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Stallman Convinces Cuba to Switch to Open Source 582

prostoalex writes "It's a big victory for Richard Stallman in North America, as Cuba decided to adopt open source software on the national level. Both Cuba and Venezuela are currently working on switching the entire government infrastructure to GNU/Linux operating system and applications, the Associated Press reports from Havana: 'Both governments say they are trying to wean state agencies from Microsoft's proprietary Windows to the open-source Linux operating system, which is developed by a global community of programmers who freely share their code.' The AP article doesn't mention the distro used for government workers, but says that the students are working on a Gentoo-based distro."
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Stallman Convinces Cuba to Switch to Open Source

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  • by solevita ( 967690 ) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @10:49AM (#18050996)
    In communist Cuba, Stallman switches you!
  • Given the extreme poverty of the country, such a switch is not a coup to me. I'm more surprised that Microsoft was allowed to sell Cuba copies of Windows in the first place.
    • Re:Not surprising. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Teresita ( 982888 ) <badinage1&netzero dot net> on Saturday February 17, 2007 @11:07AM (#18051158) Homepage
      I'm more surprised that Microsoft was allowed to sell Cuba copies of Windows in the first place.

      MicroSoft sells copies of Windows to OEMS, see, maybe in Hong Kong, and it's the OEMs who sell them to Cuba. Stallman probably got Castro to switch to Linux by pointing out the new "feature" in Vista that lets M$ revoke driver priveleges at their pleasure. Imagine if GM had a lever in Detroit that could make all those mint-condition classic '57 Chevys in Cuba stop working.
    • Re:Not surprising. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by c6gunner ( 950153 ) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @12:26PM (#18051868)
      I'm pretty sure it's safe to say that 99.99% of Cuban software is pirated anyway. This switch is more of a big "fuck you" to capitalism and the US than it is about saving money.
  • get a photo of that cuban user switching from Windows. MSFT to $20.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by kjart ( 941720 )

      Yes, I'm sure the loss of the Cuban goverment will badly damage Microsoft's bottom line.

  • Communist Spectre (Score:2, Insightful)

    by seyyah ( 986027 )
    Is there any chance that this sort of announcement will actually scare (I'm using the term loosely) some people away from OSS? Whatever the realities, things associated with Cuba and Venezuala are obviously not popular in certain circles in the US at least.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by lixee ( 863589 )

      Whatever the realities, things associated with Cuba and Venezuala are obviously not popular in certain circles in the US at least.

      Circles? You mean McCarthy & co? I say, the hell with those circles!
      Seriously though, Venezuela puts US democracy to shame. I don't agree with everything Chavez does, but when he -voluntarily- calls for referendums on government legitimacy, forgives the US-backed traitors involved in the 2003 coup and gives away heating petrol for poor families in the US, I can only bow to h

    • by drooling-dog ( 189103 ) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @11:27AM (#18051318)

      Is there any chance that this sort of announcement will actually scare (I'm using the term loosely) some people away from OSS?
      Oh, I dunno... Did it scare anyone away from Microsoft when the Cubans were using Windows?

      Whatever the realities, things associated with Cuba and Venezuala are obviously not popular in certain circles in the US at least.
      Maybe you haven't noticed, but we (the U.S.) aren't at the pinnacle of our popularity around the world, either...
  • by gilroy ( 155262 ) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @10:52AM (#18051026) Homepage Journal
    Or is it just one more bullet added to the ammunition of defenders of proprietary software? There's symbolism in this, but it isn't unmixedly positive: The two American nations listed are already bugaboos in the US culture wars. Won't this just be used to convince consumers in the US not to adopt Linux? "See, it's really just a plot by those big scary Reds..."
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by RAMMS+EIN ( 578166 )
      ``Won't this just be used to convince consumers in the US not to adopt Linux? "See, it's really just a plot by those big scary Reds..."''

