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Brazil Mandates Shift to Free Software 503

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the freedom-through-mandatory-compliance dept.
truthsearch writes "LinuxToday is reporting news and a response about Brazil making Open Source mandatory for 80% of all computers in state institutions and businesses, setting up a 'Chamber for the Implementation of Software Libre.'" This is a big win for Linux, but is making it mandatory going too far? It would seem wiser to support a solution that favors the best tool for the job, which may not always be an open source product.
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Brazil Mandates Shift to Free Software

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  • Mr. Gates? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Black Parrot (19622) on Saturday June 14, 2003 @12:40PM (#6199601)


    Your luggage is ready, sir.

    • Re:Mr. Gates? (Score:5, Informative)

      by inerte (452992) on Saturday June 14, 2003 @01:07PM (#6199795) Homepage Journal
      He already met (twice) with Brazil's president (one time before the election, one after, during Davos), and it didn't change our president's mind.

      During the campaign some IT newspaper asked the candidates what they would do for the software industry. It went something like this:

      José Serra's answer:

      "We must support the software industry, make it stronger so it can generate jobs for our citizens, and increases export (export? Sell something to other country)."

      Pretty standard, IMHO. This anwer works not only for the software industry, but for any other else.

      Lula's answer:

      "We should support free software, not only because it's cheaper, but because our country needs a larger tech base, more computer and people that knows how to use it".

      And Lula won the dispute. Especifically, when asked about the software industry, he cited free solutions.

      So it's not a matter of what Bill Gates think, it's already happening. Cool, isn't? :)

      Ps: I know you made a joke I am just trying to make the topic broader and explain some of the things that are happening.

  • Whoa (Score:3, Funny)

    by HughJampton (659996) on Saturday June 14, 2003 @12:40PM (#6199603)
    Terry Gilliam must be happy.
  • by SecretMethod70 (569755) on Saturday June 14, 2003 @12:42PM (#6199610)
    Making this mandatory, in my opinion, goes against everything that open source stands for - choice. To not keep choices as free as possible to choose whatever is the best solution - be it proprietary or open - defeats the entire purpose of the choice open source provides.
    • by Dashmon (669814) on Saturday June 14, 2003 @12:48PM (#6199650)
      Erm.. you're wrong. The point is that that "choice" you speak of was made. This is all about Brazil's goverment - they can decide for themselves if they want everything OS or not, and they did, which is just as much a choice as chosing to buy Windoze computers/software. As long as they don't make it mandatory for Brazil's inhabitants to use OSS, they're only chosing what software they themselves want to use - you can't be against that, can you?
      • Sometimes governments mandate something to break the 'inertia' mentioned in the article. I expect the move to OS would be at a snail's pace as change can be difficult in a large bureaucracy where the pressure is on to keep the status quo. There are times when the government's job is to mandate something to force change on a reluctant group. Think civil rights or enviornmental issues. Especially when millions of dollars and persuasive lobbists are involved.
      • by jc42 (318812) on Saturday June 14, 2003 @03:31PM (#6200599) Homepage Journal
        In any case, this doesn't prevent anyone at all from selling their software in Brazil. It merely says that if you want to sell to government agencies, you must also supply the source. Without any silly NDA.

        And it's really no different than, say, if you want to sell vehicles to a government agency. It's routine for such buyers to insist on full shop manuals with every sale, so that the guys in their fleet shop can maintain them. Hardly any government agency anywhere takes their cars to the dealer for maintenance. (Well, actually, some do, but usually only if the dealer gives them a deal comparable with doing it themselves.)

        How is it that software vendors think they can get away with keeping the inner workings of their products secret, when this is hardly done with any other products except for cheap disposables?

        So, bravo for the Brazilian government. They're finally wising up. No government with a grain of sense would buy software whose inner workings are unknowable and unfixable. Especially not from a big foreign-owned company that doesn't have your interests at heart. And that's what we're really talking about here.

    • But they are not mandating which software right ? Just that it be open. There are plenty to choose from, with hundreds of distros and several large/popular ones.

      Eu4ria
    • Not in this case, Brazil has a bad economy now, including some famine. Reducing costs in government needs to be mandatory.

      Also it's not a total change, some software can be propiertary (20%) and i believe in this economical context open source software is the best solution in more than 80% of the cases. With the aditional openness benefit of knowing what the hell your software is doing with your data, of course.
    • Who said that??? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Srin Tuar (147269) <zeroday26@yahoo.com> on Saturday June 14, 2003 @12:53PM (#6199694)
      I dont recall ever hearing some consensus that Open Source stands for choice.

      Free Software stands for SHARING SOURCE CODE. In fact, going by the GPL, you dont even get a choice about sharing it either.

      So stop promulgating that stupid sentiment. I for one have no problem with mandatory open source.

      So what if you lose the choice to be a slave, you still have all the choices that matter.

      • by arose (644256) on Saturday June 14, 2003 @01:37PM (#6199983)
        It is about choice, choice of vendors. If you don't like the suport/coding you are geting, you take the source and pay someone else to do what you need.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      But this is the government we're talking about. The government has no "freedom" or "choice." It has only the privileges the people choose to give it. If the people want to require that their head of state wear a pink tu-tu while conducting all official government business, they have every right to do so. In fact restricting the actions of the government is precisely how we guarantee freedom for the people.

      Now I understand your position and I could go either way. Personally I feel a mandate of open st

      • One of the better reasons for switching to Open Source is the support of Open Standards. MS could take away a lot of complain about their office apps if they would open the standards and submit these to some standards bodies. As it is there is a huge danger of your data ending up in a data ghetto. A data ghetto is where your data becomes trapped in a single place and is unable to be sucessfully used or moved. MS Word is a prime example of data caught in a data ghetto. Imagine the hundred of millions of word
    • by Cyclops (1852) <rmsNO@SPAM1407.org> on Saturday June 14, 2003 @12:56PM (#6199719) Homepage
      Well, AFAICT, choosing between non-free software programs is only a matter of choosing who your owner is going to be.

