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Chinese Gov't Pushing Linux In Rural China With Subsidies 127

Posted by timothy
from the stamp-of-approval dept.
nerdyH writes "The Chinese government's 'Go Rural' program offers subsidies up to 13 percent for rural residents who purchase approved nettops or netbooks. The systems come with a version of Red Flag Linux built on the Moblin stack. Along with Internet access, the software is said to provide apps for crop and livestock management, farm production marketing, remote office access/automation, and even online tour and hotel booking systems. Of course, Windows dominates the China market, and if traditional patterns hold, about 30 percent of these subsidized systems could ultimately wind up re-installed with Windows."
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Chinese Gov't Pushing Linux In Rural China With Subsidies

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  • the Chinese government began offering subsidies of up to 13 percent for residents in rural areas who purchase qualifying computers.

    Is this really even a story? Having to buy a "qualifying" computer just to get 13% off doesn't seem like a deal.

    • by tftp (111690)

      Having to buy a "qualifying" computer just to get 13% off doesn't seem like a deal.

      Computers are still expensive. Those 13% translate to some visible savings to a Chinese peasant.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by cjfs (1253208)

        Computers are still expensive. Those 13% translate to some visible savings to a Chinese peasant.

        Not if they weren't the cheapest to begin with. Wouldn't you be skeptical of a USA Go Rural! computer being the best deal? I'm not quite sure what value to assign to an oppressive government's software either.

        • Are they in a position to:

          A: buy ANYTHING? (being a rural Chinese peasant doesn't pay too well I hear)

          B: *KNOW* that it's a bad deal and go to the China equivalent of NewEgg and build a better machine (being a rural Chinese peasant doesn't pay too well I hear)

          • by rtb61 (674572)

            Consider more from a Chinese government perspective. They wish to distribute computers to regional areas, rather than pay the full cost, they are getting rural farmer to pay a substantive portion of the price. Now because the government is distributing the computers to keep the copy-rightists happy they can not exactly distribute them with pirated copies of windows. So distributing them at a further discount with Linux means a substantive saving for the government and if those units end up with pirated sof

        • Re:13 percent? (Score:4, Interesting)

          by tftp (111690) on Friday October 23, 2009 @01:18AM (#29843193) Homepage

          I'm not quite sure what value to assign to an oppressive government's software either

          Assign a lot of value and you won't be wrong. Apple's iPhone is a shining example of a computer that doesn't allow execution of anything that is not approved by authorities. China, with all its oppression, is not there yet. Now look at Apple's profits.

          • by Nested (981630)
            At least Apple does not (yet) dictate how many children I may have.
            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              by imakemusic (1164993)
              That's because you haven't bought the iMsterile iPhone signal amplifier yet.
            • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

              by daem0n1x (748565)

              I AM VERY GLAD that the Chinese government dictates how many children they can have. It may suck for the Chinese people, but it's very good for the rest of us that they stopped the gigantic population growth they were having before these measures were in effect.

              It's very nice to have opinions when we're in the First World, sitting in our leather couch, watching our plasma TV, sipping 12 year scotch.

              See here [wikipedia.org]

          • by cjfs (1253208)

            Assign a lot of value and you won't be wrong. Apple's iPhone is a shining example of a computer that doesn't allow execution of anything that is not approved by authorities.

            Commercial quality assurance and government obedience assurance aren't exactly the same thing.

            • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

              by tftp (111690)
              My point is just that most people in the world (and in the USA) can't care less about their freedoms, in software and elsewhere. iPhone is just a test case. It is not hard to imagine this approach spreading to PCs. Windows already has the means built in. Simply require a valid signature on all .exe files - and guess who has the signing keys? You can sell this "for the children" or to fight viruses or to offer a guaranteed quality... the end result is the same - you lose.
          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by rolfwind (528248)

            Assign a lot of value and you won't be wrong. Apple's iPhone is a shining example of a computer that doesn't allow execution of anything that is not approved by authorities. China, with all its oppression, is not there yet. Now look at Apple's profits.

            That is the problem with geeks. They see the iPhone, they step back, and they compare it's features to that of a netbook, notebook, or a full-blown desktop computer and start bitching about what they can't do with the device.

