HAVANA Feb 11 Cuba launched its own variant of
the Linux computer operating system this week in the latest
front of the communist island's battle against what it views as
The Cuban variant, called Nova, was introduced at a Havana
computer conference on "technological sovereignty" and is
central to the Cuban government's desire to replace the
Microsoft software running most of the island's computers.
The government views the use of Microsoft systems,
developed by U.S.-based Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O), as a potential
threat because it says U.S. security agencies have access to
Also, the long-standing U.S. trade embargo against the
island makes it difficult for Cubans to get Microsoft software
legally and to update it.
"Getting greater control over the informatic process is an
important issue," said Communications Minister Ramiro Valdes,
who heads a commission pushing Cuba's migration to free
Cuba, which is 90 miles (144 km) from Florida, has been
resisting U.S. domination in one form or another since Fidel
Castro took over Cuba in a 1959 revolution.
Younger brother Raul Castro replaced the ailing 82-year-old
leader last year, but the U.S.-Cuba conflict goes on, now in
the world of software.
According to Hector Rodriguez, dean of the School of Free
Software at Cuba's University of Information Sciences, about 20
percent of computers in Cuba, where computer sales to the
public began only last year, are currently using Linux.
Nova is Cuba's own configuration of Linux and bundles
various applications of the operating system.
Rodriguez said several government ministries and the Cuban
university system have made the switch to Linux but there has
been resistance from government companies concerned about its
compatibility with their specialized applications.
"I would like to think that in five years our country will
have more than 50 percent migrated (to Linux)," he said.
Unlike Microsoft, Linux is free and has open access that
allows users to modify its code to fit their needs.
"Private software can have black holes and malicious codes
that one doesn't know about," Rodriguez said. "That doesn't
happen with free software."
Apart from security concerns, free software better suits
Cuba's world view, he said.
"The free software movement is closer to the ideology of
the Cuban people, above all for the independence and
(Editing by Jeff Franks and Bill Trott)