      That will just cause people who make decisions for the wrong reasons to shoot themselves in the foot, giving a competitive advantage to others.
  • OSS is communist? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @10:54AM (#18051048) Journal
    I am quite certain that we will see things saying how appropiate. Yet, it will be overlooked that Windows is the dominant in totalitarian states. In fact, MS over the last 2 decades sold it into East Germany, USSR, Cuba, Communist China, Panama's Noriega, Huisein's Iraq, and even into Syria. All in all, pushing Linux into CUba is simply doing the same thing that MS has done for decades. While I like seeing countries pick up Linux, I am not certain that I want Stallman going into every country that MS is at.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gerddie ( 173963 )
      In fact, MS over the last 2 decades sold it into East Germany ...
      Just in case it slipped your awareness, it is now nearly 2 decades that East Germany as a country vanishes from the world and became a part of what is now called Germany.
    • I've noticed a definite uptick in this sort of commentary (OSS == communism) lately myself, and I wonder whether there's something organized (e.g., an astroturfing PR firm) behind it. Perhaps, having failed to win the day on the merits of open vs. closed software, the money behind proprietary software is preparing to fight the battle in the political and legal arenas. For that, public opinion has to be conditioned, however gradually. Since political discourse in the U.S. is pretty much one bout of mindless
    • by Anonymous Coward
      The digital arena is probably the only place where it works, too. (Because communism has certainly been an utter failure wherever it's been imposed - don't think so? Then why the hell did Fidel Castro have to get medical treatment from outside Cuba?)

      Why would a form of communism work in the digital world but fail utterly everywhere else?

      Because in the digital OSS world, you can "take" anything (modify it, change it, copy it, use it) without having to appropriate the original. Source code can be "collecti
      • Somewhat (Score:4, Interesting)

        by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @01:41PM (#18052508) Journal
        USSR, Cuba, and even "communist" China were never good examples of communism. They are all totalitarian states. Yet in America, we call them communism.

        The truth is that only decent example of pure communism would be Israeli collectives. You can certainly argue that Linux is good communism, but I believe that it is really pure capitalism (without any gov intervention). The truth is that coders offer up ideas and code. They are rewarded with fame (name and code on-line) and if good, they will almost certainly pick up salaried positions. If they decide to become one of the huge number of OSS start-ups, they run a better than average chance (which is still not that high) of making money at it. In particular, most seem to ignore how Linus, Alan Cox, Larry Wall, etc have profited off OSS. As long as somebody remains at the top of their game, then they will be just fine. But if they do not stay on top, well they will be finished.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Dun Malg ( 230075 )

          USSR, Cuba, and even "communist" China were never good examples of communism. They are all totalitarian states. Yet in America, we call them communism.

          The truth is that only decent example of pure communism would be Israeli collectives.

          The simple and obvious conclusion is that communism simply doesn't work beyond small, dedicated, voluntary groups. The Marxist ideal of communism supplanting capitalism on any scale larger than "small village" is a crock of shit. I once had a very illuminating conversation with a former hippy commune dweller, who really laid out the folly of universal collectivism. His observation was essentially this:

          In the 60's the idea of communes was popular. At a new collective you'd have a fairly representative cro

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @10:55AM (#18051060) Journal
    What is with this guy? First convinces the communist state government of Kerala to switch to Open Source. Then another Indian state that formed a coalition government with the communists. Now cuba. I have nothing against communists using Open Source. But I dont think it benefits the image of open source to be associated with communists so much. Others will spin and try to claim guilt by association.
    • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @11:06AM (#18051148) Homepage Journal
      Hitler was (supposedly) a vegetarian. So does that mean that vegetarianism is somehow tied up with facism?

      Leaving aside Hitler's dubiously documented vegetarianism, it is quite well documented that Churchill was a drunk who drank a bottle of brandy before he got out of bed every day. Does this mean that being a drunk has anything to do with his political philosophy?

      People with faulty philosophies do make correct decisions sometimes, and people with sound philosophies are not immune from error.

      In fact, the biggest problems with any political philsophy are going to be the things it ignores or discounts. It may be the selfishness of human nature, or it may be the prevelance of preventable in the human condition. It follows that it is quite possible for a grossly faulty philosophy to recommend a worthwhile course of action that a better one would not even consider.
      • I'd say vegetarianism and fascism are less directly related than communism and property rights issues.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by hey! ( 33014 )
          Stallman's position on intellectual property is a moral one, not a legal one. Note that he does not recommend you treat claims of IP by others a void, he recommends you get your softwrae from somebody who doesn't make claims on controlling what you do with it. Thus the Free Software position is one that respects property.

          Here's another way of thinking about it. Suppose you have a great program you've written. I know you've written that program. Are you morally obligated to give it to me? Most Free Soft
    • by marcello_dl ( 667940 ) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @11:11AM (#18051188) Homepage Journal
      I'd rather not start a debate on why communism is evil and corporations and banks having indirectly killed millions in africa are fine, so let's say al qaeda uses a linux infrastructure. Does that mean you would boycott linux for that? Why not boycott oil, arms, the CIA whom osama used to work for?