            The general public does no such th

            • Re:13 percent? (Score:5, Insightful)

              by noundi (1044080) on Friday October 23, 2009 @04:03AM (#29843739)

              That is the problem with geeks. They see the iPhone, they step back, and they compare it's features to that of a netbook, notebook, or a full-blown desktop computer and start bitching about what they can't do with the device.

              Oh fuck off. We saw the iPhone and said, ok so will it support MMS? No? 3G? No? Application market not dictated by a single entity? No? What about battery, can I change my own battery at least? No? I have a shitty symbian phone that is worth about as much as the lint in my pocket, which supports multitask, what about the iPhone? No??? Then what the fuck am I paying for? Touchscreen? No sir, the iPhone is ignored by the geeks for the same reason that Fiat is ignored by the car enthusiasts. It is simply a poor product.

              • by rolfwind (528248)

                Application market not dictated by a single entity?

                This is pretty much what I'm talking about.

                No sir, the iPhone is ignored by the geeks for the same reason that Fiat is ignored by the car enthusiasts. It is simply a poor product.

                I doubt it is "ignored." Last I looked, Kevin Rose had an iPhone, but that was a while back.

                • by noundi (1044080)

                  Application market not dictated by a single entity?

                  This is pretty much what I'm talking about.

                  No sir, the iPhone is ignored by the geeks for the same reason that Fiat is ignored by the car enthusiasts. It is simply a poor product.

                  I doubt it is "ignored." Last I looked, Kevin Rose had an iPhone, but that was a while back.

                  Which only proves that Kevin Rose is subject to the vanity of fashion. The iPhone is a severely crippled device, and if I had money shooting out of my ass, like Kevin does, I too would have bought whatever shit that crossed my mind. Just because I could. But my ass doesn't shoot money, so I'm bound to be a smart consumer. Still, even with all it's crippling shit, the biggest reason why buying an iPhone would never cross my mind is due to the same reason that I would never attend to a school which could dict

              • by cyfer2000 (548592)
                Yeah, same old same old [slashdot.org].
            • by dwater (72834)

              Well, *this* geek looks at the iPhone and compares its feature to pretty much every other phone on the market and wonders why the iPhone can't do the same thing. At least, he did with the first iPhone...kind of lost interest after that.

            • by oldhack (1037484) on Friday October 23, 2009 @06:00AM (#29844187)

              That is the problem with geeks...

              Sup, dawg. We heard you have problems with geeks.

              GET THE FUCK OFF OUR LAWN.

            • Re:13 percent? (Score:5, Insightful)

              by Hurricane78 (562437) <deleted@slashd o t .org> on Friday October 23, 2009 @06:57AM (#29844467)

              You are so wrong, you make people feel like you're right again.

              You are the only one, assuming your assumptions. Everybody else compares the iPhone to simple run-off-the-mill smartphones from Nokia, Samsung, etc. And it simply can't hold a candle to any of them. That's a cold hard fact. Maybe you have only seen, what companies like Verizon offer you. But that is not, what you can actually buy in countries with working markets. Look at Germany. Look at Japan, dammit! Our phones are technical MONSTERS with functions that the iPhone can't even begin to dream of. PLUS total freedom. Hell, Nokia's N900 smartphone even offers you Linux with full root access right from the factory! No unlocking, to tricks, nothing. And on top of all the normal features.

              The simplest way to know that you have never used a recent smartphone: You think the iPhone is in any one aspect better than other smartphones.

              Apple is trying to play catch-up. That's all. The rest is pure and raw hype and a whole load of monopolism from US phone companies.

              • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

                by morgauxo (974071)
                I don't want to look at what Germany, Japan and others have available. It makes me angry we don't get the same. Thanks a lot for telling me about the N900. I want to be ignorant now. LA LA LA LA LA finger in ears LA LA LA LA
              • by rolfwind (528248)

                Our phones are technical MONSTERS with functions that the iPhone can't even begin to dream of. PLUS total freedom. Hell, Nokia's N900 smartphone even offers you Linux with full root access right from the factory!

