Linux in Government: Outside the US, People Get It

In spite of politics and payoffs, Linux momentum is building.
Getting It About Free Software

During the mid-1990s, I specialized in commerce over the Internet. You can dig around and probably find some of my writings and case studies from that era if you try. In early 1998, I joined a local Cap Gemini office with the mission of starting an e-commerce practice.

At the time, the premiere offering for conducting transactions over the Internet involved the use of Open Market's transact engine and eventually ShopSite Pro and ShopSite Manager store-building software. In the early stages of e-commerce, the transact engine primarily ran on big Sun hardware running Solaris.

Shortly after joining the Cap Gemini and while waiting on client decisions on proposals, the manager of the office asked me to see if I could create an in-house project using his over-populated bench. In fact, so many people had come off contract that our delivery management people couldn't find places for everyone to sit.

Using the firm's state-of-the-art brown paper, I put together a team, reserved a conference room and started asking people what they wanted to do. The group decided to work on an e-commerce project. The only problem with that suggestion involved money. Back in 1998, the cost of an e-commerce stack from Open Market ran around $2.2 million.

One of the bench players hacked Linux and suggested that we create a free e-commerce stack. I had used Linux and even ran it on a machine next to my desk. I liked the idea and assigned each person a task to find different free software components to create a shopping cart and a way to handle and complete a transaction.

Within a couple of weeks, we essentially had duplicated a complete e-commerce pipeline, end-to-end, for free. Granted, it didn't look like off-the-shelf software and it didn't have any GUIs, but it did the job. With our documentation, one easily could maintain and modify the system. Compared to Open Market, our system worked well.

I remember sitting alone in the conference room after everyone had left one evening, looking at the system. In a week, we would start building a commerce-enabled Web site for Ericsson. That company decided to pay for the transportation of Keiko the whale from the Pacific Northwest to Iceland. Our job was to build a Web site where people could make donations and buy Keiko gear. Ericsson intended that site to be a proof of concept to see whether it would build one to sell digital phone accessories.

Sitting in the conference room that day, I got it about open-source software. Ericsson could pay an Open Market partner to clear its transactions at an exorbitant rate, or we could do it for free.

I remember feeling a dilemma. I could let the the Swedish phone company over-pay for something on which my employer would realize a significant profit. Because my employer refused to offer the free solution to its clients, I couldn't offer it the Swedes. I had done the calculations, and in fact, the labor alone would have produced more revenue for my employer than selling the commercial stack.

So, I resolved the dilemma. I left the firm two weeks later and started a Linux company. That's how I got it about Linux and open source.

Final Thoughts

I advocate the use of GNU/Linux and open-source solutions to help countries around the globe improve their economic conditions. Any country can participate in its region by assembling lost-cost commodity hardware to create jobs and offer those products to its neighbors. The people in those regions can experience the joy of building communities to localize Linux and innovate in areas where they previously have been locked out.

The time has come for countries around the globe to embrace Doc Searls's idea of do-it-yourself IT (DIY-IT). With it, you can discover the simplicity of setting up assembly lines for inexpensive computer parts from China. You also will discover that Linux can make the job of manufacturing such systems even simpler.

Tom Adelstein is a Principal of Hiser + Adelstein, a consulting and operating company specializing in free and open-source software solutions and support. Tom is the co-author of the book Exploring the JDS Linux Desktop, author of an upcoming book on Linux system administration and has written prolifically since 1985. Tom's business career began in public accounting where he first learned to program and develop software and later progressed to Wall Street, where he became the designated principal of a NYSE firm. He later returned to technology and has consulted and worked with start-ups as well leaders of the Fortune 500.



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Jimmy Carter, Stagflation and the Misery Index, Part Obama Deux

Anonymous's picture

"We were in many respects stronger and more free before 1980." Yes. Because technology was more expensive, and it was difficult to keep tabs on everyone. Snake Plissken, here we come!

Commies and Linux

Anonymous's picture

Europe/Socialism: Consistently Mediocre. Kinda Like McDonalds. It doesn't suck, but it's bland and maddeningly lowest common denominator. No other choices. USA: Hit or Miss, Really Really Great, or really bad. Kinda like trying a mom and pop restaurant you've never been to on vacation. Variations all across the spectrum, and the freedom to vote with your purse.

re-re *g* I live in argentina,

Anonymous's picture

hmm and I'am not a person anti-USA... I am just anti-USA-patent-system.

if it there was not any job made, by that cool people in Berkeley or Massachusetts, I wouldn't have this awesome Un*x system....

best regards

Re.clear!!, *g* I live in argentina

Anonymous's picture

sorry *g* I forgot the analogy

the soil-Company: Microsoft
the "bugs" scratching over the soil stopping!!! from other alternatives to be implemented/considered: the Us-Patent system...

