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Texas Bill Would Require Open Source Consideration 221

Skapare writes "The Texas Legislature now has before it a bill ( ASCII text here, PDF here), submitted by State Senator John Carona, to require the state to consider open source and open standards as part of the acquisition of software. Texas, like many other states, has a budget crisis going on. If this passes, I believe it could help the state save a lot of money. Texans need to make sure their state representatives and senators know they want this to pass."
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Texas Bill Would Require Open Source Consideration

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 15, 2003 @07:33PM (#5521455)
    "Hmm, Open Source? Nope. Send in the guy from Microsoft with the money-filled briefcase!"
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 15, 2003 @07:34PM (#5521461)
    only meets once every two years. While I would love for a bill like this to pass, I am afraid that this bill won't be big enough to get the notice and attention it would need. Most likely it'll be swept aside in favor of using the available time for more pressing issues.
  • Deja Vu! (Score:3, Funny)

    by netsharc ( 195805 ) on Saturday March 15, 2003 @07:36PM (#5521469)
    A repeat [slashdot.org]!!!! Oregon, Texas, what's the difference!?!

    OK, just being sarcastic, let's hope we see 50 or so more of these.. :)
    • Oregon, Texas, what's the difference!?!

      Boy, you ain't from around here, is you?
    • let's hope we see 50 or so more of these

      So that would be... one for each of the 52 states?

  • by mrpuffypants ( 444598 ) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <stnapyffuprm>> on Saturday March 15, 2003 @07:38PM (#5521475)
    ....but changing over from a commercial vendor to open-source always carries with it a good deal of costs in converting user data, systems, admin training, etc.

    Still, I'm going to call my people in Austin to support it.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      There's just as much cost in sticking with what you have if the vendor forces obsolescence. Have you known very many commercial vendors who don't?
    • by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Saturday March 15, 2003 @08:53PM (#5521707)
      changing over from a commercial vendor to open-source always carries with it a good deal of costs in converting user data, systems, admin training, etc.
      I think often the question is how to migrate away from some antiquated homebrew DEC or mainframe setup. In that scenario, the transition to Oracle isn't real cheap either.

      And if you're going to invest in training, it's better to invest in something that's always available, rather than something you might not have the money to own next year, or which might be taken away through forced upgrades or discontinued support.

    • ...but not necessarily because of the Open Source cost advantages. If I were in purchasing for any state, national govt (or corp) for that matter, I would get mgmt to talk loud and publically about how we're considering Open Source. Even if I had no real intention to use it. Why? Anyone who tells you that Microsoft licence prices AREN'T negotiable is ill-informed or naive...
    • by mpe ( 36238 ) on Sunday March 16, 2003 @06:09AM (#5523131)
      ....but changing over from a commercial vendor to open-source always carries with it a good deal of costs in converting user data, systems, admin training, etc.

      As does sticking with a commercial vendor who likes you to "update" according to their schedule.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 15, 2003 @07:38PM (#5521479)
    so they don't have to worry about the cost of operating the electric chair.
  • by dirk ( 87083 ) <dirk@one.net> on Saturday March 15, 2003 @07:40PM (#5521483) Homepage
    With some form of this same bill being considered in several states, I have to wonder what the current policy is? Is there something in the current policy that would prevent open source from being considered? Or is it that this is just a way to ensure it is considered in every situation? If it is the latter, I'm not sure it's such a good thing. If there is nothing stopping it from being considered already, why do we need something to push for it to be used, as it would be on a level playing field with other software. I don't thing OSS should receive any more "special" consideration than any other product. After all, we would rail against a bill requiring MS products to be considered.
    • by loucura! ( 247834 ) on Saturday March 15, 2003 @07:44PM (#5521508)
      "After all, we would rail against a bill requiring MS products to be considered."

      Why? It just says that they have to be considered, not that they have to be used. Requiring consideration is very different from requiring usage.

