Friday, November 24, 2006

FOSS Bill: Desktops

In this series: Practical Framework for the FOSS Bill, Desktops, Small Servers, and Large Integrated Systems

Are desktops practical targets for FOSS implementation? For the Philippine government, 99% of the time, yes. Usage profile for these desktops is mostly office productivity for which we do have strong FOSS alternatives. Similarly, there are strong FOSS candidates for email and instant messenger communications, too.

When we talk about custom applications, there's no reason why we need an application front-end that's tied in to a particular technology platform. Even the most sophisticated proprietary systems already use web browsers as interface.

In fact, one would be hard-pressed to find a reason why one needs a specific desktop operating system in any government office. Too often, however, desktops are bundled with their operating systems (and when they are not, they are usually pirated software). This leaves the government with little flexibility of choice when they make their purchase.

As a practical approach for the desktop, then, I propose the following measures:

1) The bill should mandate strict enforcement of software licensing in all government offices, with strong penalties for offices that fail to comply.

2) All new desktop purchases, whether individual units or part of a larger project, should unbundle the operating system and applications from the hardware. Operating systems and applications should be evaluated separately for its intended function and corresponding price. Cost comparisons must include any licensing and support fees applied for the duration of the lifetime of the machines.

3) All new hardware intended for desktop use, including the printers, scanners, and other peripheral devices, must have officially supported drivers for FOSS operating systems.

4) Agencies with desktops running unlicensed software must procure licensed software, purchase to be made against their budget for 2007. Failure to do so means replacing said desktop OS and applications with a FOSS alternative.

5) At a stretch: All hardware vendors must propose a FOSS desktop operating system alongside any proprietary desktop operating system.