.:: Maznan's Weekly Article ::.

:: Opensource in Malaysia :: 13th. August 2004

Yes, you might say to me "hey what's the heck is this column should be, weekly or YEARLY?". Yeah, yeah, whatever. Time is not on my side. I do plan to write something, but very hard to stick to the plan :P

Well, this time around, I want to talk about Opensource in Malaysia. Yes, you might read all sort of comments, opinions and musing about this elsewhere. But, this is my personal perspective and feeling about OSS (that is opensource software).

I got my first taste of OSS back in my university day in 1993. At that time, our Uni labs were equipped with Macs, PCs, Mainframe's dumb (those with green fonts) terminals , Novell Netware workstation, and some other Network OS terminals. Yes, for a Uni Lab, we have got pretty good facility. To add to the 'lucrative' facility, we also have a CRAY Y-MP-EL supercomputer and powerful Sillicon Graphics workstation for parallel computing and advanced graphics research. Sadly, average computer science students can't get hold on those machines.

We the students did not have a clue on how that all monsterous machines can benefit us!. Let alone the research projects that were carried out in the labs. That's because, we were not given permission to use the wonderful facility if we are not in the research group. So, what is left is just a normal 386 PCs for us to mingle around. Luckily, there was a lab exclusively for 'senior' students. We can do whatever we like with the PCs.

Then I was introduced by a friend to test few bunch of diskettes that label as "Slackware", a1,a2,a3.....n. He said, he already test it out, it is an OS that runs on x386 machine (normal IBM PC). But he was stuck at some level during the configuration of the system.

At first, I just find it weird. An OS in diskettes?, you got to be kidding. "Use your brain!" ahh, that words came aloud in my mind - reminds me of my dear lecturer. Then, I started to "boot" the first diskette and continue reading the instruction and configuration in "text base" format.

After a while, the OS did installed in the PC's hard disk, but configuration is not properly done yet. We managed to get the "Log on" screen, and successfully log-on, which made us smile like having found a lost treasure. The day after, my friend and I continue to mingle with the Slackware and find out that it has similar commands as UNIX, except that we don't know what to do with it - having little knowledge of UNIX had limits our adventure.

But nowadays, Linux has all sorts of applications and software that is very useful and handy for every needs. I use Linux for my daily computing needs, web server, proxy server, development server and way to isolate myself from evil attacks of viruses and malicous codes that infected Windows OSes.

In Malaysia, I think Opensource is still not widely known or being used. I used to be a committee member in forming up a Malaysian Linux User Group (My-Linux) in 1996 with fellow Linux enthusiast in Malaysia at that time. The User group's main objective is to spread the word of Linux and OSS to general malaysian. We had conducted several "Malaysia Linux Install Fest (My-LIFe)" and demonstration to Malaysian public around KL, and the responds were very good. They were visitors who brought their PCs, latops for us to "convert" them to Linux. I love the atmosphere during the event. Everybody is working together, spread the words, help people with their problems and all the volunteers spends their time without asking for a pay!. Those are times where I will hardly forget.

As of today, I am no longer involved in such activities which I believe should not be stop. I love to see younger Linux (OSS) enthusiast to continue conducting this sort of events to mass public. Let them know about OSS, show them the power of OSS, conduct seminars, hacking session (ethical), demos, etc. to instill the knowledge of OSS.

I strongly believe that, OSS can live up Malaysian to become as good as what other citizen in European and West countries manage to do. We have MSC, but who is actually getting benefit of MSC?. Don't wait until your time is over, learn OSS you will never regret!.

Maznan Deraman

27.08.2003: Is it necessary to Upgrade?

This article is about a situation where an IT manager or administrator need to evaluate the system that he/she managed.

ICT system (software,hardware,network,application) evolves as the need and demand for new functionality increases. Then it will lead to the need for changes in system architecture, infrastructure, application system, etc. Someteimes, a system can accept new configuration to handle new task. This is normally true for application system, but for operating systems (OS), networking and other physical hardwares, it is not always an easy case. At times it is better for us to upgrade (or change) the system to address new tasks.

As an example, we can use the following table to study the measurement:

|---------------------------------++++ .....
|factors       /                  |
|             /     measurement   | { your measurement indicator(s) }
|---------------------------------++++ .....
|1) Benefits
|2) Cost
|3) Duration
|4) Fallback Plan
|5) Available Options/Solutions
|6) Demo/Trial Product
|7) Pre&Post evaluation
|8) Managebility (human & system)
|9) Training

Form a team of people in your organisation to help you evaluate your measurement. It is best to have representatives from technical, end-users and management to ensure unbias decision. Put the decision for the best interest of the organisation long term operation, not to solve "one time" problem. If its cost too much, break the implementation into phases. Don't forget to get feedback from users and system administrators once the implementation took place. This will help you to monitor the success of the implementation and also fresh input for future upgrade.

If cost again become a big issue, why don't give a try for altenative solutions. For software system (OS & applications), you can use lots of freely available "Open Source Software" (OSS). We should not underestimate their capabilities as these softwares sometimes surpassed our basic needs.

As a conclusion, don't rigid yourself to a solution, explore further. If you spend more time to search for information, study them thoroughly, get opinions from people and vendors to help you in making a right decision. Along the way, you will learn new things and enhance your decision making skill. After all, it is our job anyway!.

Maznan Deraman.