The Cuban Linux crisis

Cuba wants to break away from Microsoft to avoid the U.S., and hopes Linux will prove its savior.

Cuba, ever seeking to be the gnat on the United States' behind, has decided to stick it to the Microsoft man and go Linux, according to Reuters. Its reasoning, however, provokes giggles:

Linux and GPL

The Cuban variant, called Nova, was introduced at a Havana computer conference on "technological sovereignty" and is central to the Cuban government's desire to replace the Microsoft software running most of the island's computers.

The government views the use of Microsoft systems, developed by U.S.-based Microsoft Corp, as a potential threat because it says U.S. security agencies have access to Microsoft codes.

I hate to tell Cuba this, but the U.S. security agencies also have access to the Linux code. In fact, that's one of the fundamental rights of open source.

But perhaps Cuba is suggesting that the U.S. won't have access to its Cuba-tailored Linux distribution? Well, that depends. Cuba is definitely modifying GPL-licensed components, and also admits it is distributing them. So I guess the only thing standing between Cuba's Linux secrets and the U.S. government's ability to get that code is for the FBI to go undercover in Cuba to receive the distributed software and demand the source.

OK, so it's not that simple, and really Cuba just wants to have complete access to the Linux source code so that it can protect against "malicious code" potentially planted by Microsoft for the U.S. government. Please. I find the attempt to evade the U.S. somewhat humorous, mostly because I suspect few within the U.S. government still remember that Cuba exists except when watching Cuban Major League Baseball stars drill homeruns.

Anyway, Cuba expects to have 50 percent of its systems migrated to Linux within the next five years. Bravo. But do it for the sake of the code, not for some goofy attempt to escape U.S. attention that has long since left Cuba's shores.

Follow me on Twitter at mjasay.

Tech Culture
About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.


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