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November 25, 2005

Open Document, Insert Foot

Could the legislature smother the move to open source document formats before it begins? Sharp Tools worries that's the case, citing a friend who was at the legislative hearing:

Microsoft had sent a local Beacon Hill professional lobbyist, who charges multiple thousands of dollars a month. He was sitting there doing business on his cell phone, sending out runners, etc. What he was doing became clear later; while his pet State Senator was reiterating his client's talking points for the media, and everyone on the 'Open Source' side of the fence was sitting in the hearing either listening or awaiting their turn in the hotseat, he was busily lobbying to get a modification made to another piece of legislation.

That modification, it turned out, will create a 'technology oversight committee' which will have the power to veto the decision to move to Open Document formats. It will be staffed by representatives from branches of state government other than the one which proposed this change. Surprise! Pay no attention to what this hand is doing behind the curtain. [my emphasis.]

So, apparently the pro-open-source folks are hoping to win this one on the merits, while Microsoft is twisting arms. Sound familiar? And now the Romney administration seems to be backing off from its plans to move on due to some somewhat mysterious promises from Microsoft to open up its own file formats. "Trust us", says Mr. Softie.

Come on, it's time to move on. Free Software (or Open Source) was created in Massachusetts (full disclosure: my brother used to work at FSF). We ought to be the first ones to implement it statewide, and save some bucks in the process.

(Thanks to Universal Hub for the steer.)

UPDATE: ZDNet suggests that maybe the state should have kept it on the down-low.

Posted by Charley on the MTA at 08:00 PM in Massachusetts | Permalink


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Of course, this isn't really about saving bucks. That's a nice bonus, but this is (at least should be) about making sure that public documents, that is, documents owned by the people of Massachusetts, are accessible in the future, regardless of whether or not Massachusetts pays for Intel machines running Windows operating systems and Windows office software.

Open software means its accessible to all, whether or not our government is paying money to a particular company that may or may not be supporting the product needed to view the document, or may or may not even exist.

Posted by: stomv | Nov 25, 2005 10:38:22 PM

Oh, but wait, it gets better. Did you see the Globe story today about how the official who proposed the thing is now under investigation because he went to open-source conferences? The horror!

Posted by: adamg | Nov 26, 2005 8:42:21 PM

We have another national battle for the electoral process. How can we depend on Diebold and proprietary software for voting machines? It should be obvious at this point that we cannot. The entire situation is absurd.

Posted by: thebhc | Nov 29, 2005 7:22:47 PM

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