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Weblog:   The Growing Politicization of Open Source
Subject:   What about the quality of the open source
Date:   2002-08-16 12:55:52
From:   korwin
The open source advocates want the government to require open sources for every product it purchases. The reason - the government should be allowed to do with the product as it sees fit to. There are couple questions that nobody raises though:


1. Should the government specifically prohibit buying products that are based on GPL license? Reasons: the government will be forced to release the right fur use to any modifications it might do. Can you imagine NATO general signing off the approval to release back to the community the missile guidance software?


2. How come nobody talks about any quality standarts that the software should conform to? If the government is to mandate software policy, shouldn't it first establish quality standarts, before even talking about open sources? There should be government standards that the software conforms to, like the cars crash tests. And anybody that writes programs should pay a fee to pass these tests. What company will be willing to pay for such tests? Or the government should sponsor the open source programs and discriminate the closed source ones?


The open source advocates say: "why buy a car that has it's engine cover welded?" Let me ask a question: "Why force the government to buy cars that were made by thousands of unknown people?".
Meanwhile, if we continue the car analogy - why doesn't anybody require Ford to build open standarts cars and provide their designs back to the community? Why doesn't FSF require that any car, bought by the government, to have it's blueprints published somewhere on the web? Oh, don't forget also the blueprints of the tools and machines used to build the car as well.


I work as a programmer. I love my work. And frankly, i don't know how to do anything else. But i don't want to write open source. I admit the code i write - it's not a genius' work. But it's something i did. I'd like to have the choice what to do with it. And i'd like to be able to compete for any contracts. If the government mandates that it should have access to the sources of my program in order to buy it - so be it. But they should not force me to release these sources to the public.


It's all about choice. However, it looks to me that in fact it's not about my choice as a developer nor it is about the government's choice, but about the FSF choice.

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Showing messages 1 through 4 of 4.

  • What about the quality of the open source
    2002-09-03 14:29:52  anthonyhunt [View]

    Korwin wrote: "The open source advocates say: "why buy a car that has it's engine cover welded?" Let me ask a question: "Why force the government to buy cars that were made by thousands of unknown people?"."

    If you think about it you'd realise that this is what we do in any case. The difference is, how are the decisions controlled? By a board of directors telling a bunch of factory workers and designers what to do or by the workers and designers themselves in a democratic fashsion?

    Korwin continued:
    "Meanwhile, if we continue the car analogy - why doesn't anybody require Ford to build open standarts cars and provide their designs back to the community? Why doesn't FSF require that any car, bought by the government, to have it's blueprints published somewhere on the web? Oh, don't forget also the blueprints of the tools and machines used to build the car as well."

    Because keeping these things secret is the easiest way to make a living out of them under the economic framework of American Capitalism. The only reason open source software fits into the this framework is that it is simply electronic data and electronic data costs almost nothing to dupilcate.
  • What about the quality of the open source
    2002-08-26 16:25:25  gameboy70 [View]

    "The open source advocates want the government to require open sources for every product it purchases. The reason - the government should be allowed to do with the product as it sees fit to."

    Hence the restriction: the government should not be able to purchase code that it can neither see nor use at its own discretion. The people of California do not want another Oracle scam.

    "1. Should the government specifically prohibit buying products that are based on GPL license? Reasons: the government will be forced to release the right fur use to any modifications it might do. Can you imagine NATO general signing off the approval to release back to the community the missile guidance software?"

    As long as the government isn't redistributing software, it's not subject to the GPL requirement that redistributed software must include the source code.

    "2. How come nobody talks about any quality standarts that the software should conform to? If the government is to mandate software policy, shouldn't it first establish quality standarts, before even talking about open sources? There should be government standards that the software conforms to, like the cars crash tests. And anybody that writes programs should pay a fee to pass these tests. What company will be willing to pay for such tests? Or the government should sponsor the open source programs and discriminate the closed source ones?"

    Since both proprietary and open source licenses currently waive all liability (or reduce it to, at most, the value of the software itself -- regardless of what other damages were incurred at a result of the software), your rhetorical question is irrelevant to the matters at hand: security, integrity of code, permanence of data, vendor independence, etc. Your requirement for liability is worth exploring, but the playing field on this issue as fairly level at the moment.

    "The open source advocates say: "why buy a car that has it's engine cover welded?" Let me ask a question: "Why force the government to buy cars that were made by thousands of unknown people?".
    Meanwhile, if we continue the car analogy - why doesn't anybody require Ford to build open standarts cars and provide their designs back to the community? Why doesn't FSF require that any car, bought by the government, to have it's blueprints published somewhere on the web? Oh, don't forget also the blueprints of the tools and machines used to build the car as well."

    You're harping on a development method, not a licensing requirement. There's nothing to stop Microsoft from selling Word to the government under the GPL except the company's willingness to do it. There's a tendency to equate open source with "Bazaar" and proprietary source with "Cathedral," but either method could be used to develop the other type of software. FreeBSD, for instance, is almost entirely the work of the Berkeley developers, who reject most sumbissions they receive from outside. The developer is not required to accept submissions, nor is the government required to purchase from a supplier that does (not that I agree that it would be a bad thing).

