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Freeing software for users

Net users in the city and in Kerala are discovering and exploring the potential of free software

Photo: C. Ratheesh Kumar

Picture Courtesy Thehindu Daily

Freedom Free software is economically viable and gives the user the freedom to adapt the code to his needs

Chandrasekharan Nair, a Peyad-based planter, turned to cyber space to express his angst against what he perceived as farmer-unfriendly policies. Gradually, he also began to include tips on farming in general and rubber cultivation in particular. is the blog published by Chadrasekharan, affectionately called ‘Chandrettan.’ And his posts are all in Malayalam.

Local cyber content

Chandrettan is not alone. There are more net users like him in Kerala who are gravitating towards locally generated cyber content and Malayalam language computing. is another example of such a portal. It is a web portal of Kannur district that gives voice to the panchayats and various projects in the district. “Locally generated content in Malayalam is fast catching up in Kerala where there is the right atmosphere and potential for dissemination of information and employment of technology,” says Ashiq of the Swatantra Malayalam Computing Community, which is developing and refining the technology to make Malayalam a user-friendly language in day-to-day computing. Visit and all doubts will be cleared. It is a website in Malayalam and English of a school by the same name.

This increase in accessibility has been made possible by the booming viability of free software. Not for long can Kerala remain insular to the revolution of free software ignited by Richard Stallman with his ‘right to read.’

GNU Linux distributions such as Ubuntu and free and open source software such as OpenOffice have started posing a serious challenge to proprietary giants. The ideology of free software can be explored more easily by encountering the people using and popularising it.

Yet another organisation that is at the forefront of using cyber space for local content is the non-profit organisation Society for Promotion of Alternative Computing and Employment (SPACE). For four years, SPACE has been promoting free software and encouraging local participation in using new technology. SPACE works to popularise Linux and is the workhorse behind many Goverment projects such as IT @ School.

Vimal Joseph of SPACE says: “In Kerala’s context the economic viability of using proprietary software is beyond question. The dollar-to-Rupee conversion rate makes proprietary software a financial question. Such software also seriously curtails flexibility and freedom of the user. Free software, on the other hand, is economically viable and gives the user the freedom to adapt the code to his needs.”

Adds Dineshan M, a teacher associated with IT @ School: “A teacher should impart value to his students. Discouraging the use of pirated copies of expensive software and promoting GNU/Linux comes naturally to me as a teacher.”

The Kerala Government syllabus for IT is modelled on the use of free software.

Many students in the city are also rallying around the Linux bandwagon. Rajiv Nair, a final-year student of engineering, has scripted a code that detects his bluetooth phone and when he (his phone) is away, instructs the computer to standby automatically. Rajiv has mastered the operating system and is confident of tweaking it to his needs.

The Linux user group in the city has many more innovative users like him who are ready to help out new users.

Anoop John, who runs a computer sales and services shop in the city remarks: “The barrier that remains is the mindset barrier. People traditionally grow up with a kind of software on their desktops. People have now started discovering and exploring the possibilities of Linux.”

Anoop worked abroad for three years as a software developer before returning to India to set up his own business.

The time is ripe for computer enthusiasts to try such alternative computing environments. A google search of ilug-tvm (Indian Linux Users Group – Trivandrum) leads us to and any help needed is at hand.


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