Linux Around the World Conference in San Francisco

by Jon "maddog" Hall

Linux Around the World (LAW) is a special event being held on August 14th at the Moscone Center in San Francisco during the LinuxWorld Conference and Expo. Sponsored by Linux International and two of its member companies, Hewlett-Packard and IDG, LAW is not a part of the conference program, but it is open to all tradeshow attendees at no additional charge. The event will be held at a special place on the show floor where 150 seats will be arranged auditorium style.

Here is a schedule of the talks scheduled for LAW:

11:00 - 11:10: Introduction by Jon "maddog" Hall of Linux International and Agenda by Gary Herman of Hewlett-Packard.

11:10 - 11:55: "The Open Knowledge Network" by Peter Armstrong

How can the open-source model best be applied to content, in opposition to the increasing privatisation of knowledge? Peter Armstrong illustrates the different approaches being tried and describes the innovative proposal from the Digital Opportunity Task Force for an Open Knowledge Network, which is now being tested by community networks in India and Africa.

12:00-12:55: "The Community Computer: Affordable Computing through Open Source" by Eric Rueda, HP

Although the personal computer industry's immense scale and focus on standard components have made computers increasingly affordable for consumers in the developed world, the price of a dedicated personal computer is far beyond the means of most of the world's population. In this talk, we show how Linux and the X Window System can be modified to allow multiple users simultaneously to share the hardware resources of a single PC constructed with industry-standard components. Each user interacts with a standard desktop as though the machine were dedicated, but because the hardware resources and attached peripherals are shared by several users simultaneously, the per-user costs are reduced dramatically. The result is a "community computer" well suited for use in shared environments such as schools, training centers and community access centers.

"The VolksComputer Project: The Latest and Greatest at Low Cost" by Prof. Sergio Campos, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais

The so-called Popular PC (PPC) Project was born out of the interest of the Brazilian government in providing a low-cost alternative to full internet access. The project was developed to fulfill these two conflicting features, low cost and full access, using current PC technology but without "fattening" substances such as CDs, floppies and hard disks. High quality modern software (Linux) was used to provide full access. As a result, a machine was developed that is able to provide full access at a low cost both at home and at schools or other community centers.

The project now aims to further develop the infrastructure and use the PPCs in schools. Laboratories have been installed in Brazilian public schools with tremendous success, providing not only access to the Internet but also a complete suite of software for students from age ten through high school.

13:00-13:55: "Linux as a Rural Desktop" (Overcoming Traditional Obstacles) by Prof. Hema Murthy, IIT-Madras, TeNet Group

India's average literacy level is about 65%, and less than 5% of this population can either read or write English. Further, most of India's people live in its villages. Keeping in mind the requirements of a rural Indian, the TeNeT Group has envisioned an "Indian rural desktop" based on the Linux operating system. A number of different applications relevant for a rural environment are customised, primarily focusing on education, empowerment and information access.

To make content and application development possible in Indian languages, input and display mechanisms need to be in place for Indian languages. Encoding, font and display supports need to be provided for each and every language, and each application needs to have its text localised for each language. Linux's support for multiple languages at the terminal driver and X library levels is exploited for this purpose. In addition, the terminal driver and X library have been modified to support widely varying character widths, cluster characters and so on. To address the problem of several competing encodings and fonts in use for Indian languages, the support has been designed so that it can handle any encoding scheme (8-bit or 16-bit) and any font. Some applications, including e-mail, editors, an office suite, bash, IRC and voice-mail have been customised to Indian languages.

"Simputers in the Rural Environment: Our Experience with Micro-banking and Other Initiatives" - Vinay Deshpande, CEO Encore Software Ltd.

The Simputer is a low-cost, mobile, personal computer with multiple connectivity options marketed as a shared computing device for a local community of users, such as exists in an Indian village panchayat, the village school or a kiosk. The Simputer is designed to be modular, extensible and personalizable, and it is based entirely on free software from the Open Source Initiative. In this talk, we'll describe the design philosophy of the Simputer, its primary features (e.g., touch-sensitive LCD display panel, smart card capabilities, Indian language speech synthesis and application interface). Then, we'll describe our experience using these devices in the environment of rural India, as part of microbanking and other initiatives.

14:00-14:50: "Linux for Communication in Brazilian Education" by Marcos Vinicus Ferreira Mazoni

The Government of Rio Grande do Sul, through the Educational Secretariat and PROCERGS have developed the REDE ESCOLAR LIVRE RS to create a multidisciplined and integrated environment, where information technology is used as an instrument to connect all of Rio Grande do Sul's public schools with resources to make an up-to-date education possible.

15:00-15:30: "SAGU: Open Source University Administration" by Cesar Brod

In July 2000, UNIVATES, a university centre in the south of Brasil, started using a system developed in-house to manage all aspects of the relationship between the students and the academic institution. From the moment students enroll at Univates until after they graduate, all of their academic histories and financial data are handled by SAGU. Developed with PHP and using a PostgreSQL database, SAGU got the attention of the Open Source community and universities all over Brasil.

In July 2001, representatives from ten universities from six different states of Brasil got together to further discuss cooperative development of SAGU and the adoption of the system on a larger scale. The government of the state of Rio Grande do Sul, who strongly supports free software/open-source projects, decided to use SAGU as the management system for the recently created University of the State of Rio Grande do Sul, and a few other institutions also are starting to use it.

UNIVATES also hosts and maintains the CodigoLivre portal, a SourceForge-like project that holds more than 170 projects maintained by more than 1,300 developers all over Brazil. In this presentation, Cesar Brod, Univates' Technology Consultant and one of the coordinators of the Free Software Project for the State of Rio Grande do Sul, will explain the SAGU Project, its architecture, design goals and plans for the future, along with a run-through of SAGU, GNUTECA and other systems developed by Univates.

15:30-16:15: "Commercial Uses of Linux in Brazil" by Fernando M. Roxo da Motta

The Linux market in Brazil is increasing greatly, not only with desktop users but also in big corporations, where approximately 35% use free software. This year researchers predict even more growth because of the potential to reduce the total cost of proprietary software by 70%, in addition to the associated quality improvements and the popularization and support among hardware companies and applications directed toward the Linux market.

16:20-17:00: "Free and Open Access" by Chloe Puett and Laura Gasslein, Kite, Inc.

In the industrialized world, internet access has ceased to be a luxury and has become the assumed norm. Already some health and education journals have ceased print publication and now are available only on-line. Without access to up-to-date information, the gap between the First and Third Worlds will only become wider.

The presence of only a few networked computers in remote regions can have an impact on thousands of lives. However, buying even one computer would cost the equivalent of eight years' income for someone in Bangladesh (compared with one month's wage for the average American). KITE seeks to redress this imbalance by providing our partners in developing countries hardware, software, e-mail, web space, technical training and translation services and by assuming the expenses for electricity and telephone and/or satellite services where necessary.

Because the costs of licensing fees associated with proprietary software--priced with the First World consumer in mind--can keep users trapped in a state of ongoing dependency, KITE packages rely solely on free software/open-source software.

18:00-19:30: "Linux Around the World: Continuing the Effort", Birds-of-a-Feather

Meet with the speakers of "Linux Around the World" and brainstorm on other ways to advance developing nations with open-source and free software. Hosted by Gary Herman of Hewlett-Packard and Jon "maddog" Hall of Linux International.

Jon "maddog" Hall is the director of Linux International.

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