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AFRIK-IT  February 2000

AFRIK-IT February 2000

Subject:

Re: Linux as Panacea?

From:

Daniel Henry <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

African Network of IT Experts and Professionals (ANITEP) List

Date:

Mon, 28 Feb 2000 16:16:18 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

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Parts/Attachments

text/plain (89 lines)

Steve,
I agree with what you've outlined below regarding the "market niche" for
which LINUX is best suited.  We keep an eye on LINUX for our projects, and
so far have only actually used it as a server, though we keep looking at
the desktop ease-of-use/installation as new releases come out (primarily
RedHat for it's broad hardware support).

I have had colleagues (well, really one in particular - perhaps he is on
this list? ;-) ) ask why we want to propagate LINUX in developing countries
when the rest of the world is using Microsoft.  My pat answer to that is
the cost issue, and the fact that LINUX is getting better and better all
the time.  Even in the US it is being taken seriously by major software
vendors, and small ISPs have known for years that they could squeeze
profits from free/netBSD and now LINUX quite well.

Add to that the fact that Open Source (and by implication LINUX as the
development platform) is a major catalyst for many up-and-coming
programmers and network admins to learn their craft in any part of the
globe.  I also suspect that more US university students get their feet wet
with LINUX than NT Server as they develop their IT skills.  I've been to
one Eastern European university that developed it's entire routing
infrastructure on openBSD (I know it's not LINUX, but you get the idea) -
again I suspect this is not unusual.  If you are hiring IT staff in a
market that has few experienced IT workers, are they more likely to have
LINUX skills or NT skills?  I speculate that LINUX would be more likely,
but I can't support that.  I suppose that one should be discussed by those
with more direct experience than myself - any one have any insight?

But, ultimately, I'm not sure I know a good answer to this question (is
there one yet)?  What do the rest of you think?

Is promoting LINUX in developing countries the same as shipping someone
your surplus 5.25" floppy diskettes?  Or is it like teaching someone to fish?


At 10:39 AM 2/28/2000 -0500, you wrote:
>Perhaps right here is as good a place as any for a discussion.  Speaking as
>an ardent Linux supporter,  I am inclined to say that Linux is a mixed
>blessing especially when touted as a communications / computing panacea for
>the developing world.
>
>On the server side, Linux has no peer as far as I am concerned.  It is a
>robust, efficient environment for hosting all kinds of Internet
>applications including web servers, mail, conferencing, chat, to name a
>few.  Server applications available for Linux rival and often exceed their
>commercial counterparts.  Apache and Perl are two sterling examples of
>this.  The stampede of companies rapidly porting their NT or Solaris based
>server applications to Linux is also proof of the sturdiness of the Linux
>operating system.
>
>However, on the client side things are not so rosy.  In spite of
>significant investment in the development of window managers for Linux,
>problems remain.  What's wrong with Linux windows managers?  Well, I think
>the fundamental problem is X-windows itself.  X is a bloated anachronistic
>windowing system which undermines the best efforts of excellent window
>managers such as Enlightenment and KDE.  People who tout the efficiency of
>Linux and its ability to run on 486s etc. are not talking about an X
>environment.  The fact is that a 32mb P100 is much faster running Office
>(Corel or MS) and Win95 than StarOffice and Linux / Enlightenment.  In
>fact,  StarOffice and Enlightenment is barely workable on a system like
>that.
>
>Also, Linux installation programs are still far from being as easy to use
>as say a Windows98 installation.  Who hasn't experienced the frustration of
>a Redhat install on a system with an unusual ethernet card or video
>card.  Older laptops?  Don't get me started. ;-)  Naturally, none of these
>are particularly difficult to solve problems but they are ones that will
>typically stop a novice used in his/her tracks.
>
>Having said all that, Linux is a big world and while I have installed many,
>many Linux systems both on the Server and Client side, my experience is
>still small compared to the numerous flavours of Linux and the infinite
>variety of ways of configuring it.     I have deliberately been a little
>provocative in the hope that we will hear some other views on the topic.
>
>-Steve Song
>______________________________________________________________
>Steve Song
><[log in to unmask]>
><http://www.idrc.ca/unganisha>
>International Development Research Centre
>P.O. Box 8500, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, K1G 3H9
>Tel. +1 613 236 6163 x2268  Fax +1 613 567 7748

 >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
Daniel Henry       U.S. Agency for International Development
Ph: 703.465.7146   Internet Data Services
Fx: 703.465.7198   <[log in to unmask]> <[log in to unmask]>

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