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Concern: Asia’s waste mountain July 21, 2006

Posted by fredericknoronha in Digital content.
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My colleague from the Association for Progressive Communications, Alan Alegre from the Philippines, recently posted this interesting link to the APC-Asia mailing list. It says: Time to tackle Asia’s electrical waste mountain:

As the market for electrical and electronic products grows rapidly, the lifespan of products is dropping. Some developed world governments are promoting recycling and starting to require that manufacturers safely dispose products at the end of their working life. However, China and India have yet to address the explosion in ‘e-waste’ — electronic scrap — much of it imported from countries with stricter regulations.

Digg.com & TOI: Delhi Government Adopts OOo and ODF in place of MS Office July 18, 2006

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Interesting story, which came up via Digg.com: Delhi Government Phases Out MS Office, Adopts Free ODF-Based Office Suites To Save Licence Fee.

Digg.com’s posts adds,”LIC (HUGE insurance co that moved to RHL from Windows), Delhi HC & Nirvachan Sadan (Election Commission Office) Set To Follow. It was costing Rs 24 Lac pa (US$ 52k, equal to 10x ave of annual salary of engg. Bachelors recruited by any top IT co. in India).”

Check the original story from the Times of India epaper.

Only regret: there could be better reasons for opting for Free Software!

A techie, Silicon Valley, building Indian skills July 17, 2006

Posted by fredericknoronha in India.
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Warren Brian NoronhaWhen we met last, Warren Noronha was a young geek, maybe just out of his teens. That was quite some time ago, and in Belgaum, a bustling city outside Goa where an engineering college was holding a GNU/Linux event for their students.

Warren impressed me, and stuck in my mind. Not just because we shared a surname. But he came across as Mr Quiet Efficiency.

Sometime later, I heard of him via another friend: Marlon Menezes, who together with Ulysses Menezes and Herman Carneiro was one of the early players from Goa (actually, from among the Goan diaspora), who understood what Net technologies could actually achieve. Marlon had set up GoaWeb (… am struggling to find it via the Archive.org archives). Here is a note mentioning early (and not-so-early) Goa initiatives in cyberspace.

Marlon moved out from GoaCom.com not so long back, and started GoaCom.org. And he mentioned that he was working with Warren Noronha, who had, by then, shifted to Silicon Valley. Or its nearabouts.

Warren wrote in recently to announce new plans. He wrote about plans to promote Drupal development in India. Says he:

With 75,000+ Drupal power websites and an emerging industry supporting over 150 professionals, the open-source Drupal project and community is exploding. At the heart of this community is an incredibly active and productive group of contributors. Creating contributed modules, themes, bug fixes, and core enhancement, these individuals define the course of the Drupal project and the ecosystem of users, tinkerers, and professionals around it. Through this internship program we will attempt to train students from India the ins and outs of Drupal and help them established themselves as long term contributors to the Drupal project. Over two months the selected students will work closely with project mentors on real world Drupal projects; contributed modules, and core patches. They will learn the Drupal development process and gain extremely valuable experience interacting with a live open-source project. Students will be paid a stipend of 4,600 INR to 8,000 INR a month depending on the level of their contributions to the Drupal project. More Information: http://drupal.in/training.

To begin at the beginning, what’s Drupal? Wikipedia has this interesting entry on Drupal:

Drupal is a modular content management framework, content management system and blogging engine which was originally written by Dries Buytaert as a bulletin board system. Today, it is used by many high-traffic websites, including The Onion, Spread Firefox (CivicSpace, see below), Ourmedia, KernelTrap, and the Defective by Design campaign. Drupal is written in PHP. As of June 1st, 2006, the current version is 4.7.2.

Actually, I use a version of Drupal for my personal site. It’s based on CivicSpace, for an introduction to which check out this entry on Wikipedia.

Warren says he’s involved with the project in India and:

Currently we are spreading the word thats not going as well as we hoped, we currently have about 17 applicants. Which is a good number considering that there are going to be only 10 chosen. They (the Drupal team) selected India because even with such a huge number of developers; there were not many Drupal contributors (just me and another two guys). While I was forming Drupal India, some one independently came up with the idea of having this, and approached CivicSpace. And I got roped in by one of the CivicSpace founders.

Warren says the idea is

to have something like the Google Summer of Code”. But this is going to be Drupal and India specific. The idea is to give students the chance to work on free software projects. Our intention is to make them long term contributors. Since some of them are going to be freshers they can use this as experience for their resume and they can list us as references. Drupal benefits because we get long term contributors. Here is the FAQ About the project. http://drupal.in/summer-training-faq and here are dates for the project.

