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  • Egor Grebnev 10:00 am on June 30, 2008 Permalink | Reply  

    The Russian schools Linux pilot goes nationwide 

    The pilot project to migrate schools of three Russian regions to Free Software has recently expanded its geography. Now it is possible for the schools outside of Tatarstan, Perm krai and Tomsk region to voluntarily apply for participation by completing a special form (Russian) published on the project website.

    The project, if successful, may be the first step towards large-scale migration of Russian secondary education instutitions and, consequently, of the other state agencies to Free Software as President Medvedev stated last year (Russian) while being the First Deputy Prime Minister.

    Children in the Putino village of Perm Krai running Linux

    Children in the Putino village of Perm Krai running Linux

    It is a hot summer for the project contractors since the schools must be migrated before September 1, when the new academic year starts. By now, according to the official website of Armada, the consortium that unites the firms involved in the project, the project is slightly ahead of schedule. Moreover, Armada’s CEO Igor Gorbatov expects (Russian) the total number of schools migrated to Free Software to surpass the target number of 1000 (the goal is to migrate 50% schools in the central cities and 20% in the rest of the three regions) so that there may be 2000 or even 5000 schools.

    According to project statistics (Russian, but the numbers are quite self-explanatory) published by Armada on June 4, only 182 schools of 1084 had been migrated. However, the project members are actively promoting Free Software, the most notable activity being the on-site install seminars that are organized almost every week in various towns and villages of Perm Krai.

    Technorati Tags: Russia, schools, migration, Armada, free software, Medvedev, Perm, Tatarstan, Tomsk, open source

    • exelens 5:07 am on July 1, 2008 Permalink

      Yes! We migrate to Linux in schools. But our distros is really sux.

      We have 2 distros
      1 alt linux. Distr don’t have Russian support in console =( All messages on English. Its not a fanny, Russian Linux with minimal russification.
      2 asp Linux. Distr is a copy Fedora 9 =))

      Many peoples in Russia prefer Ubuntu or Mandriva.
      I prefer Ubuntu =) and write blog about Ubuntu on Russian.

    • Egor Grebnev 3:51 pm on July 1, 2008 Permalink

      Well, as far as I remember, the necessity of translation in console has been a point of discussion. Although ALT Linux had better made at least an option to enable it, I agree.

      But the question that the government is trying to solve is not which distribution to choose (things would have been far too simple this way) but rather who will provide the necessary technical support, educational resources for teachers and kids and who will make all the models of hardware that are deployed in schools Linux-compatible.

    • Jocke 3:18 pm on July 3, 2008 Permalink

      Why dont you use Solaris instead? Solaris is an Enterprise operating System Unix that has long drifted systems in Wall Street, etc. Very very reliable. Not like Linux which is not that good. See yourself, one of the Linux kernel developers states that Linux kernel is buggy:

      Solaris has better performance and is more stable than Linux:

      Download and try Solaris for free from

    • Egor Grebnev 6:05 pm on July 3, 2008 Permalink

      As far as I know, there were about five firms that placed bids for the schools project, but none of them offered Solaris.

    • Randy Fisher 1:49 am on July 5, 2008 Permalink

      This is great news.

      An important benefit of using Open Office is the ability to save / export content in mediawiki format, so that it can be saved to a wiki.

      I am involved with WikiEducator, a fast-growing community of formal and informal educators – developing a free and open version of the world’s education curriculum by 2015 (in line with the UN’s Millennium Development Goals). WikiEd is connected to the Wikimedia Foundation, and uses its technology engine. http://www.wikieducator.org

      This development is important to us, because as Open Office and FOSS solutions become more pervasive, then educators can more easily develop open educational content, which they can use, share and remix – and further add value for local purposes.

      We offer free wiki skills training to any educator, and really anyone who is interested in learning this valuable life-skill. Please visit: http://www.wikieducator.org/Learning4Content

      – Randy Fisher aka wikirandy

    • Egor Grebnev 1:06 pm on July 5, 2008 Permalink


      Thanks for your message. I am not directly involved in the project at the moment, and changing its development is out of my power. However, I agree that migration to Free Software must involve not only hardware and software migration, but also development of new skills and new educational approaches, which is far more difficult.

      We must admit that nobody is still fully aware how we should use modern computing in education, and I think that the school eduction of the future is currently being forged in the project like yours. Hopefully, the need to focus on educational issues will later be acknowledged by the Russian authorities, and then we may become not only a pioneer in FOSS migration, but also in revealing of FOSS capabilities to their full extent.

