Weblog:   The Growing Politicization of Open Source
Subject:   What about the quality of the software purchased by the government
Date:   2002-08-16 14:16:09
From:   korwin
Response to: What about the quality of the open source

I changed the title, because it is more fair representation of the things that i argue about and is not related to the open source programs only.

Here's what i think on FSF, open source and this proposal:

Can you say that you know the company that made Linux? Hmm, who would be responsible if a bug in OpenOffice changes the measurement units in my document from inches to centimeters and my subsidiary delivers to me 100000 wrong details? I don't say that you would be able to sue the proprietary software companies. But if the government is forced to impose a quality standards first, before source openness, i would expect to see the proprietary software companies to react first and in fact deliver software that is compliant with those standards. Can you imagine a company to accept the responsibility for OpenOffice? Yes, i know Sun has StarOffice alternative, so there is a big company that can do this, but who else? And as far as i know Sun would not submit all of it's code back to the open source community.

Requiring the government to purchase only open source programs, so that people have the opportunity to examine how their data is being processed with the argument that the transparency would make the programs more secure and reliable - this is ridiculous. It's like asking the government to force Ford and the other car companies to publish their blueprints and not impose any standards. I mean - why require crash test, if the blueprints are available and any decent auto mechanic would be able to fix it for you if it was not safe? And than shouldn't we as taxpayers be able to have the fair access to the blueprints of the public transportation system? Even if don't know what to do with them, we could hire experts to audit them. To make sure that of course those cars are safe?

Would i be interested in the actual algorhitm used to sort all the government records about people - not, because "it wouldn't do me any good". Would i be interested whether the software that sorts those records is safe and secure enough so that they are not lost or stolen - yes, but i don't need the software sources to make sure this is indeed fact. The good of the people would be ensured if (as you and other people here briefly mentioned) the government requires open data formats _and_ if the government establishes standard procedures and tests to ensure minimum level of software quality. Anybody who wants to sell to the government should pass these tests and procedures adn should conform to these standards. Period. It shouldn't matter if it is open source or closed source, as long as it complies with these requirements. You don't require Ford to publish their blueprints because "it wouldn't do most people any good whatsoever". You do require though that Ford cars are acceptable safe. And everybody is happy with this situation.

Will FSF assume the responsibilty that Emacs will not loose your data becaus of some bug or that gcc will in fact provide the proper code for your hardware and will not fry your CPU? Will FSF allow to be sued if this happens? How will they guarantee those programs indeed work (besides "You are free to examine those programs and fix them if there is any bug in there. Oh, and btw - you have to give your work to us. But we guarantee they work properly - they have been reviewed by lot of other people and all the bugs were fixed. Err, what do you mean by 'who are those people'?")

To summarize my rant : Why the open source advocates and FSF do not advocate wide addoption of IT industry standards for quality assurance and testing process? Why do they not work for establishing government level of software acceptance for things like security, reliability and performance? Are these things less important than the availability of the source? Imho, the movement to require the government to purchase only open source software has nothing to do with the good of the people. It is a political move by FSF to establish another kind of monopoly - one that favors them.

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