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Egyptian Linux Advocates' Replies 539

Alaa and his friends at Linux-Egypt put a lot of thought into answering your questions. Alaa wrote, "we felt there was much misinformation or lack of information about egypt while reading the comments so I kinda used each question to inject some extra info," which makes this Q&A worth reading for insight into Egyptian society even if you have no particular interest in Linux. Thanks, Alaa and Linux-Egypt.

1) Computers in Egypt? - by Anonymous Coward

Can you give us some idea of the state of computing in your country? For example, are computers common in general home use, are middle-class types able to afford them, and so forth. I'm also curious about how the heat and sand are handled - are they problems?


Computer usage is very widespread in Egypt, official government estimates are 10% of families own computers, I'd say this is probably a correct observation (you never know with official government figures). this is significant if you put in mind other statistics about 40% of Egyptian population are illiterate, a rough 10% of those who received basic education return to illiteracy. with an average income of about 1000$ dollars a year and a about 60% or more of the population under 25 years old (most probably not buying computers for themselves) this means anyone who can use computers and can barely afford them is buying them.

almost all university students and graduates (we get about half a million university graduates per year), know basic computer and internet usage. everyone in the middle class has a hotmail account (email it is assumed equals hotmail, if you ask your average Egyptian about his email account she will reply with the username only).

Egyptian parents feel it is essential to buy their kids computers and teach them how to use them, the theory being you can't get any kind of job without computer knowledge, they're common everywhere in Egypt not just cities.

it is a rare town that does not have a NetCafe.

everyone uses whiteboxes assembled locally, only laptops are bought from big brands, a computer is relatively cheap when compared to other household apparel, you can assemble a basic system for about 150$.

but thats not the interesting question importing technology is easy, there is lots of computer expertise in the country also, the market is always expanding, computer related schools are the most popular places to spend your university years (after medical school).

most jobs are networking and administration jobs, there are lots of webdesign/webprogramming jobs (Egyptians love flash pages), and a big market for Visual Basic, Foxpro, Access and MS SQL Server based solutions. only big name in enterprise development in Oracle, although most of the oracle jobs are PL/SQL not Java based.

other programming jobs are quite rare but they exist, there is some work on embedded programming, some enterprise programming with Java, everyone is trying to get into the VoIP business, some companies are trying to start data warehouses. most companies are small software houses, I doubt they make any big profits but it seems their goals are to make a living not a profit.

The sand is not a real problem, contrary to what you guys seem to think we don't live in the desert, in fact this is one of the biggest problems facing us, the 70 strong million Egyptian population is living in about 2% of the land area crowded around the Nile valley and north coast which means we build our homes, roads, factories and cities on the little land we have that is fit for agriculture, we should be living in the desert but we aren't.

In Cairo however the dust and pollution are a very big problem, I have to open my PC and blow the dust out once a month, every few months one of my cards would stop functioning because the dust got between the connectors.

Heat isn't such a big deal, it probably means you can't overclock (personally I underclock), and servers are usually placed in freezing air conditioned rooms anyway.

Heat is indirectly a big nuisance though, lately everyone started buying air conditioners and they're overloading the aging power grid, it is very common to get power outages and blackouts in very hot nights (I can't thank the inventor of journalized file systems enough).

2) What is the killer app in Egypt? - by eltoyoboyo

Or more to the point, what is the first thing users want to do after the system is installed and running?


that must be IM, probably MSN followed by Yahoo Messenger and ICQ

thats what most computer users spend their online time doing, net connectivity is available to anyone who owns a computer through a series of free to dial numbers (billed by the minute for rates lower than normal telephone calls), broadband is creeping in slowly in the form of ADSL which starting from this month began to be slightly affordable.

the killer app when not online is probably Windows Media player, Egyptians enjoy the movies very much but don't usually go to the cinema (our cinemas are always barely surviving, sometimes they even get government subsidies and tax breaks just to remain floating), so watching movies on your PC is the way to go for computer owners.

we're talking illegally copied movies of course, there are some cheap VCDs in the market but most people just buy the movies from the guy under the bridge or copy them from friends, almost all Egyptian movies find their way to the pirated CDs market a few days after they start showing.

after that its Internet Explorer for browsing and email and MS Word.

anyone who uses any other apps is an advanced user

as for games FIFA 2003 appears to be the most popular game, football and car racing are very big here, even bigger than FPS.

strategy and RPG games seem to require a bit of knowledge in English, they're played but are not as big as FIFA.

network gaming is beginning to be popular, after the internet became available to all households CyberCaffes (which BTW never serve anything but the internet) began to offer loads of games and even organize tournaments with prizes and all.

one of the interesting peculiarities about Egypt is that Game Arcades are banned almost everywhere in the country, in the mid nineties they where very popular, in both rich and poor areas in large cities, now for some reason there is a loud enough group of Egyptians who prefers the government and police interfere with their kids than to try and raise them themselves. so calls to ban these shops that wasted the kids time and money where voiced in all public newspapers. and governerate by governerate they decided to save all the poor children and close the arcades so the kids can go back to study. The result is CyberCaffes have a very big market even if everyone gets broadband.

