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Monopolists Dropped Off At The County Line 411

An anonymous reader submits: "In this discussion thread members of PLUG (Phoenix Linux Users Group) may have come up with a way to pressure governmental agencies to switch to software other than that from Microsoft. County purchasing policies in Maricopa County, AZ prohibit purchasing from companies or persons convicted under state or federal antitrust statutes. At least one other county, Coconino, that I have checked so far has similar requirements. I think that it's time to make the government follow their own rules and stop spending any more money with criminals."
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Monopolists Dropped Off At The County Line

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  • Is the world coming to an end? Is it a sign of the apocolypse?

    What is the world coming to when we have GOOD laws that are basically ignored?
  • i thought (Score:4, Funny)

    by eric6 ( 126341 ) on Monday June 17, 2002 @12:23PM (#3716186) Journal
    monopolists should be dropped off on baltic avenue. nobody wants that piece o' crap.
  • Skeptical (Score:3, Insightful)

    by delphin42 ( 556929 ) on Monday June 17, 2002 @12:27PM (#3716221) Homepage
    I seriously doubt this will encourage adoption of Linux in situations where it would not otherwise be used. It is far more likely, unfortunate as it may be, that the statute will be ignored or even changed. Microsoft is seen as a necessary part of doing business, and that isn't likely to change significantly any time soon.
    • "Microsoft is seen as a necessary part of doing business, and that isn't likely to change significantly any time soon."

      That is, unfortunately the reality of the situation. In the office where I work, we are so entrenched in Microsoft office products that there is NO WAY OUT!

      We interface over 200 Word templates through an activeX component to a Microsoft SQL server. There are some other word processors that can access Word documents but none have a compatible VBA language and it would take a HUGE effort to migrate away. I'm not sure that we could.
    • Re:Skeptical (Score:5, Interesting)

      by crazyj ( 145672 ) on Monday June 17, 2002 @02:50PM (#3717420)
      I agree. I used to work at Motorola, where a similar policy is in place, and they cannot seem to get enough Microsoft products there.

      Some people even pointed out to upper management that this policy conflicted with the ever-quickening Microsoftening of the company but they were told that it basically didn't matter.

      Many people have been yelling to put more Linux and Mac OS in place but IT doesn't listen. Last year someone finally convinced their boss to takea chance on a Linux mail server and the guy was highly recognized as if he had come up with some sort of idea that no one ever had before.

      Note that I said I used to work there. :)

  • by marian ( 127443 ) on Monday June 17, 2002 @12:27PM (#3716224)

    The people who have to deal with them know exactly how to use them to best result. In a former life when I was working for a government agency and was responsible for ordering computer hardware/software, I had to know how to file an RFQ (request for quotation) so that only the single vendor I had already picked as the best source could meet the requirements. It's not hard to do. If they want to use specific products because it's what they're used to, or think they're the best solution, they will use them.

    The way to change this is to rewrite the purchasing policies so that they have clear definitions that aren't subject to interpretation, with no loopholes. But it IS government we're talking about here, remember?

    • I've got a job with a state University, and so I've seen a few of those "carefully worded" open requests myself, but it wasn't out of a desire to screw the taxpayers or to get *exactly* the one exact product and no other. It's because everyone who has made these requests has been burned at least once in the past by the fact that the ones who look over a purchase request and try to find the cheapest "match", are clerical workers without a lot of tech knowlege. If you leave it up to their judgement to decide if an alternate product is equivilent or not, they often pick something that *they* believe is equivilent, but in reality is not. (i.e. ask for an external scsi hard drive and get an internal one instead (sans power supply).)

      This isn't their fault - they are being asked to do an impossible job. They are being asked to guess which parts of a request are flexible and which are not. If I try to order a flat-panel LCD monitor, would a cheaper old-style CRT monitor be an acceptable aternative? That depends. Usually it probably would be, but in this case what if I ordered it specificly because the monitor would be sitting in a magenetic field. (which ends up making it impossible to calibrate a picture tube to display things in the right colors, or to get it to focus properly, as the electron beam in the tube gets bent off-target by the magnetic field.)

