It’s an ICT World: Further Information About Linux …

Linux - open source OS

Linux – open source OS

Submitted by Sid Boyce as a comment to the Barbados Cyber Security: Recommendations from a Bajan Cyber Warrior blog. BU has highlighted the submission because it gives a lucid insight into the world in which we have to compete for the foreseeable future. This is how literacy is defined in the new world in which we live. It is regrettable that the Barbados Growth and Development Strategy document 2013 – 2020 makes failing mention of earthmoving ICT initiatives to help drive economic growth.

If you use a Smart TV, a Dreambox, an Android Phone or tablet, a fridge, own a new car or simply using the entertainment system on a flight they are using Linux. The Raspberry Pi and almost all embedded systems run Linux. The majority of the internet backbone runs on Linux, so it’s not just a niche operating system. It’s also where the highest paying computer jobs are on offer.

One of the real benefits is the educational value. Besides being free as in both freedom and free beer, it’s of benefit to anyone wanting to learn the internals of the system unlike Windows where get only what Microsoft damn well gives you with no say in how it’s put together. Besides the big companies like IBM, HP, Intel, Dell etc. anyone is free to contribute to Linux development by way of enhancements, submitting improvements etc. There are programmers all over the world who are contributing to the operating system core – the Linux kernel – and all the applications that run on it.

That a 7 year old kid was able to submit a critical patch shows there is no age barrier and certainly no ideas barrier. I don’t want to give the impression that it’s an unruly mess, there are king pins who vet everything that goes into Linux so submissions are scrutinised carefully and may be rejected if they don’t conform. Even IBM has had submissions rejected with a go away and clean it up before it’ll be accepted.

One of the complaints from some new users is confusion over the number of Linux distributions out there (hundreds), but that is choice – anyone is free to develop a new Linux distribution or modify an existing one and put it out there for anyone else to use, modify, redistribute or whatever their fancy or needs desire.

The following URL lists one such distribution for ages 2 to 12. All you need is a PC which you certainly have. There are “Live CD’s” and USB keys that allow you to try any Linux distribution without having to touch your hard drive with Windows on it. The Ubuntu distribution from Canonical (by Mark Shuttleworth – the South African who made the space trip)  is very popular. Another company RedHat started out in a guy’s bedroom when he realised that from playing with Linux he could start a company selling it and services surrounding it to Enterprises and also offering it free for anyone to download. RedHat is racking up billion dollar sales annually.

Going back some years there was a company in Trinidad that was selling Linux service, I don’t know if they still exist. CERN has a Linux distribution called Scientific Linux that’s doing the work on the Large Hadron Collider – anyone can download and run Scientific Linux. As with all Linux distributions , it’s free. This is the new world of “open source software” and now some guys are doing the same with hardware. Collaboration and sharing is what it is all about. Every distribution also comes with oodles of applications to do any task.

Even handling Microsoft Office word documents – word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, etc. there is StarOffice, LibreOffice and others which can run on any operating system including Windows so you don’t have to pay Microsoft for an Office suite to handle your documents or those sent to you.

Towards a free world where ideas flourish.

I forgot to mention a few of the non-technical Linux users. Stanley – a Kittitian retired welder now 84+ has been using Linux for around 8 years. He wanted a PC so we went and bought one and I installed Linux on it. Stan had never used a keyboard in his life so when I mentioned Backspace he had to ask me where it was and what it did. He then pointed to the spacebar and asked the same questions. He does work with his camera, burns CD’s/DVD’s with sound, video and also family pictures, also word processing, Skype, browsing the internet and other stuff – most he discovered himself.

Vic a 74 year old retired sheet metal worker does all sorts using Linux. Just 2 of the few I know besides the articles I read from guys and gals having their  old folk using Linux. Very remiss of me not to have mentioned the ladies who are making significant contributions to Linux development – they are there up front, though they sometimes only come to be known when they blog about being patted on the backside or worse at conferences by dirty young men doing it surreptitiously in the crowd.

28 thoughts on “It’s an ICT World: Further Information About Linux …

  1. My 80 year old mother wants to learn to use the computer, my 84 year old mother in law is on line regularly. I built the PC I am using. I am very interested in trying out Linux I downloaded it once but had some problems trying to work it from a jump drive. Open source is a feeding ground for software to try. I downloaded a scrabble game that can be played in several languages and played with several people around the world. I have been meaning to download open office to use and not buy any more MS office. Sid I am fascinated with writing software and would love to do a basic on line course. Any suggestions?

