It's 2015 And Congress Is Now, Finally, Allowed To Use Open Source Technologies

from the took-'em-long-enough dept

First, the good news: members of the House of Representatives in the US Congress are now allowed to use open source technology in their offices, rather than the very limited list of proprietary offerings they were given in the past. Second, the bad news: how the hell is it 2015 and this is only becoming an option now? I guess we can't change the past, and so let's celebrate the House of Reps finally getting to this point -- which just happens to coincide with the upcoming launch of the House Open Source Caucus (led by Reps. Blake Farenthold and Jared Polis). We've talked plenty about how little Congress understands technology, software and the internet today -- so actually introducing them to the basics of open source software can only help. And, yes, this comes on the heels of a Congressional rep making a pull request on Github. So, maybe (just maybe) we're starting to see more of our elected officials actually taking the time to understand the technologies that their policies will impact.

Filed Under: congress, house of representatives, open source


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  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Well, there goes security, 30 Jun 2015 @ 9:49pm

    Wrong as usual, Moonbeam! Do you and they understand that allowing just any software is huge risk?

    To me this shows TOTAL LACK of sense. There's a reason, believe it or not, for only an approved list, even if it's of crummy products. Unknown software has even more risks, everything from Google dropping binary blobs that listen through microphones to total compromise.

    Can't you even imagine a down side? Does "open source" just blind you to the fact that real audits are impossible among tens of millions of lines of code?

    Do you take nothing away from the Google's test with the microphone snooping binary blob of just last week except that next time they should be more subtle?

    Do you think corporations are doing most of the developing in Linux now out of real altruism?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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    identicon
    Well, there goes security, 30 Jun 2015 @ 9:53pm

    Wrong as usual, Moonbeam! Do you and they understand that allowing just any software is huge risk?

    To me this shows TOTAL LACK of sense. There's a reason, believe it or not, for only an approved list, even if it's of crummy products. Unknown software has even more risks, everything from Google dropping binary blobs that listen through microphones to total compromise.

    Can't you even imagine a down side? Does "open source" just blind you to the fact that real audits are impossible among tens of millions of lines of code?

    Do you take nothing away from the Google's test with the microphone snooping binary blob of just last week except that next time they should be more subtle?

    Do you think corporations are doing most of the developing in Linux now out of real altruism?


    Here's what occurred to me on third attempt: TOR is open source, and it can defeat your blocking. Just think on a high value target of Congressional office.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Whoever, 30 Jun 2015 @ 11:13pm

      Re: Wrong as usual, Moonbeam! Do you and they understand that allowing just any software is huge risk?

      So, apparently an unaudited binary blob from Microsoft is more secure than an unaudited binary blob from another vendor, or an open-source tool?

      Pro tip: your faith in Microsoft is touching, but unwarranted.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Jun 2015 @ 11:47pm

      Re: Wrong as usual, Moonbeam! Do you and they understand that allowing just any software is huge risk?

      Do you take nothing away from the Google's test with the microphone snooping binary blob of just last week except that next time they should be more subtle?

      Apple Siri does the same, yet I do not hear you complaining about it. Also it is much harder to determine if Siri is tuned off or merely muted, or how long voice was being captured before Sira was announced.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 1 Jul 2015 @ 12:19pm

        Re: Re: Wrong as usual, Moonbeam! Do you and they understand that allowing just any software is huge risk?

        Citation please :)

        If I'm going to use Siri, I need to turn it on first, by either pressing and holding my mic button or the home button. While activation of the microphone in Apple products IS software based, I can't think of a situation where a UI trigger is not needed to enable audio or video.

