Follow Slashdot blog updates by subscribing to our blog RSS feed

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 internet speed test! No Flash necessary and runs on all devices. ×
GNU is Not Unix

Open Source in Government 123

A reader writes: "There is a feature running on NF about a conference this October. More information can be found on the conference website." It's worth pointing that despite the fact that the conference is two days long, the organizers have asked for material submissions to be included in the conference handbook. So, if you've got some materials/thoughts, start polishing them up.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Open Source in Government

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Sounds like a good plan...
    • Sounds like a good plan...

      In theory yes, but how would YOU like to write custom drivers for all those new House and Senate members every couple years? I mean, I don't even want to THINK what kind of kernel hacking you'd have to do to make Gary Condit run properly...
      • Condit's problem was that his legacy input device had gained too much bandwidth. A new input device with a lightweight controlling process will make him responsive again.

        Unfortunately the process is owned by root and something comes along and kills it.

        KNOWN ISSUE: You might have to interrogate Condit multiple times before he acknowledges that he has a connection to this device.
  • Unfortunately, I think many poeple will have a hard time planning to go to a conference only 2 1/2 months away.

  • Back in 1998, when Linux was cool, I started a project to convert our lab to Linux servers, desktops, embedded, etc. The project itself was still exploratory, just seeing what this baby could do, you know. Well, we had our yearly audit (as a federal grant-getting institution we need to have accounting/insurance/safety/security audits, etc). When I showed the GAO guy my Linux test boxes he nearly blew a gasket and told me to yank those out of there ASAP.

    These were his claims (before you mod me down, remember that I disagree with his assessment, I'm just the messenger here)

    • He said they'd found massive security issues with Linux
    • He said the reliability wasn't quite high enough for those mission critical items we performed
    • He said their was nobody to call when it broke
    • He said that the haphazardly "open" way it had been developed practically guaranteed the existence of bugs
    • He also said that the licensing issues prevented our lab from putting the results of our experiments in the public domain

    So anyway, I'm glad the gov't is taking a second look. Hopefully Linux has improved since then.

    • by Khalid ( 31037 )
      This is typical generic FUD you would hear from misinformed people. Some people have vaguely heard about this Linux thing and the clichés that go with it (albeit this slowly changing). This shows that main battle Linux is now facing is the Marketing one, as in technology it's on par and often better than the alternative.

      I hope that with IBM/HPaq/Dell and so on entering the field this will slowly change
    • Re:Sha, I wish (Score:2, Interesting)

      by dancomfort ( 44913 )
      Actually, it sounds like he was buying into Microsoft's FUD. The public has become more educated since then.
    • by tps12 ( 105590 )
      Wow, now that strikes me as a lot of FUD. Do you work for Microsoft? Okay, I will deal with these complaints one at a time.

      He said they'd found massive security issues with Linux

      Okay, fine. But what operating system hasn't had massive security issues? It's the nature of the beast. If you've been paying attention to Slashdot [slashdot.com] lately, you'll know that even the ultra-secure OpenBSD has its share of security holes.

      He said the reliability wasn't quite high enough for those mission critical items we performed

      Well, given that this was in 1998, he may have had a point. But Linux has improved quite a bit since then. 2.2 was a very stable and reliable kernel, and since the 2.5 branch, I've been using the latest kernel on all of my high demand enterprise servers.

      He said their was nobody to call when it broke

      Yeah, except for Red Hat, SuSe, Caldera, Debian... Next!

      He said that the haphazardly "open" way it had been developed practically guaranteed the existence of bugs

      Yes, but they are shallow bugs. Read RMS's article, the Cathedral in the Bizarre, located here [gnu.org] for more details.

      He also said that the licensing issues prevented our lab from putting the results of our experiments in the public domain

      Hahahahahahaahhaha. That's a good one. Maybe you haven't heard about the GPL, but under Linux's license you actually are required to release your experiments to the public. Try doing that in Windows!

      I hope you are now educated and will not go believing any more FUD of this sort.

      • Re:Sha, I wish (Score:4, Informative)

        by Dionysus ( 12737 ) on Friday August 02, 2002 @12:43PM (#3999924) Homepage
        Okay, fine. But what operating system hasn't had massive security issues?

        This was '98. RedHat had huge security problems back then (installing most services by default and open etc).

        2.2 was a very stable and reliable kernel, and since the 2.5 branch, I've been using the latest kernel on all of my high demand enterprise servers.

        Linux still have problems in the highend with the VM issues. Which is why they're changing the VM again for 2.6 (or whatever).

        Yes, but they are shallow bugs. Read RMS's article, the Cathedral in the Bizarre, located here [gnu.org] for more details.

        Bugs are bugs. And I don't think the recent bugs in openssh, openssl, and apache were shallow.

        Hahahahahahaahhaha. That's a good one. Maybe you haven't heard about the GPL, but under Linux's license you actually are required to release your experiments to the public. Try doing that in Windows!

        No, you're not. Nowhere in the GPL does it says you have to release your experiments to the public. Please reread the GPL. Only when you distribute you're changes to the software, do you have to rerelease the changes to GPL. Also, GPL doesn't allow you to put your derivative works in the public domain. There are no problems putting derivative works (works linked against libraries in Windows) in the public domain.

        And finally,

        Wow, now that strikes me as a lot of FUD. Do you work for Microsoft?

        Maybe you need to get off your high horse and reread his comment again? He said those comments were not his, but rather his auditor's comments.
        • No, you're not. Nowhere in the GPL does it says you have to release your experiments to the public. Please reread the GPL. Only when you distribute you're changes to the software, do you have to rerelease the changes to GPL. Also, GPL doesn't allow you to put your derivative works in the public domain. There are no problems putting derivative works (works linked against libraries in Windows) in the public domain.

          This is actually something that bothers me because government works must be released into the public domain. It would appear that the GPL blocks release of government modified software.
          • First of all, most libraries you use on Linux are LGPL based. This means they can be linked against without having to adopt a GPL license. The absolute only case where your derivative software must be GPL is only if the library you are using is GPL.

