June-July 2002


This month's column is actually the June and July columns combined in one, and deals with Software Libre, Linux and Open Source progress around the world in the form of adoption by government. Some readers may want to go directly to the update on Microsoft's licensing and auditing practices and policies at the end of this piece.

Software Libre, Free Software, Open Source Software

Those who follow the world of Open Source software know that in the beginning there was the Free Software Foundation (http://www.fsf.org/), originator of the GNU software tools and the GNU General Public License (GPL). The Foundation is ideologically committed to the abolition of proprietary software, and thus tends to make business people a little nervous.

More moderate Linux enthusiasts believed that by coining the term Open Source (http://www.opensource.org/) they could put a less ideological face on Linux (even though the Linux kernel itself uses the GNU GPL). As a result, the term Open Source covers a number of software licenses, not just the GNU GPL, that allow software source code to be modified and freely redistributed.

The Free Software Foundation (FSF), however, insists on the GNU GPL and the use of the term Free Software to describe the software it covers. The emphasis is on freedom of thought, speech, and action, as in libre, not on free-of-cost, as in gratis. In the course of setting up FSF branches around the world, translation into Romance languages gives us the term Software Libre. While the term carries a certain amount of political message and fervor inherited from its FSF origins, nevertheless the term has come to be widely understood to mean about the same thing as Open Source, and exists in variations such as the Software Liberty Association of Taiwan (SLAT) http://www.softwareliberty.org/). More about Taiwan and Open Source down below.

Growing Governmental Interest in Open Source

One of the engines pushing the growth of Open Source software around the world is gradual adoption of Open Source by governments. Besides reasons of national interest and security, saving money is a large motivator, especially when one considers that the Windows operating system and Office suite are imported items and users of foreign exchange.

Florida and Germany

The example in 2001 of the switch from UNIX to Linux by the City of Largo, Florida (http://newsforge.com/article.pl?sid=01/08/10/1441239) showed that by taking advantage of the server strength of Linux, 400 desktops could be served by thin clients, a savings of US$ 300,000 per year. Over $300,000 more was saved by substituting Bynari's InsightServer (http://www-1.ibm.com/linux/linuxline/apr02/partnernews.shtml) at a cost of $80-90,000 vs. $400,000 or $500,000 for Microsoft Exchange server and its client licenses. The use of OpenOffice (http://www.openoffice.org/)--the free version of Sun's StarOffice--saves over $1,500,000 over a six-year cycle (note the long cycle time). On the national level in the United States, the Department of Defense accepted a May 2002 report from the MITRE Corporation that urged broader consideration of Open Source software for reasons of security and cost savings, and reached this conclusion in the face of lobbying by Microsoft to ban use of Open Source software as insecure (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A60050-2002May22.html). The text of the July 2001 report, only recently available, is at


After adopting Linux for its servers in the Bundestag, the German Federal Government has accepted an offer from IBM that will offer steep discounts on IBM hardware set up to run the SuSE distribution of Linux and Linux applications. This is not just a counterweight to Microsoft's offering steep discounts on their software to the Government: the IBM plan discounts the hardware and effectively offers the software for free, an unbeatable bargain. Again, savings is not the only reason for moving to Open Source. Otto Schily, the German Interior Minister, said that "We increase information-technology security through the avoidance of monocultures; we reduce our dependence on individual software companies; and we save on the software purchase and upkeep." An estimated "tens of thousands" of servers and desktops in all levels of government across Germany may anticipate replacement with the new IBM systems (http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/business/newsid_2023000/2023127.stm).

Interestingly, even before the IBM deal was announced, the Lower Saxony police announced plans to retire after some 15 years of use 200 UNIX servers and their 5500 terminals, and replace them with a high-availability Linux cluster. The full switch-over will involve some 11,000 new desktops (in German, http://www.heise.de/newsticker/data/odi-17.04.02-000/). The savings from moving to Linux instead of to Windows XP are estimated at 20,000,000 over a ten-year period. Security and ease of administration were the reasons given for the change. The new system will be running specialized platform-independent software written in Java.