      With Free (Livre) Software a governmant will have true soverneity over what it's computers do (well, that may need some support --> business model here?).

      If it doesn't like the way some things are being done, it can always be done by others. With non-free software, all who can really do anything at all are the owneres, so they get to "tell to" the government what it can (or can't) do with its computers.

      I'm sorry, but this _is_ a choice a government can do that is somewhat important. It will get to choose who can give it support. It'll get it control over what the software is doing, and talking about plenty software choices, well... the FUD some idiots spread around is that there's too much Free Software programs for you to choose... so there you go. You can choose the best Free tool for the job. Freedom is what the government is mandating for itself by choosing to use only Free Software. Why are you against it? Do you rather your government can't tell you wether some software company has secret access to your records?
    • by zmooc (33175) <zmooc@NOSpaM.zmooc.net> on Saturday June 14, 2003 @12:56PM (#6199720) Homepage
      It does not. Open Source Software doesn't stand for choice. It stands for certain guarantees. In even forces those guarantees onto you. Guarantees like "you can be 100% sure about what this software does" and "you can be 100% sure in 100 years the data written by this software can still be read". So mandatory use of free software forces certain guarantees. IMHO those guarantees - especially in a government - are plain simply required. It's absolutely not acceptable to buy software that doesn't offer you those guarantees so closed source software just isn't an option.
    • It's not against everything that open source stands for. For example it's anti-Microsoft, and whilst commercial software companies are not the enemy of OS, Microsoft is ;-)
    • Open Source is not (for me) a creedo, it's a licensing scheme that is counter-monopolistic. You're argument misses the point of choice... making one. For a government to *choose* Open Source, they'll want to deploy it broadly and not have every single IT manager and new A+ cert holder deciding that they know best how to support the infrastructure of a government.

      Your view leads to chaos, not choice.
    • History? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by yintercept (517362) on Saturday June 14, 2003 @02:08PM (#6200153) Homepage Journal
      OSS is like most social revolutions. It is for anything which broadens its agenda and power base. The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

      From a historical perspective, this news on Brazil is quite interesting. They have had one of the most meddlesome governments in IT. I was working with several Brazilians in the 80s. At the time, Brazil wanted to build up its computer manufacturing and had strict import laws controlling the importation of computers and computer programs. The hope was that by creating an isolated market, they would develop a flourishing IT industry. My friends, of course, thought the laws were extremely troublesome and oppressive, and were trying to find a way out of Brazil. They told stories of how most of Brazil's IT infrastructure was running on 10 year old software because companies couldn't import the new software. I was hoping the acticle would have more info on the history of Brazil's attempts to legislate its IT industry.

      Anyway, mandating the use of OSS fits well within the social and political objectives of the movement. OSS does not stand for "choice." OSS stands for "open development." These are different ideas. In many regards OSS is in stark opposition to the notion of ownership of property. All the brouhaha about copyrights and patents is an attempt to create some sort of ownership to intellectual development; so that it would fit in a free market.

      When the code is publicly developed, there is no longer any "ownership" of ideas or code. It is all a communal resource. Hence, the philosophies of ownership that were advanced by Smith, Locke and others are no longer applicable.

      As for choice, for OSS to really excel it cannot allow companies to choose that this piece of software is open and this piece is closed. The goal of the GPL is to make all the software code "open." Otherwise the greed of software developers would be to take from the community without giving back. Government mandates simply add the power to the state to enforce the idea of open development.

      OSS pretty much started as a reaction to the Microsoft monopoly. Since monopolies limit choice, I can see how people in the initial step of the revolution equated open with free; However, I suspect that it will be anti-US and nationalistic attitudes of countries like Brazil that will bring the OSS revolution to fruition. The fact that the revolution is different then what people thought the revolution was about is par for the course.
      • Re:History? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by GigsVT (208848) * on Saturday June 14, 2003 @05:10PM (#6200999) Journal
        OSS is in stark opposition to the notion of ownership of property.

        I take issue with that. No one sane talks about forcing closed source companies to open their source. It isn't a communist dream of wealth redistribution, it's a recognition that software and data have very little economic value by themselves, that once software is written, it becomes an infinite resource that everyone can share.

        As a Libertarian and a supporter of free software, I see no fundamental conflict between OSS and property rights, any more than I see a fundamental conflict between grocery stores and charity food banks.

      • Re:History? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Alsee (515537)
        These are different ideas. In many regards OSS is in stark opposition to the notion of ownership of property.

        That's nothing but FUD and a strawman argument.

        "They" are not the least be opposed to ownership of property. Their "notion" is that information does not equal physical objects. Information is not property. And that is not even in conflict with the "notion" of patents and copyrights. Just because patents and copyrights are not property does not mean they are not valid. It just means there is a huge
      • "However, I suspect that it will be anti-US and nationalistic attitudes of countries like Brazil that will bring the OSS revolution to fruition."

        ItÂs not an anti-US action, it is all about trying to have the most affordable solution. Brazil is a poor country and we are currently cutting costs everywere. ItÂs better doing this by saving money with M$ licenses than saving money with education and health care.
        Brazil is also a large country with population about 180,000,000 distributed over an area 8
  • by albalbo (33890) on Saturday June 14, 2003 @12:42PM (#6199613) Homepage
    The 'best tool' term can always be used to fit whatever system you're trying to push. If you're talking about desktop systems, there's always a reason that Windows is the best tool.

