The First Linux Installfest in Iraq

Determined to surpass all the obstacles and embrace new technology, the Iraqi LUG held its first installfest.

The Linux operating system is becoming more and more prevalent nowadays here in Iraq, which is good news. So far, however, most of us who have contact with Linux and/or UNIX are technical employees, system/network administrators and the like, although not that many programmers. Actually, it seems that such technical people are being forced to deal with Linux by their bosses and high-ranking officers. The big and mostly foreign companies working in Iraq are aware of the power open-source software offers in many aspects of computing. Iraqi national companies still seem to lack this awareness, however, and see only a small portion of the big picture that open source has drawn for the worldwide community.

Generally speaking, these Iraqi companies, at least now within the hectic security situation in Iraq, do not emphasize the morals behind the Open Source movement. Instead, they want the work to be done fast--no time or place for social activities, even if such activities might improve their chances of finding a Linux-knowledgeable person for the job. After all, community effort basically has been responsible for building people's interest in learning and using Linux. I therefore decided we should take a practical step toward drawing more attention to Linux here.

A while ago, friends and students began asking me for a course to walk them through installing and using Linux. Others asked me to come to their homes and help them with installation and setup. Installing a GNU/Linux distribution has become a straightforward procedure, but some people had fears about installing something new and different on their computers. I also saw the potential to add these new users to the Linux community.

For that and other reasons, the Iraqi Linux User Group arranged for a Linux installfest. I was delighted to be the man power behind arranging and implementing such an event. It took me a week to write a short proposal and send it to the Dean's office of Al-Nahrain University, College of Engineering, and to receive a reply with modifications on the schedule and timing. The event was set for Saturday, August 14, 2004. Saturday is the beginning of the week in Iraq, so we selected this date in the hope that many students would attend. The group members agreed that MandrakeLinux 10.0 would be the perfect installation to use for introducing new users to Linux.

The Computer Engineering department of Al-Nahrain University generously hosted the workshop, supplying a place in its computers laboratory for the installfest and the required hardware. Our installfest capacity was 15 individuals, though, due to the limited hardware available. Surprisingly, more than 30 people wanted to attend the installfest, so the workshop was extended to the following day as well.

This event happened to occur during summer courses at the university, when only a small percentage of the student community is on campus. The university lacks a mail and news system/service that connects students and faculty to the university, so the installfest announcement was hard to publicize. Final exams also were occurring on the same days as the installfest, but that didn't stop students from showing up, especially on the first day.

From August 14th through the 16th, Baghdad witnessed massive gunfire and streetfights in many of its districts, which unfortunately prevented some from attending the installfest. On the first day, I was forced to stop while in the middle of the installation, due to an urgent call from the Dean's office informing the staff and students to leave for home at once. There was no time to serve any refreshments!

On the second day, we picked up from where we had stopped, and things went along smoothly, although the alert still was on. On the third day, I was frustrated because traffic slowdowns, due to the security issue, were preventing people from arriving on time. In the end, though, I was happy with the final results. The final attendee tally was 23 people, two of whom are senior engineers who heard about our portal through a friend in England. Most of the other attendees are graduate and undergraduate students from the Computer, Electronics and Communications, and Lasers and Optoelectronic Engineering Departments.

The whole installfest basically was an experiment to figure how many people are interested in learning about Linux, and it was a pleasant experiment for me. This was the first practical event in Iraq at which attendees had the chance to experiment with things hands-on, encouraging them to install the system and start using it at home or work.

Yet, many obstacles lay ahead in the quest to move Iraq towards fully using and embracing today's technology. Connections to the outside world still are not established completely, at least not at our university. It is a shame to know that most computer departments in Iraqi universities, although directly related to the Web and its technologies, are not connected to the Internet, even though they are considered to be the main technology feed line. But with the help of many generous and kind-hearted people who have sent us books, CDs, cash and even technical support, such obstacles are being worked around.

