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United States Government The Courts News

Oregon Bill Would Require Open Source Consideration 269

Posted by timothy
from the commonwealth dept.
VeniDormi writes "I just found out that House Bill 2892 was introduced in the Oregon House of Representatives by Representative Phil Barnhart. The summary: 'Requires state government to consider using open source software when acquiring new software. Sets other requirements for acquiring software.' Rep. Barnhart has a few comments on the bill." A NewsForge story has more information, including some words from Rep. Barnhart.
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Oregon Bill Would Require Open Source Consideration

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  • by Visaris (553352) on Thursday March 06, 2003 @02:54PM (#5451642) Journal
    I'm pleased. Open source should be considered. And at the same time, I'm glad they didn't take things too far and require the use of open source. This is a positive influence yet doesn't seem too restrictive. Good for them :)
    • by poopie (35416) on Thursday March 06, 2003 @03:14PM (#5451838) Journal


      Requires state government to consider using open source software when acquiring new software. Sets other requirements for acquiring software.


      In many cases where highly specialized applications are required, the consideration of opensource alternatives will show that while linux has multiple nice desktops, multiple nice office suites, multiple nice browsers, multiple nice email clients... it still has a number of fronts to work on.

      When you compare all enterprise commercial apps against the most mature and most turnkey opensource ones, you'll find a lot of projects with good intentions but little functionality compared to commercial offerings.

      The free software world is all about code and component reuse and sharing, and the attitude of 'hope someone can find use for this thing that I wrote - if it doesn't meet your needs or doesn't work, let me know and I might choose to do something about it... better yet, can you help? Here's the sourcecode'

      If the government is committed to hiring software developers to *MAKE* opensource software work by *ENHANCING* it and *EXTENDING* it's functionality, then... HORRAY! We all Win.

      ...Is there such a thing as a FREE SOFTWARE LEECH?
      • by TheConfusedOne (442158) <the.confused.one@ g m a i l.com> on Thursday March 06, 2003 @03:39PM (#5452066) Journal
        The issue is what you can do when you find a gap and who benefits from plugging the gap.

        In the opensource world you can either try to rally the masses or hire your own programmers to fill a gap. The new code then gets returned to the community for possible future use and refinement. (Or it may remain so unique that no one else can gain any use from it.)

        In the commercial/proprietary world you usually wind up having to convince the software owner that this is a gap worth filling in. Then you have to wait through the release cycle or pay them extra to do the work for you. At the end of the day the other company owns the fix and you end up re-buying it each time you get another license/upgrade.

        (If it's a customizable API then you're exactly where you were with the open source stuff we're you're paying programmers to do the work for you.)

        At the end of the day you're probably going to have to pay for a programmer, it's just a question of what return you get on that investment.
      • ...Is there such a thing as a FREE SOFTWARE LEECH?

        That's an interesting idea... You know what, though? Even if you're using open source software, and even if you have NO coding skills whatsoever, and you're not contributing to the actual development, there are OTHER ways to help out.


        • Testing: The more people that run the software in a real world environment, the more bugs that are found. Even running released software will help to overturn bugs that might not otherwise be discovered, because everyone uses software a little differently and in a different environment.

        • Evangelism: A government organization or big company that runs, say OpenOffice.org, evanglizes that software by simply using the program and the file formats. Telling other people your organization uses a particular software package also tends to make people in related businesses or organizations think "Hey, maybe that program will work for me?"
        • Documentation: If you can't write code, you can always write docs if you're a gifted tech writer. Let me tell you, there's a LOT of open source software out there that could use some nice docs!


        • So just because you can't code, or don't have any developers doesn't mean your organization has nothing to contribute.
      • More open source software in government might open opportunities for small businesses to extend and customize programs for government use.

        The only big problem with this thought is the expectation that OSS must be free...meaning unpaid small businesses.
      • by pmz (462998) on Thursday March 06, 2003 @03:56PM (#5452206) Homepage
        When you compare all enterprise commercial apps against the most mature and most turnkey opensource ones, you'll find a lot of projects with good intentions but little functionality compared to commercial offerings.

        Open Source software is the final destination of products that are destined to become commodities. Operating systems, word processing, personal finance, and some games, for example.

        The software products that will likey never become open source serves domains so specialized, complex, or competitive that only businesses can drive them. In other words, no one would want to put up with such software in their spare time. A good example of this would be high-end computer-aided manufacturing and process planning. The problem domain and the hardware, such as multi-axis milling machines, are so expensive and complex that the cost and risk associated with proprietary software isn't that big of a deal. Also, there are so few people who can write such software well, that they deserve to recieve a salary for their work.

        It's all these other "me too" products, such as Microsoft Office, Microsoft Windows, etc., that belong in the public domain :).
      • ...Is there such a thing as a FREE SOFTWARE LEECH?

        By that measure, how many more people READ literature in this world than write it? How many more people VIEW art in this world than make it? How many more people LISTEN to music in this world than compose it, or even perform it?

