Subject: Re: Open Source and Government agencies
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <turnbull@sk.tsukuba.ac.jp>
Date: Mon, 28 Feb 2000 14:43:14 +0900 (JST)

>>>>> "Rich" == Rich Morin <rdm@cfcl.com> writes:

    Rich> I recall a couple of instances where authors asked me to
    Rich> stop putting their code (even old versions) on my PTF
    Rich> distributions, but I can't recall the specifics and I'm not
    Rich> sure it would do much good to drag them into the discussion,
    Rich> in any case.  So, I'll back up on this remark, since I can't
    Rich> support it.

Infodock (formerly Altrasoft, now BeOpen.com) did this with some code
(the Object Oriented Browser, OOBR, and Hyperbole, a hypertext
package) that had been contributed to XEmacs.  I don't recall more
than a couple of inquiries, they were pointed to old distributions and
at Infodock's demo distro and told that XEmacs doesn't maintain them.

I don't know what would have happened if someone at XEmacs.org had
taken the stance that they were willing to maintain the old
contributed code, but nobody was, so on balance I think people were
relieved that two festering piles of bitrot were removed from the
distribution.  We have plenty of other bitrotting code to worry
about....

    Rich>    COSMIC - This is an agency that is chartered to
    Rich> distribute SW from NASA.  The last time I checked, they did
    Rich> so, but in a very inefficient manner, writing individual
    Rich> tapes for each package ordered and charging an substantial
    Rich> fee for each one.  When I talked to them about putting
    Rich> everything on a single piece of media, they asked me how
    Rich> they could support their staff on that basis.  I didn't have
    Rich> a (printable) answer...

If you don't have a printable answer (ie, a bank balance), what are
_you_ doing in that line of business?  ;-)

No, don't answer to COSMIC.  Instead, write up a proposal to NASA
suggesting that you would do a better job of promoting them by
efficiently distributing their packages and helping to arrange for
FSBs and volunteers to form maintenance communities around those
packages.  Don't forget to copy your representatives, the heads of the
budget committee and the space committee, and Sen Proxmire (is he
still alive? or whoever is running the "Golden Fleece" awards these
days).

IIRC NASA is not a darling of the budget committees these days.
Reminding people that there are Earthside spinoffs from space research
is the kind of promotion couldn't hurt them, and the current behavior
of their contractee makes them look positively corrupt.

    Rich>    Macsyma - IIRC, this package was developed largely with
    Rich> US Government funds.  Nonetheless, it has been kept out of
    Rich> the PD by assorted "contractual" gambits.  I haven't done
    Rich> much looking into these sorts of issues (there have always
    Rich> been plenty of hassle-free packages to keep me busy :-), but
    Rich> I strongly suspect that this isn't the only case where SW
    Rich> was developed using government funds, then kept proprietary.

I would imagine it's not too hard, by using the "publish the lab
version, then get funds to clean it up and go proprietary" strategy.

How much Macsyma code is in Mathematica, do you think?

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