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NYC Councilman (and Open Source Developer) Submits Bill Establishing Open Source 105

Posted by timothy
from the say-fellas-we-could-give-the-money-back dept.
NewYorkCountryLawyer (912032) writes "New York City Council Member Ben Kallos (KallosEsq), who also happens to be a Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) developer, just introduced legislation to mandate a government preference for FOSS and creating a Civic Commons website to facilitate collaborative purchasing of software. He argues that NYC could save millions of dollars with the Free and Open Source Software Preferences Act 2014, pointing out that the city currently has a $67 million Microsoft ELA. Kallos said: 'It is time for government to modernize and start appreciating the same cost savings as everyone else.'"
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NYC Councilman (and Open Source Developer) Submits Bill Establishing Open Source Preference

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  • Well, (Score:5, Funny)

    by NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) on Thursday May 29, 2014 @02:45PM (#47121985)
    I guess we should be glad there are no Visual Basic programmers on the City Council.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    This reads like the right bill for ten years ago.

  • by YrWrstNtmr (564987) on Thursday May 29, 2014 @02:55PM (#47122065)
    I'd be satisfied with a preference for whatever actually works for the given requirement, for the least amount of money. FOSS, proprietary, whatever.
    • by Ichijo (607641) on Thursday May 29, 2014 @03:00PM (#47122121) Homepage Journal

      Evaluate software not just on purchasing/licensing costs but also on the cost of installing the software, migrating old documents, and training users, and the time required to complete day-to-day tasks. Because sometimes FOSS is only free if your time is worth nothing.

      And require open standards.

      • by oodaloop (1229816) on Thursday May 29, 2014 @03:11PM (#47122237)
        Sure. As long as the same is done with Windows. We went from XP to 7 and every edition of Office with no training. In those cases, we all taught ourselves and each other informally. I taught myself Ubuntu at home, so it can be done. Let's just compare apples to apples.
      • Also require that anything developed by the city staff itself be released as FOSS if at all possible. Evaluate all competing bits to ensure that they allow derivative works to be released as FOSS.

        Because it's one thing to pay public money to a private org to get work done; it's quite another to pay public money to public servants and have the resulting product not be available to the public.

        • Because it's one thing to pay public money to a private org to get work done; it's quite another to pay public money to public servants and have the resulting product not be available to the public.

          No it's not. It's still public money. Just because one is a private organization should not mean they should be exempt from releasing their work such as you suggest the public servants should do.

          This is the same twisted logic the banks and brokerage firms used in 2007-2008 to justify why they shouldn't
          • The logic may be twisted, but corporations = people under the law.

            Therefore, the government paying a corp for a service is like the govt paying a contractor for a service -- you don't get to look inside the private workings of either, you just get to enjoy the services rendered.

            Enough of playing the advocate.

            I agree with you 100% -- but I also know that you have to stick your foot in the door with reasonable claims before you can pry the door wide open with claims that those inside may not currently find re

      • by mx+b (2078162) on Thursday May 29, 2014 @03:18PM (#47122287)

        Open standards is extremely important. I'd hate for all that data to be locked into Microsoft Excel format, or what have you.

        While I agree that sometimes the FOSS is buggy or missing features, I do not think in this situation we should let that stop us. In fact, I would love to see NYC (and other cities across the country) agree to sponsor/contract a couple of developers each to work on whatever we need: data formatting and conversion, word processing, accounting, voting software, etc. In this way, while the FOSS is maybe not up to spec today, we can all work together on making it up to spec soon. In this way, we all pool resources, get it done correctly ONCE*, and enjoy the savings and philosophical warm and fuzzies.

        (* yes I understand that long term we would probably need to continually hire developers on a contract basis to fix problems that come up, or add new features or support for new operating systems, etc., but generally speaking it would be much less impact on the budget long term -- though I also understand the political pressure currently to cut budgets rather than spend a little extra for a perk down the road.).

        • That model has worked very well with various universities and other agencies pitching in on Moodle, which is a framework that hosts online courses. It takes care of things like enrollments, grade reporting, etc. - everything that isn't course-specific. After a couple of years of open widespread contributions, Moodle is as good as any commercial competitor.