        The human race has been "Leeching" off of creative poeple at least since the discovery of fire. Up until we had this whole notion of Intellectual Property, this was considered by all parties to be a good thing.

        Music without ears to hear it is a pattern of vibrations. Software without a user base is a random gob of bits.

      • "Is there such a thing as a FREE SOFTWARE LEECH?"

        I take it by this you mean someone who uses the software without giving back to the community. Um.

        Stop and think about this a second. Additional users are always helpful to software. They may spot bugs, someone may suggest a feature you haven't thought of. Even if you never hear from them, they may recommend it to someone else who then helps you out. And ultimately, you were going to write the software anyway. You're a volunteer. You can always bow out and let someone else take over. So why should you resent a "leech"? You want the software to be used.

        And not to mention the warm fuzzy feeling you get when your work is actually downloaded and does something useful. Remember, in the open source world the motivation is not money. (Not that it isn't nice, but it's not the main focus.)
    • by Gleef (86) on Thursday March 06, 2003 @03:57PM (#5452215) Homepage
      I'm glad they didn't require the use of Open Source, not because I don't think the freedoms that such a requirement would enforce are important, but because requiring them would be sufficient to torpedo the bill, and a partial measure like this is a good start.

      One thing I do wish they would require, and I believe is feasible to require at this point, is Open Standards in data storage and transmission. The bill defines them, but doesn't insist on them. It is a Free Government's responsibility, as representatives of the people, to make sure that their workings are accessible to all the people without forcing the people to spend hundreds of dollars on Word or Excel just to look at a document.
    • It would be nice if they also considered how they might financially compensate the authors of the free software they elect to use. I realize that establishing a fair correspondence between the value of the software you use and the value of the time contributed by its author(s), for the multitude of interdepent components that comprise a working solution is easier said than done. Still worth thinking about.
  • by mgessner (46612) <mgssnr AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday March 06, 2003 @02:54PM (#5451649) Journal
    It'd be interesting to know what Oregon's northern neighbors in Redmond think about this.

    It's a baaare faced challenge to the quality of M$'s products.

    Go OREGON!
    • It'd be interesting to know what Oregon's northern neighbors in Redmond think about this.

      You know, I think Washington should activate their National Guard and invade Oregon over this. That would be really fun to watch on TV. I know, we have that as the 8:00 lead-in to the war in Iraq at 9:00. Dyn-o-mite!

      • by binaryDigit (557647) on Thursday March 06, 2003 @03:16PM (#5451852)
        You know, I think Washington should activate their National Guard and invade Oregon over this

        I can see it now, Idaho will send human shields in to Oregon to protect valuable hiking grounds and fisheries. The French of course will not support Washington. Berkeley will pass a resolution to pout and not bath until Washington backs down. Meantime the Oregonian leaders will be out in Elmira with Ken Kesey chillin with some good jane wonderin what all the fuss is about. It would then be up to the white supremecists in Portland to defend the state.
    • I like to hear stuff like this, but I'd like it even better if I heard it after it's already passed. The fact that this pending bill gets attention on Slashdot will only force Microsoft to 'deal' with it. And given the malleability of government servants in the face of cash bribes and coercion from large companies, this bill may not survive long.
  • by NedTheNerd (652808) on Thursday March 06, 2003 @02:54PM (#5451650)
    thats nice but we need people that know how to use compouters in goverment first :)
    • RTFA!

      The open source bill -- HB 2892 -- is likely to end up in front of the General Government Committee, which is chaired by Rep. Jerry Krummel, who sells Linux-based computer security systems for SAGE, Inc. when he's not busy legislating and is, therefore, likely to be a friend rather than an enemy.
    • While your comment is amusing...there's also a real crisis there. Government CAN'T get good IT people, or at least can't keep them (I work in IT for the government, so I have to be careful here :). Seriously, if there's anyone on the planet that you would want to have the best IT people it's your government...so they provide better services to the constituent. The problem is, the government just flat-out can't afford to keep IT people. They have no problem getting entry level people, which is where I began three years ago. Government jobs are fantastic if you're just getting into the field...you'll get LOTS of experience. Take me, for example. I run a Win2k network with Win2k servers, Red Hat servers, Cisco switches and router, SCO Unix server, and an NT server. I am the one-man IT department. It's great because I'm getting lots and lots of experience doing lots of different things. However, at some point the value of the knowledge I'm gaining here will be outweighed by what I could make applying the knowledge that I have in the private sector, and I'm gone! Not to digress from the main thread or anything, but I just wanted to insert my 2 cents in here.
      • That was then. The government can easily get its fill of IT people now. Unfortunately, they have budget crunches; so it is incredibly hard to hire people.

        The long term problem for government IT isn't the wages, it's that the government tends to promote people for political reasons not skill. The government gets good entry level people, and they weed out the best.
      • Strange comment considering the economy.

