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Oregon Considers Open Source Software Legislation

By on March 06, 2003 (8:00:00 AM)

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- By Robin 'Roblimo' Miller -
A bill introduced in the Oregon State Legislature on March 5 by Rep. Phil Barnhart "requires state government to consider using open source software when acquiring new software." Sounds good -- if it passes.

According to the press release we received from the bill's primary proponent, Ken Barber, "Unlike California's Digital Software Security Act [which has not yet become law - ED.], Oregon's bill does not mandate the use of Open Source Software; it only requires that it be 'on the list' of approved products for State use. It also requires state agencies to provide justification to the taxpayers any time proprietary software is purchased."

(The complete press release text is at the end of this article)

Barber, a resident of Eugene, Oregon, is an MCSE with a self-described "preference for open source." Indeed, one of his pricipal volunteer activies is helping local schools convert to open source. He contacted Rep. Barnhart (who is also from Eugene), and asked him to introduce this bill.

"I'm trying to save the taxpayers money," Barber says.

Rep. Barnhart says, "I am a long-time lurker on Slashdot, so I have been aware of the [open source] issue for some time. I've been convinced for a long time that Windows is a difficult program -- wasteful and expensive." And, he adds, "The little experience I've had with open source has been very positive."

As a member of the legislature's Revenue Committee, Barnhart is actuely aware of Oregon's bleak financial situation -- or, as he calls it, "Our budget crisis." He says the state can expect a $3 billion shortfall over the next two years, even with a stripped-down budget barely large enough to keep schools open and other essential services running. Barnhart also says most state computers do not need general purpose desktops; that they are used for one or two specific tasks that could just as easily be done with low-cost Linux and open source software as with more expensive proprietary programs.

Before he was elected to the legislature, Barnhart was a member of a local school board that was threatened with a software audit by Microsoft. Barnhart says, "It would have cost $60,000 just to perform the audit."

In the end, Barnhart says, "Microsoft didn't do the audit. The publicity around it was absolutely astronomical." Not only that, local programmers offered to install Linux and open source software to replace all Microsoft products on the schools' computers -- for free. (Several other Oregeon school systems threatened with software audits -- in the Portland area rather than in or near Eugene -- took up similar offers from local programmers and made The Switch.)

Barnhart, as an elected official charged with making sure Oregon residents have a government that operates smoothly, also mentions software concerns that transcend monetary savings, including security, interoperability, adherence to open data standards, and vendor lock-in. He is aware of these issues and would like to see the state use software that is good for Oregon, not just good for its vendors.

But the biggest issue is still money. Every dollar that goes to a proprietary software vendor when a free or low-cost alternative is available means a dollar less for road maintenance, education, crimefighting, and other vital government functions.

Many bills are introduced, few are passed

Introducing a bill -- about open source or anything else -- is only the beginning of the process. "All that means is you've gotten the attention of one legislator," Barnhart points out. He says the next stage is to catch the eye of a committee chairman and get hearings held about your bill. In this case, Barnhart feels the chance of this happening is pretty good. The open source bill -- HB 2892 -- is likely to end up in front of the General Government Committee, which is chaired by Rep. Jerry Krummel, who sells Linux-based computer security systems for SAGE, Inc. when he's not busy legislating and is, therefore, likely to be a friend rather than an enemy.

Committee hearings are where the open source community has a chance to come out and, as Barnhart puts it, "Do some educating."

Assuming the committee report is favorable, the bill is voted on by the entire legislature. And then, if it passes, the show moves to the state senate. And, finally, the governor must sign the bill before it becomes law.

It's a long and tedious process. To give you an example of the odds, 4000 bills or more can be introduced in a single legislative session, while only a few hundred new laws come out of each session. (The Oregon legislature only meets every other year. Bills that don't make it "all the way" during one session need to start over during the next.)

Will this bill pass? Perhaps, perhaps not. If it does, Oregon could become the first U.S. state to require consideration of open source software whenever it makes a sofware acquisition.

And even if it doesn't pass, the hearings will be a sterling opportunity for open source advocates to make their case in a setting where, with any publicity effort at all, they are likely to be covered by mainstream reporters whose readers and viewers might otherwise never learn about the advantages of open source.

Full text of press release issued by open source activist Ken Barber on Mar. 6, 2003:

OPEN SOURCE BILL INTRODUCED IN OREGON

Salem, OR - 5 Mar 2003 - HB 2892, which would require State agencies to "consider the use of Open Source software" for all new software acquisitions, has been introduced into the Oregon House of Representatives by Rep. Phil Barnhart (D - Central Lane and Linn Counties).

