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Belgium: A Computer in Every Home 623

Posted by Hemos
from the and-a-chicken-in-every-pot dept.
joost writes "In an article published online by Belgian newspaper 'Het Nieuwsblad' (sorry only a dutch link), Belgian minister Miss Laurette Onkelinx speaks about her plan to provide every Belgian household with a computer. The minister is (amongst other things) responsible for 'equality' and therefore pushes the plan to provide the less fortunate with a pc. In the same article, she said she already started talking to Compaq for the hardware and Microsoft for the OS. Belgian Linux users are starting a campaign to petition Miss Onkelinx's departement, explaining their concern about the decision, and advising to look towards linux for an alternative.(more on be.comp.os.linux) You too can send an email by clicking here."
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Belgium: A Computer in Every Home

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  • by Jsprat23 (148634) on Friday January 11, 2002 @12:24AM (#2821512)
    Who's going to pay for all of the O'Reilly Books if they do use linux? And then you bet there'll be a flame war about which distro to use.
    • by 6EQUJ5 (446008) on Friday January 11, 2002 @12:58AM (#2821646) Homepage

      Let's just hope they don't waffle on the issue. :)
    • Simple, they can choose which Linux they want. Many distros have downloaded versions ready.

      As for the books, they can read howtos and probably contact local LUG guys. I know I'm going to be flamed for this, but most of the people needs to use computers just for typing, e-mails and browsing internet. Do you think they'll need books for this? Local LUG can volunteer here.

      The aim in using Linux is to save millions so that the govt can relocate the OS budget for something else.

      • In order to download, something must already be running on the machine.

        Like it or not, the machines will have to have something pre-installed.

        The only question is who chooses what it is the user sees the first time they power up. The user? The government? The hardware distributer?

        At the very least, this is going to be interesting no matter what's chosen.

        I can imagine the Belgium Linux Users Groups putting together bootable CDs designed to support the Government Hardware Standard, then giving them away free saying something like "Don't Boot Without It!!!"

        Of course, my personal preference for giving away millions of MacII-ci's running System 7.1 would piss off everyone.

        Bob-

        • In order to download, something must already be running on the machine.

          Simple. Ever here of FTP installs? All the BE Govt has to do is pass out boot floppies with a "pre-configured" configuration. Put the floppy in the drive, turn on the box, and bingo. It fires up the hardware (which would be a no-brainer, since they know the hardware they're handing out), connect to a server somewhere and install the OS.

          Actually, this is probably better now that I think about it. The Govt would have control over what is being installed (but still maybe put in a "would you like to install anything else?" prompt). That's not suggesting draconian rules, I mean that as *NOT* installing ssh servers, and web servers, and ftp servers, etc. Things like that. You just simply can't have a country that totally free for the r00ting.

          P.S.
          I understand this idea wouldn't be a very good one on a dial up connection, but the idea (I think) is still a valid one.
    • Who's going to pay for all of the O'Reilly Books if they do use linux? And then you bet there'll be a flame war about which distro to use.

      God forbid they use the money saved on O$ to buy books, or that they put those books in a public library! The information anarcy must be stoped burn the libraries now.

      Here is a vote for Debian, one distro that will always be free. I can see some other great uses for that O$ savings. State funded mirror sites, mmmmm, a help office with a nice little web site and staff dedicated to making EVERY piece of hardware distributed work perfectly, mmmm a tuned distro via deb packages, more computers for everyone, mmmmmmmmmm.

      I've got an overwhelming urge to eat ice cream now. You M$ trolls don't go pretending to be Linux zelots flooding the emails while I'm gone. I hate it when people act like jerks for me.

      • by jfunk (33224) <jfunk@roadrunner.nf.net> on Friday January 11, 2002 @02:32AM (#2821947) Homepage
        Here is a vote for Debian, one distro that will always be free.


        I'm all for free software just as you are, but I would never advocate sticking Debian on computers for people who have never had a computer before. apt-get is extremely useful but do you really think putting it in the hands of the masses is a good idea? Look at the recent libpng thing (I know it's not a common occurrence, but...). You and I are able to deal with that sort of thing really easily, but most people are not like us.

        If you want Linux on these computers, try the more user-friendly distros like Mandrake or SuSE. The latter now automatically sets up TV cards on the initial install.

        I'm not saying these distros are perfect, but they're much easier to install and maintain *for the average user* than Debian, Slackware or Redhat.
        • by mpe (36238)
          I'm all for free software just as you are, but I would never advocate sticking Debian on computers for people who have never had a computer before.

          Actually those who have never used a computer before will have fewer issues than people who have used a different computer before.

          If you want Linux on these computers, try the more user-friendly distros like Mandrake or SuSE. The latter now automatically sets up TV cards on the initial install.

          This simply dosn't follow. Since installation isn't a user task in the first place.
  • by Srin Tuar (147269) <zeroday26@yahoo.com> on Friday January 11, 2002 @12:28AM (#2821533)


    Miss Onkelinx speaks about her plan to provide every Belgian household with a computer


    With a name like that, she could even get distro named after her

    ...if she does the right thing

  • by Usquebaugh (230216) on Friday January 11, 2002 @12:28AM (#2821535)
    You put an email address on the front page of /. and you do not even obscure it.

    /. is _NOT_ the place to post email addresses of individuals who are percieved not to get it. The typical /. reader is not going to be objective or polite. It mostly certainly is not going to aid the cause of putting Linux on these machines.

    I wonder if /. hurts more than helps the wide spread adoption of Linux?
    • /. is _NOT_ the place to post email addresses of individuals who are percieved not to get it. The typical /. reader is not going to be objective or polite. It mostly certainly is not going to aid the cause of putting Linux on these machines.

      Gee, from the tone of your letter we might assume that people on Slashdot are rude. You abuse the people who run the site you seem to enjoy and that seems to be the sum of your contribution. Thank goodness you are not the typical Linux user.

      Now let's think a little about that. What makes you think that M$ slaves are not already flooding the address with tons of abusive and stupid comments (like yours!) for us already? You know, trolls like we see here all day? In this instance, as in so many others, the finacial incentives for such "aggresive" abouse are clear. If it were not for the moderation system that Hemos and others developed, useful comments would be lost in piles of M$ astroturf here. Even so, it's difficult to fight all the toads. Your example proves the usefulness of the address inclusion, thank you.

      Hopefully many people will write well reasoned letters that will shine through the noise. We all know the superiority of any Linux distro: stability, privacy, ease of use, ease of upkeep, ease of software upgrade and addition. We all know the good things that all the money not spent on M$ "products" can buy. We can write many inpired and polite letters expressing those things. I'm proud of all the useful, well reasoned and well put letters I've seen from previous letter campaigns, such as the RAND fiasco, and I expect to be proud of the letters that get sent this time too. The exercise is much easier after reading some of the nice clear posts that will rise to displace your abuse.

