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AFRIK-IT  January 2004

AFRIK-IT January 2004

Subject:

Re: Web-Servers in Africa

From:

Dr Eberhard W Lisse <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

[log in to unmask]

Date:

Sun, 18 Jan 2004 07:51:54 +0200

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (167 lines)

Greetings from rainy Windhoek, where there are many fine restaurants,
expensive hotels and tourist attractions for Jeff to spend his per diem
:-)-O


I am going to mix the quotes from all five posts together.

Uwe Wahser started this:
> I have a specific question about the aktual usage of tools when
> setting up a web-server in a francophone African setting.

The LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, Perl) solution is still the Standard of
Care, used in the majority of web servers world wide. I am by the way,
willing to discuss replacing MySQL with PostgreSQL since the latter has
some valuable SQL features that the former lacks (but they are working
on).

> Is it feasible to invest into OpenSource servers in Africa or better
> go with the commercial solutions?

The major distributions (SuSE, RedHat and Mandrake (for the
linguophobes)) are trivial to set up and to maintain.

I am going with SuSE since 6.4, 7.1, 7.3, 8.0, 8.2 and currently 9.0
awaiting eagerly 9.2 and am very happy.

> What are the international NGOs mainly riding on and what do you think
> is the trend?

Who cares? They do whatever the consultant has written up in his 5 star
hotel room in the capital, and the consultant write us what is least
work for him or where most money from the project flows back to the
country funding it.


> The cost for commercial solutions won't come down for developing
> country markets and will stay too high proportionally

The only program that I need Windows for is my practice management
software which is, by the way, written in Delphi, and thus should be
easily compile under Kylix, but the company is too successful to bother
:-)-O. But there is hope, and WINE.

For ANYTHING ELSE, I have found Open Source Solutions that work as well
or better in many caes.

> And as Sun Microsystems is strongly supporting Star Office (comparable
> to MS Word, Powerpoint, Excel, etc), the supply for professional
> office programmes is assured even on the desktop level.

OpenOffice.org is the OSS brother, and KOffice ain't so bad
either. Nevermind that I am doing everything the hard way with LaTeX
(and LyX) achieving much better results.

Roland H. Alden writes the follwing nonsense:
> Sun can "support" Open Source like Star Office only because it
> extracts extremely high profits elsewhere using basically the same
> economic methods as Microsoft. There can be no endless "supply" of
> quality software if nobody is paying for it. Open Source software is
> "free" of certain licensing restrictions but it is not, fundamentally,
> free in an economic sense.

ROTFPIMPLHMSBAH

Since when does Open Source Software primarily come out of commercial
ventures? Most projects are collaboration by unpaid volunteers, though
some have financial support, I agree. However the end result is that
they are "free" to the end user.

> 2. Organizations should look closely at the cost of software vs. their
> other costs and the value of the assets the software serves. It isn't
> particularly useful to avoid paying a couple of thousand dollars at
> Microsoft's store if you are otherwise spending 10's of thousands on a
> project, people, etc. If your project has objectives of making some
> type of impact that can ultimately be calculated in economic terms,
> and that impact is in the 100's of thousands of dollars or more, it
> doesn't make much sense to even spend an hour worrying about how much
> you spend on packaged software. It's more important to quickly put
> into service whatever is going to get the project up and running ASAP.

That's not what the original post was about, in fact it has nothing to
do with it, even if it is laugheably rubbish.

Tony Prior writes:
> We tend to make the argument that small entities and developing
> country organizations cannot afford commercial solutions, but for some
> applications I think you can make the opposite argument, that in many
> cases it's the open source solutions and tinkering that can't be
> afforded, not just in dollar procurement terms but mostly from
> allocating scarce IT resources to those tasks.

My web server http://www.lisse.NA which sits in Swakopmund which is
400km away from my home and has been 800km until last month and 12000km
until August 2002 is a LAMP solution running for 8 years now (virtually
unattended) and has had four reboots in the last five years. Two power
supplies blew (they get difficult to replace, the box is so old, but we
found some old boxes for organ donation) and twice the power company
shut the whole town down. We are not even going to upgrade anything any
more, because eventually it will move to a rack mounted modern server
the hardware going onto the land fill.

> Of course there are a number of places with enough IT human resource
> capital (such as China, South Africa and India) where this is not an
> issue, but for many others I do think one needs to be abit careful
> about the unalloyed pluses often presented for open source apps.

Richard Labelle (long time no see) compounds:
> In countries where there are well established open source resources to
> support OSS roll out, such as a local university (Namibia, Djibouti,
> Mauritania, South Africa among others - possibly every African
> university with a computer science department), then OK if you can get
> training and support from them. More important, as a result of OSS
> training in many African universities, there are now probably a number
> of trained national experts in computer science who have the requisite
> OSS skills. Some may even be officially certified by OSS
> manufacturers, unless they have left for greener pastures.

I find that there is no shortage of HR in Africa. Bringing up and
maintaining a linux box is child's play, by the way, not rocket sience,
even my local Ph.D. can do it. I do agree however it hasn't come to the
stage yet where my mother can do it. Bring linux into schools such as in
Mexico and in Namibia and you'll see. I remember this photo of Bill
Gates as a kid hanging around a mainframe.

And, for those pesky Microsnot products you need MSCE and what have you,
and they still crash all the time.

Finally Art McGee shares my view:
> He's talking about setting up a server, a web server to be specific,
> and not desktop deployment.

I am quite sure none of them has ever set up a web server, too busy
looking at various donor organization based "diffusion activities" :-)-O

> Hands down, the Apache server not only leads in market share, but from
> a functionality and stability standpoint, it makes things like
> Microsoft's IIS look like tinker toys. More importantly, the stability
> and reliability of Apache will mean that you're less likely to need to
> lean on anyone for support, but when you do, the entirety of the
> Internet almost will be available to assist, since around 70% of the
> net's web sites are on Apache.

I call it fire and forget. Change the power supply once in a while...

> There is nothing about Free or Open Source software that says you have
> to go it alone. That's just propaganda.

I forgot to mention, many of us Africans can read (the f**king manual),
we are just poor, not stupid.

> Lastly, but most importantly, there needs to be made a much clearer
> distinction between the utility of Free and Open Source software in
> the current moment, and the long-term philosophy behind it.

I have been saying this for over a decade here and elsewhere.

A linux box has EVERYTHING you need to do a B.Sc. in computer science,
and these kids in the "linux schools" will figure this out soon. I
actually have to prevent my sons from playing too much on their box.

el
--
Dr. Eberhard W. Lisse  \        / Obstetrician & Gynaecologist (Saar)
[log in to unmask] el108-ARIN /   *   |   Telephone: +264 81 124 6733 (cell)
PO Box 8421             \     / Please send DNS/NA-NiC related e-mail
Bachbrecht, Namibia     ;____/             to [log in to unmask]

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