    If, on the other hand, you are interested in making a change and making people aware of the choice out there, then yes it probably needs to be mandated - what the Government is saying is that it is more important that we have control over our software than features, necessarily. That's 'best tool', but more of a long-term view..
    • To paraphrase another poster, a tool that does 90% of what you need it to do is no substitute for a tool that does 100% of what you need it to do. Choose the software that best performs the task, as evaluated by you. And having control over software is no substitute for the remaining 10%, if you need it immediately.
      • by redhog (15207) on Saturday June 14, 2003 @01:25PM (#6199920) Homepage
        On the other hand, all features in the world is no substitute for having control over the software you use for the vittal functions of your country.

        In my country (.SE), for the sake of democrasy, government functions, documents and decissions are, when not specifically mandated by national security, required to be available to the public for review.

        The same should hold true for the software functions used in the government, if they affect the descissions or the order in which they are made, and must in all cases hold true for the fileformats used.

        Everything else would not be democratic.
      • by a_n_d_e_r_s (136412) on Saturday June 14, 2003 @01:26PM (#6199924) Homepage Journal
        Actually since all commersial software are not written directly for the customer - they often have to do with software that are only 90% perfect.

        With free software - that the customer can change it as they se fit - they can spend money to create the missing functionality they can get thus gaet that extra 10% to get a 100% perfekt application.

  • Huh? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 14, 2003 @12:43PM (#6199617)
    It would seem wiser to support a solution that favors the best tool for the job, which may not always be an open source product.

    What, are you new around here or something?
  • Budget crunches. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Eevee (535658) on Saturday June 14, 2003 @12:44PM (#6199621)

    Brazil's not exactly overflowing with cash at the moment. A tool that does 90% of the job for free is better than a tool that does 100% of the job but that you can't afford to purchase.

    • by fidget42 (538823) on Saturday June 14, 2003 @12:53PM (#6199698)
      A tool that does 90% of the job for free is better than a tool that does 100% of the job but that you can't afford to purchase.

      I have yet to see a tool that does 100% of what a person needs. Even if you are paying for the software development, it never works just right. In the end, you wind up changing your process to match what the tool can provide.

      That being said, even if the split were 60% to 80%, it could easily justify the OSS solution. After all, how many people use more that 30% of the capabilities of MS Office?
    • The goal of the migration is to save money by finding alternatives to expensive proprietary licenses.

      Which I can totally understand. In this case, folks, it's not about philosophy, it's about economics. The Brazilian government shouldn't have to wreck its budget because some of its members are complacent enough to stay with Microsoft forever.

      The one thing I'm curious about (not morbidly curious, just curious) is how much the consulting and other migration costs are going to add up before the transitio
  • Not jsut Linux (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jlrowe (69115) on Saturday June 14, 2003 @12:44PM (#6199623)
    This is a big win even for Windows based software, such as OpenOffice and other desktop OSS software. And what about OSS server based software? That too.
    • Re:Not just Linux (Score:2, Insightful)

      by pkunzipper (652520)
      I think the real winner is the Brazilian citizens. Although the government is certainly not about to buy trhem a bunch of computers, thisis a big step towards spreading technological skills throughout the region, into schools, and into people's homes. Let's not forget that a society that cannot stay in tune with technology is doomed to be at a serious disadvantage on a global scale.
  • [i]It would seem wiser to support a solution that favors the best tool for the job, which may not always be an open source product.[/i]

    I don't think so. I think the main thing here is that stuff needs to be cheap (Brazil's a poor country), and has to be able to do the job - not necessaraly in the best way possible. FS is definetly free money-wise, and because techs can get the source too, any specific needs Brazil might have can cheaply be added. Also, don't forget, the sooner the mass of the people use op
  • by jonman_d (465049) <nemilar@@@optonline...net> on Saturday June 14, 2003 @12:44PM (#6199626) Homepage Journal
    This is a big win for Linux, but is making it mandatory going too far? It would seem wiser to support a solution that favors the best tool for the job, which may not always be an open source product.

    I think an 80% mandation (is that even a word?) seems fair. You leave 20% left over for missions-critical applications (military and whatnot; remember, Brazil isn't like the US - they don't spend hundreds of billions on military, and therefore, I doubt their military computer systems make up even 10% of their infrastructure), on which you can chose software based on the best choice out there. But the remaining 80%, which represents mostly desktop applications for clerks and whatnot, will be running on OSS - this is good, because it prevents government from getting locked into restrictive licencing that usually comes with desktop production software, saves money, and encurages development of open software/standards.

    I think they've met a good balance here, and I congradulate them.
    • by a_n_d_e_r_s (136412) on Saturday June 14, 2003 @01:00PM (#6199748) Homepage Journal
      Actually for military software it is even more essential that the source code is available so that the operations fo the code can be checked so tht no foreign hostile goverment put sin back-doors and listeningen in on the kommunikations and get access to secret information.

    • Brazil isn't like the US - they don't spend hundreds of billions on military, and therefore, I doubt their military computer systems make up even 10% of their infrastructure)

      I know it's nitpicking, but I would take issue with this comment. Of course Brazil doesn't spend "hundreds of billions" on military - they don't HAVE hundreds of billions to spend (or the capability to generate that income by issuing bonds and expanding their debt). However, Brazil has in the very recent past actually spent more on

      • by halftrack (454203) <jonkjeNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Saturday June 14, 2003 @02:06PM (#6200134) Homepage
        Do you know anything about statistics?? This is your statistic shows the gross amount used on military while you should compare on a per capita basis.

        General: budget / population = military spending per capita
        US: $399.1e9 / 2.8e8 = $1425
        Brazil: 10.5e9 / 1.8e8 = $58
        (Israel: 9.4e9 / 6e6 = $1566)

        Now thats what we call perspective.

        Population numbers are gathered from the cia world factbook avaiable at http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/
  • Brazil has been renamed "Torvaldia"
  • Probably not... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Gooberheadly (458026) on Saturday June 14, 2003 @12:45PM (#6199631)
    Is mandating across the board reductions in cash expenditures for non-domestic product unfair or counter-productive? Almost certainly not. When a second/third world economy is able to reduce its hard currency outlay for soft product, it's an across the board win. When it's further possible to use local labor for support and administration, at local labor rates, it's a larger win. When all of that can be achieved *and* they're able to use the initiative as a basis for improving the technical skills pool locally, it sure seems like a win to me.