Warren wrote to say, “I was surprised that you remembered even though we met so briefly at Belgium.” Belgaum, old chap, not Belgium 🙂 And while I’m forgetful about names, I have an awfully long memory for talent! Keep the flag flying…

What more, Warren is actually dropping hints about setting up base in Goa (welcome, we need good guys here!), doing work on Free Software, and mainly cater to the NGO market mainly in India. Inshallah, your dreams will one day come true.

Which ISP to go for… when visiting [Goa] July 17, 2006

Posted by fredericknoronha in India.
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Gene Lobo of Aldona runs Systeck Computer Solutions at 7-12 Braganza Trade Centre (opposite Mapusa’s Remanso Hospital, ph +91-832-2266433) in Goa. On Aldona-Net, one of the village-based mailing lists in Goa, he recently offered his advice on what ISP to choose, if you’re visiting Goa.

So, if you go by his advice, this reflects the options available in Goa, India’s smallest state (or province). He says: BSNL. The CLI is best for visitors. As they pay only for what they use and there is no rent nor time limit for this connection. keep in mind it is a dial-up connection. If a visitor wants high speed then he can go for rental broadband. Modem rent (100per month) and the monthly plan charges, which can be surrendered before leaving. You do not need to buy the modem in this case. For the above plans you have to have a BSNL land line.

RELIANCE. This option is available with the WLL Reliance connection, it is a mobile unit (the size of a land phone) you can get the connection wherever there is reliance coverage. You have to apply for internet cable (USB/Serial) and the connection is easy. Note: Reliance is known for excess billing so you have to be cautious. This is not a broadband connection as they claim, is a wireless connection (better than a dial-up) and speeds are pretty good.

TATA Indicom. Same as reliance. Tataindicom boradband (you have to have a Tata (Hughes) land line. You can get a adsl broadband connection (like BSNL). Not recommended for visitors.

Earlier, he had offered some rates for BSNL (i.e. for what is defined as “broadband” in India): For a basic connection it will cost you Modem Rs. 1200 Registration charges Rs. 100 Installation Rs. 250. Total Rs. 1,550. This is a monthly plan where you have to pay Rs. 250 per month for a rent and you are allowed 400 MB of upload/download per month.

POSTSCRIPT: After circulating this in cyberspace, a long-time friend and librarian-turned-internet guru Eddie Fernandes had this comment to make on Goanet:

When I last visited Goa in Nov. 2005 I checked out various packages. he Reliance offer looked appealing but one has to buy a Reliance andset – I think the cost was Rs 12,000. Has the requirement changed?

Since I also required a mobile phone service, the one I opted for was dea GPRS package which required a Bluetooth mobile phone and Bluetooth nabled laptop, which I had. The Idea package, MWA ( Mobile Web Access) 500 cost Rs 500 a month and allowed free unlimited internet onnection and data download. There are other cheaper packages vailable though – see http://www.ideacellular.com/MH_PPvas.htm#IdeaGPRS
I was able to connect via the modem in the mobile phone from almost anywhere in Goa, even sitting in a car or restaurant. The speed was not brilliant but opening multiple windows for surfing did the trick. I was also able to use the Idea account to make and receive telephone calls

The staff at Idea set up the required software to enable the laptop to mobile phone link. All I had to do was to switch the two on and press a single button. I could also make and receive mobile calls when connected to the internet. Idea is at http://www.ideacellular.com/

 

A film festival with a difference; tiny, and viewable alone July 11, 2006

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From clunky technology to produce film, to digital solutions. Now, there’s even an international portable film festival, and its Australian promoters are keen to see a wider participation from India.

The International Portable Film Festival (IPFF) calls itself the world’s first completely portable film festival, existing exclusively for portable video devices including iPods, 3G phones, PlayStation Portables and other devices.

It is delivered through a videocast so there are “no cinemas, no queues, no closed doors, no e-scalpers and no barriers to audiences seeing the films they want, when they want”.

This festival is “absolutely free and completely portable”.

Some 122 film entries have been received so far for IPFF 2006. The countries represented are: Australia, Netherlands, USA, Romania, Canada, Austria, Hungary, England, India, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and New Zealand.

Festival managing director Simon Goodrich (25) told this blogger: “India is more than ready for the International Portable Film Festival. With over one million downloads per day to mobile phones, with the largest English-speaking audience in the world and the biggest film market, India is absolutely central to a festival like this.”

“If any country is ready in this world, India is it,” said Goodrich, who also co-founded the event. Do you think this logic holds?

He added that they have met with groups such as MAUJ and Hugama Mobile in Sydney Australia earlier this month.

