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GNU is Not Unix Operating Systems Software

UN Supports OSS/Free Software In Developing World 239

headisdead writes "This BBC report has details of the IOSN's (International Open Source Network) role in yesterday's Software Freedom Day. As the article rightly points out, the economic potential of these new markets for large tech corporations like MS makes this a real battle in the making. Question is, can Free Software really stem the tide when other sustainal development projects are struggling so much?"
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UN Supports OSS/Free Software In Developing World

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  • Money (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Orgazmus ( 761208 ) on Monday August 30, 2004 @04:34AM (#10107219)
    This all comes down to money.
    How can you compete against free, when the customers have little or no money.
    A school in an underdeveloped country buys 100 old PCs.
    Would you use 100 licenced copies of XP, or just download a linux iso for free?
    • Re:Money (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Scarblac ( 122480 ) <slashdot@gerlich.nl> on Monday August 30, 2004 @04:37AM (#10107228) Homepage

      The big players, like Microsoft, can use pressure form their government.

      Use MS software, or you won't get as much aid money.

      • Wouldn't be easier for the pressuring group to just give the money to MS outright? Why go via a poor country?

        I don't really get this. Is this some money-laundering scheme?

        "You will recieve money for free if you spend (a large part of) it on Windows."

        "Huh, ok? Why don't you give that amount to MS yourself if you're so keen on them?"
        • Because now the country can claim to have given X amount of money to a third world country, which is nice to be able to tell left-wing voters, has secured orders for their companies, which is nice to be able to tell right-wing voters, and there are probably some treaties as well that say that the US is supposed to spend some amount of money on aid.

          • Now I see.
            have given X amount of money to a third world country
            But they took it right back, for nothing.
            has secured orders for their companies
            .But they paid for those themselves.
            spend some amount of money on aid
            But they aren't helping.

            So it's just a big con game. Thanks for your clarification.
            • Keep in mind when Microsoft or Gates give "money" to someone, a large part of that "money" is actually licenses for Microsoft products, not currency. They tally up the MSRP of the products and count that as money...
    • Re:Money (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 30, 2004 @04:41AM (#10107243)
      The problem is that they are actually downloading windows for free in many of these markets.

      Despite all their whining about software piracy I'm pretty sure that MS is delighted about this. There is even some quote by Bill Gates saying that he doesn't have a problem with that as long as the people pirate MS software, but I'm to lazy to google for it.

      To say it the slashdot troll way:
      1. Let people pirate your software
      2. Be the dominant player in yet an other market
      3. Now start to campaign for stricter intellectual property laws in these countries.
      4. Profit. ;-D
      • Not so (Score:5, Insightful)

        by DigiShaman ( 671371 ) on Monday August 30, 2004 @05:21AM (#10107344) Homepage
        I would say Bill Gates doesn't mind. In fact, he might even give away a special edition of Window just so he "indoctrinate" the youth and thus lead that generation to the life of Microsoft. Think about it. Once your a Windows user, most people stay that way. But if you started off using Mac, then that will be your religious..err..I mean..user friendly path in life.

      • Re:Money (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jkrise ( 535370 )
        To say it the slashdot troll way:
        1. Let people pirate your software ...etc.


        If this is true, I think Microsoft has lesser intelligence than the average Slashdot troll. Bcos, between steps 3 and 4, MS has made their newer versions more daunting to use, and less of a value for the software pirate.

        There is nothing, absolutely nothing, that a home user can't do with Win98 which XP allows him to do. And yet, XP crawls under 128MB on a PIII whereas '98 runs okay on a Pentium with 16MB RAM. The latter is the ki
        • Re:Money (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Alain Williams ( 2972 ) <addw@phcomp.co.uk> on Monday August 30, 2004 @06:46AM (#10107503) Homepage
          The trouble is that a modern Linux desktop also crawls under 128MB on a PIII. I regret to say that the Linux desktops are suffering as much from bloat as does MS.

          Serverwise: the bloat does not seem to have hit - fortunately.

          Should we send a request to Muguel & KDE leads to mandate that their developers should use 64MB PIIs as their desktop machine? It would result it usable systems on old machines and take Linux users off the hardware upgrade treadmill.

          • That would be a valuable suggestion indeed. People upgrade their h/w often bcos the current version of Windows needs more. If Linux can steer away from this path (no point depending on RedHat, Lindows or Mandrake), it would be a great service to the user-base, indeed the usage of Linux should increase many-fold.

            Knoppix, TinyLinux or the OpenCD group could take some initiative on this.

            -
          • Re:Money (Score:3, Informative)

            by LousyPhreak ( 550591 )
            there is absoluely no problem running linux on that spec, the real "problem" is windowmanagers like kde and gnome

            you can easily work with windowmaker, icewm, or whatever "small" wm is around but kde is imho VERY much like xp:
            has almost everything onboard
            needs huge amounts of processing power/ram
            is (what many say) "userfriendly"

            while i do use kde on my workstation (which is advanced enough to run it without slowdown) i would never use it on an old computer like a PII with 64MB. i guess (almost) no one woul
          • Re:Money (Score:3, Insightful)

            by ImaLamer ( 260199 )
            The trouble is that a modern Linux desktop also crawls under 128MB on a PIII. I regret to say that the Linux desktops are suffering as much from bloat as does MS.

            I don't use Slackware personally but a quick check of their website [slackware.com] shows me that they host versions going back to 3.3.

