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GNU is Not Unix

Taiwan to Start National Push For Free Software 299

Andy Tai writes: "Taiwan will start a national plan to jump-start the development and use of Free (libre) Software, according to this report by the Central News Agency, the government news agency of Taiwan, Rep. of China. Due to high Microsoft license fees and also to improve the levels of software technology in Taiwan, this plan includes the creation of a totally Chinese free software environment for Taiwan users, free software application development, and training of 120,000 people for free software skills, as well as efforts at schools to provide diverse information technology environments to ensure the freedom of information. The original article is in Chinese; an English summary appears in this Kuro5hin article."
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Taiwan to Start National Push For Free Software

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  • //Also, the national education system will switch to Open Source in order to provide a diverse IT education environment and ensure the people's rights to the freedom of information.//

    Now *that* is what I like to see! Get the next generation started off right.
    • More importantly, I see great dangers in today's practice of using only Microsoft software in IT education. Our children will grow up to only know how to use this software. This is dangerous in the same way as having an entire wheat field being the exact same cloned genotype. A disease can wipe out the whole crop.
    • can you explain your homework bear sig? seems like it's making reference to somthing i should know about
      • If I'm not mistaken, it's from a fake Japanese TV show advertised on Saturday Night Live called "The Nude House of Wacky People" It was kind of a weird sitcom. Like what an Americans vision of how the Japanese might make an American sitcom. A recurring feature of the show was a bear outside the front door, and the father would force people outside to fight the bear.
        Like I said it was weird.
  • by cascino ( 454769 ) on Tuesday June 04, 2002 @02:41AM (#3636737) Homepage
    Yes, that's free as in Û"Äèܽ.

  • Heh... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ObviousGuy ( 578567 ) <ObviousGuy@hotmail.com> on Tuesday June 04, 2002 @02:42AM (#3636741) Homepage Journal
    Nary a mention of the GPL in the entire article text.
    • Re:Heh... (Score:3, Informative)

      by sffubs ( 561863 )
      Except that it is implied by

      "Also included are international cooperation on free application software development, with the results freely shared internationally"

      which suggests Taiwan is going to continue in the spirit of which 'free software' was intended.

  • by phunhippy ( 86447 ) <{zavoid} {at} {gmail.com}> on Tuesday June 04, 2002 @02:45AM (#3636754) Journal
    What they should really do to win independence is the following:

    Eliminate all free software, Give every citizen pirated copies of Microsoft Windows XP and Office XP plus a plethora of other programs as well.

    MS & other big companies freak out over the rampant copyright violations and potential lost revenue and calculate that Taiwan owes them 500 billion dollars or so in license fees!

    In light of this CHINA decides it doesn't want that headache of a bill when they re-unify and drops demands for unification of the two countrys(province & country what ever) and now taiwan is free to be their own country(and in trouble with all those licenses they now own)..

    Of Course if they proceed to support open source software, china will notice how many good programs and programmers they are turning out and will want to re-unify faster and take the island by force..

    See how this can work out only for the worst?


    • In light of this CHINA decides it doesn't want that headache of a bill when they re-unify and drops demands for unification of the two countrys(province & country what ever) and now taiwan is free to be their own country(and in trouble with all those licenses they now own)..
      Do you realise that China is a lot bigger (and nastier) than microsoft? Forget the conspiracy theories, the agenda is clear - they want something that can easily be modified to fit local conditions, so it's better to be able to modify the source code than wait six months for a service pack (or never) - and have the support for old data vanish every three years or so.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      you are forgetting that taiwan in your example is a country in and unto itself. how can they be in trouble with microsoft, they arent under US law or any other law, if it is the government doing it, then they are under the laws that THEY make, so they cannot be forced to pay any thing. Unless of course microsoft sets up their own independant country or army to invade them....i sure wouldnt put it past them
    • Every MS Office / XP licence saved is more for weapons and ammunition! Taiwan can distribute an automatic rifle, 3 grenades and a 1000 rounds of ammunition with every copy of OpenOffice and Linux.
    • I hope I'm not too off-topic by posting this here...

      Behind U.S. support for Tibetan feudalists
      by Deirdre Griswold

      Very few people who seek an audience with the president of the United States get one. Even heads of state have to line up to see George W. Bush, who boasts of his short work day.

      Nevertheless, Bush found time May 23 for a meeting and photo opportunity with the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet.

      The Dalai Lama hasn't been in Tibet for over four decades. He left for India in 1959 to become head of a "government in exile" that represented the former Tibetan feudal ruling class.

      The White House dismissed the date of the meeting with Bush--May 23, which was being celebrated in China as the 50th anniversary of the day in 1951 when Tibet was declared peacefully liberated from feudalism and imperialist influence--as a mere "coincidence."

      Bush's sit-down with the Dalai Lama came just two days after Taiwan's president, Chen Shui-bian, had an unprecedented dinner meeting with about 20 members of the U.S. Congress.

      To the Chinese people, these two political acts embracing secessionist elements are further proof that the Bush administration has embarked on a dangerous anti-China strategy with serious military implications.

      Covert U.S. strategy vs. official stance

      Tibet has been under Chinese jurisdiction since the 13th century. Today it is an autonomous republic within the People's Republic of China.

      The U.S. government's official stance, even after the Chinese Communists swept to power in 1949, has always been to recognize both Taiwan and Tibet as part of China.

