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GNU is Not Unix

Countries Ponder: GNU/Linux vs. Microsoft 437

koody writes: "IDG has an overview of how many countries are getting drawn into the debate over the relative merits of using open source software rather than Microsoft Corp.'s Windows applications. Seems like many countries would be slowly moving towards the open source community, while a few still pledge allegiance to Microsoft."
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Countries Ponder: GNU/Linux vs. Microsoft

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  • Denmark! (Score:2, Funny)

    by casio282 ( 468834 )
    I knew something smelled fishy in Denmark...
  • by Anonymous Coward
    And Microsoft is expensive. If they don't want to get in trouble with Microsoft (and their friends in the US Government), then really it becomes their only choice. If they have some tech-savvy people who know linux and such, it's an even easier choice. In some cases, it's cheaper to pay local people to learn the open source stuff than it is to pay Microsoft or other companies for software and support.

    Even for richer countries, open source is attractive because it means the money that would've gone into software purchases can go into other projects.
    • If you read the Peruvian letter to M$, you will understand that the reasoning behind going with Open Source has nothing to do with being free or even inexpensive. Certainly the lowered cost of the software itself brings many followers, especially in poorer countries. But the effects of assuming that free software will be any cheaper to implement (other than the licesing savings) is wrong on it's face.

      The real reason's to use Open Source are manyfold, and being cheap generally draws folks in, but if a poor country were to believe that they could get the software for free and have a cheap implementation, they are in for a nice surprise.
    • I don't think its really about saving money, its about getting work done, communicating effectively, and public relations.

      Supporting the Open Source community is likely viewed more positively than funneling money into Gates' coffers, so it is quite possible that some of the decisions to go with Open Source are driven by a motive along these lines.

      Another issue... I was dissappointed to notice that Canada was missing from the list. Some news coverage of the Canadian Government's weather office held some surprises: the desktop computers were running Linux or Solaris using KDE and GNOME.

  • by Limburgher ( 523006 ) on Tuesday June 11, 2002 @01:32PM (#3680426) Homepage Journal
    and its mighty state of Hysteria

    and to the FUDness for which it stands

    once workstation, under Bill, with bloat and BSOD for all

  • When Linux first debuted and the world-tide started to turn a bit anti-Microsoft, I felt very angry. I mean, who cares what operating system one uses as long as it works, right?

    Well, after reading through this article, I think I am glad that the computing world really offers OS choices as it once did so many years ago. It allows people and countries that can't pay large fees to become part of the modern computing age. They'll be able to do things that, maybe, they couldn't possibly afford going with a more expensive O.S. -- especially if it were the only solution.

    And really, allowing more and more people the fun and efficiency of computers is a very noteworthy goal.
    • I think I am glad that the computing world really offers OS choices as it once did so many years ago.

      Not me. I'd be happy with the Windows monopoly, if it was open-source. Imagine if Windows was the only OS that existed. The computing world would be slow, full of security holes and crash often right? But now imagine if Windows was open-source. I'm sure it'd be as tight as Linux by now. And life would be a lot easier--software developers would have to code and test less and get a larger audience, there'd be no more platform arguments in the office, no more "how many times do I have to tell you to send .rtf, I can't read .doc!" As an Apple user, I've been having cross-platform issues since I first touched a mouse. I would love to see the world using only one OS. But only if it was free and open, of course.
  • Few? Many? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by The Turd Report ( 527733 ) <> on Tuesday June 11, 2002 @01:32PM (#3680429) Homepage Journal
    What are the numbers there? How many use Linux? How many use MS Windows? I would guess that, for now, Linux == few and MS == many. But, I would like to see real numbers.
  • by Dark Paladin ( 116525 ) <jhummel&johnhummel,net> on Tuesday June 11, 2002 @01:32PM (#3680430) Homepage
    I really don't care what government decides to waste its money on (after all, if it wasn't software, it would be gold toilet seats).

    But I do care when government sponsored research into software is used by companies to make money. Last I checked, I didn't give Sun/MS/et all my tax dollars to make them richer. I want that research GPL'ed so that I know its available, that I, as a tax payer who paid for the R&D gets the benifits, and that it can be made even better by the world (and thus can help my government/business/etc).
    • by Anonymous Coward

      But I do care when government sponsored research into software is used by companies to make money.

      Actually, quite the opposite is true. In the real world, real people have to charge real money for the products they peddle. Most GPL'ed software comes out of government labs [like JPL], or educational institutions [like MIT, or CMU] that are heavily subsidized by the taxpayer. If Dubyah and Congress really gave a rat's ass, they'd require all government funded software to be released under the BSD license, not the GPL.

    • I don't see why government-developed code should be GPL'd. I'd rather see it BSD'd, honestly. The government should not be in the business of setting restrictions on how people distribute or license code. They should be encouraging everyone to use the code they develop. That means they should BSD license everything.

      The GPL's great, don't get me wrong, but I don't think it's appropriate for government research. That research should be totally free (beer *and* speech), not copylefted.
    • by ryanvm ( 247662 ) on Tuesday June 11, 2002 @02:59PM (#3681066)
      I usually use the GPL for projects that I do. That said, there is a time and a place for BSD-like licenses.

      The Internet as we know it would probably not be the inexpensive and vast resource that it is today were it not for BSD licensed software (Berkley's TCP/IP stack springs to mind).

      I want that research GPL'ed so that I know its available, that I, as a tax payer [...] gets the benifits, and that it can be made even better by the world (and thus can help my government/business/etc).

      All of the demands that you have listed can just as easily be met by the BSD. The fact that Microsoft used Berkley's TCP/IP stack didn't make it vanish from the face of the Earth.

      Like I said, I prefer to use the GPL license, but I'm not so righteous that I demand everyone else do so as well. Free software is supposed to be about MORE choice, not LESS.
      • by Perdo ( 151843 ) on Tuesday June 11, 2002 @07:16PM (#3682701) Homepage Journal
        The GPL ensures works or derivitaves STAY FREE.

        BSD and Proprietary licences ensure works or derivatives BECOME or STAY UNFREE.

        Using public money to create works or derivatives that become or stay unfree is ridiculous.

        There is no place for BSD or any other Proprietary licencing scheme where MY MONEY is concerned.

        It really pisses me off to pay for something twice. Once by taxation for the reasearch to create a resource and again for that same resource at retail.

        Fucking corperate welfare. Drugs. Software. Commercial Space Launch. Alternative Energy. Agribusiness. Cheap Oil Royalties. Commercial Use highways.

        Microsoft uses the BSD TCP/IP stack for free, then sells it to us. Any Taxpayer sponsored research should NEVER use a BSD style licence. If a corporation benefits from my tax dollars, They should not be able to sell the fruits of that research back to me for profit.
        • by ryanvm ( 247662 ) on Tuesday June 11, 2002 @11:28PM (#3683827)
          This is all rather silly, since I'm a GPL proponent myself. (Don't believe me? Check the link in my sig.) However FUD is still FUD, whether it's spread by Microsoft or by GPL advocates.