this situation of course means that very few CyberCaffes are interested in using GNU/Linux

oh and BTW the act of playing computer games is commonly referred to as "tel3ab atari" "to play Atari"

3) Pre-install questions or misconceptions - by dkh2

What were the most common misunderstandings among new or potential Linux users? Did you provide a place for newbie questions and answers?


well first of all the word installfest is a bit misleading when it comes to our event.

we assumed very few would bother to bring their PCs with them to the fest so we decided to make it a general Linux Festival, a day to present everything about GNU/Linux, Free Software and Open Source, so we had demonstrations and presentations, we distributed informational pamphlets with FAQ like Q&A, and we had a number of volunteers do nothing but chat with the visitors and answer their questions.

the main target for all this was newbies, so in a sense the whole festival was a place for newbie questions and answers.

I don't know if there was a most common misunderstanding, the questions we got this time were surprisingly smart.

I suppose the most frequently asked questions were all about compatibility with Windows, the fact that GNU/Linux is a separate Operating System is sometimes confusing, they don't exactly know where the PC stops and the OS starts, and Microsoft are not making it easier with their thick metaphors. questions about why GNU/Linux needs its own partitions and whether their Windows applications will run on it or not are very common?

once you explain to them that GNU/Linux is a completely separate platform they start worrying about whether their documents and media files will work or not?

to avoid complicated arguments about media files and patents we prepared a specially remastered version of Mandrake 10 CE to include PLF packages capable of playing back all sorts of media files so this part was easy.

of course some had confusions about the meaning of Free Software and Open Source, Free Software is actually the easy part when it comes to Arabic since we have separate words for libre and gratis, but our media tends to copy news from the web and translate it in a very shallow manner so its more common to see GNU/Linux referred to as the gratis operating system.

Open Source is always a bit confusing because the adopted translation means absolutely nothing to anyone even programmers.

4) More particularly - by Dlugar

I'm interested in: what's the best distro with regards to Arabic support? I've been studying Arabic for a year or two now and I enjoy tinkering around with Arabic on Linux, but sometime's it's so hard to get things to work! (I recently tagged some of my Arabic-language mp3s with Arabic Unicode in the id3 tags, and so far the only player I've found that will display the Arabic tags is the Beep Media Player (gtk2 fork of xmms).


that would probably be Mandrake, they work closely with, they offer a basic installation guide in Arabic (not full documentation), the installer itself is not translated to Arabic but their tools are and it comes with Arabic fonts, and it's about the only distro where Arabic filenames show properly out of the box on both Gnome and KDE, and AFAIK they're the only major distro to include one of Arabeyes projects in RPM form.

however it doesn't look like Mandrake tests their Arabic support (and unfortunately it seems the Arabic users community is not doing a good job of testing and bug reporting either), in Mandrake 10 OpenOffice would not render Arabic text correctly without installing FreeType packages made by PLF with the bytecode interpreter enabled, this problem is not inherit in OpenOffice since it worked fine with older versions.

apart from Mandrake there are a couple of Arabic distros, HayderLinux which I have no experience with. And Arabbix, a Morphix based arabized liveCD which probably has the best Arabic support yet.

as a rule anything not using GTK2 or QT3 most probably does not support Arabic.

Arabic support is getting better but its true that its still hard to get things to work, for instance this Mozilla bug is a show stopper and slowing the adoption of GNU/Linux here yet no one in the Mozilla developer community or the Arabic community is working on it.

if you want to help please vote this bug, if you know the Mozilla source base please look into it or contact and give them directions on where to look.

5) Politics, religion and software - by CdBee

Have the recent military actions taken by Western countries in the Islamic world affected attitudes towards software, bearing in mind the US-centric nature (Microsoft, Intel, Adobe) of commercial, closed-source software?


politics has, I don't think religion had any influence.

the continued support the US is giving to the state of Israel and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have led to a widespread boycott movement, most Egyptians don't want a single dollar of their money to get into the US, I think got many new members due to this trend. this trend is a purely economical one, no one is refusing software or any form of technology because they're the product of another culture.

in the case of software many Egyptians want to stop using M$ products specially when they're paying for them (beginning to be quite common among companies and government agencies)

local and Arabic media is covering GNU/Linux as a possible alternative that could allow for economical independence in the software market, and I'm sure this played a big role in the success of our event.

but there is a special resentment towards Microsoft, probably due to an incident few years ago when they put adverts all over Israel thanking the Israeli army. or maybe due to the perception that they have some influence over the Egyptian government.

note that these sentiments are shared by both Muslims and Christians in egypt, although of course the more extreme Muslims would voice them in very religious phrasing.

6) Motives for switching - by Rei

On the subject of national origin:

There is a widespread perception in the west that the Arab world is backwards in terms of technological knowhow, and in education in general. How do you, as a geek in Egypt, perceive this? Do you feel that the free software movement can help nations like Egypt achieve the sort of tech industry that nations like Israel have by increasing exposure to computers for the average person?


