Oregon Open Source Mandate

Oregon is considering a bill that would put open source software as the preferred vendor, as it were, and require agencies to justify using closed, for-fee software.It's probably too broad, despite my love of and use of open-source, free, and similar software. A good response on it comes from a Microsoftee who identifies the costs of running any kind of software. It's not free. You need hardware, staff, training, support, development. Where open-source really shines at a municipal level has to be on the server front. Forget client licenses. You may or may not like Office, but it's a universal product that's used everywhere, and you have to fight like heck to find something comparable that'll read and write its formats. Someday, there may be a real competitor, but I still use Word and Excel every day. (Fortunately, I've switched to Keynote for presentations from PowerPoint; PowerPoint has always lacked sophistication and ease of use.) On the server end, though, the licenses to support even moderate numbers of users escalate fast. Customization requires in-house or outsourced programming where it's possible, and it's always tacked-on. With Red Hat Linux, MySQL, Apache, PHP, BerkeleyDB, perl, and other open-source and GNU projects, however, I can take a new Intel-based PC with a 20 or 30 Gb hard drive and within maybe two hours have the equivalent of a $10,000 to $50,000 set of licenses from Microsoft, Oracle, or other database/enterprise server software makers. For many businesses, perhaps for most municipalities, anything outside core complexities, like managing pensions, budgets, and employee salaries, deploying an open-source alternative is much cheaper and easier, and free tech support is available from peers online, plus free adaptations to code and other benefits. If I'm building a database of 10,000 vendors that consumers could consider to hire as licensed sewer repair contractors, I need robustness, of course, and I have to build an interface to search and update it. But those interfaces already exist in many iterations on Sourceforge and elsewhere. I wouldn't push open-source products for business software replacement yet for governments. But on the back-end, it's a way to shave a lot of licensing fees without increasing the necessary expertise or expense.