            What does this mean? It means you can write public software to your heart's content with the caveat that you must spend a little effort investigating what libraries your code uses.... which is something you do as a course of your job anyways.

            Examples of libraries that are LGPL:
            glibc, GNOME libraries, wine, etc.. etc.. etc..

            On another note, I wonder why my tax dollars go to pay for software which, because it is in the public domain, can be reused in a commercial application and cause me to have to pay for it again.

            The GPL serves the very useful public function of ensuring that publically available IP cannot be co-opted by an entity and monopolized.
            • On another note, I wonder why my tax dollars go to pay for software which, because it is in the public domain, can be reused in a commercial application and cause me to have to pay for it again.

              The GPL serves the very useful public function of ensuring that publically available IP cannot be co-opted by an entity and monopolized.


              Actually, that is one of the benefits of a commons. For example highways as a commons can accomodate commercial and non-comercial traffic. Excluding commercial traffic seriously undermines the quality of the commons. In fact, the success of http and html is largely due to its entry into the public enabling commercial and non-commercial use.

              I find a frustrating inconsistancy in the claim that ip should not apply to electronic works because they are not resources that can be diminished but public doman is not sufficient from preventing a work from being monopolized. If it is in the public domain, then it can't be monopolized, because everyone has the right to make a copy.

              For example, there about a dozen editions of Moby Dick out there. And of course the GPL like the public domain availability of Moby Dick does not prohibit anyone from charging you for a copy. However it does open the door for non-commercial distribution.

              • http and html are standards which are probably not very good examples for your argument since the focus of the GPL would be, in these cases, an instance of an actual implementation of the standard.
                I did not state that IP should not apply to electronic works. In fact, the GPL uses the notion of IP (copyright) as the basis for the distribution conditions that apply to software licensed under it.
                You are essentially arguing that since there are no restrictions on Public Domain, that therefore software under this license cannot be co-opted. In my opinion, this would be true except for the way patenting currently works in the US.
                Since we're talking about standards, lets take the example of the MD5 algorithm. There is a company that currently owns a patent on the use of MD5 checksums to check whether [slashdot.org] a webpage has changed.
                Here we have a perfect example of something that is an open and widely used standard being co-opted by a company through a patent that essentially describes a process already widely used, but for a specific case. Now, if this patent is allowed to stand, an application of the standard I previously was allowed to make under the public domain standard now will be illegal without paying a license. What was free to me no longer is because it was monopolized by means of a patent.
                How would the GPL protect against this? Quite simply because if the company distributed any manner of software based on the technology, I would automatically receive the code and a license to modify and re-use it as I wished. They would still own the patent, but would implicitly give me a license to use it by distributing the GPLed software.
                Public domain IP can be co-opted... and this, in my mind, means it is no longer suitable as a mechanism for ensuring the principle it exists to ensure: freely useable and available technology.
                • A problem here is that you're mixing patent issues with copyright issues. This is also drafting a bit far afield from the basic problem that government works are automatically placed into the public domain. They are also not patented either. At least from what I can tell this excludes government modification of GPL licensed software because not only does the GPL prevent placing more restrictions on software, it also prevents removing restrictions.

                  But if the IP is covered by patent, then it really cannot be considered public domain. Furthermore, md5 does not appear to be in the public domain to begin with. [umbc.edu] It is copyright 1991 RSA data security and released under a liberal license. (Which raises some interesting questions about the patent case. Since RSA owns the code, and Pumatech claims a patent on the use of the code, does the patent interfere with a copyright holder's rights?) You seem to be suffering from the confusion that public domain equals widely published.

                  In fact there is a serious problem with redefining copyright to permit the government to apply the GPL to their works. The GPL depends on the creator of the software holding the copyright to the software. I suspect that the GPL also depends on the continued goodwill that the programmer will not decide at some point in the future to pack of all the marbles, go home, and stop publishing a given software package under the GPL in order to collect royalties. This is one advantage that public domain has over copyleft and even liberal licenses. Once something is in the public domain it can never be withdrawn from the public domain. There is minimal risk that the terms under which the work is distributed will change in the future.

                  I'm not comfortable with the idea of granting the government the ability to "own" critical information such as census data, geographic maps, and the congressional record. The arbitrary nature of national security restrictions on governmental data is tricky enough. I personally don't want to live in a nation in which newspapers could be forced to pay a royalty on court records if Congress felt that it was a good way to raise revenue. Granted the public domain nature of this data means that the local newspaper can charge fifty cents plus exposure to advertising for printing the court record. On the other hand, it also gives me the right to choose one to the courthouse and demand it for myself.

                  Certainly the GPL is a good tool for individuals and projects. However it depends on individual property rights that were granted to citizens and denied to the government for some pretty strong reasons.
      • Hahahahahahaahhaha. That's a good one. Maybe you haven't heard about the GPL, but under Linux's license you actually are required to release your experiments to the public. Try doing that in Windows!

        Don't be ridiculous. No one would use Linux (myself included) if its license required my data to be released under the terms of the GPL. That's silly. Linux and its software has no such requirement.

        Jason.

      • Um... did you even notice this part of his post?
        before you mod me down, remember that I disagree with his assessment, I'm just the messenger here

    • Re:Sha, I wish (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Telastyn ( 206146 )
      Why is that an incorrect assessment? In the majority of cases, all of the points are technically correct, especially 4 years ago.

      Security issues: Yup. Fixed alot, but they still exist. They're still less than most others though.

      Reliability: Yup. This is probably due to hardware rather than anything else as Solaris on Sun was significantly more solid 4 years ago. The gap has closed greatly since, but is probably still not (usually) closed yet.

      Support: Most developers are not available to call in case of breakage. The hardware vendors don't support it, people are SOL. IBM fixed that for big iron, others try to support it for smaller machines, but it's not there yet.

