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Technology
Windows of opportunity for Nepali computing


VIBEK RAJ MAURYA


As 2005 comes to a close, it is clear that this has been a landmark year for Nepali computing.

Microsoft in collaboration with Unlimited NuMedia released the Nepali Language Interface Pack for WindowsXP and Microsoft Office in November. And on Thursday Madan Puraskar Pustakalaya (MPP) unveiled the all-Nepali Linux.

For the first time non-English speaking Nepalis who were excluded can now use the computer not just for word processing but for database, spreadsheets, layout, internet and email also. And they have two alternatives to choose from: Windows XP or Linux.

The two platforms are based on different philosophies and consumers can choose the system that suits them best. But the presence of an open source and proprietary software is bound to set off a debate in Nepal about licensing and pirated software.

Windows is not free, its use, redistribution or modification is prohibited. It either requires permission or is restricted. Unlimited NuMedia is distributing the interface pack CD for Rs 250. But this only includes the Nepali Interface Installer for XP and Office and requires a pre-installed licensed copy of both softwares.

MPP's NepaLinux, on the other hand, comes with a bundle of operating system, office suite, image editing tools and other utilities all for only Rs 190 and which can also be downloaded for free from www.nepalinux.org

"We were trying to teach the English language to Nepalis so they could use computers but we decided it's much easier to teach computers Nepali," says MPP's Outreach Officer, Kedar Sharma. NepaLinux allows users to copy or redistribute the product and since the source code is open, developers can freely customise and may further develop the available products.

For Nepali users without English gone are the days of writing emails in Roman Nepali because it now allows them to interact with their machine in Nepali. ('Trash' is called 'Raddi Tokari'.)

Microsoft has the advantage of a wider range of hardware that can be used with its system. "Microsoft didn't come to Nepal themselves, we brought them here," explains Allen Tuladhar of Unlimited NuMedia, "Microsoft Windows XP has been released under 38 different languages and Nepali is one of them."

Tuladhar wants to sell 200,000 copies of interface pack CDs by the end of 2006. "It may sound ambitious but we think the market will expand because people who couldn't use English will now be using computers," he says. One factor that may indirectly favour Microsoft is that most Windows operating systems used in Nepal are pirated and therefore users haven't been paying the actual price for them. An original Windows XP can cost up to Rs 20,000, but a pirated CD can be bought for Rs 125 to which users can add the Nepali interface.

But free open source software like Linux would be the solution for countries like Nepal where computer users can't afford the high price of original software. "If this is done wisely, open source software can create local jobs without being dependent on corporate giants," says Linux developer, Basanta Shrestha.

MPP's Linux-based project is being carried out with support from Pan Localisation and the Canadian group, IDRC. MPP has translated 200,000 strings into Nepali for the NepaLinux interface. A functional Nepali spell checker and Thesaurus have also been bundled with OpenOffice.org.

The dictionary contains 24,000 words and will be expanded in later editions. Microsoft Office in Nepali meanwhile has included almost all the 59,000 words from the Brihad Sabdakosh.

www.madanpuraskar.org


Compare and contrast

>GUI
Both Linux and Windows provide a Graphic User Interface (GUI) which enables the machine to interpret commands through a mouse click. NepaLinux provides Gnome desktop environment which is flexible for customisation. While advanced users can customise things to their liking, it makes things harder on new users for whom every Linux computer they encounter may look and act differently.

>Installation
Unlike Windows, Linux can run from a CD as a full-fledged operating system. NepaLinux therefore doesn't need to be installed into the hard disk. Users can install it when they are comfortable with the Linux environment. Windows has to be first installed into the hard disk. Windows with Nepali interface pack further requires Windows XP with service pack 2 pre-installed. This may create problems if a pirated Windows XP is installed.

>What you get
NepaLinux uses up 2GB on installation and this includes OpenOffice.org 2.0, image editor GIMP, Scribus desktop publisher and other standard utilities and multimedia software. On Windows such specialised software need to be installed independently.

On the other hand a copy of Nepali Windows XP on a CD-ROM doesn't give you an operating system and no applications and you need to buy them independently. That is the bottom line. If you buy a copy of Linux on a CD-ROM it comes with many of free application software released under GNU/GPL License.

>Supported Hardware Devices
More hardware works with Windows than with Linux because hardware vendors write drivers for Windows more often than they do for other operating systems like Linux.


PRICE TAGS

Listed are some of the common software required by general desktop users. The price for the proprietary software has been quoted from their respective websites.

Software Type Proprietary Software Free open source
Operating System Windows XP Professional, Rs 19,000

Windows XP Home Edition, Rs 17,000
Nepali Interface Pack for Windows XP, Rs 250
NepaLinux, Rs 190 (bundles free and open source software)
Office Suite Microsoft Office 2003, Rs 52,000 OpenOffice.org 2.0 (free)
Image Editor Photoshop CS 2, Rs 42,000

Fireworks 8, Rs 21,000
GIMP (free)
Web Authoring Tool Dreamweaver 8, Rs 28,000 Mozilla Suite (free)
Desktop Publisher PageMaker 7, Rs 35,000 Scribus (free)



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(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)


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