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Open Source's Battle In Africa 172

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the soak-em-for-all-they-are-worth dept.
eldavojohn writes "The BBC has more details about something we last discussed in 2008 — the showdown of open source versus proprietary software in Africa. When discussing the issue of cost, the piece quotes Microsoft's chairman on the scene, Dr. Cheikh Modibo Diarra, who alludes that open source continually costs you money by saying 'You buy Microsoft software, and you buy it once and for all, the cost that we tell you is the total cost for ownership.' On the other end of the story is Ken Banks from Kiwanja.net who has spent 15 years developing open source applications in Africa. His logic is that 'Today we're seeing growing open-source programmer, developer communities in South Africa, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and other African countries. Clearly, if you have this informal programming sector coming up, access to source code is almost critical if they are going to be able to take advantage of these new tools that are emerging.' Well, the battle rages on, hopefully the emerging African developers and users pick the tool(s) that suit their needs the best."
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Open Source's Battle In Africa

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  • Sure! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GMFTatsujin (239569) on Friday May 15, 2009 @03:39PM (#27971495) Homepage

    "'You buy Microsoft software, and you buy it once and for all, the cost that we tell you is the total cost for ownership.'"

    And then Microsoft stops supporting the product, changes the formats the products uses, and makes prior formats erratic or impossible to implement. It's a good thing you'll enjoy your purchase of brand new software, because you'll be doing it again and again and again.

    Or, you can go the Open Source route, which is continually and freely developed, usually for free-as-in-beer, and respects its own history. And if development stops, it's usually because some better Open Source project forked off or replaced it.

    Better as in "it performs a better job," not better as in "we'd better release a new version to keep our market share."

  • by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Friday May 15, 2009 @03:45PM (#27971585)

    You buy Microsoft software, and you buy it once and for all

    Of course you only buy it once. By the time the next version comes out it is so bloated, full of new DRM, in need of new video cards to handle the latest DirectX version, and just plain overall inefficient, that you need a new system to run it - which unavoidably comes with the next version of Windows preloaded.

    Per processor licensing should have been banned long ago.

  • Re:Sure! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Friday May 15, 2009 @03:53PM (#27971677) Journal
    As somebody who currently keeps the paychecks coming by being there when the software that my employer "bought once and for all" breaks in various horrible ways; I can tell you that "the cost that we tell you" is very much not the "total cost of ownership".
  • That's amazing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Minwee (522556) <dcr@neverwhen.org> on Friday May 15, 2009 @03:58PM (#27971749) Homepage

    'You buy Microsoft software, and you buy it once and for all, the cost that we tell you is the total cost for ownership.'

    Wow. So all that money that we're spending hiring administrators, paying for software support and beating applications with a crowbar until they run properly is _completely unnecessary!_ I have been such a fool for all of these years. All I needed to do was pay the sticker price for a copy of Windows Server and that would have been enough for everything!

    *cough cough cough* *mumble* *cough cough*

  • by BlackSnake112 (912158) on Friday May 15, 2009 @04:02PM (#27971803)

    This assumes that you have the skills to correct the problem yourself. Otherwise you are still waiting for someone somewhere to fix the problem.

    The choice is either pay for support to someone (either microsoft or redhat/IBM/other *nix vendor) or you get the software (open source or you buy it) and hope you do not have an issue. Many people think that if they pay for software they will get support from the vendor. This may or may not be true, depends on the software. With open source most people think that you are on your own. You cannot dial a phone number and get help.

    Many have bought software and not had an issue. The same is true with open source software. It is the individual accounts of problems that skew one's opinion.

    To sum it up: we should always look at as many options as possible. Then pick the best tool for the job at hand.

  • by value_added (719364) on Friday May 15, 2009 @04:08PM (#27971881)

    Why, considering all the man hours I've put into it, I would have saved virtually hundreds of dollars by paying for a quality Microsoft product!

    I can virtually gurantee that all those man hours you've put it in will yield benefits for years to come, many of which may not readily apparent. Unix Text Processing, for example, was first published in 1987. If you had read that book way back then, or read it for the first time last week, you can put the knowledge to good use on your new Ubuntu system.

