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Mega-Geek March? 209

hammerm writes " According to an article on, 'A group of open source and free software developers is planning to lead a march on San Francisco's City Hall next week in an effort to promote the use of freely available software by California's government offices,' and it goes on to say 'it aims to bring attention to proposed legislation that would require California's government offices to use software with freely available source code rather than products from proprietary vendors such as Microsoft Corp.'"
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Mega-Geek March?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 11, 2002 @10:02AM (#4050128)
    On the one hand, this is persuasive. OTOH, the persuasion that occurs when hordes of smelly, pasty geeks all simultaneously shouting about guhnew this and kernel spinlock that and all staring at the secretaries tits is going to be "these guys really ARE menaces to society that should be locked away".
    • And in other news...several thousand Bay Area computer professionals spontaneously combusted during their march. Experts speculate cause of death due to direct exposure to sunlight.

      One San Fransisco man noted, "I could not believe it. It was like they had never seen the sun before. There was this god forsaken hiss of pain, then they all just started melting!"
    • Well, it looks like the march never happened.

      It's Thursday night, and the silence was deadening.
  • I suspect that some microsofties will have betting pools on how many demonstrators will show up.

    If dozens show up, this is not so good.

    if a hundred thousand show up, politicians will be amazed.

    So what is the likely out come? I am guessing a few thousand.

    • by merc_sa ( 35777 ) on Sunday August 11, 2002 @10:35AM (#4050213)
      here's a better idea.. start a foundation and instead of wasting money on the inevitable stupid looking costumes, each geek contributes $10. Next, select a politician target to defeat, preferably one of the DMCA proponent idiots. Take a pool of collected cash and give it to the opponent of the targetted politician and vote for the opponent come this midterm election. Given this is a midterm election, turn out will be light. After tossing out the targetted politician, put another politician in the crosshair. All we need is that first unemployed politician to make them take notice.

      a march just convince the rest of the population that geeks are a bunch of weirdos and must avoid eye contact at every opportunity.

      • Not to be a troll, but this is my view on this:

        I understand from your words: "If you can't fight them, join them."
        Read, if they can bribe politicians, why can't we?

        How can you be sure that the politician the money goes to doesn't ask for more and give less than expected? How are you even sure there is a politician that is willing to help?

        A politician recieves money, and then recieves more money from a different corporation, he acts for the big corporation and all the money spent has been lost.

        If there is some politician that will aid in this, fine... If there isn't, the money would be better spent donating to Free/Open Software companies/organizations that really need the money to help and not just a slight chance that the politician will stay on "our" side.
      • here's a better idea.. start a foundation
        you mean something likegeekpac []
    • If I weren't all the way on the other coast, I'd go. :)

      I imagine there will be dozens of San Francisco-ans, hundreds of Californians, and thousands who happened to be in town for the Expo.

      I also imagine opponents of the idea will be quick to point out that there's likely to be a lot of non-Californians there demonstrating over a state issue, and they'll use that point to deflate the actual numbers. O'course it's NOT just a state issue, IMHO, since people, companies and organizations outside of California have to communicate with the California state government...

    • Nah. If hundreds show up, people will just assume it's the early line for Star Wars: Episode III.
  • As a communityy we seem to have some difficulty promoting ourselves in a constructive manner through "traditional" methods.

    The Linux/OSS communities are (as seems logical) most effective when organizing themselves through the internet.

    While I hope that this demonstration goes well I am not expecting the turnout to be terribly large (even in a city as techie as San Francisco) and am not setting my hopes terribly high for their success.
  • by LordZardoz ( 155141 ) on Sunday August 11, 2002 @10:06AM (#4050136)
    Perhaps the motive is just to get a bunch of lazy programmers out from in front of their computers and walking around for exercise?

    • (* the motive is just to get a bunch of lazy programmers out from in front of their computers and walking around for exercise *)

      The economy is already doing that

      Where is the anti-H1B marches, BTW?
  • I thought the software that was proprietary, not the vendor...
    • I think that technically, you may be right. But when a vendor makes it policy to release proprietary software with little exception, possibly they can be called 'proprietary' also.

      Or you could think of it as if they left out the word 'software' in a phrase like 'proprietary [software] vendor.'
  • Why March? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Em Emalb ( 452530 ) < minus poet> on Sunday August 11, 2002 @10:06AM (#4050138) Homepage Journal
    Something I don't quite get. The march is designed to promote open source as a viable solution to the state's OS needs right?

    Why isn't it done like everything else in government life: ie, make a bid on a project. There are tons of OpenSource consulting companies out there, make a bid like the Novells and MSs of the world and see what happens.

    Or, has this already occured?

    Now for the flamebait piece:

    With all the problems that face society in general today, these jokers are going to march in support of open source software? I mean, really.
    • With all the problems that face society in general today, these jokers are going to march in support of open source software? I mean, really.