      When Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek was overthrown by the Chinese people and fled the mainland to set up a U.S.-backed dictatorship on the island of Taiwan, Washington continued to recognize his regime as the government of all China, including Tibet. So how could it argue later that Taiwan and Tibet weren't part of China?

      Unofficially and secretly, however, Washington has fomented the secession of both Taiwan and Tibet ever since it became obvious that the revolutionary regime in Beijing was here to stay. As long ago as the 1950s, the Central Intelligence Agency began training Tibetan mercenaries at Camp Hale in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado (see Chicago Tribune of Jan. 25, 1997, and Newsweek of Aug. 16, 1999).

      According to the famous "Pentagon Papers," the CIA made 700 flights over Tibet in the 1950s. Dropping mercenaries into the frozen vastness of Tibet didn't work, however. So in recent years the anti-China forces here have focused on a "Free Tibet" campaign that has made inroads in the United States with its well-financed and synchronized promotion of the Dalai Lama as a deeply spiritual mystic fighting a soulless bureaucracy that oppresses his people.

      This view takes advantage of the fact that most people in this country know nothing about Tibet except that it has pretty mountains. They are easy prey for a slick campaign romanticizing the "spirituality" of feudal times.

      The Chinese people, however, have a much more recent memory of what it was like when all-powerful landlords ruled the countryside.

      Life for the serfs

      Nine out of 10 Tibetans were serfs at the time of the Chinese Revolution. They owned no land and had no personal freedom. Another 5 percent were hereditary household slaves.

      Their toil was backbreaking. Education for the common people was unheard of.

      Conditions were so backward that the wheel had no function except for saying prayers. Roads didn't exist.

      Back in the 1930s the British, who had been trying for years to add Tibet to their empire in India and had actually staged several armed incursions, made a present of an automobile to the Dalai Lama. Since Tibet had no paved roads, the auto had to be dismantled and carried to Lhasa on draft animals.

      The nobles, upper-ranking lamas in monasteries and administrative officials, together made up less than 5 percent of the population. Yet they owned all of Tibet's farmland, pastures, forests, mountains and rivers as well as most livestock.

      The current Dalai Lama became part of this owning class when at the age of 2 he was taken from his family by the monks to be groomed as a demigod. Before that he was just a toddler named Lhamo Toinzhub.

      Serfs were really slaves belonging to landowners. According to a white paper prepared in 1992 by the Information Office of the State Council of the People's Republic of China (available online at chineseculture.about.com): "Sometimes they were traded as payment for debts. According to historical records, in 1943 the aristocrat Chengmoim Norbu Wanggyai sold 100 serfs to a monk official at Garzhol Kamsa, in Zhigoin area, at the cost of 60 liang of Tibetan silver (about four silver dollars) per serf. He also sent 400 serfs to the Gundelin Monastery as mortgage for a debt of 3,000 pin Tibetan silver (about 10,000 silver dollars).

      "Serf owners had a firm grip on the birth, death and marriage of serfs. Male and female serfs not belonging to the same owner had to pay 'redemption fees' before they could marry. In some cases, an exchange was made with a man swapped for man and a woman for woman. In other cases, after a couple wedded, the ownership of both husband and wife remained unchanged, but their sons would belong to the husband's owner and their daughters to the wife's owner. Children of serfs were registered the moment they were born, setting their life-long fate as serfs."

      Serfdom, whether in Europe during the most backward feudal period or in China more recently, was a ruthless system of exploitation through usury and corvee--unpaid labor that the landlords assessed on the serfs, like taxes.

      The Chinese white paper continues: "Incomplete statistics indicate the existence of more than 200 categories of corvee taxes levied by the Gaxag (Tibetan local government). The corvee assigned by Gaxag and manorial lords accounted for over 50 percent of the labor of serf households, and could go as high as 70-80 percent.

      "According to a survey conducted before the Democratic Reform, the Darongqang Manor owned by Regent Dagzhag of the 14th Dalai Lama had a total of 1,445 ke [a ke is about one sixth of an acre] of land, and 81 able-bodied and semi-able-bodied serfs. They were assigned a total of 21,260 corvee days for the whole year, the equivalent of an entire year's labor by 67.3 people. In effect, 83 percent of the serfs had to do corvee for one full year.

      "The serfs engaged in hard labor year in and year out and yet had no guaranteed food or clothing. Often they had to rely on money borrowed at usury to keep body and soul together."

      Class law

      Tibetan law divided people into three classes and nine ranks. Inequality was stipulated in the law. The codes said:

      "It is forbidden to quarrel with a worthy, sage, noble and descendant of the ruler."

      "Persons of the lower rank who attack those of the upper rank, and a junior official who quarrels with a senior official commit a serious crime and so should be detained."

      "Anyone who resists a master's control should be arrested."

      "A commoner who offends an official should be arrested."

      "Anyone who voices grievances at the palace, behaving disgracefully, should be arrested and whipped."

      Any socially conscious person in the United States knows that while everyone is supposedly subject to the same law, it is applied differently to rich and poor. But in Tibet the law itself demanded different punishment for the same crime depending on class and rank.

      The law concerning the penalty for murder said, "As people are divided into different classes and ranks, the value of a life correspondingly differs." The lives of people of the highest rank of the upper class, such as a prince or leading Living Buddha, were calculated in gold equal to the weight of the dead body. The lives of people of the lowest rank of the lower class, such as women, butchers, hunters and craftsmen, were worth "a straw rope."