      Requiring usage would be anti-competitive, but requiring consideration is pro-competition. Unfortunately, requisitions are always written so that only the program they want will work, so even if you consider using a competitor, it won't fit all the requirements for the requisition.
      • I think the parent misunderstands why the legislators want OSS considered. OSS does not force the government to become reliant on any one company. Also, it allows for greater scrutiny of govermental business as nothing can be hidden behind propietary software. I think this is why goverments want OSS considered first before considering propietary solutions.
        • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 15, 2003 @09:11PM (#5521756)
          I'm the network manager for a medium-size city government in Texas. Although city govts are distinct and separate from the state, we can still buy our software off of the "state contract" prices from "QISV" vendors without having to go thru the RFP/open bidding process.

          Half a decade ago we embarked on acquiring only "vendor-supported turnkey software apps" and ditched our in-house written systems (mostly old mainframe stuff) because it was perceived to be more cost-saving route, rather than having to keep our own expensive tech staff on payroll. What we've actually learned over the years is that "vendor-supported turnkey apps" is a farce. The vendors corrall and herd you into a corner where they want you, the support prices skyrocket overnight while the quality of tech support plummets. They force you onto a never-ending upgrade gravy-train which only benefits their bottom line. They do not keep knowledgeable support staff because that is a cost center to them, you get to wait on hold forever only to get to talk to a bubblegum-smacking teenager with a condescending attitude who barely can parrot back the owner's manual to you and cannot solve any real technical problems.

          In the end, running complex computer systems costs a lot of money, whether you pay thru the nose for "vendor supported turnkey apps" or keep your own staff of technical experts it eventually costs the same in the long run. When you do the latter, you are in much more control of your own destiny, you upgrade if-and-when you decide, not when the vendor decides. You can customize the system to fit your own internal business needs.

          I am using open source software everywhere I possibly can in my organization. We're feeling the budget crunch too, and the purchase cost savings of open source is definitely popular with my managers, though they are concerned with "who will support it", well the answer is the same people who would be supporting the "vendor-supported turnkey apps" --- the city's own I.S. staff, because whoever the commercial software's "owner-of-the-day" (the companies are constantly getting bought out by other companies) is generally incompetant anymore.
          • We're feeling the budget crunch too, and the purchase cost savings of open source is definitely popular with my managers, though they are concerned with "who will support it", well the answer is the same people who would be supporting the "vendor-supported turnkey apps" --- the city's own I.S. staff, because whoever the commercial software's "owner-of-the-day" (the companies are constantly getting bought out by other companies) is generally incompetant anymore.

            Especially if you have the senario where your
      • by TopShelf ( 92521 ) on Saturday March 15, 2003 @08:36PM (#5521665) Homepage Journal
        "Unfortunately, requisitions are always written so that only the program they want will work"

        That's an awfully broad statement - any vendor selection process that starts from the vendor's perspective is doomed to budget bloat and ultimate dissatisfaction. What is really needed is not a mandate that such-and-such software is considered, but more of a mandate that governments (just like businesses) need qualified systems analysts to drive these decisions. What's often lacking in government is the combination of technical and business expertise to make the proper match between requirements and technology.

        • need qualified systems analysts to drive these decisions.

          I'd say they need not only qualified system analysis, but qualified *unbiased* system analysis, which is an even harder problem.

          There would also ideally be bans on the kind of relationships that existed in places like the Oracle/California debacle, where the analyst has a relationship with the vendor whose software is a candidate for recommendation. Of course, the logistics of how to "ban" something like this would be pretty hairy...
      • I think you could make a case for a policy along the lines of "open source software should be used unless there is a compelling need for commercial software."

        This is little different than requiring employees to purchase the cheapest availble airfare, or limit them to midsize car rental while traveling. The low-cost option should be the default option, unless the need to spend more is demonstrated.