    • ubuntu33 2:57 am on July 7, 2008 Permalink


      Yes.. I agree..i think Ubuntu is better and much easier for new users..

      Maybe you can bring a ubuntu-cd to school and show your teachers?

  • Egor Grebnev 8:59 am on April 24, 2008 Permalink | Reply  

    Open Source Government: Several notes on the Russian Free Software Development Concept 

    Russian Ministry on Information Technology and Communications published recently a document entitled Concept of development and usage of Free Software in the Russian Federation (Russian). It is a 29-page text, which is by far the most detailed roadmap of government involvement in Free Software. The legal status of this document is not very strong: in the recent Russian governmental tradition a ‘concept’ is a kind of a detailed policy declaration, which may not be fully observed or may even be rejected or forgotten after a short period of time. However, it may serve as groundwork for future projects and more specific policy measures. Thus, even though a concept document does not create anything by itself, its availability is necessary for creation of good things.

    Russian DevelopmentRussian Development by mosdave

    The concept contains a detailed list of the proposed projects divided into three groups: legal, infrastructure and R&D and is scheduled up until 2010.

    The first positive thing about the document is that operates the term Free Software (Russian is one of the languages where you cannot confuse ‘free beer’ with ‘free speech’).

    The concept aims to strengthen the local software development industry and increase involvement of Russian programmers in development of software for government and municipal needs. The latter aim may be viewed as an acknowledgement of the fact that there are not enough Russian developers building software for the local needs and that the government demand is higher than supply.

    The primary directions of government involvement are: improvement of the legal framework, help in creation of the market infrastructure, R&D projects and wide-scale training.

    The legal block

    Russia is one of the countries where the American FLOSS licenses do not always look applicable. The particular problems targeted by the concept are:

    • the ‘written form’ of the copyright agreement required by the Russian Civil Code (there is a special exception for software, but the status of Free Software documentation remains unclear)
    • applicability of foreign law and court jurisdiction in international lawsuits
    • individual applicability of FOSS licenses
    • copyright management in government software-related contracts (both the state as a customer and the executor of a state contract must have sufficient rights)

    Development infrastructure

    This might be the most surprising and contradictory part of the document. The government plans to build a reference package building environment, a unified software repository for different platforms (including operating systems, basic development tools, middleware etc.), tracking of all the software titles used in government and tools for automatic certification of software that corresponds to particular standards.

    This ‘infrastructure’ is viewed as the platform for community participation in development of FOSS for Russian government and a multi-featured tracking and management tool for various kinds of software used throughout the government. The specific infrastructure actions include conduction of government-sponsored development competitions, definition of priority projects, maintaining of an up-to-date list of recommended standards and specifications etc.

    R&D priorities

    The following projects are the top priorities for software development projects:

    1. full-featured office solutions for public sector users
    2. common software packages for educational supplements
    3. software packages for collective Internet access points
    4. software for government services websites
    5. integration platform for e-government
    6. secure solutions for critical deployments
    7. development of service-oriented model of software distribution

    There is much to criticize about the concept. In particular, the whole legal block seems not very important to me, and it is difficult to tell who will do the necessary development for the R&D projects taking the lack of established FOSS vendors in the country into account.

    Nevertheless, FOSS has got very official acknowledgment, the government has set very ambitious targets, and the whole document, its structure and language show that it is built upon the Russian experience and is not a product of bare creativity or a borrowing of other countries’ policies. Hopefully, this progress in policy development will help to grow the local FOSS production, which is by far not as large as the government (and all of us) would wish.

    Technorati Tags: open source government, Russia, Russian Federation, free software, FOSS vendors

  • Egor Grebnev 8:24 am on April 3, 2008 Permalink | Reply  

    Open Source Education: Progress of Free Software in Russian Schools 

    Not much has been heard after a loud announcement last autumn that Russia is going to migrate its secondary education to a Free Software operating system developed locally. There have been many announcements of this kind in past, and only few of them eventually led to some worthwhile results. For example, China’s Jiangsu deployment of Linux in secondary education was deemed to be the largest in history, but the feedback gained from it was so poor (only few messages were posted in the online forum that was taken down eventually) that there is almost no doubt as to the outcome of this project. It could have played its role, however, in trading China’s deal with Microsoft that now allows students in China to legally buy Windows+Office bundles for only $3.