      Servants who injured their masters would have their hands or feet chopped off; a master who injured a servant was responsible only for the medical treatment of the wound, with no other compensation required.

      A saying among serfs was, "All a serf can carry away is his own shadow, and all he can leave behind is his footprints."

      The Chinese Revolution eventually ended serfdom in Tibet. Those among the former rulers who resisted democratic change were then embraced by the CIA--which according to the Chicago Tribune article gave a special retainer to the Dalai Lama of $180,000 a year during the 1960s to keep a government in exile in Nepal.

      Today's budget for this high-powered anti-China campaign has not yet been revealed.
  • by Overcoat ( 522810 ) on Tuesday June 04, 2002 @02:49AM (#3636769)
    Taiwan has been recently involved in some legal hassles [zdnet.co.uk] with Microsoft over licensing fees and excessive price increases. I wonder if this plan is a genuine effort to use free software just a bluff to put a scare into Microsoft?
    • It's rich how a country that is on the list of top offenders of IP piracy is claiming damages from Microsoft.

      It may just be a theory, but XP's copy protection scheme may be the thing that's pissing them off the most.
      • Maybe MS has pushed too far. Better to have a few people actually pay for the SW and pirate it than the Govt. realize that they can't afford it, will get caught pirating, and thus are forced to look to alternatives.

        (I remember my old man, back in the Glory Days of the Reagan Era, telling me how much pirated software was in use at the US Copyright office.)

        Or maybe this sort of thing is just what MS wants. Bill Gates, in conjunction with the Bush Administration, will Release Microsoft Windows, Patriot Edition. Only Americans will be allowed to use it, and instead of phoning home to Microsoft, it will make your modem dial 1-800-ASHCROFT every night at 10PM.

        Taiwan and that senator from Peru will be labeled "open source terrorists." RMS will be hung from his toenails atop the Space Needle, which is probably not such a bad thing after all. All Apache servers will be added to the target lists of Apache helicopters, as thousands of Dying FreeBSD admins learn another meaning of the term "firewall."

        I don't know what to make of Microsoft's attempts to cash in on the mythical BSA "money lost due to pirates" revenue stream. Many dot-coms operated at a loss trying to establish market share, but MS already has that. Will their efforts to get everyone to pay up pay off?

        Is Taiwan guilty of being an IP offender? Or are they simply willing to cop to the fact that most people can't quite see what's wrong with "borrowing" their friend's CD and installing like crazy.

        Imagine how different the world would be today if Gutenberg and Martin Luther had "respected" The Church's IP claims to printing and literacy?

        I believe we are living in a dark age, and that the IP revolution may bring us a new Renaissance.
        • Is Taiwan guilty of being an IP offender? Or are they simply willing to cop to the fact that most people can't quite see what's wrong with "borrowing" their friend's CD and installing like crazy.

          According to the article:

          Taiwan is racing against time to wipeout copyright piracy as it seeks to be expunged from Washington's "Special 301 Priority Watchlist" of intellectual property offenders.

          So they obviously know that what is going on is WRONG and are working hard to get rid of the "sharing" cancer.

          Of course, they realize that this is probably easier to do by "sharing" software that was meant to be shared instead of software that was meant to be used productively.
  • This one is a little confusing at the start. But what can you expect, the rest of their reporters are a Computex.

    http://www.taipeitimes.com/news/2002/06/04/story/0 000138868 [taipeitimes.com]

    www.artsiv.net [artsiv.net]

  • The problem.. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by neksys ( 87486 ) <grphillips AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday June 04, 2002 @02:57AM (#3636788)
    The problem is that Taiwan is a relatively poor country in comparison to the Western powers. A large-scale shift to open-source, free software will do little in terms of affecting Microsoft's sales. What I'd like to see is a country like Canada take a real stand, and make an effort to use open source software in schools and such. I can guarantee that Microsoft has a significant enough investment in it's northern neighbor that such an act would certainly cause it to at least take a closer look at its business practices.

    • Re:The problem.. (Score:4, Informative)

      by ObviousGuy ( 578567 ) <ObviousGuy@hotmail.com> on Tuesday June 04, 2002 @03:01AM (#3636797) Homepage Journal
      Taiwan's economy is half the size of Canada's. It is by no means small.

      Canada [cia.gov]
      GDP: purchasing power parity - $774.7 billion (2000 est.)
      GDP - real growth rate: 4.3% (2000 est.)
      GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $24,800 (2000 est.)

      Taiwan [cia.gov]
      GDP: purchasing power parity - $386 billion (2000 est.)
      GDP - real growth rate: 6.3% (2000 est.)
      GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $17,400 (2000 est.)
      • Those figures, however, are in terms of "purchasing power parity" - ie, adjusted to take into account lower costs of living in Taiwan. I doubt software costs are included in PPP calculations and I suspect Microsoft's pricing doesn't (fully) take into account relative wealth.

        But the latter should be easy to find out. How much does Windows/Office/etc. retail for in Taiwan, and how does that compare with their prices in Canada?


        • How much does Windows/Office/etc. retail for in Taiwan

          A quick search turns up Office XP prices running in the $NT18,000 - $19,000 range for a new user. With current exchange rates hovering around NT$35 to US$1, that makes Office XP more expensive in Taiwan than MS's own MSRP of US$479. Prices in the PRC are in the same ballpark -- which translates there to roughly two months' laborer's wages. And MS wonders why piracy rates are so high.