            I'm sure most major distributions have their past versions out there somewhere. You may have to use an FTP searching site to find them but they are out there. RedHat 7.3 your favorite? It's out there. Even Caldera "Open Desktop
          • Re:Money (Score:4, Interesting)

            by Just Some Guy ( 3352 ) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Monday August 30, 2004 @11:10AM (#10108883) Homepage Journal
            Should we send a request to Muguel & KDE leads to mandate that their developers should use 64MB PIIs as their desktop machine? It would result it usable systems on old machines and take Linux users off the hardware upgrade treadmill.

            I bought a used laptop with a K6/333 and 64MB of RAM. I spent an extra $40 at CompUsa for a 128MB stick to bump it to 192MB. That little laptop runs Debian/unstable with KDE 3.3 just fine, thanks.

            By what arbitrary means did you pick P2/64MB? Why not P1/32MB, or 486/4MB? The Gnome and KDE folks are developing systems that run well on machines made within the last 5 years, and given that commodity PCs aren't expected to last forever, I think that's a perfectly reasonable standard on their part.

            You can keep your toy systems running with Slackware or a downscaled Gentoo system if you want to, or you can pay $100 to buy a more recent system and get to play with the current set of available software. Where's the problem?

            • Re:Money (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Bloater ( 12932 )
              The problem is the contribution to worldwide environmental damage due to the accelerated End-Of-Lifing of products that are otherwise good for 15 years. Products that contain large quantities of heavy metals that are not normally present in topsoil and freshwater.

              IMHO we need to start designing application software like OpenOffice and Mozilla for clusters and get those old 486s shipped out to schools in developing countries. The bonus is more robust, cheaper solutions for the western coporate markets.

        • Better yet... Win 2000 Pro

          (Both 98 & NT don't run Skype... ;-)
      • Open Letter to Hobbyists [blinkenlights.com]

        Top line: "Who can afford to do professional work for nothing?" Boy, has that one been thoroughly answered! (-:
      • c|net interview 2 jul 1998 [com.com]

        Key phrase: "As long as they are going to steal it, we want them to steal ours. They'll get sort of addicted, and then we'll somehow figure out how to collect sometime in the next decade."
      • Jan 2000 transcript of 1980 interview [slashdot.org]

        "If something's expensive to develop, and somebody's not going to get paid, it won't get developed. So you decide: Do you want software to be written, or not?"

        We've decided, Bill, now stop hogging The Road Ahead, OK? (-:
      • from this list of quotes [danielsen.com]

        "There won't be anything we won't say to people to try and convince
        them that our way is the way to go."

        "There are people who don't like capitalism, and people who don't like
        PCs. But there's no-one who likes the PC who doesn't like Microsoft"

        "Microsoft has not changed any of its plans for Windows. It is
        obvious that we will not include things like threads and preemptive
        multitasking in Windows. By the time we added that, you would have OS/2."

        "I know not a single less irrelevant rea
      • Sure, this is a business model that has worked well for drug dealers; hook 'em when they are young/naive with freebies and then once they're locked in you force them to pay through the teeth. Works for the tabacco industry as well, though it tends to be through "coolness" advertising rather than freebies. Similar principle though.

        People on /. have been saying for years that Microsoft should change its business model which was to force people to use Microsoft by having it pre-installed on every PC at pur

      • Re:Money (Score:2, Informative)

        Despite all their whining about software piracy I'm pretty sure that MS is delighted about this.

        And I can confirm this first hand, having spent 10 years in Singapore from 1988 'till 1998. An entire modern shopping center used to be the center of piracy in Singapore (Sim Lim square). Ath first (from 1988-1990?) you would go to any shop and choose games/software in a catalog. The guy would make copies for you on the spot.
        A few years later you could buy ziplock bags sitting on shelves with disks + manual fo

    • Re:Money (Score:3, Interesting)

      by pjt33 ( 739471 )
      When you say "old PCs", do you mean "but new enough to have CD burners"? Otherwise it's a question of whether the people who supply the PCs also supply an install disc (or, perhaps more to the point, what they install before supplying). I wouldn't want to run XP on an old PC either, especially as most people don't have anywhere near as much RAM as they should.
    • Re:Money (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Riktov ( 632 ) on Monday August 30, 2004 @04:45AM (#10107259) Journal

      Would you use 100 licenced copies of XP, or just download a linux iso for free? Neither. They would use 100 pirated copies of XP.

      • Re:Money (Score:4, Informative)

        by krymsin01 ( 700838 ) on Monday August 30, 2004 @04:50AM (#10107270) Homepage Journal
        A lot of third world countries do not recognize copyright, so it wouldn't acutaly be pirated software there.
        • Re:Money (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Gooba42 ( 603597 )
          Until MS lobbied their government for support of their intellectual property at which point everyone is forced to stop using their computers or forced to pay MS for the privelege of using their computers.

          Considering this tactic is already being used in southeast asia by Microsoft as a ploy to get users hooked and then jack up the price, I'd rather these impoverished regions use a Free free system than a proprietary-but-pirated free system and they hopefully agree.
        • Re:Money (Score:5, Informative)

          by zerblat ( 785 ) <(jonas) (at) (skubic.se)> on Monday August 30, 2004 @05:45AM (#10107391) Homepage
          Actually, currently 156 states [wipo.int] have signed the Berne Convention. I can't find a list of non-signees, but at least Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Nepal, Ethiopia and Somaila are missing. Anyway, I doubt there are many non-Berne countries with any significant computer usage.

          Of course, signing a convention and actually complying it are two different things...

