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Lobbyists Urge South Australia To Drop Open Source Bill 248

Red Wolf writes "The Age reports that South Australia has caused eyebrows at the Initiative for Software Choice (ISC) to be raised in concern, with the organisation writing to Premier Mike Rann over a proposed Open Source software bill. The ISC, by its own definition, is a "global coalition of large and small companies committed to advancing the concept that multiple competing software markets should be allowed to develop and flourish unimpeded by government preference or mandate"."
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Lobbyists Urge South Australia To Drop Open Source Bill

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  • Same old same old (Score:5, Insightful)

    by geschild ( 43455 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @05:14AM (#6220844) Homepage

    The article doesn't detail the intricacies of the law so I'll just guess: government wants to make itself consider Open Source first before spending money on the propriety route.

    Naturally, propriety software producers' lobying group sees their collective future sales go to hell and starts whining.

    Next steps:
    - Condemn the lobying group
    - call on all local geeks to pressure the governement to accept the proposed ammendment.
    - start an all out flamewar with the trolls on " the relative merrits of both types of software".

    Now if somebody mods this up high enough fast enough, we can get this over with real soon... *grin*.

  • Infernal lobbyists (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mhifoe ( 681645 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @05:18AM (#6220860)
    "The ISC believes that if this 'preference' legislation were to be enacted it would severely limit software choices for South Australiaâ(TM)s government, harming not only its citizens, but also South Australiaâ(TM)s vibrant information and communications technology (ICT) industry."

    This bill will reduce the amount of money being payed to the Microsoft Corporation. They indirectly pay my salary so please don't do it.

    I would urge anyone who hasn't done so to read the bill in question. It's a marvelous piece of plain speech quite unlike the normal utterings of a politician.
  • *Sigh* (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ChibiTaryn ( 646855 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @05:20AM (#6220868) Homepage Journal
    This wouldn't be the first time the State Government has done something silly. While I think that Open Source stuff doesn't get noticed much as far as State Supply goes, I don't think this is the right way to go about getting it noticed/used either.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @05:23AM (#6220876)
    Yes, this is how the brave new double-speak PAC infested world works. If a group calls itself Initiative for Software Choice you can bet that the last thing they want is real Choice. Then again, even they realise they can't call themselves Initative for Spending Tax Money on Our Commercial Software; its just not as catchy!

    The the thing we can at least be happy about is that the ISC doesn't really tend to have a real complaint. These types of bills generally stupilate that the FOOS should be considered first, but that it is O.K to use non-FOSS if no FOSS solutions exists. Even the ISC have a hard time arguing that it is only in the best interests of a Government to spend lots of money on non-FOSS all the time. They tend to get laughed at for that.
  • by buro9 ( 633210 ) <david.buro9@com> on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @05:27AM (#6220891) Homepage
    It's actually not as bad as it sounds.

    The idea of choosing software based upon freedom of choice is very good.

    I suspect I'm different from most /.ers though, I don't get software just because it's free, nor because it's open source. I generally evaluate several pieces of software and the one that fulfils my set of requirements and is within my budget to purchase I opt for.

    This generally has led me away from most freeware and open source stuff, and towards a hell of a lot of shareware and small company stuff (The Bat! as an email client for example).

    I don't like the pigopolists and general borgification, but let's be sensisble, the proposal from them to ensure that our governments don't mandate towards software that may not actually be in our interests as citizens (it may not have matured enough, for example) is perfectly reasonable.

    But by that count, could the pigopolists please refrain from lobbying with such force and effectively forcing software upon governments... this only serves to defeat their own argument about choice.
  • by bakes ( 87194 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @05:28AM (#6220894) Journal
    ... the Initiative for Software Choice is lobbying to basically remove South Australia's choice to use Open Source Software from consideration and more or less force them into using closed source software.

    You are understanding this right, and yes, well, when the ISC promote 'choice', they mean that you are supposed to choose THEM.