      • Purchasing power parity is an inappropriate measure of wealth in this case. What Microsoft cares about is the size of the market in US dollars. PPP may be more fair in determining standard of living, but not the size of the software market.

        That being said, yes, Taiwan is a wealthy nation.

    • Hmm. That's ignorant. Taiwan is far from a poor country. Just a hint, go here: http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/ tw.html

      And look at the percentage of people below the poverty line. Ok?

      I live in Taiwan and there is more BMW's / Mercedes driving around than I have ever seen. (Never been to Germany ... ) Of course, the CIA world factbook actually has better measures of "wealth" than what I have stated.
      • My apologies, I didn't state that very well. The point I was trying to make is that the total amount of money ending up in Microsoft's hands from Taiwan is certainly less than my example, Canada. And geographically speaking, Canada would make a greater impact.

        For the record, however, the poverty line is generally a poor indicator of the wealth of a country, as it is a relative measure. The poverty line is the bare minimum income needed to adequately feed and house a single person. In Taiwan's case, staples such as rice would be next to nothing in terms of cost, which may skew the poverty line indication (not that that's the case, as I've never been to Taiwan, just commenting)
        • Absolute crap. When the software of the whole world is dominated by MS products (at least, many categories of software), and when Taiwan is a major computer equipment user (and also producer), will you remotely think that it has been using only minor $$s in pleasing MS?

          And... the "switch" only make sense if you have to pay a lot of money to MS.
      • I think it's really amazing that only 1% of people there are below the poverty line, and 12.7% of people here are below the poverty line.

        I'm in no way doubting that there are way too many people in the US that are below the poverty line, but how accurate is that data about taiwan? 1%. I wish people would stop embracing cutthroat capitalism here. I doesn't always work, and it isn't always efficient.
        • > I'm in no way doubting that there are way too many people in the US that are below the poverty line, but how accurate is that data about taiwan? 1%. I wish people would stop embracing cutthroat capitalism here. I doesn't always work, and it isn't always efficient.

          Funny, I wish people would start embracing cutthroat capitalism here :)

          Hong Kong and Taiwan didn't build their economies up from nothing via redistributionism.

          • Ok this reply is for the other reply too.

            I think my original post was just misdirected frustration.

            Please excuse the post, I wrote it really late at night, and the night before I only got two hours of sleep. It was pretty off-topic, and the post wasn't developed, and it didn't bother to explain anything, so that's what this post is for.

            The fact is, I also would like pure capitalism, but what passes for capitalism these days just isn't. Monopolies do not represent capitalism. Extremely powerful IP priveleges do not reflect capitalism. I think we just need to put things in perspective.

            I've always been a strong market defender, but that side of me has withered in response to the extreme and irrational views some people have, totally beyond what I used to defend.

            People seem to mix up the side effects of capitalism, and the benefits of capitalism, and after a while their point of view is so warped, that when they see only the side effects, they still believe that means capitalism is working.

            There are certain things that are paid for by the public, and are available free of charge. Like roads. This isn't socialism, it's based purely on market principles. The market principles are those that say it is inefficient to charge for something with no scarcity, no matter how high the fixed cost (initial investment) is. If you charge for something that has no scarcity, you are limiting how many people can use it, and are therefore raising the cost/usage ratio.

            So I just think we, as a country, need to embrace the idea of having more things be publicly funded, like art and science. I don't think we should get rid of IP priveleges, because I don't want public funding and the organizations that allocate that money to have the final word on art and science, but I do think we'd all benefit from more publicly funded projects which generate "intellectual property" except if it were publicly funded, no one could own it exclusively.

            As I said in an earlier post, check my history, it's been shown that scientific research is always more effective when it's publicly funded AND open to the public. Scientists who work at corporations get a set salary, just like they'd get a set salary under a public project. So clearly IP priveleges aren't incentive to innovate, but incentive to sponsor. And we don't need corporate sponsorship when they end up charging us ten times what it would cost to develop what they've developed with public dollars. And yes, it has been show, pretty much irrefutably, that this is the case. Check out Steal this idea, Michael Perelman (link to everyones favorite patent abuser!) [amazon.com] to learn more.

            And not only do they charge us ten times what it would cost if it were discovered through public research, they also keep their science secret, cutting it's utility by literally ten fold.

            So, capitalism is great, and I was pretty much drunk on sleep deprivation when I wrote otherwise. But what we have here isn't capitalism. And having the public put money towards science and art doesn't make our economy any less capitalist, except in the sense that there will be less maldistribution of wealth. And no, I don't advocate redistribution of wealth. But I don't think we should faciliate the process of putting most of the money in the hands of the few.

            Is it a coincidence that the jobs that some people complain make too much money are the ones that are very strongly protected by IP laws? I used to defend athletes and actors for making what they make, since "they bring in their employers that much money, so that's what their worth". And that's true, so I don't blame athletes and actors. I do however blame the laws that make the problem worse.

            The ironic thing is, movie studios and sports franchises would probably not make any less money if there were less IP priveleges. Since having good and famous athletes and actors are so critical to making money in these industries, they manage to suck out all the extra profit from them, leaving them exactly where they would've been without IP priveleges.