        Is that anticompetitive? I'm sure MS would say it is, but then the Four Seasons could balk at govt. employ

        • Except that in software there are features that you are looking for/need. The only feature of a plane flight that matters is that it gets you from point A to point B when you want. Everything else is just gravy. Same thing with a rental car. But with software the requirements are much more stringent and important. Cost is a factor, but so are the options and features the software provides. If you're requirements are a word processing programs with features X, Y, and Z that can easily be used to transf
          • That's why any such policy would allow paying for software when necessary.

            But what about IIS? Haven't you wondered WHY people are using it when Apache is the market leader, free, and has a better security record? I think sometimes in govt. there's no incentive to avoid wasting money unless there's a rule that says you should.

      • Here's the focus of inertia:

        Unfortunately, requisitions are always written so that only the program they want will work

        That would hold true except that there is a difference with PUBLIC bidding procedures.

        The problem stated above could change of course, if an enterprising soul said "I can make exactly what you want for $1.00 less than MS!! You gotta choose me!", either by customizing something already free or rolling a new product And with state contracts, you mostly gotta take the lowest bidder. Al

    • Often states and state agencies have regulations and legislation which require all sorts of properties from various "bidders" on contracts. By explicitly allowing for open source these regulations might be nullified when considering open source projects.

      For example lets say Texas requires that all software be purchased from companies that pay Texas sales tax. Can they use Apache?
      • Well, your specific isn't a hindrance. Yes, they can use Apache. Since no money changes hands, no sales tax accrues. No tax, no applicability.

        Besides, everyone will pay their state's sales tax [washingtonpost.com] before long!

        Non-USians: none of this applies to you. Or maybe not.

        Bottom line: open-source is probably not going to be disqualified by any state's acquision law, even the loopholey "gimme-my-kickback" kind.

        No, I think that the battle lies in the hearts, minds, and committee-meeting agendas of acquisition and technical

        • Where is the Apache state tax id # with the filing for $0? That's how they might define a company that pays sales tax.
          • Quoting grandparent:

            Often states and state agencies have regulations and legislation which require all sorts of properties from various "bidders" on contracts.

            What contract? Not applicable. Govt IT employee downloads, configures, and installs. The only way that doesn't happen is if IT employee's PHB decides that you have to buy software. Hence, my comments about the hearts (not applicable in the case PHBs), minds (also not applicable), and meeting agendas (right on point).

            And the scenario can be played ou

            • What contract? Not applicable. Govt IT employee downloads, configures, and installs.

              You haven't worked with government much have you? Imagine the difference in freedom between being IS for a small business vs. a large corporation. That's the same difference as between large corporation and government. Government employees don't install anything (in general there are exceptions). The employees are generally responsible for vendor management and designing the criteria for the RFP/RFQ (though often they
              • You haven't worked with government much have you? Imagine the difference in freedom between being IS for a small business vs. a large corporation. That's the same difference as between large corporation and government. Government employees don't install anything (in general there are exceptions).

                I'm lead engineer for a U.S. Air Force developmental and contracting facility. (I think it qualifies as "government".) I get to install damn near whatever I want in the lab. Most of my demonstrations become product

    • Is there something in the current policy that would prevent open source from being considered?

      Open source projects do not tend to be represented by salespeople.

      • I agree 100%. I figure that the law requires consideration means that the report that is written to decide the real product will include the reasons why and why not to choose OSS solution.

        With a sales guy, you can usually find out and relay word back. Here you have public record that you can mine for either injustice or legitimate ways to improve the features and acceptance of OSS.

        As I think is your point, genuinly this is a good thing for OSS. It just makes things even, and encourages openness.

        ---------
    • Thanks for saying what I already was going to say. I have always been they guy who wants the best tool for the best job. If that was the way things worked with computers, Mainframes would definitely be used for Databases and all IO intensive processes and UNIX/Linux for Calculation intensive stuff and Windows for low end file sharing and print spooling as well as clients. By saying this, the states should use the best tool. Period. Mandating that Open Source be included should not be needed. Granted,
        • I have always been they guy who wants the best tool for the best job. If that was the way things worked with computers, Mainframes would definitely be used for Databases and all IO intensive processes and UNIX/Linux for Calculation intensive stuff and Windows for low end file sharing and print spooling as well as clients.