    You are absolutely right about misleading names - but that's the way that PR works. The AMA wouldn't have nearly the same amount of public respect if it was called the 'Association That Looks Out For Doctors Interests', yet that is exactly what they are there for.
  • Nonetheless... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MickLinux ( 579158 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @05:36AM (#6220909) Journal
    ... I have to say that *my* opinion has been changed by the slashdot news items, and I think other peoples' may be too.

    Normally, I like to choose the best software for the best application. However, the idea of public data is important.

    The argument that convinced me was the pro-business alternatives that should be required: open data format, with full perpetual license to read and convert to other formats, should be acceptable for most purposes [not voting: The US demonstrates the flaws of closed-source vote tallying].

    That said, I feel that even this requirement should stand only for the case of items of public record on computer. That is, you don't need MS Word to be open source/data format, if your only documents of record are on paper.

    Now, people have had this flamewar going for who knows how long. But even flamewars can convince people. They moved me from "no regulation" to "encourage OSS".

    After all, it is one person who decides which software to buy. But he's deciding for the property of others. Closed and open formats are not equal, therefore.
  • by intermodal ( 534361 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @05:40AM (#6220917) Homepage Journal
    that's all fine and good for your personal use, but when it comes to government use, i'd prefer they look towards open source before using my taxes to pay for something they may not have needed.

    Is Windows sometimes the proper choice? yes. Is windows the proper choice for a low-level bitpusher who only uses a word processor and email? no.

    When discussing work and government computers, the vast majority of business and government applications have no need for an expensive Windows license or Microsoft Office. The only thing keeping it there is proprietary formats, which seem to be something the government should move away from rather than perpetuating.

    So I don't think that "the best software for the job" is the angle we should look at for government purposes, but rather "does this software do its job well enough to make it unnecessary to purchase proprietary software" or "does this software do its job poorly enough that it justifies buying proprietary software".

    How's that for you?
  • Er, no. RTFL. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jazman ( 9111 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @05:41AM (#6220922)
    From DearSouthAustraliaRann.pdf:

    The ISC strongly supports the development and adoption of all kinds of software â" OSS, hybrid and proprietary. All models have a place in the highly competitive software market. Only in this manner, through vibrant and open competition, does the whole of the market thrive, and consumers â" both public and private â" reap tremendous benefits.

    Standing in stark contrast to open competition are state-mandated software preferences. These âoepreferenceâ policies strip merit out of the process by using access to source code as a proxy for ICT project success.

    End quote. So all they're saying is: don't limit your choices to OSS. What they're saying is no different from what we'd say if Oz.Gov decided only to buy MS software.

    Oz.Gov could easily comply with this, and simultaneously come up with a fairer method of choosing software, by simply requiring projects that need software to evaluate the cost/benefit ratio of all (or at least several) possibilities. They could require this to include at least one OSS alternative, or to balance the number of OSS solutions with the number of CSS solutions considered, with no loss of fairness. Cost of OSS is not zero, and the cost of the specialist Linux admin you have to hire needs to be considered against the easier to use Windows box that just about anyone can use. Hiring a programmer to implement the changes you need also needs to be considered against negotiation of a support deal that gets the features needed implemented by the closed source vendor. Then there's the risk factor - a support contract is perpetual, but if your specialist Linux/OSS techie quits or encounters the proverbial bus you're in a big hole.

    Not everyone is a wannabe Linux hacker; those with business goals rather than tech goals need to make business decisions, not tech decisions.
  • by HardcoreGamer ( 672845 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @05:48AM (#6220935)
    Part of the implied social contract of any representative government is to adopt policies and legislation that are in the public interest.

    It is in the public interest for high-quality, low-cost or no-cost open source software to exist and be available to all levels of society.

    It is also in the public interest for their governments to be run in a cost-effective manner. Unless there is a specific technical requirement that open source software cannot meet, there is no substantive reason why OSS should not be considered and adopted in the government sector. This doesn't even address the issue of locking a government into a proprietary solution.

    Contrary to the lobbyists, the bill doesn't prevent proprietary solutions from being used. It merely states a preference for OSS as a guiding principle in the decision-making process for procurement "wherever practicable."