      • Write better RFQ (Score:3, Interesting)

        by coyote-san ( 38515 )
        You hurt your own argument - you saw examples of poor RFQ because they omitted pertinent facts.

        Needed: one SCSI hard disk with external case and power supply. Internal hard disks are unaccepable due to lack of space and power with the cabinet.

        Needed: one flat-screen display suitable for use in a high magnetic field. CRT (and plasma?) displays are unacceptable due to environmental interference with their display.

        In the case at question, it's easy to write the RFQ. Needed: one OS and office application suite capable of supporting email, basic text processing, spreadsheet, databases and web browsers. Compatibility with existing document format is desirable, but shall not be a disqualifying factor if the new format is sufficiently self-documenting to eliminate "lock-in."....
  • Debarment (Score:5, Informative)

    by Ioldanach ( 88584 ) on Monday June 17, 2002 @12:27PM (#3716225)
    Note the second link's [coconino.az.us] page doesn't actually say that the contractor must be debarred (prevented from providing services), but only that they may be debarred for a period of up to 3 years. I expect that someone would have to bring this up in a council meeting of some sort to actually have the action taken.
  • by Radical Rad ( 138892 ) on Monday June 17, 2002 @12:28PM (#3716226) Homepage
    Does anyone know when this law was enacted or what it was in response to?
  • This is great (Score:3, Interesting)

    by quantaman ( 517394 ) on Monday June 17, 2002 @12:32PM (#3716271)
    Now we have to find a way to get the mainstream media to cover this. At the moment all we have is a story about a small discussion. It's hard to say how hard it would be getting this covered in the mainstream media however. They really like sensationallist stories but this also might strike them as kind of a fluff story like buying software from MS being against the law is these counties is just some sort technicality, it might be difficult to get this taken seriously. There is also the issue of whether other juristictions share this law. Does anybody know of anywhere that has similar laws?
  • rules? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by GutBomb ( 541585 ) on Monday June 17, 2002 @12:33PM (#3716274) Homepage
    on one hand you want the government to abide by the rules set forth for this, but you do not want the government to abide by the rules about enforcing the DCMA?
    • Re:rules? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by gorf ( 182301 ) on Monday June 17, 2002 @12:43PM (#3716382)

      Yes, and?

      There are sensible laws (the Government not doing business with convicted persons or companies) and then there are unjust laws (not allowing me to view a DVD I bought without agreeing to additional agreements [EULAs], even though I'm not breaking copyright law). It's perfectly valid to complain.

      And by the way, the Government don't enforce the DMCA, the entities who reckon they've lost money do.

    • on one hand you want the government to abide by the rules set forth for this, but you do not want the government to abide by the rules about enforcing the DCMA?

      False. The DMCA violates my rights and shouldn't be a law.
    • Re:rules? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jejones ( 115979 ) on Monday June 17, 2002 @03:00PM (#3717498) Journal
      Well, yes, just as in the 50s and 60s there were people who wanted laws against murder enforced but didn't think much of laws imposing, say, segregation. I don't think the implication of hypocrisy is valid.
  • by Dr. Awktagon ( 233360 ) on Monday June 17, 2002 @12:33PM (#3716275) Homepage

    But I'm having a little trouble getting past this URL:

    http://
    pluglist.mybutt.net

    I think if I was on a list hosted at pluglist.mybutt, I would expect it to be about something else besides Linux..

  • I agree (Score:3, Insightful)

    by unformed ( 225214 ) on Monday June 17, 2002 @12:33PM (#3716279)
    If the government can't spend any more money with criminals, the DEA would have to stop having undercover drug agents giving money to coke dealers, and hence would stop funding terrorism, and hence result in heightened national security.

    Woohoo!
  • Bravo, but... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by aquarian ( 134728 ) on Monday June 17, 2002 @12:40PM (#3716350)
    This seems great at first glance, but I can think of a few caveats. How long does the ban last? Companies continually reinvent themselves, and the marketplace itself changes completely every few years.