    • But I dont think it benefits the image of open source to be associated with communists so much. Others will spin and try to claim guilt by association.
      True, among idiots that idea may gain some traction. But is their any "guilt by association" if communists and dictators continue to patronize Microsoft? Why are vendors of proprietary software not tainted by this blood money?
  • Does that mean RMS can be thrown into jail now? Or is it okay since it isn't exactly trade giving away Free things? Or is it even something like Radio "Free" Europe, and he gets paid by the CIA?
    • You can only throw him in, if you throw Bill Gates and Balmer in the same prison. It was back in the early 90's that MS sent teams into Cuba to sell them on Windows. And that was an internal decision.
  • Free Software (Score:5, Insightful)

    by latroM ( 652152 ) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @10:57AM (#18051078) Homepage Journal
    Stallman speaks about Free Software, the writer of the article has obviously no clue regarding the distinction between Open Source and Free Software.
    • the opensource initiatives open source definition and stallmans free software definition are pretty much the same.

  • by schnell ( 163007 ) <me.schnell@net> on Saturday February 17, 2007 @11:00AM (#18051108) Homepage

    Hey, maybe this is just the irrelevant concern of somebody who works in PR and marketing. But if you're trying to be the ambassador of a broad-based movement, you generally avoid making public appearances with anyone who's a polarizing figure on either side politically. (i.e., if you're with a charity that wants people of all parties to donate, you don't make public appearances with either Dick Cheney or Michael Moore.)

    RMS is Free(TM) of course to make public appearances wherever he wishes in support of Free(TM) software etc. I'm just saying that the image of Stallman getting snuggly with Raul Castro and Hugo Chavez - other than being kind of physically gross - is not likely to assuage any US government or business fears about the ideals or politics behind the F/OSS movements. Free software seemed to be gaining some wide acceptance ... but RMS has just given the Bill O'Reillys of the world a powerful tool to shill Microsoft et. al. with once more. Again, it's his right to go ... but I think it's an exceedingly poor idea from a PR perspective. Then again, if RMS cared about PR, he wouldn't be RMS...

    • Wait, so you're saying you won't use any tool that Communists use and love? Well, you'll have to give up a lot of stuff, buddy.
    • by cpu_fusion ( 705735 ) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @11:30AM (#18051346)
      > I think its an exceedingly poor idea from a PR perspective.

      I completely disagree. The world is NOT the United States. The opinions of the citizens of the world about the fortunes of Cuba do not necessarily align with the opinions of the Republicans in America.

      Many in the world believe that Cuba has been hurt more by the actions of the United States than by Castro. If you travel to Europe, you will likely hear a very different opinion of Castro and the history of Cuba.

      And even in this country, many are changing their minds about who has caused the Cubans to suffer most.

      So please don't confuse the PR perspective of the World from the PR perspective of the G.O.P.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by ivan256 ( 17499 )
        Ok, so you dislike the current US administration... But that doesn't mean that the US policy towards Cuba was created by the Republicans or is solely supported by the Republicans. There was a Democrat on watch when the policy was created, and there have been several democrats who could have changed that poilcy in the meantime.

        Many in the world believe that Cuba has been hurt more by the actions of the United States than by Castro. If you travel to Europe, you will likely hear a very different opinion of Cas
      • by wass ( 72082 ) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @12:49PM (#18052090)
        I've been to Cuba twice, and what is the biggest factor keeping Fidel Castro so popular and in charge is the embargo itself. The embargo prevents the people from getting access to certain necessities, such as light bulbs or medicine, and only helps further their support of Fidel. In spite of the trade embargo it's amazing just how advanced Cuba is for being a third world country, and one where they can't buy anything directly from their huge nearest neighbor. The streets of Havana are filled with old cars from the 50's, still working, with people using their ingenuity to find ways to use replacement parts, due to the embargo.

        The embargo is utterly ridiculous, it's an obsolete relic from the days of the red scare. Somehow the Republicans in the USA say how important the embargo is to force the end of communistic regimes, but they don't mention that we have absolutely no qualms about trading with China or Viet Nam, especially exploiting those countries for cheap labor.

        Republicans also like to claim that the many Cubans trying to get out of the country to the shores of the USA prove how bad it is there, so we must keep the trade embargo up. Yet the fact we have Mexicans illegally trying to cross the border for the same reasons means we can maintain full economic and diplomatic relations with Mexico.