      Well lets say it works and the the govenment switchs to entirley open source sofware for everything and they save BIG$$$$ then they have BIG$$$ to spend on the problems you find more worthy so it is a win win for everyone
    • Re:Why March? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      If the proposed legislation is as described, namely requiring the use of OSS, then it actually reduces choice.

      Those who support choice reduction in the name of freedom are hypocrites.
    • wtf? this always gets on my tits - why does everybody seem to think that all the rest of the world (except for them, of course) has to spend their every waking moment doing whatever will bring the absolute most benefit to humanity? With all the problems that face society today, you are sitting on your ass posting to slashdot. I mean, really.
      • I never said they had to spend every waking moment doing this, those are your words. As far as me sitting on my ass posting to slashdot, I am at work, what's your excuse?

        My point was, sure, OSS is a good thing. As I stated above, which no one has commented on, btw., is why aren't they utilizing the same channels everyone else is? You don't see Novell people out there marching do you? No, they use the system same as everyone else.

        As far as I am concerned, marching over a frigging operating system is ludicrous, and I posted as such, and stated why I thought so. Now, since you obviously care enough to comment to my posting, tell me why my position is wrong.

    • Why isn't it done like everything else in government life: ie, make a bid on a project. There are tons of OpenSource consulting companies out there, make a bid like the Novells and MSs of the world and see what happens.
      Of course they bid:
      GNU/Linux: $0/computer
      Novell: $90/computer
      Mircrosoft: $100/computer $1000/vote

      Mircrosoft is the clear winner of the bidding!

      Note: this was completely made up and I'm not saying Mircrosoft actually did that.
    • Re:Why March? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Arandir ( 19206 )
      Ever bid on a government project, especially one in California? I have. It's not fun. It's highly specialized work for highly specialized firms.

      Here's the problems:

      A) Paperwork measured in tonnage. The time involved filling this out is often better spent selling your product to the private industry instead. The rules regarding bidding in California are byzantine.

      B) Checklists. When the government wants a bid on something, they specify exactly what they want. 99 times out of 100, this specifies a particular product in everything but name.

      C) The Old Boy Network. Sad but true. If you aren't part of the network, consider offering bribes. I'm not really sure if I'm joking here or not...

      I'm not at all surprised that Open Source companies haven't won any government bids. I would be surprised, however, if any actually made it for enough just to submit a bid!
    • Something I don't quite get. The march is designed to promote open source as a viable solution to the state's OS needs right?

      Well, no. According to the article:

      Rather it aims to bring attention to proposed legislation that would require California's government offices to use software with freely available source code rather than products from proprietary vendors such as Microsoft.

      The idea isn't to compete, it's to have non-open choices removed from consideration.

  • by marko123 ( 131635 ) on Sunday August 11, 2002 @10:08AM (#4050146) Homepage
    We could represent our method of writing software by walking just like Microsoft would, but more jerkily and occasionally falling over.

    Alternatively, we can march in two different directions, to simulate KDE and GNOME. Then the walkers in each direction can break into two directions, one for Free Software, and one for Open Source. Eventually, we will all be outside the city, separated, unable to hear each other, and blaming Microsoft for the situation :)

    • KDE & Gnome (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      The KDE guys start off first, but the Gnome group complains that the KDE people started off on their left foot, and they should have started on their right. So the Gnome people start off, and both groups are going in the same general direction. Occasionally, the two groups bump into each other, and for a little while it looks like they may march together, as one group. Eventually, though, they start stepping on each others toes, and the Gnome people complain that the KDE people are "walking wrong". So they split off into two groups again.

      Towards the end of the march, the KDE guys keep breaking into a sudden sprint, which leaves the Gnome people puffing to keep up.

      The Emacs & Vi people simply gun each other down at the start of the march, saving everyone a lot of trouble along the way.
  • I'm glad to finally see a positive movement among the pro-"Open Source" people. It's pretty tiring to continually be reading the usual rhetoric, "Linux rules!!" and "Micro$oft suckz" over and over again. This also project a negative stereotype of the "typical" Open Source software users to those who might be considering a change away from expensive sole-proprietorship software. I only hope they get a significant enough turn-out to actually look like Open Source stands for something. Unfortunately, I won't be flying down from Waterloo, Ontario, but my boss is going to be there.
    • Perhaps the organizational aspect of it is a positive move, however, I find it hard to believe that there won't be people there yelling "Linux Rulz" and so on. It's like any protest/march/gathering... it just takes a couple of bad apples, and the whole group goes down with them... and we all know just from reading postings on /., some people just don't get it.
      But I'll just shut up now...
      • I find it hard to believe that there won't be people there yelling "Linux Rulz" and so on.

        There wouldn't be much of that, I should think, hardly any of that at all. And they certainly wouldn't ceremoniously burn a Microsoft flag in front of TV cameras, surrounded by a ferocious mob of wildly cheering geeks. They wouldn't go that far...
  • Well, this is like a rich man being mistaken for a beggar and subsequently mobbed by well meaning philantrophists.

