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WhiteHouse.gov Releases Open Source Code 161

Posted by kdawson
from the of-by-for-and-to-the-people dept.
schliz writes "The White House has released four custom modules for the Drupal content management system. The modules address scalability, communication, and accessibility for disabled users, and the release is expected to benefit both the Drupal community and the WhiteHouse.gov site as the code is reviewed and improved by the open source community." Reader ChiefMonkeyGrinder adds an opinion piece with a somewhat envious view from the UK: "Open source is treated as something akin to devil-worshipping in some parts of government. So, the idea that a major project in the government backyard would be based on something as basic as Drupal is pretty far-fetched. No, this side of the Atlantic would have involved a closed-tender process; a decision made [behind] closed doors based on proprietary software and we'd be completely in the dark about costs, about delays, and about functionality."
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WhiteHouse.gov Releases Open Source Code

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  • Good move (Score:5, Interesting)

    by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Friday April 23, 2010 @09:46AM (#31954526)
    I have a lot of complaints about this current administration, but I'll give them credit where it is due. This is a good move, and I hope to see similar actions in the future.
  • Re:Excellent ! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Yvanhoe (564877) on Friday April 23, 2010 @09:50AM (#31954584) Journal
    Let's do that then :
    Trustbird [trustedbird.org] is a project led by the French Gendarmerie (a kind of police) in order to add military cryptography and chain-of-command features into thunderbird. It has been released publicly.
  • by aussersterne (212916) on Friday April 23, 2010 @09:58AM (#31954690) Homepage

    since sliced bread. Easy and damned rapid to deploy, reasonably scalable, easy to modify and customize, flexible enough to build everything from a blog to an e-commerce system to a social networking platform to a cloud-based RDBMS front-end to a personal document and photos filing system.

    A million things I used to do with my own C code, shell scripts, and hard drives are now done on a hosted domain using Drupal. More and more of the work I do for others just slides into Drupal by default because it's the easiest, most powerful, fastest, and most growth-capable way to accomplish it.

    I just love Drupal.

  • by itsdrewmiller (1346931) on Friday April 23, 2010 @10:21AM (#31954948)
    Kundra is great, but this wasn't his brainchild. This is 20-somethings fresh off the campaign getting inside government and fixing it. Change I can believe in, indeed.
  • by Col. Klink (retired) (11632) on Friday April 23, 2010 @10:26AM (#31955012)

    The GPL requires copyright ownership, but work done by the Federal Government can not be copyrighted. I looked at a couple of the modules and they all include GPL v2 license. Shouldn't they be public domain?

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Friday April 23, 2010 @10:26AM (#31955016) Journal

    And that's ignoring the fact that Marxism childishly assumes all economic transactions are zero-sum and wealth can never be created.

    Where did you dig up that nonsense? Yes, communism consistently fails because it never manages to come up with a viable alternative to the market for setting prices and distributing commodities. However, there is nothing in Marxism implying that transactions are zero-sum. Marx himself, in his sections on economics, is practically orthodox Adam Smith. He is completely in agreement with Smith's stuff about gains from specialization of labor(the famous Pin Factory) and was, if anything, even more fixated on the productivity advantages of capital goods, and the way in which capital goods could be combined with labor to produce a surplus with which to produce more capital goods. The only real difference was that he took the (wholly orthodox) notion that "In a competitive market, the price of a commodity is equal to its marginal cost of production" combined that with the (also wholly orthodox) idea of "labor as commodity", and drew the unpleasant conclusion that "in a competitive market, the price of labor will be equal to the cost of bare subsistence for the laborer."(and, given what the pre-welfare-state industrial slums looked like, this wasn't exactly without empirical validation)... The whole marxist idea of labor being oppressed by capital rested on this conclusion, and on the idea(explicitly opposed to the "zero-sum" notion) that capital + labor would generate surplus value; but that, since the market for unskilled industrial labor was extremely competitive, capital would end up holding basically all the surplus value, reinvesting it in capital goods, and obtaining even more surplus value in the next round, while labor would always be stuck at a subsistence level.

    Later Marxists were fascinated with(and frequently sought to emulate) to work of industrialist innovators like Ford and Taylor, precisely because they recognized that those guys where on the cutting edge of non-zero-sum transactions and maximal productivity gains from the combination of capital and labor with scientific management techniques.

    Obviously, none of this denies the existence of random pot-smoking dorm-room "communists" who wear Che shirts and think that "work is slavery, man!"; but the intellectual underpinnings of Marxism and communism(as well as the activities of communist states, which tended to explicitly emphasize the swiftest possible transition from near-zero-sum subsistence activities to high-surplus industrial ones) is actually in nearly complete agreement with orthodox capitalist theorists about the non-zero-sumness of transactions, and the gains from trade and specialization of labor. Communists just don't like how those gains are distributed. Unfortunately for them, they never hit on a more viable mechanism.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 23, 2010 @10:33AM (#31955108)

    It's always amusing to see ignorant Americans ridicule the French, even though the French have known warfare for thousands of years longer than America has even existed.

