Linux has been enjoying the limelight during LinuxWorld Expo this week. A few geeks in red hats marching to City Hall in San Francisco got a fair bit of ink. Add a smattering of corporate success stories with the free operating system, and news of its incursions into government IT shops, and you have -- the kind of press Microsoft gets every day of the week, come to think of it.
The San Francisco marchers, led by the CTO of Linux seller Red Hat, were demonstrating support for a proposed Digital Software Security Act in California. The proposed legislation would restrict state agencies to purchasing software only from "companies that do not place restrictions on use or access to source code," reported InternetNews -- in other words, companies following the open-source philosophy. In other words, not Microsoft.
The legislative proposal was written by a San Diego attorney in response to a recent spate of tech-unfriendly legislation proposed or passed at the federal level limiting civil liberties and programming freedom. Information Week was alone in reporting that the DSSA had been introduced in the California legislature; News.com said the proposal has yet to attract any legislative supporters.
The marchers numbered about two dozen (according to News.com), or 30 (AP), or 40 to 50 (Information Week). The AP reporter noted that the marchers represented a tiny fraction of the 15,000 LinuxWorld attendees, but as Samuel Johnson once remarked about the dog that walked on its hind legs -- the wonder isn't how well they organized, but that they organized at all.
A couple of reporters asked the Linux activists why they were marching on San Francisco's City Hall, while the legislation they hoped to influence was under consideration in the state capital, Sacramento. "We didn't have the legs for that," Information Week quoted the march's organizer.
Earlier this week, veteran tech scribe Declan McCullagh -- whose journalistic trajectory has spanned Pathfinder, Wired, and News.com, and who runs the Politech mailing list -- penned a provocative call for geeks to quit emailing their representatives in Congress and stick to writing code. "Washington's political class is used to ignoring frenzied yowls from far more organized and well-funded groups than 'geektivists' can hope to emulate anytime soon," wrote McCullagh in News.com. His piece drew a principled demurral from Public Knowledge, a lobbying group founded to do just the sort of lobbying on technology questions that McCullagh had questioned. -- Keith Dawson
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