Mauj is an India centric mobile games developer and wireless content provider. Headed by Arun Gupta, the Tardeo (Mumbai)-based firm deals in mobile content and application (games, wallpapers, ringtones, news, matrimonial), mobile software and services (middleware, roaming applications, SMS gatesways) and mobile media solutions (advertising and branding).

Mahalaxmi (Mumbai)-based Hungama Mobile calls itself “a leading provider of mobile marketing applications with intrinsic expertise attached with mobile technology, communication and interactivity”.

He added: “We were very impressed with the way that content for portable devices is being developed and taken up by Indian audiences. We would love to collaborate with local filmmakers there and we would love to move the IPFF to Mumbai or Delhi in the coming years.”

Ayesha Madganvkar, a student of Goan origin currently in Australia, an intern at the IPFF says: “We’re trying to contact filmmakers, press, universities, magazines and others in India and tell them about the festival.”

IPFF focuses on, pun intended, “precious little films” and “films that look good small”. Its promoters are also interested in “films that give you glimpses into life from the oddest angles and the farthest corners of the globe.”

Andrew Apostola and Simon Goodrich, the creators of the festival, are both known for their work with independent media in Australia and for establishing SYN FM, the world’s largest youth-run radio station.

They are big on promoting digital literacy and digital learning in schools, this led to a push for an ‘under-18’ category for young filmmakers.

“It (telling stories through the portable medium is) really is a different way of viewing and the scope for exploration, experimentation and innovation is enormous,” say the event’s organisers when asked what sets them apart from the 1200+ estimated film festivals being organised around the globe.

“Portable” film has been criticised for its “solitary practice” — for the most part, it is viewed alone, as an individual. But the organisers say people who own portable devices often “form part of a community and are united through the process of owning and using that device”.

For instance, an iPod can be plugged into a TV.

The audience is potentially huge. Even those without portable devices can participate. The IPFF site portablefilmfestival.com will allow downloading of films directly to your computer or by subscribing to a RSS feed that will continually update your film collection.

Films can be viewed in your preferred movie player (Winamp, Quicktime, Windows Media Player or other free software tools) much in the same way as content can be watched through portable video devices.

There are an estimated 220 million people subscribed to broadband globally. For instance, ifilm.com attracts 10 million viewers per month, downloading 30 million short films.

Bangalore… readying for GPLv3 July 6, 2006

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In Bangalore, the FSUG-Bangalore mailing list (Free Software User Group) is planning a conference on the GPLv3, or the GNU General Public License, version 3. The Free Software Foundation global page has already announced that the fourth international GPLv3 conference is to be held in Bangalore, India on August 23-24, 2006 on this page itself. Further details are available here.

FSUG-Bangalore introduces itself: “Free Software Users’ Group (FSUG), Bangalore is a small collective of Free Software users and advocates in Bangalore. As a part of FSF-India’s larger efforts to apply Free Software everywhere, we work together to ensure that the concepts of Freedom and Free Software are more widely promoted, discussed and applied in Bangalore. You can more details about our activities on our web site.

GPLv3 is the next version of the GNU General Public License. Wikipedia introduces the GPL saying: “The GNU General Public License (GNU GPL or simply GPL) is a widely-used free software license, originally written by Richard Stallman for the GNU project. The latest version of the license, version 2, was released in 1991. The GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL) is a modified version of the GPL, intended for some software libraries.” As of 2006, version 3 of the GPL is being written by Richard Stallman, with legal counsel from Eben Moglen and Software Freedom Law Center.

Open solutions in public administration… July 6, 2006

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This is the website of the Open Solutions is Public Administration Forum is being defined as “work towards analyzing, and supporting the use of Open Data Standards (ODS) and Open Solutions (OS) for e-Government and Public Administration (PA) in the Asia Pacific region.” Check out the site. It has details of a draft agenda of a forthcoming conference too, to be held from October 26 to 28.

Conference themes include * Interoperability & Open Standards for e-Government Services * Public Procurement Strategies for Open Solutions * Implementing Open Standards in Public Administration – Global Experiences * Country level Strategies & Experiences – Asia Pacific * Adopting Open Solutions as Policy – Challenges & Strategies * Open Source Policy Implications – Total Cost of Ownership * Capacity Building Strategies for Open Solutions Deployment * Open Source for Learning and Education.