    Am I the only one who thinks there is a weird topsy turvy humour to the whole situation?
  • by dirk ( 87083 ) <> on Sunday August 11, 2002 @10:11AM (#4050155) Homepage
    I don't understand why people are supporting this. Requiring the government to use a specific type of software is a bad idea, whether that software be open source or closed source. The government should be using the best software for the job. All types of software should be considered, and all aspects of the software (availability of source code, price, features, easy of use, etc) should be considered. The minute you lock into one type of software, you set yourself up for major problems. Sure, Linux and Open Office are good enough to replace Windows and MS Office, but if they require all their software be OSS, what are they going to use for their financial system? The OSS financial products are no where near as good as the closed source products. There are some places where there just isn't a good OSS alternative and requiring them to use an inferior product makes no sense at all. We should be encouraging the government to consider all products equally, not trying to pull the same tactics that MS is pulling. It's no more right for the OSS community to lock people in than it is for the CSS people (even less right when we are trying to make it a law that cannot easily be changed if the policy is bad).
    • have you read this letter []?
      • Yes, I've read it.

        But tell me, when this law is passed, is the state of California going to have to replace it's mainframe systems with little intel servers running Linux? Are the state's welfare systems (Medi-Cal, Healthy Families, etc.) Going to try and service millions of people and their health providers with Linux? Those systems are immmense. They might be able to rewrite and run on AIX or Solaris, but I don't think Linux can support mission critical big iron yet.

        • Using linux isn't the only system that qualifies here. BSD is a possiblity too. Furthermore, if this legislation was enacted, these other vendors might reconsider their licenses and/or put more money into pre-existing open operating systems. I guess my point is that using a OSS does not immediately imply Linux and that there are a few other possibilities to consider.
          • You're right, but BSD, for example is on par with Linux in terms of Enterprise level capabilities. Yes IBM and Sun are putting emphasis on Open Source these days. But it's not there yet. Are we going to force the state to migrate all their big iron hardware running critical services to Open Source in the hopes that these vendors will somehow make Linux able to support that level of computing? And what will be the reaction when the DMV or Medi-Cal or whatever breaks?

            • Dude, he linked to that letter. If you said you read it, then you should respond to them points.

              What you are basically saying is that free software can't do this, this, or this yet. The letter, however, is saying that the government could maintain software that is available to the public. And if the country of Peru can afford to maintain software, then I'm sure the United States can.

              So the letter that was linked to has already rebutted the points you are trying to make.

              Maybe your real objection is with the GNU GPL as opposed to a BSD-style license. First, BSD software is free software also. Second, the stance that BSD is more "free" than the GPL has always seemed contradictory to me.
    • Yeah, The whole idea of this proposal seems inheritly stupid to me. Sure, I know that the whole idea of this bill is to cut costs and promote competition, but it seems to be doing quite the opposite.

      For example, if a government office is already successfully using a commercial product, why should they have to throw it away and use an OSS product? Besides losing the money originally spent on the software, you're also going to have to spend money on implimentation and training. AND, if the product isn't as good as the commercial product, that government office is going to lose productivity until the software is improved. Forcing people to use inferior products is also a lousy way to encourage people that OSS is higher quality. All it could take is one vocal group of disgruntled Oracle or Office users proving that MySQL or KOffice is inferior to get parts of this bill overturned.

      Not to mention that the whole idea of forcing Open Source software down people's throats seems wrong to me. If there is a better commercial option out there, everyone should be allowed to it! This is still America we're talking about, a country where you should still have freedom of choice. The Open Source community shouldn't start acting like a bunch of communists in order to promote their agenda.
    • "Requiring the government to use a specific type of software is a bad idea, whether that software be open source or closed source."

      Here's [] an interesting rebuttal:

      "The basic principles which inspire the Bill are linked to the basic guarantees of a state law, such as:

      Free access to public information by the citizen.

      Permanence of public data.

      Security of the State and citezens.

      To guarantee the free access of citizens to public information, it is indespensable that the encoding of data is not tied to a single provider. The use of standard and open formats gives a guarantee of this free access, if necessary through the creation of compatible free software.

      To guarantee the permanence of public data, it is necessary that the usability and maintenance of the software does not depend on the goodwill of the suppliers, or on the monopoly conditions imposed by them. For this reason the State needs systems the development of which can be guarenteed due to the availability of the source code.

      To guarentee national security or the security of the State, it is indespensable to be able to rely on systems without elements which allow control from a distance or the undesired transmission of information to third parties. Systems with source code freely accessible to the public are required to allow their inspection by the State itself, by the citizens, and by a large number of independent experts throughout the world. Our proposal brings further security, since the knowledge of the source will eliminate the growing number of programs with *spy code."

      I don't there is anything I can say that can top that. It should be obvious that proprietary software is not a solution for government software.