    This would foster more competition (not less) and hopefully result in higher-quality software on all fronts.

    This sort of enlightened legislation definitely falls under the category of a Public Good.
  • by StarvingHick ( 682127 ) <> on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @05:49AM (#6220937)
    "A public authority must, in making a decision about the procurement of computer software for its operations, have regard to the principle that, wherever practicable, a public authority should use open source software in preference to proprietary software."

    So basically, what they're saying is that the government should, instead of using software that is generally low or no cost and can be modified to fit the government's unique needs, that they should use more costly proprietary software that can't be modified, so that they have to conform to whatever the program can do instead of editing the program to create more features, resulting in inefficiency.
    I wonder what the Australian taxpayers would have to say about that?
    Also, this bill in no way forces the authorities to use OSS if there are no OSS solutions with adequate features, so either the ISC create software that's better than OSS, or they don't get picked. Sounds fair to me.
  • The Mole (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Viper233 ( 132365 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @05:57AM (#6220954) Homepage

    As someone who's just started meddling in the NSW (Australia)public service (local government) after several years in private IT sector, I see the call for open source in the best interest of our clients, i.e the public.

    People are becoming alot more concerned with how public money is being spent. Government not only has the opportunity to save money, but also can start giving back to the public by contributing, and most importantly being seen to be contributing, to opensource software which tax payers can then use for themselves.

    Although I'm not strictly in an IT position, I am known as one of the IT guys, who can unlock peoples accounts when they are unable to enter their l/p properly after 3 goes.

    Unfortunately, it seems, the IT professionals who take up positions in local government come from the bottom of the IT barrel (including myself), often stepping over from other positions and taking up the 'IT person' status, and therefore lack an understanding of possibilities that open source software hold, and have been brought about already by private businesses. With a couple of years working for a small town ISP, looking after half a dozen Linux servers which ran the business, I have developed a opensource/linux background. (Oh, and of course.... constant reading of slashd^H^H^H^H^H^H^ linux Howto's)

    Of the several people I have mentioned opensource, prominantly linux, software to, they have been baffled. Downloading the latest win32 OpenOffice is a great first step. Especially with the Export to pdf button.

    I will be pushing opensource initiatives, taking on the burden of being the opensource mole, with already open office looking to replace our current proprietry office suite, linux on our main file/backup server, two NT2000 servers look to be replaced by a single linux server, and an old server resurected into a internet gateway. Hey... who thinks I can turn this into a reality TV show??? can't be any worse then....

  • by flacco ( 324089 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @05:59AM (#6220958)
    The ISC, by its own definition, is a "global coalition of large and small companies committed to advancing the concept that multiple competing software markets should be allowed to develop and flourish unimpeded by government preference or mandate."

    Hear, hear! These large and small companies should ALL be permitted to submit their Free / open source software to governments for consideration, on a level playing field.

    Oh, what's that you say? Your company doesn't write Free / open source software? Well, I guess this isn't your market then, now is it?

    "The software must be F/OSS" is discriminatory against proprietary software vendors in the same way that "the software cannot be a refrigerator" is discriminatory against Frigidaire.

    If the proprietary vendors want to compete for an open source project, they're more than welcome. Hell, if Frigidaire wants to get into the F/OSS software business, they're more than welcome to submit bids too.

  • by Cluestick Enforcer ( 682056 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @06:00AM (#6220961)
    You're correct, as the bill itself states, in part 17(a) -

    " A public authority must, in making a decision about the procurement of computer software for its operations, have regard to the principle that, wherever practicable, a public authority should use open source software in preference to proprietary software"

    The writer, in his statement, expresses that the relative cheapness, flexibility and the robustness and secureness of open source products is why they should be preferred, due to their source being available freely for inspection. I find it interesting to note that the ISC is urging choice, yet the bill states that they are choosing software, not about what tool is best for the job at hand, but what tool best serves the government's needs in the long run, including cost-effectiveness and security.
  • by iamacat ( 583406 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @06:04AM (#6220973)
    If the government buys Microsoft software, it will have to pay for software and ALSO have to pay for support only available from a single source and outside the country. If it buys open source software, it only has to pay for support and has a variety of competing companies, including investing tax money back into local economy. A government has a duty to minimize costs and if possible re-invest money into local economy, don't you think?

