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[school-discuss] Re: [IIEP] Open source and open formats

Dear Vu Do Quynh and group:

Let me clarify one point -- I personally am for .pdf or .rtf or .sxw formats in attachments. But it is my belief that only market forces of supply and demand will succeed in breaking the bad habit and laziness of word attachments. "Centralized guidance of political correctness" will always fall prey to pragmatism. Only when it is more convenient, more collaborative and faster to send .pdf, etc. will it occur. Lack of software in these days of open source is a non-issue. With regard to Word, the real culprit is not Word, but Exchange, and the collaborative power it or its competitors provide for companies. Thus, with the increased sophistication of Open Exchange and Opengroupware.org open source products, exchange can slowly be replaced within corporate networks. Then the flow down to individual users may occur.

Last week I had the Skoll Linux and knoppix distros mailed to me from Norway for a $3.00 paypal transfer. I am sure he would mail to SE Asia as well. The time element was 3 days. Faster than from Chicago. A single CD, as Quynh explains can be purchased for $.50. So for this amount a computer owner can have all of the operating system, utilities and application software on one CD, usually with OO.o. In Singapore, wages are high, technology is readily available, and copyright laws are observed. Linux is going great there. At least according to my Singaporian brother-in-law. In the Philippines, again, where illegal copies of proprietary software are sold openly inside large department stores in numerous kiosks, Microsoft prevails, although as the copyright laws begin to become enforced under the current regime, Linux is starting to take hold; there is even a Philippine distro. India has a long history of Unix and now Linux usage.

the phenomena of increased alternative usage where proprietary software rights are enforced is not counter-intuitive! It makes perfect sense.
But again, the primary stumbling block is hardware and connectivity. One large well-to-do family of lawyers, CPA's, nurses, doctors, all landowners in the Philippines will have one computer, plus a terrible 56k connection that is way over-subscribed. There are Ph.D students all over rural areas without the ability to use any computer. Although Philippine Pesos are about 40-50 to the $, when you go into even used computer stores cost is as high as U.S. Usually higher. So the earning power is low, but cost the same or more! And very poor connectivity. Sometimes it takes hours to get a connection, and then you are bumped off after a few minutes. Even those with landlines are considered elite, because until recently it took years to get a single line. And there is a time charge for landline use which is high. Because hardware is the stumbling block, every mall, every downtown area has small shops with 12-24 computers networked together, again using a 56k modem line. These are rented out for about $2/hr, with more for printing on cheap paper. Email is reserved for overseas family through yahoo accounts. In the Philippines, wireless messaging is king and far more advanced that in U.S. Again, the culprit is cost, with U.S. telecoms charging for both sides of a call, message or otherwise. Only in US is email more significant.
Vu Do Quynh wrote:

Dear M. Dean and everybody,

Nothing personal here, but I'd just like to comment the followings of
your remarks that have a more global issue than the others :

Michael Dean a écrit :

 Probably what most people would want is just a computer!

This is right, but a computer without any operating system (OS) and
applications is of no use, so it should rather be a computer and the
necessary software to use it. So the issue of softwares and their format.

They can get the software, open source or proprietary, on any street

As a fact, in Vietnam we can get a lot of OSes and applications for
about 0.5 $US one CD. With regard of commercial non-free softwares, at
such a price they are obviously illegally copied softwares. We can also
find Cds with free and opensource softwares as well, and then, that's
very cheap and affordable, if you consider the download costs that would
incure if you had to download Openoffice (> 65 Mb = about 5 hours
minimum at 56 kbps, if no trouble) through a modem connection.

The question might be : which Cds (holding illegal softwares or holding
free softwares) people are going to purchase ?

The righ patht is the most pragmatic path to worker productivity.

Then, the right path is not always the one that seems obvious because
the concept of rightness is very relative and never absolute (although
some concepts sound more righteous than others).

In the case I wanted to develop in my previous email, mindlessly buying
a Cd of pirated software (Windows, MS Office, etc.) would be a
short-sighted way and is certainly, by the time being, the easiest way
to go. In nearly no time, with a few bucks, you could get a computer
installed with softwares worth of several thousand of dollars and start
to produce right away. This choice sounds obvious in the usual working
environments of developing countries (where use of illegal commercial
softwares is widespread) too : why bother to use and learn something
legal and free (eg OpenOffice), but that nobody is using, when you can
just get the "big thing" for nothing (although illegally) and when
nobody offers to teach how to use e.g. OpenOffice and nobody ever dares
to send files in e.g. OpenOffice format.

As a matter of fact, everybody is generally following the path (like
sheep in a herd) created by the ones who went before them, i.e. using
Windows softwares.

The concept of being able to install and use e.g. OpenOffice may arise
when someone, sometimes, can get across interesting information that is
made available in (but not only) the OpenOffice format for further
editing and adaptation to one's proper use.

Being able to use a legal copy of MS Word does not forbid the paralell
use of OpenOffice, in the contrary.
But, for people who are faced with the choice of buying a Cd of pirated
software or a Cd of free softwares to install their computers, what
could we do ? what are we supposed to do ? when we are in the education
field !

For that, some people and institutions, especially, have to start doing
so. A fine and good example can certainly be found at http://www.iosn.net/

Best regards

Vu Do Quynh
Agence universitaire de la Francophonie, Bureau Asie Pacifique
Responsable, Centre d'Accès à l'Information scientifique et technique (CAI) de Hanoi
08 rue Tran Hung Dao, Hanoi, Vietnam
Tél: +84-4-9331070 ; Télécopie: +84-4-8247383
Sites de toile: http://www.vn.refer.org/