  • by mgkimsal2 ( 200677 ) on Sunday August 11, 2002 @10:12AM (#4050158) Homepage
    Legislation demanding the use of one type of software, with licensing the primary concern, goes a bit too far. Legislation should instead simply dictate that all types of software are considered - bringing open source packages to the attention of decision makers is sometimes all that's needed, as many only know about MS, Lotus, etc. and don't know about some quality open source packages which perform the same task for a lower cost or with other benefits.

    LEGISLATING that everyone has to use open source regardless of other factors has a bad impact. It smacks of 'affirmative action' programs and admission standards - you can't always be sure the people around you are there in that job or student seat because they can actually hack it, or there was a government program that placed them there regardless of merit or ability.

    Legislating a written review process for software would help open the process to open source. Consider if we had written records of purchasing decisions. For example, person X considered Open Office, but went ahead and purchased 500 copies of Word for a bank of users who only ever read memos emailed from another branch. Having that on record, open for review, will surely help departments consider open source more, if only initially from a financial standpoint. It won't be an overnight thing, but it'll help.

    It's just as wrong to legislate everyone use Open Office as it is to legislate that everyone use MS Office.
    • well, i don't think a law that dictates the software that should be or should not be used is good. I think there has to be something that defines the open standards to be used by the governement. Users and government then can decide which software they will use, closed or open source software.

      This prevents companies like MS adding extensions to open standards (for example additions to html or javascript which only work in one program).
    • I think that the senator from peru(or wherever) made a good point when he said opensource SHOULD be mandated for gov't use to protect the government from attacks or espionage. we've all heard the rumors that microsoft has put in back door so the cia or nsa or whoever could get in, now imagine if you're a country who doesn't get along with the US(now or in the future)... all your gov't software has been backdoored and easily accessable by your enemy. with OSS, it can be reviewed(chances are that it won't be, but I like the option dammit).

      That's why it should be mandated. if a CSS software company(MS) wants to join the fray, they can include a wimpy OSS clone of their program.
      And you're correct, it wouldn't be fair to microsoft. BUT, at that point, they would be putting out an inferior product. Screw NDAs and CSS. I write html a frickin day, and I'd gladly share my asp or php with anyone how would like a copy(minus the hackable stuff:)

      I get the feeling that if microsoft wasn't a US company,they'd all feel differently. What if it was located in Iraq? Russia?(get the old cold war feeling going). Let's take china for example. Theoretically, if China was planning on attacking the US(viva la socialism), or something else along those lines, China would make sure it got rid of any 'threats' to my security... which they might would percieve as windows. if you were in their shoes, wouldn't you?

      forgive my spelling, I just woke up.Random thoughs suck too.
    • it need not make decisions based on cost. By its very nature it should take into account the people that it serves. And investing money in openly available technologies helps all. Investing money in propiretary solutions justs enriches the pockets of a few.

      The bottom line is if Open Office or some other solution isn't good enough; with just a wee bit of Government funding it would be.

      • "with just a wee bit of Government funding it would be."

        It's got a multi billion dollar corp behind it already, and there's still problems with it. What would a 'wee bit' of funding do?

        And investing money in openly available technologies helps all.

        I don't see how this is always the case. It only helps those who use the technologies, it doesn't help the people who develop them. It most certainly doesn't help 'all'.
    • It smacks of 'affirmative action' programs and admission standards...

      Openness of government is essential, except, perhaps, where the government is "classified". Acheiving this doesn't require Affirmative Action, which has been and always will be a debatable practice.

      A good compromise would be for government customers to begin demanding that their software use open file formats and protocols at a minimum. If a closed-source software package is so good, then opening its file format won't destroy its user base, right? Opening up formats and protocols will go very far in leveling the playing field between all the different options, and everyone that uses software will benefit, regardless of Open Source vs. Closed Source.

  • I've always been skeptical of the rahrah marches that seems to dominate the latest fad.
    Unfortunately, the geek populace tends to be politically apathetic or cynical. A well
    organize block vote will have a much more effect on political policies than silly marches which
    generally devolves into a rotten excuse for street theatre and fringe hoodlumism. The end
    result will end up demeaning a well intended effort. Nothing speaks to a politician clearer
    than cold hard cash. Until open source becomes a serious political lobby like the christian right,
    NRA, or AARP, it'll merely be treated as an oddity and not be taken seriously.

  • by AdamBa ( 64128 ) on Sunday August 11, 2002 @10:16AM (#4050164) Homepage
    I fearlessly predict this measure won't work, since the proprietary software companies are the ones with the money.

    The real point should be open DATA FORMATS...the government should be able to know the format of all the data that it is storing on behalf of the people of the state. I 100% agree that government procurement is a great way to enforce this kind of thing, but they should be pushing for something else. Open source, closed source, whatever...just make the data formats available [].

    - adam

    • This seems wise but it isn't. The meaning of any data format is really described by the program which operates on it. Thus you really can't have an open data format without open source code which describes the behavior which data in the given format behaves.

      A very bad compromise is to require one "reference" implementation that is open source, and if any implementation does something different than the reference, it is wrong. The problem with this compromise is clear to see with XML technologies. Despite how much Microsoft's implemetnations differ from the open source "reference" implementation who is right? That's right, Microsoft. Why? Beacuse they have the biggest distribution. So, this is a loosing compromise.