    By contrast, a seasoned Windows admin is typically someone who's amassed a stale collection of trivia consisting of GUI shortcuts, registry edits, familiarity with utilities provided by someone other than Microsoft to accomplish ordinary things, a mental list of workarounds for things that never seem to work right, and memories of DOS that just won't go away. If he's really good, he'll be able to cite KB numbers.

  • by Tikkun (992269) on Friday May 15, 2009 @04:14PM (#27971947) Homepage

    By contrast, a seasoned Windows admin is typically someone who's amassed a stale collection of trivia consisting of GUI shortcuts, registry edits, familiarity with utilities provided by someone other than Microsoft to accomplish ordinary things, a mental list of workarounds for things that never seem to work right, and memories of DOS that just won't go away. If he's really good, he'll be able to cite KB numbers.

    In my experience, solving Windows problems involves a lot of bottle shaking. Solving problems on Unix-like platforms typically rewards logical thinking and expecting that the computer will do what you tell it to do (the trick is learning how to be specific).

  • Re:Sure! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by spun (1352) <(moc.oohay) (ta) (yranoituloverevol)> on Friday May 15, 2009 @04:15PM (#27971965) Journal

    Consider also the cost of training. Consider potential workers, one who has paid somehow for commercial software and training, one who has trained him or herself with the help of the community and access to everything for free. Who costs more to train? Who do you think will be willing to work for less as a new hire?

    Consider the inconsistencies of Windows' interface and the registry, versus the consistency of the command line, everything's a file, text based configuration.

    Consider the existence of open source multilingual support, versus commercially available support. If multilingual support isn't available in a commercial program, how will you get it?

    I don't think Dr. Cheikh Modibo Diarra is being entirely honest with his countrymen.

  • Re:Sure! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by clampolo (1159617) on Friday May 15, 2009 @04:15PM (#27971967)
    Exactly. Doctor Diarrea is an idiot. I'm going to have to buy Windows 7 to fix bugs in Vista that make it almost worthless (i.e. constantly having to unplug my router and reboot the machine because windows is screwing around (my Linux machine has no such problems.)
  • More FUD (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Nonillion (266505) on Friday May 15, 2009 @04:23PM (#27972065)

    "You buy Microsoft software, and you buy it once and for all, the cost that we tell you is the total cost for ownership."

    You can't really expect me to think that people in Africa are that fucking stupid to believe this line of bullshit...

  • Re:Sure! (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 15, 2009 @04:43PM (#27972341)

    How do you know the problem is Vista's, and not say, the drives for your network card, or the physical card itself even?

  • Re:Sure! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by digsbo (1292334) on Friday May 15, 2009 @05:11PM (#27972673)
    Also consider the cost of test systems! Oh, how I bemoan the lack of test systems when license fees prevent me from having a production-like system.

    I never anticipated the death-by-a-thousand-papercuts mode of inoperation I would experience when moving from a linux to an MS shop. Really, you can't even legally run the OS on a VM without appropriate licensing. When you run commercial/proprietary, you run costly.

  • Re:Sure! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by PitaBred (632671) <slashdot@pitabre ... g ['s.o' in gap]> on Friday May 15, 2009 @05:21PM (#27972811) Homepage

    I don't think Dr. Cheikh Modibo Diarra is being entirely honest with his countrymen.

    Of course he isn't. He's an executive. That's in his job description... "Lie to sell" is right after "Dispose of any moral qualms" on the list of qualifications.

  • by BitZtream (692029) on Friday May 15, 2009 @05:38PM (#27972983)

    Show me a linux distro that is supported as long after EOL as any version of Windows since 3.1. I won't claim before 3.1 as I don't have any experience with support for older versions. Ubuntu's current page says 9.04 is supported till 2010. 8.04 until 2011, not real sure why the old version has longer support than the new version, but considering the trend is for shorter support lifetimes, not longer then I think you've got a losing argument.

    XP is scheduled for security patches till 2014.

