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Brazil is the world's most enthusiastic exponent of open source software, a BBC report reveals. And, if the Latin-American love affair with Linux continues, a third of machines there may soon run non-MS OSes.

Professor Arnando Mandel at Sao Paulo University summarises the appeal of Linux, which runs on both the university's servers: "The main thing is to be in control of your own data. In a democracy it's important that a free government shouldn't be subject to the whims of a company."

If you think this sort of rabble-rousing is limited to Brazilian academia, you'd be wrong. Giant flour-milling operation Moinho Pacifico may run Windows, but its CEO Lawrence Pih welcomes the Linux challenge: "Today without doubt Microsoft is a monopoly worldwide, but it is permitted. It's strange to me - the American system has always defended free competition. Every government should have alternatives and not be dependent on one system, and be a slave to that system."

The BBC cites Brazilian xenophobia as one possible cause for the country's love affair with Linux, but other practical concerns are driving the open source revolution.

Sao Paulo coffee exporter Roberto Ticoulat blames hackers or virus attack for the malfunction of several of his Windows computers. For him, the solution is pretty straightforward: "I took one of my computers that had a problem last week and I implemented the two systems - Linux and Windows. I wanted to see if Windows goes down, and Linux remains. If this happens, I'm going to change to Linux the next day for sure. I'm going to have to convert all my files, but at least I'll be back at work."

The Brazilian government is already spearheading an open source drive. This is primarily on economic grounds, but there are indications of a more evangelical spirit. Even the government's technology supremo has said he wants to create a "continent of open source."

And the mayor of Sao Paulo has thrown her support behind a scheme to teach Linux basics to slum children. Is this where the next generation of open source revolutionaries will come from - the favelas of Rio and Sao Paulo?

As for poor old Microsoft - faced with the prospect of an entire continent of tech-savvy, Linux-waving revolutionaries - it may find the Brazil nut a tough one to crack. ®

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