      In the end it's rather simple, when faced with a nasty company the only solution is source code availability (note: this doesn't necessarly mean "open source").
      • Why can't you have an open data format without the source? It's not any different from a network protocol. Can you have TCP be open without knowing the source code? Sure.

        To check, just look at data files and see if the format accurately describes every bit in there (in the article I linked to, I talk about automated ways to do this). Sure the doc might not be perfect at first, but eventually it becomes so.

        One big issue is retrieving data from a file in 10 or 20 years. Which would you rather have then, a program that read the file and did something with it (which may or may not even be compilable by then), or a full doc of the format? Keep in mind that almost any company that owns a proprietary format will have some internal complete documentation of it, they just need to release it (and possibly standardize how it is doc'ed).

        - adam

    • I agree. Educating the government to push for open data formats will result in governments being economically incented to use completely open source solutions and will also have the added benefit of encouraging more competitive open source software.

      It worries me when anyone tries to rely on regulation to succeed and I worry that asking for open source requirements will make people question its viability and merits. The government should use the software that best meets their requirements - PERIOD. But requiring open data formats is basically an essential part of having an open bidding process - it increases the number and competitiveness of compatible options. If an excellent closed solution provides critical features that a crappy open source alternative does not, then the government should use the proprietary solution. The same goes for a significantly superior open source solution. However, if the different solutions are able to score the same on features and functionality, then a good open source solution should win almost every time for economic reasons.

      Of course to really even out the playing field, professional tenders will need to be prepared and championed for the open source solutions. These will need to include total economic costs, timelines and plans to develop additional features, plans for internal or outsourced support, etc. Sometimes these will be done by open source integrators/providers (Red Hat, IBM, etc.) but provisions should be made to encourage truly free and open source bids, either by creating incentives for outside organizations or by creating internal bodies to develop and champion these solutions. Such a group would also need the ability to lobby for bidding criteria that is fair and practical about open source software.
  • I will definitely be joining in next week! Its nice to see people using some of thier rights to insight change instead of just complaining, sure its not curing world hunger but this is a good thing. If more programmers would get involved in goverment even on a local scale and teach some of the less knowledgeable politicians, maybe not so many foolish decisions would be made in government concerning technology (especially Open Source and Fair Use).
  • hrmm... (Score:2, Funny)

    by acehole ( 174372 )
    just dont do what I did, turned up to the wrong march and ended up marching for gay rights (not that there's anything wrong with that).

    Its hard to get across the message of open source when you're wearing drag....
  • by Chicane-UK ( 455253 ) <> on Sunday August 11, 2002 @10:23AM (#4050181) Homepage
    I think Linux has got to the point now, where it is a mature and sturdy product, which easily rivals any other platform in many different fields. The problem is, free software marches, geeks proclaiming that Microsoft is evil, and cartoons of Tux & the BSD Daemon kicking Bill Gates ass don't really make people believe that Linux reliable business product that it actually is.

    I think a lot of the Linux groups & distributions need to get together and plan some kind of marketing campaign, using the resources of all their people, which could really help Linux gain some real limelight - it has certainly earned it, and now it deserves the chance to shine through.
    • Thats an interesting thought, take a collection at each lug and use the money to show people the stability and ease of use of linux. I am sure RedHat and possibly even apple would help as well.
    • ...cartoons of Tux & the BSD Daemon kicking Bill Gates ass don't really make people believe that Linux reliable business product that it actually is.

      OTOH MS has no qualms about such depictions. According to this ./ comment [],

      "[Microsoft] had a video intro type thing for Windows 2000 Professional in which they had a female actress kicking the crap out of a guy in a penguin suit with her saying, 'Still using Linux, sissy?', plus other little gems of class and character that show Microsoft for who they really are."
  • i feel sorry for any reporter i the area. just imagine interviewing someone who hasn't had a shower in days..........and if the reporter is a women being asked "do you do unix" or "wannna see my box". i'm reminded of the guy defcon running around with antena shaped like a penis looking for wireless networks...................
  • by s20451 ( 410424 ) on Sunday August 11, 2002 @10:25AM (#4050186) Journal
    Is that 10^6 geeks, or 2^20 geeks? Or some hybrid, like (10^3)*(2^10)?
  • by codepunk ( 167897 ) on Sunday August 11, 2002 @10:25AM (#4050187)
    It is just like filling in your yearly IT budget requests. You put in something totally unrealistic and hope that you actually get most of what you ask for. A smart person will immediately see that this is in fact a push for open data formats. Like the article says, legislation is a compromise. No valid argument can be held against the fact that govt should own their data.

    It has little chance of passing in it's current state but that is never the intended goal.

