posted by Xavier Calbet on Thu 10th Nov 2005 19:15 UTC
IconAt the end of October I attended the Alantejo Linux congress and LAN party, which was held in the city of Évora. Évora is a marvelous UNESCO World Heritage city which has from Roman ruins to 18th century buildings, not to mention the superb food. It is well worth the visit if you happen to travel to Portugal. At this meeting a conference was given by José Antonio León Moreno from the "Center of New Initiatives" in Extremadura (Spain) about the Linex project where he stated mildly that the Spanish region of Extremadura is using Linux on the desktop in the PCs used by the public administration civil servants of the region of Extremadura.

After reading in the Linux forums all the pains and troubles that Munich is going trough to migrate their desktop systems to Linux this sounded to me like something incredible. When he finished his talk and the floor was open for questions I could not help but ask him about this subject again, the answer was simple: "We changed the desktop systems from Windows to Linux during the weekend, when the civil servants came back next Monday morning they found Linux running on their desktop machines". Wow! So Munich is receiving all the press about their careful and detailed migration to Linux on the desktop and here comes one of the poorest region in Europe showing that this can be simply done during a weekend.

Some of the figures he showed in his presentation, and not only the ones related to desktop Linux, were really impressive. I will try to summarize some of the highlights here, but you can read more at the Linex web page or in the section "What is Linex?". The public government of the Spanish region of Extremadura has now a long tradition of promoting and using free software. Extremadura is a region located in the South-West of Spain, in the center of a triangle formed by the cities of Madrid, Seville and Lisbon.

With the goals of ensuring the accessibility of every citizen to the Information Society and promoting the digital literacy for everyone, both in urban and rural areas, they created what they call a "Regional Intranet" which consists of a big regional network with more than 1400 points with a bandwith of 2 Mgbps. In this way all the schools, health centers, hospitals, employment offices, etc. have a broadband connection to the Internet. Since every town in Extremadura has a school, they are also able to enjoy this high speed Internet service even in the smallest town of the region.

Another essential component of the network are the end user terminals. These were made from PCs running a localized version of Linux called Linex (compound word from LINux and EXtremadura) which they tailored to their specific needs and changing the name of the programs to more accessible ones to the people in Extremadura. For example, the Gimp image processing program was renamed to Zurbarán, a famous Spanish painter. Besides building one of the best known Linux distributions, Linex, they have achieved the amazing goal of having one PC for every two students in their schools. Yes, you read it correctly, one PC per two students.

In total they now have some 80000 desktop PCs running Linux. Of them, 66000 are in schools and education centers and the rest, 14000, are in other public administration buildings. Although not 100% of all Extremadura's public administration departments have been switched to Linux desktops, this numbers certainly indicate that they are in the right path to reaching this goal.

If that were not enough they have also setup what they call "Vivernet" which is a place where new companies can establish themselves and the regional administration of Extremadura will provide them with all the hardware and services necessary to be on the Web, from the PC to the high speed Internet connection at no cost.

Extremadura was once home of the famous conquerors of the new world and now they are ready to take up the whole world, at least the Information Age one. As their motto says, "Be legal...copy gnuLinex".

About the author:
Xavier Calbet is a long time free software user who started using a Linux distribution in the ancient past when Slackware had to be installed using tens of floppy disks. He is now currently working on his two pet projects: a meteorological field and satellite image display system, SAPO, and the best available free numerical computer language as of today, PDL (Perl Data Language). In his spare time he gives tutorials on how to write device drivers for the Linux kernel.
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