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06.13.08

BECTA’s Latest Disappointment: ‘Open Source’ from a Windows Shop?

Posted in Europe, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Windows at 4:24 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Might this be ‘open source’ the Microsoft way?

When BECTA first uttered the words “open source”, people were rather shocked. This agency has been one of the most open source-hostile ones out there (some would say an anti-Christ of Free software), despite great pressure to change its ways. For background, consider previous coverages (with many external references) in:

Transparency in procurement is something which is desperately needed in the UK. The public services have an abysmal track record with things like secret "Memorandums of Understanding" or secret deals that BECTA signs with Microsoft behind taxpayers’ backs (part of the deal is that it must remain secret, just like in the case of OEMs).

This brings us to this morning’s news.

Open source snub in UK schools

THE OPEN SOURCE community was bitterly disappointed today after the UK appointed an unknown consultancy to run an historic programme of advocacy in schools.

[...]

“They’ve chosen the worst possible candidate because [Alphaplus] have no open source experience whatsoever,” said Taylor. “The project is about open source in schools. Unless you have open source people in there, its nonsense,” he said.

[...]

The Sirius bid was backed by Red Hat, the pioneering open source software cowpowayshen, and pulled in million of Euros of development backed by the European Commission.

Another sidelined bid by The Learning Machine, an open source schools specialist, was backed by Canonical, the organisation behind Ubuntu, the ground-breaking open source operating system.

Yet another, was put forward by Open Source Software Watch, a not-for-profit organisation that already co-ordinates open source development in the Higher Education sector. OSS-watch pulled Eduforge, the world’s largest repository of open source educational software, into its bid, along with one of the backers of Moodle, an open source software system that made great advances in the education sector around the world.

Having looked at the Web site of Alphaplus, there are reasons for concern. There are quite a few warning signs, but Alphaplus deserves the benefit of the doubt for the time being. Their whole Web site is Windows and Flash (i.e. can’t view pages unless some opaque binaries are used). There’s no sign of Free software and GNU/Linux, let alone “open source”.

Hopefully — just hopefully — this is not a farce in the making.

“It’s all about marketing and the Microsoft ecosystem exploits this too.”Let us hope that this is not one of those parties who call "Open XML" "open source" and prefer things like “shared-sourced” .NET. Open source can be quite meaningless unless those who assess it actually understand that it’s about the licences and vendors, not just some badge. Lately, Microsoft has been faking a lot of open-source things in order to exploit loopholes and enter some contracts. It’s all about marketing and the Microsoft ecosystem exploits this too.

Speaking of Microsoft’s escapades in “open source” territories, remember SourceForge? The CEO has just announced his resignation. He is being replaced.

As was asked earlier in the IRC channel: “Can we find out how the new guy feels about .NETness and Microsoft ‘open source’ licences? There have bee[n] concerns about the Microsoft sponsorship recently and now the CEO quits.”

In light of the SourceForge moves we have been seeing (e.g. Microsoft sponsorship), have a look at the comments here. This is hopefully not a sign of a new era. Microsoft will try to assimilate and steal to the very same disruption it strives to eliminate.

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