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Africa Source - 15th -19th March 2004

Africa Source Logo Africa Source was the first pan-African Free and Open Source Software developers meeting, held 15th -19th March 2004 in Okahandja, Namibia.

Over 60 participants from all across Africa met for discussion, peer learning and skillshare. The focus of the event was on the practical challenges of realising F/OSS in the African context, the aim was to build cooperation between Africa's most active F/OSS individuals and projects in the longer term.

The event offered a ground for developers, who are often working in isolation, to get to know their colleagues and discuss with them broader issues and challenges. At the same time, a number of practical skillshare sessions were offered with content ranging from localising Linux distributions to setting up wireless networks, and from hands-on work with content management systems to designing and managing large databases.

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Read more about the event Africa Source

Recent news on Africa Source: May 2004

Straight from the Source: Perspectives from the African Free and Open Source Software Movement

A bridges.org essay in collaboration with the Tactical Technology Collective (4 May 2004)

The article is presented in five sections, each of which investigates a pertinent theme: barriers to participation; market forces; avenues for free and open source software in Africa; African non-governmental organisations and FOSS; and developers' expectations about FOSS.

Download full paper here

also see the discussion on SLASHDOT top

New life for 300 Computers in Uganda: Skole Linux with Thin Client support

There are some great news, especially for the FOSS community. During Africa Source there had been a presentation of a new software, Skole Linux. Skole Linux is a Free Software Linux distribution, tailored to the needs of schools. It was developed in Norway and is strongly supported by the Norwegian government. The first version of Skole Linux was introduced at our Africa Source event to SchoolNet Africa and a number of other interested participants.

One of its advantages is that Skole Linux has the strongest Thin Client support which makes it very competitive to other distributions.

As a direct follow-up, James, Muwonge and Ahmed implemented Skole Linux in Uganda during the last few weeks. Result of their work is that Skole Linux will be used as Thin Client on over 300 computer in 60 schools, giving a new exiting life to the ICT departments there. Read the three emails below in this regard:

  • Sent to the mailing list by Ndaula Ahmed, member of UgaBytes:

Hi Sourcer's,

It's all about trying and trying, that you achieve happiness. The whole staff here at SchoolNet Uganda secretariat especially the Technical Coordinator and the Director, are full joy that a new era has come up to give life to 300PCs that were put aside due to hard disk problems in over 60 Schools in Uganda.

It's actually all about spirit of sharing information that you can achieve the best. After a couple of days of trying last week, i and one of James's partner, we managed to come up with a successfull installation and test the Thin Client implementation. SchoolNet Uganda is planning to implement the system to over 60 schools in the country and give a new life to over 300 PCs that had been rendered useless.

Thin Client is working now like a charm infact as James said.

On behalf of SchoolNet Uganda, i would like to send our regards to all Sourcer's, Tactical Tech, SchoolNet Namibia for the wonderful and great knowledge feed to our staff Ndaula Ahmed when he was attending an OpenSource Developer's workshop in Namibia a couple of weeks back(National Coordinator SchoolNet Uganda). Cheers, Ndaula Ahmed

  • A subsequent mail from Ndaula Ahmed:

Sourcer's, hi

Weekend was really a great day for me and my comrade Muwonge. We made to successfully complete the Thin Client(SkoleLinux) environment. In the last couple of days, me and James sent an email of success to the list when we had completed the ThinClient, but this was done without making the clients surf the nex.

During the weekend, we managed to come up with the breakthrough that made the clients surf the net. This breakthrough actually made us absolutely completing the implementation and testing of the ThinClient environment.

The next step, will be taking the system to over 60 schools in Uganda which are memebers of SchoolNet Uganda before it's widely implemented to the rest of the schools.

My regards, first goes to Muwonge and James of Linux Solution here in Uganda, all sourcer's, SchoolNet Namibia and Tactical Tech. I suppose without the workshop, i would not have known the linux most importantly the skolelinux. Infact to be honest, i was not a good friend of Linux but after getting involved and achieving such a huge success, i am nolonger using Windows platfoam.

Here at schoolNet Uganda secretariat, i am trying to convience the National Coordinator together with the Technical coordinaor to divert all schools from using windows platfoam which i suppose is gonna be a success. I am looking forward to learning more syntaxes in Linux.

Cheers, Ndaula Ahmed

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  • A mail from SchoolNet Uganda:

Dear All,

SchoolNet Uganda & Linux Solutions, after very intensive work and time devotion have made a break through and developed internal local capacity to setup Linux ?based Thin Client school computer labs.. School children have no problem using Linux and can easily switch between Linux and Windows if necessary.

The thin-client model

The thin-client model is an alternative to the traditional approach of expensive workstations. Under a traditional (fat-client) model, applications run on the individual workstations and the network servers are used only for file storage. Under a thin-client model, the applications run on a network server and the local clients (workstations) are used only to provide a keyboard, mouse and display!!. What makes a computer obsolete is low memory (RAM), low processor speed and low hard disk space. Thin clients have no hard disks, their processing speed & RAM are irrelevant!!

Benefits

Since the clients are used only to provide a keyboard, mouse and display, they do not need to be powerful machines. Old 486s or early Pentiums are quite capable of being used as clients. The actual processing capabilities of the client machine are largely irrelevant; the applications run at the performance level of the network server. Thin-client systems have a much lower upgrade cost than fat-client systems because, in general, the client machines never need to be upgraded and do not require anywhere near as much maintenance.

One of the biggest problems schools have is that of software maintenance because kids sometimes ?mess? up the computers. Most school technology coordinators spend the majority of their time just poviding software maintenance support. But with these dumb terminals, there is literally nothing students can do to them!!

Only the network server needs to be upgraded to cope with increasing performance demands of both new software and a greater number of users. If you've ever had to deal with the problems and costs of keeping your desktop systems hardware up-to-date so that you can run the latest software, you can see the potential benefits of only needing to update one PC and observe the effects on all the others! Thin-client systems are also generally more secure and reliable than their fat-client counterparts. This is a desirable side-effect of their centralised nature and helps to greatly reduce the cost and time required to keep intruders out.

We want to help schools access technology but keep their costs down. Schools can now connect to the Internet using very old machines that would have never have the capacity to access the Internet otherwise. Thin-client technology brings back to life old computers which the schools had labelled obsolete, making them usefull again!!. Thin-client is our perfect solution for rural schools roll-out? says Kakinda Daniel, the Executive Director, SchoolNet Uganda.

A demo Thin-Client LAN has been set up at the SchoolNet Uganda office (Plot 83 Tufnel Drive, Kamwokya). Demostration Workshops for schools are planned in the near future. Daniel Executive Director, SchoolNet Uganda

More: Notes from Africa Source

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