Saturday, September 6, 2008

SSC #76 Fair Software Practices

A good portion of the open source community has got their eyes trained on a legal matter in Canada.  FACIL, a Quebec based open-source software group has filed a lawsuit against the Quebec government claiming unfair practices.  In Quebec there are laws on the books that stipulate that the government must take bids and do cost assessment when dealing with contractors.  But apparently, when deciding to spend an estimated $80 million dollars on upgrades to Vista and assorted Microsoft software this year alone, no assessments were made, and no competitive bids were entertained.  While this is the first lawsuit like this that I've heard of, if it is successful, it is doubtful that it will be the last. 

Closer to home, the Russell County Court House (at least the Circuit Court Clerk's office) is preparing to upgrade to Microsoft Vista.  This will likely entail the purchasing of new computer towers, licensed copies of Microsoft Vista, as well as assorted Office software.  At a speculative cost ranging from $800 per desktop to possibly as high as $2500 per desktop, depending on what they're going to buy, you can start to see how the dollars add up really fast. 

But truly I don't suggest that one county out of the whole state should move to Linux.  There is undoubtedly software that is in use state-wide that they would need to be able to interface with.  It is doubtful that Linux equivalents to their criminal database and vehicle licensing software exists under Linux.  And while there's a possibility that these may in fact run under the Windows emulator, WINE, its not guaranteed.

Given that Windows Vista is so bloated that even today's high end hardware runs as sluggishly as what they currently use, as well as the cost of retraining the workers to deal with any differences brought on by the upgrade, the only reason for upgrading is to continue to receive security updates from Microsoft.  Government offices do not typically add loads and loads of new applications in a given year.  The same stuff they're doing today is likely the same stuff they'll be doing five years from now.  If not for the sad state of Windows security and the ever present need for them to fix the holes in it, there would scarcely be a reason to go to Vista.  And if Vista was not such a blatant system resource hog, there'd be no reason to upgrade the hardware. 

Essentially, this upgrade is happening for the plain and simple fact that Microsoft has abandoned Windows XP.  This in and of itself is would not be such a big deal if the replacement they have for it were not so terrible.

Despite the current dismal state of the economy, Microsoft, still one of the richest organizations in the entire world, believes that we should all upgrade immediately and with great haste.  I for one refuse to drink the kool-aid on this one.

Companies contemplating the move to Vista should weigh their options.  There's more to computers than just Microsoft.  There's also Mac, and Linux, and BSD, and Unix, and Solaris and some more options I'm not even aware of.  Checking out the field is common sense.  And in Canada, its the law.  Without competition, innovation is diminished if not extinguished.

The feeling that there is no real choice is something that Microsoft has worked very hard to cultivate.  Why?  Because they plan on STAYING one of the richest organizations in the world.

By the time this comes out in print, it will be one week and two days until Software Freedom Day.  If you want to get away from Microsoft and their bullying, bring your computer tower and/or laptop down to the Sprint store in Russell Springs on September 20th.  Its a non-profit event, staffed completely by volunteers.  It will cost you nothing and could gain you a lot.  I hope to see you there!  You won't need to bring a mouse, monitor or keyboard.  We'll have those on hand.  

Oh, there's been some confusion about where I am located.  My phone number is based in Somerset, but I live in Russell Springs., my phone forwarding service, did not have any local numbers.  Hope that clears up any confusion.

If you have a question or comment, feel free to email me at

If you'd like to read my past articles, browse to

If you live in Russell County or the surrounding areas and you need help fixing your computer, give me a call at (606) 219-4088 to set up an appointment.

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