Monday, January 26, 2009

Government Support for Propietary Solutions is Obsolete

FutureGuy writes:
All I can tell Obama is the only reason "open source"/free software even exists is because that's one way to compete/gain market share from commertial companies like MS. MS in many ways is the main motivator for "open source"/free software. If you take companies like MS and Apple out of the picture the resources available to enhance and maintain open source software will dry up faster than dry ice under hot California sun.
That is amusing. MS operates in the finance economy where the value of the software is how much money can be made. OSS operates in the real economy outside the finance economy where improvements to software are intrinsic, and censorship isn't the root of its power (value isn't gained through scarcity). The argument comes from whether or not companies can profit from OSS. Of course they can, just not through the illusion of false scarcity. Con artists and middle men hate it when they are beaten out by real value. The only reason government should hate F/OSS is because it can't be taxed.

If what you want is better software / information technology, F/OSS is obviously the best choice, but software can be the means to the end of either profitability or better software. Profitability can mean more money to stay competitive, or better software can be produced that is more productive such that the software can be used to do better business.

As long as there is a need for better faster software to do things and look at problems in new ways, there will be money for programmers. Microsoft has contributed to the software industry as much as, and in the same way the RIAA has contributed to music culture. Great music has always come from the truest music lovers, and I am certain for as long as people could hear, there has always been value in music. Only since there has been money in heavily controlled mass distribution of information has a new type of criminal been imagined in order to ensure control and maintenance of a very profitable business.

The government and other users are not in this business. Just because of the present level of control by Microsoft, and possibly the long for people to get back in touch with culture could be difficult with companies like Microsoft and members of the RIAA and MPAA that have so much to gain from the commoditization of our culture is no reason to continue to support it.

If the best move for the government is for them to gain the most money through the largest bribes and handing out control to large companies that results in "standardization" through exclusive control, then sticking with Microsoft will be the sure way to go. If Obama wants to make a move for the people, encourage transparent culture where people participate in it, rather than just pay for it where a faith in humanity is what will be the most profitable (with regard to value and encouragement of useful labor) then the FIRST thing Obama can do is embrace open standards and free open source software.

bodycoach2 writes:
When I refer to Open Source, I like to call it, "Open for Peer Review". Microsoft and Apple's (1/2 of Apple's, at least) code is NOT open to peer review. Take the cases of the Breathlizer tester machines. The software code on those are not open to peer review. We, the public, are not able to question our accuser (the software code)- a fundamental right in our justice system.

I have no problem with proprietary software. But when government uses software, I prefer that the code be open to peer review.

The Total Cost of Ownership is a topic that can change with each situation, each software package, even with each user. But not being able to review the code is something we cannot afford.

xcal78 replies:
Long as your footing the bill for all the extra costs incurred above what Windows would have costed(sic) the government go right ahead. I'm not interested in spending 2-3 times more for a new system just because. Open source is open your wallet. Research what's involved in a system switch of any kind. See if you can find a TCO vs ROI chart for an OS switch that proves you get a better TCO and when the ROI is from Windows to anything else. It doesn't exist so you'll be looking for a long time.
Cost of change? If you are totally dependent on Microsoft for training and maintenance of your business, then actually taking responsibility for your systems is going to be a big reality check, and just as you did with Microsoft, if you need someone else to make these changes for you, not only is there going to be a diminished benefit, but it is going to cost you. Low end MS tech support is very cheap; they are everywhere. Linux support... different. Not as many Linux people sitting around with nothing to do, AND with so much documentation for open source software also being free, and with so many forums, and advanced howto's for everything, anything left is going to require a guru. This is where there is big money. There is also money for large scale startup, which is more of less and should be an initial training (otrherwise what do you do if/when it breaks?)

The real problem and expense is an issue of management. Microsoft makes it as easy as possible for people to get locked in by the promise of doing all the work for you. With Linux, there is an expectation for people to take some initiative either by learning it yourself, or hiring someone to remember it all. Fortunately this is easy because for the most part, there is primary or third party documentation that is easy to follow and understand. But like with anything else, if you don't try, you are going to pay for it. Between all the people that read the documentation and made an effort and are seeking expert help for a few pieces, they are going to pay the same price for support per hour as you to be hand held through everything.

So average TCO is very misleading, and even median TCO makes some bad assumptions. How about look at the range of TCO and listen and take advice from those that were able to do successful implementations. Listen to what worked and didn't work. When you look for advice, do you want the average story, or the most common story? Of course not! You want to know cost / effort of what works + cost of worst possible scenario. Using this information, you can decide what resources are important to invest in to reduce business expenses. Microsoft, Apple, Red Hat, and Sun want to offer you total business solutions. The first two specialize in simplicity, but at the expense of flexibility and diversification among others. Within those two elements, OSS typically offers modularity, and for the greatly ambitious, well documented code that is easy to add onto, whereas Microsoft and Apple limit you to API's that can't be audited (for whatever that is worth).

A better government I thought Americans appreciated was the idea of participation by the people. Even if most people choose not to participate, the opportunity for all to become active political members has always had a high value. While well managed use of F/OSS has survived the FUD, even if t was more expensive, isn't there an obligation in the digital age to support transparent government through open standards? It is not impossibly expensive to enable our best and brightest to keep us aware of the way things are working, and allow any American to become one of those people?

There is no way this discussion would even be taking place if Microsoft were not an American company. Why? because there is no way we are going to give that away! Why should we take what should be given to the American people and give it exclusive to one very small American company. Sorry, but Microsoft is very small when you consider opening opportunity for all.

The only counter argument is "Just sell out because I don't care". Well, you know what? I don't buy that! The Internet is an example of what can be built on free open source software and open standards. ATM, token-ring, and mainframe systems are what came from proprietary software, which gave us great opportunities to get off the ground. TCP/IP packet switched networks were evolution and birth of digital freedom and ultimately the Internet.

Government is ready to move forward.

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