Manthan awards July 5, 2006

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Bijai MandalJust back from Manthan awards… lots of ICT4D stories emerging. Details will be out in early August. But here are some links to the 2005 winners:

e-Business Automatic Milk Collection Centre in Gujarat, Toe-Hold India of Karnataka, PlantersNet.com from Andhra Pradesh.

e-Culture: Honeybee Network from Gujarat, Nudi, the Kannada script-enabling software, Marathiworld.com.

e-Science: Electrophoresis, Delhi. e-Entertainment: World Cup Cricket, Delhi, e-Health Sisu Samrakshak of Andhra Pradesh, ths very interesting and simply initiated IndiaBloodDonors.com from Nagpur in Maharashtra, and Rajasthan’s helpline on HIV/AIDS (sorry, no URL… this seems phone based).

e-Inclusion: aAQUA, almost all questions answered (which I personally found very very interesting and wrote this article on at LinuxJournal.com website.

There also was Vaachak, the text-to-speech software for Indian languages, RGCVAS, the dissemination of information about animal health from the former French colony of Pondicherry, Save The Girl Child from New Delhi, and Disability Indian Network based at Delhi.

In the e-Learning category came Pune-based C-GAP course self-learning kit (also another group doing interesting work), VIIT from Baramati, Chukki Chinna interactive radio instruction programme
Karnataka
(their direct-to-India website located here seems to be having some problems.

BookBox.com is something that surely deserves a closer look. Adventus Learning Management comes from Karnataka.

There’s also the e-Government category (all these links might not take you directly to the projects). Including NISANI: National Identity Card of Uttar Pradesh, Thiruvananthapuram City Police from down south in Kerala, DACNET E-governance infrastructure for globalised Indian agriculture from Delhi, the state-wide attention on public grievance by the application of technology in Gujarat (contact: neetas at gujarat.gov.in), eVikas, the government-to-citizen interface in Himachal Pradesh, and e-cops of Andhra Pradesh.

India seeks translators for smoother computing in five languages July 1, 2006

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Janabhaaratii, a project of C-DAC Mumbai, has started a hunt for translators willing to work to make more computing power available in five Indian languages.

Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC, formerly known as National Centre for Software Technology) is a scientific society of the Indian government’s Department of Information Technology. It is involved in R&D in software technology.

Announcing this through techie circles in India, C-DAC said its Janabhaaratii Project at Mumbai is funded by the official Technology Development in Indian Language (TDIL) Group of the Ministry of Communication & IT, but is a “community-oriented Indian language initiative”.

“We plan to bring computing power to non-English speaking people by translating the desktop menus, help messages, files, FAQ’s, error messages etc of GNU Linux System in various Indian languages,” C-DAC said.

To begin, the organisation proposed translations in some of the larger Indian languages such as Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati, Bengali, and Malayalam.

C-DAC says that through the Janabhaaratii Project, it has made available live CDs for these languages “that one can use to input, edit, and display and print Indian language text easily.”

A live CD (or liveCD) is an operating system, usually containing other software too, that is stored on a bootable storing device, so the computer can be booted without using the hard drive and without installing into permanent memory. The operating system runs directly from the storing device.which could be a USB stick, a CD or a DVD.

“We would like to invite prospective translators who can contribute to this work on a payment basis. We will hold workshops to acquaint them with the work on the second Friday of every month,” said C-DAC.

It announced that it would build the translators’ familiarity with Indian language text-processing on the Free Software GNU/Linux platform, teach about different kinds of translations and issues involved, and offer tools to support translations.

Janabhaaratii is working to ocalise Free/Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS). Its plans include contributing to the community efforts in developing a software suite based on GNU/Linux and made available in Indian languages.

Its objectives includes enabling wide use of Indian language computing through Free/Libre and Open Source Software systems and applications localised in Indian languages.

Janabhaaratii says it has already “made contributions” to the computing of the Maharashtra government, municipal administrators’ office at Worli-Mumbai, the Maharashtra State Police Control Room, and colleges or universities in Mumbai and Rajasthan or elsewhere.

C-DAC itself has been working on Indian language technologies and products for over 15 years. The Janabhaaratii Project is handled out of C-DAC’s Air-India Building office at Nariman Point in South Mumbai.

It earlier came out with the INDIX2 project, which makes computing in the Free Software world work better with Indic scripts, and “gives the world a more generic approach to deal with complex scripts”. Some of the fonts developed under the INDIX2 project are now also available to public from TDIL
website http://www.tdil.mit.gov.in/download/openfonts.htm

It has worked in paralled, or alongside, groups like the IITs, IIITs, Indlinux, ankurbangla (a project for localisation of Bangla), HBCSE (TIFR), FSF India, MarathiOpenSource group and corporations like IBM. “The project needs cooperation of language specialists, linguists, computer specialists, users, governments (Centre and States), academia and many others,” said C-DAC.

But not all are happy with what has been achieved so far.

“One should ask the government machinery what have they been doing with the crores of public money allocated to the TDIL project since a number of years,” said a poster, identifying himself as Kush, on a Free Software Foundation-India mailing list.