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GNU is Not Unix Government Software United States Linux News

New Coalition To Promote OSS To Feds 99

Posted by Soulskill
from the unite-and-conquer dept.
LinuxScribe writes "Red Hat, Mozilla, Novell, Oracle, and Sun are among the 50-plus member Open Source for America coalition that will be officially announced today by Tim O'Reilly at OSCON. The OSA will be a strong advocate for free and open source software, and plans to boost US Federal government support and adoption of FOSS. From their website: 'The mission of OSA is to educate decision makers in the US Federal government about the advantages of using free and open source software; to encourage the Federal agencies to give equal priority to procuring free and open source software in all of their procurement decisions; and generally provide an effective voice to the US Federal government on behalf of the open source software community, private industry, academia, and other non-profits.'"
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New Coalition To Promote OSS To Feds

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  • Careful. (Score:5, Funny)

    by John Hasler (414242) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @07:53AM (#28780393) Homepage

    If you get the government too enthused about Free Software they may decide to "help" it.

    • Just like they "helped" the financial industry.
    • by Xtifr (1323)

      If you get the government too enthused about Free Software they may decide to "help" it.

      Yeah, unlike industry, which always has all our best interests at heart....

      Our best hope is to make sure that nobody uses Free/Libre Software. That way, there's guaranteed to be no bad influences. :)

      (Frankly, I don't think SELinux is that bad a result; if more gov't help is along those lines, I think we'll do fine.)

  • Yay! More Lobbyists! Only they won't have any money... cuz they're all free... :) I bet they'll have a lot of success...
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by siloko (1133863)

      Only they won't have any money . . .

      Well a quick scan of revenues on Wikipedia puts the named corporations' annual revenues last year at over USD24 Billion. Small change to you no doubt but probably enough to bend an ear or two in Washington DC.

    • by noundi (1044080)
      Say what now? More lobbyists? It's not more, it's different lobbyists. The government has no room, physically, for more lobbyists. So don't kid yourself, nowadays when a lobbyist comes in, another lobbyist goes out.
    • by jank1887 (815982)

      Every agency right now is being asked to do more with less, or at least do the same with less. (even the DoD). When I first proposed a few pieces of FOSS a couple years ago (a PDF creator instead of Adobe product, Octave unless Matlab really needed, Paint.net vs. photoshop, etc.) I got the response "We don't do freeware here." As he said it I envisioned visions (yes, I know) of 3-1/2" floppies full of shareware and viruses being tossed about between friends 15 years ago. Promoting FOSS to the government sh

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @07:53AM (#28780401)

    Find an OSS replacement that can do what Active Directory, BitLocker, and Exchange can do, and a lot of companies would jump to it.

    Bitlocker != loopback mounted encryption or TrueCrypt. BitLocker has two advantages over standard FDE systems. First, since it uses a TPM chip, it requires no passwords or supervised access at boot time (unless configured explictly to do so). This allows people to log onto a machine as a user, but have no access to other user's items, even if they pull out a recovery CD and reboot the machine. The second BitLocker advantage is that it detects tampering. With existing FDE systems, one can replace binaries with keyloggers, and nobody would notice. BitLocker, the TPM would notice a different value and not return a decryption key.

    And TrouSers or tboot is a nice proof of concept, but nowhere near a workable solution that can be used.

    Exchange forces companies to use AD, and once a company has an AD infrastructure, there is no point in using OpenLDAP or another directory structure.

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      >Find an OSS replacement that can do what Active Directory, BitLocker, and Exchange can do, and a lot of companies would jump to it.

      Samba 4 can do what Active Directory can do.

      OpenChange can do what Exchange can do.

      Alfresco can do what Sharepoint can do.

      I have never heard of any company using BitLocker.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by gblackwo (1087063)
        Omnicare, one of our nations largest pharmacies which deals with personal information like medical history, billing information, and insurance records uses Bitlocker to secure their laptops.
      • Samba 4 is still alpha software - not something someone is going to commit an entire organisation to using.

        OpenChange, according to their website, doesn't seem to be an actual solution but more of an implementation of the MAPI protocols in library format. And they also are alpha, with a production class release 'to be announced'.

        Alfresco looks good, but lacks integration with any office product (OpenOffice.Org or Microsoft Office), and as such requires a lot of manual work when collaborating on documents held in it.

        I'm not touting Microsoft here, but people need to stop googling for alternatives and then proudly holding them as alternatives to proven products in the market place. It decreases credibility when two out of three responses are not even touting *themselves* as production standard.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by edwardd (127355)

      Mod parent up.