    Now consider a private business or a citizen. If a government produces documents using proprietory software, s\he will probably also have to use the same proprietory software. If OSS is used, multiple commercial vendors will support it and people will be able to access the data using OSS software without spending additional money and on the platform of their choice.

    I am not saying all software should be open source. Some projects are so expensive (think realistic 3d games) or unpleasent (think Cobol IDE) to program that the cost can only be recovered with large scale software sales. But if the open source is already available, the government should take advantage of it to save costs for itself and for private entities it interacts with.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @06:06AM (#6220978)
    I don't know whether it's intentional or not, but your argument is seriously flawed.

    "If taxes are miscalculated ... " then the software is NOT WORKING WELL ENOUGH. How obvious is that? I normally detest this word, but in this instance it seems apt: DUH!

    Let me spell it out: A piece of tax software that works "well enough" is a piece of tax software that does NOT miscalculate taxes, though it may lack the frills and some of the "bells and whistles" of vastly more expensive proprietary offerings. Therefore (again stating the blindingly obvious), if the OSS app DOES miscalculate taxes it should not be used.

    Often the "bells and whistles" included in proprietary offerings are of little to no value anyway, having only been included to help justify the high price of the software package (feature bloat masquerading as added value).

    Posting anonymously since I've moderated in this thread (including a positive moderation of one of your earlier comments, believe it or not).
  • by nosfucious ( 157958 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @06:07AM (#6220983)
    Propaganda is your most important tool. Frame the argument in your terms and the enemy fights your battle, on your terms.

    Do you think DRM would fly if it was Digital Restrictions Management and not Digital Rights Management? There are countless other examples of this. My "terrorist" is your "freedom fighter". "Palladium" and not "Poisoned Hardware", "Digital Millenium Copyright Act" not "Dumb Companies Moneymaking Authority".

    No media or Joe Public is going to realise true nature of self-interest unless pointed out to them. Educate people around you what the acronyms mean, who's behind them, what the agenda is. Most importantly, who pays.

    Let's face it, do you think that the same press release would work if it was from, say, "The Association for Protecting Software License Revenue" or (in the case of South Australia) "The Association of overseas Software Vendors that have a vested interest in money being paid to us and not to local software developers (open or closed source)".

    What actually surprises me is how they (IfSC) can claim that paying money to US companies can help the local (South Australian) IT industry. Sure, the local sales office will benefit, but will it help fund one local startup? MS, Adobe, Oracle, IBM, etc (I'm not sure of the exact membership), will almost certainly NOT have an Australian major member.
  • Both are right from their viewpoints, but the problem is that one is focussed on the present and one is focussed on the future. And, unfortunately, the Past, the last element of the trinity of time, (Past Present & Future) heavily influences the trajectory from the Present to the Future, i.e. the massive adoption of Windows and the talent developed around it.

    Lobbyists want me to focus on the Present because there paychecks are from week to week, while Linux-Spirited want me to focus on the future because their spirit gets strokes from knowing that the world may be a better place a few years down in the Future. So, when you look at what impels the Closed Source and what impels the Open Source advocate, the motivational engines are different. And if the motivational engines are different, is this battle really about personalities ?

    I have the full opportunity to design a small office for an Asian Sports Body. I love the idealism of OSS, and also KNOW that the future belongs to it if the world turns out the way it should, but may have to sign my office to a Windows shop. A request for help in making this choice last week on Slashdot got me some good responses along the same lines. Why ? Because in the PRESENT Windows Platform is big enough to probabilistically hold solutions to all the problems I am likely to come across, but in Linux the world is small enough that statistically I am sure to run into problems for which solutions don't exist.

