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Russia to drop Microsoft in quest for 'national' operating system

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Reached by telephone Friday, Mr. Sorokin – who describes himself as a Linux expert – said he wrote to Mr. Medvedev after growing alarmed about the absence of any progress at all in providing and installing the open source software in school computers.

"We have to prepare students for exams using Windows and other closed products, when there is a clear state order saying that we must be using only free software beginning in 2011," he says. "I wrote to Medvedev because I recalled a speech he gave a few years ago, saying that if Russia didn't develop software independence, it would be vulnerable in all other areas. That really impressed me."

Software pirates

Sorokin says most Moscow schools were using pirated software until the state program was announced three years ago. As a stopgap measure, Moscow authorities purchased licenses for Windows and other programs being run on the city's school computers for three years, he says.

"If our computers are to be legal next year, we need the new open software," he adds. "We need to be ready by Dec. 31, but there are no materials, no preparations at all. Most teachers' reports are still in Windows format."

Sorokin says he was forced to resign by educational authorities after writing the letter to Medvedev. But on Friday, after a Moscow business newspaper, Vedemosti, wrote about the controversy, the principal of School No. 572 telephoned to say he might be reinstated.

"I was offered another job, to teach teachers," he says.

The Russian government has taken measures to control the country's freewheeling Internet, and the Duma recently passed a law that greatly beefs up the powers of the FSB security service, but experts say they don't see any security dimension in the kerfuffle over operating systems.

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