        Gov't is where you want to me. The pay in the private sector is not that great, and the job security is non-existent.

        What you said used to be true.
    • Cute. Maybe you should check out some of the computer forensic tools that the US Air Force has published:
      • md5deep [sf.net] - Like GNU md5sum, but can work recursively, do matching, estimate remaining time, etc.
      • foremost [sf.net] - Recover files based on their headers and footers
  • by greechneb (574646) on Thursday March 06, 2003 @02:56PM (#5451658) Journal
    As Illinois is currently facing a 5 billion deficit. While I would rather first see all the pork barrel projects come to an end, I know that would never happen. That would be like Microsoft cutting Internet Explorer out of windows.
    • by TopShelf (92521) on Thursday March 06, 2003 @03:08PM (#5451779) Homepage Journal
      Sorry to say, but I highly doubt that such a law would result in making anything more than a microscopic-size dent in a $5 billion deficit. The TCO for open-source vs. proprietary systems isn't a slam-dunk either way, it has to be judged on a case-by-case basis against the value that each provides.
      • by stratjakt (596332) on Thursday March 06, 2003 @03:19PM (#5451890) Journal
        This is especially true in government applications where the code is 99% custom anyways.

        Eg; I work for a company that writes and sells computer dispatching and records systems to cops and firemen. I see no CAD systems on sourceforge. They simply dont exist, and wont because much of the code required is very site specific and customized. It's a niche market that open source, for all its virtues, cannot fill.

        Now if they want to run Red Hat Advanced Server on the backend instead of HP-UX or WinNT (which is what we offer now), more power to 'em, but it's still a few hundred bucks in a half-million dollar contract. A bit like pissing into niagra falls to warm it up.
        • QCAD is GPL (Score:3, Informative)

          by tjwhaynes (114792)

          Eg; I work for a company that writes and sells computer dispatching and records systems to cops and firemen. I see no CAD systems on sourceforge. They simply dont exist, and wont because much of the code req

          Guess you haven't tried QCAD [qcad.org] then. Or maybe it doesn't exist :-)

          Cheers,
          Toby Haynes

          • Re:QCAD is GPL (Score:3, Informative)

            I think they're referring to 'Computer Aided Dispatch' -- not 'CAD' in the traditional, drawing sense.

            911 emergency operators use CAD interfaces to assist with real-time law enforcment routing and dispatch.
        • But don't you see this is the point of open source. Sure the Fireman need custom apps, but fireman in Portland need the same custom apps as fireman in Minneapolis and probably many of the same ones as fireman in London. If they all got together and jointly maintained an open source app rather than each one buying commercial apps and then customizing them in house they could save a fortune.

          Why write the same code over and over and over again?
  • hmm (Score:2, Interesting)

    by loraksus (171574)
    Well, we are closing schools and perhaps shortening the school week to 4 days [although we aren't, as of yet, as fscked as California]. Might be an idea to get software that is like, you know, cheaper than the standard suites - especially if you only need the capabilities of one of the programs within the suite.
  • This is reasonable (Score:2, Insightful)

    by HeelToe (615905)
    I think government should be compelled^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hrequired to look at all alternatives, but not forced into anythiing.

    On the related topic of what license should software carry if government funds its creation, I feel like open source should be a requirement.

    Of course, this opens up all the little issues like, well, if it's truly open sourced, Canada could use it against us in an upcoming war.
  • This must be a Washington - Oregon rivalry, that is manifesting itself at the legislative level.

    That is a fancy way of saying "Screw you Bill Gates, and your f'ing Seatle company".
    • "Screw you Bill Gates, and your f'ing Seatle company"

      Didn't Gates hometown end up doing this? I remember reading somewhere about Windows not being up to the task of town management while Gates house was being built. Haven't found the article yet.

      • Didn't Gates hometown end up doing this? I remember reading somewhere about Windows not being up to the task of town management while Gates house was being built. Haven't found the article yet.

        That would be the city of Medina. His property _doubled_ the amount of property paperwork for the small city (ie, he cost them $$$). They set up a linux box to run their stuff. They turned the monitor on one of the boxes to the window so passersby could see it was not running Windows.

    • Actually if you look closely you will notice that mr Barnhart was on the school board of one of the districts that faced an audit.

      Don't think it's all of wasthington he wishes would screw off.. just Redmond.

  • by stratjakt (596332) on Thursday March 06, 2003 @02:59PM (#5451707) Journal
    This means nothing. This is a no-tooth bill that has nothing to do with increasing open source usage, but merely placating a bunch of lobbyists.

    Here's how it goes when an agency is looking to buy software:

    - They decide what they want, and which vendor to get it from. They seek a budget for it.

    - The rules say they must let contractors compete on the bid, so they put out an RFP (request for proposals).

    - They word the questions in the RFP in such a way as to make sure that the only product that will be acceptable is the one they originally planned on.

    I see this day in and day out. Just this morning I read an RFP. They were looking for an RMS system to complement their police dispatching system.

