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German Free Software Group asks Gov't Say No to MS 64

A reader writes "A German free software advocacy group has asked local government officials to halt their agreement with Microsoft to sponsor a new e-commerce center.. The group has made a good arguement, stating that taxpayer dollars are being used to pay for something that can already be obtained for free. The government's current reply is that partnering with Microsoft doesn't preclude involvement from other operating system.
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German Free Software Group asks Gov't to halt agreement with MS

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  • by Aaron M. Renn ( 539 ) <> on Monday June 14, 1999 @09:07AM (#1851339) Homepage
    Here is the corrected link []
  • Obviously. There is no element of charity involved here. Microsoft clearly hopes to get its money back, either directly or indirectly. Steve Ballmer once said quite openly that IE is not "free" (i.e. free beer) because it increases their market share indirectly. (I know, this is completely obvious, but just in case anyone didn't believe it)

    The group are entirely correct that the government is, in effect, subsidising Microsoft in this way, even though naively it looks the other way around.

    End corporate welfare! Something both libetarian socialists and libertarian capitalists should agree on :)

  • Given that MS faces an uncertain future, with the outcome of the DOJ case yet to be decided, I'm actually a bit surprised that any entity as large as a German state would sign any NEW serious agreement with MS right now. Maybe the DOJ case isn't as big news there as here in the US? Power to the protestors!
  • What is the government's email address?

    I may be biased, but if there was some cash involved, say some donations, would I be wrong to consider this as corruption?
  • Well, given the way everyone around here always whines (rightfully so) about MS's unfair business practices, don't you all think it is a bit unfair for these people to go on and ask the government to halt their agreement with MS, solely because they are Microsoft? I could be wrong, but I wouldn't like it much if it were me.
  • here is a link to FFII []
    and the Open Letter [] it's not too long and a good read.

    #include "standard_disclaimer.h"
  • by Hrunting ( 2191 ) on Monday June 14, 1999 @09:34AM (#1851349) Homepage
    The German gov't sure is tip-toeing around this one. They don't seem to understand (or maybe the do understand) the power that Microsoft is going assert over this project. Yes, other organizations can (and should) sponsor the project, but they won't have nearly the same financial power when it comes to buying computers, setting up classes, etc.

    And 'Linux' won't be able to sponsor this, no matter what the government thinks. Linux isn't a corporation.

    You know, given the German response to this (and the other incident mentioned in the article), I'm surprised that such a movement hasn't taken place in the US. Given Microsoft's funding of school computer labs, one might think that similar organizations here (here being the US) would possibly want schools to also look to alternatives. Maybe Apple's a bit more powerful in these situations or perhaps our country just isn't as open to these new ideas as Europe is.

  • that is look here []
    #include "standard_disclaimer.h"
  • More than 700 IT users signed the protest letter...

    I find this quite funny.

    Methinks that Microsoft can't take nearly universal acceptance of it's product by the public for granted anymore!
  • Of course Microsoft will benefit from the deal. That doesn't mean the German government is 'subsidizing' Microsoft.

    The idea of deals is that both parties benefit.
  • I like the rational way that they laid this out.
    Gov't shouldn't be speding money on stuff that is
    available for free. How many other goverment programs feed the evil giant? Can we use a similar attack any of those?
  • the article wasn't too descriptive.

    a) is it a place to demo e-commerce stuff(lots of silly ads and propaganda)?

    b)is it that the gov. is gonna help small business set-up and host their e-comerce sites?

    if its option b then that's a cool idea.
    either way it's too bad microsoft had to get their grubby hands in it. they just can't leave anything alone can they.
  • Not to be a wet blanket, but it seems to me that there is no definitive difference between 700 IT users and 700 computer users, the former just being a fancy word for the latter.
  • True. Now if these were all network admins or CTOs or some such thing, then it would be significant.

  • Yes, this is a great position; some sort of government watchdog group would probably be the best place to start... if you're in the US, you could always try here []

    Be prepared for an uphill battle - most people in power are pro-corporate welfare (which this would be considered..) think of your congressman, his first line of defense would probably be "but we NEED to spend money on this, because it keeps all those citizens employed."

    This would probably work better in other countries, where that particular defense wouldn't work... (for you Canadians reading, try The Canadian Taxpayer Federation []
  • Maybe I missed something, but I don't see your point. I think it's quite appropriate, given Microsoft's long history of abuses, that they be opposed "soley because they are Microsoft." I really don't care if they like it or not, they earned it and made a killing along the way. Just chalk it up to karma.

  • While I personally won't ever buy Microsoft products, I understand your point; I think it's a valid point that governments, etc. shouldn't refrain from buying MS products just because they are Microsoft.

