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DoD Study Urges OSS Adoption 112

Krishna Dagli writes to mention an Ars Technica article about the Open Technology Development road map, a report for the U.S. government advising the DoD on ways to integrate OSS into DoD policies. From the article: "The report argues that the standard practices associated with purchasing of physical goods are not adequate or fully applicable to software. According to the report, the DoD is 'limiting and restricting the ability of the market to compete for the provision of new and innovative solutions and capabilities' by 'treating DoD-developed software code as a physical good.' The report also points out that utilizing open source technology will force the commercial software industry to respond with greater agility and competitiveness."
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DoD Study Urges OSS Adoption

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  • by BigZaphod ( 12942 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @10:29AM (#15948857) Homepage
    .. that the U.S. Government can be both very insightful and astonishingly full of crap at the same time. How do these insightful people get their jobs? Or, perhaps a better question: How do they manage to keep them? They must have will-power on par with the likes of Superman himself to exist in that kind of environment.
    • by vishbar ( 862440 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @10:36AM (#15948923)
      Lots of people in the U.S. government are quite insightful and intelligent. It's just that the insane ones get all the press.
      • that's press as in presidency?
      • by Coryoth ( 254751 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @11:43AM (#15949406) Homepage Journal
        Lots of people in the U.S. government are quite insightful and intelligent. It's just that the insane ones get all the press.


        I think there's also the issue of insight being filtered through far too many layers and far too many minds. Take Slashdot as an example. There are actually some insightful people here (no, really, it's true). On the other hand consider what filters out as the so called Slashdot Groupthink: not especially insightful. Spread a well thought out insight thin enough through a whole bunch of people who simply latch on to the end result without doing any of the thinking to get there and you often end up with something that isn't especially insightful anymore.

        • I mean look at the parent +5, obvious groupthink at work there!

          Mod parent down to preserve intelligent comments, like mine.

          My comments are da BOMB!

          If you think my comments are bad, you should read my poetry!
      • Lots of people in the U.S. government are quite insightful and intelligent. It's just that the insane ones get all the press.

        No, you got it wrong, the insane ones just get promoted!

        NMCI - No More Computer Infrastructure.
      • Emergent behavior... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by cr0sh ( 43134 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @01:35PM (#15950172) Homepage
        Lots of people in the U.S. government are quite insightful and intelligent. It's just that the insane ones get all the press.


        I agree with your statement that there are lots of insightful and intelligent people (on both sides of the aisle, so to speak) in the U.S. government. I also agree that the "insane" ones get a lot of press time. However, I don't think that is the whole picture.


        Regardless of the large-scale bureaucracy, whether it is a government or a corporation, it seems that at a certain size-point there comes a time that the bureaucracy as a whole begins to exhibit various forms of emergent behavior that can't be explained by examining the individual parts. No more than one can recognize the concepts of sentience and reason the human mind brings forth, by examining a single neuron, we should not be surprised that a bureaucracy works in the same manner, and that we can't surmise how it will act by singling out individual employee contributions to the organization.


        Inevitably, in most large bureaucracies this emergent behavior tends toward baser outputs, what we humans perceive as harmful, beligerent, corrupted, insane, and in some cases, "evil" behavior. The greater the size of the bureaucracy, the more likely this is to be the case. Interestingly, we seem to see this behavior mainly in bureaucracies where the accumulation of wealth is a goal of the organization. In instances where that goal is not the prime motivator for the organization (say, for instance, a non-profit), these emergent behaviors tend not to manifest themselves (I will admit this is baseless conjecture on my part - I have not seen any study regarding this idea - but anecdotal evidence seems to bear this out).


        For governments, it would seem that to prevent this from occurring, the proper thing to do would be to limit the government's ability to accumulate wealth (whether through taxes or warfare). Ideally, it should be able to function optimally without such accumulation, however, for most of the developed world, the economic engine driving the society is capitalism, which is at odds with this idea. Furthermore, large corporate bureaucracies have their hands in the development and guidance of the government - something that was warned against after WW2 as the rise of the "military-industrial complex".


        I tend to wonder if these emergent behaviors we see aren't actually intelligent (if not necessarily rational), and that this manipulation isn't actually purposeful, perhaps to ultimately eliminate or marginalize humans? If so, is there anything we can do to detect it, or even stop it? Can a neuron ever know about the mind? Furthermore, if such a neuron did, what would the mind do if it found out?