      These are certainly areas that need improvement, and if garnering government adoption is a goal, they should be addresses. It's not that there are no open source solutions to these problems, it's that they are not yet mature (as is the case with TrouSers and Samba 4) or that they are not as fully integrated. More importantly, the solutions that are available don't have a massive marketing machine behind them.

      Just about everything that you can do with closed source software, you can do with ope

      • Yeah, they ought to gather some sort of consortium of open source companies to lobby with the gove... oh wait.

    • by init100 (915886)

      With existing FDE systems, one can replace binaries with keyloggers, and nobody would notice. BitLocker, the TPM would notice a different value and not return a decryption key.

      How does this work? Does the TPM read the BitLocker binary directly from disk? Or is there any other way that it can make sure that the BitLocker binary hasn't been altered?

      • by mlts (1038732) *

        The TPM boot process works off of "scan the next segment to be loaded and executed, pass the hash to the TPM". The TPM then keeps track of the hash process and when asked to unseal a key, either hands the key over if the cumulative hash matches, or refuses.

        The TPM never is an active part of the boot process, it just sits there, accepts hashes, then either hands a key over, or doesn't.

        Advantages of this in a FDE system:

        Replacing the preboot authorization (PBA) code cannot be done without detection.
        The TPM c

  • by somersault (912633) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @07:54AM (#28780405) Homepage Journal

    1. Create open source software
    2. Promote it to money grubbing politicians
    3. ????
    4. Non-profit!

  • To point out to the feds that if one department actually sponsors the writing of a piece of code, by virtue of it being open source, other branches of the government would be able to take advantage of it in some way. What government is really looking for is platforms to write end to end systems on.

    But there is a problem. Government is not about doing a job efficiently, for either political party. It is about spreading the wealth around and bringing bucks to your home state. It's not really wrong, its ju

    • Now if Microsoft were actually politically smart, they would put federal systems development centers in the northeast. Washington state just isn't well, important enough politically for government work...

      Microsoft has a conspicuous office in Reston, VA. They probably have more in the metro DC area. The problem for them is that, as crazy as it may sound, they are just a lemur fighting the 800lb gorillas like Lockheed IT, Northrop Grumman IT, Boeing IT, BAE Systems IS and General Dynamics IT who have signif

    • Washington state just isn't well, important enough politically for government work...

      Therein lies the best argument for Cascadian secession ever.

    • Government is about spreading the wealth around and bringing bucks to your home state. It's not really wrong, its just how democracy actually is.

      Really, is that what democracy is all about? Darned, I was wrong all along!
      I thought it was a form of government in which the right to govern is vested in the citizens of a country or a state and exercised through a majority rule.

      I also never assumed that there would be some underlying goal to make life better for all, not just a few individuals. However, I did most certainly hope that this would be the case.

      What a bummer!

      Matt
      P.S. OK, OK, I stole that second line from Wikipedia!

      • by PitaBred (632671)
        See, there's the theory, and there's the practice. In theory, it works that way in practice. In practice, it doesn't.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Just Some Guy (3352)

      until now the USA has like almost 20 little aircraft carriers about the same size as the 2 the British operate

      Note: an LPD has an entirely different mission from a carrier. The Nimitz etc. is designed to transport air power anywhere in the world. LPDs and other similar classes are basically troop transports. If you need to provide air superiority, an LPD would be nearly worthless as they don't really carry anything more offensive than a few Harriers. If you need to deliver a few thousand Marines to a beach somewhere, a carrier would be nearly worthless as they're not rigged for transporting that many passengers

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by unix_geek_512 (810627)

      The LPDs are not aircraft carriers nor do they resemble the British carriers, such as the Invincible class.

      You were probably thinking of the Tarawa class LHAs and Wasp class LHDs, which do outwardly resemble the Invincible class carriers, however they also have a well deck for landing craft which the British ships do not.

      The LHAs and LHDs are primarily designed for amphibious landing operations, their primary mission is to deliver a USMC battalion to shore and support the Marines in combat operations.

      The Br

    • Republicans say they are against this, but, man, every year the US Senate bought another LPD because they were made in Trent Lotts home state, until now the USA has like almost 20 little aircraft carriers about the same size as the 2 the British operate, and that's on top of its nimitzs.

      Umm... Generally what you say is true, but this is a bad example because an LPD isn't a CV and vice versa. Very different ships for very different jobs.

      • by tjstork (137384)

        Umm... Generally what you say is true, but this is a bad example because an LPD isn't a CV and vice versa. Very different ships for very different jobs.

        I got the LPD and the Wasp mixed up.. I always do. The point of the comparison was really, both the Wasp and the British stuff can operate a few VTOL planes. I think the official british role is ASW but they were pressed quite successfuly into an assault and local air superiority role during the Falklands war.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by DerekLyons (302214)

          I got the LPD and the Wasp mixed up.. I always do.