          BSD and Proprietary licences ensure works or derivatives BECOME or STAY UNFREE.

          Wrong. Derivatives of BSD may or may not be free, but the original works will always be free. You might not gain from someone else's development, but you never lose anything.

          Using public money to create works or derivatives that become or stay unfree is ridiculous. [..] It really pisses me off to pay for something twice. Once by taxation for the reasearch to create a resource and again for that same resource at retail.

          When your tax dollars are spent developing software that's licensed under the BSD, you will always be able to use it for free. You contend that because 1% of a commercial software product contains government-produced source code, the entire package must be free. I'm sorry, but THAT is ridiculous.

          Microsoft uses the BSD TCP/IP stack for free, then sells it to us.

          You aren't paying for the TCP/IP stack - you're paying for everything else added in. If all you wanted was Berkeley's TCP/IP stack you could have gotten it for free yourself - BECAUSE IT WILL ALWAYS BE FREE.

          I release my projects under the GPL because I choose to. And that is how it should be - a matter of choice. This blind, raving, zealotry that so many GPL advocates seem to posess is something we could all do without.
          • by Perdo ( 151843 ) on Wednesday June 12, 2002 @02:33AM (#3684407) Homepage Journal
            Remove the BSD TCP/IP stack from Windows. How usable is Windows afterwards? Tell me again how Microsoft receives only 1% benefit from the BSD TCP/IP stack. Without the BSD TCP/IP stack, Windows is no better than a typewriter.

            Let's hypothesize further:

            The US government develops a new communication protocol stack. This New Protocol (NP) has some great features: Complete point to point encryption. Tight integration of video, voice and data. Cache based compression allowing small key bits to trigger the replay of locally cached data sets. The protocol stack is released under the BSD license.

            Microsoft embraces NP and renames it MSN/NP. Microsoft substitutes a modified version of the encryption and their own proprietary cached data set. Microsoft owns 95% of the desktop space. Microsoft leverages the popularity of MSN/NP content into control of most of the server market. AOL must license the technology or risk loosing all their customers. Macromedia ceases to exist. Apple turns over 90% of their profits to Microsoft just to keep Microsoft from abandoning the Mac platform. etc...

            MEANING: The BSD license can be embraced and extended. We receive no benefit for our tax dollars with a BSD license.

            The GPL is a poison pill, but only for companies trying to control a monopoly share of a market. The GPL, applied to software produced at taxpayer expense, insures companies can use the software without giving them the ability to exploit the software, as the BSD license allows.

            I am not a GPL zealot. I am a taxation zealot. This is MY MONEY we're talking about.

            Don't like the GPL's viral nature? Then write your own damn software.
        • by solman ( 121604 ) on Wednesday June 12, 2002 @09:08AM (#3685425)
          This is a myth, and has been debunked so many times that further repetition can only be the result of intentional ignorance. I don't see how this Microsoftian FUD helps the open source cause.

          Here is one of the better posts on the issue by screen name "adamba":

          I worked at Microsoft for ten years, most of it on the core Windows NT/2000 (hereafter referred to as NT) networking code. [...]

          I know a lot about the TCP/IP stack that is running on NT. Here is a short history of it (some of this may also be told in the book How the Web Was Won, but I haven't read it):

          The original plan for NT was that a few members of the core NT team (which numbered about 15 developers) would write all the networking code. However, in 1990 a small team was started up in the LAN Manager group at Microsoft to do some of that NT networking work. Eventually that team moved over to be a part of NT (this coincided with the IBM-OS/2 "divorce", if anyone is interested).

          Microsoft's networking software at the time ran over a network protocol called Netbeui, but it was decided that TCP/IP was gaining in importance, and should be included in NT. In addition, the user-mode API associated with Netbeui, which was called Netbios, was too Netbeui-specific and couldn't be adapted to allow user-mode access to TCP/IP. As a result, the decision was made:

          1) To put a TCP/IP stack in NT

          2) To adapt the sockets user-mode API for NT

          #1 was solved by licensing code from a company called Spider Systems. However, Spider's TCP/IP stack was written to run within an environment called STREAMS, which was a wrapper that specified how the various parts of the stack would communicate with each other (TCP/IP is really several pieces of code -- two of which are TCP and IP -- layered on top of each other. Most network protocols are like that, which is why they are referred to as "stacks"). As a result, STREAMS also had to be ported to NT.

          #2 involved the creation of the winsock API, which persists today.

          It was recognized that using Spider's stack was a temporary measure, because nobody really wanted a stack that depended on STREAMS and its associated overhead. So, a short time after this, work was begun on a new version of TCP/IP, written entirely by Microsoft.

          Along with Spider's stack came versions of various TCP/IP-related utility programs, such as ftp, rcp and rsh. Those were ported from BSD sockets to winsock (not a huge change) and bundled with NT.

          Now, some of Spider's code (possibly all of it) was based on the TCP/IP stack in the BSD flavors of Unix. These are open source, but distributed under the BSD license, not the GPL that Linux is released under. Whereas the GPL states that any software derived from GPL'ed software must also be released under the GPL, the BSD license basically says, "here's the source, you can do whatever you want, just give credit to the original author."

          Eventually the new, from scratch TCP/IP stack was done and shipped with NT 3.5 (the second version, despite the number) in late 1994. The same stack was also included with Windows 95.

          However, it looks like some of those Unix utilities were never rewritten. If you look at the executables, you can still see the copyright notice from the regents of the University of California (BSD is short for Berkeley Software Distrubution, Berkeley being a branch of the University of California, for some reason referred to as "Berkeley" on the East Coast and "California" on the West Coast...and "Berkeley" is one of those words that starts to look real funny if you stare at it too long - but I digress).

          Keep in mind there is no reason to rewrite that code. If your ftp client works fine (no comments from the peanut gallery!) then why change it? Microsoft has other fish to fry. And the software was licensed perfectly legally, since the inclusion of the copyright notice satisfied the BSD license.

          I won't even swear on a stack of bibles that the "new" TCP/IP now shipping in NT/2000/XP and Windows 95/98/Me is completely free of the old code from Spider. Since I don't work there I don't have access to the source code. Certainly some parts of TCP (the checksum calculation comes to mind) are the same everywhere and once someone has written an optimized version, why rewrite it? And once again, this would be perfectly legitimate for Microsoft to do under the license.

          But it is certainly misleading of the Wall Street Journal to say that BSD code is used "deep inside" the NT networking code, unless they mean the STREAMS wrapper itself, which I believe is still there in case someone wants to write a transport using it (I think there is an OSI TP4 STREAMS transport lurking somewhere out there, if anyone cares - but I just checked, nobody does). But the TCP/IP in NT certainly doesn't use STREAMS.