    • by Chyeld ( 713439 )
      You've obviously never worked or have been extremely luckly in your career if you can tell me that you've never noticed that no matter how smart the foundation of an organization is, the higher up you get, the easier it is for one fool to ruin the whole works.

      This is the way of any organization, not just the government, and is one of the reasons why we will never actually have to worry about any one group ever actually being in control of the world for any real length of time. Call it the ultimate applicati
    • by WED Fan ( 911325 )
      .. that the U.S. Government can be both very insightful and astonishingly full of crap at the same time.

      They represent you!

      And..

      Apparently, they are represetitive of you.

  • Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fitten ( 521191 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @10:30AM (#15948864)
    What if other projects adopt "no military" clauses like we've seen lately? This certainly has to be in the list of risks that the DoD will face.

    Anyway, other than toolkits and general systems (a Linux based workstation to compile code on, use OpenOffice to write documents, and such) there's not going to be a lot of OSS that will be reusable for the developers since they will be writing software for missile guidance systems and interfacing to hardware not generally available to the public. Some GUI toolkits, maybe, and GCC, of course.

    Plus, how will GPL's clauses about not having to release code for things you do on-site relate to the contractor/subcontractor relationships that are present in DoD projects and if parts are sold to other countries (like selling an F-16 to Israel, for example)?

    I'm obviously not talking much about office productivity and listening to mp3s and stuff because I'm pretty sure that's not what the DoD is talking about here.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by zlogic ( 892404 )

      Plus, how will GPL's clauses about not having to release code for things you do on-site relate to the contractor/subcontractor relationships that are present in DoD projects and if parts are sold to other countries (like selling an F-16 to Israel, for example)?

      What's wrong with Israel modifying F-16 flight software and submitting patches back to the US? If they sell the planes they're friendly enough to share source code. And besides, if they write their own software rather than modify or link GPLed stuff

      • I don't know about VMWare or Cedega, but Nero Linux doesn't link any GPLed stuff. It would have to link glibc, but that library has a special exception for linking commercial programs against it, as does the Linux kernel. From what I can see from the Screenshots, NeroLinux is linked against GTK+ 1.2, which is licensed under LGPL. It may also use WxGTK (the dialogs seem reminiscent of some standard WxGTK dialogs), but that's also not GPL.

        • by zlogic ( 892404 )
          That's what I'm speaking about - Nero, just like the US military, doesn't need to show the source if they carefully choose what to link and what to use completely (BSD-style).
      • What's wrong with Israel modifying F-16 flight software and submitting patches back to the US?

        I doubt that the hypothetical Israel would be sending patches back to the US government. If you created software that gave you a military tactical advantage over another country, ally or not, I doubt you'd give that advantage freely. After all, having an edge over someone tactically, even the slightest one, could mean the difference between victory or defeat when diplomatic ties for some reason go cold. (Please n

        • by suggsjc ( 726146 )
          "I doubt that the hypothetical company would be sending patches back to the other company. If you created software that gave you a business advantage over another company, ally or not, I doubt you'd give that advantage freely."

          Agree and disagree. If the US is the "main trunk" of the software, then they'll have to re-incorporate that "patch" into every subsequent version (F-16) they get from the US.

          Its the exact argument as to why would any company would want to support Open Source software when their c
        • Re:Well... (Score:4, Interesting)

          by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF ( 813746 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @11:58AM (#15949510)

          For the same reason, I doubt the US would open up their F-16 software. Any bugs (remember that all software contains them) that could be exploited by another government simply by scrutinizing the source code create a tactical disadvantage.

          Refusing to release the code used for control systems is one of the reasons why NATO agreements for a common platform have started to exclude the US. The US basically said, "hey it will be easier if we can share munitions and if you guys build your fighters on the same designs we do. Also, you can just buy the parts from American companies and it will make them cheaper for everyone. Then, they refused to share the code they use to run the hardware, making the whole thing unfeasible and making it cheaper for them to design their own systems, which most of Europe can share but we can't.

          Which is exactly what 's being done right now.

          Actually, countries are sharing, just not with the US or vice versus.