The text of the bill will be available on the Oregon State Legislature's web site on 6 Mar sometime after 12:01 am (Pacific time zone) at the following URL:

http://www.leg.state.or.us/03reg/measures/hb2800.dir/hb2892.intro.html

Unlike California's Digital Software Security Act, Oregon's bill does not mandate the use of Open Source Software; it only requires that it be "on the list" of approved products for State use. It also requires state agencies to provide justification to the taxpayers any time proprietary software is purchased.

"Oregon could save millions of dollars while achieving very high reliability in its computing needs," reported Rep. Barnhart.

Several independent studies have found Open Source software to be faster, more reliable and less costly than proprietary products produced by Microsoft and others. Several governments around the world are already switching to Open Source, including the State of Rhode Island. If the measure passes, Oregon will become the first U.S. state to embody Open Source recognition into law.

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Will The Bill Make It Past Bill

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 06, 2003 10:43 PM
In addition to the long road of getting the bill passed will be combating the axis of evil M$ who will, no doubt, attempt to kill it with their money.

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Re:Will The Bill Make It Past Bill

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 06, 2003 11:13 PM
<A HREF="http://www.penny-arcade.com/view.php3?date=2002-07-22&res=l">this is what you sound like</a penny-arcade.com>

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Re:Will The Bill Make It Past Bill

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 06, 2003 11:49 PM
That is hilarious. Was that drawn by Scott McCloud of "Understanding Comics" fame? Looks like one of his.

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Re:Will The Bill Make It Past Bill

Posted by: flacco on March 07, 2003 01:30 AM
The comic is hilarious, but the interesting part is that it may actually be a pack of dorks like that guy that *do* bring down MS. Pecking away at their keyboards, putting out open source software, educating their employers and the general public, etc. etc.

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Fulcrum of evil

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 07, 2003 09:48 AM
lumping in MS is giving the axis of evil a bad name

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budget shortfalls

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 06, 2003 11:53 PM
Almost every state in the US is facing the budget crunch. All the public leaders are under pressure to create jobs for the community's they represent and while Linux may not be a fix all, It will help. There are a lot of jobs that can and will be created with open source. The fact that open source (while not always free of cost) is less expensive can and will do 2 things. One.. open source, especially with Linux, requires code that is OS specific and the creation of new applications will create new jobs. The support needed for trainning and help desk's will open the door for the msot new jobs. and two.. Overall cost on liscensing fees over the long hall will be less and both these will put some money back into the economy. IT people who have taken jobs outside their industry may just be able to come back to their jobs and do what they have trained themselves for.. This may not happen today.. but I belive it will happen in the not so distant future.

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At Least Steve 'n' Bill can fly domestic.

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 06, 2003 11:56 PM
Hell they can DRIVE over this time. It must get exhausting flying all the world putting the kibosh on these things. At least with this one, they can get back home in time for dinner. Being on a plane all time must be exhausting for them. I feel for them; I really do.

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Oregon

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 07, 2003 12:44 AM
I live in Oregon, and I will be pushing this as far as possible. It's time M$ learned that they can't screw with people and get away with it.

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Re:Oregon

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 07, 2003 02:06 AM
Microsoft has learned no such thing. They are constantly "getting away with it".

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Here in Ohio

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 07, 2003 02:41 AM
They would rather cut the eduction budget than actually save money. Typical republicians, all talk and no do. Of course he is protecting us from all the underage drinkers at the hockey games...

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Re:Here in Ohio

Posted by: Joseph Cooper on March 07, 2003 04:53 AM
At least we don't solve every problem with a tax hike.

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Re:Here in Ohio

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 07, 2003 05:49 AM
But the gov wanted too. He's rich why didn't he cut his pay. It would save the state a bit of bucks in a time when every buck counts.

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Re:Here in Ohio

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 23, 2003 04:21 PM
Do you want your pay cut?

Perhaps he is rich. But he is working hard too. I don't want my pay cut and I'm sure he doesn't want his.

Typical democrates...

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Re:Here in Ohio

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 25, 2003 12:25 PM
I'm also from Ohio, but new to this thread. I'd much rather take a pay cut than to see the damage that has been done to our educational system. BTW: I have been a student on a stipend until this year, and will be one again next year, so I don't have too much money to toss around.