        This is way too much of an oversimplification. For many applications, mainframes often lose out rather badly to Unix systems for databases. Your cost and flexibility with Unix systems

      • Thanks for saying what I already was going to say. I have always been they guy who wants the best tool for the best job. If that was the way things worked with computers, Mainframes would definitely be used for Databases and all IO intensive processes and UNIX/Linux for Calculation intensive stuff and Windows for low end file sharing and print spooling as well as clients.

        In quite a few cases the best tool for the job might be a terminal either text or graphics. I've seen quite a few situations where Windo
        • Yeah. I remember back when my company machine was a 75 MHz Pentium, the cashier's office got brand new Pentium II 450's to run 3270 emulation. If they had been using a terminal, we'd have had the ability to attatch a printer directly to the terminal for CICS prints instead of the kludge we have now of a PC running SNA over IP mapping to 5 network printers, all to the row of cashiers. The printers they bought did not even have a parallel port on it, plus the needed the ability to do some processing on the
    • I'm still wondering what this story has to do with 'Your Rights Online'.
      • I'm still wondering what this story has to do with 'Your Rights Online'.
        (Someone from Harvard would explain it far better than I, but here goes anyway;-)
        The real reason for OSS in government is that government records, and by extension the records of and about its citizens, cannot be held hostage to the whims or (mis)fortunes of any private company (or organization). Your actual rights depend as much or more on the way governments keep records as on the laws which have been enacted.
    • After all, we would rail against a bill requiring MS products to be considered.

      Good moding and question. I think the primary difference is that OSS isn't 'a' company, nor is it perceived that way. It means different things to different people. To bean counters it means free as in beer. To politicians, it means they can spend the money on something else (they would never just spend less). To the management of the agencies, it means "getting that new software everyone is talking about." To the end use
    • >After all, we would rail against a bill requiring MS products to be considered.

      Yes, but only because they're a harmful monpooly. As great as the free market theories are, in practice once the market has been poisoned by a monopoly then corrective action is needed. That's what this bill does. This bill addresses the fact that the IT industry is in dire straights (mainly because of Microsoft) and is forcing competition through legislation.

      It does more than that. It addresses "open standards" so as not
    • by wfrp01 ( 82831 ) on Saturday March 15, 2003 @11:54PM (#5522313) Journal
      I don't thing OSS should receive any more "special" consideration than any other product.

      Do you think public forms and documents should be distributed using proprietary formats, thereby compelling taxpayers who expect to benefit from their existence to aquire the same proprietary software? Do you see any irony in using proprietary software to manage the affairs of public institutions? (hint: proprietary is the opposite of public)

      Of course we would rail against a bill requiring MS products to be considered! But this is not a apples to apples comparison. Apple to Microsoft might be (less so lately). OSS/Free Software to Microsoft is not.
    • Because currently there is no level playing field, products are usually chosen based on what those in positions of power have vested interests in, or what the salesman managed to tell them. NOT based on research and testing by qualified unbiased professionals.
      I dont want to pay tax to the local government so that they can buy microsoft (or any other vendor) software based on "the mayor plays golf with one of their execs" or "senator whoever owns shares in them"
      I have no problem what the government uses, so
  • ... For the 1st time this April.

    I'll see to it that this bill gets the suport it deservs. I'll loby, I'll march, I'll recrute people to work the phones and go house to house.

    Hmm... Maybe not.
  • I don't get it (Score:2, Flamebait)

    by jstroebele ( 596628 )
    Why is a republican supporting this bill? There is no money in open source software. What is the truly liberal slashdot crowd to do? We love open source but hate republicans. They must be doing this so "Big Oil" can save some money, or maybe to kill innocent people in Iraq. What makes this worse is it's coming from Texas, oh no what to do.... Go listen to my Dixie Chicks CD and smoke pot I guess.
  • I'm seriously curious, because it just seems a little silly that even considering open source has to be legislated. Are there laws that forbid open source in this particualar situation?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      No, there are no rules against selecting open source solutions. Open source has always been an option, and the "best value" business is typical of government contract requirements. Maybe there's a few evaluators that never "considered" open source; maybe they'll even do more than "consider" it for five minutes after this bill is passed. But it's unlikely to actually change anything.

