Argentina: My First PC Program and its Detractors

The Argentine government has relaunched its federal program MiPC [My First Personal Computer], or as Mariano Amartino refers to it (ES), MiPC Reloaded. The original incarnation of the program, which hoped to narrow the digital divide by distributing affordable computers nationwide, debuted last April where it was met with severe criticism (ES) by the blogging community due to the government's exclusive relationship with Intel and Microsoft. Longtime readers of Global Voices will remember that an almost identical situation took place in Chile, spawning the grassroots “My First PC, But For Real” campaign by Chilean bloggers.

This time around, however, Amartino says the program offers consumers more choices:

Los equipos pueden ser con procesadores AMD o con Intel; y con la opción de usar Windows Starter o Linux de Pixart… y con financiación de varios bancos. Esta vez, el plan, es un poco mejor y evita algunas críticas al primer plan Mi PC.. al menos es abierto en cuanto a Procesadores y OS (me dejaron jugar con Windows Starter y es realmente un desastre) y, los precios, que en efectivo son altos, cuando los mirás en forma de cuotas son accesibles y eso es lo importante.

The computers can include AMD or Intel processors; and have the option of using Windows Starter or Pixart Linux. Several banks are offering financing. This time, the plan is a little better and avoids some of the criticisms of the first MiPC plan … at least it's open as far as processors and operating systems go (they let to me play with Starter Windows and it is really a disaster) and, the prices, which in cash are high, are accessible with financing and that's what is important.

Pablo M. Beca also sees the second version of the program as an improvement over the first:

Según las primeras noticias, este año vuelve nuevamente el programa MiPC, y esta vez con buenas noticias: se suman AMD y Linux. Supongo que habrán decidido incluírlos después de las numerosas críticas, muchas desde la comunidad open source que se hiceron escuchar. Microsoft e Intel habrán hecho una buena tajada el año pasado, ya que fueron muchísimos los adeptos a este programa. Aparte de la cantidad de publicidad estatal que tuvieron “gratis”, porqué la campaña lanzada por el gobierno fué contundente, y en todos los avisos aparecián los nombres de Intel y Microsoft. Creo que gracias a los procesadores AMD y Linux los costos de los equipos se reducirán considerablemente, siendo mucho más accesibles para más gente. Muchos podrán tener su primera compu y otros tantos podrían actualizar sus plataformas.

According to the first stories, the MiPC program returns this year, and, this time around, with good news: AMD and Linux will join. I suppose that they had decided to include them after the numerous criticisms, many from the open source community that made themselves heard. Microsoft and Intel will have made a good profit over the past year, since the program had many followers. And that's in addition to the amount of state publicity that they had “free”, because the campaign by the government was convincing, and the names Intel and Microsoft appeared in all of the announcements. I think that, thanks to the AMD processors and Linux, the costs of the equipment will be reduced considerably, thus more accessible for more people. Many could have their first computer and others could upgrade their platforms.

Luciano Kay from Santa Fe, Argentina is more conservative about the initial success of MiPC and the role the government played:

En el 2005 este programa se puso en marcha, computadoras se vendieron, aunque lo que no he visto fueron los Centros de Acceso y Entrenamiento públicos. De acuerdo a lo publicado por Carrier y Asoc. en su edición del 26 de mayo de su lista de correos, el plan Mi PC vendió aproximadamente unas 100 mil máquinas, mucho menos que las grandes cifras oficiales planteadas inicialmente. Lo interesante es que, más allá de la cantidad de PC vendidas, sólo alrededor de un 30% de ellas se vendieron con financiamiento del Estado, quedando en evidencia -continúa el análisis de Carrier y Asoc.- que el rol del Estado no es en absoluto definitorio para el éxito del plan (lean el comentario completo en la lista que está bueno).

In 2005 [MiPC] started up, computers were sold, although what I never saw were the Public Centers of Access and Training. According to the email published by Carrier and Associates in the May 26 edition of their mailing list, the MiPC plan sold approximately 100,000 machines, far fewer than the great official numbers initially forecasted. What's interesting is that, beyond the amount of PC's sold, only around a 30% of them were purchased with State financing, providing evidence – according to the analysis of Carrier and Asoc. – that the role of the State is not absolutely definitive for the success of the plan (read the complete commentary on the mailing list, which is good).

Other bloggers criticize the technical aspects of both the Windows and Linux models. Fabio, for example, claims that:

Pixar Linux no es linux. Parafraseando a los linuxeros, esta distribución no sólo le falla a la GPL (ilegal) si no que es un desastre y ni siquiera se molestan en comentar que paquetes utilizan o en que se basan, le mienten al usuario, algo inaceptable para una distro de linux que, aunque se venda, no tiene porqué hacer esto.

Pixar Linux is not Linux. Paraphrasing the Linux experts, this distribution doesn't just violate the GPL [General Public License] (illegal), but is a disaster and they don't even bother to mention which software packages they use or what it is based on. They lie to the user, something unacceptable for a distribution of linux which, although it is sold, doesn't have to do this.

Javier Salinas is just as critical of “Windows Starter,” a special distribution of the famous operating system which, according to Microsoft, “is designed to offer an affordable and easy-to-use entry point to the Windows family of products that is tailored to local markets, in local languages, and is compatible with a wide range of Windows-based applications and devices.”

El Starter realmenta apesta. Está tan tocado que hasta parece un milagro que eso “funcione”. No solo te rompe la paciencia lo de las tres aplicaciones simultáneas, sino que además hay cosas que son imposibles. Me cayó una notebook con St.Ed. y le tenía que armar un tunel ssh para conectar a un mysql remoto. Imposible. El túnel se hacía, el puerto remoto era alcanzable, pero la aplicación no accedía a la bdd.

Windows Starter really stinks. It's so bad that it seems like a miracle that it even “functions.” It doesn't just break your patience; there are also things that are impossible. A laptop with Starter edition fell into my hands and I had to make an ssh tunnel to connect to a remote MySQL database. Impossible. The tunnel was done, the remote connection was reachable, but the application wouldn't access the database.

4 comments

  • David, thank you for your excellent review of the MiPC project, its ups and downs, and its implications for both business and development. My blog disabled trackbacks (too much spam), so I thought I’d let you know via comment that I blogged about your post here:

    http://www.nextbillion.net/blogs/2006/07/19/pcs-for-the-bop-globalvoices-reviews-mipc

    Thanks again – keep up the good work.

    Rob Katz
    NextBillion.net

  • In Chile, unfortunately, the government did not support my first PC. They think they will reach other “solution”. That means we don’t even have the concern in the government agenda.

  • Pasale un corrector porque tenés varios errores en Inglés. O tal vez, mejor, escribí en Castellano que se nota que es tu lengua madre. Saludos.

  • Marcela

    Perdon pero yo no creo que Pixart linux sea un desastre , en Argentina no existe otra empresa delinux que tenga tantos desarrollos como ellos , mi pregunta es que pondrian en las maquinas si no fuera ese linux ….( para mi la distribucion no solo es muy buena sino que vamos a decir la verdad supera con creces a muchas distros extrangeras
    en mi humilde opinion nunca se va a conformar a nadie es facil criticar…
    saludos

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