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GNU is Not Unix Software

Brazilian Government Continues Push For Free Software 295

rmello writes "The 'Legislative Free Software Week' in Brazil ended last week, drawing 2,000 people, including 3 ministers and presidents of congress and senate. Computerworld reports (in Portuguese, translation by submitter), among other things, that 1) House of Representatives will NOT renew MS-Office licenses, but is looking at free software alternatives, 2) The free software parliamentary front was announced in congress, 3) The e-mail system of the house of representatives is being replaced by a free software one, 4) The federal government is looking at concrete measures to stimulate free software as means of saving money and stimulating the national software industry. Looks like free software is here to stay in Brazil. Kudos to the many Brazilian free software groups working to make such victories a reality."
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Brazilian Government Continues Push For Free Software

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  • not renewing... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 27, 2003 @02:09AM (#6802501)
    Its interesting that it says "not renewing" in regards to the MS office licenses.. does that mean that until they decide to go with open source alternatives (or not), that they will be illegally using the software? Or maybe they will continue using MS products, and just not renew licenses, etc..
  • by SargeZT ( 609463 ) <> on Wednesday August 27, 2003 @02:15AM (#6802529) Homepage
    Any country which architecture is build on a foundation which can not be reinforced by private developers, will crumble until, and if, the contractor who built that foundation "patches" that foundation up.
  • by cfl ( 82047 ) * on Wednesday August 27, 2003 @02:15AM (#6802531)
    I'm be interested to see how Microsoft react to this. E.g. Counter offers, as per the City of Munich decision to go with Linux desktops: Munich spurns Ballmer's rebates []
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 27, 2003 @02:22AM (#6802564)
    It is. However I wonder how much of OSS uptake is due to the poor state a lot of world economies are in because of the World Bank?
  • by symbolset ( 646467 ) on Wednesday August 27, 2003 @02:27AM (#6802579) Journal
    Sauron sent a Nazgul team to deal with this last year. This is the result.

    If they send Ballmer, Brazil might prohibit proprietary software altogether, so vehement was Villanueva's response (and so effective is Ballmer).

    Next up, Texas!

  • Re:Start of a change (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Kyle Hamilton ( 692554 ) * <> on Wednesday August 27, 2003 @02:34AM (#6802599) Homepage Journal
    This guy has a point look around the world at the poor countrys China now is going to use only in house software and linux and now brazil I think that this will help brazil and china and hopefuly they will be able to spread from just them to the area *Asia and Latin America*
  • Re:Start of a change (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Daengbo ( 523424 ) <> on Wednesday August 27, 2003 @02:42AM (#6802617) Homepage Journal
    Thailand formed the Ministry of ICT about a year ago, and one of the first decisions it made was to commit to 50% open source use in gov't within 3 years. They are promoting OS/FS with the sole intention of building their local IT talent.
    Companies have begun to offer large prizes (4 years average programmer salary) for 3D games which run on Linux, and have fast tracked the certification of an "official" OS and office suite for the country, which have been developed by an arm of the gov't, NECTEC. My school will get free promotion from them when we open our OS/FS training courses next term.
    The Thai goverment hopes to free itself from outside control. The national anthem says "None are allowed to oppress and destroy our independence." Thais are very proud of their colony-free heritage, and look at foreign software as part of that.
  • Re:Start of a change (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Malcontent ( 40834 ) on Wednesday August 27, 2003 @03:04AM (#6802692)
    Read this [] article about the shcool system in shanghai. MS did an audit and then try to bully them into buying more office licences. The school system instead chose to actually remove office from it's systems and go with a competing product locally made in china. Here is a quote.

    The move to snub Microsoft comes after the software giant asked the Shanghai Education Commission to buy licenses for the office suite on every school computer. Antipiracy officials earlier raided several schools in the city for using pirated versions of the software, according to the report.

    In this case they did not go with open source but the competing product cost half as much.

    People all over the world are getting a clue except the American PHBs who are not only sticking with MS but some are actually paying licencing fees to SCO.

    Makes you wonder.
  • by mattr ( 78516 ) <mattr&telebody,com> on Wednesday August 27, 2003 @03:07AM (#6802704) Homepage Journal
    This is great news for not only Brazil but for everyone in the open source using/developing community.