Our LUG members still might need someone to hold their hands as they make their first steps into the new world of open-source software, they might have soft technology muscles and not harvest the results of this work soon, but we shall have a fruitful season someday for sure.

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Mabrouk

oc_192's picture

Mabrouk le jami3atna we inshallah yom ele kol el jami3at beeh alinux we bol beet bil 3raq beeh computer

thats was in iraqi

wish the best for my country

oc_192

Re: The First Linux Installfest in Iraq

swapna's picture

IT'S REALLY A GOOD NEWS THAT IRAQ AFTER A LOT OF SUFFERINGS HAS MADE A STEP INTO THE WORLD OF OPEN SOURCE SOFTWARE. THE OSS IS INCREASINGLY BECOMING POPULAR AMONGST PEOPLE AND IRAQ BEAING A WELL KNOWN COUNTRY SHOULD NOT BE UNTOUCHED FROM THIS WORLD OF OPEN SOURCE SOFTWARE.

Re: The First Linux Installfest in Iraq

Anonymous's picture

I was touched by your story there, which made me cherish all the internet resource I had now :)

Chengkang from Taiwan

Re: The First Linux Installfest in Iraq

Anonymous's picture

Wishing you all the best. I hope the fighting will stop and peace come upon your country. God Bless you.

Simon
Malaysia

Re: The First Linux Installfest in Iraq

Anonymous's picture

Good luck shabab.
:)

Mohamed Eldesoky

Re: The First Linux Installfest in Iraq

Anonymous's picture

This is great !!! Goodluck and more power to you...

jojo from philippines

Re: The First Linux Installfest in Iraq

Ashraf's picture

teslam ya wared, this was bel 3raqi of course
This is the result of your help Abu Jasim :) You were the first who have sent me Linux CDs, thanks to Linux-Egypt as well
Thanks to all
Ashraf Hasson

Re: The First Linux Installfest in Iraq

Anonymous's picture

Happy hacking! Freedom and friendship and honesty to and between all peoples in the world!
Pekka, a Finn in Sweden. :-)

Re: The First Linux Installfest in Iraq

Anonymous's picture

Amazing. ...and the high point of our Installfests is only pizza and pop!

btw, You picked a really great disto for teaching students to learn Linux! Although I use Gentoo, Mandrake is (usually) much easier and much quicker to install and gives you the packages you really want (within a Red Hat type package layout).

It's been awhile since I've used Mandrake, but as I remember, if you want to watch those DVD Movies, you can download libdvdcss and other non-GNU material from an optional mirror (all in one location)!

Good luck and I hope you guyz nab or round up those that think issues can only be solved behind a gun or roadside bomb quickly!

Geez. I really wish somebody would introduce those guyz to a really great game of frozen-bubble or tuxracer. I'm sure once done, they'll put their weapons away and enjoy the games more then fighting!

Re: The First Linux Installfest in Iraq

Ashraf's picture

Exactly, ease to do things and move around the system made us choose Mandrake, although I presonaly use SuSE9.1 and RedHat9.0
one of the things that I've been asked about was DVDs and other media formats, I recommended Mplayer which ships with Mandrake10.0 by default.

"Geez. I really wish somebody would introduce those guyz to a really great game of frozen-bubble or tuxracer. I'm sure once done, they'll put their weapons away and enjoy the games more then fighting!"

LOL .. I sure wish that too.

Re: The First Linux Installfest in Iraq

Anonymous's picture

Congratulations on your event and on making progress in getting open source known in Iraq.

Have faith, Linux advocates the world over have had to confront similar ignorance and disinterest for more than a decade, but Linux is gaining wide acceptance now.

Just know that our prayers and our hearts are with you. Freedom requires commitment - you should know that better than us. We want freedom in software, that seems like such a small thing compared to your struggles.

Re: The First Linux Installfest in Iraq

Anonymous's picture

Always nice to hear of small changes that can make a huge difference in a place like Iraq. America supports all our rebuilding efforts in Iraq.

Peace and prosperity to you.