The City of Munich had also announced before the IBM/German Government deal that it was undertaking a study to see whether a shift of some 10,000 municipal computers from Windows to Linux was feasible (in German, http://www.heise.de/newsticker/data/mgo-13.04.02-000/). The anticipated savings are 4,500,000, and the reasons given are a) that the Windows monopoly may lead to utter dependence and even higher pricing, and b) the possibility that the software inside Windows XP that talks to Microsoft Incorporated might somehow send along sensitive data from the municipal machines.

Linux in the Spanish-Speaking World

Spain, National Assembly

As in Italy (see April 2002 column), a coalition of parties headed by Joan Puigcercós, Deputy from Barcelona, is introducing a bill into the lower house (the Congress of Deputies) of the Spanish National Assembly, or Cortes. The text of the Software Libre Bill (in Spanish) is available at (http://www.hispalinux.es/modules.php?op=modload&name=Sections&file=index&req=viewarticle&artid=53).

It requires the Government to prefer software libre over proprietary software for the following reasons:

1. The best use of funds is not for software licensing fees, but for software implementation and customization.

2. Wide use of software libre will promote further innovation through the free sharing of innovation.

3. Spain will gain strategic control of the direction of software development, including the building of a Spanish software industry.

4. Spain will achieve independence from supplier lock-in.

5. Software libre is the best way to promote data security and privacy.

6. Spanish control of the source code of Government software will promote national security.

7. The use of software libre will promote the Spanish minority languages (Catalan, Galician, and Basque) currently neglected by proprietary software.

The law does not forbid proprietary software, but government purchasers are supposed to try to obtain software libre if at all possible, including paying for software libre development in place of buying proprietary software.

The licensing for this software libre is not the GNU GPL of the Free Software Foundation, but sounds more like the licenses of Perl or Apache. Source code must always be distributed with software libre under the law, but modifications to the source code may be distributed in two ways: either in the form of the original source code with the modifications as patches, to be compiled into a runnable modified version of the original program, or as a compiled binary version (accompanied, of course, by source code), but distributed under a different name from the original version.

Software contracted for by the State must be software libre, and also available to citizens for their own use; current software owned by the State is to be released as software libre, provided its current licensing allows it.

The lawmakers point to the software libre policies of the French Government, recent German Government actions, and the Software Libre Law as a necessary implementation of the EC Directive of 1991 concerning software interoperability.

Spain, Extremadura Schools and Beyond

Open Source as a means of economic bootstrapping for poor countries can be seen in the efforts in Extremadura (http://www.juntaex.es), the poorest region of Spain (http://www.wired.com/news/business/0,1367,51994,00.html). The government there seeks to enter the modern age of technology and prosperity by distributing 80,000 CDs with Debian Linux and other software on them to the 670 schools in its system, thus becoming the first public school authority in the EC to have a full Linux system. The Linux project (http://www.linex.org/) also intends to distribute these CDs not only to the 32 centers for technology instruction, but to the public as well. The savings from using Open Source software are estimated at US$ 7,000,000 per year.

The region already more than double the Spanish average of computers per pupil, 15 pupils per computer, as compared to 33 pupils per computer in the rest of the country. All government offices and schools (a total of 1,478 sites) will be linked in a computer network by the end of 2002; the real work will be the training of 15,000 teachers in Linux. Luis Millán Vázquez de Miguel, Extremaduran minister of education, science and technology, is determined not to fall into same pit that swallowed Mexico's effort to run the entire country's school system on Linux.

Mexico: So Far From God, So Close to Redmond

In 1998 the Mexican Government decided to install Linux in all 126,000 school across Mexico, but never mustered the support and workforce to actually make it happen: no one had anticipated the lack of Linux personnel in Mexico. The RedEscolar (Scholar Network), resting primarily on the efforts of Arturo Espinosa and Luis Miguel Ibarra, managed by April 2001 to install computers in 4,500 schools, but only some 20 of them are running Linux.--the rest run Windows. Besides the lack of Linux personnel, much of the equipment turned out to have Windows-only hardware, such as modems that require the Windows operating system in order to run (Microsoft had talked the modem makers into saving money by omitting chips from the modems, and routing work normally done by the chips to Windows instead. Besides Winmodems, there are also Winprinters).

