Alexandre Barelli: Introducing FOSS Into a Government Agency

Alexandre Barelli: Introducing FOSS Into a Government Agency

I was fortunate to be introduced to the GNU/Linux operating system and related free and open source software (FOSS) early in my career. As I rose through government ranks in the São Paulo state of Brazil I brought this FOSS knowledge into those institutions and incorporated efficient, reliable solutions into their operations. This article traces my professional development as a programmer and manager, and how my colleagues and I have implemented FOSS solutions in our work.

My Pre-Linux Beginnings in Computing

From a young age, technology has fascinated me. My initial foray into computing was with a CCE Exato Pro, a Brazilian creation compatible with the IBM XT. This modest machine, a white box with a keyboard and a 5 1/4” floppy drive, could connect to old CRT TVs. Eventually, I upgraded it with a 13-inch green phosphor CRT monitor.

Back then, graphical interfaces like Windows weren’t common in households. Instead, at that time, large corporations and banks operated colossal machines known as mainframes, which used magnetic tapes for storage.

I started my IT journey with the Microsoft DOS 3.11 operating system. Over time, I experienced its evolution up to Windows 3.0 and also encountered OS X platforms (the predecessor to MacOS) on the vintage Macintosh.

As I delved deeper into tech, I enrolled in a data processing school. During this period, I crafted low-level libraries in C and assembly language. These were designed to assist my colleague, Gleydson Nunes, in enhancing his applications developed in the Clipper language, alongside a database manager known as Dbase III Plus – which, by today’s standards, might be better termed an information organizer rather than a full-fledged database.

Entry Into Government and Open Source

From 2005 to 2011, I served as an operations manager at a data center in the state government of São Paulo. One of the most captivating aspects of my role was managing an automated backup “robot” equipped with magnetic tape cartridges, a System 360 series mainframe, and four IBM RISC technology servers operating on the IBM AIX 5 Unix system.

My interactions with our technical teams were pivotal. Geraldo, an operations analyst, and Enzo, a support analyst, set up a Unix test environment on the RISC machines. They guided me through essential Unix commands via a dedicated terminal on my workstation.

While I was primarily involved in managerial tasks, I’ve always been drawn to hands-on operational work. These technicians introduced me to the Linux operating system. Its most significant advantage was its adaptability for both personal and professional computers, offering an experience akin to corporate Unix.

We began our Linux journey with Red Hat Enterprise Linux and OpenSUSE. Geraldo challenged me to download and integrate a recent kernel from the official site, then compile it with the current machine distribution. This experiment was exhilarating up until my first “kernel panic.” I had to reinstall everything, which taught me a crucial lesson: Significant changes require meticulous planning…

Going Linux Pro

From 2011 to 2016, I was positioned at the São Paulo state government’s palace. Our Chief Secretary was keen on automating numerous dated manual procedures, especially within the State Civil Defense Department and the Dignitary Security Department. This migration presented multiple challenges.

Our modest team consisted of two full-stack developers, a security analyst, and a supervising programmer. Despite our tight budget, we developed an array of solutions primarily using PHP, HTML, and CSS. We also incorporated XAMPP as a system integrator along with MySQL Server for databases and Apache Server for web apps.

Generously, our former workplace donated five servers and a sizable storage unit to us. After completing a course at 4Linux school in Vila Mariana, São Paulo, I gravitated toward the Debian distribution. Effortlessly, I deployed our solutions on these servers. Over time, we began phasing out XAMPP in favor of the OS’s native apps.

Geraldo, who initially introduced me to Linux, played a pivotal role in setting up the storage solution and integrating the Network Attached Storage (NAS) with our Debian-based servers.

In 2016, I transitioned to the coastal region of São Paulo, taking on the role of Head of the Military Police Operations Center. Even there, I remained engrossed in the open source domain, using FOSS to assist in implementing various solutions to everyday challenges. Several of the apps we developed are still in active use today across various government departments in São Paulo. These applications, once hosted on our legacy servers, have since migrated to a cloud-based state government platform.

Linux: From Passion to Profession, from Profession to Passion

The Linux ecosystem provides a unique advantage: the freedom to customize deployments according to specific needs. It offers openness and immediate utility, requiring only the will and the aptitude to delve into this world.

Historically, in a corporate setting, there was a notable scarcity of Linux-skilled personnel for support and operations. Even now, in Brazil, experts in this domain are highly sought after, making them distinct assets in various industries. Acquiring official certifications, especially from renowned institutions like LPI, remains a significant career booster for those aspiring to specialize in Linux administration within the corporate sphere.

While my primary role has centered on team leadership, I’ve been focusing on honing my expertise in the operation and management of Linux and open-source platforms. My goal is to expand this knowledge base, aspiring to become a Linux and DevOps specialist, with an emphasis on cybersecurity.

Recalling our mention of the dignitary security department solution, an interesting turn of events has brought the primary tech consumer from that era into my present-day professional journey – he is now my superior. It’s a testament to how intertwined our paths can be.

I share this narrative with the hope that it inspires emerging professionals to delve deep into the captivating realm of Linux and open-source applications. Wishing everyone the best in their endeavors!

About Alexandre Antonio Barelli:

Alexandre Antonio Barelli serves in the Military Police of São Paulo as a Major and has an extensive and diverse academic background. He holds a Master's degree in Public Safety from CAES/PMESP and a degree in Mechanical Engineering from SANTA CECÍLIA/SP. His postgraduate qualifications span a range of fields, including Engineering and Occupational Safety (UNIBAN/SP), Business Management (UNINOVE/SP), Digital Law (FALEG/SP), People and Business Management (ESIC/BR), and Systems Analysis and Development (FATEC/SP). He also possesses degrees in Electrical Engineering and Law, both from UNIBAN/SP, and is a distinguished graduate of the Barro Branco Military Academy (PMESP/SP). In terms of professional certifications, Alexandre is a Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) and holds ISO/IEC 2000-1 and ITIL 3 Foundation certifications. He is also credentialed by the Linux Professional Institute in Linux Essentials, Security Essentials, and Web Development Essentials. From 2013 to 2015, he had the honor of serving on the State Council for Information and Communication Technology of São Paulo.

4 responses to “Alexandre Barelli: Introducing FOSS Into a Government Agency”

  1. Avatar photo Alexandre Barelli says:

    thanks Max.

  2. Avatar photo Enzo dos Santos Bento says:

    Parabéns pelo artigo Barelli, fico honrado por fazer parte deste historia de sucesso. Abraços.

  3. Avatar photo José Renato Barelli says:

    Parabéns Alexandre, pelo artigo publicado. É uma bela trajetória na sua vida profissional e acadêmica. Um abraço.

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