Frederick Noronha on 6 Nov 2000 08:12:55 -0000

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[Nettime-bold] BytesforAll: Focus -- Linux at IT.Com

_/  B y t e s   F o r   A l l ---  
_/  Making  Computing  Relevant to the  People of  South Asia  
		Compiled by Frederick Noronha
To subscribe, mail with SUB BfA as subject
Talent-rich but resource-poor countries in South Asia cannot afford
highly-priced, copyright protected software. Software professionals have
argued that Open Source operating systems like GNU/Linux offer great potential
for this region. This special issue looks at some of the ideas emerging from
the Linux pavillion at the Bangalore IT.COM event held in this South Indian
city. We welcome your feedback to this issue. See contact details below.

*  IT WAS NICE to get a chance to be at the IT.COM show in Bangalore (held
from November 1 to 5 this year). As mentioned earlier, one entire
pavillion was devoted to Linux. It was ably headed by Atul Chitnis, Biju,
and others, with sponsorship from PC-QUEST, machines from IBM, etc. 

* LINUX'S EXHIBITION THIS YEAR in Bangalore was themed 'Powered by Linux'.
There would be five separate segments, each manned by volunteers. These are:
(i) development (ii) home and multimedia (iii) web-development (iv) e-commerce
and (v) education powered by Linux. It was great to see the young engineering
students, mainly from the newly-formed Vishwesaraya Technological University
(VTU) of Karnataka, working so hard and explaining patiently to visitors about
the power of the 'free OS'. 

* AT THE stalls, a whole lot of interesting demos were put up by Bangalore
Luggers (Linux group members). But there were also participants from Nagpur,
Calcutta, Delhi and ... of course, a small team from Goa.

* ON THE EDUCATION SECTION, Siddhart S (20) of the PES IT Bangalore -- a third
year mechanical engineering student -- demonstrated Open Source software like
DrGeo (for Maths), xplanets (for understanding inter-planetary geography),
and applications that showed periodic tables.

* KARTIK N, a student of RV's Final Year Electronics, was showing off the
power of Open Source matehmatical pacakges like Rlab, Scilab and Octave. 
There was mention of PCB-design software. Other students showed typing tutors
like Tux... which had a penguin gobbling up alphabets.

* GOA ILUG members kept pushing the idea that what was badly needed now was
an easily-accessible CD full of useful Linux/GNU packages for students at the
school-level. Some Bangalore ILUGers suggested sites like and

* OTHER LINUX fans were showcasing the power of 3D animation and rendering
through Linux tools ( This application can be used for
TV commercials, animations, or cartoons. 

* IT WAS A PLEASANT experience to meet Nagpur-based Swati Sani,
paedetrician-turned-software guru Dr Tarique Sani and their three-year-old
Aasim, who slept peacefully least-suspecting his dad was joking that he was
'powered by Linux'. Tarique and team have built WAPpop, which the good doctor
claims is the first "email client for WAP enabled phones... and one hundred
per cent free". See their youth portal (runs entirely on
PHP, with flash-based games, etc) Today, the firm has undertaken work
for parties in the US, UK, Andora ("we didn't know this country
existed"), Bangalore, Bombay and ... of course... Nagpur.

* FROM A USER'S POINT OF VIEW, one of the most interesting for a non-techie
like me was Uddore Malappa Taranath's G.T.Enterprises' one-stop-shop for
Linux. From working on minesweepers to working on submarines, former Navyman
Taranath (42) completed 15 years of pensionable service and then shifted to
Linux in keeping with his "passion to do something unique". His stall was
stuffed with useful books and low-cost CDs. Today, he supplies low-cost Linux
and other Open Source software across India and beyond. Because the price is
affordable, there's no problem with 'piracy' too. Contacts or

