The committee, which discusses computer issues in the Knesset, assembled
again today. This time, some of us where there: Gilad Ben Yossef, Doron
Ofek, Katriel Traum, Muli Ben Yehuda, Tzafrir Cohen and me. This report is
my point of view of the events. (If you want the bottom line, get to the
This discussion, as well as the previous one, was held on-line as well as
orally. In practice, it means that the speakers were often asked to speak
slowly, so that the typist can make it. Technical words had to be
considered in advance, or spelled. Every now and then (about five times
during the couple of hours we spent there), someone would make a
remark regarding the people who were chatting and contributing information
in the lower part of a screen, on which the web page was projected.
It was certainly felt that the people at home were anxious to get to the
open source discussion, and I do not believe the nicknames made such a
good impression on the people in the committee.
Actually, the committee was, as Knesset Member Michael Eitan said "just
me". After a while of sitting there I realized that the more-or-less 40
people who where there, were either summoned to present to the committee, or
came there because they had an obvious interest.
I will skip the discussions which prevailed the open source discussion,
and get to what we came there for.
Since in the previous discussion M$ representatives were not able to
answer, due to lack of time, this time they started it. M$'s Israeli CEO,
Arye Skop(sp.?) came this time himself. He was sitting on the side, and
was invited to sit in the front panel, and later on was asked to transfer
to the middle of the front panel, so that the typist should hear him.
Later on, when he wanted to make a point, he put his hand in a most
friendly/fatherly manner on Eitan's shoulder and chest, using this
He talked about how he started as a developer of software with open source
(it was mostly open source in those days, though not GPL). He claimed that
the developers who changed the source had the power, since nobody knew
what they had done in there. He claimed that M$ is the cheapest in the
sense of TCO (appears to be a leading TLA in this world. Total Cost of
Ownership). He said that the the OS is but a mere 3% of the total cost of
a project. He said that it is important for customers to work with a firm
standard product. (Remember this, a gun in the first act...).
Then came a part where we were mostly hands raised high in the air, but
Eitan ignored us completely. Some speakers confused the term open-source
with their ability to chose a supplier. Then began a wave of fear from the
"open source firms" (The assumption was that open source is a name that
unites some firms which are M$'s competitors)who will force the whole
government offices, by legislation, to use their product alone. and still,
we could not speak. We sat there, adrenalin pumping in our veins,
sometimes even losing our temper all at once when something really
offensive was said, not able to speak.
Oracle's CEO understands what open source is, and why it is good to let
the customer choose an open source OS, to install his servers on. He
explained things, set some order, represented our side, and I noticed him
sneaking a look at us in between. At least we got someone to relate to us
as "the guys over there"!
Then, finally, Michael Eitan let one of us speak. Gilad took that
opportunity, and did a marvelous job. He explained the two points he had
1. What we do in our workplaces and homes can be done in the state's
facilities: move at least the servers to open source, step by step, move
new systems to open source, and save our taxes.
2. As a citizen with an operating system which is open source (which is
what the "Kid From Ofakim" can afford), he demands, as part of the state's
intention for giving info to the public, that he should be able to access
it. If the Supreme Court presents its decisions in a *.doc format, which is
proprietary, he cannot do that. If the site of the Interior Ministry
does not support any open source browser, he cannot use this facility.
This is where the gun from the first act showed up. Eitan got to asking
Gilad what he proposed to do. Gilad started phrasing the demand for
open standards, dictated by an international body, and ended up
collaborating with Doron Shikmoni to produce a proposal for a law proposal.