Re: Fwd: TechNews Alert for Wednesday, April 21, 2004

From: Edward Cherlin <edward_dot_cherlin_at_etssg_dot_com>
Date: Sat May 08 2004 - 01:20:54 CDT

On Thursday 22 April 2004 10:43, David Mertz wrote:
> > Regarding use of open source, we will have to address issues
> > like the Linux comments below.
> Unfortunately, Microsoft spends probably $100 million every
> year specifically spreading this kind of disinformation about
> Linux and Free Software. It's hard to go tit-for-tat against
> that.

Remember that we don't need to spend hundreds of millions on PR
for Linux any more than we do for development. We do quite well
without. Governments everywhere are considering switching to
Linux and in general to Free/Open Source software. China has
done it, ordering more than 2 million copies of Linux and
StarOffice from Sun Microsystems, to use on every Chinese
government computer.

Linux has high standing in the ICT4D community (Information and
Communications Technology for Development, as you can see at, which lists every participant in the ICT4D
Platform event at the World Summit on the Information Society
last December. I wrote recently on my Weblog about countries
that Microsoft has no interest in selling to that are creating
their own fully localized Linux distributions.

The history of Linux has followed the standard course for new
ideas described by Gandhi.

o First they laugh at you.
o Then they fight you.
o Then you win.

During the final phase, they also start to claim that it was
their idea in the first place. People laughed at Linus Torvalds
for thinking he could write a Unix kernel by himself--but of
course he didn't do it by himself. Multitudes of programmers
joined in.

Then they laughed at the idea that Linux was useful for anything,
since there was no software. But of course there was the GNU
software, clones of all the standard UNIX utilities and a suite
of development tools, anid soon there was the Apache Web server
and a host of other server software. Apache commenced to take
over more than 90% of the Web server market.

Then they laughed at the idea that users, as opposed to
developers and system builders, would use Linux, because it
didn't have office applications and databases, and all that, and
because it was too hard to use. But of course a multitude of
programmers provided the applications and databases, and made it
much easier to use through GUI administration tools.

Then the FUD started. Proof that Linux is regarded as an imminent
threat, where before it seemed quite distant.

Governments are signing on to Linux, or using it as a bargaining
chip to get Microsoft to discount its products heavily ($36 for
a Thai-language version of Windows and Office combined.) Linux
is dominant in some parts of the university market, including
computer science and portions of engineering. The leaders in the
overall computer market (IBM, HP, Sun) promote Linux heavily,
although those that sell only in the desktop market (Dell,
Gateway) have so far stuck with Windows. Apple has gone with BSD

There are distributions of Linux in many languages not supported
in commercial software. Rwandans have built such a distribution
in their own language, Kinyarwanda. (I wrote about this recently
on my Weblog, with links to many other such projects.) Microsoft
has countered by offering access to its source code to
governments for localization purposes. But the resulting
localized versions of Windows would go back to Microsoft to be
sold to the government in question, its citizens, and its
emigrant community. The Linux localization projects can be
carried out by anybody, with free access to the results for all.

The FUD has been centered on claims of lack of support
(nonsense), unreliability (nonsense, especially when compared
with Windows), insecurity (nonsense, even more especially when
compared with Windows), or that Free Software is un-American and
a Communist plot. Also the notion that Free Software will
destroy the software industry. There is no question that Free
Software will be distributed in quantities that would be valued
in the trillions of dollars if sold at Microsoft-style prices.
But this will not be much of a loss to the industry, because
several billion potential new users don't have the money to pay
Microsoft prices.

Now we have a new claim that Linux may pose a national security
threat because much of it is developed outside the United
States. Nonsense. The NSA has been over Linux, and released one
of the most secure distributions, much safer than Windows.

> While it's hard to keep up with every new variation on the
> same basic lie, for our purposes, it's probably useful to
> point to the widespread use of Linux and Free Software by IBM,
> NASA, DoD, and other high-prestige companies/agencies.

I can provide much more detail, if it is wanted.

Edward Cherlin, Simputer Evangelist
Encore Technologies (S) Pte. Ltd.
New voices in the global conversation
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Received on Mon May 31 23:17:26 2004

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