The current move to block funding for out-of-state graduate students at our public colleges will do irreparable damage to Ohio's colleges and economy.

And what about the current Ohio Supreme Court decisions ruling the school funding system in Ohio to be unconstitutional?

We have a saying here in Ohio. Perhaps you've heard it:

Our school funding has dropped to the point where every one of our neighbors has the right to fun of us--And those neighbors include Kentucky and West Virginia!


(Sorry to any readers from Kentucky or West Virginia. You get a bad wrap. And you fund your schools more (better?) than we do.)

It's not just the lack of money going into the system either--The amount of waste in the well-to-do school districts is disgusting--Automatic annual 9% pay raises for the teachers union while the schools cut basic services to the students--like curricula and bussing. Did I mention enrollment's dropping in this district?

Also, the economy is causing hiring freezes, lay-offs and pay cuts all over the place right now. An automatic 9% raise seems a bit excessive. (They already make so much I have trouble convincing out-of-state teachers that I'm not lying about the pay scale!))

The real problem is that the school district I'm talking about is controlled by the teachers union, and real-estate developers*. The developers make money expanding the district beyond its capacity (into their new housing developments), while the teachers union negotiates more raises. (for themselves, with themselves) Never mind accountability, education or the students.... So, they're in constant financial trouble, but the teachers are very well paid.

On the other hand, the amount of BS makes sure that everyone's hands are tied. Many teachers that I knew personally either quit, or took lower paying jobs in districts where they were allowed to teach instead of dealing with red tape.

This was while schools in neighboring districts had crumbling buildings and textbooks older than I am. Heck, when the funding got really tight, they even proclaimed that students in my portion of the district "learned differently." I never noticed any difference. They even bus people across the "learn differently" line. Maybe it was because we were one census bracket down on average income from the rest of our slice of suburbia.<nobr> <wbr></nobr>;)

Of course Ohio also had the creationists trying to ban evolution in public schools last year...that was kind of funny, but mostly scary. I remember laughing at "Inherit the Wind" when we studied the Scopes monkey trial in high school...

Now that I'm done complaining, I'd like to point out that Ohio does have a strong research base, and many good schools and good opportunities. It's just frustrating to watch corruption and Governor Bob Taft repeatedly undermine those opportunities.

This is a bit off topic, but if you followed the thread this far, you should've expected it.<nobr> <wbr></nobr>;)

On topic, I think that open source software is a wonderful opportunity to schools, both in the economic sense, and because it lets curious students get under the hood and learn how real systems work... I know that helped me immensely when I was job hunting a few months ago, even with the economy being where it is.

*(As for the control of the school district being in the hands of developers and the teachers union: This was the case the last time I checked, which was a few years ago--All outward signs suggest nothing has changed.)

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Open Source != Linux or the GPL

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 07, 2003 04:08 AM
It is important that the tech-savvy help educate the non-geeks that open source is much bigger than just Linux, and that open source does not just mean a GPL license. MS worked hard to create a lot of FUD around Linux and the GPL.

Instead, point out other successful open source projects and languages such as Apache and Python. Emphasize that open source tools and applications work on proprietary operating systems as well as Linux, including Mac OS X and all flavors of Windows. SourceForge alone lists over 4000 projects that work on Windows.

On the server-side point out how an operating system like Linux has proven stability and lower administration costs, in part due to fewer security holes; because of the media attention they get, even non-techies are familiar with the frequent MS server security holes which are very costly and time consuming.

In general, lose the anti-MS spin and instead focus on the positive benefits of open source in general and specific projects based on the needs of the organization and user. That will have a much further reaching impact and do the most to help this bill pass.

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Re:Open Source != Linux or the GPL

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 07, 2003 08:03 AM
"It is important that the tech-savvy help educate the non-geeks that open source is much bigger than just Linux, and that open source does not just mean a GPL license. MS worked hard to create a lot of FUD around Linux and the GPL."

Yes. They did. Why do you suppose they did this? Check the Halloween documents. They did this because they consider copyleft to be the "crucial step further" that changes free software from annoying to really dangerous.

Given that, while I give kudos to the Apache people for their awesome code, I think that the GPL is something we should not be trying to sideline. That does MS' work for them.

Rufus Polson
(too lazy to create an account)

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Dudes, just tell the truth:

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 07, 2003 04:30 AM
Open Source software is what the internet runs on! Apache already has something like 60%, and rising market share. Linux also has a steadily increasing share of servers running the web.

The truth is all it takes.