      All of which is why the bill is nothing more than a bit of grandstanding on the part of the sponsors. They can get a vocal
    • by jc42 ( 318812 ) on Saturday March 15, 2003 @09:40PM (#5521883) Homepage Journal
      Of course, pretty much all governments have laws requiring competetive bidding for government contracts. So you'd think this would be fully redundant.

      But it probably isn't. There are a lot of examples of only "commercial" offering being considered.

      Something I've seen on a number of web projects is a concerted effort to judge which web server to buy. While they're putting out a lot of effort installing and testing demo versions of commercial servers, I'll walk over to an idle machine, download apache, untar and compile it, and have a demo running in 15 or 20 minutes.

      Usually the reaction to this is exasperation. Apache wasn't in the list of competitors, and wasn't to be tested. After all, it doesn't have a price, y'know, and there isn't an Apache Inc to buy it from, so how could they ever compare it with the other servers? The rules are to consider competitive bids, and apache didn't make a bid, so they don't have to consider it.

      But in each case, the developers went with my apache server, because it was up and running. The management found they had serious opposition on their hands when they tried to get people to switch to the commercial server that they chose. The developers wanted something that worked, and had little patience for an expensive server that needed a constant babysitter.

      In all seriousness, this is how things get done in many organizations. Few managers anywhere want to decrease their budget by using something that's free. It doesn't matter whether it's government or business or industry or whatever; there's a strong prediliction among managers to simply not see "free" things.

  • Just think (Score:1, Flamebait)

    by fluxrad ( 125130 )
    This could be a huge boon to open source. Companies like Red-Hat could run promotional campaigns based on being the software of choice in TX.

    Linus Torvalds and Alan Cox could become the de facto pioneers of a whole slew of software designed to speed the execution of retarded prisoners.
  • It's funny (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pclminion ( 145572 ) on Saturday March 15, 2003 @07:46PM (#5521517)
    Funny how the economy goes in the toilet, and all of a sudden state governments start realizing that Microsoft is really a band of highway robbers. And this isn't the only announcement in recent weeks that a state is seriously considering switching things over to Open Source software.

    I wonder if Open Source could contribute to an economic comeback in any way.

    • I wonder if Open Source could contribute to an economic comeback in any way.

      Gee I wonder... what powered that whole "Internet" craze? Sure as hell wasn't Windows 3.1.

      If OSS had a ticker symbol, I'd buy in a heartbeat.
    • I wonder if Open Source could contribute to an economic comeback in any way.
      "He who lives by the crystal ball shall learn to enjoy ground glass".
      In a word, yes. For how and why, take a close look at IBM. Don't confuse free with cheap. Microsoft makes a glitzy facade with no real substance behind it. The required real substance is expensive. Very expensive. Large business systems that must interoperate reliably, with no funny business going on in dark corners. The future isn't B2B, it's B2B2B...2B with a fe
  • by bluGill ( 862 ) on Saturday March 15, 2003 @07:46PM (#5521519)

    I don't mind them picking any closed source solution so long as it has sufficant functionality and guarenties so that they know it will work right. However I do have a problem with ANY solution that is not open standard based. microsoft doc format works okay, but it limits your ability to choose a compititor. In effect your next bid for who supplies word processors either has to have perfect microsoft compatability, or you need to account for a team to open every current document and save it in a standard that the new program can read.

    By contrast if they require an open standard as default, today they can use Word, and tommorow switch to wordPerfect, and next year Staroffice might win the bid for who supplies word processing software. Even better than can be a mixture. Most people would be served just fine with kword or openoffice, but a few people need as use those features in microsft word that isn't provided in the alternatives. With a standard file format you mix and match as you wish. Today you can already provide Photoshop to those who really need the best, and Gimp to everyone, since picture formats are open. Word processing formats should be too.