        And as someone who has had jailbroken iOS devices since iOS 3, let me tell you that I know exactly when Siri was introduced, and before that, the on-board voice command technology (which is virtually identical, sans-going-to-icloud-to-look-things-up-tech) definitely didn't turn on the mic to listen, much to my frustration. You need third-party hacks to do this on OS X or iOS.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Jul 2015 @ 12:12am

      Re:

      I like how you basically claim that TOR is used to break into government databases while using it yourself. And at the third attempt, no less. Must have taken several gallons of grease just to get those gears going.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Jul 2015 @ 12:15am

      Re: Wrong as usual, Moonbeam! Do you and they understand that allowing just any software is huge risk?

      Flash 0-day exploits say hi.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 1 Jul 2015 @ 12:33am

        Re: Re: Wrong as usual, Moonbeam! Do you and they understand that allowing just any software is huge risk?

        No, no, no... we're in our resident moron's parallel universe where only Google can do any wrong, and where open source software is naturally less secure than the closed source proprietary applications that suffer massive security issues every week! Oracle and Adobe? No exploits there! Only Chrome and Linux.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 1 Jul 2015 @ 12:30am

      Re: Wrong as usual, Moonbeam! Do you and they understand that allowing just any software is huge risk?

      "Unknown software has even more risks"

      Except, people aren't talking about "unknown" software, they're talking about software that's known and can have its code fully audited.

      "Does "open source" just blind you to the fact that real audits are impossible among tens of millions of lines of code?"

      So, by your own standard NOBODY can effectively audit software. If it's "impossible" to audit Linux, then by your own definition it's also impossible to effectively audit Windows or Office or Photoshop or any other application used that has such levels of code.

      Your ranting insanity is making even less sense.

      "snooping binary blob"

      Your wilful ignorance is showing. By making sure you make it clear that you understand that the objectionable feature was a binary blob, you're also making it clear that you understand that it wasn't open source. In other words, you're arguing for open source, not against.

      This "blob" was noticed by open source guys and the objection is that nobody can examine it. Which "blobs" are being installed by the proprietary crap you're defending?

      "Do you think corporations are doing most of the developing in Linux now out of real altruism?"

      Do you think Microsoft or Apple are doing so? What about other software providers? Is your insanity only applicable to Linux in the same way as your idiocy ignores companies who are doing things far worse than Google?

      Yet again, you think you're making a point, but you just make yourself look like an obsessive halfwit.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 1 Jul 2015 @ 4:17am

    I love open source stuff for many reasons:
    1-It's free (though there are a lot of them that offer professional implementation with scalability for a price)
    2-It can be audited, which is good. You'll hardly sneak some malicious code inside *cough*NSA*cough*
    3-It is usually updated frequently to correct security issues, bugs
    4-It may fork into something even better or give birth to something that's even more useful (anyone can use and modify the code)
    5-It can be customized to your needs

    Sure there are more positive points but, really, I just wish M$ shoots its feet hard with the next Windows iterations so Linux can gain even more ground.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      ottermaton (profile), 1 Jul 2015 @ 5:09am

      Re:

      What boggles my mind is that some gov't agencies require you to submit documents in particular proprietary formats, such as .doc[x] for MS Word. How is it that a gov't agency is allowed to support -- by forcing you to buy the product of -- a private company? It makes no sense to me.

      I just wish M$ shoots its feet hard with the next Windows iterations so Linux can gain even more ground.

      I've often felt the same way, but from early indications it doesn't sound to me like they are. It sounds like they're actually trying to improve their products in a way that make them more useful to customers. (I know ... shocking!) Two examples that spring to mind: 1) recent versions of Windows Server don't require a GUI. 2) I've heard that Win10 is going to come with Virtual Desktops by default.

      Both of those concepts that have been default (or at least common) in the *nix world for decades. If MS is finally getting its head out of its ass and at least trying to do things the right way, that's a win, imo.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Seegras (profile), 1 Jul 2015 @ 5:30am

        Re: Re:

        Both of those concepts that have been default (or at least common) in the *nix world for decades. If MS is finally getting its head out of its ass and at least trying to do things the right way, that's a win, imo.

        Here's my list from 2009 What's wrong with windows.

