Brazil not so new to open source

Kudos to the New York Times for its story Tuesday about Brazil's movement toward open source software (Brazil: Free software's biggest and best friend, March 29, 2005).

"Since taking office two years ago, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has turned Brazil into a tropical outpost of the free-software movement," the Times reported in its story on Brazil's PC Conectado, or Connected PC, initiative for getting computers to the poor.

It's worth noting, however, that Brazil has been at this free software thing a little longer than the Times suggests.

"The cradle of the new wave of laws mandating free software appears to be Brazil," CNET wrote four years ago, in a shocking mixed metaphor (Governments push open-source software, August 29, 2001).

That story detailed how various Brazilian municipalities had passed laws mandating the use of free or open source software when available, reported how Microsoft was nervously lobbying the federal government against these kinds of laws, and noted that Richard Stallman, founder and president of the Free Software Foundation, had addressed the Brazilian Congress on the subject.

Also worth noting: Reuters' story on the same subject from two weeks ago (MIT backs Brazil's choice of Linux over Microsoft, March 17, 2005), which reported that MIT's Media Lab had recommended open-source software over Microsoft's proprietary and comparatively costly alternatives.

"We advocate using high-quality free software as opposed to scaled-down versions of more costly proprietary software," Walter Bender, director of the Media Lab at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, wrote in a letter to the Brazilian government quoted by Reuters. "Free software is far better on the dimensions of cost, power and quality."

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