[gnulinuxinasia] Liberation technology for the lands of diversity?

  • From: "Frederick Noronha (FN)" <fred@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: gnulinuxinasia@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sat, 10 Apr 2004 17:34:28 +0530 (IST)

Free Software in Asia

=09=09"If the current stylistic distinctions between open-source
=09=09and commercial software persist, an open-software revolution
=09=09could lead to yet another divide between haves and
=09=09have-nots: those with the skills and connections to make use
=09=09of free software, and those who must pay high prices for
=09=09increasingly dated commercial offerings." -- Scientific

By Frederick Noronha

AS THE PLANET'S largest continent (44,579,000 sq km or 17,212,000 sq miles
and occupying some 30% of the Earth's land with a poulation of 3700+
million), Asia includes 47 countries and assorted island dependencies. It i=
home to the world's tallest mountain, Mount Everest in Nepal, at 29,035 ft
(8,850m), and the world's most populated countries, China and India. The
continent's lowest point is in the Dead Sea, Israel/Jordan, at 1,286 ft
(392m) below sea level.


This is a region where resources are scarce and infrastructure weak. Hints
of this reality come out in essays like
http://www.bytesforall.org/2nd/shahidul1.htm . This was written some three
years back (April 1999) by Dhaka-based renowned photographer and Bangladesh=
campaigner Shahidul Alam. Modem prices may have since declined -- quite
drastically, in some cases -- but the overall reality remains.

"(In Bangladesh and South Asia) there were two basic tools that have
engineered and enforced this domination, technology and language....  With
technology and language both being owned by the wealthy, class divides are
intrinsically linked to this hegemony. How then do we see the most dominant
of modern cultures, the Internet? The ownership of the Net is almost
entirely Northern globally, and exclusively urban and elite locally. The
hype surrounding the Internet and the top down approach with which it is
meant to provide deliverance, hides the politics of corporate ownership, th=
way in which this media is controlled, and the simple fact that for the
majority of the world the Internet doesnt exist, and for many others in the
South, it is barely effective," Alam has argued.=20

He points out that language forms the biggest barrier to computer literacy
in Bangladesh, and "when less than 15% of the population has access to
electricity, and a far smaller fraction owns computers, it is clear that
only the wealthy will have access to this technology. Here, a modem costs
more than a cow."

But his was not a message of hopelessness and pessimism. As he put it: "Yet
this technology and this associated language both exist. We must stare this
dual hegemony straight in the face, but we cannot, dare not, let this
technology pass us by. To find creative routes to turn this technology to
our benefit is our greatest challenge."
"The Internet can be a subversive tool. It remains the only medium which
gives scope -- relatively inexpensively, and without the support of the
gatekeepers for a lone voice to be heard," was his argument.

The Asia-Pacific Internet Handbook by Dr Madanmohan Rao (see
http://www.tatamcgrawhill.com/digital_solutions/madan) gives a snapshot of
the Internet economies of Japan, South Korea, China, India, Australia and
Singapore. For each, it seeks to "flesh out" the shape of the regional
Internet economy via the following "Eight Cs" of the Internet economy
(parameters which all begin with the letter "C"): connectivity, content,
community, commerce, capital, culture, cooperation, and capacity.

Rao traces the growth of the Internet in Asia in four episodes -- the birth
of the early computing infrastructure in Asia (1960-1980), the rise of the
early Internetworks, the academic Internet, and the Asia-Pacific Network
Information Centre (1980-1995), the rise of the commercial Internet and
datacom deregulation and early wireless networks in Asia (1995-2000) and th=
rise of emerging Internet powerhouses of Asia, including the countries
covered (starting c. 2001).

"With a population of over three billion people, the 23 countries comprisin=
the Asia-Pacific region represents a rapidly growing and lucrative segment
of the global Internet market," argues Rao.  But there are questions over
how evenly spread the potential is. Can Japan -- leading the West in a
number of trends -- be treated in the same basket as other lagging-behind
parts of Asia?

There are signs for both hope and pessimism. Take the case of India itself:

=09* India is an extremely content-rich country with a very
=09  free press climate, unlike some of its other
=09  Asian counterparts: the news, culture, entertainment,
=09  sports and medical knowledge base of this country can
=09  easily sustain dozens of portals and vortals for a
=09  content-hungry consumer marketplace consisting of
=09  domestic users, NRIs (non-resident Indians, numbering
=09  20 million in over 120 countries around the world),
=09  international businesses, and enthusiastic Indophiles.

=09* For a country of a thousand million-plus, just 0.7 million
=09  modems were sold in 2000-01.

=09* India is likely to experience, perhaps as no other
=09  country has, an explosion of cybercafes in the=20
=09  new millennium. Many people can afford Rs 30 (around
=09  70 cents -- now the figure is one-third that) to
=09  check their e-mail for half an hour every few days
=09  in the local cybercafe instead of owning their own
=09  PCs and Internet accounts.=20

(The Asia-Pacific Internet Handbook Madanmohan Rao (Ed.) Tata McGraw-Hill
2002 ISBN 0-07-044519-2 Pp 370.)=20


In this setting, GNU/Linux is achieving some interesting -- if recent --
growth. Unfortunately, this is not widely being reported across the rest of
the global Free Software community for a variety of reasons, some discussed

Clearly, this talent-rich, resource-poor region is finding Free/Libre and
Open Source Software to be well suited to their varied needs. Not only is i=
affordably priced in most cases (except for highly customised
industry-oriented solutions, which could be as costly as their proprietoria=
software counterparts) but FLOSS enables speedy learning, the ability to
deploy across a number of computers without facing any restrictive
'copyright' restrictions that block even purchasers of software from copyin=
a software solution from one PC to another in the same establishment.

Michael Dunham (http://weblog.kestrelworks.com/archives/000102.html) argues
that there "is no question that Linux is a natural fit for developing
countries with educated, talented entrepreneurs but limited capital".

He also argues that FLOSS licensing has presented a wealth of adaptable
software that with localization and enhancements can drive technology
adoption in business and homes" and that Asia has taken GNU/Linux to its
heart and a great deal of innovative work is being done to simplify
installation, reliability, and desktop acceptance. He offers specific
examples from countries like China, andn its Shaolin Microsystems.


Not just that, Asians are beginning to contribute to GNU/Linux in an
increasingly significant manner. In the next few years, the contribution of
Asians to GNU/Linux is going to become increasingly apparent.

In the runup to the 2002 Free Software awards, there was a discussion on
this issue, with some pressing for the need to recognise this contribution.
Suresh Ramasubramanian <suresh@xxxxxxxxxx> points to the contribution comin=
in from the Japanese -- Itojun for ipv6, Yukihiro "Matz" Matsumoto for Ruby=
Hiroyuki Yamamoto for developing Sylpheed. Then, there are also some Chines=
though not necessarily located in China -- such as H.J.Lu (libc, gcc, etc).=
Ariya Hidayat from Indonesia is known for his work on KDE. Currently, there
are more Japanese contributions being noticed, but this is likely to change=
as Intenet penetration and possibilities for collaborative functioning grow=
elsewhere. (See http://linuxinindia.pitas.com for an illustrative example o=
contributions coming in from India.)

GNU/Linux is already reporting some interesting deployments in the populous
cash-strapped countries of the region. In India, it is no coincidence that =
number of low-cost PCs hitting the market are now opting for Free
Software-based solutions. China has already worked out national 'distros' o=
GNU/Linux, that are in the local language and also meet national concerns i=
terms of security. Pakistan has seen government initiatives to boost the
role of FLOSS, so as to become less dependent on proprietorial software,
with it accompanying allegations of 'piracy' against countries with low
incomes and poor conversion rates against the dollar. Thailand is finding
GNU/Linux a useful solution in its Schoolnet program.

There are some interesting facts about where diverse GNU/Linux 'distros' (o=
'distributions', as the uniquely combined set of programs with differing
qualities) come from.=20

Distrowatch.com, the site offering a whole lot of information on varied
'distros' available, points out  that while nearly a
quarter of all distributions were initiated in the US, with Canada coming a
close second, some Asian countries were also making it to the big-league in
terms of distro releases.

"Slightly more unexpected is to see Japan on the third spot, but other
nations in the Far East, especially China and Korea also seem very keen on
creating Linux distributions," it pointed out. (See
http://www.distrowatch.com/stats.php?section=3Dorigin, accessed 23 Dec 2002=

In all, some eight 'distros' came from Japan. These included Holon, LASER5,
Media Lab, Miracle, Omoikane, Plamo, Turbolinux, and Vine. China had six --
Blue Point, Cosix, Dynasoft, Red Flag, Red Office, and Xteam. Four came fro=
South Korea -- Hancom, MIZI, NuxOne and WOW. Hong Kong had two, Chinese 200=
and Thiz. Even India had as many, Atomic and ELX. Indonesia (Merdeka and
WinBi) and Taiwan (CLE and Linpus) also came up with two distros each.

Of the 10 major distros (www.distrowatch.com) only four however had 'Asian
language support', and that too limited to four languages
-- Chinese, Japanese, Taiwanese and Korean. See

According to David Legard of IDG News
<http://www.idg.net/english/images/print-icon.gif> "The open-source Linux
operating system is being enthusiastically looked at by companies in Asia's
developing nations like India, China, Korea and Malaysia, but is less
popular in wealthier countries such as Japan and Singapore."


Different regions in Asia seem to be playing diverging roles when it comes
to fitting into the global partnership that is GNU/Linux. Web-sites of LUGs
in countries like Singapore and Pakistan suggest that users in these
networks seem to be currently seeing themselves more as 'consumers' of
internationally-generated information coming out of the international FLOSS
'market-place'. (See, for instance, www.singalinux.com or
www.linuxpakistan.net.) Such a positioning could be dependent on the
software base of the country involved, maturity of GNU/Linux skills, or eve=
the number of years for which countries involved have had widely-available
access to the Internet. Some countries like India, have grown significantly
in terms of their contribution to GNU/Linux since Net access first became
widespread as late as in August 1997, i.e. a little over five years ago.

In the Middle East, GNU/Linux is reported to  have recently caught on with
major universities in Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and other
countries adopting it. Also in business, oil and gas companies in the Gulf,
some banks and other companies are adopting it, according to reports by Zei=
Nasser. The Arabization of Linux will drive this growth. IBM recently
finished Arabizing the major components required to run GNU/Linux on the
client side and is also working on Arabic support for Motiff and X-term, th=
Word component of Open Office and the web browser, Mozilla.

Among GNU/Linux fans there have also been Arabization efforts. A grass-root
development group, called Arabeyes, has been developing Arabic support for
KDE and users can already read/write in Arabic, adds Nasser. (Source:
Nasser, Zeid. "The Penguin catches on in the Middle East". The Star 20 July
2002. http://star.arabia.com/article/0,5596,179_5119,00.html)=20

Arabeyes is a meta project that is aimed at fully supporting the Arabic
language in the Unix/Linux environment. It is designed to be a central
location to standardize the Arabization process. Arabeyes relies on
voluntary contributions by computer professionals and enthusiasts all over
the world.

Recently, Arabeyes announced the release of Katoob version 0.3.0 Katoob is =
small text editor for *NIX operating systems, based on the GTK+ library 2.0=
It is pointed out, for instance, that Mohammed Damt imported his
'gnomequran' application to the repository, which is based on Gnome
libraries and headers. (See http://www.arabeyes.org/) Nadim Shaikli of the
Arabeyes project has been featured as an 'Arabization Contributor and
Evangelist (ACE).

In a recent Jordan-conference Isam Bayazidi, of the Arabeyes Project, made
his impact by underlining the goal of their work. Arabeyes is a group that
provides Arabic support for a growing number of FLOSS projects. "Isam is
your basic Linux user and Open Source project leader, same as others of his
ilk all over the world: young, smart, dedicated, and happily building a
productive international development team and user base without any help,
pay or recognition from government, academia or business," comments Robin
Miller.  (See
accessed on December 25, 2002)
In a comment on Newsforge, responding to the above article, Isam points out
that the while he himself is Jordanian, the Arabeyes project has members wh=
are "spread all over". As he put it, "until now, Arabeyes is no-land based"=

The State of Open Source (SOS) website seeks to give an update of "Open
Source activism around the world". Some of the countries it covers in Asia
include Cambodia, China, India, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, Taiwan, Thailand
and Vietnam. See http://www.gnacademy.org/twiki/bin/view/SOS/WebHome

Issues this site talks of include activism, education, gender,
hardware-recycling, health, public administration, science, software
localization, and Third World develoment, among others. This gives a hint o=
the relevance of FLOSS to the majority world.=20

Free Software in Asia doesn't get much written about, but slowly it is
getting noticed globally. In a recent column, the Brave GNU World focussed
on this issue. (See http://www.gnu.org/brave-gnu-world/issue-45.en.html)

It noted that on July 10, 2002 the "Free Software Initiative Japan" (FSIJ)
was founded, to promote Free Software in Japan and "create the basis for a
future FSF Japan or FSF Asia". FSIJ's chairman is Prof. Masayuki Ida, who
was acting as the "Vice President Japan" of the Free Software Foundation
North America for a long time.