      Open source = bugs: Yup. Sorry, prerelease QA isn't exactly OSS's strong point. OSS guarantees the bugs will be found, and closed more quickly though.

      Licensing issues: Maybe. This is possibly true in certain corner cases.

      The thing that will help the government the most is actual deployment and acceptance of Linux. If they can be shown that these things are fixed or irrelevant, they'll be more inclined to look.
      • Pardon me for rearranging your staements, but I've grouped them by relevance to my responses ...

        Security issues: Yup. Fixed alot, but they still exist. They're still less than most others though.

        Open source = bugs: Yup. Sorry, prerelease QA isn't exactly OSS's strong point. OSS guarantees the bugs will be found, and closed more quickly though.

        No ch!t. I spotted the news of the OpenSSL overflows on slashdot literally minutes after they were posted ... downloaded 0.9.6f, had it built and installed before the VU# was even released by CERT ... just got 'officially' notified of the overflow by our Security and Disaster Recovery Team today ... way I see it, my total time of exposure to this hole was zero hours ...

        Support: Most developers are not available to call in case of breakage. The hardware vendors don't support it, people are SOL. IBM fixed that for big iron, others try to support it for smaller machines, but it's not there yet.

        'scuse me, but the fix was available before CERT and BugTraq knew a problem existed ... I had it built and installed on several mission-critical servers and a couple dozen workstations before it got mainstream notice ... do that on a Windoze box!
    • I hope you didn't just pull those boxes as suggested. He was obviously in the wrong. I hope you took the time to point out alternatives and clear up his misguided opinions.

      Auditors don't run projects, you do. I work for a state governmemt. And a lot of our projectes are federally funded of course. But that doesn't mean the feds get to run the show. Open source is clearly in the public interest. And my projects are better for it. And the feds (my feds I guess) approve.

      This type of situation demonstrates the lack of communication between business planning and IT. When you let your exec runs your IT decisions -- disaster! (Like the IBM commercial -- is this implementable? No.) Equally disasterous, when IT makes all the tech decisions without involving the execs. (You built what? Cool. But we don't sell those widgets anymore. You just wasted the last six months on something we phased out four months ago.) Hello. Time for a business model that lets your IT and your Business Planning talk about some fundamentals.

      FUD runs both ways my friends. If you don't step up and correct some of it, the problem just gets worse.
    • Re:Sha, I wish (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Jason Earl ( 1894 ) on Friday August 02, 2002 @12:44PM (#3999933) Homepage Journal

      I used to hear that sort of FUD all of the time. Mostly from people who had spent a great deal of time and money getting certified in some other vendor's software. Linux and Free Software are dangerous to these people because they seriously impact the value of these people's skills. If more and more businesses and organizations start using Free Software, then there will be less demand for their particular skillset.

      Many of the points that the GAO guy brought up are simply not true, and all of them should be taken with a huge grain of salt. There haven't been any "massive security" issues with Linux (although the same can't be said for some other PC based server operating systems written in Redmond), and there haven't been any major reliability problems either. In fact, anecdotal evidence shows that Linux is more secure and more reliable than its commercial competitors. As for commercial support, I have been using Linux since 1994, and there has always been someone you could call for support (granted, they were probably fairly small). Nowadays you can contract support from IBM or HP, which should be support enough for just about anyone. And if he thinks that Free Software is "haphazard" he should see what passes for development in some closed source commercial companies. Borland's Interbase apparently has had a backdoor password for years that wasn't found until the source was opened, and some versions of Excell shipped with a full blown flight simulator included. You can put anything in a commercial software product without anyone being the wiser. The last point is especially weak. The GPL, arguably the most restrictive Free Software license, doesn't even attempt to control how you use the software. You don't have to pay one bit of attention to the GPL unless you distribute software based on GPLed source. Most commercial software EULA's on the other hand have all sorts of end user stipulations. In other words there are no "licensing issues" and you certainly wouldn't have to put your lab results into the public domain.

      This particular brand of FUD hasn't worked particularly well against Linux because so many folks have used Linux successfully. Linux's low price also makes it easy to run your own tests. Linux has simply become too popular to ignore these days. There are simply too many happy Linux users to overlook the chance to get good software at a very low price.

      • Many of the points that the GAO guy brought up are simply not true, and all of them should be taken with a huge grain of salt. There haven't been any "massive security" issues with Linux (although the same can't be said for some other PC based server operating systems written in Redmond), and there haven't been any major reliability problems either.

        This appears to be quite common with anti-Linux FUD. Critisisms actually more applicable to some other system...

        As for commercial support, I have been using Linux since 1994, and there has always been someone you could call for support (granted, they were probably fairly small).

        "Support" has ended up meaning both "pass the buck" and "get the thing fixed". Also with proprietary software contacting support can wind up as "try and you sell the latest version".

        The last point is especially weak. The GPL, arguably the most restrictive Free Software license, doesn't even attempt to control how you use the software.

        Nor does it restrict what you can do with the output of GPL software. Write a program with GCC and it's yours to do with what you like.
    • What I don't understand about non-Anonymous Coward trolls, is why they fail to get recognized, and get modded up. Can't you just put 'em on your foes list, so that you'll recognize them? Then you don't spend time reading their sometimes very well-written and plausible troll texts (unless you're actually in the mood for that sort of things). This guy is good(*), but he has a history and a reputation resulting from it.

      C'mon, people, get a memory. Quit modding up and replying to this kind of stuff. See the red dot, maybe admire it for a while, and then move along to the next one without modding it up or replying to it. (Topical replies, I mean. Replying to it editorially to critique the technique, is fine.)

      (*) I guess comments like that just encourage this sort of thing, but then, I'm not really against good trolling. I'm just against people, who should know better, falling for it.

    • This all depends on the local managers. I work in a US govt funded research org and I've been deploying Linux into FAA air traffic control facilities, National Weather Service Sites, and major airline operations centers since 1997.