          And implying that the TCP/IP stack uses BSD code is also false. As I said above there may be small vestiges of it in there, although I doubt it. Anyway the FreeBSD programmers who reported all this to the Wall Street Journal can't see the NT TCP/IP source either, so they can't have been referring to that.
    • I would like to see government funded software projects to be used by anyone, from students to universites, to corporations that create jobs and stimulate the economy. Thats what Keynesian economics is all about - you pump tax dollars into the economy, which in turn provides more jobs and a better economy for everyone.

      GPL prevents the part about companies being able to benefit, thus removing any stimulus to the economy(at least in sales rather than services which aren't as profitable). Being that corporations pay taxes too, this is unfair to them. A more equitable arrangement is to have govt. funded code be available to everyone, including corps.

      Therefore, the BSD or similar licences are the way to go. Its not just Sun and Microsoft that can benefit, govt. sponsored projects can help a fledgling software company have a snowballs chance in hell of competing with the giants.

  • They should pick an OS and go with it, preferably what's best for the person that has to use it every day, regardless of cost (or in some cases, taking total end cost into consideration) I'm all for standards. Standards solve issues ranging from product compatibility to addressing consumer safety and health concerns. Standards also simplify product development and reduce non-value-adding costs thereby increasing a user's ability to compare competing products. They also are fundamental building blocks for international trade. Only through the use of standards can the requirements of interconnectivity and interoperability be assured and the credibility of new products and new markets verified enabling the rapid implementation of technology. It's too bad so many of you bearded linux hippies insist on doing things your own kludged-together way.
    • Standards also simplify product development and reduce non-value-adding costs thereby increasing a user's ability to compare competing products.
      But apparently you only care about that goal when the product in question is an application on top of the OS. You don't seem to want it when the product in question is the OS itself.
  • Iraq (Score:2, Funny)

    by Bouncings ( 55215 )
    I think we should definitly lift the trade embargo on Iraq, but only for Microsoft products. ;-) For obvious reasons. Just put something about billions of barrels of oil in the EULA.
  • by restive ( 542491 ) on Tuesday June 11, 2002 @01:35PM (#3680450)
    Microsoft probably loves the idea, but I cringe at the statement about "taxpayer dollars".

    If an Open Source option is available, tax money would be better spent using/improving those products, that benefit all, instead of a single organization declared to be a monopoly by the U.S. DOJ.
    • Amen, im ready for a candidate who strongly says:

      "No more proprietary software!"

      Unfortunately, theyd probably end up eating those words later to

    • by YrWrstNtmr ( 564987 ) on Tuesday June 11, 2002 @02:25PM (#3680766)
      Nor should tax dollars be spent on Bic pens, or Bostitch staplers, or Lockheed jets, or any other product built by an evil moneygrubbing company!

      Like it or not, years ago M$ was the logical choice for software. And, like it or not, M$ has advanced, through a common user interface, the state of desktop computing.

      Now...that situation may be changing, with the advent of new open source tools and applications that actually work and can be used by the average office worker. BUT, an entity the size of (name your fave countries government) cannot change overnight.
      Give it time.
      • by ChaosDiscordSimple ( 41155 ) on Tuesday June 11, 2002 @04:02PM (#3681481) Homepage
        Nor should tax dollars be spent on Bic pens, or Bostitch staplers, or Lockheed jets, or any other product built by an evil moneygrubbing company!

        That's not a fair generalization. The government can easily switch to another brand of pen, stapler, or jet without worrying interoperatibility with a existing supplies of paper or the existing air traffic control system. There aren't alot of security issues for a government office using a monoculture of Bic and Bostitch. The government is free to disassemble any pens, staplers, or jets they buy to search it for spying devices, attempt to repair problems, hire a third party to hire problems, or customize the products for their use. There isn't alot of risk of a license audit coming from Bic, Bostitch, or Lockheed.

  • by Titusdot Groan ( 468949 ) on Tuesday June 11, 2002 @01:35PM (#3680452) Journal
    As much as I despise Microsoft I have been unwilling to recommend anything other than Windows or MacOS to my friends and family.

    I honestly feel that I may be able to recommend open source software to non-geeks in the near future. I'm using OpenOffice and Mozilla and both are holding up well -- indeed OpenOffice is less annoying than MSOffice 2000.

    I think if UnitedLinux and Red Hat can just make that final turn into providing MacOSX like reliability then I will start recommending Linux and Macs and tell everybody to avoid Windows like the plague it is.

    Sooooooo close ...
  • Options. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by saintlupus ( 227599 ) on Tuesday June 11, 2002 @01:35PM (#3680453) Homepage
    the relative merits of using open source software rather than Microsoft Corp.'s Windows applications

    Uh, there are more than two options in the world of operating systems. I'm assuming that everyone here has heard of small companies like Apple and Sun, who seem pretty effective at marketing their own OSes.

    (Yeah, I know, they both fund some open source efforts too. But this whole "everything is either Microsoft or free-as-in-lint" dichotomy is too simple for anyone but retarded schoolchildren.)

    • (Yeah, I know, they both fund some open source efforts too. But this whole "everything is either Microsoft or free-as-in-lint" dichotomy is too simple for anyone but retarded schoolchildren.)

      In the context of the article, I think it's rather more of a Closed Source vs. Open Source debate. When we're talking about using taxpayer money, there's a very real question of what sort of Return On Investment that we as taxpayers receive.

      When using Microsoft (or any closed source provider)products, the end result is that the software fulfills it's function and the government agency (whatever it may be) provides the service it is charged to carry out. By using an open source alternative (one that is equally as effective as it's closed-source counterpart, to be fair) the taxpayers not only receive the government service but also the code that now becomes part of the public domain. It's a Value Added purchase, and makes better sense socially and financially.

    • The cost for Both those product would be difficult to justify. You would have to replace software AND hardware.
    • Re:Options. (Score:3, Interesting)

      But this whole "everything is either Microsoft or free-as-in-lint" dichotomy is too simple for anyone but retarded schoolchildren.

      That's true, but only because it's not about Microsoft, it's about money. Microsoft is simply the exemplar.

      Once money gets involved in software development -- or for that matter, once money gets involved in anything -- it has a hugely out-of-proportion influence on how things are run from that time forward. People who contribute money want a say in things; few contributors have the discipline needed to simply give. Products that bring money for their creators tempt those creators with material rewards; few creators have the discipline to question the motivation of each and every one of their own decisions.

      Worst of all, money is perceived as power, and, as Frank Herbert said, "Power attracts the corruptible." Once there is money involved, legions of people who believe in or pretend to believe in such fictions as "business ethics" show up. Some number of them are convincing liars who will tell you how your desire to help more people can be enhanced by better marketing, or how having more money will let you do more... isn't that a *good* thing?

      I don't trust Apple or Sun because they are in business. They're in business to make money. They're not ashamed of this. Hell, they're *proud* of it! They brag about it to their stockholders. Yes, stockholders. They're not small businesses where a desire for great software and freedom for everyone can have a mellowing influence on decisions. They're big corporations with marketing departments paying money for ads to create the feeling that these big corporations care about something besides getting even more money.

