Subject: Free Software recommendations request
From: bob@GNU.AI.MIT.EDU
Date: Mon, 26 Apr 93 23:24:43 EDT

What free software do you recommend for people who are not programmers
and who mainly want business related applications....and who live just
north of Afganistan...?

Some people are setting up a `Center for Entrepeneurship' in
Tajikistan, which is in central Asia in the former Soviet Union, just
north of Afganistan, west of China.  They plan to send five 386-type
machines to Khojant (formerly Leninabad) and run them with proprietary
MS DOS software.  The machines will make up a local net; one of the
machines may be a server.

I would like to recommend free software.  I think that a `Center for
Entrepeneurship' *ought* to provide local people with freely
redistributable sources that they can use as the basis for local free
software businesses, but this type of `low-capital, local
entrepeneurship' is not yet the received wisdom.

What packages do you recommend?

Some criteria are: software should install and work with little
trouble, since this project is mainly by and for business people with
administrators who do not want to think about computers.

Programs should be oriented towards business applications: word
processing, spreadsheets, databases.  Also, they could use programs
for people studying English as a second language, and software for
setting up email.

Also, I would like to recommend operating systems, compilers,
debuggers, and the like: not so much as tools for the business people,
but as support for the applications and as a basis for a local
business.  Also, a good operating system might permit them to to run
several terminals on one 386 box, and thereby increase the number of
seats without much increasing the cost.

Ideally the people in Tajikistan should be able to convert the
software to Russian or Tajik with little difficulty (the free software
may be competing with Russian language versions of major proprietary

The Center might be willing to hire a local programmer (at $50 or so
per month) to customize and enhance the software; this would depend on
whether they thought this was worth while.  Or maybe they would find
an American hacker to go there for awhile.  Or maybe they would is set
up everything here in the US and ship it as a turnkey system.

Anyhow, what do you suggest?  I have already mentioned Mule, the
multi-lingual enhancement to Emacs, to them without yet receiving a
response.  What else?

Or is free software still too hackerish for this sort of thing?


    Robert J. Chassell     
    Rattlesnake Mountain Road        (413) 298-4725
    Stockbridge, MA 01262-0693 USA