          • Re:Money (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward
            Yeah, China signed 12 years ago, and look how well that's gone.
        • Re:Money (Score:5, Informative)

          by The Cydonian ( 603441 ) on Monday August 30, 2004 @07:07AM (#10107553) Homepage Journal
          A lot of third world countries do not recognize copyright, so it wouldn't acutaly be pirated software there.
          There's this 1985 study by the World Bank on exactly this issue. Turned out the actual graph of nations versus IPR protections (ie, copyrights, trademarks AND patents, although not necessarily software patents) was an inverse bell-curve; that is, the more improverished nations (sub-Saharan Africa?) actually had protection-levels equivalent to that of the (so-called) First World nations. Essentially, all their IPR laws were colonial-era laws; with other pressing issues taking center-stage, their governments didn't fiddle around with them. It was only nations that were (are) developing economies, notably countries such as Malaysia, China (?) and India (drugs industry as an example), that had lesser IPR protection because their industries needed tech fast.

          Of course, the WTO changes all that; now the graph is more or less a straight line. That is to say, that Windows XP SP2 CD you bought off Kuala Lumpur's streets for 8 ringgits is still illegal, even if it's affordable.

      • Re:Money (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Except, since they're probably using donated equipment that may be five years old there's no way they can expect to get anyhwere with XP. So, they're probably using Knoppix or Damn Small Linux and thinking damn if this stuff is so great that XP must be some real fancy shit.
        Imagine their disappointment when they finally get a chance to see it.
      • Re:Money (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Hmmm... pirated copies...

        ...without any kind of support, without the possibility to install patches like SP2 and with a large amount of viruses and worms that exploit the holes

        ...of an OS that requires state-of-the-art hardware

        ...of an OS that has no i18n-support for lesser known languages and no possibility localize it (remember: not everybody speaks English)

      • They would use 100 pirated copies of XP.

        Actually, 100 'ghost'ed copies of Windows 98 would be the best option. A friend of mine works for an NGO that recently got 500 Compaqs - Pentium 233MHz, 32 MB RAM and 1.2GB disk. They used ghost to load '98 on all the systems and sold them at about $75 each. Uselss trying to load pirated XP on these systems.

        -
      • If you choose MS, you are pretty much locked in to their support. Well, it is a binary. With Linux, or any other FOSS, there is no lock-in so local resources may provide support. Ok, you may have to pay for the support, but if it is local, it is easier to afford than paying a multinational company.
    • in sri lanka (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Suchetha ( 609968 )
      as part of the trade agreement to ensure that the sri lankan garment industry gets a good deal in the multi-fiber agreement, SLGOV signed an IP protection treaty with the US.

      a friend of my father's when to meet one fo the signers of both 'agreements' and asked "you signed that agreement to save the garment industry, and did you ever stop to think what would happen to the village/smalltown kid who wants to buy a bootleg copy of windows for 100rs (1usd), do you want him to have to pay 100USD for it??"

      the re
      • Would be interesting to see exactly what has changed with the new IP protection treaty. Like I said in an earlier post, most post-colonial nations actually have pretty stringent copyright laws; my gut feeling is that the Windows bootleg was illegal even without the treaty.

        Wait... you telling me that Harry Potter VCD I bought at Sirimavo Intl Airport for SL Rs 300 is ILLEGAL?! :-)

        • and over priced, its 200rs for a DVD, 110 for a vcd

          i'll post an analysis to my journal as soon as i can get one

          but in a realistic sense, we didn't have much of an IP law system, basing it on the British legal system and Roman Dutch Law. most of the precedents in use today have been set in the 1800's (yes really)

          and all of a sudden we seem to be using the same level of IP law as the US. more to come

          suchetha

          • and over priced, its 200rs for a DVD, 110 for a vcd

            NO wonder that female couldn't stop smiling! And there I was, thinking I've gotten a huge bargain... (just spent like four times on DVD's that amount at Singapore before flying over to SL)

            but in a realistic sense, we didn't have much of an IP law system, basing it on the British legal system and Roman Dutch Law. most of the precedents in use today have been set in the 1800's (yes really)

            Yup, the precedent I can think of is in India during a cricket s

    • As a correlary how can compete against someone who has the millions to subsidize hardware to assist their software inclusion and help tip the hands of the decision makers?

      You have to include the support for Linux when you consider these equations. While you can go to San Francisco, CA and find a lot of potential Linux Admins, how many might you expect to find on the streets of Sri Lanka or Haiti?

      There will be a more truthful display of TCO when really poor nations consider the software. It may not be al

    • Re:Money (Score:2, Informative)

      by n3m3sis ( 756566 )
      Excuse Me! Who's licencsing software in the third world! We get Windows a lot cheaper than redhat. Here in Pakistan Windows costs 30 Rupees (.5 US dollars) where as Mandrake costs 90 Rupees (1.5 US Dollars) WHy? Because windows comes in a single CD and Mandrake comes with 3 CDs thats why the additional cost
  • officail site ! (Score:5, Informative)

    by phreakv6 ( 760152 ) <[phreakv6] [at] [gmail.com]> on Monday August 30, 2004 @04:37AM (#10107227) Homepage
    Here is their official website [softwarefreedomday.org] since the article
    fails to mention it anywhere
  • by jkrise ( 535370 ) on Monday August 30, 2004 @04:37AM (#10107230) Journal
    What role does the UN play in deciding what type of software gets used / bought in the World? Is the UN a sort of marketing organisation? Does the UN make no distinction between promoting democracy and promoting capitalism?