    The first requirement was: Must work with the existing dispatching system.

    Well, the only RMS out there that works with the dispatching system is the one from the vendor of the 20 year old dispatching system. The whole RFP process is a beurocratic circle jerk.

    Now if all the systems were 'open source', would it make a difference? Not really, since we'd be unlikely to rewrite our RMS for each and every bid. An open format for data transmission would be nice, but a pipe dream, since every agency in the country has their own way of managing the data.

    So while this is a nice warm and fuzzy bit of legislation, it wont affect how the system works at all. If they put out a contract for a bunch of OS's, it'd read "Must support DirectX 9" or some such to pigeonhole it into what they already decided on.
    • The first requirement was: Must work with the existing dispatching system.

      I don't know the specifics around this particular situation, but this on the surface seems like a reasonable requirement. If they have to run both systems side by side for some duration of time, then it could make sense for this compatability be important. Again, not to say that this isn't some circle jerk, but just on the example that you gave, it doesn't seem to unreasonable. The general gist of your statement though certainly rings true.
    • by Sgs-Cruz (526085) on Thursday March 06, 2003 @03:26PM (#5451959) Homepage Journal
      They were looking for an RMS system to complement their police dispatching system.

      I can't see RMS complimenting anything, let alone his hippie software complementing the dispatching system run by the MAN! :)

    • Hmm, so would open source make it easier for a standardized system to propogate to other agencies? I'm not familiar with the programs that they use, so I don't know if that would be feasible; however, I feel it might make it easier for standards to be kept, if they all see and use the same source code, and don't go to different vendors on the whim of an administrator.
    • They were looking for an RMS system to complement their police dispatching system.

      Here it is. [punkcast.com] Their dispatching system had better GNU/Something or he probably won't give it any complements.

    • Guess what? I write code for government agencies, too, and we don't rig our RFPs from the start. If that is what you are doing, maybe you should get your local media to report on it because someone is screwing up big time.

      There are certainly government agencies and/or department heads at the local, county, state or federal level that "cheat", but that is not how it is supposed to work. And it does NOT work that way where I work.

      Would a lot of the system selections end up with the same result if you didn't fudge your RFPs? Maybe, since many vertical apps (like police dispatch) don't exist yet in the open source world, but you can at least make the process fair.
    • by manyoso (260664) on Thursday March 06, 2003 @03:47PM (#5452139) Homepage
      You have failed to read the bill.

      The proposed law would create a new _requirement_ for all of those RFP's: the software _must_ use open formats that are transparent for data storage if they are even to be considered!

      Most of the proprietary apps I know use proprietary formats for data storage... this would lead to a huge boon of either Open Source software in State government OR require the proprietary developers to use open formats!

      READ THE BILL!
    • by FreeUser (11483) on Thursday March 06, 2003 @03:49PM (#5452159)
      ... and if true, your boss (or his boss, on up to whoever is doing what you describe) belongs in jail.

      This means nothing. This is a no-tooth bill that has nothing to do with increasing open source usage, but merely placating a bunch of lobbyists.

      Here's how it goes when an agency is looking to buy software:

      - They decide what they want, and which vendor to get it from. They seek a budget for it.

      - The rules say they must let contractors compete on the bid, so they put out an RFP (request for proposals).

      - They word the questions in the RFP in such a way as to make sure that the only product that will be acceptable is the one they originally planned on.


      Not only is that a violation of current law (and, as another suggested, you should get the media involved), but that would be a direct violation of this law as well, since obviously if the vendor is chosen first and then the bidding started, the free software solution wasn't ever in consideration to begin with (a violation of the proposed legislation).

      The law will be good for those departments which do obey the law, and will be an additional charge to be filed against the leadership of those who do not. This, to me, appears to be a good thing on two fronts: more responsible and more open IT policies in government, and additional ammunition to punish the corrupt.
    • But now they can be held accountable for not chosing an alternative.
      IF they try and put some weasly reqiurment into the rfp, competeing companies can, and should, make a stink about it.

  • by airrage (514164) on Thursday March 06, 2003 @03:00PM (#5451714) Homepage Journal
    I suppose I become, year after year, more of a libertarian: the less government the better. Why should one have to legislate this sort of thing?

    Should we also put for legislation that governments must consider using aluminum-foil stop signs instead of metal? Isn't the stewardship of tax money impetus enough to find the "best" solution for a given municipality.

    Of course the argument is two-fold: if open-source is so fantastic why does it need to be legislated -- like some sort of quota system. Yet, the flip side, which will hopefully avoid many similar posts is that their is a certain structual momentum that doesn't easily allow for change, much like racism I suppose.

    When I grew up it wasn't a law that children wore bicycle helmets. Of course, helmets weren't readily available either. But you know what that made us? Stronger. Surer. More aware of our limitations. Now a child goes out into the world wearing full, active-camo kevlar and runs cycles through traffic with abandon. The point: it was better before the law. But as the parenting got worse, the laws got tougher.

