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Education Software Linux

MIT Urges Brazilian Government to Use Linux 223

Posted by Zonk
from the tux-at-carnivale dept.
sebFlyte writes "MIT's Media Lab has written to the Brazillian government (who is looking into a method to get its citizens cheap, high quality PCs) and has urged them to use Linux. From the article: 'Free software is far better on the dimensions of cost, power and quality...if the source code is proprietary, it is hidden from the general population. This robs them of a tremendous source for learning.'"
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MIT Urges Brazilian Government to Use Linux

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  • Well... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 18, 2005 @09:40AM (#11975059)
    It isn't like MIT is going to recommend BSD is it?
    • Indeed (Score:3, Interesting)

      by hey! (33014)
      Not when there's Multics. You could probably emulate the Multics hardware on a pic these days.

      I mean, if you need proof the Multics is the way to go, consider this: Multics is the only operating system in which the path separator makes sense. The file C in the subdirectory B of directory A is called "A>B>C", not "A/B/C", nor yet "A\B\C".

      Not only does thie capture the intuitive "whole is greater than the parts" idea, it also frees up "/" for use in file names (e.g. "January/Feburary_Report.txt") an
      • I thought of a better example for the use of \ to indicate nonprinting characters:

        "MyFavoriteMicrosoftieIsGordon\007"
  • knowledge source (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mirko (198274) on Friday March 18, 2005 @09:42AM (#11975083) Journal
    if the source code is proprietary, it is hidden from the general population. This robs them of a tremendous source for learning

    Incredible: it's the best argument I've heard about it. I don't really like the usage of the words "rob" and how emphatical it sounds but it's right.

    Anyway, I learnt on an Acorn RiscPC (closed source OS) which was really ergonomical and it was also good so I sugest he should revise his consideration : open source is good but ergonomy also is and I'm afraid that, because progresses still have to be made, they can't argue much on this point.

    Anyway I think the World would be better if the Brazilians heard that argument and accepted the principle.

    Hooray for the MIT ! :)
    • by melonman (608440) on Friday March 18, 2005 @09:59AM (#11975259) Journal
      It sounds like a really bizarre argument to me. If the general population wants to browse source code on a Saturday night (and is this true even where MIT staff live?) they don't need their governments' computers to be running it, they just need to download some source code. What might be of interest to the general population is better access to what is stored using the government's OS, but "open data" is not quite the same thing.

      Incidentally, I learned to program on an Acorn too, and still use my RiscPC for certain tasks. 10-character filenames weren't that ergonomic though, and of course Acorn and their largest developer could never agree what look and feel to go for anyway.
      • >>If the general population wants to browse source code on a Saturday night [...] they don't need their governments' computers to be running it, they just need to download some source code.

        Just a thought.. if you're running windows and you download the linux source to ponder, it's purely academic from your standpoint. You can't directly apply what you learn, you can't fiddle and observe results. You might as well be looking at it through a glass wall. But if you already run linux, and you peek and p

        • Re:just a thought (Score:2, Insightful)

          by menkhaura (103150)
          It's not only about people being able to learn how an OS works, or how to program, etc. It's also about information security. With an open source system, the government is able to know exactly what is happening, and where its information goes to. Letting your most critical information be managed by some proprietary system, where you cannot know for sure exactly what is happening behind the scenes, where your data is being sent to, is not intelligent. Not for the US, the home country for most of these propri
        • Re:just a thought (Score:3, Interesting)

          by melonman (608440)
          But for 99.99% of computer users, it's academic whatever the OS. I've been running a Linux cybercafe for 3.5 years, and in that time I reckon we've had maybe 3 people through the door who might have been able to fiddle with our OS without having to reinstall afterwards (if I had let them). Indeed, if we're talking about kernel-level fiddling, what percentage of /.ers routinely take their patches to bits to see how they work?

          If I hack a piece of proprietary code, assuming I have the means to do so, I invali
      • by morcego (260031) on Friday March 18, 2005 @10:32AM (#11975619)
        It sounds like a really bizarre argument to me. If the general population wants to browse source code on a Saturday night (and is this true even where MIT staff live?) they don't need their governments' computers to be running it, they just need to download some source code.

        Lets just remember that computers are VERY expensive in Brazil, and for the overwhelming majority of the population, without these government computers, they won't have access to computers AT ALL.

        I also see a lot of people saying "they can just download the free OS". Well, guess what ? Internet is NOT that common here either, at least for the part of the population that is the target of this "cheap computer" initiative.

        No one is saying this is the best idea for USA. They are saying this is the best idea for Brazil. So, please consider that Brazil IS NOT USA.
        • Re:knowledge source (Score:3, Informative)

          by marcosdumay (620877)

          Yes, computer are expensive here, and many people can't afford one. But everybody that can afford one of those can also afford downloading a free software from the net. I don't know any official data about the majority of the population, but I belive them have computers just at work.