    Whats the cost of OSS? Learning curve, finding support when you need it, finding consultants who actually understand the software but have the time to deal with you. Theres a bunch of shit that you've never experienced. You'll learn this, as most MIS grads do, that what they taught you is almost but not quite completely worthless in the real world. Professors are on a different planet and do not have to play by the same rules as the rest of the world, the rest of the world as a general rule fires old worthless employees. Professors get tenure and become less useful and less in touch over time.

    You compare paying for support from Microsoft with paying for support from who for your OSS? Hmmm?

    You're post is that of a typical college graduate. Great on paper, dumb as shit to anyone who actually works in the real world. I'm afraid you're going to find MIS isn't anything like you've been lead to believe. Its not about sitting around in your dorm room jerking off to your package updates, its about making the business work efficiently. Just because you see the price of OSS is cheaper in one way doesn't mean its actually cheaper overall.

    Go ahead and convert your entire company to OpenOffice, and enjoy the customers you lose because you can't send them a Word doc that doesn't look like shit when they open it in Word. Explain to them how you promote open formats and free software, they'll care, really.

    You may not use Linux, but you are most certainly an inexperienced fanboy.

  • Re:Ownership? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Red Flayer (890720) on Friday May 15, 2009 @05:38PM (#27972987) Journal

    The last time I checked an M$ Eula, you don't actually own any code you pay for. you are actually paying a use license. M$ retains ownership rights to the software.

    Exactly. Total cost of ownership of Windows is zero. If there is no ownership, then there is no cost of ownership.

    Hence, the TCO of a Windows install will always be less than or equal to the TCO of any competitor.

    Nice trick, MS. I gotta give it to you, that was pretty clever.

  • by janwedekind (778872) on Friday May 15, 2009 @05:57PM (#27973157) Homepage

    Like Richard Stallman said at the WSIS Tunis panel discussion 2005 [google.com]: This is electronic colonization, i.e. the Africans are supposed to pay for foreign products and remain ignorant and dependent.

  • by Anonymous Struct (660658) on Friday May 15, 2009 @05:59PM (#27973183)

    Second that. I always felt like Unix tools were generally like lego blocks. Once you learn how they go together, you can build pretty much anything you need. Ten years from now, all the lego blocks you've accumulated still work with your new lego blocks, and you can keep using them over and over. By contrast, Windows tools are generally like die cast toys. That matchbox car is pretty awesome at being a little metal car, but if you want an airplane, you just have to save up your allowance and go buy one (well, unless it happens to be the kind of matchbox car where the doors open - then you can pretend they're wings if you have a good imagination).

    Windows is all about giving you a fish, and Unix is all about teaching you to fish.

  • by Runaway1956 (1322357) on Saturday May 16, 2009 @05:43PM (#27981853) Homepage Journal

    "Why is that? How could a nearly decade old insecure OS stomp the crap out of a brand new Linux distro? because for home users Linux sucks,"

    Totally, out of this world, wrong. Not flaming you - but it amazes me how little people understand the monopoly. Please, look to your local school's curriculum. What are children taught? MS, of course. Very nearly every computer in every school has MS installed. It was made a standard, mostly as a result of MS "exclusivity" agreements from a decade ago.

    Son number 1 attends college, where he majors in something called "computer sciences". He learns Microsoft. He learns absolutely zero "science". I know more "science" than he does. That son knows FAR MORE than I do about Microsoft, Microsoft products, Microsoft troubleshooting, Microsoft support, etc, etc, etc, but he is totally incompetent on any other platform.

    For studying the products of a single proprietary operating system, the kid expects to earn a degree in "computer science". In fact, he will become part of the problem that perpetuates the Microsoft myth that MS knows best.

    People really ought to understand the dynamics of a monopoly, before mocking those who fight the monopoly. Probably fewer than 5% of the people who argue the merits of Microsoft really understand how the actions of last decade have locked so many people into MS products. The schools are a big part of the problem today.

    I would LOVE to see public schools dump MS, en masse, and stop the indoctrination that is going on each and every day. Just wipe the drives, pass out a *nix or BSD distro, and have the kids install. The only MS machines allowed in school would be in virtual machines.

    Real computer science could only benefit, as more and more children are forced to face and solve computer problems. By the time today's Kindergarden kids graduate, they would be truly competent on dozens of platforms - including Microsoft platforms.

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