To provide an impulse for Free Software in Japan, the FSIJ organized the
"Free Software Symposium 2002" in Tokyo on October 22 and 23. It is
considered as the first event of its kind in Asia, and speakers from China,
Thailand, Japan, Singapore, Germany, Italy and the USA were invited.
Besides the more technically oriented presentations about Debian, the HURD
project or RedFlag Linux, the Chinese GNU/Linux distribution, there were
also speeches about the larger issues of Free Software and the situations i=
Asia and Europe. Also discussed were issues of better international
cooperation for internationalization of programs and documentation as well
as the possibility of a solution oriented database for Free Software. Even
though these issues would certainly not be solved in two hours, some
practical ideas were found that are now being pursued by mail. A follow-up
event is being planned sometime in early 2003 in Thailand.

Contrary to the presumption that GNU/Linux is "almost unknown" in most
countries of Asia, the facts could be otherwise. Generally, FLOSS takes on
the shape of a 'silent revolution' -- spreading across modems linked to
cyberspace and small brotherhoods (the lack of women participation is an
issue yet to be seriously addressed, more so in Asia).=20

One such example is narrated by Robin 'Roblimo' Miller during his visit to
the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in 2002 for a workshop. Miller was told by
the workshop's organiser bear in mind while preparing the presentation "tha=
Linux and Open Source were almost unknown in Jordan."

Narrates Miller: "I told them this was not so; that the only two major
countries in the world from which I had not gotten email from Linux users
were North Korea and Afghanistan, and that there was a small but rapidly
growing group of Linux and Open Source devotees in Amman, the Jordanian
capital city where the conference was held." Before departure from the US,
he was already in touch with several Linux users. They were in the process
of organising a local LUG (Linux Users Group). "Linux use is not always
visible to officialdom," notes Miller.  (See
accessed on December 25, 2002)


Like the legendary story of the six blind men and the elephant of
'Hindoostan', understanding the role that GNU/Linux is actually playing is
both difficult and hard-to-notice. There are hints coming up from all over
that GNU/Linux has excited the imagination of a generation -- who are
suddenly finding the rules of the software game drastically being changed.
For a change, in their favour.

(In http://www.ecademy.com/node.php?id=3D2882 Doc Searls points out that
GNU/Linux is "about the end of the software business as we know it, and the
beginning of whatever replaces it". He says the "business we knew wanted
software to be expensive, high margin stuff. It wanted to lock customers
into dependencies. And it wanted to hold on to its position as the
paradigmatic hot business category, the kind of business high-rolling
investors would help drive to huge successes in the stock market.")

One could argue that GNU/Linux's impact -- in Asia in particular -- is
difficult to gauge primarily (though not solely) due to the following

=09o Change is coming up at the grassroots. This is scattered
=09  and difficult to report. It doesn't fit into the typical
=09  paradigm of what makes 'news'. Yet, in examples where efforts
=09  have been made to document the impact of GNU/Linux, such
=09  compiliations have suprised many. (See this author's
=09  http://linuxinindia.pitas.com. Just before this exercise
=09  was undertaken, it was assumed that nothing much is happening
=09  in India. Documenting this effort has, arguably, itself
=09  proven to be a self-fulfilling prophecy, because it has
=09  emboldened others on seeing how much is happening, and also
=09  encouraged more to try their hand at it.)

=09o In many cases, countries which are seriously into GNU/Linux
=09  may not be inclined to package their successes. This could
=09  be because their primary mode of communication is in
=09  languages other than English. For example, a lot is
=09  happening in countries like China, Republic of Korea, Thailand,
=09  etc but very little seems to be reported on this at an
=09  international scale.=20

=09o For a continent where survival issues are still to be=20
=09  successfully vanquished, questions of communication remain
=09  a distant priority.=20

=09o Impact of the change could also take time to be felt. A
=09  generation of young techies is just now discovering the=20
=09  potent combination of low entry-barriers into technology, =20
=09  sharing across what has been called one of the largest=20
=09  collaborative projects of humankind, and the possibility=20
  =09  to share in (utilise from and contribute to) the skills=20
=09  of other coders. In countries like India, the recent visit
=09  of proprietorial software world leader Bill Gates, and
=09  the attempts of companies like Microsoft to win over=20
=09  students to their products, indicates the seriousness which
=09  this 'threat' could shape the world of software in the=20
=09  years to come.

We are already seeing hints of how the birth and spread of GNU/Linux could
positively impact the region of Asia, specially in a developmental sense.
Below are some surmises, based on guestimates of where the trends are takin=
us. While there is no hard data to currently substantiate the same, it coul=
plausibly be argued that these indicators are more than clear from the
experiences that we've seen (outlined in the earlier-submitted India report
and also below). Some of the lessons we could draw are:

=09o Free/Libre and Open Source Software will drastically make
=09  software and computing open to a far wider segment of the
=09  people. While 'free' does not refer to the price of software
=09  (but rather to the 'freedom' aspect), it is inevitable that
=09  the very structure of the GPL licence would ensure that=20
=09  free copying and improvements to the software would make
=09  prices become far more affordable compared to phenomenally
=09  priced proprietorial software. (1)

=09o Because of its not-for-profit-alone orientation, GNU/Linux
=09  is already spurring off initiatives in which there is simply
=09  no money, but which are vital for Third World development
=09  in the long run. Take the case of GNU/Linux's involvement
=09  in education and localisation -- two very critical issues for
=09  the Third World. There are interesting examples from Thailand,
=09  India and elsewhere. More significantly, the lessons learnt
=09  and ideas are being increasingly replicated in other regions.
=09  Such initiatives have spurred proprietorial software companies
=09  to look closely, and promise funding, to fields like education,
=09  where till the late 'nineties they were reluctant to even
=09  offer discounts for school software purchases. (2)

=09o Ideas of sharing knowledge and skills have a subversive way
=09  of spreading to other areas, apart from software. We are already
=09  seeing this happen in the field of education (where the talk of
=09  sharing educational resources is catching on), and also in
=09  fields like journalism.

=09  Free Software Foundation founder Richard M Stallman puts it aptly
=09  when he says: "The most fundamental way of helping other people is
=09  to teach people how to do things better, to tell people things
=09  that you know that will enable them to better their lives. For
=09  people who use computers, this means sharing the recipes you use
=09  on your computer, in other words the programs you run."=20

=09o Free software products like Mailman have helped social campaigners
=09  to network and raise concerns of developmental importances. Other
=09  tools like PostNuke or PHPNuke have shown their ability in giving
=09  non-technical but socially aware citizens the chance to
=09  communicate and share their ideas.=20
=09o At a technical level, the low entry barriers for entry into a
=09  'transparent' OS like GNU/Linux makes it easy for a wider segment
=09  to equip themselves with the required skills. Even in countries
=09  like India which have earned bulk of their software earnings
=09  from proprietorial software exports, the potential from this=20
=09  field is seen as a largely positive tradeoff.=20

As the impact of FLOSS spreads, new aspects are emerging. As Geert Lovink
<geert@xxxxxxx> recently argued in the context of an e-mail discussion,
"free software potentially only gives freedom to those users who are capabl=
of programming, who know how to write code and want to change the source
code of a program. For non-technical users this freedom is a nice idea but
meaningless. With the rise in users, coders are a diminishing group of
people. Normal users may expect other 'freedoms' or values."

Lovink believes it might be misleading to interprete the 'Free' in 'Free
Software' by using the metaphor of 'free speech not free beer'. Says he:
"These metaphors are not only confusing but also running out in a time when
free software really becomes popular and transcends its original scene wher=
every user by default was a programmer. It is time to take the non-technica=
user into account. That's the 'cultural turn' the free software movement is
heading towards."

There are other issues which come up. Free Software talks about four
freedoms. Freedom 0, 1, 2 and 3 (the freedom to run a program for any
purpose, to study how a program works and adapt it to your needs, to
redistribute copies, and to improve the programe and release your
improvements to the public, See 'Free as in Freedom: Richard Stallman's
Crusade for Free Software', p 121). Perhaps it would make sense to include =
fifth freedom, more so from a cash-strapped Asian perspective. This could b=
roughly put as below:

=09Freedom of users to get access to computing power at a
=09price that does not exclude them simply because they=20
=09don't have the resources to pay.

Of course we need not  misconstrue the word 'free' to mean zero-price here.
But the fact that GPL'd software is copyable without unfair restrictions on
sharing it with your neighbour, surely means that it mostly cannot/will not
be priced at astronomical prices, as in the case of proprietorial or
non-free software. This may not seem important from a programers point of
view. But from a user's point of view, it is. More so in the price-sensitiv=
countries which we live in.

It is great that the idealism of the Free Software programmers eggs them on
to write world-class software, often (or in many cases) without thinking of
financial returns alone. That they share the fruit of their work with other=
is also great. So is the fact that this helps spread the process for
creation and sharing of knowledge. But, given the involvement of Asia so fa=
in the Free Software campaign (largerly still as users, but hopefully
increasingly as producers) the question could be asked: where does the user
fit into this whole project?

On another issue, one could argue that the ideals of Free Software need to
be extended to other fields too (including journalism, where the potential
for earning has increased vastly in some countries of Asia in recent years,
but increasingly journalists are feeling choked by their inability to
express themselves freely).


International organisations are increasingly looking at the potential of
FLOSS for development. At the time of compiling this report (late 2002)
there is currently a specific proposal being worked on to set up a
Free/Libre and Open Source Regional Resource Center (OSRRC), that could act
as a centre of excellence for FLOSS in the Asia-Pacific. This is being
suggested by APDIP, a section of the UNDP.

APDIP feels that there are a great number of people working on all these
questions and issues and that what is simply needed is to find out who thes=
people are, what are their primary interests and strengths, and to help som=
of them get on with the job. They have voiced an interest to facilitate
this, coordinate, share info, help with networking people.

For this, they are proposing a small secretariat of sorts, within the UNDP.

UNDP (together with infoDev, the Cyberspace Policy Institute of The George
Washington University) was one of the parties that organised a conference o=
Open Source for E-Government, held in Washington, DC on October 17-18, 2002=
See http://www.egovos.org/

Unesco's Free Software portal is another good example, at

In early December 2002, Steven Sy <ssy@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote in (persona=
email) about Greenpeace-Asia's shift over to Free Software. (See interview
in annexure). Groups like Oneworld.net are open to convincing about the nee=
to spread the ideas of Free Software among NGOs in India (personal email,
January 2003).

~Steven Sy (27) says that Greenpeace Southeast Asia (GPSEA, see
http://www.greenpeacesoutheastasia.org) was formally established on March 1=
2000 and has offices in Bangkok, Thailand (head office) and in Manila,
Philippines. It currently has 18 staff in Bangkok and eight in Manila.

Globally, Greenpeace runs "ninety percent plus" of their servers on
GNU/Linux. But, so far, Manila is the only Greenpeace office to fully deplo=
GNU/Linux as the majority desktop, other smaller GP offices are planning to
migrate in the coming months.

"The office has been planning to move to Free Software since early 2002. We
made a conscious choice between migrating to Free Software or spending fund=
on expensive software licenses. We also did not want to get into legal
troubles if ever the BSA (Business Software Alliance, the proprietorial
software arm that fights illegal copying of software, which it terms
'piracy') came our way," explains Sy.

FLOSS has by now (January 2003) been fully deployed within the Manila
office. Says Sy: "We've been using the Redhat distro since September 2002.
At first we were using Redhat 7.3 with a Ximian desktop, then we upgraded t=
Redhat 8 as soon as it came out." This covers some seven desktops and one
laptop. Two other laptops are still using Windows XP. Free Software is used
mostly for word processing, e-mail, web browsing, spreadsheets and

The advantages are obvious: "It's free ('beer' and 'speech') and secure
(less or no virus infections since migrating)." The motives for shifting
over: "It's a mix of both (technical and philosophical). FS is a technicall=
superior and morally correct technology," says Sy. All the regular staff no=
use Free Software in their daily work.

"Since we downloaded the software off the Internet, just the costs of blank
CDs that's less than 1 USD. For the users, just time and patience in
learning the new system," says he. "Free Software saved the office a lot of
money, money that was better spent on winning campaigns than paying for ver=
expensive licenses." Problems have been limited to "some minor bugs in the
software. Steep learning curve for administering (for a beginner)."

International organisations like the Samaritan office have shifted to Free
Software. This both gives a hint of the acceptance of the value system of
Free Software in the alternate/development world, and also the potential fo=
cutting costs with this tool. It could be argued that the donor dollar, Eur=
or Yen saved on proprietorial software, could go towards the core function
of such organisations -- i.e. development, howsoever defined. See
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/2543173.stm (accessed Dec 6, 2002)

It has been argued that "for charities such as the Samaritans new technolog=
can be a vital part of the service it offers but there is little money to
spend on it." As Mike Hermon, Information Systems Manager at Samaritans has
been quoted saying, "One of the great challenges for computing in any
charity is to provide more for less". Currently 80 of the Samaritan's 203
branches across the UK and Republic of Ireland offer an e-mail service for
people wanting to talk about problems in their lives. It is vital that the
e-mail system is reliable, safe and maintains total confidentiality. The
charity chose Linux vendor Trustix alongside IBM to provide
network security. What applies to a Western charity could apply to many
development organisations and others working in the Third World.=20

See http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/2543173.stm for a report on the
Samaritan initiative. It points out that "[GNU]Linux is an alternative
operating system to Microsoft's Windows and has been adopted widely in
public sector projects around the world largely because of its reliability
and low cost. For charities such as the Samaritans new technology can be a
vital part of the service it offers but there is little money to spend on
Organisations like the SDNP (in Bangladesh and elsewhere) have also been
using FLOSS for their work. See http://www.sdnp.undp.org (accessed on
November 11, 2002)

Dave Scott <dscott@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx> at Minoru Development in Paris is one of
those running the Openhealth mailing list from Minoru. This aims to look at
how FLOSS could be deployed in the world of health. See
http://www.openhealth.com Such initiatives could help the so-called
'developing world' (or, Third World) in some way for sure.=20


The State of Open Source (SOS) site at located at the URL
http://www.gnacademy.org/twiki/bin/view/SOS/WebHome is an attempt to
"document and hopefully leverage activist experience in support of free
software and open source issues around the world and especially in
developing countries".