    It'll be interesting to see if they can leverage access to source and freely redistributable product into a long term cost reduction strategy. Short term the win is pretty clear. Long term, open source has some way to go in maintenance cost reduction, vis. Solaris vs. RedHat and Solaris vs. Win2k
  • Mandatory (Score:4, Interesting)

    by travail_jgd (80602) on Saturday June 14, 2003 @12:46PM (#6199639)
    If closed-source software is prohibited, there's no way for companies to buy their way into Brazil.

    "It would seem wiser to support a solution that favors the best tool for the job"

    That's very true, but only when you don't have mega-corporations and monopolies leveraging assets other than software (donating computer hardware, donating to social programs, etc).

    While I personally believe in "the best tool for the job", governments are far more vulnerable to outside pressure than businesses.
    • Re:Mandatory (Score:3, Informative)

      by cgenman (325138)
      I would like to point out, that nowhere in the article [pclinuxonline.com] does it say that closed-source software will be prohibited. It only says that Brazil is migrating 80 percent of their desktops to Linux. It was a commentator and then a Slashdot editor that misread the "Linux OS" part as "All Open Source Software."

      In theory Brazil could continue to use Oracle, Corel, or any other Non-OSS they so chose, assuming they did so on a Linux platform.

      This isn't a business philosophy decision, or even a broad software purcha
  • Just As Wrong (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DASHSL0T (634167) on Saturday June 14, 2003 @12:47PM (#6199640) Homepage
    This is just as wrong as if a country mandated 80% Microsoft. Mandate open file formats and protocols, but don't mandate people or agencies MUST use a specific type of software.
    --
    Who do YOU think owns UNIX? [linux-universe.com]
    • They are not mandating a specific type of software. They are mandating a specific type of license. Microsoft can still sell to Brazil, they just need to pick a license that fits the rules.

      It is common for companies and governments to have rules about which terms they accept in contracts. Why should software contracts be different?

      • IMO, and that is all it is, an opinion, if you mandate that software must have a particular license than you have forced yourself into choosing from that particular subset of software (that which is licensed in the way you have mandated). You thus automatically exclude what may be better, but not "licensed according to the mandate" software.

        As I said, just my opinion.
        --
        FSF's Lawyer Speaks Out On SCO [linux-universe.com]
        • Re:Just As Wrong (Score:3, Insightful)

          by schon (31600)
          You thus automatically exclude what may be better

          No, you don't.

          "Better" is a subjective term.

          Brazil looked at their requirements (open access to data and code - Brazil mandated that since all government data must be accessible by the populace, so must the tools to access it, as they can't be locked into a situation where the vendor controls the data.) Since (by definition) closed source doesn't meet their requirements, it cannot be "better".

          Again, MS is perfectly able to sell software to Brazil - they
  • by Realistic_Dragon (655151) on Saturday June 14, 2003 @12:47PM (#6199641) Homepage
    It brings skills into the country and stops the export of programming jobs. It ensures that the organisatons you want to account are local. It means that all of your population can take advantage of gov't programming and development work. It reduces dependancies on countries which may or may not change their mind about you in the future. It means you aren't bound to proprietary standards (docs and APIs) which might be used to keep you on that platform. It means that the code can never be taken away from you.

    Given that a countries primary mandate is social, it makes a great deal of sense to mandate free software, for the good of the country, unless you happen to be the country that is the home of Microsoft (and even then that's debatable - MS is perfectly happy to outsource programming jobs to wherever is cheapest).
  • by Anita Coney (648748) on Saturday June 14, 2003 @12:48PM (#6199649) Homepage
    The best tool for a particular job might be proprietary software. However, maybe Brazil's long term goal is to alleviate themselves of proprietary software.

    Certainly any software tool could be created using open source. After a few years of such creation all the best tools would be open source and Brazil will no longer be reliant any anyone but themselves. Sounds like a pretty good goal to me.

  • by shoppa (464619) on Saturday June 14, 2003 @12:49PM (#6199656)
    Rename Windows to "OpenWindows", rename Word to "OpenWord", and rename Office to "OpenOffice". Done. Now all their software is good for use in Brazil.

    Implied :-) for those who forgot about all the "Open-this" and "Open-that" software being tossed about in the early-to-mid-90's that really had nothing open about it at all.

    • all the "Open-this" and "Open-that" software being tossed about in the early-to-mid-90's that really had nothing open about it at all.

      The "Open" implied an open standard, meaning that even though the source wasn't necessarily available, the spec was, so that anyone could write an app that interoperated with your product. Thus OpenVMS was simply VMS with POSIX compliance- developers could expect it to behave in certain ways. I guess this was largely to reduce fragmentation among OSes.

      In contrast, Windo
  • It would seem wiser to support a solution that favors the best tool for the job, which may not always be an open source product.
    You can make damn near anything do 80% of the job. Sadly.
  • Portuguese, please (Score:5, Informative)

    by Indio_do_Xingu (675644) on Saturday June 14, 2003 @12:49PM (#6199662) Homepage
    'Chamber for the Implementation of Software Libre.'" Libre = Spanish Livre = Portuguese Portuguese, not spanish, is the spoken language in Brazil...
    • by Jungle guy (567570) <brunolmailbox-ge ... NSTEIN.br minus > on Saturday June 14, 2003 @05:12PM (#6201010) Journal
      The Linux Today article is misleading. The brazilian government has not aproved a bill to mandate the use of free or open source software. They will try to use free software as much as possible, to save money and to avoid paying software licences to foreing countires. Brazil is facing a tough time to pay all his externals debts (check out the IMF website [imf.org]) and does not have much dollars to spend.

