Venezuela Gets It

No matter what else you may think of Hugo Chávez (probably bad if you get your information from the U.S. mainstream media, probably good if you get it elsewhere), it appears that Chávez and Venezuela understand both education and Linux.

From The Inquirer you can read that the Venezuelan government just bought 1,000,000 laptops from Portugal based on the Intel Classmate PC design. But, the story then gets interesting:

Although the notebooks are similar in both countries, the OS will be different as the Portuguese use a modified version of Microsoft Windows, while the government of Venezuela has opted for a version of Linux.

Let's put that in perspective. The population of Venezuela is less than 10% of the population of the U.S. A good question you might want to ask those Presidential candidates in the U.S. is how they feel about the U.S. government buying about 10,000,000 Linux laptops for use in education?


Phil Hughes


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Yeah, he's a great intimidator.

Anonymous's picture

The defeat in some of the slums of Caracas irked Chávez to the point that he went on state television Monday night, chafing at the election results. Warning the opposition, he said, "Don't think you control Petare."

How About Costa Rica?

Phil Hughes's picture

I would like to assert that acceptance of Linux at the government level is generally political and further assert that in most countries politics and big money are pretty much equal. Here is but one national data point.

Back in 2001, before I even moved to Costa Rica, I interviewed Guy de Teramond, then Minister of Science and Technology. He "got" Linux and got it for all the right reasons. But, his tenure ended and while others at lower levels of government (such as Mario who is also in the photo in the article) fought on, money xxxxxx um, I mean, politics got in the way.

Specifically, when Abel Pacheco was president, Microsoft "discovered" some 200 unlicensed copies of Windoze running in his own offices. The right solution, and the one agreed upon by the chief technical person was to replace the Windoze systems with Linux desktops. Linux wasn't new there—the two mail servers for the offices were running Linux. The decision was made. Some time later, after the president had dined with Microsoft, Costa Rica was to receive free copies of Windoze for those systems with only one condition—the mail servers be replaced with Windoze-based ones. Microsoft even agreed to buy two new computers to be the mail servers as the current hardware was inadequate to do the job using Microsoft software.

My read is the less your government likes U.S. politics which equals U.S. corporate interests, the more likely you are to end up with Linux systems in government. I, as one Linux user, know that given a fair shake, Linux wins. It's too bad that corporate interest is the reason so many people get stuck with less than a Linux system.

Phil Hughes

Laptops for all students in US

KenE's picture

"A good question you might want to ask those Presidential candidates in the U.S. is how they feel about the U.S. government buying about 10,000,000 Linux laptops for use in education?"

I would certainly hope that any candidate who replied to that question even remotely in the affirmative would never get elected. It's just as bad as Clinton's "baby bond" quip. The government has no business whatsoever taking hard earned dollars from one group of people and distributing it out to another (in this case those who have kids in public ed.)

Use of Tax Money

Phil Hughes's picture

We see the U.S. government using tax money (hard earned dollars) for a lot of things that I certainly consider redistribution from one group to another. Two weeks ago it as about $4000 from each and every taxpayer (on average) to bail out some private businesses that screwed up bigtime. Then we have Boeing, Haliburton and so forth. And, don't forget software from Microsoft. If you think about it, the only thing that governments do is redistribute money (taking a big cut for themselves in the process) anyway.

I could go on but the bottom line is that I would much rather see some money (we are maybe talking $2,000,000,000 which seems to small change in U.S. government "help") go to puting Linux in the hands of our future leaders. I am guessing it would be a net gain in the long run.

Phil Hughes

Ecuador too

Phil Hughes's picture
A friend just sent me a link to an article on the Ecuador Explorer web site.
Worse still were the prospects of climbing out of the economic black hole into which Ecuador had fallen. Like most of the Third World, Ecuador's developmental model had historically been faced with a Catch-22 - the ability to generate capital was dependent on being able to compete on a global level, however, competing on a global level was often contingent on having access to capital and the latest technologies. Enter Java and Linux. In the midst of an ongoing economic crisis, the rapid dissemination of open source software programs has become a major force in kick starting the laggard Ecuadorian economy.

Phil Hughes

Yeah...because they "get Linux"

Anonymous's picture

That means Chavez is good? The only people that think Chavez are good are bad.

Yeah...because they "get Linux"

Anonymous's picture

Only if you're a Bush/Cheney lover. :-) Everyone else knows that Chavez is right on w/ that Free Software track.

But isn't this what Linux is all about?