      When you remember that Apple runner freeing all the brainwashed 1984 people, or read about Sun's "Connected Communities", remember that people with marketing degrees -- people who were trained for years in methods to distort the truth for business purposes -- created those images to make you feel a certain way about the companies that sign their paychecks.

      One of many reasons I work as much as possible with free-as-in-speech software is that it's often free-as-in-beer, too. When there is money involved, it's *less* money. This minimizes the corruption that comes with money by simply having *less* money.

      Or even *no* money. There are lots of people busting their asses making great software and giving it away because they believe in excellence in their work and in helping others. If you were designing a perfect world from scratch, isn't that the sort of person you'd want in charge of making things? Aren't *they* the people we should support?

  • This just goes to show how monopolistic MS is, Intentionally and blatantly making it hard for governments to switch from Proprietary software. But even the US has started making some strides toward Open Source, last i checked both and are running linux/unix based OS's, must have gotten tired of script kiddies.
    • last I remember reading most of the machines being taken by script kiddies were Linux/Unix machines that admins had left open to attack because of bad security implementations. Being on a *nix based OS does not in anyway free you from being hacked.
      Additionally what were FBI and whitehouse running prior to the last time you checked? Just because they are running *nix now doesn't mean they were running NT at some point in the past.
  • germany (Score:3, Informative)

    by matt4077 ( 581118 ) on Tuesday June 11, 2002 @01:36PM (#3680455) Homepage
    There was a lengthy debate (took about a year) about the usage of Linux vs. Windows in the german parliament. They ended up using Linux for Servers and Win2k for Desktops, which was interpreted as a loss for microsoft by the media. Microsoft actually offered to let a government agency review the windows source code. They paid $$$ - lobbyists but didn't succeed. Actually, this has been seen as a sign for other government agencies and open source is 'in' right now. Let's see how long it lasts...
  • A good start. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Tuesday June 11, 2002 @01:40PM (#3680478)
    Well to help get a wider accecptance it is a good thing that governments are deciding to look at alternitives to MS stuff. And this helps to push more MS People to understanding and even perhaps liking to use Linux. With more people using it more software will be made (Open Sourse and Closed Source). Thus helping of actually giving people a choice in OSes. We long got away from the Idea of the Right Tool for the Right Job. I think it is time that we come back to that Idea.
  • For those countries sticking with MS products:

    Would you like to try this great, flexible, free software? Or how about this closed, expensive buggy software with 'lettuce'?

    Subject obviously prefers software with 'lettuce'.
  • by Ma$$acre ( 537893 ) on Tuesday June 11, 2002 @01:40PM (#3680484)
    It's under attack for it's business practices here and abroad. It's FUD is not swaying many decision makers anymore and their "terrorist gambit" is not panning out as planned.

    Because M$ has never been known as a service company it really has no model to fit into the Open Source idea. Since it has no direct way of benefiting, other than stealing code for use in their own products, they have to fight against it's upsurgence

    M$ will move into the arena of small commercial packages, proprietary embedded systems and OS's and will fight tooth and nail the entire way. Of course the argument that they stabalized and helped build the current computer industry is partially correct, but had open standards been used to begin with (and not the embrace and extend crap) we might have a much more competetive landscape.

  • The Real Issue.... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by echucker ( 570962 )
    .... isn't one of supporting open source because it's good for your life-long karma, but having someone to hold the end-user's hand when something goes tits-up.

    Microsoft comes in a pretty package, and is so widely used, that someone in a given setting is bound to have experience with it.

    It's not that open source is or isn't better than MS, but which one gives the user (not the IT guys) a warm fuzzy.
    • by pjrc ( 134994 )
      That really should be:

      Microsoft comes pre-installed on new computers, and is so widely used, that someone in a given setting is bound to have experience with it.

      The pretty package probably has no real impact. Even the quality and ease-of-use are secondary to locking up all new PC sales with 'doze preinstalled.

  • Haha... this is like the axis and alliance. One hand we have denmark, austria and mexico. On the other side is germany, france (who thought they'd ever be on the same side), china and a bunch more. I'm surprised Microsoft just hasn't bought a country yet. No i don't mean lobbying and free software packages or whatever. I mean legitmatly going into a nation saying "hey we got $40 billion and we want to buy you" and doing it. I think that would be more impressive than 30% market share for iis. Then again as my supervisor at the helpdesk showed me the corporate structure of Microsoft... you have your ceo and board, followed by some software groups, etc. Then in the marketing department towards the basement... you find the US DOJ. Guess thats going to help dictate whos side we'll be on.

  • Government administrators should note that it is their duty to insure that all government work be done on completely open systems. The citizens and taxpayers of a democracy must have full access to all documents, even 40 or a hundred years from now. There is NO room in a democracy for proprietary, hidden ways of doing things.
    • You make the mistake of assuming that Government workers are making these programs. Almost all government work is done by contractors i.e. GE, Lockhead Martin etc... There is in fact a movement to use open standards, so that the code is easier to support when the contracts end.

      However, there is no need for you to ask for all documents, and there are such things ass business practices, even in the "not for profit" government sector. What if some of these documents were about you? Do I have the right to view those things about your person just because my government found it prudent to take records? Clearly no. My rights end where your rights begin.

      As taxpayers we get services. If you want to dictate those services run for office.
  • Indonesia (Score:4, Informative)

    by empereur ( 579068 ) on Tuesday June 11, 2002 @01:43PM (#3680500) Homepage

    The government of Indonesia has funded a development of a free operating system fully in Indonesian language, which is actually a KDE-based Linux distro.


    Amusingly, it's called WinBI -- a shortened form of 'Indonesian-Language Windows'

  • ... that the US is not on the list?
  • (From the section on Finland):

    It cited compatibility problems, namely among users trying to receive Microsoft World documents.

    Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Format? (shudder...)

  • by Fished ( 574624 ) <> on Tuesday June 11, 2002 @01:44PM (#3680505)
    The article makes an assumption that I don't think is very good - specifically, it assumes that a government should pick one OS and stick with it. In fact, that's the WORST thing a government can do. If one picks a single OS/Office combo, then you're stuck with it and you create an environment of increasing incompatibility with the rest of the world.

    What we need is not a better monoculture, but a polyculture (is that a word?) In a polyculture, one company (MS) can't create a format that's impossible for anyone else to implement properly and expect it to be widely used, because users will EXPECT interoperability. They'd be shooting themselves in the foot. By the same token, in a polyculture you have many different products that foster true innovation. I mean ... as much as office sucks, some parts of it have been truly innovative (some parts of Outlook, Excel.)

    Hell, in a monoculture half the time software isn't compatible with its previous version (think Office 95 vs. office 97.)

    I wouldn't want any government to mandate *one* operating system. Instead, I think that governments should mandate operating system diversity. That's the way to get true, robust reliability and ultimately save money.