      If you flew into any of the NY-NJ airports since 1999, FAA Air traffic managers controling your flight were looking at the weather on Debian Linux Dell PC's (PPro 200's!). The NWS Aviation Digital Data Service web site, where pilots go to get their weather graphics before they fly, is all Linux.

      I've got two award plaques on my wall from the FAA in thanks for those deployments so I'd say that at at least some govt workers have a clue. Our organisation is also deploying Linux clusters for the Army, and they are being used daily for operations in the US and Middle East. There are all types of people in Government. Some actually do good work.

      Before the awards I was asked to keep our linux deployments quiet, because of all the perception problems mentioned. The FUD was false. Working, reliable systems, at minimal cost spoke for themselves.

      I used to privately evangelize about Linux, but now I consider my ability to deploy complex and reliable Linux based systems a competitive advantage.

      • I used to privately evangelize about Linux, but now I consider my ability to deploy complex and reliable Linux based systems a competitive advantage.

        Yes, it is one thing to evangelize Linux when no one has heard of it, but now you almost hope that your competitors use something else.

  • Worry (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ThePilgrim ( 456341 ) on Friday August 02, 2002 @11:33AM (#3999458) Homepage
    The more governments get involved the more I start to worry.

    How long after Sadam Husain launches a major investment in OSS will it be before the US Govt. bans all its citizens form partisipating.
    • How long after Sadam Husain launches a major investment in OSS will it be before the US Govt. bans all its citizens form partisipating.

      How long after Saddam Hussein launches a major investments in weapons will it be before the US government bans all weapons?
  • it would be this mat... that would lay on the ground and have all kinds of different "conclusions" that you could "jump to". GET IT?!
  • by BrookHarty ( 9119 ) on Friday August 02, 2002 @11:37AM (#3999488) Homepage Journal
    Just wondering, Typical questions.

    1. If you want to use an opensource product, where do you learn about it? I know about oracle and mysql, but who do I goto for mysql paid support?

    2. What about total solutions, other than RedHat or VA Software, are there other vedors? Or do I just goto IBM and Say "Linux"?

    3. Are any opensource vendors bidding on government contracts?

    4. Do the opensource vendors support 24/7 priority support? What about public safety? (fire/police/ambulance/etc.)

    I deal with public safety, and they want a live person, with escalation if something is service impacting. They want service level agreements.

    If I contact a large vendor, they have all those answers, they even seek my business. I have not seen much opensource support or opensource products besides apache and support utiltiies. I have not *seen* many adverts, people offering demos, people offering to fill a niche market, where are the opensource companies people need to turn too?
    • Well, let's see. The one really big one that comes to mind is this company (maybe you've heard of it) called IBM. Database programs with support include Oracle, SAP and PostgreSQL (you can get support from them via contract if I remember correctly.) Same is true with MySQL, you can buy support from them directly. Basic Linux OS support can be purchased from most of the commercial distributions directly. You can also either retrain your current IT folks in Linux or, if they're too resistant, fire them and hire folks with more up-to-date skill sets.

      There's plenty of support for Linux solutions, but just like anything else, you have to do some shopping and research.

      The one thing you'll notice quickly about Linux is that once you're up and running, your _need_ for all that "service" you're used to with MS product dwindles to a trickle. It's one of the benefits of a really robust environment. There are a couple of links to TCO articles and Linux on the Linux Today site which you really should read if you're serious about considering Linux.

      Concerning opensourse developers bidding on government-generated contracts, I don't know.

      Hope this helps,

    • 1. For PostgreSQL you can go to PostgreSQL website - they
      offer paid support. PostgreSQL is much better for
      OLAP solutions. MySQL is very fast but I really don't like
      its design - no transactions, etc...
      2. You can go to mandrake-linux.com for some other solutions...
      3. Probably RedHat. I don't know for sure.
      4. Probably you can get Red Hat support 24/7
      For business cases in Mandrake [mandrakebizcases.com]
      you may click here...
    • 1. If you want to use an opensource product, where do you learn about it? I know about oracle and mysql, but who do I goto for mysql paid support?

      You can fall on two cases : few ppl use the software you want info about, or there are many. In the first case, you surely can ask directly the developer, he'll surely have time to answer you. In the second case, there is always a community behind the sofwtware where you can ask all your questions. Anyway, if you have a few coding skills, you still can check the sourcecode :)

      4. Do the opensource vendors support 24/7 priority support? What about public safety? (fire/police/ambulance/etc.)

      Most programs used by (fire/police/ambulance/etc.) are SPECIALIZED, that means that won't find that at your local shop :) Their softwares are made by special firms, so they surely have all the support they need.

      • Most programs used by (fire/police/ambulance/etc.) are SPECIALIZED, that means that won't find that at your local shop :) Their softwares are made by special firms, so they surely have all the support they need.

        One possible future nightmare here is COTS. (Commercial Off The Shelf). Which is practice means building a bespoke system on top of proprietary software. Build one from scratch or using open source and it will always be supportable. Use proprietary software as the basis and you could be held to ransom by a software company or left with a system which is impossible to support.
    • but who do I goto for mysql paid support?

      Too easy. You go to Mysql Services [mysql.com].

    • 1. If you want to use an opensource product, where do you learn about it? I know about oracle and mysql, but who do I goto for mysql paid support?
      Well, if you're interested specifically in mysql, then it's probably best to contact the company [mysql.com] that specializes in it.
      2. What about total solutions, other than RedHat or VA Software, are there other vedors? Or do I just goto IBM and Say "Linux"?
      Yep, go to IBM and just say Linux [ibm.com].
      3. Are any opensource vendors bidding on government contracts?
      You know, you really should learn to use google [google.com]

      Let's see:

      4. Do the opensource vendors support 24/7 priority support?
      Looks like IBM has you covered [ibm.com] again.
      What about public safety? (fire/police/ambulance/etc.)
      I'm pretty sure most fire/police/ambulance services operate 24/7 too.