    Someone asked "Why so happy?". Well now there will be many people working in parallel to use open source software in a large enterprise environment, and don't tell me you have to speak English to be a (good) hacker. People will solve problems, submit patches and improvements (if welcomed), and develop new software which we can use and leverage too.

    Also it should divert money that would have gone to the richest man in the world, to pay programmers, and to encourage young people to study programming, starting with open source as a given not as an eccentricism. It is entirely possible that you will get an environment in Brazil in which Windows becomes a minority. Could you imagine what kind of things would be possible when the magnifying power of open source is combined with even a small budget? I'm looking forward to hearing stories about Brazil in the future where it becomes famous for a "can-do" attitude (and they actually do it!), when solutions are shared by many and developers are able to enjoy exponential successes.

    If this can be documented and nurtured it just might suggest that there is another path for human development in general - capitalism is great but for some sociological or economic reason it hasn't done well in Brazil. Maybe open source can be used in programming and many other fields to codify knowledge and give Brazilians a boost so the money they do spend is most effectively disposed.

    I think this goes beyond the general idea that the network is stronger the more nodes it has. We are talking about people who are going to be getting tools put in their hands, the equivalent of an investment of millions or billions of dollars worth of software, and they are going to attack problems and solve them by both tapping into support from the world at an individual level and by recognizing that problems can indeed be solved. The only things I would like to add are that food, sanitation, safety, machines, and free telecom are prerequisites for this. If the government has anybody with a clue (sounds like they do!) they will figure out a way to provide free highspeed internet connectivity. Conceivably this could be done around libraries or community centers, perhaps someone from Brazil or other countries with such experiences can provide some ideas. I am very interested in hearing what the result of this would be if started from Brazilian values, perhaps it could be refreshing.

    One thing I can tell you is that one mature person educated in the world can make a difference. A journalist friend of mine has been able to build a hospital, orphanage, newspaper, and a hundred schools in Cambodia from donations around the world. I would guess that Brazil is far, far ahead of Cambodia, at least they have still got their brainpower among the living! Let's help them!

  • by skinfitz ( 564041 ) on Wednesday August 27, 2003 @03:07AM (#6802706) Journal
    The federal government is looking at concrete measures to stimulate free software as means of saving money and stimulating the national software industry.

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but how is this going to stimulate the industry if there is no money to be made for the software "companies"? Surely this will damage the software industry?
  • Answer me this. (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 27, 2003 @03:35AM (#6802803)
    I can understand on an area advantaging theirselves, no matter what the fashion. Let's say you worked for a company that made a product that you exported. How happy would you be when that country decided to make their own? Would you jump up and down in sheer happiness for them before that trip to the umnemployment office? Or would the grim reality of just losing a customer set in? Then how would you feel when Brazil starting importing THEIR products here?

    OK, fine, Brazil weans itself off the Microsoft tit. But remember, MS products are just that, products. Capitalism is the selling of products for financial gain. Financial gain is what pays employees. Look at this from a purely business perspective, not a "I hate Bill, rah rah rah" one. Many paid employees make MS products. Does destroying a market for employess make you happy?

    And never mind American software? What about Brazilian software makers? Why should they be happy either? After all, free means free, who says that Brazilian software should be bought as well? Would you (a Brazilian coder) be happy if your market just disappeared?

    You seem quite eager to code yourself out a job.
  • by Radagast ( 2416 ) on Wednesday August 27, 2003 @03:44AM (#6802829) Homepage
    John Gilmore pointed out once that the telecom industry in the US contributes 1-2 orders of magnitude more money to the economy. The extra use of bandwidth if everything the RIAA and MPAA ever made was made free would, if properly priced by the telecom companies, most likely make up for the loss.

  • Re:Start of a change (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Caid Raspa ( 304283 ) on Wednesday August 27, 2003 @03:45AM (#6802831)
    This is the start of a changing of how third world countries will act.

    Seriously, lets see "PAY LICENSES" or "FEED PEOPLE"

    We Europeans are facing the same problem. It is not licenses vs. food, but something like licenses vs. education, health care, rebuilding the country after 50 years of communist rule, ... These are on the priority list after food. Most of the software license fees go to US. Same applies to many copyrighted things, like movies and music. I think Germany (or actually Munich) is showing the way to Europeans.

    Paying license fees is not what third world countries want to do. I mention this as a start because it will shift to other things other than software ...