            I was watching 60 minutes on sunday, and during the andy rooney segment he was just discussing some of the random letters he's received. One of them said that he was quoted in some book that the NFL is putting out, and so they sent him a check for 300$. He said "that's it, 300$? but how come every time our news network wants to show an NFL clip, we have to pay 4500$?"

            I think I made my point pretty clear. Reply if you want me to explain anything. I know that there are certain points that might seem flawed, but I'm not about to write a book on the subject, and you are not about to read one, so I can't cover every angle. I assure you I'm not shortsighted in this matter. So if you do have an objection, just reply and I'll try to explain my position.

            Sorry for the idiotic post. Like I said I was tired, and I was feeling particularly frustrated. Well, at least it motivated me to write this here, now.
    • The problem is that Taiwan is a relatively poor country in comparison to the Western powers.

      Taiwan is not particularly poor it. According to the CIA fact book [cia.gov] it had a GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity of $17,400 (2000 est.).

      This is more or less on par with EU countries, although admittedly a little poorer than the US.


    • Should people start lobbying the states/federal government to impose another penalty on M$: a boycott of Microsoft products? All the government agencies are big customers, after all, and hold enormous influence over the purchasing decisions of many other clients. Even if the states fail to get stiffer penalties, they could still hit Microsoft where it counts: right in the pocket book.

      Does anyone else think we should start lobbying for this?

      • by s390 ( 33540 ) on Tuesday June 04, 2002 @07:56AM (#3637280) Homepage
        Should people start lobbying the states/federal government to impose another penalty on M$: a boycott of Microsoft products?

        Well, one wouldn't use the term "boycott" as it's rather loaded with left-wing connotations. But some professional IT managers in government agencies at all levels (Federal, State, and Local) are way ahead of you. Many of them are ticked-off at Microsoft's heavy-handed "marketing tactics" (i.e., character assassination and thinly veiled extortion) and the high costs of Microsoft's new annual software rental licensing and forced upgrades, and they are looking at alternatives, including especially Open Source.

        Government MIS managers are a fairly buttoned-down bunch (they're civil service staff, after all), but if you listen to a convention of them talking about the escalating hassles and expenses of Microsoft software, you'll hear four common complaints: (1) security and stability problems, missing/late/buggy patches, and high maintenance labor costs, (2) arrogant sales reps going "over their heads" and denigrating their management judgement to their bosses at the first sign of hesitation about signing up for annual software rental licenses, (3) threats to force costly and disruptive software license audits if they don't toe the line, and (4) the high costs of Microsoft software licensing and support expenses. Many IT managers in government either can't afford to pay for annual software "upgrades" they don't really need or resent Microsoft's strong-arm approach, or both, and are looking for ways to reduce or even totally eliminate their dependance on Microsoft software. Lots of them are looking at Open Source for a way out.

        So yes, lobbying government politicians to open up software procurement to competition, use public taxpayers' money to acquire Open Source software that is freely available and open for inspection, eliminate the software monoculture that enables security vulnerabilities and pandemic infections, discourage sole-source and no-bid software contracts, and reduce public software costs... might be very helpful to public IT management. Polite letters to legislators, board members, and the heads of agencies can help.

    • Re:The problem.. (Score:2, Interesting)

      by zoccav ( 242377 )
      A large-scale shift to open-source, free software will do little in terms of affecting Microsoft's sales.
      In Free Software terms, the user base is a more significant factor than economic size. If a country like Taiwan can do this other countries will follow certainly.
    • Why should we care about Microsoft sales?
      I care about Open Source momentum.
      Besides this could mean even better support for hardware. Soon all those Taiwanese engeeners will
      see their kids running Linux on the hardware they
  • "... this plan includes the creation of a totally Chinese free software environment for Taiwan users..."


  • by Anonymous Coward
    Just curious ... the lack of mention of Linux (perhaps I skimmed too quickly) brought something to my attention ...

    Why do you think that (it seems) Linux is chosen more often than the other free operating systems? For example, the Germany/IBM/Linux deal, the elementary schools in the Pacific Northwest, etc etc.

    Granted, I run *bsd exclusively these days (read: not flamebait/troll/a zealot ... I'm just used to the 'bsd way'), so I am a little curious why Linux gets chosen over them. To me, it seems that a lot of these 'deals' are riding the coattails of the Linux 'fad' that has been going on for a few years.

    I'm the first to admit ... *bsd is behind Linux in support for new hardware, a lot of commercial and/or pre-compiled software, but, these can't be the only factors. Is it the licensing?


    • the BSD's have a long way to go for internationalization. This is why they are less popular overseas.

      output/layout support, encoding support, localizations, locales, input methods support, etc, are areas where linux still needs alot of work,
      but its passable with many apps/configurations, especially just recently.

  • by monopole ( 44023 )
    As we all know, many of the critical components for computers are produced in Taiwan. If the nation itself shifts toward free software, Taiwanese computer producers will have a considerable interest in producing drivers for free OSes. In paticular, laptops might suddenly become more Linux compliant.
  • There was an interesting post on Kuro5hin that mentioned something about GDP and stuff. The article also mentioned something about huge sums of monies that the Taiwanese will save when leaving out proprietary software from their plans.