      This is not to say that proprietary software is banned in the government. The policy will shift to allow companies that use free software solutions partipate in public concurrences. And every software used by the government, regardless of its platform, should be interoperable. No government website may carry a tag "best viewed with browser x or Y". The software developed by the brazilian IRS, that today is avaliable only for Windows, will have a Linux port. Sergio Amadeu told me this policy can be summarized in one sentence: "the brazilian government will not force anyone to use proprietary or free software". That is 100% on the spirit of free software and open source.

      Nowadays the use of Windows is predominant in the brazilian government, but that will change. Many governments [slashdot.org] are considering [com.com] this direction [oreillynet.com], and Brazil is just another case. The government is not anti-Microsoft, is just considering a better option for the country.

      As a coincidence, I am a brasilian journalist and I have wrote a story about it. On monday you can check it out in www.jb.com.br/internet [jb.com.br] (those that don't speak portuguese will have to use Babel Fish).

  • Linux isn't the only free software out there...
  • Mandatory (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Squidgee (565373) <squidgeeOO1&hotmail,com> on Saturday June 14, 2003 @12:50PM (#6199667)
    My bet as to why it's mandatory is that they're strapped for cash, or just want to save some.

    Free versus the two hundred some odd dollars for windows could save them a lot.

  • by Uttles (324447) <uttles@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Saturday June 14, 2003 @12:52PM (#6199684) Homepage Journal
    Now if I could just land an open source development job in Rio and hang out with some of those topless Brazilians.
  • by zmooc (33175) <zmooc@NOSpaM.zmooc.net> on Saturday June 14, 2003 @12:52PM (#6199686) Homepage
    ...is a tool that guarantees you it can still be used in 20 years. Only Open Source Software can assure you that. The manufacturers of Closed Source Software will eventually stop support, go backrupt or be bought by a large company that just kills it. There is absolutely no excuse to use closed source software. And "It's easier to use on the short term" is NOT an excuse if you cannot be 100% certain that your data will still be readable in 10 years.
  • misleading title? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by leekwen (677248) on Saturday June 14, 2003 @12:54PM (#6199701)
    Are they really doing any mandating? I RTFA and it seems like they're only making the move to free software only because it's cheaper, not because they have to or anybody is forcing them to.

    It only seems like they are mandating it because of the story title, even in the babelfish translation of the spanish original article title they're only 'migrating.'

    I was wondering why they'd try to force open source software on anybody, isn't that against morals and such?
  • In this case I see some likeness to the case of Generic Drugs. Brazil forced lower prices of patented drugs by threatening with ignoring those patents and producing cheap, generic medecines.
    They won because a state is still more powerful than any corporation. Imagine what would happen if SCO won the case against Linux, while Brazil would have most of the governmental IT run by Linux. Would the surrender to the power of SCO? I doubt it. So every such case is beneficial to the stability of Open Source commun
  • This is a big win for Linux, but is making it mandatory going too far? It would seem wiser to support a solution that favors the best tool for the job, which may not always be an open source product.

    I'd say Linux/Open Source (don't forget BSD;) is the best tool 80% of the time (or more) though.

    Brazil might be willing to settle for a 'good enough' solution, while saving MILLIONS of dollars. Those savings really add up, year after year. Everyone touts the advantages of OSS for business, why not apply it t

  • Not Going Too Far (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bob9113 (14996) on Saturday June 14, 2003 @12:56PM (#6199714) Homepage
    but is making it mandatory going too far?

    In the transition to a fully open source office, the initial training expense is high (not because Windows is easier, but because everyone already knows how to use it). After the initial expense, and assuming a large installed base (to facilitate peer support), the cost savings are enormous. Government offices are the perfect places to take advantage of these facts - no quarterly stockholder reports to worry about means the initial expense won't affect anyone's bonus, and the massive user base makes peer support extremely cost effective.

    Wholly aside from the cost efficiency aspect is the open government and independence issue. As things stand, Brazil is dependent on Microsoft, and runs on software to which Brazil's citizens have no access. This is hardly an appropriate position for democracy to find itself in.
  • by zogger (617870) on Saturday June 14, 2003 @12:58PM (#6199731) Homepage Journal
    mandating open software over closed is a financial and logical extension of the notion that government should be more cost effective, accessible to all comers, more equitable and be able to accomplish it's tasks. What this does is to put a huge incentive on other software companies to compete on terms of usability and service, instead of locked in closed formats and inertia, ie, holding them ransom for money every year beyond what is really necessary to spend, which is the model most governments and busineses have been using for a long time, but times change now. Cost is a serious consideration, and open source has enough variety to do the bulk of what needs to be done, and shows every indication of soon doing *all* of it.. If-obvious reference- microsoft wants to still compete, the ball is in their court now, there's several avenues they can persue, either drop prices to a much more realistic level and open up their document formats in particular, or go full bore open source same as linux and bsd vendors,make their profit from service and reliability and security, and also the same thing applies to various specific applications they might require.

    The "right tool for the job" is the correct assessment, but you must needs take all the variables into account when considering your selection. Example, I can dig out a small gadren spot to make a new flower bed, I could lease a trackhoe, by golly that thing is very efficient in digging out the bed, and it's sure a tool, but all things considered the better tool would be me, the garden sysadmin and my shovel I own and don't have to rent.

    I don't think the brazilians are stupid, they can see the advantages in cost, long term viability, having the freedom to develop custom in house, having the notion that more of their people will have lawful access to the same tools for more universal access, and so on.

    Put it another way, it would sure be bogus if to use the highway here I had to only drive a belchfire, and government wouldn't use anything but belchfires, and they were real expensive all the time with expensive parts and expensive maintenance. That's been almost completely "mandated" so far, time to move on to another idea.
  • ....gang oft agley.