          Open sourcing the F-16 software would give no advantage to any government, not even the one buying the F-16. They'll most likely just be more interested in the technical manual of the systems onboard and hand those to an engineer, than they would be in the source code itself.

          This is certainly not true. As I understand, it was the deal breaker that prevented a common NATO fighter plane platform from being adopted by the US and Europe.

      • by rtb61 ( 674572 )
        This has more to do with massive software failures. When you contract out a couple of hundred millions dollars on propritary code and it turns out to be a dud, you throw away the whole investment.

        With open source, chances are only the last 10 million or so dollars worth might be crap, so this part can be retendered and contracted, rather than the existing propritary company that produced the original failure trying to demand the same again to fix it, still with no promise of success.

        It is a simple contr

    • The GPL says that you have to release the source code to anyone who has access to the binary code. Not really applicable in this case. They just need to restrict who has access to the binary code. Does the DoD care if the plane they just sold to a (presumably non-hostile) country also include a CD with the source code?
    • by AHumbleOpinion ( 546848 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @10:48AM (#15949018) Homepage
      What if other projects adopt "no military" clauses like we've seen lately?

      Then the government responds by mandating that all open source projects receiving government funding (not necessarily military related), or to be used in government projects, use a completely open license (as in no strings) like BSD, MIT, etc. This would dry up a lot of the money subsidizing GPL based projects.

      Although I do not like this, I have a hard time saying it is wrong. I also recall (in the 90s, maybe they still do it) a NASA publication with pages of "ads" listing software projects that were freely available to anyone (individual or business) since they were NASA funded to some degree. I can't help but think this was how the government should work.
    • Re:Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by LWATCDR ( 28044 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @11:20AM (#15949252) Homepage Journal
      Well the no military clauses are stupid and harmful.
      The military does a lot more than drop bombs and shoot missiles.
      Think of all the meteorology and oceanography that they do.
      The military does accounting, logistics, and simulation work all the time.
      They prepare graphics, presentations, send email, and run websites.
      The build schools, roads, and phone systems.
      They run hospitals and provide disaster relief.
      During Katrina the Navy, Coast Guard, Army, and Air Force along with the national guard saved a lot of people.
      During the aftermath of the Indonesian Tsunami the US Navy provided a lot of humanitarian relief.
      There are many areas that could generate useful OSS code.

      The countries that have some civilian oversight like the US, Germany, Japan, UK, and Australia will not benefit while countries like North Korea, Iran, China, and Syria will not care about any clause. As I said stupid and harmful.
      I guess for them it is a case of Free as in only if you agree with me.

      • The GPL exists to restrict your freedom to use software the way you want, but with the aim being to protect "greater freedoms" - such as right to modify derivatives.

        It could be argued that restricting the software to non-military uses might also be protecting more important rights - such as the right to life.
        After all there are between 10,000 and 40,000 dead Iraqi civilians who can no longer exercise their rights to use free software.

        Does the fact that your software may be used by the military in a rescue o
        • The GPL exists to restrict your freedom to use software the way you want, but with the aim being to protect "greater freedoms" - such as right to modify derivatives.

          I hear this said a lot, but it just isn't true--the GPL gives you more rights than standard copyright law does, which is the default "license" if you don't specifically say otherwise. Only in comparison to something in the public domain (or a less restrictive alternative license, like BSD) does the GPL "restrict" your rights.

          I guess the $6

          • Before I knew of the GPL: I released my programs as freeware, but I did not usually release the source code. The idea was that for me, payment was in people using my programs and appreciating them, rather than monetary. The GPL was a reminder to me that maybe they could find the source code useful too... and as a bonus, the software would always be freely available.
          • I assumed everyone knows that without ANY license you are more restricted, i was comparing it to licenses that have less retrictions such as BSD/MIT but that don't protect "freedoms" as well as the GPL.

            Putting in an anti-military clause could be another GPL style restriction that helps protect your rights, your right to breath for example.

            I should have specifically said I was comparing the GPL to other open source licenses with less restrictions.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by LWATCDR ( 28044 )
          "After all there are between 10,000 and 40,000 dead Iraqi civilians who can no longer exercise their rights to use free software."
          Funny but when people talk about things like kiddie porn or terrorists as reasons that they don't like freenet or unlimited use of strong encryption people scream freedom, freedom.
          This limit wasn't just on the military of the US. It is on all military use. That would include France, Germany, Italy, Canada, Japan, and Australia.

