[ANSOL-geral]washingtonpost: Region in Spain Abandons Windows, Embraces Linux

Ricardo Nunes rjgn arroba netc.pt
Tue Nov 5 21:08:02 2002

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Infelizmente n=F3s ficamos a v=EA-los passar, e depois ainda perguntam=
 porque =E9
que os espanh=F3is v=E3o anos luz =E0 nossa frente.

mas =E9 t=E3o mais f=E1cil ir bater =E0 porta do presidente e do governo a=
protec=E7=E3o para as empresas....
os nossos pseudo-empres=E1rios s=E3o mesmos est=FApidos...

quando f=F4r grande quero ser espanhol....
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Europe's Microsoft Alternative
Region in Spain Abandons Windows, Embraces Linux

By Ariana Eunjung Cha
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 3, 2002; Page A01

MERIDA, Spain -- Luis Millan Vazquez de Miguel, a college professor turned
politician, is succeeding where multibillion-dollar, multinational
corporations have failed. He is managing to unseat Microsoft Corp. as the
dominant player in the software industry, at least in his little part of=

Vazquez de Miguel is the minister of education, science and technology in a
western region of Spain called Extremadura, a mostly rural expanse of olive
trees and tiny towns with 1.1 million inhabitants. In April, the government
launched an unorthodox campaign to convert all the area's computer systems,
in government offices, businesses and homes, from the Windows operating
system to Linux, a free alternative.

Already, Vazquez de Miguel said, more than 10,000 desktop machines have=
switched, with 100,000 more scheduled for conversion in the next year.
Organizers regard the drive as a low-cost way to bring technology to the
masses in the impoverished region.

"We are the future," he said. "If Microsoft doesn't become more open and
generous with its code, people will stop using it and it will disappear."

Extremadura is being closely watched by Linux enthusiasts and Microsoft for
how it manages the transition. Such efforts are likely to become the next
front in the battle to steal market share from Microsoft, now that a=
judge has approved a settlement in its antitrust case in the United States.

For now, many denizens of Extremadura find themselves having to use both
operating systems, if for no other reason than to deal with an outside=
that still relies heavily on Microsoft. But the campaign suggests that
nationalism could play a powerful role in blunting the software company's
expansion, as nation-states grow wary of becoming too dependent on the
know-how of a single American corporation.

Linux is one of several operating systems available free on the Internet.
Programmers from around the world teamed up to develop the original=
and then private companies and others adapted the work to create their own
unique flavors of the open-source software. Linux distributions these days=
by a variety of names, including Red Hat, Suse and Mandrake.

In Extremadura, the regional government paid a local company $180,000 to
cobble together a set of freely available software. The resulting disk
contains a suite of programs that includes an operating system, word
processor, spreadsheet and other applications. The government also invested
in a development center that is creating customized software for=
tracking hospital patients and crop-yield management that the agency will
distribute free to citizens.

So far, the government has produced 150,000 discs with the software, and it=
distributing them in schools, electronics stores, community centers and as
inserts in newspapers. It has even taken out TV commercials about the
benefits of free software.

Others are taking notice. A Spanish computer magazine began distributing=
Linux disk that Extremadura created and a publisher is in the process of
printing a book about the effort that will double as an instruction manual.
Several of the region's major distributors of computers have agreed to
pre-install the Extremadura Linux instead of Windows.

For many, the Extremadura project symbolizes the seriousness of assaults on
Microsoft by governments around the world. The European Economic Commission
is promoting it as a model for the rest of the world, and officials from
governments as far away as New Zealand and Peru have inquired about
duplicating the region's efforts.

There are now nearly 70 laws or policy proposals pending in two dozen
countries that would force or at least encourage governments to use
open-source software. This year Germany said it signed a contract to use
Linux in many of its government systems; other significant economic powers
such as the United Kingdom, China, Italy and Brazil are studying the=

Microsoft has argued for years that free software is inferior to=
made products because it requires a high level of technical expertise to=
it work.

But such arguments have grown less persuasive as corporations and=
have taken on the responsibility of creating stable versions of the free
software. International Business Machines Corp., Sun Microsystems Inc.,
Hewlett-Packard Co. and others are developing Linux-based services,=
primarily on the corporate market.

"Linux has gone from a graduate student's project to a major force," Giga
Information Group analysts Stacey Quandt and Bob Zimmerman wrote in a=

Juantomas Garcia, a programmer who has been lobbying the Spanish government=
expand its use of free software, said such software is leaving the province
free of "hackers and geeks and is migrating to a real tool for everyone."

To Keep People Home

Extremadura is best known as the birthplace of many of the conquistadors --
Francisco Pizarro, Hernan Cort=E9s and Hernando de Soto among them -- who=
their mark after leaving the place. Vazquez de Miguel, too, fled in his=
years. He went to the United States to get his doctorate and worked as an
organic chemist doing AIDS and cancer research before a friend convinced=
that he could do more good for his people by returning and taking a job as=
professor at the local university.

Vazquez de Miguel, 52, says that by empowering people to use computers=
Linux, he will be able to stop the outward migration and create new
industries in Extremadura.

Like many Linux advocates, he speaks about the software in emotional terms.
"Connectivity and literacy" equals "equality and liberty," he said.

Microsoft regards such talk as too dramatic and distracting. It is=
after all, not war, company officials said. It is far more productive in
their view to talk about the technical aspects of Windows vs. Linux.