    • I believe Clinton did this in the US with Windows. He basically mandataed that Windows was the OS of the government. I could be wrong it was something someone (a goverment employee) had told me at some point. When I worked there most of the desktop computers were being converted to windows NT 4.0 (its been a while). Yes there are some offices that still use other OSes and there are some that are moving their servers to Linux or experimenting and using Linux (NASA && NSA for instance). But the majority of US goverment offices are 'supposed' to use Windows. My friend works for the DOD and he was upset when he heard this. However it seems that it did not last that long as they ended up using QNX cause windows did not do their real time stuff as needed and now they are moving to Linux and saving money (they are using the Linux kernel real time patch).

      I agree though that they should not pass laws like I think the article said Peru is doing. I do think that governments should look for cheaper ways of running thier computers. Think of it this way. If there are 1,000,000 employees and they all use MS office (about $300 per user), exchange (about ? per user), and Windows OS (about $300 per user) that is about 500-1000 per user, plus possiblly other software, that turns out to be about 500 million to 1 billion dollars to Billy Gates, and software. This is of course TAX dollars that could be spent elsewhere. Linux or BSD's could be an alternative to this where people could spend the cost of the cdrom plus office and use Evolution without the connector. It could mean that 1/2 to 3/4 of the money spend on software could be channeled to other things like health care. Granted most goverments do not spend this much each year on software but they do upgrade every 2 to 3 years (in the US at least many offices do). 1/2 billion dollars in some of these countries is a lot of money that could be spent on schools and feeding its people.

      • Peru is not moving towards any single OS. That is exactly what they DONT want. And it isn't really about the money for them either, though I'm sure that factors in. What they want is control over their own IT, and that means an open source so that you are not dependant on any one company. That doesn't block out Microsoft. Microsoft can certainly compete to serve Peru, but they must open the source on whatever they offer.
    • How could a government mandate operating system diversity? If several departments were using Linux, and another wanted to switch, they would be unable to because the nation had already reached their Linux quota? That would be interesting, to say the least...
    • by Vicegrip ( 82853 ) on Tuesday June 11, 2002 @05:08PM (#3681962) Journal
      It is a standard that defines the expectation of people receiving software products from a company.

      There is a ton of variety in the world of GNU/Linux with a multitude of different vendors competing for the attention of Linux users. It is, in fact, the monoculture that Microsoft causes its products to exist in (by making interopability as difficult as possible) that is at the root of the discontent we are seeing around the world that is shifting the momentum away from Microsoft.
      In fact, open source is the opposite of what you argue. By following standards, open source guarantees its users they will continue to have choices.
  • by Disoriented ( 202908 ) on Tuesday June 11, 2002 @01:47PM (#3680525)
    It cited compatibility problems, namely among users trying to receive Microsoft World documents. Microsoft World Documents?? Has Microsoft taken over the World format already? Otto Schily, the German Federal Minister of the Interior, announced last Monday a deal with IBM to promote, for the pubic sector, hardware and software products that support Linux. The pubic sector?? I thought that was my private business! Oh wait, an "L" accidentally got moved. Calming down now.
  • IBM (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SLot ( 82781 ) on Tuesday June 11, 2002 @01:48PM (#3680541) Homepage Journal
    Seems like IBM is making out like gangbusters in
    these deals.

    Perhaps there was something to that slashback article
    last night....

  • by Xpilot ( 117961 ) on Tuesday June 11, 2002 @01:49PM (#3680545) Homepage
    Meanwhile, deep in the heart of Redmond, Cheif Software Architect Gates addresses his staff.

    "As my first act as Software Architect, I will create a grand army to counter the increasing threat of the Open Source seperatists"

    War ensues...
  • by line-bundle ( 235965 ) on Tuesday June 11, 2002 @01:52PM (#3680568) Homepage Journal
    I am surprised at the low number of developing countries especially African countries. They are the countries which really NEED to use free software. But in my experience they are the ones least likely to. Too bad the big companies have already targetted these countries and the free software movement has no real marketing marketing strategy for these countries.
    • Maybe I can add some insight here. Right now I am working on a project on behalf of CIDA [] and Statistics Canada [] to provide IT expertise to the Zambian Census Agency.

      Part of said project includes training their LAN Admin's, Sysadmins and Web Developers. Now, while this wouldn't be such a big deal in North America or Europe, please believe me when I tell you that most of the people whom I am working with have little or no experience with these sorts of things whatsoever. None of them (the LAN Admins) had even installed (any) operating system until I walked them through it just yesterday nor do any of the web developers know more than the three or four HTML tags I've made them write out in notepad thus far.

      Now I'm not sure exactly what your experience is with open source in Africa, but I think that outside of the more developed countries (i.e. South Africa) you'll probably find little or no acceptance of open source in the public sector merely because these people really lack the basic exposure to computers in general that we take for granted in North America and while they certainly are intelligent enough to understand how to use open source effectively. It is going to take a fair amount of time before they are truely able to use it by themselves.

      Another thing that I might add which you may not be aquiainted with is that the 'brain drain' here dwarfs anything you've read about in North America. Government workers in Zambia are paid a pittance compared to private sector IT people. All the people who I've spoken with who (I think) are competant enough to really grasp things like Linux are just using their government jobs as a way to get experience in order to score a private sector job.

      (But on the bright side, I do know that most of the the local ISP's/consultanting companies use Linux to a certain degree)

  • From the article (about a study in Finland): "It cited compatibility problems, namely among users trying to receive Microsoft World documents." [emphasis mine]
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Government officials the world over are getting drawn into the debate over the relative merits of using open source software rather than Microsoft Corp.'s Windows applications and other software developed by vendors who closely guard the intellectual property of their source code. Some countries, such as Germany, have decided to replace Windows and other commercial software products with open source applications. Other countries remain committed to commercial software, and yet others are straddling the fence. Here are examples of how some countries are dealing with the debate.

    Nations wading in the Linux waters:


    Homeland of Linux creator Linus Torvalds, Finland has embarked on a government test of open source software. Twenty-eight employees from 13 government agencies (out of 100 total) completed a project in April to test the free Open Office open-source desktop productivity suite and its commercially available version, called Star Office, from Sun Microsystems Inc. The project coordinators determined that it would recommend use of the suite, mainly for users who do not exchange documents on a regular basis with users of competing software. It cited compatibility problems, namely among users trying to receive Microsoft World documents. The government has also begun hosting seminars for employees to introduce them to Linux and other open source software. About 13 percent of government servers are running Linux, but the country has no policies that mandate what software government agencies use, according to Arja Terho, a counsellor in Finland's Ministry of Finance.


    A bill currently under debate by PerFA's Congress would require government agencies to use open source software. Proprietary or commercial applications, such as those from Microsoft or IBM Corp.'s Lotus Development Corp., could only be used when no open source alternative was available, the bill proposes. Proponents of the bill, which include several congressman who have introduced follow-on legislation, say it will save the country money on IT expenditures and reduce software piracy, which in 2000 accounted for about 60 percent of all the software in use at public institutions in Peru, according to the Business Software Alliance (BSA), an industry trade group. The issue has drawn opposition from critics, who say the government has no business mandating what type of software should be used, and that the law would be counterproductive for the country's indigenous developers.


