Informacion economica sobre Cuba

Cuba embraces open-source software
By JOHN RICE, Associated Press Writer Fri Feb 16, 3:42 PM ET

HAVANA – Cuba's communist government is trying to shake off the yoke of
at least one capitalist empire — Microsoft Corp. — by joining with
socialist Venezuela in converting its computers to open-source software.

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.

"It's basically a problem of technological sovereignty, a problem of
ideology," said Hector Rodriguez, who oversees a Cuban university
department of 1,000 students dedicated to developing open-source programs.

Other countries have tried similar moves. China, Brazil and Norway have
encouraged the development of Linux for a variety of reasons:
Microsoft's near-monopoly over operating systems, the high cost of
proprietary software and security problems.

Cuban officials, ever focused on U.S. threats, also see it as a matter
of national security.

Communications Minister Ramiro Valdes, an old comrade-in-arms of President
Fidel Castro, raised suspicions about Microsoft's cooperation with U.S.
military and intelligence agencies as he opened a technology conference
this week.

He called the world's information systems a "battlefield" where Cuba is
fighting against imperialism.

He also noted that Microsoft Chairman
Bill Gates once described copyright reformers — including people who
want to do away with proprietary software — as "some new modern-day sort
of communists" — which is a badge of honor from the Cuban perspective.

Microsoft did not return calls seeking comment. Cuba imports many
computer preloaded with Windows and also purchases software in third
countries such as China, Mexico or Panama.

Valdes is a hard-liner who favors uniforms and military haircuts, but
the biggest splash at the conference was made by a paunchy, wild-haired
man in a T-shirt: Richard Stallman, whose Free Software Foundation
created the license used by many open-source programs, including Linux.

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.

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.

Cuba also has trouble keeping proprietary software current. Its sluggish
satellite link to the outside world makes downloads of updates
agonizingly slow. And U.S. companies, apparently worried about American
laws restricting trade with Cuba, are increasingly blocking downloads to
the island.

Cubans try to get around the problem by putting software updates on a
server located on the island. But many computers wind up unpatched and

Cuba's Cabinet also has urged a shift from proprietary software. The
customs service has gone to Linux and the ministries of culture, higher
education and communications are planning to do so, Rodriguez said.

And students in his own department are cooking up a version of Linux
called Nova, based on Gentoo distribution of the operating system. The
ministry of higher education is developing its own.

Rodriguez's department accounts for 1,000 of the 10,000 students within
the University of Information Sciences, a five-year-old school that
tries to combine software development with education.

Cuba is also training tens of thousands of other software and hardware
engineers across the country, though few have computers at home. Most
Cubans have to depend on the slow links at government internet cafes or

Rodriguez shied away from saying how long it would take for Cuba to get
most of its systems on Linux: "It would be tough for me to say that we
would migrate half the public administration in three years."

But he said Linux use was growing rapidly.

"Two years ago, the Cuban free-software community did not number more
than 600 people … In the last two years, that number has gone well
beyond 3,000 users of free software and its a figure that is growing

Even so, most of the computers at this week's technology conference
showed the red, green, blue and yellow Windows start button in the
bottom left-hand corner of their screens.

And the start of the open-source sessions was delayed as organizers
fiddled with the computer running their projector. The conference room
screen had been displaying the words "
Windows XP."

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