    Two different viewpoints - one by which I select Windows and a different one by which I reject Linux in the PRESENT. And I accept one probabilistically, and reject another statistically.

    But I choose Windows over Linux only because I have to choose today, in the Present. If I could broaden my horizon for a year or two, then it is possible that the tradeoff I have designed for Win vs. Linx won't be so lop-sided. And hence, if I could broaden my horizons a better case can be made for Linux. Bottomline, in a narrow window of time I choose Windows or other "closed source" software, but in a broader window of time I choose Linux.

    I like to look at this issue as if the battle been set and both the Closed and Open guys are playing their roles on the stage. These battles have to be fought, and who fights them is not that important. What people must do has been predecided by the role they have been cast in, which is based on their motivational engine, which is based on the orientation in time that they can afford to have.

    Well, after all this Matrix-like discussion, I hate to come to a cliche conclusion, but, can we cut out these personal attacks, and hash out the real issues? But, again, what is reality ? Maybe it is the Matrix. Wait, does that mean Linus is Neo?

  • by kinnell ( 607819 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @06:10AM (#6220998)
    first before spending money on the propriety route

    I don't think cost is the main issue. The point of open source in government is that if using closed source/closed standards, a private company, possibly foreign, has control over all your data. This is sinister, and not the sort of position any democratic body should put itself in. This is the main point of all the various similar bills being considered/implemented around the world ATM. It's not about free(beer) versus commercial software - it's about control of data.

  • by RedPhoenix ( 124662 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @06:31AM (#6221051)
    Sometimes affirmitive action policies are considered neccessary in order to force employers to think outside the box, and consider employees that may not be in the normal "zone of comfort" for the employer in question. Once the bar is raised, and the targetted group is "inside the zone of comfort" once more, the policies could potentially be considered a success.

    In order to communicate the SA legislation effectively to other legislators, it shouldn't really be considered a 'statement of preference'.. perhaps it should be referred to as a "software affirmitive action policy".

    Let's just take a few lines from the ISC letter, liberally changing "software" references to "people with green eyes" (nods to William Peters classic blue-eyes brown-eyes psychological study). Lets further pretend that green-eyed people are considered to be a "lower caste" by most members of society, and though just as capable as brown, and blue eyed people, are generally not considered equal by employers.

    On behalf of the Initiative for eye-colour choice, I write to express our concerns regarding the proposed employment bill, which gives undue preference to people with green eyes, over people with other coloured eyes. The IEC believes that if this "preference" legislation were to be enacted, it would severely limit employment opportunities for South Australia's government, harming not only its citizens, but also South Australia's vibrant government employment sector.

    The IEC is a global association overwhelmingly made up of, and supported by, blue and brown eyed people, with over 15,000 members in 89 countries. The IEC strongly supports equal opportunity for people with blue, brown and green eyes, and believe that "preference" policies may not select the most meritorious potential employee in any one project, at the expense of providing equal employment opportunities to green-eyed people.

    Sometimes, a government needs to put the good of the many, over the good of the few; and software preference legislation has the potential to level the playing field a little for open source tools, and open-source-related services, in the mind of government project managers.

    As a developer of BOTH commercial and open source software, I think there is certainly scope for affirmitive action in software choice.

  • Re:Er, no. RTFL. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Tet ( 2721 ) < minus poet> on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @06:35AM (#6221058) Homepage Journal
    Not everyone is a wannabe Linux hacker; those with business goals rather than tech goals need to make business decisions, not tech decisions.

    True enough. But you're overlooking the fact that government bodies never have to make business decisions. They have to make public interest decisions, and the public interest is not best served by throwing public money away on closed soruce software. I agree with another poster, though, that mandating open source isn't necessarily the answer (although in many cases, it will be). Mandating open data formats certainly is, as is insisting on an irrevocable royalty free license to software that would convert to other file formats, should the chosen software prove unsuitable at a later time.

  • Re:*Sigh* (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @07:10AM (#6221138)
    Why is this not the right way to get OSS noticed?