    So, now again, we are being parented by the government. We are not simply smart enough to decide that helmets are good thing individually -- we must have intelligencia decide it for us.

    To wit, I think this is a poor idea on all fronts.

    But I could be wrong ...

    ~Airrage ;)
    • Well, at least the intelligentsia hasn't outlawed poor spelling! :)

      In this case, I think putting a requirement to consider or prefer open source software is a wise use of tax money. The collection and spending of taxes seems to be an inevitable activity, so why see if we can maximize the potential benefit for everyone? Supporting open code supports a code commons that all citizens can enjoy without spoiling it for others.

      In fact, it is only pragmatism that suggests that unless national security is at stake that we insist the govenrnment use only public domain, BSD, or GPL software. If our tax dollars are being spent to install, maintain and use software, we ought to have as much right to inspection as possible to evaluate that spending.

      Also, like many others, I believe the argument that says that TCO is lower in predominantly Free Software shops. And a large part of the fixed costs of Free Software-based systems is overcoming the inertia you mention.

      This law, like all others, needs an expiration date. There are too many laws and rules on the books. I have to wonder if most of the people charged with creating laws, executing those laws, and determining the validity of the laws have even read them all.
      • I think, unfortunately, you missed the point. The point was not to take a side on the open-source debate, but rather to talk of the legislation of said debate.

        I say let the marketplace decide. The problem you seem to fail to grasp is that this law will basically be on the books FOREVER. Let's assume a future of all open-source. Do we have to reverse the law to consider all closed-sourced programs as well? Of course not -- that would be ridiculous -- because the basic decision would probably need to include more than closed-source offers, but maybe other solutions as well.

        It's a ridiculous notion to legislate this and I continually work to slowly change minds on this subject.

        As for spelling, I appreciate you correcting errors, but sometimes, unfortunately, a quick-reply or submission comprimises a thorough spell-check; but, appreciate you reading the article anyways.

        Out.
    • by dmaxwell (43234) on Thursday March 06, 2003 @04:39PM (#5452608)
      The proposed bill sets a mandate on how the government procures things. It has absolutely nothing to say about how non-govt. Joe Blow runs his IT department. Since you are a tax paying libertarian, I would think you would be in favor of anything that means the govt. spends less money or gets better return on what it does spend. Granted, the savings would be lost in the noise of all the other money governments waste.

      It requires things that are entirely favorable to taxpayers. It mandates open formats for data storage which makes it less likely that the government would mandate say using Word to complete an electronic tax form. It legitimizes consideration of vendors and solutions the government couldn't consider. The consequences mean a bit more choice in how citizens interact with government. How is any of this a threat to libertarians?
    • " Why should one have to legislate this sort of thing?"
      onew shouldn't, but in reality if you don't, people will continue to use an entrenched process, even if the state is drouding in debt.

      Your helmet example is a very poor one. Thisnis regulation for state behavior, not for individual behavior.
      the legislation is making YOU consider Open Source.

      As a libertarian, you should be happy the state is going to have more chooses.
    • As mentioned above by other including me, its highly likely there is legislation on the books in Oregon which preclude open source. Further it is the State legislature's job to set long term priorities and processes. That is the executive is responsible for implemenation of the legislative branch's policies. How are executives to know if the legislature does or does not consider open data formats a priority without being told.

      I think this legislation is perfectly in keeping with Libertarian philosophy. The legislature wants to reweigh the buying process going on in Oregon and they are using the direct and appropriate means to do so.
  • Great bill, but... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gpinzone (531794) on Thursday March 06, 2003 @03:00PM (#5451716) Homepage Journal
    Why is it important to enact a bill to say that the state should consider anything? I could work as an employee of some state controlled IT department and say, "I didn't choose the open source product because the sky is blue, but I did consider it." and be in compliance with this law (assuming it gets passed). It's a nice political statement, but nothing more.
    • Well it is state worker mantailty. Working for the State is what you do wrong that gets you fired. You can do a bunch of good things while working for the State if you do one thing wong you will get fired. What this bill tells the state workers that you wont get fired for considering Open Source Products (such as being labled a comunist, or radical), It help the state workers know that if there is an open sorce tool out there that seems to get the job done, then they should feel free to use it without having to worry the fact it is OSS, will give them trouble in the future.
  • by wowbagger (69688) on Thursday March 06, 2003 @03:04PM (#5451748) Homepage Journal
    And on the border of Oregon and Washington State, the tanks are massing for an invasion of Oregon.

    The Govenor of Washington was heard to refer to this operation as "Operation Make Bill Richer"...