      • by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworldNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday January 11, 2002 @01:38AM (#2821812) Homepage
        I think the poster has a perfectly valid point. Unless the e-mail address is intended for receiving huge amounts of e-mail, it IS inconsiderate to post it on the front page of a news site that gets several hundred thousand viewers a day.
      • Experience has shown that email addresses posted on /. tend to attract the same trolls who post their innane rambling here to post similarly innane and/or abusive crap to the unfortunate whos email address was posted.

        *Hopefully* you are correct and everyone will write polite well reasoned mails, but somehow I suspect that the small handful of abusive idiots may cause more of a negative reaction than all the constructive mails put together.
    • The basic guidelines that we all need to follow for sending email supporting Linux, or any other open source software are simple.

      We must be courteous and kind.

      NO FLAMES, this hurts their perception of the type of person that uses open source software.

      Try to state things in a way that they'll understand. They need to see that Linux is a viable alternative for public use if it's implemented correctly.

      Just use common sense, and don't say anything stupid.
  • by Bob_Robertson (454888) on Friday January 11, 2002 @12:30AM (#2821543) Homepage
    I don't see any reason why people cannot choose their own OS. Oh, right, this is a government project. Forgive my initial ignorance.

    Or at least, this is a government project. It should be open bidding. Lets see Microsoft under-bid "free".

    Bob-

    • Re:Why push OS? (Score:2, Informative)

      by osgeek (239988)
      Yeah, it's free unless they consider the cost of hiring a UNIX consultant to come in and help each user set up his system. It's called TCO - Total Cost of Ownership.

      Within the past month, I've set up both a RedHat 7.2 box and a Windows XP box. Being a Mac user, I have no real love for Microsoft, but I have to admit that the Windows box could hardly have been simpler to configure with all of the basic services, while the Linux box required a lot of poking and prodding to find all the right pieces to get the job done. Windows (and to an even greater extent, the Mac) is the result of a more concerted effort toward unity, while Linux is the result of many hands all pulling in different directions.

      Linux's strength is also its greatest weakness.
      • Strange, I've recently setup a Linux (MDK8.1) server and XP workstation, and as it turned out the server was much easier to setup. I spent days till I managed to setup file sharing network printing (on the client side) with the HP drivers, and the scanner didn't work at all (It has only Linux and Win95/98/me/2k drivers).
        Setting up the server was a piece of cake (reading HOWTOs and acting accordingly). Setting up an XP workstation was real tough.
        • Setting up Windows XP is so simple a ninety-year old orangutan with alzheimers could be taught how to do it. If you couldn't figure it out, it's only out of unfamiliarity, not intrinsic "hard to use"-ness.
    • Lets see Microsoft under-bid "free".

      Microsoft can easily do that.

      All they have to do, is give out Windows preloads for free as part of this deal, and include $5 rebate certificates with the computers. -5 beats 0. "But," you say, "then Microsoft loses money."

      Nope. Part of the beauty of leveraging monopolies is that you can lose in one area and make up for it in another. Give 'em Windows and sell 'em apps.

  • by jhines0042 (184217) on Friday January 11, 2002 @12:38AM (#2821568) Journal
    Every Belgian citizen has been given a new computer thanks to minister Miss Laurette Onkelinx's campaign for equality however many of them are not using them for their intended purpose.

    One Belgian used his as a stepping stool while cleaning his windows. "I powered the [darn] thing up and played around with it for a few minutes but I couldn't get anything done," said Hermsh Obernikle, "then the bulb in the hallway went out and so I toted the box over then to stand on, it works great!"

    One homemaker, who asked not to be identified, was at home testing out her new computer when a bandwidth crazed crimi-geek broke into her house. "Thank goodness my new computer had linux on it", she said, "the [intruder] was so mesmerized that he stayed on the computer for hours doing something with the [kernel] thing until the police arrived." She went on to say that she was glad that linux saved her life but was unsure what she was going to do with it after that.
  • by SlashChick (544252) <{erica} {at} {erica.biz}> on Friday January 11, 2002 @12:39AM (#2821574) Homepage Journal
    It sounds to me like the budget has already been ironed out and that the budget for these PC's includes a provision for Windows. If so, can we stop for a minute and think about the GOOD things that come out of this?

    -- Every person in this country gets access to a computer that they might not have had at all. They get Internet access, which provides them with a wealth of new information. Some of them will pursue computer-related jobs that wouldn't have otherwise. In general, the country will benefit from this.

    So why is it necessary to post an article on Slashdot basically asking people to flood this government with email complaining about Microsoft? Can we leave well enough alone and accept that the more computer-literate people there are, the better our industry benefits as a whole? These people will buy our hardware. They will visit our websites. They might even patronize Slashdot. This is a good thing.

    It's sad, really, to see what should have been a "look what this great country is doing!" article turn into a pro-Linux, anti-Microsoft rant. I'd much rather see Slashdot readers take their time to go volunteer computer training or to build hardware and install software at a local school than to see Slashdot readers criticize a country for what is, in the long run, an incredibly Good Thing.
    • I think people who want the Belgian government to install Linux on the machines that their government is paying for does not realize this thing: Windows is on 85% of the world's desktop computers.

      I mean let's face it: the vast majority of the corporate desktop computers out there run Windows, which means if the average citizen in Belgium knows how to run Windows the learning curve to get into the business environment isn't so steep. I'm sure that Microsoft will offer very substantial discounts for this project in Belgium.
      • What you don't realize is that if everybody will have a Linux PC at home and will become experienced Linux users, buisnesses won't be dumb to buy M$ software that nobody (in Belguim) uses at home, but will also move to Linux.
    • More to the point, they are doing a disservice to the market by buying everyone the same computer. They should simply provide a tax credit or a voucher for the purchase of a PC, and let the consumers decide what they want. One size will not fit all, particularly for people who already own a PC.
    • It sounds to me like the budget has already been ironed out and that the budget for these PC's includes a provision for Windows. If so, can we stop for a minute and think about the GOOD things that come out of this?

      Let's do think of the good that can be done. While dumping M$ boxes on the world may be better than dropping bombs, we can always do better if we try.

      Let's say Microsoft decides to dump windows on these poor people at no cost. They should refuse on grounds of security. Why would they want to make their internet look like SirCam and "I love you" all day? Sorry, that's not a rant it's a simple statement of fact that M$ makes a single user OS that does more to cripple a machine than use it.