    So while this sounds good when applied to Microsoft, what about telecommunications companies? Will the government have to shut off all their phones, because no one is clean enough to supply the service? How about aerospace and defense? Motor vehicles?

    The need to punish bad behavior must be balanced with the taxpayers' getting value for their dollar. There are good (and free!) alternatives to Microsoft software, but not everything else.
  • by FortKnox ( 169099 ) on Monday June 17, 2002 @12:42PM (#3716370) Homepage Journal
    a way to pressure governmental agencies to switch to software other than that from Microsoft

    Isn't "pressuring people to do things" what got MS into trouble in the first place? Do you want linux pressured onto people? Wouldn't you rather they made the choice on better terms?
    • It's not that they are being pressured into Linux. They could go to Mac, BSD, or Linux (this list would be longer, but OS/2 and Be OS are not options...I wonder why). There is a barrier to leaving Microsoft, and this is a clever way of overcomming that. It's my favorite emotional argument these days, "Do you really want to give your money to a convicted felon?" It's very effective.

      The point is that in many places, it is already illegal to do business with Microsoft, but that law is being ignored. The governments agreed to the statute when they passed it, now it's time they obey it. Insisting that a local statue be obeyed is not a Microsoft-esque scare tactic, it's civic duty. You can't sit idly by, hoping that local governments realize the techical merits of Linux and spontaneously switch (espeially when Microsoft and de Tocqueville (spell?) conspire). It's action by the people that changes the government.

      It's a bonus that it makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside.
      • They could go to Mac, BSD, or Linux (this list would be longer, but OS/2 and Be OS are not options...I wonder why).

        Mac may not be an option either. Apple may be very hesitant on taking advantage of these laws just in case MS decides to stop shipping new versions of Office/IE for them. Abusive monopoly and all that.

        Then again Apple's new ad campaign is very anti-MS. I'm sure they have to walk some fine line to not upset the folks at Redmond too much, while Redmond walks the fine line pretending not to be a monopoly.
  • Aww, c'mon (Score:5, Funny)

    by Rogerborg ( 306625 ) on Monday June 17, 2002 @12:43PM (#3716374) Homepage

    It's not practical for us to stop using Microsoftware, because it's simply too pervasive and dominant, and the costs and penalties for switching are too high.

    What? What do you mean "That's the definition of an abusive monopoly!"? But it's so hard to switch away from Microsoft. We know that's the point, but, uuh, we don't wanna. We'd have to learn stuff! We're civil servants, that's not in our job description. And don't get us started on the long term career risks of being in the same room where an actual decision gets made to switch from the biggest, safest option... [etc, ad nauseum]

  • Nice try (Score:4, Insightful)

    by T.E.D. ( 34228 ) on Monday June 17, 2002 @12:44PM (#3716401)
    It looks like those policies just prevent Microsoft from being a contractor to the county. They don't prevent some other contractor from using Microsoft's software in their bids, nor do they prevent the county from purchasing Wintel boxes from someone like Gateway.
  • by night_flyer ( 453866 ) on Monday June 17, 2002 @12:56PM (#3716474) Homepage
    I think that it's time to make the government follow their own rules and stop spending any more money with criminals.

    29 members of Congress have been accused of spousal abuse.
    7 have been arrested for fraud.
    19 have been accused of writing bad checks.
    3 have been arrested for assault.
    71 have credit reports so bad they can't qualify for a credit card.
    14 have been arrested on drug-related charges.
    8 have been arrested for shoplifting.
    21 are current defendants in lawsuits.
    And in 1998 alone, 84 were stopped for drunk driving, but released after they claimed Congressional immunity.
    • Any source for any of this? Not that I don't believe they're plausable figures, but I never heard of "Congressional immunity" as relates to drunk driving.
      • http://archive.lp.org/rel/19990902-Congress.html
      • by karmawarrior ( 311177 ) on Monday June 17, 2002 @01:22PM (#3716684) Journal
        There's quite a good debunking [snopes.com] that puts the entire thing in context - essentially a second reading of this list of horrors actually shows it's mostly innuendo and cheap showmanship.
        • It says that "everyone does it, so why should we hold these people to a higher standard?"