When Vicente Fox took office in December 2000, he promised that before he left office in six years, 9 of every ten Mexicans would have Internet access. Large U.S. corporations stepped in to donate help: Intel, with a US$ 17,000,000 grant to train 17,000 elementary-school teachers in computer use, and Microsoft, which donated software which it valued at $6,000,000, and the Government at $30,000,000 (http://www.newsalert.com/bin/story?StoryId=CpmD_qaicu0qTrs1nrvHjq08&Print=1). Intel and Hewlett-Packard are expected to announce grants soon, as well. President Fox's e-Mexico program is aimed not only at the schools, but at public computing centers and public health systems, and Microsoft has said it will help manage the 2,445 public computing centers.

As Mexicans realize that the free and discounted Windows software and Windows training will lead either to expensive upgrade purchases or to signing on to Microsoft software upgrade and maintenance plans, some of them are raising their voices against this gift with strings attached. Even taking advantage of the discounts will cost $30,000,000, and the original plan to put Linux in the schools anticipated license-fee savings of $127,000,000, presumably at 1998 prices (http://www.wired.com/news/technology/0,1282,45737,00.html). Although he anticipated savings are in the "tens of millions of pesos," the primary reasons given for the migration are stability, data security, and interoperability.

Linux is not totally defeated in Mexico, however. In early 2001 José Barberán, technical coordinator of the administration of the Mexican capital, the Federal District, announced a multi-year migration plan for Linux, stating that it had already been implemented in some places, such as the office for drivers' licenses; but after a year progress has been very slow. Meanwhile Deputy Ildefonso Guajardo Villarreal (PRI), representing Nuevo León, announced in early 2002 that he would introduce a bill into Congress to mandate the use of software libre in the e-Mexico initiative (http://www.nytimes.com/2002/04/24/technology/24PESO.html).


Peruvian Congressman Dr. Edgar David Villanueva Nuñez (Edgar Villanueva) has introduced Bill No. 1609, "Free Software in Public Administration," to mandate the use of Open Source software if at all possible in all national agencies and offices (http://www.wired.com/news/print/0,1294,51902,00.html). The Spanish text of the bill can be found at and at http://www.gnu.org.pe/proleyap.html.

In the course of building support for and plumbing opposition to the bill, Dr. Villanueva solicited input from Microsoft, and in due course received a three-page letter from Juan Alberto González, Director General of Microsoft Perú (in Spanish on three .jpg files at http://pimientolinux.com/peru2ms/). Dr. Villanueva's widely-published reply to this letter has made him a hero among software libre advocates for its carefully-reasoned demolition of Microsoft's arguments. The text of the letter is available in Spanish (http://pimientolinux.com/peru2ms/villanueva_to_ms.html) and in English (http://www.theregister.co.uk/content/4/25157.html).

In response to direct and indirect digs by Microsoft at the lack of support that caused the failure to implement Linux in the Mexican school system, the congressman points out that Mexico's chief motivation for installing Linux was to save money, and that the Mexican approach had been to send out Linux CD's to the schools without worrying who would set up the system; Peru will not make that mistake. More importantly, Peru will not adopt Open Source software for the mere purpose of saving money; the bill seeks to achieve

"Free access to public information by the citizen.

Permanence of public data.

Security of the State and citizens."