      If M$ does not dump the reasons are even more obvious. Every Euro not spent on OS can be spent on computers. This means more people get them faster, or the savings can be put to something else useful. One useful thing might be to fund a configurations and help group to work out hardware problems and offer other general help. The publication of such a group would be of use to all. Money spent on a second rate OS from a forgein company is not money well spent.

      You are obviously a man.

    • What's this "Write your congressman!", but no, wait, "Don't write to Belgium!" dyspepsia going around on Slashdot? I guess you're only supposed to advocate that people you agree with get involved. I disagree wholeheartedly with your sentiment that this is a "good thing". This would be terrible. I certainly wrote a letter, as follows:

      I urge you to please abdicate your decision to pursue having Microsoft provide software in your (noble) effort to conquer the digital divide.

      If you would truly like to present the people of Belgium with an opportunity to participate in the global digital revolution, you should promote the use of free software (http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.html [gnu.org]). Free software empowers people to not only /use/ computers, but also to advance the state of computing. To actively participate in, rather than passively subsidize, the digital revolution. It does so by promoting four essential freedoms:

      * The freedom to run the program, for any purpose (freedom 0).
      * The freedom to study how the program works, and adapt it to your needs (freedom 1). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
      * The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor (freedom 2).
      * The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements to the public, so that the whole community benefits. (freedom 3). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.

      Installing proprietary software, such as that produced by Microsoft, will only serve to shackle the people of Belgium to Microsoft's eternal desire for profit. While profit is a worthy objective, when it becomes the highest objective, as it has for many corporations, other worthy principles often fall to the wayside.

      Since you are just beginning this venture, now is the best time to avoid the eternal dominion of Microsoft's licensing entanglements and other schemes to ensnare and entrap new legions of revenue enhancing impotent users. Avoid this path before it is too late.
    • If so, can we stop for a minute and think about the GOOD things that come out of this?

      Sorry, but one of the most basic aspects of intelligence is that you don't just look at the good side of one choice. My cat can be pretty single-minded and easily fooled, but most of the humans I know have at least a little more vision than that.

      If you look at some of the other choices, such as not using Windows, you see that you have the same good points.

      Then when you start looking at the bad points, the MS choice also stands out.

      This "great thing" is just another perversion where socialism meets megacorp welfare. Belgium taxpayers will spend a shitload of money on hardware and software (it's not like the government can just magically declare that computers have no economic cost), and Microsoft gets an increase in marketshare (and not just in the OS market, but also by extension in other related markets, such as apps and even "content" (since the preloaded IEs will all default to some MS page)) without actually having to compete in the marketplace.

      If Belgium's government made a deal with McDonalds where on January nth, every Belgium citizen gets a "free" Big Mac combo meal, would you be dancing in the streets about what a GOOD thing is coming out of this? Or would you see it as corruption?

    • Well.....

      Good things are the gov gives hardware to people. This has got to be good. Bad thing is it "includes a provision for Windows", which will ensure that the poor will remain as blissfully computer illiterate as the next Windows user.

      Windows users are not a computer literate bunch as a whole. I've supported at least a hundred Windows users in the past 2 years and I can tell you that most can't properly install software or drivers, back up files, create proper network shares, and are generally frustrated by the computer's inability to do what they it to do and live up to its promise of a simpler life. I don't blame them. The combination of the PC and Windows xxx just made their lives more complicated than it ever was.

      This is not meant as a put-down to Windows users, but most people who work on a Windows box day in, day out know how to use email and the web, write in a word processor, and know one application very well. That's it.

      So Belgian working jane with PC and Windows != computer literate working jane.

      Also, no matter how you look at it, Windows costs far more to maintain. Virus scanners, Office, Outlook Express (costs a lot no matter how free it is) - all this software costs a lot of money. The lack of adequate security in Windows '98/ME. I've supported both linux workstations and all flavours of Windows, and I think I know both platforms well. Windows, Windows software, and Windows support costs bug bucks. It makes no sense to deploy Windows for this purpose. Doing so is simply creating a client lock-in.

      A better solution is to at least allow them to dual-boot and give them choice. It's a simple matter to build a pc with hardware supported by both Windows and Linux, create an image, and then give the box away.

      I know that today linux is as good and in some areas a better desktop OS than Windows. Office software for the home user is ready , at least 3 great browsers with more coming, mplayer once configured is a joy and plays more of my mpegs than Windows Media Player, Real is just as good and less obnoxious than on Windows/Mac, Evolution is just about there and is stable, PAN rocks for news, and the wealth of choice in the Desktop environment. Linux is there, no matter how much people don't want it to be.
      • Windows users are not a computer literate bunch as a whole. I've supported at least a hundred Windows users in the past 2 years and I can tell you that most can't properly install software or drivers, back up files, create proper network shares, and are generally frustrated by the computer's inability to do what they it to do and live up to its promise of a simpler life.

        Part of this problem is that this list is primarily of sysadmin rather than user tasks. (except for file backing up). You might just as well ask someone who holds a driving licence about servicing an internal combustion engine...
    • by Lumpy (12016) on Friday January 11, 2002 @07:43AM (#2822559) Homepage
      Why? because it is free, it can never be taken away from you (Windows,os2,BeOS,OSX all can be taken from you) Let's completely ignore any technical advantages, or design differences. Let's look at only one tiny little aspect of it.

      You have a computer, your friend buys a computer. 5 years down the road, you being rich and having gobs of money has upgraded or replaced your computer at least 3 times. your friend? she is poor, she saved for 3 years to buy that computer she has now. Her hardware is really behind yours now, (Why didnt you give her your last 3 processors, your SBLive you sold on ebay for $40.00, or your ATI all in wonder you sold to the computer shop for $30.00?)
      You can run XP while she still has win95. well microsoft is now telling her that they are intentionally making windows95 incompatable now. (Sorry but adding code to check for win95 and bail on the install in directX is intentional)

      she is now screwed, as in order to be productive she cant use windows95 and office 95 anymore she is now forced to upgrade. Windows98? cant buy it, WindowsME? cant buy it anymore. she is FORCED to buy XP which will NOT run on a pentium 200 nor fit in a 2 gig hard drive.

      what is she to do? XP costs $100.00(about) and that is 2 weeks worth of groceries, or her car insurance this month. and a computer upgrade is more expensive than a new box now.. so she is forced to buy a new computer whuich will have XP on it, but that is $600-$800 something that will take another 2 years to save.
      (rich geeks have no clue what it's like to struggle with not having enough money to live... and not having that latest processor is not struggling.... try not affording food this week.)

