Federal Computer Week Goes Linux?
I do not have enough fingers and toes to count the frustrations associated with advocating Linux to government entities. "Federal Computing Week" has always stood out in my mind as a road block. So with the start of FOSE, the premiere Federal Government's Exposition for IT - FCW decides to publish an issue devoted to Linux and open source. If you've been to an exposition like Comdex and MacWorld, you know that publishers pass out lots of free magazines. So, many people will see FCW's articles.
Look carefully and you will find in FCW's subtext a caveat for government purchasers. A strong message stands out - you need to take care with open source - it's popular but you won't find support, it costs more than you think and you'll need specialized people. FCW will also add that established vendors (Microsoft) may be a safer way to go.
So, now we have articles in the magazine that winds up on the top government IT officials desktops every Monday morning. But, we don't have a clear "yes". In some ways that's just more of the same thing we have seen for a decade in ZDNet, Jupiter Media, CNet, etc.
Tier one publications have published my articles in the past. Their usual approach starts with "we want to start covering open source and we do not have the expertise". As we get further along in the publishing process I often hear the words "Microsoft is our largest advertiser - we cannot offend them directly." I call that a "yes, but".
I consider the Jo Baldera's story one of the ten biggest success stories in the past four years. Jo's company gives the Dallas FBI a LAMP application that basically saves lives during 9/11 and the Shuttle Disaster. She donates the ERN System(TM) for free as part of an FBI Outreach program. It becomes the award winner at FOSE 2003 and becomes the only solution for data sharing at the department of Homeland Security. They ask her to add functionality so they can provide emergency response for Weapons of Mass Destruction, Biological terrorism, Bomb Technicians, etc. Jo does this for $5000.
How does this story not make the major media? It's Linux-Apache-MySQL-PHP or better known as LAMP. If her program had been Microsoft, it would have been seen at the Super Bowl. All I can do is point to the website FBIERN and let you see how a LAMP application is protecting your lives.
And oh by the way, ERN Systems is also the only data sharing success story at the Department of Homeland Security. Last year, the Joint Chiefs of Staff conducted US Interoperability trials (JWID training exercises) and found:
(1)REF: JOINT WARRIOR INTEROPERABILITY DEMONSTRATION 2004 FINAL REPORT UST02.18 ASSESSMENT COMPONENTS. https://www.cwid.js.mil/public/cwid05fr/htmlfiles/u218war.html.
ERN Systems uses the best of open source software: Red Hat Enterprise Linux, the Apache Web Server, MySQL database and the PHP language. Jo Balderas says, “ because we use the crown jewels of open source - we can deliver fast, easy, cost-effective technology that has successfully addressed many of the information sharing challenges that are obstacles to homeland security.”
Now, I'm wondering what we can do to further the knowledge of how Linux is saving lives and how Microsoft and friends have nothing to show after four years but vapor. The time has come for real major media coverage. People need to stop sweeping this under the rug. People need to know how much money our government wastes on IT solutions that don't work and how steady Linux has become.
For those who might want to see the rest of FCW's articles they follow here:
"Opening doors to open source" [Federal Computer Week, April 4, 2005]
"Open wide" [Federal Computer Week, April 4, 2005]
"Get ready for Firefox" [Federal Computer Week, April 4, 2005]
"Wiki means fast" [Federal Computer Week, April 4, 2005]
"Editorial: Reviewing the case against open source" [Federal Computer Week, April 4, 2005]
"Willis: Resistance is futile" [Federal Computer Week, April 4, 2005]
As a final comment, I'll just say that I'm pleased FCW chose to cover Linux and Open Source - but look at the cartoon on the editorial page. What subliminal message does that convey? So, my acknowledgment of FCW is a "yes, but" too!
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