*g* I live in argentina,

Anonymous's picture

*g* I live in argentina, just a little "rant"

>On Global Soil GNU/Linux
>Has the Momentum

all this hole article make me remember of a little enterprise that made transgenic seeds for soil. They had an incredible life cycle, and of course a huge amount of gain compared with what you had to invest for getting this seeds...
So the hard-code joke was that on the second season, or second year (the same), you have harvested and by natural-cause, you'll also have obtained a lot of seeds.
IMAO, lots of seeds=lots of benefits.
But, this little entreprise had the patents of this seeds
ROLF, they had patent the seeds, so every farm that has used that seeds for the next planting season had to pay a FEE or a CANNON for the SOIL plants hahaah....(the new harvest, gave the farmers new seeds, by natural-cause ;-)
Just, imagine what the poor farmers said, ..."You must be kiding right??, we got to pay you for every soil-plant a tax percent???.. WTF, go to h3LL!!!"...

What I am trying to say is that foremost the highest problem that US has with free-software, is that if the goverment starts to implement Linux or *nix alternatives on the Goverments, and States, lol IMAO, it's just like saying hence to all this Patent System!!, it's just obsolete it just don't work is total-nonsense.
Stop dreaming and get into reality, the whole idea of implementing free-software on the US goverments collapses, all the US-patent politics, is like Condoleeza Rice saying ..."Hey Mr. Hugo Chavez, we really don't trust too much our patent system, however they are valid, sign here and you'll have the Bush FBI tax income since he was born"

the article about soil-seeds.

conclusion: as for marketing being mysterious really pays off
Feel free to use imagination and suppose or speculate whatever the h3nce you want about my little opinion.


Brasil experience

Eduardo's picture


Did you know about the Brasilian experience in open Source?

Brasil, have, nowadays, a especific policy to handle with open source, at least, Linux. ON federal and, also in several states. In less then 4 four years we've seemed a significant reducing on windows based servers and the desktop will come in place in a near future.

Despite how concerned you are about Win X Linux the fact is, Microsoft rely on the expense side of the table game. The MS product are black boxes, you never have tech aknologment and will probably a "forevere" dependent of the MS development.

When you think in terms of govenment expenses, on an "in development country" where money is limited. Agree to waste milion of dollars for OS and Office suites, each two years is a big problem.

Also, in terms of education, i'ts a very bad choice to use a black box in educational field. Will us just to teach "cake recipes", point and click, isntead to really teach how the things works.


You know what really scares m

Wesley Parish's picture

You know what really scares me - the US Govt., running out of techological and financial steam as its competitors pull ahead and gradually open up their societies and adopt more rigorous accountability, gleefully putting weapons in space that it can't afford to make or to maintain.

And in so doing, locking NEO off from anyone who they don't approve of, and finally locking themselves out of it completely.

I mean, hey, that's reely, reely, reely smart init?

Silly old U.S. What do they k

Anonymous's picture

Silly old U.S. What do they know? That country only has more resources, more money, self-rule & free elections, a higher standard of living, better (unsocialized) health care, the only remaining superpower armed forces, government supported nutrition programs for mothers, a free market that still retains a safety net, choices of quality public or private schools, more career choices, both private retirement and a simplified socialized form, etc., than any other nation in the world. Why, oh WHY?, won't they listen to some random coder who wrote a book?

Silly old U.S. What do they k

Anonymous's picture

won't they listen to some random coder who wrote a book?

If you're referring to the author ... I know the guy. He's not some random coder who wrote some book. He's written 20 - most on economics; held a presidential appointment to the Library of Congress; consulted the Fed; was CEO of a NYSE firm; has a CPA; broke the code of Exchange; brought in the first major Linux account for IBM on a mainframe; was an Outstanding Man in America; one of the top 100 paid executives in the US; ah and I don't remember the other stuff -- oh lots of awards.

That's not the point. Take shots at the author all you want -- he could be Wild Bill Hickup for all anyone cares. His point is obvious -- the US is suffering and ten years ago, we were the major IT country.

The health care system really sucks and it's getting worse, poverty is at an all time high, people who should be powering investment are broke and without a job (executives in their big earning years), and banks don't loan money to small businesses.