    The bill is simply the government requiring itself to look at OSS solutions before buying Microsoft. Shouldn't the government be able to do that?

    This is nothing different than a company having a policy about what to buy, only in a private company, they are called policies, but when it's the government, they are called laws.
  • by pointwood ( 14018 ) <(jramskov) (at) (> on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @08:00AM (#6221274) Homepage

    I would rather have a law that made open standards a requirement. Exactly as Bruce Perens says with his Sincere Choice initiative [] as a response to "The Initiative for Software Choice".

  • by geschild ( 43455 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @08:22AM (#6221373) Homepage

    With due thanks to the poster of the relevant proposed law-text.

    If you are doing bussiness it's always good to keep the order of how to plan things in mind:
    1) Decide on strategy
    2) Decide on tactics
    3) Decide on operational issues

    On a tactical level, propriety software may come out on top when making choices based on input from the operational side while on a strategic level it would be the worst choice you can make. It is therefore necesarry that tactics are dictated by strategy which may mean that you have a totally different set of requirements on the tactical level.

    The considerations that favour OSS are usually more of the strategic kind. That's why it is good that somebody at a higher level, with a broader view, gets the lower levels to look in the right direction. In governement this is done through laws.

  • by stephanruby ( 542433 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @08:22AM (#6221374)
    The lobby group consists of these people [].

    I find it amusing that out of the 200+ companies that are lobbying the South Australian government, there isn't a single one that is Australian.

  • by geschild ( 43455 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @08:29AM (#6221404) Homepage

    As I've stated in another reply under this subject: Strategy first, then tactics, then operational issues.

    The benefits of OSS usually are more on a strategic level. If you can do without those benefits for now and the drawbacks won't keep you from enjoying those benefits a few years down the road, you're right. If not (read: stuck to propriety standards without a way to get out) then maybe you should think again about those 'benefits' you get from going with MS Windows right now.

    Whatever you choose, please remember that if you think you've done everything to make the right choice, everbody proclaiming you are nuts to choose whatever you choose is wrong (and probably a troll). Good luck on your decission.

  • by xdroop ( 4039 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @08:36AM (#6221437) Homepage Journal
    As a developer of BOTH commercial and open source software, I think there is certainly scope for affirmitive action in software choice.

    I disagree, and I disagree with the concept of government 'preferring' one type of software over another.

    The government should define the requirements for software framed around it's actual needs:

    price point


    outsourced support (if necessary)

    open file formats

    source code requirements

    ...and then compare all comers. If the government really really needs source code to their applications, then it would be up to the vendor to say we can do that, but it will cost you $x or decide not to tender.

    (Which indirectly raises another problem. There is no organization which will tender open source solutions to government RFP's -- and as soon as one shows up, it will have to be for-profit, which will make it evil in the views of all those who think everything should be free.)

    The government should get the best tool for the job, and if Open Source is it, great -- and if Microsoft TaxMan 2003 is it, great.

    It is in the public's interest to have an efficiently running government(*), no matter who gets paid for the software.

    (* please ignore the oxymoron)

  • Re:Nonetheless... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jodo ( 209027 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @08:59AM (#6221611)
    You have it about right but,

    That said, I feel that even this requirement should stand only for the case of items of public record on computer. That is, you don't need MS Word to be open source/data format, if your only documents of record are on paper.

    If public data resides in a digital form "we the people" need access into perpetuity. The only way to assure this is open data formats, including the right to convert our data into formats of our choosing.
  • I agree that the key is Open Data formats.

    Once sufficent people move to standard formats, and a good set of tools are available to visually manage the data in standard formats, (GUI with Win and Outlook like capabilities) - people will not notice when Windows is slipped from under them and replaced with another OS. The POWER of Windows is Just the GUI that it has created, and a lot of sunken investment of time in learning that GUI. Once the GUI become OUI (Object User Interface) or BUI (Bubble Use Interface) the Windows GUI paradigm will be replaced with something more powerful. And I can feel it in my guts that it is coming - it will almost be akin to a Graphical implementation of XML - really a graphical implementation not based on characters like it is currently.