      For the type of service you want for a system with Linux machines, I think IBM probably is the only way to go at this point.

  • What do they think about the UK's primary services gateway being entirely a M$ shindig, especially with reports that only IE is allowed as the client browser.

    With all the M$ help, and Bill Gates' trips to the UK, we'll need to start aquiring as much custard pies as possible. We know Bill loves them, especially the French varieties.

    • This caused a great deal of embarrassment for our brown nosing Microsoft led government.

      The UK Gov does seem to be looking again at Open Source. No doubt this will lead to frantic meetings between Bill and
      Tony!
    • Please notice that while the "goverment" may run on Microsoft the MOD [www.mod.uk] is much more intelligent- their web site runs Linux/Apache. Guess who's more concerned about security?

      Justin

  • Ho-Hum (Score:4, Interesting)

    by gerf ( 532474 ) <edtgerf@gmail.com> on Friday August 02, 2002 @11:44AM (#3999535) Journal

    Ok, Linux, despite what M$ may claim, has a place in today's post-pets.com/IPO/stupid-investing economy. As such, it's not as visible anymore. Think of it this way: when cell phones first came out, you knew who had one. They were different, elitist. Now, hilljacks from BFE Arkansas have cell phones, and no one notices. Once a Product becomes a standard part of everyday life, it just blends into the background.

    This conference wants to 'Raise Awareness' and such and such. I think that, for the most part, people are aware of Open-Source. There are few markets, such as the lucrative US gov't market, that have yet to fully embrace it, but that's only a matter of time.

    As of today, there are quite a few open-source companies, who unfortunately compete against each other, more often than not. This, IMHO, is the only reason that OSS is not as widely used as of yet. Yes, blame M$. But, that's just marketing. Marketing does wonders, but it's not everything. What is needed to overtake their monopolistic standing is another strong (not as big perhaps, but strong), company, with a very stable business behind it.

    When i first heard of United Linux, my thought was, "Finally." But, no, it's simply a loose conglomerate of some lesser distros. What is needed to finally grab hold of these markets that seem so out of reach, is a single entity. If I'm a businessman, and wish to use Linux, I ask, ok, show me linux. What happens? I'm asked, "What do you want? Suse, Lindows, Mandrake, Debian, United, RedHat, ect.?" This does not work. If a businessman were instead told, "Here is Gerf Linux, the best supported and used Linux distro out there. It's the de facto Linux for all users. And, it's parent company, Gerf Inc. is making money, and will be around to support it too." THAT my friends, is what would finally make Linux, or any software in general, look more appealing to a company/government/user/organization. So, who can do that, and how? Sadly, no one. Unless standards were set for every miniscule detail, this system is not going to prosper in the way we wish it to.

    • What is needed to finally grab hold of these markets that seem so out of reach, is a single entity

      I would just point them in the FreeBsd Direction. It is one single entity, and joe business user doesn't really give a shit whether it's "free" or not.
    • I mean, face it that's what you're proposing. I don't think it's nessessarily a bad thing to propose either, BUT... look at the situation globally.

      I've got to imagine that other governments, which are becoming more and more computer dependant don't like the idea of being dependant on a US company for their systems. Thus the murmer from other countries about using OpenSource software. Developers in their own countries can develop the software, see the source, et. al. Maybe we'd still have that with IBM Linux, but the question you should be asking is what's to stop the US Government form asking Microsoft to stop producing a Aribic language version of their software? Could they do the same with IBM linux?
    • Your not really into OSS/FS/linux/GNU are you? Let me demonstrate for you: "Here is Gerfispossiblyastupidasstroturfer Linux, it is built entirely on Open Standards and Free Software. It conforms very closely to the Linux Standards Base. We can currently purchase support for it from many of the top IT services companies. Because Linux can't be decommoditized, bought out, or otherwise stifled by any proprietary software vendors it will continue as a top tier enterprise platform for decades to come. Because of it's longevity companies will continue to support it for decades to come.
    • ugh, now i must explain myself

      first of all, i'm an electrical engineer. i simply stated the situation as i see it from a business point of view. i hate business, and its ethics. it's evil. i love open source. it's the funnest way to do things.

      "I would just point them in the FreeBsd Direction"

      Then do so! But, it's not an easily recognizable solution, without a well-known name (in idiotland, where business people dwell). very good point though, you may have caught me unawares..

      "Three Letters: I * B * M"

      IBM does the whole package, not just software. i like IBM, but they're not 'the' company like they used to be. Also, have you seen the IBM commercials that say "servers running Linux"? note, they don't say "running Redhat" or some other distro. Linux has a name out there, and they use the name that people know. i'm not sure what they use though, you can easily correct me on this

      "I've got to imagine that other governments, which are becoming more and more computer dependant don't like the idea of being dependant on a US company for their systems. Thus the murmer from other countries about using OpenSource software."

      That's also why they're making their own Global Positioning System, European style. National Security. But, i don't think that many corporations, individuals, or organizations, are going to go to a open source standard for that reason. Although i'm very glad to see them using OSS, simply for the fact that they then encourage development of it.

      "Don't you people get it? GNU/Linux isn't about big business and making money and consolidation and standards. It's about a bunch of hackers working together on something because it's fun, and because Free software is a Good Thing. If what we make happens to be better than the proprietary software that's out there, great. If not, who cares? It's a hobby. With all the hype around Open Source, people tend to forget the original aim of the movement: To write a Free operating system. If you want to turn it into a commercially viable Windows clone, good for you. If you want governments to adopt it, more power to you. Just don't attribute your goals to the rest of the Free Software movement."

      True, very true. it's also the reason why a lotta the original hackers, who are anarchists at heart (hellz yah), don't do as much for OSS development anymore. the aim is to write a free OS? well, if this 'movement' would work on the same project, under the same name, it would gain more recognition. but that's not the point, i am very aware. if it's crappier than proprietary stuff? then few will know of the sub-par OS and it will fall into the unknown(BeOS... though it's being re-developed for the fun of it).