      What can she do? Linux. with linux you can give her 100% free and legal copies of redhat 7.2 and she get's KDE that works well in stripped down mode on a Pentium200 (Stripped down mode is easy to set up, on first run, you set the slider bar from fast commputer to slow computer) comes with an office suite, games, full internet connetivity and apps.

      being older hardware there is a 97% chance that it will install flawlessly (better odds than windows ME ot 2000 or XP... Microsoft removed older hardware drivers... dont believe me, look for yourself!)

      So if you aren't rich? use linux... it's the only way to be legal and to avoid the temptation of Sorftware Piracy that runs rampant in the windows world.
  • Speaking of providing the less fortunate with a PC...

    I'd just like to put in a plug for Kite, Inc. [kiteinc.org]: "a nonprofit organization addressing the global digital divide by offering free, customized computer support packages and technical training to community groups in the 'Third World'."

    Do you buy books? Then you can help them, by purchasing from galtbooks [galtbooks.com]: "The mission of galtbooks is to assist charitable and community organizations in generating revenues for their cause."

    No, I am not affiliated with either organization. I only heard of them just recently, and thought "wow, I'm really glad someone's doing that". Sorry if this comes off as just more spam.
  • I use linux, I like Linux and I've deployed it in many production enviroments but my enthusiasm for it is tempered by the realization that it's not quite ready to be considered suitable for beginning computer users, and thus probably not appropriate for deployment en masse to the less fortunate in Belgium or elsewhere.

    I am making an asumption here, that most of 'the less fortunate' mentioned in the article will be first-time computer users. Given this asumption, you could argue that these uers have history using other OS's, they should be able to adopt the Linux paradigm more easily than those unfortunates who were brought up using MS Windows. On the other hand, if these users are not familiar with computers it would be most beneficial to provide them with the simplest enviroment possible (and by that I don't mean WebTV). With this reasoning, the government should deploy iMAC's to everyone. You'd think Apple would jump if given the opportunity to penetrate this new market.

    --CTH
  • I think its nice that the linux folks are giving it the "college effort", but chances are most home users would simply shrug and furrow their brow if they booted up their computer and it wasn't Windows.

    The "free" argument doesn't wash either - for such a large purchase it impossible that the government would pay the going consumer rate per install. In fact, I suspect they would pay at most 40% of the cost of being each copy of Windows independently.

  • If everyone in Belgium had a copy of XP, police could just require you to carry your Microsoft Product Activation Key with you at all times.
  • Think of all the misery that could have been prevented if this had been implemeted 20 years ago? Young Jean-Claude Van Damme could have been steered away from martial arts with a timely dose of computer games and warez cracking.

    If only the Belgian Government had had a little more vision, films like 'Hard Target', 'Street Fighter' and 'Universal Soldier' might never have been made.

    Little use in trying now. Only once every 50 years or so does something noteworthy come out of Belgium and JCVD was it for this half-century. We had our chance to stop this and we blew it...
  • Noooo! (Score:2, Funny)

    by Ezubaric (464724)
    Just what we need. Ten million more Jerry Lewis fanpages.

    ------------
  • by child_of_mercy (168861) <johnboy&the-riotact,com> on Friday January 11, 2002 @01:03AM (#2821669) Homepage
    I'm all for making computers affordable,

    but if people don't want one enough to get one, what are they going to do when it gets pushed through their door?

    I can see Eastern Europe filling up with these units.
    • Many will be sold to the first bidder. Some will be left in the corner to collect dust. Others will probably end up in the trash.

      Better to simply provide a tax credit, and let consumers make their own choices.

    • but if people don't want one enough to get one, what are they going to do when it gets pushed through their door?
      Well maybe they will first ask us if we want one. They probably can't afford millions of those computers (Belgium : ten millions inhabitants, don't know how many households). I am happy with my t-bird 1200 and I don't want a stupid celery 450.

      When they delivered free internet (SWING), it was the most crappy service on the market, you could hardly attain 3kBps.

      Now if you want to flame me about the measure being discriminatory to the rich, you're welcome. Europeans don't reason that way.
    • I'm all for making computers affordable, but if people don't want one enough to get one, what are they going to do when it gets pushed through their door?


      Although you have a valid point, you need to realize that this offer comes together with a bold move by the government to put everything on the internet; there are a lot of projects going on to make sure that in a few years time, it is possible to do everything online, from filling in taxes to paying a parking ticket. So a lot of people do not have a good use for a cheapo PC at this time, but that will change when all that stuff gets online (you need to interact with the government quite frequently in here) -- and when they only go get one at that time they may find themselves seriously lagging behind in skills compared to those who get a PC now.


      It's pretty much the next logical step after setting up most public libraries with free internet connected PCs (which btw was done, at least in my town, using Windows ?.? + Netscape 4.7).

  • by austad (22163) on Friday January 11, 2002 @01:07AM (#2821689) Homepage
    Holy crap, just about every response I've seen is in favor of MS, not linux for this. Did someone at MS email the whole company like with that ZDNet poll that they rigged?

    Recent versions of Mandrake are nearly as easy to use as windows, and gets better with every release. If mandrake made a dumbed down version of their distro with the same features of windows ME, I'm sure there wouldn't be a problem. Plus, if you've used OSX lately, you'd realize how much more advanced it is than windows. Easier to use too, but still has lots of power under the hood.

    Seriously, I can't imagine that Belgium will want to tack on $300 for an OS on each machine, and another $450 for an office suite. That's insane.
    • And what if they walked into a software store like good little consumers to buy a game/educational software/whatever for the family?
    • I hate paying money for software myself, but let's get the price of the software accurately placed. At a volume, and this one is a huge volume, the MS OS would probably cost less than $50 a platform, as even an OEM version of XP in the States cost just $149 at a retailer.

      And if they just have a basic suite like Works, it would probably cost another $50, at the very most.

      I'm not necessarily for MS in this case, but you have to get the numbers right. To a certain degree, the added configuration cost of Linux would be greatly reduced as you have to assume that the platform chosen and the installation done would be carefully thought out in regards to compatibility and other issues.

      I'm sorry to say it, but I just think that this Belgian project is a bad idea whichever platform they use. Computers and Internet access are inexpensive enough nowadays that they are affordable by 95% of households, especially in a prosperous country like Belgium with a very generous social security regime. Of those households that don't have them, and can afford them, why force a computer on them when they would use it as a doorstop.

      And for the 5% that can't afford them, they probably have greater concerns than being able to play quake or download naked pictures Britney Spears.

      This scheme is social activism at its worst.
  • Why not linux? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Raleel (30913) on Friday January 11, 2002 @01:17AM (#2821724)
    You know, there seems to be an increasingly strong contingent of people of the "Let's think rationally. Windows is probably the best choice here" people. Perhaps there is some bitterness amongst the faithful?