        It's also ridiculous how hypocritical the right wingers are regarding illegal immigration. They think Mexicans coming in illegally must be deported, illegals here should be deported, yet Cubans that make it to shore should be granted immediate citizenship! And finally, just to prove how ridiculous our double standard is regarding Cuba with other nations - If anyone reading this knows of an illegal immigrant who wants to become a citizen, just have them wander over to Miami and claim they're a Cuban who just came off the raft, and they'll be granted citizenship within a few days!
        • Correction (Score:3, Informative)

          by wass ( 72082 )
          A correction regarding citizenship granted to Cuban refugees. On another forum someone mentioned that they're actually granted a green card immediately, not citizenship, and still have to do some other residency requirements before full citizenship. However - the hoops to jump through and time requirements for a Cuban refugee to become citizen are much easier than someone from Mexico, for example. And that immediate green card offering of course is a huge benefit, lets Cubans work freely without being ex
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by OakLEE ( 91103 )
          Please, you make it sound like the Republican bogeyman is responsible for everything that is wrong in Cuba. Here are some facts:
          • The embargo as we know it was first enacted via executive order by John F. Kennedy
          • The embargo was codified into US law in 1992 in a bill authored by Robert Torricelli, a democrat from New Jersey, and passed by a Democratic majority in both the House and Senate
          • Bill Clinton is responsible for one of the larger increases in the scope of the embargo in the last ten years (in part to m
  • by xsbellx ( 94649 ) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @11:11AM (#18051194) Homepage
    Unless I am mistaken, the United States has one of the most restrictive trade embargoes [] in place with regards to Cuba. It makes one wonder just how all of this software and the PC's it runs on actually made it into to Cuba. And before anyone jumps all over this and says it's other countries that sell to Cuba, you may want actually check the link above. Microsoft, Intel and a few others can easily be held accountable for the actions of wholly and/or partially owned subsidiaries.
    • by hey ( 83763 )
      Guess what, there are other countries in the world. The Wintel products could have come from Europe.
  • by apathy maybe ( 922212 ) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @11:14AM (#18051212) Homepage Journal
    There are already a few comments about Cuba, communism and "Open Source" software. How this will discourage people from using Free Software, or how this will be a PR coup for Microsoft or whatever else.

    I just have to say that anyone who thinks that Free Software is communistic because Cuba (and Venezuela) are using it are stupid. Firstly, Cuba is not communist. The USSR never claimed to be communist. Comments about Cuba being communist show the ignorance of the person saying them.

    Secondly, if you refuse to use a superior (technologically, or because it's cheaper or whatever) option because "communists" are using it. Then you are stupid. Full stop.

    Free Software is not about communism, if you read the FSF definition, you will notice that the software must not be restricted for *any* usage. That includes totalitarian regimes, or real communists living in a hippy commune somewhere. Free Software is about Freedom. And that means that Cuba is free to use it.

    For a definition of "communism" or to find out more about "communism", see my "homepage".
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      As you well know, political discussion is all about word association; the realities behind the labels we use only matter to thinking people, and they represent only a wee minority.

      What matters is that there is a clump of neurons in our brains that encode "evil", another that encodes "good", and a whole bunch of others that represent words/concepts just waiting to be connected to one or the other. We go through life making most of those connections in a completely unconscious and uncritical way; in fact, the
  • New Distro (Score:5, Funny)

    by j0e_average ( 611151 ) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @11:28AM (#18051338)
    Hammer and Sickle Linux (TM) -- Now with improved worker thread support and Cooperative multitasking.

    Download it today, comrade!
  • by noz ( 253073 )
    Clearly anyone who has ever had any contact with open source is a card carrying pinkie!
  • ...another "Linux is planned to be adopted at some future date by {insert government here}" story. Until there's a "Linux successfully adopted by {insert government here} and significant improvement in user acceptance, cost savings, and citizens benefot greatly by increased resources being available to them" stories this is just virtual masterbation (perhaps even actual masterbation, but I by Linux fanbois who hang on every word of every news story with the words Linux in it.
  • by Jim Buzbee ( 517 ) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @11:38AM (#18051412) Homepage
    Stallman shouldn't even be dealing with these thugs. There are much better places to push for free software. Forget computers, Cuba's a place where you can be thrown in jail for promoting reading [].

    "Our goal is not revolution, or even the civil toppling of any political forces. All we seek is for the people to be allowed to choose what they want to read, and to be allowed to draw their own conclusions from that reading"
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by FridayBob ( 619244 )

      Stallman shouldn't even be dealing with these thugs. ...

      Cuba isn't the worst non-democratic regime out there: I'd rather live in Cuba than in North Korea or Zimbabwe. However, the important thing is that there are governments out there that are serious about making the switch to Open Source; no matter their political orientation, it will demonstrate to the rest of the world that life without M$ is possible.