          "Does the fact that your software may be used by the
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        Actually, the 'no military' clause was a takeoff of Asimov's First Law and said that a modification of the software was not allowed to be used to harm a human being. It's still a stupid clause though.
    • I really know nothing about this, so please pardon a silly question, but would a military agency really have any qualms about ignoring a "no military" clause and putting something to use if it fills a need?

      A clause in the license saying "you can use this for free unless you're a military entity" reminds me a bit of the disclaimers you used to see on the welcome screens of underground BBSes in the 1980s, which always said something like "no police are allowed to login to this board, if you sign on you're no
      • Clearly, militaries in law-abiding countries would abide by the terms of the licence, at least as much as any private company would. The army or navy are not above the law and you can sue them just like anyone else for copyright violation. But as you say you couldn't expect Hezbollah or North Korea to have any such qualms. In principle, if you write software that might have military uses, trying to exclude that in the licence is supporting one side against the other.
    • Re:Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Chris Burke ( 6130 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @11:47AM (#15949422) Homepage

      What if other projects adopt "no military" clauses like we've seen lately? This certainly has to be in the list of risks that the DoD will face.


      I doubt it, as that's not a clause of the standard GPL, and a pretty stupid clause to boot. If people want to complain that their screwdriver was eventually used to attach two pieces of a bomb, they should be protesting the decisions that require bombs to be made and used, not refusing to allow their screwdriver to be used in military applications since it's simply untennable. If war is to be waged, war machines will be made, using your code or no. Eliminate the root cause, not innefectually stymie the effect just to have a slightly clearer conscience.

      Frankly I think it's dumb. Look at what the NSA has done for open source; the DoD could theoretically provide similar benefits. The DoD will continue to exist. Having the OSS community benefit from DoD development would be a good way for us to directly benefit from their continued existence.

      Anyway, other than toolkits and general systems (a Linux based workstation to compile code on, use OpenOffice to write documents, and such) there's not going to be a lot of OSS that will be reusable for the developers since they will be writing software for missile guidance systems and interfacing to hardware not generally available to the public. Some GUI toolkits, maybe, and GCC, of course.

      The DoD does a lot more than write code for missles. They crunch masses of data on commercially available parts, and OSS will be very useful for them in that regard. Also, I doubt that the embedded systems for missles are really that exotic -- they may be using hardened versions of microcontrollers, but I doubt they'll be using some completely esoteric ISA that would be difficult to port an OSS real-time OS to.

      Plus, how will GPL's clauses about not having to release code for things you do on-site relate to the contractor/subcontractor relationships that are present in DoD projects and if parts are sold to other countries (like selling an F-16 to Israel, for example)?

      If they sell it to other countries or give it to contractors, then it's no longer on-site as you've distributed it. In which case, distributing the source would be appropriate. By the same logic that you chose OSS in the first place, your customers, e.g. Israel, would want to be able to view the source code for validation and maintenence purposes.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Ed Avis ( 5917 )
      What if other projects adopt "no military" clauses like we've seen lately?

      Then they are not free software. They are shareware 'but you can look at the source code' or something like that. You'd class them together with all the other trial versions, 'evaluation licences' and FREE DOWNLOADS!!! that clog up the net.
    • The "no-military" clause makes the software non-OSS. Also there haven't been any at all large projects adopt that clause, and I'm not sure if theres been any that it would ever matter for.
    • Re:Well... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by just_another_sean ( 919159 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @12:16PM (#15949608) Journal
      What if other projects adopt "no military" clauses like we've seen lately?

      To me your statement just illustrates why the RMS concept of free software is more meaningful than OSS. The GPL and the Debian Free Software Guidleines specifically state that these type of exclusionary clauses are not Free Software. OSS just muddies the water here. Originally created to be more "business friendly" OSS licenses that aren't really Free, like other finely worded clauses, laws and other semantic trickery, just ends up being abused.