    Why not linux? the average home user who doesn't know crap about a computer is going to have just as hard a time with WinXP as with Mandrake setup for the home user (i.e. 1 desktop environment, 1 mailer, 1 browser, etc). Heck, maybe some of the new imacs. What I am saying is that the avergae user does not need office, they need a small word processor. They do not need exchange, they need a mail client that can do pop and recieve attachments.

    I say go for it. I suggest mandrake because it's from that continent. Suse might be good as well, but i've had more experience with Mandrake.
  • by suss (158993) on Friday January 11, 2002 @01:20AM (#2821738)
    Maybe they should learn a lesson from this: Free PCs for the poor on sale in black market [theregister.co.uk]... not everyone wants a PC, some people would rather have food and other basic needs.
    • There are no people in civilized countries that don't have basic needs such as food, healthcare etc. In fact, I don't believe there are any people in Belgium, or in any other western european country for that matter, who could not buy a (second hand) PC if they are really interested.

      However, I do agree that giving free PC's to those that cannot or don't want to afford them is an utter waste of money, and it is an illusion to believe that those people shall be able to make good use of this investment. If someone is not interested by himself, handing out PC's won't automatically change this.
  • by swillden (191260) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Friday January 11, 2002 @01:34AM (#2821791) Homepage Journal

    Predictably, this article generated a storm of posts about how Linux isn't ready for this, or Linux would confuse users, or Windows is better supported or...

    However, when you read the actual, detailed arguments about why Linux is a bad choice for this project they boil down to two things: Linux is too hard to install and there aren't enough people around who know how to use it.

    In the first case, do you really think the Belgian government is going to ship each user a PC without any software on it, and a pile of CDs to install? Why don't they just ship a pile of components, while they're at it? The government is going to buy a whole bunch of identical machines pre-installed with some idential collection of software, all configured so it will run right out of the box. Whether Linux is hard or easy to install isn't really all that relevant, since the users won't have to install it. And, unlike Windows 9x systems that experience an "entropy" effect whereby they gradually become less and less usable until finally you have to reinstall them, Linux boxes tend to run forever.

    Second, in an environment filled with Linux boxes, how long do you think it'll be before the average person can call the neighbor kid over to fix any problems? Not long at all. On well-known hardware, with a nice GUI installed Linux isn't any harder to use than Windows, it's just *different* (and not really all that much different). Not to mention the fact that if the Belgian government took all of that cash that they were going to spend on Windows and Office licenses and instead spent it on setting up a support infrastructure for those machines, the net result would probably be *better* support.

    There are also some really significant advantages to free software in this situation. The largest one is the application software available. What? Absolutely. Yes, there is more software available for Windows machines, but there is more *free* software available for Linux. Both environments include the most basic stuff by default; browser, e-mail client and multimedia player. Unless you buy Office for each machine ($$) Windows doesn't have a word processor, spreadsheet, etc. Unless you buy Quicken or Money for each machine, no personal accounting system. MS Paint hardly counts as an image editing program.

    A pre-installed Linux box with KDE, an office suite (StarOffice would be ideal, I'll bet Sun would give them free licenses) and the standard collection of packages that come with every distro would provide a low-cost, easy to support solution that does pretty much everything a basic user needs right out of the box. No command lines, no arcane syntax -- except for the kids who have tons of time to invest in learning how this thing ticks, and what better system could an up-and-coming techie have? (And don't give me that "They should have a Windows box because that's what they'll use in the workplace" crap. What they'll use in the workplace will change five times before they get there, and it will be deep understanding of how one system fundamentally works under the covers that will translate well and stand them in good stead, not superficial knowledge of which buttons to click. Hell, I grew up on a Timex Sinclar 1000, a TI-99/4A, a Commodore 64 and an Atari 520ST.)

    • by AngelofDeath-02 (550129) on Friday January 11, 2002 @03:55AM (#2822139)
      The government is going to buy a whole bunch of identical machines pre-installed with some identical collection of software, all configured so it will run right out of the box.

      Great, now you have a few thousand computers with identical root passwords! Even if these are changed upon booting up, it's generally not recommended to run as root, but a 'newbie' would not know this. Oh yes, and setting up another account with enough access to do whatever they need, but not enough to be insecure? Might as well just use root ... (and they probably will, too)
      Not to mention that to someone just powering on his or her new computer, being greeted with a login must be a nightmare ... Granted you will still get it in XP, they can always configure it from the images to load the default user account automatically, without a login. Even if this is not the case, WinXP is much more appealing in the login process than KDE/Gnome

      Whether Linux is hard or easy to install isn't really all that relevant, since the users won't have to install it. And, unlike Windows 9x systems that experience an "entropy" effect whereby they gradually become less and less usable until finally you have to reinstall them, Linux boxes tend to run forever.

      Linux is a bit easier to break than windows ... Ever powered off a Linux machine without halting it? Sometimes it makes u type in commands just to get it to boot up ... Not only that, Netscape Navigator tends to crash, and bring everything down with it (very similar to an Internet Explorer and Windows 98 effect) Besides most likely Windows XP would be the operating system of choice.

      Now I know that the first time that happened to me, I had no one to turn to for a solution, I got very frustrated ... Whereas windows will just scandisk and get on with itself.
      Basically, Windows is going to crash and burn, that's a given, but so will Linux, especially in the hands of a very inexperienced user. Because of this, the installation ease will only further allow the person to use the machine again.

      Windows doesn't have a word processor

      True, windows does not have a very feature-rich word processor, or anything close to what the Office suit has to offer, but it does have Word Pad. Still if it's coming from Compaq I've got strong suspicions it'll be equipped with at least something, if only Works.

      and it will be deep understanding of how one system fundamentally works under the covers that will translate well and stand them in good stead, not superficial knowledge of which buttons to click.

      I can't really argue with this other than if they do not use the computer because it is too complicated, it won't matter anyhow.
      Besides, since Linux is free, after all, wouldn't any adventurous spirit just install a flavor of Linux for themselves? Installation is pretty simple. All arguments aside, if you cannot install Linux, you have no business using it, since it is very complex. Even most HOWTO guides get technical. This is of course appropriate due to the typical Linux audience, Linux familiar, just looking for some finer details. (Go ahead and tell some new computer user to type man rpm and learn from that how to install an rpm package ... Due to the various different desktop options, there haven't been many graphical guides to how to do something and they opt for command based ones instead.

      Maybe my perception of windows' simplicity is tainted by my experience with it, but maybe your perceptions of Linux' simplicity is as well. I'd personally like to see these people get iMacs. It's a very simple operating system, yet very capable. Still, I cannot say that I know what the standard computer platform is there, so PC might be the main choice strictly for compatibility with the rest of the country.