      Yes, it's kind of depressing that a non-democratic, repressive government like Cuba's will likely

  • Bill said "some new modern-day sort of communists" to describe people who want to do away with commercial software.

    But Bill doesn't seem to realise that Open Source is empowering, you can avoid all the DRM and government imposed restrictions present in Vista. Open Source is about freedom, so how can that be anything like communism?

    There are many Linux based distributions, all different. surely having everyone running Windows more like communism?
  • I think more than a few people need to get a little perspective on this. Other than to the less well educated fraction of the United States and a few idiotic British camp followers, fortunately now exported, the word "communism" doesn't cause people to rush off screaming. Just because Rupert insists that Fox News treats guilt by association as dogma because it is lazier and cheaper than facts and debate(just like Islamic fundamentalists do...) doesn't mean that the rest of the world does, or at least not wi
  • by vbraca ( 812751 ) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @12:30PM (#18051900) Homepage
    If you have tried to investigate the copyrighted AP story you've rewritten at Slashdot you would discover many more interesting facts on the subject. First of all beside proclaiming it's intention to switch to FOSS (since MS and other proprietry sw vendors are blocking their access to security patches based on IP addresses they use) Cuban government sites are mostly optimized for IE6 and 800x600 resolution and government agencies and ministries are still using MS as their OS of preference. In 2002. Castro himself founded "la Universidad de las Ciencias Informáticas" (University of Information Sciences) or UCI - a very secretive facility that still doesn't have a properly functioning website (sic!). It is UCI, with it's "claimed" 10,000 students and 5,000 teaching staff, which stands behind Cuban efforts to build their own Linux distro (Novalinx) based on Gentoo as well as behind Castro's vision of Cuba as free software player on a global scale. Furthermore, Stallman's lecture, titled "El movimiento del Software Libre y el sistema operativo GNU/Linux", was part of an 3rd International Workshop on Open Source Software held as part of an Havana expo called "Informatica 2007." [] as well as 14 other International conferences. First hand experience from Marc Eisenstadt's [] who was present at the lecture. As you can see there is much more behind "Stallman's win" than just extracting parts of the original AP story, in light of the fact that even FOSS oriented UCI students are mostly using pirated copies of MS Windows his win in Cuba is even more questionable. Not to mention that for ordinary Cuban's owning a computer is illegal as well as any form of internet usage outside "official" channels.
  • by Americano ( 920576 ) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @12:53PM (#18052112)

    Middle-aged communist bureaucrats and ponytailed young Cuban programmers applauded as the computer scientist from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology insisted that copyright laws violate basic morality; he compared them to laws that would threaten people with jail for sharing or modifying kitchen recipes.
    Is there anybody else who finds this deliciously ironic, considering that he's preaching this particular line of rhetoric to the government of Cuba, which regularly and freely represses dissent, jails opponents, and maintains a completely monopoly on the media? Perhaps a better comparison would be Stallman saying that laws on copyright violate basic morality, because it would be like threatening people with jail for sharing unapproved thoughts & news. []

    Stallman also warned that proprietary software is a security threat because without being able to examine the code, users can't know what it's doing or what "backdoor" holes developers might have left open for future entry. "A private program is never trustworthy," he said.
    Again, very funny. Because the governments of Cuba & Venezuela are both ALL ABOUT freedom of information for their citizens. Oh, except Venezuela is also cracking down on the freedom of the press, firing judges who dare to challenge its authority, and let's not forget prison conditions []... but other than that? Yays Open Sources!!!!

    Not sure I entirely understand how Stallman isn't getting slagged for this, after Google got so roundly derided about its decisions to filter results in the China market... after all, Google is a company, interested in profits. Stallman professes to be all about idealism, and freedom, doesn't he?
    • No, I don't. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jd ( 1658 )
      He preaches the same rhetoric to everyone, equally, without bias or prejudice. I find it deliciously refreshing to find that a person who claims to believe in freedom and distribution is willing to advocate it to all peoples, rather than restricting the distribution of that freedom. To not have gone would have violated every ethical principle laid out in the GPL. THAT would have been ironic. Merely honoring his own beliefs, regardless of his opinion of the audience, is IMHO an extremely noble thing and dese
  • by TrebleJunkie ( 208060 ) <ezahurak@at l a n> on Saturday February 17, 2007 @02:06PM (#18052770) Homepage Journal
    Wow. Stallman and Cuba. I can't think of a more perfect match.

"I will make no bargains with terrorist hardware." -- Peter da Silva