        Apparently 2 of those get fixed until 2015, which means Windows should finally be usable somewhere around 2050.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 1 Jul 2015 @ 5:39am

          Re: Re: Re:

          I don't mean to be too dismissive and I agree with your points for the most part but:

          "Microsoft Windows is a basically an 80ies operating system... Kernel. Might be quite good, but it has one big deficiency: It’s not Unix"

          Erm, so your first 2 criticisms of Windows are that it's an 80s OS and its kernel isn't based on a 70s OS?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 1 Jul 2015 @ 5:53am

        Re: Re:

        "How is it that a gov't agency is allowed to support -- by forcing you to buy the product of -- a private company? It makes no sense to me."

        There was a huge debate internationally over OOXML vs ODF or other open file formats, on top of . The problem with a lot of the implementation is that MS have such an ingrained defacto monopoly that other choices are either not allowed or not properly considered - or that so much existing work is in the proprietary format that it would be difficult to move. Confusion/FUD and lockin have long been two of Microsoft's favoured tools. The above story should hopefully be the start of a change in this.

        "It sounds like they're actually trying to improve their products in a way that make them more useful to customers."

        They have actual competition for the first time in a long time. This is one of the things I always point to with monopolies. MS products were horrible to work with, and their attitude was to use lock-ins and other dirty tactics to keep their defacto monopoly combined with anti-consumer practices. For example, when IE6 was pretty much the only game in town they stated that no future version would be standalone - to get IE7, you'd need to buy Vista. They changed their tune when Firefox suddenly appeared and took significant marketshare. Without competition, you'd probably be forced to upgrade just to get the latest IE patches.

        "recent versions of Windows Server don't require a GUI"

        ...but they're still making fundamental mistakes. You can run a lot of server functions from a non-GUI - but not all, if my understanding is correct. On top of that, the GUI that did ship with Server 2012 was based on the touchscreen Metro interface. That move didn't make sense on a standard laptop by default, let alone a server!

        " If MS is finally getting its head out of its ass and at least trying to do things the right way, that's a win, imo."

        Yes, although it might mean that they retain a near monopoly through consumer apathy or some actual quality rather than the ways they've retained it in the past.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Ninja (profile), 1 Jul 2015 @ 6:02am

        Re: Re:

        I like what they did with Windows 10. It's Windows 8 core with a decent GUI that can be adaptive (ie, turned into a tablet) on demand. That's fine by me. I still have some issues on the heavy integration with online services and the fact that you can't install updates and bug fixes independently (as far as I know it has automatic updates turned on and there's no way to make it selective). This can result in annoying bloatware being forced onto you like those Windows 10 tray icons.

        Besides, they are offering upgrades and I honestly think it's a very bad choice to upgrade from older versions, a clean install will lead to much less headaches.

        I'd love if Microsoft would produce awesome products but, really, not having stuff with a Linux port (specially games) is incredibly annoying.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 1 Jul 2015 @ 6:50am

          Re: Re: Re:

          (as far as I know it has automatic updates turned on and there's no way to make it selective).

          If you cannot take manual control over when updates get applied, then you cannot use the operating system for anything where interruptions to operations are not allowed or undesirable.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 1 Jul 2015 @ 8:27am

        Re: Re:

        The reason that they require you to submit a document a particular way is that most government employees won't know what to do with the file if they can't open it. Microsoft office is also the business standard so the majority of files they receive will be .doc or .docx. It isn't to difficult to get around though. Doc and docx can both be edited in Google Docs with an addon. If you don't like Google then use a sight like Zamzar to convert your file several different formats and then use Openoffice or whatever word processor you use. I even think Openoffice has a .doc format that it can save too.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 1 Jul 2015 @ 10:14am

          Re: Re: Re:

          ...Openoffice has a .doc format...

          OpenOffice will open and save DOC files; when saving you have to change the format from ODF.