      ""It conforms very closely to the Linux Standards Base. We can currently purchase support for it from many of the top IT services companies. Because Linux can't be decommoditized, bought out, or otherwise stifled by any proprietary software vendors it will continue as a top tier enterprise platform for decades to come. Because of it's longevity companies will continue to support it for decades to come."

      yes, Linux is good like that. I said that a single, de facto known Linux distro to rule them all, and in it bind them, would be good for the business and marketing aspect of Linux. isn't that what this conference is about? But, i never said that it would be proprietary. the development company would not be able to hide things about it, or favor those who create apps for it. it would be all open source, and free as in beer, just the way we like it. vive OSS

  • by bigsexyjoe ( 581721 ) on Friday August 02, 2002 @11:47AM (#3999556)
    Who's going to bribe politicans to get the government to use OSS? The tone of these articles suggest that the government would use it because it is better. Perhaps the author is trying to be funny.
    • (* Who's going to bribe politicans to get the government to use OSS? The tone of these articles suggest that the government would use it because it is better. Perhaps the author is trying to be funny. *)

      Hmmmm. We can't use money. Sex? Naw, geeks too ugly and smelly. Perhaps offer to fix their home machines or make them a home network if they lean toward OSS. Harder to trace then money anyhow.

  • by bigjocker ( 113512 ) on Friday August 02, 2002 @11:47AM (#3999557) Homepage
    I live in a third world country, and our government is pushing towards creating standards for the the development of government software. One of the points is to require all software developed for any government instance to be Open Source, they are even considering to create a sourceforge-like repository to handle all the projects.

    Why is this? well, I can see one obvious reason: all the local governments, central government instances, institutes, dependencies, etc have in one point of time developed software systems. One of the first dreams about the internet was to make all the government information available for the public, but in a disordered environment where everyone creates their own solution, using their own contractors, using their own tools and methos, you end up with a mess.

    I have seen a LOT of goverment software made in tools like FoxPro, VB, Pascal, etc by people who just had little knowledge in the field (mostly just-graduated people who had a "contact" with somebody making the desicions). The issue is that if you make standards and force the solutions to be Open Source (so anybody can audit your code) you gain a lot.

    I have always put the peruvian case as an example, the problem is that they got too much publicity and the big boys pushed back. Here everything is being done a lot quieter, but the end goal is almost the same.

    I have grat hopes in this kind initiatives.
    • Well, I live in France, so this post may as well go here. The French Government has been planning to switch to open source for about three years. The project currently looks stalled, mostly because of the elections, and partly because they can't decide between Linux and FreeBSD. The Carcenac Report, published last year, is quite informative about this trend. Unfortunately, there is no translation available. http://www.internet.gouv.fr/francais/textesref/rap carcenac/rapcarcenac.txt
    • What's wrong with pascal?
  • by AmericanInKiev ( 453362 ) on Friday August 02, 2002 @11:48AM (#3999561) Homepage
    The conferance should not limited itself to what Linux can do for the Government but it should ask what your government can do for Linux.

    Remember the internet exists not because compuserve decided to open its protocals but because the US government did. Open Source is a public good, and really needs public support (see economics 101, tragedy of the commons, and freeloader impact for details).

    The easiest way to support Open Source is to make Code contributions tax deductable. Tax exemption has driven the charity business in this country for years and it has funded a great deal of public good with minimal direct government control, and arguable one of the best overhead/performance ratios. Doesn't United Way operate at 11% overhead? Direct government departments like schools run at closer to 50% overhead with only a fraction of money actually spent in the classroom.

    Again - this is a forum to discuss an effecient method for funding the public good which is Open Source through tax deductions for individuals who contribute.

    AIK
  • ...The idea of increasing the use of software, esp. OSS, to manage and automate governmental systems, is definitely a good idea. Why? When computers are doing the computation/delivery of information, transaction costs are reduced to zero. I'd say this would make for a more efficient and less bloated form of government, once the actual programming and configuration of said systems were completed. The only caveat is that the policies and procedures implemented in such programs would have to be scrutinized to ensure fairness and equality.*

    That said, I don't think I've seen or heard of any open source application aimed at sectors of governmental operation... Any input on that subject?

    *(I use the terms 'fairness' and 'equality' relatively loosely, so they can still be applied to the subject of national government.)
    • sorry to reply to my own post, but I just realized that my aforementioned caveat is already taken care of in Open Source solutions! Rock!
    • I'm curious, where do you live that you get free electricity? Where buildings require no maintenance? Where infrastructure never needs repairs or upkeep?

      I'm really curious about this. I would have hoped "an econ student" would know better than this.

      I can almost see where software costs might reduce towards zero. System costs would not. Facility costs would not. And as those wonderful TCO studies love pointing out, initial system costs are usually not the largest part of lifecycle costs.