    I'm interested to see what some of you economists out there have to say about this, regarding what sort of an economic impact it will have on Taiwan, as well as China as a whole.
  • by poopie ( 35416 ) on Tuesday June 04, 2002 @04:04AM (#3636927) Journal
    I believe this is a good thing and will have positive impact for all of Asia.

    Taiwan has a lot of computer-savvy people, and one of the things that is holding back opensource and linux in Asia are the less-than seamless integration of CJK/Unicode character display, input methods, and font rendering for Unix/Linux when compared with Windows.

    I know all about the efforts underway to systematically resolve those issues (and wish them well), but you still need to be a UNIX guru and in some cases a programmer, if you want to get a Linux system set up that can support all of the popular asian language input methods and have them be consistent across all apps in all environments.

    One thing micros~1 has done exceptionally well is operating system internationalization and providing a common consistent method for display, and changing of IMEs.

    If Taiwan can contribute efforts to making linux more multibyte-friendly, it makes linux more accessible and practical to the fastest growing segment of computer users in the world -- who likely can run any software they want for only the cost of a CD from the local software street vendor.

    When people who can pirate all the software they want actually *CHOOSE* to run linux, that will be a major turning point for opensource.

    I remember the old joke: "you can only sell one copy of any software in Asia" - Imagine if the creative talents of all those crackers/hackers/pirates were focused on creating free software...
    • Re: Unicode (Score:2, Interesting)

      by szap ( 201293 )
      Even before we handle the CJK/Unicode human interface and application integration problems, Linux (don't know about the rest) should have proper support for Unicode in the kernel, especially the filesystem's filenames. What's the point of writing a Chinese document when you can only save it as 'abcde.doc'?

      Granted, you could just mount /home as a UTF8 friendly VFAT/umsdos (see here [linuxhq.com] for details, grep for "Unicode"), but that's a huge kludge.

      And after that, we have a whole load of typical unix software AND file formats that handles files suchs as tar to fix to make them Unicode/UTF8 friendly while making sure that they are backwards-compatible.

      One minor thing software developers (that's YOU) can do is to make sure that all your new software you create is UTF8 friendly. That way you'd save yourself lots of redesign problems later. It used to be 640Kbytes, then Y2K. It's Unicode now.

      Back on topic, don't underestimate the influence of .tw. They've manage to dominate the popular desktop motherboards and misc. electronics market. Given the right conditions and some time, they can hugely influence the software market as well. This is the best chance for the world to break free of a certain US company's monopoly on software. After all, would you ten years ago believe that most desktop motherboards today are made in Taiwan?
      • Re: Unicode (Score:2, Informative)

        by Karkya ( 305020 )
        Most UNIX filesystems, including ext2fs, are in fact 8-bit clean; but the shells and file utils like ls are often not, at least not in their default setup.

        For zsh, setopt printeightbit will do the trick.
        For Linux fileutils, apply the following patch:
        diff -ru fileutils-4.0i.orig/src/ls.c fileutils-4.0i/src/ls.c
        --- fileutils-4.0i.orig/src/ls.c Wed May 5 21:13:49 1999
        +++ fileutils-4.0i/src/ls.c Thu Sep 16 11:10:10 1999
        @@ -883,7 +883,9 @@
        format = many_per_line;
        /* See description of qmark_funny_chars, above. */
        +#ifdef NO_FORCE_8BIT
        qmark_funny_chars = 1;
        I have lots of stuff with Big-5 filenames on my ext2fs. Even wu-ftpd and apache work fine on them.

        Unicode is only useful when you want to use more than one languages at the same time. Even the Taiwan/Hongkong version of Windows does user-I/O in Big-5, it's only when it's saved on VFAT that it transparently converts the encoding.

        In other words, Unicode support is a filesytem concern, application programmers simply need to make sure their apps are 8-bit clean.
        • Unicode is only useful when you want to use more than one languages at the same time.

          But if we are talking about giving OSS a competitive advantage, having that degaree of interoperability built in seems like a good idea to me.
      • What's the point of writing a Chinese document when you can only save it as 'abcde.doc'?

        To communicate with someone who reads Chinese? A system in which you can compose documents in Chinese but have to name the files using the latin alphabet is far more useful to most Chinese speakers than one in which they can't compose documents in Chinese, but can name files using it.

        Your comment reflects a tendency that's common among geeks: We prioritize the operating system over the applications. But for most people, the real value of their computer is provided by the applications, and the operating system is only important insofar as it supports the applications they care about.

  • Isn't that a country where you can buy most new software packages in stores for about $1?
  • This signals the cusp of MS's reversal of fortunes. Due solely to it's deviant nature Microsoft is losing mindshare globally.

    It is profound to see individuals at the grass roots (GNU, OpenOffice, Linux, Mozilla etc.) doing what the Justice Department seemingly cannot, bring this monster to heel.


  • This Me-too-for-open-source seems to be the latest fad amongst all the developing countries. Checking the posts [kuro5hin.org] in the article almost makes this sound like a US (read advanced countries) Vs the rest of the world (read not so advanced) phenomenon. Are we looking at the beginning of the Great Divide - in the electronic age? Open source with third world countries - the panacea for all evils?
    • Actually, the opposite is true:

      Where labour is cheap and education is bad (for example China, Lebanon, most of 3rd world, US-military), Microsoft is king.

      Where labour is expensive and education is good (for example Japan, Germany) Open-source will be used.