          The maing goal of using FOSS ont this project is to keep the price low, while satisfying the FOSS adepts that are a big part of the government people

          I really didn't RTFA, but this MIT professor is just reinforcing the govern

      • It sounds like a really bizarre argument to me. If the general population wants to browse source code on a Saturday night (and is this true even where MIT staff live?)

        You've obviously never spent any time at MIT.

    • by roman_mir (125474)
      if the source code is proprietary, it is hidden from the general population. This robs them of a tremendous source for learning - actually it is one of the worst arguments. I don't think that most people who buy TV care to learn how to build one or how to modify the one they have.

      The effort aims to sell up to one million computers, with costs partially subsidised by the government, to lower-middle-income Brazilians this year. - now, from this we can come up with a much better argument, and voila, it is i
      • No, it is the best argument. Open source gives an opportunity to lear for free, especially when development tools are available free as well. This helps those people who are interested in learning.
        • You are so silly. People are interested in learning, of-course, but most people are not interested in learning software programming. Most people are interested in being able to run their favorite applications, games etc., that run on MS Windows. Now, people who are actually interested in learning about software can just as easily start with a proprietory system, like most of us did, and then, if they become interested in learning something serious about the OS, they can just as easily download a GNU/Linu
    • I learnt on the Archie's predecessor, the BBC Micro.

      And while it wasn't exactly open-source, both the OS and BASIC ROMs were easy enough to disassemble, and at least one book was published with commented disassembly of them. Plus there were some extremely good, very technical manuals covering just about every aspect. With the help of those, I was able to do some pretty neat stuff, including rewriting some parts of the OS.

      The Beeb was a very underrated machine. While it was more expensive than plain ga

  • by ziggamon2.0 (796017) on Friday March 18, 2005 @09:42AM (#11975087) Homepage
    The title says it all!

    The MIT guys just want a reason to be invited to the carnival!
    You go guys!

    Maybe there even is a tux-at-carnivale department at MIT...
  • I wonder why, if it is an already estabilished State policy in Brazil.

    And no, I didn't RTFineA.
    • I have been keeping track of the "PC Conectado" project as closely as I can, though I haven't heard much lately. The original specification from last year was very strict: 2.4GHz Celeron processor (AMD need not apply?), 128MB of memory, disk drive, CD-ROM drive, keyboard and a 15-inch monitor. The software was supposed to be Linux and a list of some 10 application programs.

      What the article was implying is that this might change so a reduced version of Windows could be offered as an alternative. Perhaps the
      • >
        My own "computer for the poor" project will be hurt just as much as MS by this since though my OS is Free Software it isn't Linux.

        But is it POSIX? The government shouldn't be in the business of dictating implementations, but interfaces. Links?

        • > But is it POSIX? The government shouldn't be in
          > the business of dictating implementations, but
          > interfaces. Links?

          No POSIX, sorry. In fact, my microprocessor will probably never even have a C compiler for it so this wouldn't make much of a difference anyway. But it is not possible to make a really modern OS if you demand POSIX compatibility - you will just end up with a Unix with a very odd (and irrelevant) kernel or exo-kernel or whatever.

          Compatibility with the Internet standard can get you p
          • >

            my microprocessor will probably never even have a C compiler for it so this wouldn't make much of a difference anyway

            While I appreciate a Lisp or Smalltalk based microprocessor should be much more efficient, how would one get the network economical effects? I'd love to see such a system, but even in the US they couldn't push it: Lisp systems and Smalltalk workstations died, at least for now.

            >

            it is not possible to make a really modern OS if you demand POSIX compatibility

            I like to think of t

  • Logical Move (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 18, 2005 @09:43AM (#11975095)
    I know that Linux is used widely throughout the government in Brazil for their work, it seems only logical that they would load Linux on the machines they are distributing throughout their country for the poor.
    • Re:Logical Move (Score:2, Informative)

      by michelcultivo (524114)
      Also the Brazilian Government has done a Migration Guide to Free Software [governoeletronico.gov.br] that is widely used on another public projects here in Brazil.
    • I know that Linux is used widely throughout the government in Brazil for their work, it seems only logical that they would load Linux on the machines they are distributing throughout their country for the poor.
      Supposing their bureaucracy can be as bad as the ones I've experienced, or their HR as idiotic as many when it comes to IT, people had better learn how to use that free software if they want jobs in the administration.
  • by turtled (845180)
    I don't see why it's a big deal the MIT is contributing to the needs of Brazil. MIT is highly respected and not taken lightly. Good for them for helping out.
  • UK Gov... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Zebadias (861722) on Friday March 18, 2005 @09:46AM (#11975119)
    Here in the UK the waste of money in the public sector on MS and other software licences is huge! If only we took such a forward thinking approch.
    • by madaxe42 (690151) on Friday March 18, 2005 @09:54AM (#11975205) Homepage
      Don't be so silly - we get excellent value for our IT services - it's a snip, at £48,000,000,000 per year to manage 160,000 government computers - I mean, seriously, that's only £300,00 per computer, per year, which is pretty minimal - and there's no such thing as 'free' software - if there was, microsoft would have told us about it.