      Perhaps the DOD should rethink their report and use/recommend Free as in Freedom software. Hell it even irked me a little when Fyodor told SCO they couldn't distribute nmap anymore. And I hate those bastards!
    • There is no such thing as a "no military clause" (at least not yet). You saw that in a misleading /. headline recently but if you'd RTFA you'd know it was more of an "Asimov clause". Much of the subsequent discussion was reactionary posturing and rhetoric about the nonexistent "no mil clause". IOW, you got trolled. Happens all the time here. Lesson: RTFA (or blogpost or whatever) or put your ignorance on display for those of us who did to see.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Mithrandir ( 3459 )

      Anyway, other than toolkits and general systems (a Linux based workstation to compile code on, use OpenOffice to write documents, and such) there's not going to be a lot of OSS that will be reusable for the developers since they will be writing software for missile guidance systems and interfacing to hardware not generally available to the public. Some GUI toolkits, maybe, and GCC, of course.

      Fortunately, you are wrong on this. The majority of the work that my company does is OSS work for the military a

    • by $1uck ( 710826 )
      There's a lot more to DOD software than that... in addition to web servers, browsers, databases etc. There are also specialized tools for publishing/viewing techmanuals (I actually did some work here). Unfortunately, the different branches have scores of contractors all writing different techmanuals. Often the company that sold product X to the military will also furnish the manuals. Ideally these manuals are written to a particular spec. Even more Ideally they are tagged against a particular DTD. Th
    • Well, Given that the major example of this clause (the GPU project) has reverted to the straight GPL, and there appears to be no support [fsf.org] at the FSF for including this, even as an optional addition to the GPL.

      FWIW, the offending terms were:

      "The Program and its derivative work will neither be modified or executed to harm any human being nor through inaction permit any human being to be harmed."

      While it would make the work non-free (by limiting Freedom-0), it is a far cry from "no use by the military."
    • What if other projects adopt "no military" clauses like we've seen lately? This certainly has to be in the list of risks that the DoD will face.

      That's a risk with any vendor. It's particularly a risk with commercial vendors, in an environment where government contracts are widely known to be planned disasters that will be sabotaged by bureaucrats before they ever get off the ground. A lot of vendors don't want to have anything to do with them (because of the bad press, annoyance, and general idiocy involved

    • by cg0def ( 845906 )
      I suppose you haven't heard about BSD licencing. There are a great many projects under in out there and frankly I haven't seen any one of them that has been taken over because of the "crappy" licencing that they use. As far as GPL goes ... well in order to make the military give you the source code that they've added to a gpl project you need to know that the changes exist. I don't know about you but most civilians and pretty much ALL OSS developers have never even seen a DoD or any military computer.
  • by bingbong ( 115802 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @10:32AM (#15948890)
    I worked as a defense contractor for the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) at the Pentagon for a few years. I put together a proposal for a global kiosk system of 2000+ systems that would have had hardened linux distro (which one isn't the point) as the underlying OS for the kiosk. This system would have booted into the application (a Java app) and the users would never see the OS. It was particulary tricky as the kiosks were to be deployed at DoD facilities world-wide (OCONUS in govvie-speak), and needed to be managed from a few key sites in the US (CONUS).

    The Gov't agreed that the solution was more secure, easier to manage and would save a few million $USD (in additional management, security and helpdesk costs) but they instead chose to go with Windows Server 2003 because of "look and feel." Remember, the users never saw the underlying OS!

    To me this said that they weren't really open to any other options, their minds were already made up and that OSS is still largely untrusted by the neck-tie community. I still have the minutes from the meeting as a souvenir.

    • Not true (Score:3, Interesting)

      by MikeRT ( 947531 )
      It depends on the area that you work in. There are parts of it which, and parts that are not. It's a Department, not an agency! You are talking about the largest part of the federal government, one that spans well over a million employees, in fact probably several million employees between all of the agencies and military branches. You can just chalk your experience up, perhaps, to having a less informed client. Many others are very eager to get technical solutions that just work and care more about that th
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      It wasn't the whole of the Government or the DoD, but your particular customer who made the decision. There is no government mandate to use only Windows Server 2003 as opposed to Linux. I've been involved in multiple DoD project which used mostly open source software and have had no complaints.

