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PostHeaderIcon Sued for PAYING for Software?

Yep. An organization that promotes adoption by the public sector and government in Canada is suing the government of Quebec for buying expensive proprietary software from mega corporations like Microsoft and Oracle.

Linux Journal sums it up here.

The full article can be found on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation site, here.

The press release from FACIL, the organization in question, about the suit is here.

On the one hand I agree with LJ writer Marcel Gagne that it seems fiscally irresponsible for governments to claim poverty while spending a lot of money on software. On the other hand, I have to wonder what type of reliable, constant support is out there for free software. I know everything I have ever downloaded that was open source or free explicitly states that there is no organized support, just forums and listservs–which may have the solution a user is looking for, but it is not always easy to find.

I can see both sides on this one, so it will be interesting in the coming months (years? this is the goverment we’re talking about here…) to see how this develops…

What do you think?

5 Responses to “Sued for PAYING for Software?”

  • Crystal Pina says:

    No one loves Open Source more than I do, but I have to agree that a government can’t afford to rely on listserves and forums for tech support. There are times when you need someone to be responsible in case something happens.

  • The critical factor in this is the government’s IT staff. If the IT staff is paid adequately (this is rarely the case in governments and schools), and if the IT staff is given time for personal/professional development (training, for example), then the IT staff will be able to quickly and effectively solve the problems that arise. But since gov’t and schools don’t generally offer competitive pay or provision their IT staff with time and tools (citing budget, natch), the IT staff generally consists of people who less experienced and/or unmotivated.

    If the total budgets were erased and (in this case) the government restructured their IT to use Linux, the government would then have enough money to move over into the payroll and staff support column. The bonus here is that with properly experienced and educated IT staff, the turnover rate is lower, with further reduces projected staffing costs.

    The prizefight looks like this:

    Use open source
    Compensate IT
    Train IT
    Motivated and educated IT who can suss out solutions not otherwise documented
    High scalability for growing entities with no re-licensing overhead


    Use for-pay software
    Upgrade licenses yearly
    Poor IT morale and training which means over-heavy reliance upon for-pay software and proprietary systems with poor scalability and license longevity

    Aside from all this is the legal imperative that entities using public tax money should be accepting bids in an effort to demonstrate good stewardship of public funds. Anything less than full consideration of open source bids equates fiscal dereliction.

  • Emsquared says:

    It's a difficult area As many have said training and management are key to making software savings.Google's paid for service for business (OK not open source but you can build open source apps around them) has made inroads here (the Daily Telegraph newspaper group moved from Microsoft office to Google Apps recently because probably swayed by paid support).Both Sun with StarOffice & IBM with their OpenOffice version, Lotus Symphony have solid support options to assist whole or phased migration.It is all about planning,training, staged migration & effective management.
    A good point made by crredwards re moral and pay in many public service organisations.

  • VirtualStacy says:

    Since when does the Government look at the cost of anything except payroll???

    They paid for my son’s education approximately $30,000 to train him for his communications position in the Air Force. After 7-years in the position they approached him about 6-months ago and told him that they are eliminating all of the communication positions for the enlisted men and women and offering them to civilian contractors. His options were to decode (meaning he would lose his ability to reenlist) or to cross train that could cost the government another $30,000 to train him for another position. Now 6 months after all of this, they are again enlisting and paying for a new group of kids for the communications positions. Go Figure!!!

    My husband, a contractor with the Navy for the past 30-years has told me stories that would make your mouth drop in regards to monies wasted.

    Simply AMAZING!!

  • Justin says:

    It all depends on the Open Source software in question. There are apps, a lot of them, that are purely community-developed and community-supported. I can say from experience, however, since I help offer support for some, that it’s not only listservs and forums.

    Many of the biggest Open Source projects – Linux in particular – have commercial support available. Red Hat, Novell, Canonical, Sun, IBM, Dell, and dozens more all offer support for Linux and other Open Source offerings. If professional tech support is something you need, then that something you should look for when picking out a project – pick a commercially-supported project instead of a community-supported one. It’s all a matter of taking a few seconds to find out what kind of support is out there – very little effort in exchange for saving thousands of dollars in software costs.

    Personally, I think the problem is enculturation. People have been deceived into believing that unless something comes with a 1-800 number on the back of it and some $6-an-hour flunkie reading a tech-support script on the other end of the phone line, it doesn’t have tech support. What happens when you call them, though? They walk you through the same things that don’t work, screw up something else in the process, and then tell you it’s not a problem with their software and to call someone else. Even with community support for Open Source software you get a lot better than that, because it’s somebody who actually cares – and knows something about – the project that is helping you.

    I’d invite those passing over Open Source on support grounds to explore the options a bit more thoroughly, and to not dismiss community support so quickly. Remember, the people providing community support are the same ones who answer those panicked tech support Tweets – even when it’s about Windows.

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