      Anyway, I'm in charge of government IT purchasing here, and it's just fine, thanks - oh, hang on, gotta go, the kids are playing on my gold plated runway again.
      • Schools (Score:3, Insightful)

        by gilesjuk (604902)
        But schools are locked into Microsoft. I would sooner kids used Linux and the like, would give them a better start in IT than using the monoculture.
        • Re:Schools (Score:2, Interesting)

          I support the monoculture...the Linux monoculture. Having the same OS on your: PDA, desktop, servers, mainframes, and supercomputers means massive savings in support, development, training, etc.

          There will be some diversity between distros in Linux (exactly as much diversity as the most dissatisfied developer desires), but the push for a Linux Standard Base is a move toward monoculture inside the Linux community (for the benefits that I stated above).

          The harm isn't from the monoculture, it's from the mono

  • by littlem (807099) on Friday March 18, 2005 @09:46AM (#11975120)

    I found the article very encouraging. I think there's a danger of Linux appearing as something that's a cheap alternative used in the third world because they can't afford "first rate" proprietary software. This is patronizing both to Linux and to third world countries. It's great to see intelligent arguments to choose open source beyond simple cost being made by a government, as in If the source code is proprietary, it is hidden from the general population. This robs them of a tremendous source for learning.

  • free software is not the same as Open Source. Maybe it's something to do with their logo, "Where technology means business." Minor point, but still.
    • free software is not the same as Open Source.

      Sigh.

      Technically, you're right. In practice, there is no real difference. There have been differences of opinion here and there but there is no software currently under a licence that is Open Source but not Free Software (or vice versa).

      So the difference is purely academic and, IMHO, rather counterproductive (people outside the community will see this debate and think we're a bunch of in-fighting ideologues, arguing over minor points and losing sight of o

  • Talk about antagonizing your big money corporate sponsors, including the guy who built the new building around the corner on Vassar St. Gutsy move, but not a terribly bright one, unless self-immolation is their next plan.
  • Digital Inclusion (Score:2, Informative)

    by michelcultivo (524114)
    The Brazilian Government is doing this to do the Digital Inclusion [http] that the citizens need, only fews people here in Brazil has access to a computer and Internet connection.
    Bill Gates tryed to do a meeting [usatoday.com] with our president Lula but by the way it don't happened.
  • by ClosedSource (238333) on Friday March 18, 2005 @09:56AM (#11975227)
    Remember when MIT was all about mathematics, science and engineering rather than a international public policy think-tank?

    Oh well, there's still Caltech and Harvey Mudd.
  • not (just) linux (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jschauma (90259) on Friday March 18, 2005 @09:57AM (#11975238) Homepage
    The article does not mention anywhere that ``MIT Urges Brazilian Government to Use Linux'',. MIT seems to suggest to use ``Free software''. I wish people would stop equating the two; there are many, many other free software or open source projects that are not linux, and I believe it's harmful to the overall open source community to continue to enforce the notion that Open Source == Linux (and linux only).
    • by micromoog (206608)
      Linux is definitely the poster child OS (with Firefox now starring as the poster child app). It's easier for the general public to get its mind around a real thing rather than an abstract concept.

      That said, the success of Linux will breed success for all FOSS.

    • I believe it's harmful to the overall open source community to continue to enforce the notion that Open Source == Linux (and linux only).

      Similarly I believe it's harmful to the overall open source community to continue to enforce the notion that Open Source == Free Software.
  • LOL! (Score:2, Funny)

    by presarioD (771260)
    I just received the new product catalog from HP and Windows Media Player Suite is at the "bargain" price of $200.

    LOL!!! That gave me a good laugh! Talking about irrelevancy here! Somebody needs to send them xine or mplayer on a 50cent CD with a $1 red ribbon on it. They just do not get it and it will be a while since they do, but it will be too late.

    Insulting the intelligence of the population with the FUD campaign won't cut it either!