* RAMESH KUMAR K.G. of the Bangalore-based Linux Learning Centre, calls his
the first of its kind in India. This former Ham-turned-electronic-buff and
engineer, said he bumped into GTCDrom's Taranath, and was 'converted' to
Linux. "Today, in the past fifteen months, we have trained over 600 people,"
Ramesh Kumar told us. He added that people are "coming from all parts of the
country". Including some from Singapore, Bangladesh, Kuwait or Dubai. Some of
these were expat Indians. "So far, we've been focussing on the Linux
administration side. Now, we intend to look at how it can be used in
e-commerce applications," he said in a longish chat.
It offers courses for Linux System Administrator (20 hours; Rs 1950); Linux
Network Administrator (24 hours; Rs 2950); Database Programming and
Administrator (64 hours; Rs 7950); Linux Administrator four-day fulltime
fast-track course (Rs 3600); Advanced Linux Administrator three-day fulltime
(Rs 4600). To get an idea of costs, US$1 approx = Rs 46.
Contacts: Email:

* G-GRADE SCIENTIST DR K. Soundararajan of the Aeronautical Development
Establishment in Bangalore demonstrated how Linux could build a low-cost
flight simulator. What would cost Rs 10 to 20 million, could now be made within
Rs 200,000, he pointed out. Contacts:

* ELSEWHERE, LINUX Is also helping in building low-cost data acquisition
systems. Sashidhar of the ADE said this research establishment was able to
replace "very costly proprietorial systems costing a couple of tens of
millions" to those that dented the budget by just a few hundred thousand

* SYED KHADER of IBM-Bangalore told us how Linux had been put on
a watch at the IBM's Bangalore research centre. He also demonstrated out how
computers could be linked in clusters, using Linux/GNU to undertake
super-computing tasks. Such tools have immense applications in fields like
weather forecasting, unearthing the genome code, or coping with powerful
web-servers. Linux could thus be used to support web-server processors that
could take upto one million hits per second. 

* PEACOCK SOLUTIONS PRIVATE LIMITED, 'The Bangalore Linux Company', says it
has localised Star Office for Indian and regional languages like Hindi. In the
next year, it hopes to have Indian-language solutions for 11 Indian languages,
having potentially huge spin-offs for computing in India. Mahesh Jayachandra,
MD, PhD, the US-returned CEO of Peacock, said he also shortly hoped to have the
Gnome Desktop in Devangiri (the script used to write a number of North Indian
languages). "There are some fantastic coders in India," he said."All our
solutions are based on GNU/Linux code. We simply don't have the money to buy
proprietory code," he added. One could also hope to soon use the editor
Abiword or spreadsheet GNUmeric in Hindi, using Peacock's keyboard. Contacts: or

* SOMETHING ELSE THAT Peacock has done is to incubate other Linux companies.
"We have successfully incubated CDC Linux Pvt Ltd, the development centre of
California Digital Computers, a US-based company. Peacock's ISP and
number-crunching solutions are being implemented on CDC's commodity hardware,"
says the firm. Contact:

* FROM SuSE, THE GERMANY-BASED 'Linux Experts' came Jasmin Ul-Haque. She's
actually based in London and is Commercial Director of the company's
operations. Says she: "As you know, Linux was launched in 1991. SuSE was
created in 1992. We're older than Red Hat. And recent IDC figures say ours is
the leading Linux distribution in Europe." SuSE is keen to get a greater
market-share in India. "We want to target the educational market too. We're
keen to promote SuSE in universities and schools," says Jasmin. Considering
that prices of non-Open Source software, this might be an option for our
educational institutions. And SuSE is looking out for dealers across India.
Just in case you too were wondering what SuSE means, Burghard, the
CEO who has just taken over the India operations, says it's German for Systems
& Software Development.
Jasmin Ul-Haque 
Michael Burghart			CEO, Suse India 
Prakash Shetty, VP	

* SIDE BY SIDE with there were four days of inspiring Linux talks and
activities (Technology Tracks, Corporate Tracks, Tutorials, and
Birds-Of-A-Feather Sessions) at the impressive J.N.Tata Auditorium of the
Indian Institute of Sciences, an auto-rickshaw ride away from the Palace
Grounds venue of IT.COM.