  2. So now it is fair to ASSume that the UWI Cave Hill Campus is treating its student body to healthy servings of the Linux range of recipes …

  3. Islandgal246 … There are lots of tutorials online that will even run on Windows.
    Python is a somewhat easier language that is widely used also but C has been the dominant language.

    BAFBFP …. Quite a few years back there was a Barbados Linux site that said it would be up soon, 2 years later it said the same. After about 3 years the site was up but consisted only of links to sites abroad, nothing to show that there was even a small active group in Barbados.
    On seeing there was a Barbados Linux site I was excited and was willing to jump right in and contribute but I was diss

    For something scandalous and a complete rip-off – Linux courses in Bridgetown – $1, 980.00 US for even a Linux Fundamentals class! They are having a blooming laugh!

    For free
    Most of the command line commands.

    Most distributions can be used or installed without having to use the command line but it helps to know the fundamentals. Quite often it’s quicker to do stuff by typing in commands rather than clicking through GUI options.

  4. I would love this authour to continue to elaborate on Cyber Security and Cyber readiness especially as it relates to Barbados.
    We here are blissfully asleep and ignorant to whats going on around us. We also seem to think that we’ve got no assets here that anyone else in the world is interested in, so why would any Cyber Attack want to look at Barbados.
    Added to this false sense of security and healthy sense of stupidity, our Government service is unbelievably ignorant to the many threats that are now within its borders. We’ve got almost half of the people who use a computer in government loafing daily on Facebook and other Social Media sites, places where the potential for data loss are highest. Then there’s the ignorance of Permanent Secretaries who believe that all they have to do is to keep stability in their respective environments until they retire, so they do not want to implement any measures which lead toward secure computing environments.
    Then there is the Ministry of the Civil Service and their lofty goals of Government WAN’s, Data Centers and CERTS, but cant get simple, un-complicated projects off the ground or successfully implemented. No wonder the EU is withholding any further funding from them. They just steal money using incompetent companies and Steering Committees to grind any project they get to an un-natural death. Look at the composition and membership of these respective committees and then take a look at their associated assets. Apartments here and there, large houses, cars that their salaries don’t easily support, and the list goes on.
    This government is going to get an International shaming on the IT front sooner or later because of their inaction which will have significant economic impact in the foreseeable future.
    Keep posting brother. But only for a fixed period of time. Barbadians at the decision making level don’t listen and don’t want to make changes. Give them the information, you cant give them knowledge
    They will need to fail and come to nothing before someone rises out of the ashes like the Phoenix and becomes a champion who will then dictate what needs to be done. Unfortunately by then, Guyana may be the world IT leader ( no disrespect to them) by then and we’ll be playing catch-up!
    I’m going to stay on the sidelines and watch.

    • @The Watcher

      Recently the Minister of Finance referred to the fact that Canadian vendors were/are in Barbados as a result of a massive hack which primarily affected the VAT office (website). This is a key revenue collection agency and is also responsible for VAT rebates needed to assist with cashflow. We cannot moot revenue efficiency if the IT which supports the process is backward. We also cannot discuss literacy and be so ignorant about its importance in a today’s world.

  5. @Boyce

    The macro vision which you project in this article is one which many ICT conscious persons would commend as the bold new world and the direction which our country needs to orient our ICT gyroscope and sails.

    As someone who would have spent some time in this sector could you comment on concord or disconnect with, this ICT azimuth as such relates to those agencies and entities with whom the mandate of ICT development lies.

    For example how many ICT requests for proposals which are being issued daily by locally based, International Funding Institutions either make their way to the local ICT associations and groups on a frequent basis and, having jumped that hurdle of seeming information dissemination “disconnect”?

    Have you done any research to determine what results i.e. success rates of local submissions with respect to these RFPs?

    I am the first to support skills acquisitions and pertinent training in this niche of high end ICT Forex earning products but i would just want you to comment on what you believe to be a strategy for Barbados to employ to make this essay meaning, after getting all the pertinent training, what do you recommend as the process to carry ensuing products to market as a third world country seeking to penetrate first world market space?

    How long do you think this strategy will take?

    • It only takes one or two brave individuals to present the savings and convince management that the replacement is if anything more secure, less demanding on hardware requirements and is worth trying even in a small way initially in order to build confidence.

      Consider the economic drain on the island that running Windows imposes.

      Linux in many companies started out as a secretive project by the IT guys, sometimes one guy introduced it.
      Initially many companies used it only as a print and file server.
      One guy even told how a slow down caused by a Sun server hardware fault caused his MD to email him saying no more Linux to which he replied that Linux was fine and was not the problem, it was the Sun servers that weren’t feeding enough data to the Linux print and file server.