      Granted I do not support Windows, Linux, or MacOS any more than the rest, I do believe that some of the Slashdot audience is blinded by the 'Linux is god' frame of mind, very similar to a mob. Each operating system has it's own niche that it fills. If Linux immediately tried to take Windows' niche, I doubt it would still be around today. It has, instead, found it's own space and began developing into one that can expand to fill other niches as well. However, I do not believe it is by any means ready for this type of market.

      I apologies for the fact that this is an over posted argument, but I felt compelled to respond to his statements which overlook such arguments.
      • now you have a few thousand computers with identical root passwords! Even if these are changed upon booting up, it's generally not recommended to run as root, but a 'newbie' would not know this.

        A real newbie could probably read instructions which explained that "root" was a special account for setup and servicing purposed. The people who'd have a problem would be those who were familiar with the likes of Windows.

        Granted you will still get it in XP, they can always configure it from the images to load the default user account automatically, without a login.

        IIRC with XP every user has admin priveleges by default

        Even if this is not the case, WinXP is much more appealing in the login process than KDE/Gnome.

        Exactly how do you reason that. Especially considering that parts of the XP login rip off kdm...

        Linux is a bit easier to break than windows ... Ever powered off a Linux machine without halting it?

        Ever heard of reiesrfs, xfs, ext3.

        Besides most likely Windows XP would be the operating system of choice.

        Windows XP has a log filesystem???
      • by OWJones (11633) on Friday January 11, 2002 @12:04PM (#2823488)

        I probably shouldn't be feeding trolls since I have work to do, but what the heck ...

        DISCLAIMER: I use Ximian Gnome. KDE might do some of this stuff, too, I just don't know about it. Feel free to chime in in support of KDE rather than flame me for being anti-KDE. :)

        Great, now you have a few thousand computers with identical root passwords!

        I'm glad you're not my sysadmin. An even halfway decent one would have a little script that sets the root account password to something slightly different for each machine, turns off all dangerous services (in this case 'dangerous' includes all forms of connecting to the box) and creates a unique user account and password.

        Not to mention that to someone just powering on his or her new computer, being greeted with a login must be a nightmare ... Granted you will still get it in XP, they can always configure it from the images to load the default user account automatically, without a login. Even if this is not the case, WinXP is much more appealing in the login process than KDE/Gnome

        You can do this in Ximian Gnome, too. And most people I've talked to (non-technical ones included) think that the look and feel of XP is something out of Fischer-Price, not Microsoft; it's childish and just looks ugly.

        Linux is a bit easier to break than windows ... Ever powered off a Linux machine without halting it? Sometimes it makes u type in commands just to get it to boot up ... Not only that, Netscape Navigator tends to crash, and bring everything down with it (very similar to an Internet Explorer and Windows 98 effect) Besides most likely Windows XP would be the operating system of choice.

        I have a journaled fs (default in RH 7.2) and I've had the power go out from under it three times in the past six months (including 7.2 beta). Each time my 13 GB IDE partition recovered in about 5 seconds, no problems, no error messages. The times where my FS is so fsck'ed that I need to manually repair usually means it's about time for me to send it back (I was a sysadmin for a cluster of 300+ machines, so this isn't just me talking about my piddly home system).

        The other (very obvious) solution to Netscape crashing and taking down X (not Linux, just X) is don't use Netscape! Use galeon or mozilla. I use galeon and am very happy with it. It's fast, reliable, and has tons of neat features.

        All arguments aside, if you cannot install Linux, you have no business using it.

        Bzzzzt! Sorry, try again. I spent two hours setting up and fully configuring a Linux partition for my fiancee, and she hasn't bothered to boot into Windows since. She uses e-mail, web browses, does some work processing, and plays some games (which work fine under wine). She's non-technical, and has no clue what ARP is, why an ethernet card sending to ff:ff:ff:ff:ff:ff doesn't work, or how to use ifconfig to fix it. But if a 3com driver craps out in windows, do you think the average user is going to fix it themselves? Hell no, they're going to call tech support.

        (Go ahead and tell some new computer user to type man rpm and learn from that how to install an rpm package ... Due to the various different desktop options, there haven't been many graphical guides to how to do something and they opt for command based ones instead.

        Bzzzt! Care to try again? Red Carpet is a great package management tool, and includes an option to install local packages. I spent about 30 seconds showing a non-techie how to use it, and she was good to go from there ("You mean I just click on the software I want and it does everything for me? Neat.")

        I will grant you that applications for Linux are a bit thin, but wine can take care of most of that pretty well. Linux distributions have made great software over the last two or three years, and it's (obviously) only going to get better. Whether this is going to have any effect is yet to be seen, but arguing against it on technical grounds is no longer really valid.

        -jdm

  • I'm a flavor of socialist myself, so I'm all for a more equitable distribution of that wonderful semiconductor laden stuff - in theory.

    Computers, however, are a bit of a problem. Yes, I know the government puts them in libraries and schools allready, but computers (nowadays) are a communication device, and it is very easy to make them into a propoganda device. Government paying to put propoganda into libraries, and unfortunately public schools, is basically unavoidable (you can have meritocrats make the decisions, but that hurts as often as it helps,) but in people's homes? Everyone's homes?

    It may just be the capitalist mind control rays making me say this, but - most of the people who get these computers aren't going to be especially computer literate, and if some flemmish speaking prole gets a computer from the government he is unlikely to reconfigure it when he gets home from a long day at the football riot ;). If people use them regularly, which if you give them to everyone for free is likely, the software you bundle them with (and the homepage they come preconfigured with) becomes a major issue. It is a serious tool that they can use to direct the nature of an emerging sector of public discourse. I can't even concieve of all the possible ways it could be abused, and the belgian government has a world class history of gratuitous acts of evil. [prestel.co.uk]

    Alternatively, they can sell it to the highest bidder - if I were M$ I'd give them the OS and help pay for the machines (which have gotta be cheap at the moment) so that I could bundle all this .net crap with it.
  • by Jerf (17166) on Friday January 11, 2002 @02:20AM (#2821920) Journal
    Step back a second and consider what is being proposed. *Every home* in Belgium would have a machine, which by default runs OS N. (I'd use "X" as my variable but that's taken. :-) )

    Under these circumstances, damn near every objection raised to every OS I've seen mentioned are meaningless. If this went through, it would be a different world.

    So OS N has some rough spots. So what? You neighbors all have OS N too. Every kid on the block has been exposed to OS N. A country full of people are working on helping each other learn the OS and "making it go".