* SAID MADHU KURUP, a technical yahoo at Yahoo India R&D: "One of the primary
myths associated with Linux is that there are no software (that run on Linux).
This is particularly untrue for programming. Remember that Linux was put
together by programmers around the world." He went on to give many examples:
serious industrial-strength compilers like GCC; Perl, shell programming tools
like Bash, Csh and Ksh; editors like Vi and Gvim and the 'complex beast' like
Emacs; debuggers like gdb/xxgdb, Ddd, Kdevelop; tools like gprof
(time-analysis for optimising code) or Make (that handles dependencies and
compile options) or CVS (or Concurrent Versioning System, used to manage
versions of your software).
For Rapid Application Development, some of the very useful tools are GTK/QT
for libraries, Glade, Delhpi-like tools, Tcl/TK etc.
Component-based development is becoming very popular, and for this there are
tools like Bonobo (incidentally named after an African tribe!). "Companies
across the world are embracing CORBA big time, including Infosys," said Kurup.
Among the books he recommended that programmers read was Lewis Carol's 'Alice
in Wonderland', written by a Mathematician from the past century.
LINKS: Email
Linux Programmer's Bounce Point
Linux India: (Check Linux Programmers list)
Freshmeat Large no of open source projects listed A DOS port of GCC Programmer of the Month Contest

* TARIQ SANI pointed out to the databases awailable under Linux, both Open
Source and commercial. He pointed to MySQL, PostgreSQL, Infomix and Oracle,
and studied how each compares against the other in terms of ease of
installation, speed of operation, usability and costs.

* FREEOS.COM'S CEO (someone said it should be 'Chief Evangelising Officer')
Prakash Advani said Open Source software could reduce the
total-cost-of-ownership by hundreds of thousands of rupees in a medium 50-user
size firm. It could be used for networking, Internet, email, webservers,
proxy-servers, Internet servers, firewalls, routers, application servers,
database servers and fax gateways, he pointed out."Linux reduces hardware
costs, and requires less maintenance. It involves no cost for upgrades. There
are also savings on add-ons like anti-virii programmes," he said.
Advani also informed that there were attempts underway to make computing
relevant to the millions of India, through the Indlinux project.
His view was that Red Hat, Suse and Debian was most suited for servers, while
Corel, Caldeira and the Mandrake distributions were better suited for desktops.
Links: e-mail

* INDIANS ARE BENEFITTING from Open Source. But are we sufficiently
contributing to it? If not, why not?
This issue came up more than once. Prakash Advani explained the lack of
development for Linux/GNU from India being due to two problems (i) lack of a
good Internet infrastructure till recently and (ii) developers haven't found a
model where they get paid to develop for Linux, and for most programmers in
India, money to live on, is indeed an issue.
Gopi Garge said: "How many bug-fixes have come from India? At least let's
start with bug fixes." Someone else suggested that we in India could at least
contribute back to Linux by reporting bugs! Come on friends, we've got a long
way to go. But let our contributions not go unnoticed. (If you know anyone
knowing useful work in this field, write to me at and I
promise to do a story!)

* LINUX FOR ISPs? Raj Mathur -- we found he has a fascinating sense of humour
-- told the entire story. Contact him at (Kandalaya is
Sanskrit for 'abundance'.) "Linux is indicative of a mindset change -- from a
mindset of hoarding and control, we need to move to an abundance mindset. One
way of thinking is that 'If I create a software and hoard it, I make money.'
But the other way is to pass it around, as otherwise I could be blocking a
global resource," Raj said. Of course, this was not the main point of his
technical, technical talk. But this perspective sounded fascinating! Raj
calculated that a 1000-user ISP could save 30% of its overall cost if it opted
for Linux in its first year of operation.

* IBM'S India Manager for its Solution Partnership Centre and PartnerWorld for
Developers, Charles Manuel, promised to help Linux on its forward march."Linux
is one of the best things that has happened. It is projected to do to
application development what the Internet did to networking," he said
enthusiastically. IBM was a "very strong and aggressive supporter of open
standards," he argued. He said IBM plans to invest a substantial amount of
effort and money into Linux. "what we've done so far is very little of what
we'd like to do," he added. Since 1998, out of the 42 ISPs across India that
had been IBM clients, Linux had been the opted for system by 38, he said.

* FIRED WITH ENTHUSIASM for doing something for rural India are Mark Zugsmith
and Anand Babu. They're part of the Net4Rural project that is striving towards
a low-cost communication venture that would hopefully take email and
web-browsing to millions who can't even read. Strange but true! Both are in
their twenties. And who says today's youth aren't idealistic? Mark was earlier
with Turbo Linux, the company into clustering. Babu is currently contributing
to the GNU operating system project (see
Contacts: and (to be launched in about a week's time)

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