to be redone because non free formats are always flash in the pan. Non free content will violate everyone's rights and pocketbook in the mean time. There's no amount of equipment, software or money that M$ can come up with overcome the cost of giving them control of our national library. Our heritage and freedom is worth more than the $20 billion in cash they have.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 24, 2008 @05:58PM (#22538742)
        Unfortunately, M$ is already well on the way to locking down content in libraries...check out this mysterious new machine that recently appeared in our local library...'free' audiobooks for download. Which aren't free in any way, shape or form, of course. Microsoft windows DRM encumbered/infected/infested audio files, which librairies have been brainwashed into purchasing, for literally tens of thousands of dollars, and ignoring/publicizing truly free(dom) sites such as libravox.org

        Check out this site for all the horrifying details of how librairies are selling out:
        http://www.stratford.library.on.ca/downloadlibrary.html [library.on.ca]
    • by Z00L00K (682162) on Sunday February 24, 2008 @04:25PM (#22537802) Homepage
      The important thing is not the kiosks, but if they also are going to run Silverlight on the publicly accessible parts of their services. In that case they are limiting the access to their records to those that are able to run Silverlight.
    • by civilizedINTENSITY (45686) on Sunday February 24, 2008 @04:33PM (#22537880)
      Its not a trade off, TFA states that the plan is to use both: silverlight (for their website) and vista locally for their kiosks.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 24, 2008 @04:46PM (#22538008)
      The benefit is wizzy 3d effects!

      I hope all the linux users here like using Novell's distro, here's some evidence that Silverlight is entirely patent encumbered

      "to avoid patent problems over Silverlight, when using or developing Mono's implementation (known as Moonlight), it's best to get/download Moonlight from Novell which will include patent coverage."

      Moonlight will be able to run on any distro supported by Mono, which is most of the major distros. Under the terms of the agreements we have with Microsoft, Novell customers are covered by Microsoft's covenant not to sue over patents. In terms of Moonlight, that means that, if you download Moonlight from Novell (which is free of charge), you are considered a Novell customer of Moonlight, whether you run it on SUSE Linux Enterprise or on another distribution. If you get the Moonlight code from elsewhere, you are not considered a Novell customer, and so don't fall within the covenant.
      That's Miguel and Novell speaking.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by jlarocco (851450)

        Wow, I bet that's flying off the servers.

        At the very least they seem to be missing the point of free software. IF you're going to restrict it that much, why fucking bother?

    • by mcrbids (148650) on Sunday February 24, 2008 @06:19PM (#22538934) Journal
      What's that in LOCs?

      Uh, wait...
  • by l2718 (514756) on Sunday February 24, 2008 @04:09PM (#22537630)
    Greanted, $3M is not petty cash, but surely that's the "sticker price" of the software to be installed (e.g. on the Vista kiosks), not the cost to Microsoft or the true cost after negotiations. So is LOC so cash-strapped that they can't afford to create their website without this ``donation'' ?
    • by TubeSteak (669689) on Sunday February 24, 2008 @04:43PM (#22537968) Journal

      So is LOC so cash-strapped that they can't afford to create their website without this ``donation'' ?
      The LoC has to pick and choose their battles when it comes to funding requests. They do a lot of stuff off budget by collaborating with Centers, Foundations, Institutes, etc.

      The LoC also gives away a lot of money, in the form of grants, for fellowships & university programs. So they could cut some of that, but someone else will feel the pain.
    • by STrinity (723872)
      There's a difference between being poor and having to meet a budget.
  • by nurb432 (527695) on Sunday February 24, 2008 @04:09PM (#22537636) Homepage Journal
    Aside from vendor lock-in, this product is far too new to be relying on like this.
    • by Maxmin (921568)
      Particularly when you realize just how fickle Microsoft is with its own "yup invented here" technology.

