TLWIR 34: Africa Embraces Free Software

by Rex Djere on March 7, 2012 · 1 comment


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Summary: I am proud to be a member of the Free Software community. I have found it to be a very open, and very tolerant, community that believes deeply in the South African concept of Ubuntu: the allegiance of people to one another. I find the tenets of the Free Software to be in sharp contrast to the uncivil discourse that dominates so much of modern society. Free Software has a lot to teach the world in terms of how we can all live together, and share our world in peace. In late March 2012, a large Free Software conference will take place in Abuja, Nigeria. Windows 8 has been generating a lot of buzz lately. Will Windows 8 drive disgruntled computer users to GNU/Linux? Extreme Tech writer Matthew Murray thinks so. Designer Marco Alici has used Blender to create a case design for the Raspberry Pi. The case can be created with a 3-D printer.
Here are the three outstanding features for The Linux Week in Review 34:

  • Africa Embraces Free Software
  • Will Windows 8 Drive Users to GNU/Linux?
  • Raspberry Pi Gets a 3-D Case

Africa Embraces Free Software
Free Software has become an international phenomenon.  Linux and GNU are not just popular in the Americas; Africa, Europe, and Asia have all caught on to the Linux fever.  For the last ten years, Africa has been the host of a biennial Free Software conference known as IDLELO 5. IDLELO 5 stands for “the 5th African Conference on FOSS and the Digital Commons”.  The conference will take place in Abuja, Nigeria from March 19-23, 2012. The conference will be chaired by Nigeria’s Minister of Communication Technology, Mrs. Omobola Johnson.

The IDLELO 5 Banner

So what exactly is IDLELO? IDLELO is a ten year old initiative of the Free Software and Open Source Foundation for Africa that aims to bring Free Software users and advocates from all around the world together. There will be classes, tutorials, awards, networking, demos, and presentations that will foster more growth in Free Software and Open Source. IDLELO has been held in Africa every 2 years since 2002. Cape Town, South Africa; Nairobi, Kenya; Dakar, Senegal; and Accra, Ghana hosted events 1 through 4 respectively. The name Idlelo comes from a South word that means a “common grazing ground”. I wish this conference the greatest of success. It is wonderful to see the Free Software principles spread onto the African continent.

Will Windows 8 Drive Users to GNU/Linux?
I have used every version of Microsoft Windows from 3.1 to 7. From the screenshots that I have seen of Windows 8, it is a radical departure from the traditional Windows interface that has been ubiquitous since Windows 95. How will users respond to the change? I do not know, but Matthew Murray of wrote a scathing review of the preview release of Windows 8. He basically says that Windows 8 may force him to GNU/Linux. The article has created a lot of buzz, and it currently has well over 200 comments. Murray’s basic assessment is similar to ones levelled against Ubuntu’s Unity and Fedora’s Gnome 3 interfaces: they are too dumbed down. Murray argues that Windows 8 makes too many choices for the user, and prevents them from doing what they want to do. He also argues that Windows 8 bows too much to the tablet interface, while placing the desktop in a secondary status. I don’t like to see companies fail, but I read Murray’s assessment with great interest. I like the way that the computing ecosystem is going because users have a lot more choices. There is competition again. I just bought a Toshiba Thrive Tablet with Android 3.1. For the first time in years, you can go to Best Buy and Walmart, and buy computing devices that don’t come with Windows. In fact, computing devices without Windows now seem to be selling better than Windows devices. This is a good thing because it will prevent Microsoft from abusing its (formerly) monopolistic market share. They now have to compete on quality.
Microsoft has a lot of smart people working for it. I have no doubt that someone within the company will read Murray’s article. The most important questions that Microsoft needs to answer are these:

  • Is Murray’s evaluation valid?
  • If Windows 8 is as broken as Murray says it is, will they be able to fix it by the time the final version is released?
  • Even if they fix Windows 8, will it matter?( Linux recently took over as the world’s fastest growing desktop operating system.)

By default, my family always has 1 Windows computer in the house, so I’m sure that I’ll get to use Windows 8 at some point. However, the majority of my computing is still done on a laptop running Fedora 16. However, my Android tablet now consumes probably 33% of my computing time. Here is my personal computing time breakdown:

  • 57%: Fedora 16 laptop.
  • 33%: Android tablet.
  • 10%: Windows desktop.

I’m a pretty typical computer user, so I suspect that this kind of breakdown will be common in the future. This might be very bad news for Windows 8 unless it can make inroads on tablets and laptops. Only time will tell. For me personally, my world is becoming dominated more and more by GNU/Linux and Android.

Raspberry Pi Gets a 3-D Case
3-D printing completely fascinates me. I have no doubt that in less than a decade, everyone will be printing components using open source designs. Do you need a new piece of piping under your sink? You’ll go online, find the design, and print it on your affordable 3-D printer. A mechanical design engineer and Linux lover named Marco Alici has designed a case for the popular Raspberry Pi Linux computer. By default, the Pi comes as a motherboard and attached components without a case. Alici’s design will allow you to print your own case for your Pi, or buy a case from a retailer. This is an important milestone in the Free Software/Open Source community. The openness that characterizes us is now spreading from software applications to hardware applications. These are extremely exciting times in which we live.
The Raspberry Pi Enclosed By Marco Alici’s Case Design

Conclusions: I really do get a strong sense that GNU/Linux, Free Software, Open Source, and Open Design are becoming more mainstream and accepted. People don’t even think about the fact that their Android phones and tablets are running on a lot of open source software. People now buy open source-based devices without a second thought. I have a feeling that 3-D printing will REALLY take off and become popular. I predict that by 2020, Free Software and Open Source will be the normal way of doing things. This is Rex Djere, signing out. I look forward to seeing you again for The Linux Week in Review 35!


  • Mack, Erick. [March 5th,2012]. 3D-print your own Raspberry Pi case at home.
  • Murray, Matthew. [March 5th, 2012]. Windows 8 may drive me to Linux.

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