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The German Government voices support for Open Source. Siegmar Mosdorf, German Secretary of State in the Federal Ministry for Economy and Technology, voiced his government's support for Open Source at last week's LinuxTag conference. "I am convinced that open source development can form the European base model in the information age."

His participation and comments underscore the beginning of the German government's realization that free software inherently better supports the political and ideological needs of any government than a proprietary, binary-only solution. China is believed to also be moving in this direction, though they are keeping their internal policy decisions quieter, at least for now. We take liberty to predict, as we have in the past, that this is just the beginning of the link between free/open source software and governments.

Why? There are a variety of reasons:

  • protection from coercion or threats from corporate entities that develop and control the software upon which your government depends.
  • greater control of the software upon which your national security depends.
  • greater national economic potential for companies internal to your nation to develop, improve and support software without dependence on partnerships with corporations outside your country.
  • reduced litigation and international pressure regarding issues of "piracy".
  • cost savings.
We've listed the above in what we believe will be close to the priority of these reasons from a government's point of view. They are powerful reasons. Twenty years from now, it will be almost inconceivable that any government could have chosen to build its internal structure or defense systems on commercial software, for all the reasons listed above.

Protection from the Government. It is deliciously ironic that, just as governments, no matter their ideological stances, are coming to see free/open source software as a necessity, others are working to use it to protect themselves from governments. We've spoken in the past about Gnutella and Freenet, which help protect the anonymity and freedom from censorship that has been at least the perceived hallmark of the Internet since its conception.

This week, the AT&T Publius project was also announced. Publius is another effort similar to Freenet and Gnutella, that seek to build a distributed system for the distribution of content of any kind, including software or articles that might otherwise be banned. "Rubin said that he and Cranor saw the ideal user of Publius as 'a person in China observing abuses, on a day-to-day basis,' of human rights. In nations where freedom of speech is severely limited and people might suffer great hardship for speaking out, Publius could be an instrument of social change."

The article also comments that the name Publius was chosen because it was one of the pen names used by Alexander Hamilton, John Jay and James Madison to anonymously publish the Federalist Papers.

The prevention of censorship on the Internet and the legal battle for exportable cryptography software have a lot of parallels. They have similar foes, people with real and understandable concerns, such as law enforcement officials and people concerned about protecting children. Those concerns should not be belittled, but we can't afford to give up basic freedom in the search for improved safety. Gnutella, Freenet and Publius, their predecessors, successors or potentially collaborative efforts, need to survive and thrive to help us participate in building a better world.

June Netcraft Survey available. This month's Netcraft Web Server Survey is up and running. They've include a comment on why there appeared to be a slight decrease in Apache usage in May. "Apache gained well over a million sites from the May survey, and sailed past the 10 million sites threshold. Part of the strength of the gain came as a result of a depression in the May survey when sites at the large German hosting company xlink.net failed to respond." (Thanks to Fabian Wauthier).

Inside this week's Linux Weekly News:

  • Security: Hacker etiquette, more security updates.
  • Kernel: Prepatches galore, lowering Linux latency.
  • Distributions: Hebrew support, a searchable Linux distributions database.
  • Development: XFree86 4.01, Gnome Helix reviews, Java licensing progress.
  • Commerce: Yahoo! Selects Google, AbriaSoft announces MySQL distribution, Corel Photo-Paint for Linux.
  • Back page: Linux links, this week in Linux history, and letters to the editor
...plus the usual array of reports, updates, and announcements.

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July 6, 2000


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