It has links to countries like Cambodia, China, India, Korea, Malaysia,
Pakistan, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam -- apart from others in Africa
(Ghana, Kenya, South Africa) and Latin America (Argentina, Brazil). One get=
the impression, again, that a whole lot of global initiatives in what could
be the largest collaborative project of humankind goes unreported or

Prof. Jin Hyung Kim <prof_jkim@xxxxxxxxx> in a personal mail says: "It is
very timely to organize an Asian Forum to promote Open Source. We are also
seeking international collaborations, particulary with Asian friends." He
recently spoke out to support the proposal of forming Asian Open Source
Forum as suggested by Niibe Yutaka <gniibe@xxxxxxxx>. Kim is professor in
computer science department at KAIST, and serves several Korean
organizations and committees related FLOSS. He is chairman of Free and Open
Source Movement, a member of Open Source Forum, a vice chair of Korea Linux
Association. "For the last three years, we have runned a valuntary training
program teaching Linux to high school teachers," he adds.

In Korea, according to Prof Kim, there are several forum and associations
promoting FLOSS activities, and working together to foster FLOSS practice.
"Some government supported research institutes studied the potential
advantages of Open Source. We are holding many seminars and meetings
annually. Most of our activities are local, except some congress and
conference participations.  Documents are written in Korean," he adds.

Niibe Yutaka <gniibe@xxxxxxxx> explains that in July 2003, The Free Softwar=
Initiative of Japan was established as a non-profit organization under the
Tokyo Metropolitan Government. In October 2003, a seminar on Free Software
was organised (http://www.fsij.org/press/release-021111.txt). Says Niibe: "
I work for Japanese Government, specifically, METI to deploy Free Software,
but this is just a small and weak activities (not yet decided for the
budget).  You can see our survey to persuade people to deploy Free Software
at (in Japanese): http://oss.mri.co.jp/
"There are many domestic Linux (unfortunately they say "Linux" as the
operationg system name, which should be called GNU/Linux) users groups here
and there (I think it's more than 20 in Japan). You can see the activities
at (mostly in Japanese): http://jla.linux.or.jp/ The central one is Japan
Linux Association, it's web site is at: http://jla.linux.or.jp/";

In addition, Japan has a non-profit organization called CICC
(http://www.cicc.or.jp/). There are some plans for CICC to hold a symposium
in Thailand on "Open Source Software" together with NECTEC in Thailand.=20


Jack Bryar, writing on Newsforge at the site below
3 makes
an interesting argument about the role of Asia in the FLOSS world of the
coming years.

He argues that as commercial Linux vendors in the United States and Europe
refocus their businesses on enterprise software and back-end systems, they
are ignoring a potentially huge desktop marketplace starting to gather
serious momentum in much of Asia and the Third World.

"(Focussing on enterprise software and backend systems) generates a revenue
stream for companies that badly need it, it may be a strategic mistake in
the long term. This is because outside of Europe and North America, Linux i=
beginning to emerge as a serious desktop alternative. As I've noted in a
number of previous columns, countries in Africa and Asia are adopting Open
Source with a speed that could eventually have important consequences for
domestic software and systems vendors.

"Countries such as Malaysia, Singapore, and Taiwan are important hardware
equipment makers, but with a few exceptions they have not had much of a
foothold in the software business. That could change, and desktop Linux
could be the vehicle that allows these countries to emerge as Linux
powerhouses in a few years.

"In Malaysia, a number of universities are trying to lead a major initiativ=
toward nationwide adoption of Linux and away from a dependence on bootlegge=
proprietary software. Malaysia's National Computer Confederation has
developed a plan led by its Open Source Special Interest Group that include=
programs for the country's end users, systems administrators, developers an=
company managers. Planners recently concluded a forum that attracted local
representatives of high tech companies such as Hewlett-Packard, Sun
Microsystems, as well as local technology developers and the Malaysian
Academy of Science.=20

"In China, Taiwan and Singapore, the widespread use of computers has lagged
well behind a number of western countries, in part because of the
complexities of typing thousands of Chinese language characters. Chinese
keyboards are far more complex than their western equivalents and developer=
have struggled with a variety of alternatives including pen-based systems,
speech-to-text, or requiring typists to key in transliterations of Chinese
words using the roman alphabet. It has been an area where Microsoft and
other proprietary systems developers could have taken an important lead, bu=

"One of the best input systems is called ChangJie, a Chinese character inpu=
system created by Chu Bong-foo, a prominent figure in the East Asian IT
community. Recently Chu demonstrated that he had adapted ChangJie for
China's Red Flag Linux distribution. The resulting platform, nicknamed
Chinese 2000, is being promoted in both mainland China and Taiwan as the
first really viable alternative to Microsoft on Asian desktops.

"In much of Asia, the only real competition to Linux-on-the-desktop comes
from bootlegged Microsoft products. According to the Business Software
Association, over 50% of the software used in Taiwan is pirated. Estimates
in Hong Kong and mainland China run as high as 80%. In Malaysia, a prominen=
government department involved with enforcement of copyrights recently
revealed that many of its desktops were running on bootlegged software.

"This is starting to change. Local governments are strugqgling to rein-in
illegal versions of Windows products. And as easier-to-use desktop
applications-based programs like ChangJie start to come on stream, the pric=
of these localized applications may prove to be irresistible. Sources claim
that Chinese 2000 with Kai Office 6.0 applications will sell for around $50=
A legal package of equivalent software from Microsoft will sell for about

"Widespread adoption is still some years away. According to a spokesman for
Malaysia's Open Source Special Interest Group, Linux faces a number of
perceptual barriers. Microsoft's disinformation campaign about Open Source'=
reliability and consistency has been particularly effective in discouraging
early adoption by many local companies and government agencies. In addition=
many companies in the region have yet to wake up to Microsoft's
vulnerability to hacking and viruses. A recent poll by NISER , Malaysia's
Information and Communications Technology Security and Emergency Response
Center found that over 70% of the companies surveyed had not conducted any
formal evaluation of the security of their IT systems, and according to
NISER spokesperson Raja Azrina Raja Othman, the few who have conducted
security audits conducted them as a result of government mandates.

"Observers have warned that the lack of security awareness is at odds with
the country's announced ambitions to become a global Internet banking cente=
and service bureau for the financial services industry. As security
awareness grows, however, this sector is expected to become a critical
adopter of Open Source. Linux has already gained a prominent toehold in
Asian academic circles. Important parts of the Malaysian and Chinese
economy, notably the healthcare sector, have become prominent early adopter=
of Linux. The region has begun to develop an vibrant, if embryonic software
development and service infrastructure based on Open Source technology.

"And, if it succeeds in Asia, both Linux-on-the-desktop, and the companies
that have developed it, could show up in the West in a few years. Will
European and American Linux vendors be ready to compete for the desktop? Or
will they continue to be focused elsewhere?


An Indian firm, Sanisoft, run by paediatrician-turned-software guru Dr
Tarique Sani has propounded its own model for doing "open source business".
It says: "Having an open source business model does NOT mean that we will
give away/open the code written for our clients, nor does it mean that we
will do your work for free."

It says Open Source developers can make money by being selling support,
earning from 'accessories' that go with the software, selling a product
initally and then making it free, among a total of eight ways in which to
earn from Open Source. See http://www.sanisoft.com/openmodel.php

Needless to say, such perspectives and approaches have implications for
countries seeking to earn out of software, the software producers
themselves, and also so-called developing societies hoping to benefit from
affordably-priced software.=20


Robin 'Roblimo' Miller suggests, quite confidentaly, that Asia will be the
centre of (GNU)/Linux development in 2003. (See
http://newsforge.com/newsforge/02/12/27/0259244.shtml?tid=3D11 accessed Dec
29, 2002.) He points out sometimes to episodic evidence which however could
be telling. In Amman, Jordan he found a computer store displaying a laptop
loaded with the ThizLinux distribution from Hong Kong. It had an Office
Suite called Hancom Office, coming out of South Korea -- including an Arabi=
version, which neither StarOffice nor OpenOffice were ready to offer.

"Asia is the next Linux hotbed," argues Miller. After its birth in Finland,
growth with KDE in Germany and close ties to the Norwegian TrollTech,
France-based Mandrake, SuSE from Germany and the US-based Red Hat, with a
high percentage of Europeans developers writing FLOSS software, Miller sees
the centre of gravity shifting possibly to Asia.

Says he: "But a growing number of "next generation" Linux development is
taking place in Asian countries, ranging from South Korea at one end of the
continent to India diagonally across the continent's map, with China rising
hugely -- in the Linux sense -- right in the middle of it all.
"Africa and the Middle East are discovering Linux in a big way, but don't
have nearly as much computer/IT infrastructure or as much computer-oriented
education available as (some parts of) China or India -- or South Korea or
Vietnam or Malaysia. Or Japan, where it looks like Linux will soon be
adopted as a preload operating system by computer manufacturers on all kind=
of gear, not just on the server and workstation levels as we see 99% of the
time in the U.S. and Europe."
Miller reports seeing an "increasing amount" of FLOSS development and
related activity coming out of Asia, almost all of it in Chinese, Japanese,
Korean, and other Asian languages. He also refers to the "increasingly
amount" of activity coming out of India "most of which is in English rather
than in one of the many local Indian languages". Considering that
middle-class Indians, in a sub-continent sized country which has 18 officia=
'national languages', often opt to speak in Hindi or English among
themselves (the latter is predominant in higher education and outside of
North India where Hindi or some variant of it is a 'lingua franca') this is
not very surprising. At the regional level, of course, most discourses woul=
be in the regional languages, though in the field of technology, this often
switches to English.=20
"(T)his is my one and only NewsForge prognostication about Linux and Open
Source in 2003: That some of the biggest advances we're going to see in the
next year will come from Asia, not Europe or North America," says Miller.
But others have differing perspectives. One 'anonymous reader' challenged
this view on Newsforge, commenting: "It is simplistic and patronising to
lump Asia as a whole in one unfounded prediction. There is little in common
to Japan and Jordan, China and Turkey, or India and Taiwan - culturally and
economically. The significance of Linux adoption in different countries in
Asia depend on their influence and size (as an economy). If Japan goes
Linux, that's a huge, revolutionary change. If Jordan goes Linux, it's like
a small school district in the US going Linux. I.e., an interesting tidbit
and nothing more (and the same applies to Syria, Egypt and other backwater
dictatorships in this region)."

Commented another reader: "You're generalizing too much...

"The main parts of Asia you're looking at are Japan, India, and maybe Russi=
The others aren't any real players. Why? Simple. Japan has always been
booming in the tech sector. Information technology is one of their
specialties. They teach basic English in their schools, so the language gap
isn't really much of a problem. India has a culture of high standards and
discipline. Many great thinkers have come out of there, and the ones I've
seen in computer-related fields are extremely adept in mathematics and
algorithms. Russia has always had extremely ingenious people in
informational technology. The fact that most of them use lower-end systems
compared to the rest of us because of the huge difference in cost of having
a more modern computer would make them ideal candidates for open source
programming. As for the rest of the other places, forget it. You'll have
people USING Linux, but it doesn't mean they'll CODE anything for open
source. China -> forget it, most of those people are more concerned with
using the freebies, not actually writing them. It should be noted that sinc=
Chinese is such a different language from English, language has ALWAYS been
a huge barrier in preventing people from learning. Korea -> possible that
some people will code there, this area is rising in the technology sector,
but there isn't any large amounts flowing out of there yet... (potential,
but I wouldn't count on it for this year). Middle East areas, Arab nations
-> forget any of the middle east areas. If they're smart enough and
motivated enough to code, they already left that general area. They might
use it, but that's about it. Then the rest of the other areas are pretty
much on the low end of the technology scale and are more concerned everyday
life than computers." (See http://newsforge.com/comments.pl?sid=3D28543&thr=


Attempting a survey of this kind is a hazardous task, not the least because
of the disparate nature of Asian society, the wide use of languages other
than English, and the lack of international reporting on this region (more
so on technical issues such as Free Software). Within these limitations a
profile of Free Software in some countries of Asia -- depending on the
availability of information -- is undertaken below.

Countries for which information was not available included Armenia,
Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bhutan, the British Indian Ocean Territory, Brunei,
Cyprus, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Lebanon,
Maldives, Mongolia, North Korea, Oman, the Russian Federation, Qatar, Syria=
Sri Lanka, Tajikstan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, UAE, Uzbekistan and Yemen.

Below are some cases that indicate the prevalence of GNU/Linux in Asia:=20


Afghanistan, till recently, was listed with North Korea as one of the few
countries in the world with no known FLOSS-related activity.=20

The recent war over Afghanistan brought the issue to the fore.=20
Interestingly, the FLOSS issue came up as a conflict between proprietorial
and non-proprietorial software. (See
http://www.dclug.org.uk/archive-Nov01-May02/msg00213.html )

The Cold War over software resulted in reports alleging that while the
Taliban "prefer" products of the Microsoft giant (the official Website
www.talibanonline.com was reported to run under Microsoft-IIS/5.0 on Window=
2000) the emerging 'good guys' in the battle, then ran their Opposition
website www.afgha.com on Apache 1.3.20 on Debian GNU/Linux.