    Go Brazil! Europe and Asia are following suite sooner or later!
  • I'm a Brazilian and i always see many things that MIT is one step further than others institutions or governments, that's why i see MIT as a visionary college, from the current present to the near future ... once again, i have to say that i strongly agree with MIT vision and i think it is time to get rid of fear on using Linux, Open Source software, and thinking the user is so dummy to grasp any other OS than Windows ... lower costs will reach more people, which means more users and then more programmers
  • by cheezemonkhai (638797) on Friday March 18, 2005 @10:10AM (#11975382) Homepage
    Could somebody please explain how this:

    "MIT's Media Lab has written to the Brazillian
    government (who is looking into a method to get
    its citizens cheap, high quality PCs) and has
    urged them to use Linux."

    Was derived from this:

    From the article: 'Free software is far better on
    the dimensions of cost, power and quality...if
    the source code is proprietary, it is hidden from
    the general population. This robs them of a
    tremendous source for learning.'"

    They said free software, not GPL or GNU/Linux

    You could run Hurd or BSD.
    Why is it that everyone associates Free == Linux.
    • The hurd is vaporware that puts even Duke Nukem Forever to shame and BSD is dead you fanboys insist on whipping its rotting carcass.

      Face it, despite apache and firefox/mozilla, linux IS THE face for open source. Richard M Stallman did a great thing with the gnu and it was used long before linus torvald started his work but it is Linux that gave it its growning glory.

      So just swallow your pride, bow down to the penguin and get at the back of the parade. If your nice you may carry a small Hurd or BSD sign.

      J

  • FTA
    Some cabinet members think consumers should have a choice between buying a computer with open source software and paying slightly more for a machine with Microsoft software. They think this approach would make sense to reach consumers who are already familiar with Microsoft software. But free-software advocates within Lula's administration believe Microsoft should be excluded from the program.

    I'm all for Linux (OSS), but a bit disturbed when when advocates of any technology try to advocate less cho
    • I'm all for Linux (OSS), but a bit disturbed when when advocates of any technology try to advocate less choice. Why NOT give the people the option to have MS or OSS? Trying to force "free" or "open" software upon the people doesn't sound open or free to me!

      I think the basic idea is that the program is intended to help the Brazilian people, and when looked at in that light, proprietary MS software can be seen as a negative for at least three reasons:

      1. Money spent on MS software is wealth being sent from
  • MIT OpenCourseWare (Score:5, Informative)

    by revscat (35618) on Friday March 18, 2005 @10:15AM (#11975444) Journal

    Because I am a big fan of it, I would like to take a moment to plug MIT's OpenCourseWare [mit.edu], where you have access to MIT's entire course catalog, including assignments, videos, and other materials. Want to learn Japanese? Go for it. [mit.edu] Or perhaps Electromagnetic Fields, Forces, and Motion [mit.edu] is more to your liking. Have at thee.

    MIT has shown their dedication to an open academic atmosphere and the benefits for the public of easy access to knowledge. Their endorsement of free software here is completely consistent with their previous actions.

    Good for them.

  • This thing probally won't come out of the paper as the last try. Instead of doing all of this yad-yada (bla-bla-bla), government should work to lower taxes and raise salaries, so people could acctually buy a computer by themselves! I worked hard and have a nice duron 1.6, it's not a big thing and it came throught Paraguay (this mean, no taxes) as most people here do, because they can't afford a regular pc sold in shops that is 3 times more expensive.
  • by IGnatius T Foobar (4328) on Friday March 18, 2005 @11:13AM (#11976101) Homepage Journal
    Open source software such as Linux, particularly outside the US, is really coming into its own. I had a bit of an epiphany recently that I'd like to share with you. For the longest time we've been obsessing about Linux on the desktop, and watching things like Google Zeitgeist to try to figure out what our market share is and when it's going to finally take that sharp upturn that signals the beginning of the end of the Microsoft monopoly.

    But what has happened in the meantime? As Linux users, we find ourselves missing things from the ball-and-chains world less and less. I, for one, haven't needed to use proprietary software for anything in a few years now. What does this mean? It means that the Linux and open source world is now completely self-sustaining. Whether or not we have numbers that compare to Apple's and Microsoft's, we still have numbers big enough that we're here to stay, and there will probably always be enough new, good software to keep us going now. That's a comforting thing to know. (But I still think it'll get bigger.)
  • 'Free software is far better on the dimensions of cost, power and quality.'

    But it clearly isn't there yet in terms of grammar checkers :-)
  • From the article: 'Free software is far better on the dimensions of cost, power and quality...if the source code is proprietary, it is hidden from the general population. This robs them of a tremendous source for learning.'"

    BS! I learned everything about Windows programming from a very young age by reading the documentation [microsoft.com] and examining the headers in the Platform SDK [microsoft.com] and didn't need to look at the source and still produce quality components. The documentation coming from Microsoft is far better than wha

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