          Even if you get the Wasp and an LPD mixed up, my same comment still applies - neither an LPD or an LHD is a CV. Three different ships, three different missions. (Though the missions of the LPD and the LHD are related.)

          The point of the comparison was really, both the Wasp and the British stuff can operate a few VTOL planes.

          Which works so long as your opponent similarly limits himself to a small number of low performance aircraft. If you face an opp

    • by mgblst (80109)

      No department would spend money to help another department, it makes no sense for them to do so. Unless there is a directive from higher up, they won't and shouldn't do it.

  • Does anyone know why the Free Software Foundation (FSF) isn't on the member list? At first glance I thought it involve the distinction between OSS and FS, but then I found that they include rms's 4 core principles of software freedom. Glad to see Google on the list, though.
    • All of the companies named form an orchestra, working within the musical system, and playing a capitalistic tune.
      In that metaphor, the FSF is a highland bagpipe. Yeah, it's music, but it simply doesn't play well with others.
      The FSF plays in one octave with no rests, and literally marches off to its own 4/4 tune, while the rest of the orchestra sits there wondering.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by nsteinme (909988)
        I don't follow. All of these member groups have one or more reasons to promote FOSS. For most of them (e.g. the EFF), it is because they support the core principles of free software. Others (e.g. Google and Redhat) have additional business incentives, such as watching FOSS kill Microsoft (this can't come soon enough for me personally) or Fedora. But the FSF has the same goals as this coalition, and so I was surprised to learn that not only were they not spearheading it, but that they weren't listed as a mem
        • This is only an opinion, but I think the FSF isn't involved because RMS is largely incapable of compromise. While the overall goals of the organization may mesh well with the overall goals of the FSF, if there is even one pillar of the organizations mission statement that fails to meet an FSF standard, or one commercial company involved who has done something "non-free" that RMS disagrees with, chances are the FSF won't play. Strategic compromises with others who share your larger goals, but may agree with

      • Best bagpipe analogy ever.
        • by jDeepbeep (913892)

          Best bagpipe analogy ever.

          Indeed. However, due to lack of coffee, I cannot seem to grasp anything less than a car analogy.

  • by MikeRT (947531) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @08:01AM (#28780477) Homepage

    The federal government has no bias against using open source software. There are two major factors that affect it:

    1) Someone has to pay to get FOSS put through an evaluation process to be verified for suitability and safety (commercial vendors often pay this or coordinate with a contracting firm). This fee can be hundreds of thousands of dollars, and it applies to every component that has not been previously approved. If you bring in 5 Java FOSS libraries that haven't been used before, you could be looking at as much as a $3M cost to get them certified.

    2) Versions have to be done more carefully. To most federal agencies, KDE 3.0, 3.5, 4.0 and 4.1 would be distinct versions each requiring evaluation. Microsoft has an advantage over desktop Linux in that respect since it releases Windows updates every few years, and service packs can be evaluated at everyone's convenience.

    • by erikdalen (99500)

      If you want only a few versions with long support to evaluate it might be better to stick to for example Ubuntu 6.06 LTS & Ubuntu 8.04 LTS. Then you wouldn't have to evaluate a new version every six months.

      But sure, it won't beat the ~10 year support period of Windows XP :)

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Nerdposeur (910128)

        If you want only a few versions with long support to evaluate it might be better to stick to for example Ubuntu 6.06 LTS & Ubuntu 8.04 LTS. Then you wouldn't have to evaluate a new version every six months. But sure, it won't beat the ~10 year support period of Windows XP :)

        I'd bet that if the government wanted 10 years of support for 8.04 and was willing to pay for it, Canonical would jump at the chance. Since each copy is still free, and since any problems and fixes that are discovered can be freely

    • by implowry (989364)

      I've seen it where the government will bring in "contractors" who will write a custom web application with tons of horrible, unaudited code and they won't blink an eye at the cost or the quality.

      However if you want to install a new version of something that fixes a security vulnerability or is a free feature upgrade like you suggest with KDE 3.0 to KDE 3.5, good luck.

      • I've seen it where the government will bring in "contractors" who will write a custom web application with tons of horrible, unaudited code and they won't blink an eye at the cost or the quality.

        Most agencies have their own security standards. If they can't meet the bare minimum, then they won't allow those projects to be deployed. When they look at other products their question is simply "is it any good at all?" because they are starting from a position of pure ignorance.