      This is just a case of failing to sell a solution to a customer. Familiarity is a huge issue for non-techies that software developers sometimes overlook. Your customer didn't give a squat about OSS, they were just w
    • by majkeli ( 787507 )
      I'll third this. The DOD is just a loose bunch of clients, there is no group mind there. You just need to sell the idea to your particular client.
  • by ackthpt ( 218170 ) * on Monday August 21, 2006 @10:36AM (#15948921) Homepage Journal

    The DoD study made one critical error. They failed to take special interests* into account. Clearly this needs amending.**

    * Proprietary Software Industry leaders and House, Senate and Predidential campaign donors.

    ** According to same special interests.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 21, 2006 @10:40AM (#15948952)
    seriously, I work for a DoD contractor, and the new regulations that are being put in place and that we have to follow states that the Army doesn't like freeware because "it is unsupported"(ie some General has lots of Microsoft stock, what am I being too cynical) So we have to put Red Hat Enterprise on all of our fully functioning Linux boxes(for my little group its about 35 servers or so) at about $600 a pop just because of this stupid regulation.....

    If this job didn't pay well at an awesome location then I would quit tomorrow, but it turns out I am just a cheap whore...
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Don't be so hard on yourself. You said the job pays well... that makes you and expensive whore.
    • by jjohnson ( 62583 )
      It's not the lack of support, it's the lack of *accountable* support, meaning a single point of contact who can be visibly blamed for the system not functioning. The contents of an IRC session may actually offer better support, but a nick makes a lousy scapegoat.
    • I don't really see the problem. $600 is not that expensive for a server license (look at IBM licencse costs if you don't believe me), and you end up with a clear contract showing who provided what software etc. etc. Furthermore you're not forced to use closed source. If I were you I would surely stay at a place like that!

      I'm now in germany, so the OS on the pcs here is Suse (originaly german linux distribution). There might be better ones, but why should I care, because except for administration, it works

  • by El Cubano ( 631386 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @10:41AM (#15948960)
    The biggest problem with free and open source software in the DOD (and government in general) is the prevailing culture of "if it's free (gratis) is must be worthless." Imagine that a request is made for a system to allow collaboration for something. Two proposals come in. One is for a system using SharePoint/MSSQL/Oracle/tons of similar high priced software. The other is for Trac/Postgres/tons of free software. As a result of spending so little on licenses, the second comes in at half the price of the first. The second will be rejected almost out of hand and looked upon with suspicion, as free stuf can't possibly do the job as well as expensive stuff.
    • I seriously doubt you can back up this statement with any examples. First of all, I doubt that the example that you gave would really happen, specifically that the two proposals would differ by a factor of two in cost. When the government buys a system, it typically buy the system with life-cycle maintenance. That means the manpower, spares, and other items required to maintain the system over its life. And those items aren't free just because you use Linux (or other open source). And those items tend
    • by Goglu ( 774689 )
      Nothing would stop the provider to charge a decent price for licenses. In fact, this would be recommended, since support fees would likely be as a percentage of this licensing price.

      The price should reflect the perceived value of the product offered. No customer, governmental or non-governmental, should reject a proposal based on its cost only. It should rather be based on the return it will get from the product (and take into account, of course, the risk linked to this purchase, its credits facilities and
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by rwyoder ( 759998 )
      What I have learned from working in IT for 15 years:
      • In the PHYSICAL world, you get what you pay for, i.e. he MORE you pay, the better quality you get.
      • In the SOFTWARE world, this is reversed, i.e. the LESS you pay, the better quality you get.

      Unfortunately, too many clueless old managers just can't grasp this.

      The worst applications I've ever had to deal with were commercial garbage on which clueless management blew hundreds of thousands of dollars all based on attending dog & pony shows put o

      • I don't think I agree with your assertion that you get better quality the less you pay for. I have used some first-rate expensive software, and some absolutely lousy freeware. The problem is that good quality physical goods are expensive to manufacture, while good quality software is often more expensive to create, but then cheap to 'manufacture.' This means that it is more or less impossible to build good physical goods cheaply, but it is possible to build good software cheaply. Good physical goods are
      • That's simply not true. In my experience, the best software is produced by small groups and independent developers, generally for profit. They generally don't charge as much as large commercial products, but cheaper certainly isn't always better. And some large commercial projects are very good, Mac OS X being one of those. Commercial software is often best for very big, complicated things, which most OSS and shareware don't have the backing to produce.