    The people in poor countries have stopped paying license fees a long time ago. Visit any bazaar in China or Russia to check what is their attitude to Copyright. It is more about ability, not willingness. Governments can't hide behind the corner, the DVD pirates can. They are much easier to sue, and software vendors have their lobbyists. In practice, software vendors has US government, WTO, and other powerful supporters. Corruption is also an issue. Finally, getting any major change through a government is very slow. Changing anything in a democracy takes at least five years.

    I am advocating for free software in a political party (about 10% election support at local level, 3rd largest). At first, most people were not interested. In January 2002 we had to buy a new computer, and I suggested we try OpenOffice before buying the MS version. "It's free, you won't lose a dime." And we never bought MS Office. At September 2002, we suggested that the local government should consider OpenOffice. (Before that, we had a few words on free software, mainly to keep me silent). Now, we are suggesting that again. Office 97 (yes, we are poor and backward) "dies" in January 2005, so maybe we have a chance of getting this through next year. After that, migration takes at least one year.

  • Re:Start of a change (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SerpentMage ( 13390 ) <ChristianHGross&yahoo,ca> on Wednesday August 27, 2003 @04:06AM (#6802882)
    >>> People all over the world are getting a clue except the American PHBs

    I say be careful what you wish for... I like Open Source. I make my money with Open Source, because earlier in the 90's I saw that Closed source was coming to an end. Or at least the "big bucks" was coming to an end

    However, this trend by other countries is good for Open Source. It does not however translate to money in my pocket with trade. I am ok with this because I figured out a way to get around this.

    Many people will not be ok with this and this is what is happening right now. Witness SCO. SCO is only digging the grave for all business in the US. Do you REALLY think SCO has a snow ball's chance in hell trying to force their "rights" in Brazil, or China? Of course greed by SCO is fogging the big picture issue.

    Likewise with patents and other copyright issues. Like the guy with the patent against Microsoft. Or the RIAA. These companies are only damaging themselves and the market they manage. They are deluding themselves into thinking that if they can only last a couple of more years everything will go back to normal.

    No times have changed, and the West better a clue REAL fast or the West will have to start looking for handouts from the "third" world nations.
  • Re:Start of a change (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Malcontent ( 40834 ) on Wednesday August 27, 2003 @04:20AM (#6802917)
    "No times have changed, and the West better a clue REAL fast or the West will have to start looking for handouts from the "third" world nations."

    The US has an abundance of natural resources. It has lots of trees, minerals, fertile soil and water. Granted all those resources are being abused but there is enough left to last for at least another generation if not two. If we cut back even a little on consumption they might last for decades. Most of the rest of world has already eaten through it's natural resources and will be buying them from us for a long time.

    Combine that with the enourmous amount of captial that has accumulated in this country and you will realize that we will not be lining up for handouts anytime soon.

    That is not to say however that our standard of living will not decrease. It most likely will decrease a little bit but the change is more likely to effect your grandchildren then yourself.
  • by jabuzz ( 182671 ) on Wednesday August 27, 2003 @04:21AM (#6802920) Homepage

    Perhaps, they might start looking in their own backyard and have their National Institute for Space Research (a goverment backed organization) open source the excellant SPRING GIS package from what is already a free download, but no source. Works on Linux/Solaris and Windows, and is rather easier to use than GRASS. []
  • by torpor ( 458 ) <ibisum@gm a i l . com> on Wednesday August 27, 2003 @04:27AM (#6802941) Homepage Journal
    Well, with open source software, the playing field is wide open.

    If the Brazilian gov't wants customized/tailored software, it can get it now - cheap, because *anyone* can bid on the contract to do the source modification and release things back into the public domain.

    It may not be millions of dollar-contracts and beef barrels any more (thank god), more likely it'll be small, fast, light development companies that spring up (new industry forming) to take on the role of 'custom software development' using the OSS methodologies.

    This has proven successful many times. I made a living off of customizing/tailoring OSS solutions for businesses - in Los Angeles - for 8 years. Would still be doing it, too, if it weren't for ... other opportunities which sprung up.

    I can't see how 'proprietary' software will survive in this environment, and I'm glad its happening. Brazil, and other nations (Thailand) like it will lead the way in a new era of computer software industry ... smaller, lighter, faster groups able to compete much more aggressively with each other, producing better code.
  • by vidarh ( 309115 ) <> on Wednesday August 27, 2003 @04:57AM (#6803002) Homepage Journal
    You seem to assume (wrongly), that most software engineers work on shrink wrapped software for companies that live off selling mass produced software, when in fact most software engineers work on in house applications and one off deliveries. Microsoft is an anomaly. Most software engineers already work in positions where open source would not affect their jobs.