      If Silverlight don't shine, Microsoft may drop it, like they have so many other technologies they've created from a "yeah we can beat XX with our own incompatible version" business strategy (substitute "Flash" for "XX" in this case.)
      • by Maxmin (921568)
        Ooh, and if anyone took a look at www.myloc.gov [myloc.gov], you'd notice it is, indeed, a Flash site. Hmm.
  • Locked up? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Bryan Ischo (893) on Sunday February 24, 2008 @04:11PM (#22537658) Homepage
    Can someone explain to me where the term "locked up" applies to this news article? I read the (very brief) article linked to - and didn't see how anything in the library would become 'locked up', which I assume to mean, available only to people using Windows software. Yeah, they're going to accept some 'donations' of OS's and stuff (so Microsoft spends $10 burning a bunch of CDs and calls it a multi-million-dollar donation, with all the relevent tax perks as well - why does the government let them get away with this?) for their new kiosks (which if my experience with Windows kiosks is anything to go by, will be sitting at a blue screen or an empty Windows desktop 50% of the time), but how does this equal anything being 'locked up'?
    • Re:Locked up? (Score:5, Informative)

      by LiENUS (207736) <`moc.eganamtev' `ta' `todhsals'> on Sunday February 24, 2008 @04:14PM (#22537690) Homepage
      The concern is over the use of Silverlight for the website. Silverlight as of yet does not have a end-user ready version for several operating systems, including free ones such as Linux. There is however a Moonlight project by the Mono guys to bring Silverlight to those operating systems.
      • by Bryan Ischo (893)
        Thank you very much, that answers my question. I didn't know what 'Silverlight' was but now that you've explained it to me I can see what the problem is.
      • Re:Locked up? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by linumax (910946) on Sunday February 24, 2008 @04:53PM (#22538064)
        Firstly, I happily use Silverlight on Leopard, no problems at all, but don't know the status of Moonlight on GNU/Linux.

        Secondly, I'm just wondering, is there a clause in the deal with MS that prohibits LoC from presenting same information in any other format or

        Google or any other honest company
        can also join in and provide the similar service in an open format? Like say, when you go to www.myloc.gov and wanna see a book/item, you get to choose:

        • Silverlight
        • Flash
        • JPEG

        In case MS gets any sort of ruling power on how myloc.gov is run then that's something to worry about.


        PS: "honest company"? What does that even mean?!!
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Eddy Luten (1166889)
      Because the government also knows, that the cost and value of a product doesn't lie in its carrier. E.g.: The value of the United States' Constitution isn't $1.00 simply because it's written on a sheet of parchment with cheap ink.
    • how does this equal anything being 'locked up'?

      The donations of the kiosks don't lock up anything. But making the website depend on a media format that is not a common web standard and is furthermore specific to Microsoft risks a situation where the only way to get the full functionality of the LoC website would be to install Internet Explorer.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by LiENUS (207736)

        But making the website depend on a media format that is not a common web standard and is furthermore specific to Microsoft risks a situation where the only way to get the full functionality of the LoC website would be to install Internet Explorer.
        I know its a bit pedantic but is "risks" really an appropriate term to use? I think that "hopes to achieve" would be a better description of whats going on.
    • by cmacb (547347)
      That term may in fact be hyperbolic, depending on what they actually use it for. On the other hand I've worked with government IT people who didn't know their ass from a hole in the ground, and with government IT consultants who did know their ass from a hole in the ground (but still didn't know anything about IT).

      They (the two groups above) do dumb-ass things like store archival documents in Word format, and then when they discover that new versions of Word won't read them, load old versions of Word, prin
  • Honest? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    So Google is deemed "honest" by virtue of simply NOT being Microsoft?
    • Re:Honest? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 24, 2008 @05:04PM (#22538178)
      I think that's an honest question. Google has not been "evil" to the extent that Microsoft has, but it seems like people here give them a free pass. Google benefits from and actively encourages domain parking, which I think most of us agree is one of the sleaziest "businesses" on the web. Again, that's nothing compared to what Microsoft has done, but that doesn't mean it's nothing.
  • by Raul654 (453029) on Sunday February 24, 2008 @04:24PM (#22537788) Homepage
    As I noted on Slashdot recently [slashdot.org], the library of congress website is possibly the most dysfunctional site on the internet. If you ever browse their collections, it's literally impossible to get a permanent URL (which makes it incredibly difficult to copy their public domain stuff to Wikipedia - all the URLs to confirm the copyright status break after an hour) What's even worse, it feels like somebody spent a lot of my taxpayer money to put together something that is functionally useless.
    • by Pichu0102 (916292) <pichu0102@gmail.com> on Sunday February 24, 2008 @04:31PM (#22537854) Homepage Journal
      That's not the point. The point is that it's a Microsoft controlled format, and Microsoft has a track record of continually updating their software, which in turns, often ends up breaking compatibility with free implementations of said software, making it a game a perpetual catch-up to be able to read their formats. Not to mention, this is a government website, which shouldn't be forcing people to use a certain operating system just to view their website.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 24, 2008 @05:12PM (#22538284)
        Microsoft has a track record of continually updating their software, which in turns, often ends up breaking compatibility with free implementations of said software, making it a game a perpetual catch-up to be able to read their formats.