                This is pretty much what I'm talking about.

                iPhone is/(was? from August) number 1 in Japan:
                http://brainstormtech.blogs.fortune.cnn.com/2009/08/17/apples-iphone-3gs-is-no-1-in-japan/ [cnn.com]

              • by kamapuaa (555446)

                You're delusional. Japanese phones are the size of a brick and they aren't half as good as an iPhone. The standard Japanese phone (a gigantic flip phone with a custom OS) reminds one of taking a flip phone from ten years ago and highly refining it for internet access. The iPhone, with a much larger screen and an OS that you can actually get programs for, is superior in every single way to a Japanese phone. Really. There are no points on which the standard Japanese brick-phone is better than an iPhone.

                • Really all you said about the Nokia 9000 is that it can run Linux. Who wants to do that on their cell phone?

                  Well, cant speak for everyone, but this is the first i thinking about getting a mobile phone again.
                  Havent had a mobile phone for like 3 years now, and i really enjoy not being reachable all the time.
                  But this isnt just a Linux kernel. Its a fully blown version with GTK and QT. So you can easily adapt pretty much every program you use on you normal linux box.

            • by morgauxo (974071)
              Sounds more like a failing in the general public than a problem with geeks to me. It's not our fault if most people lack knowledge and imagination.

              Truth is we could have a cellphone which replaces at least our netbooks if not our laptops today if the manufacturers would produce it and carriers were willing to let it on their networks. All we need are two features, a USB host port and an OS open enough to allow the community to write drivers.

              OK, the screen would still be small and I don't think a proj
          • Apple's iPhone is a shining example of a computer that doesn't allow execution of anything that is not approved by authorities.

            "Authorities" is government. Apple is not government.

            The distinction is significant, because Apple's device was made by them — it is not attributable to a dime of taxpayer's money, and is not handed out by a government as part of any policy. Maybe, you should've used government-sponsored school and library computers for your example — those are, indeed, very limited by

            • by morgauxo (974071)
              Bad comparison. The school or library own those computers. They are just allowing you to use them. Apple doesn't own your iPhone. That's why you paid for it! What's with this idea that companies that make stuff own it even after selling. It seems to be a generational thing, did a generation of parents fail to teach their kids the concepts of ownership, money and purchasing? If I loan you my car I have every right to put limitations on how you use it. If I sell you the car then tell you where you can
              • by mi (197448)

                The school or library own those computers. They are just allowing you to use them.

                Libraries let taxpayers use the devices, that the taxpayers own. Unlike buying an iPhone, paying for the libraries' computers is not even voluntary... If any computer-use restrictions deserve scrutiny, it is those imposed by the government (including schools and libraries) on the captive populace — not those a corporation manages to impose on consumers free to choose any product they like.

                Potentially, a government is th

        • I'm not quite sure what value to assign to an oppressive government's software either.

          Does the computer allow one to erase said software and install a clean distribution? If so, I see no fundamental problem. True, I don't expect many peasants to do that, if not because of the necessary technical skills, then because of their having better things to do such as caring for their crops. On the other hand, does its BIOS include a hidden hypervisor/backdoor? Is monitoring software included, that once erased, ceases to report the user's activities to the government, prompting repressive action? If

          • by tftp (111690)

            I think the whole issue of spying on barely literate peasants is overengineered by /. I could even agree that spying on city intellectuals would make at least some sense. But peasants? Forget it. If there is anything brewing in a remote village it won't be done on Internet, it will be done in tea houses, and that's where informers come into play.

            So IMO the risk of spying on peasants through this 13% program is minimal. Peasants do not matter, and there are too many of them to watch each and every one per

  • Green Dam?

  • So these Chinese farmers can use Linux... but can their grandmothers?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      As an American living in China, I believe that people in rural China, as well as the elderly, could really surprise many westerners. For example, it is very common for the elderly here to trade stocks as a hobby, and community English classes are often full of retired people who are eager to learn, and who race to raise their hands when it is time for questions. Many people here really value knowledge and love to learn, and they are very often not the youngest, most educated, or most privileged.

      I of

  • What percentage of the Windows PCs in China are running a licensed copy of Windows?

    The reason I ask is someone can buy one of these and "repurpose" it to a non-legal copy of Windows, ending up with a 13% + (the price of Windows on the same machine) savings.