Anonymous's picture

I mean technological independence. Why should a Government from any country be subject to the regulations of a US based company and bleed thousands of dollars in the process?

Common responses apply here, the same herd logic, the same mistakes:

- It's what everybody uses. So what? It's not like the documents you create are going to be locked.
- There's no support. Yes, there is. And if you cannot afford it, you always have forums (that is if you ask politely after reading some help).
- People don't know how to use it. Yeah, and they so "know how to use Windows", right? All those poor IT souls locking down systems using policies are there just for the kicks. As with any piece of software you need to use in your company/organization/government/whatever, if you are at least a bit serious about what you do, you will get proper training for your staff.
- Linux is not ready for desktop usage. Aw, come on, now you are just repeating what you heard some years ago. If you are at least a bit intelligent you will be able to learn to use it, trust me.
- It's too much hassle. I personally find more of a hassle (and now with global economy falling down) to pay $250 for an OS and $250 - $500 for an office suite (more so when the machines you bought for your company/organization/government/whatever cost almost the same as the software it ends up running.
- It's free for a reason, because it's not done yet. No good piece of software is ever done.

With Microsoft extending their XP downgrade, everybody seems to want to still ride the badly beaten carcass of a obese dead horse... I wonder if they all take the hint about what's going to happen to their systems when Microsoft declares that it will not be reactivating XP systems past 2010, and that you have to pay through the nose for both hardware and software.

Not entirely true...

Diogo Afonso's picture

Well, Phil... I know you've read it from The Enquirer. That's ok. But a little investigation before publishing this short article would give you more information about it and reveal that what you (and The Enquirer) wrote is not accurate.

The Portuguese version comes both with a modified Windows version as well as a Portuguese Linux distro, called "Caixa Mágica" (translated to English, Magic Box). There are two options to choose from. So, Portugal gets it too, right?

Greetings from Portugal!

I versus E

ProfBib's picture

First, Phil read it in the Inquirer, not that supermarket rag from here in the states that carries the title Enquirer. Second, it has, in fact, been suggested in earlier reports that the use of Linux on the Portuguese flavor of these machines is merely a temporary placeholder for Windows. From a 31 July article in the Inquirer:

This is effectively a second-generation Classmate PC, and integrates a Celeron ULV part and uses Linux, although down the line it is expected to migrate to a fully Atom-based system with a “lighter version of Windows” (whatever that is).

Now, maybe there has been a recent announcement in the Portuguese-language press that contradicts these earlier statements and confirms long-term availability of Linux on these machines. But if that's the case, please share the reference with us...thanks!

Venezuela Gets It?? are you kidding?

JS from Venezuela's picture

"No matter what else you may think of Hugo Chávez (probably bad if you get your information from the U.S. mainstream media, probably good if you get it elsewhere), it appears that Chávez and Venezuela understand both education and Linux."

You forgot to say "probably bad if you live there..."

The government of Venezuela has a computer plant (assemblers) that sell only to people who are connected to the government. These PCs and laptops come pre-configured with Linux but most people who buy these end up installing a pirate copy of guess what?....yeah that OS. Probably the same fate for these Classmate PCs.

You forgot to say "probably

Anonymous's picture

You forgot to say "probably bad if you live there..."

'And if you believe the mainstream media and government bullshit'

A picture of the laptops

Anonymous's picture

Hugo loves Linux?

Anonymous's picture

I'm sure he doesn't really understand Linux as much as he understands who will benefit from 1,000,000 copies of Windows being sold. Even if they were free, the net result 10 years from now would benefit M$. Come on, can't you guys add? I agree that the media is biased, but you can't be that blind.

let me paint you a picture

Me again's picture

Me again. I just assumed you would get my first post, but I had second thoughts. M$ is an American company. Get it? I'm sure if Hugo had an OS made by a Venezuelan company available, then Linux wouldn't be on those laptops either.

FYI, there is a Venezuelan

Miguel Mendez's picture

FYI, there is a Venezuelan linux distro named Canaima, the push in Venezuela towards FOSS has to do with technological independence. There is a lot of government support for FOSS. there is even a decree so official institutions switch to FOSS. I don't know why people just keep hating, if there are things you don't like about Chavez, fine! but I do appreciate such support. Why don't you ask Mr. Stallman who has been here several times.



Me again's picture

First, I never said anything about hate, nor did I express any dislike towards Hugo. I don't know enough about him to like or dislike him.