  • Mega-Geek March = a march of gigantic (or important geeks)

    Mega Geek-March = large turnout of geeks, not necessarily important or large, for a march (although, knowing the eating habits of many geeks, I can guess about the "large geek" part)

    Perhaps there need to be extra spaces and such:
    Meg, a geek march!
    Me gag! Geek, march!

    I guess I'm a little punchy after I just wake up...
    • That's a really good question. When I submitted the post, my headline was something like "California March for Free Software." And when it got posted, it was reworked. I guess its suppose to grab people's attention. It grabbed mine, and I said "whatever."
  • A protest for free software usage in San Fransisco sounds good. However, considering MS's plans for the government to back trusted computing, making "open platforms" "a thing of the past" (Microsoft as quoted in the New York Times), and the goings on in the commerce department concerning rates for internet radio (we're almost too late on that issue), shouldn't we be organizing a march on Washington? Don't think we don't need one, the DMCA, software patents, and other government regulations restricting free software exist already and were passed only because there was no geek-bloc to resist them.
  • The way I see it, everything a state government buys they buy with my tax money. Every copy of Office, Netware, 2000 Server, the whole kit and kaboodle. If you figure the cost of 50,000 to 100,000 copies of an MS Office license for a state government, it adds up REAL quick.

    This is a push for fiscal responsibility. If there is an open source product available that is comparable to (or better than!) the product currently used, I want my elected officials to take a long, hard look at it.

  • Linux Geeks? Marching? Yeah right.
  • by Wingchild ( 212447 ) <> on Sunday August 11, 2002 @10:53AM (#4050247)
    While I think the idea of a small, medium, or large-sized march designed to show support for the Open Source cause could never be a prima face bad thing, I'm sad to report that our political players do not and will not care about our issues any more or less because of a demonstration.

    The right of assembly is guaranteed by the First Amendment, and it's entire purpose is to provide constitutional protection for a group of people who dislike the government (or hold a contrary opinion to the powers that be) to meet in order to find a way to change things. The assemblies themselves are not the tools of change - and never have been. I'm not sure where people got so confused.

    Perhaps the march will bring out like-minded people who've kept their feelings in till now, reluctant to express an opinion -- maybe the public will join the throng, shucking off their closed source software for freely available and modifiable source code packages. ...and maybe the `public` has absolutely no idea of what it is we do - as they never, ever have before. The vox populi will not be the tool of change when the majority of it cannot agree on how to correctly pronounce `Linux`. ("It's lynnux, dude." ``Wrong, it's LINE-ux! You suck!``)

    Living in the district I am compelled to restate the obvious: Politicans move because of two things and two things only.

    1) Because it will help them stay in office,
    2) Because of money.

    Our `cause` will not engender any further public support for a re-election campaign, so strike #1 right off the ballot. Too many people use closed source software day in, day out and are too .. hm, unversed? , to get out and compile their own apps - they won't fall in and cheer for us, so the guys in charge will take no note.

    Money is the only thing that will bring about change. Save the gas money you would have spent attending the march and donate it to a lobbyist group that works on our behalf. Does no such group exist? If not, create one.

    I really think that's the only solution that's ever going to bring our needs out of the dark ages of politics and give us some play in the District.
    • The right of assembly is guaranteed by the First Amendment, and it's entire purpose is [...] to meet in order to find a way to change things.

      Hmmm - really? I don't think it actually says that. It gives you that right, and you use it as you see fit.

      Living in the district I am compelled to restate the obvious: Politicans move because of two things and two things only.

      1) Because it will help them stay in office,
      2) Because of money.

      I agree with you, but this is were a demonstration like such a march can be useful - it shows that there are numbers of people who care about this issue. Can you imagine a politician looking at this group, licking his lips and thinking "I don't care either way, but I want these votes"? He needs point 1) there...

      I agree that money is important, but as long as you have the right to vote, you have another lever to approach the issue - politicians need votes. Show that you are prepared to vote and politicians are forced to listen - they have no alternative in the long run.

    • Politicans move because of two things and two things only.

      Theres a third thing. "Power." Some of these people are so wealthy that more money wouldnt mean all that much to them. It gets to the point where they want to have power over the teeming masses.

  • I can see driving to the rally and stand around if the sun's not to bright.

    Before risking the the possibility of getting to much sun there are a few things to consider:

    1. A rally in San Francisco is normally considered silly by the rest of the country.

    2. There are quite a few specialized tasks performed by the government that use very specialized proprietary software that cannot be reasonably replaced by oss.

    3. The issue that has a larger appeal is Open Information. Why should I have to buy a piece of proprietary software to view government information? If, for instance, the government in its infinate wisdom decides to use Microsoft Word for its daily document needs then it should require that the documents are readily translatable in to an open source format.

  • Seriously, OSS doesnt have an analog of a lot of specialized software that is used in state government.

    Think of all the specialized software used - everything from software to run weigh stations for highway checkpoints, to software to run the BMV, to software to manage employee benefits and pension funds. This is all real software that is *really* expensive and really proprietary (in the sense that it is used once and only once, for one client [the state]).

    All the sudden those have to be replaced by OSS software? Riiight.