      • Evaluate software not just on purchasing/licensing costs but also on the cost of installing the software, migrating old documents, and training users, and the time required to complete day-to-day tasks. Because sometimes FOSS is only free if your time is worth nothing.

        And require open standards.

        That's a BS excuse. I've been pushing FOSS for quite a while in a company that uses that very excuse quite a bit. But how many projects have you been involved in where the profit gains have been so desirable that Executives just say "You know what, I'm just signing off on this and ignoring your concerns. You'll figure it out."??? Hell, that's what happens MOST of the time on very large, complex projects. There's no reason the government can't do the same. Dump the new systems on the users, they HAVE to figu

      • by swv3752 (187722) <swv3752 AT hotmail DOT com> on Thursday May 29, 2014 @03:31PM (#47122397) Homepage Journal

        About the only way to get open standards is to use FOSS. There are also benefits that will spur the local economy as proven with the recent story on Munich. Plenty of FOSS projects are best of class. It is not just about up front costs or installation and configuration. What are the ongoing support costs? For a given number of servers, it usually means more Windows admins that Unix/Linux admins. Unix/Linux can do more on given hardware than Windows. When Microsoft transitioned Hotmail from BSD to Windows Server, they had to more than double the amount of servers to achieve the same performance.

        Plenty of Government uses FOSS- http://leeunderwood.org/linux/... [leeunderwood.org]
        There are even more undocumented cases, but I am not at liberty to divulge that information.

    • I'd prefer that people spending my taxes thought more about the 'will work in the future' part and not just 'works now'. As in:
      • What happens if the supplier goes bust?
      • What happens if the supplier decides to stop supporting the software?
      • What happens when our requirements change and we need an extra feature?

      Unless the purchased software comes with the right for the customer to create (and use and duplicate) derived works, all of these questions are difficult to answer. And if it does come with those ri

  • by NotSanguine (1917456) on Thursday May 29, 2014 @03:00PM (#47122113) Journal

    From the proposed amendment:

    It is necessary for the functioning of the city that computer data owned by the city be permanently available to the city throughout its useful life. To guarantee the succession and permanence of public data, it is necessary that the city's accessibility to that data be independent of the goodwill of the city's computer system suppliers and the conditions imposed by these suppliers. It is in the public interest to ensure interoperability of computer systems through the use of software and products that promote open, platform-neutral standards. It is also in the public interest that the city be free, to the greatest extent possible, of conditions imposed by parties outside the city's control on how, and for how long, the city may use the software it has acquired. Finally, it is not in the public interest and it is a violation of the fundamental right to privacy for the city to use software that, in addition to its stated function, also transmits data to, or allows control and modification of its systems by, parties outside of the city's control.

    I agree that we should use the right tool for the right job, but why should that exclude FOSS?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by bmajik (96670)

      There are some great points in there

      1) access to data without vendor approval/involvement.

      2) interop

      3) no "remote killswitch" on software

      4) no strange privacy leaks

      I think these are all fine requirements.

      But it's not clear to me why closed software couldn't meet them.

      For instance, how does Windows + Office not meet these requirements?

      1) the Office XML formats are documented, open, and have reader/writer libraries on non-Microsoft platforms

      2) As a result of the consent decree, and much subsequent engineering

      • Undoing Moderation - Posted Redundant.
      • I think you would agree that Office 365 meets approximately none of the requirements. Consider Adobe recently decided to make all of their software subscription / cloud only. Microsoft _could_ therefore do the same with Office. Knowing that, reread this sentence:

        > be independent of the goodwill of the city's computer system suppliers and the conditions imposed by these suppliers.

  • I know it's the default in NYC (and NY in general), but I still wish some of these smarter guys would rebel and throw off the chains of the Party of Slavery. It forces me to question everything you do, even if it sounds interesting and benificial.

    • I know it's the default in NYC (and NY in general), but I still wish some of these smarter guys would rebel and throw off the chains of the Party of Slavery. It forces me to question everything you do, even if it sounds interesting and benificial.

      Yes, TCO is an important consideration WRT software/systems purchasing, as is the mix of administration and support personnel currently employed by the city. We should weigh all the costs *and* benefits of any solution implemented by NYC government. I suspect that in some cases, FOSS solutions will be better and/or more cost-effective than proprietary ones, and in other cases they will not.