    "I work as a programmer. I love my work. And frankly, i don't know how to do anything else. But i don't want to write open source. I admit the code i write - it's not a genius' work. But it's something i did. I'd like to have the choice what to do with it. And i'd like to be able to compete for any contracts. If the government mandates that it should have access to the sources of my program in order to buy it - so be it. But they should not force me to release these sources to the public."

    The government isn't forcing you to do anything. The proposed legislation prohibits what the government buys, not what you sell, which is consistent with the free market. If you don't feel that you can commercialize your work in a way that makes it fit for the citizens of California, you'll have to take your bid elsewhere. The State does not owe you a subsidy.

    "It's all about choice. However, it looks to me that in fact it's not about my choice as a developer nor it is about the government's choice, but about the FSF choice."

    That's like saying that giving blacks the right to vote is about the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party's choice rather than being a general civil rights issue. The people of California should be free from vendor lock-in. Incidentally, the FSF didn't draft the CSSA. RMS would *never* have a hand in a bill that mandates "Open Source"!
  • What about the quality of the open source
    2002-08-16 14:04:55  euan [View]

    > 1. Should the government specifically prohibit buying
    > products that are based on GPL license? Reasons: the
    > government will be forced to release the right fur use
    > to any modifications it might do. Can you imagine NATO
    > general signing off the approval to release back to
    > the community the missile guidance software?

    This is a non-issue. The GPL clearly states that the
    changed source need only be redistributed if the binaries
    themeselves are going to be redistributed. I can't
    imagine NATO releasing the binaries for missile guidance
    software somehow.

    > 2. How come nobody talks about any quality standarts
    > that the software should conform to? If the government
    > is to mandate software policy, shouldn't it first
    > establish quality standarts, before even talking about
    > open sources? There should be government standards
    > that the software conforms to, like the cars crash
    > tests. And anybody that writes programs should pay a
    > fee to pass these tests. What company will be willing
    > to pay for such tests? Or the government should
    > sponsor the open source programs and discriminate the
    > closed source ones?

    And exactly what quality standards do proprietry
    companies adhere to? None as far as I'm aware. As for
    who would pay for any such theoretical tests for free
    software, then that would be down to the company that
    puts foward such software for consideration i.e. Red Hat,
    Mandrake or a n other.

    > The open source advocates say: "why buy a car that has
    > it's engine cover welded?" Let me ask a question: "Why
    > force the government to buy cars that were made by
    > thousands of unknown people?".
    > Meanwhile, if we continue the car analogy - why
    > doesn't anybody require Ford to build open standarts
    > cars and provide their designs back to the community?
    > Why doesn't FSF require that any car, bought by the
    > government, to have it's blueprints published
    > somewhere on the web? Oh, don't forget also the
    > blueprints of the tools and machines used to build the
    > car as well.

    And here we have the tired security through obscurity
    approach. Hasn't this one been done to death already?

    > I work as a programmer. I love my work. And frankly, i
    > don't know how to do anything else. But i don't want
    > to write open source. I admit the code i write - it's
    > not a genius' work. But it's something i did. I'd like
    > to have the choice what to do with it. And i'd like to
    > be able to compete for any contracts. If the
    > government mandates that it should have access to the
    > sources of my program in order to buy it - so be it.
    > But they should not force me to release these sources
    > to the public.

    Agreed, that is your right. However the Venezuelan bill
    at any rate mandates that it's just the government that
    will require the source, a wholly sensible precaution in
    my view to combat vendor lock in.

    > It's all about choice. However, it looks to me that in
    > fact it's not about my choice as a developer nor it is
    > about the government's choice, but about the FSF
    > choice.

    How so? I can't comment on the Californian bill as I've
    not read it. With the Venezualean bill though the only
    freedom you will be surrendering is your choice of file
    formats. Your code will not be released to the public or
    your competitors so what is your objection?

    Regareds,

    Euan (neither a coder, hacker etc; just one who
    appreciates quality software no matter what platform it
    runs on.)
  • What about the quality of the open source
    2002-08-16 13:23:15  zwack [View]

    "Let me ask a question: 'Why force the government to buy cars that were made by thousands of unknown people?'."

    So you know everyone who built your car? I don't... in fact it was probably made by thousands of unknown people... or at least hundreds. Sure I know which company made a profit from it, but I don't know any people. If I paid for an open source solution, and support for that solution, I WOULD know who had acceptted responsibility for that software.

    Frankly, if a NATO general released the missile guidance software back to the community it would be acceptable to me. It might even work in the favour of NATO... "OOOH, look, their missiles are accurate to within 1 metre. Ours aren't that accurate..." The only people who would be able to make use of that software would require the hardware as well.

    Sure Ford could release the blue prints to their cars... it wouldn't do most people any good whatsoever. Remember, you can already go to an auto parts store and buy all of the parts. Knowing how to stick them together isn't too difficult.

    While I wouldn't argue for enforced use of only open source software I find your analogies to be somewhat poor.

    More important to my mind is that the data file formats should all be open standards. That way YOU could write some software to manipulate them, I could write some software that worked differently, THEN their is real choice, rather than the current "well, all of our current documents are in this proprietary format, converting them to that proprietary format is a real pain" pseudo choice.

    Z.

Showing messages 1 through 4 of 4.