    -
    • by alphan ( 774661 ) on Monday August 30, 2004 @04:45AM (#10107256) Homepage
      your point being?

      what is the relation between recommending FOSS and promoting capitalism?

      UN should help nations, especially developing ones.

      Clearly communication and computers are important parts of development process. What is wrong with suggesting a cheap way?

      • Sometime ago Kofi Annan was suggesting that 3rd World nations could 'leapfrog' into WiFi notebooks! (running Windows). Entities such as the UN cannot be relied for their knowledge on technical matters and software.

        A better role which the UN could play would be to fight against software patents etc.

        -
    • by HenrikOxUK ( 776979 ) on Monday August 30, 2004 @04:46AM (#10107262) Homepage
      This story has just been getting way out of hand. The UN has alsmost nothing to do with this, appart from being a regular supporter of one of the over 60 teams world-wide.
      • Exactly. I thought the Software Freedom Day teams and their website should've been mentioned in the article - not the UN involvement.

        -
      • by helarno ( 34086 ) on Monday August 30, 2004 @05:50AM (#10107399) Homepage
        Yep. The IOSN team has spent the better part of last week contacting reporters, correcting news stories and still, this story won't die. They contacted over 60 news agencies last week. BBC's original version was the standard mistake: "UN organizes software freedom day". Fortunately, BBC is responsive and by the time Slashdot got to it, it's the corrected version. Still, the UN angle is too strong for any of the news agencies to resist.

        Sorry Henrik. They're doing the best they can but it's crazy how this story keeps spreading.
    • by upside ( 574799 ) on Monday August 30, 2004 @05:16AM (#10107337) Journal
      I'm not sure how the UN was dragged into this. I'm pretty sure you aren't going to ask whether the UN is supporting specific pharmaceutical companies or mainstream medicine over alternative cures when it goes on a vaccination drive in Africa. Mind you, I'm pretty sure they did have arguments over producing generic HIV drugs in developing countries.
    • by Teun ( 17872 ) on Monday August 30, 2004 @05:18AM (#10107339) Homepage
      What role does the UN play in deciding what type of software gets used / bought in the World? Is the UN a sort of marketing organisation? You don't get it.
      As an impartial Global organisation they help with knowledge and training.
      A lot of developing nations see the UN as a valuable aide on their way to a better future.
      MS and the likes have their own sales teams all over the place, the Peoples Alternatives, eg. FOSS, are often not known with the decision makers but do deserve consideration where money is tight.
      The nature of FOSS development is an other reason why 3rd. world nations might want to concider it, it can realy be a grass roots sytem where local needs can be met by local developpers.

      Does the UN make no distinction between promoting democracy and promoting capitalism?
      Weird question, one does not exclude the other!

      • I don't want this to turn into a diatribe against the UN, but don't ever mistake it for a neutral, impartial, or unbiased agency. That's the exact opposite of what it is. It's more like the sum of all the biases and partisanship in the entire world, and it just happens that most of them cancel each other out via all the elaborate balances in the system.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 30, 2004 @04:38AM (#10107233)
    Some organisations are already using open source software in their work. Look at FAIR (http://www.fair.no/english/home.htm [www.fair.no]), a norwegain project that are bringing ICT-equipment to development countries. They are aming to use Skolelinux (http://www.skolelinux.org/ [skolelinux.org]) in their projects.
  • Diversity (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bioglaze ( 767105 ) on Monday August 30, 2004 @04:38AM (#10107234) Homepage Journal
    I hope this will increase the use of free standards like Ogg Vorbis, XViD, PNG etc and it is only healthy to have many different operating systems.
  • It certainly won't be easy for free software in these developing countries, especially considering how inexperienced with computers many of the users will be. Love it or hate it, any idiot can use Windows.

    It's certainly an oppurtunity to introduce many new people to the Free Software philosophy. This can only be a good thing and give MS cause for concern. in these new markets.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 30, 2004 @04:46AM (#10107261)
      "Love it or hate it, any idiot can use Windows."

      *Sigh*
      No, he can't. Look at the millions of infected PCs, just work one day at a help desk for normal users and you will know that most people are not able to use Windows.

      P.S.: Just because a lot of idiots use Windows doesn't mean any idiot can use it. Btw., I know a lot of idiots using Linux, what does that tell us?
      • Frankly, from my experience writing and supporting software run in a manufacturing setting, users usually fall into two categories:

        1. oblivious to everything computer and frustrated by the whole mouse thing, not mention the crazy cutoff text and boxes and shadows and oh my eyes hurt!

        2. knows enough to be dangerous, likes to poke around, has a pc at home and downloads mp3s, chats on IM, plays games, and really, really wants to be able to do that while at work (and thus is always screwing around with syst
    • by AnuradhaRatnaweera ( 757812 ) on Monday August 30, 2004 @04:58AM (#10107300) Homepage
      Coming from [linux.lk] a developing country [linux.lk], I know that there are many `inexperienced' users around, but certainly most of them are not `idiots'.

      We had a nice time promoting the localized GNU/Linux [linux.lk] (site not upto date with the work) on the Free Software Day [softwarefreedomday.org]. The response was phenominal, and we can see more and more people and commercial organizations are coming forward to help us take the message across.

      And we make it clear that FOSS is better not because of the cost, but because of the flexibility, freedom and control that comes with it, and the mindset change from dependence to independence.