          I've had mixed experience with DOCX files: sometimes OpenOffice will open and sometimes not. I've had to open it on a machine with MS' (too high priced) software, then if it isn't just plaintext and has formatting, characters, or imagery I can save it as an older DOC or RTF so I can use it on OpenOffice.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 2 Jul 2015 @ 12:34am

          Re: Re: Re:

          "Doc and docx can both be edited in Google Docs with an addon. If you don't like Google then use a sight like Zamzar"

          If government rules won't let you use a different file format, it's extremely unlikely they'll let you use a 3rd party company that stores the documents you convert on their private servers as a workaround.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ottermaton (profile), 1 Jul 2015 @ 4:50am

    Brilliant!

    Way to go everyone! The article's comments have been completely (with one exception) taken over by the troll ... with, of course, your complicity. Way to go!

    Does he have any response to your nuanced arguments? Any counterpoints? Does he ever? Answer: no. His entire purpose is to disrupt and derail any reasonable conversation/debate, and you guys not just let him, but enthusiastically help him.

    That's just great! For your efforts, have a Report click!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Jul 2015 @ 7:04am

      Re: Brilliant!

      It's interesting because the trolling seems to have picked up ever since that story about the Russian trolls was posted.

      I wonder if they're just replying to themselves?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Gwiz (profile), 1 Jul 2015 @ 7:26am

      Re: Brilliant!

      Way to go everyone! The article's comments have been completely (with one exception) taken over by the troll ... with, of course, your complicity. Way to go!


      Your complaining about people responding to trolls also disrupts and derails the conversations too, ya know.

      I have no problem when threads go off-topic. Some of the most interesting conversations here have been off-topic and in response to trollish comments. If you have that much of problem with it, you are free to skip over them. That way no one has to conform to what YOU view as a proper discussion forum. Just my 2¢

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Chilling Farts, 1 Jul 2015 @ 4:52am

    meanwhile in peru...

    Your country wastes your resources trying to "digitalize" access to our corrupt government via "international help" from USAID.

    After these news i see that you need that help, not us.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Chris ODonnell (profile), 1 Jul 2015 @ 5:42am

    Yet the individual representative web sites have been running on Drupal for years.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Jul 2015 @ 7:21am

    so who has tried to put copyright on these technologies just so the members of Congress can write some new law that gets them rewards aplenty? i dont believe that there are none here who dont want to do something bloody ridiculous, as they usually do, making millions in the process!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 1 Jul 2015 @ 7:53am

      Re:

      Oh, people have tried various amounts of crap over the years (see the SCO vs Linux escapades and related cases). However:

      "so who has tried to put copyright on these technologies"

      You miss the point of FOSS. It *is* copyrighted, but those who work on the projects have chosen to release them on a far less restrictive licence than that applied by the standard automatic version, which is usually also one that prevents people from removing the open parts of it later on. Some so still try, of course, but it's proven to work pretty well so far.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Median Wilfred, 1 Jul 2015 @ 9:20am

    This only matters until TPP is signed, right?

    Aren't there provisions in the TPP agreement that will prevent any open source/free software due to "Intellectual Property" concerns and so forth?

    Polis and the Open Source Software Caucus need to get off their high horse, and start using what every other right-thinking citizen/subject of the USA uses: Microsoft Word. Nothing else is needed or wanted. Up yours, open source elitists.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Spaceman Spiff (profile), 1 Jul 2015 @ 10:04am

    Our governmen (not) at work!

    Let's face it - the US government's IT infrastructure is actually controlled by proprietary interests. Can you spell Microsoft and ilk? Insecure? Yes. Costly? Definitely. Unable to adapt to changes in the environment? Duh! NO governmental agency should require documents in a proprietary format (PDF, MS Word, etc), but should require ALL submitted documents be provided in an open source form. Anything else is stealing from the American public, simply by telling us we have to purchase over-priced, proprietary tools in order to communicate with our own government! This is theft, pure and simple, and it must stop!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Jul 2015 @ 7:17pm

    This is great!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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