        It'd be more accurate to say that less developers, more
    • Nobody's forcing you to give away the open/free software. You're free to charge $1000/user if you want. If you want to make a reasonable bid that's only slightly lower than normal, then just do so and your profits will soar if you do it right.
      • The maximum value for "user" is realistically 1, since that user can give away your code to anyone.

        Would a license that said "you can see my code, but you can't use it in any product you release" be feasible? It would allow users to see and alter programs, without compromising profit. Obviously people could ignore you, and it would be hard to determine, but that is no more true than for the GPL.
  • Retraction (Score:2, Funny)

    by krell ( 896769 )
    Look for this to be retracted by tomorrow when someone at the DoD says "Sorry, we thought that 'OSS' referred to the agency that was the predecessor to the CIA".
  • by republican gourd ( 879711 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @10:43AM (#15948978)
    TFA boils down to a single premise:

    1) Any individual struck by munitions powered by OSS is entitled to whatever rights are licensed to users of said software. For instance, if the missile was GPLed, any victims would be entitled to be cremated with a full copy of the source code and any encryption keys necessary to run said code on any homebrew missiles.
  • by yagu ( 721525 ) * <yayaguNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday August 21, 2006 @10:44AM (#15948981) Journal

    The government has "spoken" before about technology. Does it really make any difference?

    Seems a long time ago the government wanted to require one standard practice of application development by stipulating Ada as the language-du-ans for coding. How many applications can you name that the government owns and are written in Ada? (rhetorical).

    The government also set forth to require all computers and operating systems to be POSIX compliant in the mid to late 80's. The big hint was the government wanted to standardize and take advantage of the similarity and portability of Unix-like systems (SunOS, Solaris, ATT Unix, AIM, etc.).

    Microsoft neatly sidestepped that issue in the early 90's by rolling out NT, basically a rebuilt true-preemptive OS for Windows and included a pared-down essentially brain-dead POSIX subsystem to assuage the government fiat. Microsoft had no intention of supporting it (I know, I directly asked Larry Kroger when I worked there -- his exact response was, "Tell them we don't support it"), and thumbed their nose at the notion of standard and interoperable computing -- it was counter to their business mission of monopolizing the industry.

    It's great to think the government wants more emphasis on Open Source (as well as that can be defined), but if history serves, this is another tiny blip on the radar screen. Open Source can't compete in marketing with deep-pocketed vendors and chummy outings on the golf course.

    But, we can hope. Come to think of it, maybe there's an "aha" here... could the foot-in-the-door for OSS be more effective marketing? Where could that investment originate? Or, what about pledging support via some write-in campaign to Senators and Representatives?

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      How many applications can you name that the government owns and are written in Ada? (rhetorical).

      You may not be able to name any, but I can, because I work on developing them [yes, now, 2006]. The general trend ATM in my particular little neck of the woods seems to be moving slowly towards Java, but there is a TON of legacy stuff we still support, and continue to develop.
      • there is a TON of legacy stuff we still support, and continue to develop

        Indeed, "ton" is the right adjective, I've never seen such a verbose language in my life.
  • by xxxJonBoyxxx ( 565205 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @10:45AM (#15948996)
    the DoD is 'limiting and restricting the ability of the market to compete for the provision of new and innovative solutions and capabilities' by 'treating DoD-developed software code as a physical good.'
    Not that the DoD is the only government entity with a graft problem, but every federal provisioning contract I've ever seen had more to do with timely payments to connected players (or their campaigns/funds) than technology, terms of the license, or actual amount of money wasted or saved.
  • Above the Law? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by B5_geek ( 638928 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @10:47AM (#15949010)
    As we have see recently, and if history is a teacher we can count on the US Government to consider itself above the law. Do we really think that the Military will give a rats ass what us hippies think? GPL clause or not; they will use whatever the hell they want to.
  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @10:49AM (#15949026) Journal
    Back in late 80s and early 90s, all the businesses were demanding Compatibility with IBM-PC. Remember the old joke about Cray supercomputer with the punch line "Is it IBM-PC compatible?". The older generation of IT managers knew compatibility and interoperability was important. But they did not fully understand the concept of vendor lock in. They confused IBM-PC compatibility with interoperability. Accepting a closed proprietary standard owned by a profit making corporation was a very bad idea. But those guys did not know it then.

