Friday, April 07, 2006

Jordan and FLOSS

3rd world countries are facing many problems, from poverty, to ignorance, to limited resources, to bad schools and hospitals, amongst others. But these are the least issues 3rd world are facing, the most critical one is “Wrong Decisions, or corrupted decision makers”.

How is that related to technology, OpenSource and Linux?!! well first of all let me explain how can a 3rd world country like Jordan benefits from OpenSource.

Jordanian Government has to encourage the OpenSource shift in all aspects of life. Why?!!

FreeSoftware is to have access to the source code of the program freely, and you can copy it, redistribute it and customize it. (Read the GPL & BSD Licenses).

FreeSoftware is mistakenly (and sometimes intentionally) is mis-interpreted to be “free as in free Soda” but it is not that it is “free as in freedom”. Now freedom may and may not give you the other type of free. (to know more visit

FreeSoftware has proved to have the following advantages:

  1. Costs less than property closed software

  2. Stable, you hardly need to restart the machine

  3. Secured (Most of Linux distributions comes secured out-of-the-box)

  4. Trusted (You have access to source code)

  5. Much less bugs (Many eye balls are looking at the code)

  6. Users are limited to their shell and environment, so worst case scenario that user will ruin his home directory but not the whole system

  7. Number of known viruses on Linux is less than 100, while on the other hand number of known viruses are thousands

  8. Tremendous number of FreeSoftware packages that gives the administrators the ability to choose what best fits their needs

  9. Ability to customize the software since source code is available

  10. No vendor lock-in, FreeSoftware lives as long as the community needs it not as long as the vendor wants

Does FreeSoftware have disadvantageous?!! of course, to list the most critical of them are:

  1. Some hardware drivers are not supported on Linux

  2. Some software (that runs on the other alternative) doesn't run on Linux distributions since software vendor doesn't produce a Linux-version of the software (e.g. Microsoft games), while these software may run using an emulator (e.g. Wine or WineX)

  3. Takes time to configure the server, but once configured correctly you hardly need to see the machine.

  4. Arabic support is still in progress, it is going to take sometime, to have fully Arabic-support distribution, although UTF8 is full supported by the system.

  5. Having many packages may confuse the administrator for a while until he/she decides on what to keep, what to remove, and what to install on the machine.

  6. Support, Linux still doesn't have enough support companies, in the Arabic world in general, and in Jordan in special, and doesn't have enough investment, its the government who will increase the awareness for Linux.

What makes government decision makers (e.g. CTO) not to take the decision to adopt Linux?!! From my point of view there are five reasons:

  1. Ignorance, the CTO didn't hear about Linux, hmmmm, then this is the person who is not in right place and shall be replaced with someone who is connected to the technology

  2. FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt), well, if you make the first step, you will see companies, universities (already we have some), etc ... try to gain knowledge about this beast

  3. Cannot do anything for political reasons, thats even worse, we are controlled by the super power because we don't try to minimize our debts, we take many loans and helps from 1st World countries, and we are so dependent. We can free our economy when we free our souls and minds, so open your mind and your eyes and look around you.

  4. Doesn't care (or his/her superiors doesn't care) about what best fits the country, well this kind of decision makers has already put this country into hard situations and shall be replaced with people who cares and who wants the good for this country and for the people.

  5. Attracted by the other OS, after all what is stated before i think that such a decision maker should reconsider thinking again, Linux has many capabilities within our budgets and is serving over 30% of servers around the world, and is increasing, do you know that this OS is running many clusters, super computers, space shuttles, telescopes, cars, playStation3, and more, the list is so long. Linux also has attracted the industry Giants like IBM, Sun, HP, Oracle, google, yahoo and others.

Now let us assume that the decision maker decided to adopt Linux, what is needed to be done? This should be planned carefully, and it is good to have some professional people from inside or outside the country to help in the migration, i personally recommend that the change is done on small scale, to test and to know the system capabilities, if you found that the system is attractive, and has potentials, then you can expand the adoption, and within 3-5 years we can have a government that is 100% free (I mean runs on FreeSoftware), and we will have experts, advocates, and people struggling to keep it that way.

But you stated that it will cost me during the setup time? And it is harder than the Other OS? Well thats true but anything is hard at its beginning, there is a learning curve, with the right people this learning curve is less than 6 months, and afterwards these will do almost everything.

What are you talking about 6 months of training?

Well, yes, why not?!! these are going to be the base for the country, these are going to be the people who will train others, and these are our people why not to invest in them?!! If the retain of Investment (ROI) is guaranteed, and these will help into speeding up Linux adoption, why not?!! If this FreeSoftware is going to free the country economically and will help us to be technology producers not consumers, then why not?!! Why not investing into universities and schools to adopt Linux and by the time (i.e. 2 - 3 years maximum) this country will export experts in the field, do you want me to imagine more ..., i think thats enough.

A quick comparison:

Let us assume that we have 10,000 $, to buy Windows software, OS, Office, Development Kit, and other Misc software

  1. will use hypothetical discounts (i don't imagine that M$ will give such a discount))

OS: 20 $
Office: 50 $
Misc: 30 $
Development Kit: for free

That means that we need to pay MS 100$ per machine, by doing the math i can prepare 100 machines, now when using FreeSoftware packages

OS (Linux): 0$
Office (OpenOffice): 0$
Misc (mail client, AOL, management tools): 0$
Development Kit (many, gcc, anjuta, kdevelop, glade): 0$

Then that means that i can prepare as many machines as i have, what to do with the 10,000 $, we can use them as an investment in engineers, in software customization, tweaking software for our needs, having a Jordanian Linux distribution, that is tested, customized, improved, modified, tweaked, fixed, write missing hardware drivers, etc... to fit next installations, this is needed every time and then, but until it is needed this distribution will do its job and will continue to be installed and will continue serving people, administrators, employees, students, teachers.

At the end, don't just take my words for guarantee, and also don't just close your minds and eyes and say what does this crazy guy is saying, look around you, Linux is adopted in many places, a list of them (but not limited to) is:

  1. Some USA states

  2. Germany

  3. Brazil

  4. Mexico

  5. Israel

  6. North Korea

This is a small list, the countries adopted Linux are much more than that, but these the ones crossed my mind.

We need to start learning from others (we usually don't learn and in best case scenario we learn from our mistakes), and others, have already went through many problems that we as followers will not see again, but “to come late, is better than not to come at all”.

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