      I'm not saying OSS wouldn't reduce costs for governments. I expect it will/would. But don't try to sell it as "reduce transaction costs to zero." That is simply dishonest.
  • isn't a good idea to start a huge open source movement? I mean now with linux you can almost do anything that windows can do plus the fact that it is more stable always helps. Same with BSD and any of the others the only diference is that Linux is becoming more world known then BSD. I am totaly for a open source movement.
  • by ahfoo ( 223186 ) on Friday August 02, 2002 @11:59AM (#3999636) Journal
    This seems like a natural first step, but it's almost impossible to discuss the possibility of using open source with real teachers in real US schools because most teachers are simply afraid of technology. You know, it's like oh the little gremlins in the box are controlled by some guy in the district office who is watching me and recording every move I make. Please, just leave me alone before they find out I was talking with you about this hacker stuff.
    Even those who are supposed to be teaching technology will tell you that they have this huge investment in proprietary MS, educational titles so they have no choice but to stick with it. However, when you demonstrate that those same apps work under Wine they come up with this shuffle the feet thing that basically comes back to well I don't know about these important things that the district decides on and it's not really my business because the district has its policies.
    Then when I push for details on how the district is in such control over the individual classrooms they come to the part that really kills me which is where they say they have to use MS because it allows them to access the net and any non MS servers on their network are forbidden by the district. Perhaps this is just a snowjob from a teacher who is giving me a bunch of shit, but this is what I was told.
    At least school districts should encourage teachers to try and use open source rather than actively discouraging them with district policies set by Redmond. The situation we're in is insane and this is tax payers money. I don't see how the free market argument works in favor of closed source when we're dealing with tax dollars to begin with.
    • Right, make education a priority.
      Teachers are afraid of technology.
      Therefore, technology should be something they can just 'do', and not have to spend hours agonizing over 'kGrader' or 'gGrader' or whatever.
      I work in a large inner-city school district, and we DO use Open Source software for a lot of things. However, we also use lots of closed source, proprietary software (Novell and MS) because, quite frankly there is not a lot of real benefit cost wise to using Linux on the desktop. Do you realize what schools pay? 40 bucks per desktop, gets your ALL the MS products - it's even cheaper if you just want the OS. Linux is free licensing, but the training and reorientation of 15000 staff and teachers is unbelievably expensive.
      Believe me, we are 'phasing' it in slowly...but there is no reason to just jump ship to Linux or BSD or whatever. Our primary goal is to keep the teachers feeling comfortable, and the students learning.
      Teachers don't use linux, and aren't 'encouraged' to use Open Source, because teachers don't have the TIME to be bothered with something as completely unimportant as what software they are using. That is the JOB of the district support staff. Homogenity is a goal that is strongly enforced to keep our underpaid staff on top of things. Our teachers should be writing lesson plans and talking to parents and helping out students, not worrying about fscking their HDD's or anything like that.
      We are mandated by law to provide certain levels of access and associated computer services, to ALL students. To do this, we place restrictions on what can, and cannot go on the network. We don't want Jane English Teacher to setup her Redhat workstation and say 'DHCP Server', and take out a whole net because of her misconfigured workstation. So, before spouting OSS Nonsense, take a step back to the real world, and look at what's important. Giving children an education is the goal, not pushing your software agenda.

      And, fyi, MANY different systems are used by students now adays (Mac, Windows, Novell, hell, we even have CISCO classes.).
    • I have been working very hard to bring open source not only to the infrastructure but also the curriculum of UMASS [umassonline.net]. We get students from all over the US enrolled and they are excited to see these topics as part of the official curriculum. As a result, there are now courses at the on-line and classroom portions of UMASS Lowell and UMASS Boston. Intro courses, admin courses, scripting courses, PERL, Web (PHP/Postgresql) and C++ all using only open source tools.

      Contact YOUR university and ask why their distance learning platform doesn't support Linux or open source browsers. Ask them when they intend to start offering courses on open source software and why students have to pay astronomical amounts for Visual C++ when the far better g++ is free!

      Believe me- they'll listen to students but only if you make yourselves heard

      Justin
      • Universities may be sexy, but I think K12 is where the tax dollars are really spent and that should be a priority.
        If that five year old copy of Mavis Beacon Teaches typing works under Wine but requires a five hundred dollar upgrade to work under Win2k, it is truly scandalous for a district to justify spending their money treading water on the Microsoft payment plan.
        And when the schools start cranking out students who think that Microsoft created the internet it's gone too far. I just had a friend's kid beg me not to install Linux on her Dad's PC because she wouldn't be able to use the internet as everybody knows that requires Microsoft Windows. I was stunned.
        I'm all for the schools having more money for technology, but let's spend it on hardware. How about DLP projectors in the classrooms and more bandwidth for the school network? There are plenty of legitimately extravagant ways of spending money for education that aren't blatant corporate welfare.
  • Blah (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Cow herd ( 2036 ) on Friday August 02, 2002 @11:59AM (#3999637) Homepage
    We work fairly closely with the state for alot of online stuff, (manage a state, county and local websites, state agencies, web apps, that kind of thing) and we're a big open source shop... we've had developers that have worked (in spite of our stupid IP-owning contracts) for open source projects such as FreeTDS. We use Apache, Perl, tomcat, mysql, Postgres, Linux. Yeah, we have some commercial stuff here too, Oracle, Informix, and some commercial dev libraries. On the whole, we use open source when we can... we're a pretty geeky shop and management doesn't care how the job gets done as long as it does get done, which makes for a pretty cool environment to work in, as we can play around with all sorts of different methods.

    Having said that, pushing Open Source in government, (ANY government, at least here in the US) is very tricky... this is changing a bit as security is becoming a bit of a critical issue for many agencies, and the "don't ask, don't tell" policies of many commercial shops w/r/t security is starting to wear thin. However, for the large part, commercial vendors still run the show. Our states' information management services division is very much a buzzword-du-jour type shop, pimping the latest redmond-hyped technology, often to the detriment of the taxpayer (when a simple open source solution would suffice just as easily, and cost only labor...) Of course, finding someone who can run a few "Wizards" to cobble together some microsoft apps into a work system is alot easier than finding people clueful enough about open source to make it work really well...

    Also another prevailing attitude is the good old "you get what you pay for" stance, although this varies from place to place... the reaction covers the scale from "We don't want no hippie-pinko crap on our network" to "You can save us how much????"

    Hopefully as time goes on, the attitudes in government towards open source will shift further towards the positive, but I think that this could take quite a while. Just a few thoughts....
    • Anonymous Cow herd,
      if you're reading replies to your post, please email me at sjwillis at yahoo dot com
      i am currently involved in a state govt oss issue and i could use some feedback.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Oh, that's easy. "Business is bad. Microsoft is evil. George W. Bush is a dictator. Business is bad, bad, bad. Everything should be free. Free Tibet. Business is bad. Impeach Bush." Gimme a fucking break. How can people be so rational while they're writing code, and so random and stupid at all other times?
  • I know that open source software has a good security track record, but if governments start to run open source software to support their infrastructure doesn't it open a whole new can of worms?