    And what about Russia? Maybe the school project is just another example of someone’s ungrounded ambitions and poorly made estimates? It may be too early to say for sure, but there is already some evidence that the project will not remain unfruitful.First of all, first deliverables have already become available. Openly and publicly (Russian). Among others, you are able to download the specially tailored Linux distributions, including a version tailored for older PCs with 128-256 MB of RAM and P-233-class CPUs and a Terminal Server edition that allows to use older PCs as thin terminals provided a decent server is available in the classroom.Secondly, the information is now coming from more than one source, which indicates that the regional participants of the project have both freedom and willingness to act (Perm, Tomsk, Moscow, all in Russian). The most curious is the website of the Perm region, where a map of the integration progress is available. The numbers in black correspond to the total amount of schools (first number is for city/town schools, second is for rural schools), the numbers in red correspond to the schools where Free Software is already being used.

    And what do the teachers say? The forum threads devoted to FOSS usage in schools are numerous, and are thus hard to summarize. Those of the teachers who are FOSS proponents are enthusiastic, and they try to reaffirm their position by pointing to the work that is being done by the Armada consortium and ALT Linux in particular as its most visible participant. The attitude of their colleagues varies from reserved support to skepticism, which sometimes comes from their inability to make computer peripherals work properly under Linux, and sometimes from the belief that the Microsoft monopoly is unbreakable.

    Are these skeptics wrong? We will see by the end of 2008.

    Technorati Tags: open source education, ALT Linux, Armada Consortium

  • Egor Grebnev 9:41 pm on March 12, 2008 Permalink | Reply  

    Open Source Market: FOSS getting hot in Russia 

    Recent interest towards FOSS from the Russian government has boosted commercial activity in this field. No longer than a year ago there was no single large company that would say it is capable of doing FOSS system integration projects. Now there are three, and the number will probably grow.

    Nobody is particularly sure about how to do business with FOSS, but it is already evident that it can be done somehow. That is why the larger ones are jumping on the bandwagon simply not to be late.

    First to come was Armada (Russian), a holding which is better known for its sibling company named RBС (Russian). It succeeded to unite in Fall 2007 the majority of the local Linux vendors, namely ALT Linux, Linux-Online (Russian), Linux Ink (Russian) and VNIINS (the latter specializes on producing operating systems for the military needs) in its bid on the project of the Ministry of Education that, if successful, could become the largest migration to FOSS in world’s secondary education.

    Another participant in the same tender was a company named Korus Consulting. Although large, it has never done FOSS projects before, so its move looks to be grounded on a pure business decision. Korus’ bid was remarkable as the company was willing to do the project for 5 mln roubles only (while the official budget limit of the project and the sum concluded with RBC was 60 mln). This striking difference does not mean that Korus has found a way to cut the costs down tenfold — they announced that they viewed this project as an investment and were willing to do it with their own costs. Nevertheless, they lost to RBC. A week ago Korus announced (Russian) that it will be shipping a localized version of Asus EeePC. However, there is little original software there: the OS is a modified version of Xandros.

    Finally, a recent visit of RedHat’s Jim Whitehurst last week was concluded with an OEM partnership agreement (Russian) between RedHat, IBM, Austrian VDEL and a large Russian IT company AiTi to supply Linux-based computers to Russian government. As far as I understand the layout, RedHat is going to supply software, IBM will provide its Lotus Symphony, VDEL will make hardware, and AiTi will be concluding deals and doing the system integration part.

    The first company is clearly trying to build its strategy on the locally available resources. As the company has not done FOSS business before, it looks like it is going to submerge the smaller Linux developers. The strategy of the second remains somewhat unclear: a modified Xandros may be a nice start, but if they are going to attract government’s attention, they need to become or partner with a more solid and reliable software supplier. Finally, AiTi is playing as a mediator of the Western companies with most of the hardware and software built outside of Russia.

    It’s getting interesting to follow the development of the events. Which strategy will be the most effective? Will there be new players, and if so, how will they differentiate their offer? Will the Russian FOSS developers be able to produce commercially-driven world-class FOSS software or will it be imported from other countries instead?

    Even though it is now unclear what the Russian FOSS will be, I think that some two years will be sufficient for it to take a definite shape. We’ll see.