    • This is an excellent couple of points, and to add to them, vendors that want to use FOSS AND want to have government business need to make more careful choices about their software selection. Case in point:

      I work for a government contractor, and we recently took delivery of a network analysis device that shall remain nameless. This device came with Fedora Core 4 on it. I was tasked with doing the security initialization of the device, and I noted that several things needed to be updated on it in order to

  • I wonder if they're counting Novell and Ximian too...
    • by Bert64 (520050)

      The acquisition hasn't completed, so they are still 2 separate companies for now..

  • No support (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mc1138 (718275) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @08:04AM (#28780491) Homepage
    Title of this reply refers to what an old boss said, not any reality of truth. I worked for a public entity at one point, and the CIO was 110% against any sort of linux or "free" software, based on his notion that these free solutions could offer no support in times of trouble. Despite trying to explain that many larger distro's had enterprise editions that you could in fact get support for, plus a very large community of users that also could help support it, none of this would sway him away from his notion that if you weren't paying through the nose the product just wouldn't be up to standards. What a joke!
    • Support? (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Management needs to reconsider the concept of requiring traditional "support". I have seen more than a few problems that elude the offshore/outsourced world of vendor support. In this brave new world where the cheap are led by the stupid, we are technologically "on our own" more often than anyone wants to admit.

      But it sure doesn't look that way. One thing that management really likes about Windows is the perception that it can be run by a bunch of newbies backstopped by MS support. Therefore, the IT dep

    • by Bert64 (520050)

      Yes, i've known a lot of people like this...
      The solution is to setup a consultancy company and sell him some free software for an extremely high price (rebrand it if necessary)... He will feel happier because he paid through the nose for it, and you'll feel happier because you just made yourself a tidy sum.

      I knew someone who was totally against anything free or anything associated with linux etc, and yet he uses cisco asa firewalls (linux based), vmware esx (linux based), cisco call manager (linux based), s

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by b4dc0d3r (1268512)

      You were trying to sell him on the software, he wanted to be sold on the company. Don't say there are distros. Say this one company has a product, and it supports that product like any other company would. You have benefits with open source that you don't with closed, and you can pitch that all you want. Usually when someone doesn't see something that's obvious it's because you aren't presenting it in a way they understand.

    • That CIO should be tarred and feathered and hung upside down on the steps of the Capitol no pun intended.

      Since it's 2009 and we want to be nice and politically correct we'll give him or her a medical exam first.

      • by mc1138 (718275)
        Haha don't worry they're already gone, as am I for that matter, but still, he got the boot when new people got put at the top.
    • by helios17 (617082)
      I wonder if anyone got Old Boss to read the EULA for any Microsoft Product. Along with all that "support", he is allowing Microsoft or any third party vendor to stomp around inside his computers and networks at their whim. Probably not an issue for Old Boss. Old Boss has long ago sacrificed his freedom for convenience.
    • I agree that support is a key issue for many commercial and government users even as many of us use the frequently evolving versions of open source products.

      There are hundreds of commercial open source vendors that offer open source products with a traditional support/subscription model. These include SugarCRM, Jaspersoft, Zenoss, Groundwork, and many more. (Apologies to the 200+ I have omitted.) The issue here might be more about the vendor than about the support, though the key point may be that the

  • We utilize linux terminal services [k12ltsp.org] to create a 2:1 student:productivity workstation ratio at a fraction of the cost of proprietary solutions. Entrenched vendor relationships cost US education systems millions of needlessly spent dollars.
  • Governments

    School Systems

    Universities

    Just think about the resources that could be brought to bear if all three of these groups put the savings they realize from adopting OSS into manpower and financial resources behind developing OSS further. Take, for example, PHP & MySQL. If a complete and very easy to use IDE were created to seamlessly develop Web-based forms, it would transform the speed and quality with which these organizations could develop their web applications. OpenOffice could be the Gold

    • Just think about the resources that could be brought to bear if all three of these groups put the savings they realize from adopting OSS into manpower and financial resources behind developing OSS further.

      They are unlikely to realize substantial, direct short-term savings from adopting OSS; for the off-the-shelf software (things like desktop OS's and basic office software), short-term license savings will probably be consumed by increased support and retraining costs, for new development, open source requi

      • by XB-70 (812342)
        You take a reasonable position with your suggestions. I am basing some of my points on the transition by the City of Munich from Microsoft to Linux and Microsoft Office to OpenOffice. A quick search will reveal that the City of Munich has contributed in a very significant way to the OpenOffice community by releasing a very sophisticated document management system - http://www.muenchen.de/Rathaus/dir/limux/wollmux/229499/p_e.html [muenchen.de] . This process occurred in only a few years after the adoption of OSS.
  • I think this is a fantastic idea. Someone needs to show the government what open source software is all about. They aren't going to figure it out for themselves. Just like the Canadian government. We seem to really be falling behind in the information technology department.

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