[clug] Your Best arguments please

Burn Alting burn at comptex.com.au
Fri Aug 8 00:55:15 EST 2003

On Thu, 2003-08-21 at 21:42, Carl Jackson wrote:
> Hi All,
>     I'm currently corresponding with an ACT MLA about OSS legislation
> and the MLA has challenged me with the article at the link below .  I
> would appreciate the input of the list Brains Trust on the best
> counter-arguments.  Any and all opinions welcome.  Give it your best -
> there is a vote hanging in the balance here...
> Carl Jackson
> > "<i>A Great Number of Servants</i>: The case against government
> software preferences"
> > http://www.acton.org/ppolicy/comment/article.php?id=150

This may not be as eloquent as Kim or Damien's and it regurgitates some
of what they said, but since I typed it I may as well post it.

An interesting article ... funnily enough, the Acton Institute's
namesake was best known for his coining of
	"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely"
perhaps David Systsma forgot this. But at least he's a very experienced
IT person, having graduated last year with his Bachelor in Art and
Computer Science.

Anyway, to his article:

He says, OSS is growing and although "most" proprietary companies are
touching OSS, he does state that some of the largest IT companies are -
Oracle, IBM, Apple.  I wonder why he didn't mention other big IT players
which have or are moving towards OSS - HP, Dell, SGI .... I read this
those companies that NEED to run their applications on closed systems
are STUCK, but the major players in the IT industry are making moves
to get out of such closed systems. Perhaps it's ONLY the major players
who have cash to invest in OSS development that suits their commercial
aims. Hence we only see the major players moving and that "the most" are
those who are running tight budgets who can't afford to break free from
close/proprietary definitions (not standards, definitions) at present.

He then attacks the example Bills by saying that the authors are
suggesting that OSS is the only solution to open, platform-neutral
standards.  It's interesting he doesn't say if "open, platform-neutral
standards" are a good thing or not.  Nor does he make any comment
about the coverse - that of "closed, platform specific/proprietary
definitions". I wonder why?

He argues, that only profit drives technical innovation and the only
way to protect profit is to make your product closed. So how or why
has Linux grown to consume 24% of the server market and has recently
made inroads into the desktop market. Interesting contradiction! It's
not being developed for profit - well, it is for the distributors,
but the vast bulk is being done for free by those who need a solution
to something that doesn't exist (oops! is that innovation???) or is too
expensive to purchase. He has the hide to say

	"There is simply no substitute for market-based proprietary
	software development to ensure general long-term success in
	technological innovation"

Why so, is Microsoft loosing ground rapidly to Linux?

He next argues, that there is no-one to "sue" if you get it wrong. That
the developers don't listen or see market pressures ... perhaps he's
never heard of mailing lists or newgroups!

As to who is responsible, if I make the decision to not be locked in,
then that's fine, I have control over my own destiny. Also, if I buy a
"total solution" then I can wring the neck of the provider!

He brings up the argument that, "yep, OSS is cheap to deploy, but it
costs too much to maintain". This might be the case if you do your
own development, maintenance, etc in a small company/organisation,
where your IT department is just the your accountant or some person
in Accounts who's primary background is not IT. But what of those
departments who self develop and maintain with their own IT section - it
should be of very little cost - in fact instant access to source could
be of great benefit, let alone access to the actual developers. Also,
what of the "total solution providers", does it matter if they supply
OSS or proprietary solution, they take the risk of maintenance, not
the customer.  (This assumes the customer correctly evaluates that the
"solution provider" can provide what they promise, but that's not a OSS
verses Closed argument).

He also says

	"various currently available small-scale World Wide Web solutions"

Perhaps he has an ancestor who died under an American Indian's arrow
or axe for he hates Apache or at least doesn't want to conceed anything
much to it.

Bottom line, this is pretty standard "bagging of OSS".

So, what should we ask of our legislators? I believe we should still ask
for, in the very least, a consideration of open standards in government
purchases.  Surely, if we have such a free, healthy, innovative and
competitive market place then the proprietary software producers
have a problem with open standards. We are not requesting the source to
proprietary products, just access to it's meta-data so that we may
OUR DATA, the data we type in, via any alternative method. Is the key to
MSWord's existance it's storage format or all the useful bits and pieces
of the running application? Government's tend to have the largest clout,
the author states approx $50 million (Australian), why can't
dictate what they want rather than be fed what the supplier wants?

Anyway, that's my 2cents worth.


Burn Alting

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