Today it became known that Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has signed a time table to implement Open Source software all over the Russian government. This includes Linux. This begs the question, why aren’t we? There are many inherent advantages offered by Open Source and specifically Linux.
1. Let’s talk about security. First of all, I’m not even going to address the people that blather on and on about how Windows 7 and IE 8 are really, really secure. When it comes down to national security, everything should be checked. Linux and Open Source software are really the only environment that you can literally check every single line of code in an Operating System. The United States Government can hire their own developers to line by line check each bit of code before it’s even compiled and used to verify that there are no hidden back doors or other security violations. That just isn’t possible with an Operating System that’s not Open Source. That’s not even considering the multitude of viruses and the host of malware applications that threaten Windows and even the Macintosh everyday. Do those threats exist for Linux? No. More than that, the way that Linux handles it’s permissions and security makes it virtually impossible for them to exist at all. The people out there that claim that Linux would be just as vulnerable if only it had the market share to motivate an attack don’t take into consideration some of the very basic things that are present in the Linux Operating System that prevent that from happening.
2. Ease of Use. Linux is often thought to be the hobbyist’s Operating System. Too difficult to use for the lay person. This just flat out isn’t the case. If the United States Government were to implement Linux, most people wouldn’t even need to be retrained to use the new Operating System. Quite literally, the skills that they already have would be more than sufficient to use Linux. LibreOffice (Open Office) is close enough in it’s setup that anybody that’s used Microsoft Office could jump right in. Web browsers that exist for Windows already exist for Linux. Further, any applications that are used on a Linux system that are also Open Source share the security advantages mentioned in section one. Do you honestly think that Microsoft would allow anyone, even the United States Government, to go line by line through Microsoft Office and verify that their code is secure? Even if they did, can you imagine what it would take to get any fixes implemented that would be required to actually make that code secure?
3. Cost. OK, let’s imagine a world where Microsoft just gives away Windows and Office and never asks you to pay one thin dime for the privilege of using it. After you’ve all calmed down from your hysterical laughing fit, we’ll assume for the moment that this is actually the case. Even if Windows and Office were free of charge, Linux would still be cheaper based on it’s higher stability and better security. Of course, we all know that Microsoft is going to take it’s pound of flesh. As each dollar goes from the tax paying American’s pocket into Microsoft’s, it should become more and more obvious that Linux and Open Source is the better answer.
There are a lot of reasons that the United States Government should seriously consider following in Russia’s footsteps and adopt both Linux and other Open Source software as their standard. Cost, ease of use, and plain old national security. These reasons should be enough to tip us in that direction. That really begs the question, why haven’t we already done it? For that question, I don’t have an answer.