    Now slowly the next generation of IT managers with more experience are coming up. Now a days software costs lot more than hardware. Hardware prices have been dropping like a stone for decades and the software costs have stopped dropping after Microsoft consolidated its market lead and vendor lock in. In 1994 I paid 2700$ for a 90 MHz Pentium with 570 KB disk and 2X CD-ROM. MS Word was already above a 100$ then. In 1990 MS-Word was selling for 50$.

    I keep returning to my favourite examples of light bulbs and car tires. Would anyone buy a car that can accept only Goodyear tires or build a home that can only accept GE bulbs? Car tire standards are set by SAE not GM or Toyota. It is just a matter of time before we have full interoperability to standards defined by a body like IEEE. Heck, if the Fortune 500 companies chip in a million bucks each to set up an "Institute for Sofware Ineroperability Standards" to work with IEEE and ACM to make experts define interoperability they will recoup the investments in no time.

    • >>Remember the old joke about Cray supercomputer with the punch line "Is it IBM-PC compatible?".

      Now the line is: "Does it run Linux?"
    • by g1zmo ( 315166 )
      Back in late 80s and early 90s, all the businesses were demanding Compatibility with IBM-PC. Remember the old joke about Cray supercomputer with the punch line "Is it IBM-PC compatible?".
      Nope.
      Back in the late 80s and early 90s my mom was packing me PB&Js and I watched He-Man everyday after school. 8^)
  • ... proprietary to meak and better product/support.
  • The DoD recommending what software to use is like asking a pedofile what a good nursery school is. Most people on the planet would see such an endorsement as a *bad* thing.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by MikeBabcock ( 65886 )
      Want to back that up? Or are you just a FUD-monger? Last I checked the DoD ran a pretty tight ship and actually bothered investigating their hardware and software purchases more thoroughly than most Fortune-500 types do.
  • DOD Software requirements and testing will always keep software expenses high.

    DOD requirements, standards, and testing before acceptance, suck up time and money. Porting (Major Requirement) a C program was almost a show-stopper on a personnel records program in the late eighties (Same OS (UNIX) on different hardware).

  • The Java static analysis utility PMD [sf.net] was a spinoff of a government project; it's survived the end of the sponsoring project and is carrying on nicely with a pretty recent release [blogs.com].

    It's great that the folks running that particular government project had both the foresight to realize that this utility would be valuable outside that project and also the organizational savvy to figure out how to make it available as open source. Good times.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I work in the defense industry, and just this past Friday I was chatting with some folks from the Air Force base where our products are used. We were talking about how the DoD is mandating that all ftp transfers be shut off by the end of this year due to the lack of security. Everyone has to move to OpenSSH within a few months, but this is in stark contrast to a few years ago.

    When the DoD first started using ssh for secure data transfer over the internet, OpenSSH was banned because it was open source. Th
  • All sick jokes aside, this would be fine for applications such as word processing and maybe calendar clients or something. But I seriously doubt the DoD will certify open source software as "trusted" in the sense that they will use it for secure applications.
    • Umm.. why not? At least they can audit the code front-to-back and mandate the use of the audited version.
      • Primarily because the DoD mandates that people developing trusted software/oses have security clearances, which simply won't happen with open source development. And someone with a security clearance would probably be prosecuted if they released DoD trusted code out to the open source community.
  • I used to work for a defense dept contractor and while I was there I realised that the goal was to sell the "customer" (ie. the DOD / pentagon) a product at the highest markup possable.) Why does the DOD pay, for example, 1600 dollars for a 256MB compact flash card (two years ago, when a comporable product was $29 at a local Circuit City)?

    Because:

    A: The DOD largely has no idea what they are purchasing, yet have unlimited funds. The brass just want shiny new (functionality optional) things that go beep

  • by cg0def ( 845906 )
    wait ... I'm supposed to use OSS only to make Microsoft and the likes work harder? If an OSS project is better than a commercial counter part then isn't this reason enough?
  • The Army will take a very long time to switch to anything but Microsoft IT products. Putting anything other than a windows machine on the unclassified network is simply not allowed and will result in your computer being confiscated. To further drive this point home Microsoft holds an annual conference for the Army signal community on the Redmond campus about what new "oppurtunities" are available to the signal corps. I don't think you could get any more in bed than that.

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