You don't have to wait 26 years either. It took less than ten to lose the factories that made memory, monitors, cases, motherboards, CPU's, hard drives, peripherals. Don't super power me.

Great civilizations thorughout history rise and fall. Sometimes those civilizations fall because their participants hasten the fall. Many Americans are their own worst enemies.

You spread FUD, my linux-lovi

Anonymous's picture

You spread FUD, my linux-loving amigo. Gimme facts.

U.S. jobless claims drop sharply, fewer layoffs and unemployment, strong economic growth -- so says the latest Labor report. See for yourself at Bill's favorite news service -- -- or any other.

Open source will save money for all that poverty you speak of? Maybe, but the jury really is still out. See LinuxInsider at

I can agree with your closing point. But dude, seriously, as much as I like open source, open source in/of itself won't make or break any country.

Fewer layoffs?

Andy's picture

What's wrong with you? And what are you doing calling someone dude?

Don't you read the papers? HP to layoff, Oracle to layoff, IBM to layoff, GM to layoff, EDS to layoff, SBC to layoff -- you smelling some 'em funni?

For the 1 million tech workers in the US out of jobs since 2000 -- they don't count them in the unemployment stats. Butthead. Who cares what Bill Gates says? He wants to bring more people in and put more mericans out of work.


You spread FUD, my linux-lovi

Antoine's picture

Isn't it funny when a FUD spreading person accuses someone else of doing the same? It's a neat trick. Ooops. I forgot, don't feed them trolls.

Where did this person spread

Anonymous's picture

Where did this person spread FUD? I don't see it in this thread.

Ask that question in about 26

Anonymous's picture

Ask that question in about 26 years. Every advantage you cited will be either nothing but a memory, or on it's way out the door.

Ok Anonymous Prophet. Got it

Anonymous's picture

Ok Anonymous Prophet. Got it on my Palm -- will give you a ring in 26 years.

I Agree

Hanumizzle's picture

> Silly old U.S. What do they know? That country only has more
> resources, more money, self-rule & free elections, a higher
> standard of living, better (unsocialized) health care, the only
> remaining superpower armed forces, government supported nutrition
> programs for mothers, a free market that still retains a safety
> net, choices of quality public or private schools, more career
> choices, both private retirement and a simplified socialized form, > etc., than any other nation in the world. Why, oh WHY?, won't they > listen to some random coder who wrote a book?

I agree wholeheartedly. They should listen to a guy who dropped out of college, skived BASIC code from somebody's dumpster, and 'wrote' MS-DOS, thereby setting the precedent of predation and rip-offs that culminated in MS as it stands to today (or as it stood a few years ago)

If you don't like Linux, then why are you reading this page? Why do you even care if you MS is so high-and-mighty? Linus is a doctor of computer science who works at a major computing firm in Silicon Valley. Bill is, well, a business degree dropout. Who do you think is more qualified to dictate the direction of an OS kernel? Who is the idiot that put GUI functionality into the core of the OS? What the hell was Bill smoking?

Have fun; I think I enjoy living in a country where I don't have to look at morbidly obese people all the time.

False assumptions. I use and

Anonymous's picture

False assumptions. I use and like linux. I just don't preach it is a road to heaven. It's a tool to get work done, just like M$, BSD, Whatever should be.

... It's a tool to get work done ...

Peter Strasiniuk's picture

i agree! work has been done. espacialy in corporate envirement M$ is the standard. i can not tell the users not work with Ex$el. so far. hf


Hanumizzle's picture

>False assumptions. I use and like linux. I just don't preach it is a >road to heaven. It's a tool to get work done, just like M$, BSD, >Whatever should be.

There's no need to disparage then. That came off as awfully snotty for someone who claims to like Linux.

I use FreeBSD, too, I am not preaching Linux like it's the path to heaven either. I just don't buy that high-handed 'pragmatic' baloney about platform agnostic attitudes. Windows is absolutely piece of shit, and I go out of my way to avoid it in my career. So far I have been pretty damn successful...months since I had to use it at work.

But I guess I'm lucky because of where I live.

"Unless you're an astronaut, secret agent, vampire hunter, or all three, you're probably a sellout; screw you. Nobody wanted to be a regional director of sales or an investment banker when they were kids."

You have to follow your dreams. This is important above everything else. I am an unreasonable man, and I do not accept the world. I make it fit ME. Windoze is consequently not part of my world.

In business, use what works!

Anonymous's picture

No business decisions should be based on one type of platform. I recently moved to Germany and they are the most uptight, anal people on the face of the planet. Yet Linux is HUGE here.

