Africa\'s own Linux distribution
UPDATE: Impi ISO available at: ftp://ftp.is.co.za/linux/distributions/impi/impi-1.0.iso
South Africa now has its own variant of Linux called Impi, a Zulu word for describing a a group warriors. The distribution has been developed over a period of two years and now launched by the Impi League.
Ross Addis, technology consultant at MIP Holdings and chairman of the Gauteng Linux User Group says the inspiration for Impi was to provide an integrated, multilingual, professional and innovative open source solution to the local market.
He says the development is in line with the South African government\’s adoption of open source computing in South Africa. The distribution is initially targeted at desktop users although Addis says server components are included along with the release.
\”Impi is a highly stable, virus-free, cost-effective business operating system. It is not about simply releasing a Linux distribution we can call our own; it will also encourage local innovation and spur growth in IT skills, especially in the growing open source segment of the market,\” says Addis.
\”As it is pure open source software, anyone can download it for free, use it, modify it and do with it as they please, as long as they comply with the underlying licensing conditions.\”
Based on the Debian version of Linux, the distribution is available at www.impi.org.za. Addis says plans are in progress to provide a box set of the software in the near future.
The distribution also bundles South African-developed Cubit, an open source financial application. Addis says the current release of Cubit matches the functionality of a proprietary application such as Accpac, but at a far lower price tag.
Impi Linux, mainly based on Debian Linux with components borrowed from Knoppix.
The desktop window manager is GNOME
Impi is also bundled with core business applications, including Mozilla for e-mail and Web browser, and OpenOffice.org, a full office suite (www.openoffice.org) including word processing, spreadsheet and presentation software.
\”Another first for Impi will be its support,\” Addis says. \”This is the first Linux distribution to be released locally with a 24-hour support line. However, in true open source tradition, most other Linux distributions will be supported, not only Impi Linux. Calls will be charged by the minute.\” Addis says the support line is not yet operational but should be up shortly as soon as Telkom allocates the number.
To tailor the operating system further to local requirements, work will begin on including South Africa\’s 10 other official languages, using translations carried out by the Translate.org.za project, which is sponsored by the Shuttleworth Foundation.
\”To date, all the work done on customising the distribution and all the money spent has remained within the borders of South Africa,\” states Addis. \”We intend to follow this pattern with all future development and to initiate skills transfer programmes to raise local technical capabilities. Our goal will also be to assist in educating local corporations on what Linux is and the real benefits of open source software – as opposed to the FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) being spread by proprietary software vendors.
\”The development and release of Impi proves we have the ability to stand our ground when it comes to IT and we certainly don\’t have to play second fiddle to anyone else.\”
A number of people and companies have thrown their weight behind the project: Francis Viviers was the primary creator of Impi; and Cubit, MIP Holdings and Internet Solutions have been instrumental in providing resources and infrastructure.
The Impi League is a group of individuals, companies, LUGS and associations who have interests in getting South Africa its first Linux distribution as well as nurturing the widespread adoption of open source software in Africa.