[svlug] Donating computers to Africa: Comment

Bill Kendrick nbs at sonic.net
Sun May 4 23:32:24 PDT 2003

On Sun, May 04, 2003 at 10:10:13PM -0700, Sanatan Rai wrote:
> Hello everyone:
> 	Just been reading:
> http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/2989567.stm
> Seems to me that the real problem here is that the computers are running
> Windows.
> This is a bit surprising because I can tell from personal experience that
> Linux/Unix are the platforms of choice in the universities in the so
> called `third-world' countries.
> So my question is: what are people's observatiosn concerning the use of
> Linux/Unix in the school classroom here? I mean as a regular tool, and not
> just a curiosity?

I think it's pretty ridiculous, personally.  The Computer Science department
at Sonoma State Univeristy had labs full of Mac II systems... and this was
in 1993.  By my second semester, they had a second lab, full of Centrises.
Eventually, they got a couple of PowerMacs.

In the meantime, they had a lab right next door full of brand spanking new
PowerMacs for 'general use only' - i.e., no computer science stuff.
They were used for telnet'ing into a server to check e-mail, and word
processing.  (Eventually, the web hit, so they got some Netscape use, too.)

The disparity between what the CS dept. had and what folks in the english
department got to use to "do their work" was pretty frustrating.  But at
the same time, these "years out of date" computers were still _USABLE_ for
what we needed.  Sure, they were slow, and not top-of-the-line, but...

That makes this statement in the article rub me the wrong way:

  "You might be donated a system in 2003 that might not be very helpful
  in 2004."

What the HELL ever.  I'm a web designer and Open Source developer with
literally 20+ games under my belt and up on Freshmeat.net.  I'm still using
a lousy Celeron 300 (overclocked to 450 MHz :^) )

Scoffing at a year-old computer is insane, especially if it's been _donated_
to you.  Talk about looking a gift horse in the mouth.

I think the biggest issue here is with software licensing, and the
constant "you need to upgrade the hardware to upgrade the software" paradigm
that so many users are used to.  (Where "so many" = ~95%, if we believe that's
the marketshare that Microsoft owns on the desktop :^) )

Looking closely, I see that the fellow complaining (Bildad Kagai) is
from the "Open Source Foundation for Africa."  I find it very strange that
of all people, _he_ is complaining about the compatibility of software that's
on the donated computers.  ("They come with different applications.")

Rid yourself of the licensing worries, compatibility concerns, and above all,
upgrade cost, and drop OpenOffice.org on the damned things!!! :^)

Or use them as a giant OpenMoxi-powered LTSP set-up. >:^)

Ok, maybe I'm getting hopped-up on birthday cheer and too much chocolate,
so I'll stop ranting now.

Who went through his entire 5 years of getting a CS degree on two Atari 8-bits
and a 640K, 8088-powered IBM PS2. >:^P

bill at newbreedsoftware.com                                            Hire me!
http://newbreedsoftware.com/bill/    http://newbreedsoftware.com/bill/resume/

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