    However, that's not the case here. The people signing the petition are putting forward a valid argument that there are alternatives that are not being properly considered, and that these alternatives are both (1) more stable, and (2) free. Considering that the government in question can get more for less, it seems only right that people would complain that it's squandering their taxes.

    -Snibor Eoj
  • Well, I live in Northrhine Westfalia and I have never heard anything about FFII.. (I heard about the technology center though)
    Are there any online information available? Where can I sign the protest letter?
  • by FreeUser ( 11483 ) on Monday June 14, 1999 @10:34AM (#1851363)
    The letter has criticized the agreement because it spends German taxpayer money on products of dubious quality, when there are superior, freely available products which do the same thing. It is true that Microsoft are the most notorious for selling shoddy software products, but they are hardly the only ones. It is the idea that tax dollars (or, rather, Marks) are being spent on inferior, commercial products when better, free (as in speach, and in many cases also as in beer) products are availabe that would cost the taxpayers little or nothing.

    There is also a legitimate philosophy against subsidizing industry in general -- there are numerious ethical as well as economic arguments against this kind of thing (it does, I think anyone would agree, severely distort the free market no matter how it is done, and many people rightly think this is a bad thing irrespective of the ethical arguments pro or con). Subsidizing a monopolistic entity, which has caused such havoc in the IT industry in the last decade is to many a particularly perverse and noxious example of this practice.
  • > The idea of deals is that both parties benefit.

    I think it is more correct if you add 'think they' to the above phrase:

    The idea of deals is that both parties think they benefit.

    Did users benefit by getting Dos/Windows preinstalled from 1991 to 1996? They thought so but in reality they were being bound into a contract with Micros~1 in such a way as to tie them to that vendor for the rest of their lives.

    Perception is at the heart of "the deal". IMHO
  • read my earlyer post []

    #include "standard_disclaimer.h"
  • >Moderators should not punish people

    Punish? By moderating down? Boy, I gotta figure out how to be a moderator when I grow up so that I can punish people with a mere click of the mouse!

    Geez, you'd think a moderator had powers to garnish your wages for making bad posts. If a moderated post is too much of a slap to your ego to bear, you need to get out more.

    >Go ahead moderate this down. Squash my opinion. Squelch my voice

    If only I could ;-) but for some reason I can't comprehend, I like to read comments at -1 threshold anyway.

  • Posted by Mary CW:

    A number of posts included some incorrect assumptions about how government contracting, esp outside of the US, works.

    The idea that government should not support any particular company (ie stand back and let free competition occur) is a peculiarly American idea. Most other nations expect their governments to actively lobby and support favored businessess. This has nothing to do with what business provides the "best" products, and has everything to do with politics and whose hands are in whose pockets.

    Germany follows an economic model that favors large, established organizations (business, labor groups, etc.) who avoid direct competition with each other but who instead come to agreements via a closed-door decision process. So Germany knows perfectly well what it's getting with Microsoft; the whole point is to get in bed with companies for the long haul, not for one-time contracts.

    The German govmt couldn't care less about the DOJ/MS case. Much of the world doesn't think very highly of American politics; from their perspective, we get all bent out of shape over things that are common practice elsewhere (Presidential affairs, predatory business practices).
  • kicks ass...mondo was all that wired wanted to be...
  • ... don't tend to know squat about Linux. (yes, this is a generalization. tough.)

    at a high school I went to, where there are MANY computers, and have been for a long time, the only linux boxen are the servers (well, except for the Solaris one) becasue a) the faculty guy in charge of this knows squat about it and so b) the students who /do/ know how to do it can't get permission and c) the teachers are rather clueless, and thus scared of it.

    I think it's more than possible to do. ask at your local hs (mostly) about that, and about helping admin them on a continuing basis, since that is one of the biggest problems. one explanation of why they don't have to just throw out their 386's and can actually run useful software on them (not to mention the lack of expense and the joy of the cs classes) they'll be at least willing to listen.

    I'm still working on my old school because this is a great place to promote Linux-awareness. Apple knew what they were doing when they equipped all those schools with computers, and Microsoft does now.

  • Well, it appears that a handful of people in Germany don't fit into your classification, then. Perhaps they are the enlightened minority. After all, it's the kind of politics you describe that get so many nations into trouble with their own citizens, don't you think?
  • yeah. but the US is suppose to be short on
    programmers. By spending more on commercial
    software, you are actually spending money to
    bring programmers into the country. If that
    made any sense.