    Frankly, the discussion boils down to ONLY one issue, and that's "Proprietary or open?" And the answer is clear: Open.

    A proprietary OS puts an entire country at the mercy of the vendor. While the country will certainly have a lot of "pull", you can bet that the marketing department of the company is going to get more and more brazen over time, and they DON'T have your best interests at heart.

    An Open OS, be it Linux, FreeBSD, or whatever, imposes nothing on Belgium. Certainly if Belgium is going to put a computer in every home, they can afford to make their own distro, which can be as easy or as hard to use as they want, even to the TiVo extreme.

    Everything changes when you're talking about a country in which every person you meet on the street has had experience with the OS you're using. (God knows Windows isn't the dream it's being portrayed as... or haven't you helped a new person learn Windows lately?)

    Upshot: A proprietary OS will meet the needs of the developing company. An open OS meets the needs of Belgium. The choice is clear. Old arguments are irrelevant. Willingly selling an entire country into vendor-lockin is analogous to selling Manhatten Island for the proverbial handful of glass beads.
    • (God knows Windows isn't the dream it's being portrayed as... or haven't you helped a new person learn Windows lately?)

      I find it is more important to give new people a smack on the butt, a thorough bath, a warm towel, and a bottle. Otherwise, I doubt they'd live long enough to even learn what a window was.
  • by Docrates (148350) on Friday January 11, 2002 @02:43AM (#2821972) Homepage
    Look, I live in the Central American country of Panama. I was born here and have dedicated a lot of time to understanding why third world countries are what they are (for better or worse).

    Where I live, people are generally quick to accept technology, and like everywhere else, it has become a symbol of status. The guy that _tries_ to wash your windshield in a streetlight has a pre-paid cellphone here. Hell, ALL cellphone accessories are sold AT streetlights here. There are entire towns where houses are put together, rather than built, using materials and methods I still cannot comprehend, boldly defying conventional wisdom and the laws of physics, and yet they all have 2-3 25"+ TV sets, Big Stereo equipment, VHS, one generation old video game systems and more. Some even have satellite TV. We're talking about people that make $200-$500/month. And that's household income.

    And yet I'm of the opinion that putting a computer in every home would not solve the problem of the so called digital divide, in fact, I think it would make it worse. Here's my rationale:

    If a computer was given for free to every person in my country that can't (or won't) afford one, more than 95% of the people would break it, put it away, sell it (if market price doesn't go down too much), and in general, not value them for what they're worth (economically and intelectually). There are a lot of legitimate cases where people really need one and can't afford it, but even those would probably not value them as much as if they had worked and saved money for their own.

    Sure, some 5% of the people would change their lives by having access to a computer, learning how to use it, hooking up to the Intenret an having access to all the information that's available (the good AND the bad which forces you to develop critical thinking). After all, this is similar to what happened to me when my parents won $10,000 in the lottery and bought me a $2,000 PC 10 years ago (now I have a consulting firm and i'm doing pretty well, thank you).

    The problem is, you would still have a mayority that not only can't but won't use a computer, and a minority that does. Digital Divide anyone? Only this time it's not economically based, but intelectually based.

    It's all a cultural problem. Most people don't use computers because they don't know how good it would be for them, for their carriers, for developing critical thinking, for improving their competitivenes (professionally), for having access to much more information, for improving productivity, etc.

    This is not very different from someone giving you a supersonic jet for free, and telling you it's much better than your Honda Civic. There isn't much I can do with a supersonic jet to be honest, I see no reason to learn to fly if I can get around with my Jetta pretty well. Besides, they say learning to fly is very very hard, so why waste my time? Well, maybe I could sell that Jet to someone that does fly!

    I believe the only way to actually close the Digital Divide (God, I hate clichés) is to improve the cultural level of developing populations, promote critical thinking, make people understand that they have to "work for it", and that in the end it's worth it (what capitalism is based on), and THEN let them BUY computers real cheap. Never give them away.

    There's this little anectdote I want to share before I wrap this up. About 30 years ago there was this military dictator in Panama. A guy called Torrijos. Most people agree he was a pretty cool guy. You've probably heard that name if you're older than 20 and know a bit of history. Anyways, he used to give food and money away to people in a provice called Colon, the second largest city here. After a very short while, they got used to getting everything for free, and just adored the guy. Torrijos died in 1981 (they say it was Noriega, but who knows...)

    Three years ago we were going to build an earth station in Colon, wire the area with fiber optics, provide local ISP service, etc. I interviewed over 40 Colon residents for different low level possitions. Nobody would work after 5PM (even when you pay the extra hours). The few we actually hired, would never, ever show up on time for work, and when they did you could still smell the alcohol. We decided to close the shop very quickly. Last week, MONADESCO (Colon Unemployed Movement) was barricading the streets of Colon. They want Jobs (as long as they don't have to work). They want food. They want money. You wanna give these guys free computers? right.
  • ... and would they give every computer user a Belgium waffle?
  • Anyone know of a translator that does Dutch -> English?

    The fish doesn't ..... worldlingo.com does English->Dutch but not vice versa, at least, with machine translation...
    • English translation! (Score:5, Informative)

      by vrt3 (62368) on Friday January 11, 2002 @05:17AM (#2822255) Homepage
      Well, I did it myself in a hurry, so it's not perfect. First, the correct link to the newspaper article in Dutch. Next, my attempt to translate it:
      "Computer for every family" - 10/01/2002

      Minister Onkelinx wants to eliminate the fact that lower incomes lag behind on IT

      If it depends on federal minister for Equal Opportunities Laurette Onkelinx, every Belgian family will shortly own a PC. She is serious about it, since she already started talking with software gigant Microsoft and PC producer Compaq.

      "Today not nearly everyone has access to the new technologies, that keep getting more and more important, especially on the labour market", Onkelinx says in an interview with La Dernière Heure. "To change that situation, we have started negotiations with multiple partners. We're talking to the European Investment Bank, and they seem to like the project. Further, we have alreadt talked with Compaq and Microsoft."

      "We have indeed had contact with cabinet Onkelinx. Being the leader in the PC market, we should of course be interested in such a project", says Thierry Van Bever from Compaq. "There needs to talked more; nothing is definitive." A similar sound from Microsoft: "We were addressed for our operating system", spokeswoman Els Stevens confirmed.

      It's not clear who was the right to a computer with Internet access. It's also not decided yet how it will (possibly) cost to the families. The minister doesn't doubt the project will turn out well: "I hope to be ready for all modalities in March. Thousands of families will then have a computer and internet access at their disposal. Moreover, it concerns not only families with the lowest incomes."