I don't know about the Arab world, but here in egypt it is basically true we are very much backwards.

Egyptian education is in a very bad state, it has been so for quite some time now and it keeps getting worse, high school graduates hardly learn a thing outside some math and basic mechanics, I'm a student in a Computer Science school and I know I almost learned nothing there, some places are better than others but the general state isn't very good at all, and most Egyptians would agree (we have this thing about not wanting to tell foreigners our bad news so you might not hear it often, but if you monitor any local media, or any local internet community you'll find the topic of how bad the education is brought again and again).

in theory and intentions our education isn't particularly backwards, the courses being taught are probably very similar to what is being taught in Europe and in the case of high school probably even more advanced than what you're used to in the states, the problem is rather in quality, of course its basically impossible to learn anything when your average classroom has 100+ students

in terms of technological knowhow surprisingly enough I don't think we're as backwards as it looks, a large enough number of people pass through the educational system intact and start learning the real stuff in post graduate studies, abroad or in their work environment, we got enough talented and well educated people to lead the way forward, and its surprisingly easy to find them, many Egyptians can even name them for you, ask them who is your top Genetics experts and they're bound to reply Dr Mostagir.

so the way I see it it's more a question of resources, infrastructure and of saving the crumbling educational system. And that is what worries me, the educational system seems to be a hopeless case, I'm sure if you pick a random sample of 1000 elementary school teachers and test them for language and math skills similar to what you test in SAT they'll fail miserably. as for resources and infrastructure almost all of it is controlled by a centralized government infested with corruption and with zero credibility among the people.

as I explained above the average person is more or less exposed to computers, this is not that part that is missing.

but yes I do believe that the free software movement can make quite a difference, by providing the source code, the documentation and a transparent development process you solve the educational part of the problem motivated individuals can teach themselves by joining this community, educational institutes too can rely on these resources and the free flow of information to achieve better education. The problem of infrastructure and resources is greatly reduced in the case of software, specially free software all you need is computers and an internet connection.

I don't know much about the tech industry in Israel; but I'm sure Free Software can help build a thriving software and computing industry, the knowhow is there (thousands of very talented experts out there), and a feasible way to improve the skill pool, the fact that we don't have to start from scratch and can benefit from all the advances of the international free software community with no cost is an essential aspect to it too.

I know many agree with me, we've done three seminars in different Egyptian Universities where these sentiments where voiced by both students and staff, that was a big part of what people talked about in the festival and its actually one of the goals of and my main personal motivation to help make this come true.

and for this rare opportunity to make our lives better we thank all the Free/Open Source Software community. believe me its greatly appreciated, even by the people you'd normally consider haters of your culture (we had a poster once send a thanks to RMS and wishing that god would lead him to the path of Islam so he can rest in heaven when the day comes!!!

7) Women. - by Mateito

I didn't look through all the installfest photos, but I didn't see a lot of women there. Okay, so hanging out with a lot of geeks configuring network services isn't most chicks idea of a hot date. But, nevertheless, how many females are involved with the open source crowd, and in the IT industry in general, in Egypt?


only word I have for you is "Ya Moftary" I don't know how to translate this, literally it means you despot, but actually it is used when someone makes a very clearly unfounded claim or accusation

Look in the photos again, 36 out of 103 photos had females in them (maybe you where not counting the veiled ones) their numbers where actually higher than what the photos would tell you, our photographer MaysaraOmar has quite individual notions of how photography should be.

first let me explain something, there is no Open Source crowd exactly, there is and a few companies using GNU/Linux and a couple of very small groups (a new LUG was just started in Cairo University few days ago, they where a great help in the festival) thats it.

I don't know about membership in Linux-Egypt, but we set up a mailing list for the festival visitors which had about 300 subscribers, judging by their names I'd say more than 40% where females, on the festival itself we gave up trying to do registration when the flow became very rapid but my estimate is no less than 25% were females (which I think is quite good for such events), most came on their own not tagging along with their husbands, brothers, fathers, uncles and boy friends, we even got a group of 4 female students who came together from TantaUniversity outside Cairo to pick copies of GNU/Linux and ask questions about their GNU/Linux based graduation projects. The only non Egyptian visitors we got where middle aged ladies.

we had with us 3 female volunteers (only 1 was involved in the technical stuff).

one of the visitors (who was quite good looking BTW) was starting her own software house and was scouting for talents (we had to restrain some of the volunteers

in IT in general it must be a very high percentage, most companies I deal with have more females in their staff, I'd say 50% of all IT jobs or even slightly more but probably the number drops the closer you get to the general manager (is it different anywhere else??).

there are many factors that would affect this, girls tend to do better in school (don't know why) and engineering and computing schools take the top high school graduates so they're usually heavily populated with females, IT is deemed a suitable job for a female since it does not involve much traveling, they don't have to order many men around as opposed to other engineering jobs where you got to deal with many workers and technicians (this isn't really a big factor when it comes to employment but no one tells them till its too late) and late hours could be done at home, alot of the job are still government jobs which are governed by strict rules relating to grades in school and university, age and stuff like that, there is no way to avoid employing a female who is qualified in a situation like this.

