Free Beer Doesn't Sell
Open-source software is customizable, expandable and available at low or no cost. Closed-source software is difficult to customize or expand and often is exorbitantly expensive. As a result, businesses and governments worldwide are beginning to make extensive use of open-source technologies, in some cases going as far as introducing legislation to mandate its use. You'd expect developing nations to be leading this charge for free, high-quality software, but you'd be wrong.
In Geekcorps' experience supporting over a hundred IT projects in developing nations, open source is a surprisingly difficult sell. The chief mistake in marketing to the developing world is an overemphasis on “free beer”. The expression comes from Richard Stallman's demand that software be “free as in 'free speech', not free as in 'free beer”'. Emphasizing the low cost of open-source software often backfires. The history of technology transfer and appropriate technology projects includes efforts that dumped obsolete technology on developing nations when it was no longer marketable in developed nations. As a result, inexpensive and inferior are often falsely equated.
In fact, free software frequently costs users in developing nations more than proprietary software. Widespread copyright infringement means software often is available for the price of the media on which it's delivered. In Yerevan, Armenia, I recently found Microsoft Windows XP and Red Hat 8 shelved side by side, both selling for less than $5 US. For users familiar with Windows, Linux has an incremental cost—the cost of the manuals necessary to use the software. And, at copyright infringement prices, manuals can cost 20 times as much as software.
Although on-line documentation can address some of these problems, it can be expensive and intimidating to access this information. Downloading the 3MB Emacs manual gets expensive when you're paying by the minute for connectivity at a cyber café where 20 machines share a single 28.8kbps modem. Asking questions of experts in another country, often in an unfamiliar language, becomes even more intimidating when new users encounter netiquette for the first time. A well-meaning response of “RTFM” is likely to be misinterpreted by someone from a culture that places a high value on politeness or formality. Almost every culture in the world is more polite than global geek culture.
Although open-source advocates need to consider the linguistic, cultural and bandwidth barriers that affect adoption in developing nations, our chief focus must be on demonstrating that open-source software can be more advanced and powerful than the alternatives. This requires a focus on the free speech benefits of open source: expandability, transparency and resulting high performance. A great example of “free speech” application development is the translate.org.za project, dedicated to providing operating systems and critical applications in all 11 of South Africa's official languages. Thanks to their work—and the availability of source code for Mozilla—a browser now exists in Zulu, Xhosa and four other languages.
IDN, one of Ghana's leading ISPs (www.idngh.com), is refocusing its business around its SAVA wireless access points. Manufactured in Ghana, SAVA boxes are Linux servers that let businesses and cyber cafés offer connectivity using WiFi, avoiding Ghana's inadequate local phone system. ISPs around the continent are looking at IDN's success, and some are migrating their architectures to Linux servers.
Before open source can have a true worldwide audience, developers need to focus on IT problems specific to developing nations. Efforts such as Simputer (www.simputer.org)--a low-cost Linux-based handheld for India—suggest one model for these efforts: a cadre of talented engineers from a developing nation supported by a global community. MIT Media Lab's ThinkCycle Project (www.thinkcycle.org) demonstrates another model, matching design students in universities around the world with the engineering challenges of nonprofit organizations in developing nations. The US government's new Digital Freedom Initiative (www.digitalfreedom.gov) is trying a third model, creating solution teams of Senegalese developers, business and IT expert volunteers from US and Senegalese end users, to create new IT applications for use in Senegal and throughout Africa.
Political developments also may advance the global adoption of open source. An increasing number of politicians, like Peru's Edgar Villanueva Nuñez, are pushing legislation to mandate the use of free software to protect the “integrity, confidentiality and accessibility” of information.
Advocates in the developed world can push in a different direction. Demand that money spent by your nation's foreign aid agency on development of new IT products in developing nations goes toward the creation of open code. The result likely would be a boom of developers in poor nations and a wealth of code that could be used in other developing nations—not to mention a few more Xhosa-speaking geeks.
Practical Task Scheduling Deployment
July 20, 2016 12:00 pm CDT
One of the best things about the UNIX environment (aside from being stable and efficient) is the vast array of software tools available to help you do your job. Traditionally, a UNIX tool does only one thing, but does that one thing very well. For example, grep is very easy to use and can search vast amounts of data quickly. The find tool can find a particular file or files based on all kinds of criteria. It's pretty easy to string these tools together to build even more powerful tools, such as a tool that finds all of the .log files in the /home directory and searches each one for a particular entry. This erector-set mentality allows UNIX system administrators to seem to always have the right tool for the job.
Cron traditionally has been considered another such a tool for job scheduling, but is it enough? This webinar considers that very question. The first part builds on a previous Geek Guide, Beyond Cron, and briefly describes how to know when it might be time to consider upgrading your job scheduling infrastructure. The second part presents an actual planning and implementation framework.
Join Linux Journal's Mike Diehl and Pat Cameron of Help Systems.
Free to Linux Journal readers.Register Now!
- SUSE LLC's SUSE Manager
- My +1 Sword of Productivity
- Murat Yener and Onur Dundar's Expert Android Studio (Wrox)
- Non-Linux FOSS: Caffeine!
- Managing Linux Using Puppet
- Doing for User Space What We Did for Kernel Space
- Tech Tip: Really Simple HTTP Server with Python
- SuperTuxKart 0.9.2 Released
- Parsing an RSS News Feed with a Bash Script
- Google's SwiftShader Released
With all the industry talk about the benefits of Linux on Power and all the performance advantages offered by its open architecture, you may be considering a move in that direction. If you are thinking about analytics, big data and cloud computing, you would be right to evaluate Power. The idea of using commodity x86 hardware and replacing it every three years is an outdated cost model. It doesn’t consider the total cost of ownership, and it doesn’t consider the advantage of real processing power, high-availability and multithreading like a demon.
This ebook takes a look at some of the practical applications of the Linux on Power platform and ways you might bring all the performance power of this open architecture to bear for your organization. There are no smoke and mirrors here—just hard, cold, empirical evidence provided by independent sources. I also consider some innovative ways Linux on Power will be used in the future.Get the Guide