        Hell, it breaks compatibility with Microsoft software, too! Ask anyone who has spent long, boring hours reformatting .doc files for the latest version of Office.

        Which kinda explains how they will get their $3M back. "Gee, it doesn't work with our new Silverlight? Yeah, we'll be glad to come in and fix it, but we gotta charge now." Lather, rinse, repeat.

        Like any drug dealer on the street: the first one's free!
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by TheNetAvenger (624455)
        Actually that is NOT the point either.

        What is the most horrible thing that could be? Gasp, the UI is built by Microsoft technology? Would you be more happy with Flash Instead? You simply can't do as light or rich UI without a technology like Silverlight unless you buy into Adobe and Flash, which still has many parts undocumented, in contrast to Silverlight.

        Silverlight also implies two things.
        1) The images will all be part of the new JPEG standard(See Microsoft HD Photo approved as Next JPEG Standard)
        2) The
    • The first step of MS's strategy is always embrace....
      • by node 3 (115640)
        Well, to be fair, one is *supposed* to "embrace and extend" their own formats. The problem is when MS embraces some open standard, then extends it in a way that breaks the actual *open* version of the standard.

        This is still a bad idea, but not because of "embrace and extend".
    • by JoeCommodore (567479) <larry@portcommodore.com> on Sunday February 24, 2008 @06:18PM (#22538922) Homepage
      Obviously you are new to using MS products in a mixed environment:

      - Microsoft provides a version of X for Mac and/or other platform (case in point MS made for Macs: MS Project, Outlook, FoxPRO, Windows Media Player, Office VBA, Internet Explorer, Virtual PC, Frontpage, Fight Simulator, etc).

      - Updates usually go to windows versions first, but due to "technical problems" (or something similar) X version does not always receive all of the updates.

      - Second generation of product comes out employing some more Windows-only exclusive technology - the version for platform X is kind of crappier and not compatible (no explanation just some short "use Applescript instead" for the missing features).

      - MS announces that the X version of the software will be discontinued due to lack of 'customer interest' (more so on MSs part)

      - MS touts how great they are at supporting multiple platforms on their next product... (repeat)
  • Another 50 Years (Score:3, Insightful)

    by buravirgil (137856) on Sunday February 24, 2008 @04:26PM (#22537812)
    This country's hypocrisies are a persistent, petty and subtle agenda of a few, tired dying people. The LoC was never the people's library in practice so much as a promise...folk recordings represented that promise crying out from a stubborn reality that not everbody can afford to make a trip to D.C., stay at a hotel, and view the library's contents.

    And the internet was going to change that...and dying, dying dying Micro$oft steps in to handle the bottleneck.

    Not for another 50 years now will the promise of the LoC be realized because somebody's daddy is somebody's daddy in America

    • Re:Another 50 Years (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Moonpie Madness (764217) on Sunday February 24, 2008 @04:47PM (#22538016)
      SO TRUE!

      I remember actually going to the library of congress, and they refused to allow me in. Why? Because I didn't actually have anything specific to research... I just wanted to check out what the library had to offer, browse around, read a book or two. Of course I waited five minutes and invented a research topic, but nonetheless it's absurd not to allow me, a taxpayer access to my library.

      Bureaucracy.
  • by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Sunday February 24, 2008 @04:30PM (#22537840)
    I hate to pick on Slashdot (okay, no I don't) - but this was "news" back in mid-January [gcn.com].