          CRAP.

          They told us to hold them to a higher standard by electing them. They said they would make the country a better place, or at lease a safer one. They claimed superiority to their competitors. They claimed to want to help the people. Go listen to all of their campaign speeches.

          I expect there are a lot of people in the world who lie and cheat and steal. And I try very carefully to see through the lies, avoid the cheats, and not get ripped off by th thieves.

          So then the liers, cheaters, and thieves are making the laws, I do what I can to remove them. THAT is in ALL OF OUR best interests.

          There are also good congress-critters. It's always a good time to get rid of the trash and support the good. I guess the only think to add is that not all of congress is bad, just the handfull of bad apples. Let's clean them up, not excuse them.

    • Any convictions? That should be what matters.
      • 29 members of Congress have been accused of spousal abuse.
        7 have been arrested for fraud.
        19 have been accused of writing bad checks.
        3 have been arrested for assault.
        71 have credit reports so bad they can't qualify for a credit card.
        14 have been arrested on drug-related charges.
        8 have been arrested for shoplifting.
        21 are current defendants in lawsuits.

      Last I checked, neither being accused of a crime, being arrested for a crime, having bad credit nor being a defendant in a lawsuit makes you a criminal.

      • And in 1998 alone, 84 were stopped for drunk driving, but released after they claimed Congressional immunity.

      Congressional immunity is a necessary evil. Otherwise, state, local and Federal law enforcement could imprison members of Congress to influence or prevent their voting.

      However, it is disgusting that Congress doesn't hold itself to a very high ethical standard when things like this are brought to their attention.

    • That's an impressive list of arrests and accusations, but none of them are convictions. In the United States, you're innocent until found guilty.

  • Be careful (Score:3, Insightful)

    by whoppers ( 307299 ) on Monday June 17, 2002 @01:03PM (#3716525)
    I'm all for open source, but the gov't offices do need time to convert to open source. Everyone is heading in this direction slowly. The more application vendors that support linux, the more users that will move over.

    Just my $.02
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Monday June 17, 2002 @01:04PM (#3716533) Homepage
    Microsoft doesn't have a criminal conviction. Microsoft has a loss in a civil antitrust suit. There is criminal antitrust law, but Microsoft wasn't charged under it. That's for collusion between supposed competitors. (Think RIAA, not Microsoft).

    Arthur Andersen LLP has a criminal conviction for obstruction of justice. That's much worse. As of last Saturday, they're out of the auditing business, because the SEC won't accept audits from a felon. All Andersen audit clients must find new auditors immediately. The company will probably go bankrupt. Criminal charges against individual executives may follow.

  • re-post? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Discopete ( 316823 ) on Monday June 17, 2002 @01:04PM (#3716534) Homepage
    How about a full re-post of the highlights of the discussion thread for those of us behind extremely restrictive firewalls?

    pluglist.mybutt.net is blocked as a sex site here.
  • The mainstream population can not use linux easily or efficiently. Windows is king of the hill right now, and by the time Linux gets as easy and efficient it will be just as big and ugly. Quit bashing or paycheck if it were not for the windows platform, nothing we did could reach millions of potential customers. It may not be great but it's the best we have!!
  • Monopolists Dropped Off At The County Line

    I'm sorry, but this title makes me think back to the old days of the Dukes of Hazzard. I can just picture Bill and Co. sneaking into the county to sell some copies of Windows, and then hauling ass for the county line to get away from Boss Hog. Then they'd taunt him from the other side of the county line (considerately rendered in white paint).

    Of course, at least the Dukes were "good old boys, never meaning no harm".
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 17, 2002 @01:37PM (#3716835)
    Has anyone else noticed that the amount of Linux/OSS bashing on /. has increased a lot lately?

    This seems really weird to me. Are people coming here just to bash OSS? What happened to all the intelligent, free-thinking conversation?