In another debate, a Microsoft news release
argued in October 2002 that a useful product called the VoxTec Phraselator
was built and deployed in Afghanistan in some 135 days, based on Microsoft
technology. Said the release by Ace Sarich, CEO of VoxTec: "

This came about as (US) Navy medical doctors treating non-English speaking
patients, such as refugees and allied troops during Desert Storm, first
identified the need for a translation device. This ruggedized, weather
resistant device was to have superior audio performance with both microphon=
input and speaker output; good battery life; and be capable of functioning
as a pocket-sized PC.=20

"Although we briefly considered Linux and Java options, it became clear ver=
quickly that Windows CE was our best choice. At first, I thought Linux coul=
be a cheaper option, but when I saw the considerable development work neede=
to bring the operating system to the level of what already existed with
Windows CE, it wasn't a cheaper option at all," says the press release on
the Microsoft site.=20

These examples, in themselves, are not indicative of the relevance or sprea=
of FLOSS in Afghanistan. What they do show however is that this software
battle takes on resonances of good-versus-evil (each defined depending on
one's perspectives) in the battle for mindshare and more.


o Local language solutions, like in other parts of South Asia, are a major
issue in countries like Bangladesh, as emerges from debates in GNU/Linux
networks and elsewhere.

Sajed Chowdhury <src@xxxxxxx> of Bangladesh notes that the most popular
method of writing Bangla text runs only on Windows, and when someone refers
to a "Bangla file" they are actually referring to a Microsoft word document
embedded with a (copyrighted) Bangla font. Says he: "As such it is
impossible to work with such a "bangla file" under Linux (without resorting
to vmware or codeweaver crossover plugin). I would identify this to be the
most significant road-block relating to more widespead adoption of Linux (o=
any other non-Windows OS for that matter) on the desktop in Bangladesh."

But others like Taneem Ahmed <taneem@xxxxxxxxxx> have a differing
perspective. Says Ahmed: "For Linux we already have support to create Banga
documents using a world wide accepted and recognized standard, yet we won't
use it. Anyway, from the limited experience I gained trying to help support
Bangla on linux I am just amazed to see that one person is holding a nation
hostage, and all everyone can do is agree with whatever propaganda is being
spread. And this is not only for Linux. Even for Windows I have seen
programs that uses Unicode standards, but we just won't use it.... I am
sorry I don't agree with that at all, to me the *only* road-block we have i=
not knowing what is out there. Maybe we should first start with the fact
that *Microsoft Word* is not the only way of creating documents." (Source
for the above, discussions on the BDLUG, mailing list of GNU/Linux
enthusiasts in Bangladesh, November 2002).=20

o Bangladesh's LUG (http://www.bdlug.org, accessed Dec 23, 2002) and its
mailing list has a mdoerate level of activity. Some of its plans include a
'Linux fair in Bangladesh'.=20

This site appears fairly well maintained, and with a number of interesting
inputs and arguments. It argues:

   Linux (Unix) is not only an OS, it is a large world. A system
   administrator knows about the admin utilities, but there is a lot to
   learn in TeX. A programmer knows C and other languages, but he can
   learn a lot about the workings of Linux from an admin. A writer knows
   about emacs and TeX, but there is a lot to learn in sed and awk that
   will help him. So, no matter in what field you are working, this group
   can help you.
Interestingly, Bangladesh FLOSS enthusiasts "thank" magazines from nearby
India -- such as PCQuest and Chip (now called Digit) -- for promoting
awareness of GNU/Linux.=20

Taneem Ahmed <taneem@xxxxxxxxxx> in a personal email dated January 25, 2003
says his team's goal is "to support Bengali at X server's application level=
This solution could benefit speakers of the Bangla language both in India
and Bangladesh. (Bangla, or Bengali, is the fifth-largest language in the
world, with a total of some 207 million speakers -- ahead of Portuguese, an=
behind Spanish.)

"The only difference I see between our group and most of the other groups i=
that we are following the mainstream development, and we use what is
available (or will be available soon) to support Bengali. We want people to
be able to install any Linux distro of their choice, and use Bengali on it
with out recompiling anything," says Ahmed.=20

He contrasts this with the Indix project, which he says has done an "amazin=
job" which he greatly appreciates. But, he argues: "However, how many
average user would actually download the modified X server, gtk, etc.
libraries and recompile them? Also users will be limited to library version
provided by Indix, and every day we are seeing new programs using newer
versions of these libraries."

Ahmed says they have focused their development efforts to create programs
for end users, for example a transliteration program 'Lekho' based on QT, a
Bengali spell checker program bspeller based on aspell and gtk, or a hack
version of xdiary called xponjika which a Bengali calendar with a daily

"I should mention that Lekho is actually a multi-platform program and it ca=
produce html or latex files and has limited spell checking capability.
Bspeller is a light weight text editor with aspell's powerful spell checkin=
and suggestion capability. It is also capable of printing/generating ps
files using Open Type fonts, a feature missing in even all the main stream
text editors," says he.=20

Free Bangla Font, a sister project of bengalinux.org, has created Open Type
Bangla fonts (four differect font faces by early 2003). Currently they have
started doing the GNOME translation, and their own web site. "One of our
more ambitious project is a Bengali dictionary project. Under the documents
section we also have few mini-howtos about how to setup a Linux box for
Bengali," says Ahmed.

Ahmed says they are also trying to work out an understanding with BornoSoft=
to help create a Bengali XIM for GNU/Linux using BornoSoft's writing scheme=
which would then be made free for Linux. "Personally I think this would be =
great step towards using Bengali in Linux, but we will see what happens,"
says Ahmed with cautious optimism.=20

Recently, in January 2003, the Bengali language ranked 54th among GNOME
rankings for translations. This is put out on gnome-i18n@xxxxxxxxx, and
sorts the various languages on the basis of their 'completeness' in terms o=
translation to non-English languages.

Meanwhile, members of the BDLUG have created a mailing list to do some more
work on this. See

http://www.bengalinux.org (not to be confused with www.banglalinux.org) is =
project run by people from both Bangladesh and India, mostly members of
ILUG-Cal and BDLUG.=20

http://www.banglalinux.org promises 'Bangla Innovation through Open Source'=
It's mission statement is to 'provide guidelines and technology for
developing open source Bangla'. It puts its motivation thus:=20

   "Almost all the widely available software today is written and
   documented in English, and uses English as the medium to interact with
   users. This has the advantage of a common language of communication
   between developers, maintainers and users from different countries. In
   a country like Bangladesh, an overwhelming majority of the population
   does not know English. Given this fact, availability of affordable
   native language software will play a crucial role in the process of
   taking the benefits of the "information revolution" to the
   marginalized sections of society and to achieve appropriate social use
   of information technology.
   "Bangla language support for Linux operating system can be done at two
   modes, namely the Console mode and the X-Windows mode, with mutual
   compatibility. The requirements on the RAM vary with the mode. In the
   console mode the RAM requirement is 4 MB while a minimal windows based
   system requires 6-8 MB. For the cheapest solution, with minimal
   configuration of resources, the console mode is preferred. But the
   comfort and ease of use on GUI based applications has prompted the
   X-Windows based solution, at the cost of slightly more resources. The
   native language effort of BIOS group focuses on providing both the
   console and X-Windows based local language interface for the Linux
   operating system. In either case, the primary goal is to enable
   applications to inherit the interface with no or minimal modification.
   Further, an application developed in the console-based environment
   must work without requiring any modification in the X environment.
   "Developing a native language interface at an operating system level is
   a better proposition compared to developing it at an application level
   as the former enables all the applications running on top of the
   operating system to inherit the interface. The choice of Linux as the
   operating system has been motivated
   by the fact that Linux is a robust and stable operating system and is
   freely available under the GNU general public license."

In Bangladesh, Mohammed A Muquit has a fascinating page of free software.
Bangla fonts with Linux groff, LDAP authentication module for Apache web
server, good ol' MasterMind game for Linux, a simple PPP dialler for Linux
(mppp), mxconsole... and lots more.

Burma (Myanmar)

From=20Myanmar comes the PeguNC-Linux Distribution, which its promoters say
will encourage native data processing. It is argued: "PeguNC-Linux is to
introduce Linux to programming students, application programmers and
development programmers to implement data processing in native language. If
PeguNC-Linux is the development system that is setup so that very little
linux system knowledge is required but with experience in programming
language C or C++ will be able to write an appliciation and market it."
http://www.myanmarlug.org/ NOTE: As of November 19, there were difficulties
in reaching the link to the PeguNC site.

Myanmar LUG also has set up other Special Interest Groups (SIGs), focussing
on computer control systems, databases, e-commerce, GIS, Internet, IT
professionals, Java, language technology and standardization, multimedia,
software engineering and web technologies. While it is difficult to get to
know the level of activity of these SIGs from a distance, nonetheless the
issues on which these focus give a hint of what are the interest issues in
this country near the South Asian region.

byteklay <byteklay@xxxxxxxxx>, writing via the
myanmarlinuxusersclub@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx says attempts were made to take the
issue forward a year ago through myanmarlug.org and mmlinux.org.=20

Says byteklay: "(We) started with a so- called PeguNC-linux project which
I've mirrored on my site, at that time, at mmlinux.org . when I couldn't
continue mmlinux, Other friends from mm carried that project on
myanmarlug.org which the site was developed n' maintained by Ko Wiston
[Compunut], also another founder of this club. Though there're lots of stuf=
to be done, I don't know the latest/last status of PeguNC. All I have in
hand so far is a few info and backup of the project webpages. U Min kyaw wa=
the founder of PeguNC..."

"Since I had some experiences in the fields of DTP and Burmese ezine
publishing [from Ayinepan to Danyar], I know well of the lacking hole of ou=
language support in computing ages. I can give u a hand, within my reach. I
also know personally with a font designer of Han_*.ttf and he's now
mentoring me in creating fonts and design for our Dekhina journal [
http://www.dekhina.netfirms.com ] so I can ask advices or maybe his own
contribution," the poster adds.

Writing under the pseudonym of ZAW, another poster to the list regrets that
Myanmar is just a font, not offering language support with sorting and
searching. Says ZAW: "I want to implement Myanmar language support to Linux=
Windows and Mac. The support I mean here is everything, all menus are in
Myanmar and you can search in Myanmar etc. We will start off with Linux as
it is opensource and easier to modify sourcecode. For Windows and Mac, I
don't know how to do it yet but I am sure we will find a way."

Some of the priorities for implementing Myanmar language solution include i=
operating systems, browsers, office applications, databases, programming
languages, programs and application software, PDAs and OCR (optical
character recognition) and hand-writing recognition in the local language,
argues ZAW. This effort would need a "lot of people" including developers,
documentation writers, font designers, translators, compilers, testers,
standard creators, graphic designers, website implementors, lobbyists,
representatives, accountants-cum-logistic supporters, and more.

ZAW comments: "This is going to be a huge project and we need a lot of help
from our brothers and sisters. I want my Grandpa who do not know English ca=
use PC. I do not want him to left out from this world. I want him to enjoy
the good things of our information age. If Vietnam and Laos who do not have
much programmers are enjoying Linux in their own language why we Myanmar ca=
not enjoy this. We have loads of brillant programmers. I am sure we can do
this. All I am asking is just 10 hours a week from you. I am sure that you
are contributing for a good thing and for our mother land."=20


Norbert Klein <nhklein@xxxxxxx> of the Open Forum of Cambodia
http://www.forum.org.kh says their e-mail system -- the first connection to
the Internet from Cambodia set up by him in 1994 initially on a DOS/UNIX
dial-up program -- has been running on SuSE Linux since 1996.

The Cambodian government-sponsored national working group on Khmer/UNICODE
after quite some struggle has reached an agreement with UNICODE. Klein is
hopeing for a GNU/Linux implementation. (The Khmer script was developed
almost 1000 years ago from Devanagiri, the script used in north India. But
it has some very specific structural differences developed in the meantime.=

"The problem is, of course, not just to have the glyphs, but to have an
'intelligent' input and display engine which puts the many different glyph
parts together," according to Klein.

China and Hong Kong

o In China, FLOSS is an issue which the government sees promising for
reasons of coast and also 'security concerns'.  In 2000, the Chinese Academ=
of Sciences Software Applications Institute developed Redflag Linux, which
is suited to local language and other needs.

Another distro that is available from China is Blue Point. To cater to loca=
needs, it promises a "small-footprint" with "the resource requirement of th=
applications (being) reduced to a minimum. It also promises to keep in mind
the fact that set-top boxes fall in a very price-sensitive market, and
promises time-to-market advantages. It says that its MiniGUI product can be
used "anywhere Windows CE can be used". See

BluePoint Linux 2.0 says it is optimized for the Chinese user and Internet.=

o Phil Hochmuth <phochmut@xxxxxxx> of Network World (Network World
Newsletter, 11/11/02) reports that a recent study found that developers in
China have been increasingly "embrac(ing) Linux".