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Re:Dudes, just tell the truth:

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 11, 2003 06:47 AM
You're not kidding! Even Microsoft has BSD-licensed networking code in their products. And check out the About IE splash page where they mention that it was "Based on NCSA Mosaic". IIRC, Mosaic was an open source product as well! MS certainly "borrows" a lot of code and then claims that they innovate... but I digress.

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Quantitative reasons to consider open source

Posted by: dwheeler on March 07, 2003 05:04 AM
If you're looking for quantitative data for
considering the use of open source software /
Free Software, look here:
<A HREF="http://www.dwheeler.com/oss_fs_why.html">Why Open Source Software / Free Software (OSS/FS)?
Look at the Numbers!</a dwheeler.com>.
This paper references study after study, showing
that OSS/FS is worth considering when
acquiring software.

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Software only Half of the issue!

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 07, 2003 06:01 AM
These open source legislations are nothing but flowery rags if there are no hardware drivers for their PC hardware.

          A far more effective bill would be to prohibit the purchase of any hardware that is not supported "fully" in open source. Giving them some realistic choices and giving these M$ pucker lapping hardware makers some real incentive to write drivers for Linux.

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Re:Software only Half of the issue!

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 07, 2003 07:13 AM
good point.

They don't have to actually write the drivers, though. OpenSource has qualified people who can do that far more efficiently than even an in-house programming team could (the folks we got doing drivers now are already intimately familiar with Open Source operating systems). They DO have to release the specs and internals (NDA's welcome) so our programmers can spend less time reverse engineering and more time doing the actual driver code.Quite possibly a "best of both worlds" solution would be to compensate the driver programmers for their actual time<nobr> <wbr></nobr>... which is quite likely to be less than the in-house gurus would take.

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Re:Software only Half of the issue!

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 07, 2003 02:38 PM
Remember, Linux isn't the only piece of open-source software out there. We should also be sure to push apps like Mozilla and Apache.

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I have my doubts

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 07, 2003 06:30 AM
whether this type of bill is a good thing. You can't force the decision makers to consider something against their will, you can only require them to fill out paperwork and go through charades, which just puts a sour taste in people's mouths.

I think it's better to advance Linux and FOSS through word of mouth, press coverage, and increased availability/competitiveness of applications and support.

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Open Source ideal for Government / Education use

Posted by: redondo_w on March 07, 2003 06:39 AM
I think there is still the perception the desktop user has a right to use Windows and Office at work. Actually, Open Source is ideal for Government, Education and even the Corporate Desktop.

All enterprises using Open Source would have the ability to control the capabilities of each client. Distro's could be created to add all the capability the user requires to do their job. Packages deemed unnecessary or inapropriate for the workplace would not be loaded. Each user would boot into a system the same way at different locations.

User configuration, which is a big problem in the Windows enterprise, could be more tightly controlled. Downloading and installing freeware / shareware that is not adequately checked for viruses, spyware etc could not be loaded without root access. Users would not be able to load unlicensed sortware, currently a big risk, at least in the corporate enterprise.

The education use of Open Source is truly just that. Using Open Source is eductation! Windows uses the "Lowest Common Denominator" approach to software design. Design software that does not make you think, does not make you want to learn, does not make you want to improve yourself. Open Source teaches you that if you read a book, MAN page and search the internet, you will make you and your system better. With Windows, can't make it better. That's what the next version is for. Or maybe Bill needs a new boat.

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Hey Open Source Does Not mean free.

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 07, 2003 08:00 AM
Microsoft is all ready Open Source if you are
a govement. Just pass lawers that they have to give the people the same.

The bigest reson that wine cannot match windows is that they are guessing what is inside.

(English Not great this site needs a spell checker)

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oregon here

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 07, 2003 09:06 AM
as for as Microsoft already being open source, that's highly untrue -- the only instance that anyone can ever see any source behind their OS or applications are governments whos' arguments are that MS can't guarantee nonspyware without giving them the source. Why do you think MS shared their source with the governments? Because it is a BIG MARKET that they DON'T want to lose, they couldn't care less otherwise.

I myself am a FreeBSD fan, and that is free and easy to use -- Linux just simply gets more publicity because of the slew of developers wanting to contribute because you can do just about anything you want with it without having to deal with a central committee.

