Forget Munich’s Linux Migration, It’s Already Done by Extremadura

At the end of October I attended the
Linux congress and LAN party, which was held in the
city of


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
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
(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,
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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