Saturday, July 26, 2008

Microsoft supports Apache Foundation

It seems Microsoft has contributed some money to the Apache Foundation. Unbelievable? See here. This, of course, naturally sets people thinking. About what Microsoft is up to. "Microsoft is putting a wide range of protocols that were formerly in the Communications Protocol Program under the Open Specification Promise (OSP). This guarantees their freedom from any patent claims from Microsoft now or in the future, and includes both Microsoft-developed and industry-developed protocols." says Groklaw. Things are getting curiouser and curiouser. What is Microsoft really up to?

Of course, we cannot expect M$ to have suddenly decided to support Free Software. Or can we? Look at it this way. GNU/Linux is eating into the desktop market of Microsoft. Distributions like Ubunutu and Mandriva are becoming very popular. And, though I don't have any statistics, I wouldn't be surprised if GNU/Linux has become the second most popular OS on the desktop. Some time back, Apple's OS X was the second most popular OS. And Microsoft had ported many of their applications to OS X. If that place has been taken by GNU/Linux, what prevents Microsoft from doing a similar thing? In fact why should they not? So I have a vague feeling that we may soon find "Microsoft Office for Linux" being marketed by M$. After all, their aim is to make money. And they will tell people that they can continue to use their "favourite" Office applications even if they migrate to GNU/Linux. I am pretty sure that there will be takers.

OK. Then where can they go from there? I guess they will make Firefox the default browser on Windows. In any case, Firefox is becoming increasingly popular even on Windows, and I remember having read somewhere that M$ is spending a lot of $ on IE development and getting nothing out of it. By putting Firefox, they save that money and can claim to have a very popular (or the most popular by that time?) browser by default. And they wind up the IE group in their company. And save money.
And, finally? Of course, they transform into a Free Software company. Which they will have to do, in any case. And with the money and user base they have, they can easily drive the others, such as Red Hat and SuSE out of business or at least become the dominant FS company. Not likely? Who can say? I feel that if they don't do that, then the chances are that the company would have to wind up. I don't see any other way in which they can survive the onslaught from Free Software.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Malayalam in GNU/Linux

Finally, Malayalam has become one of the official languages supported by the K Development Environment, or KDE, one of the most popular desktops in GNU/Linux. The youth in the Swatantra Malayalam Computing (SMC) movement, which is becoming a registered society, have exceeded the minimum amount of translation needed for KDE to accept Malayalam as an officially supported language. Congratulations, friends!

The other most popular desktop, GNOME, or GNU Network Object Model Environment, has already got Malayalam as an official language. But, as in the case of KDE too, we have to be alert and active continuously so that translations are added as and when the desktops come out with new versions. It is already almost time to start on the next version of GNOME.

This is the advantage, and the problem, with Free Software. Anyone can modify it to include one's own language or to suit it to one's own needs. At the same time, one has to do it. No one else is going to do it. This is a very good example of how freedom comes with responsibility. For example, in the case of, say, Windows, we can say that Microsoft is not doing it and blame them for any problems and be happy. We cannot do that in the case of Free software. I am saying this because many people do not understand this simple fact and blame Free Software for such things. This is something like decentralised planning. As a consequence of decentralised planning, it became necessary for people to attend meetings, decide on priorities of development activities to be taken up and get things done. There are a group of people who still live in an older era when it was convenient to blame officials for the state of the road and remain idle. That era has gone, goodness me.

We have other things to be got done. The Malayalam Wiktionary is quite light, with very few words. We have to put more words into it. Because, like Free Software, the Wiktionary also belongs to us. If we want it to be usable, it is our job to add sufficient words. So, friends, let us fall to it. And just as we made a success of localising KDE, let us make the Malayalam Wiktionary also usable by including sufficient words. And, as the saying in Malayalam goes, if we pull together, even a hill will fall! So let us wish ourselves success and take up the task.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

New Firefox and OpenOffice

I should guess the recent release of Firefox 3 and the upcoming release of 3 (I still wonder why the name of the software should have .org attached to it) will give a new boost to Free Software, especially GNU/Linux. Firefox is already the best browser feature-wise. With the large number of useful and interesting addons, no other browser can really compete with it. But then, there are people who have been using some other browser for a number of years who do not want to change for any reason. Well, that is their problem.

The beta version of OpenOffice 3 is available for testing, and it seems to have a number of new features. Since I am not familiar with any recent version of M$ Office (since Office 98 I think), I am not in a position to compare the two. But the improvements over version two of either application is great, and we know that version 3 did not take much time after version 2 came out. This is considerably faster than the rate at which M$ brings out its software. Consequently, I am sure Free Software applications will soon surpass proprietary software in quality, if they already have not. I am not saying this as the main reason for using Free Software. On the other hand, I am pointing this out since there are people who have been citing lack of features as the reason for not migrating to FS. I am sure very soon such people will not be able to use that as a reason for not migrating. Moreover, remember that people used to say that Free Software, developed by amateurs during their spare time, cannot be good? This is a validation of a community based production model of creative works. And this can be emulated in other spheres of creativity including music, literature and videos. May the era of creative freedom bloom!