Yes, in general, Windows is a piece of crap. However, it does some things very well. Exchange and Outlook is an excellent choice for running a corporate email system for one example. And before I get flamed by, "yea right, if you want viruses", the reason is that there wasn't really a comparable email platform available up until recently. It's no fun for a virus writer to write something malicious if it won't effect anyone!

However, if you want to run a web farm, Linux or BSD is definitely the way to go.

There is no way I would choose anything other than a Big Unix for SAP platforms.

ECommerce can run effectively on just about anything.

If you think the Government or any other large corporation should turn to OSS, I would say, it's just not mature enough. It's not that the software isn't mature enough, the problem is that the support system isn't mature enough.

There are tons of consulting firms who actually have very talented people to bail you out when your in-house IT staff can't solve a problem. That situation is getting better but is still concentrated on MS products.

Linux and OSS are gaining popularity quickly but won't be seen as a viable wide spread solution until the support structure improves.

Just a note: Yes, it is nice not to be surrounded by Fat People!

False Choice

macbeach's picture

The oft used implication that Microsoft represent Capitalism and all of its benefits as opposed to a collectivist Open Source is a balloon that needs to be punctured at every opportunity.

Capitalism can't work with the absence of competition. It is the collectivist notion of state-owned monopolies that make ultimately doomed to fail. Just in case you re under 30, the US didn't gain all those advantages you mentioned as a result of Microsoft. We were in many respects stronger and more free before 1980. You can't blame Microsoft for the rise of terrorism, nor can you credit them for the fall of the Soviet Union.

On the other hand the effect of the Microsoft monopoly on software technology and to a lesser extent the effect of the Intel monopoly on hardware technology can indeed be documented, and it isn't for the most part, a good thing.

Even Bill Gates sees that there is something wrong. He is mystified by it:

Elsewhere at Microsoft project managers are wondering why their kid's only use for computers is playing games. It was in fact fairly mindless activities that first began to ingratiate Windows into the corporate workplace in the first place.

Speaking of which, it was the BSA that first tried to end software piracy in the USA (a worthy goal) and found their efforts thwarted by none other than Microsoft who wanted to pick and choose who they would let steal their software. They knew full well that small companies were pirating Windows and Office and they were just fine with that, until those companies started showing nice profits. The last thing they wanted was the BSA to conduct a raid too soon and risk putting the pirate-users out of business.

I'm afraid that the effectiveness of the governmental bribery that goes on as a matter of course will keep Microsoft healthy for a good long while yet. It will instead be the US technology workers who end up playing middle-man between end users and those actually doing the work in other parts of the world who will bear the burden of the US becoming a 3rd-world technology country.

As we have seen with IBM, happily unloading the PC business to the Chinese, it is a matter of time before companies like Microsoft, if they are going to survive as international entities will find it easier to transfer the bulk of their operations elsewhere and concentrate on marketing and end-user consulting (middle-man work) here in the States. If that's the sort of thing you like to do you have nothing to worry about. Some things HAVE to be done locally: plumbing, carpentry, legal work, health care, marketing. Everything else has, or can eventually go elsewhere and unless we wake up here, it will.

Perfect copy protection

Anonymous's picture

I wish Microsoft would use encryted software and dongles for their Windows and Office products.
This way copying would be a lot harder to accomplish than just download the latest cracked version from the internet. And MS's market share would immediately start declining steeply.

A few years ago, I still helped some friends of mine maintain their often pirated Microsoft software. Nowadays I don't do that if the software is pirated, I just offer them alternate free software.

Lobby-Work - Msoft

Marco Muller's picture

I think the biggest issue in why the US are not getting to open source is the Lobby-Work of "the industry". Of course Linux has no lobby, where you (as a member of parliament) can get invited to a nice dinner - a nice holiday - or this lobby support your political party with a huge cheque 8-)))))) ... that is why the US is not using Linux in Government. The good old bribes-thing, just done the legal way.

Lobby-Work - Msoft & more

Anonymous's picture

It's well-known in India that if you want to do business, you have to pay the government officials. I have seen with my own eyes such things. The government official says that he had to struggle very hard to get into his position and now he deserves the results of his struggle. So, he and the company representative go on holiday to a nice resort in the mountains and the money is exchanged. And yet, Linux is growing in India. I believe that since Linux goes to the common people, not the high ranking children who go to the schools like IIT, that it is a great hope for ending such corruption. That should go for other countries also.