Government agencies looking for low-cost, or no-cost, software can hear the open-source community make its pitch during a conference in Washington, D.C., next week - and meet some protesters in Revolutionary War garb.WASHINGTON\u00a0- Government agencies looking for low-cost, or no-cost, software solutions can hear the open-source community make its pitch during a conference in Washington, D.C., next week -- and meet some protesters in Revolutionary War garb.The conference, "Open Standards\/Open Source for National and Local eGovernment Programs in the U.S. and EU," will include about 125 presentations on a variety of open-source projects and topics between Monday and Wednesday. It will also include a speaker from Microsoft\u00a0on the company's shared-source initiative, which has led to threats of protests by some free software activists, who see shared source as a watered-down version of free software ideals.The conference, at George Washington University and sponsored by the Center of Open Source and Government, is important because government agencies are looking for new ways to save money in their IT budgets, said organizer Tony Stanco. This conference will focus on government agencies in the U.S. and Europe, while the first such conference last October focused on how open-source software could help governments in developing nations. A third conference is planned for late 2003.The goal of the conference is for open-source advocates and government workers to "exchange ideas on the best way to move forward," said Stanco, founding director of the open-source center. He's expecting about 750 attendees, most of them from the\u00a0federal government.Among the sessions at the conference will be Stanco talking about the Open Source Threshold Escrow Program (O-STEP), a program to help transition the software industry to open source. O-STEP permits traditional proprietary software companies to escrow their source code until a stated sales threshold is reached. Once the sales threshold is hit, the code escrow breaks and the code is released to the open-source community.Other presentations include a point-and-click demonstration of Linux on the desktop, a discussion of security evaluations and open-source software, and a discussion of open-source strategies and business models in health care. A conference agenda is available\u00a0here.Meanwhile, members of New York Linux organization NYLXS still plan to protest because Microsoft has been invited to speak. Ruben Safir, organizer of the protests, said a group of about 10 protestors will be at the event, wearing Revolutionary War costumes and armed with slogans such as "When good men do nothing, evil men make deals with Microsoft." Safir had said he originally received e-mail from about 400 people interested in the protest.Stanco said the protesters are welcome, but university policy doesn't allow them to protest inside the event, so they'll have to stand outside. "Costumes and making light of it is probably the best way to go," Stanco said of the protests.Safir said he expects to be let inside. "We are registered, so screw Tony," he said in an e-mail.As conference organizers are firming up the final details, there still may be an opportunity to have a debate with Microsoft, Stanco said. The event isn't designed to allow panelists to slam Microsoft, Stanco said, but may be an opportunity to engage Microsoft on the issues surrounding open source. "That's what they're here for," he added.