Egyptian girls tend to start looking for husbands very early, so their ideas about a hot date may surprise you

8) the competition - by TeamLive

I am wondering what the competition is for an operating system in the arab world. Is windows as big as it is here? Or do people use other operating systems (BSD, OSX, Solaris, Linux) most of the time?

Also, what is the most widely used distro in that part of the world?


you're kidding right??

of course windows is as big, its probably even bigger, the most widespread OS is probably windows 98, then comes WindowsXP, and then windows 2000, you get my drift??

most of it is illegal copies of course.

our government is almost 100% Microsoft, same is true for educational institutes (hell mathematicians write their papers in Microsoft Word here, there is this one guy who knows LaTeX, he makes a fortune out of Egyptian mathematicians wanting to submit papers to AMS Journals), although basic courses with GNU/Linux in them and research and graduation projects on GNU/Linux are starting to appear.

on the other hand our CS departments started teaching C# and .Net before they had any compilers ready.

Macs used to be popular in the printing and journalism field, some of our newspapers still have some aging Macs there and are having a hard time networking them with the new windows machines (hey maybe thats a good opportunity for Linux there), Mac OS X almost doesn't exist (I think it didn't have Arabic support till the current release).

big business and banks are Unix users, although most Unix vendors have closed their local branches, IBM is still supporting a bunch of ancient mainframes, was running on a VAX/VMS machine till few months ago, but most of these aging machines are being replaced slowly by GNU/Linux or Windows boxes.

I only know of one company (an ISP) using FreeBSD, there are some embedded and industrial control work being done on QNX and NetBSD but its all small stuff.

GNU/Linux is slowly replacing all the Solaris installations around Sun basically pulled out of the Egyptian market, some of its old employees are opening GNU/Linux companies.

Apart from Microsoft, GNU/Linux is the most widely known and talked about OS, so I think at the moment its the only alternative (but its not real competition yet).

9) Popular Culture - by Anonymous Coward

How ingrained is technology/computing (including OSS) into popular culture in Egypt? In North America it is everpresent and accepted as part of the culture, as it were, but I seldom see the same side of other societies. Are geek topics common 'water-cooler' discussions?


I just heard someone on the metro/underground say he jumps around like a mouse on a desktop, how's that for ingrained??

we had some popular songs mentioning internet relationships (with comical video clips and stuff).

Egyptian cinema is still finding it hard to portray computers or computer users correctly (but hey Hollywood still does computers that beep and blink).

almost everyone has heard the word internet, some of the older folks think its the tool of the devil, this thing similar to satellite TV that corrupts kids and allows them to download porn, some just know the word but have no idea what it is.

most however have some almost correct notion, you must keep in mind that a huge number of Egyptians work abroad (the money they send is actually the second largest source of income), any technology that allows these people to call home is quickly adopted by the whole nation, in many cases these people are poor craftsmen from farming families with little to no education, don't be surprised to find the local whiz in the village passing from house to house establishing VoIP calls for the folks to see their granddaughter for the first time.

as for geek topics, I'm not sure what you mean by that, if its SCO, the DVD case, etc then no; Egyptians are unaware that their rights to use Encryption are being stripped away let alone being aware of what happens abroad.

if however you're talking about the release of a new Pentium by Intel, or SATA getting cheaper or the release of Microsoft's latest beta then yeah, its quite common to hear young people discussing these things (specially males), this is usually mixed with talk about cars and mobile phones (both more popular topics and more ingrained).

OSS is not ingrained yet, although many have heard the word Linux before, no month passes without a mention of Linux in at least one of the national daily newspaper and one of the monthly computer magazines (usually well intended misinformation).

oh and BTW one of the reporters who regularly cover OSS and GNU/Linux has the coolest family name ever, he is called "Al Batriq" which means The Penguin

I don't know how a topic would be considered a geek topic if it was ingrained in society and culture and to the point of becoming water-cooler discussion though?

10) Positive contribution? - by acceber

Do you feel events such as InstallFest have contributed positively to the growing awareness of computer technology in non-western countries?


this question is meaningless, it is based on an assumption that there is a lack of awareness of computer technology to begin with which is not true.

and please don't lump whole countries together like this, I'd say awareness of computer technology in Egypt or India is as big or bigger than in countries like Greece or Poland (I confess this is not a very well informed opinion but I'm sure the differences won't be as big as the question implies).

however naturally I feel that our festival has contributed positively to the slowly growing awareness of Free/Open Source Software in Egypt

I encourage all LUGs regardless of how western their nation is to organize similar events and please take a leaf from our book, don't make it an installfest only there is alot you can do with just a bunch of volunteers.

oh and use Wikis to organize such events you won't regret it.