      It's not the licensing costs that make Windows so expensive, it's the work that is needed to constantly babysit and patch it.

      If you don't believe me, check out for yourself:

      http://www.securityspace.com/s_survey/data/200205/ index.html

  • by randy_ch ( 233470 ) on Tuesday June 04, 2002 @05:02AM (#3637002) Journal
    I am a college student in Taiwan, and what I can only say is people in Taiwan are not ready for the adoption of free software. It still has a long way to go.

    For example, most of my classmates have no ideas of what free software is, even my major is computer science. That is because we have been used to the software from Microsoft for a very long time, and the teaching of using those software is part of our eduction. I am sure that most people can not succeed in the process of transferring from Microsoft to free software. It still needs a lot of effects before we can finally achieve it.

    However, I am still glad to see the government has such a farsighted plan that not only will save much money for our people, but also can bring about the rising of the develope of software industry. Although it will not come true in the near furture, I appreciate how perspective our government becomes! In fact, I am surprised. I think it is a blessing for we people in Taiwan. Thank god we are going toward the right direction.

    • Sounds like your university is par with a typical American community college. Taiwan's relative insignificance will not be affected in any way by the adoption of an insignificant operating system nor an insignificant political ideology.
      • I should probably qualify my "community college" comment so that it doesn't appear to be the angry attack that it is.

        The problem that exists at your school is precisely that they are teaching you how to use the software tools. There is a lot to know about the tools, of course, but to be taught such a trivial thing as creating projects and compiling code in an editor seems like such a waste of time. Exactly the kind of thing that community colleges teach as their bread and butter.

        In other contexts this would start a flamewar, but a University level Computer Science curriculum should concentrate on theory much more than on programming technique and tool usage.

        If the curriculum you describe is representative of the average university in Taiwan, then Taiwan's computer industry will certainly suffer.

        The adoption of Open Software means nothing. It has no relevance to anything with regards to bringing up the level of Taiwan's computer industry. Indeed, neither does Microsoft software. Rather, it is the ability of highly skilled programmers and far-sighted corporate officers making great strides into the vast software market that will make all the difference. If anything, this step into Open Source Software will set Taiwan back.
        • The adoption of Open Software means nothing. It has no relevance to anything with regards to bringing up the level of Taiwan's computer industry. Indeed, neither does Microsoft software. Rather, it is the ability of highly skilled programmers and far-sighted corporate officers making great strides into the vast software market that will make all the difference. If anything, this step into Open Source Software will set Taiwan back.

          That isn't true at all. As long as the Taiwanese (and the Peruvians, the Germans, etc.) base their work on software that is controlled by United States interests then they will continue to be subservient to the U.S. software houses. Free Software does two things for the foreign software industries. It gives them the opportunity to study the actual source code for working applications, many of which are extremely well done, and it gives them the opportunity to base their own work (that they can then get paid for) on software that is available royalty free.

          Taiwan is a perfect example of how this works. The Taiwanese government is under pressure to stamp out software piracy in their government, and they can do this in one of two ways. They could send a big fat check to Microsoft on an annual basis. This money would then leave their country and make the U.S. software industry richer. Or they could pay local programmers to build on a foundation of Free Software so that it will fit their needs. Much of this software could even be commercial software that they could sell to other countries.

          This works especially well for governments like Taiwan because they get to make the rules. They can set the standard on how communication is done with the government, and hundreds of thousands of Taiwanese businesses will have no choice but to comply. If the Taiwanese government said that the official document standard was StarOffice, for example, and that documents would not be accepted in any other format, then StarOffice would get a big boost in that country.

          In other words, the software that becomes the base of the economy (and education), is important. Besides, programming is becoming more high level all of the time. Who worries about coding a linked list when nearly every language you might want to use has plenty of complex data structures ready to use? I personally am grateful for my education, but I don't delude myself into thinking that there is anything magical about it.

    • So what would be so difficult about converting to Linux? In my experience KDE is just as easy to use as windows and OpenOffice is just as easy to use as MS Office. Not to mention avoiding liscensing fees and security hazards.
    • That's pretty much any college anywhere. My experience is that 90-95% of CS majors are only getting into the industry for the money. Most of them don't really care about or have any particular aptitude for computers in general or programming in particular.

      It takes less programmers than you think to make for growth in the free software community. Here in America I still usually get blank looks when I mention Linux or the GPL. Or data structures for that matter. You'd be surprised at how many "professional" programmers out there wouldn't be able to code a hash table or a linked list.

      • Course then with the STL why the hell would you? Hash tables and linked lists are wheels that have been invented so many times by so many people, there's no reason to ever write them again. Now of course every programmer should know HOW and WHEN to USE them, but that's another topic...

        • If you don't know how they're implemented, you're far less likely to know when they're apropriate. Not to mention that if you ever end up working on some primative programming language like C, Assembler or, God Help You, Fortran, you'll be at a serious disadvantage if you don't know how to implement your structures.

          Of course, my education was old school and before all this free-love-hippy-new-age crap they started introducing shortly after I finished up. I'm not a huge fan of rote learning, mind you, but you do need some basic skills before you can effectively apply analytical problem solving.

      • Perhaps that's because most "professional" programmers have moved away from solving the problem of hash tables or linked lists.

        These types of data structures are available in any number of libraries for most modern languages.