    Regardless. Cutting spending w/ out cutting
    services is what they should be about. How
    can they be against that?
  • I can see your point. However, honestly, do you really think Gates stands much to lose from the DoJ trial? (I once heard that if Gates lost 90% of his total wealth, he'd still be worth about 1 billion US $, more than enough to continue living his current lifestyle. I think it was a Marylin vos Savannt (I butchered her name, sorry) column). Things like this almost always settle out of court (Intel), and people have such a short memory, I'd say within 6 months after the DoJ thing, the average Joe won't even remember hearing about the anti-trust suit against M$. It's sad, yes. But that's the world we live in.

    I'm thinking the German Gov. thinks that M$ is just going to get a slap on the wrist.

    Personally, it won't effect me too much if the agreement goes through, but I would be interested in knowing if there is anything I (we) could do to attempt to convice the German Gov. that Open Source solutions are more favorable to M$. Combine our voice with that of the German Advocacy (I suck at spelling) group, then perhaps we can convice them to see "the light" :-)
    At the least, it'd be fun helping out our "overseas brethren" (well, overseas from my point of view)....
  • Yeah, I saw that. Unfortunately, there's no way for me to take back what I said.... :(
  • Posted by Mary CW:

    I agree that it's good to have regulations on govmt contracting -- better than having it unregulated!

    However, at the practical level, the existence of regulations means only that the contracting process is byzantine. Just because something is "required by law" doesn't mean that the process will genuinely be open, fair, logical, produce the best result, etc.

    Believe me, as someone who's worked in govmt contracting for years, there are no rules so well-intentioned that they can't be manipulated. The "low bidder" rule being a perfect example -- the games you can play with THAT one... Don't mean to sound cynical, it's just the way business is done -- people will work the system to their best advantage. Implying that everything will work out OK because it's "required by law" is a misleading statement.

    The best guarantee of a well-managed govmt is an involved citizenry. That's what is encouraging about this particular situation in Germany.

    BTW the stakeholder method (forget the German term) of corporate governance has been the standard in Germany for decades, it does not relate specifically to contracts (large or small).
  • However, honestly, do you really think Gates stands much to lose from the DoJ trial?

    The issue for anyone seeking to 'get into bed' with MS isn't isn't whether Gates will lose anything after the DOJ is finished, but whether the company will be able to provide the level of service they can now (supposing you think MS service now is acceptable; personally, I have no opinion about that).

    It just doesn't strike me as good strategy to get involved in any new venture with MS right now. Maybe the government in that part of Germany doesn't think so, but certainly companies in the US are using the trial to position themselves to kick MS when it's down, and they're much closer to the action.

    I don't think that the DOJ is going to wipe out MS or Gates, but there's likely to be a lot of internal turmoil if the judge does anything on the order of what MS has given him reason to do (i.e something pretty serious). And that just makes things uncertain, which businessmen and governments tend not to like.

  • Not to be a wet blanket, but it seems to me that there is no definitive difference between 700 IT users and 700 computer users, the former just being a fancy word for the latter.
    Remember that "IT professional" and "IT user" are just fancy names for secretaries, librarians, and other paper pushers grabbing up fancy titles for low-brow work. Programmers know what they are: they're coding artisans.

    Once upon a time, the Great Manager deemed a notoriously slow program so important that he would set three of his top staff members to work on it.

    The first employee, a computer engineer, noted that there were too many bad blocks on the disk plus dodgy memory with parity errors, so swapped out the hardw are. And there was some rejoicing.

    The second employee, a computer scientist, noted that the algorithm was quartic, and reduced it to one that was merely quadratic. And there was much rejoicing.

    The third employee, an in-fo-may-shun pro-fesh-un-null, went down to Radio Shack to find out whether the Great Satan had issued a Win95 Resource Kit he could buy. And there was much invoicing.

  • Actually I'm not really surprised. Most politicians (the German ones are no exception), like most 'ordinary' people, aren't aware of geekish stuff like Linux. All they see is the omnipresence of MS on their computers.

    The DOJ isn't that big in the German news and even if the outcome doesn't favor MS - what will be the consequences for Rheinland-Pfalz (which btw is just around 10% of Germany anyway)?

    Good government never depends upon laws, but upon the personal qualities of those who govern. The machinery of government is always subordinate to the will of those who administer that machinery. The most important element of government, therefore, is the method of choosing leaders.


    Bureaucracy destroys initiative. There is little that bureaucrats hate more than innovation, especially innovation that produces better results than the old routines. Improvements always make those at the top of the heap look inept. Who enjoys appearing inept?
  • >>I once heard that if Gates lost 90% of his total wealth, he'd still be worth about 1 billion US $

    ...I read somewhere recently that he's up to $100 billion; that'd make it %99 before he' down to a measly(sp?) $1 bil. I can't even comprehend how he's even motivated about money! I mean I understand it intellectually (monomania, etc...or is that moneymania ;) but it certainly boggles the mind!

