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CENFOSS: First Bank in Mozambique migrated to FOSS!

CENFOSS is currently supporting SOCREMO ( micro finance bank. SOCREMO have branches trough all Mozambique (South and Center to be specific), and is the first bank in Mozambique, and perhaps in all Southern Africa, that has migrated more than 300 computers from Windows to Linux. For the project CENFOSS is using Ubuntu 8.04. The banks servers, configured by CENFOSS, run on Debian.

The project was a huge challenge for CENFOSS because the application that SOCREMO use for their clients was written to run on Windows machines with Internet Explorer 6. To overcome this difficulty, CENFOSS contacted the CodeWeavers, a company that supports wine project, and bought CrossOverLinux, an application that enabled the installation of a java runtime environment (for Windows), IE6 and many other applications that the bank needs.

This could be the perfect migration, except the fact that the bank has other application and hardware that only runs on Windows environment. The critical tool is the Check Scanner. CENFOSS searched trough the net and in found the Check Scanner from DigitalCheck ( with Linux Support for Ubuntu and Red-Hat distros. After many e-mails and phone calls exchanged a company based in Kenya was found that resells this device, sold SOCREMO the scanners. However - without the API. When we requested the API the Kenyan company sent drivers for Windows.... they don't have the API for Linux.

At this point, CENFOSS contacted DigitalCheck direct who explained that the API should only be given to the one who bought, SOCREMO, or the reseller, the company from Kenya. After SOCREMO requested for the API the from the Kenyan based reseller CENFOSS developed an application in C, using the samples given to us by DigitalCheck.

Not everything was a sea of roses because in April, when SOCREMO really started to use the new bank application, we had a new problem with the printer. At the SOCREMO's branches the receipt of money deposit or withdraw was taking more than a minute, causing long queues and many people upset by the delay. The connectivity in Mozambique wasn't helping, each branch is running at 128Kps and the server responsible for the printer, Adobe Central Output Server, was programed to make First In First Out, which couldn't be changed. So when one branch lost the connectivity with SOCREMO headquarters, all the printing orders were in stall until the first order was sent successfully. CENFOSS overcame this issue by putting a CUPS server receiving the printing orders and then delivering to the clients. So the print server by ADOBE never stall the printing order because CUPS was receiving all of them, even if the branch had some network problems.

Special thanks from CENFOSS go to:

Michael Stoehr - DigitalCheck James B. Ramey - Codeweaver (CrossOverLinux) At least but definately not last Hans-Peter Merkel

Thanks to Celso Timana for shating this experience! More on Celso is online at his profile, more on CENFOSS is online in the case study in the training material.

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