      • i would like to know. when and where did you promote it? how come you guys didn't give it the kind of promotion it deserves (media and all that).

        last time i tried to join the Computer Professional's Club or whatever you call your little exclusive coterie i was told that since i don't have a degree i can't join.

        i've been running a dotcom for ages, i cut my teeth on slackware in 1996, i've been spending more time on the net than i have been sleeping. and they tell me because i dropped out of uni i can't joi
        • i would like to know. when and where did you promote it? how come you guys didn't give it the kind of promotion it deserves (media and all that).

          We tried to give publicity as much as possible. But don't forget that we are just a group of individuals and not even a registered organization, and we don't have any budgets for a huge marketing campaign. And we don't want to do it either. We have been helping people on our mailing lists [mail.lug.lk] and other events without making much of a noice like many others do.

    • by RAMMS+EIN ( 578166 ) on Monday August 30, 2004 @05:28AM (#10107363) Homepage Journal
      ``It certainly won't be easy for free software in these developing countries, especially considering how inexperienced with computers many of the users will be. Love it or hate it, any idiot can use Windows.''

      Dude, take of your blinders! Icons are just as easy to click in X11 as they are in Explorer. A system that just keeps working is easier than one that crashes and gets infected. And don't forget the benefit of a real command line (typing is more intuitive than moving a pointer with a mouse in a different plane).

      Windows is only easier to use if you're more used to it, so especially for people inexperienced with computers, Linux is at least as easy.
    • by helarno ( 34086 ) on Monday August 30, 2004 @05:34AM (#10107371) Homepage
      The delegate from the government of Mongolia who attended the Free and Open Source Software Asia Pacific (FOSSAP) consultation in February had an interesting tale to relate.

      In order to expand the reach of their ICT in schools program some years ago, they put FOSS on 20% of the PCs they installed in the schools there. Microsoft had refused to give them a discount, so to have full reach, they had to resort to this.

      Their findings? No surprised to anyone who's used FOSS for a while - kids adapted equally quickly to both FOSS and proprietary software (Windows). For ICT education purposes, there was no drawback with using FOSS.

      Other countries, such as Thailand with their successful Schoolnet program, have had the same results.

      You can find references to Mongolia's report in the FOSSAP final report [iosn.net].
    • >It certainly won't be easy for free software in these developing
      >countries, especially considering how inexperienced with computers many
      >of the users will be. Love it or hate it, any idiot can use Windows.
      Might be, but any idot can use linux as well.
      I thing you might be using the wrong linux distro though.
    • by pedestrian crossing ( 802349 ) on Monday August 30, 2004 @05:53AM (#10107410) Homepage Journal

      A friend's daughter (13 years old) was at our house this weekend, and wanted to "play on the computer", which is loaded with straight-up Debian.

      She watched me click on the menus to pull up a couple of games, and then she was good to go. She played and had a good time all afternoon, exploring the selection of games (Frozen Bubbles and Defenguin were her favorites).

      Her comment at the end of the day was "you sure have a cool computer to play on". I think inexperience actually -helps-, as there is nothing to unlearn. Clicking on icons is clicking on icons, I have watched a lot of people sit down on my Deb system and just start "doing stuff". I have noticed that the hard-core Windows users have the hardest time, but the casual users really have no problem.

      • Clicking on icons is clicking on icons, I have watched a lot of people sit down on my Deb system and just start "doing stuff".

        I wish I had a mod point for you. I had pretty much the same experience with my now-16-year-old daughter about three years ago. At that time, I was trying out Red Hat on a dual-boot system. The kids' computer, on Win98, wasn't working because of a hard drive problem I hadn't fixed yet.

        So the kid needs to use the computer to look up something on the net for school. I let her sit

      • by kbahey ( 102895 ) on Monday August 30, 2004 @09:29AM (#10108200) Homepage

        Two of my kids are in the same age group. Each has computer in their room. I installed Mandrake (first 9.1, then 10.0) on it about 9 months ago. They use it for homework, Neopets, games, playing MP3, and chatting with friends (using GAIM). I even introduced them to FreeCiv the other day and they played it for a while (and understood what a server and a client is, ...etc).

        Homework and important stuff is stored on a server and directories are shared via NFS.

        They complain every now and then that such and such site does not work (Shockwave or MS specific ActiveX perhaps), but they can do most of the Windows stuff on it.

        The computers are second hand Pentium II bought on the cheap.

        I don't have to deal with spyware, viruses, or spend big money on games, software, ...etc.

  • by HenrikOxUK ( 776979 ) on Monday August 30, 2004 @04:43AM (#10107250) Homepage
    I apologise to our Danish friends for Slashdotting their server, but I just had to share this gallery [hamster.dk] from the Copenhagen event (It was a world-wide day, not just Asia). Check the penguin and devil suits :)

    They write in the SFD wiki:

    Update: Our Local event was a huge success!

    We handed out 300 CD's in little less than an hour.... We also had 500 balloons promoting the day, and we gave out balloons to every stroller, child and adult who wanted one - in fact people came over to our booth asking for free balloons....

    The balloons were red with white text, saying Software Freedom Day 2004 on the front and having penguin footprints on the back.

    We had help from about 25 volunteers, a large Tux, a little Tux and a daemon

    All the volunteers were wearing red t-shirts with white text, saying Software Freedom Day 2004 on the front and "Free Software er foran" at the back. The text in Danish has two meanings, first "Free Software is at the frontier" (we are ahead), second - you could get your free copy of the CDs, at the front of the person wearing the t-shirt....

    It was very fun - and its not the last time we are willing to do this!