    Korea's HancomLinux Inc. signed a deal in January with Korea's Central Procurement Office to supply the government with 120,000 copies of its Linux desktop office productivity software, HancomOffice. The open source software, which is compatible with Microsoft's Office applications, including Word and Excel, is expected to save the government money in t he long run and stimulate business for local companies competing against Microsoft in the software industry.


    A government-subsidized technology development group, known as the National Electronics and Computer Technology Centre, or Nactec, announced in Apr il that it has developed its own package of open source software for use o n government desktop computers and servers. Linux-SIS (School Internet Server) for servers and Linux TLE (Thai Linux Extension) for desktops are based on the version of the Linux operating system from Red Hat Inc, a Raleigh, North Carolina, software company. Nactec has made the software freely available to government groups and small businesses. The project , government officials said, aims to narrow the gap between pirated software and legal software use, and promote local business development.


    Similar to Thailand, the Philippines government has an effort to develop a package of open source software products for government agencies. The Advanced Science and Technology Institute, which falls under the Philippines' Department of Science and Technology (DOST), said in February that it will release a Linux sampler to users. It will include an operating system and desktop productivity applications on a single install disk. A separate effort by DOST led to the development of an open source database that is being used by the country's National Computer Center. So far, there are no government mandates to use Linux or other open source products.


    In February 2000, the French Ministry of Culture and Communications decided to replace software on some of the government's servers, which were running Windows NT and AIX, a version of Unix from IBM Corp., with Red Hat Linux. It has already made the change on 50 of the 300 targeted servers, according to Bruno Mannoni, head of the agency's information systems. Software it has adopted include the Apache Web server and Zope, an open source application server. Mannoni said the effort has saved money and the new software is more reliable than what was used previously.


    Otto Schily, the German Federal Minister of the Interior, announced last Monday a deal with IBM to promote, for the pubic sector, hardware and software products that support Linux. IBM has agreed to sell the country products at a discounted rate. IBM said that it will use the version of the operating system from SuSE Linux AG in NFCrnberg, Germany. Germany's lower house of Parliament, the Bundestag, also considered a switch to Linux in October 2001, but managed to work a revised deal with Microsoft that lowered the cost of its software acquisitions.


    Motivated by Taiwan's Fair Trade Commission investigation of Microsoft's pricing practices in that country, legislators are seeking ways to rein in Microsoft's dominance of the software market. Some officials advocate funding development of open-source software, including Linux. Discussions within the government are still at a preliminary stage.


    Beijing government officials in January awarded local Chinese software vendors software contracts, passing over bids from Microsoft. One such deal was with Beijing-based Red Flag Software Co. Ltd. to outfit government computers with its version of Linux. Meanwhile, the Hong Kong government has installed more than 100 Linux servers in various departments in the past three years. Public pressure to avoid dependence on single-vendor products has prompted government interest in open source. According to government statistics about half of the US$23.2 million spent on software during the 2000-2001 fiscal year went to Microsoft Hong Kong Ltd. President and Chief Executive Officer of Red Flag, Liu Bo, said in January that by using open source software, the government would strengthen security, have ownership of the intellectual property that is the foundation for its technology, increase competence of local software vendors and cut down on software piracy, which in 2000 reached 97 percent, according to the BSA.

    Nations with renewed support for Microsoft


    An ambitious government project to build out the country's IT infrastructure and move its 100 million citizens online passed over open source software after Microsoft agreed to pump an estimated $100 million into the effort if the country adopted its software products. Through a series of deals, the software maker is donating training for tens of thousands of teachers, technicians and professionals. The project, dubbed e-Mexico, was first introduced by the government of Vicente Fox shortly after Fox took over the presidency in December of 2000.


    One of Microsoft's flagship government customers, the Federal Ministry of the Interior in Austria, is the first government body in Europe to become a member of Microsoft's Shared Source Initiative. As part of the program, the Austrian government is allowed access to the Windows XP source code. Program benefits, according to Microsoft, include better understanding of the technical underpinnings of the operating system, better protection against security vulnerabilities and a resource for writing custom applications.


    Despite some efforts to investigate open source software for use in the Danish public sector, the country has maintained close ties to Microsoft, according to Niels Svennakjaer, president of Commercial Linux Association of Demark. Apparently, the country's job retraining agency, called the AMU, experimented with Linux at its offices in Copenhagen, and they like what they saw, Svennakjaer said. A switch, however, was shot down by government IT decision makers, he noted.

    Playing both sides of the fence


    New software subscription fees that Microsoft has imposed on its customers has fed interest among Norway's government agencies and schools in open source software. Few tests of the Linux operating system or other open source products have taken place. However, there is talk among public agencies and school officials to investigate ways it could use such software, said Fred Arne Odegaard, assistant IT consultant with Norway's Department for Trade and Industry. The country is also waiting for more direction from the European Union, which is set to present what it calls the eEurope plan later this month, which will include discussions on open source, Odegaard said. Some issues that could stand in the way of open source adoption in Norway include security and vendor-level support, he said.


    An increase in licensing fees for Microsoft software pushed the U.K.'s Office of Government Commerce (OGC) into negotiations with the software maker to lower the cost of desktop software used by nearly 500,000 government employees. Microsoft agreed to new terms with the U.K, which is expected to save tax payers there a reported $150 million over three years. Still, the government is allowing individual departments to acquire open source software in place of Microsoft products, according to an OGC spokesman. Separately, the U.K. police force embarked on a study in January to test Linux for use on its 60,000 desktops used by police officers in England and Wales.
  • I'm sorry, i can't stand it when people call Linux GNU/Linux. I fail to see why people feel the need to bow to RMS's ego; the GNU utilities are primarily rewrites of existing utilities, not innovative new technologies. All the comparisons of lines of code are pointless - the kernel is one single chunk, making it much much more complex to work with than any of the hundreds of GNU utilities packages in the standard distro.

    Seriously, if you are going to start referring to it as GNU/Linux, you should change your website's name to Apache/Slashdot; maybe you should start telling people who use slashcode that they have to have 'Slash/' at the beginning of their website name. It's just as retarded.

    • I guess people take the name 'gnu' for granted. The 'real' GNU/Linux is Debian. But it's just a name, and a name for a distribution.
    • The Kernel is somehow innovative? I could have sworn it was deliberately a recreation of unix kernels.
    • The problem is that the term "Linux" is too loose. It could mean anything! My 486 router box runs Linux, as does my desktop and my Sharp Zaurus. These 3 systems are used in totally different ways.

      If anyone asks, I say the router is running Slackware 7.1, my desktop runs KDE, and my Zaurus runs Qtopia. I have been known to say "KDE/Linux", but I only append the term "Linux" at the end as a form of credit. Practically speaking, the kernel itself is largely irrelevant on my KDE box. For all anyone knows, I could be running FreeBSD.