  • >The idea that government should not support any particular company (ie stand back and let free competition occur) is a peculiarly American idea.

    Is not.

    >Much of the world doesn't think very highly of American politics; from their perspective, we get all bent out of shape over things that are common practice elsewhere (Presidential affairs, predatory business practices).

    Ok, but its not true for ALL other countries. Yes, most of the world thinks that presidental affairs is a more a matter between the president and his wife (lying about is under oath is worse though), but if you suggest that only Americans get upset over corruption or predatory business practices, think again. In Sweden, Mona Salin, the woman who was supposed to become the new head of the Social Democracy party and therefore probably the next prime minister, was ripped apart by media after using an official credit card to buy private stuff (I think it was diapers and socks or something banal like that) for around $20, even though she had later paid back the money! She resigned from her post and disappeared from politics. (Though she was forgiven after a while and is back now.)

    But yes, I have gotten the impression that in southern Europe (France and Italy especially), voters seem to accept corruption quite a lot. This is what has made Scandinavians very sceptic about joining the EU. However, things are moving in the right direction. Remember Edith Cresson (sp?), she was thrown out together with the rest of the European parliament.
    But maybe I'm prejudiced as well when accusing southern Europe. ;-)

    Look what I found on the net. Take a look at this. The lower the number, the more corruption in the country. Guess which country doesn't even make it into the top ten? :-)

    Table 1. 1996 Transparency International Corruption Index By Country

    Country Corruption Ranking
    New Zealand (NZL) 9.43
    Denmark (DNK) 9.33
    Sweden (SWE) 9.08
    Finland (FIN) 9.05
    Canada (CAN) 8.96
    Norway (NOR) 8.87
    Singapore (SGP) 8.80
    Switzerland (CHE) 8.76
    Netherlands (NLD) 8.71
    Australia (AUS) 8.60
    Ireland (IRL) 8.45
    United Kingdom (GBR) 8.44
    Germany (DEU) 8.27
    Israel (ISR) 7.71
    United States (USA) 7.66
    Austria (AUT) 7.59
    Japan (JPN) 7.05
    Hong Kong (HKS) 7.01
    France (FRA) 6.96
    Belgium (BEL) 6.84
    Chile (CHL) 6.80
    Portugal (PRT) 6.53
    South Africa (ZAF) 5.68
    Poland (POL) 5.57
    Czech Republic (CZE) 5.37
    Malaysia (MYS) 5.32
    South Korea (ROK) 5.02
    Greece (GRC) 5.01
    Taiwan (TAI) 4.98
    Jordan (JOR) 4.89
    Hungary (HUN) 4.86
    Spain (ESP) 4.31
    Turkey (TUR) 3.54
    Italy (ITA) 3.42
    Argentina (ARG) 3.41
    Bolivia (BOL) 3.40
    Thailand (THA) 3.33
    Mexico (MEX) 3.30
    Ecuador (ECU) 3.19
    Brazil (BRA) 2.96
    Egypt (EGY) 2.84
    Colombia (COL) 2.73
    Uganda (UGA) 2.71
    Philippines (PHL) 2.69
    Indonesia (IDN) 2.65
    India (IND) 2.63
    Russia (RUS) 2.58
    Venezuela (VEN) 2.50
    Cameroon (CMR) 2.46
    China (CHN) 2.43
    Bangladesh (BGD) 2.29
    Kenya (KEN) 2.21
    Pakistan (PAK) 1.00
    Nigeria (NGA) .69
  • The artcile talks about a letter to Wolfgang Clement who 'governs' Nordrhein-Westfalen (or northrhein-westfalia) not Rheinland-Pfalz.

    Nevertheless you were right about that its just a state... though the one whith the most inhabitants.
  • Well, given that the petition wasnt publicized pretty much here (well, I heard about it for the first time) it's still a good outcome.

    Also, if you take a closer look at who actually signed the petition there are quite a few interesting startup companies (or at least their CEOs) at wich this whole new-media center thing aims.

    OTOH, I'm not too optimistic about the outcome of this movement, though.
  • Microsoft has also has made a contract with Rheinland-Pfalz. They will buy software for eduction puposes. It is sayed, that the value of this Software is much more than 1 million DM. An article about this contract written by the German Magazin c`t can be read there: Auch Rheinland-Pfalz unterschreibt bei Microsoft []. Sorry, only in German!
  • Moderators: Forget who this guy is for just a moment and give his post a "5" anyhow. ;-)
  • He keeps claiming he's going to give it all away to charity eventually. It would be wonderful if he did, but I'm cynical about it.

Were there fewer fools, knaves would starve. - Anonymous