These days I am generally averse to government sponsorship of (aka investment in) Open Source, especially if the government in question happens to be the Government of India.
I had earlier blogged about BOSSLinux and in recent times I tend to abhor politically motivated over-the-wall Open Source on taxpayer money. For example, take a look at this cache.This is the collection of over-the-wall translations of GNOME files. The fun part is that language teams exist for a significant number of the languages that are part of the collection. And yet, the files have the curious header: “Language-Team: Bangla (INDIA) (email@example.com) \n” for bn_IN example. I don’t recall anyone contacting the group working on bn_IN for this and coordinating the work in that community. The discussion over the past few days on #indlinux also shows that the ml_IN community has not been contacted, neither the or_IN.
The reason why C-DAC desires to undertake this nonsense is fairly clear. Currying political favor with the incumbents at ministries, re-inventing already undertaken tasks is something that the stellar agency is becoming excellent at in recent times. Language computing in India is a big ticket item. Various e-Governance projects are looking towards reaching out to various language communities for greater outreach. There is work going on in standardization and so it is a good time to start acting silly. For a few languages that don’t have all the Unicode issues resolved, there seem to exist translations. Amazing is what it can be called. Why would working with the communities in the form of collaborating be something that is beyond the intelligent folks at C-DAC is what bothers me. These folks have been around for a while ie. they are not newbies starting up a project, they are smart. So, if they are upto such stupidity, there has to be a reason to this madness. Trying to fork translation communities instead of collaborating is a sad way to move forward.
Moving on, let’s take another piece of oddity. Baishakhi Linux which says:
Society for Natural Language Technology Research (SNLTR) developed Baishakhi Linux 1.0 (pdf link) in collaboration with MAT3 Impex and IIT Kharagpur. This is a free Bangla Linux that has been built over Ubuntu 8.04 distribution. All computer related decision making and office activities, such as document writing, preparing presentations, web browsing, sending and receiving emails as well as spreadsheet calculations can be carried out in Bangla using this distribution. All Bangla compound words can be viewed and written in Baishakhi Linux, and this special feature distinguishes it from the other localized Linux distributions. Even in spreadsheet application (an office suite for calculation) all types of mathematical calculations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division etc.) can be done in Bangla including fraction number, which is also a unique feature of this distribution.
The bits that are termed as ‘salient features’ have not been contributed upstream. What a waste.
ps: If this bug gets closure, a lot of issues would be resolved.