    Personally, I have tried to move to standard formats, and that is where I try to keep all my data.

    • I like to keep everything in either txt files, or with some personal markup in an XML-like file, and finally html. Word is used only when I am about to print a document, or need to send someone something formatted - required in less that 10 % of the cases really.
    • I use Excel to view and analyze the data, but try to keep it all in a standard format, i.e. txt, xml-like or html.
    • I like to keep images in jpg. And I love to annotate images with Winpointer 2 - which saves the annotations in a almost-text file.
    • If I put stuff in things like an Addressbook I make sure that I can dump the data out into a standard format.
    • I try to use only the visual and sorting tools in Outlook for differnt categories, hierarchies, but otherwise make sure that all my data is also available in standard format. If Outlook were to disappear from the world tomorrow I would miss it, but would have nothing really "tied" into it.

    Basically, If I could do my little bit in separating the Document from the View (which MS has tried to blur for the user), I believe I would be doing my bit for the OS software.

    So, yes, you are right. Open Dataformats are the key.

  • by blinkylights ( 589120 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @09:23AM (#6221812)

    I would counter that the bill does not go far enough!

    I would agree in principal that the best software should be chosen (by governments) for the given task, with needs, functionality, TCO, etc., used as the prominent criteria. My taxes have to pay for it, and the quality of public services depends on it. However, my own municipal and state governments have been using this strategy for many years now and they are up to their eyeballs in proprietary software and hogtied by very expensive vendor lock-in.

    I read this bill not as an abandonment of the ideas you've mentioned (choosing the best software based on proper criteria) but rather as an adoption of the idea that open-sourced software is, in a broader sense, inherently more secure, functional, practical, etc. than closed software, and that even when there is a closed-source solution that seems better for a particular task, the government's and public's interests are better served when the government becomes involved with an open-sourced project rather than becoming a customer for the closed source product.

    That's an idea I don't have any problems with at all. Let's not forget that commercial software vendors write software to increase shareholder value, while open-sourced software is designed to fulfill the needs of users. Suppose the government were to choose an open-sourced software package over a commercial one with more/better features, in direct contravention of the criteria you put forth, and the points the ISC are trying to make. If the government were to then use it's resources (or even just the money it saves) to help develop more/better features for the open-sourced project they've chosen to make up the difference, then not only has the government benefitted, but everyone will benefit from the advancements the government brings to the open-sourced software. The SA bill should go a step further and not only mandate open-sourced software over closed, I think it should mandate that the government actively participate to whatever degree is applicable and practical, with the open-sourced projects it chooses.

    I think this is a great idea, and I wish my own local/state/federal governments were considering something like it.

  • Re:Nonetheless... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by JonK ( 82641 ) on Tuesday June 17, 2003 @10:03AM (#6222152)
    While I'd agree entirely with your thesis (that it's the ability to access the data, rather than the application per se that's important), there's an additional interesting question arising... let's say that I'm a good little data archivist and store all my documents in an open format (say PDF) to mitigate the risk of my software vendor going out of business. Now, where do I store those PDFs? Are EMC, Hitachi or IBM SANs sufficiently open that I can get the data off them without using EMC/Hitachi/IBM software/firmware? What about the ArcServe or BackupExec storage formats?

    Just a thought...

  • Open data formats are the key. I am held to a MSWindows system. More specifically, I am held to a Win95 system. There is this application with a proprietary data file format that doesn't run under anything else. And it has years of data in it.

    This is a real problem, as my old Win95 disks won't install on a new computer (either the disks are corrupt, or they are missing needed drivers). And the old computer is dying. I keep hoping that Wine or WineX will come to the rescue, but so far they have failed to run the application. And it was written by a small software house that went out of business, sold it's software lines, and the new company wan't interested in the to-me vital program.

    Open data file formats would have provided a way out. As it is, neither open source nor closed source software is helping (though I keep hoping for the next release of Wine).

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