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Open Source: Yes, You Really Can!

This past week, Oracle’s Chief Security Officer published a blog post titled “No, You Really Can’t.”  Though the post has since been deleted, the message was clear.  Oracle’s customers should not even think about looking into the software’s source code, attempt to modify it, or run analysis tools on it to find vulnerabilities.  In effect, Oracle was telling its users, “Trust us, because we know what’s best for you – and if you don’t follow our rules, we’ll see you in court.”

Sadly, this is how most large, monolithic technology vendors now treat the people who buy and depend upon their products.  Once the short “procurement honeymoon period” is over you’re left with a software package with which you can’t do anything new; that is, unless you want to pay the original large vendor equally large amounts of money.   From file hosting to business intelligence software and database systems, this kind of restrictive rent-seeking is too often the rule, instead of a rare exception.  Worse, as a user, you have virtually no way of verifying that your software is safe, secure and working properly…aside from a vendor’s promise.

There is a better way – Open Source Software.  An open source user can always access the original source code, make modifications, and identify vulnerabilities without getting sued.  And in most cases, you can see and assess the priorities of the project for yourself, learning in real time about enhancements to, and security problems with, your software.  A thousand bug-searching eyes are far better than two.  Open source software also helps you or your business to avoid locked-in, expensive vendor contracts; moreover, as your needs evolve, a new software development team can pick up and run with an open source project with the lowest cost and maximum flexibility possible.

When government is the buyer, open source allows the public to directly benefit from taxpayer-funded software.  We citizens aren’t the only ones to reap the rewards when government goes open source software.  Its very nature means that when one municipal government solves a problem, the community next door can reuse and improve upon the solution without restriction and without having to reinvent the wheel.  Civic adoption of open source software means that, for the first time ever, city, state and county governments can share resources, and actually solve problems collectively.  That is exactly the goal of the nationwide Free Law Founders coalition with which we work to solve problems facing legislatures, lawmakers and legal data in the Internet Age – not to mention citizens seeking a voice in the decisions that impact their lives, families and businesses.  

With virtually no barriers to entry, and no rent-seeking vendors to pay off, your local government can get started with Open Source Software today. The toughest challenges are more likely come from your own legal and procurement departments, instead of from the software itself.  Here are some simple steps to get your government started.

 
If your current vendor says, “No, you can’t!”, remember that open source says, “Yes! You really can!

Still not convinced?  Get in touch and we can tell you more!

'What are you doing?' asked Steven. 'Decompiling this code from Oracle' said Barbie. 'But Barbie! Isn't that against the EULA?' 'I've already found two zero-days.  Bite me.'
(via Paul Fenwick)