    However, the shrinkwrap applications that are in common use account for a disproportionate amount of software spending, and by encouraging the use of open source one would free up huge amounts of money otherwise spent on license fees that could be spent on hiring people to adapt various software packages to your specific conditions.

    For Brazil that would be hugely beneficial, as most money for shrinkwrap software end up in the US, while software engineers hired to add features to open source software would be more likely to be local.

    But even though the US stand to lose short term, it too stand to lose longer term as open source over time reduce the cost to develop software (because of the increasing amount of software that can be used as building blocks free of charge). Looking at the history of software development, this is unlikely to reduce the number of available jobs for software engineers overall - in fact it is likely to make more jobs available, as cheaper software development means significantly more projects become cost effective.

    It's like car manufacturing - Ford massively automated the process, but that didn't put people making cars out of work, it massively grew the industry since the lower cost lead to lower prices, which led to a huge increase in demand.

  • by vidarh ( 309115 ) <> on Wednesday August 27, 2003 @05:04AM (#6803016) Homepage Journal
    We win regardless. Either Microsoft will keep cutting prices (and each deal it makes will make other customers start pressuring them), with the resulting reduced margins and hopefully dropping profitability, or people will see through them and they'll lose customers. Both ways leads to a weakened Microsoft. What Microsoft doesn't seem to understand is that cutting prices to the bone only really works when you are fighting against a small group of smaller companies that you can bleed dry by consistently undercutting.
  • by Tsu Dho Nimh ( 663417 ) <> on Wednesday August 27, 2003 @07:31AM (#6803475)
    Will Brazil truly pull a Munich, or are they just playing the game Thailand thinks it won with Microsoft.

    The rhetoric around this issue in Latin America has included "paying tribute", "software imperialism" and other politically loaded phrases. When it becomes a matter of national honor, and when M$ is seen as the greedy absentee landlord sucking profits from the country and giving little in return ... it's over.

  • On the one hand, the developed West becomes completely beholden to the Corporations: Microsoft, RIAA, MPAA, with Windows used in schools, universities, hospitals, governments... with innovation stiffled by patents and the DMCA, with lobbyists creating laws for purposes of business and not the civil state.

    On the other hand, the rest of the world with an eye on the budget, choosing for free software and eventually developing their own. India, Brazil, China, and eventually Africa too. Countries where innovation continues because it's a matter of survival, and where the corporations can't impose their US laws because governments are incapable and unwilling to enforce them.

    Why does the US still suffer from a fragmented and pathetically old-fashioned telephone system while even the most war-striken, bankrupt nations on earth already have one or two national GSM networks? Because where there is nothing, people can create.

    Similarly, the IT industry in the West has moved to a phase of terminal stagnation, and will eventually be reduced to a simple service industry, with the innovation being done in those places that today choose open source.

    No coincidence that another article today mentioned Microsoft's gradual takeover of the US's CompSci departments. Innovation through Windows? Now that's funny!

  • by jorlando ( 145683 ) on Wednesday August 27, 2003 @09:17AM (#6804013)
    " Yeah, exactly. Someone explain niave-me how this will stimulate the Brazilian economy."

    The Brazilian government spend around US$ (yeah, one billion... and yeah, dollars) with MS licensing. That amount will be spent somewhere else (health, education, training, etc) within Brazil and for Brazilian citizens.

    One billion of dollars is an impressive amount here in Brazil that can make a difference.

    By the way, the Brazilian government is the largest licensee of MS in Brazil.

    In portuguese, an interview with the Science and Technology minister (favorable to adoption of open-source programs) 52 564.shtml

  • by CmdrGravy ( 645153 ) on Wednesday August 27, 2003 @09:27AM (#6804095) Homepage
    "Now: Where from we'll make our money? We work for them for free. They get all the software benefits, for free."

    That's just nonsense, there is no way Open Source software would force people to work for nothing.

    You don't expect a Lawyer to work for you for free yet access to the Law is free for everyone.

    Open Source is actually a great thing for developers, they have free access to the source code and can modify existing applications to suit there clients as they see fit. They will not have to pay for "developers licences", they will not have to spend money calling the Support lines of large faceless corporations to naviagte through the badly documented intricacies or hangups of a particular package.