    -Todd
    • by tftp (111690) on Friday October 23, 2009 @01:08AM (#29843157) Homepage

      someone can buy one of these and "repurpose" it to a non-legal copy of Windows, ending up with a 13% + (the price of Windows on the same machine) savings.

      It's something that only a geek would do; and even if a geek does this, it doesn't matter. There aren't too many geeks in rural China, and it could be that there is more software available for Red Flag Linux in those remote areas than for Windows. Why? Because warez, even on CDs, need to be delivered and sold, and they need to be localized, and they need to be pre-cracked, and everything should work so that a rice farmer can just plug it in and use. But how many warez are like that? But RFL software can be distributed by the government, legally of course, and there is already so much of it that you need some advice on what to use (which one out of hundred text editors, for example?) IMO, a farmer would be better off getting a cheaper computer *and* a supported OS + applications. There is even no viable reason for a farmer to need Windows. You or me may need Windows to run some specific apps; but what apps a farmer needs? A Web browser, mostly. If there is no Internet link then he needs OpenOffice and a printer. His children need some programming language (which Linux distributions are not short of.) And perhaps a few thousand ebooks in the local language. Windows doesn't come with most of that, except the browser (and the browser is IE, to make things worse.)

      • by dwater (72834) on Friday October 23, 2009 @04:13AM (#29843785)

        > It's something that only a geek would do

        In my experience, there are plenty of geeks in PRC, rural or otherwise. People would just take it to their nearest one who is likely making a nice profit from providing the service.

        • by JAlexoi (1085785)
          This implies that the farmer has experience with Windows. New computer users, will easily use Linux without even thinking of switching.
      • Dude have you been to China? Everything in your posts says you haven't. Farmers will want Windows for the same reasons the rest of the world (outside the rabid fundamentalist creationist linux types) wants it. Most other people use it, and it does what they need out of it.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by sam0737 (648914)
        I bet 50% of the machine (or resources) will end up in official's hands, instead of farmers. And then their kids and relatives definitely needs Windows to run whatsoever software.

        The most popular IM in China, QQ, only has client for windows. Well, Pidgin also support the basic of the protocol, but lacking a whole lot of features, and I doubt how many people know Pidgin.

        The online banking requires the use of Windows software (although it's an IE wrapper) to do transaction/wire-transfer. The web accessible ve
      • by mathfeel (937008)

        It's something that only a geek would do; and even if a geek does this, it doesn't matter. There aren't too many geeks in rural China, and it could be that there is more software available for Red Flag Linux in those remote areas than for Windows.

        Show me a farmer's 10 year old son (or daughter), and I'll show you someone who will very quickly learn how to tingle with a computer.

        Why? Because warez, even on CDs, need to be delivered and sold, and they need to be localized, and they need to be pre-cracked, and everything should work so that a rice farmer can just plug it in and use. But how many warez are like that?

        Last time I was in China, the local software shop sold pre-crack photoshop for < $1 USD. Same goes for AutoCAD, Visual Studio...

    • by Jurily (900488) <jurily&gmail,com> on Friday October 23, 2009 @01:10AM (#29843167)

      What percentage of the Windows PCs in China are running a licensed copy of Windows?

      If Hungary can be used as a base of estimate, I'd say somewhere between 0 and 1.

      We just don't give a shit about your licencing issues. I'm not even sure fair use doesn't cover it for personal use, and I have certainly never seen anyone who didn't run a business and cared. And for the people who do, it's just a drop in the bucket in case of an audit (tax evasion is a national sport here: the alternative is bankruptcy).

      • by cp.tar (871488)

        What percentage of the Windows PCs in China are running a licensed copy of Windows?

        If Hungary can be used as a base of estimate, I'd say somewhere between 0 and 1.

        We just don't give a shit about your licencing issues. I'm not even sure fair use doesn't cover it for personal use, and I have certainly never seen anyone who didn't run a business and cared. And for the people who do, it's just a drop in the bucket in case of an audit (tax evasion is a national sport here: the alternative is bankruptcy).

        I see Hungary is in no better state than Croatia.
        Do you think we could push tax evasion as the next Olympic sport? I hear the Swedes are great at it, too...

    • by demachina (71715)

      "someone can buy one of these and "repurpose" it to a non-legal copy of Windows"

      Chances are the Chinese government is doing this for precisely this reason...