  • Interview, Please! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by HaeMaker (221642) on Thursday March 06, 2003 @03:13PM (#5451819) Homepage
    I bet slashdot could get an interview with him.
    • The interview would probably be worth reading. Two years ago he spearheaded opposition to UCITA in Oregon -- see (hoping this doesn't get mangled in wordwrapping):
      http://linuxtoday.com/news_story.p hp3?ltsn=2001-04 -30-017-20-NW-CY

      Geoff
  • government cheese (Score:2, Interesting)

    by elohim (512193)
    The US government loves the low bidder. If an open source software candidate is free, and support costs are comparable to a closed source alternative, open source is going to win every time. I know of at least one example where the government's stinginess has backfired when pursuing the low bidder, but that's top secret. The difference with software, I think, is that the lower cost alternative is often better!
  • by El_Smack (267329) on Thursday March 06, 2003 @03:17PM (#5451871)
    $100 for the first politician to do the same thing....in the great State of Washington.

    *tumbleweed rolls slowly by*

    What, no takers?
  • I think it's good that governments consider open source. But at the same time, the government buying comercial software supports my family.

    The company I work for sells a lot of software to state governments, the federal government, and foreign governments. At a time when most businesses are tightening their belts, government sales have become more important to keeping the company in the black. If sales drop too much, I could lose my job. So while I like the idea of the government considering all the options, I also like the idea of the government supporting the software industry.

    One other thing to note: we sell very litte software without consulting and maintenance attached to it. Our customers don't want to dink around with stuff without support. They want someone to come in and set it up for them. So even if governments have to consider open source software, they're not likely going to go after something that doesn't have a commercial backing of some sort.
    • I think it's good that governments consider open source. But at the same time, the government buying comercial software supports my family.

      Since when did open source and commercial software become mutually exclusive?

      we sell very litte software without consulting and maintenance attached to it.

      So what's to stop you from providing open-source versions of your software, and getting paid for the consulting and maintenance?

      even if governments have to consider open source software, they're not likely going to go after something that doesn't have a commercial backing of some sort.

      Again, a product being open-source doesn't preclude it from being commercial.
      • So what's to stop you from providing open-source versions of your software, and getting paid for the consulting and maintenance?

        Many millions of dollars in licensing revenue.

        > even if governments have to consider open source software, they're not likely going to go after something that doesn't have a commercial backing of some sort.

        Again, a product being open-source doesn't preclude it from being commercial.


        I didn't mean to say open-source and commercial are mutually exclusive. I meant to say that a government isn't going to say "Oh, I can get this open source stuff for free and save the tax payers millions," but instead that they will look to companies like Red Hat that back open source software.
  • They have not mandated the use of Open Source software, rather they've guaranteed that Open Source will be one of the choices. This is after all Microsoft's position WRT the software ecosystem ... right? ;)

    They should also be happy that Oregon has laid down clear and necessary conditions on the requirements for state purchased software, thereby insuring that Oregon residents always have access and recourse to State owned data. Clearly, both Open Source and proprietary software are *capable* of meeting these conditions ... and it is upto the proprietary developers if they *choose* to compete in delivering software to Oregon's government.

    I'm writing a letter to my Governor and legislator to see if they might consider introducing a similar law.
    • by manyoso (260664) on Thursday March 06, 2003 @03:44PM (#5452105) Homepage
      To those of you who are posting asking, "Why do they need to write a law to 'consider'" ... you are missing the real power of the law which is located in the very last section. This proposed law *mandates* as a requirement of Oregon State that the software (whether Open Source or proprietary) adhere to open and transparent formats for data storage. In other words, Microsoft Office will not be allowed unless Microsoft *chooses* to alter Office to save files in an open/transparent way.

      This is entirely upto Microsoft and is completely fair in the sense that the State of Oregon is saying that open formats are a *requirement* of all software purchased for state goverment.

      READ THE BILL!
  • Sow the wind... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DSP_Geek (532090) on Thursday March 06, 2003 @03:35PM (#5452028)
    ...reap the freakin' whirlwind.

    "Before he was elected to the legislature, Barnhart was a member of a local school board that was threatened with a software audit by Microsoft. Barnhart says, "It would have cost $60,000 just to perform the audit."

    It looks like MS just made a New Friend. Licence 6.0 is making similar friends in the corporate world, too.

    Francois.
    • I feel a smug bit of satisfaction with that.

      Almost the same sort of satisfaction on recieves when you hear the Director who laid you off in you last company was himself laid off, and the whole plant moved overseas. Or finding out the guy who ripped you off a few years ago has been sentenced to a long curriculum at the state ass-packing school.

      Of course, there is also the opposite effect. I just landed a side job because of some volunteer work I did a year ago. All things come back to you eventually.

