On the Web - Open-Source Politics

by Heather Mead

On topics of open source and government involvement, it's seemingly impossible to remove political interests from the decision-making process. As more and more issues involving Linux/open-source/free software and government usage/control are arising these days, our Web site has taken on the task of reporting on some of them.

Linux Journal Editor in Chief Don Marti recently posted the text of his “Letter to the US Department of Commerce on Exporting Linux to Iraq” (www.linuxjournal.com/article/7318). Drafted as a pro bono project by attorneys Roszel Thomsen and Toni Paytas of Thomsen and Burke LLP, Don's letter asks that, in matters of distribution to Iraq, Linux and other open-source software be treated the same as proprietary software: “It is important to note that proprietary operating system software such as Microsoft Windows and Sun Solaris have been classified as mass-market encryption products and are eligible for export under ECCN 5D992. These products may be exported to Iraq without a license....It is incongruous that publicly available software such as Linux has more restrictions than proprietary operating system software.”

Adam Davidson's “Followup with the LUG of Iraq” (www.linuxjournal.com/article/7320) outlines the current status of software licensing and open-source software in Iraq. A US radio correspondent in Baghdad, Davidson met with the two-person Iraq Linux Users Group to discuss their plan to establish a Linux Center to spread knowledge and encourage use of open-source software. This is a critical time for Iraq, as the country is in the process of enacting new licensing regulations that will affect software. Davidson writes, “Iraq's basic laws are being rewritten right now, largely with the help of US government advisors. And, without counter-advocacy, it seems all but certain that Iraq will soon have some of the strictest DMCA-like codes in the world.” The Iraq LUG is asking for the aid of the worldwide Linux community to help them establish alternatives in the rebuilding of the country. Read Davidson's article to see what you can do.

Back in the US, Alan McConnell wrote “Linux for Congress” (www.linuxjournal.com/article/7249) about the newly formed Linux-Public Education (Linux-PE) mailing list. Linux-PE is intended to serve as both a discussion list and “a meeting place for Linux activists who wish to organize to get their favorite OS into governments”. The project that inspired Linux-PE is a campaign to port to Linux the client software that connects congressional offices to the outside world.

On a lighter note, Doc Searls did some research on what's running the Web sites of 2004 presidential hopefuls. President Bush's site is using Microsoft IIS on Windows 2000, and so are Democratic candidates Edwards and Gephardt. But the most popular choice is Apache running on either Linux or FreeBSD. Check out “Penguins for President?” (www.linuxjournal.com/article/7249) for more details, including runtime statistics.

Finally, we're pleased to announce that Dave Phillips recently signed on to write a monthly Web column for the Linux Journal site that will cover issues and news surrounding Linux audio development. “Linux: It Sounds Good to Me” (www.linuxjournal.com/article/7283), outlines what he plans to cover in the column and discusses three key sources for Linux audio enthusiasts—the LAD, LAU and LAA mailing lists.

Heather Mead is senior editor of Linux Journal.

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