    The article, if you read it, says that accpording to one newspaper story, the government PLANS to move SLOWLY (starting with one pilot; ramping up ove rthree years) to Open Source.

    Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your viewpoint, plans and especially government plans often do not work out. ("No New Taxes", remember that one?). So I would not cheer. Or worry. Just yet.

    Michael

  • by DaveMe (19844) on Saturday June 14, 2003 @12:58PM (#6199742)
    Just a reminder of what just happened in Munich, Germany: while trying to convince public administration to choose Windows, Microsoft dramatically reduced its prices. So, if you're a big company or a public entity, the sole announcement that you consider the Linux alternative can save you a couple of million dollars. Not considering OSS alternatives will cost you or your taxpayers millions of dollars.

    That's why competition is so good.
  • This is a big win for Linux, but is making it mandatory going too far? It would seem wiser to support a solution that favors the best tool for the job, which may not always be an open source product.


    I think that is why it is mandatory for 80% of the computers and not 100%.
  • It would seem wiser to support a solution that favors the best tool for the job, which may not always be an open source product.
    We are talking about government here. Their job is long term well-being of their people. OSS is the best tool for this job.
  • Becoming a Trend? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by fastdecade (179638) on Saturday June 14, 2003 @01:03PM (#6199770)
    Notice [slashdot.org] A [slashdot.org] Trend? [slashdot.org]

    Ballmer [slashdot.org] Does! [slashdot.org]

    MS is going through what happened to IBM years ago. "No-one ever got sacked for buying IBM". Decision makers like to run with MS (whether for desktop, development, whatever) because if things go wrong, they at least can't be accused of using "weird" stuff like Linux.

    But when others start having the courage to adopt Linux, it becomes less of an excuse. Indeed, if other governments are successful with Linux, decision makers who play conservative will even have to justify why they chose Microsoft when there are other viable alternatives.

    If years of gluttony have eroded product and service quality, as IBM discovered, a monopolistic empire can quickly crumble.

    This is good for software all round. I am pleased to see Linux getting some action in conservative quarters. I am also pleased that Microsoft will be forced to innovate. Flame if you must, but I think they have always been very good in responding to challenges. Yes, some of that had involved questionable tactics. But they have also made some top innovations over the years, or at least commercialised cutting edge research and ideas which were formerly obscure (e.g. Windows 95 interface - Start Menu, Taskbar etc ... Pocket PC interface ... Tablet PCs). Current activities will give provide needed funds to Linux development and also provide an impetus to MS to get its act together. Good news all round.
  • by GammaTau (636807) <jni@iki.fi> on Saturday June 14, 2003 @01:05PM (#6199778) Homepage Journal

    One thing that really bugs me about many governments around the world is how they are never willing to touch the fundamental issue behind free vs. proprietary software. Copyright is a government-granted exclusive right to a work. If this government-granted right is hurting the society, the society should reconsider the principles behind the copyright.

    I find it insane that the Brazilian government first grants each author with strong rights for the software they write and then they say that sorry, we can't use such software because you use the rights we have given you. I also find it insane that the US government grants software authors similar rights and when one company simply uses those government-granted rights (well, I guess you know what company I'm talking about), the government sues it for abusing those rights.

    Making open source mandatory is pointless. The proper way to change things is not to grant anyone privileges that hurt the society. The copyright, to some extent, might be a good thing. If it becomes such a bad thing that the government itself wishes to use only copyleft software, there is something fundamentally flawed either in the government decision or the copyright law.

    • You are right from a moral viewpoint, but there is such a thing as realpolitik. Removing the government-granted monopoly from Microsoft would instantly cause a trade war with the US.

      It is not in the interest of most countries to grant strong copyright monopolies, since most countries are heavy importers of copyrighted products. It is not that long ago that the US was in the same situation, and refused to recognize non-US copyrights. Lord of the Rings used to be published in the US with no permission from

    • I also find it insane that the US government grants software authors similar rights and when one company simply uses those government-granted rights...

      "That company" was never granted the right to abuse a monopoly. Nor were they exactly 'granted' the right to such extreme legal IP protection as they now enjoy, they bought it through campaign donations, years of intensive lobbying, and who knows what else behind closed doors.

  • by LionKimbro (200000) on Saturday June 14, 2003 @01:05PM (#6199779) Homepage
    We should mandate free software for government not because "it's the best widget for the woozle problem," but because it's _public_.

    The government shouldn't be subsidizing some _private_ interest if there is a public alternative.
  • by nozpamming (664873)
    I think this is a very smart, but somewhat risky move. 80% is a lot of computers for a lot of people. I sure hope that this will not cause major chaos as these kind of overhauls do tend to cause. Government institutions can be notoriously bad at implenting new technology (although exceptions appear of course). I am not sure how Brazil is doing at the moment, but I hope this move will not interfere with what is already a weak economic situation.

    What Brazil may hope to achieve is jumpstarting a good develop
  • by Psx29 (538840)
    This is a big win for Linux, but is making it mandatory going too far?

    My guess is thats where that other 20% comes in

  • Mandatory (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mindstrm (20013) on Saturday June 14, 2003 @01:13PM (#6199827)
    Yes, in an ideal world, everyone has choice.
    We should all realize, though, that often the power to choose is wasteful, and unnecessary. What do I mean?

    Do you know how much time, effort, and money gets wasted having some government committee trying to decide what software to use for something? How many factors are involved? And we're talking latin america here, don't forget bribes.

    The choice to use free software is not the same as the "choice" to use Windows. Free software encompasses a whole range of things; somteimes, an edict like this is what it TAKES To change things.