    Even though I mentioned file formats above, that isn't the only place where open standards are better. At walMart I can buy several different memory card readers. Some support 3 different formats, some 5, and some 6! If you happen to buy the 6 port version you can read most formats today, but not all. By contrast there is already a good open standard memory card interface: USB, and every new comptuer has it so there is no need to buy any adaptor. (Some of the memory cards read by the reader might be considered open, but they are not everywhere so it is hard to call them standard. This should be a considereation too)

    • "By contrast if they require an open standard as default, today they can use Word, and tommorow switch to wordPerfect, and next year Staroffice might win the bid for who supplies word processing software. Even better than can be a mixture."

      My mixture of cynicism and optimism varies by the day, but simply getting the idea across to people there for any given task they do in life, there are (or should be) other ways to do it is the most important thing here. Inertia is probably just as strong a force as hor
  • If you do call your state representatives, please also express your support for Texas House Bill 1899 - Prevention of International Parental Child Abduction [findsabrina.org].

    A similar bill has already been passed in California. This bill could have helped to prevent my daughter's abduction to Mexico. She has been missing since last April. FindSabrina.org [findsabrina.org] for details.

    Let me tell you, your definition of "stuff that matters" changes when your child has been abducted.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      You have the best wishes of this particular anonymous coward. I hope you find her soon.
  • Interestingly enough (Score:3, Informative)

    by inode_buddha ( 576844 ) on Saturday March 15, 2003 @07:48PM (#5521522) Journal
    Many other countries seem to have similar considerations on a nation-by-nation basis, whereas the USA, if it even considers the question, does so on a state-be state basis. It's probably the state-by-state basis that will effect any actual change. This, not even on its own merits, but upon financial merits.

    [slightly OT] I wonder how US and State Gov't entities reconcile themselves with their own laws and decrees WRT OS-level stong encryption in such a scenario?
  • How will this save money?
    • How will this save money?

      Well, they won't have to pay licensing costs but it'll all even out as they have to train employees to use crap (to-the-user) alternatives to the software they had a year ago.
      • For most MS Office users, the re-training costs will be negligible, so long as they are sensible in the way the desktop is set up. The issue of spending money on licences versus spending it on training is interesting. Which would you rather do? Spend money on training Texans and broaden their skill base, or spend money on MS's shareholders? I know which I would prefer if it was up to me.

  • Modularity (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LegendLength ( 231553 ) <legendlength.gmail@com> on Saturday March 15, 2003 @07:58PM (#5521556)
    The real problem is the lack of modularity in the design of most of these systems, it's not a open / closed source problem.

    When companies or government departments implement a large software system, they very often get the entire thing done by a single vendor. Very rarely are the projects split up into modules with clearly defined interfaces that can be written by the lowest bidder (taking quality into consideration).

    Sure, there may be interoperability problems, but if the interfaces are defined strictly enough then you know exactly who to blame. Open or closed source can be chosen for each module depending on suitability. This excludes the operating system, of course, as it must be entirely open or closed source.
  • So who is this guy Texas Bill, and what gives him this kind of authority?
  • Is the lack of documentation. Of course I know everyone here can find all they need but the average user wants to go to Barnes and Noble and buy a book. They can't buy 'Learn Open Office in 24 hours' or 'Gimp Tricks and Secrets'.
    I recently set up an old maid aunt with a machine that came with Word Perfect. She is as newbie as they come but after 2 weeks she called and demanded Microsoft Word because 'she could buy a book about it'.
  • Forcing it? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by core_dump_0 ( 317484 )
    Are bills like these (Texas and Oregon) in which consideration of open-source software (software licensed under certain approved conditions) is forced really the right thing to do? I mean, isn't it more Constitutional to leave it up to the market to advertise Linux/open-source applications to people rather than have the state government do it? These bills are no different than forcing consideration of Microsoft software.
    • It IS different (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      This bill gives preference to software licenced under certain term, not to any particular vendor. Microsoft is free to compete by offering software under terms compatable with the bill. This is also about the only reasonable way to legislate consideration of lower cost alternatives to software currently in use; it wouldn't work to give preference to software that costs a given amount less than alternatives, but having no per-seat licence fee is a sure way to lower acquisition cost.
      • Re:It IS different (Score:2, Interesting)