The survey asked 1,000 applications developers based in China questions on
trends in programming and technology being used there. It was found that 44=
of the developers said they had written code for the Linux operating system=
while 65% said they expected to write a Linux application in the next year.

o Reports suggest that the Chinese government "has moved" to install
versions of FLOSS provided by Red Flag, to "avoid reliance on US companies,
particularly Microsoft". See Festa, Paul. "Governments push open-source
software". CNET News.com (29 August 2001).

o "Research outfit Gartner has noted an ominous development for Microsoft
and other non-indigenous firms operating in China. On 28th December 2001 th=
Beijing municipal government awarded contracts to six local software
vendors, and rejected the seventh bidder -- Microsoft. The contract covers
office automation, antivirus and operating software, one of the winners
being Linux OS vendor Red Flag. " Source: Lettice, John. "Red Flag Linux
beats out Windows in Beijing". The Register (4 January 2002).

Reasons for China taking to FLOSS is its ability to reuse software on any
number of machines, without being penalised for so-called "software piracy"=
This helps keep cost down, more so in countries where financial resources
are limited.=20

Hochmuth argues that another driver of Linux in China is the fact that the
country has its own homegrown brand -- Red Flag Linux -- which was created
by the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The PC Linux flavor is said to be a
staple on the desktops in many Chinese government agencies.

FLOSS is also making inroads into servers in China. According to Evans Data=
11% of Chinese developers said they will use Linux servers next year, as
opposed to only 4% who use GNU/Linux servers now. (See
http://www.evansdata.com and http://www.redflag-linux.com/ )

o In June 2002, IDG news reported China Post Office had struck a deal with
IBM to run GNU/Linux at 1,200 branch offices. See: Berger, Matt. "ANALYSIS:
Microsoft vs. open source gets political". IDG News (10 June 2002).

o Hong Feng <fred@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx> who publishes the Free Software
Magazine's international English-based edition out of China, suggests the
following links for more China-related GNU/Linux sources:
www.redflat.com.cn, www.cosix.com.cn, www.cosoft.org.cn (email
correspondence, 2002). Language does remain an issue in understanding the
full potential of GNU/Linux in China however. Hong Feng has his own site at

Xiaofeng Cai <cycker.bbs@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>, a student at the Shenzhen
University (www.szu.edu.cn), points to links such as www.linuxforum.net and
www.gnuchina.org. (Email correspondence, 2002)

There are also some interesting FLOSS products coming out from China.=20

o Michael Dunham (http://weblog.kestrelworks.com/archives/000102.html)
reports on Shaolin Microsystems, which offers two products, Aptus, a
network-based GNU/Linux middleware for desktops and CogoFS, a compressed
file system for GNU/Linux.

To separate it from server-based thin clients and fat client desktops, Aptu=
is termed a "fit client." At startup, the GNU/Linux kernel and services are
loaded from the server onto the client and booted from there. Changes in th=
setup and services available to each client can be administered centrally.
Because it is a middleware system, it is compatible with most GNU/Linux
distributions and standard hardware platforms including standard PC

CogoFX is a kernel-based compressed file system that can operate locally or
across a network on a server. Files are individually compressed and both
files and volumes are presented normally and without having to directly
access disk blocks. On a server, files are presented to clients compressed
so while the client needs to have a decompression agent installed, the
server and network do not carry additional loads for decompressed files.

Some cases of FLOSS being taken to education are also emerging, though it i=
clear that if more news is not coming out, it's not because things are not

Here's one example: "Take a look at www.enetedu.com.  It is in ChongQing,
its product is PHP, and it has many successful implementations on Linux,"
wrote Jay Sun <js9s@xxxxxxxxx> to the School-Discuss mailing list (part of
the Schoolforge.net network that looks at FLOSS in education). Sun was
replying to a query about FLOSS in Chinese schools.=20

http://www.gnacademy.org/twiki/bin/view/SOS/ChinaOS reports on a number of
initiatives from the world's most populous country, China. These include
plans for China to build its own version of Windows 98 (
http://www.theregister.co.uk/content/4/26278.html ), Chinese office
software's challenge to Microsoft's Win98 (
http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/200207/19/eng20020719_99996.shtml ), and
links to Red Flag Software, founded by the Software Research Institute of
the Chinese Academy of Sciences and NewMargin Venture Capital.

There were also pointers to reports (needing confirmation) that the Chinese
post office has GNU/Linux running in 1,200 branches, an FSF-China activity
report dating back to 2001, free chinese fonts, the Free Software Magazine
and information on open source in Taiwan.

East Timor

Even the tiny country of East Timor, the newest to emerge on the global map=
has some FLOSS link.=20

A posting on the Global Knowledge for Development Digest (Dec 20, 2002, Vol
1, Number 625) from Don Cameron mentions that the not-for-profit
organisation called ComputerBank Asutralia is undertaking work of donating
computers preloaded with the Debian distribution of GNU/Linux to East Timor=
Archives of previous GKD messages can be found at:

For more on ComputerBank, see http://www.computerbank.org.au/


http://linuxinindia.pitas.com (accessed Jan 24, 2003) contains links to
FLOSS initiatives from around India. To track a mailing list that reports o=
this subject, visit http://www.freelists.org/archives/linuxinindia/ This
list can be joined at

Some techies are promising to build an "Indian" Sourceforge at
http://sarovar.org/, which is still in a preliminary stage.

Software firms making a living out of Free Software include
http://www.linuxense.com and http://www.sanisoft.com. See also
http://www.deeproot.co.in (DeepRoot Linux, incto server appliances and
GNU/Linux support and services) and http://www.exocore.com

In various parts of India, small firms -- often comprising small-teams made
up of college students -- have set up their own outlets to sell distros of
GNU/Linux. This includes www.lincds.com (run by Yashwanth and Swaroop, two
collegians from Bangalore), www.linuxplaza.org (run from Mumbai),
http://lincdz.2ya.com (from the former colony of Pondicherry, run by
seventeen year old Sukrit), among others. Other firms like GTCdRom, run by
former navy officer Taranath in Bangalore, attract huge crowds at IT events
such as IT.Com held annually in that city which some consider the 'Silicon
Valley of India'.=20

Governments, both at the federal and regional level, are slowly looking at
the potential of FLOSS, though critics accuse some quarters of succumbing t=
commercial pressures in taking decisions. One recent seminar (November 2002=
was held in Thiruvananthapuram, South India. It was projected as an "attemp=
to expose the nuances of policy framing, software protection and licensing
and consequently the issues related to the use of the open software by end
users and developers". See http://salis.ece.iisc.ernet.in/workshop/
For a country that prides itself on being a 'software superpower', but stil=
has difficulties in making the power of software available to most of its
own citizens, FLOSS could throw up some interesting solutions.

Take the case of Freed. Using it, educationists are being urged to to creat=
an account for themselves and "upload, browse, comment on or rate content
available on this site". While the technical solution has been up and
running, participation needs to improve. See http://free-ed.org:12080/Freed=
Efforts in the late 'nineties, partly spearheaded by expat Indians based in
the US, lead to the formation of the Linux-India network. See
http://www.linux-india.org This site lists nearly five dozen LUGs, or Linux
User Groups, scattered across India. Some are less active than others. See =
list of Indian LUGs at http://www.linux.org/groups/india/
Indian language support for computing is one area which is being eagerly
looked forward to. See G Karunakar's bookmarks on Indian language computing=

Young students excelling in FLOSS (see http://nagendra.com/) and Indian
expats contributing to global initiatives (for example, Bharat Mediratta's
http://gallery.sf.net/) are also visible in India.=20

Sayamindu Dasguptan is a "17+" Class 11 South Point High School student in
Kolkata. Says he: "I am a Linux enthusiast, and at present I am writing som=
technical documents on linux.... The linux section will be the largest
section in my website. I am writing a few technical help documents for
linux-users, and the first one is about configuring a PCTel HSP MicroModem
under Linux...At present I am working on a Linux PC Buying Tips and Tricks
HOWTO... The notes for this HOWTO can be found here. This is a huge job, an=
will take some time to finish. I am also working as an Bangla editor cum
translator in the Linux Localisation Initiative."

The struggle to complete and market the Simputer (www.simputer.org) -- a
commonman and -woman's computing device based on GNU/Linux is also keenly
being watched. As of now, the product is being marketed, though in small
numbers rather than off-the-shop-shelf. It is the economic challenges and
high taxes that are proving to be a more difficult challenge to beat for th=
Simputer, rather than the technological difficulties.=20

Indian tools of global relevance are slowing making it.

MayaVi is a free, easy to use scientific data visualizer. It is written in
Python and uses the amazing Visualization Toolkit (VTK) for the graphics. I=
provides a GUI written using Tkinter. MayaVi is free and distributed under
the conditions of the BSD license. It is also cross platform and should run
on any platform where both Python and VTK are available (which is almost an=
*nix, Mac OSX or Windows). Mayavi is Sanskrit for 'magician'. Prabhu
Ramachandran's initiative from Chennai. http://mayavi.sourceforge.net/

Kaai is a inadequately-noticed-in-India GNU/Linux-based PDA. See a review o=
it at http://www.linuxdevices.com/articles/AT8619741565.html ELX is India's
first commercial GNU/Linux-based Operating System, which claims to match
Windows by every feature and provides the additional advantages of
GNU/Linux's robustness and security. It has been developed by
Hyderabad-based Everyone's Linux, formerly 3T solutions.
On the other hand, international solutions are also helping India.

Yudit is a free unicode text editor for all unices. It was first released o=
1997, when Gaspar Sinai wanted to write in Japanese and Hungarian in one
single document and realized that it did not take much effort to extend thi=
goal and just support any script. Today it works with Indic scripts: Tamil,
Devanagari, Bengali, Gujarati, Gurmukhi, Oriya, Malayalam, Kannada and
Telugu. Some of these are languages spoken and written by many millions.
Check it out. http://www.yudit.org/
Interesting attempts to share knowledge are also showing up.

http://mail.sarai.net/mailman/listinfo/prc is a network to put mentors in
touch with students seeking suitable FLOSS projects.=20

In September 2002, the TUG conference -- one of the world's leading TeX
users/developers meet, was held at the Technopark, Thiruvananthapur in Sout=
India. This is the first time that TUG conference was being held outside
Europe and US. See http://www.tug.org.in/tug2002/

It's on the road: literally. FLOSS shows -- both Open Source and Free
Software -- are making it across various big cities in India. Bangalore's
early-December mega-bash has become an annual event. Calcutta (Kolkata) LUG
in eastern India took part in an ambitious IT event called COMPAS.

Symbiosis College in Pune, central India, is talking of having its own
event. Bombay was toying with the idea. So as a hundred initiatives bloom,
the chances of FLOSS blooming becomes only stronger.

o What do you do if you're poor in resources and rich in talent? You share
software, and you do that in style.

Sofall (short for SoftwareForAll) is the initiative of a 21-year-old studen=
Ajay Kunkolienkar of Goa, India. At his site http://sofall.vze.com he has
made it easy for people to share resources -- in places where even blank CD=
may be hard or costly to come by.

Elsewhere in India, young students are taking the Free Software revolution
forward in their own style.=20

Lincds.com is a couple of engineering students' initiative from Bangalore.
Linuxplaza.org is run out of Mumbai (Bombay). Sukrit, a high school
students, recently launched lincdz.2ya.com from the former French colony of
Pondicherry. The best thing, each of them offers CDs for less than 75 cents
US (i.e. Rs 30 or less). Plus courier charges. This seems like good value
for money, good way to spread FLOSS!


Currently, the major projects being done in Iran are the ones of
www.linuxiran.org (spreading the word), www.farsikde.org (localization of
KDE), and some issues that arise out of www.farsiweb.info, according to
Arash Zeini <a.zeini@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>, personal email dated January 24, 2003.

Beside that a number of ISPs use GNU/Linux as a platform but for not much
else. The Goverment of Iran hasn't shown signs of being keen on FLOSS,
according to campaigners in the field in that country. So far, the attempts
to use it have not focussed on the 'freedom' aspect of Free/Libre and Open
Source Software, but rather the fact that it could be more secure.

There is also some work underway at http://projects.iranphp.net There are
some PHP-related projects in Farsi for Iranians, which though new seem to b=
reporting some hard work, according to reports from the field. Farsi, the
language also called Persian, is spoken by an estimated 36 million in Iran.

Linuxiran.org has its 'official' mailing list at bna-linuxiran@xxxxxxxxxx

Someone asked, in the course of a recent Internet discussion on the
BytesForAll_Readers mailing list
(http://groups.yahoo.com/group/bytesforall_readers), whether there was "any
case" for Free/Libre and Open Source Software helping to avoid the 'digital
divide' or providing education-to-all. "It's a red herring. I challenge
anyone to tell me how open source will solve any of our major problems,"
said a prominent professor from the US.

Arash Zeini <a.zeini@xxxxxxxxxxxx> from Iran had a very clear answer.

Said he: "In Iran, we live under sanctions from the US. The result is that
as an Iranian you can not do any business with an American company. This ma=
be good, it may be bad. But in any case, the only way we can empower
ourselves is FLOSS. This approach gives us the necessary freedom. We have
access to the best technology and it is Free/Libre/Open and not restrictive=
It does not put us in chains, we do not need to wait till US decides about
us. If only the Iranian government would see it this way too!"

