A few months ago, we wrote a story about the newly formed Iraqi Linux Users Group, ILUG (http://www.iraqilug.org). Their goals were as far reaching as their spirit and optimism were high. After months of war and strife within their country, how has this band of open source warriors fared? We caught up with two of the members, Bassam Hassan and Ashraf Hasson, to talk to them about the current state of affairs in the country, what they've experienced in the past year, and what they're looking to do and need in order to move on.
Bassam: Again, this will vary but considering that most IT personnel, even the most highly trained ones, prefer to work in user friendly environments, I can say that Mandrake Linux seems to be the distribution of choice because itís easy to install and configure, and is also itís reliable.
Ashraf: This is not something that can really be answered, but we always offer either Mandrake Move or Knoppix Live CDs when demonstrating what Linux can do. Many come back asking for Mandrake Linux and Red Hat, too.
8) How many regular members do you now have in your LUG, both local and international?
Bassam: Inside Iraq there are 3 founders and outside Iraq there are 4 founders. There are about 10 active members inside Iraq and many members in our mailing list and discussion forum. However, internationally, there are many regular members of our group.
9) What are your biggest needs at this time?
Bassam: Our group currently requires a formal training from one of the Linux distributors or Open Source companies. Most of the active members inside Iraq are just a bunch of hobbyists and technology enthusiasts, all self-taught (and self-motivated!). Even though some of us have certificates in networking in addition to our Bachelors or Masters degrees, we all share the same problem of lacking formal Linux certification from one of the major Linux players in the market. We need such certificates to corroborate our technical position and to provide us with an official identity which will facilitate the mutual communication with our peers in the prospective IT companies.
10) Who have been the main helpers and contributors in and to the LUG?
Bassam: First, itís Nabil and Hakeem who founded this group and tirelessly maintain our website and mailing list. Inside Iraq, we have some people from the US army who assisted us in taking our initial steps in forming the group. Mr. Ashraf T. who is the president of the IOSO (Iraqi Open Source Organization) and a founder of the group worked day and night to establish our group and to provide support for us from both local and international NGOs. Without him, I donít think that we would reach this far, really.
11) If there are any other messages you would like to give our audience, feel free to share them with us.
Ashraf: We are still new and don't have that much experience in Linux yet. Please visit us at our site, http://www.iraqilug.org. We still need some help in many issues and could use yours.
Bassam: I just want to say one thing:
Iraq was and still is a wounded country. It suffered from dictatorship and monopolistic technological stagnation for years, especially when I perceived the enormous advantages of free market.
Our organization exists to ensure that there will no longer be a technology monopoly in Iraq. We are determined on establishing a strong, firm, and consistent IT business based on open source technologies, namely Linux. It will take time, it will take dedication but all of us hold a profound sense of personal responsibility. Thatís why we have survived so far. However, we are totally aware that we canít do it alone and thatís why we seek your contribution.
If you would like to find out more about the Iraqi Linux Users Group, or would like to help by way of donation of money and resources, please visit http://www.iraqilug.org to find out more.
Dev Shed would like to thank Ashraf and Bassam for taking the time to speak with us and we wish them all the best.