Cuba going open source

Richard Stallman is star of the Cuban software confab as Latin governments vow to get rid of Windows.
Written by Richard Koman, Contributor

Cuba and Venezuela are shaking off the yoke of US hegemony by jettisoning Microsoft products for open source, AP reports.

"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.

Cuba even sees the software switch as a matter of national security. After all, would the US government want all the operating system on all its computers written by a Cuban company?

Communications Minister Ramiro Valdes 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.

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.

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