Paul in Wisconsin

Re: The First Linux Installfest in Iraq

Anonymous's picture

Your courage and determination in the face of adversity is a shining example to people around the world who wish for Liberty and Freedom. You, and others like you, are the seeds of the *New* Iraq and I know you will succeed. My Heart is with you.

Rob in Oklahoma, USA

Re: The First Linux Installfest in Iraq

Ashraf's picture

Thank you Rob for the nice feelings and encouraging words.

Re: The First Linux Installfest in Iraq

Anonymous's picture

This is really nice to hear coming from a Iraq. It shows a willingness of the wonderful citizens of Iraq to rebuild their country and go on with their lives to the fullest no matter what they face daily. If there is any way I can help please do not hesitate to check on us at www.linuxkenya.net

Moses in Africa.

Re: The First Linux Installfest in Iraq

brianlane's picture

I'm glad to see you making progress, both on the Linux front and on the path to being a free country! Many of us outside Iraq don't know much about your available hardware or network infrastructure. What kinds of machines are readily available? I've heard that you don't have a problem getting 1GHz or faster machines and that you even have DSL available in some places.

Depending on how Iraq is connected to the rest of the internet you may want to (or may already have) setup mirror sites of the popular distributions to make downloading and burning CD images faster.

Your installfest had a better turnout than most of the ones we do at KPLUG!

Keep up the good work.

Brian

Re: The First Linux Installfest in Iraq

Ashraf's picture

Computers and Network hardware are available, though it's not at the reach of a high percentage of people in Iraq. It's becoming easier to buy a computer these days though, I even noticed that Laptop business in Al Sena'a St., the main computer shopping street in Baghdad, is becoming fruitful these days. More people are capable of buying a computer but lack awareness.
In regard to Internet connectivity, I worte this on our portal, How do Iraqis get online , which should give you an idea on how most Iraqis get to the Internet.
Network hardware is still somewhat expensive but computers are avaible in different flavors up to 2.8GHz CPUs or maybe more!

wireless broadband ISP in Ira

TigrisNet's picture

wireless broadband ISP in Iraq

www.tigrisnet.net

Re: The First Linux Installfest in Iraq

brianlane's picture

Thanks for the report, it sounds like you are about at the point that the US was back in the early 90's (except for the lousy phone lines). Dialup can really suck, especially if the ISP doesn't have 56k capability, and with the size of most programs these days downloading can take forever.

Has there been any attempt to setup free wireless internet services so that you don't have to go through an ISP to communicate with others? It wouldn't get you to the internet, but you couls start building local networks. In the US there are groups like Seattle Wireless that are doing things like this.

People could then setup hotspot servers for others to download things like Linux destributions, updates, etc. off of instead of having to try to go through the dialup ISP.

Brian

Re: The First Linux Installfest in Iraq

Ashraf's picture

As far as I know, there has been no such attempts to connect different ISPs yet. I don't know if it's possible at the current time since those ISPs are fairly scattered. Nevertheless, I'll be talking to my ISP in regard to this idea. Setting hotspot servers would require a steady power over days which is not possible due to repeated power downs during a single day. It'll take time though until things get straight. Nevertheless, it would be great to have such a wireless network :)

Re: The First Linux Installfest in Iraq

Anonymous's picture

Definitely. Be careful out there, people. Hope the fighting ends as soon as possible, and that Iraq is back on its feet again.. Say, is that Mandrake I see being installed on those computers?

Re: The First Linux Installfest in Iraq

Ashraf's picture

Thank you for your support and nice feelings.
Yes, it's Mandrake 10.0 Community (Download Edition - 3 CDs). We agreed that it's easy to install for new incomers due to the visualized partitioning utility plus other things.

I hope it goes well

Anonymous's picture

I hope you continue to have success in spreading the word about open source software. More importantly, I hope that peace, security, and prosperity come to the people of Iraq.

Re: I hope it goes well

Anonymous's picture

I second that - Way to go!

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