    I am involved in State government in my home State. They dont spend a lot of money on software from vendors "like Microsoft", but rather, lots of money on software from proprietary vendors, and via their inhouse development staff. The State of Maine runs off a server from the late 70's, running a runtime version of COBOL68. Suffice it to say they aren't spending a lot of money on BackOffice licenses.

    The point should be though that no government should require proprietary software to participate. That's easily solved by W3C HTML.

    So, assuming we do that, why force them to rewrite/ditch/replace a lot of software that is already working?
    • I think your points are very valid, but maybe you are to pessimistic in your evaluation.

      Inhouse developed software is already OSS, if the government wants it to be so, right?

      As for the proprietary software - well they don't necessarily have to use OSS replacements. They can just tell the vendors "sorry guys we are no longer allowed to buy upgrades from you unless you open the source". What is the vendor going to do? He can't even negotiate anymore, his partner has no leeway. For a lot of vendors it might mean they have no choice but to go OSS, since they only have government customers.

      A bit sneaky, I admit, but it may work.

      • Umm, the problem with what you are talking about is that its the vendors who the state by the balls, not the other way around.

        In most states, the proprietary software developed is written to spec. Just like most software. The problem is that the spec is what state lawmakers say it is. So they pass a new law, and completely break a nice system with a few exceptions. Then you code for some exceptions, and they make more outlandish exceptions. I guarantee that any well designed system will become absolutely heinous within a few years simply because lawmakers, beuracrats, and judges get into it make it work how they want/think. There is no cohesion.

        The point is, with the vendor I work for, if the State started getting all demanding like that we'd simply stop doing anything. No changes, no new stuff. Its not so much upgrades as it is maintenance to keep the software in compliance with the law. Then you can cause real problems in the state: one branch of the executive pisses off another, auditors get involved, and usually a judge ends up stepping in. It happens much more often than you think.

        The bottom line here is: open source software on most of these systems is usless, because its so proprietary in nature that even with the source it'd be useless (I mean, are you going to make it run on your desktop when it was compiled for a twenty year old 16-bit mainframe? What would you do with it? ).

        Vendors have the state by the balls; usually there are but a few programmers or even just one who can work on the program/make fixes/change it. Even if you had the source, it'd take *years* upon *years* to get up to speed.

        Finally, some of these systems are sensitive and require the source to be closed. Tax code, for instance. There is code in these systems that decide who gets audited on their state taxes. If that was open sourced, than every single accountant/lawyer would know exactly how to cheat the state and get away with it everytime.
        • Thanks this was very informative. I'm not quite convinced about who has whom by the balls - I'd assume that was mutual, if the system is just used by the government, and only maintained by one company?

          OSS would only mean that the customer - i.e. the government gets access to the source code. So while that may not be of much use, admittedly - it also doesn't mean that everybody can see the source, if the state doesn't want them to.

          What I'm trying to say is: these sort of issues could probably be worked around, and the state would still have the chance to profit from OSS for other applications.

    • "This is all real software that is *really* expensive and really proprietary[...]."

      Doesn't it make more sense to use that money to develop free software that is available to the tax payers rather than buying software licenses?
      • Doesn't it make more sense to use that money to develop free software that is available to the tax payers rather than buying software licenses?
        Well the point is, its not so much that they are buying licenses, but paying to have the software developed. I mean, how many copies of certain really specific softwre is a vendor going to sell?

        So then the question becomes, do you release the source to this code, just cause? Sure, go ahead. But it is important to understand that most software used by governments is not off the shelf copies of MS Office or whatnot. Its custom developed stuff, with a team of programmers waiting to re-tailor it to the latest legislative changes.

        The state is already paying to develop it. To throw it out now, and redevelop it as "oepn source" is simply stupid.
        • I guess I still don't understand. Most likely the economics is more complex that I know.

          Of course, the software that the government already has licenses for doesn't need to be rewritten. That would just be wasteful.

          But when the government is paying for the software to be developed, couldn't they insist the software be free software? After all, they are the ones paying for it.
    • Here's the thing that some Open Source advocates are kind of forgetting: the concept of total cost of ownership (TCO).

      You are correct that state governments used closed source software from many different vendors, and the cost to convert everything currently used to Open Source in terms of coding time, testing the code and implementing the code (all part of the TCO equation) isn't going to be cheap, that's to be sure.

      Open Source works best if you don't have to deal with legacy code, for example in the case of Google, the web searching service that was implemented in Linux right from the start.
  • According to an article on, 'A group of open source and free software developers is planning to lead a march on San Francisco's City Hall next week in an effort to promote the use of freely available software by California's government offices,'

    Wouldn't it be smarter to march on the state capital in Sacramento, since we are talking about promoting "the use of freely available software by California's government?" (Emphasis mine, of course) What good will marching on the city hall of one city do, if this is the goal?

