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|A||X||Chat with Dominique, 2004.12.30 (DominiqueCimafranca)|
|B||X||Reply: E-Mail from Hirai-sensei (TaskPool)|
|B||X||Write a reflection on translation (ToReflectOn)|
|B||X||Find 5 advocacy articles for translation (OpenSourceInEducation)|
|B||X||Make C-c C-o mark the task as pending (PlannerModeMaintenance)|
|B||X||Edit Dominique's brief history of the GPL|
|B||X||On coping: E-Mail from Richi's server (ToReflectOn)|
|B||X||Ask Eric Pareja about translation (ToReflectOn)|
|B||X||Mindmap OSS in education (OpenSourceInEducation)|
|C||X||Check out Slashdot from 2004.12.28|
1. Why did you start the Open Source Laboratory, and how would you describe your progress so far?
When I was still the system/network administrator of APC 2 years ago, I'd already wanted to put up something that would let me work (read as research) on Linux alone. After I took a month-long leave back in July 2001, I embarked on setting up the Open Source Research and Development Group (OSRDG) as it was formerly known. Finally, on January of 2002, I was given a couple of workstations, a couple of servers, and some pats on the back for thinking about this. The only consideration was that I rename it to something else, as the management abhorred anything named Research and Development. So, the Open Source Laboratories was born, with the main objective being R&D, but seconded by teaching these researched materials to students... much like a transferance of knowledge.
The progress? I would say it has been a great 2 years for the OSL. One of the good things that came out of the OSL is the addition in the Curriculum of a 4-term course named OSS, a full-Linux study, of and about Linux (device driver development, GUI programming, creating your own Linux via
LinuxFromScratch, etc). Students at APC now have confidence in using Linux in their everyday lives. Whereas before...
2. What was the biggest problem you faced setting up the Open Source Lab and how did you deal with it?
Logistics! Just like in any new venture, this would be the biggest problem to hurdle. But with the use of about 26 Pentium 100s, a couple of 16-port unknown switches, and one roll of UTP cables, I've managed to set up the laboratory, with the use of [Linux Terminal Server Project]. My initial installation of LTSP two years ago is still the same installation up until now, with just a few additions and alterations.
3. How did you get students interested in Linux?
That's easy! We integrated Linux into their studies... parang we force them into it. I've found out over the past couple of years that if you give students choices on what to use, they will readily turn to the Dark Side, since that would be the easiest way out. But if they find out that they HAVE to learn it or fail the subject, then you will be surprised at the outcome. Students, later on, come to me and say "Sir, thank you nga pala. Kung hindi dahil sa course nyo, hindi ako matatanggap sa trabaho ko ngayon." The feeling of hearing those words will really make wonders to your heart.
4. What are some of the coolest projects that have come out of the Open Source Lab?
I can't say they're the coolest ever, but since they came out of the OSL without any help from outside forces, I'd say [one project] would be the Student Login/Logout Facility using a Smart Card and a Reader, being used in tandem with Linux. I've seen so many products using the card and the reader, but none of them ran entirely on Linux. It is now being used. Parents and guardians can simply call the OSL and find out if their child is in school or not. Cool, no?
There are others, like the IPv6 research we have been doing. Now, THAT is making a headway! We can now do several servers all running on IPv6. Though still not pure, as they still need to piggyback over IPv4, but at least, we are the only school in the country (that I've heard of) doing such a thing.
5. What are you planning to do next?
[...] I believe that that office can do wonders, with the right person at the helm (ehem, ehem.. hahaha) and with the backing of the management. There is a limitless potential to Linux. As I always tell my students, biases aside, Linux will be the computing platform of tomorrow, if not today!
E-Mail to Chris G. Haravata
(Got that insight after reading about the real use of white ceilings as set out in On_Lying_In_Bed.txt)
English is the language of education, business and government in the Philippines, but many people are not as fluent in English as they are in Tagalog and other dialects. As a result, they find it difficult to use English-only software, learning how to use programs through rote memorization and relying on icons and positions to find commands. This discourages them from exploring the computer or improving their skills on their own, and increases resistance to change.
With the rapid progress of volunteer efforts like the Debian Tagalog project, it would not be surprising if a full open source desktop in Tagalog and other dialects would be available in a few years' time. Because these programs are free to download and use, computer shops, cybercafes, schools, and offices would include them in standard installations. People would be free to explore computers and learn how to use them, not hampered by the dual barriers of language and technology.
The Philippine software market is too small for multinational companies like Microsoft to consider localization as economically viable. Piracy reduces the attractiveness of the market even further. Unlike other Asian countries, we do not require special alphabets or fonts in order to produce documents required by government and industry. Localization does not offer a competitive advantage that can be exploited by closed-source software.
On the other hand, open source is uniquely suited for localization efforts. Communities do not have to wait for companies to decide to produce localized versions. They can make the changes themselves. More importantly, they can use and distribute the modified software so that other people can benefit from their work, narrowing the digital divide and making technology available even for people who are not comfortable with English.
In this scenario, a number of issues present themselves. Would employers discriminate against experience in localized open source software on the grounds that those skills may not translate to English closed source software? Would the popularity of translated software result in the deterioration of functional English skills, making us less globally competitive? Would dialects further fragment our IT industry along regional boundaries while making it difficult for people to take advantage of worldwide resources?
Skill transference is an important consideration. Job advertisements
specify "Microsoft Office experience." Employers may be hesitant to
hire someone who doesn't have all the buzzwords listed. Schools train
people in popular software so that new graduates can work right away.
Business-minded students and professionals worry that their experience
in open source alternatives like
What about the English language? Wouldn't promoting localized computing negatively affect English language skills and reduce one of our competitive advantages over other Asian nations? We promote the use of English in classrooms and offices. Wouldn't localization be a step back? Wouldn't people find it difficult to use non-localized software? On the contrary, localized software can help strengthen people's communication skills. With confidence based on their experience with native-language applications, people can then explore English applications with the benefit of having solid mental constructs to which they can then assign English terms.
With the wealth of regional dialects in the Philippines, wouldn't localization further divide our fledgling IT industry along regional boundaries? On the contrary, developing regional centers of excellence in computing will help the industry grow, and bring the benefits of IT to people previously excluded by their unfamiliarity with technical English. If the applications people use were available not only in English but also in regional dialects, then more people would be encouraged to explore how they can be more productive with computers. Knowledge is not trapped within a single community, but shared with other regions and the world through community members who are comfortable with English or multiple dialects.
Localization is one of the most powerful advantages offered by open source software. Open source is about freedom and choice, and translation efforts springing up around the country are a shining example of how the ability to modify software allows people to add value to it for their community. Volunteers working on translation and localization of open source software are not doing it for themselves, but rather to make it easier for their family, friends and townmates to learn more about computing and use computers to improve their lives. Through open source, Filipinos open doors.
Other interesting resources:
Debian Tagalog Translation Team http://banwa.upm.edu.ph/mailman/listinfo/debian-tl
Filipino Linux Documentation Project http://banwa.upm.edu.ph/mailman/listinfo/fldp
Ramil Sagum, aspell-tl http://ramil.sagum.net/item/aspell
Jan Alonzo, packaging aspell-tl for Debian http://www.unpluggable.com/foss/
Open source's local heroes http://www.economist.com/science/tq/displaystory.cfm?story_id=2246308
Web browser speaks Xhosa http://www.citi.org.za/Article/1000/1003/1219.html
From yesterday, 2004.12.29