The original question, before we got sidetracked:
> We were thinking about setting up a Linux/Apache server
> for a small intra-net kind of WebServer for a public
> service. This would have been our standard platform in
> the western hemisphere.
He's talking about setting up a server, a web server to be
specific, and not desktop deployment.
First of all, I agree that Linux and BSD have a long way to
go in regards to them being acceptable as replacements for
Windows desktop machines. KDE, Gnome, and the other GTK+ and
X11 interfaces just don't cut it. Also, the ability of someone
not well-versed in Unix or Linux to maintain such systems is
slim at best. Only a couple of the major distributions, like
Mandrake, make switching to Linux even remotely plausible
for the non-techie. The only Unix-based machine that can
blow a Windows desktop PC straight out of the water is a
Macintosh running OS X. In the Unix world, OS X is what
Linux can only dream of being. One day it will get there,
but that day is not here yet.
Now, back to the main issue, setting up a web server.
Here, the issue is less about open source or free software
vs. closed or proprietary software, and more about the best
damn product for the job. 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.
Even beyond all that, there are commercial Linux solutions
that provide "mission-critical" support when you need it.
RedHat, SuSE, IBM, and many other companies may be able to
provide the hand-holding you need. There is nothing about
Free or Open Source software that says you have to go it
alone. That's just propaganda.
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. While making appropriate decisions
about software usage depends on local conditions, the issue
for LDCs, and Africa specifically, is that in terms of a
futuristic strategy, where do they need to go? Sure, Windows
has the highest penetration and greatest user-comfort level
now, but that's besides the point. It's the job of those of
us who believe in communal forms of organization to think
LONG-TERM, and look down the road as to what the future
possibilities are. Getting bogged down in the minutiae
of now is exactly the problem that has the U.S. messed
up. We need visionaries to conceptualize the possibilities
of what could be. THAT is the real point.
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