    Technorati Tags: Russia, FOSS, market, AiTi, IBM, RedHat, VDEL, Korus Consulting, Armada, ALT Linux, Linux Ink, Linux Online, VNIINS, schools, government

    • Andrey 7:56 am on March 15, 2008 Permalink

      “Recent interest towards FOSS from the Russian government has boosted commercial activity in this field. No longer than a year ago there was no single large company that would say it is capable of doing FOSS system integration projects.”

      This is not exactly true. At least 2 companies, the ALTlinux and ASPLinux (www.altlinux.ru, http://www.asplinux.ru), both authoring their own Linux distributions, are routinely doing “FOSS system integration projects” nation wide.

      I cannot call the effect of the government interest to FOSS a “boost”, it is more like what normally happens in Russia when “government” meets “money”.

      “Nobody is particularly sure about how to do business with FOSS, but it is already evident that it can be done somehow” is also not exactly true. Both the above mentioned companies are in business for long time and, evidently, are profitable. And they are not alone. LinuxCenter (www.linuxcenter.ru) is more like an online Linux store. It is in business happily for many years and now collects preorders for EeePC with Mandriva Linux 2008 Powerpack, also nation wide.

    • Kiran 10:26 am on March 15, 2008 Permalink

      Nice to hear about FOSS. It would be nice if they represent my Open Source Project too. Traffic Squeezer – An Open Source WAN Network Traffic Acceleration Solution.


    • Egor Grebnev 5:57 pm on March 18, 2008 Permalink


      I am a proud member of ALT Linux (for 5+ years), and I think that I understand what you mean. Both ALT Linux and ASP have proven to be sustainable, but they have not solved one problem yet — it is that of the size and reliability. Both companies remain small businesses, and large companies and government agencies (which bring most of the money on the market) seldom trust the small ones.

      If the FOSS wants to flourish in Russia — it will have to grow in size. There might be several different ways to handle this growth, and I really wish that the Russian FOSS developers find the right one. I know the ALT Linux Team well enough, and taking their optimism and dedication into account, I have all the reasons to count on them to surpass this transition period.

      However, the situation is very rough now, and we can hardly tell what ALT Linux or ASP Linux will be in three years.

    • Egor Grebnev 6:28 pm on March 18, 2008 Permalink


      Would you please clarify whom you would like to inform about your project? I am currently unable to understand how I can help…

  • Egor Grebnev 8:31 am on March 6, 2008 Permalink | Reply  

    Free Software and Communism 

    Today Richard Stallman was giving the last in the series of his three public lectures in Moscow. It was about Free Software and Copyright.

    I had a small conversation with him before the talk and asked him why he hadn’t come to Russia since his last visit in 1991. The answer was simple: he didn’t get any invitation. This can be a hint for the people in the countries where Richard has not been yet — if you organize the visit properly and send Richard an invitation, chances are very high that he will come.

    InvitationInvitation by sarahkim

    He liked today’s Russia more than the one he had seen 15 years ago. Even though his time was very limited, it was sufficient to find out that Russian food (including pancakes and solyanka soup) is good and that people are now paying more interest to Free Software than before.

    Richard has a theory for that. In his view, the post-communist countries get warmer to Free Software as they move away from the ideology where freedom is restricted. The younger of us, whose personalities were mostly formed after 1991, are more receptive to the idea of contributing to the benefit of the public. Therefore there are more Free Software users and developers among us than could have been among our parents. There is a similar situation in China.

    Richard may be right. We were poorly globalized back in the early 1990’s, and that hindered our acceptance of Free Software (along with thousands of other good and bad things that globalization brings with it). To some extent it may remain a problem even now as we often prefer to do things on our own rather than ask for help, which might be readily provided upon request.

    It is not strictly about communism. It is about the science of living in a larger world.

    Technorati Tags: free software, communism, moscow, RichardStallman

  • Egor Grebnev 10:29 am on February 9, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Dimitrovgrad, , Kazan, middle education, Ponosov, Russia, schools, Tomsk   

    Open Source Education: Communities to make migration to FOSS in Russia possible 

    During the yearly conference ‘Free Software in Higher Education’ held by ALT Linux in Pereslavl in Russia last weekend, there were several interesting talks on the migration of schools to Free Software, which made me change previous views on the ways of migration of schools to Free Software.

    It is no secret that teachers in schools all over Russia are now very concerned about the problem of software legalisation as a failure to do so may lead to criminal persecution. The case of Alexander Ponosov boosted the level of awareness dramatically. However, it takes more than fear to be able to move to Free Software after years of experience teaching on top of proprietary software on Windows. If the teachers do not start getting involved in promotion of Free Software, the country may end up paying more for proprietary software than ever while becoming progressively dependent on proprietary products.