Zeini went on to explain that it would have been "ages" till proprietorial
software giant Microsoft decided to implement Farsi (Persian) in a correct
way into their OS.=20

"But with KDE around we can do it ourselves and we can do it better. With
FarsiKDE we have now a desktop that is in Farsi, it is based on our own
standards and does not include the mistakes that M$ has in its attempts to
support Farsi. Doesn't this help us when having computers at schools? A 12
year old does not need to learn English first in order to use a computer.
The minimum is that they can type in Farsi with the correct alphabet, not
the M$ Farsi alphabet, which is just a mess," was his logic.

Proof enough?

To top it all, when he contacted KDE at first "I was not asked for my
nationality, I did not need to prove that I am not a terrorist, and I was
welcomed to the project and received all the support that one can dream of!=

Sayyed Mohammad Hossein Hamidi is a developer at the Network Security Lab.
Department of Computer Engineering Sharif University of Technology

Says he: "We concentrate on security products (e.g. firewalls and URL
categorizer). Our developement platform is basically Linux. The first
generation of our firewalls, named Hadid, was developed in Sharif Universit=
Network Security Lab. 1.5 years ago. Team members were PhD or MS students."

Currently, the new generation, called MNF (MultiNode Firewall), is defined
as a two year project. "In our organization we had a great migration from
Win to Linux. We changed the OS of our workstations from Win to Linux. Ther=
are many Linux lovers in our community and we greatly believe in Linux. We
will extend our field to mobile systems last year. We established a SMS
(Short Message Service) center. Again the developement platform was Linux,"
he adds, via the LinuxIran mailing list.


The Israelis are by far the most active in free software development in thi=
region. Check out the OpenMosix clustering software at
http://openmosix.sourceforge.net. Also, Gadi Oxman was working with Ingo
Molnar a while ago to have software raid in the kernel. He also wrote some
software regarding ext2 undeletion a while ago, according to Vilmos Soti
<vilmos@xxxxxxxxxx>, private email Jan 20, 2003

Oleg Goldshmidt <pub@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx> points out that are "more pointers" on
Israel, including news sites, but to access these a knowledge of Hebrew is
essential. "If you are constrained to English, start with the Israeli Group
of Linux Users, http://www.iglu.org.il/IGLU/ ," he adds.=20


Japan is far ahead in the FLOSS field. Being not a part of the Third World
or the 'developing countries' means it would not be of prime relevance to
this study. Some happenings in Japan are however cursorily noted, below.

o FLOSS could get support from Japan, to help the latter keep its competenc=
in the digital consumer electronics.

Hidetaka Fukuda, CTO for the Commerce and Information Policy Bureau,
Director of IT-Industry Division, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and
Industry, said that Japan's competence would be harmed if digital consumer
electronic products came to converge on the same OS and applications that
run on it. Fukuda made the remarks during the "Open Source Way 2002"
conference was held in Yokohama on Dec. 20. Specifically, Fukuda expressed
the government's planned support of open source technology and communities
for open sources. "An OS should be an open-source OS such as Linux and TRON=
and semiconductors should have CPU-independent architecture, otherwise Japa=
will lose," he said.

The reasons for supporting open source technology are: realizing low-cost
system purchases by the government; reducing the burdens on engineers in
keeping proprietary systems running; improving interoperability between
proprietary software/systems and open source software/systems.  However, he
denied the idea of the Japanese government's complete migration to Linux.=
See http://neasia.nikkeibp.com/wcs/leaf?CID=3Donair/asabt/news/223762

o On December 18, 2002, Associated Press reported that Sony Corp. (SNE) and
Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. had announced they will jointly develop
by March 2003 an operating system based on GNU/Linux technology for their
digital consumer electronics products. Like computers, many high-tech
electronics products like TVs, DVDs and microwave owens require built-in
software to control their complex functions.

o Tokyo is also reported to be looking at GNU/Linux. On November 21, 2002,
the Associated Press reported that the Japanese government will study the
possibility of using open-source software such as Linux instead of Microsof=
Corp. products. The public management ministry has set aside =A550 million =
million Yen) for a panel of scholars and computer experts, including
Microsoft executives, to finish the study by March 2004, said Tatsuya
Kawachi, a ministry deputy director.=20

o There are also various GNU/Linux projects underway in Japan.=20

The JLA Doc-CD will collate information posted to various mailing lists and
documents produced, cut them onto a CD-Rom with search tools, and distribut=
these among GNU/Linux users in Japan.  JF (Japanese FAQ) project is for
translating, writing and distributing various FLOSS-related documents. JM
aims to translate software manuals to Japanese. jman-ML is the place where
JM activities reside. X Windows System has its X Japanese Documentation
Project. Debian JP is to provide an internationalised (formerly Japanese)
environment of the Debian GNU/Linux distribution.

Software Map is a project to create a place where software information
available in GNU/Linux is presented. Project Blue is to support those who
want to use FLOSS in business. RC5 sents a team to take part in cryptocraph=
cracking contests seeing the global mobilization of computers.=20

LKH-Jp (Linux Kernel Hack Japan) is a project to provide Japanese documents
for those who want to hack Linux kernel. The Tips Project is for sharing
GNU/Linux or Unix tips found in daily computing life.  The Linux Seminar is
meant for beginners who want to study and utilise FLOSS. Finally, 'Project
Silicon Linux' aims at making a Linux distribution for embedded systems
which is bootable from ROM is the objective of this project.=20


Sometimes, the penetration of FLOSS happens in the background, leading one
to overlook its very existance. One case of this kind has been described by
Robin 'Roblimo' Miller who wrote about it in Newsfourge (See
19 ).

During a recent seminar held in that country, Jordan's Ministry of
Information and Communication Technology was not officially aware of the
level of FLOSS deployment in use in the country. But over half of the
workshop attendees who responded to a "knowledge of Open Source" survey sai=
they were familiar with, and in many cases, already using GNU/Linux,
Mozilla, Sendmail, Apache, OpenOffice and other popular FLOSS packages.

Commentators like Miller argue that FLOSS could help countries like Jordan
become software exporters. Jordan, without oil reserves, is comparatively
poor and has a relatively well-educated population. "Obviously, software
that can be developed strictly in Jordan from an Open Source base is better
for the Jordanian economy than working with foreign proprietary software
companies that demand an endless stream of royalties. Not only that, the
licensing complexities that surround the use of proprietary code these days
can lead to more employment for lawyers than programmers, and Jordan is
interested in exporting software, not legal paperwork," he argues.

As he points out, in a conclusion that could be relevant to the bulk of
other parts of Asia: The other obvious advantage of using Open Source
programming tools is their low cost -- usually zero or so, whether you are
counting in Jordanian Dinars or U.S. dollars -- that allow non-rich
Jordanians (a designation that includes, conservatively, 95% of the
country's population) a fair chance to learn to program competently and
create useful software.
Jordan's sysadmins and programmers here typically earn between $300 and $60=
per month. "(S)o if it takes a few weeks -- or even a few months -- longer
for an admin to learn how to set up Apache than a proprietary server
product, the license cost saving for one server, once, makes the extra
effort more than worthwhile. And, of course, once that knowledge is gained
it carries on to the next project, and so on," argues Miller.=20
Stepped up "anti-piracy" drives by the BSA and others in the Middle East no=
means that commercial and government software users are no longer able to
follow the trend of simply using illegal copies of proprietory software.

Incidentally, IBM has recently sponsored a new GNU/Linux lab at the
University of Jordan.

o Isam Bayazidi is leader of the Arabeyes Project, a group that works out o=
Jordan and elsewhere in the Middle East to provide Arabic support for a
growing number of Open Source projects. "Isam is your basic Linux user and
Open Source project leader, same as others of his ilk all over the world:
young, smart, dedicated, and happily building a productive international
development team and user base without any help, pay or recognition from
government, academia or business," says Miller.

Mohammed Aloqeely <aloqeely@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx> has cited a report wherein IBM
donated a GNU/Linux lab to a Jordanian university. Details were unavailable=
(Saudi Linux mailing list, saudi_linux@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx) digest version
Number 406 dated Dec 17, 2002) But more information is available at the
regional language website http://www.bab.com/news/full_news.cfm?id=3D28104


Earl Mardle <earl.mardle@xxxxxxxxx> of KeyNet Consultancy ('Using
Information Technology in the Real World') in Sydney-Australia argues that
FLOSS may not be the "perfect tool" but in many cases is "the only one
available" that is sufficiently adaptable and susceptible to volunteer

"To give an example, the Lao language interface for the Jhai project has
been led by a member of New York's Lao community who happens also to work
for IBM and has done the work as a volunteer," he says.=20


o Malaysia's education ministry is a recipient of Sun Microsystems'
StarOffice software suite. "The donation, valued at RM475 million (US$125
million), is set to benefit 2.5 million students from 9,000 schools, and 50=
colleges and universities country-wide", said Sun in a statement. Beyond th=
PR figures, it would be interesting to see the actual numbers benefitted.
StarOffice 6.0 -- which runs on Linux, Windows and Sun's Solaris -- is a se=
of desktop productivity tools with word processing, spreadsheet,
presentation and image editing functions. Sun had given an earlier version
of StarOffice to education departments in Selangor and Penang.

This (donation) marks a first step in encouraging the use of open-source
software throughout the country's education system, Malaysia's education
minister Musa Mohamad has been quoted saying in press reports. The ministry
is also exploring the possibility of deploying Linux-based appliance server=
in schools to provide students and teachers networked access to their
applications, according to Govinathan Pillai, managing director for Sun's
Malaysia operations. Source: Staff. "StarOffice push intensifies in
Malaysia". CNETAsia (7 October 2002).

o Other indications have also been reported about the possiblity of
deploying FLOSS in public and government schools. See: "Govt studying Linux
systems for public sector and schools". The Star (2 July 2002).

o Malaysia also claims to be ahead of other Asian countries (excluding
Japan) in terms of its compounded annual growth rate of GNU/Linux servers
shipments from 1999 to 2004. This touched 81% in Malaysia, compared to Indi=
(79%), South Korea (64%) and even China (58%).

o "The Star [a popular Malaysian daily] also noted that in the last few
months, both the Malaysian National Computer Confederation (MNCC) and the
Association of the Computer and Multimedia Industry of Malaysia (Pikom) hav=
formed 'special interest groups' devoted to the Open Source movement. MNCC
is the national body of computer professionals, while Pikom is the industry
trade association. Unnamed industry sources were also quoted saying that on=
or two Malaysian government or semi-government bodies are studying the
feasibility of developing Linux -- the Unix-based operating system that man=
consider the flagship of the OSS charge -- into a 'national operating
system' like what's being undertaken with China's Red Flag project. See:
Noronha, Frederick. "Open-Source Software Opens New Windows to Third-World"=
Linux Journal (3 May 2002) http://www.linuxjournal.com/article.php?sid=3D60=

=09In Malaysia, FLOSS (or, Open Source, the more preferred term here)
=09is seen as important as access to source code would encourage and
=09promote local capabilities for software modification and
=09redistribution. The Malaysians argue that FLOSS promotes an
=09environment for technical and systems development, as well as the
=09ability to learn, innovate and invent, while stimulating the local
=09software industry. More importantly, it is seen as promoting
=09independence from foreign software companies and reduces an outflow
=09of funds from the country.=20

o Besides LUGs in the metro areas like KL, there are also others in remote
regions like Sarawak (see http://star.cdc.abu.com/~peterlai/salrug/ accesse=
December 23, 2002). In its own words: "Sarawak Linux Root User Group
(SaLRUG) is a group of Linux user in the city of Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia
with interests in Linux The group originally come on and off at CDC Interne=
to get all roblems solved since 1994." The LUG in the touristic destination
of Penang is at http://members.tripod.com/penanglug/

o Mimos (http://www.mimos.my/opensource/) hopes to launch a website in earl=
2003 to document projects in FLOSS within Asia, with links to key resources=
(Email from Imran William Smith <iwsmith@xxxxxxxx> dt November 18, 2002. He
is the Project Manager for Open Source Development at Mimos Berhad,

Another regular Open Source network is at http://www.my-opensource.org
Mimos' goal is to localize key applications into the national language
Bahasa Melayu, which is hoped to materialise sometime in 2003.  "Some other
groups have already localized some applications, we hope to build on their
work," says Imran William Smith.

See the site  www.my-opensource.org. This is a group of people interested t=
further the development and usage of open source software and the hacker
culture in Malaysia.

Malaysian publications like "The Star" and "Computimes" (www.nstpi.com.my)
have their finger on the pulse.  They often get the news first, and in
particular, Computimes, has seen a lot of FLOSS coverage recently.

One story that made it to the news in a big way in May 2000 was over how a
group of computer geeks using freely distributable software and
communicating via the Internet puts together an e-community system on a
shoe-string budget.=20

The Malaysian Open Source Group has assembled for The Thalassaemia
Association of Malaysia an online social community for Thalassaemia
sufferers and their families. At a minimal financial cost. The aim was to
build for the Thalassaemia Association of Malaysia an e-community for
thalassaemic patients, their families and healthcare providers.=20

The plan, which materialised well, was to to set up a web based e-community
with online database of patient profiles, and e-forums and e-chats to
facilitate patient-doctor and patient-patient relationships. Its goal was
also to collate requests for Desferal -- the main drug used in treatment --
so that the association can get volume discounts from drug manufacturers.