-- ultimate_answer_t deep_thought(void) { sleep(years2secs(7500000)); return 42; }
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Egyptian Linux Advocates' Replies

Comments Filter:
  • Great interview! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by grub ( 11606 ) <> on Thursday May 13, 2004 @12:22PM (#9140584) Homepage Journal

    Now that is the kind of interview I really enjoy reading!
    It's not technical but tell us about the use of the tech from the view of a 'local' with some insight into the culture. Makes the world seem a bit smaller.
    - A Canadian who learned a few things about Egypt today.
  • From article:

    "so simple even a frog could implement it."

    Why must article discrimenate againt the French ? We are good people. Too much now in the US is anti-French feelings, like "freedom fries". We helped US defeat Hitler, and France is a leads computer industry.
    • by nharmon ( 97591 ) on Thursday May 13, 2004 @12:39PM (#9140764)
      Ya Moftary!
  • Good (Score:5, Insightful)

    by killerface ( 573659 ) on Thursday May 13, 2004 @12:24PM (#9140611) Homepage
    I think this happens to be a good exersize into seeing what happens in other countries with OSS. Being American I think of my self as prett ignorant toward technology through the world. I appreciate stuff like this.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I would have gotten a first post, but my egyptian keyboard hasn't shipped yet and carving all those little pictures into stone takes a long time. :)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 13, 2004 @12:25PM (#9140621)
    oh and BTW the act of playing computer games is commonly referred to as "tel3ab atari" "to play Atari"

    Seems that they also invented l33t speak.
  • ...for His responses are informative indeed.
  • by GoClick ( 775762 ) on Thursday May 13, 2004 @12:28PM (#9140658)
    Do the FUDsters know that Linux is being used by forign countries? If American teenagers can be terrorists with Linux imagine what terrorists will be?! Oh dear no! Vote YES on bill N0-31337 and stop the terrorists from using dangerous open source software!!!! aaahhh!!!! SCO SCO HELP US!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 13, 2004 @12:30PM (#9140674)
    That was an awesome read. Thanks very much to Alaa and Linux-Egypt for some incredibly in-depth answers.

    I'd love it if Slashdot could do more interviews with computer users from other countries in the world. Linux or not, I find it fascinating to read about the state of IT and technology in other countries.

    In an age when differences between nations and religion cause friction, it's nice to read about a subject which unites us all.
  • Condescension (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Is it just me that finds about 98% of the questions to be on the whole offensive and myopic? Do you get sand in your PC? When will people realise that brown, yellow, pink or black, we're all exactly the same on the inside. This isn't flamebait, but using AC due to "morons abounding".
    • by pubjames ( 468013 ) on Thursday May 13, 2004 @12:36PM (#9140726)
      Do you get sand in your PC?

      I think he should have responded "Do Americans find it difficult to see their computer keyboards over their obese stomachs?"
    • by AtariAmarok ( 451306 ) on Thursday May 13, 2004 @12:36PM (#9140730)
      "Do you get sand in your PC?"

      Russia: Do you get vodka in your PC?

      Iraq: Do American soldiers torture your PC in prison?

      Mexico: Does the hard disk perform very well when it gets covered in refriend beans?

      Afghanistan: Does the heat from your PC disappate when you have the burkha cover on it?

      USA: Do you get McDonald's fries in your PC?

      Sure to offend everyone.

      • by liquidsin ( 398151 ) on Thursday May 13, 2004 @12:48PM (#9140863) Homepage
        In Canada we fill our water-cooling rigs with American beer, since it's pretty much water anyways. This helps lower the temperature and keeps the igloo from melting.

        • Re:Condescension (Score:2, Interesting)

          by HexRei ( 515117 )
          By which you must mean, "Shitty american macrobrewery pisswater", because we have a lot of really good micros here. And of course, Canada has no shortage of shitty canadian pisswater, for that matter ;)
      • USA: Do you get McDonald's fries in your PC?

        All the time!

      • In case anyone didn't get offended:

        France: Do you get french fries in your PC?
        Sweden: Do you get meatballs in your PC?
        Sweden again: Does Inga's hair get stuck in the CPU-fan?
        India: Do you get curry in your PC?
        Germany/Austria: Isn't it uncomfortable to sit in a computer chair with lederhosen(sp?)?
        Scotland: Do you get whiskey in your PC?
        USA: You lost the vietnam war. How often does war-cripples fall into your PC?
    • Re:Condescension (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 13, 2004 @12:48PM (#9140862)
      I suppose that the fact that he said "Yes, I have to blow the dust out every month," in response, went unnoticed by your high moral elitist ass?

      This is nothing like asking if "obese stomachs" get in the way for Americans. Rather, it would be like asking a Californian if the frequent earthquakes disrupt the telecoms grid. It's a question about the operating environment - if you'd check, you'd see that the "proper" temperature range for running a PC tops out below that of a typical warm day in Cairo and, as Alaa points out, people are JUST GETTING air conditioning.