  • Just remember... (Score:3, Informative)

    by circusnews (618726) <steven@steven s a n t o s .com> on Thursday March 06, 2003 @03:36PM (#5452030) Homepage
    This is a bill, a proposal for a new law, not a law. I would encourage every Oregon resident reading this to write your state senitors/reps [circusnews.com] and encourage them to support this bill. Letters from out of state can also be helpful, even if they are not counted as highly.
  • by Java Ape (528857) <mike.briggs@nOsPam.360.net> on Thursday March 06, 2003 @03:36PM (#5452040) Homepage
    We've seen this before in a variety of guises. Nothing new here.
    1. Politico from state with budget shortfall and M$ introduces pro-open source legislation. Total cost 30 minutes to scrawl it on a napkin and send it to his secretary for typing.
    2. Politico voices strong support for bill, makes vaguely disparaging remarks about M$
    3. M$ sends representative to "discuss" the issue, reiterate the fine qualities of M$ software, and generally defuse the situation.
    4. Eventually there's a generous political contribution, and an offer to provide M$ products at "special discount pricing", possibly with an imdemnification against existing liscense violations.
    5. Politico suddenly sees the light, disavows any allegience with open source, and dissapears in a shiny new Mercedes.

    The only interesting part of this is how good a settlement M$ will have make to shut this guy up.

  • by PsychoKiller (20824) on Thursday March 06, 2003 @03:41PM (#5452080) Homepage
    Rep. Barnhart says, "I am a long-time lurker on Slashdot, so I have been aware of the [open source] issue for some time. I've been convinced for a long time that Windows is a difficult program -- wasteful and expensive." And, he adds, "The little experience I've had with open source has been very positive."

    Get back to work!
  • One of the problems with the RFP system and OSS especially free OSS is that there is often no one available to write the proposal.

    Some effort has to be made to look for free software, no one is calling you to sell it to you. I find free software to use at my company occasionally. It usually takes a few hours on the internet to compare all of the free alternatives and can save thousands of dollars compared to what companies are trying to sell to us. Shouldn't the government at least look for alternatives before it shells out our money?

  • This sounds kind of like the NFL mandating that owners must interview at least one minority candidate when filling a coaching vacancy. That policy doesn't work too well - just look at the recent Lion's hire.
  • More paperwork? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pcraven (191172) <paul@cravenf[ ]ly.com ['ami' in gap]> on Thursday March 06, 2003 @04:12PM (#5452361) Homepage
    I did development for USGS once about 8 years ago. The hiring process was terrible because of all the paper work. They hired several grad students, and one guy who had a semester's worth of programming. Why? Because he served in the Gulf war and was a Vet. So they were required to hire him if they hired us.

    We also used Data General computers. Cheaper and better UNIX computers were out there, but the paperwork made them impossible to get. To use a new vendor you had to post that you were looking for equiptment. Then you had to see how many minorities were in the vendor company leadership. Those got preference. Bunch of other forms and regulations.

    Require consideration of open source good idea? On paper. But that is the problem. There are too many good ideas on paper that became laws, and you have to pile through to do anything in government.

    Being a slashdot user I didn't read the article. (Because the sites are always down after the slashdot post for some reason.) But are the comments about it are correct, that 'open source' was required to be on the approved list? Great, I can write a piece of crap and it is required to be approved? Hope not.

    Trust the guy they hired to make the decision. Otherwise he shouldn't be in the position if he didn't deserve the trust. (Yes, I know about the stupid Oracle license story a while back.)

    • I don't know, I think there are enough (fill in your desired ethnic/handicap/economic background) folks working on open source to qualify it for anything!

      I'm pretty sure somewhere in the world there is a lesbian albino dwarf of Latvian decent working on the kernel. Ok, maybe not from Latvia, but you get my point.

  • carefull (Score:3, Funny)

    by ryusen (245792) on Thursday March 06, 2003 @04:17PM (#5452405) Homepage
    Microsoft, might decide that they don't liek this and buy Oregon, break it into parts, then sell what they don't want to California and Seattle.
  • by hellfire (86129) <deviladv@gmaMONETil.com minus painter> on Thursday March 06, 2003 @04:18PM (#5452417) Homepage
    I'm shocked that there are so many in slashdot community who will, on one side, complain that IT departments in private corporations don't mandate that they consider open source products because the IT managers believe, based on false stereotypes and laziness of mind, that MS only is the way to go.

    Now those slashdotters are complaining about a law who's sole purpose is to fight that mindset?

    Of course this is politics, but its good politics. People who are hired in government IT departments are humans too and suffer from the same conceptions (or misconceptions if you will). Instead of shareholders who ask the CEO to make directives, lawmakers make directives of its subsidiary departments to make sure they fulfill certain goals.

    Frankly, I think someone got the idea that Open source might save the taxpayers and the state money and that they are simply asking IT departments to make an effort to look at open source solutions rather than be lazy. Imagine that!
  • The interesting part (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    For those of you who didn't take the time to read the bill:

    (2) For all new software acquisitions, the person or governing body charged with administering each administrative division of state government, including every department, division, agency, board or commission, without regard to the designation given the entity, shall:

    [items a, b, c omitted]

    (d) Avoid the acquisition of products that do not comply with open standards for interoperability or data storage; and

    (e) Avoid the acquisition of products that are known to make unauthorized transfers of information to, or permit unauthorized control of or modification to state government's computer systems by, parties outside the control of state government.


