I’m in Karaganda, Kazakhstan, where I’m holding workshops on open source software for publishers and IT managers from the Kazakh Association of Publishers. Karaganda is a small (by former-Soviet standards) mining-and-manufacturing town, almost entirely built up in the last 60 years.

At the airport, the customs authorities were intimidating at first when I showed them my American passport. “Spion?” they asked. “Uh, no.” “Amerikan? George Bush?” they asked. “Uh, yeah,” I answered. “Who is Kazakhstan?” one asked. I said, “uh, Kazakhstan is a country.” Then they asked how much money I was bringing in and that was it.

Karaganda is cold. Butt-cold. It was -19 degrees yesterday. But the people I’ve met have been excellent. They took me bowling last night. I wasn’t the greatest bowler in Kazakhstan – that honor goes to Slava, who is also the best e-rider in Kazakstan.

E-riders are starting to take off here as well. The Kazakh e-riders are supporting NGOs and media organizations in their tech needs; there’s an effort underway to get the organizations to stop using pirated software and to get legal. Hence the reason for my visit.

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