Penguin spotted in Limpopo

By   |  October 1, 2003

Penguins generally prefer cold, wet climes. That’s why we were so surprised to find the Penguin inhabiting the HP i-Community in Mogalakwena, deep in the Limpopo province.

The HP i-Community was founded a little over a year ago by President Thabo Mbeki and HP CEO Carly Fiorina, at an exclusive event at the World Summit for Sustainable Development held in Johannesburg.

HP was sponsoring the IT infrastructure for the Summit, and quite simply had a glut of up-and-running PCs and servers once the Summit was over. Working with local and national government, HP identified Mogalakwena as meeting the criteria for an HP i-Community – one of only four in the world, and the second to India to be beyond US borders.

At the time of the announcement, President Mbeki promised to visit the centre in a year’s time. Techtonic was fortunate enough to slip into the President’s entourage, and viewed the centre with him.

The centre consists of numerous divisions, including classrooms, two business centres – one of which is mobile, a HP Cooltown where concept technology is displayed and tested, a cultural centre where technology is used to preserve local culture, a call centre, and more.

And many of the machines are running Linux.

Open source in action
Supplied by Obsidian, the most impressive Linux roll-out is the call centre, which runs on PHP Helpdesk. According to Obsidian MD Muggie van Staden, who was on-site to greet the President at the call centre, Obsidian has deployed 20 Linux servers and numerous desktops using KDE and OpenOffice. The servers are using Redhat 9, and the desktops have Redhat 8 installed.

\”For me, this is one of the best cases of open source in action,\” says Van Staden. \”Only two technicians were required over one weekend to deploy all of the servers. I think it’s a milestone for the whole country.\”

Any misconceptions that government doesn’t understand the value of open source are quashed by Van Staden. \”The people that I spoke to are excited that it’s open source. They know the power of it,\” he says.

The use of Linux on the desktop goes a long way to prove that Linux is in fact ready for the desktop, says Van Staden. \”In my opinion, Linux is now ready for the desktop. Redhat 9 with OpenOffice 1.1 is mind-blowing. For the typical desktop user, it’s ready. Users requiring custom applications might still have problems however.\” Customised software provided by Obsidian for the project is on the cards.

The project will certainly help the Linux cause in the region, with the 856 students that passed through the centre in July now having all been exposed to open source software. And since the centre is designed to be a proving-ground for similar projects across the continent, the Penguin could ride on the back of HP’s i-Communities into even warmer climes.

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