Packet Rat: The Rat pans for gold in foreign imports

Michael Bechetti

'I can't believe we paid to watch that,' the Rat groused to his spouse and eldest offspring as they left a showing of 'Austin Powers in Goldmember.'

'Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Three times means neurosurgery,' he muttered.

'Oh, get over it, Dad,' the No. 1 ratling protested. 'I thought it rocked. And you can't say you didn't laugh at Dr. Evil.'

The cyberrodent had to admit to some lowdown appreciation of Mike Myers' knockoff of Ernst Stavro Blofeld. The character reminded him of a certain Silicon Valley chief exec with a penchant for fighter planes and customer lock-ins.

'But as for the rest of that tripe,' the wirebiter ranted, 'I have one word for Mike Myers: Behave.'

Another famous software executive might be telling the government of the United Kingdom something along the same lines. That's because the U.K., in preparation for compliance with a European Union information systems rule, has penned a policy giving open-source software equal footing with commercial software for all future government IT projects. The choice is to be made on a 'value-for-money basis.' The U.K. government also is evaluating whether it should require the rights to source code for all commercial software projects it commissions. Furthermore, it might publish as open-source any software resulting from government R&D.
These moves have undergone close scrutiny in the Rat's domain ever since a henchperson forwarded him the news from an online tech site. The link arrived with a two-word subject line: 'Yeah, baby!'

The e-Europe initiative has been promoting use of open-source software by member countries for the past year. The idea is to reduce IT costs across the EU by getting the governments to share their resources.

That's no guarantee that any, or even most, government IT projects in the U.K. will necessarily get built with open-source, but you could probably fit all the U.S. software company execs that favor this development into a Mini Cooper.

The Rat imagines that Bill Gates' conversation with Tony Blair consisted mainly of Dr. Evil's catchphrase: 'Throw me a friggin' bone here.'

What with the Defense Department rattling swords over software quality and security, the Rat is guessing that open-source could become the default option for many U.S. government agencies, too.

The latest Microsoft Windows security flaw may be the final straw. The bug, unearthed early this month, lets a hacker break through 32-bit Windows application programming interface security and gain local-machine access to a networked PC or server.

Even worse, Microsoft has called the flaw unfixable but irrelevant.

'That's what I like to see in a strategic software vendor'intractability,' muttered the Rat as he put the final touches on his plans for an agency pilot of the open-source Microsoft Office clone, Open Office. 'I guess 'danger' is just Steve Ballmer's middle name.'

The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad packets in cyberspace. E-mail him at [email protected].

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