    /. seems to be flooded by static these days. If these people can't handle us "zealots" why don't they get their new somewhere else? [msnbc.com] Are they getting paid derail discussions by asserting half-truths? What's the incentive? Do they just post so that others will waste time posting proof they're wrong?

    MS has been convicted.
    This law is constitutional. (moron)
    Computers do work without MS software.
    There's no such thing a "congressional immunity"
    Linux is easy to use, just hard to configure.
    Anything else I missed?

    If they don't want their freedom, fine. I'll keep mine thanks.
  • That law is to protect the county from sweetheart deals where the procurement manager suddenly gets an all expense paid trip to Bermuda in exchange for the bid. It has nothing to do with the culpability of MS or not.
  • by jhines ( 82154 ) <john@jhines.org> on Monday June 17, 2002 @01:38PM (#3716848) Homepage
    Even if MS is barred, because they have broken the law, who buys directly from them?

    Isn't most of the stuff sold by OEM's who bundle HW. SW and services together?

    Even software only purchases go through a middle man.
  • I live near Takoma Park, MD, which voted itself a Nuclear Free Zone [igc.org] about 15 years ago. The ordinance prohibits the city from purchasing anything from companies "knowingly or intentionally engaged" in nuclear weapons production. To my knowledge, there have only been two waivers in the 15 year period (try finding a company that makes streetlights that isn't involved in nukes!), and the residents of the town consider it generally a success, even if the police department had to drive Chryslers (eewwww!).

    Of course, this is not your most conservative-leaning electorate - I think the #2 registered party is the Greens (after the Democrats) - so keeping the political goodwill to enforce a choice like this was easy. Of course, Snohomish or King County may be a different matter entirely.

  • Sound like a whole lot of discussion and no action!
    Here's my poor assed excuse for a letter to my County Councilmember (yes I do live in Maricopa County)

    Councilman Fill in name here,

    I am writing you in regards to the news that the Maricopa County Council is debating an Enterprise Agreement with Microsoft. However, I have read that according to Maricopa County Policies, Microsoft should be disqualified from any contractual business with the County. I would like to declare my support for Microsoft's disqualification.

    According to MC1-902 DEBARMENT AND SUSPENSION OF CONTRACTORS, I read the following:
    "B. The causes for Debarment or Suspension shall include, but are not limited to, the following:
    2. Conviction of any Person or any subsidiary or affiliate of any Person under any statute of the Federal government, this State or its political subdivision or any other State for:
    k. Any other offense indicating a lack of business integrity or business honesty which affects responsibility as a Contractor.
    3. Conviction or civil judgment finding a violation by any Person or any subsidiary or affiliate of any Person under State or Federal Antitrust Statutes."

    Microsoft, having been convicted of Federal Antitrust Statutes (penalties pending), clearly falls into the catagory described in part 3, and several court cases past and pending show a clear lack of integrity and business honesty as outlined in part 2. I cannot find that ANY government body would be willing to work with such contractors, let alone having rules against it and clearly ignoring those rules.
    There are many alternatives to Microsofts products. Alternatives that have broken no laws, Federal or Local, are well supported and used by many large governments (Germany, Taiwan, et al). As a concerned voter in Chandler, I must point out that I cannot support criminal behavior and would hope that my County Council would see fit to do the same and ONLY consider alternatives as Microsoft is clearly unqualified to meet County requirements.

    Thank You,

    fill in your name here

    If you can come up with a better one (and i'm sure you can cuz IANAL or much of else for that matter) then post it somewhere. Templates people, we need templates!

    sig of the day: If wishes were horses poor men would ride - unknown
  • I don't quite see the point of 'pressuring' gov't agencies into abandoning MS products. I am no lover of Windows, but it is something of a standard for which thousands of applications have been developed. And the bottom line is that it gets the job done. The notion that everybody should abandon Windows seems more motivated in a fundamentally irrational anger towards Microsoft than an honest assessment of what is best and most useful for the people in question. Let people use the software and system that works best for them, don't try to blackmail them by abusing regulations clearly not written for the use you intend.

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