    When the French have seen war, it has been on their own soil most of the time. They have seen entire generations fight to the death for their freedom, and that's only within the past hundred years. Meanwhile, America has barely even been scratched on its home soil. Pearl Harbor wasn't even on mainland America, but thousands of miles away. And during some battles of WWI, the French would lose a number of soldiers and civilians every 10 minutes of fighting equivalent to that of the American losses on 9/11.

    The French have shown more valor, bravery and courage under fire than America ever has. The French are true warriors, and true defenders of freedom.

  • Re:Um... bullshit? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by yuna49 (905461) on Friday April 23, 2010 @11:07AM (#31955672)

    Of course, one of the links there is "words, not deeds" so perhaps all the noise about open source is just that.

    Indeed if you read the article you would have seen a comment by a VP at Ingres that sounds remarkably similar to the criticism from the UK commentator cited at the top of the story:

    This is not the first time such platitudes have been made by the government. Over the past 12 months the office of the CIO has continually pointed to open source as the key to reducing capital expenditure on large public sector IT projects. We at Ingres work with public sector bodies daily and have not seen the enforcement of these policies at a practical level and so view this announcement cautiously. Right now there is a very large negotiation underway to renew Oracle's contract with the MOD which in theory should be put to competitive tender but sadly is being conducted behind closed doors.

    Of course, Ingres has a vested interest as a competitor to Oracle, but I'm not surprised to hear that the Ministry of Defence conducts its IT negotiations behind closed doors, "in the interests of security," I'm sure.

  • Re:Good move (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 23, 2010 @11:07AM (#31955684)

    Hmmm, let's check President Obama's record after just a year in office, okay?

    -- stopped a depression in its tracks and converted it into what now clearly has been a severe, but tolerable, recession - check

    -- raised public opinion around the world of the United States, and appropriately is re-focusing the Middle Eastern wars to Afghanistan, working finally in comity with Pakistan with successful tactics against terrorists - check

    -- passed a health care bill that is far from perfect but will cut govt expenses over time, extend coverage to millions who previously were getting their health care at high costs to all of us in emergency rooms, and prevents insurance companies from discriminating based on pre-existing conditions, a bill desired by a majority of the US population - check

    -- passed the largest middle class tax cut in US history - check

    -- walked a middle ground that accepts faith as a positive force that can work with government (e.g. faith-based initiatives) but ends favoritism for the extreme religious right influence such as in regulations concerning stem cell research and abortions - check

    -- overturned pro-polluter regulations of previous administration (remember Bush's EPA appointee who said the solution to air pollution was for people to spend more time indoors?) and dramatically increased investment on environmental research - check

    -- and of course, this openness initiative including his Dept of Defense giving the green light to open source, and the types of actions this Slashdot article that we are responding to is all about.

    I'm not a mouthpiece or a shill, just a slob American voter like anyone else here who didn't even vote for the guy, but I've got to admit this seems like an incredible record to have established in a short time in office. He's certainly more than meeting my expectations as a president.

    So I'm curious when you say, "I have a lot of complaints about this current administration" what are they? I am at a loss to understand the vehement reaction of negative groups like the so-called "Tea Party" to this president. I know good and deserving fellow citizens of mine don't like being painted as racist, but I can't otherwise make sense of the reaction. This is a president with an excellent beginner's record. Why all the hate?

  • by yuna49 (905461) on Friday April 23, 2010 @11:14AM (#31955788)

    What an insightful observation! I'd guess the developers just followed the usual procedure and attached the GPL license text.

    Have other projects using the GPL had to deal with this issue? Can Drupal modules be released as "public domain" even if the rest of the code is GPL? Since the Federal Government has no copyright to transfer, it's probably not even possible for them to give the code to the Drupal developers and let them place it under the GPL or transfer the rights to the FSF.

  • Re:Um... bullshit? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by aitala (111068) on Friday April 23, 2010 @11:40AM (#31956170) Homepage

    How about http://data.gov.uk/ ? That's Drupal too.

    Or is the site not really part of the Gov't?

    Eric

  • by Bing Tsher E (943915) on Friday April 23, 2010 @01:02PM (#31957352) Journal

    Sliced bread actually sucks. Bigtime.

    The 'crust' on a loaf of bread protects the bread inside, and keeps it fresh. Slicing the whole loaf just promotes early spoilage. The promotion of pre-packaged sliced bread goes hand in hand with the idea that bread needs to be pumped full of chemicals and preservatives to keep it fresh.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 23, 2010 @03:10PM (#31959162)

    I tried to rebuild my Brigade's website in Drupal and was shot down by the FT Knox webmaster. "Increases the surface attack area" was the reason. I argued in person but he said PHP is not allowed (though it has a Certificate of networthiness). I tried to push Linux but let that go, tried with mysql and let that go. But Drupal MUST have php to run, database can be MS or other.

    So, the end result is using army.mil's new "create" area (http://www.army.mil/create/developer/downloads.html) which provides a dreamweaver template to use. Which meant that i had to order dreamweaver. Blah, but it looks good and most of all it is acceptable by post.

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