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Europe's Tender Words About FOSS

Europe's Tender Words About FOSS

For the time being and near future, "software development can only be performed by certain high priests and will still be perceived to be a near-religious magic by the general public," Slashdot blogger eldavojohn predicted. "Frankly, unless there's a large shift in mentality, Neelie Kroes is going to be one of the few politicians trying to 'wake up' the public -- even in Europe."

By Katherine Noyes
07/29/10 5:00 AM PT

There's no denying that everyone needs a little love from time to time, but for those of us in the FOSS community, that need can be particularly acute.

After all, rarely a week goes by without some affront from those we had hoped were our friends. Case in point? Dell. First, it was the disappearing love letter. Then, it was the "helpful" Windows vs. Ubuntu comparison guide. The latest? None other than outright rejection -- Dell has now, apparently, dropped all Ubuntu-preloaded offerings from its website.

"We've recently made an effort to simplify our offerings online, by focusing on our most popular bundles and configuration options, based on customer feedback for reduced complexity and a simple, easy purchase experience," the Texas two-timer told PC Pro UK. "We're also making some changes to our Ubuntu pages, and as a result, they are currently available through our phone-based sales only."

'Boo and Hiss'

Did bloggers take kindly to that latest little tidbit? No better than they did to all those that came before.

"I think the only reason Dell does this is because Windows is setup like a toll booth where you have to pay extra to get it to do anything useful or keep it running," blogger BroadbandBradley wrote on Slashdot, for example. "With the Ubuntu Boxes they don't sell any add-on software because Ubuntu already has everything it needs to work."

Similarly: "Don't forget that computer retailers like Dell get paid a lot of money to pre-install bloatware, e.g. all those trials, links to subscription services, etc.," added Anonymous Coward. "Even if the customer never buys any of these, Dell doesn't get that money for Ubuntu PCs."

And again: "I don't know why Dell thinks I am a second-class citizen because I use open-source programs," wrote ncmathsadist. "Boo and hiss."

'Not a Dirty Word Anymore'

It seems to be par for the course, in other words, that FOSS enthusiasts are perpetually licking some wound or another.

Imagine our surprise, then -- nay, outright joy! -- when none other than Neelie Kroes, European Digital Agenda Commissioner, lavished a heaping helping of love upon the FOSS community.

"'Open source' is not a dirty word anymore," Kroes began in her four-minute video promoting FOSS.

'Set to Keep On Growing'

"It used to be a dirty word -- a scary one," she acknowledged.

Today, however, "many large organizations across Europe use solutions like Linux," Kroes pointed out. "The reason is not only good value for money, which is critical in today's financial situation, but also more choice.

"There is lower dependency on certain vendors, and lower switching costs," she added. "The momentum for open source is set to keep on growing."

Could one even imagine a more heartening endorsement? Linux Girl fairly skipped onto the streets of the blogosphere to find out.

'Subtle as a Brick to the Face'

"It's! About! Time!" was the response of Barbara Hudson, a blogger on Slashdot who goes by "Tom" on the site.

"Of course, when governments put out a call for tenders, they can only buy what the vendors offer," Hudson told Linux Girl. "This is why initiatives like Mandrake's recent one to create local alliances to go after government contracts at all levels is a good idea.

"When town councils and other local bodies routinely get submissions with open source as a key component, it's harder to justify not making the switch," she explained.

"And I see from the comments to the video that I'm not the only one who smiled when Ms. Kroes mentioned it helps reduce reliance on 'certain vendors,'" Hudson added. "Subtle as a brick to the face, but refreshing candor coming from a political figure."

'Ask What You Can Code for Your Country'

Of course, Kroes is "preaching to the choir," Slashdot blogger eldavojohn opined.

"What prevents a high-ranking official in the U.S. from doing the same is just relationships with any large company providing jobs inside the border who perceive open source to be a threat," he noted. "You'll see the DoD promote open source, you'll see state governments promote open source, but you don't see senators or cabinet members getting up and making speeches like this."

Still, "I will say that as more companies like Google and Sun arise as job providers in the U.S., you could see a change in this mentality," he suggested. "We might be privileged enough to see a Kennedy-esque politician say, "Ask not what your country can code for you -- ask what you can code for your country" and form the Open Source Corps for young Americans to join."

For the time being and near future, though, "software development can only be performed by certain high priests and will still be perceived to be a near-religious magic by the general public," eldavojohn predicted. "Frankly, unless there's a large shift in mentality, Neelie Kroes is going to be one of the few politicians trying to 'wake up' the public -- even in Europe."

'Make It Simple, Make It Easy'

In order for FOSS to really take off, "make it simple, make it easy and folks will come to you," Slashdot blogger hairyfeet asserted. "You already have the 'cheap' down."

FOSS has definitely come a long way, hairyfeet told Linux Girl. "Much of the software I give customers on a new Windows build is FOSS, like Firefox, OO.o, VLC, etc."

What FOSS software needs, however, "is a 'one stop shop' for Windows, perhaps with an automated installer like ninite.com," hairyfeet opined. "By making a central place where anyone can just 'pick and click' and have it all install pretty as you please, it would not only help spread FOSS, but also give a place to tout new programs and alternatives, maybe even make it easier for a few to switch."

'FLOSS Works for Us'

Either way, Kroes "speaks for a lot of Europeans when she says FLOSS is ready and useful in government," blogger Robert Pogson pointed out.

"This is like a declaration of independence in reverse," he asserted. "The Europeans will soon leave the prodigal colony behind if the USA does not climb out of M$'s pocket.

"Where I work, which is a branch of government, the switch to GNU/Linux was accompanied by faster PCs, less malware and longer nights of sleep for me," Pogson added. "FLOSS works for us."


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