      Number of PCs

      The number of PCs per hundred inhabitants in our county was 31 in March 2001, as follows from a survey by ICTA, the Association of Information and Communication Industries. That leaves us in the middle of the European pack, after the Netherlands and Ireland, but before Germany and Great Britain. In what way that translates to the families, is not clear. According to a survey by the Communication department, by the end of 1999 already 58% of the families had a computer. 7% of the people who where questioned said they were considering the purchase of a PC in 2000.

      Concerning the number of internet connections, we're slowly running ahead of the European average. In the European Union, 30% of the families had an internet connection by the end of 2000; in Belgium it was 31%. Besides, our country is the best cabled in the world, which gives us a headstart with the distribution of broadband internet. What's more, Belgium is world leader in the development en production of ADSL.

      • Yes the link helps, i found the article myself via
        linux.be [linux.be][dutch only] joost is a big submitter there.

        on be.comp.os.linux (THE linux newsgroep in Belgie) has taken the plan to mass e-mail the ministry to tell why (MS everywhere) that is a bad idea.


        But since the link is wrong, so for for "Read the article first.".
  • Here's the correct link [nieuwsblad.be] to the article (still only in Dutch, but I'll try to translate in a following post).
  • A PC in every home here in Belgium?

    Damn, there goes my bandwidth.
    • For the non-Belgians out here (a lot I guess ;) ), Belgium is the most cabled country. 96 % (more or less) of the population have cable television. Net connection through cable is only available is some place though (but it's growing).
  • (disclaimer : I am from Belgium so my opinions might be biased :))))

    A better use of the money would be to have computers in publicly accessible places like libraries.

    They would be also appropriate in schools where proper training of teachers would be required so that they don't become m$ point'n-click zealots and teach it. Then, when the kids will be adults, they will be well educated, get a job or better, create a company and don't need a free computer paid by those who work.

    If you give a computer to a man, he will play quake until windows crashes but if you teach him linux, he will be able to do whatever he wants with a computer for the rest of his life.
  • I'm Belgian (Score:5, Insightful)

    by duvel (173522) on Friday January 11, 2002 @06:12AM (#2822356) Homepage
    I'm Belgian (admitting this should either merrit a '+1 couragious', or a '-1 morron').

    In order to evaluate the proposal to give away free computers to everyone, one has to know one or two things about Belgium.

    First (and hopefully commonly known) Belgium is divided in two parts, one part speaking Dutch (5.5 million inhabitants), and another part speaking French (4.5 million inhabitants).

    Second: the Dutch part is economically doing a great deal better than the French part. This is true when you evaluate on number of unemployed people, average wages, ...

    Third: There have been socialists in our government for the last 50 years or so. Hence there is a lot of protection for the 'needy'. For example: Belgium has just about the highest income-tax in Europe (to startle some Americans: I (and my wife) pay 55% taxes on our income. Another example: Belgium has the highest rate of people getting money from government compared to working people. A staggering 103 people getting unemployment, disability, pension, ... per 100 working people. For comparison: France has 90/100, US has 60/100.

    Last: As people are most concerned about themselves (this merrits a '-1 obvious') the 103 vote socialist to get more money/computers/free healthcare/whatever from the government. The 100 vote liberal (or central Christian) to pay less taxes.

    Minister Onckelinckx is, as you may have gathered by now, a member of the socialist party of the French speaking part of Belgium. Her proposal is therefore perhaps great for the people that vote for her, but it obviously isn't for those (like me) that have to pay the bills.

    On a side note: I wouldn't be at all surprised if that would turn out to be 'Pay the Bill'.

    This proposal will eventually be burried, like so many other proposals from our ministers. A green party minister once suggested to close our national airport at night because of noise-problems. It's like all ministers agreed to each get a week in which they can try to step into the light by making the silliest possible suggestions. I'd suggest not paying too much attention to it.

    • manicheism (Score:4, Insightful)

      by clarkie.mg (216696) <mgofwd+Slashdot@NosPAm.gmail.com> on Friday January 11, 2002 @06:54AM (#2822473) Homepage Journal
      Wout,

      please note that me and my family relied on public assistance in the past (unfortunately). We never voted for socialists. Also, there are a lot of working people who vote for socialists.

      I think your opinion is full of manicheism. the Dutch part is economically doing a great deal better than the French part mmh yes but what's the point ? The region of Liège is doing better than the region of Charleroi, the region of Brussels (french speaking at 80 pc) is doing better than some places in the dutch part and the dutch part is doing better than a lot of places in Europe (congratulations).

      So what's the point of comparing linguistic regions on an economic basis ? Maybe the propaganda of some political people works in a way. What is funny is that some (all ?) of them want brussels as the capital of Vlaanderen. Looks like some french speaking people are necessary anyway.

      All in all, I also think that some people are cheating on the welfare state and it is also possible that there are more of them in the french speaking side of the country (though some do not speak french). BUT I REFUSE THAT ANY CITIZEN CAN BE PUT IN A CATEGORY BECAUSE OF HIS LANGUAGE OR ETHNICS OR RELIGION, etc. More precisely, I consider stupid the opinions that "unemployed people are lazy", "walloons are lazy" and so on.

      Concerning the silly suggestion concerning the airport, I suppose you do not live in Zaventem.
  • The minister is (amongst other things) responsible for 'equality' and therefore pushes the plan to provide the less fortunate with a pc.

    This smells like a belated attempt to jump on the Internet bandwagon to me. Why don't citizens get equal automobiles issued to them at the voting age? Why aren't citizens assigned to identical housing units? Why don't citizens queue every week at the supermarket to collect their equal shopping baskets of goods?

    I strongly recommend that anyone who favors the idea of spending so much money on computers read Silicon Snake Oil [amazon.co.uk] by Clifford Stoll. In this book, he presents a compelling argument that, in education, the money would far better be spent on hiring more and better teachers, and actually taking the kids to museums rather than sitting them down in front of PCs loaded with CDROM encylopaedias. And in business, computers aren't the productivity panacea that they're touted as.

    And, on /. at least, I would have expected a little more skepticism of a proposal that would give a government complete and unrestricted access to the majority of its citizens email accounts and hard drives. Would you be willing to sell your freedoms for some shiny new consumer electronics?
  • No OS (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Hard_Code (49548) on Friday January 11, 2002 @09:16AM (#2822772)
    Hey, how about this idea: if you *really* want people to get a crash course in "computer literacy" why don't you ship the computers without operating systems? I'm not joking. If they really want to use that shiny new $1500 piece of equipment they'll have to put something on it. And perhaps they *won't* want to pay ~$200 out of pocket to put Windows on it. Let them choose whatever they want.

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