      The thing they don't want is anyone buying Windows or a Windows PC and sending ANY money to the U.S. I wager all the "qualifying" netbooks are probably manufactured in China as well, they aren't paying the Microsoft tax on them and there is a 13% discount to boot so no one in China buys anything U.S. They can't openly promote pirating Windows without

    • by arjan_t (1655161)

      The reason I ask is someone can buy one of these and "repurpose" it to a non-legal copy of Windows, ending up with a 13% + (the price of Windows on the same machine) savings.

      Well, if you're in China and you're the Chinese guy running this program, then it must be extremely easy to manufacture some crappy piece of hardware. Now make sure that Windows has no drivers for this (easy, since you yourself are that Chinese manufacturer, you just don't write Windows drivers). Simply install this piece of hardware in all those qualified PCs and make sure that this Red Flag Linux supports this hardware out of the box (easy, since you control the OS).

      That should be enough to keep this i

  • by Shadowruni (929010) on Friday October 23, 2009 @01:02AM (#29843135) Journal
    Seriously, where do people get these numbers? My thing about this is this. We know many small companies don't pay for their software HERE in the states (one of my biggest challenges as a small biz IT consultant/freelancer). We also know that Chinese piracy is considered an art form in some places. Taken together, the market share statement makes little sense. How can you know what the share is, if you've no legit data? One other thing, to someone who NEVER USED a computer and just want web, email, and simple things like YouTube or word processing(most people don't use even a tenth the total capabilities of Word or Excel). They will see nothing special about Windows, Linux, Solaris, FreeBSD as they all can do that with no real issue. Let me preface this with, I'm writing this on my Ubuntu powered notebook, that's authed against my 2008 AD that also auths my kid's Gallery running on another Linux server. Most people will cry, "But those other OSes have hardware issues please help us", and I'll whisper, "No." .... and then remember that these machines came with Linux and thus should already work fine since it's 2009 and not 1999.
    • by cjfs (1253208) on Friday October 23, 2009 @01:10AM (#29843171) Homepage Journal

      How can you know what the share is, if you've no legit data?

      It's simple math. So you've got 1.3 billion people in China, we sold 244 [google.ca] copies, so that's a 99.9999812% piracy rate. It's obvious.

      • Just think, somewhere right now, Ballmer is kicking a Chinese pirate in the nads right now.
        • I can't find it but didn't Ballmer make a statement about piracy of Windows in China saying it was a good thing because it brought mindshare or locked-down-ness or something like that.
          • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Friday October 23, 2009 @06:55AM (#29844465) Journal
            "If you're going to be a software counterfeiter, then please copy and illegally use Microsoft products. The above plea isn't from a posting on a hacker forum. Rather, it's how Microsoft business group president Jeff Raikes feels about software counterfeiters. "If they're going to pirate somebody, we want it to be us rather than somebody else," Raikes said.

            From here [informationweek.com].

            Ballmer might also have said something to that effect, though I didn't see it. The logic is pretty obvious. Pirates cost MS little or nothing(directly, that is, "lost sales" claims can give you just about any number you want) and the tendency to keep using whatever you are already using is quite strong with complex IT systems. Far better to simply have to tighten the licensing screws later, rather than try to push wholesale migration from somebody else' platform later.
  • This can be a very useful thing, if they keep their legal responsibilities according to GPL: They have to distribute the source code for it as well. Thus it should be much easier to spot every code that does not really belong there and aimed at spying on/restric/keeping in line the population.... as well as fixing these if one needs to. There's a future project for an NGO....
    • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

      by tftp (111690)

      They have to distribute the source code for it as well. Thus it should be much easier to spot every code that does not really belong there and aimed at spying on/restric/keeping in line the population

      Chinese authorities don't need to do a thing. Just bundle a browser (IE on Windows, FF on Linux) and preconfigure its phishing checker to report all URLs to a server that is ran by the government. Preconfigure the checker to be ON by default. 99.999% of the intended audience will never realize what's happeni

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by True Grit (739797) *

        They have to distribute the source code for it as well. Thus it should be much easier to spot every code that does not really belong there and aimed at spying on/restric/keeping in line the population

        Chinese authorities don't need to do a thing. Just bundle a browser (IE on Windows, FF on Linux) and preconfigure its phishing checker to report all URLs to a server that is ran by the government. Preconfigure the checker to be ON by default. 99.999% of the intended audience will never realize what's happening. Those who know what it is will turn it off, but they are too smart anyway for *this level* of monitoring.

