E-Scribe : a programmer’s blog

About Me

PBX I'm Paul Bissex. I build web applications using open source software, especially Django. Started my career doing graphic design for newspapers and magazines in the '90s. Then wrote tech commentary and reviews for Wired, Salon, Chicago Tribune, and others you never heard of. Then I built operations software at a photography school. Then I helped big media serve 40 million pages a day. Then I worked on a translation services API doing millions of dollars of business. Now I'm building the core platform of a global startup accelerator. Feel free to email me.

Book

I co-wrote "Python Web Development with Django". It was the first book to cover the long-awaited Django 1.0. Published by Addison-Wesley and still in print!

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Built using Django, served with gunicorn and nginx. The database is SQLite. Hosted on a FreeBSD VPS at Johncompanies.com. Comment-spam protection by Akismet.

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bitbucket, Django, Emacs, FreeBSD, Git, jQuery, LaunchBar, Markdown, Mercurial, OS X, Python, Review Board, S3, SQLite, Sublime Text, Ubuntu Linux

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Massachusetts and open source

Massachusetts, where I live, has been quietly leading the way toward freeing state government from proprietary software and document formats. In 2004 there was talk that proprietary software would be out completely, but that didn't pan out. Instead, they've moved forward with plans to require government offices to use only open document formats. Friday's article in the Boston Globe notes:

The policy change wouldn't affect only Microsoft. The state uses other programs, such as IBM's Lotus Notes and the word processing program WordPerfect, that employ proprietary file formats. These products would also have to be replaced, or upgraded to versions that work with the OpenDocument standard.

The thing is, there's no such version of those programs to upgrade to. There could be in the future, of course, but Microsoft for one states in the article that they're not interested in supporting OpenDocument. It's much more likely that establishing this requirement will mean a move to open source office software.

A Microsoft spokesman quoted in the article replies with predictable FUD:

''We do not believe . . . that the answer to public records management is to force a single, less functional document format on all state agencies," Yates said.

Whatever.

It's not necessarily going to be pretty. The state acknowledges that its 2007 deadline is going to be a challenge, to say nothing of the frustration to come for the individual office workers -- many of whom are as thoroughly dependent on the MS Office suite as the state is. If you work for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, unless you're already an open source geek you're not going to be excited about this change.

It's a necessary and inevitable move, though. Publicly funded enterprises should not have long-term ties to particular vendors, and software used by government should be inspectable by the people. Transparency. We're getting there.

Also see the ZDNet story, the News.com story, and the website of the state's IT division, where they post announcements, standards documents, and... PowerPoint presentations? OK, so they've still got some work to do.

Sunday, September 4th, 2005

1 comment

Comment from Kris Khaira , later that day

That's a great forward step. Even if it takes 10 years, this is still progress. A similar process is underway with the Malaysian government -- though I think it will take much longer.

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