Weblog:   The Growing Politicization of Open Source
Subject:   What about the quality of the open source
Date:   2002-08-16 14:04:55
From:   euan
Response to: What about the quality of the open source

> 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?


Euan (neither a coder, hacker etc; just one who
appreciates quality software no matter what platform it
runs on.)