L.A. mulls open source

Three Los Angeles council members want the city to switch to an open-source platform to save millions of dollars in software costs.

Council members Eric Garcetti, Wendy Greul and Jack Weiss introduced a motion yesterday asking the city's Information Technology Agency about a transition from proprietary software licenses to open-source platforms and programs. The money saved could be used to hire more police personnel, the council members said.

City officials spent $5.8 million on proprietary software licenses for the fiscal year that ran from July 1, 2003, to June 30, 2004.

"For taxpayers, this is a no-brainer," Garcetti said in a press release. "By engaging this online community, we can make our own communities safer. Free open-source software can be as capable and more secure than products that cost the city millions."

Open-source software ... the most widely known example is the Linux operating system ... is a program with source code that is publicly available and generally free, although some vendors charge for their distributions of Linux.

Los Angeles government officials use some open-source applications now, including OpenOffice.org, a desktop computer suite that includes a word processor, spreadsheet program and Linux. Not all proprietary software, such as those tailored specifically for the city, could be replaced. The motion recommends that savings from the transition be placed in a special fund for efficiency projects and police hiring.

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