    The Boston team handed out 450 CD packs in the park, in Goa, India 200 people got together to celebrate, etc. (reports are still coming in)
  • by KitFox ( 712780 ) on Monday August 30, 2004 @04:44AM (#10107255)
    They want to make sure that more people are ingrained with the "need" for Windows, so that they will keep using it. Almost like a drug addiction. So they came out with Windows XP Starter Edition, in an effort to target the low end markets. However, as a Google News Search [google.com] shows, XP Starter Edition is a bust [d-silence.com]... Sure, they are selling it "cheap", but honestly, according to reviews of features, it's worse than crippled shareware that is given away for free.

    Overall, I'm happy that people in those countries will not be starting life addicted to the drug Microsoft sells, and start with a clean slate. And when 2 billion users in China are using Linux, maybe we'll get more games that run under it. ;)
  • by Anonymous Coward
    So the US will simply, in the long term, block or veto stuff like this; at the behest of its own software industry. It also means that the MS and buddies will pony up a little bit of cash to lobby UN people. And if you're really cynical, then you could argue that this is a veiled attempt by the UN to start taxing an industry for its money: 'give us so many lobby dollars or we will promote free software in the developing world.' Not unlike the scare tactics used by some of the (local/national) governments
  • Back to the roots (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 30, 2004 @05:06AM (#10107320)
    Isn't empowering people one of the main ideas of free software? So giving people that until now had no means to use modern information systems the opportunity to finally participate is great and somehow at the heart of the free software movement.

    Don't get me wrong, I think it is great that Linux (or rather GNU/Linux) is making inroads in corporate environments and has a lot of backing from big business like IBM, HP, etc., but I sometimes got the impression that the most important idea behind free software, giving the people means to make more of their lives, somehow slipped into the background recently.

    So in this sense this is really going back to the roots of free software and that's a good thing.
  • by helarno ( 34086 ) on Monday August 30, 2004 @05:22AM (#10107347) Homepage
    Argh. This is a dupe (though not Timothy's fault). The BBC picked up on and added to the original article by David Lugard, that Slashdot previously linked to here [slashdot.org]. The IOSN guys contacted them, requested a correction and in the process supplied BBC with additional information about what was done. However, the article, like all those based on the original IDG/Infoworld article, is misleading. The IOSN was merely publicizing the event and if you clicked through the link, you would see that. (Assuming it's not /.'ed. It was down the whole of last week due to two consecutive postings onto Slashdot.)

    Software Freedom Day's true website is at www.softwarefreedomday.org [softwarefreedomday.org] and credit should go to the great guys there who did so much to organize and publicize it, including the OpenCD people (Henrik) and others.
    • Thanks. Phil Harper, Frederick Noronha, Matt Oquist and Jules Siedenburg were also key organisers of SFD and a large number of local team leaders and participants did an excellent job too!

      - Henrik
    • Just to clarify my reasons for submitting the story: it was not to engage in a pro-UN propaganda exercise. Nor was it to promote the extremely good work by the people at Software Freedom Day. It was more to raise interest and debate in this particular instance of an international organisation's role in free software/oss, and the exponential number of issues which radiate out from that fact. Apologies for any confusion ;)
  • by reallocate ( 142797 ) on Monday August 30, 2004 @05:34AM (#10107372)
    The primary advantage of F/OSS compared with proprietary software is that it can be acquired without cost. That's a big advantage. Once acquired, though, very real costs are incurred in installing, training, and maintaining. Sys admins do not work for free, regardless of the development model used by their OS.

    Microsoft could, presumably, reduce the cost advantage of F/OSS by cutting the price of Windows. While the loss of potential revenue would be large in countries as populous as India or China, it would be much easier to absorb in small countries like Bhutan, Lesotho, or Gambia.

    The consequence is that MS is in a position to make Windows cheaper to acquire, and, potentially, to reduce the cost of support it provides directly. F/OSS, on the other hand, cannot reduce the acquisition cost of its products and has no real control over the cost of support.

    Many Western eyes typically fail to see the differences throughout the underdeveloped world. Some nations have a burgeoning IT sector and a veneer of prosperity riding atop massive poverty. Opprtunities for indivudal economic success are present in some countries, while in others opportunity is stifled by ideology or religion, corruption, and incompetence.

    Many nations cannot (or do not care enough to) provide their populations with safe drinking water, minimal health care, and sufficient caloric intake. Rather than conjuring visions of besting Microsoft in these markets, the F/OSS community would be of better service if it conjured ways to use its products to enable these nations to tackle those more pressing problems.
    • And your point is?

      I've been to a very interesting conference by (IIRC), Marcelo Branco about Free Software in Brasil at HispaLinux.

      He very convincingly explained, that Free Software *does* help. In countries that aren't filthy rich, the Microsoft tax is actually very significant, and makes a lot of money go to Microsoft instead of being used for something useful. When Brasil buys thousands of Windows licenses, that's millions that are going to Microsoft, instead of the local industry.

      The mistake you seem
      • >> ...if we get countries to switch to Free Software, they'll stop sending money to Microsoft and instead use it to feed their own computer scientists.

        Dream on.

        As I said, it's only the initial acquisition that's free. It costs money to support IT regardless of whose software you're using.

        I didn't say that we need to "solve poverty" before doing anything else. To the contrary, actually.
        • I think you're missing his point. Of course it costs something to support. But with Microsoft software, you are spending $BIGNUM_LICENSING acquiring + $BIGNUM_SUPPORT supporting. With Free software you're only spending $BIGNUM_SUPPORT and not sending the equivalent of $BIGNUM_LICENSING overseas.