      At IBM Linux started as a “skunk works project” on Mainframes, i.e the guys kept it secret from their bosses until the day they chose to reveal it as something worth presenting to Management. Without Linux IBM Mainframes would probably be extinct. Sun Microsystems found it tough going by holding out against Linux on their SPARC systems, fearing Linux would be a threat to their Solaris operating system and eventually were bought out by Oracle.

      IBM’s approach was — if we sell hardware with Linux, we’ve made a hardware sale, they didn’t think of it as losing a AIX or z/OS sale.

      BP were preparing to refresh their tills in petrol stations with new PC’s and Windows NT when one guy took the program home and spent some hours on the Saturday converting it to Linux. On Monday he showed it off at work, BP halted their NT plans and deployed Linux on existing hardware in all their petrol stations, saving them some £30m. NT required new hardware purchases.

      The Fire department in one Australian town were discussing upgrading to Windows NT at a cost of $100,000.00 AU when the IT guy said to the shocked gathering that he could do it for $14,000.00.
      The inevitable questions were raised and in the end they went for it.

      In their aircraft design department Boeing replaced their existing workstations with Linux , reducing their annual IT spend from $30m to $4.8m.

      The Schools system in Namibia were promised a donation of old PC’s by Microsoft only to discover they had to pay Microsoft for the Windows software plus annual licenses. That wasn’t such a good deal after all and a South African guy convince them that buying old PC’s from abroad and installing Linux was a far better deal.

      USPS, Disney, US West Airlines and others followed and of course Google, Facebook and Twitter could not have got going if they had to purchase Windows and other Microsoft products plus the annual license fees.

      The latest to make the move to an all Linux IT environment has been Barclays Bank, freeing themselves from the massive expenditure on software from Microsoft, Oracle and other suppliers.

      You have to start small and expand and there is an abundance of free help available via internet forums. You can also go direct to the software authors if you need a new feature or you have a problem, all free.

      Once you have the expertise and can develop competitive products there is a market both locally and across the Caribbean. Even if you give the product away and recoup your costs via maintenance contracts it’ll still return a decent profit.
      That is how many Linux companies started, they were able to use a free operating system, add value to it and charge for the added value.

      The whole idea behind Linux was to give to the world the freedom to control their computers, free from the shackles of proprietary software vendors who are only out to gouge profits and keep the secrets of how the software is put together under lock and key or charge tens of thousands if they release the code to you under a Non-Disclosure Agreement which means you can’t share it with anyone else.

      As said early on, anyone can take the software, extend it and build on it.
      With quite modest equipment there is the capability for even the smallest country to create its own software industry, even if it’s only for their local economy.

      I think it’s quite achievable from somewhere within UWI where they are bound to be very capable guys. The only wonder is why they haven’t done so.

      Questions need to be asked there and also at that seat of Linux learning in Bridgetown that is charging such exorbitant fees.

      If the Bridgetown classes are making money, something has to be happening unbeknown to us as I can’t believe these students are all preparing for jobs abroad.

      Something else is puzzling, I don’t see questions from or participation in any of the Linux forums by any professors or students at UWI, similarly there is no visibility in electronics and computer forums that I see from so many countries like Brazil, Argentina, Chile, USA, Canada, Inida, Australia, Japan, South Korea, China, South Africa, New Zealand, etc.

      Even Cuba — whereby hangs a tale, thanks to Linux.
      I had a Great Uncle (a teacher in Barbados) who with his wife emigrated to Cuba in 1928 and never returned or made a visit to Barbados.
      A cousin in New York found me on the internet, gave me some family history and wanted to know if we related. I said I was, her mother is my great aunt (98 years old now).
      She then asked if I knew anything about the family in Cuba and I was only able to tell her that I only knew they migrated there in 1928.
      A brilliant idea hit me, I was giving a guy in Cuba some help with Linux software, so I decided to ask him to check the family for me.
      He found my great uncle’s 74 year old son in the phone book and he relayed lots of family information and a phone number.
      The cousin in New York called him and had a long conversation. One day I did likewise, got one of the great grand daughters, then the wife, none of whom spoke English, then on came my namesake – “I can speak English, my father was an English teacher”, we had a very pleasant chat for over half an hour.

      Linux can benefit Barbados by stemming the outflow of the enormous sums spent on foreign software and into the bargain, enhanced skills than can be monetized.

  6. I use it almost exclusively I have Mint on my laptop (very similar look to windows) and Ubuntu on my desktop. Also most firewalls are Linux and you can get free full function firewalls that will guard your network for FREE.

