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The US Government and Open Standards: a Tale of Personal Woe

An anonymous reader writes: This article details a Linux user’s struggles to submit a grant application when the process requires finicky, proprietary software. It also covers familiar ground made timely by the upcoming elections: the U.S. should prefer open source software and open standards over proprietary alternatives. The grant application required a PDF created by Adobe Acrobat — software Adobe no longer supports for Linux. Once the document was created, attempting to submit it while using Ubuntu fails silently. (On Windows 7, it worked immediately.) The reader argues, “By requiring Acrobat the government gives preference to a particular software vendor, assuring that thousands of people who otherwise would not choose to use Adobe software are forced to install it. Worse, endorsing a proprietary, narrowly supported technology for government data poses the risk that public information could become inaccessible if the vendor decides to stop supporting the software. Last but not least, there are privacy and fairness issues at stake. Acrobat is a totally closed-source program, which means we have to take Adobe’s word for it that nothing sketchy is going on in its code. … It would seem to be in the interest of the public for the government to prefer an open source solution, since it is much harder to hide nefarious features inside code that can be publicly inspected.”


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