      There is a disturbing trend, to label without thinking any question about other people's living conditions as offensive. This is itself prejudice of the most destructive type, as it prevents the basic communication from whence understanding follows.
      • Re:Condescension (Score:2, Interesting)

        by alaaosh ( 777456 )
        just a clarification.

        air conditioners have been available in the egyptian market for ages.

        but only lately that they started to be affordable and thus popular.

    • Re:Condescension (Score:5, Insightful)

      by SquadBoy ( 167263 ) on Thursday May 13, 2004 @12:55PM (#9140933) Homepage Journal
      and of course people from other countries always have an accurate idea of what things are like here in America. Actually hang out with people from other countries for a while you will soon understand that their conceptions of what life in America is like are heavily shaped by visual media. So now think of this question about sand and heat. Many people in America have seen movies about Egypt and think that is what it is like. If that is what Egypt was like it would be an interesting question to find out what creative ways they have found to deal with the problem. And now some people who did not know what it is really like now have a better idea.

      Don't be so quick to judge. Assume not hate but rather a lack of knowledge and take the time to educate. The sand and heat question has nothing to do with people but rather with wanting to know how those people deal with their environment. The person answering the question seems to understand this and takes the time to educate and explain. You OTOH get upset on his behalf.
    • maybe you all are the same inside, but i've taken case modding to a whole new level. my intestines now glow with neon light, and my eyes have blacklights behind them

    • Re:Condescension (Score:3, Insightful)

      by AndroSyn ( 89960 )
      Seeing that large portions of Egypt are in fact covered by sand, this isn't quite an unreasonable question. Mind you the majority of the people in Egypt live in the Nile valley or along the Mmediterranean coastline, but still, there is certainly a lot of sand in Egypt.

      And yes we may all be the same physically in terms of our internal organs, but there is more to being a human than just what color our squishy fleshy insides look like. There *are* differences between people and cultures. Stereotypes an my
    • How is the sand thing a problem? The vast majority of Egypt is covered by a desert. Alaa did have to say that they have crowded all the housing and development onto about 2% of the land area, which is not desert, so without knowing that, it's an understandable question. Even with that aside, Alaa did also state that they have excessive dust, which causes them to have to open up and blow out their PC's every month because of the desert climate, even if they don't live directly on sand.

      I know there were s
    • Re:Condescension (Score:5, Insightful)

      by twigles ( 756194 ) on Thursday May 13, 2004 @01:07PM (#9141107)
      Actually those condescending questions are *exactly* the type of questions we need to ask. They CLEAR THE AIR. Get all the stupid stereotypes out of the way, or let us know that some of the stereotypes are true. It's the type of communication (the type that sidesteps Dan Rather and the rest of those grinning idiots and their advertising bosses) that will let us actually understand each other.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 13, 2004 @12:33PM (#9140699)
    Too bad it is not *BSD being discussed. Egypt has the best tombs in the world.
  • ...official government estimates are 10% of families own computers...

    I wonder if thats more than in Canada? ;)
    • Canada's kicking ass (Score:2, Informative)

      by GoClick ( 775762 )
      In my city roughly 80% of households have broadband...

      No no that's not 82% of internet users ahve BB
      Or 80% of homes have internet

      It's 80% of single family dwellings have high speed Internet.

      For example I have 5.1Mbit line (abnormaly fast most people only have 1 or 2)

      I actually only know one two familes that don't have internet at all and neither family even lives in house. Neither one even has a phone because their pretty poor.

      Now that's not normal but our whole province s dang high.

      Now I suppose you
    • by XaXXon ( 202882 ) <xaxxon@g[ ] ['mai' in gap]> on Thursday May 13, 2004 @01:09PM (#9141148) Homepage
      Canada is so desolate that even if everyone had a computer, it'd still only be 9%.
  • RMS and wishing that god would lead him to the path of Islam so he can rest in heaven when the day comes!!!

    there is much for you to learn, my young paduan
  • Solar Cells (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Elpacoloco ( 69306 ) <elpacoloco&dslextreme,com> on Thursday May 13, 2004 @12:35PM (#9140716) Journal
    It sounds to me like Egypt is in despirate need to install solar cells on every house to harness the abundant solar energy. (It's mostly a desert, so not a lot of cloudy days, right?)

    Too bad they're so expensive.
    • When I was at the Pyramids (OK, I'm from the UK, you gotta take a look right?) a couple of months ago it was raining. It certainly was not sunny. Also, as Alaa was at pains to point out in the interview, Egypt is a very green and fertile country (the bits where people live anyway) and there is no sand there. You gotta go out to the desert for that.

      • Based on that, they should build solar arrays out in the desert, since no one is there anyway.

        Gigawatt after Gigawatt is available to them!
        • Re:In that case (Score:2, Informative)

          by NewtonTwo ( 767015 )

          Deserts aren't the most ideal place for renewable energy sources...yet. The vast landscape combined with the temperature extremes from radiative cooling/heating can whip up quite a wind.

          Solar arrays are likely to be covered by some dust/sand and dust/sand storms can reduce the solar rays reaching the cells as much if not more than clouds.

          Wind farms as well, can be very expensive to maintain and keep working properly in these conditions.