        by mitcharoni ( 222957 )
        Just like I'm free to compete in women's olympic events....so long as I go through a sex change operation and take hormones for the rest of my life....and somehow figure out how to change my X-Y chromosomes to X-X.....

        Giving preference to software with "certain licensing terms" is under-handed, and it's intended result is clear and not as muddied as you think.

        And I wouldn't use the words "legislate" and "reasonable" so freely together. I mean, we ARE in Texas. ;-)
  • by bstadil ( 7110 ) on Saturday March 15, 2003 @09:01PM (#5521726) Homepage
    If you write your TX representative maybe note that the state site is already hosted on OpenSource.

    What is your state running? [netcraft.com]

    The site www.capitol.state.tx.us is running IBM_HTTP_SERVER/1.3.19.2 Apache/1.3.20 (Unix) on unknown

  • by kscguru ( 551278 ) on Saturday March 15, 2003 @09:21PM (#5521800)
    Don't get me wrong, I think states should be considering non-commerical software and if it takes a law then it takes a law...

    BUT... I also see huge potential for this to be abused. Depending on how a policy like this is implemented, they could require "software impact statements" akin to Environmental Impact Statements. A great idea, but in practice not so great... too many special interests use lawsuits over those impact statements to tie up companies or federal agencies in the courts for years, making the end result more costly than simply giving up. I don't want to argue about whether some of those lawsuits are necessary, but I do claim that there is too much abuse. And I could easily see commercial vs. open source software being suckered into the same sort of dispute.

    Imagine: Texas Department of ABC decides to use open source for gizmo X. Microsoft sues Texas for being "incomplete" with their evaluation of the software; i.e. they didn't consider MS kinda-open-source initiative Z that they really should have under the law. Dept. of ABC can pay millions fighting the lawsuit to use free software, or back down and pay hundreds of thousands for licenses to MS software; and MS would coincientally drop the suit if that happened...

    Maybe I'm being paranoid, but I see a LOT of potential for abuse here. Particularly if some special interests decide they can't stop the bill cold and instead decide to cripple it - and open the door for exactly what I laid out above. Do you trust the Texas legislature to be resistant enough to corporate money to actually get it right the first time?

  • by jrwillis ( 306262 ) on Saturday March 15, 2003 @10:18PM (#5522007) Homepage
    As an I.T. guy/admin for a Texas agency this isn't going to happen. First of all, at least 75% of the tech staff at your average state agency isn't going to be able to learn to support open source software. It's not like in the real world where a good number of people in I.T. are interested in learning new things. Where I work there are techs that are possibly going to retire simply because we're going from Win 9x to 2k. Now if that throws them that much what do you think is going to happen when you put a Linux/BSD box in front of them? Also, it's painfully obvious that the people that run these agencies could care less about saving money. For example, we paied $300 to have a cpu fan replaced in a computer the other day because if we went out and bought one ourselves and installed it we'd be in violation of a contract with the harware repair vender. I deal with things like this every day and there's nothing that can be done about it.
    • Also, it's painfully obvious that the people that run these agencies could care less about saving money.

      That's probably why a law is needed to force these dinosaurs to look at saving money.

      I deal with things like this every day and there's nothing that can be done about it.