Dr. Villanueva goes on to refute Microsoft's charge that Open Source software will violate intellectual property rights, pointing out that Open Source products have not been convicted of infringement, whereas,

"As an example, the condemnation by the Commercial Court of Nanterre, France, on 27th September 2001 of Microsoft Corp. to a penalty of 3 million francs in damages and interest, for violation of intellectual property (piracy, to use the unfortunate term that your firm commonly uses in its publicity)" (http://newsforge.com/newsforge/02/05/07/2234251.shtml?tid=3). The Congressman did not go on to point out that in 1994 a federal jury had awarded some US$ 120,000,000 of Microsoft's money to Stac Electronics because Microsoft had infringed the patents covering the Stacker disk compression software illegally incorporated into DOS 6.0 (http://www.base.com/software-patents/articles/stac.html).

Taiwan and China

Taiwan has just joined the countries that will give a government boost to Open Source software; a new two-year plan called the National Open Source Plan will move many government and educational computers over to Open Source by 2005 (http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2002/6/3/55433/41738). The government calculates that large savings in license fees would result if all 1,230,000 computers were switched over to Open Source; a rough estimate is about US$ 250,000, figuring $200 per machine. The Plan will include training 120,000 users in Open Source software basics, and 9,600 "seed" persons will receive advanced training to help others speed the migration (http://news.com.com/2100-1001-931765.html).

In this respect Taiwan and China are pursuing parallel paths: even as they crack down on illegal copies of software (principally Microsoft operating systems and Office suites) as part of their obligations under international treaties, the countries are working hard toward the adoption of Open Source software in government offices. As in governments in Europe, Latin America, and the United States, there does not seem to be enough money to cover all the new Microsoft license fees, especially on Microsoft's upgrade schedule.

Schools in the American Northwest

Microsoft's raising of prices and tightening of its licensing terms, besides the introduction of new software subscription plans (see below) is causing many government agencies to look for software alternatives just as Open Source is growing stronger and more popular around the world.

This spring Microsoft sent letters to the largest school districts in Oregon (9) and Washington (15), right in its own back yard (http://www.oregonlive.com/news/oregonian/steve_duin/index.ssf?/xml/story.ssf/html_standard.xsl?/base/all_wire_stories/101386428029222529.xml). The letter gave the schools 60 days to conduct an internal software audit; typical was a March letter to the Portland Public Schools, which has 25,000 computers. The problem is that most of these machines are donated, and came "as is," without paperwork or proofs of purchase, and the internal audit revealed that the school system, already $36,000,000 short in the purse, would owe $500,000 to meet the demands of Microsoft. The audit itself is estimated at $100,000 in personnel time. One solution offered by Microsoft is to charge $42/year per machine; all machines must be counted, including Apple machines and others not running Windows, such as Linux. This plan would cost over $1,000,000 annually. Like all Microsoft subscription licenses, the School Agreement (http://www.microsoft.com/education/?ID=SchoolAgreement) provides for auditing. In this case a simple count of machines (all computers) would be enough, so long as the fee per machine was paid.

The affected schools began to talk among themselves, and publicity mounted, taking the form of angry citizen calls to Microsoft and to the newspapers. The schools asked Microsoft for an extension of the 60-day deadline. Things came to a head at the April meeting of the ACPE (Association for Computer Professionals in Education), where the school technologists could easily compare notes and discuss migrations to Linux; they agreed that they would present a united face to the Microsoft representatives who had been invited for the following day. If Microsoft continued inflexible, several districts said they were ready to migrate from Microsoft to Linux.

Microsoft did agree to extend the audit deadline, expressed a desire to meet one by one with the school districts, and hosted an open bar for the meeting to ensure goodwill. Nevertheless the following day Linux advocates hosted a meeting to explain Open Source software and aroused a great deal of interest in it.. Several of the school districts are migrating to Linux, and are pleased with the savings and lack of license anxiety.

One popular solution to the problem is a Linux-based thin-client system called K12LTSP, developed in area schools (http://www.k12ltsp.org/). Some 5,000 copies have been distributed to schools around the country in less than a year. An Iowa tech coordinator who serves 12,000 users in 16 school districts says he has replaced Microsoft with Linux in all of them. The thin-client approach enables the schools to use as terminals whatever ancient desktops machines they happen to have.