I was merely pointing out the naivety of the original article. Mr. Chavez doesn't like the US, so why on Earth under any circumstance would he support an American company by purchasing their OS. The same goes for China developing Red Flag, it's in their own best interests. I'm sure that 200 years ago the US wouldn't use a British developed OS.

The frustration you hear in my tone of voice is because Linux advocates (my friends) believe that everyone that uses Linux "gets it". It's naive. Members of my local LUG are just as naive.

The Portuguese version has linux too

Luis Neves's picture

A small additional information.

The official version of the Portuguese version of the Classmate, 500000 computers that will be distributed in schools to kids, at a maximum price of 50 euros, have a Portuguese distribution of Linux in dual boot with Windows XP. I believe this latter OS was added when Microsoft realized the danger of letting this happen and decided to make a partnership with the Portuguese government.

Best regards


Anonymous's picture

Yay! Socialism! The government will save us!!!

don't forget to pick up your

Standing in line's picture

don't forget to pick up your government cheese.

And ODF too

Phil Hughes's picture

From the Tectonic newsletter, Venezuela just joined the list of now 15 countries that have adopted ODF as their official document interchange standard. When do you think the U.S. will join?

Speaking at the Second ODF Workshop in Pretoria, South Africa, yesterday, Carlos Gonzalez of the National Center of Information Technologies, announced that the Venezuelan government had formally adopted ODF as a standard for the “processing, exchange and storage of documents”.

Phil Hughes

Same story, different characters

One more time's picture

Again, Hugo's not dumb. Why would he standardize on M$ Word or even M$XML?

Famous quotes that never happened: "I'm the Venezuelan president, I hate the US, but I decided to support an American company." -- Hugo

Open your eyes. Venezuela doesn't "get it" the way you want them to "get it". They "get" that the US is always meddling in everyones' business and they "get" that under no circumstances do they want to support a US based company.

Get it how?

Phil Hughes's picture

I don't have a particular version of "get it" that I support. That is, I want people to use Linux for their own reasons. The more people that use it, the more it becomes a force toward "World Domination". Let me offer an example.

When I lived in Costa Rica five years ago, Microsoft was on a license crackdown program there. Microsoft lawyers, working with the OIJ (Costa Rican equivalent of the U.S. FBI), were going around to businesses to "make sure their Windoze copies were legal". This "encouraged" a lot of businesses and government agencies to switch to Linux.

Now, over 10 years ago, I wrote "I see Linux as the first successful implemention of Communism." That was based on the definition, "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need." My friend Eric Raymond quickly jumped on me. Well, Eric doesn't like the word Communism. My point was that the concept of Communism has been quite different than the implementation (actually, much like Capitalism) and that, finally, Linux development seemed to reflect the basic ideas.

Now, today, Venezuela is just the most recent South American country to officially get on the Linux bandwagon. Brazil was already there, for example. If Linux can attain more market penetration, for whatever reason, it does two things for us:

  1. It gives us more power to ask vendors to port their software to Linux
  2. It gives other people less reason to decide "they must" run Windoze

At this point in Nicaragua, there are many more pirated copies of Windoze than copies of Linux. While is free and available for Windoze, there are many more pirated copies of Microsoft Word than We are dealing with inertia. Any outside influence—whether it is the FBI equivalent or a President that doesn't like the U.S.—is just something helping us toward World Domination.

Should the U.S. government join the pro-Linux team? I think so. Why? Because a Linux takeover in U.S. markets will likely create a lot more software innovation and development. That, in turn, should put more money into the pockets of people actually doing something exciting rather than into the pockets of Microsoft stockholders.

Phil Hughes


Anonymous's picture

I thought the "get it" regarding the GPL, GNU, and Linux was about freedom.

Communism, History, and Opensource

Anonymous's picture

Brief Explanation of "Communism" in history :

Communism In Theory :

Oppressed rise up, overthrows Bosses and Aristocrats, workers in charge now, precipitating a Golden Age of Freedom/Liberty.

Core Concepts : Common Man, Freedom from Oppression

Communism In Reality (Russia):

Working Class rises up, otherthrows Bosses and Aristocrats. Upheaval takes out a lot of social & political institutions, leaving a power vacuum and a struggle. The end result is a high concentration of power in few hands. "Communist" party becomes new Bosses and Aristocrats.

(Same thing happened with the French Revolution => Napoleon)

Open Source is comparable to the first definition of "communism" - i.e. allowing the common geek to throw of the shackles of the Overlord and his perverse proprietary formats. No power vaccuum => new dicators in sight.