          Even if $FREE_SOFTWARE_SUPPORT costs as much as $BIGNUM_SUPPORT + $BIGNUM_LICENSING (which is unlikely), all that money is staying *within your country* instead of leaving it because the people doing the extra suppo
        • Wow, you managed to miss it. Let me try again.

          Option A:
          Brasil pays Microsoft for Windows, Office and tech support.
          Result: money goes to MS, which is in the US

          Option B:
          Brasil pays less to a local Linux distro for the packaging and support.
          Result: money goes citizens of Brasil

          Yes, both options cost money. However, with option B it's somebody in Brasil who gets paid, instead of MS getting richer.

          Why option B overall costs less? Because Brasil only needs to pay for what it really needs to be well supported.
    • by 808140 ( 808140 ) on Monday August 30, 2004 @06:25AM (#10107464)
      My sibling posts say the same thing I'm going to: the true advantage of Free Software is freedom. But let me explain why.

      Microsoft is seen worldwide as a very successful American corporation. This is not surprising, because, well, it is. Many countries (China in particular) are nervous about allowing an American corporation to control their IT infrastructure with so many little black boxes.

      The Chinese government did not choose to move towards OSS because it likes Linux's interface more, or because it costs less than MS. It's moving in that direction because Linux, and all free software, is trustworthy. Cost doesn't factor in. With Linux, they have an enterprise level operating system that scales to absurd numbers of processors that can be audited and modified. A starting point, if you will. They know there are no backdoors because they can take a look.

      Microsoft and Sun and most of the big guys offer "Shared Source" like systems that seem to offer the same deal, but it isn't the same at all. Because while you're welcome to take a look at the source, you're not free to change it. And with a vendor comes vendor lock-in; for example, suppose the Chinese government buys MS's bit and goes for Windows instead of Linux, using MS's shared source initiative as a means to "look through" the code. They do this, and build their entire infrastructure on MS solutions. Write their documents in Word. Etc. After a few years of this, MS could just stop offering the Shared Source initiative. Stop allowing their code to be audited. And by then, the Chinese gov't is screwed, big time. They know they should dump MS, but they can't; their whole country runs on the stuff, depends on its proprietary formats, etc.

      But Linux will always be free. There is no evil American corporation controlling it, possibly putting backdoors into its software to steal your most precious secrets. Because its source is open and documented, there can be no format lock-in.

      For foreign governments with no reason to trust the US or anything that comes out of it, the fact that Linux is free as in freedom, rather than free as in cost, is the true selling point.

      As an aside, your point about Linux requiring sysadmins, support (and thus actually costing money and not being truly for-free) etc is a non-starter. This is trivially true of all software. Microsoft/Sun/etc software also have maintenance and support costs. Unless you're saying that the cost of obtaining MS/Sun/etc software PLUS the cost of maintaining it over a long period of time is lower than just the cost of maintaining a free system, you have no point. If you are saying that, it's just MS's "lower TCO" argument in disguise, which has been dissected here a million times and which not many of us believe, so I won't bother ripping into it.
      • And you would trust the current Chinese government more than you would MS? Geez. If anyone is going to spy on the Chinese people, its the Chinese government.

        My point about support costs, as I said, is that MS is in a postion to both lower the cost of acquiring its software and of lowering the cost of buying its support, if it chooses to do that. The free software community cannot do that, because its product is already free and it provides no direct support.
        • My point about support costs, as I said, is that MS is in a postion to both lower the cost of acquiring its software and of lowering the cost of buying its support, if it chooses to do that. The free software community cannot do that, because its product is already free and it provides no direct support.

          I am getting so tired of hearing this old canard.

          I spend a lot of time supporting commercial software, and I support my own FOSS system, so I think I am in a position to argue this.

          Commercial software s

    • F/OSS, on the other hand, cannot reduce the acquisition cost of its products and has no real control over the cost of support.

      You must have been reading some of those M$ "Get the Facts" publications to think that free software ever costs more than Microsoft based junk. I can't think of anyplace that's true.

      Many nations cannot (or do not care enough to) provide their populations with safe drinking water, minimal health care, and sufficient caloric intake. Rather than conjuring visions of besting Microsof

      • I didn't say free software "ever costs more" than MS. I said what I said. Go read it again.

        I'm not asserting that people should use MS in preference to free software. One more time, read what I wrote. Is it factually wrong? Can free software be any cheaper than free? Does the free software community run a business providing support? No, so it can have no impact on the cost of support. MS, if it chooses, can give Windows away and cut the cost of its paid support.

        Note, if you will, that that isn't an ar
        • Note, if you will, that that isn't an argument in favor of using MS. It's just a statement of fact.

          Your "facts" are less than convincing and your opinion, that software is no help or unimportant in developing markets, is simply wrong.

          MS, if it chooses, can give Windows away and cut the cost of its paid support.

          No they can't because they would quickly go out of business. Google has quicker and better answers than any paid "support" does anyway. Microsoft will never be cheaper for anyone to use than fr

    • "Sys admins do not work for free, regardless of the development model used by their OS."

      System adminstration costs is an issue orthogonal to whether or not a system is F/OSS or not.

      Microsoft could, presumably, reduce the cost advantage of F/OSS by cutting the price of Windows.