I'm actually ending my senior year in HS, and I'll tell you right now that if some of the HS network admins don't take interest in expanding their horizons, the whole 'open source' idea is going to flop in education. The admin at my school doesn't know the first thing about alternate operating systems let alone a command prompt, I'm ashamed. He asked me to test a new winXP box he put on the network for security flaws... the computers we have now can barely run NT4 with just a browser or two open, XP!? He just won't take notice to alternatives. Granted that this is merely one admin at one HS in Oregon, but if the admins aren't willing to do it, we're going to have to find someone who will, and the school districts might not go that far out of the way.

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As if that's going to happen

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 07, 2003 02:57 PM
We're having enough trouble getting Microsoft to open up the APIs via legal means, not to mention the source. Since Microsoft is based on Washington, I would think that only federal law (which controls inter-state commerce) could do that.

And Microsoft's version of "open source" is "shared source," which is open (to some) but not free (as in speech.) The government couldn't release their own "MS Windows - U.S. Govt Education Edition" that is set up for school environments. The ability to create your own versions of code is the "free" part, although you usually need the "open" part to do that effectively.

I believe that companies want to source just because the API is undocumented and inconsistant in places. The government(s) want to make sure there's no backdoors, etc.

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Tomorrow's News

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 07, 2003 12:31 PM
Microsoft Corporation announces that it is donating $50,000,000 in software (full retail prices of course) to the State of Oregon school system. And The Gates "Not just a big tax write off for me" Charitable Fund has announced its giving $50,000,000 to help stop poverty in Oregon.

The next day:

Oregon Open Source Advocate: "Hey what happened to that Bill introduced Phil Barnhart to promote Open Source in Oregon?? Maybe I just dreamed it??"

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Open source in OR

Posted by: RDY on March 07, 2003 12:53 PM
Information is power, controling information is the real power. If Government entities gather, distribute, and manage information and data with proprietary software (Government depends on proprietary software to run this country)"who really controls government"? Who really runs this country? It is never a mistake why some individuals have everything and others have nothing. In a democracy,if we still have one, open source makes sense.

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Victory already, I guess

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 07, 2003 04:31 PM
The State of Oregon has no "approved list of software." General purchasing laws require state agencies to buy from existing state master contracts if conforming goods are available. The state's master software contract with ASAP long since has included Red Hat, Caldera, and TurboLinux.

Oregon agencies can buy selected systems pre-loaded with Linux from Dell and IBM, to name two, under the Western States' Contracting Alliance.

The most likely effect of this particular bill is to increase software acquisition costs since it requires extra paperwork on all purchases, no matter how trivial. The dire budget situation out here is incentive enough to induce agencies to look harder at open source software.

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How to bring more commercial applications to Linux

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 07, 2003 06:22 PM
Neato..... Now all the bureaucrats can spend hours and hours reading Howto's while they try to configure their hardware. Everybody can choose their own distro, and handle email with Mozilla's "never working" spell checker. All this and lousy fonts too. I can just imagine what it will be like trying to renew a driver's licence.
"I'm sorry. We're recompiling our kernel so we can load a hacked module for our camera. Can you come back tomorrow?" Way to go.

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Re:How to bring more commercial applications to Li

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 09, 2003 05:13 PM
Hey, deal with it. The State of Oregon and other Oregon government agencies have been using open source software for some years now for various applications.

Maybe we bureaucrats can set up a Web site (on our Apache server--sorry) so you and others who don't feel they're paying enough taxes can make a contribution to help make Oregon safe for Microsoft.

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Are They Nuts?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 07, 2003 06:46 PM
Mandate using an OS developed by home programers and part time hackers whose "Gurus" _still_ argue over weather it should be called GNU/Linux or Linux. This is the state with the assisted suicide law, right?

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Yes, they are....

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 08, 2003 01:02 AM
In addition to euthanasia, they are pot smoking hippies with a retirement system called PERS (giving some people over 100% benefits), a money sucking hole called EDUCATION (where the administrators can be paid more than a corporate executive), and a mass transit system called METRO (that provides mass transit miles outside of Portland's dense growth area), and a welfare system that give illegal aliens from Mexico as much money as the real Oregonian on the street.

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Re:Are They Nuts?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 08, 2003 05:39 AM
Read the article again. It is not a mandate; it says the state sould consider OS before wasting tax payers money. Can I have a hit of what you're smoking?

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Yes! From Oregon

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 07, 2003 11:56 PM
I own a tech-related business in the Portland
area. I will also do everything I can to push
this.

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Awesome, Im so glad, i will get to see Linux

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on April 20, 2003 12:31 PM
In my highschool (oregon city high school) before my highschool life is over.

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