        BTW, I know a lot of people who are in CS because of natural aptitude... that is it was an easy degree to get, and the jobs are pretty easy to keep. But that doesn't mean it is their lifelong goal. I would rather be a race car driver, but I don't have the ambitition to pursue that career. Others I know would rather own a hunting lodge, but there is no money in that venture.

  • totally chinese free software environment
    totally chinese free software environment

    (don't flame me, I'm chinese :)
  • Changing the world (Score:3, Insightful)

    by enigma48 ( 143560 ) <<moc.modffej> <ta> <hsals_wen_ffej>> on Tuesday June 04, 2002 @05:34AM (#3637064) Journal
    Originally I was going to comment on how different the priorities are between the western (US/Can) and eastern (China/Taiwan) worlds are. Assuming the translator did their job correctly and introduced a minimum of bias, a few phrases caught my eye: "benefits the government NT$ 2 billion and the society NT$10 billion", the statement about international cooperation on free application software development and coordination of training centres, "...and ensure the people's rights to...".

    From a Canadian standpoint, it sounded like people being put first. WAY first. Not about dropping Microsoft - just the fact that people tend to be put that far first.

    Sitting back a second, I remembered the just-passed anniversary of Tiananmen square. So much for the "ideal" ways of the east.

    But it got me thinking. Imagining what would happen if other governments adopted this plan of using and developing free software to meet the needs of the government. While the private sector has little incentive to release any work they did while paying for the employee to do it, the public sector has almost no incentive NOT to.

    Imagining a little further, a few other governments pick up the idea - at least small groups anyway - because the work of Taiwan (and maybe Germany) provided a very necessary tool that was only available via closed-source software. Simplifying and standardizing international charsets alone would be a godsend.

    Now, other countries make the switch to a partially open system and add their piece of the pie.

    Suddenly, governments everywhere are noticing the next-to-nil cost of switching some or all of their systems to an open-source based solution. Training was needed anyway and other governments won't mind giving some limited support for the first bit. Service companies step in later for more robust support seeing some money in the picture.

    I like the idea of open-source. I don't preach the benefits of open source nearly as much as I preach the benefits of solution X over solution Y where *applicable* (eg: Linux over Windows, Apache over IIS).

    I like the idea of governments co-operating, improving the picture for everyone. Even if it saved them nothing over the current system.

    I like the way the world looks for my future children right now.

  • ...is going to attack them -- they even have similar attitude toward Microsoft. So maybe THIS is whom American milirary is trying to protect by swarming around Taiwan ;-P

    Yes, it's a joke, but sometime political assholes that are ready to trade people's lives for large companies' profits really worry me.

  • As a staunch proponent of free software and public, open standards, I am as heartened to see this development, just as I was glad to see the recent story of the German government deploying Linux on a larger scale through IBM and SuSE.

    In this development, however, I see an additional possibility. Despite all their differences, the pursuit of a software strategy independent of large U.S. corporations is something shared between Taiwan and the PRC.

    I think it would be an excellent testimony to the free software development model if Chinese language software is jointly developed both in *.cn and in *.tw and widely used on both sides of the strait of Taiwan as well.

    Here's to a hope: maybe that level of cooperation in a common pursuit could set a positive and conciliatory example for citizens and politicians that don't know much about software and, in the past, have shown they know too little about sharing, cooperation and accomodation.

  • by f00zbll ( 526151 )
    "All glory is fleeting"

    Nothing lasts forever. Whether this is really the beginning of the end of the old Microsoft is still unknown, but the computer world is changing. It's beyond the control of anyone company at this point. The most a company fights this gradual evolution the faster they will die.

  • The push for free software in Taiwan, which plans to develop it, and China, which plans to use RedFlagLinuix on gov't systems, is nothing new. As I had stated in an earlier post, the Chinese will always go for the lowest possible price for something they want, if not free. However, when a product they want is beyond their budget, they'll try to get a "pirated" or "knockoff" version of it, because it usually costs less. As in the case of properietary software, they would rather get a pirated copy of Microsoft Office or WindowsXP than pay stratospheric licensing fees. Also, as "western" fashions are popular in Hong Kong, a lot of people their are on a budget. Instead of forking over 200 US dollars worth of HK currency for say, a genuine Louie Vallerie handbag, most citizens would prefer the "knockoffs" sold in flea markets, because trendy items to the Chinese are about appearances, not the quality of the material. From my experiences in these flea markets, I can tell one that while these "counterfeit handbags" are made of plastic rather than leather, it looks identical to the real thing.

    However, times are changing for China. As this country tries its hardest to enter the WTO, the Chinese government has been cracking down on piracy in government-owned computers and in markets all over the country. (As stated in a CNET article, an anti-piracy official in China was quoted as saying "We arrest the persons involved (in piracy rings) and turn to execute them). Yet the Chinese government, which had been running pirated versions of its software for years until recently, knows they they cannot afford licsensing fees from coporate juggernauts such as Microsoft. Therefore, they pushed for the use of RedFlagLinuix. This situation also applies to the free software movement in Taiwan, which has its roots in centuries old Chinese mentality: give me what I want for the lowest price.

    One last note...the Chinese have also considered sofware as an essential component for learining about technology. They do not feel it is a crime to "copy" software such as Windows XP, which is required to run Microsoft Word, a word processing program theyre most familiar with, which is used to type up various documents, especially for education. As one Chinese famous scohlar once said "Stealing a book is elegance".

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