"There's been too much theology and not enough economic analysis in the=
so far," said Bradford L. Smith, Microsoft's general counsel, who oversees
the company's global lobbying team.

"Consider that there's a lot more to the total cost and value of a product
than the initial offering somebody might give you," Smith said. For=
it is often expensive to find support services for free software, whereas
such help comes bundled with the purchase of Windows. And companies like
Microsoft have a vested interest in updating their products; that's not
necessarily so with free software.

"Somebody might give you a free puppy this afternoon," Smith said, "but=
going to have to go buy dog food in the morning."

To eliminate some of the headaches, the Extremadura government paid Andago,=
Spanish company, to take one of the free versions of Linux on the Web and
make it suitable for public distribution. Organizers called their version
"Linex," combining the names of Linux and Extremadura. The software has
become so popular that it has been downloaded more than 55,000 times from
www.linex.org by people outside Extremadura.

The beauty of the Extremadura project, according to its supporters, is that
the team has managed to create an all-in-one package of software that is
relatively easy to install. The Linux desktop looks nearly identical to the
Windows one, except that the icons are designed to reflect the region's
familiar historical landmarks. To get word processing, for example, users
click on "Borcense," a picture of 16th century writer Francisco Sanchez de
las Brozas; for the Internet, click on "Galeon," a crane that lives in the
oak meadows and cereal plains of the region.

Aside from the aesthetic difference, the configuration is familiar enough=
most Windows users require little training.

"Most people don't even notice there is a difference," said Inis Garcia
Vadillo, who is one of the directors of a government-funded community
computer lab that recently converted from Windows to Linux.

Avel Lopez Perez, 14, a Calamonte Secondary School student who uses Windows=
home, agreed: "Entering and leaving the computer is the only different=
I see."

An Early Stumble

Extremadura's first go around with Linux might be called a disaster.

When computer users first installed the software this spring, it seemed to
work fine. Users could type a document and edit it and create pictures and
save them. But a major bug was discovered within days: If users tried to
print or view a video or do anything that involved peripherals or=
strange error messages popped up.

It took a team of developers three months to fix the problem, during which
anyone who converted to Linux had to download their documents on a disk and
run over to a Windows machine to print them. Teachers grumbled that they
could not teach properly because they could not use all the audio and video
of the Internet.

Now most of the problems are relatively minor, several users said.

Ana Acevedo, who heads one of the government's document-processing units,=
some Windows files she receives have come up jumbled on Linux programs. As=
result, she has had to keep both Windows and Linux on her machine and=
back and forth between the two throughout the day.

But the glitches are more an annoyance, she said, than a hassle. "It's=
very tiny things," she said.

Web-page designer Carlos Sanchez Rubio, owner of a start-up called 4 Gatos,
works with two machines on his desk -- one with Linux and another with
Windows. He uses free software to create his pages but finds that sometimes
there are differences in color or formatting when the page is viewed on
Windows. And since the majority of the world runs Windows, it is critical
that a page look good in Windows.

"Sometimes the designs come out very strange," he said.

Fear of Domination

Among the touchiest issues that Microsoft faces outside the United States=
the uneasiness some countries have expressed about allowing an American
company to dominate the software industry in their country.

"Non-U.S. governments in particular view open source as a way to break the
stranglehold against Microsoft. If Microsoft owns everything their=
their own companies can't get a foothold in the software industry," said=
Schadler, an analyst for Forrester Research Inc.

Some Spanish government systems and those belonging to the=
company Telefonica recently were shifted to Linux partly because of=
concerns. In Florence, legislators talked of breaking the "the computer
science subjection of the Italian state to Microsoft."

Mario Pelosi of Italy's Department of Innovation and Technology said his
country recently decided to form a commission to study the desirability of
Linux. "The technology is changing every day, and if you are in charge for
the innovation and technology this is an issue and subject that you have to
study," he said.

Microsoft and its supporters have vigorously lobbied against any laws or
policies that dictate what software a government can or cannot buy. The
software company's advocates argue that such policies stifle innovation.=
also say the initiatives may be a violation of World Trade Organization=
requiring all members to treat foreign companies the same as they would=

For the most part, however, Microsoft in recent years has toned down its
arguments against Linux, saying there is room for both forms of software.

Peaceful coexistence was the theme of a meeting last month between Vazquez=
Miguel and Rosa Garcia, general manager of Microsoft Spain, who called up
saying she wanted to hear more about the Extremadura project.

People who attended the meeting described it as akin to an Abbott and=
skit. He tried to extol the values of Linux, she did the same for Windows,
and neither seemed to understand what the other was saying.

In the end, she did not make an offer to sell Microsoft software and he did
not want her to. They shook hands and she told him that she thought that
Microsoft software and Linux software could thrive in the same world.

Vazquez de Miguel told her he agreed. What he did not tell her was that in=
mind, co-existence means a world that's the flip side of today: 90 percent
Linux, 10 percent Microsoft.

=A9 2002 The Washington Post Company
- --
Key fingerprint =3D 478B C11B 3802 D151 CDB1  309E 69BF 6F02 352C 9ED3
- - ----
- - ----
"Some things -and an operating system is one of them- are just too=
 to be locked up in a box.
 It's basic infrastructure and basic infrastructure must be shared=

Daniel Frye
IBM's Linux Technology Center

- - ----
let's wake up the ECHELON....
"Kill the President" , "nuclear", "assassinate" , "Roswell", "UFO" ,=
, "saucer" , "grudge" , "the farm" , "snowbird" , "dreamland"

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