    Perhaps this is why marches like these quite often don't get the intended result.
  • So let's see. These unphotogenic representatives will be marching a hundred miles from the capitol to support a bill that has not been introduced to the legislature, in order to legally mandate something that is supposed to be about freedom of choice. Oh-kay.

    Forgive me for saying so, but this seems like a new low point for the open source movement.

    Tim Maroney
    • in order to legally mandate something that is supposed to be about freedom of choice.

      Hang on - it's your government, so it's *your* choice. By passing this legislation you make the choice. That's not forcing any company or individual to make the same choice.

      It's your government you have the right to influence how they spend your money.

    • Actually, the article explicitly said that they are "building momentum" for the bill. I don't think we should have any problem with that.
  • Excuse me, people, but here in California the capitol is in Sacramento, not San Francisco.

    Want to show Linux off to the government? Bring Linux TO the government. Stop having these marches and trade shows in San Francisco, for pete's sake. Do these things in Sacramento and show the government what it can do.

    Hate to tell you, but a lot of gov't IT workers and decision makers aren't going to trek to SF. Were these events actually held near the Capitol (you know, where the politicians go and where any groups outside the Capitol Building get every news station in the area covering them) then it might actually get noticed.

  • Marching on the SF City Hall is dumb. Lots of groups do it, with little effect. (And it's usually the same people, regardless of the issue.)

    Making an appointment to talk to the appropriate California state legislators, one at a time, with a small group of knowledgable people is far more effective. Useful arguments include

    • This will save the state money.
    • This will help clean up the Oracle scandal.
    • Microsoft is in Washington state. Much open source work is in California. Much of UNIX was developed at U.C. Berkeley.
    • Microsoft has been raising their prices and switching from a purchase to a rental model. That puts the state under their thumb on pricing.
  • I work at UCSF in San Francisco & sometimes work in collaboration with people at the SF Separtment of Public Health - who already use Star/OpenOffice.

    The IT dept where I work is so hideously uptight about installing software they'd refused to let me have OpenOffice until I had some collaborators at the DPH 'accidentally' send me documents in OpenOffice-native format instead of .turd format.

    So at least to some extent SF city govt is both using and helping spread the use of open data formats and (coincidentally? : ) open source software.
  • ....and the "winners" sit in dunk tanks. That will bring the community out.
  • Last I heard, after the second anti-trust case. Microsoft beefed up its lobbying operations, and is now close to or the largest lobbying operation in this country. With something like 50 million spent on lobbying alone (not counting donations to politicial campaigns) , this from 10 years ago when they had 1 lobbyist in Washington.
    Good luck, they will have to overcome a massive lobbying effort by MS. But hey, the enviromentalists can overcome car companies, why can't OSS overcome MS in the lobbying game.
  • What about companies like Apple that have a very good solution, and are 95% open source. The other 5% is things like AQUA, and device drivers they license that they can't open source. They are a UNIX, and support open standards like MPEG-6.
    Plus they have a UNIX desktop that puts GNOME, and KDE to shame. From the earnings reports of OSS companies it would appear that it is very difficult to make money off of pure OSS. Why not require companies to open 95% of their code or something along those lines?
  • If you're gonna do this, get a couple rich(ish) geeks to have thousands of Red Hat, Debian etc. distributions replicated from ISO images. For extra points have the surfaces printed with "Open Source For Government Linux Distributions" or something. Everybody who wants to, carry a bunch of these CDs, and offer them to everyone you meet- offer sets of different distributions, the point being that you can try X or Y or Z or whatever, or you could just throw it away like an AOL CD- we got millions more! We have an infinite supply of Linux distributions to just give away :D

    The practicalities of open source in narrowly defined government IT positions can be sorted out later- this would be a good opportunity to make the 'geeks bearing gifts' point. If any of you get interviewed, be sure to give CDs to the reporter, the cameraman, the sound guy or electrician etc... Give them out like candy :)

  • A similiar opportunity arose recently in Phoenix, with members of the Phoenix LUG community strategizing and attending. The number of attendees wasn't huge, but it got some attention. The fact that there was an appointed designate and that the community presented themselves well (ie, not as the teeming horde) went a long way toward promoting Open Source.

    It may not have changed much in the short term, certainly, but it started both sides off on even footing, and that first impression was the most important one.
  • Why not march on Washington? It won't make any difference other than a story on local networks if you restrict it to San Francisco, and at best a 2 second blurb on CNN, but if you march on DC then you have national news...

    Considering that geeks are technically a minority in this country (and a minority that the country depends on desperately to keep it afloat nowadays), it wouldn't be unrealistic to think it could have the same impact as a million man or war vet protest...

    I mean seriously, here is a government that has, for all intents and purposes, declared war on intellectuals and computer users, and they won't figure out just who they're influencing, because it's easy to ignore e-mail or snail mail when it piles up in the inbox... It isn't as easy to ignore a million geeks/nerds in front of the Jefferson monument on national TV, where they have no choice but to actually see who they're screwing...

The IQ of the group is the lowest IQ of a member of the group divided by the number of people in the group.