      I had used the term "GNU/Linux" long before I heard RMS might have anything to do with it. I use it because it better describes the system, not because I am bowing down to anyone.
  • saying "Countries deciding" is kind of misleading.

    Government, as an office/business that needs to use computers & software, is debating using Linux.

    Saying it's "Countries" makes it sound like countries are passing laws requiring EVERYONE to use it.
  • Finnish initiatives (Score:3, Interesting)

    by magi ( 91730 ) on Tuesday June 11, 2002 @02:07PM (#3680653) Homepage Journal
    The article mentioned a few developments in Finland.

    There's also a newer one, made by a member of Finnish parliament Kyösti Karjula [] (Center Party):

    "Member of Parliament Kyösti Karjula and three other members have made an initiative for the government to take practical measures towards to adopt the Linux operating system in public administration. According to the members, the advantages of Linux are financial savings and better security than in Windows.

    'There is also a significant technology political reason for changing over to Linux, because a system based on open source makes it possible to advance [Finnish] know-how. ...' "
    (references to German decision, etc.)

    In December 2001, the IT Department of City of Turku published their final report [] on adopting OpenOffice and Linux for the city computer systems. The report takes a "negative" approach, listing the problems encountered, so it's rather interesting read. In the conclusions, they recommended the adoption of OpenOffice and Linux, and to proceed with an extended study and a pilot period.

    Turku (my home city) has a population of about 160,000 and the city has about 3000 computers. However, if Turku adopts Linux, dozens of the surrounding small (and large) munincipalities will follow.
  • by Soko ( 17987 ) on Tuesday June 11, 2002 @02:21PM (#3680739) Homepage
    Whoa! Bill should pay attention to what his marketdriods say. To wit:


    One of Microsoft's flagship government customers, the Federal Ministry of the Interior in Austria, is the first government body in Europe to become a member of Microsoft's Shared Source Initiative. As part of the program, the Austrian government is allowed access to the Windows XP source code. Program benefits, according to Microsoft, include better understanding of the technical underpinnings of the operating system, better protection against security vulnerabilities and a resource for writing custom applications.

    *blink* Wha...? *blink*

    Microsoft admits - in full view of the world - that having access to the source improves the security and useability of an Operating System. Didn't some two bit think tank outfit just say that having access to the source was bad? []

    That's a keeper if there ever was one - Microsoft just made the case for Free Software in spite of itself.

  • FYI (Score:3, Interesting)

    by T3kno ( 51315 ) on Tuesday June 11, 2002 @02:23PM (#3680747) Homepage
    # telnet 80
    GET /index.html HTTP/1.1
    Server: Apache 1.3.23 (Unix) PHP/4.1.2
    More Blah

    # telnet
    GET /index.html HTTP/1.1
    Server: Apache/1.3.22 (Unix) mod_perl/1.26
    More Blah

    # telnet 80
    GET /index.html HTTP/1.1
    Server: Microsoft-IIS/5.0
    More Blah

    What does this proove? That all three parties do what they say they will do. The libertarians dont want to spend money on proprietary software because they believe in absolute freedom for each and every person.

    The democrats use free software because they hate big corporations and want communism. I have heard open source software described as being communistic in nature, and I dont entirely disagree.

    The republicans are rich, like big companies, and like to support big companies. True capatalists, not nessecarily a bad thing.

    My vote goes to the Libertarian Pary. Just my $0.02.
  • by cpct0 ( 558171 )
    Basically, I do think it is time Microsoft gets the results of its actions.

    Why was M$ so successful? Because people were pirating their software throughout the world. Everyone copied DOS for all the possible reasons (how many times did you do "format a: /s"?). Everyone copied Windows 3.0, 3.1 and 3.11 for all reasons. Then, as soon as it was made possible, everyone copied Windows 95 and 98. THIS is how they made their user base. A lack of useful protection made it possible. It wasn't encouraged but it was certainly mainstream.

    And for businesses and new computers, of course, "strange" practices with agreements asking for the latest M$ software being installed on new computers made it real... not forgetting a few years ago when every computer was bundled with M$ Office.

    ... Yes, it's the same thing for M$ Office. Why is it so successful? Because mainly it was made available without paying, as bundled or as a copy. Because it was the "de facto" choice, everyone had it.

    Now, M$ wants everyone to buy... and everyone to pay for all their software... and finding ways to inhibit/prohibit copy of their precious Windows and Office. It's fine but it won't work with people. That's why a lot of my friends still have Windows 98, Windows ME and Windows 2K. No copy protection. That's why everyone I know still have Office 2K.

    The only people I know that have XP are bundled with new computers (no choice now, isn't it strange!). The only people I know that have Office XP are... mmm ... Do I know someone? Nope!

    There are other arguments too... For example, I have a small company (let say I never unregistered a name, it's dead since a few years ago). I received a letter from M$ saying that I should check all my licenses for their products, that I could be screened. I _HOPE_ I am screened, simply to tell them I never bought and I never will buy any of their crappy software (I run a Powerbook G3) and they should stop bugging me. -- That is the first argument, they harass people.

    There is also that unwritten law stipulating that every new computer should have a M$ sticker with its WinXP serial number on it. What is that? I imagine hell in big companies where the unscrupulous employee will simply go and get that serial number for his home, and the company's face when the serial # for that computer will stop working.

    So now, companies, gov'ts and people in general are seeking ways to get rid of that cumbersome giant. If they could find a way to get rid of it, they would. Because it's simply stupid to have to buy a piece of software as costly as a XBox simply to run a machine (Windows XP)... and totally stupid to have to buy a piece of software that is also totally mainstream with a price tag as hefty as a full-featured color WinCe PDA (Office XP).

    What's left with Linux to do ? It have to be tested, recognized and endorsed by the general public. One first step in my opinion would be to make a X-skin for Windows, where Windows would work precisely as your favorite X, with all the features. A full office suite should be available for that precise X-on-Windows. And it should be user-friendly (let me rephrase: dumb-friendly). Finally, it should be free and compatible.

    For me, M$ are shooting themselves in the foot with all these actions. And it's not by harassing people and companies they will get the result they want. I'm sure of it.

    Have a nice day
    • No copy protection. That's why everyone I know still have Office 2K.

      Actually certain versions of Office 2K has Activation...after 50 uses of the software, it will shut down and tell you to activate the software. From what I understand it is easier to fool this version of activation than Office XP's version, but it's activation nonetheless.

      It's actually Office 97 that you don't have to activate. Funny, it's very hard to find that at the computer fairs nowadays...;-)

      Microsoft made its monopoly on easy-to-pirate software. If anything, they should loosen, rather than tighten, their "security". Get them another raftload of more hooked users.

      set irony mode off.

  • First, a funny....
    It cited compatibility problems, namely among users trying to receive Microsoft World documents.

    My sentiments exactly.

    Second... now I haven't thought this all the way through, but one way of helping the software community would be to open up the Word and Excel format, give detailed specs of the formats to all past and current formats, and then require any changed to that format to be released as spec form for n months before the release of Office apps.