      A large part of the benefit of F/OSS is putting that pressure on Microsoft. It could be beneficial if Microsoft were to release their programs as free, open source software. To me, it seems so primitive and childish to bother with k

  • by erik_norgaard ( 692400 ) on Monday August 30, 2004 @05:41AM (#10107384) Homepage
    I think that the developing countries in this area have a real advantage: Since the dependency of IT in the public sector is far behind the industrial countries, they have not been locked in! They have the full freedom to choose without having to consider huge migration costs.

    Microsoft is aware of this, I guess that's why they have made light versions available in some asian countries and are planning to sell this product in more countries. Also, they will probably benefit from the lockin due to software piracy.

    Even if pirate copies are available, or Microsoft offers software for free, there are numerous examples of developing countries taking a step in direction of OSS. They have seen the long term consequences of M$ lockin.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      What you describe is a well known phenomena of technology generation skipping. As a society develops it often jumps to the very latest tech from nothing at all instead of going through all the historical stages inbetween. For instance Portugal has one of the finest telephone systems in europe, but outside of Lisbon it virtualy appeared overnight by line of sight microwave and satellite coms, they had no huge copper legacy to factor into the economics. We are getting to a stage where development is so fast t
  • by Elektroschock ( 659467 ) on Monday August 30, 2004 @05:44AM (#10107389)
    Question is, can Free Software really stem the tide when other sustainal development projects are struggling so much?"

    Yes, it can. OSS development models can also solve problems where traditional development can't. Such as: localized software for non-latin languages.

    Another great potential use of free software could happen in the field of maschine translation.
    • by 808140 ( 808140 ) on Monday August 30, 2004 @06:07AM (#10107431)
      Well, to be pedantic, other software development models can (and have) been able to overcome such barriers as localized software for non-european languages (I presume when you said non-latin you really meant languages that use a non-latin script; English, in particular, is non-latin, so you can't have actually meant non-latin).

      There's nothing stopping most corporations from supporting languages like Chinese and Thai except laziness, pure and simple. OSS has had the edge in this arena for two reasons:
      1. No profit motive. It has classically not been profitable to support languages spoken in third world countries, or in countries where the population was relatively small. Because OSS developers don't care about money (usually), this doesn't matter.
      2. Developed over the internet in an open way. This has allowed developers speaking minority languages to "scratch their itch" and localize apps they use frequently. In a corporate model, this doesn't work because a) techies hired in Europe or the US don't usually completely understand the complexities of non-roman scripts, etc. and b) closed source means that translation by users has not generally been feasible.
      Consider though: for point 1, a profit motive is developing. China, India, Thailand, etc are actually becoming markets that software companies care about being a part of, if only to keep Linux and OSS from getting a hold there.

      For point 2, outsourcing is guaranteeing that there are lots of folks in the third world collaborating closely with company in question, meaning that access to native speakers of problem languages is becoming less of a problem. It's not just outsourcing, it's globalization as a whole.

      In my opinion, the corps will never be able to compete with Free Software on the localization front, because all it takes to get a free program localized is someone annoyed enough by it not being. Still, the lead we have right now on the important languages will probably be closed. We'll still win when it comes to software available in Twi, Esperanto, Breton, and other "minority" languages, but you can bet that the corps aren't going to let us have China and India without a fight.

      Of course, even if they fight, we'll still win.
  • by radionacht ( 806519 ) on Monday August 30, 2004 @07:29AM (#10107601)
    Salve,
    Open Source for the (developing) world would be good. One idee of mine is to broadcast a distribution via the Air (www.drm.org) or Satellite. Digital Radio Mondal allows to stream 16-24 kBit/s and Reciever should get RS232 or IrDA interfaces to receive Data like Programm infos, weather maps or vocabulary for languages.
    -IMHO it would be nice to broadcaste once a year a selection of Debian all over the world, and security updates from time to time.
    -A free DVB-S broadcast is IMHO realy no problem (e.g. every Sundy mornig 3:00h to 7:00h a.m.) Encrypted confing files and data could refinanciate such a broadcast.
    -A sw drm broadcast would be more expensive and would take more time, some weeks/month to broadcast the Debian selection - but it could be an alternative beside burning CDs and sending them with snail-mail all over the world.
    -Such a broadcastsystem would it make possible to install new software on manless wetherstations, "surface marker buoys" - scientists would have only to pay for ther config-files and own scripts and programs.
    -Beside open source Software the Broacast should include documentations, tutorials, important webpages, mailing-lists, newsgroups and even radio shows about open software ;)

    What do you think about this?
    rob
  • gates roi (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mattr ( 78516 ) <mattr&telebody,com> on Monday August 30, 2004 @07:39AM (#10107624) Homepage Journal
    Bill Gates has donated perhaps $1G but his organization's attempts to lock in countries is worth much more.. and possibly his donations support that. Developing countries have 2 needs - they need to satisfy potentially destructive political realities, and once they've gotten beyond that they need to best leverage their assets to develop their future. If a country is being given official aid, so long as there is a viable free alternative (or lower cost when tco calculated), commercial interests have no business selling to them. Even giving it away for free is bad if it is done by a known rapacious monopoly, and risky even if done by other companies with lock-in tactics, for what is then really going on is a bargaining away of that country's potential, either by hapless individuals or far more likely, someone who intends to make a profit. Of course if Gates wants to invest a cool billion in cash altruistically that is another story. Perhaps a story we'd like to hear.. how do organizations in fact organize that level of giving and make sure it goes to good use? How can we believe Gates is altruistic when his company is the corporate equivalent of a gang-backed serial killer?

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