    Canada switched to the metric system in a very short time. How? It was forced on everyone. Once you accept it, it's EASY. Yet we still have people in the US with silly studies saying how it would take 100 years for the US to switch, the logistics, yadda yadda. Guess what, if it was actually decreed that you HAD to switch, you would find a way, it wouldn't be anywhere near as disruptive as everyone says, and so on.
    The same happened with the switch to the Euro.. tons of people had studies and reports shownig how switching was going to be a HUGE disaster, how it wouldn't work. Guess what, it went rather well.

    Given what government does, I'm sure they can fit whatever applications absolutely cannot be replaced by free alternatives in the 20% non-free they are allowed.

    What I'm saying is, in practice, sometimes removing choice is the ONLY way to force a real shift in how things are done. I mean, people have had a choice all along, and the pressures involved caused them to chose proprietary things.

  • Mr Darl? A one way ticket to Brazil? [sec.gov]

    THE SARBANES-OXLEY ACT OF 2002
    In connection with the quarterly report of The SCO Group, Inc. (the "Company") on Form 10-Q, for the quarter ended April 30, 2003, the undersigned certifies, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. Section 1350, as adopted pursuant to Section 906 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, that to the best of each of our knowledge:

    1. The quarterly report fully complies with the requirements of Section 13(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934; and
    2. The in
  • by Kickstart70 (531316) on Saturday June 14, 2003 @01:13PM (#6199835) Homepage
    ...when the right tool for the job can't be found then it will be sought by this gov't. That is excellent news, as it builds the open source pool of software, and pays (hopefully local brazilian) open source software writers for their effort.

    KS
  • by Cokelee (585232) on Saturday June 14, 2003 @01:14PM (#6199844)
    It would seem wiser to support a solution that favors the best tool for the job, which may not always be an open source product.

    Wow. Get off the phone with the Microsoft rep. What mainstream category of software doesn't have an OpenSource counterpart. I say mainstream because I don't think the government of Brazil is going to be the next Pixar. They don't need some super-specialized software! OpenOffice or MS Office --damn what's the best tool for the job. Let's see they do the same damn thing. I should buy MS Office though, because it is the "best tool for the job." I'm sure the people of Brazil are glad you're not in charge cowboy. I'm not trolling here, just leave your unsupported flamebait comment out of the post; it has taken over the discussion here.

    More importantly, they will be saving money. There's no way around that for them. They'll also feel less pressured by a company that's interest are far from theirs--the one's that are selling the "best tool for the job" crap like there's no alternative that wouldn't work just as well.

    Ah well, just my two cents worth. They're using the BEST tool, they just stopped asking MS what the BEST(tm) tool is.

  • Bootstrapping (Score:3, Informative)

    by demo9orgon (156675) on Saturday June 14, 2003 @01:39PM (#6199992) Homepage
    By mandating open-source/free software the government of Brazil has started down a path which provides a rich environment for opportunity--domestic and internationally. If the tools which are freely available cannot fully do the job, at least they have the source for those tools and a domestic labour force capable of picking up the slack and putting together solutions based on a working model. That domestic force also has ties to international sources of talent and software (community).

    They can even hire abroad or take solutions from abroad as long as these solutions can be audited. That's just one of the things that makes this decision great. Think about this, why does a government like the United States pay lip service to M$ and permit them to go unpunished for monopolistic practices? Because it's in the interest of USGOV to see the majority of the world's domestic, business, and government networks running software which is easily crackable (easy to break at the TCP/IP stack-namespace and overflow/crack apps and kernels). Want a clue? Go check the Openbsd.org site's front page.

    Now we have a government that can spend that money on hardening it's networks and liberating itself from long-term information retrival issues because some corporate clowns own their ass on document protocols. The USGOV also feels threatened when they have to view another government as a competitior (any government that can safeguard its information is no longer their bitch). Face it, we live in a world where secrets are like bombs. The more you don't share, the more chilly relations become. Imagine the NSA having actually create another specialized team to snoop Brazillian networks because they can't use the typical toolz which work almost everwhere else? The next thing you know, the State Department is sending icy messages, making 3am flights, sending mouthpieces with nasty little messages for face-to-face snarl and purr sessions, and dropping notes off at the IMF.

    But even though these things will happen (and have probably been happening to some degree already) behind the scenes, this decision at a governmental level will have only as many teeth as is required to make the people in charge happy. Until we hear independent voices in the Open-source/Free software community talking at length about the trials and tribulations and the victories made towards freeing Brazil of closed-source/Lock-in solutions in government programs we should probably relax. Government is a lumbering beast, it can take a long time to turn it in any direction no matter what decision has been made, no matter what the desired outcome is.

    Maybe what this topic needs is a good illumination of what happened with Mexico...anyone packing Free-software/open-source stories about Mexico?
  • This is a compromise more likely to make it into law, and serves the intended purpose. This prevents vendor lock in of your data, and applies to databases as well as the desktop. (A much bigger concern for governments)

    It also kills off undocumented file formats such as the MS-Word defaults. In order to win the contract, closed source vendors such as MS would have to switch to a default open file format that any application could read. Of course, Word can save files in .rtf and other formats, but you have to jump through hoops to do it. They would presumably then be severely penalized in the contract bidding. This would push them to i) publicly document their file formats, ii) switch to an open file format by default, or iii) lose out on the bid.
  • by salimma (115327) * on Saturday June 14, 2003 @02:30PM (#6200282) Homepage Journal
    Hey, if the FSF re-brands free software as Freedom Software for the US market, it might gain acceptance among certain government circles!
  • Making a case (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Todd Knarr (15451) on Saturday June 14, 2003 @02:30PM (#6200284) Homepage

    Playing devil's advocate, it might be fairly easy to make a case for mandatory free software in government. My argument for that would be that government, as a public entity, has special non-technical requirements. It's sufficiently important to insure that a) you know what's in that software, b) you can continue operating and accessing data for time periods literally an order of magnitude or more greater than the average software generation these days regardless of whether any single software vendor exists or supports the products you use, and c) your citizens aren't required to buy specific commercial products just to access government data and services, that those requirements trump any technical superiority of a proprietary solution.