    The closed nature of Word Docs (especially, though other Office docs have issues too) has several problems:
    • No interoperability with other software. Can't migrate from Word to other software.
    • No interoperability with other versions of Word. Everyone has had one of those Word files that were all gobbledegook because it was one or two versions old. This....
      • Forces upgrades, if one person gets the new Word, everyone does.
      • Makes archiving near impossible. Anyone here can open my old Word 2.0 for mac?

    So with those, you get a monopoly on Office software, tremendous lock-in, and money to burn to try to open up other environments. Now, not that they don't have the right to sell software, but they are a monopoly. I believe this will do more to end that monopoly than hiding IE on the desktop.

    This also helps Microsoft in a way. There are some people who don't want to use Word because they're worried about having their information locked in to a proprietary format. This will endure they can always get at their data.

    Questions, comments, snide remarks?
  • Contrary to the Free Software community press on these articles, Microsoft loves the Open Source movement. They love it because it speaks to their interest: proprietorship. Microsoft wants people to follow the advice of that movement and release software under the licenses most heavily advocated by that movement—the X11 and new BSD licenses. Microsoft rails against the GNU GPL and the Free Software movement because they don't want users to have software freedom. They want everyone to use software they're not free to inspect, share, or modify. Microsoft is capitulating by distributing GPL'd works (not what you'd expect of the company that called the GNU GPL a "cancer") but few bother to expose how Microsoft isn't following its own advice []. Microsoft doesn't have a good answer to the multiple ways the GPL enforces software freedom so we get another round of anti-GPL FUD and rebuttals that don't understand the difference between the Open Source and Free Software movements [].

  • Crap (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dybdahl ( 80720 ) <info@dybd a h> on Tuesday June 11, 2002 @02:44PM (#3680937) Homepage Journal
    This idg overview is extremely undetailed and not very useful. With several countries, like Denmark, it didn't cover all the Linux activities going on. The German parliament is actually going to use Linux on their servers, and their focus on multiple vendors in government IT spending isn't mentioned.

    "Snapshots from the OS front" is actually a precise description of the content.
  • by Woodie ( 8139 ) on Tuesday June 11, 2002 @03:07PM (#3681139) Homepage
    This debate is far more complex than a simple choice of what OS to use at a government level.

    This isn't simply an OS jihad. Where Linux == Good and Windows == Bad. Making business (cause that's what a lot of government is) decisions based on software "religion" is stupid and misguided.

    The points that the congressman from Peru (I forget his name) made about using open source software were some of the most valid, and well reasoned ones I have heard in a long time. But - clearly his argument progresses beyond simple selection of the operating system to the systems used to create, maintain, and access the data used to run a govenment.

    Here in the USA - govenment money is used to fund all sorts of private development. Look at defense research. Boeing, and all those guys are _private_ companies that acquire patents on inventions that were paid for with government monies. They then sell finished product to the govenment, further profitting from this relationship. As a tax payer you might be more than a little outraged by this.

    So the question you have to ask yourself is: Do you want your government funding the r&d of proprietary software? That's one aspect of this debate.

    Another question is: Do you want your government using proprietary software? If they are, then it has a cost over time in licensing fees. It also leads to the following -

    Do you want your government to store data files in a proprietary format whose layout is held by some private company? (it's one thing if the gov. develops it's own data formats and properly documents them, it's a whole nother game when the format is externally owned).

    Probably, in many cases your answer is "NO" to all three of these questions. But, then you have to ask yourself whether or not there is a serious open source, free software alternative to some of the commercial offerings. In many cases, yes. But, in just as many, no.

    Other questions that come to mind are: Would you really want your government systems run off of current open source/free software systems? Being fair, you have to consider the bugs in those systems (beyond the simple anecdotal evidence) - and the "spit and polish" of those systems.

    Do you really want your government in the "software" business? Maybe, maybe not. There's a reason so many governments sub-contract work out to professionals and specialists. Sure, the gov. usually attaches all sorts of conditions (specs and requirements) so that the end product is well documented - but private companies do the work. Given how effective government is at some tasks, I'm not sure I want them writing software!

    ...Food for thought...
    • All good points, but I disagree with government doing a worse job with software. Government software has two things going for it:
      1. no incentive to add usefuless features which don't add to (and in some cases severely detract from) from the total user experience.
      2. no marketing department to push a piece of software out far before it is ready.
      Government lacks the financial incentive needed to screw up software.
  • They're not just considering Debian, they're considering RedHat, SuSE, and others; so why does this say GNU/Linux?

    Maybe it should say "GNU/Linux vs. Microsoft/Microsoft".
  • I pledge allegence to the Bill
    Of the United States of America
    And to the Monopoly for which he stands
    One system to rule them all, endivisable,
    With updates and blue screens for all.
  • My question is who will be the first geek to emigrate to another country because of that countires position on MS?
  • Thailand (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Daengbo ( 523424 ) <daengbo@g[ ] ['mai' in gap]> on Tuesday June 11, 2002 @09:12PM (#3683272) Homepage Journal
    from the article:

    A government-subsidized technology development group, known as the National Electronics and Computer Technology Centre, or Nactec, announced in April that it has developed its own package of open source software for use o n government desktop computers and servers. Linux-SIS (School Internet Server) for servers and Linux TLE (Thai Linux Extension) for desktops are based on the version of the Linux operating system from Red Hat Inc, a Raleigh, North Carolina, software company. Nactec has made the software freely available to government groups and small businesses. The project , government officials said, aims to narrow the gap between pirated software and legal software use, and promote local business development."

    I submitted a story on this a while back, so I will elaborate here. The agency is actually NECTEC (not Nactec), and they have developed a Thai language distro. Thai is problematic because of it's eight bit characters, and vowels that can appear in front, behind, above, or below the consonant. Modifying the many English 7 bit centric apps in RH to work with Thai was no small feat. They also have a web page devoted to training ex-windows users. At this point, it is incomplete.
    This is an attempt to curb the estimated 93% piracy rate in the country. It is causing all kinds of problems with the WTO. This distro has been featured front page in four major computer magazines in the last three months. The general review by all the magazines was that it is good, but shouldn't replace Windows. In a primary example of the poor quality of the reviews, the reviewers were unable to mount their windows partition or change the encoding on a web page in konqueror. I am using this distro right now, but have used the apt-get utility which comes pre-installed to dist-upgrade to RH7.3, and everything still works.
    Tangentially, Sun has released an all Thai version of open office, called Pladao ("Star Fish") for free, and it is being widely accepted by the mainstream media because it runs on Windows. Solaris and Linux versions are also available. I use this program regularly along with OO 1.0.0 (why the extra 0?) on my machine. It is being written of and reviewed as open source, even though no source is available, so I am confused. I suspect people are confusing OS with "free to use."
    Thailand is committed to OS, and has computer standard for OS retail machines and advocacy programs in place. The government wants to stop sending so much of its meager supply of cash to the west.

Someday your prints will come. -- Kodak