"The plan was simple -- with all the GPLed software available there was the
best of the breed, a pool of solidly reliable software tried and tested by =
voracious community of worldwide hackers. Why, this was the same stuff that
ran more than half of the Internet servers worldwide, right? So, we're off
to cook us up an e-community on the easy," comment Beh H. L. and Nah S.H
(See "A Malaysian Open Source True Story, E-Thalassaemia)

o In Malaysia, for example, the Government has been committed to using Open
Source Software since November 2001. The decision to move toward Open Sourc=
is based on a White Paper produced by the Open Source Special Interest Grou=
of the Association of Computer and Multimedia Industry of Malaysia (PIKOM)
in April 2002. Also, the Malaysian Institute of Microelectronic Systems
(MIMOS) has developed Open Source solutions for government. It has also
developed applications and the Linux Graphical User Interface (GUI) in the
local language, Bahasa Malaysia (BM). For more information, see also, 'Gree=
light for Open Source from PM', by Charles F. Moreira in The Star, Friday
August 09 2002. (Source: Communication from Shahid Akhtar, APDIP)

See Malaysias Open Source push (by CHARLES F. MOREIRA)


Recently, in January 2003, the Mongolian language came up with some amazing
achievements among GNOME's international rankings for translations. This is
put out on gnome-i18n@xxxxxxxxx, and sorts the various languages on the
basis of their 'completeness' in terms of translation to non-English

In late January 2003, the Mongolian language made the "impossible possible"
and entered the list at a whopping 15th place (supported). Sanlig Badral,
Ochirbat Batzaya, Tegshbayar, Bayarsaihan and the others in the Mongolian
team have certainly made an impressive start by jumping right in in the top
crowd with over 95% translated messages!=20

The Mongolian team started their work on GNOME translations less than a
month earlier, and in that short period of time they've managed to translat=
no less than 11455 messages. "Incredible!" said rankers of the Gnome team,
egging on various communities trying to get their languages working with
this software.=20


o In Nepal, there the Ganesha's Project, a plan using donated machines and
open-source software like Linux, in a move to cut the costs of acquiring
software licenses for 'an already impoverished school system'. See the site
at http://www.ganeshas-project.org/sets/contact.html

This is a explanation of how the teaching works: "The students are split in
to four groups, that the students named: Six Champions, Seven Stars, Women
Power and Danphe. The groups consist of seven to nine students and are
represented by four captains. Each group gets 1.5 hours computer lessons a
day from Monday to Friday. Saturday is a holiday, so there are no lessons;
but the PC-Pool is opened from 7:00 h to 18:00 h to all interested students
for free computer usage. During this time the students are supervised by 2
group captains...."

"Sundays translated revision classes are held together with Kamal. During
these lessons topics that, were not understood during the week are repeated
and translated into Nepali and Tharu (the two most commonly spoken language=
in Bachhauli) by Kamal, to make sure that complicated and theoretical topic=
are understood well. Three times a week, the PC-Pool is cleaned by the
students themselves. The students always complete their duties with great
responsibility. The lessons consist of three different computer subjects,
which always need a few weeks to be concluded. When a subject is
accomplished it is replaced by a new subject. In the following weeks the
subjects are Gimp, Database and Linux Basics which are taught by Kiki,
Marcus and Lenny respectively."


This is another country where the importance of FLOSS is being closely
studied, both by senior official quarters and campaigners at the grassroots=

o "Pakistan Ministry of Science and Technology advisor Salman Ansari
recently spoke of the possibility of some 50,000 low cost computers are to
be installed in schools and colleges all over Pakistan. These will be PII
computers, each being sourced for less than $100 a piece, he said.
Proprietary software for these PCs would cost a small fortune. Surely more
than what the computers cost. But, using GNU/Linux ensures that the overall
prices are kept low. 'Don't be surprised if we become the first country in
the world to say that all (government-run) services are going to be
GNU/Linux based,' Ansari said enthusiastically." (See Noronha, Frederick.
"Open-Source Software Opens New Windows to Third-World". Linux Journal (3
May 2002). http://www.linuxjournal.com/article.php?sid=3D6049.)

See also articles such as Miller, Robin 'Roblimo' "Linux gains ground in
Pakistan". NewsForge (4 January 2002).

o One interesting project that came up recently was the Video Whale Project=
(See http://www.gstreamer.net/apps/vw/ The video-whale project is an
implementation of video-wall which exploits the combined power of Gstreamer
(www.gstreamer.net) and Xinerama.

Every group of four displays (monitors) are controlled by one machine. So
there is a LAN of four machine behind the video-wall.=20

Say the promoters: "We plan on using these videowalls in Pakistani
universties and schools to let them quickly set up videowalls for use in th=
classrooms when need be."=20

o Besides the main PLUC, other regional LUGs include the Sindhis' Linux Use=
Group (SLUG) located in Hyderabad, Sindh, which is also internationally
known as Indus Valley.

o Fawad Halim's man interface in php. This is an initiative from Pakistan,
that offers a man-interface via PHP. Code is being distributed under the GN=
General Public License. Original version at www.linuxpakistan.net (Check ou=
the news pages at http://www.linuxpakistan.net/news/ )

o 'Linuxchopal.com' aims to act, as its name translates, into a 'meeting
place for Linux'. This is still a work-under-progress and its webmaster is
waiting for is a FLOSS Urdu text editor so that it could be accessable from
any OS machine particularly those with slow links. Content will include
setting up a forum in Urdu and How-To's plus some other related information=

"There is some work going on but basically every thing is being delayed due
to lack of standards compliant GPL text editor capable of displaying
Arabic-script based languages. To the best of our knowledge still upto now
only Katoob meets these tests but it is still a work-under-progress.  While
it it supports Arabic and work is going on to add support for Farsi. Work
for Urdu/Sindhi/Pushto will take some time, says Tariq of LinuxChopal


Greenpeace Southeast Asia (Philippines) web editor and systems administrato=
Steven Sy (27) explains a recent shift-over of their office to Free

Greenpeace Southeast Asia (GPSEA, see
http://www.greenpeacesoutheastasia.org) was formally established on March 1=
2000 and has offices in Bangkok, Thailand (head office) and in Manila,
Philippines. It currently has 18 staff in Bangkok and eight in Manila.

Globally, Greenpeace runs "ninety percent plus" of their servers on
GNU/Linux. But, so far, Manila is the only Greenpeace office to fully deplo=
GNU/Linux as the majority desktop, other smaller GP offices are planning to
migrate in the coming months.

"The office has been planning to move to Free Software since early 2002. We
made a conscious choice between migrating to Free Software or spending fund=
on expensive software licenses. We also did not want to get into legal
troubles if ever the BSA (Business Software Alliance, the proprietorial
software arm that fights illegal copying of software, which it terms
'piracy') came our way," explains Sy.

FLOSS has by now (January 2003) been fully deployed within the Manila
office. Says Sy: "We've been using the Redhat distro since September 2002.
At first we were using Redhat 7.3 with a Ximian desktop, then we upgraded t=
Redhat 8 as soon as it came out." This covers some seven desktops and one
laptop. Two other laptops are still using Windows XP. Free Software is used
mostly for word processing, e-mail, web browsing, spreadsheets and

The advantages are obvious: "It's free ('beer' and 'speech') and secure
(less or no virus infections since migrating)." The motives for shifting
over: "It's a mix of both (technical and philosophical). FS is a technicall=
superior and morally correct technology," says Sy. All the regular staff no=
use Free Software in their daily work.

"Since we downloaded the software off the Internet, just the costs of blank
CDs that's less than 1 USD. For the users, just time and patience in
learning the new system," says he. "Free Software saved the office a lot of
money, money that was better spent on winning campaigns than paying for ver=
expensive licenses." Problems have been limited to "some minor bugs in the
software. Steep learning curve for administering (for a beginner)." Source:
personal email from Steven Sy, Dec 2002 and Jan 2003.=20

The Philippines is also the home of campaigners like Roberto Verzola, a
long-time activist for extending people's participation on the Net.

The Phillipines has also seen some strong challenging of the rationale of
proprietorial software. An interesting read from the University of the
Phillipines. http://www.up.edu.ph/forum/2002/Nov-Dec02/letter.html accessed
Jan 25, 2003.

University of the Philippines, Quezon City president of the board of regent=
Dr. Francisco Nemenzo -- in an open letter -- argues that the "big
multinational software companies have local agents to smoke out users of
pirated and unlicensed computer programs. Their targets are schools,
companies and government offices. Those they catch are charged and heavily
fined for violation of intellectual property rights. One private university
is reportedly paying Microsoft millions in an amicable settlement.  It woul=
be extremely embarrassing for any academic or administrative unit of UP to
be caught because we are now taking steps to protect the technologies
developed in our research laboratories."

Nemenzo says that the Board of Regents recently adopted the Acceptable Use
Policy for IT Resources of the UP System. Adds he: "We have licenses for MS
Office 97 and 98.  But Microsoft keeps upgrading this program to line the
bulging pockets of Bill Gates. We need approximately P12 million to license
the new MS Office 2000 in the entire UP System. In addition, we have to pay
P8 thousand per computer for the latest Windows operating system. This
enormous amount might as well be used to buy more computers.  I have
therefore reiterated my appeal to install the Linux operating system and us=
OpenOffice or StarOffice for word processing, making powerpoint (sic)
presentations, spreadsheets, data bases, etc., sending emails, and accessin=
the Internet."

Sun Microsystems has also donated hundreds of CDs for StarOffice with
permission to reproduce them as many times as wished. "StarOffice and
OpenOffice have all the features of Microsoft Office.  Having tried both, I
assure you that they work just as well. It only requires a little effort to
shift from the familiar programs. If you learned computing earlier with
WordStar, it is like going back to the good old days. StarOffice and
OpenOffice are less user-friendly, but you can modify them to suit your
peculiar work style. By contrast, a user-friendly program like Microsoft
forces you to adapt to the manufacturers style, unless you have the patienc=
to tinker with the incomprehensible codes in the registry," says the
President of the Regents.=20

Steven Sy <ssy@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx> also informs (personal email Feb 4, 2003)
that one of the government agencies has released version 2 of a distributio=
of GNU/Linux, it's called Bayanihan. <http://bayanihan.asti.dost.gov.ph/>

Saudi Arabia

Khaled Al-Ghonaim, Chairman of the Saudi Computer Society and one of the
Middle East's best-known computer security experts, has been speaking in th=
region on the security advantages of FLOSS over proprietorial (closed
source) software.

Moath Abdullah Alkhalaf <moath2@xxxxxxxxx> recently announced the completio=
of a research paper that he and Abdullah Al Shalan had written on Linux
Arabization in the University. They are students of KSU in Riyadh.

South Korea =20

o Reports incidated that "the Korean government is to buy 120,000 copies of
Hancom Linux Deluxe this year, enough to switch 23 percent of its installed
base Microsoft user to Open Source equivalents, according to NewsForge. By
standardising on FLOSS and HancomOffice, the Korean government expects to
make savings of 80 percent, compared with buying Microsoft products. ..."
Source: Cullen, Drew. "Korea migrates 120K civil servants to Linux desktop"=
NewsForge (14 January 2002). See

Scott Granneman comments on the issue: "The Korean government is to buy
120,000 copies of Hancom Linux Deluxe this year, enough to switch 23 percen=
of its installed base Microsoft user to Open Source equivalents. By
standardising on Linux and HancomOffice, the Korean government expects to
make savings of 80 percent, compared with buying Microsoft products..."
Source: Cullen, Drew. "Korea migrates 120K civil servants to Linux desktop"=
NewsForge (14 January 2002).

This move was considered important enough for LWN.net to include it among
the "2002 Linux Timeline". See http://lwn.net/Articles/16859/ and the Hanco=
press release at=20

o Meanwhile, universities squeezed by the region's 1997 financial crunch
found themselves unable to purchase software. In response, the Ministry of
Information and Communication last year set up training programs for GNU
Linux for systems administration. Source: Festa, Paul. "Governments push
open-source software". CNET News.com (29 August 2001).

o South Korea's GNU/Linux-based PDA was reported (November 2001) as having
the potential to "take on (the) Palm, Microsoft". (See
http://www.newsfactor.com/perl/story/14929.html ) Lou Hirsh comments that
though some analysts are "skeptical about Linux-based products, noting that
the operating system has a distinct marketing disadvantage", the South
Korea-based Gmate Co. Ltd. (http://www.gmate.com/) has been "moving
confidently ahead with plans to market a Linux-based personal digital
assistant (PDA)". "The advantage of a Linux-based PDA would be that there i=
the possibility for the developers to be able to develop thousands of
applications with the free open source," Seungchae Cheong, the company's
manager of sales and marketing, was quoted as saying.
Gmate argued that the Yopy has been designed to also run Windows-compatible
PDA programs, which will give users access to thousands of existing
applications, while the Linux platform will offer access to a wider variety
of future programs. The Yopy, which has been in development for a year prio=
to end-2001, has a folding-type design, much like a cell phone. It has a
3.5-inch reflective liquid crystal display (LCD) panel in its upper half,
and a 40-key keypad in its lower half. Gmate is based in Pundang, Korea,
just outside of Seoul.

By November 2002, the Gmate Yopy was being judged the third-best hardware
device (among mobiles) by a jury of GNU/Linux gurus worldwide who were
polled by the 'Linux Magazine' (www.linux-magazine.com), based in Munich.