          Only a matter of time hopefully until we develop and/or use techn

  • MS resentment (Score:5, Insightful)

    by happyfrogcow ( 708359 ) on Thursday May 13, 2004 @12:39PM (#9140754)
    but there is a special resentment towards Microsoft

    Yet, the killer apps and most used services are Hotmail and MSN messaging services. Then offline, Windows Media Player is the killer app.

    • People do not know how to switch away.

      I recently had someone tell me that they needed windows becuase they used Net Meeting: she had no idea that there were alternatives,let alone OSS ones.

      On the other hand I also had someone ask me about switching to Linus becuase her university wanted her to buy a legit version of Windows and stop using a priated one, at the same time they had courses on Linux for newbies so she felt comfirtable there is some support. Her main conern was reading word docs.

      Between th

    • Re:MS resentment (Score:3, Interesting)

      by alaaosh ( 777456 )
      resentment against the company.
      not the products.

      and nothing says it has to make sense, I've always felt Egypt was a singularity.
  • and yet email = hotmail?

    holy crap, gmail is going to clean up there. :)
  • This is going to be the most memorable article I've ever read on slashdot.
  • My question is about the first answer, speaking about how a system can be assembled for about $150. Now first, I assume that's American dollars they're talking about. But I'm also wondering about the system itself, are we talking older technology or is that a brand new system with current parts?

    If so, why has noone setup an importing business yet? Yes, I bet there would be all kinds of protectionist duties, but even with a 100% duty it would probably still be cheaper then prices here (which are already
    • I'm sure that they are able to build machines for $150 from a combination of part recycling and slightly outdated, but still very viable parts, bought in bulk. With such a strategy I was able to upgrade my computer to an Athlon XP 2500+, etc. for about $200.
  • Super Interview (Score:4, Informative)

    by The Ape With No Name ( 213531 ) on Thursday May 13, 2004 @12:58PM (#9140973) Homepage
    Well, laadeedaa. Guess what, Merikins? Them folks is smart.

    Excellent numbers, responses and 'pricking' of stupid conceptions of what Egyptian tech is all about and what their society is all about.

    About the schooling: his assessment is dead on. It is a shame but the social and economic structure of Egypt is really a reason why we see young men joining jihad oriented organizations, not their hatred of the USian Empire and 'Freedom.' If you can't get affirmation via the maninstream, you certainly can via groups that give your life a purpose. The whole revelation about how people slip BACK INTO illiteracy is most telling.

    I suggest "The Transmission of Knowledge in Medieval Cairo: A Social History of Islamic Education" as great book to see how good it once was for all classes (under the Mamluks, I know). And these are the times that the Islamists imagine for themselves....
  • Hopefully Alaa will be reading these posts. A lot of positive thinking.

    I have to admit I was not aware, although not shocked, to here some of the answers he gave.

    But that leaves me wondering; what can we do from here to help them there?

    I mean, I don't have the money to spend to travel the world around and become a Lin-evanglilist. So what help can I provide from here to people like Alaa? What services can I provide to communities like Linux-Egypt?

    It really breaks my heart to hear that the educational
  • by ChibiOne ( 716763 ) on Thursday May 13, 2004 @01:17PM (#9141251)

    .... "you, insensitive Clod" ??

  • by SharpFang ( 651121 ) on Thursday May 13, 2004 @01:22PM (#9141323) Homepage Journal
    We do have separate words for 'libre' (wolne) and 'gratis'(darmowe). Unfortunately the word for 'libre' means also 'slow'.
    Slow software? Not a catchy phrase :P
  • Education in Egypt (Score:5, Interesting)

    by phrogeeb ( 621296 ) < minus city> on Thursday May 13, 2004 @01:23PM (#9141344) Homepage Journal
    I have a question regarding the state of education in Egypt. Wish I had asked it of Alaa before he answered all these questions, oh well, maybe he'll scan the threads...

    I have a relative at HU in Jerusalem who helped with a study a few years ago of the public education in Palestinian schools in Arab villages in Israel, and they found that there was a huge campaign of disinformation. Students spent time learning mostly political propaganda that was anti-Israel and anti-US instead of time learning math and languages. Text books were generally published by Arab companies that supported the propaganda campaign and typically were full of factual errors. They even learned off of maps that showed local geography as the Palestinian Authority wanted it to be rather than it actually was! (Often students were told that they were living in "Palestine" rather than Israel, and "Israel" was not mentioned on the map or in the classroom as far as the Arabic-speaking researchers could discern.)

    I wanted to know if this type of situation is also widespread in Egypt. I realize that Egypt is in a much different socio-economic situation than Palestinian Arabs living in Israel are right now, has more money, a more legitimate government and are a bit further removed from the daily violence and hatred that is evident on both sides in Israel. But when he talks about corruption in the education system, does anything there approach this?

    Also, at the risk of sounding like a tree-hugging hippy, do they teach hatred either at the mosque or at the public schools in Egypt?

    Thanks to any Egyptian locals (or any other Arab country locals) or even Alaa if he reads this for any info you can provide.

