HB 2892, Oregon making sense

Eirikur Hallgrimsson eh at mad.scientist.com
Thu Apr 10 00:53:40 PDT 2003

What an interesting fight.   I'm a Free Software geek, and an anarchist.
Which side should I be on?

I don't buy the MS argument that "the government can do this already," 
because it's pretty clear that in the US, government mostly won't consider 
non-commercial software.   This is actually rather unusual in a world 
where the at least defense department has fairly often subsidized boutique 
firms by having them build special versions of commercially available 
gear.  In some cases this is quite justified based on military 
requirements, but there are the well-known cases of bomber toilet seat 
(hardware store items were probably considered too heavy, but consider the 
airline industry) and the hammer.

I'm trying to say that for a government agency to use the Apache server, or 
a BSD OS, with support and customization from a contractor, would be 
pretty much in line with at least military procurement.    I have heard 
rumors of DOD use of Linux, but I don't have references.

I also don't buy the "good guys" argument that using non-commercial 
software will save the citizens money.   Certainly not at first.   Maybe 
not later.   I don't know what an MS windows user "seat" costs the 
government, on average, per year, but it probably is a fraction of the 
support cost for that user.    The support cost probably won't go down if 
the user is switched to non-commercial software.   The devil's advocate in 
me says that increased support costs would offset the licence fees 
formerly paid to Microsoft.

Linux, BSD, and Apache and friends will probably sneak their noses into the 
.gov tent starting with servers, just as it has been with industry.   It 
has certainly caused cost savings to server OEMs, who don't have to pay 
Bill, but I don't see that one could support that it has lowered end-user 
costs, even for large-scale enterprizes.

Politicians, even amateurs, like to talk about money because it's simple 
and pretty uncontroversial, but the relationship between government and 
worldview/ideology is what's really at issue here.  I think the costs 
would be a wash.


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