        Do they even need to do that much?

        Doesn't their 'Great Chinese Firewall' already give them enough oversight of the net internal to China to control their own population?

        If you control the pipe, then you can control, or at least know, what goes through it.

    • by RAMMS+EIN (578166)

      ``This can be a very useful thing, if they keep their legal responsibilities according to GPL: They have to distribute the source code for it as well.''

      Hahahaha! Thanks, man. I needed a good joke to start the day with.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Copyright is a government grant anyway as is private property (they can just take it), so this isn't a problem.

        Compared to the restrictions the chinese populate work under, not having the source code to Linux rates REAL low down.

  • A governmental agency is supporting and distributing Linux and using subsidies to get people to buy it. But it's the Evil Communist Chinese. Oh no, what is a good China-hating Linux-loving Slashdot denizen to do?
    • by Odinlake (1057938)

      A governmental agency is supporting and distributing Linux and using subsidies to get people to buy it. But it's the Evil Communist Chinese. Oh no, what is a good China-hating Linux-loving Slashdot denizen to do?

      Whine and bitch about how stupid the world is, of course. Maybe put in a little clever self-irony, a witticism or two - always keep an eye out for a "you insensitive clod" opportunity. Then click refresh repeatedly, fervently hope to be modded up to get illusions of being socially accepted.

      • by True Grit (739797) *

        Oh no, what is a good China-hating Linux-loving Slashdot denizen to do?

        Whine and bitch about how stupid the world is, of course.

        China-hating, Linux-loving Slashdot denizens aren't the only ones doing that.

        Its a popular, global pastime.

        :)

      • by turing_m (1030530)

        Maybe put in a little clever self-irony, a witticism or two - always keep an eye out for a "you insensitive clod" opportunity

        I never keep an eye out for "insensitive clod" opportunities, you insensitive clod!

    • by dangitman (862676)
      Yeah, I wonder what the more Libertarian FOSS advocates think of this. On the one hand, it's providing liberty, on the other hand, it's evil government intervention in the holy Free Market!
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by selven (1556643)

        As a libertarian, I think it's a perfectly legitimate action - using Windows harms everyone by encouraging people to develop only for MS, strengthening their monopoly and allowing them to implement even worse pricing/EULAs/lockin. So the government has to step in and encourage some competition.

      • by rohan972 (880586)
        My own (Australian) government only makes it's online tax reporting software available as windows only, making windows just short of compulsory. I would see the Chinese government offering a subsidy and some apps for a FOSS OS to it's people as a lower level of market intervention than requiring the use of a proprietary OS for taxation reporting.

        So I would regard it as not ideal, but significantly better than is being done in at least one of the "politically free", "free market" countries.
  • Now that would be an even battle. Possibly ending with some bitch-slapping of Microsoft.

    • by True Grit (739797) *

      Now that would be an even battle.

      How would it be even? They only power MS has inside of China's borders is whatever the Chinese government choses to give them (and could take away at any time). MS isn't a government: no citizens, no army, no nukes.

      Although, giving them enough time, and Ballmer enough chairs, then anything may be possible, I suppose...

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I'm here in Shanghai right now.
    Just got ADSL hooked up through China Telecom.
    Unfortunately I couldn't get the ADSL to initialize, even though I had 2 different routers (both types suggested by the tech), 2 different linux boxes and windows server 2000 running their provided client.

    The tech used his XP laptop to kick start the ADSL. It ran for a day and then I totally lost connection.
    After getting the 4th phone number I got a hold of a higher tech guy.
    Apparently you have to use a windows XP box to initiate

  • Thanks for the input.
  • Can any of you please tell me which applications they are talking about? Or can you point me some OS livestock/crop management applications for Linux?
    Thanks!

  • Read that as: "Comes pre-installed with spyware". Although, as some have previously commented, rural Chinese probably have enough of a time affording the basic necessities for living and can't even dream of affording a computer of any sort.

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