Practical Technology

for practical people.

Those Dumb South Africans


Those dumb South Africans don’t just get it seems to be Microsoft’s senior director of interoperability’s Jason Matusow message in his blog posting of May 19th.

In this piece, trying to present a case for proprietary software over open-source software because people don’t understand that free software isn’t free as in ‘free beer,’ Matusow does an amazing job of putting his foot in his mouth.

Matusow starts out well enough, “South Africa has taken a most unfortunate position of late – the government has sought to put a political mandate in place for the adoption of open source software. I am against all technology mandates, and this one is no different.” OK, I can agree with the idea that technology mandates aren’t a bright idea.

Then, Matusow moves into Microsoft FUD-land, he makes some rather wonky claims about how Linux, Ubuntu in particular, trap people into an operating system. He states that “There is absolutely no comprehension that the Linux they will deploy on an enterprise scale will be completely locked down by commercial services agreements and version controls by the apps vendors (e.g. SAP).” Excuse me, the last I knew Linux wasn’t locked down by any ISV (independent software vendor). If you want to talk about ‘lock-down,’ then you want to talk about Microsoft. But, OK, this is still from the Microsoft FUD playbook. He hopes to get people thinking that open-source an proprietary software are essentially the same thing. Dumb, to people who know better, but then he’s not talking to us.

It’s here though that Matusow takes a real turn into… well I’m not sure what to call it. He claims that, “ Deep dev of the core OS is not likely to happen in South Africa today on any large scale. Students at the university still grappling with coding skills are not going to dive into the inner-working of Linux.”


I thought at the very least that the University of Cape Town, founded back in 1829, was a world-class university.

Besides, the last I knew coding genius can appear anywhere and does. Come to think of it, doesn’t Linux spring from the mind of Linus Torvalds from Finland? GNOME and Mono from Miguel de Icaza of Mexico?

None-the-less, it seems Matusow is convinced that “The developing world still views OSS as ‘free as in no money,;” and … “I heard this same point of view for 5 years all over Asia, parts of Europe, and Latin America.” So, I guess it’s not just South Africans, but a lot of people, all those non-English-speaking foreigners, who aren’t capable of understanding open source.
And, Microsoft wonders why so many counties really are ‘anti-Microsoft!’

Over the years I spoken to lots of people who both do understand and don’t understand open source. In my experience, you’ll find both kinds of people everywhere. There’s only one place I can think of where people really are more likely not to understand open source. It’s the campus of a software company named Microsoft in Redmond, Washington.