      So, rather than go on with political party smears that haven't been true since before the majority of NYC residents (

  • QA (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jones_supa (887896) on Thursday May 29, 2014 @03:29PM (#47122375)
    No, just no. The quality of OSS is too bad. Well, let's not say bad per se, but it varies a lot. What you win in software licensing costs, you lose in fighting all the bugs. Too many of your support calls will be wasting your time with silly glitches [launchpad.net].
    • This is certainly true for some software (GUI/UX-heavy sort of applications, in my experience). Linux kernel, Apache (and the whole LAPP/LAMP stack), FireFox/Chromium, etc. are all OSS (to some extent). Yes, I think Open/LibreOffice is FAR from competitive with Word -- so I guess I'm agreeing with you, it varies a lot; but I take issue with "the quality of OSS is too bad."

      I'm certainly not advocating abandoning proprietary software in one fell swoop. But there are cases where it can make loads of sense -
      • But there are cases where it can make loads of sense -- server OS, desktop browsers, etc.

        Yes, I agree. But my point was that the quality varies too much for open source to be the answer just because.

      • by dens (98172)

        This is certainly true for some software (GUI/UX-heavy sort of applications, in my experience). Linux kernel, Apache (and the whole LAPP/LAMP stack), FireFox/Chromium, etc. are all OSS (to some extent). Yes, I think Open/LibreOffice is FAR from competitive with Word -- so I guess I'm agreeing with you, it varies a lot; but I take issue with "the quality of OSS is too bad."

        You're citing the same handful of great (yes, they are) OSS apps that most proponents of OSS do, but these, in my experience, are the exception, not the rule.

    • It's been a while, but the stats I'm familiar with showed that FOSS code had a lower error rate than commecial code - 1 error per 200 lines vs. 1 error per 80 lines in shipping production code. IIRC that 1 in 80 number was originally from Microsoft, about their own Windows code.

      From my Software Quality Assurance Workshop that I ran a few decades ago, the numbers for enterprise level, production code using the best practices of the time were in that same ballpark. Interestingly the rate didn't vary with la

      • Yeah, whatever, man. I'm right now personally bisecting a regression where Linux kernel fails to enable render ring (3D acceleration) for GM45, and another regression where the ACPI fan control broke for a laptop. At the same time the default Ubuntu media player is unable to show the mouse cursor and control widgets in full screen when I move the mouse. These kind of things very rarely break under Windows and Mac. My point remains: no one will be able to use a full open source software stack in business wor
        • In fairness, those sound like mostly hardware driver issues. FOSS often has a disadvantage when the hardware vendors neither build a linux version of their proprietary drivers, nor provide adequate, up to date information for someone else. This has been perhaps the longest running and most problematical part of the Linux situation. A very relevant question is whether the ACPI fan itself is doing what it's supposed to - it may be that the HW vendor put a hack in its proprietary Windows driver to work arou

          • The both bugs are regressions, which means that everything worked fine a couple of kernel versions ago.

            ACPI fan control is quite generic stuff and does not require a manufacturer-specific driver. GM45 is a chipset used in business laptops 5 years ago, not a gaming chipset.

    • No, just no. The quality of OSS is too bad. Well, let's not say bad per se, but it varies a lot. What you win in software licensing costs, you lose in fighting all the bugs. Too many of your support calls will be wasting your time with silly glitches [launchpad.net].

      Unity (back in 2011 remember) is a very twisted example to go for, a piece of very immature software. Part of Ubuntu 11.10 which was an non LTS release. If any IT manager deploys that in the first place you've got much bigger problems than painful support calls.

    • by rastos1 (601318)

      No, just no. The quality of OSS is too bad.

      In some cases yes. But imagine how much it would improve if it got only 1/10th of what the state pours into proprietary solutions. And then everyone else would benefit too!

  • I keep seeing these types of stories, with people screaming about how much "Cheaper" OSS is vs. Closed Source. But very few people look past the cost of the licensing. I challenge you to replace a fully-working Microsoft environment with something OSS that provides full feature parity. Removing Exchange/Outlook is always the sticking point. You can piss and moan about standards, and Outlook client issues all day long, but the fact remains that Outlook/Exchange "just works", scales incredibly well, and i

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