Indian language computing makes progress in free software

Wednesday, 29 October 2003, 08:00 Hrs
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PANAJI: Indian language computing is making impressive strides in the free software world, and tools for nine major language are already in a state of fair functionality, say tech experts in the field.

"By 2004 Indian language computing should be well on its way, with solutions working in many languages," said G. Karunakar, a prominent campaigner for non-English solutions in computing.

Karunkar is the project administrator for the IndLinux Indian Linux project. It has been working on the "localisation" of the GNU/Linux operating system and its applications for Indian languages.

So far, the IndLinux team has worked on locale development, fonts and other aspects required before a computer can work in any local language.

Karunakar is coordinating the Gnome Hindi localisation. Gnome is a major computing desktop environment for the free software world.

Currently, there are three or four major groups working on Indian language solutions in the free software world in India.

Nagarjuna of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) in Mumbai and his team is doing font-related work. Jitendra Shah and his team from Mumbai is working on Marathi and Gujarati.

In eastern India, much work has been done in Bengali. Likewise, Tamil has taken several steps ahead in the world of Indian-language solutions.

Government of India computing institutions, and branches of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) have also been working on the Indian language front.

Recently, the Milan solution was released. This GNU/Linux-based solution boots up from a CD-ROM and allows the user to work in nine different Indian languages.

"Oriya and Punjabi have no free fonts of their own. But in other languages, the fonts are becoming a non-issue, since there is at least one free font for every language," Karunakar told IANS here.

But he acknowledged that one bottleneck was how various teams could speed up their work. Another problem is a solution for the keyboard, as not many are familiar with the in script layout.

Workshops have also been held on another crucial part of Indian-language computing-font-designing, so that computer users have access to fonts they can freely and easily use to communicate in their own language.

"Enthusiasts from Nepal and Bangladesh also joined in our workshop on font designing," says Karunakar.

Karunakar has been a team-member working on "instant messaging" in Indian languages, using the Jabber protocol.

So far, the team has added Indian language support to an existing chat client, thus allowing the sending of instant messages over the Internet in Hindi and some other Indian languages. Even email solutions are available, he said.

Karunakar is employed with Emergic OS, the thin-client and thick-server platform solution led by one of the wonder kids of India's Internet world, Rajesh Jain -- better remembered for selling his website for almost 5 billion.

He is working on Indian language support for the next version of the Emergic product, which hopes to make computing affordable to a wider segment of Indian users.

Source: IANS
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