      Hopefully a law like this will help. If you just blindly pick a proprietary product you'd be breaking the law and hopefully diciplined/fired. It's unfortunate that state employees wouldn't care about saving people money.
  • by john.r.strohm ( 586791 ) on Saturday March 15, 2003 @10:36PM (#5522064)
    There is a beautiful zinger in the first section of the proposed bill. Paraphrasing slightly:

    "For all new software acquisitions, a state agency shall avoid the acquisition of products that are known to make unauthorized transfers of information to, or permit unauthorized control of or modification to the state government's computer systems by, parties outside the control of the state government."

    If memory serves me, Microsoft's click-wrap licenses, and the Windows XP activation process, and their auto-update processes, do EXACTLY that sort of thing.

    Also note that the bill's definition of "open source software" requires "(E) freedom to make and distribute copies of the software; and (F) freedom to modify the software and to distribute the modified software under the same license as the original software."

    This would seem to exclude Microsoft's "Shared Source" hogwash.

    • "For all new software acquisitions, a state agency shall avoid the acquisition of products that are known to make unauthorized transfers of information to, or permit unauthorized control of or modification to the state government's computer systems by, parties outside the control of the state government."

      It's Microsoft's "Intellectual Property", they can make whatever changes they want (Texas edition or Government edition) to comply.

      On the other hand, they'd hopefully need to "prove their innocence".

    • But, by clicking the agreements, *someone* has given authorization for the data transfers to take place - usually the software won't load/install in the first place, so by the fact that it's running, someone has agreed to it.

      BTW, this one has always bugged me. I know some companies will hire consultants to come in and install new systems or do upgrades. When a consultant comes in a 'click click click's his way through license agreements, and the company hiring him doesn't know what's going on, can the h
  • remember the Oregon bill too. It has entered the next stage of the process quickly and with little resistance.

    If you live in Texas or Oregon, please take the time next week to make one phone call or write one letter. It will matter.

    Bills like this get OSS into the process which is very important. We need to be part of things in order for greater success later. And the states who are forward thinking enough will get to save some money and possibly build their development communities at the same time.

    T
  • I just got home from one VERY long day so I am pooped.

    However, I am awake enough to know that Kansas, which is a state also in a budget crunch, needs to save some money. Also, considering Kansas was one of the hold out states in the MS settlement, she should be very pro OSS. Anyhoo, with midterms last week, I missed a lot of the news about Oregon (?) passing such a bill and other stuff like that.

    So, if someone would be so kind to help kind of round up to sources, that would rock. A copy of this bill, t
  • by mgkimsal2 ( 200677 ) on Sunday March 16, 2003 @12:38AM (#5522442) Homepage
    I've seen some posts on here saying that 'it won't save any money', 'training costs are higher','support blah blah', etc. Using open source in some cases may save money. In most cases, however, it'll *shift* money for projects. Money that may have gone to licensing fees may be shifted to larger training budgets or more custom development work. Who will provide those services? More than likely it'll be local companies, helping to create/sustain jobs in the respective areas.

    OpenOffice is a good example. While it's not a perfect replacement for MSOffice, in some organizations, it can serve reasonably well. Let's say a dept of 40 people will be upgrading from Office 97 to Office XP @ $100/seat. That's $4000. Migrating to OpenOffice for those 40 people may require days of retraining, but in reality there'd be some retraining (formal or informal) for some of those people anyway even moving to Office XP.

    So, migrating from Office 97 to anything else will require *some* training. You can have more formalized training, and pay someone local to come in, or shift the bulk of that money out of the region, yet still have to provide training for some of the staff (perhaps during lunch breaks, or overtime, or whatever).

    That example isn't perfect, I know, but the local services factor *needs* to be played up. Money isn't a zero-sum - it floats around in transactions. The more of those transactions a state can keep to itself, the better.
  • This is funny coming from a state which forces its govermental units (e.g. Texas A&M) to only buy computers from certain tier I vendors (e.g. Gateway). Their idea of a firewall is to install ZoneAlarm on every computer.

    I hate working in Texas - what a backwards place.
  • Texas Bill Would Require Open Source Consideration
    Wat will Arizona Joe and Oklahoma Bob do about that ?

He's dead, Jim.

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