Singapore's FLOSS website is at http://www.singalinux.com/ (accessed Dec 23=

A reasonable GNU/Linux Server installation at 'Overseas Family School' a K1=
international school near Orchard Road. They have about 10 GNU/Linux server=
in their pure GNU/Linux server cluster with a mixture of Fibre Channel SAN
and shared SCSI storage serving 600 client Macintoshes via a multi gigabit
fibre backbone running between the twelve buildings of the school. The main
server cluster has four dual CPU nodes with a total of 10GB RAM setup as an
active-active HA cluster connected to shared storage via 2Gb Fibre Channel.
They were also the first Asia Pacific site to being running Oracle
Applications 11i on Linux (not just the DB -- but the full ERP suite). See
http://www.metaparadigm.com/articles/20020404.shtml Eugene Teo
<eugene.teo@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>, personal email on Dec 12, 2002. Eugene Teo is
the Vice Secretary of the Linux Users Group, Singapore. See


In Tajikistan, Arash Zeini <a.zeini@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> of Iran cites the case o=
another American who has been helping to translate Mandrake into Tajiki.
"That is the only project I know about," says he. Further details are


o Taiwan is sometimes viewed as an example where government officials have
announced intentions to pursue open source over major commercial
applications in part to rein in Microsoft and preserve room for competition
within the local software industry.=20

'Microsoft has been dominating the market here in Taiwan and we don't want
this type of development to continue,' Tan-Sun Chen, a member of the
Legislative Yuan and co-chairman of the Technology and Information
Committee, has been quoted as saying in an interview with IDG News Service.

Motivated by the Fair Trade Commission's investigation of Microsoft's
pricing practices in Taiwan, legislators are seeking ways to curtail
Microsoft's dominance of the market, Chen said. One of the suggestions put
forth during a June 3, 2002 meeting of legislators and officials would see
the Taiwanese government allocate funding for the development of open-sourc=
software, including Linux, he said. Source: Berger, Matt. "ANALYSIS:
Microsoft vs. open source gets political". IDG News (10 June 2002).

o "The Taiwanese legislature has announced plans to subsidize development o=
open-source systems for the public and private sectors, the Taipei Times
reported. Starting 2003, the National Supercomputing Center will begin a
two-year mission to encourage development Chinese-language operating system=
and office applications for use throughout the nation's bureaux, schools an=
offices. The legislature reckons that by getting into rehab and kicking the
Microsoft crack habit the government could save NT $2 billion while the
private sector could save NT $10 billion in licensing fees." Source: Greene=
Thomas C. "Taiwan govt pushes open source". The Register (4 June 2002).

News from Taiwan ( http://www.gnacademy.org/twiki/bin/view/SOS/TaiwanOS )
said in June 2002 ( http://news.com.com/2100-1001-931765.html ) that Taiwan
had "open arms to open source". This short report is on a recent initiative
by the Taiwanese government in support of FLOSS. It says: "Under the
project, the government will encourage research and development in office
software and the opening of the source code for government agencies and
private establishments ... the government is also planning to set up six
educational centers around Taiwan to train open-source developers. Three
years after the introduction of the open-source project, the centers will b=
training 120,000 basic users and 9,600 advanced users".

It was also reported that Taiwan was "investigating Microsoft tactics".=20
According to this report ( http://news.com.com/2100-1001-901763.html ),
there was an investigation by Taiwan's Fair Trade Commission (FTC) "into
allegations that Microsoft misused its market dominance by indiscriminately
increasing prices".


http://linux.thai.net (accessed Dec 23z, 2002) is the link for the
mostly-Thai language website of FLOSS in this part of the globe. Some links
offered on this site include Pladao (http://www.pladao.com/), the Thai
Translator Pool Project (http://www.9nar.net/), ThaiLinux.com
(http://www.thailinux.com/), Thai Linux Software Collection
(http://ftp.nectec.or.th/pub/thailinux/software/), The Thai Linux
Documentation Project (http://ftp.nectec.or.th/pub/thailinux/docs/), the
Linux Thai Project (http://www.thailinux.org/).

There are also a range of Thai GNU/Linux distros showing up, such as Linux
TLE (http://linux.thai.net/linux-tle/), the schools-based Linux-SIS
(http://www.school.net.th/linux-sis/), Kaiwal Linux (http://www.kaiwal.com/=
and ZiiF Linux (http://www.ziif.com/) among others.

There's obviously much going on in this space, though it is difficult to ma=
it more precisely due to language barriers.=20

In the implementation of the SchoolNet program, Thailand's NECTEC (the
National Electronic and Computer Technology Centre) developed a Linux Schoo=
Internet Server (Linux-SIS). This was meant to be promoted and distributed
to schools as a cheaper -- meaning, more affordable -- alternative to using
expensive server software. It was meant for schools ready to move beyond th=
first phase of Internet implementation.

"Since its introduction, Linux-SIS has been very popular in Thailand due to
its excellent documentatin in the Thai language, its simple-to-install
CD-Rom and its web-based server management without the need to know Unix
commands. SIS training courses are always in constant demand from schools
looking for a reliable Internet server at the lowest cost," says a paper
'Best Practice SchoolNet Thailand', March 2002 (procured in hard-copy, but
it makes a reference to http://www.school.net.th)

Linux-SIS was developed as version 1.0 in April 1997 and 2.0 in February
1998. Linux-SIS 4.0 with a Digital Library Tool Kit (designed to offer
easy-to-use functions, that allow teachers and specially those with no
knowledge of HTML to develop Net-based lessons for students) were developed
in October 2000. Proponents of this suggest that latter versions of
GNU/Linux "creates (a) simpler installation process and systems management"=

In Thailand (see  http://www.gnacademy.org/twiki/bin/view/SOS/ThailandOS )
the network http://software.thai.net has been "... created and maintained b=
volunteers who believe in the Open-Source concept and would like to see
active development of software suitable for Thai language users."
Check the interesting SchoolNet Thailand (most text in the Thai language) a=

Thai Open Source Software Center is at  http://www.thaiopensource.com/


The UAE's Linux User Group is located at
http://www.goldensun.com/linux/linuxpress.html (accessed Dec 23, 2002)

"Linux is the wonderful Free Multi-User Operating system supported by
Millions of Internet users. People who look for viable alternatives to the
costly bug infested Commercial Server operating systems should look into th=
most powerful Linux, which is available free of cost to any user.
Unfortunately the Linux awareness is in its infancy in this part of the
world. (The) Linux User Group will try to address the awareness issues and
educating the masses in Linux. Membership is open to all computer
enthusiasts in the United Arab Emirates irrespective of age, gender or
nationality," said Mr. GSC Prabhakar, Organiser of Linux User Group- United
Arab Emirates and the Managing Director of GoldenSun Internet Consulting &
Research. Like in some other areas of the Middle East, expat workers from
the Indian subcontinent settled there seem to be contributing to building u=
FLOSS in these areas.


From=20the various pointers available in this country, a mixed scenario (an=
probably an incomplete one too) emerges from the FLOSS scene in Vietnam.

VietLUG is located at <vietlug-users@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>

AD (Andi) Marshall, founder of H=F8LUG, the H=F8ChiMinh LUG argues that "a
possible (FL)OSS program" would include framing overall goals; disseminatin=
the (FL)OSS spirit and principles; re-training and training; promoting
(FL)OSS localization; promoting the establishment of (FL)OSS support
services; and recommending the use of (FL)OSS where it can be used, in
particular, in public administration.

Some pages filled with links to most of the best English (and Vietnamese)
sources of information about "GNU/Linux in Vietnam":

* http://www.i-today.com.vn/itoday/open_source/baocao.htm
* http://h0lug.sourceforge.net/00.viet/fl0@vnisbiz/02flohow/ -- Dr

Chuong's presentation to InfoDev, which is at

http://www.gnacademy.org/twiki/bin/view/SOS/VietnamOS points to the
interesting presentation of Jordi Carrasco-Mu=F1oz. This text presents the
case of the use and distribution of Free Open Software as a valid and
necessary official development aid [ODA] tool in so-called 'developing'
countries. Its benefits are manifold and it may be the only option availabl=
for 'developing countries' not to miss the "information technology (IT)
revolution," without infringing copyright laws, argues the author.=20

Robert J. Chassell <bob@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx> writing on the Public Software
mailing list <pubsoft@xxxxxxxx> argues: "The Vietnamese I knew some years
ago understood very well that they were fighting for their freedom from the
French colonialists.  Freedom was not an unknown idea.  And it was clear
that the country was not free."

With so-called software 'piracy' rampant in many Asian countries, it would
seem that any other software distribution allows people here to have the
de-facto freedom to "copy, use and re-distribute every software".

But this does not offer access to source code to study and modify.=20

Chassell argues that proprietorial software means users "cannot study and
cannot modify.  What happens is that they become attached to the user
interfaces and data formats that the binary code introduces.  They become
trapped -- unable to learn, with learning and ways of doing business that
are felt to be expensive to change."=20

Stefan Probst <stefan.probst@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx> gives another set of
interesting figures:=20

=09Take it that way: MS Office is probably something in the 400 to 600
=09USD price range. A Vietnamese office worker gets a monthly salary of
=0950 USD (State offices) to let's say 150 USD (well paid private
=09business) - with an average probably around 100 USD. There is IMO NO
=09WAY that MS is going to be able to sell their office packages to
=09their price in Vietnam on a larger scale. At least not as long as
=09there is OpenOffice available. The issue is a bit different for the
=09OS, which is cheaper, and where end-user alternatives for the time
=09being are not yet really available. But until that time that they
=09can go for it, there might be good alternatives....

o EU official in Vietnam, Jordi Carrasco-Mu=F1oz of the EC Delegation to
Vietnam <jordi.carrasco-munoz@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx> argues that 'development'
organisation in the First World should throw their weight behind Free/Libre
and Open Source Software. He argues that the cost of Windows XP and MS
Office is between $560 and $800 (standard to professional version).

In a country like Vietnam, where the GDP per capita is $440 per year, the
cost of just the operating system would be equivalent to one year and three
month's wages of the average Vietnamese. XP and Office Pro would cost one
year and ten months. "The cost-equivalent for the US, where the GDP per
capita is $30,200 per year would be $38,436 for just XP and Office," he
argues. Therefore is it "very surprising" that the percentage of
illegally-copied (or, what the corporations prefer to somewhat misleadingly
call 'pirated') software in Vietnam is 97%, he notes. (Prices of the
proprietorial products are from Amazon.com)

Again, as Probst points out, the situation in Vietnam "is probably a bit

"If one looks at the list of "most spoken languages", you will see, that fo=
pretty much all the other more spoken languages (Spanish, English, French,
Chinese, Hindu, Arabic, etc.) there exist versions of MS software.
Vietnamese is the first one in that list (around position 12), where there
is no reasonable working version. "Open Source" is therefore critical to
make local translations of SW.  Nobody cares about "rights", i.e. whether
you are allowed to do so, or not," Probst argues.=20

Vietnam has unlicensed (so-called "pirated") software use reportedly
touching 97%, according to some estimates.

Robert J. Chassell argues: "Yes, and if Vietnam becomes a `successful
country' -- one that outsiders think may well grow economically -- then you
can expect the US trade representative to begin to press the local
government to arrange that more and more money be paid to a lawbreaking US
corporation, and to others outside the country.  This has happened in
Malaysia.  But it will not happen if everyone expects Vietnam to continue a=
a failure."

Says he: "If Microsoft were trying to exploit Vietnam, a marketing person
would expect it to provide inexpensive copies of its software, get people
accustomed to its user interface and data formats, and then, if the market
comes to look promising (a big question in Vietnam), raise the price to som=
users -- those who can pay -- while continuing to provide inexpensive copie=
to students and others."

Vietnamese expats, settled abroad, are also doing their bit to promote FLOS=
in their language and region.

Le Hong Boi's 'Vietnamese Linux' was set up in April 1999 and has been
offering local-language solutions to download.
FOOTNOTES: The term FLOSS, Free/Libre or Open Source Software, has been
used by Rishab Aiyer Ghosh in his study. See the online version at
http://www.infonomics.nl/FLOSS/report/ Aiyer Ghosh points out in an
interview that this term -- which covers both Free and Open Source software
-- has the additional advantage of incorporating "Libre Software", a term
that is unfortunately hardly in use outside the French-speaking members of
the EC bureaucracy, but is a good description of the 'free' nature of this
software. (Free, as in freedom, that is.)=20

The Free Software Movement as we know it was founded in 1985 by Richard M.
Stallman.  The basic tenets of free software are -- freedom to study,
freedom to change, freedom to share or distribute, the right to sell free
software, and the principle that the software 'source' has always to
accompany binaries. Linux, the kernel widely used by Free/Libre and Open
Source Software, is also sometimes interchangeably used to describe FLOSS,
which actually is a wider concept.
Frederick Noronha     : http://www.bytesforall.org   : When we speak of fre=
Freelance Journalist  : Goa India 403511             : software we refer to
Ph 0091.832.409490    : Cell 0 9822 122436           : freedom, not price.

Compiled by:
     April 2004         | Frederick Noronha, Freelance Journalist
Su Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa    | Goa India 0091.832.2409490 or 2409783
             1  2  3    | ----------------------------------------
 4  5  6  7  8  9 10    | Email fred at bytesforall.org
11 12 13 14 15 16 17    | Writing with a difference
18 19 20 21 22 23 24    | ... on what makes *the* difference
25 26 27 28 29 30       | http://www.bytesforall.org
CHECK OUT USENET http://www.algebra.com/~scig/approved/threads.html
Urgent email to fredericknoronha at vsnl.net Mobile 9822 122436

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