    I really enjoyed reading this, and representing a Jewish American nerd with a strong interest in Israel, I think it's interesting to talk to Arab nerds about political and technical issues. Anyone who fits that bill is welcome to contact me.
    • by Talla ( 95956 )
      They even learned off of maps that showed local geography as the Palestinian Authority wanted it to be rather than it actually was!

      I suppose it's difficult to always be updated on where the Israelis decides the border is at any given time, considering how they're continuously expanding it into more of Palestine.
    • by alaaosh ( 777456 ) <> on Thursday May 13, 2004 @07:29PM (#9145807) Homepage Journal
      well first of all what you consider misinformation is what all egyptians consider to be the truth.

      we (me included) believe this is the occupied land of palestine.

      we are taught that this was the land of palestine, then the details of how it was split into israel and the occupied territories are explained (at around the 8th grade).

      almost all accepted the inevitable need for a two state solution BTW (many would prefer a single secular state where all are equal).

      I don't know about palestine but here textbooks are published by the government, only foriegn language textbooks are published by any companies.

      as for hatred I'm not sure I understand what you mean by that? and towards whome?, but here goes anyway.

      no schools are not supposed to teach hatred of any kind, they're supposed to teach tolerance and understanding.

      however it happens from time to time (too regular for my liking) that teachers would voice anti christian opinions and teach hate speech against christians.

      these are grounds for firing the teacher BTW.

      same for mosques, there is anti jewish as well as anti christian talk in some mosques.
      the government tries to censor this kind of speech, but censorship is not an effective tool at all IMO.

      strife between the two religions is growing in Egypt, and US intereference is not helping the situation at all, in fact its making it worse.

      many are standing against it, some have been killed for it, its an ongoing fight and I'm hoping the voices of tolerance will win.

      as for anti jewish speech, many egyptians (almost everyone who isn't among the fundementalists and even some of the fundementalists) stand against any anti-jewish speech, in fact we go to great efforts to point out the not all jews are zionists and that what we stand against is the ideology and the policies of zionism and not the jewish enthicity or religion.

      unfortunatly, the strong always define the battle, the more the US and Israel harp about the clash of civilization the more it becomes a reality.

      if you want to know more about how egyptians think about these issue, I recommend you browse the Linux-Egypt forum, politics comes up very often and a big part of the conversation is in English (search for iraq, israel, islam, etc)
  • Poland? (Score:3, Informative)

    by prgrmr ( 568806 ) on Thursday May 13, 2004 @01:34PM (#9141501) Journal
    I'd say awareness of computer technology in Egypt or India is as big or bigger than in countries like Greece or Poland (I confess this is not a very well informed opinion but I'm sure the differences won't be as big as the question implies).

    Actually, yes it is. One of the software vendors with whom my employer does business has a number of programmers who are in Poland. They work on the system during what is overnight here on the east coast, so it has its advantages. Poland is one of the most well advanced of the former "east block" nations.

    Now had he said Romania or Bulgaria instead of Poland, then the delta would indeed have been less.
  • Is everyone in your country so verbose??

    Man... He was writing novels for answers there!

    Good stuff though. Interesting.

  • by imr ( 106517 ) on Thursday May 13, 2004 @05:09PM (#9144194)
    however it doesn't look like Mandrake tests their Arabic support (and unfortunately it seems the Arabic users community is not doing a good job of testing and bug reporting either)

    I would say that this work is community driven and not easy, to the point that translation of the mdk10 finished only recently, and the q&a worked started from then.
    Here is the message from Youcef Rabah Rahal on 2004-04-27 that announce the end of the translation work on cooker-i18n mailling list:


    This is to announce that after 3 months of hard work, we ( [1]) have finally completed [2] the translation of Mandrake to Arabic [3] (100% of the PO files !).

    I have committed all the files to Mandrake's CVS. The status page [4] on Mandrake's site is not updated yet, but I think it will display the correct status in ~24 hours from now :-)

    I would like to thank all the translators who contributed to this achievement, from the Arabeyes team or not.

    The next step is to do Quality Assurance. This is a (long) incremental task that will consist of inspecting all the files, correct and make the translations consistent (as you may know, translation may not be consistent yet due to the fact that many people contributed, and that a great part of the initial translation was done outside the scope).

    Hoping to see a full arabized Mandrake in the next release ;-)


    [2] tml

    You can go and find the rest of the discussion as they talk on how such a process of translation work. Interresting stuff and a difficult and long job.
  • Excelllent Job (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Java Ape ( 528857 ) <> on Thursday May 13, 2004 @05:47PM (#9144662) Homepage
    Kudos to Alaa for a very thought-provoking and interesting interview. I was extremely impressed with his answers, and really enjoyed the sharp but gentle wit he used to show the ignorance/cultural bias iherent in some of the questions.

    I look forward to more interviews with Linux users around the world in the future. What's the point of having global communications and and robust protocols if we never peer out past localhost int the USA?

Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing. -- Wernher von Braun