    • My Pleasure Islandgal246.

      Barbados wouldn’t be the one place where Linux take up was slow.

      You should have seen the flack I got from colleagues, seasoned Mainframe and SPARC professionals, when I ditched Windows for Linux in the heyday of Windows 95.
      I have a hard shell though and when years later the company started seriously working on Linux I just sat back with a wry smile during the presentation.
      After the presentation my boss told me they thought I was crazy back then but I had proved them all wrong.

      In June 2003 they laid off the whole Linux development team of 30 odd guys and in October 2003 when I was over there they were thinking of going to bars in Austin TX to see if they could coax IBM’ers to join so they could start another Linux development team.
      When our team was 30 strong, IBM’s was 200.

      Talking about looking like Windows, I was giving a powerpoint presentation to our UK sales team using Linux and StarOffice when I was asked if it was Windows XP.
      Linux didn’t copy the XP look, it was the other way round.

      When they shipped us the software audit floppy so the company could pay Microsoft for all the licensed software we used, I told them I had no Microsoft products as I ran Linux.

      When a virus ran havoc on our Windows servers and PC’s I sent an email to all European staff saying that some people loved living in a neighbourhood where they know they will get mugged but I moved out – No one took the bait though.

  7. Sid and David W should find NO comfort with the fact that the VAT office chose to bring in foreign talent to design and develop their software of course with the accompanying maintenance fees. The software of course is not yet internet ready, after about three years and already their are security concerns that are requiring FOREX to address. What is the fu#king point of training IT students at Cave Hill if they cannot be deployed in the service of the people?.

    Secondly, Cave Hill stands guilty of preparing students for the world of Windows. Surely it is time to start stripping titles …!

  8. BAFBFP, I wholeheartedly agree.
    You could largely be talking about the UK where they have just woken up to the realisation that the IT taught in schools and Universities is largely Windows and programming using Visual Basic and that “IT” is not Computer Studies.

    In a revamp of education announced yesterday the UK government has said that a new curriculum comes into force next year.
    12 times tables to be achieved by age 9 instead of 10, fractions are to be taught at (I think) age 6 and Computer Programming taught in Primary Schools.

    It’s hoped the new curriculum will deliver the achievements on par with Singapore and Finland where Primary Education starts at 7 while in the UK it’s age 5.

    Back in the late 1990’s Amdahl UK had the brilliant idea that they could take Graduates with First and Second Class Bachelors degrees, give them 18 months of intense training followed by 18 months of working with experienced staff and at the end of 3 years we would end up with top notch performers equal to existing staff.

    Graduates of 30 or even 40 years ago acquired superior skills in Universities where the computers were Mainframes, DEC PDP11’s, etc. which required a good grasp of the fundamentals of Computing. These days Graduates go through University not having worked on anything beyond a PC with Windows. If they have a broader grasp of programming they largely acquired it by broadening their interest by learning C, C++, perl, python and other languages.

    Out of 8 only 2 proved capable and 6 had to be let go.
    Last year there was an industry report I referenced here, entitled “Running On Empty” detailing the lack of skills imparted by a University education.

    Europe, including the UK, Australia and the US have been turning to India for talent. The US has also been raiding China and there was an uproar by Australian companies recently at the government’s tightening the rules for hiring from India.

    The University of Florida has dropped Computer Studies

  9. Sid

    If you call in on VOB tomorrow, I will join you. Productive enterprise can use all of the help that it can get; which is of course an insignificant fraction of what it deserves

  10. I was listening to VOB for over an hour, perused their site but couldn’t find anything on Productive Enterprise.

  11. In this article the author quotes Linux as only used on 2% of “computers”.
    I have to dispute this as Linux is installed by users and companies whilst the numbers are calculated based on the number of PC sales that include an operating system. Even many PC’s that sell with Windows or Mac OSX have had Linux installed by their users.
    No one knows how many instances are run by Google, Facebook, Amazon, USPS, Boeing, most of the world’s stock exchanges, Twitter, IBM, to name just a few of the largest users.

    I have 15 instances of Linux running on 9 computers, yet internet statistics will show I only have one computer. The reason being that every time I go on the internet I am presenting the one IP address.

    Here is an article from the Pakistan Frontier Post.

  12. After 34 years in the computer industry, pre-dating by about a decade the advent of the PC and DOS/Windows, I still maintain an interest in industry trends and on a daily basis collaborate with groups worldwide on software and hardware development.

    Early next month I expect to receive a Parallela supercomputer – amazingly a supercomputer on a credit card sized board. There are many of us getting quite excited at the prospect of putting it to use, a heck of a lot of power for $99.

