Russia to drop Microsoft in quest for 'national' operating system
Russia says it hopes to switch all government and school computers from Microsoft's operating system to the open source Linux by the end of the year.
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"If our computers are to be legal next year, we need the new open software," he adds. "We need to be ready by Dec. 31, but there are no materials, no preparations at all. Most teachers' reports are still in Windows format."Skip to next paragraph
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Sorokin says he was forced to resign by educational authorities after writing the letter to Medvedev. But on Friday, after a Moscow business newspaper, Vedemosti, wrote about the controversy, the principal of School No. 572 telephoned to say he might be reinstated.
"I was offered another job, to teach teachers," he says.
The Russian government has taken measures to control the country's freewheeling Internet, and the Duma recently passed a law that greatly beefs up the powers of the FSB security service, but experts say they don't see any security dimension in the kerfuffle over operating systems.
"There's no real logic to switching official computers to a Linux-based alternative," says Alexei Lukatsky, a Moscow-based IT consultant. "It was presented it as a means to lower costs and to be less dependent on American producers of software."'
Under laws passed a decade ago the security service already runs a vast program, known as SORM-2, which requires all Russian Internet providers to install special devices that enable the FSB to copy and store every byte of information – including e-mail and Internet activity – that passes through Russia-based servers.
Microsoft was recently accused of assisting Russian authorities in selective prosecutions of nongovernmental organizations and independent journalists for alleged use of pirated software. After that story broke last month, Microsoft quickly moved to grant software licenses to all small Russian groups that might be targeted for political reasons.
Meanwhile, the whereabouts of the "national" operating system remains a mystery to most Russian educators and computer experts.
"The problems with this are just beginning," says Alexander Drakhler, deputy director of a Moscow computer school. "If they make students stop using Windows and switch to a Linux system, it will be a complete mess. Even a lot of existing official software programs can't work under Linux. Students who use Windows at home won't have any compatibility with what they do at school. It's fine to teach Linux, but you don't need to change every computer over to it," he says.
"If they wanted to do this, the state had to develop a quality product and, in a timely fashion, train teachers how to use it," he adds. "But nothing has been done."