Weblog:   The Growing Politicization of Open Source
Subject:   What about the quality of the open source
Date:   2002-08-26 16:25:25
From:   gameboy70
Response to: What about the quality of the open source

"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"!