    When I started almost all computers were to be found in large Corporations and institutions, only a few home builders and programmers existed and most of them worked on computers as a day job.

    After 34 years of providing technical support for the largest systems worldwide, teaching systems to Engineers, marketing groups and presenting to customers. It’s still a joy and a passion.
    Every day I am still heavily involved in solving problems for others worldwide, for free.

    There is a multitude of very powerful microprocessors and programming tools that are very cheap that have found themselves in all sorts of applications, from fridges to self-driving cars to aeroplanes and spaceships, moon rovers, entertainment systems for home and car, etc.
    Theses devices invariably run Linux, mainly because it can be customised and extended freely whereas if you buy Windows CE you are limited to what Microsoft has designed and implemented in it.
    You pay licenses for copies of Windows CE, Linux is zero cost and can be deployed in as many devices as you want. There would probably be no Amazon and certainly no Google without Linux.

    On the internet there is a wealth of information available for free that makes these new microprocessors associated devices very friendly to incorporate into other projects that would have been unthinkable only five years ago and their use is only limited by the imagination and deployment of an enquiring mind.
    The speed of development of new devices is startling, it’s truly spectacular and never fails to surprise.

    With even the small $35 Raspberry Pi board we have seen a farmer using one to automate milking his cows and one gentleman in Holland automating his beer brewing efforts.

    There has been exponential growth in free software, also called open source because you can see the source code so you know how it works and you are free to change, extend or improve it to suit your own requirements and also to give those improvements to the world.

    It’s a serious challenge to the likes of Microsoft whose product source code is a closely kept secret.
    Lose the chains, choose free software!

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  14. I am late to the party on this one but remember reading the Barbados Growth and Development Strategy Draft Document 2013 – 2020 at the time it was released, and my thoughts were very much along the same lines as Sid Boyce. It does make me wonder why the Barbados government does not reach out to ‘giants’ in the industry like Sid Boyce, for direction and advice on these matters.

  15. I meant no real beef on what the Raspberry Pi is being put to use in Barbados. I hope they are not lying on a shelf in a cupboard.

    What irks me is the fact that you can see statements of advanced intension, then silence –
    When Hal wrote reminding that Texas Instruments came to Barbados and as soon as the tax free period ended, up sticks and left without imparting any useful knowledge to their Barbados workers.

    When I asked for specific details such as attendance records, production quality, products produced on time and within budget there was a stony silence.
    Next I mentioned Texas Instruments University, an online repository with copious amounts of technical texts for University students that are available on the web for download by anyone, yet no one could tell me if such material was being used in Caribbean Universities.
    Money is always given as a reason for not doing things – TI selling kits at $5.00 US at the time were affordable to the poorest.

    The conference in Grenada where they were looking at economic development in small islands, especially for study was Ireland and Singapore – not a single word flowed from those deliberations.

    The government’s talk of taking advantage of Cloud Computing, again grandiose statements followed by inaction.

    It seems the fat words are seldom followed up by the “CAN DO, SHALL DO” spirit and this is in a world where technological progress is as unstoppable as a runaway train and if you don’t get on board at the origin you can only watch it speed into the distance..

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  17. So the question really is “what can be done to at least sow the seeds of an information technology interest in the Barbados community and to the wider Caribbean?”. Is it a matter of getting together some Linux boxes/Raspberry Pi/old MacBooks and do a few short seminars in Barbados to garner some interest and then give regular support and direction to those who are interested via the web forums? A real basic and inefficient idea and probably not the first to think or do this, though i think it is a on-going and continuous process. The hardware is obtainable for not a massive sum. But the cost of putting on the Seminars/travel etc. The interest may not be there. This is where I get mildly political in that the focus and mindset of the Caribbean is not really IT or Engineering biased but more Medicine/Law/Accountancy/Management/Tourism/Agriculture. The Universities also push this agenda, such that not many people have an eye on what the region needs or what is happening outside of these areas of work and consequently outside of the region. In 1989 I visited Barbados and recognised that its Telecoms infrastructure was adequate to start building a pretty robust technology driven initiative. I spoke to a few people about some ideas and to be honest, did not get much encouragement. I guess its down to my fear and inertia and inexperience at the time and of course not speaking to the right people that I went cold on the idea. So I ask again “What next?”. What can we do?

  18. Linux enthusiasts: If you would like to learn more about Linux, open source, and related technologies, check out The group meets monthly in Barbados and online. When smart people challenge each other to grow, great things happen. We look forward to meeting you!

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