  • by panurge (573432) on Saturday June 14, 2003 @03:36PM (#6200619)
    Years ago I had a teacher in civics classes who made what I still think was an excellent point by getting us to discuss the question "If a dictatorship was more efficient at delivering goods, services, medical aid and so on than a democracy, should we prefer the dictatorship over the democracy?" - as I recall, we had been reading "Brave New World" by Aldous Huxley.

    This is really the same question. If a dictatorship (an unelected body backed up by, say, international law) controls software which is more efficient than current 'democratic' software, should we use the more efficient software?

    Of course, you need to look at the broader issues. Dictatorships have a low life expectancy - the people at the top become more and more corrupt, siphon off more and more money until the whole thing collapses. The people being dictated to lose their ability to think and act constructively, so when the collapse comes anarchy results. Soviet Union, now Iraq. In the same way, countries without an indigenous software industry risk are exposed to the fallout as the suppliers fight among themselves somewhere else in the world. Brazil must be worried about what will happen to the likes of Sun, and the future trend in Microsoft licensing and compatibility. But they cannot control it.

    Now, because of the WTO, I suspect that Brazil cannot enforce local sourcing: that would be contrary to internationalisation rules. But they can support OSS, because that is a level playing field around the world.

    So my answer to the question about mandating (even though it does not seem to be any such thing) would be that governments have a right to have policies. If the best tool for the job is not currently OSS, someone can try to provide it. That's no different from any other bespoke government software project. The contractor has to agree to some kind of OSS licence. That's just a contract term. If, say, Microsoft wants to bid to build a large government system, they can do so provided they agree to the contract terms. If they choose not to tender, that is their decision.

    Many Third World countries have very young populations. Most of their workforce have never been exposed to computers. The argument that installed base prevents migration is not valid as it may be in mature economies. I have long believed that Linux will have its fastest percentage penetration in the Third World, even is this is not the largest in terms of units for some time. Perhaps I'm right.

  • by podperson (592944) on Saturday June 14, 2003 @06:46PM (#6201413) Homepage
    People have been forced to use MS software for years. In order to really fix Open Source software, people will probably need to be forced to use it so that its issues are actually dealt with. I get the feeling that no-one who really writes is using OpenOffice (or whatever) to write, and no-one who really produces graphics is using GIMP. Until someone forces serious users to use these products they won't be fixed.

    Most developing nations don't have English as their national language, so a lot of the "benefits" of doing things the Microsoft way are less apparent to begin with. (E.g. many of the rows and rows of Microsoft-product-related-books in your local Barnes & Nobel that folks buy when they can't figure out how to make their Excel spreadsheet work aren't translated into Portugese or Vietnamese.)

    Microsoft and PC makers do a lot of dumping in the third world. E.g. in Viet Nam -- a country I have some experience with -- discontinued brand-name PCs are dumped on the market which serves the dual purpose of prepping the country for a full-priced MS invasion when it can afford it and getting rid of stock that would cut into margins in first world markets. Indeed, it's interesting that so much is made of piracy in such countries, since most of the PCs you see look like they would have come with bundled software.

    It seems to me that many developing nations are not short of technical expertise, and developing local additions to a large Open Source base would be a good way of avoiding IT slavery, building up the national skill set, providing good localised software, and in general taking advantage of globalisation instead of being victimised by it.
  • by aminorex (141494) on Sunday June 15, 2003 @01:40AM (#6202864) Homepage Journal
    It is terribly short-sighted to allow the use of
    closed-source solutions in cases where a
    reasonable development investment can create an
    open-source tool. The open-source tool will
    continue to develop in response to the particular
    needs of the agency, and serve other agencies
    in the future at no additional cost, while the
    proprietary solution will only cost more money
    as it is used increasingly.

    In short, the open-source solution costs less and
    less per installation over time, whereas the
    proprietary one often costs more and more.

    The 80% number leaves abundant wiggle-room for
    those rare cases where the development investment
    or latency of producing a novel open source
    solution where none exists, but a proprietary one
    is feasible. That number should be gradually
    pushed upwards, over time, however, so that the
    long-term economies of open-source solutions can
    be more thoroughly exploited for the public
    benefit.

    Public funds should be used in the public interest,
    not to enrich a foreign monopolist.
  • by LibrePensador (668335) on Sunday June 15, 2003 @04:31AM (#6203240) Journal
    Nowhere does the Spanish article or its English translation state that the government of Brazil has made open source mandatory. It states that the government of Brazil chose free software because they believe it to be more trustworthy and reliable. It also says that they are conducting a pilot project within one ministry and that the project will be completed over a period of three years. When I did the quick translation and sent it to PCLinuxonline, I did so because the cited Spanish news source appeared to be the first organization reporting on it widely and because I thought it deserved further analysis and scrutiny. I believe Mr. Stanco created a strawman, maybe unintentionally, and that both Linux Today and now Slashdot fell for that strawman by restating that Brazil is indeed mandating open source. By arguing against something that the article never claimed, Mr. Stanco only leaves to wonder whether he actually even read the short summary or the other articles available in the Brazilian media. Making a choice about what software makes it easier for Brazil's government to respect the constitutional rights of its citizens to privacy and transparency of data seems like a perfectly legitimate choice to me. The fact that they will realize significant savings as a result also seems sensible for a nation facing severe economic problems. Ps: One note to all the Brazilians noting that the word in Portuguese is livre and used "software libre". This is not a mistake in my part. The words software libre are widely used and well known in English. I know many English speakers who prefer the terms software libre to the English "free software" because the former make it patently clear that we are talking about freedom not cost. It is in light of this usage that I felt and feel that the terms "software libre" are appropriate. People immediately understand the "libre" as in "liberty" where as the free as in speech not beer often gets you puzzled looks. Good day.

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