    I'll be curious to see how this plays out. Currently the LOC uses a lot of Flash. After reading the article (the one I linked above, not the non-informative blog post in this /. "story") it sounds like the LOC will be using Silverlight in a specific, probably limited, fashion. It'd be nice to get more information, though. From what little information is available, it's possible that MS proposed this as a new project - adding content, not replacing current LOC web materials.

    In any case it seems like a silly thing to do unless there's something Silverlight does that Flash doesn't do (given that the LOC site already uses Flash). Plus Silverlight currently doesn't include accessibility support, which to my mind would make it a non-starter for a government website.
  • I'm not sure about Silverlight's ability to conform to accessibility standards. Are not all American Government websites required to be accessible? I mean, I know a site can have different entry points for different browsers and accessibility levels, but doesn't this seem very counter productive?
    • by Shados (741919)
      Its probably EASIER to make a site accessible for the disabled using Flash, Silverlight, fucking ActiveX, whatever, than with straight XHTML/CSS. The former technologies have the features built in, and can more reliably interact with screen readers and whatsnot. Of course, the little 5 minutes 2 cent demos you see if you google for Silverlight don't use it, but its fairly simple. And definately easier to learn than the very simple, but incredibly numerous details you need to think about in XHTML for the dis
  • by Yvanhoe (564877) on Sunday February 24, 2008 @04:31PM (#22537862) Journal
    If you're tired of seeing these things happening, support Lawrence Lessig's movement "Change Congress" and if you happen to vote in California 12th in the Congress elections, take a look. http://lessig08.org/ [lessig08.org]

    Bad decisions like this one are either caused by incompetence or economy of influence. Time to change congress!
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by xant (99438)
      You bet. The minute he makes up his damn mind to run, I'm on the phone with my debit card out for a donation.
  • by EMR (13768) on Sunday February 24, 2008 @04:57PM (#22538112)
    I just sent them a message explaining the issues with choosing a proprietary technology to hold the LOC content on their website via their Contact US form on the mylog.gov website. Explaining the track record and history of Microsoft is to change the technology midstream, or abandon it, (ie. Play for Sure and the new Zune) also it does not allow FULL and OPEN access by ALL people. And that locking that content in Silverlight would require me having to purchase a new computer, new OS, PLUS several companion products (anti-virus, anti-spyware etc..) Just to view content semi-securely and safely.
    • Then they should laugh at you, and point out that Silverlight is already on OSX and is being developed for GNU/Linux.
  • by donatzsky (91033)
    Am I the only one that can't get Silverlight to work with Firefox on Windows? I have now tried on two different machines, several times, with the same result.
  • Vista (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Sunday February 24, 2008 @05:48PM (#22538640)

    The Library, in turn, agrees to put kiosks running Vista

    And then the Vista built-in DRM will then prevent anyone from actually accessing any of the possibly copyrighted information. Better to err on the side of caution and block everything.

  • everyone involved in this project should have their names recorded on a large bronze plaque in front of the library as a matter of American pride.

    By the way, I'm being completely sarcastic right now.
  • by Dystopian Rebel (714995) * on Sunday February 24, 2008 @05:52PM (#22538678) Journal
    Dear Library Of Congress,

    We are interested in donating $3m USD in technology, services, and funding if you will use kiosks powered by Windows Vista and Silverlight.

    If you choose not to accept our offer, we reserve the right to pursue all necessary steps to ensure that the Library Of Congress's patrons are provided with the opportunity to realize the value inherent in our proposal.

    We will fuck with you if we have to.

    Sincerely,

    General Presidente Señor Lanzero de Sillónes Ballmero
    La Republica de Bananas de Redmondia
  • I'll double the Microsoft deal and offer them $6M in perl scripts and an infinite value of free OS software if they let me (or Google or any other honest company) publish their collections in free formats.

    The LOC collections:

    30 million books in 470 languages, including the largest rare book collection in the states.
    58 million manuscripts
    1 million government publications
    1 million issues of the world's newspapers dating back 300 years. 30,000 bound volumes of newspapers
    500,000 reels of microfilm
    4.8 mi

At the source of every error which is blamed on the computer you will find at least two human errors, including the error of blaming it on the computer.

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