Update on Microsoft Audits and Licensing

The Fatwah in Cairo

The audit letters sent to the 24 largest school systems in Oregon and Washington were part of an active auditing effort by Microsoft aimed at public and private computer installations; the Veterans Administration, for instance, is said to be negotiating a settlement for the $20,000,000 worth of unlicensed software found during an audit.

Besides Microsoft, the BSA (Business Software Alliance) investigates and enforces the licensing policies of its members, who are proprietary software vendors such as Adobe and Microsoft. It finances its hunting by pocketing the penalty fees negotiated with those found to have fewer licenses than copies of software, and passes along to the appropriate member the licensing fees collected for the unlicensed software found.

The BSA is active not only in Europe and North America, but in Asia and the Middle East as well. Last year the BSA persuaded the Grand Mufti of Cairo, Nasr Farid Wasel (http://www.pcworldegypt.com/archive/ton_copyrights_may2001.htm) to condemn copyright infringement, and this year, the General Director of the Islamic Dawa at Al Azhar, the Islamic university, Sheikh Ibrahim Atta Allah, issued a fatwah against copyright and patent infringement, declaring, "Piracy is the worst type of theft and is prohibited by Islam" (http://www.sis.gov.eg/pressrev/html/pv260222.htm, and http://www.law.com/jsp/statearchive.jsp?type=Article&oldid=ZZZ5YOJ9V1D).

New Auditing Tool

Microsoft has posted an apparently free tool for you to use to determine your degree of licensing compliance. The Microsoft Software Inventory Analyzer (MSIA) is available at http://microsoft.com/piracy/MSIA/. It will work over networks if the client machines are set for file sharing, and will find and list all Microsoft software. More general information on licensing and auditing is indexed at http://www.microsoft.com/piracy/samguide/default.asp.

The 31 July 2002 deadline is nearly here: Microsoft users can either sign onto the subscription plans to cover the upgrading of software they have (Upgrade Advantage) or simply wait until they wish to upgrade and make the purchase at full retail price. Volume discount plans will be available only under plans involving subscriptions.

Do you Recognize Yourself?

Information Week and others are reporting corporate resistance to the Microsoft License 6.0 program (http://www.informationweek.com/story/IWK20020531S0024 and http://news.com.com/2100-1001-908773.html), and George Colony of Forrester Research has recommended against enterprise deployment of Windows XP for at least six months ("Windows XP is not ready for prime-time. Corporations really should not be thinking of installing it yet.").

Information Technology Intelligence Corp. and Sunbelt Software, Inc. recently published a survey of IT managers in 1500 corporations around the world (Sunbelt is large provider of Windows NT and 2000 system management tools). The 16-page executive summary can be found at http://www.sunbelt-software.com/survey_02mar.cfm.

Negative reaction to the upcoming Microsoft License 6.0 program is increasing and not lessening, as the August 1, 2002 launch date looms closer. A significant portion -over one-third - 36 percent -- of corporate enterprises report they don't have the necessary funds to upgrade to the Microsoft License 6.0 program, while another 38 percent say they are actively seeking alternatives to Microsoft products.

The 38% who say they are considering alternatives to Microsoft products was 36% when the survey was given last October.

Respondents were confused by and hostile to the new licensing program, which was announced in May 2001 and will take effect (after some delays) in August 2002. Three-fourths of the respondents said they expected their licensing costs to increase under the plan.

Readers who want further material on the License 6.0 program can find it at http://www.microsoft.com/licensing. Don't overlook the Upgrade Advantage Savings Calculator (http://www.microsoft.com/partner/Licensing/savings_calculator.xls).

Microsoft's reaction is to push the License 6.0 program harder; resellers are now being offered 12% commissions if they can sign up their clients.

Microsoft appears to be creating an Open Source market among its own customers; the wider use of Linux and other Open Source programs will only increase their quality and availability.


Copyright © 2002 by Donald K. Rosenberg, Stromian Technologies (http://www.stromian.com)


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