    So. No undocumented .DOC file formats, and no Windows Update or Turbo Tax-like spyware! Woohoo (theoretically)!

    -AC
  • Hrrm (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jefu (53450) on Thursday March 06, 2003 @04:47PM (#5452714) Homepage Journal
    Oregon voters recently refused to raise taxes thus leaving the state facing serious cuts in spending at many levels. Replacing proprietary software with open source could help quite a bit.

    However...

    Requiring state agencies to "consider" open source is likely only to raise costs. Someone will spend a couple extra days saying they're considering open source, then go back to the safe choice. (At some point in the past, when IBM was king, the saying was that "Nobody ever got fired for recommending IBM")

    If Oregon were to find all the places where open source could be dropped in with minimal disruption and then actually do it, the state could probably save a fair bit.

    For example, in the town I live in in Oregon, there is a Community College (they like to call themselves a University, but tend to act like a Community College). Essentially all the faculty run Windows and run mostly screen savers, word, email and a browser (there are a few exceptions running Macs). All of these could easily be replaced with open source alternatives. They probably never will be - the Computing Services folks have bought big into MS and they will support the whines of the faculty who'll say "I can't learn anything new".

    • If Oregon were to find all the places where open source could be dropped in with minimal disruption and then actually do it, the state could probably save a fair bit.

      But that's not something the legislative branch should be doing. That's for the executive branch. In any case the first thing that needs to happen is barriers to considering open source need to be addressed.
  • Looking for teeth (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jeremy_hogan (587864) <jeremy,hogan&hyperic,com> on Thursday March 06, 2003 @05:01PM (#5452870) Homepage
    I've seen a couple of comments that an admin can say it's no viable and opt into proprietary solutions. That the bill is unenforcable or accomplishes little. Consider this:

    1) It gets F/OSS on the list of allowable purchases
    2) Portland school districts estimate 1.5M in licensing alone as pre-bill adopters. Savings indicative of larger statewide saving spotential.
    3) Incentive for gov't focused VARs to deploy
    4) Precludes use of EULA 6 type licensing
    5) Considers the disposition of the a merit, protects integrity of public data systems


    Not all of the benefits translate directly to savings, some will beget savings, some will encourage out of the box thinking, some are just the right things to do.
  • It just makes sense that, if you're a government organization acquiring software, you should consider your open source software options. One problem with some government organizations is that they write request for proposals (RFPs), send them out, and presume that the only solutions available are those from the respondants. Since open source software / Free Software (OSS/FS) projects generally don't reply to RFPs, they're likely to be missed, even if they're perfect for the job. Hopefully, this law will at least make some people go to the web and examine their OSS/FS options.

    For quantitative evidence showing that any software acquisition should consider their OSS/FS alternatives, see my paper Why Open Source Software / Free Software (OSS/FS)? Look at the Numbers! [dwheeler.com].

  • It's not Only MS (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Lucas Membrane (524640) on Thursday March 06, 2003 @08:43PM (#5454905)
    IBM still has mainframes in the Oregon state government. They have piles of DL1, CICS, and all of that. Because the state is budget-crunched, they are not funding wholesale rewrites, conversions, and migrations. They are incrementally going to new technologies. The most popular of these for the IT managers in the state government is Webshpere. This is not an easy place for open source to win, because it will be hard to slowly migrate and do piecewise replacements of mainframe systems without going to something else that runs under the same mainframe OS, eg Websphere.
  • I live in Oregon and (Score:4, Interesting)

    by PotatoHead (12771) <doug.opengeek@org> on Friday March 07, 2003 @01:19AM (#5456725) Homepage Journal
    am really happy to see this.

    We have made a couple of IT blunders that will end up costing us quite a bit over the next few years.

    DMV computer system. BTW, most of the DMV computers run win32 to access an application via terminal emulator. I have never witnessed one of these clerks use anything but that terminal emulator for what they do.

    Public Water billing system. This one is pretty scary. They contract the job out to a company that delivers a poor product. There are a number of project management problems with this system that have little to do with OSS, but I can't help but wonder if fixing it would not be easier if it were OSS software.

    This bill made me think a little too about return on taxpayer dollars. Lets say we do correctly spec and develop a water billing system using Open Standards and tools. Lets also say it works. Why not hire out the group that built it to other cities currently under the thumb of whatever company sold them their billing system? Seems we could get back some of our investment with services dollars while doing something good at the same time.

    The more cities that use the billing system, the cheaper ongoing repairs and upgrades will be because the interest in the code is shared.

    My school district is currently working hard at getting the wrinkles out of the LTSP project. Pretty cool stuff really. The schools see the dollars they spend each year and are looking hard at reductions through OSS.

    Lets hope this goes somewhere?

    BTW, how does one know about the hearings? They would be interesting to attend.

Organic chemistry is the chemistry of carbon compounds. Biochemistry is the study of carbon compounds that crawl. -- Mike Adams

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