    Without all these overheads they will be able to charge lower prices to end customers and increase their profits.

    The only situation which I can see that would involve Open Source putting us all out of a job is if at some point everything anybody ever needs from a computer has already been released as Open Source and needs no modification at all. I think is fairly similar to the dilemma faced by house builders - once they have built houses for everyone they will all be out of a job. Strangely this not an issue which gets much coverage in the media.

    This is also ignoring the fact that there is nothing to say you can't charge people for Open Source packages in the first place.

  • by perdelucena ( 455667 ) on Wednesday August 27, 2003 @10:07AM (#6804448) Homepage
    So now 90% of the current Brazilian tech support people won't be needed. As well as 100% of the programmers

    I quite didnt get it. I am a brazillian programmer who writes solutions for *nix in Java. I thought that even not using M$ products I still had lots of work to do. Now theres no M$, and solutions must be open....
  • Re:Start of a change (Score:2, Interesting)

    by William Baric ( 256345 ) on Wednesday August 27, 2003 @11:36AM (#6805150)
    First reason : World War 1 and World War 2.

    Second reason : a lot of American live to work while in most other countries people work to live.
  • Re:Start of a change (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 27, 2003 @11:46AM (#6805289)
    Second reason : a lot of American live to work while in most other countries people work to live.

    And so we're richer. That's fine. If you prefer to live in an "entrepreneurial" place like the US, you can do that; if you prefer a more "laid-back" place like Europe, you can live there.

    I don't understand why so many people, including the original poster, have to act like the US is richer because of some sort of devious plot. We're richer because we have lots of resources and work hard.
  • by marcosdumay ( 620877 ) <> on Wednesday August 27, 2003 @12:18PM (#6805652) Homepage Journal
    It's more likely to be lucky, but now that you said, they maybe can correct this. It is amazing how, linving in Brazil, I inly have this kind of news by Slashdot.
  • by protomala ( 551662 ) on Wednesday August 27, 2003 @12:19PM (#6805674) Homepage
    At least translations will probally be made in the country.

    Microsoft does all translations in USA, this already made several problemas as placing as translation for indigeans things as "people wo don't like to work, no developed, etc" in spanish translation for Mexican Office.
    Remember that a major part of mexicans are just descendents from indigeans...

    But anyway I belive that even if no development is made here (I'm from brazil), at least we will have access to the sources to LEARN (that I as a computer science student think it the important thing about open source).
    And never forget the stable linux kernel mantainer is a brazilian... :)

  • by Zeinfeld ( 263942 ) on Wednesday August 27, 2003 @12:55PM (#6806072) Homepage
    It is. However I wonder how much of OSS uptake is due to the poor state a lot of world economies are in because of the World Bank?

    In this case a lot, the real issue for Brazil is the balance of payments. Software is a major part of their imports.

    I went to the morning presentations in Brazillia last Wednesday, I think folk are reading far more into the situation than is there. This is not about the legislature buying into open source ideology, they are being very pragmatic. At present 100% of their software is Microsoft based. That gives them very little negotiating leverage with Microsoft. This is mainly a way to gain leverage.

    The bill requires contracts to be based on features rather than a product. In the past a tender would go out to supply Microsoft Exchange, now it would have to be for a mail server.

  • by dcs ( 42578 ) on Wednesday August 27, 2003 @05:17PM (#6808441)
    It's simple. We had no middle class. Then we had one, and now world economics are destroying it. :-)

    I don't mean globalization, btw, just how the cards have been dealt in the past two or three decades, that happens to have been screwing us up. But I'm generally optimistic. I think we are getting better, and, most importantely, more of our children are getting a basic education, which is essential to the advancement of standards of living.

    As for whose at fault for our problems, that's really simple: us. We have been a democracy for a long, long time, and while election in some places have been rigged, in most of the country there has been no need of that: either the votes were up for sale, or people just voted really, really bad.

    So people complain about how the politicians suck, how the violence is so huge nowadays, how there's corruption everywhere, over some bottles of beer, and then get in their cars and go home speeding and crossing red signs, and they see nothing wrong with that. We have a serious problem of people disregarding any kind of social contract that includes everyone obeying the law or social responsibility. :-(

Logic is the chastity belt of the mind!