    What makes me feel more optimistic is that such positive view on Free Software (not just a refuge from proprietary software, but a better alternative) is now gaining momentum in Russia. And the process is developing on its own without any direct involvement of state or large enterprises.

    On the community level, a dozen of teachers of Computer Literacy in small towns and villages of Tomsk region connect to each other via an irc channel to share experiences and methods of migration to Free Software. They install Free Software packages for Windows, test-drive and migrate to Linux distributions in their own schools and they spread the knowledge in neighboring schools. On the municipal level, a town of Dimitrovgrad sets an example of creation of a municipal educational network for schools built with Free Software. The town also promotes installation of the ALT Linux Junior distribution (which is the most probable platform of the planned country-wide migration) at schools and gathering of feedback.

    Meanwhile, the Republic of Tatarstan is boasting to be the first to come up with the idea of creation of a tailored Linux distribution for educational purposes with localisation for Tatar language (previously unavailable on any platform) — before a similar initiative was launched on the federal level.

    Thus, Free Software in Russian middle education seems to be possible as it has proven to be able to gain support on all levels: federal, regional and municipal/rural. What we need to achieve now is to help the positive examples of Kazan, Dimitrovgrad and Tomsk region replicate in other places. Second, we need to help the representatives of all the three levels get to know each other and cooperate with each other while staying aware about the experience of colleagues in the other regions.

    Technorati Tags: free software, schools, middle education, Russia, Tomsk, Dimitrovgrad, Ponosov, Kazan

  • Egor Grebnev 1:12 pm on January 29, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: cognitive, cuneiform, ocr   

    Open Source OCR: Russian OCR engine to be published as FOSS 

    OCR is one of the few markets that are not fully internationalized yet. An OCR that can decently process Cyrillic texts for now can only come from Russia. And there are no more than two at the moment: ABBYY FineReader and Cognitive Cuneiform.

    Both trace their origins to the late Soviet-era government research projects that were commercialized in the nineties. However, Cuneiform started to lose its position in the consumer market by the end of the decade, then the application saw very little progress since 2000, and now it is generally unknown among end-users. Cognitive, who has by now shifted to systems integration market, has finally decided to open up Cuneiform, make it available as freeware immediately on a dedicated website and publish under an open source license in March, 2008.

    What makes it interesting is that Cuneiform will be the second OCR system to be published as Open Source after years of development inactivity along with Tessaract published by HP in 2005. Thus, the market of Open Source OCR will quite unexpectedly become competitive.

    The most probable idea behind the decisions of both Cognitive and HP is to put to work the unemployed resources so that they start producing at least minimal benefit. It looks like a simple ‘let’s see’ action, and no clear business model seems to be lying behind it.

    But with the recent increase of interest of the Russian authorities in Free Software usage at middle schools, the demand for the liberated Cuneiform could become considerable. However, until the government’s plan to shift all schools to Free Software by 2009 is fulfilled at least partially, it is very difficult to say what this state-supported middle-school FOSS market will look like and what its rules will be. But if it comes to reality, Cognitive has all chances to be a player there by simply having used the available resources in a smart way at the right moment.

    Technorati Tags: oss, ocr, Cognitive, ABBYY, Tessaract, Cuneiform, Russia, schools

    • Roberto Galoppini 10:14 pm on January 29, 2008 Permalink

      Ciao Egor,

      I just search for OCR on ohloh, an open source network – that just went open source – aimed at providing visibility into FOSS development. I think you might sign up and become a contributor, promoting Cognitive as soon as it will be released as open source.

    • Emily 5:05 pm on January 31, 2008 Permalink

      This is excellent news – I have no expertise in the Russian language and have been trying to do research on old propaganda posters in our library. Now I can try some digital translation tools on a few of the pamphelets I have around. Thanks so much for posting this!

    • Egor Grebnev 6:02 pm on January 31, 2008 Permalink


      Glad to know it was helpful for you!

    • Max 11:58 am on July 1, 2008 Permalink

      Very useful information for me. Thank you.

    • kfke 7:00 pm on July 30, 2008 Permalink

      please send me OCR

    • alex 8:39 pm on August 21, 2008 Permalink

      I’m translating a book from Russian to English I want build a tools to do this for me. After having scanned all pages I will run this tool and watch it work it’s magic. This is great info. Thank you.

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