    Is open source robust enough to resist tampering by whole countries? Wouldn't you have to run security checks on the lead developers? Imagine all of the back doors you could put in if you really tried. I guess this isn't much of a concern now because there isn't a strong movement for it.

    Wouldn't you have to have at some point a closed government modified/verified branch?
    • If you really, really tried to put a back door into an OS project, some clever so-and-so will be bound to sneakily read the (Open!) source code, and spot it. There's no problem with having an open verified branch - the fact that it's verified would mean it's less easily penetrated/exploited, so everyone would benefit. If I had any mod points, I'd mod your post up to 'Funny' - 'cause you can't really be serious, can you?
      • Well this if only if the malicous hacker made his back door easly readible. If the reader didn't know about a certain type of vulerability i.e. buffer overflow. A malicous hacker can exploit his own program in ways that haven't been done before.

        Even the closest examination of the source code can miss things. How can you make sure that this wasn't done?
        • There are tools for checking for possible buffer overflows - implement these in your debugger, and you'll catch pretty much all of them.

          The advantage of OS is that you've got *lots* of folks looking at the code, so very little will get past everyone.

          I use OS where appropriate, proprietary software when I have to.

          Being a Brit, I'd be much happier to see our government running OS solutions than M$, anyday....
  • MS is Evil (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    They say that if you play the MS Windows CD backwards, you hear satanic messages... But thats nothing... If you play it forwards, it installs windows :D
  • by Anonymous Coward
    We deal in power and dams in the northwest. The problem with open source is that EVERY fed employee, even my dad, LIKES to spend your hard earned tax dollars. Yup, if they can not pay for something, they don't want it. Why? Because there are budgets to spend and if they do not meet their budgets, they get less money the next time.

    The other MAJOR problem is that the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing. The building I work in has 10 floors. Each one of these floors has their own computer room, it is massive BTW, and server/network teams. They ALL use different equipment for the SAME tasks.

    On thing I see open source fixing is the buying process.

  • by Erore ( 8382 ) on Friday August 02, 2002 @01:00PM (#4000048)
    The simple fact is that the US Government is the single largest "company" in the World. It has millions of employees, hundreds of thousands computers, and it purchases things from thousands of other companies.

    It is this purchasing power that affects everyone. In the business world you try to lower the barriers of communication and collaboration with your main customers as much as possible. Often this means switching to applications that the customer users. They use EDI, so you use EDI; they accept bids on a website that requires Intnernet Explorer, you run a Windows machine to use Internet Explorer; they will only accept Word documents in response to Request for Proposals, you don't dare risk having something misformatted because you used OpenOffice and loose a million dollar bid.

    Get the picture? If the government switches to Linux, OpenOffice, Apache, etc, and sends messages back to vendors that say, "I'm sorry, I couldn't open your attachment it was in a format my software doesn't understand," guess what? That vendor will change to fit what the goverment wants.

    Now, Microsoft will say this is bad. It is bad...for Microsoft. It is bad for them because they will loose customers. It is not bad for capatalism, as they would try to say. Sure, it means that software companies like MS will not be as big as they have been in the past, they will cut jobs, they will have lower shareholder value, yada yada yada. But, this does not mean capitalism is hurt. It just means the money that was going to MS will now be going to other things.

    Those other things might be other software companies, like Redhat, or others yet to be founded, or it might be that the money is spent to improve roads, cleanup toxic dumps, or build a high speed commuter rail. This doesn't make MS happy, but it makes taxpayers happy.

    In fact, the government might not spend the money at all, instead, they might lower taxes. And the companies that save money by not buying MS will spend the money on capital improvements that enchance their business, or on the employees.

    And when employees have more money in their pockets because of lower taxes and higher paychecks, they will spend it on cars, clothes, books, computers (which cost less because they don't have Windows on them), and other things.

    This is why Microsoft fights tooth and nail to stop a goverment from switching. They did it in Mexico, they are doing it now in Peru and China.

    Remember, Microsoft is a very good and successful company, but they are also a rich kid that hordes it's money. They do not stimulate the economy the way companies that spend do.
  • by ke4roh ( 590577 ) <jimes@hi w a a y . n et> on Friday August 02, 2002 @03:04PM (#4001133) Homepage Journal
    Sure, government can benefit from using open source from the regular OS community, but government can benefit from contributing to the community, too.

    I'm working on a couple of projects they tell me will be open source (I haven't seen the license yet, but I expect it to be fine) for the EPA [epa.gov]. There are some good reasons for making it open source:

    • The same physics apply everywhere. I write one Gaussian plume [rpi.edu] atmospheric transport routine, and it works for anyone who wants to use it.
    • People can review the work. Other models do the same thing, but the source code is not available. Meteorologists aren't going to reverse-engineer the code and figure out what's going on. They would rather be able to review it outright.
    • It helps other organizations which have the same problems.
    Granted, the particular code that processes data for the Regional Haze Rule [epa.gov] isn't very helpful to anyone but the EPA, the Department of the Interior [interior.gov], and the states [50states.com], but consider the utility of open source library software, call tracking software, document retrieval software, GIS applications, and more.

    There are a number of special purpose applications that governments have a particular need for, and there's no reason everyone should develop the software separately.

  • plone.org [plone.org] just linked to great little promo video by someone at the Government of Hawaii (Windows Media Format). [ low bandwidth [hawaii.gov] | high bandwidth [hawaii.gov] | 1.7MB .AVI [state.hi.us] ] showing the features of their new website built with Python, Zope, Zope CMF Plone skin, etc. All open source, of course.

Sendmail may be safely run set-user-id to root. -- Eric Allman, "Sendmail Installation Guide"

Working...