175,000 USB keys: the good news and the bad news

Posted in Mandriva, English, Products at 6:02 pm by François Bancilhon

175,000 is a large number. It’s what you get when you add 130,000, the number of all high school fifth graders (seconde) to 45,000, the number of first year apprentices in Ile de France (the Paris region).
The “conseil général d’Ile de France”, i.e., the body that runs the Paris Region (10 million people) has decided to award a nice present to all of them: they will all receive a USB key with a bunch of open source applications. The news were officially announced …. The budget for the operation, i.e., what it will cost the tax payer is 2.6M€ ($3.38M). The official bid is not out yet, but we know enough to understand what the story is.

It’s a USB key, with a set of open source apps, that operates as a mobile desktop. This means you stick the key into a computer anywhere, you run OpenOffice from the key without actually installing it on the machine, you work on your files, you remove the key and you take the file with you to the next computer you will use. If you’re a student, you work at school in the lab, then you go back home or to a friend’s house or to the library and you keep working with the same environment on your data.

So this is good news: the region is investing in open source. It is doing something usefull for the kids.
The bad news is it all runs on Windows.
This was a great opportunity to get Linux in everybody’s hand. If you look at the problem the other way around: given 2.6M€ to spend, what should you do with it? they had the opportunity to issue bootable USB keys just like the Mandriva Flash, that was the perfect mobile desktop, the perfect opportunity to give a 3D desktop to every kid.

I hear the arguments, I’ve heard them already: “we should move people slowly, give them the opportunity to get use to the application first, then to the OS, not everybody is ready for Linux, we should be careful…”. In this case, I don’t agree, we are talking teenagers here, let us trust them, they are smart, they like technology, they like new stuff and they are versatile.
We need to work on the other regions, to see whether one of them will make a smarter move.


  1. FACORAT Fabrice said,

    February 12, 2007 at 7:13 pm

    What about Mandriva proposing a special Mandriva flash ?

    1. the first partition as usual is the bootable system with Mandriva

    2. the second partition (FAT32 ) contains the OpenSource softwares for Windows.

    This way you could have both requirements.
    Really Mandriva should contact them and propose this, and eventually start also lobbying others regions, especially the ones from the candidates ( Royal, Bayrou, Sarkozy, De Villiers, … )

  2. rbmp said,

    February 12, 2007 at 8:15 pm

    Why not do both?

    Provide on the same key:
    - the Mandriva OS in one partition and a data shared space in another (just like the Mandriva Flash is),
    - Windows FLOSS in a third partition,
    - MacOS FLOSS in a fourth partition.

    Guess 4 GB would not be enough for all that?

    Students may bring their data anywhere with them in their key, and depending on the workstation they have access to, use locally-installed MacOS/Windows/Linux or key-installed Linux.

  3. thorvick said,

    February 13, 2007 at 11:34 am

    Tout d’abord, a quoi bon communiquer en Anglais alors que nous savons tous que ces postes ne seront lus que par des Francais? Mandriva n’a pas la carrure d’une boite internationale et ce n’est pas grace a ce blog qu’elle l’acquerra.
    Ensuite concernant le sujet des clefs USB, une fois de plus, c’est TROP TARD et c’est pas ca qui ameliorera la situation de Mandriva. Il aurait fallu devancer tout cela par des demarches spontanees.
    On dirait que Mandriva a decide de s’interesser a nouveau au PUBLIC (aux particuliers), et bien distribuez en supermarches et a des prix competitifs! Quand les gens auront pris l’habitude de voir le pingouin a Carrefour, Auchan et autres, peut-etre changerez-vous les choses. En attendant, comme Mandria sait si bien le faire, se lamenter sur l’attentisme Francais ne mene a rien…

  4. leeloo said,

    February 13, 2007 at 12:57 pm


    You’ll be amazed how many people around the world read mandriva’s communications.

    Do you know our website is first read in english then in portuguese then in french and on fourth position in Polish ?
    Do you know that our distribution is translated in more than 100 languages ? (76 completely)
    Do you know that when Mandriva organize an Install Party, our community evangelizes more than 30 countries around the world ? Russia, Uzbekistan, Spain, Venezuela, Cuba, China, Brazil, Poland, Romania, for instance ?

    I wish we could translate all our communications everytime, so that the maximum amount of people can have the freshest news about Mandriva. And writing in French is IMHO resticting people from having information. If there’s only one percent of non-francophone readers to this blog, we need to think about them. Writing in english in this blog is not a way to show off, it’s the better thing we can do between our translating capabilities, our infrastructure features (I don’t know how Wordpress manage translations) and respecting everyone’s language.

  5. thorvick said,

    February 13, 2007 at 1:39 pm

    Well leeloo, I’m not affraid at all to communicate in English. I live in the NL and English is the main language at work and at home.
    I just wonder what the scope of Mr. B’s laments is. I haven’t seen him being proactive in a while and I think that this post is ridiculous. In those competitive markets, it’s a little like the speed train and the cows in field watching the train rushing. If you want to grab a piece of the cake you’d better be in the train. Unfortunately, Mandriva is in the field…
    So here is a translation of my previous comment:
    “Why bother communicating in English while we pertinently know that those kind of posts will only be read by French people. Mandriva doesn’t have the guts for wannabe international company and it’s not with that blog that it will get any credit.
    With regards to the USB key, once again it’s TOO LATE and anyway, those keys wouldn’t make Mandriva’s financial situation better. Only proactive moves following sound market studies could beef up the general interest (for the company and more broadly free software…)
    It looks like Mandriva decided to show some interest for the PUBLIC again (vs. Corp.). Very well, take all actions possible to get Mandriva bundled with laptop and desktop PC and sold in supermarkets (in France). When people will be used to see penguins in Carrefour, Auchan and others, maybe you will have changed something.
    In the meantime, while waiting for a change (Mandriva knows how to do that) others are already ahead. Wasting your time witnessing the French sitting there and waiting for opportunities will not change anything.

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